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Madam Norma was not amused. Turns out that Rose dashed off that owl about 20 minutes after I left them alone (for which I gave Scorpius no small amount of ribbing), telling her that we had the scoop of the year, and she needed to see us post-haste. Of course, by the time we actually got a reply, the story had been old hat. Furthermore, she told us under no uncertain terms that she was patently not interested in the story. As she explained it to us in her reply:
"Teen Witch Monthly is printed to appeal to the fantasies of young witches; why on Earth would we print a story about one of the most eligible wizards in school going off the market?"
As one can imagine, this presented us with quite the dilemma. James showed us an owl from his agent asking him to deny the "scandalous rumours," and he began to get concerned about his position at Puddlemere. We needed Madam Norma in the worst way.
By the week-end, we were finally able to badger her into at least hearing us out. We arranged a luncheon meeting at the Three Broomsticks, to plead our case. Rose, Scorpius and I brought along several fifth-year Hufflepuffs who were more than eager to help make our case that James and his boyfriend coming out wouldn't just be something "okay" by them, but something they'd like to read. The pseudo-twins were absolutely brilliant, as a matter of fact. They went on at excruciating length about the pair's keen sense of fashion, their matching haircuts, and the "simply adorable" way they looked at each other at meals. Yet, somehow even this was not enough.
"Darlings," Madam Norma began once our guests had left, "what you really need to understand is this: whilst we may sell our magazine to young witches, our ultimate customer isn't them, but rather our advertisers. Were we to run a piece as you suggest, simply presenting James and his beau as any other elite Hogwarts couple, we'd lose at least a half-dozen advertisers before we went to press. Of course, we have an article queued up for this story already, but it's certainly not the kind of puff-piece you'd been hoping for. But, come now. With all the bad blood between you and the Gryffindors, this certainly isn't the end of the world, is it?"
Well, no. No it wasn't. But it wasn't anything we were going to accept, either. Now, we weren't about to play that hand now, were we?
"Of course it is! You can't possibly think we'd just allow you to denigrate a member of our family like that, can you? Madam Norma, this is not over! Come on, boys, we're done here."
And just like that, Rose lost her honorary Slytherin membership. I tried mouthing apologies to Madam Norma as we left, but to no avail.
"For fuck's sake, Rose, what was all that about?" I asked as we walked down the High Street in Hogsmeade.
"What do you mean? You'd really let her publish some attack piece on your brother like that? Merlin, Albus, I knew you two don't get on, but isn't that a bit extreme?"
"Of course I wasn't going to let that go, but good lord, woman, yelling at her like that, that's like playing poker with your hand turned over."
Rose opened her mouth to answer, but a light went on in her head, and she covered her mouth with her hand.
"Oh. Oh dear. Albus, I'm -"
"It's alright, really. We'll just need to get hold of Mum a bit earlier's all."
"Didn't you say that was...?" Scorpius asked.
"Wasn't the right call then, love," I answered, "but we need to get a story out yesterday. TWM will be going to press soon - sooner if they think we're up to something - and we have to beat them to the punch."
There's not a direct floo connection between Hogsmeade and London, but one could make calls. We (okay, Rose) charmed the proprietor of the Hogs Head to let us use hers, but mum wasn't home. Dad, however, was in his office, meaning our conversation was a bit less private than we would have liked, and therefore a lot more circumspect.
"Dad, it's about James. Word's gone public."
Dad took a deep breath, and let go a healthy exhale, much like his muggle headshrinker told him to do after the War.
"How'd it happen, son? Is it too late to-"
"Don't know right now, and it's rather besides the point. TWM are about to put out a piece about him, and it won't be pleasant. Need to see if Mum can head this off with her Prophet connections"
"Wait, who are about to publish a story about James?"
"TW - Teen Witch Monthly. Biggest teen witch's magazine in Britain. We have a contact there, and -"
"Well, did you try asking him?"
It was at this point that I buried my face in my hand.
"Do you know where Mum is? We really need to talk to someone who knows Quidditch."
There was a bit of mumbling on Dad's side of the floo, and then a completely different voice said
"I might know something about the Quidditch," a small, timid voice called out from the background.
"I assure you, Auror Baldrick, that I'm well-versed in the sport, whether or not I made a career of it," Dad replied, a bit more sharply than I'd ever heard him talk to one of his men before.
"Right, no, sorry, sir. That's not what I meant at all. It's just that, begging your pardon, Mr Potter, sir, er-"
"Well, go on. Spit it out, man," Dad barked. No idea what poor Baldrick was in for, but he'd obviously done something to royally piss off Dad.
"Me brother, you see, he writes for Quidditch Quickly, and he could rather use a story at present. Something about the son of Harpies' ol' number 10 might really help 'im out."
There was an awkward pause for a moment before Baldrick spoke up again.
"Er, because he's a chaser like his mum, you see. If he were a seeker, well, we all know your record with Gryffindor, Mr Potter, sir."
Dad visibly softened a bit as he turned his attentions back to us.
"That would really help, Dad," I said, as Dad seemed to be at a bit of a loss. Now, I might not know a Quaffle from a Beater, but I'd certainly heard of Quidditch Quickly, as it came to our house weekly. They always had a bit of a thing for Mum, which, given their predominantly male readership, occasionally got disturbing. Their weekly publication would also help us scoop Teen Witch Monthly. But, as I was a bit out of my depth on the Sport pages, I made arrangements to speak with Mr. Baldrick.
Mum thought the idea was brilliant, of course. She'd regretted offering the Prophet's services nearly as soon as she had; she was afraid someone might call out the paper for conflict of interest. Messers Baldrick had no such qualms, however, and the following day they met us in Hogsmeade to go over particulars, and interview James and his beau. The story landed James on the cover, along with the caption "Is this Puddlemere's next great seeker?" All in all it was a great success (Quidditch Quickly graciously edited out James's crass declaration that "it's always been easy for me to score centre hoop on Jack"), and Puddlemere wound up not only honouring their verbal agreement, but featuring James predominantly in their marketing during his debut season.
Madam Norma, as one can imagine, was less than enthused. Three days after the Quidditch Quickly article was published, I received a Howler from her, to which, due to an excess of both curiosity and invincibility, I deigned to listen:
"Albus Potter!" it started. "How dare you go behind my back to get a story published? After all we've done for you! Your association with our publication is hereby revoked. And be warned, young man. We made you three, and we can break you, too."
The Howler self-destructed, and I was left sitting there with the pieces. Several well-wishers came by, letting me know that I'd done the right thing; they'd stick by us, etc. Rose and Scorpius arrived a moment or two later, and Rose wound up penning our response. (My idea for a response wound up being a profanity-laden tirade that certainly would have been printed in the next issue of TWM as "proof the Mercurial Trio have gone 'round the bend." Rose is good like that.)
James found out about his success via a parcel that arrived during lunch about a week later. In it were a note from his agent, asking him to appear at the pitch in Dorset for a photo-shoot, and a Puddlemere jersey in retro-brown (which the team were bringing back that season), with Potter-9 emblazoned on the back. In James's typically subtle fashion, he immediately threw the kit on, stood on top of the Gryffindor table, and shouted "Woo! Up the Lions! You other houses are shite! Puddlemere, woo!" This, of course, drew wild cheers from the Gryffindor table, and doubly-wild indifference from the rest of the school. It's a good thing he wasn't terribly injured after he mysteriously slipped off the back of the table, just as Rose, Scorpius and I were exiting the Great Hall.