Chapter Four: That Lockhart Man, a Menace

There was something to be said about the glaring contrast between Professor Snape and the Lockhart bloke. One was a mockery of what a professor should be and had no business setting foot on school grounds, never mind anywhere near a child student or otherwise, had a face that turned Harry's stomach, had teeth out of a horror film, and had hair so coated with unmentionable substances it was probably a health-hazard — and the other was Snape, poor fellow; he looked right miserable sitting next to his new co-worker.

Watching the grinning blond man wink at girls from the Head Table, Harry wondered if restraining orders were a thing in the wizarding community.

"Hard to believe he was in Ravenclaw," murmured Morag, distaste written on her face. She'd read the books required for DADA and had summarily declared it all rubbish ("Not even good writing if you viewed them as novels," she'd denounced). "Proves that book-smarts and idiocy aren't mutually exclusive."

The book-smart idiot in question appeared to be very free with his well-being; for whatever reason, as he tried to chatter to Snape, he attempted to throw a friendly arm around Snape's shoulders only to be shrugged off murderously and snapped at.

". . . Is that attractive?" Harry asked quietly as he plated his food. He looked from Morag to Luna who was seated between them. He sent a sweeping look around the Hall pointedly at all the girls giggling and sighing over the man. "Girls like that?"

Luna's nose wrinkled as she pondered and ate some peas.

"He does seem to be the dashing sort Ginny likes," she said, "and Ginny's very normal, so I suppose she's a reliable indicator."

Harry fought not to wrinkle his own nose at the thought of Ginny Weasley and what she found attractive.

Morag scowled, tapping her fingernail lightly against the rim of her goblet.

"I've no idea why these loons are swooning over him. He's got nearly two decades on the seventh-years. And he's popular with mums and aunties — you'd think that would get him marked as lame just on principle."

"Weren't you surprised I didn't know who he was before?" asked Harry.

Morag sent him a sharp look.

"Don't you go mistaking that for me being a fan of his before. Like I said, he's a big name."

Despite what Morag said about Lockhart being popular with the older-women population, it proved itself to be quite the contrary when it came to Hogwarts. All the ladies amongst the staff and a good number of the older girls didn't seem to have any use for him at all, while basically every girl fifth-year and younger were positively smitten. (Harry ignored those around his year that appeared equally as smitten with himself.) Even Granger was star-struck — Harry was disappointed in her, though maybe he shouldn't have been since she really had a thing for authority figures, and Lockhart was now one of those as well.

All of the first day of classes, Lockhart was a hot topic, for better or for worse. Second-year Ravenclaw didn't have DADA that day, but the man was seen making a spectacle of himself all around the school when he wasn't teaching. Also, second-year Gryffindor did have him that day, and Dean was in a frightful strop about it when they met up after.

"The numpty's as useful as tits on a turkey!" said Dean, working up a lather.

He described the fiasco of a lesson — an absolutely rubbish questionnaire masquerading as a quiz, and then having wild Cornish Pixies flung at them.

"Can you believe the utter gall?" griped Ron, rubbing a spot on his ear where he'd been bitten. "Acted like it was all according to plan! The idiot was hiding under his desk!"

Seamus made a disgruntled sound of agreement, carefully picking glass from his robe.

"He's a proper moron."

Now, Harry's disdain might have remained distant and relatively impartial if he'd been left well enough alone. He didn't exactly have high expectations for a DADA instructor considering that the year before there'd been Quirrell and his parasitic pal causing Harry literal headaches. The bar was already pretty low to begin with, and then it'd been lowered even further by what he'd heard second-hand. And yet somehow Lockhart, that marvel amongst men, ended up tripping against that ankle-height expectation bar and landing flat onto his face with his foot still caught underneath.

He had Harry stand in the front of the class with him and play-act a scene from one of his stupid books.

Needless to say, that went about as well as it sounded. And if you thought it sounded well, then you're greatly mistaken. Harry had never wanted to pretend to be a disgusting misrepresentation of already stigmatised people, but there he was, bullied into portraying an evil werewolf with a fetish for virgins.

It was disgusting. It was revolting. Harry glared in disdain at everyone who stood by watching and hadn't looked as uncomfortable as Harry felt, and his estimation of them landed on the floor. Upon landing on the floor, it kept burrowing, too, and his estimation just went to town going lower and lower, as if they wanted to contest Lockhart's utter incompetence.

Harry left class that day in mute fury, resolving to never return until the man was fired or maimed — whatever it took for the poncy pillock to leave the school and not come back.

Now, despite what one would expect within a boarding school full of literal magic, it was actually fairly easy for Harry to skive off his DADA classes and not get caught. This in part had to do with his inordinate knowledge of the school from his regular romps into parts unknown, and in part to do with his Invisibility Cloak. Handy, that. Harry would slip out of sight into one of his hidey-holes and throw on his Cloak, et voilà — he was free to roam as he pleased, doing any assignments he had for other classes as he pleased. Morag generously told him of any homework to be done, so it wasn't like he missed out on anything to be graded either.

By the second week and the fifth time Harry had gone anywhere but DADA, he was actually thinking about popping in to see how Luna was doing in whatever class she had at that time. His crowd had basically taken the girl under their collective wing, and it wasn't like he had anything better to do; he'd even finished other people's homework already, too.

Lockhart apparently took affront to Harry skipping out on his classes. Supposedly (and Harry could only suppose since the man had yet to catch Harry to confront him face-to-face) the man had tried to assign a number of detentions to Harry for his delinquency, but since Lockhart was attempting to send his edicts through Morag — and since Morag couldn't give a single solitary squirt of piss about what Lockhart wanted — Harry learned about his detentions fourth-hand two days after the date he was first supposed to show up and serve his time from Gabriel Spinks. Who'd overheard from Lisa Turpin at dinner the night before that. Who'd listened in as Lockhart told Morag of it before lunch that day. Who, in turn, hadn't bothered to even confirm nor deny that she'd heard the man when he talked to her, and hadn't mentioned to Harry that she'd interacted with Lockhart at all.

Harry would maintain that his truancy involving the detentions was in no way his own fault, but it wasn't like he would have shown up for them even if he had known he'd been assigned them. And it wasn't like he was attending them now when he did know about them, so . . . Well, no one could prove that Harry was deliberately ignoring the detentions, so he reckoned it didn't really matter one way or another.

Harry suspected the only thing keeping Lockhart from taking the matter up with Harry's Head of House was the fact he didn't want to admit he wasn't perfectly capable of reigning in a student. Not that any of the professors actually thought that he was capable in the first place. Harry wondered how long it would take before the stupid sod gave in and asked for help. He suspected it would be a good while yet.

In the meantime, Harry was having a grand old time of it. He was well caught-up with his assignments, even those that he did for others. He now spent his self-made free periods goofing with the house-elves, listening to the wireless, and playing with whatever knick-knacks he unearthed from his room of fabulous treasures that he'd found the year before.

Actual treasures and questionable objects aside, there were amusing playthings as well. For example — and forgive him that it wasn't exactly a magical item — but Harry found great entertainment with a hula hoop that'd been tucked under a mountain of magazines. He had no idea why there would be a hula hoop of all things amongst the likes of bloodied weapons and contraband, but there'd it been, a bright blue hoop decorated with wispy clouds that whistled as it spun.

To be fair, though, it sort of did count as a magical item — Harry had discovered purely by chance that the whistle the hula hoop produced would harmonize with whatever the person using it would hum or sing.

He also found a pair of ye olde roller-skates.

Dear reader, you might be able to see already where this is going.

Zooming up and down the Viaduct in the front of the school half hidden by his invisibility cloak and with a hula hoop twirling around his hand, Harry suspected he was quite the spectacle. He wasn't so close to the Viaduct Courtyard that the other students relaxing there between their own classes would recognise him as himself and potentially figure out he wasn't where he was supposed to be, but he was just close enough that he could see them in the distance taking note of him and pointing him out to their friends. None of them tried to run off and tell a professor, though, so he wasn't bothered.

Ah, speak of the Devil — Lockhart popped out from the main entrance, his bright robes distinct. Had he ended class early? Harry's watch was charmed to notify him when it was time for his post-DADA classes, and it hadn't made a peep.

Harry checked the aforementioned watch. Yep, there was still a good ten minutes left before class was supposed to be over.

Huh. Suppose the man was looking for Harry again and wanted to get the drop on him.

Pfft — as if it would be that simple.

The Cloak could easily cover Harry three times over, so it was a small matter to hold the hoop to his middle and shake out the cloak so that it draped over him completely from head to roller-skate wheels. Perfectly invisible, Harry glided back up from the courtyard towards the building.

Pirouetting around Lockhart as he questioned a group of Ravenclaw fourth-years also headed towards the Viaduct Courtyard, Harry whispered, "Get stuffed, you grotty gobshite," by the man's ear as he passed, and zipped back into the castle through a side entrance.

Lockhart jolted and whipped around, but Harry was already through the doors and whizzing through the Long Gallery towards the bell towers.

"POTTER?" the tosser yelped, the sound carrying.

Harry turned his head and bellowed over his shoulder, "STUFF IT UP YOUR ARSE, YOU BEASTLY BELLMUNCH!"

He pointedly didn't acknowledge the use of his name. Were he to ever actually be pinned down and questioned, Harry would own up to nothing.

One of the best things about being in Ravenclaw was that no one looked at a Ravenclaw twice for being immersed in a book, even when they were reading in unusual circumstances. Hand in hand with this was that most people, especially other Ravenclaws, knew very well not to disturb a Ravenclaw who was reading. This together meant that when other students inevitably came across Harry sitting on the shoulders of a statue and using the stone head to prop up his book — or sliding down a bannister of the Grand Staircase with a novel in one hand, or barrel-rolling through the grass of the Transfiguration Courtyard with his face in a textbook — the most they would do was stare for a bit, shake their head, and move along without a word.

Harry took advantage of this accepted quirk of Ravenclaws not only because he enjoyed reading uninterrupted, but also because he had observed that once a Hogwarts student came across a Ravenclaw in the middle of being peculiarly positioned, that student would immediately block out acknowledgement of said Ravenclaw, the memory of it turning into the equivalent of background noise. In other words, Harry was gaming the general psyche of his classmates to ensure they'd have no memory of seeing him around the castle, and thus preventing them from snitching him out to Lockhart.

Call Harry thoroughly concussed, because he was big-braining this shit.

"That isn't safe," Morag said flatly, looking up at where Harry was hanging upside-down from a tree branch like a bat and reading a sci-fi novel. "I honestly don't know why you're going through all this trouble. Can't we just duck into one of your dozens of hidden spaces and hang out there instead?"

"I won't be forced into hiding by that fraud, Morag," Harry replied with a frown, lowering his book — that is to say lifting it higher. "It was fine for a while since I do like my cosy spots, but I'm not going to be kept from going outside just because he can't figure out when he's beaten."

"So . . . what? You're just going to continue to make a circus spectacle of yourself in hopes that others will become so mortified by second-hand embarrassment that they instinctively avoid you? And thus can't inform Lockhart?"

"Ah, Merlin, I wish. If I thought it would keep them from crowding and gawking, I'd have started it last year."

Fame really didn't agree with Harry's dislike of eyes on him. Eyes on him before meant negative attention, and negative attention meant he was either going to be locked in his cupboard for longer than usual, or that he was going to be chucked out into parts unknown again. Eyes equalled danger — he'd yet to rid himself of the conditioned avoidance.

The two of them soon met up with Dean and Justin, the former waving off his Gryffindor friends and the latter shaking off his hangers-on who still hoped that being 'friendly' with Justin would get them some status in Harry's regards. (Jokes, on them, though, because the only other Hufflepuff Harry trusted was Ernie Macmillan, and that was only because Harry had blackmail on him — the fact that Harry did his Potions essays.) They plucked up Luna on their way before she could even enter the Hall, and all five made for the kitchens.

Harry now toted everywhere a book of some kind in his pocket, so that he could whip it out and initiate his camouflage at the drop of a hat. Since this was the most trafficked time of the day, he presently had his face glued to Jumper — a book one might assume was about knitted winter-wear but was actually about a teleporting, underage bank-robber. And also a lot of other serious shite. Actually, the more Harry read, the more he realised this book was not at all age-appropriate for him, and he really should put it down and maybe even return it to the bookseller, because, whoa-oa-oa, his primary school wouldn't have let this sort of reading material within twenty feet of a child of any age, but at the same time the writing was really compelling, and the story was fascinating despite the dark nature of the plot, and —

This wasn't meant to be a book review.

Harry glances up and looks at you in contrition. He's been made to break the fourth-wall just to apologize to you for going off on a tangent completely irrelevant to the story, but seriously — Jumper. By Steven Gould. Really unique story. It has some potentially triggering NSFW matters, and every turn the story takes feels like a food-coma fever-dream of riding a go-kart through treacle, yanking the steering-wheel that suddenly whips around violently like someone buttered the steering column, and somehow ending up in an on-coming traffic of clown cars — but the character-development's interesting, and it involves a male protagonist with an older female love-interest that manages a realistic and pretty healthy relationship despite the circumstances.

Is Harry and the Narrator over-selling the book just to get you to check it out? Who knows. You'll just have to go find out yourself.

We now resume the regularly scheduled fanwork.

"What's got you all quiet, then?" asked Justin, peering up at the ceiling as Harry was. "What are you looking at?"

"Contemplation of extradimensional higher beings living beyond the fourth axis and the relation between them and us within this three-dimensional reality. Or perhaps rather the lack thereof."

". . . Gesundheit."

"Are you reading muggle literature again?" asked Morag, her brow crinkling. She leaned to look at the cover of Harry's book. She huffed a laugh through her nose. "Charming. How droll."

"I resent your implications, Miss," Harry said loftily, eyes returning to his book. "I also remind you to be aware of your biases, even those you consider innocuous."

"Right — If you two could stop talking like you stepped out from a Regency drama, that'd be great," said Dean flatly. "Christ, I'm surrounded by swots."

"Hey, who are you calling a swot?" cried Justin, shoving Dean's shoulder.

"No worries, mate — definitely didn't mean you."

"I don't know what a swot is, but you're certainly surrounded by wrackspurts," said Luna, looking Dean over with her odd sunglasses, spectrespecs. "You really should do something about that."

Dean sighed, very put out.

It might have continued being a normal commute to the kitchens if Lockhart's abrasive voice didn't ring out over the din.

Harry stopped, dropped, and rolled into the nearest wall, disappearing behind the tapestry of an archery competition there and literally into the wall. The edge of the tapestry swept back out from where he'd displaced it going into the pet tunnel there, and settled back innocuously, as if it wasn't hiding a secret passage.

His friends paused in front of his hiding place.

"When did you find this one, then?" asked Justin, the sound of his voice slightly muffled by the heavy fabric of the tapestry.

There were shuffling sounds and light dings of metal, so Harry assumed they were casually arraying themselves by his hole, affronting the suits of armour as they did.

"No, don't hang around!" Harry hissed. "This one branches off and ends up in the kitchens as well, so I'll just meet you lot there!"

"How did you find this?" Dean asked as well.

"An unfortunate incident involving the Weasley twins, The Bloody Baron, and Mrs Norris," Harry admitted. "Now go! Seriously, I'll meet you there. Likely beat you to it actually, even crawling."

"You can't keep living like this," said Morag, and Harry could practically feel her crossing her arms.

"As I've told you, I don't intend to. Now hop along."

As Harry army-crawled through the dusty cat corridor, he decided it was high time he did more than run away.

"Comrades," he called to his friends when they had indeed met up again, and the house elves were bringing them food, "what are your thoughts on psychological warfare?"

AN: Go to my Tumblr (high-pot-in-noose) and click "Update Schedule" if you want to know my general schedule for this fic as well as others, and to find out how you can view advanced chapter updates.