Chapter 5 : A Very Brief Foray into Journalism
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The beautiful CI is by angelic. @ TDA!
I push my Spellotaped reading glasses back up my nose for the thousandth time. My legs are folded in an impossible origami position where I sit at my writing desk. The thing was falling apart when I got it years ago--or found it really, in the rubbish outside somebody’s flat. No amount of repair charms seemed to help much. The robin’s egg paint has peeled off in places to reveal the unfinished wood grain, which is prickly with splinters. One of the legs is so wonky that I was able to shove an entire copy of Finnegan’s Wake beneath it. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the most use I’ll ever have for that mammoth of a novel. But sitting atop my shoddy desk is my most prized possession: a magical typewriter.
Unlike a Muggle typewriter, this is bewitched with an endless roll of parchment. It can also type via dictation, but the rounded keys are perfectly moulded to my fingers so I prefer to use them. The click-clacking when I type is highly satisfying. What’s even better: if a Muggle happens to come across anything written by a magical typewriter, it only appears to be somebody’s old grocery list.
Currently it’s 6:00 in the evening and my stomach is growling--I haven’t eaten anything except a stale Cauldron Cake I found in my cupboard--but I have to get my thoughts out on parchment. My interview with Oliver Wood did not go as I had planned, to say the very least. But his arrogance had fuelled my anger, which is now fuelling my writing.
As I type away, in limbo between irritation at Wood being such a git and pride for myself being clever enough to trick him, Lisa is lying on my bed. She is flipping through an endless supply of magical wedding magazines that she picked from the newsstand in Diagon Alley. Occasionally she makes an “oooh!” sound when she comes across something particularly adorable in Bewitched Bride. Normally I would find this endearing, but today it sounds more like a Pygmy Puff chattering away.
Warily, I eye the recording orb sitting on my desk. As time had passed and I force-fed him cup after cup of coffee, he had managed to sober up a bit. So things had actually faired decently--I had gotten him to answer the dirty gossip questions while he was still drunk, and then when he regained himself I received his “serious” answers (in the most convoluted, abstract sense of the word.) I am almost afraid to hear what words the recording orb contains. I tap it nervously with my wand.
My own voice, charmed so that only I can hear it, rings in my ears. “So, society’s quite different from when you first signed your contract with Puddlemere. In many cases it’s even better off. What changes would you like to see in this new, freer Wizarding world?”
There was a fraction of a second’s pause, and Wood says resolutely, “More Ministry funding for Quidditch programs.” I recall him tapping his hand emphatically on the table, and the way I stared at him.
“Well, it’s already a multi-million Galleon industry,” my response is flat.
“Oh, right.” He pauses in thought before deciding, “More flattering uniforms for Knight Bus drivers.”
I release a groan and clench fistfuls of my hair. I thwack the recording orb a bit too violently with my wand, unable to take it any more. When I had asked how he felt about the effects of Quidditch on Wizarding society post-Voldemort, he had said something along the lines of, “I’m happy to give people something to get good and drunk and riled up about.”
But what had really hit a nerve--and almost made me snap Dean’s precious quill in two--was when I asked Wood how he felt about Gringotts and the Female Goblin Coalition strike, and he had just stared blankly.
“They’re refusing to give work to female goblins,” I had explained.
I prompted impatiently, “Don’t you view that as a problem?”
Nodding his head very slowly with the same blank look, he had managed, “...Sure...”
Wood’s intentions had been... decent, I suppose. At least he answered all of my questions with minimal sarcasm. But in the end, his intentions didn’t matter. Whatever his intentions, a drunk, arrogant idiot is always going to come across as a drunk, arrogant idiot because he is nothing more than a drunk, arrogant idiot. (An ancient Chinese proverb, I believe.)
Straightening up in my chair, I finish typing a particularly nasty sentence about the way Wood’s breath had smelled like an open bottle of Firewhiskey. Lisa’s voice carries over the punching of my typewriter, “How do you feel about tiered cupcakes instead of a wedding cake?”
“Oooh! Or maybe we’ll do a bunch of different pies. That’s kind of cool, right? Kind of untraditional but nice?”
A flurry of keys, like the angry pecks of birds, is the only answer she receives.
“Edie?” She lifts the magazine to peer at me.
“I’m not the one you’re marrying, Lisa,” I grumble. “Ask Justin.” Not only am I generally irritated about the interview, but Lisa’s talk of weddings is reminding me of exactly how shamefully single I am. But by the time I suddenly realize how selfish this is, she’s already gone quiet. I sigh heavily, slumping forward. “I’m sorry, Lisa...”
“It’s alright,” she says quietly. “You’re stressed out.”
“No, it’s not alright,” I turn to face her in my chair. “I’m not being a very pleasant maid of honour, am I.”
She smiles sadly and I realize exactly how much I’ve been shooing away the idea of my best friend getting married just because it makes me feel like a loser. Justin is completely mad about her, but he probably isn’t as informed about tulle and floral arrangements and which songs are too cheesy for first dances. (So far we have ruled out anything by Phil Collins on principle, unless of course, it’s In the Air Tonight. Seamus performs a very impressive dance to that song if you give him enough beer.)
Lisa brightens as I hop onto the bed, folding my legs under me. “All right then,” I say. “Tell me more about these tiered cupcakes. Will there be coconut flavour? Because if not I’ll have to veto your decision, as a friend.”
Lisa laughs, “I will take that into consideration. If you tell me what actually happened with Oliver Wood today.”
I release a walrus-esque groan and faceplant into my bed. So close.
The exact details of the interview have gone unmentioned to everyone. Even Seamus is in the dark, as he’d eventually grown bored with staring at the back of Wood’s head and shuffled home. So my conniving scheme to finagle incriminating stories from the Quidditch player remained unknown. My mood after the interview, however, was quite understood by everyone.
When I had finally Apparated from the Hog’s Head, Dean was still at my flat drawing away in his sketchbook. Something for a new political cartoon, probably. He had lifted his head to me in greeting, but I had made a beeline for my kitchen and cracked open a beer.
As I flopped down next to him on the sofa Dean had raised an eyebrow. “That bad?”
I chose to answer his question with a question of my own. “Remember last night, when you said ‘Don’t thank me yet, Wood might turn out to be a complete arse?’ Well, you should consider a new profession as a Seer.”
He had replied in the voice of a particularly bad stand-up comedian, “Only if they offer dental coverage!” which had at least made me smile.
Lisa is patting me on the back of my head. “There there,” she says, though I can hear that she’s grinning. At least somebody finds my despair amusing. “Why don’t you let me read what you’ve written so far?”
I nod, burrowing my face further into the mattress, and feel it shift as Lisa removes her miniscule amount of weight from it. There is the scratch of parchment shuffling and then silence.
How disappointing that Oliver Wood is a complete git. All of that power and money and influence, and his brain is full of the kind of fodder he displayed today. At least my only challenge is to make the article decent enough to read, whilst completely tearing him in two.
Suddenly Lisa gasps, “Edie!”
My head shoots up and I wince. “Too mean?”
Lisa’s eyes are glinting in a particularly devilish way that I’ve never seen before. “No, it’s so... good!” she gushes. “I mean, clearly you don’t like the guy, but this is really well-written. Girls are going to eat this up, especially the kind who subscribe to Witch Weekly. No offense.”
Lisa is easily the nicest person I’ve met, and it’s clear when she’s lying to make me feel better. A recent example would be several months ago when a guy I was completely head over heels for finally took me home, and when we arrived, we received a surprise greeting from his out-of-town girlfriend. The next day Lisa had tried pathetically to cheer me up, “He’s probably got feelings for you, but feels trapped by her overbearing personality.”
Needless to say, I know my best mate inside and out, and I know when she’s trying to placate me. And right now does not seem like one of those times.
“Oh, I remember this.” She points to a spot on the parchment and reads aloud, “Unfortunately, Wood falls a Quaffle’s throw short from philanthropist. He was the only Puddlemere United team member to refuse to donate 10% of his end-of-year earnings to a St. Mungo’s charity drive for a new Children’s Ward in Christmas of last year. Puddlemere’s Seeker Amelia Jones and Beater Peter Hanchett donated over 10% each, while team manager Philbert Deverill donated a whopping 25%. Wood has consistently refused to comment on the matter.”
She shakes her head. “I remember that. We ended up having more than enough money, but I always thought Deverill was donating far more than his fair share to cover up for Wood.”
“Can you believe that?” I say. “Ten percent of end-of-year earnings is just another drop in the bucket to a professional Quidditch player.”
She scoffed, “What kind of person refuses to help children? At Christmas, no less! What a wanker.”
A snort escapes me. This is, by far, the meanest thing I’ve ever heard Lisa say. At least I know my writing will cause a reaction? She raises the parchment, shaking it for emphasis. “This... is bloody fantastic journalism.”
“Really?” I say cautiously, a part of me still unwilling to believe it.
“Yes!” she exclaims. Her eyes travel over the sheet again, and then again. “I want to read more. Write more.” I grin at her like an idiot, almost moved to tears, and she gestures wildly, “Now!”
I jump up, startled by her assertion. “Alright, alright! Merlin.” I settle back down at my desk, and Lisa returns to sitting on the bed. As I type away, I can feel her eyes boring diligently into the back of my head, insuring that I am providing her with more snarky gossip disguised as journalism. In essence: the perfect Witch Weekly article.
I suppose that in the end, I should be thanking Oliver Wood for being such a drunk, arrogant idiot.
I don’t attempt to stifle my lion’s roar of a yawn. It’s 6:00 in the morning--I forgot they even had one of those--and I am hunched at a table inside Alchemy Coffee awaiting Rose. She asked that we meet here, so that I could hand over the completed article. This decision was reached despite my offering to owl the article, leave it in her office, hide it under her doormat, anything but this. Two days ago when I had arrived at Witch Weekly, I had found what I suppose she considered to be a cryptic message left on my desk:
Bring you-know-what. Come alone.
Despite her attempts to be mysterious I had immediately stomped down the corridor to her office, the note still in hand, and exclaimed, “I’m sure you don’t mean six o’clock in the morning!”
Apparently, she had.
And apparently, she did not include herself. It was ten after and still no sign of Rose.
“I’ll kill her,” I note as easily as if I had said, “It’s nice outside.”
Though she could lose her job for plagiarism, at this ungodly hour nothing other than my being awake feels pressing. After this, on top of writing an entire damned article for her, Rose definitely owes me one (thousand.)
At least the coffee is good.
Other than the “mysterious” note, the most talk Rose and I have exchanged over the past week was an offhand comment she made several days ago. We had both been huddling around the coffee tureen laid out by a House Elf in the WW kitchens. I think it’s safe to say that we’d both had a long night. Mine involved Dean attempting to get Seamus and I interested in Muggle football again. Rose’s big nights out usually involved some guy.
As I had gravitated towards the coffee like a moth to the flame, she said offhandedly, “Well, I suppose now that I’m not officially the journalist on the job, I could ask Wood out for a drink.”
I had promptly poured hot coffee on my foot. “Tell me that’s not why.”
Rose had merely smirked and lifted her coffee mug. “Cheers,” she’d said before sauntering away. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Again I scan around Alchemy for Rose, coming up short. Just a bunch of early-rising hipsters muttering about smoking too many fags and how many embarrassing photos were Instagraphed last night. My right elbow rests protectively over a small roll of parchment, its seal bearing the imprint of Puddlemere’s iconic twin bulrushes. It’s my final copy of the Oliver Wood article. I have performed a number of water-resistant, flame-retardant, tear-proof charms on each page, not to mention charming several copies. I have proofread, edited, rewritten, and reworked. The parchment is only four feet long; shorter than my final essays for Seventh Year classes. But I have to say, it’s some of my best work.
And I’m not getting any credit for it.
The sudden whoosh of a small black owl, dangerously close to my head, makes me jump. A copy of The Oracle Underground falls onto the table, and the owl lands on the back of the chair across from me.
A moving picture of Grimma Longfinger on the front page catches my attention, and my curiosity gets the best of me. The headline reads RAIN CHECK ON STRIKE? and I’m saddened to see that it’s been cancelled.
Originally scheduled for next month, it had been kept as quiet as possible by the Female Goblin Coalition, but everyone knows how difficult that is with reporters like Rita Skeeter roaming the earth. She did what she does best: turning rumours into front-page, factless stories. So word had gotten out of the proposed date for the protest (according to Skeeter the FGC would be providing complimentary Molotov Cocktails.) In response Gringotts has heightened security, and a large number of Aurors now patrol the cobblestones outside. Not an ideal setting for a protest. The last thing an unemployed female goblin needs is a stint in Azkaban.
So, nothing is going at all how Grimma Longfinger had planned it. Apparently she and I have quite a bit in common.
The owl releases an indignant shriek and I nearly spill my coffee. I’d completely forgotten it was there. It sticks out its right foot, wiggling it impatiently so that the small coin purse attached to it jingles.
“Oh, right. Sorry,” I murmur.
My small leather clutch has been enchanted to fit a ridiculous number of things (including two lipsticks, an emergency supply of Pumpkin Pasties, and an Extendable Ear that Dean once bought from Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes and I promptly nicked). Amidst all the clutter I struggle to extract the required eight Sickles. I swear the owl would release a huffy sigh if it could as I place the coins in the small pouch. With one last petulant hoot, it flies towards the slowly opening front door.
Rose ducks to avoid a head-on collision with the owl before hurrying inside. “Sorry, sorry,” she sighs. As she sits down I catch a whiff of expensive perfume. “I woke up so late, I barely had time to roll out of bed.” But I notice that her makeup is artfully applied, Twilfitt and Tattings’ clothes carefully selected.
I decide that “Hmm,” is the safest response and fold my newspaper shut. Rose sees what I’m reading and rolls her eyes.
“Can you believe the stories that Oracle Underground publishes?” she says. “There’s no way they’re doing proper research. It’s all so radical.”
I don’t mention Rose’s dreadful research done for the interview with Wood. Such as learning how to spell ‘Puddlemere.’ I also don’t mention just how aware I am that Rose was declined a position with the Oracle two years ago.
“I need a coffee,” she says tiredly and rises to her feet.
“Oh, sure, I’ll wait,” I call after her, slouching in my seat. I’m becoming the world’s champion at sitting around waiting for people to get it together. With an involuntary growl I recall how late Wood stumbled into his own interview.
Was it really a week ago already? Everything had been so rushed. Apparently Rose really did pawn the article off last-minute, allowing only ten days to interview Wood, submit a draft to Ward (under her name), edit it, and produce a final copy. The deadline for submissions is today, and the new issue comes out this Friday. Which means that there are only two days before I knew if my article is bad enough to have Rose sacked.
Not sure how I feel about that either way, I think as I watch her interact with the trendy wizard barista. As she leans on the counter flirtatiously I hear her ask for a non-fat, one-pump, sugar-free iced mocha, and if he could pretty please perform a no-calorie charm.
Several moments later Rose returns with her drink. “God, did you see how he was flirting with me? Can you say desperate?”
I stare her directly in the eyes and say, “Desperate.”
But Rose’s attention is now fixed on the roll of parchment hidden beneath my elbow. I see her expression waver between interest and unease. She hasn’t read any of the drafts I submitted; she was too busy with other projects. As far as she knows, the whole story could be rubbish.
“All finished,” I say nonchalantly.
“Brilliant,” she says. Suddenly the article is accio’d from beneath me, and I feel like a beetle who has just had a leg plucked by some kid. “Thanks Edie. Of course, there will be some editing before it’s submitted.”
“Oh, of course,” I say tersely. I want to snatch the parchment back, run to Mr. Ward’s office and hand it over myself. But I know he would never take an intern’s writing seriously. And really, somewhere deep, deep down--very deep--I don’t want Rose to be sacked.
“Speaking of the time,” she glances at the hourglass that rests on the counter, “I’d better get to it now. Thanks again Edie, really.” She rises to her feet and with a final wave, turns and Disapparates on the spot.
And there goes my very brief foray into journalism.
Two days later it’s publication day, and I am walking around Witch Weekly on eggshells. Every time Mildred arrives with a new assignment I stare guiltily like Miss Norris caught me in the corridors after hours, until she becomes so uncomfortable that she hurries away. Every owl that swoops by is suddenly Rose, descending on me for producing such a rag of an article under her name. Suddenly I am regretting my decision. Forget Rose getting sacked, I could get sacked! Why has this not occurred to me before?!
I literally tiptoe past Mr. Ward’s office at one point, terrified.
But by 2:00 I haven’t been caught. No explosions, no hexes, and no sacking. Maybe this whole ordeal has gone over better than expected? Unable to contain myself any more, I scurry through the corridors, narrowly avoiding having my eye poked out by a soaring paper airplane.
Coffee mug in hand, I rap on the door and enter without being invited. Rose’s office is much bigger than my little corner, though instead of the blinding white, the stone is its natural earthy color with one wall charmed golden-yellow. One wall boasts an enormous painting of the countryside near Hogwarts, in bright pinks and oranges. Covering more of the walls are moving pictures of Rose meeting celebrities at WW events that I’m never invited to. I notice one of those stupid little calorie-burning cauldrons tucked away on the floor.
Rose stiffens when she sees me and immediately starts making shooing motions with her hands.
I roll my eyes. “Oh, come off it,” I grumble and cast a silencing charm around the room. “There, is that better?”
With a glare, she flicks her wand at the heavy wooden door so that it thuds shut. “Better,” she concedes at last, folding her hands on her desk. “Can I help you?” she says tiredly.
“I just wanted to see how everything went. With, you know.” She doesn’t answer so I shift uncomfortably and ask the question that I’ve been dying to know all day. “So, I mean, did... did Blakeslee like it?”
Rose’s face clouds over and she begins sifting through the parchments on her desk, though I’m pretty sure she’s not actually looking for anything. “Yeah,” she says with a shrug. She doesn’t look at me as she says, “Everything went fine. I don’t know Blakeslee’s opinion.”
“You don’t?” I try not to sound too disappointed.
Rose takes off her red glasses and pinches the bridge of her nose, as if dealing with me is a great chore. “Look, Edie, I know your work doesn’t allow you to interact with Blakeslee regularly, so you don’t know how she is, but I can’t just ask my editor in chief her opinion on my article--”
I am about to interject hotly, “You mean my article,” when there is a sudden knocking at the door.
“Zeller? It’s Blakeslee,” comes the voice of Witch Weekly’s editor in chief. We both freeze. “May I come in?”
Oh Merlin, it’s over.
Author's Note: There you have it. I'm going to be sure to upload the next few chapters before the queue is closed for Holidays. Please tell me what you think, good or bad! I love to hear feedback from you guys.
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