The Phoenix Files: Rita Skeeter—A Liability?

by Kim Phoenix

What an interesting character—loathsome—but also entertaining. Rather than an actual character study, I would like to examine a scenario where Rita may have obtained inside knowledge, and how this might present a problem for the Order.

Let’s begin in GoF when Malfoy and a group of Slytherins are feeding Rita nasty stories about Harry for her latest installment in the Daily Prophet. I wish I could say that I came up with this connection myself, but I did not. I must give credit to Redhen for the original idea.

Hermione is NOT the only one who knows Rita is an unregistered animagus. Several weeks prior to Rita’s capture, a whole group of Slytherins was speaking with Rita in her animagus form. It seems that this group of Slytherins already knew Rita’s “secret.” Do you really think that Rita would have revealed herself to a bunch of 14-year-old kids and trusted them to keep her secret? Do you think she would have taken this kind of risk just to be able to include a few quotes in her newspaper article? No, it is much more likely that the group of Slytherins already knew Rita’s “secret.” Rita’s “secret” is the key to her success as a reporter. It is also illegal. She will be in major trouble if/when this comes out. It seems that the Slytherin kids already knew Rita’s secret and, therefore, she was not taking a further risk by revealing herself to them.

You have to wonder how much information Rita really overheard in the hospital wing the night that Hermione captured her. Rita may know some information that will be very detrimental to the Order should she choose to divulge it. Let’s examine what Rita may have overheard:

1) That Sirius Black was alive, an animagus, and a big, black shaggy dog as his animagus form
2) That Dumbledore was aiding a fugitive (Sirius)
3) That Snape knows about Sirius
4) That Snape has a dark mark and appears to be going along with Dumbldore’s plans

Is it possible that Hermione was not the first person to discover Rita’s secret? What if a Death Eater found out first and has been blackmailing Rita ever since? Or if they’re not blackmailing her, she’s cooperating with their plans. As Chris stated, they may even be paying her. This seems to fit, since many of the Slytherin kids talking with Rita have Death Eater parents. Might this be yet another connection with Lucius Malfoy’s “invisible hand”?

To quote Emerald, “As to the proposed Malfoy connection specifically, I’d wondered at the time I first read GoF just how Draco had found out in the first place about Rita being an animagus. There seem to be only a few ways he might have learned about it: 1) Rita told him herself; 2) He found out by seeing her transform; 3) He found out by overhearing someone talking about her; or 4) Someone else purposefully told him. I don’t think either of the first two methods is very likely because it’s in Rita’s best interest to be very careful about keeping her unregistered ability a secret. But boy, Draco sure does like to eavesdrop! So there’s always the chance he overheard someone already in the know about her and took advantage of it when Rita showed up at school so he could, once again, stick it to Harry. But it seems most likely (to me, anyway) that if the Malfoy family was paying her, Draco found out about Rita directly from his father. Draco’s status as an insider at Hogwarts was simply too convenient a source of dirt on Harry for both Lucius and Rita to have ignored.” Thank you very much, Emerald, for allowing me to use this paragraph.

A mere three months after the GoF scene where Hermione catches Rita, Draco strongly implies that he has recognized Sirius is his animagus form when Draco comments, “I’ll be dogging your footsteps…” on the Hogwarts express. It certainly appears that Lucius told Draco about Sirius and his black, shaggy animagus form. Precisely the information that Rita may have overheard in the hospital wing.

Rita’s “secret” represents a highly useful bit of information for the Death Eaters. Think about the groundwork Rita laid during the entire year in order to discredit Harry. Who benefited from the negative publicity surrounding Harry during year 4 and Harry and Dumbledore during year 5? You’ve got it: the Death Eaters and Voldemort.

JKR has said we haven’t heard the last of Rita Skeeter. Indeed, Rita may have a bigger part to play than any of us expect.