...There had been drinking, of course. A new woman every night. Drugs too, though his publicist somehow managed to keep the worst of it out of the papers. But it wasn’t until he met and married his second wife that the real spending began. Flats in London, Paris and Milan; expensive artwork and jewelry; extended vacations that would go on for weeks, sometime months at a time. The man denied himself nothing. And if those around him were at all troubled by Krum’s growing appetite for indulgence, not one of them bothered to speak up - perhaps too afraid of being cut off from the man who financed the lavish lifestyles they’d grown so accustomed to...
Chapter Four: Mr. Brooks
By half-past eight the next morning, Rose was back in Heart’s office, feeling as though she'd never left. But this time, it was she and not Heart who was doing most of the talking.
“It just wouldn’t work,” she told her boss for what must have been the third time since she'd taken up her usual seat in the chair opposite him, his oversized mahogany desk stretched out between them. “It’s out of my area of expertise. Besides, there must be hundreds of people who’d kill for the chance to get their hands on this deal. I appreciate the offer, really I do. But I think we both know I'm not the right person for this.”
Rose’s speech was sounding rehearsed, which was probably because she’d been repeating the same phrases over and over in her head for the past twelve hours. She’d had to read Heart’s note through several times before finally being able to identify the name Viktor Krum. Not being a big fan of sport, Rose hadn’t immediately made the link between the name and the old gossip about a once-famous Quidditch player who'd fallen out of favor with his fans before disappearing from the public eye. What little she did know about him came from brief glances at the tawdry headlines that had littered the front pages of the wizarding tabloids her female cohorts at school had been so fond of reading.
The more she thought about it – mulling it over as she lay in bed the previous night – the more Rose became convinced she was absolutely the wrong person to write a book about Viktor Krum. She knew almost nothing about sport, and even less about the man himself. Surely Heart would do well to find another author.
“Well, you’re right about one thing,” Heart said. “I can think of about a dozen people in this building alone who’d give their first born for this opportunity. The question is, my dear, why in the hell aren’t you one of them?”
Rose wasn’t sure how to answer Heart. She supposed it was rather unusual – a young writer without much experience turning down the chance to put her name on something that had the potential to make them both a lot of money. Besides, how hard could writing a biography be? At least that was Heart's argument. She wouldn’t really be responsible for providing any of the content for the book. All she would have to do is listen to Krum’s story, polish it up enough to make it presentable for publishing, and walk away – her bank account all the fatter for it. Surely even she, still deep in the throes of some serious writer's block, could cobble together something.
Rose should be jumping at the chance, begging Heart to let her have a go. Instead, she was begging him to find someone else.
“It’s not that I don’t want to do it,” she said. “But what do I know about Quidditch? Or Krum, for that matter? He was before my time. Why not give it to Hemsley? You liked his last manuscript well enough to order a ten thousand first-run printing. And he’s a nutter for sport.”
Heart waved away the suggestion. “No good. Hemsley’s already started his next project. Besides, he’s not qualified for something like this.”
“Marcus then. He spent half his career as a sports reporter. You don’t get much more qualified than that.”
“Marcus is a bloody todger. Besides,” Heart said, leaning forward, his hands clasped together and resting on his desk. “I don’t want a sports reporter. We’re talking about a biography here, not a column for The Daily Prophet. What I want is you.”
“But why?" Rose honestly couldn’t fathom Heart’s insistence on the matter.
“Because I don’t want to publish a book about goddamn sports. I want to publish a book with some depth. Do you understand me?” Rose shook her head, and Heart ran an exasperated hand through his thinning hair. Rose noticed for the first time that morning that the man wasn’t wearing his wedding ring. “What did I tell you when I first hired you? Do you remember what I said?”
Rose thought for a minute. “Don’t be late, and don’t ask for overtime pay?”
“No, no! What I said about your writing. Dammit, girl, don’t be thick.”
Rose thought about it for another second, recalling the first meeting they’d had in this very office one year before. “You said my writing had...heart.”
“Exactly,” he said, pointing a pudgy finger at her. “What I’ve got here is some deadbeat has-been who wants to try and make a quick Knut off a name that used to be worth something. Bloody brilliant,” he said with a role of his eyes. “Now don’t get me wrong. People will eat this shit up and that’s why I made the deal. The public will pay anything to peek under the sheets of the rich and famous – or the formerly rich and famous, as the case may be. But you know what would sell even better? Better than a book about a man who pissed away his good fortune and now wants to be pitied for it?"
Rose shook her head again.
“A story with some heart. Make people root for this guy again. Make them think there’s still some of their precious Quidditch hero left inside him after all these years. Now you’ve got a book people can feel good about reading. Oh, look at Krum, they’ll say. He’s just like me. Made some mistakes but is picking himself up and carrying on. Now there’s a bloke I’d like to read about. Blah, blah, blah. And if they get to hear all the scandalous details along the way, so much the better. But suddenly I’ve got a book that’s gone from guilty pleasure to bestseller. Now do you understand?”
Rose did understand – or at least she was starting to. Heart was asking her to spin the tales of a washed-up celebrity into something that was palatable enough to read around the dinner table. This would, Heart hoped, make the book suitable for a wider market, and the bigger the potential audience, the bigger the potential revenue.
From a business standpoint, it made perfect sense. And though Rose still wasn’t convinced she was the right person for the job, this added twist peaked her curiosity.
“Is there?” she asked Heart after a long pause.
“Is there what?”
“Anything left in him. Is there any of that Quidditch star still in there?”
Heart shrugged. “Hell if I know. Never met the bastard. But it doesn’t matter if there is or not. It only matters if people think there is. And you are just the type of person who can convince them to care.”
“That doesn’t seem very honest—”
“Who said anything about honesty? I’m talking about product and profit. We give the public a product they’ll love and we all get a slice of the profit.”
Rose leaned back in her chair. She had unconsciously begun to pull at a small piece of thread that had come loose from the hem of her skirt. What Heart was suggesting didn’t sit well with her.
“Look,” he said, standing up and walking around the desk to seat himself in the chair next to hers. “Maybe there is something good inside this guy. And maybe you’ll be doing us all a favor – him included – by getting his story out there. I’m not asking you to lie. I’m just asking you to put a little bit of yourself in the book. Soften the edges. There’s enough goody two-shoes in you to make up for whatever he’s lacking, I’m sure.”
Rose couldn’t help but smile at that. Flattery wasn’t Heart’s strong suit. If he were better at it, she thought, glancing down at his naked ring finer, perhaps he wouldn’t be in so much trouble with his wife.
“So, what do you say, Rose? Are you up for it?”
Rose hesitated. She could feel her resolve beginning to fade, knowing she’d regret saying yes the minute she left his office. But Rose also knew that by hell or high water, Joseph Heart would get his way in the end.
"I'll...think it over,” she said at last.
Heart leapt from his chair – no easy feat for a man his size. “Great. That’s fan-fucking-tastic.
Rose stood up too, though with much less enthusiasm. She could already feel the weight of decision pressing down on her.
She stared at her boss, but he had already turned his back on her, now busy rifling through the mountain of papers on his desk. It was clear their meeting was over and Rose was being dismissed. Without another word, she turned around and headed for the door. Just as she was about to close it behind her, she heard Heart call out.
“Oh, Rose?” She poked her head back into the office. “Think it over fast, will you? He’ll be here to meet with you at four o’clock sharp.”
The headquarters for Fletcher and Sons Publishing House occupied the fourth floor of a five-story building located in London’s West End. The area was home to some of the city’s best shopping, and as a result, the streets below were always crowded with bargain hunters and tourists, all jostling their way on and off the buses or the Tube, arms laden with shopping bags and brightly colored packages.
Despite the fact that the ground floor was currently occupied by a department store that specialized in outdoor sporting goods, the offices of Fletcher and Sons were quiet - tomblike at times. The sturdy brick façade and thick paned windows (not to mention a touch of magic) meant that none of the constant drone that defined city living made its way up to the fourth floor. And certainly none of it could be heard in Rose’s office.
Rose had been assigned to the smallest room, tucked in the farthest corner of the building. Judging by its size and the faint yet ever-present smell of bleach, she was sure the space must have once served as storage room for office supplies and cleaning products. The room did, at least, have a window, but it was situated just below where the wall met the ceiling, meaning it was too high to see out of. But on a clear day, it let in just enough sunlight to illuminate the room and convince Rose she hadn’t been relegated to working in a glorified broom closet.
Most people would consider the space gloomy, if not downright depressing, but Rose found that it more than suited her needs. She’d been able to set up a desk against one wall and a filing cabinet against the other. Just like in her tiny flat, Rose made do with the little space she’d been given. She'd even carved out a spot to set up the coffeemaker her mother had given her on her first day of work.
“Don’t make your coffee with magic,” her mother was fond of telling anyone who would listen. “There are just some things wizards will never do as good as muggles, and making coffee is one of them.”
Still, as much as Rose liked her makeshift office, it wasn’t an ideal spot for holding important meetings. She didn’t even have the floor space for a visitor’s chair. So unless she planned to conduct her business with one of them standing in the doorway, Rose was going to have to find somewhere else to meet with Krum.
She settled on the main conference room, located in the center of the office suites. It was surrounded on all sides by walls made of thick glass. Even the doors leading in and out were glass. Being inside was a bit like being trapped in a fishbowl, but it was the only communal space on the entire floor aside from the kitchen and the bathrooms. And somehow Rose couldn’t imagine Viktor Krum being up for a chat in the loo.
At ten minutes to four, Rose gathered up her pen and a fresh notepad and headed towards the conference room. She was planning to arrive early so she could be waiting when Krum arrived. She was none to happy, therefore, to turn the corner and catch sight of someone already seated at the long conference table set up in the center of the room. The man was sitting with his back to Rose, sorting though several documents that were peeking out from the top of his briefcase. As she pulled open the door, the man spun round to face her.
Rose wasn’t sure she could have picked Viktor Krum out of a crowd. She had only ever seen a few pictures of him and that had been years ago. Even so, Rose was absolutely sure the man sitting at the table was not Viktor Krum.
First, he was much too young: thirty-five maybe, with pale blonde hair and clear blue eyes. Krum, she knew, had to be in his fifties by now, had a much darker complexion, and was certainly much taller. The man sitting before her was far too short and scrawny to have ever played professional Quidditch.
“Oh, sorry,” Rose said, pausing in the doorway. “I didn’t realize anyone else booked the conference room this afternoon.”
She took a step back as if to leave but the man stood up, reaching out a hand in greeting. “Ms. Weasley, I presume?”
His tone was relaxed and she accepted his hand out of politeness, giving it a brief shake. “Do I know you?”
“No," she said. "Well, not yet anyway.” He let go of her hand and adjusted his tie. “I’m Mr. Brooks. Peter, if you prefer. May I call you Rose?” Rose stared at the man, and when it was clear his name wasn’t ringing any bells with her, he added, “I’m Mr. Krums’ lawyer. You were told I was coming, weren’t you?"
“Mr. Krum’s lawyer?"
"Yes, that's right."
"I see...” Rose did her her best to hide her surprise. Never having collaborated on a book before, she wasn’t sure what was considered standard protocol for these sorts of meetings. Nonetheless, she found the man’s presence unsettling. It seemed awfully early in the process to be getting lawyers involved. She hadn’t even formally agreed to take on the project yet. “And where’s Mr. Krum?” Rose found herself looking around the room as though expecting to see him ducked behind one of the large swivel chairs or else crouched beneath the table like a child playing hide-and-seek.
The man made a noise that sounded like a cross between a cough and a laugh. “Well, that’s putting the cart before the horse, don’t you think?”
Rose didn’t like the way the man seemed to end every sentence with a question, though she found she had quite a few questions of her own. “I don’t understand. Is Mr. Krum joining us or not?”
“Seeing as he doesn’t know anything about the book, I’d say not. But we’re both here, so shall we get down to business?”
“Wait a minute,” Rose said, putting up a hand. “Did you just say Mr. Krum doesn’t know about the book?”
Now it was Brooks’ turn to look confused. “Didn’t Mr. Heart tell you...?”
“Tell me what exactly, Mr...?”
“Brooks," he reminded her. "But please, call me Peter.”
“Alright, Peter. I don’t understand. If Mr. Krum doesn’t know about the book, then why exactly are you here?”
“To square everything up, of course. Get all the papers signed. Confidentiality agreements and all that. I assumed you were aware of Mr. Krum’s situation. When I spoke to Mr. Heart a few days ago, he said you were very open to the idea and –” Brooks stopped. The look on Rose’s face must have told him he might as well have been speaking mermish for all the sense he was making. “...and you don’t what I’m talking about, do you?”
Rose didn’t know what he was talking about, but she was starting to get an idea. His mention of having spoken with Heart a few days ago hadn’t slipped her notice. Funny how Heart had forgot to mention that little fact in their meeting that morning. “I’m afraid, Mr. Brooks, I don’t. It appears we’ve both been misinformed."
“Well, you are Rose Weasley, aren’t you? The author?”
“Yes, I’m Rose Weasley. I mean, I don’t know so much about the author part but —”
“You mean you’re not a writer? Heart promised me a real writer.”
“I am a real writer!” Rose hadn’t meant to shout at the man, but this whole situation was trying her patience. Just what exactly had Heart gotten her into?
“Look,” Brooks said, stepping back and gesturing towards the table. “Why don’t we have a seat? Clearly we’re not on the same page here, if you’ll pardon the pun. Maybe we can start over and bring each other up to speed on what’s going on.”
The man’s tone had taken on a condescending air, and Rose wasn’t in the mood for a heart-to-heart. What she really wanted was to find her boss and give him a good kick in the pants. Still, she couldn’t think of a way to extricate herself from the situation without looking like a complete idiot. Brooks already knew she was there to attend a meeting. It wasn’t like she could pretend she suddenly had somewhere better to be.
Rose drew in a long, steadying breath before accepting the seat she’d been offered. “Okay, Mr. Brooks. You start first. Tell me, what exactly do you mean by Krum’s situation?"
“Well, Ms. Weasley,” he said, a faint smile tugged at the corners of his lips. “I hope you don’t have any dinner plans because this could take awhile...”
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