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Chapter 2: Chapter Two: Joseph Heart
A/N – Another warning: this chapter contains some adult language. It’s so unlike me to use any in my writing, but I really outdid myself on this one. Also, in regards to a time-line (in case it’s not clear), this chapter takes place approximately six months prior to the events depicted in the prologue. Thanks again to anyone who takes a look, and a special thanks to Perelandra from the forums for answering a few publishing-related questions for me, though I’m sure I still got a few things wrong.
Viktor Krum: Over The Edge
By Rose Weasley
An Excerpt From Chapter One
...There was a time when Viktor Krum had more money than he knew what to do with. His years as a top athlete had paid well. Obscenely well, some might say. During the height of his career, he was rumored to have made more money in a single Quidditch match than most wizards made in a lifetime. Back then, he’d been focused solely on the game – too dedicated to his training to have the time to spend his growing fortune. But nothing lasts forever. A severe spinal injury – one that could have left him permanently paralyzed – meant an early end to an otherwise stellar career already more than a decade in the making. He was only twenty-eight. Far too young to be forcibly retired....
Chapter Two: Joseph Heart
Six Months Earlier
"Those lying, two-faced bastards! Don’t they know I'm Joseph goddamn Heart and I don't take shit like this from anyone, especially not from snot-nosed little twerps like them? Just who the hell do they think they're fucking with?”
They knew exactly who they were fucking with, but Rose Weasley wasn’t about to point this out to her boss. She had been with the man long enough to know it was a bad idea to interrupt him when he was in the middle of one of his self-righteous tirades.
Even at seventy-four, Joseph Heart was still a mental and physical force to be reckoned with, especially when he thought someone was trying to play him for a fool. Rose knew that getting in his way now would be akin to standing in the path of an avalanche, watching as it came barreling down the mountainside at two hundred miles per hour.
Unfortunately, no one had thought to mention any of this to the new guy.
"Legally, we don't have much standing to –"
"I don't give a fuck about legality!" Heart shouted, banging his fist so hard that some of his tea went splashing over the rim of his cup and onto his desk. "I want those fuckers to know you don't mess with Fletcher and Sons unless you're soft in the head. We're gonna send those SOBs over at Penman's a message, you hear me? Try and screw us over? Yeah, well, we'll see who screws who in the end."
Rose couldn’t help but feel sorry for the man seated beside her. Bernard Haverdash, the latest in a long line of ever-changing corporate lawyers assigned to handle Mr. Heart's personal legal dealings, clearly hadn’t been warned what he was signing on for when he accepted his new post. Dressed in a dark blue suit, the creases in his pants ironed to within an inch of their life, he looked like the sort of man who had hoped to make a good impression his first day on the job. That had been his first mistake. Heart hated kiss-ups. The only thing he hated more were lawyers.
Haverdash glanced over at Rose as if hoping she might inject some sanity back into the conversation. Rose gave him an apologetic shrug before turning to her boss and saying, "You'll get them, Heart. You always do in the end."
This wasn't just flattery on Rose's part. It was the truth. At the end of the day, Heart always got his way. Such was the power of a man with extraordinarily deep pockets, a questionable sense of morality, and an inability to take no for an answer.
Despite these apparent flaws in his character - not to mention the nearly incessant swearing - Rose was rather fond of Joseph Heart. He was excellent at his job, which involved running England’s premier Wizard-only publishing company. Generous with his time to those he deemed worthy, Heart was also the only man Rose had ever seen go toe-to-toe in a drinking game with Rubeus Hagrid and come out the winner.
Most men Heart's age were happily retired, glad for the chance to spend their golden years relaxing, reaping the benefits of years of hard work by spending the day golfing or chasing after their grandchildren. But not Heart. They'd have to carry the man out of his office in a pine box. Retiring was for quitters, he'd say, and Hearts weren't quitters.
"The gall of it all!" Heart continued, his already ruddy complexion now purple with indignation. "Not to mention the fucking waste of time. Is there no decency left in this bloody business?"
Once again, Rose wisely held her tongue, though she couldn't help thinking that was a rather audacious accusation coming from the likes of Joseph Heart. The man made a career out of playing dirty. Only this time, it seemed, he hadn't played dirty enough.
At least not for the likes of Regina McFey.
House-witch-turned-mega-author, Regina McFey, had spent the last six months shopping around for a publishing company to print the latest in her long-run of sexually charged stories, marketed as something to 'capture the imagination of the modern magical woman.' The word on the street was that she'd had a falling out with her last publisher and was on the hunt for someone new. She and her agent had been in and out of meetings with Heart almost every day for the past two weeks. But in the end, her old publisher had swept in at the eleventh hour with a deal too good to refuse, and Heart had been left with nothing to show for is efforts.
Rose knew it wasn't just the wasted time and loss of potential revenue – which could have totaled in the millions – that was making Heart so angry. It was also the fact that he'd thought he’d finally pulled one over on Penman & Ives, only to have the whole thing slip through his fingers at the last possible moment.
Penman & Ives Publishing Inc. was the only other Wizarding publisher in England with enough clout to rival Fletcher and Sons. This hadn't always been the case. Penman had, for many years, been little more than a smut-peddling operation, selling the kind of books Heart used to describe as 'for woman in need of a good fuck.' That was until McFey arrived on the scene with her new brand of risqué romance stuffed with just enough plot to pass as acceptable for distribution in local bookshops. The books were, in all senses of the word, a knockout success. Ten thousand copies sold in the first week. A hundred thousand more by the end of the year. McFey's brand of racy novels for women became the next big thing, and Penman & Ives had been there to cash in on it every step of the way.
And that's where Rose came into the picture.
Rose Weasley was, in almost every way imaginable, the exact opposite of Regina McFey. She was twenty-four – more than twenty years McFey’s junior. Never married. No children. Still trying to get her fledgling career off the ground. She lacked all the qualifications that made McFey such a hit with the thousands of middle-aged witches that comprised the bulk of her audience.
The one thing that Rose and Regina actually had in common was that they were both writers.
Two years ago, Rose had penned her own novel: a short, sentimental piece, based loosely on the tales her parents had told her regarding coming of age under the ever-watchful eye of the invasive wizarding press – who’d been all too interested in anyone even remotely connected to 'the famous Harry Potter.' The book had been well received by the critics - even with Rose’s relative lack of experience - but it was not a commercial success. The public, initially excited at the prospect of an inside look at the lives of the Potters and Weasleys, had lost interest once they realized the book contained no actual details about the families’ personal lives. It lacked scandal, and scandal sells.
But in the end, that was exactly what Heart had been looking for.
“We need something fresh,” he'd told her at their first meeting last year. "Readers... they’re fickle. They’ll eventually get tired of this romance rubbish and be ready to move back to something more wholesome. Something they can read without worrying their kids will get a hold of it and start asking questions. And you, my dear, are going to be the one who writes that special something.”
Rose had been quick to decline his offer of a contract. It wasn’t that she wasn’t interested in writing another novel. She just simply wasn’t able. No matter how hard she tried – how long she sat at her desk, quill in hand – the words would not come. It was as if she had literally lost the ability to write. Rose was, she feared, destined to be a one-hit-wonder, if a person whose book sold less than a thousand copies could be considered a 'wonder' at all.
So Heart had offered her another deal: to join Fletcher and Sons as an assistant literary agent, tasked with the very unglamorous job of schlepping through the thousands of unsolicited manuscripts the company received each year. The premise for the offer was that if she couldn't write the next best seller, maybe she’d be able to find Heart someone who could.
"To hell with them!" Heart had leapt from his chair and was now snapping his fingers as he paced around his office – no small feat considering the place was packed to the rafters with boxes and furniture. Heart’s wife, it seemed, had once again kicked her husband out of their million-dollar flat, forcing him to set up temporary residence in his office. The couple’s marital spats were an ongoing affair and Rose had long ago learned it best to avoid the subject whenever possible.
“Regina’s a has-been anyway,” Heart was saying. “We’re better off without her. Let Penman have her, for all I care. She'll be lucky to sell half as many copies with this new novel. Worst one she's written yet. Waste of perfectly good ink, if you ask me.”
Now Haverdash looked truly flumuxed. “But I thought you just said –”
"Goddammit!" Heart bellowed, kicking at a half-opened box that appeared to have been packed in haste, the corner of a red and blue checkered tie peeking out of one corner. He had stopped pacing just long enough to look down at his new lawyer, who he towered over in an almost comical fashion. “What are you still doing here, Haventon?"
Oh boy, Rose thought. Heart didn't even know the poor man's name.
"You wouldn't know a good idea if it fucked you five ways ‘til Sunday. Now, get the hell out of my office." When Haverdash failed to move, Heart shouted, "Go!"
Haverdash jumped to his feet, and Rose watched as the young man gathered up his belongings and bolted from the room.
As soon as he was gone, Heart let out a snort. "Lawyers," he said, flashing Rose the briefest of smiles. "They make life hell but damn if it ain't a joy to watch them squirm. Now," he said, his face serious again, "how the fuck are we gonna make me some more money?"