|atdelphi (atdelphi) wrote in hp_beholder,|
@ 2014-04-25 15:33:00
|Entry tags:||beholder 2014, femslash, fic, marge dursley, marge dursley/rita skeeter, rated:pg, rita skeeter|
FIC: "No Charity" for donnaimmaculata
Title: No Charity
Pairing: Aunt Marge/Rita Skeeter
Word Count: 3200
Summary: Rita sets out on a tough assignment – to interview Miss Marjorie Dursley.
Notes: This pairing took me by surprise, donnaimmaculata, I hope it works for you. I made up the currency conversion, because that's what the Daily Mail would do. (And then double it, probably.) I also may have stolen a Pratchett-ism, but I didn't think you would object too much. Thank you to S for checking this over.
The Department of Wizard-Muggle Relations received another blow to its declining public image yesterday when it was revealed that the Department Head, Harry Potter, was personally involved in several incidents which resulted in members of the public having their memories modified.
“It's all true. In the records, innit?” said a source close to Mr. Potter's office, in conversation with our special Magical Correspondent Rita Skeeter. “It's a disgrace, 'e even blew up his own aunt. Cost fifty galleons at least in manpower to bring 'er in and deflate 'er.” It should be pointed out that fifty galleons is the equivalent of several thousand pounds, a sum no doubt funded by ordinary taxpayers via their secret government department.
A spokesman for Mr. Potter confirmed that the incident took place, once again falling back on the excuse that Mr. Potter had been “very young at the time,” and that there was “no compelling evidence of any long-term ill effects” of memory modification.
Nevertheless, many claims for compensation have been paid out already. Just how much are Mr. Potter's youthful 'mistakes' going to cost to put right?
– Article in the Muggle newspaper the 'Daily Mail', August 4th 2008
The sign on the front gate read 'No Hawkers, No Canvassers', and the doorbell plate 'No Preachers'. The plain beige curtains in the front window were closed tight, despite it being early afternoon, and the porch door appeared to be locked.
Of course, none of that presented any real obstacle. The inhabitants were a different matter entirely.
“Marjorie Dursley?” Rita hitched her tight-fitting skirt just enough to allow her to crouch comfortably, and tried to peer through the letterbox. There was blur of dark brown fur and a snap of sharp white teeth, both too close for comfort. She backed away so hastily that she scraped a heel against a particularly hideous stone bulldog. Not even the sign in its teeth announcing 'No Charity' could make her feel more kindly towards it.
“I'm from the Daily--” she started, raising her voice, but a chorus of barking drowned her out. “From the Daily--”
The barking subsided instantly, and the letterbox flew open.
“Miss Dursley?” Rita crouched again, but kept her distance this time. “I'm from the--”
“Can't you read?” snapped a firm voice, “I'm not buying anything, and I've voted the same way for forty years now, so don't waste your breath trying to interest me in whatever hippie policies you're trying to foist on us this time--”
“I don't have any--”
“I don't speak to muckrakers, and dog training classes are closed until further notice!”
Rita scowled as the letterbox slammed down again. Muggles were so difficult, she'd noticed this before. She took a deep breath and knocked again.
“I'll set Shredder on you if you don't leave!”
Really, there was no need for such rudeness. Rita looked at the long scrape on one of her perfectly painted scarlet nails. That damn flap must have caught it. “I have a wand, Miss Dursley. I'm not afraid of your silly little dogs.”
“And I have a shotgun,” Marjorie said, as the barrel of what did, indeed, appear to be a – fireleg? Firearm? Some such stupid name, in any case – of some kind poked through the letterbox. “Run.”
It wasn't just that her editor wanted an exclusive with Harry Potter's aunt and victim of his childhood misdeed that made her determined to go back, but it was no small part of it. Like most Muggles, he seemed to think that being a Witch or Wizard meant having the power to do anything.
“Can't you just,” he waved his hands around in what she supposed he thought was magical hand-waving, “I dunno, ensorcel her?”
“Magic doesn't work like that,” she told him, which was the official Ministry of Magic line. It wasn't even completely untrue. Anyone as outright hostile as Marjorie Dursley would be a tricky subject. She'd seen the records Mundungus had filched – it had taken twenty three separate memory charms to wipe the experience of floating over Little Whinging from her mind. One almost had to admire that strength of mind, if it wasn't so blasted inconvenient.
“Then what bloody use is it?” her editor shouted, and she clenched her fingers around her wand. He was lucky his crappy Muggle paper was the best place for her right now, with its deep suspicion of the newly-exposed Wizarding World, and the level of paranoia of its readers.
Because sometimes she really missed the Daily Prophet.
The indirect approach, Rita thought, that was the way.
From a beetle viewpoint, the walls and fences surrounding the Dursley property looked even more formidable. The barbed wire was new, as were the 'No Wizards' signs tacked beneath the list of all the other potential visitors and miscreants Marjorie had no truck with, but neither presented her with much of a problem as far as gaining access was concerned.
The inside was larger than she'd expected. There were barns, and a large yard, as well as a poorly-tended rose garden. And as far as the eye could see, or so it seemed: bulldogs.
“Killer! Jessie! Dina!” Marjorie shouted. “Heel! Come on, girl! Come on, boy!”
Rita watched as the dogs trotted up and down with Marjorie, going through their paces, marking out a large triangular route in the dry, dusty grass.
“Walk!” Marjorie bellowed as she strode along, and “Turn!”, and Rita wondered just how long this would go on for. She didn't dare go any closer, or find a spot in the barn or house to turn back so she could snoop, because those blasted dogs seemed to be everywhere. They might not bark at a beetle, but they would sniff her out in no time.
The sky was starting to darken before Marjorie gave up on her training, or whatever it was, and then it seemed it was some sort of interminable feeding time.
Slipping back through the crack in the fence and hop, skip, flapping her way down the edge of the front path, Rita could see only one way to get into the house, and Marjorie's good books, at least temporarily.
She shook herself down and pulled out the Muggle communication device her editor had given her. It was unnatural, the way it lit up when she pressed the keys, but she had to admit it came in useful.
“Alfred,” she snapped when her assistant answered. “Get me a bloody bulldog.”
She needed more than just the dog, of course.
She took a long critical look in the mirror, posing with a lead in one elegant, outstretched hand. Even without the dog she made an incongruous picture. The heels went first, regretfully transfigured into countryish flat-heeled shoes. A second swish of her wand and they were a dull brown – a crime against fashion and taste, perhaps, but a necessary one in this case.
Her least favourite skirt and jacket became a tweed-ish suit not unlike the ones she had seen Marjorie wearing, and it only took a moment to return her hair to a mousy shade she'd almost forgotten had ever existed. She looked like her mother, or her Aunt Luce, or any of the other women of similar age in her large and mostly ignored family.
She looked like herself, before she'd decided to become Rita Skeeter, special correspondent on whatever the latest area of interest was.
“Well, I didn't miss you,” she said to her reflection.
“Charming,” the mirror sniffed, and turned blank.
Rita didn't know where Alfred – “My name's Jerry, Miss,” he kept saying, as if she cared. He had the face of an Alfred, and that was an end to it – had found the bulldog, but she suspected he'd obtained the most ill-trained, foul-tempered beast he could, just to spite her.
“B-but,” he whimpered pathetically, cradling his gnawed fingers, “if you w-wanted training, Miss Skeeter, it n-needed to be--”
“Yes, yes,” she snapped, holding the lead as far away from her as she could. “Go away now.” She grabbed the horrid creature and Apparated as quickly as she could.
“Good afternoon,” she said, when wary eyes peered through the letterbox once more. “I was hoping--”
“The porch was locked,” Marjorie said, her voice full of suspicion. “You're not one of them, are you? I don't hold with--” she paused, as if still not quite sure the world wasn't playing a huge practical joke on her. “Wizards, and all that.”
Rita widened her eyes as if shocked at the very thought. “Gracious, no. I was just hoping you could help me with little Daisy here.” 'Little Daisy' obligingly gave a bark on cue, then went back to menacing the daffodils.
“I'm not taking on any new trainees right now,” Marjorie said, but clearly the lure of a dog outside was too much for her to resist, because the door opened a crack.
Rita held her breath. Daisy bit the head off a tulip, chewed on it, and spat it out again.
She could see when Marjorie's interest was grabbed, even though she was obviously trying to hide it. More importantly, she didn't seem to have recognised Rita as her visitor from the other day.
Rita was too relieved to wonder too much about that.
“One of Dottie's, is she?” Marjorie asked. “Out of Fantasia?” and Rita didn't have an earthly, but it seemed like the right thing to agree.
“You clever thing!” she exclaimed brightly, and Marjorie preened.
Five minutes later, Rita was comfortably seated in a chintzy sitting room that could have come straight from her childhood home, sipping tea from one of Marjorie's best china tea cups. Daisy and Shredder occupied themselves with trying to kill each other under one fond and one not so fond gaze.
“She's just so lively,” Rita said, raising her voice above the snarling and snapping, and hoped Daisy was, indeed, still alive under there. “She needs a firm hand.”
“Oh, I've seen worse,” Marjorie assured her. “She'll come around in no time, you mark my words.”
She patted Rita's hand, so warmly that Rita was just thinking that perhaps Marjorie had something more in mind than a friendly cup of tea when the hand on top of hers froze. Rita looked down and realised that there was one thing she'd forgotten to fix. She covered her mouth and managed a tiny chuckle, spreading out her scarlet-taloned fingers to display them on Marjorie's broad palm.
“Aren't they dreadful?” she said, and shuffled a little further forward in her seat. Marjorie followed suit, and Rita whispered, “Don't tell anyone, but I let my niece experiment on me sometimes.”
Marjorie beamed at her, and it was quite the transformation. “I know just how it is,” she said. “I'd do anything for my little neffy Dudley, he's a dear boy. But he could be boisterous as a child, always breaking things.” She sighed. “It did get expensive sometimes.”
“At least we're not that Harry Potter boy's aunts,” Rita said, raising her cup to toast Marjorie, who had – not surprisingly – turned a sickly greenish-white shade that clashed terribly with her blouse. “I'm sorry, did I say something wrong?”
Marjorie just stared at her, but fortunately Rita knew just what to do.
She put the kettle on again.
Three cups of ferociously strong tea later, Marjorie was clutching a copy of the Daily Mail fiercely enough to tear holes in the paper, but she had almost returned to her normal colour.
“I'm so sorry,” Rita cooed, perched next to Marjorie on the couch. “It must be a dreadful shock, finding out this way.”
“I always knew he was a wrong 'un,” Marjorie said, not for the first time since she'd recovered the power of speech. “Breeding always tells, and those--”
“Dreadful people, I've heard,” Rita said soothingly, and it was true, she'd never had any time for the Potters. Though really, what was she doing? She should be encouraging Marjorie to tell all, not trying to make her feel better. She needed to get the conversation back on track. “I'm sure you'd be entitled to some financial restitution,” she tried, but Marjorie recovered herself enough to snort derisively.
“I don't want a penny of their funny money,” she declared. “Not if I end up destitute on the streets for the lack of it!”
“That's the spirit,” Rita said cheerfully, relieved that at least there weren't likely to be tears. She'd never known quite what to do with tearful types, but Rita doubted Marjorie had ever shed a tear over anything except perhaps a dog. It was an eccentricity she found difficult to understand, but people might get attached to things they took care of, she supposed. She eyed Daisy, who seemed to be happily asleep back to back with Shredder, neither much the worse for wear after their scrap.
She poked at the fire, made up in a tiny hearth that was no use to anybody, but the room warmed up a little at least, and after a few minutes Marjorie started to talk without any prompting.
It was odd, hearing a Muggle's perspective on the world. Not only that, but a Muggle so afraid of the magical world she had known nothing about for most of her life that she'd all but barricaded herself away up here with the only individuals she trusted.
Shredder let out a long snore from under the table.
It was dark and the fire burned down to a few smouldering embers before Marjorie let herself be escorted up to bed.
“I don't even know your name,” she said, voice hushed in the silent house.
“Call me Edie,” Rita told her, the name rusty on her tongue. She bent to offer a goodbye kiss on the cheek, but Marjorie moved, whether on purpose or not Rita never found out. She did find out that Marjorie could be as soft as she was forceful, and that she had a ticklish spot behind her left knee. She found out that the bed creaked loud enough to make her grateful the closest neighbour was half a mile away, and that maybe she'd been missing something for a long time, being by herself.
“I used to have a partner,” Marjorie said, when pale light was starting to creep around the edges of the curtains. “In the breeding, and--”
There were photos on the bedside table, Rita could just make out two women and an awful lot of dogs.
“It would be nice to have company again,” she said, and Rita could picture it for a moment, living the sort of life she might have had if she'd stayed at home on the family farm.
It was impossible, of course. But if there was a way, one thing was for sure. Nobody would miss Rita Skeeter.
Marjorie was still sleeping when Rita woke up, and it was awkward, just lying there. How did one handle these mornings after? It wasn't something she had any real experience with.
Making tea seemed like a safe option, so she stepped over the sleeping dogs and made her way to the kitchen. The kettle had just boiled when Marjorie shuffled in, her hair ruffled up in a way that made Rita smile, and not in the less than charitable way it normally would.
“I thought I'd--” she started, but Marjorie screamed and grabbed a sturdy walking stick from by the back door.
“How did you-- Who are you, how did you get in here?” Marjorie bellowed, and Rita backed away, confused. “Magic, you did magic, didn't you?” She held the stick up in front of herself, her eyes wide with terror despite the threats. “Thief! Help! Get out!”
Rita made it to the door with at least most of her belongings, but she was out of the front gate before she realised she'd left Daisy behind.
She shrugged. Daisy would be better off with Marjorie.
Rita Skeeter didn't need attachments anyway.
“Well?” said Potter, when he finally found a moment to see her.
Rita adjusted her skirt, which didn't seem to fit as well as it used to, and fought the urge to kick her heels off. They hadn't lasted long as sensible shoes, but something must have gone wrong when they turned back. She glared at Potter, because it was clearly his fault that she wasn't herself. It was definitely his fault that she had a train ticket in her pocket to a place she wasn't even sure she would be welcome.
Him and his stupid ideas.
“She's completely paranoid, has a memory leaking all over the place, and it looks like she's preparing for a doomsday siege,” she said. “Also, she hates you both personally and as a representative of the Wizarding community, and wouldn't take a sickle from you if she was starving in the streets.”
That was a fair summary, she thought, surprising herself.
“Oh. Right.” Potter looked disappointed more than anything.
“You could probably talk her round through her brother,” Rita said, reluctantly. “Or the nephew, whatshisname--”
“Dudley,” Potter said. “I suppose I could talk to--”
“But don't,” Rita said, before she could bite her tongue.
“Don't make her claim,” Rita said, stepping forward and giving in to the temptation of perching on the end of Potter's enormous desk. She let her shoes drop off, and stretched her toes in relief. “Find some other way. You could do that. An inheritance, maybe.”
Potter looked puzzled. “I don't think--”
“You want to make it up to her, yes?” Rita fixed him with the most intimidating glare she could summon up. “Or is it all just talk?”
“No,” he said. “I really want to. But I don't think she has any other relatives who might--” He chewed on his lip, looking for a moment like the clueless kid she'd met the first time around. She supposed he was still young, at least as far as wizards were concerned.
It was an excuse, of sorts.
Potter fidgeted with his glasses. “I think she might have some premium bonds?”
“Whatever,” Rita snapped, standing up. She'd done what she'd been asked to, and had spent quite enough time on Potter and his problems as it was. “I have a train to catch.”
“Going anywhere nice?” Potter asked, clearly just out of politeness.
“Mind your own damn business, Potter,” Rita said, not returning the courtesy in the slightest. Instead she picked up her shoes and stalked out of the office.
She rather thought Marjorie would have approved.