UPDATE: 24/12/2018 - Betafied by the lovely Cezza (gonna have to be mean to her now so her head doesn't get too big xD)
She stepped out of the alley into the midday sun, her clothes foreign and uncomfortable. However, she still felt completely at ease in her surroundings. Whilst the equipment she could see being hauled around was different from what she was used to - the atmosphere and the situation were very familiar.
The two types of people - the ones in uniform running around looking harassed and panicky. And then those who stood back, attempting not to get in the way (not that she really did much of that) yet still urgently hurling questions at those attempting to get on with their jobs. Everyone there had something in common, they all were trying to complete their tasks as quickly as possible. One of the sets of Uniformed people (the ones with the funny hats whom she assumed were the Muggle equivalent of Aurors) looked slightly more perplexed then Skeeter thought they must usually look. But then again, that wasn't particularly surprising for two reasons; firstly, they were Muggles and this was a magical crime; they couldn't even see what did the attacking... let alone actually know what it was or what it had done. Secondly, they were Muggles, from what she could tell from her minimal interactions with them, it was a miracle that they solved their own crimes without magic.
She pushed through a throng of her Muggle counterparts just in time to catch the end of a prepared statement from who she assumed to be the head of the Muggle Aurors.
"-12 people including men, women and children. All of which appear to have, after a brief struggle, entered into a vegetative state. It is not clear at this moment in time as to who or what caused this tragedy. Excuse me, I must be getting back."
Miss Skeeter tapped the end of her quill against her lips. Now, how to make this story sensational? An old friend in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement had sent her an owl the second she'd heard where the dementor attack had taken place. She had claimed that it was close to the location an Underage Magic sent to Harry Potter a few years earlier had been addressed to. Her friend hadn't been able to remember the exact address but did remember that it was down a street named Privet Drive. Rita supposed a quote from the boy-who-has-never-been-directly-quoted-before would have to do.
She walked to the edge of the bustle, trying to find the right person to ask. She needed someone with local knowledge, someone who wouldn't ask too many questions about why she was asking and someone who wouldn't recognise her as press. Essentially, she needed someone too busy to notice.
Her sharp eyes spotted someone almost instantly. Tall and willowy, pushing against the masses of gawking people just standing there, shopping bags hung on her arms. Rita stealthily moved forward, assuming a new, random cover she'd made up on the spot.
"Excuse me? Excuse me?" she shouted, trying to push through the crowd towards her target.
The woman looked around and spotted her just as she broke free of the crowd.
"Yes? Can I help you? I'm in a bit of a rush," she snapped impatiently.
Rita wheezed slightly, out of breath but internally grinning, "I was just wondering if you could point me in the direction of Privet Drive…"
The woman sighed and flung her arm out, pointing down the street, "Two streets down on the left".
"Bloody Muggles," Rita muttered at her rapidly retreating back.
She set off in the direction she'd been pointed, humming to herself. Surprisingly quickly she arrived at her destination. Now the real journalism could begin.
All the houses looked the same, all square and brick with a bright green garden out front and one of those Automobile things on the driveway. Now if she could just find someone to ask…
As if she had fired off a summoning spell a woman appeared in the garden of a house further down the street, opposite a house with yellow tape across the front door.
"Excuse me?" she shouted again, jogging slightly.
The woman, dressed pristinely in a light blue sundress with gardening gloves up to her elbows, looked up at her. She squinted slightly before raising a gloved hand and shielding her face from the midday glare of the summer sun.
"Yes? Can I help you?" she asked with a smile whilst clambering to her feet.
"Hopefully. I heard that Harry Potter lived on this street? I was hoping to find him and speak with him."
The woman's smile dropped, "Do you mean that delinquent that lived opposite?"
Rita could have jumped for joy - she'd both found the place he lived and it sounded like there was a story in it too!
"Sorry? Delinquent? What do you mean?" she questioned, trying to contain her internal smirk.
"Well, both the boy and his sister were always causing trouble around here. Went to a special school for troubled kids and everything; not to be trusted. But you won't find them there now. Law enforcement and ambulances came and took all 5 of them, both the Potters and the Dursleys. Why would you like to know? Are you with the press?" the woman asked, an eager smirk crawling up her face.
Rita couldn't decide whether to cheer or cry. It was starting to seem like she wasn't going to get her interview with Harry, but there seemed to be another story here. Maybe she could spin the Dementor attack article and dig a bit more into this supposed Incident and Harry's... reputation in this neighbourhood. How scandalous would it be if it turned out that the saviour of the wizarding world had refused to be the saviour of Muggles too?
"Yes, my name is Rita Skeeter, I'm writing a small piece on crime in communities such as these and the effects it has on... young people's behaviours," she improvised, flashing the older woman a reassuring smile, "for the record, what's your name?"
The woman's smile widened at the sign that she might just get her five minutes of fame. Rita couldn't help but think; bait taken.
Sun shone through the window illuminating the floor of the stark hospital room. It's two occupants were sat in bed reading. Both were skinny, cheekbones obvious, dark circles under their eyes. Aside from this, they looked to be on the mend. This lasted until the bushy-haired owner of the books they were reading dashed into the room, a cotton bag over her shoulder.
Her eyes darted around the room nervously, finally resting on the other occupants. Her feet dragged on the floor as she made her way over to the chair and overly carefully placed her tote bag down beside it.
Harry glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. She was biting her lip, her hands fidgeting with the hem of her jacket.
"What's wrong, Hermione?"
She hesitantly met his eyes and wordlessly reached into her bag and pulled out both a copy of the Daily Prophet and one of the Daily Telegraph. She stood and handed a newspaper to each of them.
However, before they could so much as look at the front page, a brunette woman in a smart suit bustled into the room. She quickly took in the twins, the books balanced on their knees masking the newspapers from sight, and Hermione who had retreated back into what was now considered 'her chair'.
"I take it that you are Harry and Isabelle Potter?" she addressed briskly, looking pointedly at the twins, who nodded.
"My name is Lola Smith, I'm the social worker in charge of your case. Albus Dumbledore informed me of your predicament," she smiled at the three dumbfounded expressions staring back at her.
"As I'm a Squib, I am aware of both the magical and Muggle worlds and so am in the perfect position to deal with any questions that may arise on the Muggle side whilst also being in the best position to see that your guardianship issue finds a solution - or at least that's what the Headmaster believes. He said that you had both been amenable to staying with the Weasley's at least for the rest of this summer?"
"Yes," Harry said curtly.
Miss Smith looked slightly taken aback at the venom in his voice before she seemed to mentally shake herself and continued.
"The Weasley family has been contacted in the interim and has given their consent. I believe that they are intending to visit you both at some point in the next couple of days and will take you to Hogwarts Healer when you are discharged. I got the impression from Dumbledore that the move would take place sooner rather than later - probably sometime around the 30th or the 31st. Is there anything about that you two need or would like me to see to?"
The twins glanced at each other, seeming to have a whole conversation with only a look.
"What's happening with the trial?"
She looked down at the bundle of papers she clutched to her body with one arm.
"It looks like it'll be about Christmas before the trial will happen. Both myself and your lawyer will probably request a few meetings during term time to set out our side and potentially discuss any issues you're having related to the case."
Harry baulked, the last thing he wanted to do was talk even more about it. All he really wanted to do was forget it ever happened and move on with his life.
"Anything else before I go?" Miss Smith asked.
Harry shook his head.
"Wait, you're going already?" Isa asked quietly, confusion written all over her face.
The social worker nodded, "This was only meant to be a flying visit, introduce myself, make sure that you two were aware of the developments in your case - that sort of thing."
"Oh, okay," Isa said, forehead still creased in a frown as the Social Worker left.
Hermione looked up from the book she'd been studying intently for the whole of the impromptu visit.
"Did anyone else think that was a bit… brisk?" Isa queried, one eyebrow raised questioningly in Hermione's direction.
"A little. She may have just been busy-"
"What?" Harry whispered, eyes darting between the newspaper in front of him and Hermione's face. "Is this saying what I think it is?"
Isa attempted to peer over the gap between their beds at the newspaper her brother held but almost immediately slumped back against the bed clutching at her ribs, a pained expression on her face.
"Yes, it is. Isa has the Prophet, it confirms it," Hermione said, nodding shakily.
"Confirms what?" Isa asked slightly sheepishly.
Harry raised an eyebrow and glanced pointedly at the newspaper that was still in her lap. She hesitantly unfurled it, wary of what she was going to find.
Splashed across the centre of the page in huge letters was the headline 'Dementor Attacks Muggles' accompanied by a picture of what could only be the small row of shops near the Dursleys house.
She hastily skipped to the following article and snorted disgustedly.
"Honestly?" she asked, her eyes flashing, "12 muggles attacked and left as good as dead, and all they bloody want to know is why they couldn't get a quote from us?"
The paper crumpled slightly in her fist as she recounted the offensive content.
"The Dementor appear to have attacked close by to the listed residence of the Boy-Who-Lived, who hasn't been seen in the neighbourhood since the local authorities interfered at his home a week ago. The reason for his disappearance and that of his sister, Ingrid, is unknown at this time, but this reporter begs the question; does it have any relation to their lack of support for this community - their community - in such times of tragedy."
Harry swallowed harshly. The guilt he'd just about got used to being there intensified. It was because of him that they both had a target on their heads, and it was the logical assumption that that target was the reason for the Dementor attack. He was responsible for the death of 12 people.
"No, Harry, we're responsible for the death of 12 people," Isa corrected, her eyes swimming with tears.
Hermione perched on the edge of Isa's bed and attempted to look both of them in the eye at the same time.
"No, neither of you are responsible for any of this," she urged.
Both of them looked away, unable to meet her gaze any longer.
"Listen to me, both of you. You are not responsible for this, Dementors don't act without instruction. This is on the person who told that Dementor to go there."
Neither of them looked at her, both absorbed in their thoughts. She sighed, knowing that what she'd said hadn't sunk in. She'd have to continue to work at getting that through to them and pray that eventually, she would.