"What if?"

A Harry Potter story (AU, set in the beginning of HP-ATSS to follow each school year but with trickles here and there from years 2-6) started July 2007, just before the release of Book #7. This tale ignores DH and subsequent revelations about canon characters and timelines. It is, for the most part, RaM-verse compliant.

Disclaimer: I am not J.K. Rowling; I do not own these canon characters, and I do not make money from these fictional adventures.

Rating: K+ to T (just to be on the safe side, for mild coarse language and implied sexuality; ADMM and FFPS).

A/N: We find our second-year students in their first afternoon class, Defense Against the Dark Arts with the new Hogwarts professor, Gilderoy Lockhart. Ron Weasley has yet another disaster with his damaged wand before he and Harry serve out their detention the first Friday night of the new term. Later, Ron, Harry and Hermione will visit with Hagrid (and Brian too, although they do not know he is there in one of his Animagus forms).

Chapter 32/?

The Lilac Pimpernel

"And that's time!" Lockhart called after thirty minutes had elapsed, pausing as the students all passed their pop-quizzes forward. "Papers please, thank you. Ah yes, thank you indeed." He shuffled through the stack, smiling, chuckling to himself and murmuring comments, totally oblivious to the looks of disbelief from most of the boys in the classroom (most of the girls, however, looked rather doe-eyed at the dashing new member of the Hogwarts faculty).

Brian looked across the aisle at Dean and Seamus, shaking his head. Rollins already had a fairly low opinion of Lockhart, due in large part to his cavalier treatment of Professor Sprout that very morning just before Double Herbology: Lockhart had implied that he knew far better than she how to doctor a Whomping Willow. The multiple self-(self-self) portraits of the wizard in the classroom did little to alleviate that impression.

The students had just completed fifty-four questions in half an hour, and Brian glanced over at Neville's paler than usual face. He shrugged and went back to reading the titles of the books piled on his desk: "Break with a Banshee", "Gadding with Ghouls", "Holidays with Hags", "Magical Me" were just a few of them. He stifled a sigh of exasperation and forced his attention back on the teacher standing in front of him.

Lockhart clucked his tongue and tutted as he read the last of the papers, shuffling them back into a neat stack and placing them face down on Neville and Brian's desk. "Other than the full marks to Miss Granger and a well-earned ten points to Gryffindor," he said, nodding in acknowledgment of her blushing smile, "I can see we have much to catch up on for the rest of you lot!" He gave a roguish wink and waited (again) for someone to laugh appreciatively. Gilderoy Lockhart was a wizard who craved the loving attention of his audience… but we're not here to talk about that.

Rollins didn't smile but he did nod stoically in the face of Professor Lockhart's mild admonishment; Brian had only been sure of three or four of his answers on the quiz and he'd attempted more than a few wild guesses on the rest. He readied his quill to take notes as Lockhart made his way back to the lectern with his flawlessly pressed gold robes curling like a shimmery cloud behind him. Apparently Gilderoy felt the need for multiple wardrobe changes each day, such was his sense of vanity.

"Right then, to the business of Defense against the Dark Arts," he began, striking a dramatic pose as he rested one fist on the desktop and the other on his hip, surreptitiously checking that his robes draped just so. "It is my job to familiarize you with the foulest creatures known to wizard-kind, but, fear not! No harm shall come to you while you are in my classroom, ladies and gentlemen." He gave what he considered to be a reassuring grin, flashing as many of his pearly whites as he could, but more than a few of the boys flinched at the condescension.

Brian noticed then that he heard a number of shrill voices coming from behind the teacher's desk, and he found that he could understand their heavily accented and idiomatic English (though he couldn't place the British regional accent as one he'd ever even heard before). He glanced around to see if any other student had heard them too, but no one made any indication that they had.

He sat up straight in his seat now with his interest most assuredly piqued as Lockhart reached behind the lectern and drew forth a small satin-draped cage, rather like one you could keep parakeets in. In fact, that's what Brian was reminded of… the high-pitched chittering voices were very much like a flock of tiny birds arguing.

"Move over, please, Lionel. Come on, lad," he heard one of them saying under the drape. "I would love to Maggie, if this Billy would geddof my bloody foot!" exclaimed another. "Mum, I'm hungry," whined yet another (and this one seemed much younger than the first two). Brian frowned as he concentrated on the barely intelligible voices, and completely lost track of what Professor Lockhart was saying to the class…

"Now, be warned ladies and gentlemen. I must ask that you not scream as it might provoke them." And with that, he whipped away the drape; there were gasps from several of the students. "Yes! Cornish pixies and you see that they…"

Seamus and Dean lost control of their silent giggles, and Seamus actually snorted in derision. "A question, Mr. Finnegan?" asked Lockhart, smiling vapidly and completely misreading the students' reactions. Brian looked closely at the small cage. Even though the pixies were each rather tiny, they were packed into the cage like sardines. He chalked up cruelty to small, magical creatures as yet another thing he didn't like about Gilderoy Lockhart. A few of the pixies were actually getting squashed, bruised and stepped on by their neighbors.

"Well, they're not dangerous, are they, Professor?" Seamus inquired, rather breathless as he struggled not to give in to his fit of giggles. Dean sputtered as he tried not to laugh out loud. Hermione was glaring back at Harry and Ron, practically daring them to laugh though neither was in a humorous mood: now Harry had to deal with a pesky first-year Gryffindor named Colin Creavey who followed him around the castle snapping photographs with his Muggle –style camera.

Gilderoy Lockhart waggled his finger patronizingly. "Don't be so sure lads! I've found them to be devilishly clever little things while out and about on my far-flung travels." He chuckled at his own joke, and even he sounded a bit forced now. "See my collected works for further details of my journeys through the UK and the Continent!"

The pixies were petite, slimmer than gnomes, about seven or eight inches tall (a few were half that size and probably youngsters), and bright electric blue all over with eyes disproportionately large for their bodies. As soon as Lockhart removed the drape, several of them saw the young witches and wizards in the classroom and started rocketing around the over-crowded cage making rude faces at the students. One reached through the bars of the birdcage, pointing and laughing at Neville's apprehensive expression.

"Oi, I'm coming for you, you big gob-smacked boyo!" taunted the largest of the pixies very aggressively; unaware that only Brian could understand them. The pixie looked directly at Brian. "And you too numpty fish-face! You want a piece of this, eh?" He bared his pointed teeth and shook his tiny fist.

Before Brian could reply (and he was trying hard to recall what he'd read about Cornish pixies in the Newt Scamander reference book), Lockhart reached around and unfastened the latch on the gilded cage. "Ready, steady? Let's see what you make of them!" And he opened the door.

It was instant and total chaos.

Four of the pixies crashed out through the large panes of the stained glass windows, cackling gleefully the entire time as they crashed back in, covering everyone with shards of glass and assorted debris. Another pair of them zipped right over to Neville, lifting him up with very little effort to hang the boy from the chandelier by his collar. Still other pixies were tearing random pages out of books and upending pots of ink as they leapt from one desk to the next.

Most of the students cowered under their tables, crawling hurriedly to get out of Lockhart's classroom, but Brian dropped to his hands and knees and crept slowly toward the open cage on the lectern. Three very tiny pixies were there, clinging to one another, and looking around at the absolute bedlam with wide eyes and fearful expressions. Their pointy ears drooped as they tried to make themselves as inconspicuous as possible.

"Hi guys, it's okay. I'm gonna try to help you if I can," he said softly, keeping his voice low and unthreatening. Brian moved cautiously, trying to avoid the broken glass that now littered the floor; he had one or two small cuts on his hands which he ignored for the moment.

"My name is Brian, Brian Rollins. What's yours?" He knelt by the front desk, and leaned close to the three youngsters, hoping not to frighten them any more than they already were. He didn't know anything about pixie biology, but all three were visibly trembling with fear.

The smallest pixie burst into fresh tears, hiding her face into the chest of the one who was holding her. The two (only just) slightly older pixie children lifted their chins and squared their shoulders before they answered. "This is my sister Meg, and I am Fiona. He's Gordon, um, our brother." The chubby male pixie nodded as bravely as he could.

Rollins smiled, immediately liking their courage, and reached into the pocket of his robes to bring out the grapes he'd picked up before lunch. "Pleased to meet you; I never knew pixies could have families like me. Here, are you hungry? It's alright, I got these downstairs a little while ago." He flinched as a poorly flung and ricocheting chair leg hit him on the back of the head, reaching one hand to rub the bruise that formed. Brian paused then to remove a small sliver of glass from his thumb.

Meg, the littlest pixie, tentatively selected one grape and took a bite of it. She sniffled a little, and wiped her tears away with her wrist. She took another bite of the grape, nodding to her brother and sister, who finally reached for their own grapes from the pile that Brian had offered. The pandemonium went on around them unabated.

"These are good, thank you," said Gordon as he chewed and swallowed a mouthful of the seedless red grape. "How is it that you are understanding us?"

Rollins shrugged, still smiling. "I'm not sure but I think it's pretty cool."

"You talk funny," Meg commented shyly, unaware that her squeaks and bird-like twitters sounded funny too. She had disengaged from her sister's protective arms, and sat down cross-legged to get a closer look at Brian. "And you're not scary at all like the big 'uns usually are. Do you have littermates too?" Meg gave a wistful sigh as she rapidly developed a full-blown crush on the second-year Gryffindor.

Fiona reached for another grape from the bunch; this was turning into a rather nice picnic. "Are you a wizard-human like him?" She indicated Lockhart with a tilt of her rather sharp chin. Gilderoy had just had his wand stripped from his hand by one of the adult pixies, and he was making his way up the narrow staircase to his office. His portrait images were tripping and stumbling over each other to do the same.

Brian shook his head, giving a rueful grin as they watched Lockhart's clumsy progress. "I am a student here at the school, and yes, I do have brothers and a sister back home, all older so I'm the baby too, Meg, just like you. We call this place Hogwarts school of…" Behind him, Ron Weasley roared as a pixie bit him on the ear. "Hang on a sec, let me try something." The littlest pixie cowered down at the sight of his wand.

"It's okay, sweetie, I will never knowingly hurt you. I promise," he reassured her, touching her shoulder with two very gentle fingertips. "We're friends now, right?" She nodded, and the three children huddled close to each other. Brian picked up the empty cage and moved it to the center of the lectern. With a whispered spell and a twitch of his wand, three copies of the gilded cage appeared, each with a duplicate midnight blue satin cover.

"Oh!" the three exclaimed.

"We can each have our own room now!" added Meg enthusiastically, clapping her hands and holding them to her chest. Her older siblings smirked at each other and smiled at Brian, including him in their joke. Meg really was a sweet child.

He laughed. "Well, maybe more room anyway, kiddo. I'll have to ask around about a more comfortable arrangement for you later." Brian chuckled, wondering just how he was going to ask Headmaster Dumbledore about a place for the Cornish Pixies to live in or around the castle.

The boy leaned closer to the pixies and was interrupted by the crash of a huge dragon skeleton in the middle of the classroom. He sighed with exasperation, noting that only Hermione, Ron, Harry and Neville were still in the room; Professor Lockhart was nowhere to be seen.

"Stay up here, guys," he told them, glancing over his shoulder at the chaotic mess behind him. "It'll be safer for you… I think."

TBC

A/N2: Thank you for your patience and for reading this far! R&R always welcome.