For those who came in late:
Harry's just won his first Hogwarts Inter-House Quidditch match. Admittedly there was a slight case of broom-tampering, and an argument, but catching the snitch orally isn't against the rules, and that's that.
Back at the Shrieking – er, Embassy of Cyrodiil:
Ra'jirra had a certain spring in his step as he headed Tamriel-ward. It was a pity about poor old Snape catching fire, but sometimes, he mused, you had to make sacrifices for the good of your students.
With no idea of what was waiting for him, he started half-singing a little bawd that was popular with just about everyone except the prim, the female, the Argonian, and anyone who knew Crassius Curio or his reputation. It began thus:
O Lifts-Her-Tail was an Argonian she
Sweetest little maid you ever did see…
The current record was forty-eight unique stanzas of varying sexual ingenuity, unquestionable bodily flexibility, and emphatic moral depravity, held jointly by the denizens of The Bloated Float, Imperial City Docks District, Cyrodiil. Crassius Curio would have wept for delight.
As he closed on the weathered building, he noticed something that appeared to be hovering around the entrance. Said entrance was currently obscured by Dervas, whose face was darker than usual.
"Ah," the Dunmer declared, "Here is the Arch-Mage now. Arch-Mage Ra'jirra," he raised his voice formally, "this is Miss Rita Skeeter, a reporter for the Daily Prophet, and, ah, Bruno, a photographer," he carefully navigated the word, "for same."
There was something about Rita's posture, clothing and movement that made the old Khajiit think of an insect, not helped by her face-crippling glasses which dominated her head. A handbag apparently made of daedroth skin almost matched her iridescent green robes, and there was something about her gaze that put him on edge. By comparison, Bruno was a lump with an equally lumpen camera.
"We'd just like a brief interview," Rita's voice was a buzz, "after all, it's been nearly six months since the Boy-Who-Lived returned to us, and we find that we know so little about his guardians there. Everyone wants to know what his life was like with you – what sort of… of person you are – the…"
Ra'jirra was a good judge of character. You had to be in a position like his. And his judgement was causing Rita to become mesmerised by one deadly orange eye slowly emerging from beneath a rising eyebrow.
"Not to mention you'd get one hell of an exclusive, right?" A furry hand rose to stroke the leonine chin. "Well, sounds reasonable. And if there's pictures… I know. Follow me." A smile crossed his face. "I know a spot with great views over eastern Cyrodiil."
For some reason the smile didn't have much warmth.
On the other side of the stable portal, Black Plateau Magickal Research Facility:
"How's that for a view?" Ra'jirra leaned on the parapet of the outer ring and gestured westward. "That's White Gold Tower over there – tallest building in the province and centre of the Empire."
Bruno moved around, his camera clicking, trying to get Ra'jirra looking as regal as possible in front of the magnificent landscape. Neither he nor Rita could avoid glancing up at the twin crescents that were quietly pacing the afternoon sun.
"Well, this is all well and good," Rita said at last, no longer willing to play second fiddle to some creature, Dark or otherwise, "But perhaps now I can ask a few questions?"
"Don't see why not, and may Julianos have mercy on the liar," the old Khajiit shrugged, although his intonation suggested an invocation to that Divine.
Rita dug into her crocodile-skin bag and withdrew a sheet of parchment, which a quick wand-tap soon had flattened out against one of the stones. She then extracted a large quill that was a startling shade of green. "This is a Quick-Quotes quill," she explained, "It will record what we talk about."
"Can't be any less accurate than the usual method," Ra'jirra grunted.
Rita sucked on the end before touching it to the parchment, whereupon it sprang upright, almost vibrating eagerly.
"This is Rita Skeeter, interviewing Arch-Mage Ra'jirra," she declared, and Ra'jirra watched as the quill began to skitter along.
Our glamorous correspondent, forty-three year old Rita Skeeter, risked life and limb to interview the mysterious Dark creature that calls itself Harry's 'father', the Arch-Mage Rachirra.
The old Khajiit burst into laughter. "'Risked life and limb', it says!" he chortled, "Am I really that dangerous looking? Don't tell my wife, she'll never let me live it down."
Despite his fearsome appearance, resembling a great grizzled nundu, Ra'jerra turns out to be quite the pussy-cat, once you get to know him.
"Well," Rita began awkwardly, "let us begin with the Quidditch today. How did you feel seeing the Boy-Who-Lived in mortal peril?"
Ra'jirra looked thoughtfully not at her, but the quill. "The whole school staff was there," he said at last, "and all the students would know the – what is it? – oh yeah, levitating charm. I don't think Harry was in any real danger."
"I thought he was going to die," Ra'jerra said with a shaking voice and moist eyes, "Nobody knew what to do, not even–
The quill juddered to a stop, Ra'jirra now glaring at it with more than natural intensity. Then it began writing again, but jerkier, as though fighting some outside influence.
We lost the know-how of magical flight decades ago – partly laws and partly the downfall of Dagoth Ur. Levitation's all well and good – then the damn spell wears off, and if you don't know 'slow fall', which was a variant, you're generally stuffed.
A shocked Rita grabbed the quill and stared at Ra'jirra, who was now red in the face and puffing like a bellows. "What in Merlin's baggy underpants did you do?"
"That thing reads minds," the Khajiit gasped, "must do – to gussy up your words – like that. My best – skill is Mysticism – so I tried to make it – write what I wanted." He took several breaths as his face returned to its normal hue. "Besides, that thing should be purple," he added in a more normal tone, "or cow shit brown. Also I can probably talk enough for a whole swag of articles." He winked. "Got a quill like that which just does dictation? I'll gab and you can pretty it up later."
Rita just stared at him, then at the Quick-Quotes Quill. The quill shivered in her hand and somehow managed to look mortified.
As it turned out, once Rita had swapped acid green for a more sedate-looking grey dictation quill, Ra'jirra was quite the raconteur. "Gilderoy who?" he asked at one point, "I wouldn't have known him from imp chips at the time. All I knew was that some gaudy guy was babbling away and shoving a wand in my face, didn't bloody ask me did he? So I swatted it aside, realised he hadn't bloody noticed and was about to cast Nine-know-what in a crowded room, so out goes the fist and bonked him on the bugle."
Bruno was sworn to secrecy regarding Rita Skeeter's giggling like a schoolgirl.
"It was hate at first sight," Ra'jirra stated later, "and I wasn't too taken with that Minister of yours, Fudge isn't it? The ghastly woman was going on about me being a dark creature until he grew some stones and pulled her up. Good thing Harry wasn't there or I'd be fetching a mop…"
"You don't think the Boy-Who-Lived would have attacked the Senior Undersecretary of the Minister of Magic!" Rita exclaimed.
"He would," he nodded seriously, "You call Gryffindor the house of the brave, right? No wonder he's in there," not waiting for Rita's confirmation. "And he's almost as overprotective as J'dargo was at his age…"
He also elaborated. "The school of Mysticism covers spells that detect life forces – and undeath forces, funnily enough. I think it's something to do with the caster imbuing a little of his own into the subject but I'm not sure. Anyway, I used to spend a lot of time on the road casting Detect Life and watching for pinkish glows. So I got pretty good at it."
Later that evening, looking over the magically extended parchment – actually a scroll of nearly twelve feet in length – Rita realised that the Khajiit was right. She did have enough for a whole swag of articles. It just needed a little… smoothing out.
Harry's recklessness when someone was in danger, she surmised, seemed to be driven by seeing his aunt die trying to protect him. She clicked her tongue and decided the final draft would not mention his slitting throats. But the public would love a selflessly brave Boy-Who-Lived. And it dovetailed so well with what Ra'jirra had said about what had happened on Halloween, too!
Rita's eyes widened as she made a connection; she took a fresh three-footer of parchment and plucked up her Quick-Quotes Quill, licking her lips with anticipation.
She most definitely did not giggle like a schoolgirl then, either.
The Shrieking Shack, the following day:
Ra'jirra was making eyes at the copy of The Daily Prophet he was reading. Said eyes, which were frightening his fellow magi despite not being in the line of fire, were almost wasted; the people in the photographs were cowering behind things or hiding out of frame by now. Rita Skeeter, and her green quill, had apparently gone on a rampage.
Most of the Daily Prophet was taken up by the lead article and its attendant photographs, sub-articles, sub-sub-articles, and, in those few cracks between those and the all-important advertisements, the quidditch scores and an interesting rumour about a band called The Pack planning a reunion tour.
Half the front page sported a handsome photograph of him leaning (officially regally) against Black Plateau's parapet, with the spire of White Gold Tower visible in the distance, along with the crescents of Masser and Secunda in the sky. Other photos inside included him proudly displaying the charcoal of his son's family (which made him feel warm inside), as well as a photograph of Harry being cornered in that pub… what was it… oh yeah, the Leaky Cauldron.
It seemed that Rita had decided to portray Ra'jirra the family man than the Arch-Mage. That way, she'd been able to sneak a number of snipes at the Ministry and Dumbledore in among the marvelling at Tamriel in general and, he noticed with some amusement, Abhima.
The article, as stated, was escorted by a phalanx of sub-articles explaining some of the peculiarities of Tamrielic life. Some of them were accurate; others were clearly the work of a certain lime-green magic quill with a grudge against powerful Khajiit mages.
One involved a 'statement' by Cornelius Fudge, which Skeeter accurately identified as not stating anything concrete. Ra'jirra also accurately identified it as worth less than a hill of imp turds.
Another, however, noted the large number of 'wizards from the American colonies' that were currently working in Black Plateau, and speculated on what this might mean. Damn, Ra'jirra thought. That could cause some friction between him and the dork in the green hat.
"Arch-Mage!" the call was followed by a decidedly rattled Dumbledore, vermillion robes askew and his equally puce hat on sideways. "Have you seen – did you speak to –"
"Rita Skeeter of the Prophet? Yeah," Ra'jirra admitted, more than a little surprised by the Headmaster's agitation. "I note she skipped over where I took control of that Bullshitter's Quill, or whatever it was called, and she got the wrong end of the stick about the corpse-humper attack on Tales And Tallows, and she likes to splash her opinions all over every-bloody-thing, but other than that… why? Something wrong?"
The old man just stared at the Khajiit, utterly thrown for a loop. "Wrong? Of course there's something wrong! That woman's the worst kind of muck-raker, and now she's thrown my competence as Headmaster into doubt!"
"You mean this bit? 'While the Arch-Mage and his son were victorious over the troll, one has to wonder at how such a Dark Creature could have trespassed into the most well-protected...' blah blah. Yeah, she does lay it on a little thick there doesn't she?"
"Thanks to her and you and I now have to attend an inquiry!"
"Well grow some stones then." Ra'jirra frowned at the agitated wizard, unable to understand why he was acting like some idiot Guildie caught out doing something stupid. "It's not as if you're expected to be omnipotent or anything…"
Dumbledore just looked at him sadly.
"You're bloody joking."
"I wish I was," Dumbledore replied simply, "However the people needed a hero, even after I defeated… Grindelwald… and who was I to deny them?"
Ra'jirra looked levelly at the old man. It suddenly struck him that Dumbledore was a victim of his own success, and that he needed help to get out from under. Then something else struck him.
"Hang on, what do you mean I have to attend some inquiry?"
"Here, page seven. 'Why are Colonial Wizards in Black Plateau?' That's going to have the Ministry and the Wizengamot screaming for answers."
Ra'jirra leaned back in his chair and looked at the ceiling for Divine guidance. "Well, hells," he said at last, absently washing one ear, "we'll just have to give 'em some, won't we?"
AN: You have no idea how many darlings I had to kill to get to a natural break point; how many scenes I had to throw away because of unneeded characters. I think one more Ra'jirra-centric chapter then we get back to Harry & Co. Ltd.