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Chapter 23: Public Relations
23. Public Relations
Life at Hogwarts was pretty mundane over the next few weeks, despite the fact that Hailey and Kieran were desperately trying to find out who at Hogwarts might be working against the Order. They had even gone so far as to follow Goyle around after hours in the invisibility cloak a couple of times. (-“he is friends with Draco: maybe he’s in on it somehow,” Hailey theorized). However, the only thing they found out was that the caretaker had a nasty habit of eating other people’s dinner leftovers when he had to work in the kitchens. (-“disgusting,” Kieran had said nauseously.) At any rate, free time was scarce, particularly for Hailey, since she had Quidditch practice three evenings a week. The team was spending lots of time out in the snow, training hard for the upcoming match against Hufflepuff. Hufflepuff had beaten Slytherin in the last match, and they were considered to be favorites for the cup this year. Patrick, the Gryffindor captain, had had a much better attitude toward Hailey since he had split up with Maria. In fact, he complimented her so frequently during their practices that Arthur-John had started teasing her about taking Maria’s place in more ways than one. This caused Hailey a lot of embarrassment, but she was able to repay Arthur-John in kind when she found out he was going to Hogsmeade with Malinda Vane on Valentine’s Day.
Hailey had hoped that once the chatter about the article her mother had written for The Quibbler had subsided, Hera’s attitude toward her brother would improve. That didn’t happen. Indeed, it appeared that Argo knew his sister well, because she had not so much as looked at him since the row they had at the start of term. His mother had written him a couple of times since the article, chastising him for continuing to ‘fraternize with the enemy”, but Argo did not seem too concerned about any of this. He spent most of his free time with Hailey, Kieran and the Weasleys in spite of his family.
“Did you finish that essay on vanishing spells for Tonks,” Hailey asked Kieran groggily as she returned from practice on one particularly cold February evening. The common room was crowded with studying students. “I d-didn’t have to…” she stopped in mid-sentence as she suppressed a sneeze. She had caught a head cold three days before, and it had worsened from being out in the snow so much during practice.
“I’ve got some more Pepperup Potion,” Kieran said thickly through his own stuffy nose as Hailey took a seat by the fire. He was smoking around the ears, so he had apparently just taken a dose himself. “Madame Pomfrey wanted us to take some more tonight,” he handed Hailey a small bottle of black speckled liquid. “I just finished the essay, so if you want to have a look…”
“You really shouldn’t be copying each other’s work,” Morgan interrupted haughtily as a shivering Mark sat down beside her. “How will you learn if you don’t do it on your own?”
Kieran gave Morgan a nasty glare and handed his paper over to Hailey without a word. Hailey took the paper gratefully and started to work.
“Can I see that, too,” Mark asked Kieran desperately as he started to unpack his books. Morgan scowled at him and continued with her lecture about copying until Argo arrived and intervened.
“I saw them out there; they had a hard practice,” Argo said, cutting Morgan off in mid-sentence and glancing sympathetically at Hailey and Mark. “It’s freezing out.”
“Where have you been anyway,” Kieran asked, trying to change the subject.
“To see Hagrid,” Argo replied as he removed his cloak and gloves. “His kneazle just had babies, and I wanted to see them.” Argo, who loved animals, had become quite close with the gamekeeper. This was something that his sister, Aurora, had noticed, and she’d tried to start an argument with him by teasing him about his new friend in front of the other first years. When Argo had ignored her just as effectively as Hera was ignoring him, Aurora had given up.
“I haven’t been to Hagrid’s in ages,” Hailey said sadly, thinking of the gamekeeper and his kneazles. “I haven’t had time.”
“He said to tell you he’s missed you,” Argo said as he warmed his hands by the fire. “But, he knows you’re busy.”
“Maybe I can go and see him tomorrow,” Hailey said as she continued to work on her essay. “Rosier and Sprout cancelled Herbology because they’re working with those Mandrakes, and…”
“And you could use that time to finish your homework,” Morgan cut across her.
Hailey ignored Morgan, and continued as though she had not been interrupted. “I think I’ll go see Hagrid in the morning.”
Morgan rolled her eyes, but didn’t say anything else. They all worked on their homework in silence until it was time for bed. Hailey took some more of Madame Pomfrey’s cold potion, and fell asleep as soon as her steaming head hit the pillow.
Hailey woke up early the next morning, stopped by the Great Hall for some toast, and then headed straight down to Hagrid’s before the others got up. She was feeling much better; her cold seemed to be gone, though she knew the nurse would be very upset with her if she knew Hailey was walking through the snow to see the gamekeeper. Hailey was pleased to see smoke coming out of Hagrid’s chimney as she approached his house.
“Didn’ expect ter see yeh so early, Hailey,” Hagrid said cheerfully as he poured Hailey a cup of steaming tea. “I was jus’ gettin ready ter eat some breakfast, but I guess yeh wanted ter see me new arrivals,” He pointed proudly to a basket in the corner where the new baby kneazles were sleeping contentedly beside their mother. Hailey smiled and nodded, staring at the tiny furballs. Hagrid led her very quietly over to the basket for a closer look.
“Got two boys an’ three girls,” Hagrid whispered, pointing a large finger at the baby kneazles. “Dunno what I’m going ter do with all of ‘em yet, but…” Just then, a large brown owl tapped on the window. Hagrid opened the window and put a knut in its little brown pouch, took a copy of Witch Weekly and started to read. He scowled as he read, his frown becoming more pronounced by the second.
“Anything interesting,” Hailey asked conversationally as she sat back down at the table to finish her tea.
“No,” Hagrid said too quickly as he rumpled it up and tossed it aside quickly. “Just a bunch o’ rubbish, that’s all.”
This time it was Hailey’s turn to frown. Hagrid had always lacked the subtlety necessary to keep a secret, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out that there was something in there he didn’t want Hailey to see.
“It’s about dad, isn’t it?” Hailey said with a sigh as she sat her mug aside. Hagrid winced guiltily but didn’t respond. “You might as well let me see it; I’ll hear about it anyway, and I’d rather know before I have to go back up to the castle.”
Hagrid bit his lip and handed Hailey the wrinkled paper. Hailey smoothed out the page and read.
Scandal! Potter Accused of Improper Conduct, Abuse of Power. By Rita Skeeter.
In a shocking turn of events, special correspondent Rita Skeeter has learned from a reliable source the real reason why Harry Potter resigned from The Ministry last summer. According to a ministry insider, Potter, 34, was asked to vacate his post as the head of The Department of Magical Law enforcement last June because of allegations that he used Veritaserum to improperly interrogate a man who was later cleared of the charges against him. Veritaserum is the most powerful truth potion in existence, and its usage is strictly controlled by various ministry laws. According to our source, Potter’s victim threatened to go public with his story if Minister Harrison did not relieve him of his duties. “Potter chose to resign rather than be humiliated,” the source says. “He was already getting bad press over the Malfoy case…he knew the minister was going to sack him, so he left his post to save her the trouble.”
Draco Malfoy, a prominent and respected member of magical society, recently suffered a terrible loss that he believes was caused by Harry’s Potter’s arrogance. “My father is dead because of Harry Potter’s lies and immoral behavior,” Malfoy, 34, stated when we spoke yesterday at an undisclosed location. “He was so determined to use his power to put my father in Azkaban that he covered up for Percy Weasley, the person who was really responsible for his daughter’s kidnapping. If someone had put a stop to his outrageous behavior years ago, my father might still be alive.” Draco’s father, Lucius, died last December as a result of the injuries he sustained during a riot at Azkaban last fall. This latest development into allegations of corruption makes this reporter wonder how many of the witches and wizards Harry Potter put in Azkaban are really guilty, a concern that is shared by the family of one man Potter put in prison with only his own testimony as evidence. Byrus Aubrey was arrested and convicted of Muggle Torture two years ago. His father, Bertram, who is the Professor of Potions at Hogwarts, has been trying to get his son’s conviction overturned in light of these new questions into Potter’s ethics. Hopefully, The Ministry will do what is right and make sure all the people that are incarcerated at Azkaban really deserve to be there.
“Here we go,” Hailey said bitterly as she threw the magazine aside. “Dad’s a villain again.”
“Well, Harry’s been through worse, hasn’ he,” Hagrid said soothingly, patting Hailey’s hand so hard that she winced. “He knows what Rita Skeeter’s like.. .she don’ care who she hurts, just as long as she’s sellin’ papers.”
“Why can’t someone stop her from printing all these nasty lies,” Hailey said indignantly. “Surely there has to be some sort of law against it.”
“’Fraid not,” Hagrid said with a sigh. “S’long as she’s just expressin’ an opinion, an’ makin’ it clear she’s repeatin’ something someone else told her, she can say whatever she wants.”
“Well, it’s not fair,” Hailey said furiously. “People shouldn’t be allowed to ruin someone’s reputation based on rumors and rubbish that gits like Malfoy just make up!”
“There’s no use in gettin’ too worked up about it,” Hagrid replied. “There’s nothin’ you can do abou’ it.”
“I’ve got to get going…I’ve got Potions in twenty minutes,” Hailey said with a sigh. She dreaded facing her classmates and Professor Aubrey. She knew the Slytherins, particularly Hera and Aurora, would be looking for her, wanting to taunt her about the article. And, Aubrey was going to be unbearably smug…Hailey was sure that finding some way of humiliating her in class would be easier than usual today, now that Rita Skeeter had vindicated his son.
“Keep yer head up, and ignore anyone who tries ter provoke yeh,” Hagrid said sagely. “It’s not worth getting’ inter trouble over.” Hailey nodded as she fastened her color change cloak, which had turned red in response to her irritable mood.
Hailey made her way back to the castle, trying to think of a way to stay out of trouble in Potions. Hera and Jesse Nott would probably start in on her right away, and if she lost her temper and retaliated, Aubrey would make her pay dearly for it. She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn’t immediately notice the stares and whispers of the people who were passing her in the corridors.
“Hey, Potter,” a familiar cool voice called out from behind her. “Read any good magazines lately?”
Hailey turned around to face Hera Malfoy, who was surrounded by several giggling first and second year Slytherins, including her sister, Aurora, Todd Crabbe, and Jesse Nott. Hera tossed a copy of Witch Weekly in Hailey’s direction, hitting Hailey in the forehead and causing the Slytherins to laugh even louder. Hailey kicked the magazine aside and started to say something in reply, but someone else saved her the trouble.
“What seems to be the problem here,” Professor Rosier said in an uncharacteristically stern voice as she stared intently from Hailey to Hera. When no one answered her, Professor Rosier picked up the rumpled magazine and handed it back to Hera.
“I believe this belongs to you, Miss Malfoy,” Professor Rosier said coolly. “I suggest you put it away before your lesson. I am sure Professor Aubrey would not appreciate you disrupting his class over a magazine article.”
Hera glared at Professor Rosier but said nothing as she put the copy of Witch Weekly back in her bag.
“You lot should go on to your lessons,” Professor Rosier said to the Slytherins as she stepped aside to let them pass. “Miss Potter, I’d like for you to come with me.”
Hailey looked at Professor Rosier apprehensively. Was she going to get a detention? Surely she didn’t think Hailey had provoked Hera in some way!
“You’re not in any trouble, Hailey,” Professor Rosier said gently, as though she had read Hailey’s mind. “I just want to talk to you.” Hailey nodded and smiled slightly as she followed Professor Rosier to her plant-filled office.
“Have a seat,” Professor Rosier said as she seated herself at her desk and gestured toward a wooden chair across from it. Hailey saw that the photograph Argo had damaged during their detention was still there. She sat down in front of Professor Rosier, who was staring intently at her.
“Try not to let Hera Malfoy get to you,” Professor Rosier said sympathetically. “I understand from personal experience how hard that is, but you have to learn to deal with people like her…it’s an occupational hazard of having a well-known family member. I had the same problem with my father.”
“Was your father an Auror, too?” Hailey asked, glancing at the photograph of Professor Rosier and her brother.
“No,” Professor Rosier said with a sigh. “My father was a death-eater; he was captured and killed by ministry officials about a year before the Dark Lord fell the first time. I don’t remember much about him… I was very small.”
Hailey’s eyes widened in astonishment at this pronouncement; she didn’t know what to say. Professor Rosier was watching her reactions carefully.
“People make many assumptions about others based on their families,” Professor Rosier went on sagely. “They may not even realize it, but we are often judged, sometimes unfairly, for things we cannot control. I hardly knew my father, but people assumed that because he supported the Dark Lord, I would do the same when he became powerful the second time. I had to face a lot of pressure and discrimination.”
Hailey squirmed uncomfortably in her seat, still at a loss for words. She thought of Argo, who had been treated unfairly by many people in Gryffindor because of his family, and she felt a powerful surge of sympathy for her teacher. Professor Rosier was still watching her with careful concern.
“How did you handle it,” Hailey asked her finally. “I mean, the Death Eaters must have wanted you on their side.”
“They did,” Professor Rosier said quietly. “But Atticus looked after me, and having an Auror for a brother had its advantages. One of my old friends tried to convince both of us join up, but Atticus was far too noble for that, and my family was too important to me to consider it. My aunt and uncle, who raised my brother and I after our parents died, wanted nothing to do with the Death Eaters the second time, either. They’d lost too much…we all had.”
“My dad told me that your brother vanished,” Hailey said softly. “That’s awful.”
“Yes,” Professor Rosier said, her voice suddenly cold and bitter as her cheeks reddened. “Atticus was killed while he was working for the Ministry, trying to do what he thought was right…standing up for what you believe in can be costly, no matter what side of the law you’re on, but, someday, the person responsible for his death will get what they deserve, and that is my only solace.”
“Didn’t they ever catch the person who killed him,” Hailey said, her eyes wide with shock. Why hadn’t Harry told her that Atticus Rosier died while he was working for the Ministry?
“They never even found his body,” Professor Rosier went on, the anger in her voice unmistakable now. “So there’s no way to prove who was responsible yet, but I know who’s to blame, and hopefully, I’ll be able to prove it someday.”
“Who do you think-“ Hailey began.
“I think it’s time for you to go,” Professor Rosier interjected abruptly, rising from her seat and ushering Hailey out the door. “Professor Lupin will be expecting you, and I need to send Professor Aubrey a note so he’ll excuse you from Potions.”
“Right,” Hailey said as she put her bag on her shoulder and stepped outside. Thanks for your help, Professor.”
“Just remember what I said,” Professor Rosier replied somberly, her face still slightly flushed. “Ignore those who want to provoke you, and take comfort in the fact that the truth will always prevail…sooner or later.” Hailey nodded wordlessly and started toward Defense Against the Dark Arts, eager to tell Kieran about this conversation.
“I knew you were wrong about her,” Kieran said silently as he and Hailey tried to “talk” about the matter and listen to Professor Lupin’s lecture about Kappas at the same time. “She just wanted to help you.”
“Yeah,” Hailey thought in reply as she took notes. “I was only trying to be careful; I’ve learned the hard way too many times before that trust is hard to earn, and I just thought she was trying too hard to gain my trust…and it made me uneasy…what did Aubrey say when I didn’t show up for class?”
“Not much,” Kieran replied wordlessly. “Jesse Nott told him you were with Rosier and he just let it go at that…Hera tried to goad me into saying something to her about the article, of course, but…”
“Kieran,” Professor Lupin’s voice cut across his thoughts in mid-sentence. “What is the most effective way to deal with a Kappa?”
“Umm,” Kieran stammered for a moment. Morgan had raised her hand high in the air, clearly hoping that Kieran did not have the answer.
“I’d like to see you after class, Mr. Morris,” Professor Lupin said, turning to Morgan, who quickly recited what was clearly a textbook definition on the impediment jinx and why it was effective against Kappas. When the bell rang, Kieran hung back anxiously as the rest of the class filed out past him, glancing curiously at him as they passed. Hailey figured that Professor Lupin was going to lecture him about not paying attention. She decided to wait outside for him as the others made their way to the Great Hall for lunch. As the last of her classmates left the room, however, Professor Lupin beckoned her back inside.
“Close the door behind you,” Lupin said curtly. “And sit down.” Hailey gave Kieran a bewildered look as the two of them took seats at the front of the classroom.
“I realize that the two of you are gaining better control of your significant powers,” Professor Lupin said without preamble. “But, I would really appreciate it if you didn’t practice or use your skills during lessons.”
What do you-“ Hailey began innocently, but Lupin cut across her.
“I will not tolerate talking, aloud or otherwise, while I am teaching,” he said.
“How could you tell that we were-“ Kieran started.
“I guessed,” Lupin said, smiling a little in spite of himself. “You’re one of the best students in your year at Defense Against the Dark Arts, Kieran, and anytime you don’t know the answer to a question, I know you are distracted by something. Tonks told me about her own suspicions when Hailey behaved the same way in Transfiguration one day last week. And, while I am certain that neither of you would ever use your abilities to cheat during exams, it would be wise of you to stop using your talents during your lessons in case you were ever accused of something.”
“But, you, Tonks, and Professor McGonagall are the only ones who know about us,” Hailey said. “So, no one else would ever suspect anything.”
“Professor McGonagall is the headmistress,” Lupin interjected, his voice serious again. “And so, it is her responsibility to deal with such matters as cheating, and if you were accused by someone else because you gave strikingly similar answers on essay questions, which, I might add, has happened before in my class, she might jump to the wrong conclusion. She informed me yesterday that Professor Aubrey made a note about such an occurrence in potions during your last exam, and these remarks have been added to your permanent student records.”
“What,” Kieran gasped. “Aubrey has accused us of cheating? Why didn’t he say anything?”
“Because he has already been under a lot of scrutiny for the poisoning incident last fall,” Professor Lupin replied. “So, he does not want to make an issue out of this because he lacks the credibility to substantiate accusations against you two at the moment, but if another teacher had suspicions because of your carelessness, he might be able to get the two of you into a whole lot of trouble.”
Hailey’s insides went cold; Hogwarts students could be expelled for cheating, and she hardly had a clean record; she had nearly gotten thrown out on her very first day of school, after all.
“Everyone knows he has ulterior motives, though,” Kieran said reassuringly to Hailey as she played moodily with her chicken at dinner that evening. “Especially after that article in Witch Weekly…it’s obvious that he would love to get back at Harry Potter for putting his son in Azkaban, and what better way to do it than to accuse you of something.”
“But its like Lupin said, isn’t it,” Hailey replied. “If someone else thought we were up to something, they could back him up, so we have to make sure we don’t draw attention to ourselves.”
“Did you see the article,” a breathless voice from behind them said suddenly. Hailey turned around to see Argo standing behind her with a folded up piece of paper in one hand, and a plate of food in the other.
“Rita Skeeter’s a real piece of work, isn’t she,” Hailey said bitterly. “I’d rather not talk about it if it’s all the same to you.”
“No,” Argo said as he tossed a copy of The Evening Prophet down in front of her. “It’s about Snape.”
Hailey grabbed the paper and began to read it aloud.
Severus Snape Sighted, Eludes Aurors. By Lavender Brown
In a shocking turn of events, The Daily Prophet has heard from an anonymous source that convicted killer Severus Snape was sighted by an unknown resident of Hogsmeade village two days ago. Ministry officials have refused to provide The Prophet with any information, apparently because Snape avoided being captured and has disappeared again. A spokeswitch from Kingsley Shacklebolt’s office released this statement regarding the Ministry’s policies on speaking to the press. “The Department of Magical Law Enforcement cannot legally comment on these rumors at this time, due to the fact that this investigation is ongoing.” Snape, 57, was convicted on various charges of torture and 16 murders. The most famous of his victims was former Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. Snape escaped from Azkaban last fall during a prison riot that resulted in the death of a guard on the scene. Lucius Malfoy also died two months later as a result of injuries he sustained during the attack. According to our source, it appears that Snape did not escape the riot unscathed, either. “He was horribly disfigured,” our source says. “His face was all mangled up…cursed wounds, by the look of it! The person who saw him is a friend of mine, and he says that he can’t believe Snape survived whatever it was that they hit him with. The Daily Prophet spoke to an expert at St. Mungo’s to get some insight into curse wounds.
“If Mr. Snape was really injured in the way the witness described, it is very unlikely that he survived without help,” Healer Devon Fawcett said. “He would have needed immediate medical attention that he could not have given to himself.” Could this mean that Snape had an accomplice when he broke out of prison four months ago? The Daily Prophet will continue to report on any updates to this story as they develop.
“Bloody hell,” Hailey said as she set the paper aside, her worries about Aubrey’s accusations forgotten. “He was in Hogsmeade! I wonder if he had anything to do with those poisoning deaths on Hallowe’en. It’s an odd coincidence that he would break out the day of the Hogsmeade attacks and then show up in the village…maybe his accomplice is nearby.” Her stomach plummeted horribly as she thought of the letter writer. Could Harry’s far fetched theory be right? Could Snape have something to do with the letters after all?
“Seeing him in Hogsmeade doesn’t mean he helped poison anyone,” Argo argued. “The attacks happened four months ago, so that was probably a coincidence. Hogsmeade would be an easy hiding place since it’s an all-wizard village…and because it’s so conspicuous, it would be the last place the Ministry would think of to look for a wizard as famous and clever as Snape.”
“Maybe he wasn’t there at all,” Kieran added hopefully. After all, The Prophet might just be jumping to conclusions like they always do.” Hailey and Argo looked skeptical. “No, listen,” Kieran went on. “If Snape was really spotted in the village, why haven’t they tightened security at the school?” He knew that Hailey was thinking of the letters, and was trying to reassure her, though she was sure that he didn’t really believe what he was saying any more than she and Argo did.
“I hope you’re right,” Hailey replied, still not convinced. “But, how do you explain the detail about his injuries…no one had said anything about that up until this point, had they?”
“I don’t know,” Argo said with a sigh as he played with his dinner. “But, either way, he’s still out there, so we’re not safe…none of us.” He glanced over at his sisters as he spoke and Hailey knew that he was afraid for them. She wondered if Snape would ever be recaptured, and she was so lost in her thoughts that it took her a moment to realize that Polonius had landed next to her plate and was clutching a letter in his beak. He gently nipped her fingers to get her attention, and then dropped the letter in her lap.
“It’s from my dad,” Hailey said as she unfolded the parchment. The note was messy and seemed to be hastily written.
By now I am sure that you have read the article about the unconfirmed sighting of Snape. Although The Prophet often exaggerates, this particular story is true. Snape was spotted just outside of the village a couple of days ago, and two Aurors were injured trying to apprehend him. PLEASE DO NOT WANDER AROUND AT NIGHT! Stay in bounds and do not leave your dormitory alone, or at all after hours. Tell no one about this letter except Kieran and your friend Argo. I’m afraid he could be in just as much danger as the two of you are. Destroy this after you read it. I love you.
Hailey passed the letter to Kieran and Argo, who read quickly before handing it back to Hailey. She vanished the note with a wave of her wand immediately and followed the boys back to Gryffindor tower, determined to obey Harry for once.