Apologies for the slight delay in updating, but try as I might to keep ahead, you’ve now caught up to the part of the story I am in. Part 8 is ready, but before we get there, if you haven’t yet read them, the other parts are here:
And now here’s the latest:
She didn’t get to sleep through the night, as she was awoken at 4 in the morning by owl post from Rita, advising her to get to the Prophet straight away, don’t even bother washing up; they had a Death Eater attack to cover.
The vendors weren’t even out selling their wares yet as Astrid made her way to work 20 minutes later, out of sorts, eyelids drooping and hair a disaster, but awake and ready for duty.
“What took you so long!?” said Rita, who looked flawless and exasperated.
“Sorry,” said Astrid, “I—”
“Never mind. Just fetch a quill and follow me.”
The scene they Apparated to was more gruesome than Astrid had been prepared for. They were on a street in downtown London, and despite the early hour, a crowd had already gathered, drawn by the violence.
The body of a woman not much older than Astrid sat propped against the side of a building, leaning into a dumpster. The woman had been beautiful, Astrid could see. She imagined a lot of work had gone into her makeup and teased blonde hair before she had gone out the night before. But now her makeup looked as though it had been through a fight, and her hair had fallen down around her bare shoulders where her top was torn. Astrid took a closer look. It appeared someone had carved a word into the skin across the woman’s chest. “MUGGLE”, it said. There was a lot of blood. Astrid felt sick to her stomach.
A group of Aurors was divided between examining the scene of the crime and obliviating muggle bystanders, one of whom, a middle-aged woman in pajamas and slippers, Rita immediately cornered.
“Rita Skeeter, Gossip Correspondent for the Daily Prophet,” Rita said to the muggle woman in a sugary voice.
“The Daily ‘oo?” the woman asked.
“Would you be interested in answering some questions about what happened here?”
“Dunno much,” the woman replied. “Me ‘usband is a street sweeper. ‘E was doin’ ‘is job and rang me to get down ‘ere, a trollop ‘ad been done in. I came down quick as I could.”
“How did he know she was a trollop?” Rita said, sounding almost overly-eager to Astrid’s ears, under the circumstances.
“Well, ‘e was lookin’ at ‘er, at ‘ow she was dressed, wasn’t ‘e?”
“Would you say that, in a way, this woman got what she deserved, being out late at night by herself?”
Astrid’s mouth fell open; she could not have heard Rita clearly.
“I dunno as anyone deserves murderin’ just for lookin’ as she does…and I dunno wot a muggle is, but I can take a guess,” she added knowingly.
“But the situation could have been avoided had she not been out alone in the middle of the night?”
“Obviously she wouldn’t’a been walkin’ in the pathway of a murderer otherwise.”
“Thank you,” Rita said, looking delighted. She grabbed a nearby Auror by the arm and said, “This one can be obliviated now; I’m through with her.”
Astrid rushed over. “Weren’t those leading questions you were asking just now?”
“Hm?” said Rita.
“That woman. You asked her leading questions. You know, a question designed to get the answer you want?”
Rita looked disinterestedly at Astrid. “How else do you expect to get the best quotes?”
“But that’s unethical!” said Astrid, though Rita had already approached another bystander and made no sign that she had heard Astrid, or cared.
Bozo pushed past Astrid with a smirk. “Why don’t you stay out of the way and let the big kids do the job, eh?” he said, promptly turning his back on her.
She heard Rita asking a young man whether he had seen anything suspicious.
“I didn’t see anything myself, but I did hear there were a few fellows in dark robes, like judges or summat.”
“How interesting,” said Rita. “Would you say they were wearing masks?”
“Yeah, that’s what I heard, all right. Big scary ones, like–like animal skulls, someone said!”
“Perhaps like….” Rita paused as though to find the right words. “Perhaps like a…Satanic…ritual?”
Astrid rolled her eyes.
The man’s face lit up. “Just like that!” he said. “Did you see what they wrote on her? ‘Muggle’, it said. That’s a term from Demonology, it is!” He nodded emphatically.
“Would you call this a ritualistic human sacrifice?”
“Absolutely,” the man said. “I don’t know what demons they were trying to summon, but there’s evil in the air, you know? You can feel it, can’t you?”
“Almost like the…End of Times?”
“It feels just like that!” the man said, as though he had lived through the End of Times countless times before and this was just par for the course. Astrid couldn’t resist an audible “tut” and the man looked over at her, surprised. She pretended to cough.
“So this must be the work of someone very evil indeed?” Rita pressed.
“Mebbe…mebbe Lucifer himself!”
Astrid was in disbelief. This couldn’t be how things were done at the biggest newspaper in the British wizarding world…could it?
Thanks for reading! Here’s the next part!