A Special Breed of Stupid

When I finished reading “News Flash” to the class the other day, L’Owen said, “I love that line—‘special breed of stupid’—I’m going to steal that.  Not for anything I’ll write, but just to say it to people in everyday conversation.”

Nicole thinks I should sell it to Happy Bunny.

Well, you heard it here first.  You hear that line anywhere else, you’ll know it was stolen from me.

When I stood up to read “News Flash”, and L’Owen said, “This is Ginny’s love poem,” Corey said, “Love?  Who does Ginny love, Harry Potter?”  Bwahahaha.

Then later, L’Owen commented that there are all these serious emotions about past high school relationships in our love poems, and that when he was in high school, he wasn’t serious about his relationships at all.  And this one girl told him, “That’s because you’re a special breed of stupid, Professor.”  Then she immediately hid her face and said, “Oh, I’m going to fail now.”

But he was laughing.  “No!” he said.  “No, on the contrary, I’m pleased that you felt comfortable enough to say that.  This is the kind of rapport I like to have with my students.”

So yeah, class was fun—sad, though.  It was the last time I will ever be in L’Owen’s class.  He got us pizza, and the pizza guy walked in with these big gold hoop pirate earrings, and L’Owen was like, “Hold on a second there—show the class your earrings.  Class, look at his earrings!”

I’m going to miss random stuff like that.  He told us he wanted to give a speech that he usually saves for the last day of class, but he left it at home.  Some speech Bill Murray gives in Rushmore, which I haven’t seen, but I found it online.  Goes like this:

“You guys have it real easy.  I never had it like this where I grew up.  But I send my kids here because the fact is you go to one of the best schools in the country:  Rushmore.  Now, for some of you it doesn’t matter.  You were born rich and you’re going to stay rich.  But here’s my advice to the rest of you:  Take dead aim on the rich boys.  Get them in the crosshairs and take them down.  Just remember, they can buy anything but they can’t buy backbone.  Don’t let them forget it.  Thank you.”

I’ve got to see this movie.

There’s this really obnoxious guy at work who seemingly tries to piss us off just by staring stupidly when we tell him he can’t do something or we can’t do something for him.  He annoys the hell out of me.  I don’t like dealing with him.

Last week, he tried to give Michelle two plates, and she’d just been yelled at for that, so she told him no, and he stood there and stared at her for about ten more people before she finally told him, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that, just go and eat that one and then come back.”  And he walked off huffily.

I was complaining to my mom about this guy, and she said, “Maybe he’s mentally challenged.”

Perhaps it is politically incorrect of us, but we decided to treat him like he is whether he actually is or not.  We decided to start calling him The Waterboy.

Thursday night we had make-your-own-pizza night, and during a slow moment, Michelle came up to me and said, “I’ve been wondering what would happen if we cooked one of these pizzas with an ice cube on it.”

I said, “DOOO IIIIT!”

She said, “I’ve got to wait for just the right person, though,” and I was opening my mouth to tell her to wait for The Waterboy, when he walked in.

Well, it came out looking normal, but we’re hoping it tasted soggy and watery.  Jerk.

When I told Sandra, she said, “Oh, you should have done it to Rain Man, too!  You should have put about five ice cubes on his pizza.  That boy annoys me so much…!”

Sandra has been well-trained.  Unfortunately, Rain Man never came through the pizza line that night.

Thursday I took my first and last final for the semester.  It was in history, so when I gave the prof my test, she whispered, “Ginny, do you have any more classes to take with me?”

I whispered back that I’ll be at UNF next semester, and she said good luck and keep in touch.  I am going to miss her classes; she’s the greatest history teacher I ever had, and she’s so sweet.  Haha.

I arrived in English class half an hour late today, as everybody else was leaving, and the prof gave me my A and then he and a couple other girls sat around talking for the majority of the class period, mostly about holidays and such.  He was telling us how when he was a kid in like third grade, it was mandatory that the class get up and sing “Jesus Loves Me” every morning, and his father told him he couldn’t (because he’s Jewish).

It’s a weird feeling—these are some of my favorite teachers from college, I’m taking them all for the second or third time, and now I know I’ll never take any of them again because I’m switching schools.  Strange.

L’Owen offered us all letters of recommendation, so I think I’ll remember that for the future….

I was about to write about the dream I had this morning, when I realized I’ve already forgotten it.  I haven’t had time to refresh my memory this morning, so it just…didn’t stick.

But yesterday morning I had a dream about this huge plant that ate people.  What’s funny is, I think in my dream I actually said, “This is just like Little Shop of Horrors!”

Actually, it was worse, though, because this giant plant (way bigger than the one from the play) had X-ray vision and super-hearing and would slam its way through walls and such to get at people.  No warning at all, it would just suddenly burst through the ceiling and scoop you up in its mouth.  And it grabbed onto things with its vine and pulled itself along.  You couldn’t run or hide from the thing—it was very much like a horror movie.

I have very little else to talk about right now, so I’ll just post this, I guess.

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Creepy Crushes

There’s this guy at work, Roy, who likes me.  He’s really creepy because all he does is stare at me all the time.  He’s one of those runners who brings refills on food when we run out.  So he can just stand there directly behind me for a really long time and nobody asks questions.  He reminds me of Norman Bates from Psycho, just because of how he stares.  It’s creepy, I’m telling you.  Then he really likes saying my name.  “Here, Ginny, let me get that for you” or “Ginny, do you need help with that?” or “Ginny, how are you today, Ginny?  It’s so great to see you, Ginny, because I’m in love with you Ginny” and OMGSTOPSAYINGMYNAMEIDON’TLIKEIT!

*Ahem.*  Now that that is out of the way.  But yeah, it seems like he goes out of his way to brush against me when he’s walking by, and to me it just seems like whenever he does something for me it’s like, “Ooh, I’m doing Ginny’s job” and I can’t ask him for refills on anything because I feel like it would look like I was coming onto him.

For the most part I just ignore the guy.  Don’t look at him, don’t speak to him, unless absolutely necessary.

Then there’s the other guy.  Craig.  I can’t remember if I wrote about him before, but I’m going to tell the story anyway because if I can’t remember then I’m sure none of you can, either.  He used to be obsessed with Cortney when she worked in the café like two years ago.  In fact, it was pretty much the same thing, always staring at her.  Then he found out she wanted to be a director and all he did from that point on was make random, inane comments about movies, I assume in a pitiful attempt to start a conversation.

Cortney invited him to her birthday lunch at T.G.I. Friday’s (why, I still don’t quite understand) and then was late, because she is Cortney.  But Nicole and Milo and I were already there, sitting in the car and waiting, and there was this creepy guy sitting outside and staring at us, and we kept joking about how creepy he was.  So when we finally decided to just go inside, he came up and said, “Hey, aren’t you Ginny?”

I was, so I said so, and he explained that he was Craig, whom I’d never met, and now we all felt better because that explained why he’d been staring.

I told Cortney the story later, because we thought it was funny that we found him creepy when we didn’t even know who he was, and after a brief silence, Cortney said, “How did he know who you were?”

Well, that was eerie enough, until I realized he must have seen pictures in her wallet or something, and said so.  But Cortney didn’t have any pictures in her wallet.  *Twilight Zone theme*

Craig works nights now.  And he knows that I’m one of Cortney’s best friends, and that we’re obsessed with Harry Potter.  About a week ago, he came up to me and said, “So, you excited about that new HP movie coming out?”

I was, of course.  I told him, but I was thinking, “Oh…crap.”

Last night he said, “So I hear the new HP movie’s going to be all about Voldemort.”

I, of course, had known this for many months already, but agreed that it sounded really cool.

As he walked away, the other creep came and stood directly behind me to stare at me some more, and I laughed out loud at the irony of it all.

And that is all for now.  It seems like there was more, but if I remember anything, I’ll post it later tonight.  For now I am signing off to drive to work in the lovely cold weather.

Unrelated Things I Can’t Get A Title Out Of

Last night, while reading a bit of Goblet of Fire to Brother as he ate, I noticed something funny I never had before.  Ron is complaining to Hermione about him and Harry having to go to the Yule Ball with “a couple of trolls”, and Hermione suggests he take Eloise Midgen, whose acne “is loads better now”.  Ron looks at her disgustedly and says, “Her nose is off-center.”  I always just thought that was a really funny line, that he was coming up with this dumb excuse not to take somebody who didn’t interest him at all, when I finally connected the line with another one in Philosopher’s Stone, when they’re discussing some sort of spell or plant (I think it was a plant, because I think it was Sprout who said this) that was supposed to cure pimples, and Eloise Midgen used it wrong or something, “but they were able to fix her nose back on in the end”. I  can’t believe it took me so long to notice that.  It’s hilarious.

I was reading an interview with Danny Elfman about why he didn’t want to do another Spidey, and why he didn’t foresee himself ever working with Sam Raimi again.  Apparently, Raimi became really controlling and psycho during the filming of Spidey2; the term Danny used was “micromanager”.  He wanted to do everybody else’s jobs for them; Danny said he was never like that before, that he had changed since the last time they’d worked together.  Anyway, so they couldn’t agree on anything, and Raimi wanted Danny to write something like this one cue from Hellraiser, but Danny couldn’t get close enough, and he said he wasn’t going to fucking steal Christopher Young’s work, and if they wanted Christopher Young, to just fucking hire him.  So they did, but then Christopher Young couldn’t even get close enough to his own cue to satisfy Raimi, so they just bought the rights to that single cue and used it.  I found this hilarious.  I just had this whole image of this tyrannical Raimi going insane.  “Get me that cue!  I want it!  I don’t care if it kills you!  GET IT!!”

So I wrote an official note to Dann today asking for my old Sunday through Thursday schedule back.  Hopefully this will be granted.  Otherwise, I might just snap.

I’ve been writing a lot lately.  It’s kind of worn me out temporarily.  So I’m going to stop here for tonight.

Anything for the Story

Whether or not you’ve been following along (and if you have, you know I love you bunches right now), here’s the newest section of Secrets Internalized!  I’d love to hear about it if you’re enjoying the story or even if you have a constructive critique!  If you’d like to start reading it from the beginning, here are the previous parts:  Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10

~~*~~

Two weeks passed in much the same way.  Rita left Astrid largely to her own devices and Astrid worked overtime to churn out stories no one cared about, while Rita stole the recognition for any actually noteworthy pieces for herself.

One night when Astrid thought she couldn’t take it anymore, she stormed to Adrian’s desk at the end of her shift, teeth bared and hair askew, and growled, “Let’s go.”

“All right,” he said, wide-eyed, “let me just clear up my things.”

They headed to the Leaky Cauldron, where Astrid immediately ordered drinks for both of them before unleashing all her pent-up aggravation.

“She doesn’t even look at me when I pass her, Adrian!  Won’t even acknowledge my presence!  She’s supposed to be my boss!  I’m supposed to be able to look up to her!  Glean inspiration!  And everything I do is just wrong, might I add!  She finds a hundred things to nitpick out of every story I put out!  And then when I try to do something the way she told me to do it, suddenly that’s the wrong way to do it, too!  And it’s all my fault because how could I have been stupid enough to misunderstand her the first time?  I don’t even know anymore if the problem is me or her!  I mean, it must be me, right, because everyone loves her, so clearly I’m missing something!  I mean, is she just screwing about with my head, or am I really that pathetic?”

Adrian watched somberly throughout this diatribe and spoke up when Astrid paused for breath.

“Yeah, I thought this might happen,” he said.  “You’re not the first, you know.  I’ve seen four interns walk out because they couldn’t deal with her anymore.  And yes, she’s definitely screwing with your head.  Don’t even think you’re pathetic because you’re not!  You do good work with what you’re given to work with!  I’ve seen it!”

Astrid let forth a scream of rage at this.  “And that’s the other thing!” she said.  “I know I’m only just starting, but how am I ever supposed to advance from under her?  With her constantly shitcanning me to everyone above her, how can I ever get ahead?”

“You’re resourceful!  You’ll think of something.  And I doubt she’s shitcanning—”

“I’ve heard her!” Astrid interjected.

“Well…even so.”  He looked uncomfortable.

As Astrid began to devour her toad-in-the-hole, she happened to glance over into the same corner she had spotted Barty Crouch, Jr. in a couple weeks before and found him again, this time dining alone.  It was then that the hatchling of an idea began to come to her.  Resourceful.  Yes, she was resourceful.  If Rita was going to actively work to stunt her career at the Prophet, then maybe…maybe she would just find the story of the century on her own.

She continued to eat her supper, this time without taking her eye off him.  After a while, Adrian noticed and turned to look where she was watching.

“What are you staring—blimey, it’s Barty again!”  He looked back at her, suspicious.  “What’s your obsession with him all of a sudden, anyway?”

“What?  I’m not obsessed!”

“Yeah, you went on about him strangely a while back and now you can’t keep your eyes off him.  Are you in love or something?  I know he was interested in you back at Hogwarts—”

“Not love,” Astrid said, “just…interest.”  She found Adrian’s suspicious a useful cover for her real intentions.

“Well, go and talk to him, then.  What have you got to lose?”

“I’m just nervous, that’s all.  We haven’t been close for years.”

“So rekindle something!”

“There was no kindling there in the first place.  We were just friends, that’s all.”

“Friends, right.  I remember how he stopped speaking to you when you started seeing Dirk all those years ago.”

She took out her wallet, prepared to pay in case she had to get up in a hurry, and just in time, too, for at that moment, Barty stood up.  She hurriedly threw some cash on the table.

“I’ve got to go, Adrian, sorry!”

“Now?”  He turned back to look at Barty.  “Oh, I see.  Best of luck to you, then!”

Astrid downed a shot of Firewhisky and bade Adrian a quick farewell before chasing after Barty, heart pounding against her chest.  Anything for the story, right?

~~*~~

The next section is here!

Astrid’s First Byline

Here’s the next section of the story, which I am titling Secrets Internalized.  Thanks for reading, and if you haven’t seen them, please check out the previous sections here:  Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9

~~*~~

Half an hour later, Astrid found herself hailing the Knight Bus to a small country lane near Sussex.  The sun was high, but the temperature was mild for a June day, and she found herself enjoying the walk to her destination.  A smell like wisteria greeted her coyly, and she could hear bumblebees from the green field beside the dirt lane.  Reaching the address written in her notebook, she knocked on the door to a large two-story dwelling.

For a moment, nothing happened.  Astrid knocked again, certain she had heard a sound from inside, and the door was opened by a round young woman with rosy cheeks and a pleasant smile.

“Sorry, love, had to get my pasties out of the oven!  What can I do for you?”

“I’m Astrid Featherley,” Astrid said, holding out her hand, “from the Daily Prophet.  I’m following a lead about magically modified pumpkins?”  She made the last part a question, feeling nervous and slightly unsure of herself.

The woman’s face lit up.  “Of course!” she said.  “Do come in!  I’m Emma Tarts.  Would you care for some refreshment? T here’s fresh pumpkin juice.  And pasties!”

“Oh…no, thanks,” said Astrid, “I’m only here on business.”

“Oh, but this is the business you’re here about, isn’t it?  You might as well,” Emma said, already leading the way into a cheerfully decorated kitchen.  She pulled out a chair for Astrid and made for the cupboard, where she removed two plates and two glasses.

“Well…I suppose it’d be foolish not to,” Astrid said, relaxing a bit and allowing a small smile.

“Right you are, dearie,” said Emma, scooping two pasties onto the plates and setting one before Astrid.  “Careful!  This one’s still piping hot!  Best let it cool a bit first.  Here’s some juice while you wait.  Auntie Emma makes only the best!”

You’re Auntie Emma!?” Astrid said, instantly recognizing the biggest name in pumpkin juice in Britain.  What luck!  This lead wasn’t such a dud, after all.

“Yes, that’s right!  I own Auntie Emma’s Finest Pumpkin Juice.”

“You have one of the most popular culinary brands in the country.  Why are you seeking an interview with the Prophet now?” said Astrid, readying her quill.

“Well, perhaps Witch Weekly would have been the more logical choice.  However, my main goal was to bring a little light to the world, and the paper has been such an awfully dark place of late.”  She shuddered.  “And after that latest attack this morning…well, the time is definitely ripe for some cheer, wouldn’t you say?”

“Undoubtedly,” said Astrid.  “How do you propose to do that?”

“I try to do my little part every day to bring some joy into people’s lives.  But I’d like to play a more active role.  I’d like to teach gardening classes to anyone who wants them.”

“You mentioned in your message to the Prophet that you had learned how to magically modify the way a plant grows, to control its flavor?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Aren’t you concerned someone might steal your secret recipe?”

“Oh, no, dear, my recipe is patented.  That isn’t a concern.  But I’d like to help others learn how to create more beautiful—and tasty!—things.  Together I think we can make the world a better place, in our own small ways, by enriching the senses.”

“What can you tell me about the modification process?”

Astrid discussed herbology, cooking, and positivity with Auntie Emma until well into the afternoon before apparating back to the Prophet to prepare her story.  Working diligently, she was able to spin together the uplifting piece she thought Auntie Emma was hoping for before the deadline for the next morning’s paper.  Sure, it wasn’t front-page-worthy, but she had worked hard on it and produced a first story that she could be proud of.

She awoke and prepared for work eagerly the next morning, curious to see whether her story would have made it into the paper anywhere.  To her surprise she found it, not near the end, but in the middle.  She read it carefully.  It had been trimmed a bit for length, but nothing else had been tampered with.  She couldn’t resist a self-satisfied smirk as she sat at her desk.

Rita hadn’t even bothered to greet her yet that morning.  In fact, when Astrid had walked past her upon entering the building, Rita had not even acknowledged her.  If she had seen Astrid’s piece, she hadn’t been inclined to comment.  Astrid could see her sitting at her desk.  She couldn’t be sure, but it almost seemed Rita was blatantly ignoring her.

Astrid took the initiative and approached.

“Good morning,” she said.

Rita did not look up.  “Hello,” she said, sounding harassed.

“I’m just going to work on my file, then, this morning, shall I?” Astrid said.

“Oh, yes.  You can add this stack to it,” Rita said, handing her another manila folder nearly as thick as the day before, and turning back to her work without another word.

“I’ll let you know if I need anything,” Astrid said, heading back to her desk.

She was surprised to spot the Editor walking over to Rita’s desk a moment later.  Perhaps Rita had been unbelievably busy, much too busy to make eye contact with Astrid, a moment before, but all of that was forgotten as she looked up and began fawning all over the Editor.

“Hesiod!” Astrid heard her drawl.  “How are you this morning?”

They made boring small talk for a while, Rita’s work long forgotten, before Hesiod said something that drew Astrid’s attention again.

“That new intern you have published something quite unique this morning!”

Astrid saw Rita hesitate for the merest of seconds, glance over, and lock eye contact with her.

“Did she?” Rita said, her smile fading ever so slightly.

“Oh, yes!  Whoever would have thought such a light, feel-good piece could come from a simple story about pumpkins?”

Rita grinned.  “Of course, I put her onto the thing.”

Hesiod guffawed.  “Did you?”

“Indeed!  Scoop and spin!”

“I might’ve known!”  Hesiod chortled again.  “Nothing gets past the Queen of the Quills!”

“It certainly doesn’t,” Rita said, smiling in Astrid’s direction.

“Well, better get to it!” Hesiod said, and walked past Astrid’s desk without so much as a glance in her direction.

~~*~~

Find the next section here!

Dark Muggle Prophecy

Sorry for the delay on the story, everyone, but I’m back with the latest addition!  If you haven’t yet seen the previous parts and would like to read from the beginning, you can find them here:  Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8

And now on with the latest!

~~*~~

Back at the Prophet later that morning, Astrid eagerly reached for a copy of the late morning paper, updated to include the breaking news of the most recent Death Eater attack, and carried it to her desk.  The story took up the entire front page, of course.  She scanned for the byline she was seeking and found it in a sidebar titled “GOSSIP”.  The headline read, “LATEST VICTIM RAISES QUESTIONS OVER DARK MUGGLE PROPHECY”.

Today’s Death Eater attack on a young woman leaves even muggles fearing for their futures, writes Rita Skeeter, Special Correspondent.  Eyewitnesses to the slaughtered remains of the once-beautiful Beth Greeley, 23, Muggle, were understandably filled with dread.  Although of course unable to grasp the true poignancy of the grisly scene that awaited them right in the heart of London this morning, it was clear the muggles could sense something deeper underlying the crime.  One witness, who wished to remain unnamed, referred to the murder as a sign of the so-called “End of Times”—an elusive date certain muggles believe will be brought about by an unstoppable force of evil destroying the world and everyone who lives in it.  This “Apocalypse”, as it is also sometimes called, will revolve around one very powerful dark wizard, feared by many and esteemed by an elite few chosen ones who do his bidding.  “I don’t know what demons they were trying to summon, but there’s evil in the air…you can feel it, can’t you?” the witness remarked.  When pressed for further details, he stated that this was “obviously the work of evil forces” and “maybe Lucifer himself”.  Is it possible there is a connection to this ancient muggle prophecy and the current events of our own world?  Could we be living in the muggles’ “End of Times”?  Perhaps we have more to fear from the Dark Lord Voldemort and his followers than previously imagined.  After all, if they can traverse worlds to do his bidding in attacks such as the one on Miss Greeley, maybe the muggle prophecy has more to say about our collective impending doom than we had previously accredited it.

On the other hand, there is some speculation that Miss Greeley’s death, while tragic, was simply a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  56-year-old Molly Plummer, a tired-looking woman with a Cockney accent as thick as her coif, suggests that the crime was so avoidable, it could even have been expected.  “She were [sic] prettier than she had any right to be,” Mrs. Plummer told the Daily Prophet.  “A trollop like that should know better than to go wandering the streets at night.”  With an expression that suggested she understood more than she was willing to say, Mrs. Plummer concluded,“It’s just one of those things where you keep away from trouble and trouble keeps away from you.”

Just one of those things, or dark muggle prophecy interlocking the fates of us all?  The Prophet leaves it to you to decide.

Astrid was fuming.  She could not believe the rubbish in her hands.  She had been there as Rita had interviewed these people.  These quotes were inaccurate and taken out of context.  The so-called “Molly Plummer” had never even provided a name!  This was the organization she had so longed to work for?

Rita approached just then, wearing a smile that read to Astrid as victorious.  No doubt she was being congratulated all over the building for her latest bilge.  Astrid scowled back.

“So,” said Rita, in the sweetest voice she had ever directed at Astrid, “do you think you’re up to the challenge of your own first story?”

“Sure!” Astrid said, carefully swallowing her resentment.  “What do you have in mind?”

Rita dropped a thick manila envelope on Astrid’s desk with a dull thud.  “These are the owls that come in each day that get left behind after everyone has their assignments.  Many of them don’t get covered, unfortunate as that might be.”  She didn’t look as if it was unfortunate at all, or as if she cared.  “But now we have you to help us with some of the extra weight!”  Her smile brightened, but behind it Astrid sensed something impure.

“Great, I’d love to,” Astrid said.

“Excellent!  Choose whatever you like.  Follow a lead today and maybe see your name in the morning edition.  Good luck.”  With that, she turned and left Astrid alone with the file.

Astrid could see that she had just been handed every odd, dull, or otherwise undesirable lead that had entered the building for perhaps the last month.  Oh, well, she thought, it has to be better than following Bozo and Bimbo all day.  She sighed and began flipping through the file.

~~*~~

Thanks as always for reading, and here I’ll leave you with a preview of more to come!  Here’s the next part!

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Scene of the Crime

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:

Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7

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!