Hogwarts Love Triangle?
by Bil!

K+ - General, Humour – AD, MM, SS – Oneshot

Summary: Rita Skeeter never did allow facts to get in the way of a good story. Albus is amused. Set during PS.

Disclaimer: JKR would never do this to her characters, therefore this is clearly not hers.

A/N: So why did Skeeter never show up before Harry's fourth year? You'd think the Boy Who Lived would be a great story even before he fought Quirrell-Voldemorts or basilisks. Despite answering the above question, this story has nothing to do with Harry. Er, and shippers of any combination of Dumbledore/Snape/McGonagall aren't going to like my ending. This story is not to be taken at all seriously. Seriously. I think I have a problem...

I should really point out that this does not fit with canon from the fifth book onwards. So if you're wanting DH fic, look elsewhere. Poem is by Hunbert Wolfe.

Hogwarts Love Triangle?

You cannot hope
to bribe or twist
thank God! the
British journalist.

But seeing what
the man will do
unbribed, there's
no occasion to.

Rita Skeeter liked to think that she was one of the sharpest, most dedicated reporters in the world. She never let anything get in the way of a good story, not even silly little details like facts and truthfulness. People didn't want the truth, they wanted gritty, sordid stories that they could gossip about while they drank their morning tea. They wanted to hear other people's secrets and shake their heads with gleeful regret over the lax morals of the celebrities whose lives they followed avidly in the papers. Rita, she was proud to be able to say, gave her readers exactly what they wanted. She loved her job.

In fact, there wasn't a lot Rita wanted from life that she didn't already have. She was attractive, sought after, and well known. Not, admittedly, quite so well known as some of those she pilloried in her sharp-quilled articles, but that, she was certain, would change. Harry Potter, dear boy, would certainly change it. The definitive interview! She could see the headlines now:

The Boy Who Lived:
Harry Potter speaks in Exclusive Interview with Rita Skeeter

That was the big one. That was the article that would make her name once and for all and bring her all the fame she so richly deserved. The journalist who got that interview would need nothing else on her CV – and Rita was determined that no one else would get it.

Which was why she was trundling six-leggedly across a wooden windowsill, half-heartedly composing an acidic expose on the poor repair of the woodwork at Hogwarts (not only was the paint peeling in a most obstructive manner, but the wood was rotten!). Trying to find the wretched boy was harder than she had hoped because the school was littered with classrooms filled with students and despite all the practice she had done since gaining her animagus form (and really it was silly to call it illegal – after all, she never did any real harm with it) beetle eyes were simply not the best for deciphering human features.

The task was made even more difficult by the fact that no one actually knew what the Potter boy looked like. He'd only been at Hogwarts a month and although rumours about him had spread far and wide through letters home from his fellow students, no one had yet thought to get a photograph.

That was Rita's current task. All she wanted today was a photo; the interview would naturally follow from that. Even to be the first to print a photo of him would gain her some cachet, and she would accompany it by such a nice, sympathetic article that the boy would immediately warm to her. As soon as she sent him a copy, of course. She couldn't expect a semi-literate eleven-year-old to exert the mental effort to read her work without prompting.

But she would send him a lovely copy of the paper with his article in it (front page? she hoped so), accompanied by a charming letter, and ask for an interview. Being naive and flattered, he would naturally grant it – and then she would have it. Her key to lasting success, and not just fleeting notoriety that only lasted as long as it took for a newspaper to be relegated to the bottom of an owl's cage.

People were so fickle, Rita grumbled to herself as she decided that the students she had been peering at myopically were too old to be the Potter boy's class. She created delicious scandals for them and within a week no one remembered! Or if by chance they remembered the scandal they didn't remember that it was she who had worked her Quick Quotes Quill to the rachis in order to bring it to them.

But the Boy Who Lived! No one would forget him, and if no one forgot him then no one would forget her. She might even have her photo taken with him. Yes, that would be a good idea. The pair of them together on the front page of the Daily Prophet, so that no one would forget who it was brought them such a scrumptious story.

Pleased with herself, Rita zoomed around the stone walls of the castle in search of another class. This one looked far more promising and the window was open. She buzzed inside, avoiding with a casual swoop the hand of a boy who tried to wave her away, and circled the classroom. Then she spotted him. Harry Potter! It had to be him, under his scruffy hair (didn't the boy have a hairbrush?) she could see the famous lightning bolt scar. Excellent! Already turning over choice phrases in her mind – should his hair be described as charmingly dishevelled or adorably messy? – she skittered under the classroom door and into the corridor.

The room next door was empty and she transformed back to human and dug urgently in her satchel for her camera. All she needed was one clear shot and she was a step closer to lasting fame. Fighting the urge to do a little dance of joy, she impatiently brushed aside scrolls and quills in her search. One day she really needed to organise her bag...

"Kindly remove your hands from that bag and raise them over your head."

Rita actually gave a little shriek of surprise, which wasn't good for her sophisticated and collected image, and jerked her hands up obediently, staring in shock at the two figures standing in the doorway. The man held a wand on her and she clenched her fists petulantly, feeling cheated. She'd been so close!

"Oh, it's you," the woman said disapprovingly.

Rita flashed McGonagall an insincere smile but was privately pleased at the acknowledgement. Recognition was recognition, no matter how regretful the recogniser might be.

"You are a reporter, are you not?" drawled the other. Severus Snape. She knew all about him, she'd covered his trial.

"Rita Skeeter," she said brightly, thrusting a hand out. "Perhaps you've read my work?"

He sneered at her, ignoring her hand and not lowering his wand. "Please acquit me of any desire to read the puerile drivel that passes for competent journalism these days."

Ooh, just lock her in a room with him, please! "If I didn't work alone," she cooed, "you would make a divine partner. What a deliciously devastating turn of phrase you have." Apparently not deeming this sally worthy of an answer, he curtly gestured for her to precede him out of the room. "What an excellent idea," she approved, sashaying through the doorway. "Let's go somewhere private, just the two of us."

"As tempting as that is," came the reply (to Rita's regret it was McGonagall who spoke, not Snape), "the Board of Governors generally frown upon murder on the school grounds. Therefore, we must ask you to leave."

"And if I refuse?"

"Please do," Snape said silkily, but Rita had been thrown out of quite enough places to know that the threat in his voice was very real.

She sighed with artificial regret. "And I was so enjoying reliving my old school days." She obediently led the way down the stairs.

"In future," Snape drawled, "you might wish to announce your presence before you start 'reliving'. It would save you from potential... unpleasantness." She had to admire the way he could make ordinary and commonplace words sound sinisterly threatening. She knew a lot about threats and this man was a master.

"You should know, Miss Skeeter," McGonagall said (and the old hag was enjoying this, Rita realised with annoyance), "that all of Mr Potter's mail is screened before it goes to him. He receives messages from friends and family only."

Rita scowled at a whispering portrait, then tossed a light smile over her shoulder at her escort. "And why, pray tell, should such news interest little old me?"

McGonagall offered her a faint smile as artificial as Rita's own. "Oh, I think you know, my dear."

Rita tossed her head defiantly and shuddered. She hated it when the woman said 'my dear'.

Firmly, if politely, escorted off the grounds, Rita stood outside the gate and watched the pair of teachers stroll back towards the castle. Foiled! She'd been so close. And that wretched woman, with her ridiculous accent and her fake smiles. Ooh, she just wanted to take out her quill and—

A look of dawning realisation swept across her face. Smiling, Rita raised her camera.

"Good morning, Severus!" Albus greeted cheerfully. The younger man offered a curt nod of acknowledgement and took the seat on the other side of Minerva, who put a cup of tea down in front of him. On the weekends the teachers weren't constrained to sit in their customary places and so far none of the other teachers had yet arrived. The three of them, being the early risers of the staff, were always the ones to supervise the beginnings of weekend breakfasts. There were only a few students up already, adolescents not being in the general way early birds.

Albus liked these quiet, restful mornings before the majority of the school was awake, when he could relax in the company of Minerva and Severus while he ate. He also liked the crazy, busy weekday mornings when everyone was rushing to be ready before the first class and the Hall buzzed with energy. Minerva told him he was far too easily pleased.

"Porridge?" he asked Severus. "It's really quite good this morning."

Severus sneered half heartedly at the pot and reached for the toast. Minerva handed him the butter and returned her attention to her bacon and eggs.

"One of these days," Albus said with amusement, "I shall tempt you."

Severus cut his toast into precise strips. "I doubt it," he said simply. "Have you reviewed my ingredient list yet?"

"Reviewed and approved. It was sent to the Governors this morning, but I doubt there will be any quibbles. There was nothing revolutionary or dangerous in it."

"Yet they insist on checking it every few months." Severus scowled. "Lucius Malfoy is behind it, I am quite convinced."

"You're too paranoid, Severus," Minerva chided. He looked at her. "All right, I suppose not. But wasn't he on your side?"

It was a long time since Severus's defection to Voldemort's side had had any emotional resonance amongst the three of them; now it was merely an old fact. Albus took a moment to reflect with pride on how far they had come.

"He was. However, he was never proven to be a..." Severus paused, scowling at the pair of Hufflepuffs pouring over a book at the near end of their house table. "To be one of his. I, however, was. Therefore he must prove his own innocence by impugning me at every opportunity."

Minerva sighed. "I never liked him. Even as an eleven year old he was..."

"A complete and utter git," Severus said glumly, pouring himself some more tea.

Movement in the air made Albus look up to see his morning paper heading towards him. The tawny owl landed neatly on the edge of the table, snapped up a piece of bacon, and held out its leg with an innocent air. Albus chuckled, took the paper, and offered the bird a sliver of toast.

While Minerva and Severus continued their conversation, he opened the paper. Neither of them received the Prophet – they preferred to borrow his once he had finished with it. Absent-mindedly sipping his tea, Albus skimmed through the first few pages. Nothing interesting seemed to be happening in the world at the moment, which was reassuring in its way but made him wonder when the next blow would fall.

He looked up from an article on the capture of several illegal flying carpets to listen a moment to Minerva's lecture on the wisdom of healthy eating – Severus had never been a big eater but Minerva remained determined he should become one – then turned the page.

"Dear me," he said with some amusement, causing Minerva to break off mid-word and both of them to look at him.

"What is it?" Severus asked sharply.

"'Hogwarts Love Triangle?' by Rita Skeeter," he quoted. "And there is a rather fetching photo of the pair of you as well."

"There is a what?" Minerva snatched for the paper but he pulled it out of reach.

"There have long been rumours of a romance between Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore and his deputy Minerva McGonagall," he read, a smile tugging at his lips. Minerva made an impatient noise. "But could it be Professor McGonagall is considering replacing Dumbledore, once the wizarding world's most eligible bachelor – yes, I was, wasn't I? – with a younger man?"

"Honestly," Minerva huffed.

Severus smirked at her, but the smirk dropped off his face when Albus continued, "Severus Snape, a long-time friend and colleague of Dumbledore's, may not be a winner of the Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award, but his dark allure and deep black eyes make him a delectable choice." Albus put the paper down. "Do you know, Severus, I do believe she might have a tendre for you."

Severus shuddered. "Accio paper." Catching it, he spread it out in front of him so that Minerva could also read it.

"Dear Merlin," she said faintly as she quickly read through the article. "That woman is outrageous. How is it she is permitted to print such rubbish? And why would a supposedly respectable paper care to allow her to do so? She need only accuse the two of you of an illicit affair conducted behind my back and she will have nothing more to write."

"Perhaps she is saving that for Monday's issue," Albus suggested, amused. "Really, my dear, your imagination is quite as lurid as Miss Skeeter's."

"There's no need to insult me, Albus," she said waspishly. "Do you plan to do something about this?" She stabbed at the offending article with the butt of her knife.

"Such as? At least she is focussing upon us rather than young Harry. Although I suppose we might tell her the truth."

Minerva snorted but looked amused. "She wouldn't believe us."

"Not that truth," Severus said, his eyes sparkling with mischief (a look that, had the students been able to see it, would have destroyed his reputation forever). "The one where although it is true you are toying with both our hearts, in fact your affections truly lie with Gilderoy Lockhart!"

Albus bit back a laugh as Minerva turned on Severus, hissing his name like an angry cat. One of the Ravenclaws glanced up at the head table but saw only the heads of Slytherin and Gryffindor arguing again. Albus and Severus, more familiar with her, knew she was trying not to laugh. "That painted popinjay? Are you mad?"

"Methinks the lady doth protest too much," Severus declared.

She restrained herself with an effort. "Just you wait until there are no students around, young man," she threatened, her voice only slightly shaking with laughter. "I shall give you such a clip around the ear!"

"Now, now, Minerva," he chided, though Albus noticed he did slide a little further away from her. "You don't want Rita Skeeter writing about the culture of violence at Hogwarts."

Minerva coughed to smother a laugh and turned an imploring face to Albus.

"Why must I be the one to control him?" he asked.

"It isn't as though he listens to me," she complained. "After all, you are his superior."

"Yes, but I like to think I am a lenient employer," he said airily.

"Too lenient," she attempted to scowl. Severus smirked at her. "You be quiet," she ordered without heat.

Filius entered through the side door and Albus sighed, knowing that their little interlude was over. Sure enough, Minerva stood as Filius sat.

"Well," she said briskly, "my work isn't going to do itself. Albus, would you kindly add Miss Skeeter to the wards so that she is only allowed into the castle by invitation? Potter doesn't need her haunting his steps."

He nodded. "It will be done before lunch."

Severus left several minutes later, leaving Albus to smile at the Skeeter article. It really was a delightful photo and he was going to have to find a frame for it. In it the miniature black and white figure of Severus offered Minerva his arm as they walked and she took it, looking up at him and laughing at something he said (Albus had a sneaking suspicion Rita would have been even more poisonous in her article had she heard the comment). With one's frame of reference twisted by the accompanying article, he was sure that it was possible to believe the two to be well on the way to being lovers.

Albus, however, saw it for what it really was: a charming photo of his daughter and her son.


(author ducks)