Disclaimer: They don't belong to me and never will, no matter what I say about them.
A/N: It's been floating around in my head for a while, so I figure it's about time to get it out there. This story follows canon through part of OotP, but disregards the rest.
Chapter 1: The Revelation
The stars were beginning to twinkle over Diagon Alley as the last of the shops began to close. In a small third-story flat near Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour, Rita Skeeter leaned back against a pile of swanky satin pillows. As she sipped wine from a crystal goblet, she glanced back down at the short letter that had arrived a few hours before.
On behalf of Harry Potter, your writing skills are not requested at this time.
A nasty glare came to her eyes as she crumpled up the parchment and lobbed it into the fire. As she watched the cheery flames eat away at the casual dismissal, Rita drummed her perfectly manicured nails against the arm rest of her purple settee. She had only wanted to write an expose on how the Boy-Who-Lived was handling the upcoming sixteenth anniversary of his parents' death now that he was of a majority. She had even sent a polite memo to entreaty an audience with the boy, offering him an expense-free dinner at a restaurant of his choosing during his next Hogsmeade visit.
"My writing skills are not requested," she muttered bitterly to the long-haired white cat that purred beside her. "Presumptuous little tart, isn't she?"
Rita took another slow sip of wine and then traced her silver tipped nails over her cherry-hued lips. She had no love for the demanding girl who thought she could be ordered around so easily. Sure, the bushy-haired badger had the upper hand upon discovering her as an unregistered animagus. Rita had complied with every aspect of the girl's mandate in order to protect herself from legal repercussions. She had done her year in exile, suffering through an absence of cash flow by forgoing her usual standards of living. She had even done that piece for the Quibbler for no payment at all, and had followed Granger's instructions to the letter. The girl thought she owned Rita, just by threatening exposure to the Ministry.
"Well, sweetheart," she murmured, staring at the newly framed certificate from the Improper Use of Magic Office that hung above her mantle. "Things change."
With a little giggle, the woman patted her elaborate blonde curls and stood from her sofa. Her magenta robes rustled as she sauntered over to her ornate mahogany desk. She set her goblet of wine on the corner of her desk and pushed her jewel-rimmed glasses farther up her nose as she reached for her emerald green quill and a fresh sheet of parchment. She had just over five hours before the morning's edition of the Prophet would be sent to print.
Rita Skeeter was not a woman to be trifled with, and that little chit was going to learn it.
Hermione Granger gave a cheerful sigh as she left her room and made her way down to the Great Hall for breakfast. Glancing out one of the windows, she smiled at the bright sky that promised exceptionally nicer weather than was normal for mid-October. Though her Friday schedule was just as packed as every other day, she hoped the pleasantness would hold true for the weekend, so she could spend some time reading outside.
"Good morning, Harry," she said as she dropped her bag beside the bench and took a seat at the Gryffindor table. "Good morning, Ronald."
"You're painfully cheery this morning," Harry muttered, while Ron gave a mumbled agreement.
"Ron, don't talk with food in your mouth," she corrected while pulling two pieces of buttered toast onto her plate. "It's utterly disgusting."
The redhead swallowed loudly and shrugged.
She rolled her eyes and glanced up at the sounds of flapping wings. Instinctively, she covered her food with her hand and waited for the onslaught of the owl post to end. Her own copy of the Daily Prophet plopped on top of her hand and she quickly set it aside for the time being. She was hungry now and could wait to read until she was done eating.
As the swarm of owls exited the hall, Hermione picked up a piece of toast and began nibbling. As she chewed, the noise level in the great hall began steadily decreasing until it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop. Glancing around in surprise, she met her friends' equally confused expressions.
"Why are they all staring at us?" Harry whispered.
"Dunno, mate," Ron responded quietly.
As whispers began filling the hall, Hermione noticed that the stares were pointed more in her direction than Harry's. Even students from her own House were gaping at her. Feeling extremely self-conscious, she reached for the newspaper and quickly unfolded it.
As her eyes quickly scanned across the front page, she quickly found why everyone had been shocked into silence. Her eyes widened and the color drained from her face as she read. Unconsciously, she began rising from her seat and as she reached the end of the article, she screamed.
Severus Snape had just finished his bacon and eggs when the usual roar of student chatter disintegrated into quiet whispering. He narrowed his eyes as he set down his coffee mug and critically glanced out at the tables. He saw a number of stares directed towards the Gryffindor table and he sighed, wondering what idiotic thing Potter had said this time.
The panicked screech pierced the quiet mutterings, and immediately drew his attention to the only girl standing. Granger had slammed the Prophet down onto the table, knocking over a bowl of scrambled eggs. When her fearful gaze locked onto his own curious one, he raised his brow quizzically but found himself unable to look away. He could see her beginning to sway and he began counting down in his head.
Three…two…one. The girl's eyes rolled back in her head, and she rapidly began crashing to the floor. The dunderheads on either side of her – Longbottom and Finnigan – attempted to catch her, but only succeeded in falling out of their seats to join her on the floor.
Smirking, Severus moved his eyes away from the table, fully expecting the rest of the staff to rush to the aid of the Head Girl. When no one stirred, he frowned and glanced about the hall. Though Granger had been the one to take the swan dive, it seemed everyone – including the rest of the staff –was now staring at him. An unsettling feeling washed over him, and he snatched Pomona's copy of the Prophet right out of the pudgy witch's hands.
What the bloody hell is everyone on about? His brow furrowed as he quickly glanced over the top half of the front page before flipping it to the bottom. Just below the crease, in the center column, he found his answer.
SCANDAL ABOUNDS AT HOGWARTS
Reported by Rita Skeeter
Tantalizing rumors are floating throughout the halls of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry today. This witch, however, is not surprised to learn of the subject of these whispers, newly-appointed Head Girl, Hermione Granger, 18.
My faithful readers may recognize the name from the coverage of the Tri-Wizard Tournament that took place on the grounds of Hogwarts over the 1994-1995 school year. It was there that I first recognized the plain Miss Granger for the scheming siren she truly is and accurately reported to you of her questionable liaisons with a number of the tournament's champions. After tossing aside The-Boy-Who-Lived to chase after the Bulgarian Quidditch player, Viktor Krum, this fame-seeking harpy returned her venomous affections to Harry Potter as soon as he emerged victorious from the final challenge.
It seems now, however, that the illustrious Miss Granger has grown weary of her infamous boy-toy and has shifted her attentions to a new, and rather surprising, wizard. And just who is the latest target in this shrew's long list of conquests? Why, that would be Hogwarts's very own Potions Master, Severus Snape.
It is well-known by all who have attended the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry within the past fifteen years that Severus Snape, 37, is not a man easily impressed by his students. So how, you may ask, could this hostile man have fallen prey to such a shameless witch? And what would inspire a celebrity hound to stray from the handsome young man who has spent his life as a household name and take a position beside – and often beneath – a comparatively unknown and much older wizard? The Daily Prophet's premiere investigative reporter, yours truly, is on the case.
Sources inside the castle describe this unlikely vixen as a competitive student, who is as concerned with being at the forefront of her classes as she is concerned with attaching herself to powerful wizards. Her fellow classmates have witnessed her desperate attempts to catch the attention of the Potions Master for several years, and now it seems she has managed to successfully pull him into her web of manipulation.
Discovery of this dirty little secret may in fact leave readers calling into question the validity of Miss Granger's placement as Head Girl. One must wonder if the honor was bestowed before or after the supposed Princess of Gryffindor sank her calculating claws into the Head of Slytherin House.
For more of the delicious details on this forbidden interlude, turn to page 7.
As he finished reading, Snape glanced up to see everyone still staring at him. He noticed that someone – Minerva – had finally attended to the unconscious girl as she was currently instructing Potter and Weasley to carry her to the Hospital Wing.
"Severus," Dumbledore stated quietly, leaning over. "I think it would be best if we spoke in my office."
The dark-haired man sighed and nodded, fixing the student body with a murderous glare before sweeping out of the staff entrance.