Chapter 1 : Choosing A Subject
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Brilliant chapter image by hpphoenix at TDA
The Daily Prophet had always been one of the most prestigious newspapers to work for. It was therefore quite easy for Draco Malfoy to feel confident about himself as he made his way to the editor-in-chief’s office, his blonde hair hanging loosely over his forehead, his black shoes shiny and polished. Even after having been here for almost two years, the walk to the office seemed very long.
‘Sit down, Malfoy, and wipe that smarmy grin off your face.’
Draco smirked as he closed the door behind him and surveyed his surroundings. The panels on the walls were of mahogany and there was an amazing view of the London Eye behind the strict-looking woman waiting for him with an angry glare on her face.
‘Now, now, Drisella, dear, what have I done?’
Draco collapsed into the seat facing the desk and eyed Drisella Derkins, amused rather than alarmed at the upcoming row. Drisella, a thin, smartly dressed woman nearing her forties, was holding a copy of the Daily Prophet in her hand, looking most dissatisfied.
‘Malfoy, I’ve never wanted you on my staff. When Olsen retired, I was all for snagging that journalist from Witch Weekly. I knew that you were uncontrollable, that I couldn’t rely on you. But this,’ she shook the newspaper, ‘is unacceptable.’
Draco yawned pointedly and scratched his wrist in a most relaxed manner.
‘Why? Because I attacked the Junior Minister for cheating on his wife? It’s called revelation of the truth, Drisella.’
‘Stop the sappy crap, Malfoy,’ Drisella snapped, standing up and placing her hands on the desk. It was a gesture of command; a way of showing him who was in charge. ‘Everyone here knows that you couldn’t care less about truth. And unless you’ve got actual evidence, this isn’t truth, it’s gossip, and expensive gossip at that - I’ve already had three phonecalls from Percy Weasley about the so-called Henry Betteler who wrote this garbage.’
‘Well, when I chose Henry Betteler as a psuedonym, I thought it was a credible name,’ Draco answered in mock reflection. He sat up properly as Drisella’s face turned into a scorn. ‘I have evidence, Drisella - maybe not the kind that you would -‘
‘Oh, I see,’ Drisella exclaimed, her face relaxing into sarcastic realization. ‘You’ve - ah, how do I put this - entertained Weasley’s mistress or his mistress’ friend or his mistress’ friend’s friend-?’
Draco flashed a grin.
‘Well, I had to give her something in return for the favour she paid me,’ he said. Drisella looked as if she were about to vomit.
‘You disgust me, Malfoy. Going out with all these women to get a story.’
‘Ah, maybe so, but my stories sell, Drisella. Henderson told me that all copies were sold out. It’s juicy, it’s fresh - people love the Henry Betteler articles!’
‘Then why don’t you put your name on them?’ Drisella exclaimed. Draco rolled his eyes.
‘My dear Drisella, even you must understand why I can’t do that. How could I appear as a trustworthy, reliable, sympathetic person if I’m a scumbag who digs up juicy affairs that should be kept secret and who writes about them for every member of the wizarding community to read? I mean, no woman would divulge secrets if they knew who I was.’
‘I suspect you have a point,’ Drisella sighed. She sat down again, placing a pair of smart, brown rectangle glasses on her strict face. Rifling through her papers, she addressed Draco again. ‘And what exactly do you have planned for next week’s ‘Shocking Citizens’ column?’
‘Well, now I’m done with Percy Weasley,’ Draco said grimly, ‘I thought I should transfer my attention on to that ghastly Potter and -‘
‘No,’ Drisella interrupted him abruptly. Draco let out a sigh of frustration.
‘Come on, Drisella,’ he exclaimed angrily, ‘this is the third time I’ve tried to get you to let me write a piece about Potter -‘
‘He saved the Wizarding World,’ Drisella said grimly. She looked back up at him and removed her glasses in an interested manner. ‘Why are you so keen to drag Potter in the dirt?’ When he didn’t answer, she went back to her papers. ‘Nobody wants to read bad news about Harry Potter, he’s a hero.’
‘It’s been five years since the Final Battle, surely -‘
‘I said no, Malfoy!’
‘Fine,’ Draco agreed angrily, ‘I’ll find someone else.’
He slammed the door behind him and wandered off to his desk. The floor was alive with activity and stress; everyone kept looking up at the enourmous clock in the centre of the large room, worrying about deadlines and prints. Draco collapsed into his leather chair. His desk was in a shadowy corner on the outskirts of all the others; there was nothing intimate or personal about it. Dozens of files and papers were overflowing the desk, little post-its pasted on the small surrounding walls of the table. He picked up a pen and spinned it on his desk, wondering who on earth to write about now; Percy Weasley had been his main focus for the past three weeks.
His column was a weekly one, and Henry Betteler got many letters telling him just how many fans he had out there. People loved to read bad things about other people, especially about people in high-commanding positions. That was partly why Draco wanted so much to write about Potter - the adored, powerful, loved Potter. But - as much as he disliked admitting it - Drisella was probably right; nobody wanted to hear bad things about a hero.
He laid his pen back down on his desk and stretched. Penelope Clearwater, journalist in the weddings and divorces section, was walking past him, up to her elbows in stacks of files. He whistled and she turned around.
‘Hello, Draco. Nice piece this week.’
‘Last touch on a chocolate soufflé,’ Draco grinned cockily. ‘Thought you might enjoy it. Now I’ve just got to start on a new recipe.’
‘Any idea who your next victim will be?’
‘None,’ Draco admitted whole-heartedly. ‘What are you working on?’
‘Oh, just a few announcements... Engagements, divorces.’
Draco reached out for one of the files and opened it.
‘Blaise Zabini and Daphne Greengrass?’
‘Divorce, of course,’ Penelope grinned, leaning against his desk as he reached for another file.
‘Neville Longbottom and Hannah Abbott... No, don’t tell me - marriage!’ Draco cried out in mock surprise. He reached for one of the bottom files. ‘Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley.’ He looked up and wrinkled his nose in disgust. ‘We hardly need to wonder about that one, do we?’
‘No,’ Penelope laughed, ‘I doubt it.’
She took the files from him and walked away into the distance, leaving Draco in a pensieve silence. Hermione Granger... There was one he had not thought about. Working at a newspaper had somehow made him give up the habit of reading the newspaper, but he knew that she was a girl many journalists chose to write about. Well, of course, Draco thought bitterly, being one of the three great heros who had destroyed the Horcruxes and all that. He remembered reading something about her eradicating all pro-Pureblood laws, both to much praise and controversy. He scowled. Leave it up to someone like her to decide which laws should stay and which should go.
His mind was made up before he even knew it; it was the perfect opportunity to strike, now that her engagement to Weasley had been announced. Satisfied that he had done a day’s work, he put his feet up on the desk and started doing the paper’s crossword.
‘Mrs Weasley. Mrs Weasley.’
‘You have to, it’s half past seven, darling.’
‘No, I mean you can’t call me Mrs Weasley yet.’
Hermione laughed and opened her eyes to Ron’s great surprise, who had thought she was half-asleep. She pulled him down to the soft, warm bed and rolled on top of him, covering his face with her lips.
‘I take it you’re glad we got engaged,’ Ron chuckled, hardly minding that she was creasing his newly-pressed shirt. She shook her head and smiled in what was obviously complete bliss, finally meeting his lips with hers.
‘I’m just glad it actually happened, seeing how it took you five years to work up the courage,’ she teased him. He prodded her waist where he knew she was most ticklish.
‘It did not.’
‘And another four years before you plucked up the courage to kiss me,’ she continued, her voice rising.
‘Well, let’s make up for lost time, shall we,’ he suggested serenely, putting his hand around her head and pulling her down to claim another kiss. Lost in one another, they pulled apart as the alarm clock noisily rang, then laughed. Hermione jumped off him and got dressed as Ron straightened his shirt and tie.
‘D’you want to eat lunch with me today?’ Hermione asked, zipping up a smart black pencil skirt and reaching for her blouse.
‘I can’t,’ Ron sighed in disappointment, ‘I promised Harry I’d join him. The Head of the Auror Department invited us to a bistrot or something.’
‘Ooh, how elegant,’ Hermione teased him, sidling up to his side and straightening his tie. He smiled lazily, enjoying the attention. ‘Try and talk him into a promotion, then maybe we can get a bigger appartment.’
Ron looked around. It was true that they did not have an enourmous place, but being in the centre of London, it was all that they could afford. Not that they did not make a nice salary, for they did, and both were steadily building up impressive careers.
They left the appartment together and headed for the Ministry. The past five years had been nothing short of bliss for them; of course, the first few months after the Final Battle had been awful, but they had got through them and come out even stronger. They had moved in together three years later, once they had got proper jobs and finished all the required trainee work. From then on, the ride had been easy and relatively simple. He had proposed a week ago in a highly, almost exaggerated romantic manner: at the Burrow, on his knee, in front of the whole family while celebrating Molly’s birthday (of course she admitted that it was the best birthday present she had ever had). Ginny and Harry’s wedding was approaching, set a few weeks from now, and Hermione wanted to wait a little longer, so both Ron and her decided to save up money for four months to have a really grand wedding.
She kissed Ron on the mouth, a short, affectionate kiss, as they reached the Ministry entrance - she did not like to do it in the Ministry, private as she was. They ceased holding hands and walked down the underground stairs to the entrance, their body language now completely neglecting any sign of love and transforming it into a professional manner.
From behind a nearby lamppost, Draco Malfoy grinned. He took another bite of his brioche and wondered just how many secrets Hermione Granger could be keeping.
A/N: So here I am again, posting yet another Dramione story. Those of you who have read 'A New Life' know that that story is about an old marriage coming apart. This story takes place only 5 years after the Final Battle where Hermione and Ron are newly engaged, so it's very refreshing for me to write them while they're still in love. I hope you enjoy the story and thanks for reading!
Oh, and to avoid all confusion, Draco is known within the Daily Prophet as the author behind the Henry Betteler stories, but apart from that, nobody else knows that Draco is the true journalist of these scandalous articles.