Chapter 1 : Gossip
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Rita Skeeter immediately stopped writing her Transfiguration's essay and tried to lean closer to the girls at the desk in front of her without looking suspicious. She tilted her blonde so that the curls bounced with angelic innocence in front of her eyes but cleared her ears so that she was certain to hear absolutely everything that would be said about the current 'It' couple. Yolanda Midgeon and Dalton Macnair had been dating for several months now, and it was almost a sure thing that they were going to get hitched once they left school. This wasn't exactly happily accepted, seeing as most of Hogwarts' female population thought Dalton Macnair was the hottest thing on two legs. So, for that matter, did Rita; even if she was only a fourth year, and hardly in the Head Boy's league.
That didn't mean Rita didn't try, though. She listened intently to any bit of news about anyone, because she would hardly be considered a good reporter if she didn't. Her mum had taught her that, when she had admitted last June that she had given up on her desires to be a Professor, and instead wished to follow Marsha Skeeter into the wonderful world of travel journalism. It was a lot more exciting, she had decided, once she had actually met a Professor, and learned how frightfully dull their lives must actually be.
“What? They haven't broken up, have they?” The older girl's friend failed to keep hopefulness from slipping in at the end.
“Not yet - ” The first replied, sadly. “ But I think Dalton's found out about her and Patrick.”
Rita gasped and quickly covered her mouth so as not to give herself away. They couldn't possibly be talking about Patrick O'Dell, could they? But he was – was -
“But he's only a fifth year!”
It was the perfect fodder for a scandal, as her mother would say. Lovers fighting, a secret liaison. Even secret kids. Rita loved them too, although her mum for some reason frowned whenever Rita tried to ask her more about those scandalous and how exactly they occurred, or why exactly having two boyfriends could be seen as scandalous. She was often promised to be told why 'when she was older' which was incredibly frustrating.
“Can you imagine. And he's a muggleborn, too. Poor Dalton...” The older girl's sighed in tandem, and Rita found herself sighing too. It just wasn't fair. She'd have been faithful if Dalton would only look at her. And she was way prettier than Yolanda Midgeon, who in Rita's opinion had far too many spots and a mountainous chin. She was way prettier than Yolanda Midgeon.
“Rita, you've put you're elbow in my ink!”
Shaken out of her reverie, Rita lifted her arm to realize, too late, that she had indeed lent into her friend's portion of the table, dripping ink onto her unfinished essay.
“I'm going to have to start all over again!” Sybill huffed, as she vainly tried to wipe away already drying drops from her own parchment. “Why'd you do it!”
“I didn't do it on purpose!” Rita immediately jumped into defend herself. “Why'd you have to go and put your ink in between us anyways! Use your own side of the table.”
“You were on my side.” She retaliated, giving up on prodding the paper with her finger and shuffling it around in search of a clean paper. “What's wrong, anyways?”
“Nothing's wrong. Weren't you listening?!” Sybill might have been her best friend, but she was incredibly dense sometimes when it came to what mattered.
“Those older girls!”
“Why would I – they're a bunch of Hufflepuffs. I don't even know who they are!”
“Oh, honestly Syb!” Rita hated it, but it was clear they were going to get nowhere. So she would explain – in the simplest terms she knew. “Dalton and Yolanda might be breaking up!”
“So?! This is big news! The public deserves to know!” Rita waited for her friend to leap up and agree with her, agree that this was information that deserved to be spread throughout the halls of Hogwarts. It was indeed big news – life changing even, for lovestruck girls like her everywhere. But Sybill merely looked at Rita as if she'd suggested they go skydiving off the Astronomy Tower.
“Do you really think anyone'll actually care?”
Rita instantly deflated.
“You know Sybill....for a Ravenclaw you can be pretty thick sometimes...”
Rita had waited impatiently for the oh-so-important news to spread around Hogwarts. She figured, of course, that it would start with the older students – the one's in Dalton's year. But like any good news story, it would trickle through the Hogwarts' student body like water though cracks in the earth – and soon Rita could claim that she had been one of the first people to know.
But it never did. Besides those two girls in the Great Hall, Rita didn't hear a peep about either Dalton, Yolanda or even Patrick. It was as if nothing had happened, and frankly knowing that it had, or was happening, and not being able to talk with anyone about it, was driving her spare. It was big news – so why was no one talking about it?
“I just don't get it...” She admitted to her Sybill about a week later as they were walking across the grounds after a joint Herbology lesson. “I mean...this is Dalton Macnair...”
“Maybe people just aren’t as interested in his love like as you thought,” Sybill added, for the sake of trying to be supportive. Rita wasn't having none of it.
“Bullocks. Mum says that any news worth spreading between two people is worth sharing with hundreds.”
“I...don't think that's right, Rita.” Staring determinedly down at her shoes, Sybill was biting her bottom lip. “I mean...secrets are supposed to say secret, but you have to share them with someone, right?”
“Merlin...Syb...don't you understand – this is life changing information! This is the love life of Hogwarts' most eligible bachelor!”
“But if he's in a relationship, he's not a bachelor - ”
“Oh, posh! You just don't think ahead!” Rita waved her friend's reasoning off like it was nothing. “If there's trouble brewing, then they're going to break up – and if they break up – then he's going to be a bachelor!”
“That doesn't really make sense...”
“True love doesn't need to make sense,” Rita added almost wistfully. “Besides....I have a plan.”