"Tabloid Journalism"

Disclaimer: The author claims no intellectual property rights of any kind to characters, plot points, or other ideas appearing in this work which originated in the Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling. The author receives no financial benefit from the use of these ideas and has written this work for personal amusement only.

Author's Note: An exercise in canon-denial. This one's for Loten; I only hope she isn't too disappointed in me for posting it in its current form. Much as I wanted to expand it, the story seems to have wanted to stay short – anything more just doesn't have the same punch.

Summary: One-shot. A Muggle-born student brought certain novels to Hogwarts, and Severus Snape has a theory about their authorship. Some offscreen SS/HG.

Severus Snape stormed into the office of Daily Prophet reporter Rita Skeeter; the latter had barely had time to look up when he slammed a stack of heavy books down upon her desk. The sound they made was quite satisfying, Snape thought, but it was likely to pale in comparison to what was to come.

"I'd like an explanation, Skeeter."

"Excuse me?"

"Don't play dumb. Need I call you Joanne?"

"You're raving, Snape. While your descent into madness would surely make for an excellent story, I've better things to do than – "

"Surely you don't think I'll be dismissed so easily? I've read all of this tripe – yes, all seven bloody volumes – and nobody else could have written it. Did it really never occur to you that a Muggle-born student might turn up at Hogwarts with a copy?"

Skeeter said nothing, so he went on. "The dunderhead fainted dead away in my classroom – apparently I'm supposed to be dead. I never got the message; rather unkind of you not to tell me, don't you think? And such an ignominious way to go, too; no Potions Master would ever live down a death by snake venom. Clearly the shame was so great I've returned as a ghost to haunt those who slander me.

"I'm sure you want to know how I know it was you. In truth, it was my wife – she wasn't particularly happy to see you'd written her off as Weasley's brood mare, and for what it's worth neither was Mrs. Ronald Weasley. Your petty grudges there are legendary."

"It was what the Muggles wanted to read – "

"Spare me the excuses; we both know why you did it. And for reference… take a look on the internet sometime. Not all Muggles are such idiots; have you never heard of fanfiction?

"But never mind that; there are more serious matters to address. I'll admit it was clever of you to preempt blackmail by confessing the relevant crimes in print, and linking them to Hermione tied her hands rather neatly. However, you are now dealing with me and I am not nearly so nice – "

"What do you want me to do, Snape? It's not as though I can hold a press conference for the Muggles, the Statute of Secrecy – "

"You should have thought of that before breaking it in the first place, shouldn't you? It's a moot point, as I have forwarded a copy of your sensationalist fantasies to the management at Gringotts – you know how particular the goblins are about their reputation, and they took quite an interest in your ludicrous robbery scene. Incidentally, you do know that nobody would have survived being waist-deep in 'red-hot treasure', don't you? Hermione insisted I mention it – you know how she is. That scene put her in such fits of laughter she nearly forgave you the Weasley business.

"And then there's Potter. I may not like him, but he's by no means the deranged sociopath you made him out to be. Even he picked up on it, despite all the disingenuous flattery you aimed at him. He is rather influential these days, you know, and as Head Auror he was very interested in your blatant flouting of the law.

"I'll have to have a chat with Lucius. I don't think he'll care much for your extracurricular activities either. I noticed how careful you were not to cast any aspersions on his family, but it won't help you – how do you think he'll react when he finds out you've been selling stories to Muggles? And he's rather high in the Wizengamot now, you know; you'll stand no chance at trial.

"So here is what you are going to do, Skeeter. You will spend however long it takes to put together a comprehensive list of the lies in these books for a competent historian to correct – I suggest Percival Weasley; if nothing else, he's very thorough. You will turn over all of the profits these books have earned you to me, plead guilty and go quietly to Azkaban. In return, I'll talk to the goblins and ask them nicely not to kill you. They might even listen, if you're lucky."

"You can't seriously think I'll –"

"Stop digging, Skeeter. There's always the Imperius curse, if you don't cooperate. Just think of everything else I could make you do while you're at it…"

Postscript: This is, of course, a work of fiction; the author does not in fact believe J.K. Rowling is an alter-ego of Rita Skeeter. Although it would explain quite a bit, don't you think?