Chapter 1 : Manic Panic Mondays
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Note: Clemence is a girl, since there has been some confusion over that. As far as I'm aware, it's a French girl name.
Biscuits and deathtraps for Annie for being awesome with the fixing and giving me the idea in the first place, respectively. Love to Gubby, who is diving in the insanity with me. And finally, Jordan, because she likes being mentioned.
♥ ci by julia/ahoythere
Upon entering the Charms classroom, the girls in the corner go silent out of reverence. Possibly fear. But what’s the difference between the two, anyway?
Professor Flitwick taps on the board. The tallest of the girls shoves a sheet of parchment underneath her desk, and I catch sight of the bold title before it disappears from view: Witchy Business. She shoots me a dirty look and I respond in kind.
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 that I am anything but. I mean the byline, that one very important bit in ten-point serif font, small caps, perfectly kerned in fresh virgin ink saying who wrote the article.
Look a little closer. What it really says is, "It's me you should thank for digging up what you don't have to."
You could say it runs in my blood. I learned first from Great-Aunt Rita, best known for her stint at The Daily Prophet and her scarcely-sourced biographies. Rubbish writing. Brilliant businesswoman. She was less than enthused when she had to babysit me—"Children are walking paper shredders," to quote her—but apparently I showed a spark or two of talent, and it was all uphill from there. Fast-forward seven years and here I am: Machiavellian editor for Hogwarts' hottest news source.
Call me heartless, call me shameless, but I give people what they want. If there were no demand, Witchy Business wouldn't exist in the first place. Don't doubt that my critics read the paper, too. They indulge like everyone else. At least I don't hide my intentions.
One day—mark these words—I'll have my name on the front page byline of The Daily Prophet, too.
"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 press.
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 new 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?"
"I don't remem—wait, I think it's that Irish runt, Bree Delaney."
"Didn't she give us that love triangle last month? Keep her on tab."
"Why do I have to—ah, fine." His voice is much closer than before and 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, releasing him. "And how many times do I have to tell you, 'ironic' doesn't mean what you think it means."
"Fine, but!" Pickett snatches the quill from me, adds in an em-dash to his third sentence, and raises his eyebrows at me for approval. I wrinkle my nose. The boy has no respect for punctuation.
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. A record.
I spin around and the other three are already walking out with stacks of parchment in their arms. "Oi, at least wait for the OK until you start distributing," I scowl, sliding off my stool and picking up my own bundle.
"We're a gossip newsletter, Clemence," says Dom with a toss of her hair. Every time she turns around, it's like a shampoo commercial in the making. "No one cares about punctuation."
"Just because we report rubbish doesn't mean we need to write like it."
"Yeah, quality over quantity, all that tosh. Let's go. People are waking up soon, and we have four floors' worth of lavatories to hit."
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 enough attention, you can see the gossip bleed through the school, threading through crowds until it stains everyone. It's beautiful, if you're into that sort of morbidity.
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. Occasionally we investigate, but we're generally tipped off. People love to dish, and for those unwilling, a double-chocolate cauldron cake thrust under their nose does wonders. You won't want the honest answer to Are your friendships 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. 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.
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 in the evening, a few of today's issues are still passing through hands. They won't be of much use for long; 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.
My pocket flares with a warmth as I walk past the kitchen. I pull out the two-way compact Dom and I share, dodge into an empty corridor, and flip it open.
Dom's there, with a grin reserved only for a prime scoop. "You won't believe what Rose just told me."
She pauses for dramatic effect; it just makes me impatient. I didn't expect the mention of Rose. She, in brief, hates me. Most of her family hates me, but that's what I get for stalking them one too many times. 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.