Everyone wants to talk to Harry Potter. Tomorrow the headlines will scream ‘Boy Who Lived Lives Again’, ‘Boy Who Lived Kills Dark Lord,’ and maybe even ‘Harry Potter: Enough Said’. Every newspaper, journal, magazine, and man with a printing press is represented in this room. Tonight people will fight for the front page and the second page and the third, and every page will be about Harry Potter.
At the front of the crowd are the true professionals with their Quick Quotes Quills to hand, blocking the way for anyone else. Towards the back the Lesser Beings of the industry will clamber over each other for the scraps thrown their way, hounding the non entities of this epic event for facts and quotes and emotional outpourings, but unless the talk is of Potter tomorrow it will not be published.
Harry Potter Kills You-Know-Who is the News. Perhaps next week there will be time for Tragic Tales Of War Torn Families and other such stories, but for now nothing else matters. Every piece of paper will be full of praise for the glorious victor.
It makes Rita Skeeter sick to her stomach. She leans back against a stone wall, her quills and notebook out of sight in the large handbag slung over one shoulder, blowing effortless smoke rings.
Harry Potter saving the day is not news. She will concede that it is a fact, but facts do not make news.
News is the unusual, the out of place, the eye-grabbing. News is the facts from a new perspective. News is stories.
The world knew You-Know-Who was dead before this crowd of so-called journalists arrived. Information like that travels by osmosis, drip fed into the grapevine until everyone knows everything there is to be known. By the time the owls drop off the newspaper the next day information like that is old and old is not news.
Praise of the Boy Who Lived isn’t news either. Decimation of the boy’s character has been done before as well, which was news when she first reported it, but the minute something like that becomes mainstream it stops being anything but repetitive.
Everyone will be praising Harry Potter in print now, so doing otherwise would be different.
Unfortunately it would also be unpublishable.
No one has trusted the Ministry-sanctioned sources of news (and Ministry-subsidised sources of news) for some time now and they are eager to gain that trust back, which means telling the public as much truth as possible. It means telling the public happy, cheerful ‘the war is over and we won’ stories.
The war is over. No shit.
Rita taps her cigarette holder against the wall and inspects her chipped red nail polish as Hermione Granger walks into the room.
There is a sudden hush, then a mass of questions blurring into unintelligible noise. Rita smirks as the girl casts a sonorus on herself before telling them all to be quiet in no uncertain terms.
Once the Harry Potter Love has died down there will be at least one Plucky Muggleborn Heroine story.
Rita will not be the one to write it.
“I’m sure you all have lots of questions and I’m sure most of them are for Harry,” Granger says. “That’s an awful lot of questions for someone who’s as tired as he is right now, but it’s been a long week for all of us - it’s been a long few years – and he’s willing to speak out. However, all of you descending on him at once is out of the question.” Something lights up in the back of her eyes and Rita is reminded of a cocky fourth year and blackmail. “You will all – all of you – be allowed to talk to Harry individually and you may all ask one question. One.”
The noise starts up again as people scrawl ideas in ring bound notepads, try to cut deals with their neighbours so as to get more than one piece of information, and ask Granger if ‘one question’ includes a photograph. The queue that forms at the door is not a line but a narrowing of the crowd at one end. Granger and a tall red head with a scarred face stand either side of the narrowest point like sentries.
Feature articles on Living With War Wounds probably won’t appear until next month at least.
Rita flicks the still smouldering cigarette filter out of the holder and rubs it into the ground with a stiletto heel. She needs to ask a question that no one else will ask, but with everyone else thinking the exact same thing are the obvious questions going to become original?
She needs an angle. She needs a story.
Rita has not been published properly in years. First she was blackmailed, then she was blacklisted for disparaging Potter, and in the last year she’s been blacklisted because in the past she’s praised him.
Rita needs to be published. She’s itching to write and bills need to be paid.
She remembers an interview in a pub with three teenagers and talk of Voldemort. She thinks of an unbreakable glass jar and clandestine meetings to gossip about teenage love lives. She wonders if a speculative piece on Potter’s sex life counts as praise.
She wonders what questions she could ask that he will answer.
“Bitch,” a skinny blond says as Rita pushes her way into the crowd near the front of the so-called queue.
Rita just smirks in reply. It’s friendly rivalry.
Granger watches her with narrowed eyes when it’s her turn to pass through The Door Of Opportunity, but she doesn’t say anything. She probably thinks that’s a smart thing to do when surrounded by journalists.
Rita smiles sweetly at her as she walks by. Down a corridor, a left turn, and in a small alcove is Harry Potter. Well, Harry Potter and Fierce Looking Entourage, but Rita Skeeter is a woman with a quill.
“Good afternoon Harry,” she says.
The Boy Who Lived nods at her.
“One question,” another red head snaps with an air of repetition. Potter’s male best friend.
Rita smiles again. She hopes her lipstick is not smudged, or that if it is that it at least looks as if it was smudged in a wantonly sexual act and not rubbed off by a cigarette. She has a reputation to maintain.
“Tea or coffee?”
Harry and entourage blink.
“Which do you prefer Harry, tea or coffee?”
She can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he tries to figure out an ulterior motive behind her words, as if ‘tea’ and ‘coffee’ are metaphors for You-Know-Who and the Minister of Magic.
“Thank you Harry,” she says before being ushered away by anonymous faces with suspicious expressions.
She doesn’t take a photograph. She already has plenty of photographs of Harry Potter.
She already has lots of stories about Harry Potter, bright and unfurling inside her mind.
The following day the Daily Prophet, Witch Weekly, the Diagon Gazette, and even Which Broomstick will have banner headlines declaring the obvious. Potter will be praised, heroic pictures will be printed, and people will daringly begin to publish the name ‘Voldemort’. They will report the bravery of the Boy Who Duelled Voldemort Single Handed And Won. They will compare it to Dumbledore’s defeat of Grindelwald and talk about ‘Order of Merlin, First Class’.
The Quibbler will report how ‘Harry Potter Is Secretly American: Coffee Love Revealed’ and the publication that has been the most trusted source of news since it published ‘Harry Potter Speaks Out At Last’ in March 1996 is read by almost everyone in the nation. Rita Skeeter is read by almost everyone in the nation.
Of all the articles published, that will be the one that people remember.
To a certain group of people that will be ‘the one Skeeter wrote that Harry laughs about'.