AN: So this is my first ever first-person story and something a bit different to what I normally write. This is a post-Hogwarts story that looks at the Battle of Hogwarts and how it affected both the people who fought and the ones who didn't. Tracey Davis is the main lead here, but there's plenty of characters we know and love plus some you won't have met yet. Hopefully, you like it and let me know how you feel in the review section. For fans of Consquence of Living that story is still being written at the same time.
Chapter One: George Weasley
Witch Weekly. A magazine for forty-something housewives, all cooking tips, sewing patterns and slightly overbearing advice on just how to please your man, right? Well, yes. It was. But a few years ago, that all changed. With the end of the Wizarding War, yes we still use 'wizard'-ing instead of magic, came a whole lot of wholesale changes. Everywhere. Literally everywhere. You name it there were privileged white men being thrown from their hundred-year-old perches.
The Ministry changed. Department heads from muggleborn families skyrocketed as, embarrassed by the fact the ministry was about as gold around a Niffler when it came to be taking over by You Know Who, the old guard was quickly and very quietly retired. In came those overlooked for a promotion. The people whose faces just didn't quite fit were suddenly in demand.
But it wasn't just the Ministry. The Prophet took a hard look at itself and started doing some actual journalism, who knew they actually knew what that was? Then came the new look Witch Weekly. For all witches. Young, old and in between. The new editor blew away the cobwebs, she certainly upset the Gringotts cart, that's for sure. They took a hit at first, but when Hogwarts girls and young professionals started actually taking it seriously, the magazine was suddenly important again.
That's where I come in. A few years at the Prophet doing 'My Kneazle saved my marriage' and '30 broom shops you need to try this summer' the new look Weekly came calling. Honestly, I was a little scared. Okay, you got me, I was terrified. Weekly went from this fuddy-duddy, snorefest to something actually worth reading. The articles were shaping lives, giving young witches power, and they wanted me to help do that. Me, Tracey Davis, a 26-year-old writer with over two-thousand articles to her name and only a handful that actually mattered.
The first few months, let me tell you, they were stressful and hard and exhausting. Long hours, fast days. But that's not where our story starts. This is just background. Because where we really start is pitch day. Monday 2nd of April. It was raining, obviously this is Britain not Hawaii, and I was running late. In a world of magic and instant travel who could be late? Me, apparently. And all because my flatmate had a man over, refused to give me the shower until five minutes before I had to leave and I'd spent the weekend on the sofa reading, eating, reading and, you guessed it, drinking.
We're based in a seemingly derelict printing shop. I say seemingly because to the muggle eye that's all it is. An eyesore you walk past every day, with its faded, red door and large dirty windows. They walk past, every single day, some look. Most ignore it. Too busy on their phones, listening to music, or nearly being run over by the cyclists driving at a million and one miles per hour.
Anyway, it was through the paint-chipped, beautiful Victorian door that I hurled myself through on that fateful Monday morning. I waved my pass to Eric, who sits on the security desk and likes chocolate frogs, and practically sprinted to my meeting. We use the old printing presses for production, so our workspace is on a mezzanine above them. Wearing high heels is a mistake you only make once, trust me. Through the maze of cubicles was a conference room, formerly the foreman's office, and it was here that - after catching my breath - I walked in five minutes late and in the middle of the pitch plan.
"Sorry I'm late."
"No, you're just on time," Katherine Ostler, the inventive, risk-taking and inspiring editor I mentioned earlier, said with a wave of her hand as I took my seat next to my colleague, friend and occasional life guru Alice Twain. Alice had been with Weekly a year less than me, but already I felt like she was much better than I was. "We were just about to get onto the anniversary issue."
Damn. Somewhere between my fourth and fifth glass of wine the night before, I'd remembered about the Battle of Hogwarts. The day the world changed. Next month was the ten year anniversary and that meant a dedicated special issue. Every year, some poor sap got stuck with trying to get the heroes of Hogwarts interviews and every year they failed.
"So, we all know this is always a success. Our readers love the story, they know it, of course, but they love a fresh angle. That new reason to look back. Any ideas?"
This was the point where I was normally ready with notes, ideas, pitches and fresh suggestions. But thanks to the lateness of my arrival that morning, my normal fifteen minutes before pitch meetings where I honed everything I had, was dead in the water. So, as pitch after pitch arrived from my colleagues I was left with a blank. I met Katherine's soul-seeing hazel brown eyes as after everyone took their turn she looked at me. She could see it. I might as well have written 'BLANK' on my forehead.
That was the worst part. The expectation from everyone else. We'd had 'ten years later, where are the Death Eaters' families now?' 'How war shaped equality' and a whole bunch of great ideas.
"Interviews? You were in their year, right?" That was it. That was the moment. The yawning pit of despair, rejections and a failed article to present to Katherine the day before publication opened up and swallowed me whole. And I couldn't say no. There was no great idea, no wonderful spark flying from the scrambling thoughts all ducking for cover in my exhausted, wine-riddled brain. Nothing. Not a single thing to save me.
"I was," I remember nodding, like it was a good idea. Like I was actually going to be able to convince literal heroes to talk to me. Heroes, by the way, who hated the press. Ron Weasley once trapped a reporter in his family's joke shop when they asked for an interview. Hermione Granger was nice enough but kept it so beige it might as well be a Skeeter scoop in Katherine's eyes and as for Potter, Merlin, trying to talk to him was like asking a troll to learn tap.
"Great, and you've all got your articles prepped for this week's issue. Edits will be handed out shortly. I want them done by tomorrow, no exceptions. And Tracey, a word?"
The rest left like the treacherous cowards they were. Alice, at least, gave me a small shoulder squeeze before fleeing to the safety of the mez. That left me and Katherine. A position I still hate being in to this day. Being with Katherine makes anyone feel inadequate. Not because she puts people down, but because standing next to her just makes you look worse by comparison. She had a fierce, no-nonsense demeanor that always made me feel like a stupid child.
She cocked her head, resting her chin on her slender, dark-skinned hand. Her grey hair, which always framed her face in the perfect way, clung to the emerald sleeve of her robes. Dark eyes met mine, regarding me for a second time that day like she was looking for an answer I couldn't give.
"I assume you have a good reason for being late?"
"My roommate stole the shower." Stupid, but the truth. That was something, right? Katherine's face betrayed nothing.
She hummed gently, then nodded. "Make sure she doesn't do it again."
"Of course," like I could ever convince Daphne to do something she didn't want to. The girl was infuriating, but also one of the best friends I had ever had so I always let it slide.
"I know you don't want the interviews," Katherine continued, taking a sip from her tea and leaning back confidently in her chair. Everything she did exuded confidence. She was always so relaxed. So infinitely unflappable. Unlike me, who seemed to go from one flap to another. "I know nobody does. Do you know why I keep giving them out?"
"Because they'd sell well?"
"Because everyone wants to hear their story. And yes, it would sell well, but it's more than that. Imagine being a young woman, or man for that matter, who is sitting at Hogwarts right now thinking they can't do anything. Now imagine that person reading what someone their age did and not just Harry Potter, his friends, their families. Weekly want to tell their stories. For us it's more than a money-spinner, it's about showing people they don't have to live the way they're told.
"And I asked you because you're the best shot we have. You're resourceful, the right age and I've seen you do far more with much less."
The best shot we have. Even she knew it was a long-shot. Take away the compliments and inspiration and that's all it was. But it was Katherine telling me to do it, so that's what I did. I sent owls, I got rejections. I sent more. I got nothing. An entire week went by and nothing. Not one answer. So I widened my net. Not just the main few. Finnegan. Thomas. Johnson. Bell. Chang. All of them. Anyone and everyone I could think of.
"I'm going to fail." It was almost a week and a half later and I was staring at my every growing stack of rejections, piling higher than my typewriter and threatening to tip off the desk if someone so much as nudged it. Alice, who was happily typing up her article two weeks before it was due, flicked her blue eyes up at me and smiled. She was the embodiment of elegance. Perfect long blonde hair, styled in waves that managed to stay springy throughout the day. Her crisp white blouse was tucked into muggle jeans, she liked owning the fact she was muggleborn.
"You won't fail. And if you do, so what? No-one's ever got it."
"But Katherine —"
"Will understand," Alice said, reassuringly. "Look around, Justin," she pointed to the bald-headed relic of a writer who still hung around from the old days because he was damned good at his job, despite his occasionally frustrating sexism, "and Geri," the lifestyle writer who was busy examining what looked suspiciously like muggle dildos, "and me. I got it when I first came, remember? And what did you say?"
"That you're a badass who'll make a great story out of anything?"
"There was definitely more swearing, but yes," Alice beamed, leaning past the divide to squeeze my hand. "So you got this and if you don't, that's okay too."
"I know," it was as whiny as it probably sounds. In my defence, I was tired, grumpy and rereading Ron Weasley's very polite, short and definite no for the fifteenth time that day. Being rejected by a celebrity, one I grew up with and definitely didn't have a crush on, was easily the worst thing to happen that week despite Daphne waking me up at 2am with a very vocal and apparently long-lasting friend. "I just want to do a good piece. It just sucks, they don't want to talk about it."
"Maybe that's the problem, maybe you should try asking them what they do want to talk about?" Alice always had a way of looking at things differently than I did.
"Well," she shifted her chair so that she didn't need to crane her neck over the divide to look at my slowly sagging form. "Wheezes are opening in Hogsmeade this week, right? Maybe say we're looking to do a feature on the new shop, then just sneak it in?"
"Sneak it in?"
"Yeah, like, oh, by the way, while I've got you we're doing this really cool thing, our readers would love to hear, wouldn't it be great if, you know the sort."
"And when we don't do a feature on their joke shop?"
"You get the interview, we'll do a feature on their joke shop." She was always so unbelievably confident.
"But joke shops are lame." That one was definitely whiny. I do not do well on no sleep.
"And so is trying to become your chair," Alice pointed out, patting my leg and swiveling back to her desk. "No excuses. Go."
And it worked. It actually worked. Probably because the market for Weasley's Wizard Wheezes was about 80% male after their love potions were banned for being too effective. I didn't tell Katherine just how I landed the interview and I certainly didn't tell George Weasley that Katherine hadn't green-lit or even heard of my idea to feature their joke shop in our upcoming issue.
We met in Hogsmeade the next day. I dressed early, stole the shower from Daphne for a change, tied up my auburn hair, put on more makeup than I probably should have done and left far too early to be considered reasonable. Refused to admit my mistake by going back and ate a very unappetising sandwich in Covent Gardens until it was time to actually appear in the tiny village I'd spent so many memorable weekends in.
It was strange, being back in the village. Without the Hogwarts students swarming down from the school, it was actually quite peaceful and quaint. The locals were friendly enough and Madam Rosmerta, who still hadn't retired from running the Three Broomsticks, gave me a friendly wave when she saw me on the street. Good old Rosy. The stories she could tell. I made a mental note to suggest her for the next issue before making my way to the old Zonko's shop.
"Ah, welcome!" George Weasley, his red hair receding and his smile too professional, announced happily when I walked through the hole in the wall where the door should have been. The shop was practically falling apart, thanks to the fact that Zonko's had left three years before. The ceiling leaked. Puddles gathered just in front of the counter and a layer of dust so thick it could rival Goyle's intelligence sat on the shelves.
"We're still in the getting to know you phase," he explained, cheerfully as somewhere in the depths of the shop a shelf fell apart of its own accord. "But we'll have her fixed up in no time. Angelina's just out, so you've got me, that alright?"
"That's perfect," I nodded. The wonderful thing about magic was what would take muggles a few weeks, George would get done in a day or two. "How are you finding the new premises?"
After all, it was supposed to be a joke shop feature. The interview was light, informative and easy. George Weasley was the perfect interviewee. Charming, open and happy to self-promote while self-aware enough that he didn't sound arrogant. By the end of our talk I was almost sad that this was all for a 'fake' story.
"I think that's everything," I said, wrapping up my list of questions. Even in the Wizarding World notepads were easier to write on that rolls and rolls of parchment. George grinned happily from his position opposite me at the counter, where we had come to rest after his brief tour of the half gutted joke shop.
I almost bottled it. I wanted to. The Prophet prepared for a life of intruding on people's grief, tributes, obits, suspicious deaths and sad farewells. Tears, screams, slammed doors. The works. Asking him what I had to ask would bring back memories of his brother. Sometimes, I hate being a reporter. People will call us callus, we're not, well not all of us. Some are. Mungo's stalkers especially, but people like me and Alice, we just have to try and share a story we think will inspire or help people.
"We're also doing something else, I was wondering if you could help me with?"
"Yeah, go for it!" George grinned.
God, I wanted to leave so badly. I remember how sick sitting there made me feel. There's no feeling quite like the anxiety before asking questions you just know are going to be upsetting. Nothing can prepare you for it and it only gets slightly easier.
"We're doing a feature on what happened ten years ago, we're trying to —"
"No." It was the hardness in his voice that hurt most.
"Can I explain?" I stuttered, almost falling over myself to hurriedly get a word in before he slammed the proverbial door in my face. "Just a minute, hear me out and if you still don't wanna talk then fine, we don't have to. I'm not looking to trip you up or anything. I promise."
He considered me, his face scrunched and his lips pursed. I thought he was going to chuck me out, but instead he just nodded. I'd like to say I was cool like Katherine or confident like Alice, but I was neither. Just a bumbling idiot, but it seemed to be working. Somehow.
"We're, well, we're trying to interview people from the battle and, no we're not looking for gory details or tragic accounts. We want to inspire people, with your stories because what you did, what you stood for, how you fought against something entire generations were terrified to even speak about is incredible.
"I was there, you know, I was in Slytherin so we were just sent to the dungeons. Like all of us wanted to try and jinx you." I'd never really spoken to anyone but Daphne about this before, but the words just escaped my lips. "And it was horrible. To hear. You all fighting. Risking your lives and we were just locked down there. They locked the dungeons, did you know that? I just wish, I'd known someone like you back then. I wish someone told me that it was okay to stand up. To fight. That I could make a difference.
"That's what we want. We want to show those kids there now or people just out of school they can make a difference. What they do matters. This gives us that chance and I get journalists have harassed you, stalked you guys, so why would you want anything to do with us? But I promise, you don't want me to say anything I won't. I just —"
I remember not speaking for a full ten seconds. Just gaping at him like a Niffler having its horde stripped from it. "I'm sorry?"
"I'll help you. So, what you got?"
"Right, okay, cool." Really covered myself in glory there. "I guess my first question is, how did you decide you wanted to fight?"
"It wasn't really a choice, not there and then. Our folks were fighting for years, Ron and Harry and the others, they'd obviously been doing stuff for years. Then when he came back," George blew out a long sigh, "our brother, Percy, he turned his back on us. Said Voldemort wasn't back, said the Ministry were right - this was back when they were spouting rubbish about Harry saying Voldemort being back was lies.
"Anyway, after that, we always stuck by Harry, you know? It was just the right thing to do."
"The right thing?"
"Yeah, I mean, you can't ignore nutters like Voldemort."
"Plenty of people did, I'm not trying to say you were wrong. Quite the contrary. I just want to show you that what you did was exceptional."
"Didn't feel like it," George grimaced. "It just felt like standing up and being counted, when it mattered." He drummed his fingers on the counter, looking off the way people who have trouble facing their past always did. The only sound was the scratching of my notes and the wind that had picked up outside blowing a gale through the tiny village. "People always think it's this big thing. What we did. I guess it was, but it just felt right. I can't really explain it. Sorry, that's probably not helpful."
"No, no it's great."
"Truth is we're not inspiring really, anyone could've done what we did. We were the ones 'cause we knew Harry, 'cause mum and dad were already fighting, we just kind of fell into it all and when you're faced with walking away…" he paused, sighing again. "Well, walking away would've hurt more than fighting."
"And do you regret it?"
"No," the silence that followed his words seemed to leave the unsaid specter of what my words hinted at. "We all knew what we were signing up for. And it was worth it, in the end. I didn't think so for a while. A long time actually. Look, do you mind if we stop there?"
"Yeah, no, of course."
"Sorry, I just…"
"No, I get it. Thank you, really. I, we appreciate it."
"And you think it'll help?" There was genuine curiosity in his voice.
"I do, I think anyone like you telling us what it was like, showing everyone you can make a difference. I think that matters."
"Yeah," George nodded, humming slightly. "I'll see if the others would be happy to have a chat, if you want?"
It was that moment that made me realise just how different this George Weasley was to the boy who'd flown through the halls of Hogwarts taunting Umbridge and basically blowing up the place. He'd been so full of life then, so sure of himself, they both had. Without Fred, it was almost like looking at a ghost of the boy he'd once been.
"That would be great."
And it was. That's how it all started. Alice's hair-brained scheme to get George Weasley on side, turned into a huge feature about their joke shop in that week's issue - Katherine actually liked the idea before I mentioned anything to do with the additional interview - and from there we got others. Far more than I'd ever dreamed and far more, perhaps, than Katherine had thought we could get either.