I will say, right at the beginning of this tale, that what you're about to read will sound incredible, like some sort of dream. I would have to agree — in fact, if someone told it to me, I would suggest it was a dream, or a hallucination.

But hallucinations and dreams don't persist for months, and the story I hereinafter tell took up the better part of a year of my life. When it was all over I spent days — weeks, in fact — trying to recall all the details of the eleven months my "dream" occupied. Finally, I began to set it down on paper so that others could read, and perhaps understand, something of what I went through.

The evening before my adventure began, I was reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I would periodically pick up different books in the series at random and read whatever page it fell open to. It was a great way to get a quick Harry Potter fix — I would read a few pages, then get on with whatever I'd been doing.

I was still reading Chamber of Secrets as I prepared for bed that night — I don't remember what part, exactly, but I had laid down and was still reading with interest, when suddenly, I felt very tired, as if all my energy had suddenly drained away. Yawning hugely, I laid the book on my chest and closed my eyes for a moment, meaning to take the book up again shortly. Of course, I should have known better, because within a minute or two I'd fallen fast asleep.

I awoke feeling confused and fuzzy, the way you sometimes feel when you've fallen asleep and wake up not knowing how much time has passed. I lay there for some time, feeling as if I was in a dream, then stretched, trying to shake out the cobwebs, and began to roll off the bed.

Something slid off my chest and over the side, and I remembered I'd been reading when I fell asleep. I reached instinctively to grab it, but missed, and watched the book slide off the bed onto the floor. I leaned over to grab it off the floor but saw it had bounced under the bed with a sharp crack. That was strange; the book was a paperback, so why did it make a cracking sound when it hit? Reaching down, I reached under the bed to find it, but felt nothing but carpet. I sighed; I would probably have to get up and crawl under the bed to get it! I started to move and realized why I'd probably awakened — my bladder was full. Deciding I would look when I came back from the bathroom, I slid off the edge of the and stood up —

— and froze, now completely disoriented, as I stared at a wall where the hallway to my bathroom should have been. Nearby was a large, ornate piece of furniture I recognized as a wardrobe. "What the —?" I blurted, but stopped again as I took in the rest of the room. Behind me was a magnificent four-poster bed, complete with canopy top and heavy curtains. Next to the bed stood a pair of matching nightstands, and against the opposite wall were a writing desk and a bookcase packed full of books. Pictures hung on every wall; there were several on the desk as well. All of them, as far as I could tell, were of the same person: a handsome, blond-haired fellow flashing a perfect smile. Light was streaming in from a window opposite the only door in the room, but there was nothing else beyond a few candles and some papers on the desk and a robe hanging on a stand near the door, with a tall, spindly table standing next to it.

Approaching the stand, I saw the robe on it was rather expensive-looking for a simple housecoat, but I couldn't imagine what other use someone might have for it — until I saw the piece of wood lying on the small table beside it.

I picked up the wood to examine it, and instantly realized what it was — a wand. A wizard's wand. "Holy crap," I said aloud, in amazement. "I'm still dreaming!"

And that was the only reasonable explanation I could come up with at that moment. I'd just woken up, I thought, but I must really still be asleep. I turned back to the desk, looking for something that would confirm my suspicion. Seeing a piece of parchment stationery, I snatched it up and read the inscription across the top:

From the Desk of

Gilderoy Lockhart

Order of Merlin, Third Class

Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defense League

Five-Time Winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile Award

Gilderoy Lockhart? I'm dreaming about waking up in Gilderoy Lockhart's bedroom? By now I was too amazed to even speak. I dropped the sheet of parchment back on the desk and wandered into the adjoining hallway, still looking for a bathroom I still had to use, dreading what I would find if I truly was where that sheet of stationery implied.

But everything was pretty much what one would expect in a regular person's — er, well, Muggle's — bathroom, though the vanity was a lot bigger than most men would need or want. I had another nasty shock as I saw "myself" in the oversized mirror hanging over the sink — the person staring back at me wasn't me — and my hair was in curlers! But I'd recognized the person, nevertheless — his image had been in every picture hanging in the bedroom. I wasn't just dreaming about Gilderoy Lockhart — I WAS Gilderoy Lockhart!

The face staring back at me in the mirror wasn't the actor who'd portrayed Lockhart in the Chamber of Secrets movie — this one was even more perfect for the role than Kenneth Branagh had been. His eyes were the purest, clearest blue I'd ever seen, with a perfect nose and mouth. I smiled toothily, noting the double row of perfect, white teeth. The cheekbones and jaw were symmetrical, and the eyebrows had been carefully plucked and sculpted. Even though I couldn't see much of his hair under the curlers and hairnet, it knew it was a golden blond and shoulder-length, like Snape's — though I sincerely hoped it was better kept than his was! I stared into the mirror for over a minute, wondering how I was going to get all that junk out of my hair, and finally decided the first order of business was to empty my bladder and figure things out from there.

I stood in front of the mirror for some time afterwards, trying to make some kind of sense out of where I was and what had happened, if this somehow turned out not to be a dream. Fact: I had gone to sleep last night as John Bean, a typical guy from Kansas who worked as a systems analyst at a bank in an average Midwestern city. Fact: I've read and enjoyed Harry Potter novels since I first saw them in paperback back in 2002 or so. Fact: I now seemed to be in Gilderoy Lockhart's body, standing in his loo, trying to figure out how I got here and how I was going to get those damned curlers out of my hair.

I figured it out, eventually (the curler part), though it took me more than two hours to shower, shave and do something with my hair before donning the robe hanging on the stand in the bedroom. I was putting the final touches to my "'do" when a woman's voice called out, "Are you all right up there?"

I froze. Who else could be here, I wondered, panicking for a moment. The books had never mentioned Lockhart being involved with anyone (other than himself) — I had assumed he lived alone. "Everything's fine," I called out, trying to sound wide awake and cheerful. "I'll be down in a minute!"

Finished in the bathroom, I walked into the hallway and found a staircase leading down to the main level, but stopped, remembering I'd forgotten something important: I returned to the room and picked up Lockhart's wand, fumbling around with the robe for several moments before finding a pocket where he seemed most likely to keep it.

A sudden impulse made me step over to the desk, looking for a calendar or something that would tell me when I was — what year, month, day was it? There wasn't much in the way of information there, just a few scattered scrolls of parchment. I picked up a small scroll and unrolled it, finding a list of books. There was a heading that read, "My current books, as of 15 July 1992." So it was at least mid-July of the year Lockhart went to teach at Hogwarts. Right, now I had at least some idea where and when I was in all this, whatever was going on. I slipped the scroll into a pocket, took a deep breath, feeling completely lost, then put on a bright, cheery smile and walked down the steps to the first floor.

I had no idea how Lockhart's home was arranged or where the woman whose voice I'd heard had come from. The stairs were at one end of a long, spacious hallway, and I could see several doors running along it; on the walls were hung several portraits of Lockhart, all of them flashing brilliant, blue-eyed smiles at me — it was like looking down a hallway of strange mirrors, as they brushed off nonexistent dust or adjusted perfectly-pressed collars.

"Here you are," the voice spoke again, this time so close it startled me. I turned and a middle-aged woman emerged through an open doorway next to the foot of the stairs, peering at me closely. "Are you feeling all right?" she asked, sounding concerned. I finally nodded, slowly, and she took my arm, looking intently at my face. "Tell me who you are," she said, her tone almost commanding.

I blinked. I'm not really sure, I wanted to say, but at this point, I didn't dare question my own identity, even jokingly. I had no idea how I'd gotten here or who this woman was, but everything so far pointed to one inescapable conclusion. Smiling as gamely as I could, I said, "Why, I'm Gilderoy Lockhart, of course."

The woman stared at me for a long time; I was beginning to wonder if she doubted me. Suddenly, with a cackled laugh like an old hen, she slapped me on the arm and said, "Well, course you are! Wondered what you were playing at for a moment there, Gilderoy, taking so long to answer!"

She turned and walked back into the doorway, which turned out to lead into the kitchen, and I followed, seeing a plate on the table there with a single Danish roll and cup of coffee. The woman was just finishing what had looked like a plateful of eggs and bacon; there were still a few scraps left on her own plate.

"Hurry up and eat," she directed, pointing to the roll. "You're almost late! He doesn't like to be kept waiting, you know."

"Who?" I said automatically, before I could stop myself. I probably should know who was coming to see me, and probably would have, too, if I was really Gilderoy Lockhart.

"Why, Professor Dumbledore, of course!" she said, her eyes widening with surprise. I had my first chance to really look at her, close up, since I'd met her. She was horse-faced and thin, with graying hair pulled back in a bun. I guessed she was either Lockhart's housekeeper or his mother, since I couldn't (and didn't want to!) imagine any other reason for her being in his home so early in the morning. "Surely you haven't forgotten you're interviewing with him today for a teaching position at Hogwarts!"

I smiled, trying to fake my way through my blunder. "Of course, of course, I haven't forgotten! Just a bit slow waking up this morning." I walked past her into the room. "I'll just have a spot of breakfast and be on my way to see him." If I could just figure out where the hell we were supposed to meet, and when, I added silently to myself.

But she put a hand on my arm. "You are addled this morning, aren't you?" she said, giving me a penetrating look. "He's coming here. And what you've done with your hair this morning — tsk!" She walked to a nearby counter and opened a drawer, pulling out a hairbrush and pointing to a chair at the table. "Sit, Gilderoy."

"But —"

"But nothing, my lad! He'll be here any minute. Now sit. And eat your roll." Meekly I took the chair she pointed at and let her brush and rearrange my hair into something more presentable than I'd been able to accomplish. "There," she said after a few minutes. "At least it doesn't look like you slept on it now." At that moment there was a ringing sound from the front of the house.

"There he is," the woman said. She gave me a quick inspection, then threw the brush back into the drawer. "Mind yourself now, Gilderoy," she said sternly, her voice and manner reminding me at that moment of Minerva McGonagall. "This is an important job, now — Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts. Don't go mucking it up! Now come along. Be right there!" She called out loudly, and then led me down the long hallway to the front door, smoothing out her skirt and primping her own hair into place. I was beginning to think she was Lockhart's mother, with all of her fussing over my appearance, an idea that frankly worried me.

She was about to open the door, then noticed me standing behind her. "What's wrong with you?" she whispered furiously, pointing to a nearby doorway. "Get in there! I'll bring him in to you!" I scuttled past her into the room — it was a parlor or living room — which was quite overstated: there was a large, polished wooden desk, a globe of the world, a huge fireplace beneath an impressive wooden mantelpiece, and various trappings of opulence such as suits of armor and display cases of various unfathomable items. There were paintings hung in here as well, every one of them portraits of Gilderoy Lockhart.

I had never cared much for the character of Gilderoy Lockhart in the second Harry Potter book. He was a narcissist, a poseur, a charlatan and a fraud; he'd stolen other people's fame for himself, wiping out their memories in order to present their experiences as his own. How had I ended up as him, rather than as someone from this universe I liked, like Remus Lupin or even Sirius Black? Getting back home was going to be a difficult mystery to solve, assuming it was even possible to figure out what had happened. Right now, though, I had an even bigger problem: I had to convince a man who was arguably the most powerful wizard in this world I was Gilderoy Lockhart and that I deserved to work for him as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at his school. Whatever else I might do here, I didn't want to change the timeline as I knew it before my untimely arrival, at least until I had good reason to do so.

I heard murmured greetings as I waited, nervously, in the parlor; then Professor Dumbledore walked into the room. Like Lockhart, Dumbledore did not look like either of the movie versions of himself. He was a bit taller than Lockhart, and his face, although elderly, was still pleasant to look upon. His blue eyes, looking at me over half-moon spectacles, seemed to twinkle merrily as we shook hands.

"Very nice of you to meet me here, in my home, Professor Dumbledore," I said genially, barely keeping my heart from leaping into my throat. "May I offer you something to drink? Some tea, perhaps?"

"Tea would be most welcome, thank you," Dumbledore replied, agreeably, and I signaled to the woman, who bustled off to bring it. His voice was deeper than I expected, and quieter than Michael Gambon's, the actor who'd portrayed him in the last few movies. "It has been a long journey from Hogwarts to your home, Gilderoy."

"Ah, you just flew in and boy, are your arms tired," I said with a chuckle, which died in my throat as Dumbledore reacted with nothing but a blank, if polite, stare. I said nothing for several moments, wondering how to recover from my gaffe. "How are things at the school these days, Professor?" I finally asked.

"Quite well, quite well," Dumbledore replied, nodding slowly, as if to himself. "And do feel free to call me Albus," he added. "We needn't stand on formality, even if this is an employment interview."

"Thank you, Albus," I agreed, and decided to inquire a bit further. It would be very reasonable for me to ask why a former employee was no longer at the job. "I understand that you had a spot of trouble near the end of the year," I mentioned casually.

Dumbledore nodded serenely once again. "We did have some trouble with our previous Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, unfortunately, but that has since been resolved."

"It was Quirrell, wasn't it?" I inquired, trying to remember the man's first name. It began with a "Q" as well, but it wasn't coming to mind. Quintus, or Quirinus — something like that.

"Unfortunate that he isn't able to continue, of course," I went on without waiting for Dumbledore to reply. "What's he doing now, do you know?" I knew he was dead, but didn't think that had ever become public knowledge in the books.

"Unfortunately, Quirinus met with an untimely demise," Dumbledore said quietly, with a small sigh. "There were some protective spells guarding a very important item, and he fell afoul of them, to his final regret." I nodded, saying nothing, though I knew the outcome of the duel between Quirrell and Harry Potter.

The woman returned, bringing a tray with a teapot and two cups, a creamer and a bowl of sugar. She poured each of us a cup of steaming liquid; Dumbledore and I both nodded as she added sugar and cream to the cups and passed them to us. I smiled happily at her and she nodded, leaving us with the tray.

"I am glad to say, Gilderoy, that your great reputation precedes you," Dumbledore said after she'd gone, giving me a fatherly smile. "I trust you will know better than to attempt to stray beyond the boundaries of your skill."

I blinked, wondering for a startled moment if Dumbledore had seen through me. After a moment, though, I realized that he probably knew Lockhart vastly overrated himself. What I wondered now was, why did Dumbledore really want such a fop for his Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?

But I still needed to respond to him. "Have no fear, Professor," I said, flashing a brilliant smile. "I'm quite aware of my capabilities." As I'm sure you are as well.

"Please do call me Albus, Gilderoy," Dumbledore said, giving me a disarming smile. "As I said earlier, we need not stand on formalities such as honorifics and surnames.

"It is not common knowledge," he continued smoothly, "although I am sure a great wizard such as you has doubtless heard, that there is a curse upon the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts."

"I'm aware of it, Albus," I said, waving an airy hand as if to dismiss the notion, though it had also come to my mind as he mentioned my capabilities. No teacher had held that position at the school more than a year since Voldemort tried to trick Dumbledore into giving it to him after the previous headmaster — what was that name again? — had left the school. "Never fear, my good man," I said confidently, "I will do everything in my power to overcome You-Know-Who's curse!"

Dumbledore nodded slowly, watching me. The truth was, I had no idea how I was going to extricate myself from this mess. I was frankly considering confessing everything to Dumbledore and putting myself at his service, to help me figure out how to get home. Arguably, he was the best man for the job. If he couldn't figure out how to get me home, I didn't know who could. I surely didn't fancy being stuck at Hogwarts, incapable of doing magic and with nowhere else to go!

"Very well, then," Dumbledore said, rising to his feet. I stood as well, and he took my hand, shaking it firmly as he said, "Welcome to the Hogwarts teaching staff, Gilderoy. I trust you will find the school much as you left it twenty years ago."

"Thank you, Albus," I said again, returning his handshake. His grip was surprisingly strong for a man born over a hundred years ago. Born in eighteen hundred and eighty-one, if I remembered my Harry Potter facts correctly. I clamped my thoughts down on a mental curse. I was really in for it now, unless I figured out a way home.

Dumbledore turned to go, but stopped and asked. "Would you care to come back to Hogwarts with me, Gilderoy, to finalize some of the arrangements for your personal quarters and a list of books students will need to pick up for your classes?"

"Er —" He'd caught me off-guard with that question. "Well, I don't know, Albus — I may have some other things to take care of today," I faltered, uncertainly. The truth was, I was afraid to leave this house!

Dumbledore nodded, seemingly unconcerned. "No matter, no matter, dear boy. It is not a requirement for now."

Requirement? Requirement!

"It may be a good idea at that, Albus," I hastened to say. "I would like a quick look at the old alma mater."

The old man smiled. "As you wish, Gilderoy."

I walked with him to the front door, telling the housekeeper as she hurried up behind us, "I'm going to make preparations to stay at Hogwarts, my dear." I still didn't know her name!

"Oh, very good, Mr. Lockhart!" she said quickly, obviously excited that I'd gotten the job. "For a treat, I'll prepare your favorite meal for dinner tonight!"

Dumbledore turned to her with a slight bow. "Delighted, as always, to see you again, Mrs. Witherhams."

"And you as well, Professor Dumbledore," she replied with a simpering smile. "Be sure to hurry back for supper when you're done at Hogwarts, Mr. — I mean, Professor Lockhart!" she added with a broad wink.

"Thank you, dear, I will," I said, patting her on the arm. "I'll be home as quickly as I can." At least now I knew her name, courtesy of Dumbledore's offhand comment. And I was now pretty well convinced that Mrs. Witherhams was my housekeeper (thankfully!) and not my mother. Dumbledore and I walked out onto the stoop, and I looked around, trying to appear like I was just casually looking around as I frantically memorized the layout of nearby buildings and the numbers on my own door — 14. But what was the street? There were no signs nearby to tell!

"Would you care to do the honors, Gilderoy?" Dumbledore said quietly, putting out his hand as if to touch my arm. Again I froze, but only for a moment. He might be baiting me deliberately, to test my reaction. I had no idea from the second book how well Lockhart could Apparate, but I certainly couldn't do it! I would have to feign not feeling well and hope Dumbledore would buy it.

"If you don't mind, Albus," I said, placing my hand to my forehead as if it were hurting. "I'm feeling a bit fuzzy — I woke up rather late and have been a bit disoriented this morning."

"Not feeling well?" Dumbledore inquired, genuine concern in his voice.

"Just a bit peaked," I said, with a small shrug. That wasn't too far from the truth, really. "If I could get a little help, it would be much appreciated, Albus."

"Very well," Dumbledore said, offering me his right arm. "Put your hand on my arm. And remember, I am simply leading you." He turned on the spot and —

— and Oh! My! God! it was as if a gigantic hand had grabbed me and forced me into a narrow black tube that threatened to squeeze the breath right out of me, keeping me from inhaling or exhaling, until it seemed as if I was going to choke and I writhed and turned every which way I could to break free but nothing worked and I couldn't even move my arms to try and claw myself free and —

And just as suddenly, we were standing in front of a set of gates, flanked by pillars upon which were set statues of flying pigs. I barely noticed them, however, because I was bent over double, gasping for breath.

"Are you alright, dear boy?" Dumbledore asked, concerned once again. I nodded, still not able to speak; Apparating had caught me quite by surprise. Finally, I stood upright and pushed blond locks out of my face.

"Sorry to be such a bother, Albus," I said between deep breaths. "I suppose I'm a bit more under the weather than I thought. But no matter," I said, raising a hand as he started to speak. "We're here now, no use crying over spilt milk." Which sounded stupid but I'd already said it. "We can take care of business and I can be on my way home." With perhaps a small detour before I go.

Dumbledore took out his wand and flicked it at the gates, which promptly opened. I looked carefully at the wand as he did so, remembering that it was the Elder Wand, reputedly created by Death itself but probably by one of the Peverell brothers. At the moment I could recall none of their names in the seventh book.

We walked up the path from the gates to the front doors of the castle, up the stone steps and into the Entrance Hall, where we were greeted by a hunched-over, older man who must be the school's caretaker. "Welcome home, Headmaster," Argus Filch murmured deferentially as he closed the doors behind us.

"Thank you, Mr. Filch," Dumbledore said pleasantly. "Will you notify Professor McGonagall that I've returned with our newest staff member? I'm sure she'll be anxious to know who's taken the position."

Filch nodded, then grunted, "Come along, my sweet." I stared at him, confused, until I realized he wasn't addressing me or Dumbledore, but the gray-colored cat at his heels, who must be Mrs. Norris. The cat stood motionless for several seconds, watching me, and I had the strange sensation that it was trying to figure me out. Finally, though, it turned and hurried after its master.

"An interesting creature," Dumbledore commented, noticing as I watched the cat leave with Filch.

"Part Kneazle, isn't it?" I replied, remembering a bit of information about the cat, and Dumbledore nodded as a small, pleased smiled flitted across his lips.

"Indeed, indeed it is," he murmured, now leading me across the Entrance Hall to the large staircase leading up to the second floor (the first floor, I corrected myself, remembering that in Britain the first floor is called the ground floor). "Mr. Filch's cat is quite intelligent," Dumbledore continued as we walked up the staircase to the next level. "I remember one time when I was looking for Mr. Filch, and happened to see his cat nearby. 'Run, and tell Mr. Filch I need to see him,' I told her, and do you know, within a minute, he appeared?" Dumbledore sounded almost impressed by that, and I nodded with interest as he finished the tale.

"Do you suppose there is some sort of magical connection between them?" I asked.

"Possibly," Dumbledore said, with the slightest shrug. "But, and this is just between us, Gilderoy, Mr. Filch has no magical ability to speak of, I'm afraid to say."

Of course I already knew that, but I lowered my voice and said, in a shocked tone, "A Squib?"

Dumbledore nodded once, sadly. "He does very well as our caretaker, however."

We were approaching a stone gargoyle, which I remembered was the guardian of the entrance to the Headmaster's office. I fell silent, curious to hear what the password was, but Dumbledore merely took out his wand and tapped it once on the head; whereupon it leaped aside, revealing the circular staircase leading up to his office. Too bad! It might have been useful to know, at least in the near term.

I was also curious to know how we were going to seal this deal. In the Goblet of Fire movie Barty Crouch, Senior, had mentioned that having one's name come out of the Goblet constituted a binding, magical contract. And if I remembered correctly, when Hermione had everyone sign up for Dumbledore's Army, they were doing much the same thing, with the consequences that anyone who broke the agreement suffered a curse that spelled out the word "SNEAK" in boils or pimples across their face, which had happened to one of the members. Marietta something or other.

But I was distracting myself from the business at hand. Dumbledore had produced a sheet of parchment with a fairly detailed contract written on it. "Read that, please, Gilderoy," he told me, seating himself in the chair behind his desk. "If you agree to the terms, please sign and date it at the bottom."

I scanned the contract carefully. I wanted to know what I was getting Lockhart (and myself) into, even though from what my housekeeper had said, he really wanted this job. I wondered if the real Lockhart had known about Voldemort's curse, but in the books it apparently hadn't mattered — he'd taken the job, hadn't he?

Let's see: I was required to be at the school from 1 September until 30 June, with a few days off between terms for holidays and other personal matters. Compensation, 300 Galleons per month. Not too bad a pay rate, then. I had wondered about that as well. At £5 per Galleon, that was £1500 per month for ten months, or about £15,000 per year — around 30,000 U.S. dollars. The rest of the contract was about medical care (available for free from the hospital wing), protection from the Dark Arts while on school grounds (as was everyone), and the general duties and requirements of being a teacher. I picked up the quill lying next to the contract, dipped it in the inkwell Dumbledore provided, and signed Gilderoy Lockhart's name, which I hoped was actually "Gilderoy Lockhart."

"And the date, please, Gilderoy," Dumbledore said quietly, pointing a long finger to a line beside my name.

"What is today?" I asked, looking up at him.

"The thirty-first of July," Dumbledore replied.

"Ah, Harry Potter's birthday," I said, scribbling 31 July 1992 onto the contract, remembering to use the British format for the date. That reminded me — I had Lockhart's booklist still in my pocket, so I pulled it out as well. "Here you are, Albus, and my current list of books as well." I began to hand them both to him, only to find Dumbledore gazing at me with a most curious look on his face.

"Do you know Harry Potter, Gilderoy?" Dumbledore asked, his eyebrows raised. Of all the things Gilderoy Lockhart might have said to him, a remark about Harry Potter was obviously not one he expected to hear!

"By reputation only," I said, offhandedly, as he took the contract and booklist from me. "I understand he began attending Hogwarts last fall."

"His first year, yes," Dumbledore replied, with a small nod.

"He must be quite popular," I commented. Harry's popularity would be an interest of Lockhart's, of course — he always seemed quite keen to associate himself with the famous and well-known, even a boy like Harry, in order to keep his name in the public eye as much as possible.

"No more than any other student at Hogwarts," Dumbledore said mildly.

"No other student at Hogwarts was attacked by — eh — well, by You-Know-Who, and survived," I said. I had nearly used the name Voldemort. As much as I had surprised Dumbledore already, I'm sure he would never expect to hear that name from Gilderoy Lockhart's mouth!

"True, true," Dumbledore said, stroking his beard absently. "He also played a small part in helping Gryffindor win the House Cup at the end-of-year feast."

"Did he?" I said, although I remembered what Harry had done. "It's been quite some time since they've won it, hasn't it?"

Dumbledore must have grown tired of our banter, though, because he'd stood once again. "Forgive me, Gilderoy, but time is pressing, and I have several more tasks to accomplish today." He steered me toward the large, polished wooden door of his office. "I trust you will be able to find your own way home."

Probably not, but — "Yes, thank you, Albus, for giving me the opportunity to work here with you," I said, flatteringly, as Dumbledore opened the door to send me on my way. "Oh, just one more thing —" I turned just as the door was about to close. Dumbledore stopped to listen to my request. "Would you mind if I took a stroll about the castle, to reacquaint myself with it again before popping back home?"

Dumbledore smiled indulgently. "Please do, Gilderoy. My castle is your castle." And with that he shut the door, leaving me alone on the steps.

I hurried down them and out into the empty corridor beyond, turning to watch as the wall closed and the gargoyle moved into its normal position guarding the entrance to the Headmaster's office. Now that his and my business was done, I could go after what I really came here for.

The Room of Requirement!

It was somewhere on the seventh floor, in a corridor that contained the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy trying to teach trolls to perform ballet. That was also the floor where the entrance to Gryffindor's common room was, but I was hoping that the school was empty except for staff, and not many of them at that.

I found the floor and began wandering up and down one corridor after another, trying to locate that tapestry. As I did, I also pondered the seeming coincidence of finding myself in this world on Harry Potter's twelfth birthday, if indeed a coincidence it was. If I recalled correctly, Harry didn't have a very happy 12th birthday — he got into an awful shouting match with his uncle Vernon for saying the word "magic;" then, when Dudley taunted him about his parents not remembering Harry's birthday, Harry scared him with fake magic words, bringing down more of Vernon and Petunia's wrath upon him. Then, a house-elf named Dobby showed up in his room, telling him he couldn't return to Hogwarts, the one place where he felt like he had a home, and performed magic that Harry was blamed for. No, it had not been one of Harry's happier birthdays today. I hoped today would turn out better for me than it had for him.

Finally I located the tapestry and stood looking at it, amused. It was a rather ludicrous piece of art, but it did have a certain style about it, as Barnabas the Barmy, a scary-looking, wild-eyed fellow, tried to choreograph a half-dozen trolls wearing ridiculously out-sized tutus. In fact it gave me the first genuine, heartfelt laugh I'd had today since I'd awakened in Gilderoy Lockhart's bed. I'd needed a laugh, I felt. Just as, now, I needed to get into the Room of Requirement.

I walked up and down in front of the tapestry, thinking over and over again, I need to learn to do magic, I need a way to put things right again and get home, I kept wondering if the Room was going to work for me. I remembered it had worked for such trivial purposes as providing cleaning supplies for Filch, or a hiding place for Fred and George when they were trying to get away from him, and for Dumbledore himself, when he needed a chamber pot to relieve himself (although I often wondered just exactly what he was doing wandering around on the seventh floor looking for a bathroom) — it should work for me, I reasoned, especially with a need as great as mine. And Lockhart's need as well, I suddenly realized; if I was here in his body, I could only surmise that he was in mine as well. That thought, at that moment, gave me absolutely no comfort at all.

And it wasn't working! I was on my fourth pass and still no door had appeared. I began walking faster and thinking harder, not knowing what else to do.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief when, on the eighth pass, a large wooden door suddenly appeared on the wall across from Barnabas's tapestry. I hurried inside, wondering what awaited me.

Whatever I had been expecting, I wasn't disappointed. I found a spacious room, with row after row of shelves filled with book, glass storage cases full of potions, and a cupboard loaded with small vials of silvery, swirling material and a flattened stone bowl I knew to be a Pensieve. I roamed up and down the rows of shevles, finding school books of spells, "how-to" spell books, scholarly magical periodicals, and so on, with every type of magic one could think of: Charms, Transfiguration, Defense Against the Dark Arts, even the Dark Arts themselves.

Looking at the vials of memories in the cupboard, I found them neatly ordered by subject, teacher and year — as if various teachers had left them behind in order to provide a summary of their coursework. I would start with these, I decided.

I was soon to find there was no free lunch to learning in the Harry Potter universe, so far as I could determine. To know something, you had to learn it — you couldn't just absorb knowledge without your brain actually processing and comprehending it. It would have been nice if that did work! I could have just tossed these vials of memories directly into my head instead of sitting through the Pensieve lessons. Fortunately the teachers who had provided these memories had edited and arranged the memories to provide only the pertinent information, so I could go through a week or so worth of lessons in a couple of hours.

By the end of that day, though, I realized that my task was daunting in the extreme — I was trying to give myself a complete Hogwarts education, and it was not going to happen in a single afternoon! It was probably going to take me the entire month of August to make any kind of dent in the amount of learning I needed to do.

I also realized, as the evening wore on, that I would eventually have to eat and sleep, and take bathroom breaks. I remembered that I wasn't going to be able to conjure up food or drink for myself, even if I did learn magic — they were exceptions to the something-or-other laws of magic. Gad, I wished for some internet access! I could check the Harry Potter Lexicon or PotterWiki for the name, whatever it was, and try to find it in one of these books.

The bathroom problem was solved easily enough. My need to go to the bathroom was what solved it, in fact — as I was dancing on one leg, then the other, wondering where I could go, a door appeared on one of the walls, leading to a lavatory area complete with a toilet, shower and basin with hot and cold running water, and a cupboard filled with towels, bars of soap and hair shampoo and conditioner. Not my favorite brands, unfortunately, but I supposed Bertie Bott's Every Fragrance Shampoo and Conditioner would have to do.

As for food, I could see only one obvious solution. A little before midnight I stepped cautiously out of the Room of Requirement into the corridor beyond, leaving the door slightly ajar, in case closing it might cause the room to disappear and I would have to find it again. I absolutely did not want that! It was pitch dark in the corridor, as I expected, but I had been practicing with my wand inside the room — now was the time to put it to the test. I held the wand up and said softly, "Lumos." There was a soft crackling sound, and the wand's tip glowed brightly, illuminating the corridor. So far, so good. Now, I need only hope that house-elves had large ears for a reason.

"If there are any house-elves within the sound of my voice," I said softly, "Please come to me." There was a soft crack and I flinched, startled, as a house-elf appeared before me.

"Greetings, honored sir," it said in a high-pitched, squeaky voice, bowing so low that its ears actually did touch the ground. I was so distracted by its appearance, with its bat-like ears, large, luminous eyes, ridiculously long nose, and the nearly inadequate sheet draped over itself like a toga, that I almost forgot why I'd called it. "The honored sir requies something?" the house-elf finally asked.

"Ah, yes — yes, of course," I said, clearing my throat. "Do you know who I am, by any chance?" I asked, trying to give myself a moment to collect my thoughts.

"Yes, sir," the elf said, bowing low again. "You are the great Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, the newest teacher on our honored staff. What does Professor Lockhart desire?"

"What is your name?" I asked.

The house-elf looked up at me, a shocked expression on his homely features. "My name? Sir is asking my name?" The elf swelled with joy before my eyes. I had forgotten that house-elves considered themselves beneath notice — to them, the attention of a wizard was a high honor. Dobby had been so ecstatic over Harry Potter's concern for him that he found the courage to break away from Lucius Malfoy, his master, when he had the chance, and actually attacked him when Malfoy tried to retaliate against Potter for tricking him into freeing Dobby.

"Yes, of course, my good fellow," I pressed on, deciding that it couldn't hurt to make friends with someone in a position to provide me with free food for the next month. "After all, I would prefer not to say 'hey, you!' if you have a name, which I'm sure you do."

"Boddy, Professor Lockhart, sir, and very honored to give it to you, sir, very honored indeed!"

"Thank you, Boddy." I squatted down on my heels, my lighted wand still held high to provide illumination. "Please call me Gilderoy."

"Oh, thank you, sir!" Boddy was nearly bouncing in anticipation of hearing whatever I was going to ask him, so happy did he seem to be to have the undivided attention of a wizard.

"I'm going to be using the Come and Go Room for some time —" I saw Boddy's surprise as I used the house-elf term for the Room of Requirement "— and I'll need food and drink. I wonder if I might prevail upon you to bring something up from the kitchen for me."

"It would be Boddy's great honor to do so!" Boddy said, bowing low once again. But when he looked up at me again, his face held a measure of uncertainty. "But — one cannot get inside the room, once occupied, unless one has the same need as the person inside, sir."

I had expected as much. "But you could knock on the wall where the door is and I would hear it inside and let you in." I knew that would work because I remembered Crabbe and Goyle signaling Malfoy from outside the Room by dropping some heavy object or other on the floor.

"Yes, sir," Boddy nodded. "That would work, sir."

I turned to the nearby wall. "When you return, use this knock." I showed him the old "shave-and-a-haircut-two-bits" knock (the one from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?). "Don't try to come in if there are any other teachers or school staff around. The work I'm doing is very sensitive, and will take me most of the month to complete. After I've completed my work, I'll offer my commendation for you and all of the Hogwarts house-elves personally to Professor Dumbledore himself."

Boddy gasped at the praise I planned to bestow upon him and his fellows. "Professor Lockhart is too kind, sir!" he whispered, bowing so low he nearly fell flat on the floor before me. "We house-elves do not deserve so great an honor!"

"Of course you do, dear lad," I said graciously. "Now, would you be so kind as to bring me something to eat? Remember —" and I tapped shave-and-a-haircut-two-bits on the wall again, to remind him.

"Boddy will return immediately with something for you to eat, sir!" Boddy said, and with a loud crack he disappeared. I returned to the Room to wait for his return. It was not more than a few minutes later when there was a familiar tapping on the door, and I let Boddy and two other house-elves into the room carrying several trays of food and drink.

In fact, they'd brought enough food to feed three of me! There were slabs of roasted beef and chicken, bowls of potatoes, corn and peas, gravy and bread, and pitchers of pumpkin juice, milk and water, as well as a few empty golden plates and with silverware, drinking cups, and cloth napkins. And it was a good thing, too — I was able to eat two meals' worth before I was done, I was so hungry.

At the end of my magnificent dinner I fell onto a cot that one of the house-elves who'd helped bring the food — Linky was his name, I believe — had thoughtfully provided for me and slept like a dead man until morning.

I woke the next morning half-wondering whether I would find myself back in my own bed, the whole experience having been just a very strange dream, but I was still in the Room of Requirement and still in a very blond and blue-eyed body.

Thus began the re-education of Gilderoy Lockhart, latest professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I hoped, somewhere along the way, I could figure out a way home.