AN: Thank you for all the reviews, for reading, putting me on alert, and for favoriting! It means a lot to me!
I don't own anything you'd recognize.
"Ms. Betty Braithwaite?" Hermione asked, knocking on the door.
"Come in!" Betty called from inside her office.
Hermione entered with a smile on her face. "Hello, my name is Jane Steinbeck," Hermione began.
Betty smiled. "Hello. I'm Betty Braithwaite as you might suspect."
They shook hands as Hermione sat down across from her. "So," Betty began. "I hear you have some questions for me."
"Yes," Hermione answered as she pulled out her quills, her ink vial, and her notebook. "I was doing some research on Albus Dumbledore for a history project, and I came across the article you did on Rita Skeeter."
Betty gave her a pained smile. "I almost forgot about that," she answered. "Did you like it?"
"You seemed fond of her," Hermione answered.
"Well, it's what the Ministry wanted anyway," she sighed.
Betty sighed. "This paper, it doesn't work like the Terminus Times, as you probably know. The Ministry dictates everything we write. No, I personally thought that book on Albus was a load of shit and Rita, well Rita was Rita."
"I don't understand," Hermione answered in the most innocent voice she could muster.
Betty took a deep breath and appeared in thought. Finally, she answered, "Rita was ambitious and didn't care who she stomped on, whether it was her partner or her own mother."
"Who was her partner?" Hermione asked.
"Ares," Betty answered. "He did the interviews while she searched for the scoop and wrote, though sometimes she interviewed them."
"Oh. I'm just curious, but why the low opinion of Rita? I mean, was there a falling out?" Hermione asked.
Betty laughed. "Try dislike at first sight! I couldn't stand that woman the moment I met her!"
"Because she was a gossipy twat!" Betty answered. "Call me naive, but when I became a reporter I wanted to report the truth. I wanted to have some integrity, some respect. Then along comes Rita with her self-writing quills which were laughably inaccurate and her outlandish claims! Of course the Ministry loved her. Surely you could understand."
"I know I want to be an honest reporter," Hermione answered.
"Well, that's a pipe dream. I knew that somewhat when I became a journalist, but I didn't know just how bad it would get! I wanted to report the truth, not be a puppet of the Ministry, which is all we really are," Betty answered.
"Well, at least Rita isn't around to twist facts anymore," Hermione answered.
"Her spirit lives on," Betty sighed. "We're a flipping joke now, in large part thanks to her."
"Maybe you could turn things around," Hermione answered.
Betty chuckled. "First of all, that isn't happening with Barnabas Cuffe in charge. Second of all, well, we kind of tried."
"When?" Hermione asked feigning ignorance.
Betty smiled wistfully. "Ares approached me about helping him write a book about Severus Snape's life. He's a brilliant interviewer, but he was never a great writer. Apparently he wanted to get out of Rita's shadow. I was more than thrilled. I mean, that book was our chance to finally show that we were more than just glorified gossip writers. As you know though, Rita found out and wrote it first."
"That must've been terrible," Hermione answered.
Betty gritted her teeth. "It's a really sad day when your own boss takes a plagiarist's side over yours!"
"Oh," Hermione answered. "You must've been furious."
"Believe me, I was," Betty answered. Then, she sighed. "Of course, as disgusted as I was with Rita, she didn't deserve to die."
"Do you honestly think Severus Snape did it?" Hermione asked.
Betty smirked. "If I were Snape, I would call it self-defense. Rita was going to defame his name, and he wouldn't have even known it until it was too late. I can't blame him for killing her, if he did."
"What do you mean, 'if he did?'" Hermione asked, her interest now piqued.
"Nothing," Betty replied, trying to appear nonchalant. "I just want to keep an open mind."
"But everyone else thinks he's guilty!" Hermione argued. "Why would you think differently?"
"Because, well, she's slandered a lot of people," Betty answered.
"But the police only chased after Snape."
"Well," she began as the nervousness crept into her eyes. "The police are probably right, but as a reporter I like to keep an open mind.
Betty seemed pleased with her response, but Hermione asked, "So, who else could have done it?"
"I don't know, Harry Potter?" she replied.
"Harry!" Hermione gasped.
"Yes! After all Rita did write that scathing biography of him a few years ago," Betty replied.
"But, Harry hardly seems like a killer," Hermione answered.
"Maybe he's just good at covering it up," Betty replied.
Some one's good at covering up anyway, Hermione thought.
"Thank you for the tea and the foot oil," Ginny began as Snape walked her downstairs.
"Thank you for the conversation and for allowing me to properly meet your little progeny," Snape answered.
She smiled as they stepped off the last step. "Please be careful," Ginny replied in a soft voice. "I don't want to see you hurt."
"I will remember that," he promised.
"Okay," Ginny answered.
"Please take care of yourself and the baby as well."
"I will," Ginny vowed.
"Give my love to Scorpius and Margarita."
She embraced him one more time. "Goodbye Severus."
Ginny walked to the door and stopped. She turned around and told Snape, "By the way, I like the decorations. It's about time you went all out with them."
"Goodbye Ginevra," he replied with a smile.
She gave him one last smile and went off into the afternoon. Snape returned upstairs and slumped into a chair, his dream from the night before replaying in his mind. He heard a Pop! "What?" he asked.
"Does Master need anything?" Filbert asked.
"No, I'm fine," Snape asked.
Filbert examined him. "Master appears upset."
"I'm fine," he replied.
Filbert shrugged and Popped away, knowing very well to leave his master alone when he was in this state. Alone on the couch, one thought ran through Severus' head.
Everyone I love I hurt.