1994-09-25: The Beetle And The Barrister



On Loan:


Scene Title The Beetle And The Barrister
Synopsis Holly gives Rita a tasty tidbit for the Prophet. Fallout to come!
Location Hogsmeade - Holly's Flat
Date Sept 25, 1994
Watch For
Logger Protege! I mean Protego

It's a nice, warm day outside, despite the downward curve the year is taking into autumn. A flock of birds flies overhead, roughly in a 'V' shape as they head toward warmer climes for the approaching cold. They're a little early… After all, the leaves are still on the trees, it's still sunny and comfortable…

Number 16 on Ivy Lane already looks lived-in, despite the fact that the person who lives there has only been there for a few days, really. There's a fresh coat of paint, the windows are clean and sparkling, and there are even some flowers outside that will bloom all through the winter, if Holly charmed them properly. Inside - cool and collected - the lawyer is preparing a few things to eat - just cheese and crackers and the like, with a few biscuits, and coffee. While tea will be offered, she's brought one of her favourite coffee blends, which is brewing in the kitchen. Mo, who's been clearly told to be on her best behaviour for this visit, is sprawled regally across a lavender pillow in the front room, next to the couch.

Hey, Holly isn't above making an impression. She's heard how Rita Skeeter can be, and getting on her bad side is the quickest way to failure when it comes to the press.

Forewarning about Rita Skeeter is always good, but sometimes, it just doesn't prepare you for the real thing. The reporter could care less about the weather, the birds overhead, blah blah. However, the sparkling appearance of Number 16 does impress her mildly. Hopefully this lawyer will provide a challenge, and her quill shall surely find /something/ stinging to write. After Apparating into the village, she strides towards the flat, her crimson taloned hands clutching her horrid handbag. Rigid curls in place, and the sunlight glinting off the jewels on her glasses, she eyes the flat further before striding up to the door and knocking firmly.

Holly only hopes she knows how to play Skeeter as much as she knows she's going to be played. This is kind of like a game… Then again, all dealings with the press really are. Telling a reporter that nothing is wrong and everything is fine is like an invitation for invention.

So you pick the bad parts and drill them in.

Holly isn't too quick to answer the door - she doesn't want to seem too eager - but she isn't slow arriving, either. Standing, taking the time to smooth dark brown robes, she opens the door and smiles at Rita, before moving aside to let the woman in. "Thank you for coming. I hope I can make it worth your time. Would you like some coffee or tea?" The scent of hazelnut fills the flat, evidence of the former blend.

No need to rush darling, Rita's primping as well, and looking around. The nosy parker. Putting on her widest and most predatory smile, the reporter's prepared when the door is answered. She thrusts a largeish hand out to shake, "Rita Skeeter, Daily Prophet and might I say that I have been looking forward to this meeting." Through the wolfish grin, there's a glint of her three gold teeth, "Ordinarily I'd fancy a Gillywater, but since you have coffee on, I'll take a cuppa." Looking past Holly, she's already trying to get a look at the interior of the flat, to get a sense of who she's going to be talking to.

After nodding her head respectfully as she shakes Rita's hand, Holly excuses herself to the kitchen - divided from the front room by just a half-wall - in order to pour a couple cups of coffee. "Make yourself at home," she says.

The inside of the flat consists of sensible browns, greys, and deep reds. There's still evidence of remodeling - the slight smell of paint, for example, that still lingers under the hazlenut, but the furniture looks new enough. The only thing that doesn't quite match is the lavender cushion upon which Mo is sitting, her bright yellow-green eyes watching Rita curiously. At least Mo seems to watch the room to a decent extent.

Eventually, Holly returns, setting Ms. Skeeter's cup on a glass table, next to which is an armchair. Holly stands next to a chair just on the other side, motioning for Rita to sit, if she'd like.

Arranged on the table in a small pile on Holly's side is a stack of parchment.

Looking almost predatory in the way she looks around the room, Rita clutches her handbag to her side. While she means to look just like a curious visitor, she fails miserably. So far, things look painfully /normal/ in this flat. Nothing sticking outward that could be off about Holly. So Rita does as offered. She makes herself at home by settling into a chair. Opening her handbag, she pulls out her notepad and the acid green Quick-Quotes Quill of hers. "Thank you Miss Maplewood," she says in an overly gracious manner. The cat is simply ignored for the time being, the stack of parchment being far more interesting. "I hope you don't mind if I use my Quick-Quotes Quill," without waiting for an okay, she sets the pad on the table by the coffee cup and sets the quill atop. The quill takes on a life of its own, standing on nib, ready to take down information.

"Now, what is it that you had on the Ministry?"

There's always something off about everyone, but Holly's good at this game. The things about her that would make Rita go on the attack are hidden away, at least while the woman is here. The flat does seem - perhaps - a little larger than it normally would, although not absurdly so. It's not an easy spell to master. However, the flat certainly has more rooms and dividers than it would have normally.

Holly offers a smile of her own. Not quite as predatory as Rita's, though smug, in its own way. Play to what she wants to hear, Holly. Put your own spin on things. "I thought it was a little strange," she starts, "That Sirius Black never got a trial. In the United States - I'm sure you're well-educated on procedure there - " …Throwing in compliments doesn't hurt, right? "Anyone accused is at least offered a trial before their peers. I'm not saying if Black was innocent - at this point, I have no idea - but there's no proof that he's guilty, either. Here, I've taken the liberty of making copies for you…"

Picking up the stack of papers, she places them across the table in Rita's reach. Not everything is there, but enough. "To summarise, any motive is pure speculation. There's no actual evidence, nothing stating he bore the Dark Mark, no transcript of proceedings, no official court documents, and the real surprise is… His wand was never tested for the Killing Curse. They don't even know if he did it." She waits for this to sink in. "And that's just the tip of the iceburg."

Rita sits in a rather lady-like manner, letting the quill do its job as it takes dictation. (In its own way of course.) She smiles and inclines her head, "Of course." And what she doesn't know about American law situations, she can have one of her staff look it up for her. However, Holly may have said 'Voldemort' for the way that Rita's backside slips on the cushion she's seated upon. Reseating herself, she raises a hand to her curls with an expression of, 'I meant to do that.' "My dear Miss Maplewood, I couldn't begin to expect that you would understand what it's been like since.. You Know Who was around. Black was caught red-handed in his support!" Of course she's going to churn out the same old line, but her eyes are drawn to the papers and as they're practically offered to her, she takes them. She's surprised, but isn't.

"The head of Magical Law Enforcement at the time, Bartemius Crouch Senior was a known fanatic of sentencing Dark Wizards in a harsh manner. He sent his own son to Azkaban, as well as Black's cousin and her relatives by marriage to the Lestrange family. All self proclaimed supporters of You Know Who." Rita's eyes however are still on the parchment as she rifles through them, "I did cover many of the trials of the day. Crouch, the old dingbat, was a bit shall we say, zealous, in his treatment of those accused. I can't say that I'm surprised that some weren't given a trial, but my my.. they /did/ go out of their way to hide this information, and I do delight in watching Fudge squirm.."

There's the slightest narrowing of Holly's eyes, the very slightest of smiles, as Rita looks over the papers. "Oh, I was definitely fooled at first," she says. "I have quite an interest in case history, though, and with access to some of these files…" Trailing off, she'll let Rita fill in the rest.

The files themselves are nothing short of amazing, mostly for their sloppyness, their omissions, their lack of anything credible as evidence to tie black to that so-called red-handed support. "Like I said, I have no idea whether or not he did it. But I think it's fair - to the people of this country - to know the truth for absolute certain. That's my job, Ms. Skeeter, to uncover the truth beyond any shadow of a doubt."

There is, unfortunately, no evidence just yet supporting the fact that Black isn't guilty. The lack of anything proving that he did commit thirteen murders would be enough in the United States to fee him, but here, it's a different story. "If he had definitely done it, wouldn't there be some sort of tangible bit of evidence?" she goes on to ask rhetorically. "At the time, it seems like the Wizarding world needed scapegoats. People to imprison in order to give the ordinary citizens a sense of victory. I can't imagine how many people who were under… His spell…" Voldemort's. "Might have ended up in Azkaban. Or worse."

In other words, clearly a rush job. A rush to convict, to show the people that something was being done. Rita looks up from the papers, peering over the rims of her glasses at Holly. "The people don't want fair. They want what's comfortable to them. And this? Destroys something they've known for over ten years. That Black is guilty, and the right hand man to You Know Who! The public wants to feel /safe/. This made them feel safe." She gestures to the papers she's now pawing through with something akin to greed. "My dear Miss Maplewood," Rita says, as if she were talking to someone uneducated, "Practically /all/ of his followers claimed they were under the Imperius Curse and was doing his bidding. Few stood up and proudly admitted it, like the Lestranges." One can almost see the wheels churning in her head. Dismiss the American? Or get under Fudge's thumb by exposing more Ministry cover-ups.. the possible backlash. It could be worth it, just to see Fudge squirm.

She's made a slight mis-step here. Unsurprising, since she hasn't been playing this game quite as long as Rita. She tries to recover, though. "Ma'am, with respect… I'd feel safer myself if I knew that I didn't run the risk of being convicted simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Imagine being there that day. Being one of the survivors, finding yourself horrified at what's happened, only for the Ministry to point an accusing finger at you.

"I'm not saying that's what happened with Black. In fact, he could very well be guilty. But the truth - a trial - is what I want to see. I want to know that the witches and wizards in this country are safe from being falsely accused. And with all the spells at their disposal, with all the magic, with all the resources… The ministry couldn't even provide the slightest shred of reasoning as to why they put Black away. If anything, wouldn't you want to know the details?"

Ah, details. A reporter's weakness? She hopes. But how can Holly guarantee that Rita will get the details? Easy. "If this does go to trial, Ms. Skeeter, I'd be honoured if you'd cover it."

Rita can afford smugness, she's played her game for quite some time. (Even knowing she could find herself serving an Azkaban sentence for her little secret. *cough*) She holds up a taloned hand and beams at Holly, "Don't misunderstand me. I didn't say that I wouldn't run with this story. I just had to explain a few things, seeing as you weren't here during that time." Teeth bared in an all too wide smile, "You couldn't keep me away from this trial. Crouch is still with the Ministry, of course he's with the Department for International Magical Cooperation. It's through /his/ department that you're here I believe. Oh this is just too delicious." And she's not talking about the coffee either. "Now, seeing as Black is on the run after appearing at the Cup and murdering that referee, how are you going to get started on this?"

It would really suck to admit that she has no idea how she's going to get started on this. That's why she tried to anticipate the question as much as possible so that she could have an answer. And that is… "I already have," she says, indicating the papers. "The vast majority of a trial is actually fairly routine. Gathering information, building your case, exchanging information with both sides."

It's actually a TV misconception that a lawyer will suddenly pull out a stunning, case-changing fact that will win them the trial right in the middle of a hearing. Both sides know all the information the other side has… It's just how it's applied that really matters. "As for locating Black, I have sources. There are a lot of people out there who want to … well, have a go at him, I guess. So it's going to have to be done carefully."

There's still one last paper she hasn't given to Rita yet. This, she pulls out of her pocket and hands over. It's also a copy, but clear enough - the letter from Umbridge. "They don't seem to have their story entirely together, either."

Rita's brows rise from behind her glasses. "You have been thinking on this haven't you? Tell me.. why does this case intrigue you? Why move here for this case? Surely you have similar that you could handle in your own country. My readers will want to know this, of course." Humor the question dear and pay no mind to the quill as it seems to be taking what's said and running with it.

A small shrug is made as the reporter leafs back through the parchment again. "That's an understatement. His escape has been an embarrassment for over a year. To continue to evade capture? Then show up at a public event, fire off His mark, murder and get away /again/?" Ohho, what is this? A golden ticket perhaps? Too greedily, she takes the letter and looks over it, "Here's another Ministry delight, delightfully nasty."

"Oh yes," Holly replies, a half-smile of her own appearing as she takes a sip of her coffee. "There's nothing quite like this at home, as far as I know. I can't think of a single instance where someone was completely shut away with no trial whatsoever." Not in modern history, anyway, but she leaves that out, for fear of accidentally insulting the reporter.

"See, that's another thing entirely. You'll notice I've added a bit of my own Discovery file in those documents I gave you. I've found at least sixteen ways for a person to change their appearance magically. And while I was at it, I also located three ways to cast glamour and illusion spells over a large population. I don't know if any of this happened, mind, but I can't find any evidence of the Ministry looking for it, either.

And if he did murder that referee? Well, Holly's just going to look silly when this is all over. "I just think it's strange that there would be such a lack of evidence… And then suddenly this."

Something tells Rita that was a dig against the Ministry. Not that she cares, she's in this for spreading of bad news and possibly slander. Tapping a crimson nail to her cheek, a half-smile of knowing forms. "You've done the right thing in coming to me dear. The Ministry will regret trying to brush you off," she says in the manner of a sisterhood group effort. "Do you mind the publicity if I refer to you by name? Of course you don't, something like this, it'll be hard to hide, now that you've annoyed Umbridge."

Admittedly, with the age some witches and wizards can live to, Holly is still extremely young. Putting her name out there, getting that little bit of fame that comes with something like this… Well, it feels good, and she doesn't hesitate before saying, "No, I don't mind at all." The people have a right to know, she tells herself. "Is there anything else I can tell you?"

Having been a reporter for quite some time leaves Rita with an ability to memorize pertinent facts quickly and easily. So the parchment is sat back down and the coffee cup finally picked up as she takes a sip. Eyeing Holly shrewdly over the rim of her cup, she can't resist asking, "So, what sort of life did you leave behind in America? Children? Friends? A boyfriend? We can do a personal piece on you as well."

A personal piece. Holly shouldn't tell too much, right? The focus is on the case, not the lawyer. "Well, I went to school in Salem, House Bear Claw… I don't know, there's not much about me to tell. I became a lawyer because my father was murdered when I was pretty young. My mom had to raise me and my sisters - I have two - but for quite a long time, it's just been me and Mo." She indicates the Savannah Cat, who raises her head off the cushion to blink at Rita.

"That's quite alright Miss Maplewood. I think we've got enough information to go on. Should I need anything else, I will owl you." Rita says, a grin as wide as a cheshire cat on her face. Gathering her notepad and quill, they're stuffed back inside her crocodile skin handbag. Perhaps she honestly has enough to go on, or has lost interest in the backstory. It could be that she's in a rush to make the press with her expose. "Lovely cat," she says as she rises without giving Mo a look. "I should have this article ready soon enough, I hope you're ready for fame. I can show myself out." And with that, she's out the door.

Panic, react accordingly and such to the resulting Prophet article from Rita! Hold nothing back! There will be involvement for all to come!

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