A/N: This was written for the Fanfiction Tournaments, edition May 2013, round 4 (finals). We were to write about someone from the Marauder era. Rita Skeeter is a bit older than the Marauders (she's from 1951), but in my opinion, that still places her in the same era (since Arthur, Molly and the Black sisters are also considered Marauder era, and they are born around the same time as Rita).
"Did you know that Muriel Planchet and Stephen Daniels are dating?" Rita said casually and observed her audience with a sly smile. Of course the news had the wanted effect.
"No way! Are you serious?" Evelyn Miller gasped.
"Not possible," Nina Dubois interjected.
Rita bent a little closer to her two friends. "It's true. I saw them kissing yesterday next to greenhouse four."
Nina and Evelyn let this message sink in.
"Well, I guess they make a fine match…" Nina said.
Evelyn giggled. Muriel Planchet was large and had a bad case of acne, and Stephen Daniels was a tiny boy, but also with a bad case of acne, plus he wore braces.
"Imagine what would happen if they, you know, went beyond dating."
"Ieh!" Nina shuddered. "Get that mental image out of my head, please!"
Rita smiled. "Well, I have another bit of news for you, if you're up for it. This news is a bit more important than Muriel and Stephen dating." She had of course planned this beforehand. Save the best for last, her mother always used to say.
"Do tell!" Nina urged her on.
"Rumour has it that Minister Leach is involved in some scandalous practices, involving forged goblin gold and a certain male employee in the Ministry."
This news was even more astounding than the news they had heard before and Nina and Evelyn were stunned.
"But hey, don't tell anyone you've heard it from me, okay? It's kind of a scoop; you'll probably read all about it in tomorrow's Daily Prophet."
"No, no, of course," Nina said and Evelyn nodded.
Rita grinned inwardly. By emphasising that the news was top-secret, she had just ensured that it would be spread faster than fire in room full of wooden furniture. She was certain that before tomorrow's newspaper would arrive, the entire school would already have heard about Nobby Leach' amorous endeavours with his undersecretary. And Mitchell, his cousin – who also happened to be Rita's ex-boyfriend – would be bombarded with questions he wouldn't want to answer. Rita's face lightened up by the thought of the look on Mitchell's face when all he had been denying for a day would be on the front page of the Daily Prophet the next.
Evelyn nudged her. "How is it that you always know just what is going on before anyone else does?"
Rita made a zipping movement with her fingers. "Sorry, I can't reveal my sources." Let them think on it, she thought. They don't need to know that my aunt Penelope works for the Daily Prophet.
Indeed, the entire school was buzzing with the news within hours. To her great amusement, Mitchell's face was sour and he tried to brush everyone of brusquely, which of course only augmented the rumours. Rita walked around wearing a huge grin on her face, though she tried to lessen it whenever Mitchell was around.
Some people were still not really believing it, but when the Daily Prophet arrived the next morning, the headlines clearly read: 'Minister Leach' amorous endeavours with undersecretary John Wedge: Leach' wife in shock.' Of course it didn't take long before people learnt that sixth year Ravenclaw Rita Skeeter was the one who had known about the news before it had been in the papers. This augmented her prestige greatly, and she became the go-to person if you wanted to find out about the latest gossips and rumours. Most of the time they were true, though there were of course also a few that she over-coloured, for the sake of the story.
Rita was in her element, but there were some who didn't like to see her getting this much of attention. Rita tried to avoid them wherever possible, and if that wasn't possible, well, everybody had a little dirt in their backyard, hadn't they? And she was only too happy to share that with the world.
On her seventeenth birthday, there was one present that drew Rita's attention immediately. It was wrapped in ornate purple wrapping paper and attached to it was a note in a tiny handwriting that she recognised to be that of her aunt Penelope's.
Dear Rita, it read.
I wish you all the best on your seventeenth birthday. You are now officially of age, which means that you are allowed to do magic even outside the school boundaries. Congratulations!
Say, is Minerva McGonagall still teaching? I heard some rumours about her lately that would make your ears tatter, but we'll have to discuss that over tea sometime. When is your next Hogsmeade visit? I'll make sure to be around then.
But for now, I want you to have this quill. It's not just a quill, but it's a Quick-Quotes Quill, which will enable you to make notes of conversations you happen to overhear, for it writes what it hears. It will be good practice for your internship with the Daily Prophet next year.
See you soon, dearie!
Love, your aunt Penelope
Rita looked inside the package. There was indeed a quill, in fluorescent green. She instantly loved it, even if it could do none of the things her aunt hinted at in her letter.
She decided to try it out immediately and took some parchment.
"This is Rita Skeeter, journalist for the Daily Prophet," she said and nodded. Journalist for the Daily Prophet, that sure had a nice ring to it. She could get used to that.
The quill started to write what she just said and Rita was delighted. This opened so many possibilities! She could even use it in class to make notes, which would make studying so much easier.
She soon found out, however, that it did not make things easier at all. For the quill transcribed literally everything it heard, including questions by students, the cough and hums, the corrections and the awarding of house points. It was very difficult to distil some coherent contents out of it all.
I need to think of something to solve that problem, she thought. So she went to the library and spent her next few lunch breaks and spare time doing research. Eventually she found a spell that could philtre background noise out of a conversation, which would be perfect for her purpose. After that, taking notes in class and writing down conversations she overheard became a lot easier. More people found their way towards her when they wanted to hear the latest news.
A month later, there was a Hogsmeade visit scheduled and excitedly, she owled her aunt Penelope. She would take some of her recent 'articles' and let her read it. However, she did not receive the reaction she had anticipated.
"What is this?" Penelope said as she lowered the piece of parchment Rita had given her.
"That are some of the things I've written," Rita replied nervously.
"It's rubbish," Penelope stated.
"What's wrong with it then?"
"It's dry! It's just a transcript of conversations. That's not newsworthy! No one is going to read it if something like this is published in the Prophet."
"No, of course not," Rita replied a bit hurt, "this is just Hogwarts stuff. I doubt anyone outside Hogwarts is going to be interested in it, I know that. That's not going to be the stuff I expect to be writing when I'm working for the Prophet."
"I'm not solely talking about the contents, dear. It lacks eloquence. Telling the rumours you heard is a whole different thing then writing them down. It needs a certain schwung to make it more interesting. Try to work on your style over the summer holidays."
The conversation kept playing over and over again in Rita's mind. She had actually been a bit hurt by her aunt's spiteful comments, but the longer she worked on her style, the more she began to see that there was some reason behind her words. By the end of the summer, she had managed to enchant her quill to write eloquent sentences, and not just transcripts of things it overheard.
Once she was back at Hogwarts for her final year, she found out that Mitchell had started dating a Hufflepuff girl named Ava Brannen. She instantly hated the girl, for she was gushing about him constantly and clinging to his side relentlessly. Sure, rub it into my face, Rita thought bitterly.
She wanted to see if she could dig up a little dirt about her, but she found that with the NEWT exams coming up, there was very little time left for her extracurricular writing. A couple of months before the NEWT exams took place however, Ava left school because her parents were moving to France for their work, which was the kind of opportunity Rita had been waiting for.
"You know what, I don't think she left due to her parents' work," she said acidly to Nina and Evelyn one day when they were sitting in the common room. "I bet you anything she is pregnant and that her parents took her out because they are ashamed. I bet old Dumbledore didn't want to make it publicly known that something like that happened in his school either."
Nina and Evelyn looked at each other.
"Rita, we know you still like Mitchell and that you never liked Ava," Nina began hesitatingly.
"Are you saying that I'm making it up?"
"Well, that's not exactly what I'm saying, but…"
"… you have to admit that what you're saying is questionable," Evelyn finished her friend's sentence.
"Fine, I'll prove to you that you're wrong," Rita bit and stormed off.
She was pacing up and down in her dormitory, still angry. "Pff, no one disappears just months before graduation," she huffed. "This a boarding school, if her parents were moving for their work, they could easily do so and have her come to France after her exams. I'm telling you she's pregnant."
Meanwhile, her acid green quill was scribbling vigorously and when she stopped mid-sentence, curious to know what it had written, her face lightened up. Now that was something she was sure her aunt would be proud of.
She immediately went to Owlery and sent her aunt what she had just written. She received a response the next day.
Now that's what I'm talking about! An interesting story, written with eloquence. It could use some journalistic research, but you're definitely on the right track here. I'm looking forward to welcome you as an intern in a couple of months.
Love, aunt Penelope
Rita glowed with pride. See, she could do it. It was a shame that the Prophet didn't publish any stories like this, but she'd make sure that her fellow schoolmates found out the truth about Ava Brennan. The mention of a cousin working in St Mungo's was enough to make people talk, which was her intention. Even though it would be contradicted, there would always remain that little bit of doubt of 'what if'.
A month went by and the rumours around Ava Brennan had diminished a bit. The seventh years were far more occupied by their upcoming exams.
The day before the exams started, there was a big article on the front page of the Daily Prophet, about a secret meeting between Magory, the new Minister for Magic, and his Russian counterpart Minister Lubtsjenko.
Rita read the article with great interest, but it didn't say much more than that there had been a meeting. The contents of the meeting were only guessed at. If only you could listen in on such a conversation, like a fly on the wall, Rita mused. Now that would sure give you newsworthy articles. She pushed the thought aside until after her exams. She was smart enough to make her quill write eloquent articles; surely she could come up with a way to listen in on secret conversations as well. And then she'd be the best reporter the Daily Prophet ever had.