Chapter 26 : Good news and bad news
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“Why, what’s going on?” Heather asked, catching up with him.
“Nothing, just an interview,” he said casually opening the door for her.
“What?” Heather snapped as they walked to a table.
“Hello, Heather, good you got here just in time.”
Hermione’s voice took Heather away from throttling Isaac to the table she was sitting at. Harry was with her as well as Luna and Rita Skeeter, at the sight of her Heather glared at Isaac. He smiled sheepishly and pulled a chair for her and sat down next to her.
“What are you up to?” Harry asked, staring from Luna to Rita to Hermione.
“Little Miss Perfect was just about to tell me when you arrived,” said Rita, taking a large slurp of her drink. “I suppose I’m allowed to talk to him, am I?” she shot at Hermione.
“Yes, I suppose you are,” said Hermione coldly.
Heather did not like Rita, she didn’t want to speak to the women who ruined Harry’s reputation in his fourth year. She looked much different now, the hair that had once been set in elaborate curls now hung lank and unkempt around her face. The scarlet paint on her two-inch talons was chipped and there were a couple of false jewels missing from her winged classes. She took another great gulp of her drink and said out of the corner of her mouth, “Coupled are we, Heather?”
“One more word about Harry or Heather’s love life and the deal’s off and that’s a promise,” said Hermione irritably.
“What deal?” said Rita, wiping her mouth on the back of her hand. “You haven’t mentioned a deal yet, Miss Prissy, you just told me to turn up. Oh, one of these days…” She took a deep shuddering breath.
“Yes, yes, one of these days you’ll write more horrible stories about Harry and me,” said Hermione indifferently. “Find someone who cares, why don’t you?”
“They’ve run plenty of horrible stories about Harry this year, Heather too, all with out my help,” said Rita’s hooting a sideways look at Harry over the top of her glasses and adding in a rough whisper, “How has that made you feel, Harry?” she turned to Heather, “Betrayed? Distraught? Misunderstood?”
“They feel angry, of course,” said Isaac in a harsh voice. “Because they’ve told the Minister of Magic the truth and the Minister’s too much of an idiot to believe them.”
“So you actually stick to it, do you, that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is back?” said Rita, lowing her glass and glaring at them both. “You stand by all this garbage Dumbledore’s been telling everyone about You-Know-Who returning and you two being the sole witnesses-”
“We weren’t alone,” snarled Harry. “There were a dozen-odd Death Eaters there as well. Want their names?”
“I’d love them,” breathed Rita, now fumbling in her bag and gazing at them as though they were the most beautiful things she had ever seen. “A great bold headline: ‘Smith and Potter Accuse…’ A subheading: ‘Harry Potter Names Death Eaters Still Among Us.’ and then, beneath a nice big photograph of you two: ‘Disturbed teenage survivors of You-Know-Who’s attack, Harry Potter, 15, Heather Smith, 15 caused outrage yesterday by accusing respectable and prominent members of the Wizarding community of being Death Eaters…’”
The Quick-Quotes Quill was actually in her hand and halfway to her mouth when the rapturous expression died out of her face.
“But of course,’ she said, lowering the quill and looking daggers at Hermione, “Little Miss perfect wouldn’t want that story out there, would she?”
“As a matter of fact,” said Hermione sweetly, “that’s exactly what we want.”
Rita stared at her. So did Harry and Heather. Luna, on the other hand, sang, ‘Weasley Is Our King’ dreamily under her breath and stirred her drink with a cocktail onion on a stick.
“You want me to report what they say about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named?” Rita asked Hermione in a hushed voice.
“Yes, I do,” said Hermione.
“The true story. All the facts. Exactly as Harry and Heather report them. They’ll give you all the details, they’ll tell you the names of the undiscovered Death Eaters they saw there, they’ll tell you want Voldemort looks like now-”
“Oh, get a grip on yourself,” Hermione cut in, throwing a napkin across the table, for at the sound of Voldemort’s name, Rita had jumped so badly that she had slopped half her glass of fire whisky down herself.
“The Prophet wouldn’t print it. In case you haven’t noticed, nobody believes they’re cock-and-bull story. Everyone thinks they are delusional. Now, if you let me write the story from that angle-”
“We don’t need another story about how Heather and Harry have lost their minds!” said Hermione angrily. “We’ve had plenty of those already, thank you! I want them to have the opportunity to tell the truth!”
“There’s no market for a story like that,” said Rita coldly.
“You mean the Prophet won’t print it because Fudge won’t let them,” said Isaac.
Rita gave them both a long, hard look. Then, leaning forward across the table two them, she said in a businesslike tone, “All right, Fudge is leaning on the Prophet, but it comes to the same thing. They won’t print a story that shows Harry or Heather in good light. Nobody wants to read it. It’s again the public mood. The last Azkaban breakout has to people quite worried enough. People just don’t want to believe You-Know-Who’s back.”
“So the Daily Prophet exist to tell people what they want to hear, does it?” said Hermione scathingly.
Rita sat up straight again, her eyebrows raised, and drained her glass of fire whisky.
“The Prophet exist to sell itself, you silly girl,” she said coldly.
“My dad thinks it’s an awful paper,” said Luna, chipping into the conversation unexpectedly. Sucking on her cocktail onion, she gazed at Rita with her enormous, protuberant, slightly mad eyes. “He publishes important stories that he thinks the public needs to know. He doesn’t care about making money.”
Rita looked disparagingly at Luna.
“I’m guessing your father runs some stupid little village news letter?” she said. “‘Twenty-five Ways to Mingle with Muggle’ and the dates of the next Bring-and-Fly Sale?”
“No,” said Luna, dipping her onion back into her gill water, “he’s the editor of The Quibbler.”
Heather nearly choked on her own breath but covered it pretty well since all eyes were on Rita as she snorted loudly. Heather remembered the Quibbler claiming Sirius to be some sort of pop-rock star; she hoped her guesses were wrong on where this interview was going.
“‘Important stories he thinks the public needs to know’?” she said witheringly. “I could manure my garden with the contents of that rag.”
“Well, this is your chance to raise the tone of it a bit, isn’t’ it?” said Hermione pleasantly. “Luna says her father’s quite happy to take Harry and Heather’s interview. That’ who’ll be publishing it.”
Rita stared at them both for a moment and then let out a great whoop of laughter.
“The Quibbler!” she said, cackling. “You think people will take them seriously if they’re published in The Quibbler?”
“Some people won’t.” said Isaac in a level voice. “But the Daily Prophet’s version of the Azkaban breakout had some gaping holes in it. I think a lot of people will be wondering whether there isn’t a better explanation of what happened, and if there’s an alternative story available, even if it is published in a”-he glanced sideways at Luna, “in a-well, an unusual magazine-I think they might be rather keen to read it.
Rita did not say anything for a while, but eyed Isaac shrewdly, her head a little to one side.
“All right, let’s say for a moment I’ll do it,” she said abruptly. “what kind of fee am I going to get?”
“I don’t think Daddy exactly pays people who write for the magazine,” said Luna dreamily. “They do it because it’s an honour, and, of course, to see their names in print.”
Rita Skeeter looked as though the taste of Stinksap was running down her throat and rounded on Hermione. “I’m suppose to do this for free?”
“Well, yes,” said Hermione calmly, taking a sip of her drink. “Otherwise, as you very well know, I will inform the authorities that you are an unregistered Animagus. Of course, the Prophet might give you rather a lot for a insiders account of life in Azkaban…”
Rita looked as though she would have liked nothing better than to seize the paper umbrella sticking out of Hermione’s drink and thrust it up her nose. Heather didn’t notice, she was staring at the washboard table in front of her and felt as though she might be sick. She then stood and seized Isaac’s hand and dragged him outside and out of earshot of Rita.
“What?” he asked, looking alarmed.
“I’m an unregistered Animagus!” she hissed at him. “If I tell in the interview that I transformed and tried to run for it I will be having to deal with the authorities!”
“Look just say you broke free and ran, don’t say anything about your form,” Isaac said, “it will be fine. Don’t worry,”
“He says as they walked back in to tell their story to a creep.” Heather muttered.
“Well,” Hermione said looking oddly at them as they sat down. “Okay, Harry, Heather? Ready to tell the public the truth?”
“I suppose,” said Harry,
“I guess,” Heather said.
“Fire away then, Rita,” said Hermione serenely, fishing a cherry out of the bottom of her glass.
Heather found it an uneasy experience to talk about the night when Voldemort had returned. Rita had pressed them for every little detail, and they had given her everything they could remember between them. She knew this was a big opportunity to tell the world the truth, but it still made her uneasy. Many had seen her in her wolf form that night, she wasn’t sure what the consequences were for being an unregistered Animagus but the way Rita complied so easily didn’t make her feel any better.
“It was the right thing to do,” Kira said at dinner that Monday night.
“I just hope it works,” Heather said, swirling a potato around in her stew nervously.
Heather was glad she had finished her homework over the weekend and didn’t have much for today. The common room was a buzz about the match, it hadn’t gone well, which wasn’t surprising. The very best thing you could say about that match was that it was short; the Gryffindor spectators had to endure only twenty-two minutes of agony. It was hard to say what was the worst thing: Ron’s fourteenth failed saved, Sloper missing the Bludger but hitting Angelina in the mouth with his bat, and Kirke shrieking as Zacharias Smith zoomed at him carrying the Quaffle and falling backward off his broom. The miracle was that Gryffindor only lost by ten points: Ginny managed to snatch the Snitch from right under Hufflepuff Seeker Summerby’s nose, so that the final score was two hundred and forty versus two hundred and thirty.
Not many Ravenclaw went, those who did came back soaked to the bone and thoroughly depressed by the outcome. Heather wondered how Umbridge felt about this outcome as she got ready for bed. She had no doubt that Umbridge was probably the only one thoroughly happy about the match. She sighed and pulled the curtains around her bed, laid back and emptied her mind of the stresses of the day. But this only reminded her that she would soon have to return to Snape’s classroom for more lessons.
They entered the Great Hall for breakfast early that morning, everyone was eagerly awaiting the post to come. Kira gave the delivery owl a Knut and unfolded the newspaper eagerly and began to read. Heather reached out for some pumpkin juice only to have an owl land on her arm.
Before she could even ask her question two more owls flew down one landing in front of her the other on her shoulder. Two, three more came swooping down knocking over her plate and food, eager to get to her.
“What’s this all about?” Kira asked putting down the Prophet.
Isaac grinned, “They’re letters from the readers!” he said excitedly and grabbed the first owls package.
He ripped off the brown packaged. Out rolled a tightly furled copy of March’s edition of The Quibbler. Heather unrolled it to see she and Harry grinning on the front cover. In large red letters across this picture were the words:
HARRY POTTER AND HEATHER SMITH SPEAK OUT AT LAST:
THE TRUTH ABOUT HE-WHO-MUST-NOT-BE-NAMED
AND THE NIGHT WE SAW HIM RETURN.
“It’s good, isn’t it?” said Luna, who had drifted away from the Gryffindor table.
Heather looked back to see Harry had gotten the same mail as she did, tons of letters and The Quibbler in his hands.
“It came out yesterday, I asked dad to send you a free copy. I expect all these,” she waved a hand at the assembled owls still scrabbling around on the table in front of Heather, “are letters from readers.”
“That’s what I thought,” Isaac said, grabbing and enveloped and asking. “Heather can we-?”
“Go ahead,” Heather said,
Kira and Isaac began opening the letters and reading them off, many people were converted but not all.
“This one thinks your mad, but this one says she believes you.” Isaac said
“Oh! This is from a fellow vampire, he says he’s believed you the whole time and is even more assured by this article.” Kira said excitedly.
“More letters?” said a falsely sweet, girlish voice.
Heather looked up with her hands full of envelops. Professor Umbridge was standing behind her, her bulging toad’s eyes scanning the mess of owls and letters on the table in front of Heather. Behind her she saw many of the students watching her and Harry avidly.
“I’m guessing these are all from Quibbler readers as well?” she asked.
“Yes, Harry and I gave and interview.” said Heather. “About what happened to us last June.”
Heather glanced up at the teachers table only to see Dumbledore absorbed in a conversation with Professor Flitwick. Umbridge reached down and took the Quibbler from her hands and stared at the cover. Her face was already a bit flushed but it flared into an ugly patchy violet.
“There will be no more Hogsmeade trips for you, Miss. Smith,” she whispered. “How you dare….how you could…” she took a deep breath. “I have tried to teach you not to tell lies. The message, apparently, has still not sunk in. Fifty points from Ravenclaw and another weeks worth of detentions.”
She walked away, clutching The Quibbler to her chest, the eyes of many students following her. Heather looked back over to Harry who nodded, she knew they both were going to be at those detentions and alone in Hogwarts for the next Hogsmeade visit. By mid-morning enormous signs had been put up all over the school, not just on House notice boards, but in the corridors and classrooms too.
BY ORDER OF
The High Inquisitor of Hogwarts
Any student found in possession of the magazine The Quibbler- will be expelled.
The above is in accordance with
Educational Decree Number Twenty-seven.
Dolores Jane Umbridge
Heather laughed when she saw the first one, most knew that the best way to make something well known was to ban it. By the and of that day, though there was not one sighting of The Quibbler anywhere in the school, the whole place seemed to be quoting the interview at each other; Heather heard them whispering about it as they queued up outside classes, discussing it over lunch and in the back of lessons, even in the bathrooms the girls chattered on about it.
“Everyone is asking me questions,” Isaac said happily.
“No one’s asked me,” Kira said, “why you?”
“Because I’m closest to her,” Isaac said.
“I’m her sister!”
“I’m her boyfriend,”
“I’m sick of you both,” Heather said laughing.
Meanwhile Umbridge was stalking the school, stopping students at random and demanding that they turn out their books and pockets. Heather knew she was looking for copies of The Quibbler, but the students were several steps ahead of her. The pages carrying their interview had been bewitched to resemble extract from the text books if anyone but themselves read it, or else wiped magically blank until they wanted to peruse it again. Soon it seemed that every single person in the school had read it.
The teachers were, of course, forbidden from mentioning the interview by Educational Decree Number Twenty-six., but they found ways to express their feelings about it all the same.
Professor Flitwick awarded Ravenclaw twenty points even though no one in his class accomplished their latest lesson. Professor McGonagall smiled at her more so than ever in Transfiguration every time she transfigured her mouse into a flower pot.
Over the past days Isaac told her that Luna told him her father was reprinting because so many people seem interested. Many people in the Ravenclaw common room talked to Heather and shook her hand practically pledging their alliance to her. Increasingly throughout the day with all the excitement Heather began to get a headache and turned in early. She opened her window and sighed letting the cool air hit her sweaty brow. She stared out into the night, watching as bats sprang up over the tree tops of the forbidden forest. It was then she saw Max swooping through the towers and up to her window, be soared in and landed on her shoulder.
“Max, how long have you been gone?” she asked, taking the letter from his leg.
He responded with an tired hoot and retired to his cage, Heather sat down and opened it letter. It was from Remus, she had forgotten to write to him with everything going on.
I want to wish you a Happy Birthday now, I’m not sure when I will be able to write you next. I hope everything is going well at school, remember what I said.
Heather smiled it was a comfort to her mind to know he was still safe out there. She slept soundly that night and woke the next morning, her headache was worse than before. All day she found it hard to concentrate and knew she wouldn’t get peace because of her lessons with Snape. Soon she found herself standing in Snape’s room watching Harry get up from the floor.
“The last memory,” said Snape. “What was it?”
“It’s…nothing,” said Harry
Heather felt his heart rate increase and knew he was lying, Snape glared at him.
“How do that man and that room come to be inside your head, Potter?” said Snape.
“It-” Harry began, looking everywhere but at Snape, “it was-just a dream I had.”
“A dream,” repeated Snape.
There was a pause during which Harry stared fixedly at a large dead frog suspended in a purple liquid in its jar.
“You do know why we are here, don’t you, Potter?” said Snape in a low, dangerous voice. “You do know why I am giving up my evenings to this tedious job?”
“Yes,” Harry said stiffly and Heather nodded.
“Remind me why were are here, Smith.”
“So we can learn Occlumency,” said Heather, looking at the floor.
“Correct, Smith. And dim though you both may be-” she and Harry glared at Snape- “I would have thought that after two months’ worth of lessons you might have made some progress. How many other dreams about the Dark Lord have you had?”
“Just that one,”
Snape looked to her and Heather shook her head, “None,”
“Perhaps,” said Snape returning to glare at Harry. “perhaps you actually enjoy having these visions and dreams, Potter. Maybe they make you feel special-important?”
“No, they don’t,” said Harry, his fingers clenched tightly around the handle of his wand.
“That is just as well, Potter,” said Snape coldly, “because you are neither special nor important, and it is not up to you to find out what the Dark Lord is saying to his Death Eaters.”
“No-that’s your job, isn’t it?” Harry shot at him.
Heather stood there in the silence and swore Snape was about to swing a punch at Harry. But they merely stared at each other for a long moment, there was a curious, almost satisfied expression on Snape’s face when he answered.
“Yes, Potter,” he said, his eyes glinting. “That is my job. Now if you are ready, Smith, we will start again.” Heather froze, he raised his wand. “One-two-three-Legilimens!”
There was a loud crack and Lupin appeared on the floor of the Shrieking Shack bound by ropes. Heather grimaced as the memory changed and she was laying on the ground of the Forbidden Forest. Another memory, one she hadn’t seen before, she was standing at a window she didn’t recognize. She was staring down at a front yard, a man stood there in shadows staring up at the window. She then recognized him as Snape, gazing up at her before she heard a loud slam and screaming. When Heather turned back she recognized her room and ran to the door to find it locked. The screams died away into the silence leaving her screaming and banging on the door. Then without warning it ended and she fell to the ground, faintly hearing her wand fall from her hands.
“Heather?” came Harry’s voice.
She groaned and stirred on the ground, her head was pounding and she had broken out in a cold sweat. She then sat up nearly hitting Harry in the head with her own, she was staring incredulously at Snape.
“You were there…” she whispered.
“What?” he asked.
Heather stood shakily and pointed at him, “You were there, you were there when my mother died!”
“What?” asked Harry shocked.
“You could have stopped him!” Heather shouted at Snape, tears now streaming down her face. “You were right there, staring at the house! You!”
“Smith, calm down,” Snape said evenly.
“No,” Heather said, shaking from head to toe. “you were there the night my mother was murderer, you could have stopped my father.”
Before Snape could react Heather bolted from the room and out into the dungeons. She reached down corridor after corridor until she couldn’t anymore and collapsed to the ground crying. Heather always excepted that her mother died tragically with no one there to save her. But now knowing that Snape had every reason to run up there and stop him horrified her. Had he been a Death Eater at that time? Was it his job to over seen the murder and make sure it was committed? Those questions she wasn’t sure she wanted answered as she continued to sob on the cold floor.
“Heather, are you okay?”
Heather looked up to see who was speaking to her but didn’t expect to see Draco Malfoy. She stared at him in absolute shock of what he had just asked her and in that tone. But before she could answer there was a cry above them, a women screamed from somewhere above. Heather sniffed and stared up the ceiling wiping the tears from her cheeks, she could hear a muffled commotion coming from above. When she looked back Draco was gone, she stood and leaned on the wall listening but before she could make her way to the stairs to see what it was she heard a voice:
“Miss Smith, what are you doing down here alone?”
Heather turned to see Dumbledore but what delayed her response was a rather large centaur with him.
“I-I…” was all Heather could muster as another howl emitted from above them.
“You should be in Occlumency with Professor Snape, should you not?”
“That’s why I’m not, I saw Snape at my house the night my mother died.” Heather said, this brought tears to her eyes again.
Dumbledore who had been ignoring the screams looked up as another one sounded and sighed. “Well, Firenze, it seems I have a few situations more to take care of. You do know where the room is?”
“I do, thank you, I shall go settle in.” said the large centaur and trotted down the hall.
“Yes, very good, could you meet me in the Entrance Hall in…about ten minutes?“ Firenze tilted his head in yes, Dumbledore smiled then turned to her. “Miss. Smith, with me.”
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