Written for Expecting Rain's "Cruel and Unusual Pairings" challenge on xoxLewrahxox's Bellatrix Lestrange: The Dark Lord's Most Faithful forum. Challenge: "There are some strange pairings out there, and then there are some which could be described as 'cruel and unusual'. Your challenge is to write one of these cruel and unusual pairings and write it as seriously as you can."

972 words

)O(

"I'm here for the Daily Prophet. May I speak to Mr. Lockhart, please?"

It had taken a great deal of effort for the young reporter to push through the throngs of eager fans who were swarming the door to Gilderoy Lockhart's study in the back of the bookshop, and now she was being blocked by a rather large wizard who had apparently been given the task of making sure that no one got in.

"Name?" he asked suspiciously.

"Rita Skeeter. I have an appointment to speak to Mr. Lockhart."

He looked her up and down. "How do I know you're not just a fan who can't wait in line to get her book signed?"

Rita rolled her eyes impatiently, and made a mental note to write an article on how rude security was sometime in the near future.

They glared at each other for a long time, then the wizard grunted assent. Rita ducked under his arm, pushed through the office door, and slammed it shut behind her before anyone else could get in.

The study was lined with dozens of portraits of Gilderoy Lockhart himself. There was a stack of copies of his most recent book, Break with a Banshee, on his desk, accompanied by a pot of ink and a flamboyant peacock feather quill, ready to start signing books.

Sitting behind the desk was the most perfect example of masculine beauty that Rita had seen in all her twenty-three years.

She could suddenly understand why all those witches were trying to see him. Gilderoy Lockhart was, there was no other word, beautiful. His forget-me-not blue eyes sparkled like a child's, and he was smiling so widely that Rita could have counted his straight, white teeth. The expression on his face was one of such pure happiness that Rita could almost believe, in the part of her mind given to fantasy, that he had been looking forward to this interview for days, simply so that he could meet her.

"Ms. Skeeter, I presume?" Gilderoy Lockhart said. Rita nodded, momentarily unable to speak. He knows my name!

"Please do sit down," he continued, waving one hand airily at a velvet covered chair. Rita settled herself on the edge.

"Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Lockhart," she said when she had finally remembered how to use her mouth.

"Do call me Gilderoy," he told her, grinning still wider. Rita felt colour rising in her cheeks.

"Thank you," she said. "Please call me Rita."

"Absolutely, Rita. Now, what was it you wanted to ask me?"

"Pardon?"

He looked from the notepad and quill in her hands to her face and his smile flickered. "You did come from the Daily Prophet, didn't you?"

"Oh! Yes."

The smile returned full-force. "Marvelous, marvelous!"

Rita set her notebook on the desk and sucked on the end of her long, acid-green quill before setting it upright on the notebook.

"Would you mind if I use a Quick Quotes Quill?" she asked. "So that I can speak to you normally?"

"Not at all, not at all," Gilderoy said jovially. "Go ahead, ask me anything you want."

"Well," Rita said, trying to affect an air of unconcerned relaxation and to remember the questions she had wanted to bring up, "in a world torn apart by Dark wizards, do you ever feel like you should be focusing on eradicating them instead of dangerous magical creatures?"

"I believe that wizards can be reasoned with, but animals cannot," he said without missing a beat. "Better to get rid of the animals, and deal with wizards in an orderly, non-violent manner."

He's so well-spoken, Rita thought wistfully. "Can you tell me a bit about your new book?"

"Well, you'll have to buy it, you know," he said, tapping the side of his nose with a mischievous smile. "But I think I can say that there was quite a tangle with a banshee up in Belfast."

"That sounds fascinating," Rita said, not really listening so much as watching him. "Do you have any plans for more books at the moment?"

"Well, I write them as they occur, of course," said Gilderoy. "But if you want a little tidbit you can slip into your article, you might drop a hint that I'm toying with the idea of writing an autobiography."

"Really?" Rita leaned towards him. "That would be lovely. Now, one more question, and I think I speak for all the witches out there that admire your work…" and for myself, "what sort of qualities do you look for in a woman?"

Gilderoy chuckled and leaned back in his chair. "Well, I would want it to be to a woman who is brave – so that I could take her along to help me fight Dark creatures…"

Am I brave? Rita thought anxiously I don't know, I've never really had to be…

"And she would have to know she was beautiful… so she's not threatened, you know," he added, his grin stretching still wider.

Rita's hand went self-consciously to her wavy hair, brushing at it. Beautiful? I'm not as beautiful as him…

"And most of all," Gilderoy said, leaning close, and winking conspiratorially, "she would have to be honest. I think honesty is very important."

Rita swallowed and looked guiltily at her Quick Quotes Quill. Honest? Honesty isn't my best trait…

Gilderoy stood up, indicating the interview was over. "I ought to get started on book signings," he said, giving Rita a smile that suggested that he would far rather continue talking to her. "But if you ever happen to meet an honest, secure, brave woman, do let her know that I'm looking for her."

He winked dramatically, then strode out of the office.

Rita watched him, then sighed and gathered up her quill and notebook.

Not brave, not beautiful, and not honest.

Of course, he'd never want me.

)O(

Fin