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Chapter 1 : The Next Big Scoop
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An afternoon sun reflected off the foaming waves as they crashed onto the narrow strip of land that encircled Azkaban prison. Rita Skeeter squinted behind her glasses in the bright light as she studied the stone turrets. Without the constant cloud of despair that had surrounded the place, Azkaban did not seem nearly as terrifying. Perhaps it was now more along the lines of a muggle prison (with much better security, of course).
Though the dementors had been banished from their positions as guards, there remained evidence of the times of their reign. Along the walls of the fortress were the graves of unclaimed prisoners, driven mad by the constant gloom. Rita sneered at the loosened mounds of dirt that had been poorly packed down. Lovely…
Past the gate, a cloaked wizard in a small entry hall reached for her bag, shuffling through its contents. “Just a Quick-Quotes Quill and some parchment,” she offered her version of a flirtatious smile, “nothing to be worried about.” She gingerly placed her wand in a tray he held out to her. The guard ran his own wand up and down her, checking for any concealed magical objects. Rita glanced at herself in a mirror that was hanging in the room. Her previously blonde curls were now a dark brown-- an effort on her part to be taken more seriously. She wore elaborate magenta silk robes that she had bought with the abundant earnings that her Albus Dumbledore biography had raked in. She was hoping that her next book would be just as successful.
When the man seemed satisfied, two more guards showed up to escort her about the inner complex. In silence, she followed them past hundreds of cells, full of the most detestable people imaginable. Some she recognized as previous Ministry employees. Their robes were shabby and they seemed unkempt, but the sunken look that had often been associated with Azkaban prisoners was missing in their sullen faces. Pity that the Dark Lord’s followers got off easier than the innocent people they had imprisoned in their uprising.
After almost ten minutes of brisk strides up the corridors, they reached the cell Rita was looking for. She offered a venomous smile to the prisoner inside as she conjured a chair with her wand. Sitting and facing the barred cell door, Rita pulled the quill and parchment out of her crocodile-skin purse and spread it out on her lap.
“You have twenty minutes,” one of the guards mumbled as they shuffled off.
Rita brought the quill to her ruby lips and then set it point-down on the paper. A handsome young man of about eighteen stares up at me from the floor of a dank prison cell, his eyes ashen and empty after the past weeks in a lonely fortress. “Tell me,” Rita grinned once more, “about Harry Potter.”
The inmate rose to his feet and settled on the edge of his bed. His pale hair had fallen limp and stringy over his forehead and his cheeks glistened in the light from the window with blonde stubble. The long pallid face still held something unmistakably arrogant, though he seemed to have been taken down a few notches since Rita had last seen him. There was also something different, something that seemed almost like… relief?
“You shouldn’t write about me being in here,” Draco Malfoy mumbled. “It’s not going to be long before they release me and my family and this is cleaned from our records. Just a few more court dates…” He glanced up at her, anxiously looking for some sign of judgment in her eyes. “We switched sides, you know.”
The boy tried to smile, but failed dismally. “I’m just glad it’s over. My birthday’s in a few weeks, and I’m hoping to be out by then.” Draco shuddered a bit. “We didn’t hurt anyone. We only acted to save our own lives. In fact, we helped out in a lot of ways…”
“What was that last battle like for you?” Rita was relishing the boy’s openness. She could tell that this interview would be conducive to her research. “Did you see him at all? Did you see Harry?”
“Yeah,” Draco ran his hands through his untidy hair. “My mates, Crabbe and Goyle, and I were looking for him that night.” He seemed to become slightly more nervous. “I.. I wanted to help him, you know? We spotted him going into this room to look for something, some.. diadem, with Granger and Weasley--”
“The Lost Diadem of Ravenclaw,” Skeeter cut in. “The Lovegood girl told me they had been looking for it.”
“Erm.. Yeah. Well, we followed them and things got bad. Crabbe used this spell. I tried to stop him, but he set everything on fire. All of us escaped, except for him.” Draco’s brow was furrowed, as if the memory was particularly difficult. “If it weren’t for me, Potter probably wouldn’t be alive,” he added as some sort of confident resolution.
“How so?” Rita glanced down at her quill, which was recording the entire conversation with a bit of dramatic flair added to it.
“My mum. She was supposed to check if Harry really was dead after You-Know-Who cursed him. She knew he was alive, but she lied for him. She just wanted him to tell her that I was alright. We knew he was going to win by that time.” Draco seemed assured of this fact. “Everyone was rallied around him. The Death Eaters were dying out and Potter’s supporters weren’t going to give up.”
Skeeter leaned forward and wrapped her stubby fingers around the cell bars. “How do you personally feel about Harry Potter’s victory over the Dark Lord?”
Malfoy sneered at the question. “Just another trophy for Potter’s crowded shelf,” he spat. “Won’t be surprised to see him a Minister of Magic one day. Everyone‘s so in love with him now. He‘s a bloody hero once again.” Draco’s expression softened slightly and his voice became quieter. “However,” he added carefully, “I suppose things definitely could have been worse.”
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