Harry Potter and all associated characters and situations are the property of J.K. Rowling. I make no claim to ownership.

CHAPTER 16: Lockhart's Little Quiz

3 September 1992

Just after lunch on Wednesday, a reluctant Harry accompanied a nervous Marcus Flint to meet with Professor Snape to discuss whether the man would allow Marcus to enter his Sixth Year NEWTS Potions class.

"I still don't know why you need me, Marcus," said Harry. "You're the Seventh Year Slytherin prefect. You already have Snape's support. A lowly Second Year like me isn't go to change his mind."

"Bollocks, Harry. I'm the Seventh Year prefect because every other male Slytherin in my class has been an even bigger wanker than me for the last six years. Besides, he loves you." Flint paused. "Well, he doesn't hate you as much as he does most people. If nothing else, maybe you'll bring good luck like you did at the birthday party."

Harry looked up at him in astonishment. "How did I bring you good luck?! You almost got eaten by a children's toy!"

"Ah, but I didn't. Instead, I helped save Rufus Scrimgeour's life and got your Dad to shake my hand even though he'd spent the whole afternoon looking at me like I was something a sick dog had left on his yard. I call that good luck!"

Minutes later, Harry was seriously questioning whether he was lucky at all given the look that Snape was giving them both as Flint stammered out his request to be allowed into Sixth Year Potions despite (a) being a Seventh Year and (b) only scoring an EE on the Potions OWL exam he retook the previous summer. Snape said nothing at first, and the silence grew so oppressive that Harry thought he could hear Marcus's pounding heart. Finally, the man spoke.

"Mr. Flint, do you wish to pursue a Mastery in Potions?"

"Um, no sir."

"Do you wish to work in the experimental potions department at St. Mungo's?"

"No, sir," said Flint who was growing confused.

"Is it your goal to become an Unspeakable?"

"Sir, I just want to be eligible for the Auror Academy."

"I see. Then, your request is denied."

Flint looked stricken at that, while Harry finally spoke out. "Professor, I know you have a strict policy, but Mr. Flint jumped from a Poor to an Exceeds Expectations purely through just a few months of self-study. Surely that shows the depth of his commitment."

"I am not interested in commitment out of my Sixth and Seventh Year Potions students, Mr. Potter. I am interested in academic brilliance. Mr. Flint will not be permitted to enter my NEWTS Potion class... because doing so is completely unnecessary for his stated career goals."

"Sir?" asked Harry.

"Honestly, Potter," Snape drawled, "use that brain that you somehow acquired despite sharing genetic material with your father and brother! Since I instituted a policy of only allowing Outstanding students to proceed past Fifth Year in my class, I have never had more than eight students in a given year graduate having completed the two-year NEWTs Potion curriculum. And yet, somehow, fifteen to twenty Hogwarts graduates pass the NEWT Potions exam every year. Now how would you explain this discrepancy?"

Harry blinked. "I would guess ... that the last two years of the Potions class aren't actually necessary to pass the NEWT exam?" he said uncertainly.

"Of course not!" the Professor snapped. "Do you really think the Headmaster – to say nothing of the Ministry – would tolerate a policy put in place by me that significantly reduced the number of applicants eligible to enter the Auror Academy or to apprentice at St. Mungo's? Especially if that policy blatantly favored Slytherins?

Harry blinked some more. Now that the man had mentioned it, it was rather surprising that his selectivity had been permitted by the Powers That Be for the better part of ten years.

Snape's mouth wrinkled under his nose in an expression of disdain. "Few things in this world annoy me as much as dunderheads who uncritically compare the most subtle science of potion-making ... to cooking. Unfortunately, the reason that comparison annoys me so much is because it is substantially correct. The essence of potion-making involves understanding what ingredients to use; how to properly chop, dice, crush or otherwise prepare the ingredients before adding them to the cauldron; and how long to let them brew and at what temperature. If you understand the fundamental techniques and can follow directions and above-all have sufficient patience and attention to detail, you can brew nearly any potion simply by following the directions, just as a reasonably intelligent Muggle can follow the recipes in a cookbook to prepare any dish. But, just because any imbecile can cook a grilled cheese sandwich doesn't mean he can just as easily prepare a Beef Wellington."

"Beef who?" asked a confused Marcus.

"Beef Wellington," said Harry. "It's a filet steak coated with pâté de foie gras and duxelles and then baked," at that point the boy noticed Snape staring at him with a slightly feral look, "inside a puff pastry and I'll shut up now."

"Please do," said the Potions Master. "My point, Mr. Flint, is that the there are no new techniques that are tested on the Potions NEWT that will be introduced in Years Six and Seven, which focus instead on advanced techniques offered as preparation for a future Potions apprenticeship. You already know every technical skill you need to pass the exam right now. The only difference between the OWL and NEWT exams lies in the increased number of potions you are expected to either brew from memory or via written instructions. That is why my practice from Day One is to write the brewing instructions on the blackboard and give little further direct instruction to the entire class – because that is how the OWL and NEWT practical exams are given. And while my students may whine endlessly about my teaching techniques, they have borne fruit in the form of a fifteen percent increase in the number of Hogwarts students who pass the Potions OWL compared to my predecessor, as well as a twenty percent increase in the number of students who eventually complete a Mastery."

He stood and opened the door for the two Slytherins, making it plain that it was time for them to depart. "In short, Mr. Flint, I recommend you hire a tutor and engage in vigorous self-study for the next nine months. That would be far more beneficial than sitting through a year of highly theoretical and advanced potions material which will not even appear on your NEWT exam. Now, if that is all, gentlemen, I bid you good day. I have the Gryffindor First Years in fifteen minutes, and I must prepare myself for the crushing wave of idiocy that draws nigh."

Once outside, Marcus looked at Harry in frustration. "Well, that was just spiffing! So I just find a potions tutor, which will probably be as embarrassing as it is expensive."

"Oi!" said Harry in annoyance. "I got tutored three days a week last summer and was glad of it. You do what you have to do to win. And besides, it's a good thing that you don't actually need two years of NEWTS potions to take the exam. McGonagall has already said she'll let you into her Sixth form class this year, and this means you'll only need to take the Seventh year Transfiguration class when you come back next year. In the meantime, I'll figure something out on a Potions tutor."

Marcus nodded, relaxing a bit. "Thanks Harry."

Harry looked down at his watch. "And if you'll excuse me, I have to go see what the Great and Magnificent Gilderoy Lockhart has in store for us on the first day of class. Probably something to do with exfoliation."

Flint laughed. "Yeah, good luck with that. And don't forget – Quidditch tryouts tomorrow at 3:00."

Harry nodded and headed off to his next class: DADA with the Slytherins and the Gryffindors. Add Gilderoy Lockhart to the mix, and Harry was sure it was going to be a disaster.

Fifteen minutes later, Harry was seated in the DADA classroom, which had three new additions that caught Harry's eye. One was an enormous moving portrait of Gilderoy Lockhart ... painting a smaller moving portrait of Gilderoy Lockhart. It looked like the two Lockharts were constantly complimenting each other on their appearance when not looking out towards the classroom with dazzling smiles. Another was a small cage-shaped object on the desk which was covered by a purple cloth. Occasionally, it shook violently, suggesting that some Dark creature was trapped inside. Oh, and the chandelier had been decorated ... with dainty white flower blossoms that somehow didn't wither away from the glare of contempt Harry gave them.

The Slytherins for the most part stuck to the left side of the room and the Gryffindors to the right. Harry sat close to the middle, with Theo and Blaise on one side and Neville and Hermione on the other. Most of the other Second Year girls sat on the front row giggling with excitement, while Jim and Ron and the other Gryffindor boys were on the back row. Suddenly, the door in the back of the classroom was flung open, and Professor Lockhart strode through, resplendent in ultra-fashionable robes of tan and beige, his wand already in his hand. The class grew silent as he imperiously addressed the room.

"Let me introduce you to your new Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor ... me. Gilderoy Lockhart, Order of Merlin (Third Class), Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defense League, and five-time winner of the Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award. But, I don't like to talk about all that. After all, I didn't defeat the Bandon Banshee by smiling at her, ha-Ha!" Harry and Neville glanced over at each other. That laugh was going to get old very quickly.

"Now then, before we begin the lesson proper, we shall begin the class with a little quiz." The class groaned. "Now, now, it is important for me to properly evaluate where you all are and what you already know, as well as what, if any, particular interests you have within the broader canvas of the noble field of ... Defense Against the Dark Arts!" Lockhart gestured with both hands as he intoned the class's name, as if he could envision it written in giant glowing letters with his name across the top. "Hence, my little quiz. Now, I'm sure you all want to do your best, but I do have some additional incentives for you all. First, the five highest scoring students within each year will win one point each for their respective Houses. Second, if House pride does not encourage you, I will add an additional lagniappe."

"What's a lagniappe?" whispered Neville.

"I think it's a pastry," muttered Harry before Hermione shushed them both.

Lockhart continued. "Each student who scores high enough on the test and exhibits a particular expertise in the subject matter of one or more questions will be offered the chance to participate in one of several multi-year research groups. You will have a chance to work together with the brightest young minds among the upperclassmen of each house and, before the end of the year, will present a research paper germane to whatever research area you pursue. This paper, along with attendance and participation in the group meetings, will constitute 40% of your final grade, with the remaining 60% coming from the final exam."

At that, Harry and Hermione looked at each other sharply. Forty percent of the final grade coming from a research paper?

"But for those of you who do not score well enough on the test to participate in these research projects, do not despair! For instead of a research paper, 40% of your grades will come from elsewhere. You see, I have long believed that magical skill is not enough to defend one's self against that which crawls out of the dark places to threaten us. No, no, my young students! One must also be physically fit and martially proficient. Thus, those who do not score high enough on the quiz to be placed in a research group will instead undertake a course in physical fitness, conditioning and self-defense which I will teach each day Monday through Friday starting at 7:00 a.m. This course will be mandatory for all those not assigned to one of the research groups, with attendance and participation in it again making up 40% of your final grade for the year. Any questions?"

There were none, because the entire class was staring at Lockhart with their mouths agape in complete horror. Physical fitness?! Self-Defense?! Starting at dawn for five days a week?! And it's 40% of the final grade?!

"No questions! Excellent! I'm delighted to see how attentive you all are. Now, you have one hour to complete the quiz. Good luck to you all!" And with that, he gestured with his wand towards a thick stack of papers on his desk which promptly flew up and distributed themselves throughout the class. Harry grabbed his eagerly, scanned the first two questions, and nearly shouted out a profanity.

1. What is Gilderoy Lockhart's birthday?

2. What is Gilderoy Lockhart's favorite color?

Harry's head jerked up and he stared at the professor in a fury, but the man was paying the class no mind. Instead, he was sitting in a chair behind his desk with his feet propped up while he read from his own autobiography that was levitating in the air above him! With an audible growl, Harry returned to the exam, and he was relieved to see that, after the first few personal questions about the pompous instructor, the exam turned to more legitimate DADA topics.

7. Give a brief physical description of each of the following creatures as well as one viable approach for dealing with them in the wild: grindylows, hinkypucks, doxies, runespoors, bowtruckles, and gnomes.

8. Name the most effective spell you can think of to defend against each of the following: vampires, hags, Dementors, werewolves, boggarts, and lethifolds.

9. List the three chief weaknesses of the Protego shield.

10. Describe the purpose and function of a Rememberall.

11. What possible advantages do conventional non-magical hand-to-hand combat techniques hold over wand magic when engaged in a fight with a dark wizard? For bonus points: Do you have any formal training in any form of martial arts? If so, tell me what form you have studied and what degree of training you have reached.

As the exam progressed, however, the questions became much more ... unusual. Some seemed incredibly arcane for a Second Year class. Others seemed so philosophical and subjective that Harry had no idea what might be considered a "correct" answer.

16. Explain your understanding of the term "dark magic."

17. Is there such a thing as "light magic"? Or "grey magic"? If you say yes for either or both, explain your understanding of what those terms mean.

18. What is an "esoteric" spell, and how is it distinct from most of the "standard" spells you have studied so far in your education?

25. Close your eyes and think about your happiest memory. Describe how it makes you feel. You may include personal information about your chosen memory for context if you wish, but it is not required if the memory is too personal to share.

33. Do you play Quidditch? If so, what position do you favor and how skilled do you consider yourself to be at it?

34. Are you familiar with the Muggle sport known as ping-pong? If so, how proficient are you at it?

Around that point, Harry and Neville were both startled to hear Hermione utter a very soft expletive. Astonished that anything in Lockhart's exam could so shock his demure friend, Harry looked ahead to the next page and immediately realized what had triggered her reaction. He was just as shocked himself.

45. Tell me everything you know that is relevant to the subjects of "nargles" and "wrackspurts," and please cite the source of your knowledge. You may use additional parchment if necessary.

"TIMES UP!" Lockhart abruptly bellowed to the startled class. "You have five seconds to put your name on the top of the quiz if you have not already done so. Then, they will be collected and your grades and assignments posted by the end of the week." Seconds later, the exams were snatched away from the students with a wave of Lockhart's wand to be deposited on his desk.

"Now then, for the remaining half hour, it's time for some practical work. I wouldn't want you all to worry that I was just a harmless bookworm instead of a man of action, ha-Ha!" He stepped around the desk to the covered cage which had been rattling intermittently throughout the previous hour. "Now, I warn you. During the rest of the school year, you may find yourself facing your worst nightmares within this room. Know, however, that you are safe. For I, Gilderoy Lockhart, stand ready to protect you." He reached for the cloth and then paused to turn back to the nervous students. "Please, try not to scream. It might PROVOKE THEM!."

With that, he ripped off the cloth with a flourish to reveal a brass cage containing what looked to be about a dozen or so tiny blue-skinned humanoid figures with big eyes and buzzing wings. It was decidedly anticlimactic.

"Cornish Pixies!" scoffed Seamus Finnegan. In the back corners, Jim and Ron on one side and Draco and his lackeys on the other all began to laugh in relief. Lockhart looked oddly smug.

"Oh dear. And I'd so hoped to impress you all on your first day with a potentially dangerous creature. But apparently, the lowly Cornish Pixie is beneath the concern of such accomplished young wizards and witches as yourselves. I humbly apologize for underestimating your acumen."

At the end of his apology, Lockhart threw out his arms in what seemed meant as a conciliatory gesture, but in the process, he accidentally bumped the cage, causing it to fall to the floor with a crash and an embarrassed "Oops!" from the Professor. The lid popped open, and the pixies flew out chittering loudly as they did.

"Oh goodness me! How clumsy that was! Well, good thing they're just pixies. No trouble at all for you to round up, I'm sure."

Harry had to suppress a shudder – the sound they made reminded him uncomfortably of the doxy swarm, although he knew that Cornish pixies were less dangerous than doxies and there were far fewer such creatures in the room today. Nevertheless, there was instant pandemonium in the class room.

"Ahh! Not the hair, not the hair!" screamed Lavender as one of the creatures grabbed hold of her locks and pulled.

"OWWW!" yelled Draco after Goyle, who'd been aiming to pound a pixie with a heavy book, missed and struck him in the back of the head.

"Dammit!" exclaimed Neville as he attempted to pop his wand out of its new holster only for it to fly out of his hand and land on the floor.

"PROTEGO!"cried Harry, the only one who'd managed to get a spell off in the initial fracas. A brilliant shimmering shield sprang into existence surrounding him, Neville, Hermione, Blaise and Theo. Seconds later, he heard Jim's voice behind him casting the same shield. Unfortunately, he realized almost instantly what a poor fit the Protego was for this situation. It was an enormous power hog for someone as young as him even under ideal situations, but more importantly, it was designed to block powerful spells and attacks at a single point of impact, not to protect five people from a flock of small magical creatures attacking at multiple points. After just a few seconds, Harry's knees started to wobble and his eyes swim. Then, his shield collapsed followed by the boy himself.

"Harry!" yelled Neville as he tried to catch the staggering Slytherin, but then Longbottom let out a cry of panic himself as two pixies flew in, grabbed him by the ears and started carrying him up into the air towards the hanging chandelier.

"IMMOBULUS!" cast Hermione in the direction of two pixies flying straight towards her. There was a flash of light and the creatures were suddenly frozen in mid-air. Harry immediately called out to Neville and targeted a Stunner towards the pixie attached to the boy's left ear. But before it could impact, his Stunner was deflected away by some unknown spell cast by Professor Lockhart. Harry angrily turned towards the fop but was surprised to see that the man was rather sternly wagging the index finger of his left hand in a warning manner. Then, another pixie swooped in and attempted to grab Lockhart's wand. Instead, however, Lockhart's whole body lit up in a soft blue nimbus, and the pixie jerked as if being electrocuted before letting go and fluttering away limply.

"Somebody get me DOWN!" yelled Neville, who was now suspended from the chandelier by the back of his robe.

Lockhart sighed. "Yes, I do suppose that's enough chaos for one morning." Then, he took a deep breath and waved his wand in a wide arc over the top of the class room. "IMMOBULUS MAXIMUS!" he bellowed. There was a much brighter flash of light than the spell cast by Hermione, and suddenly all the pixies across the room were frozen in mid-air, blinking in confusion. Lockhart turned to pick up the cage that he'd knocked over, apparently deliberately.

"Three points to Gryffindor for Miss Granger actually doing something remotely constructive. Though you'd have gotten a full five if you'd thought to use the Maximus modifier with your Immobulus and taken out the entire swarm. WINGARDIUM LEVIOSA!" With that spell, he gently lifted Neville off the chandelier from which he had been hanging and down to the ground.

"Why is it always me?" Neville muttered in annoyance, but Lockhart heard him.

"Why indeed? Does anyone have any theories as to why Mr. Longbottom was targeted in particular? Anyone at all?"

The room was silent for a second, and once it was clear the Professor really was waiting for a volunteer, Daphne Greengrass raised her hand confidently, and Lockhart called on her.

"Longbottom is the largest person in the middle of the room. Pixies generally target mid-sized animals like sheep or small cows and leave them hanging from blackthorn trees," she suddenly looked a bit green, "um, so that their blood can be drained out. Anyway, I just noticed that you'd hung blackthorn branches and blossoms in the chandelier, presumably to imitate their native habitats."

"Well stated and very observant of you, Miss Greengrass. Two points to Slytherin. As 'harmless' as Cornish pixies may appear to be to the uninitiated, they are carnivorous swarming predators. While not as dangerous as their cousins, the doxies, these pixies do carry a paralytic venom, and had Mr. Longbottom been caught in the wild, he'd have been bound up in a tree and slowly exsanguinated."

Lockhart suddenly smiled at what he'd just said. "Exsanguinated! What a delightful word for something so macabre! Makes me feel quite professional to say it! Ex-SANG-guinated! Anyway, Mr. Longbottom, you will be pleased to know that these pixies have been defanged, declawed and de-venomed for academic use. I promise you, I would never allow one of my students to be disemboweled and exsanguinated the first day. That would be terrible for my future book sales, ha-Ha!"

Neville, for some reason, didn't find that very funny.

"Cornish pixies also have an unusual hunting technique. When a pair of pixies each grab an ear on a prey animal, it has the curious magical effect of making the prey weightless, which is how Mr. Longbottom could be lifted up to the ceiling by two creatures who weigh less than a pound each without having his ears ripped off instead. Now, armed with that new information, Mr. Harry Potter, do you now understand why I interfered with your noble but misguided effort to rescue Mr. Longbottom?"

Harry, who had retaken his seat, thought for a second, and then the light bulb went off in his head. He suddenly blushed in embarrassment. "If I'd taken out only one of the pixies, the magical weightlessness effect would have failed and Nev ... er, Mr. Longbottom would have fallen and been hurt." He turned to his friend and whispered, "Sorry, mate."

"No harm, no foul, Harry," he whispered back.

"For future reference, Mr. Longbottom, should you find yourself in that situation again, the proper response is to grab each pixie around the stomach and gently squeeze until the creatures begin to lose consciousness, at which point they will gently float you to the ground. Of course, once you're back on the ground, you must immediately seek medical assistance, as the paralytic venom of wild pixies will render you completely helpless within fifteen minutes. If you have reason to believe that you're entering an area where wild Cornish pixies may be found, it would be wise to carry a vial of Mandrake extract with you, as it will counteract the paralysis if ingested quickly and render you immune to the venom for several hours." He reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a small vial containing a glowing green liquid. "The Muggles have a saying: Proper planning prevents poor performance," he said before replacing the vial and continuing with his lecture.

"Now, Miss Granger answered the question of how best to attack the creatures, though her particular method was sub-optimal. But I am dismayed that no one at all considered suitable defensive options. The two Mr. Potters and, belatedly, Mr. Malfoy tried to defend themselves with Protego shields – nicely executed all three of you, at least for wizards of your age and experience – but the deficiencies of Protego must have quickly become apparent when used against swarming creatures. What makes this particularly disappointing to me is that the correct answer should have been obvious to anyone who read my opus Holidays with Hags in which I defended myself against a swarm of grindylows with the Vestamentarum shield. As the spell's description makes clear, it's a low-level full-body shield with minimal power requirements, but it is particularly useful against smaller swarming creatures of any kind, whether magical creatures like grindylows or pixies or mundane dangers such as bee swarms or piranha schools. It will not protect against any animals much larger than those nor will it block any actual spells, but Vestamentarum's power requirements are comparatively negligible. I've actually had one on since before I entered the room."

With that, he clapped his hands together hard, and the blue nimbus Harry had noticed earlier lit up again, causing a small spark of electricity to envelop both his hands. Apparently, it was mildly painful as he grimaced and shook his hands out.

"Ouch. Now, I'll just put our little floating friends away, and we'll spend the remainder of the class practicing the Vestamentarum shield." With that, he pulled his wand back out and touched it to the empty cage now back on his desk. "Peskipiksi Pesternomi." There was a flurry of motion as all the pixies were sucked back into the cage.

"Was that a spell, Professor?" asked Granger in surprise.

"No, Miss Granger, just a command word to activate the enchantment on the cage that automatically summons the pixies back inside." He chuckled. "We British do love our bad puns, don't we."

Later, as the class was leaving, Blaise leaned in to Harry with a smirk. "Well?"

"Alright, you win. There's more to Lockhart than meets the eye. He's not just a pompous fraud."

But then Blaise's smirk faded as Harry looked him in the eye with a serious expression. "So you tell me: why is he pretending to be a pompous fraud?"

The next chapter will be uploaded on Monday, October 19, 2015. "Team-Building Exercises (Pt. 1)." Quidditch tryouts, followed by a friendly match against the Gryffs. Then, Hermione gains a new respect for Professor Lockhart, while Draco finds himself in extremely unfamiliar territory.

AN 1: Lockhart's self-introduction and his dialogue introducing the pixies is taken from the movie (lest the "plagiarism patrol" or whatever that was come after me again.