The Phoenix Files: Unstable, Conniving? Yes. Under Outside Influence? Doubtful
by Josh Kirby
While I find the prospect of Rita Skeeter being more than she appears an interesting and intriguing one, I also find it a highly unlikely one. As was mentioned in the original editorial by Chris, this idea simply presents more questions than it answers, and I would like to briefly refute it.
First of all, I wonder how Hermione would have been able to get Rita to stop writing if she is connected with Voldemort or the Ministry in any way. If, in fact, she is being influenced by either someone in the Ministry or someone supporting Voldemort to discredit Harry and Dumbledore, wouldnt that same influence be aware of her being an animagus, and be able to prevent her from being prosecuted in the event that she was reported? Or, if they didnt know, surely she would be able to inform them after what had happened with Hermione. As they would have both been involved in corruption, they would certainly protect one another. Lucius Malfoy, who I find the most likely person to have been able to do such, as he has heavy ties, obviously, with both Voldemort and the Ministry, would surely have the influence to keep Rita in business. Further, the Ministry, particularly Fudge, made Harry out to be a disturbed, attention-seeking teen, and could have easily done the same to Hermione, saying that as a friend of Harrys, she was making this story up to protect his reputation. He might have even tried to say that Hermione is simply catching Harrys contagious madness. That was a joke, but I wouldnt put it past good old Cornelius.
Back to the subject at hand. If Rita was in fact detained on Hermiones accusations, the Ministry would certainly be in no hurry to get to the case, and undoubtedly would not prosecute Skeeter if she continued to hold their views. We have plenty of examples of how biased the wizard court system is. Politics, politics, politics. With that said, might there have been more to the agreement made between Hermione and Rita? Surely such a woman would not easily be stopped from doing the thing she so much enjoys, i.e.: wrecking peoples lives and reputations. Perhaps Hermione was able to set up some sort of magical vow that would prevent Rita from going about her business anyway. Ms. Granger is certainly clever and intelligent enough to do something like this if she found it necessary.
As for Rita being more than she appears on the surface, non-magical disguise is out of the question in my opinion. It is simply too primitive and vulnerable for a wizard to pursue such a disguise. I do not believe that the Rita we see is someone else taking Polyjuice Potion either, as we never see her drinking anything. It seems like we see her for fairly long periods of time in Goblet of Fire and while the fake Moody had his potion in his flask, we do not see Rita doing anything suspicious, certainly not drinking anything every hour, on the hour. I find the Imperius Curse to be the most likely form of influence, though I do not believe it to be true. If she was under the Imperius Curse, the person who had her under it would certainly not want her to be reported to the Ministry for being an illegal animagus. But as I mentioned above, surely the one influencing her would be able to keep her out of trouble. I believe that when we see her in Order of the Phoenix, she appears beaten and unkempt not from the physical strain of the Imperious Curse, but because it is literally driving her crazy not to be writing. It could also be because she is spending a lot of time as a beetle spying on people, preparing more ruthless stories for when her vow ends. Peter Pettigrew was described as appearing very rat-like after he was turned back into a man after 13 years as an animal. He most certainly appeared that way in the Prisoner of Azkaban movie. I realize we arent using the movies as the standard here, but perhaps something like this did happen to Rita, but was not quite as severe.
I do not believe we know anything about her past, other than seeing her in the Pensieve, but I find it possible that she could have encountered the Potters in the past and possibly developed a Snape-like grudge with the family. If this was true, not only would she take her feelings out on Harry, but she would have to discredit Dumbledore for supporting Harry, as well. This is simply a theory on my part, but it would help explain her behavior. It can be said, however, from the way people act around her, that she has probably done similar writing about many people in the past just for the sake of publicity. If you re-read the last few sentences, you can see a theory reported and discredited by the same author in a single paragraph. Not many can make that claim.
What does the future hold for Rita? I do not think she will play a huge role. I think we will read more of her material in the Daily Prophet, but I feel it could either be neutral or more toward the good side. I do not believe we will actually see her in person in Half-Blood Prince, but possibly in Book 7. While I could be wrong, I think Rita has served her purpose in annoying Harry during Goblet of Fire, and getting the true story out in Order of the Phoenix. She will be of little use to JKR throughout the rest of the series. I think Harry will, in the words of Dumbledore, have enough responsibility to be going on with and doesn’t need Ritas lies to make him unhappy. Happy Half-Blood Prince reading everyone!