Chapter 1 : Manic Panic Mondays
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- A PREFACE -
I consider etc. etc. sister to a few other Albus/OCs, which we all wrote to subvert teen romance trends we were frustrated with at the time. You'll know them as Bathing in Roses by Celestie, Welcome to Blunderland by peppersweet, and The Confectionary by GubraithianFire (since abandoned, but Devilish Delights, Wicked Ends more than makes up for it).
We were each frustrated with different tropes. etc. etc. is my answer to all the romanticized bad boy/ice queen characters that aren't as morally ambiguous as advertised, set in a Hogwarts beleaguered by celebrity worship. It's for all the cynical girls who never wanted saving and maybe even feared it. It's, like how Monika Bartyzel described Heathers, "not a romance; it's a war [story]." There are no clear heroes or villains; just sides.
Love to Annie for giving me the idea in the first place; Gubby, for diving in the insanity with me; and finally, Jordan, because she likes being mentioned.
♥ ci by julia/ahoythere
- 1 -
Upon my entrance to the charms classroom, the girls in the corner go silent out of reverence. Or fear. What's the difference between the two, anyway?
Professor Flitwick taps on the board. The tallest of the girls shoves a newspaper under her desk, and I catch sight of the bold title before it disappears from view: Witchy Business. She shoots me a dirty look. Journalism is a thankless trade.
The name is Clemence Fitzgerald. In the newspaper business, there's a lot in a name. Not rubbish like "Selena means moon" in Latin or Greek or Parseltongue—Clemence means "merciful" and any halfwit can tell you I am anything but. I mean the name in the byline, that one very important bit in ten-point serif font, small caps, and fresh virgin ink saying who wrote the article.
Look closer. What it really says is, "It's me you should thank for digging up what you don't have to."
It runs in my blood. I learned from Great-Aunt Rita, best known for her stint at The Daily Prophet and her scarcely-sourced biographies. Rubbish writing, brilliant businesswoman. She babysat me. Was terrifically enthusiastic about it—"Children are walking paper shredders," to quote her. But in my young age, I showed a spark of talent for her trade, and it was uphill from there. Seven years later, here I am: Machiavellian editor for Hogwarts' hottest news source.
It may sound brutish, but if there were no demand, Witchy Business wouldn't still exist, and my critics indulge in my paper like everyone else.
Cower in the corner. Call me heartless. Call me shameless. My only crime is giving people what they want.
"Where's Janey? It's deadline! I need Protean Charms!"
"Sorrysorrysorry, I'm on it!" The bespectacled fifth year rushes past me, parchment in one hand, tea in the other. At her walking speed and caffeine-jitters, there's more tea on the floor than in her cup by the time she reaches the presses at the back of the newsroom.
She points her wand at the stack of papers awaiting distribution and mutters a string of Latin. The main headline blurs into view: DADA Professor: Man, Woman, Troll? Her thumb flips up, and I return my attention to the master copy, red Easy-Edit Quill poised to strike.
As I fix Pickett's ever-awful word choice, Dom swings by with the feature photo and slaps it into place. "Perfect gutters all 'round." She pumps a fist into the air and pouts when I don't react. "Hmph, no one ever appreciates good layout."
She goes on a series of faux dramatics about 'white space' and 'font choice' on her way to help Janey count copies. Onto paragraph four.
"A third year who wishes to remain anonymous reports that she saw Professor Nogget on a morning swim and the amount of hair on his back was 'inhuman'—Pickett! Who's the third year?"
"Um, ah—Bree Delaney."
"She gave us that love triangle last month. Keep her on tab."
"Why do I have to—ah, fine." His voice is much closer than before; a glance to my left reveals his clenched jaw breathing over my shoulder. I can feel his rant about destroying the flow of my article at the ready, and I preemptively slap his mouth shut.
"This article's a complete abuse of commas. I've got semicolons weeping for their brethren," I say. "And how many times do I have to tell you, 'ironic' doesn't mean what you think it means."
"Frmmf." He spits on my hand. Ew. "Fine," he repeats, face aghast when I wipe my hand on his jumper.
Pickett snatches the quill from me, adds in an em-dash to his third sentence, and runs away. I wrinkle my nose.
Nixing one last comma, I tuck my quill behind my ear and check the timepiece at the top of the table. Five minutes until six, an hour past deadline. The other three are already walking out with stacks of parchment.
"Oi, at least wait for the OK until you start distributing," I slide off my stool, picking up my own bundle.
Dom tosses her hair. Every time she turns around, it's like a shampoo commercial in the making. "We're a gossip newsletter. No one cares about punctuation."
"Just because we report rubbish doesn't mean we need to write like it."
"Quality over quantity, got it. Let's go. People are waking up soon, and we have four floors' worth of lavatories to hit. Choppity chop."
I grumble and follow the others out, muttering 'Nox' as I shut the door behind me.
Monday mornings are a fascinating study. If you pay close attention, you can see the gossip bleed through the school, threading through crowds until it stains everyone. It's beautiful, in a morbid way.
It starts with the tiny staff of Witchy Business—me, Dom Weasley, Henry Pickett, and new recruit Janey Summerby. Our motto: 'We know everything. If we don't know it, it's not important.' From crack theories to torrid love affairs, nothing goes unwritten.
We collect stories during the week, listening and sleuthing, but mostly, we're tipped off. People love to dish, and for those unwilling, a double-chocolate cauldron cake thrust under their nose does wonders. You don't really want to know if your friendships are stronger than your stomach.
After that, the real fun begins.
Let's follow one thread. Piper and Minka, your typical vapid Gryffs, walk in the loo before breakfast. Primp in the mirror, chit-chat idly. They stop by the doorway—what's this? The latest issue of Witchy Business? They pick it up, scan the headlines. Piper reads about a prank gone wrong. Minka points at the article about the Great Hall catfight two days ago. They titter to themselves as they walk down the hallway and hand it off to another friend, Felicity, who's heading to class.
While Binns drones in the background, Felicity dives into the relationship column, our most frequented section by far. There's a blurb on that cute Ravenclaw boy: he just broke up with his girlfriend of two years. Felicity folds it up and passes it to Nora behind her, who's been clamoring for a look.
Nora keeps it all the way until lunch, where she shares it with her friends at the table. Some have already heard the news—we shan't forget about Piper, Minka, or Felicity; they've been talking. A few whispers go a long way.
That is how, by noon, everybody knows.
The paper only lasts until evening anyway. We wipe and destroy the master copy twelve hours after distribution as a precaution. If we ever get the facts wrong, no one has an archive to trace back to, nor can they edit the master copy maliciously. And once the facts go airborne, well, I can't be blamed for other people's embellishments.
I don't make gossip; I just deliver it. Personally, the whole concept bores me, but journalistic integrity and notoriety are inversely proportional.
I think you can imagine which one I like better.
Late evening, my pocket flares with a warmth. I pull out the two-way compact Dom and I share, dodge into an empty corridor by the kitchen, and flip it open.
Her grin crowds the tiny mirror. "You won't believe what Rose just told me."
Unexpected. Rose, in brief, hates me. Most of her family hates me, but that's what I get for stalking them. Knowing Dom, she probably got her cousin in some slip of the tongue.
My eyes light up. The very last single male of the Potter-Weasleys. Strange one, always keeps to himself, avoiding the flocks of quirky birds hanging off his arms. For all the stories we’ve had on James, Fred, Hugo, and Louis, there’s only been one on Albus, on whether he's secretly snogging that Malfoy boy or not.
"He's got a girlfriend."
A/N It's all downhill from here!
But no matter, my focus is strictly trained ahead—he's sitting like a statue at the edge of the room, contemplating his next move in a chess game against his cousin Hugo. Dark-haired, pale and skinny like his father. Same distaste for reporters.
As I take my first step toward them, he shudders and looks up. That shudder turns into a full-fledged recoil when he spots me. Apparently, he's also inherited the ability to sense approaching evil.
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