Chapter 1 : Two Wrongs
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A/N: This fic was written in response to Elysium’s ‘Reflections’ challenge on the HPFF forums. Basically no dialogue was to be used, which proved to be a struggle for me because I do love my dialogue so.
It is dedicated to Elysium, for not only setting such an awesome challenge, but also for knowing me - and my tendency to procrastinate - so well that she did not give up hope on me, but continued to nag and nag and nag until I finished this, as only a good friend would. And to GoCalgaryFlamesGo, who, with her love of Death Eaters and other scary characters, brings out the desire to write about less-than-nice characters in me. Thanks to her I’ve officially branched out from my nice, happy, familiar little realm of fluff. Well, sort of. :D
Most people Rita Skeeter knew preferred to spend their mornings like this: they would roll themselves out of bed barely thirty minutes before they needed to be out of the house, throw on the first thing they could see in their wardrobe, run a brush a few times through their hair and then wolf down a quick breakfast before sprinting out the door on their way to work. This, in her brutally honest opinion, was madness. Not to mention sheer laziness.
She was always on time, always prepared, always ready for the attack. You did not catch Rita Skeeter by surprise. So that was why she was always awake before six every morning, a good portion of that preparation time spent on the grooming herself. Already this morning, at seven o’clock on a Saturday, her shockingly blonde hair was piled high on her head, set in rigid and elaborate curls. She had heard that muggles slept with their hair in uncomfortable rollers to achieve the look that she could create with a few simple flicks of the wand. Ha, how unfortunate for them!
She studied her heavily jawed face shrewdly in the mirror for a few moments, checking for any unfortunate blemishes that would need to be covered up. Last night she had carefully painted her talon-like fingers and toes her favourite colour of deep crimson. Admiring her own handiwork, she held them up to the light to inspect, giving them a small wiggle. She was immaculately dressed - not a hair was out of place and not a single crease in her clothes could be found. Her robes today were a deep emerald shade – they matched perfectly with her jeweled spectacles, she thought.
She’s spent a good portion of her day preening and pampering herself. She had to – in her industry, image was everything. It didn’t matter where she was going or who she was seeing, she was sure to always look her best. She was well aware of how damaging an unexpected photograph could be.
Satisfied with her appearance for the day, she dropped the scarlet lipstick she had been using back into her crocodile skin purse and snapped the clasp shut. She took one swift glance in the mirror and smiled. Who said that perfection was unattainable?
She was in a very good mood this morning. She had been waiting for this day to arrive for quite some time now. Today was the day that she reclaimed her pride and dignity, and mended her wounded ego. It was simply not possible for Rita Skeeter to not have the last laugh.
She was not a nice person. She never claimed to be, nor did she aspire to it. Quite the opposite, really. She knew for a fact that nice people always came last in life. Take her for example; she was young, attractive, financially well off, and already a successful reporter for the Daily Prophet. And she had gained none of that by playing nicely. Rules were meant to be broken; moral lines were meant to be blurred; revenge was meant to be sweet.
She recalled someone once saying to her – her mother, perhaps – that two wrongs did not make a right. Of course, their differences in opinion had been a major contributor to the fact that Rita no longer spoke to her mother. Oh, she was such a disgrace to the family, with her unflattering articles and cruel words! Even from a young age though, Rita was more in tune to the ways of the world than either of her parents were. People were not nice, life was never fair, and it always came down to survival of the fittest. If she had to drag a few names through the mud to claw her way to the top, then so be it. Scruples were very much overrated.
A merle coloured owl soared in through the open window and settled on the arm of her chair. People would be receiving their copies of the Prophet all over Britain right about now. She imagined that the Minister for Magic, Cornelius Fudge, would be falling off his chair at that very moment. The man had placed his unquestionable trust in Rita’s work in the short time that she had been with the Prophet. After she had casually mentioned how restricting it was being subjected to the screening process that all writer’s segments had to go through when submitting their pieces each week, he didn’t even bother to have anyone double-check to see what she was writing in her column. It was usually just filled with juicy pieces of gossip - never anything that the Ministry would disapprove of.
Well, until now.
Two wrongs might not make a right, she thought to herself, unfolding the newspaper with fingers almost trembling in anticipation. But one wrong should never go unpunished.
And there it was. Front page news. Smack in the centre of the page was picture of a rugged looking man, with a freckled face and piercing blue eyes, seemingly staring straight out at her. Wrapping itself around the image were the words that Rita knew so well.
Of all the crimes one could commit in their lifetime, among the most shameful would be those of a con artist, writes Rita Skeeter, an attractive, twenty-something journalist who, after just a few short years in the industry, is already renowned across the wizarding world for her hard hitting stories that prove that everyone has a skeleton or two locked in their closets.
They lie, they cheat, and they steal unsuspecting victim’s hard earned money. Such is the life of a shameless con artist. As many would know, the news has recently been inundated with reports of a medical scam for a cure for the fatal Dragon Pox. According to victims, this particular con artist preys on the families of those suffering from the disease by proposing a new, expensive but ‘fail-proof’ method of treatment that the professional Healers ‘don’t want people to know about because it will mean a loss of income for them’. So, desperate for a last chance at a cure, families will fork over hundreds of galleons for potions that contain little more than a watered down Pepper Up Potion. Surely these poor people have suffered enough already without having to face another blow.
The Ministry of Magic has been working tirelessly to investigate these claims and catch this medical quack, but so far there has been no luck in discovering the identity of the culprit. This is most certainly due to the fact that victim’s descriptions of the man have differed so greatly. One would assume, therefore, that he must have been using the Polyjuice Potion to alter his appearance for each new swindle. But no secret stays hidden. The criminal who has conned so many sick, desperate people out of their money, has finally been exposed. And by his ex-fiancé, no less.
The man’s name? An average, ordinary, slightly unattractive wizard named Caleb Cole.
The woman - who wished to remain unnamed - has revealed all this information that will blow the lid of all Cole’s wrongdoings. After years of keeping his secrets and believing his lies, she has decided that now is the time to come forward with the truth that will have him locked away for the rest of his life.
The couple’s one year engagement ended abruptly when Cole so inconsiderately up and left one day – presumably because he felt the Ministry was hot on his heels. No one has seen or heard from him since. Amazingly enough, he has not even attempted to make any form of contact with his own fiancé. Caleb Cole simply seems to have disappeared of the face of the earth.
Not for long though.
This breakthrough evidence is exactly what the Ministry of Magic has been looking for. They had so far been unable to match a face to the elusive culprit of the scams, and therefore powerless to do anything. Now that the con artist has been named, the streets will soon be lined with ‘Wanted’ posters, and before long before a civilian will be sure to recognise Cole’s face in a crowd. Not even the best of criminals can hide when the whole of Britain is eager for vengeance.
As for the unnamed fiancé – after being so cruelly abandoned, she’s almost glad things ended the way they did. Unreliable fiancés never make decent husbands.
She took out her scissors, carefully clipping her article out, and wondered how much of an impact she had left. A few strokes of her quill – that was all it took to have him on the run for the rest of his life. She uncurled her fist and let the quill lie flat in her palm, as if weighing out the power she possessed. Enthralled by this sense of importance, she smiled again to herself, her pearly white teeth clenched and bared.
She glanced from the parchment to her left hand that was lying uselessly on the desk. The sparkling gems from her extravagantly bejeweled fingers caught her attention and she held them out to admire from a distance. They were either heirlooms, gifts from others, or an indulgence she had accorded to herself. Her fingers were quite weighed down by the sheer number of rubies, emeralds and other precious stones that graced them. Her favourite though, from the moment it had been slipped onto the fourth finger of her left hand, was the exquisitely cut - and exceptionally pricey - twenty two carat white gold, three stone, diamond ring that was the size of a small pebble. Such a terrible shame that she could no longer wear it.
The quill in her right hand was poised now, ready for the attack. She planned to include this little memo in the same envelope as the article she had so thoughtfully cut out for him. She very much doubted they delivered the Daily Prophet to whatever jungle he was hiding out in, and she couldn’t have him miss it – after all, this was his fifteen minutes of fame.
Nobody left her world falling down around her and got away with it.
Revenge was indeed oh-so sweet. With a small, satisfied smile curling from the corners of her mouth, Rita reached for a piece of her parchment and then examined the poison green Quick Quotes Quill curled between her fingers. Slowly, she tapped it a few times against her teeth, thinking.
No, she thought to herself, a Quick Quotes Quill won’t do. Then she let it clatter to the desk, instead extracting a regular quill from the ink pot in front of her. She wanted these words to flow from her own hand; to be all her.
With nothing but a burning desire to punish those who had done wrong – or rather done her wrong – left inside, she pressed her quill to the parchment and printed the last she had to say to him in her sloping script.
We both might have destroyed other’s lives for a living, but at least my career path wasn’t illegal.
Enjoy Azkaban. I’m keeping the ring.