|beholder_mod (beholder_mod) wrote in hp_beholder,|
@ 2008-04-11 16:19:00
|Entry tags:||fic, het, rita skeeter, severus snape|
FIC: 'A Game of Fox and Hounds' for kaycee
Title: A Game of Fox and Hounds
Word Count: 5450
Summary: Her unauthorised biography of Harry Potter was at the top of Flourish and Blotts International's best seller list for eighteen weeks. There's only one story that could beat that, and she'll get it or her name isn't Rita Skeeter.
Author's Notes: This story takes place post-DH but pre-epilogue. Many thanks to my swift and brilliant beta. I hope this story pleases. :)
A Game of Fox and Hounds
Rita Skeeter sat at the bar of the Muggle public house and watched the door. Discreetly, of course, and with a colourful cocktail in her hand. A Cosmopolitan, she had liked the sound of the name. It seemed an appropriate drink for a successful author and they were tasty, too. And tonight her drink matched her blouse and her nails. Never let it be said that Rita Skeeter skimped on research or style. She was well dressed in an ensemble called a suit. Navy blue pinstripes and a cut that certainly suited all her curves, over a cranberry silk blouse and killer blue shoes with a substantial, businesslike heel. Her glasses were a deep, matching blue as well. A rich blue ostrich leather briefcase rested at her heels and a cranberry leather-bound notebook lay on the bar.
She uncrossed and recrossed her legs and smirked a little as a man down the bar appreciatively watched the flex and shift of her bare legs as the skirt rode a little further up her thighs. These scandalous Muggle fashions had their appeal. She unbuttoned her jacket and the second button of her blouse, and leaned comfortably back into the bar, sipping at her drink. Over a year of searching and waiting and researching and more waiting had led to this evening. This was the place, there was no mistake. He would be here.
He walked in twenty minutes later looking perfectly at home in his dark Muggle trousers and zipped jacket over a charcoal turtle neck shirt. He glanced around at the Friday mixture of tipsy shirtsleeves and loud stripes in disdain and walked unerringly to the only empty booth remaining in the entire establishment, slinging his jacket to the seat. She smiled at the chatty man with the wandering eye, took up her belongings and the drink he had bought her, and slid off the bar stool.
"A pint of your home-brew and a whisky chaser," she said to the publican, tilting her head at the booth. He took the notes from her and signalled to the barmaid as she sauntered to the table. Her quarry had tripped the tracking charm she had set on the table, even as his arrival cancelled the subtle Muggle deflecting charm on the booth.
He watched as she slid onto the bench opposite him and set down her glass. She hoped he had appreciated the view, but it was impossible to tell from his expression. Prodigious nose, raised eyebrow, and long greasy hair tied back at the nape with a leather thong; he looked like pure gold.
"It's a pleasure to finally catch up with you, Severus. I hope you don't mind if I call you 'Severus'?" She laid her notebook onto the table just as the barmaid arrived with his drinks.
"Miss Skeeter. You are persistent." he said. "In what way may I risk dignity and reputation for you today?"
"Always direct to the matter at hand. I like that about you. Call me 'Rita', please."
He rolled his eyes and pulled the pint towards him. Running a long finger around the rim, a faint yellow nimbus appeared around the glass briefly. It was so quick and dim, it could easily be mistaken for a trick of the light by any watching. Her mouth went dry as she watched him repeat the spell with the shot of whisky.
"You're, ah, quite good at that," she said, clearing her throat a little to cover a sudden intense less than professional interest. This was not the time.
"I have had a great deal of practice of late. I am living amongst Muggles; this is a Muggle establishment. I would hardly escape notice if I foolishly waved my wand every time I needed to use magic." His voice was dry and she suspected he was quite aware of just how much magic she had used in the pub before his arrival. Waving her wand foolishly the entire time. She shook herself mentally and refocussed.
"Poisoning your drink would hardly get me what I want."
"I have not survived this long by being a trusting soul. In the annoyingly frequent yet apt words of a late colleague, constant vigilance." He settled back comfortably, as if preparing to watch dinner theatre of dubious merit. "Well? You've found me and you've formally plied me with drink. Do you intend to get to the point this century or will I need to take on extra supplies? A plate of chips to ward off starvation, perhaps?"
Despite his relaxed posture, there was no sign of yielding in his face. She would have to work to hook him.
"I'll be straight with you." He snorted. "You, darling, are hot. You're hotter than the Hobgoblins' reunion tour. You're hotter that the Chudley Cannons after winning the league three years running. The people are hungry for the story of your life. They want to know more about the great tragic hero of the war. Scratch that, they want to know everything about the great tragic hero of the war."
"I sincerely doubt that."
"Oh, believe it. The Potter boy still talks about your sacrifice, you know. And people listen. They've been scrambling for years to find out more and they're having a hard time of it. Took up paranoia at an early age, didn't you?" Another raised eyebrow was all she got for that sally. "If you give them what they want, there's nothing you couldn't have. Imagine it. You could be the toast of the town. Doors are just waiting to open for you. Anything you want; potions work, spell research, a talk circuit. Anything. You'd have the cream of Wizarding society as well as the masses eating out of your hand."
"I have no interest in giving the general populace anything, let alone what their tiny sheeplike minds think they want. Perhaps it has escaped your notice, Miss Skeeter, it has been six years since the war and I am believed dead. Why would I risk my comfortable retirement to expose my private life to the idiots who pass for right thinking citizens?"
"Is it really that comfortable living without a wand?" He rolled his eyes again and described a tiny spiral with his forefinger, causing her drink to briefly form a small whirlpool. She tamped down an untimely physical reaction and cursed her weakness for wandless magic. He smirked as she swallowed and then continued. "Never letting anyone know who you are, what you've done for us all?"
"I am a private man, as you have discovered." He pursed his lips sourly. "And I have been repeatedly assured that fame is overrated."
"Anyone who said that is a fool, or trying to make you feel better," she declared emphatically. "Fame is splendid if it's handled right. Just imagine the splash you could make if you came back from the dead! I assure you, no one else even suspects you're alive. It would be the ultimate scoop. The public would eat up anything you gave them and ask for more. I bet we could even get a grateful Harry Potter to shake your hand in front of cameras." He scoffed derisively and she tilted her head coyly. "Alive or dead, if you don't tell your story someone else will do it for you. You know there's a foundation trying to buy your childhood home to turn it into a museum?"
"What? That's absurd!"
"They put through the paperwork this week. The New Organisation for Society, Education and Youth. I managed to gain a viewing of a draft of the renovation plans. There's been heated debate over putting the gift shop on site with Wizard space in the loo, or the more expensive but 'spatially uncontaminated' idea of buying up the adjacent house and pushing all administrative activities in there. They want to give guided tours and lectures."
"Lectures? On what?"
"On integrating Muggleborn and Half-blood children, and encouraging pureblood outreach. It's all part of a new Ministry campaign."
"Who on earth would think Spinner's End would be a suitable place for such an enterprise? The street should be torn down and turned into a car park." She waited, and he growled and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Don't tell me the Granger girl has run out of House Elves."
"Got it in one. She has notoriety, acclaim, the attention of highly placed people and the drive to do something with it. She's turning into quite the power broker." She dropped her voice and leaned forward confidentially. There. His eyes had definitely flickered infinitesimally towards her cleavage. She casually shifted to display it to better advantage. "Listen, Severus. You have what it takes to be huge. Your story has mystery, adventure, a dark past and a doomed love. Everyone knows you from Hogwarts, but they've all realised that they didn't know you at all. You've a built in readership. They may not be aware of it yet, but they're panting to read the life and times of one Severus Snape."
He remained silent and sceptical, although he did take a sip from his pint. She considered it a small victory .
"You could walk down Diagon Alley tomorrow and be mobbed with well-wishers, autograph seekers, and people just wanting to bask in the reflected glow of your presence. And they'd ask you questions; where you've been hiding since the end of the war, what being a spy was like. Any thing and everything, from what you had for breakfast that morning to were you plan to sleep that night. A neat, bound volume of your life story would pull that back to a dull roar that could be managed by interviews and news leaks."
"I see, this is all for my convenience and benefit, really. And you would be my biographer."
She looked down modestly and tapped a perfectly manicured nail on her notebook.
"But of course. Who better? My series of unauthorised biographies is wildly successful. If you weren't already a household name, I could make you one. Better yet, I know the ins and outs of publishing and publicity. Leave all that to me and just be yourself. Together, we'd be an unbeatable team."
"I doubt my 'being myself' would bring widespread popularity, however you may delude yourself to the idea."
"You mean because you're rude, short-tempered and cutting?" She asked brightly. He inclined his head with a wry smile. "Oh, darling, they'll love it. They'll expect it. You can be as rude as you like, and they'll just shrug and say 'He's just being himself'. You'd practically have a license to be nasty!"
For some reason he looked rather disgruntled at the idea, and she filed that away for future consideration. She would have thought it a delightful benefit of popularity, but he clearly felt otherwise. To compensate, she straightened a little and let her shirt pull subtly taut across her chest. The cleft of the open neckline framed her collarbone and drew the eye plunging into her cleavage. Sadly, he ignored it.
"I have no intention of being made a curiosity and a fool, put on display to insult people for their entertainment." Damn, he was offended. She straightened further until the outline of her lace bra and erect nipples were clear against the flimsy fabric of her shirt.
"You quite misunderstand me, no one would be laughing. They would be honoured, delighted even!" Damn, this was not working. "And what does it matter what they think as long as it's intriguing? As long as it makes them want more? Give them what they want or they make it up themselves, it's all the same to them."
She needed to take this in a different direction entirely.
"And it's not like what we give them would be the truth."
"No? I thought the purpose of this was a tell-all authorised biography to pull every sordid detail of my lamentable life into view for the public to exclaim over?"
She wondered if he could see the sheen of sweat forming on her upper lip and between her breasts. Her hands were clammy with it. She would have to brazen this out, as she so often did. She could usually bowl people over by the strength of her personality, but she knew that would not work with him.
"Oh Severus, darling, you really are a babe in the woods when it comes to everyday people. Where's that good Slytherin sense I know you have?"
"It is telling me your offer is gone off snake oil. And do not attempt to play House loyalties with me, Miss Skeeter. Even were I susceptible, I know very well you were a Ravenclaw, if shortly before my time. If you recall, I had access to the records at Hogwarts."
She waved a hand dismissively, with feigned insouciance.
"Only the finest snake oil for you, darling. Let me clear up a few misconceptions. It wouldn't be a tell-all, it would just appear to be a tell-all. If I don't leave anything out, there's less to put in a second volume. The art is making it feel like full disclosure without actually being full disclosure." He continued to look unimpressed, but unbent enough to take a pull from his glass. She breathed a little freer and continued. "And it most certainly would not be an authorised biography. If it were authorised, you couldn't improve the speculation by being at odds with me. And there would be no chance of a second book refuting parts of the first."
She just caught the twitch at the corner of his mouth before it was gone like it had never been.
"Are you telling me your biography of Viktor Krum was unofficially approved? Celestina Warbek? Harry Potter?"
"Oh, dear me, no. Their lives are like an open book, I didn't need them to be." She could swear he laughed, ever so quietly; just a huff of exhalation. She carefully kept all jubilation from her face. "Moreover, they're not very writer-ly sorts, not even dear Celestina. Now, if you wrote your own book later it would split sales with an official biography. But with an unofficial, yours would boost sales of both. People would wonder where the lies are and what juicy bits I did or didn't get. No, unauthorised is a much better choice."
"I see. An enlightened argument. And what of my sordid past dredged out from my jealously guarded privacy? Is that as easily papered over in your grand scheme?"
"Oh, people don't want sordid. Nothing too base unless it's symbolical; it has to be meaningful in some way or why bother reading? They want intriguing, titillating, exciting, romantic. Some even want profound. And we can give it to them even if we have to manufacture it. And is it really an invasion of privacy if it's not real to begin with?"
"Fiction, then. I don't see why you would need me at all. I should simply go home and leave you to it, just as the others have so graciously obliged. Much easier for me, you must admit."
"Ah! But there's your jealously guarded privacy, darling! The best stories have a bit of truth at their heart. It gives them that something extra and they hang together better. That's why I spend so much of my time in research; I take pride in a good story. You wouldn't think it would be such hard work writing a biography, but it's hours of research and getting to know not just the person, but what people want to know about that person. In the end, the story isn't the truth but it's true. And it sells; I've proven it. But to get to true, I have to get to truth. This is me letting you choose what truth to give me. It's a generous offer, and one I haven't made before."
"And it is only incidental that it makes your task easier."
This was comfortable ground and she shrugged carelessly, causing her blouse to gape a bit wider briefly. His eyes skated appreciatively over her before slipping back to his pint.
"It's a mutually beneficial arrangement, of course. Darling, every one of the people in this room is living his or her biography. Prologue to afterword, they write it out in their minds as they go. They act like they do because they're all playing parts in the story of their lives. You know this better than anyone. I'm giving you the chance to share yours with thousands of other people, even hundreds of thousands, in the way you want to be thought of and remembered. With the Rita Skeeter flair, of course."
He was silent as he considered her words, staring absently at her hand where it lay on her notebook. Tsk, if he had to rest his eyes anywhere while he was thinking, it should be somewhere more useful. She slowly brought her hand to toy with the third button of her Muggle blouse. His eyes soon followed, and grew intent, before flicking up to meet hers. He raised one of those expressive eyebrows.
She smiled. It was time to move the rest of her plan forward.
"You realise, it looks like we're on a date." And indeed, they resembled any of the many couples speaking with heads together at any of the several booths in the pub.
"Looks may be deceiving. I have lived my life by that cliché," he replied dryly.
"It doesn't have to be in this case." She let the button slip free and fanned herself lightly with the edge of her shirt. It wasn't quite indecent but it was definitely suggestive, blatantly so.
"I see. You're quite... generous with your time and skills, Miss Skeeter."
"Only with you."
"Somehow, I find that hard to believe." She ignored the insult, it was to be expected.
"Oh, believe it. I've followed you for over a year, now. I'm invested in you, Severus Snape, and you intrigue the hell out of me."
"You are like Pygmalion, then. Caught up in the ardour of creation. You've said already, I'm hardly necessary for your endeavour. Merely... convenient."
She laughed then, and thought of all the trouble she had gone through already.
"Oh, you are not convenient at all, Severus. Not in any way."
He looked dubious, and she realised that he meant it. Despite his appreciative looks to her subtle and not so subtle flirting, despite everything, he doubted that she wanted him. This just would not do. She looked him in the eye with nary a flicker of an eyelash. He would believe this.
"You do something to me, Severus Snape. Maybe it's your past, maybe it's from following you around all these months and discovering who you are, maybe it's just because I have a kink for wandless magic," Both eyebrows went up at that bald admission. "Titillating, exciting, profound, even romantic; I want these too, darling. First hand knowledge, an invitation to the private retreat where all the magic is done."
"You have a kink for wandless magic." He snapped his fingers and tapped his forefinger to his left palm. An ice cube appeared there and he dropped it carelessly into her empty glass. She flushed all the way to the roots of her hair and crossed her legs hastily, breath quickening. "I see."
Damn the lovely bastard for smirking while she squirmed. And for leaving her like that while he finished his pint in a leisurely pull, eyes closed and his head tilted back, the long line of his throat moving slowly as he swallowed. He smacked his lips and swiped the glistening line of moisture from his upper lip with his thumb and sucked it clean.
"I do," she managed without making an utter fool of herself by groaning.
"Your conversations with Albus Dumbledore must have been unexpectedly... enjoyable."
"I'll have you know, I'm only attracted to Wizards within my own century." That pulled a snicker from him, and she mentally shook her head. In some ways men were always boys; they were sidetracked by the most ridiculous things. Clearly, she needed to be more direct or she would expire from frustration. She licked her lips slowly and folded her arms in front of her on the table, pushing up her breasts in a well nigh vulgar display.
"Severus," she murmured suggestively "playing alone is enjoyable and I do it quite a lot, but it's much more fun to play in pairs."
"Fun," he said, now absently running his fingers up and down the whisky glass in the most maddening way. Damn him, he was just toying with her at this point.
"Yes, fun, Severus. Like skinny dipping in someone else's private lake or sex in public places. Naughty and wrong and fun. Merlin, even without the naughty and the wrong, it's fun!"
Enough was enough. She stood and turned to present her assets at an advantage and tossed a challenging glance over her shoulder.
"I'll be in the ladies." She could feel his eyes on the sway of her hips as she walked to the short passageway at the far end of the bar, turning the heads of the louts in striped shirts as she passed.
She had hardly registered the yellow walls and the clean, if small facility when the door opened behind her and she met his eyes in the mirror. He leaned against the door frame, the door half open and waited.
"Well?" she said, taking off her glasses and laying them neatly on the sink, behind the tap. She pulled her shirt-tails loose. "Are you just going to watch?"
He stepped into the room and locked the door with the flimsy Muggle latch and a flare of spell light.
"That scenario has potential," he said. She tossed her head and tried to calm her breathing.
"Perhaps next time," she suggested. "Pairs, remember?" She held his intent gaze in the mirror as she shrugged out of her jacket. The movement caused her shirt to gape and his eyes flicked down to the reflected curve of revealed black lace. She dropped the jacket negligently over the toilet tank and looked at him expectantly.
She could feel the heat of him through the skimpy Muggle clothing even before he took another step and was there, his long, lean body pressed up against her back; warm, clever fingers swiftly unbuttoning her blouse and undoing the front clasp on her bra. She shivered as he pulled her back to rest against his chest, one hand ghosting over her skin, pushing the lace aside before slipping down and tucking into her waistband to knead her belly. The warm, sweet scent of beer overlaid with whisky was heavy on his breath as he cradled her close. She felt him pause and she nodded breathlessly.
The wandless, wordless contraceptive spell tingled through her in a sensual rush. Her knees went weak at his display of control.
Trembling in anticipation, she reached back and started on his trousers by touch alone as he cupped her breasts and teased her peaked nipples. The cool silk of her blouse fluttered in counterpoint against her skin, like butterfly wings as they shifted in the confined space. She could feel him, hard and hot and eager, pushing against her impatient fingers as he strained close before he eased away to shove down his trousers and pants. His hands trailed down her thighs and inched up her skirt until they could slip under the hem. His hands felt so warm and impossibly large on the cool skin of her thighs. Tantalizingly he slid his hands up, gathering the skirt up over her hips and the full curve of her arse.
"No knickers? I'm flattered." He said against her ear as he straightened, hands warm and firm on her hips. She smirked and bumped into him playfully.
"I believe in being prepared for every... ah!... eventuality," she gasped as he filled her with one sudden thrust. She clutched the sturdy sink to brace herself and leaned into him. She dropped head to his shoulder and let it loll, exposing the line of her throat to his hungry mouth as he undulated against her back. His hands, oh his long, skilful fingers pressed and squeezed and rubbed as she twisted and writhed against him.
"Oh yes, fuck me, harder, like that, yes...." She loved it like this, fast and hard, pushed and pulled by strong, clever, incongruously gentle hands. The stroke of his body against and inside her drew pleasure even with the rasp of his stubble against the tender flesh beneath her jaw and the uncomfortable press of their bunched clothes against her heated skin. Her heels stuttered unsteadily, sometimes lifting from the floor entirely as he thrust into her, but his hold on her was secure. She was in no danger of slipping.
Their panting breath and her nonsensical babbling, the urgent slap of skin and rustle of clothing bounced flatly off the tile, sounding large in her ears and drowning out the noises from the pub outside the thin wooden door. She was so hot; flushed and sweating, nerves sizzling she pressed him to move faster, harder, chasing the sensations as she threatened to fly apart. He soothed a hand down her hip, over his reddening hand print, and stilled.
"FUCK!" she nearly shrieked in frustration.
"Wait," he murmured hoarsely, and pulled away. He turned her around, lifted her to the edge of the sink and then he was plunging into her again, hard and slick and oh, Merlin so good, so perfect. He lifted her from the cold porcelain and a twist and half a step sideways and she was pinned against the narrow yellow wall.
Perfect, she groaned as she clung to him, legs wrapped tightly around his waist. The change in angle, the difference in leverage driving him deeper and right there again and again. She dragged the leather tie from his hair and the long, lank strands flicked and tickled against her naked skin as he mouthed along her collarbone and bit and sucked a livid bruise along the curve of her throat.
She felt too tight for her own skin, as if her blood was boiling and steam was rising from her pores and her mouth as she urged him on in choked gasps. She would burst from it; the heat and sensation and his body like a brand setting her aflame. A cascade of flares sparked behind her closed lids and her orgasm was almost a relief, effervescing through her veins in shuddering waves. She clutched at his shoulders and shook helplessly as he pressed himself into her one last time and groaned and followed.
Her limbs were heavy and stupid even as her blood sang giddily. He shifted to let her down and paused, bracketing her jaw and cheek with one hand. Curious at the soft touch, she looked at him questioningly. He thoughtfully examined her face, from her bright eyes and dishevelled hair to her lips bitten plump and red. Then, to her surprise, he leaned down and brushed her mouth with a light, sweet kiss before stepping away.
"Thank you," he said gruffly as he did up his trousers.
"Oh," she replied, distracted by that brief first touch of lip to lip. "I enjoyed myself. I enjoy you," she said, uncharacteristically open. She shimmied down her skirt and tipped herself into her bra with a smirk in an attempt to cover up her lapse. She retrieved her wand from her jacket pocket, but stopped when he laid his fingers on her wrist.
"Let me." And she shivered again as he lightly drew his hand down her body, his gentle touch followed by the delicate tingle of a cleaning spell. It whispered through her hair and over her skin, whisking away the sweat and stickiness like it had never been. She sucked in a breath as he bent to examine the love bite he had left on her neck, and sighed as he murmured a spell into her skin and it vanished.
"Merlin, what that does to me," she husked as he stepped back again. He cocked an eyebrow at her and laid a fingertip in her navel, tickling against the flesh of her belly as he drew his finger up to stop between her breasts. Her buttons jumped one by one to their corresponding buttonhole as his finger passed, leaving her blouse done up to the third button when he drew his hand away.
"Now you're just teasing me." She laughed as she tucked in her shirt-tails and shrugged into her jacket. The only remaining indicators that she had just been shagged right and proper was a delicious soreness in all the best places and a slight fatigue in her muscles.
"A little." His smile was small but genuine, she thought. Another victory.
"Think about what I said. There's nothing you couldn't do with me helping you."
"And," she leaned in confidentially, "as your biographer, I would need to work closely with you for some time. To make sure my facts are straight."
"Is that so?" He looked amused.
"Very closely," she promised. "Let me manage everything, the appearances and interviews, even endorsements. Everything. All you need to do is show up."
He cupped her cheek with a hand and searched her face and she wondered if he would kiss her again. What would he taste like? Whisky surely; sweet and smoky and dark.
"I will consider it," he murmured into her ear. "Obliviate."
Rita patted her hair one last time and exited the loo. It would not do to miss her quarry for a call of lesser nature, not after all the months of effort. A man at the bar gave her the once over and she tossed her hair disdainfully as he winked familiarly. Appreciativeness was all well and good, but that was just cheek. It would need more than that to break her mood, however. She felt good, more than good, she felt like everything she wanted was within her grasp. Like she'd flown a race and finished lengths ahead of the other brooms.
She sat down at booth and took a sip of the fresh cocktail waiting for her. Perhaps the tosser at the bar was not entirely worthless if he bought her drinks. Her briefcase and notebook were where she left them, thanks to the mild notice-me-not spell bound into their leather.
She paused, looked again, and set down her glass carefully.
He had come.
There was no point in checking her tracking charm. He could disable it in an instant and no doubt had. She retrieved the colourful square coaster from where it lay on the table, fingers skating over a swollen spot where a bead of water had soaked into the pasteboard. Like the round one he had left for this pub, the only clue for the whereabouts of his next appearance was the name of some locally brewed cask ale. It would take research to find the only place that sold it. She would be there next Friday without fail or her name was not Rita Skeeter.
She opened her notebook to the last pages where sixteen other such little squares and circles cheerfully illustrated her progress. She trailed a fond finger over the tenth square and the little blue star she'd marked under it. That had been a turning point, a very pleasant turning point. Flipping the newest card over to apply the sticking charm, she caught her breath.
Rita Skeeter sat at the bar of the Muggle public house and watched the door. Discreetly, of course, and with a colourful cocktail in her hand....