A/N: So this idea popped up into my head when I was writing Wind and Waves and I wrote a bit of it, planned some, but never posted it. So I thought I would finally post it now, just so I stop it from bubbling up into my subconscious all the time. I think it's a pretty different idea - so I hope you all enjoy it. It's going to be a bit AU, but I'm going to try to keep a chunk of it sort of cannon - how much will really depend on how the story goes and what you guys think. Any questions please ask :)
Disclaimer: I own the plot, Danica Clarke, and any other character you don't recognize. JK owns the rest.
Freedom by the Press
"Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press..."
-Amendment 1, United States Constitution-
Chapter 1: The Reporter
Sirius Black: Truly A Mass Murderer?
By: Danica Clarke
This coming October will mark the 12th anniversary of Voldemort's demise and the freeing of the wizarding world. But it will also mark the date where two noble souls perished, Lily and James Potter, succeeded by their son, Harry Potter. These past years their deaths have been blamed not only on Voldemort, but also on his "spy" Sirius Black, who was the best friend of James Potter. It has been claimed over the past years that Sirius Black somehow contributed to the death of Potters by Voldemort, who it's rumored chose Black as his heir. Shortly after the fall of Voldemort, Black then went on to murder one of the Potters' friends, Peter Pettigrew, along with a street full of Muggles. Currently Black is in Azkaban for his crimes.
However, though these facts are presented, some holes remain unfilled. Would a Gryffindor really go to the dark side? It is known that Sirius Black never got a trial. Is the Wizarding World just taking it all for granted?
Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge said that -
"Are you out of your mind, Clarke?" Gregory Cummings howled, throwing down the pages and glaring across his desk. "Are you drunk or did you just hit your head when you woke up this morning and decide 'Hey, I'll make my newspaper the laughing stock of the entire Wizarding World!!'"
Danica Clarke folded her arms across her chest, fixing her boss with a steely look that was intensified by her light blue-silver eyes. "I'm thinking we should find out the truth. For the past 12 years all anyone's been saying is Sirius Black is a murderer. That he was the heir of Lord Voldemort, that he killed Peter Pettigrew and a street of muggles, went crazy-"
"Well if he wasn't then he is now." Cummings broke in. "Twelve years in Azkaban will do that to someone, you know."
Danica frowned. "He never even had a trial! How do we know he's really guilty?"
"He blew up the entire street in front of eye witnesses!"
"In front of Muggles. They can be mistaken..." Danica pointed out.
"As can hot-headed young reporters." Danica glowered at him. "Look, Clarke, you have no proof that Black is innocent at all.."
Danica threw up her arms. "That's exactly my point. There's no solid proof to say that he isn't!"
"He blew up the whole damn street, Clarke!" Cummings repeated angrily. "We found a finger of that Petty kid."
"Yeah right whatever. If that's not proof I don't know what is."
"Maybe his word. He never said he worked for Vold" - Cummings hissed- "emort" Danica finished defiantly.
"If I claim that I didn't steal the cookie from the cookie jar, it doesn't mean I didn't lie about it." Cummings pointed out.
Danica eyed her boss' large belly and inwardly rolled her eyes. It's not like anyone would believe you, she thought bitterly.
"My point is you can't go digging into something that's not there. He's a murderer, a spy, who deserves prison, maybe worse. Leave it alone!"
"I think someone should investigate it. I want to - "
"Why don't we give Muggles a chance to tour Hogwarts while we're pardoning mass murderers. Give it up Clarke. There's no story!"
"Enough, Clarke!" Cummings shouted, banging his fist on the desk and making Danica jump in her seat. "This is the Daily Prophet. Not the Quibbler!! Now go find something useful to write about."
Danica Clarke walked out of her boss' office, slamming the door behind her and hoping in the back of her mind that one of the precious plaques that he made for himself fell and smashed on the floor. She growled under her breath angrily, holding her article between her fist of fingers. She'd been working as a reporter for the past four years, and she was still stuck with scrapping the bottom of the barrel for a good news story and hardly getting published at all. Sure she had been hanging around for the 8 years she'd been out of Hogwarts, before she'd joined the newspaper, at any second-hand job or washed-out magazine she could get her hands on. But she was writer, and a pretty damned good one.
More than that she was stubborn, and the fact that there wasn't a shred of proof in Black's defense didn't waver her.
Sirius Black, prankster extraordinare turned…Death Eater? Stark Gryffindor the heir to the most pure of Slytherins? It didn't make sense. And it was no more believable to her than Rita Skeeter's most recent article on the Minister of Magic's assistant's affair with one of the Weird Sisters.
The she-devil herself was the first person Danica met as she walked toward her office. More like a sneaky crocodile, Danica thought in the back of her mind, with those fake tears of hers.
"Danica." Rita smiled at her, her alligator handbag hung off her arm and she looked slightly pink in the face as if she'd just been outside.
Probably sniffing around for a story, Danica thought bitterly. It didn't matter how hard she tried, Rita always got one up, always got the secret information. What was even scarier was that more often than not there was a vague truth to her story. The assistant had been sleeping with someone…even if it wasn't a Weird Sister.
I don't know how she does it, Danica said to herself, but one day someone is going to catch her and pop that little bubble of snootiness right around her ears.
The Quick Quill that Rita was never without hovered near her shoulder, poised to write anything that Danica would say. You always had to be careful when talking to Rita, Danica realized. You never knew when you might be turned into her next headline.
"Hi, Rita." Danica replied, stopping just outside her own office. Safety. But Rita was bearing down on her and all she could to was stand there as the long nailed, obnoxiously dressed woman gave her a hug and a fake peck to the air.
"Whatever are you doing wandering around?" Rita said, fluffing her hair with her hand. "You should be working on your next 'big scoop'."
The gibe didn't pass Danica, who barely managed to hold her temper in. "I was talking to Mr. Cummings." She replied shortly.
Rita looked interested. "Oh…really….about…?"
Danica knew better than to tell Rita anything that could get her into even more trouble, or lose her a story, no matter how farfetched Cummings thought it was. "Personal business." Danica replied shortly.
"Oh." Rita's eyes flashed like a cat eyeing a canary. The Quick Quill was speeding across the page and Danica glared and promptly yanked the paper out of the air, leaving the quill paused, as if looking at her.
"It was nice to see you Rita."
The grin was painted on the other woman's face as Danica stepped into her office and closed the door behind her with a loud snap.
With a sigh she glanced around the small room. A desk was up against one wall with a patched chair that was leaning slightly to the left. A bookshelf was on the opposite wall, holding any books and scrapbooks of newspapers she ever needed at work. Papers littered the floor and flooded her desk. Danica sighed and walked past the wall that held her Hogwarts degree as well as two pictures, one of her as a young school girl with friends and another of her older with the same group of friends, minus one.
Danca settled down in her chair and dropped the page with her article on it on the desk in front of her. Then she opened the paper the Quick Quill had been writing on.
Ms. Clarke looks on in awe as the famous, not to mention beautiful, reporter Rita Skeeter comes and gives her a warm hug. She looks surprised and honored that such a highly respected person-
Danica snorted. Famous? More like infamous. Warm hug? Looked on in awe?
Ms. Clarke, wearing old, worn clothing that is plainly for years ago, perhaps stashed in the back of a moldy closet-
Old, worn clothing? Danica glanced down at her fading blue jeans and her long-sleeve pale blue shirt that was layered under a short-sleeve green top. Her tennis shoes were fraying at the edges. Well it's better than dressing up like some gaudy Barbie doll, Danica seethed, pulling at the edge of her royal blue robe that hung open across her shoulders.
When questioned about her conversation with Mr. Greg Cummings, Ms. Clarke gets a soft loving look in her eyes as she replies with a silky voice, "Personal business." One doesn't need to wonder what kind of personal business that might be…
"Oh you've got to be kidding me!" Danica gagged as she balled up the piece of paper and tossed it across the room, missing the trash can terribly. "Of all the ridiculous…" She fumed under her breath, crumpling papers in her fists.
The owl that flew through the window the next minute had to peck her very hard on the knuckle for her to finally notice it, and stop her fuming about Rita. "What-oh." She said taking the letter from its leg. "Um…thank you?" She said as it clicked its beak at her and flew off.
Danica opened the letter and found her friend Amelia's handwriting scrawled across one of the papers.
Hope you're doing well, the letter read, then went on to talk about all that the other woman was doing, her new husband and how she was expecting a baby, and also expecting Danica to not only be at the baby shower, but also to be the baby's godmother. The letter continued asking how she was doing and so forth. Danica sighed. It was exciting for Amelia, a husband and a baby on the way.
And herself? Still single. Always been single, except for a boyfriend for the amazing length of three weeks while she was in her 5th year a Hogwarts. First kiss? She wished.
Well she had a job, Danica sighed inwardly. A job she enjoyed, most of the time. Boys would just have to wait. But at 29….she sighed again. By now she should've had more than one steady boyfriend and a handful of dates that amounted to nothing.
You have too high standards, one of her friends said.
You just need to let it happen and not go looking for it, Amelia said.
What about a dating service? That had been her matchmaking Aunt who had moved away to France…or Germany, Danica couldn't remember which.
Dancia groaned and shut her eyes, leaning back in her chair. She supposed it wouldn't hurt to try the dating service…or to lower her standards just a little…maybe not imagine the heroic prince carrying her off into the night on a Hippogriff, flying into the stars. Perhaps she was expecting a bit too much.
But she hadn't been looking for it, and so far it hadn't come looking for her either. Concentrate on the story, Danica coached herself, then worry about your love life, or lack there of, later.
The story. She looked at her article and cringed. As much as it irritated her to agree with Mr. Cummings, he was right in one point: she didn't have enough proof. Actually she had no proof whatsoever. No proof for her theory that Sirius Black wasn't what everyone said he was. Danica let out a deep breath. She wasn't even sure anymore why she didn't believe it herself - why she didn't just accept the fact that Sirius Black was a murderer and move on.
All she knew was that for the past 12 years something had been stirring in her gut, telling her something was just off, and now at the beginning of spring the stirring had increased. Now it was telling her to get a move on and not waste any more years. And if there was one thing that Danica always did, it was follow her gut - no matter where it led her.
Of course if it led to nowhere than it would all have been for nothing, right? Danica groaned and shut her eyes again.
The smell of tea caused her to open her eyes and look at the steaming mug sitting in front of her. She glanced up and saw the goofy grin of a fellow reporter..
Danica looked at him and then looked at the drink again. "Mine?" She asked.
'Morning to you too sunshine." He told her, flicking his brown bangs out of his eyes. "Yeah it's yours."
She grinned at him. "Thanks Jeff." Then took a sip. It was perfect.
"Anything for my aspiring front-page reporter to-be." He said, sitting on the edge of her desk. "How'd your meeting with the head honcho go?"
Danica rolled her eyes. "Horrible."
"Well, you are trying to prove that Azkaban's most prized and highest level prisoner shouldn't be there." Jeff told her.
Danica shook her head. "It shouldn't matter…what should matter is the truth."
Jeff chuckled and gave her a sympathetic look. "You're working for a newspaper…you should've learned by standing near Rita when she's in the spotlight that the truth is really just a starting point. You need much more than a 'truth' to get a front page story, Danica."
Jeff grabbed her article and skimmed it, then winced. "And you could start by interviewing someone other than Fudge…or Crouch for that matter. They're the ones who put him there, denied him the trial. Whatever they say is going to biased. Heck, I wouldn't even use Dumbledore. Not that Dumbledore isn't reliable…but he's already said all he knows, and maybe it's not everything. He may be the best Headmaster Hogwarts has ever seen and he may be the only one You-Know-Who was ever scared of, but he wasn't there when Voldemort killed the Potters, or when Black blew up the street…and he wasn't Sirius Black's confident."
Danica made a face at his words and Jeff tossed her a grin. "Go home, Danica. Go home and forget about this."
Danica gave him a sad look. "I've been trying to 'forget it' but it just keeps coming back."
Giving her one more sympathetic look, Jeff turned and left the room.
Left alone in her office, Danica realized Jeff did have a point. Not about forgetting about the story, but going home. There wasn't anything left for her to do at the office, why not go home and relax? She stood up, grabbed her article and stuffed it in her bag, along with a couple of books from the shelf. She snatched her cloak and pulled it around her and then left the room.
Once outside the Daily Prophet building, Danica pulled her wand out from the back pocket of her jeans and raised it up. A roaring sound met her ears and she saw the purple Knight Bus swoop in beside her. The doors opened and a man leaned out.
"What stop?" He asked quickly.
Danica smiled. "Hogsmeade."
Danica sat curled up on her sofa looking around the living room. It was small, but she liked it that way. Her kitchen was out to her right and her bedroom and bathroom out to her left. Anytime one of her friends came over they complained about how lacking space it was, but Danica liked the comfort of everything being together. It was much more homey than any large house her friends had tried to make her move into.
The hot chocolate warmed her palms, even though it was summertime. Chocolate. The best remedy. She smiled slightly and took another sip. A brown object jumped in front of her, landing softly on the couch beside her. Danica glanced down and smiled at her cat. "You want some too?" She asked it. The cat purred loudly and stepped onto her lap, kneading her leg until she stroked behind its ears.
As the purrs intensified Danica felt her mind wander back to the story. Even when she was trying to relax it plagued her…like the little brother that wouldn't go away. She sighed and leaned back against the couch, deepening into thought over Jeff's words. 'he wasn't his confident ….interview someone other than the biased ones who put him there…'
Danica's brown furrowed. Jeff was right. Most of the people that she'd ever talked to, or heard talk, knew the limited story, the newspaper version of what happened, which was what Fudge and Crouch and even Dumbledore believed. Which was the very thing she was trying to prove was wrong. The only one that knew the whole thing would've been Voldemort or James Potter or….
The cat yowled in protest as Danica surged off the couch in excitement, barely setting down her cocoa. The cat, now on the floor, hissed in a disapproving voice and flounced off, most likely to pout. Danica ignored it and grabbed her pot of Floo powder, leaning toward her fireplace before thrusting a handful in and saying in a clear voice "Jeff"
As the fire turned green she shook her head. "I can't believe I didn't think of it before." She mumbled to herself. So simple, so easy…
"Jeff!" Danica exclaimed when his head appeared in the flames.
"Danica…what do you want?" He asked, his voice was curious.
"I need you to tell me how to arrange a visit to Azkaban."
So, what do you guys think? The next chapter's started and sort of planned so I'll work on that in between working on my update for As the Wind Blows. Tell me what you think and please review!!