The Sugar Quill
Author: Stubefied (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: A Beetle Gets Its Wings  Chapter: A Beetle Gets Its Wings
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A Beetle Gets Its Wings

[Word Count without disclaimer and title:1500

Disclaimer: All characters and uses of magic from the Harry Potter series belong to J.K. Rowling.]

 

 

A Beetle Gets Its Wings

 

Rita Skeeter, intrepid reporter, flies forward into the most foolhardy folly of her career.

 

Rita Skeeter did not believe in self-doubt. There were times, however, when her marvelously complex human form was squeezed into the body of a mere beetle, that she felt she wasn’t quite herself. She couldn’t communicate with her Quick Quotes Quill as a beetle, and unintelligent, irrational excuses for thoughts sometimes flew through her miniaturized mind – thoughts confusing brilliance with folly, for instance. She always re-wrote them.

 

Rita Skeeter, intrepid reporter, strides boldly into the unknown. Into the lion’s lair!  Into the green-flowered robes of a colorblind Death Eater disguised as a witch, but no one needed to know the unglamorous details. The mystery of how she’d infiltrated the headquarters of You Know Who would only add to the allure of her story.

 

Rita crept to the robe's gaping armhole for a breath of fresher air and a glimpse of her surroundings. She saw no fortress looming, but Potter had warned her that she wouldn't.

 

"You can say there's one, if you like," he'd said, "as long as first you tell me these five things with every bit of accuracy you have, and don’t tell them to anyone else. Write for The Prophet that he lives in an igloo. I won’t care. But no embellishments with me.”

 

"Or what?" Rita had sneered towards the Granger girl. "She’ll clap me in another jar?"

 

She’d laughed. Potter hadn’t. He’d grasped her wrist from under that invisibility cloak of his and held her captivated by the sight of his disembodied hand as he spoke. "No. No threats, no force. You can't send someone on a mission like this under coercion. It's got to be your choice to help."

 

Rita in her insect’s body remembered how she had begun to remind the boy that she had no interest in helping anything but her career. But that had been interrupted by an odd feeling: a tensing in her chest, almost like excitement, or like the sensation that preceded the shrinking of her body and the growing of her wings when she Transformed.

 

“Or don’t choose to help us,” the Granger girl had put in before Rita could open her mouth. “Choose to help your career with the first report from inside Voldemort's headquarters. Either way, it has to be your choice."

 

Yes, Rita thought now.  My career. This will be the pinnacle of my career!

 

She felt the wind in her antennae as the wizard’s path led upwards to where the long grasses were being tangled and torn by gusts from the sea. A single twisted willow pointed towards the moon.  Holding a branch with one hand, the wizard reached upwards with the other so that Rita feared that she'd been detected and was about to be hurled into the surf. But then she found herself brushing against rough wood and recognizing the sensation of being Portkeyed.

 

She landed, clinging to the Death Eater’s sleeve, on a doorstep in an unlit alley. The sea’s roar had been replaced by the morbid gasps of a dying city. The only reminder of the countryside was a gnarled willow knob protruding from the blackened door they faced.

 

The wizard touched the doorbell, which blinked silently while they were examined before entry. Rita saw the light flash more rapidly when, she supposed, the spells to identify Magical Disguises detected her. But the doorkeeper had been warned to expect Hermann Howe to arrive disguised with Polyjuice Potion, and they were admitted.

 

The slate on which they waited slid aside and Howe stepped onto a staircase that drew him and Rita downward. Rita decided that they were descending into an abandoned asylum. As she was borne along the corridor, she thought she could hear the echoes of desperate laments between footfalls. She tried to memorize the real details, too, and longed for her Quick Quotes, which she trusted more than even her own memory.

 

She studied the walls, which were darkened cement marked with sockets that had been stripped of electric lights. The doorways were low, hung with wood -- she'd have to change that to bolted steel, or perhaps enchanted curtains.

 

Around the next corner the atmospheric change was striking. Walls gleamed unmarred except by an impressively studded lead barrier that swung open at Howe’s touch. He carried Rita through, their entrance announced by the sound of a gong.

 

Between two more studded doorways loomed an arch of seven torches, although the top three were unlit. Rita had barely begun to study them when Howe plunged into the patch of wall they framed. It was shocking, yet painless, like stepping through a waterfall. Rita emerged, blinking in the brightness of a granite chamber, to the echo of another gong. The room was lit with floating mirrored torches, lined by life-sized busts that grinned maniacally with what appeared to be real eyes, and seething with stone serpents.

 

Rita tried to note it all, but her wings were trembling. "Look out for the snake," Potter had warned. "And not just to tell me about it. It will sense you.” There were snakes everywhere and Rita had no idea how she'd identify which one to look out for -- and then she knew. It was there, at the head of the room, at the foot of a throne, wrapped around the legs of a hooded figure. It looked at her not with primitive hunger, but with human murder, a malice that overshadowed even the presence of He Who Must Not Be Named.

 

Rita’s career flashed before her eyes.

 

Illustrious Career Cut Tragically Short, the obituary would say. Ms. Skeeter, preeminent interviewer of our age, who fearlessly pursued criminals and celebrities alike, martyred by the greatest villain of all…

 

But they wouldn’t know by whose hand she’d perished. People couldn’t write their own obituaries. That was as terrifying as death itself. Rita Skeeter would not have the last word. Then came a nagging beetle-thought. What will they say about me?

 

Rita tried to ignore it by listening to the conversation between Howe and his master, memorizing every word and gesture, every glance at the snake and exchange of gentle hisses, until she began to fear that her exquisite attention to detail would be her downfall. She would lose a vital fact for a triviality. Longing for her Quick Quotes Quill, Rita considered flying away, but her reporter’s instincts told her that that would be suicide in the presence of the snake. Finally Howe began to shudder as the Polyjuice Potion left his bloodstream, and he was excused because the Dark Lord disliked seeing his male servants in women’s robes.

 

Rita escaped the stale sleeve with relief once she was beyond the snake’s sight. She crawled along the crack below the first door she found until a dip in the slate floor let her slip inside, where she had two objectives. Second was investigation, but first was privacy. She needed to Transform and record her thoughts. For this she had brought and shrunk her Quick Quotes Quill and a special pad which Granger had modified with a Protean Charm so that writing on it would appear on a matching tablet of Potter’s. This room was well-suited to her objectives. It was filled with shelves of books and specimens and unlit, except by the dim glow that snuck under the door.

 

Behind one of the shelves, Rita Transformed to her full height, restored her Quill and pad as well, and began to pour out her thoughts. It was disorganized -- she would have to edit her work for once -- but it was thrilling. She was detailing the torches, because Potter had especially wanted to know about anything in groups of seven, when she realized that footsteps in the hallway had paused.

 

Rita grabbed her Quill and watched between bookends as the door opened and a man entered in shadow, accompanied by a slithering sound and the chime of a bell, lighter than the gong, yet longer-resonating. As the bell rang in her ears, Rita felt a strange pressure behind her heart, like the one she’d felt when Potter had proposed this quest, as though she were about to grow her beetle-wings. But she couldn’t do that. The snake would sense its prey.

 

She could show her true self, Rita thought, and declare that she sought the Dark Lord to bring him information on Harry Potter’s plans. She could tell them what information he’d wanted her to collect. They would let her live if she could be valuable.

 

But that thought didn’t relieve the tension in her chest. She could step forward and choose to live, but it was perplexingly difficult to fight the intoxicating desire to grow wings. It was unlike the usual pull to Transform; it wasn’t fed by fear. It finally explained a word Rita had always written in the way an illiterate would speak of reading.

 

Ms. Skeeter, the beetle thought, makes the bravest decision of her life.

 

//
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