Disclaimer: This story is rated 'T' for language, but 'M' as a precaution. I do not own Harry Potter or Gilderoy Lockhart, nor does J.K. Rowling own me. This story was formerly titled 'Gilding the Son of Lily,' if you recognize it by that name.
It was an inauspiciously cloudy morning. "Bloody English weather," I mumbled, wrestling my limbs out of bed. Shambling to the bath I reflexively called out: "Lights."
Since when did I live with voice-activated lighting? I was suddenly overwhelmed by the space around me. This wasn't my room, these weren't my clothes, I don't live like this. Yet somehow I knew that I did. I recognized everything, knew instinctively where everything would be.
I glanced out the window again. 'English' weather? Bloody hell, I'm an American. I'd never even been to England. "Merlin," I breathed. How did I wind up here?
Did I just say that?
Oh hell no. I dashed to the mirror.
Now, I tend to be a 'glass half full' kind of guy, but I was having real trouble seeing the upside here. Well, my bed hair had never looked better. But even that wasn't an upside, when I realized that it wasn't my bed hair at all. The face in the mirror did not belong to me.
In fact, considering I apparently live in England, swear by Merlin, and look like that guy that directed Thor and starred in Hamlet (though the hair was, somehow, floofier), I was reasonably certain I now inhabited the body of Gilderoy Lockhart. You know, the five-time winner of Witch Weekly's 'Most Charming Smile' Award – that Lockhart.
I took a deep breath as I glared at myself in the mirror. Was it wrong that I felt a sudden and irresistible urge to sing "I feel pretty, oh so pretty; I feel pretty, and witty, and—" damn it.
How in seven hells did I wind up here? I scrounged my memory for something, anything – a next-door neighbor breaking out their old "Jumanji" set, I don't know – but came up with nothing. All I could remember was that last night I was reading Harry Potter fan fiction, and this morning I woke up living it. And a crappy self-insert at that!
Then, out of the corner of my eye, off a reflection in the glass, my gaze fell on a slender piece of crafted wood, lying on my bedside table. My wand. I idly wondered how it would feel to actually cast magic, when I discovered that my feet had already brought me over closer to it.
I picked it up, visualized a bright light, and enunciated very carefully: "Lumos."
Pain pain pain, my eyes. But even as I shied away and blinked like mad, I felt something. A tingling sensation, racing along my arm. "Nox." The light went out, the tingling retreated, but I traced it back to somewhere near my diaphragm. I closed my eyes and started casting anew, searching for the sensation of my magic. "Lumos. Nox. Lumos. Nox."
Holy crap, it was real! I was doing it, I was casting honest-to-goodness magic! I could feel it in my body, in my bones! This was so awesome!
Holy shit. This was real. I was living in a world of magic, a world populated by horrors I could not even begin to fathom – a world of petty tyrants and rampaging psychopaths and soul-sucking creatures of the deep. I was like a bystander, watching Superman and Doomsday break out the fisticuffs. I was so screwed.
I shook myself. It can't possibly be that bad. After all, I have magic too. What I needed right now was information, lots of it. A passing memory prompted me that Lockhart owned a small library, but what were the odds he'd have owned anything even remotely useful?
My stomach rumbled. Apparently my body had other plans for what I needed 'right now,' mainly involving the kitchen.
I went to the door and threw it open. I was nearly knocked out by a sudden surge of new memories, prompted by the sight of another room in my house. This will take some getting used to.
A breakfast had been already laid out for me. I opened my mouth to thank the elf that did it, but my brain's motor stalled when I recalled the house-elf's name. Really? His name was Glitzy? My new memories informed me that he was less... fabulous than the name would suggest, but still, it was the principle of the thing.
In related news, I also owned a golden-feathered Pharaoh Eagle-Owl that answered to Ozymandias. Clearly, my predecessor had not been encumbered by any false sense of modesty.
I started eating by reflex, my mind still as thoroughly scrambled as the eggs in front of me. Lockhart's memories continued their onslaught, like a weird montage of cinema history, devolving from almost perfect HD quality for more recent events to the scratchy black-and-white of the distant past.
What did I know? I had a book-signing scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at Flourish & Blotts. Yesterday evening, I'd written a half-dozen fan letters before going to sleep. Earlier that afternoon, I'd returned from a three-day publicity tour through the Black Forest, which had followed two days spent working the crowds in the magical district of Lyons, France.
Three weeks ago, I was interviewed and hired by Albus Dumbledore as the new professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts.
Earlier that summer, I had taken a working vacation in Moldova, where I'd finished my autobiography Magical Me and compiled the research for my forthcoming adventure, Dancing with Dragons. Of course, my research mainly consisted of hunting down and obliviating the people involved in the real incident, but that's hardly relevant.
How can this be? I remember things, incredible things – my first distant glimpse of the reptilian leviathans, the haze of air heated by tongues of flame, the cacophony of roars so powerful they vibrated my bones even from a half-mile away. I remember impossible things – the staccato dialect of my Moldovan guide, who spoke words I did not know in an accent I could not decipher, yet whose conversation I could follow with perfect comprehension.
Was this a dream, a delusion, some grand psychotic break? And yet! I could remember even the insignificant things: the feel of wind whipping against my face, the press of sodden earth beneath my feet. Even now, I could run my fingers over fibers in the wood, feel muscles I did not have before, breathe the scent of foods I'd never eaten yet somehow knew.
If this were a product of my fractured mind, it was an awfully impressive one.
Did I even have a choice in the matter? Could I honestly deny the reality I now seemed to inhabit? Even if it were a delusion, I was still the one living it. And if Rowling could be trusted, there was a whole world of dangers waiting to chew me up and spit me out. Even if this were all in my head, would death wake me up, or leave me lifeless in both realities? I was quite content to leave that one unanswered.
But what of my own world, the one I'd left behind? Could I just give it up as a lost cause?
I froze, a forkful of sausage hanging half-way from my plate. I finished it off before rushing back to my room to dress and gather my things. A few minutes later, I was ready.
With the availability of Floo and Apparition, I couldn't remember the last time Lockhart had used the front door. But my destination would require travel in the muggle world. "Colloportus," I cast at the door as it closed behind me.
Soon I was on the sidewalk facing the main street. Lockhart had bought the property some years before because he wanted something that looked like a proper manor house. He wasn't so concerned with the particular address, which is why I only knew that my home was somewhere in east Hertfordshire.
Here we go. Taking a deep breath, I stuck out my wand like a hitchhiker's thumb.
Huh. I waited a few seconds.
I started waving my wand around a bit, nothing too demonstrative, just hoping it would—
BANG! With a deafening noise and a blinding flash, a ludicrously purple triple-decker bus popped into existence in front of me.
Ah. There it is.
"Welcome to the Knight Bus, emergency transport for the stranded witch or wizard. Just stick out your wand hand, step on board, and we can take you anywhere you want to go. My name is Stan Shunpike, and I will be your conductor this evening. What is your destination?"
At this, the pimply youth looked down, practically jumping out of his skin when he noticed me.
"Gor blimey, Mr. Lockhart? Is it really you?"
That would get old very quickly. "Indeed it is!" I affected a jovial tone.
"What 'choo doing riding the Knight Bus?"
I grimaced wryly. "I'm looking for a place in muggle England, but don't have the apparition coordinates."
"Aye, that'd do it." Shunpike nodded. "So where we taking you?"
"Ah – will you be able to return me here once I'm done?"
"Yep! Anywhere the Knight Bus's been, it can take you back, and anywhere else besides. Long it's on land – can't do nuffink underwater, though." He chuckled at his own joke.
"Excellent. I can get home by Floo, but I'm afraid I don't know my own address."
"So where to?" Shunpike prompted impatiently.
I told him.
"That'll be eleven sickles. But for firteen you can get your choice o' tea or 'ot chocolate, and for fifteen you get a 'ot water bottle an' a toofbrush in the color of your choice."
I counted coins while Shunpike rambled. "I'm fine, no toiletries this time. Here you go, eleven sickles."
"All right, no bags? Hop aboard. This is our driver, Ernie Prang. Ern, everyone, say 'ello to Mr. Gilderoy Lockhart. Out of the way, let 'im pass. Since you got no luggage, you'll be sitting in the second level, up those stairs, there you go. Here we are." Shunpike plopped himself down in an armchair beside the driver. "Take 'er away, Ern."
BANG! I was immeasurably grateful my seat was bolted down. The bus leaped to its new task like an overexcited puppy chasing a ball.
"Say, Shunpike?" I called from the interior balcony.
"I wondered if you might—"
"One minute to Cranborne!" He suddenly yelled, before returning his innocent gaze to me. "Sorry?"
"Right. Ah… I wondered if you could tell me how the Knight Bus worked."
"Oh. Reckon I couldn't tell you the runes or nuffink, but I know 'nuff to operate it. The Knight Bus was built back in 1865, though it was steam-powered then, like the 'Ogwarts Express. The idea was— 'cuse me, Mr. Chittock, here's your stop." Shunpike paused as a heavy-set man with an umbrella and a unibrow stood to move towards the door. "Minister McPhail set up a detection grid so the driver'd know when a wizard was calling. The idea was to pop the Bus over to the nearest app'rition point, then go the rest o' the way – take 'er away, Ern." BANG! "…rest o' the way on the engines. Bit slow, but workable. 'Course, when the Muggles decided to – minute and a 'alf to Louf!"
"Say wha'?" A voice shouted from below me.
"Louth, ya mean?"
"Tha's what I was saying!"
"No it weren't!" A pause. "How soon was tha', again?"
"But didn't ya say…?
"Sure, it was a minute and a 'alf, 'alf a minute ago."
"Oh. Thank ya, then."
"Pleasure." Shunpike deadpanned. After a brief pause, he turned back to me. "Aye, so a few years after the Grindelwald war, the Muggles decided to build motorways all over Britain. Minister Leach was the one who made sure to confound the designers so the roads'd run through the same app'rition points. So we can go anywhere there's a motorway in the blink o' an eye, and now we 'ave better engines to go the rest o' the way. LOUF!"
I sank back in my seat, taken aback by the conductor's tale. How could I reconcile such magical ingenuity with the almost universal lack of sense that Rowling depicted in her books? Was Rowling wrong?
No, it couldn't be that. If Shunpike's 'welcome aboard' speech told me anything, it was that Rowling could be trusted for the particulars. Here, the problem lay in the facts she omitted and their broader implications. That was hardly a consolation though. Rowling had shared in exquisite detail all the things that might kill someone like me, and while the reality appeared to be just as horrifying, those missing details made this world considerably less predictable.
The steady progression of stops continued, with occasional interruptions to pick up another passenger. It was another fifteen minutes before Shunpike called out my stop.
In the books, the Brockdale Bridge had been destroyed by Death Eaters. In reality, it didn't actually exist. Sure, I could name any dozen magical locations that weren't part of my old reality. But this was the only purely muggle location I knew to be fictional. What made it so special?
Perhaps here I would find the answers I was seeking.
BANG! The Knight Bus lurched into the distance. It took a minute for me to move away from the abandoned side-street where I'd been dropped off, through the busy sidewalks of downtown, until finally I arrived at an outlook with a clear view of the bridge itself.
I had not thought the Bridge would be a tourist destination, but with my first glimpse of it, it was hard to imagine otherwise. Sure enough, the outlook boasted a number of information boards, with touristy-looking folk surrounding each.
I alternated between gawking at the sight and gleaning what I could from the boards, finding no little amusement at how well I fit in with the crowds.
The town was situated in a valley carved by the river Brock, which ran down from the Pennine highlands through the Forest of Bowland. The bridge itself rose high above the town, between twin fells that flanked the dale, and near the cleft that separated them.
The Brockdale Bridge resembled nothing so much as a sturdier version of a Roman aqueduct, made not to carry water but to carry cars. The bridge was built during the early 1960s during construction of the M6 Motorway. I wondered briefly why the structure was not called a viaduct, but soon discovered from one of the boards that viaducts are built with a series of single arches, where the arches of the Brockdale Bridge were built layered on top of each other.
Back in my home world, my curiosity about this bridge had led me to look up possible locations, and I was pleased to recall that I'd landed on the river Brock as the most plausible candidate. Yet in the real world, the river Brock was too small to carve out a valley, and the town beside it didn't warrant the suffix '-dale.' Clearly, something had changed about the river's source, and Occam's Razor told me that 'something' was related to the wizarding world. But how?
I continued to gaze upon the Brockdale Bridge, barely catching the gleam of metal and the din of cars as they sped across its surface. That's when I realized it didn't matter. The hows, whys and whats paled in comparison to this central fact: that in five years' time, a terrorist attack would destroy this bridge and kill dozens who traveled it. These people could not know what lay ahead, or the power of those who would attack them, but ignorance would not be their salvation.
Unless something changed, those people would die.
And suddenly, that had become unthinkable. That I should know the future, and do nothing to change it... I could not live with myself. I did not know by what power or for what reason I was dragged from my dreams to this reality, but these people were helpless, and I could not be a bystander to the destruction of their world.
BANG! The Knight Bus dropped me off at a familiar front door – my own. It was still barely past noon, though I had spent an extra hour or two at the Brockdale public library seeking evidence of my old self in this world. Unless you count a scholarship to a Canadian university in the name of my great-great-uncle, my search had been entirely in vain, none of my phone numbers or addresses or family history availing me. While the broad contours of the world appeared the same, it appeared that neither I nor my immediate family existed in this reality. I was truly alone.
Yet I was not without purpose.
Time to get to work. A glance at yesterday's Daily Prophet told me that it was August 3rd, 1992, which put me squarely at the beginning of Harry Potter's second year at Hogwarts. Tomorrow would be the book signing and – damn, that didn't give me much time.
First things first. The single most terrifying aspect of the Harry Potter universe, to my mind at least, was the prospect of mind and memory modification. We are defined by our memories: our past experiences, and how we respond and deal with them, determines our personality and identity. The ability to change that, the core of who we are, is perhaps more dangerous than any of the Unforgiveables. The Cruciatus may torture, the Killing Curse may end your life, but mind magic has the potential to not only end your life but to replace it entirely.
Just yesterday this body belonged to Gilderoy Lockhart, and today I inhabit his place. Tomorrow, who knows? I might be obliviated or compulsed or replaced entirely.
That was, not incidentally, one of the things that drove me nuts about Rowling's series. In a world where there is an ever-present danger that some stranger or enemy could change the very nature of who you are, why wasn't there a more concerted effort at providing a defense against it? The Imperius may be unblockable, but that doesn't make it irresistible, as Harry showed in his Fourth Year class with Moody. And what of other forms of mind magic – are they unblockable too? If not, why wouldn't there be amulets sold on every street corner, and Occlumency a required subject at Hogwarts? Why wouldn't there be some universal resource for people to defend themselves?
Fortunately, my predecessor was well versed in all manner of mind magic and memory charms. Granted, he was someone who I wouldn't hesitate to condemn to the Veil, but his experiences would serve me well.
I quickly scratched out a list of subjects I would need to study to prepare for the upcoming year – I'd say 'years,' but that's assuming I survive the DADA curse. Besides the obvious (Occlumency and Legilimency), I scanned my memory to add a few books on Defense, Charms, and Potions.
After some consideration, I determined that the next item on my list was also a genuine necessity: books on magical customs, traditions, and law.
In order to survive this world, I had to understand this world, and Rowling never covered many specifics. Her series presents a world that seems culturally inclined toward the late Renaissance or early Enlightenment period. At times the political structure seems reasonably democratic – there are elections for Minister for Magic, for instance – while at other times it seems positively tyranically – witness the illegal imprisonment of Sirius Black, or the summary execution of Barty Crouch Jr. at the end of Goblet of Fire.
Many fan fictions portray the Wizarding World as a fairly aristocratic society, and there is some evidence to support that. The Black family tree is titled "The Ancient and Noble House of Black," while the Malfoys act for all the world like the nouveau riche – more than willing to throw their money around, but not yet ascended to the true upper class. There were even some indicators that the Potter family belonged to that same upper crust: Harry's grandmother was born to the House of Black, and the family did inherit the famed Invisibility Cloak by descent from the prestigious Peverell family. That's not even to mention the tantalizing hints of a Gryffindor connection, in Harry's ability to unsheathe and wield that long-lost Sword. But there were the merest of breadcrumbs, not nearly the roadmap I would need.
"Glitzy!" I called, repressing my gag reflex at the name, and the house-elf popped in. I handed him the shopping list along with a money pouch, and watched him pop away. The rest of my supplies I'd probably purchase later on my own.
I turned my attention to other matters, primarily revising those subjects that Lockhart had forgotten while securing his celebrity. I wrote formal and fairly simpering notes to Minerva McGonagall, Filius Flitwick, and my old Potions instructor Horace Slughorn, informing them of my recent appointment as the new DADA instructor at Hogwarts. Despite my many successes in fighting Dark Creatures across Europe, I sadly lacked anywhere near the same level of experience in teaching my subject, and would greatly appreciate any pointers they might provide. In fact, (I went on), I might be so bold as to suggest a more radical solution. I have secured a pensieve, which I used to review my various encounters with dark creatures, both to prepare myself for future confrontations as well as accurately prepare my account for publication. I realize it was an extraordinary request, but if they would be willing to part with copies of their memories of their teaching years, I might peruse those memories at my leisure and learn according, from an infinitely more valuable resource than any list of suggestions and tips. Any seven-year stretch would do, though I would likely gain the most from observing them work with their favorite group of students. My sincerest thanks for your timely assistance, Gilderoy Lockhart.
Signing each letter in turn, I handed them to Ozymandias, who promptly launched himself from his perch and took off through the open window.
By now, Glitzy had returned with the first results from his shopping trip, specifically books on magical tradition. As he popped away, I pick up one of several "Welcome to the Wizarding World" pamphlets written for first-year muggleborn students. I polished those off in a half-hour, then turned to a larger tract on the Ministry of Magic, intended for students pursuing a career in government work.
Finally, some actual information! It turns out that the Ministry of Magic was merely the executive or administrative arm of the government, while legislative and judicial functions were embodied in the Wizengamot. That body was a hybrid of the muggle Parliament, balancing a certain number of seats for Ancient and Noble families (their House of Lords) while the remainder were elected out of various magical districts (the House of Commons). The system appeared fairly balanced, at least at first glance. But it took little digging to discover that the entry requirements for the elected seats involved possessing a great deal of wealth, mainly in the form of a landed estate. Thus, both aisles of the Wizengamot were occupied by the moneyed elites.
As I recalled from the books, the Wizengamot was presided over by the Chief Warlock, Albus Dumbledore. But what was his agenda? On the one hand, he publicly supported Arthur Weasley's Muggle Protection Act, but that was a limited measure to address muggle-baiting by magical artifacts. On the other, Dumbledore's seat and most of his coalition came from the Ancient and Noble families, the Old Guard who supported a broadly Traditionalist platform. Of course, the 'loyal opposition' led by Lucius Malfoy adhered to a more radicalized Blood Purity agenda, though I was stunned to discover that Malfoy actually occupied an elected seat among the districts. Needless to say, true advocates of muggleborn equality were few and far between.
I supposed this might explain Fudge's behavior in the books. Malfoy and Dumbledore were clear political rivals – it shouldn't make sense for him to constantly seek advice from both. But if power were in continual precarious balance between them, Fudge would be practically forced to find such a balance again and again to retain his position. No doubt Fudge privately supported Malfoy's agenda, given how quickly he turned on Dumbledore in Fifth Year, but for the moment he lacked the support to openly oppose the Chief Warlock's agenda.
I further discovered that the Wizengamot only rarely met as a whole, reserving that distinction for particularly newsworthy pieces of legislation or judicial proceedings. For the most part, the business of governance was done by small working groups granted near-autonomous power. This was far more problematic. It could easily be the case that Fudge's usurpation of power and Umbridge's reign of terror in the books were technically legal by way of a controlling majority of these working groups.
Good grief. This world was terrifying enough just for all the potential misuses of mind magic. Add to that the list of Class XXXXX magical creatures (four of which would be found at Hogwarts over the next three years), the mere existence of a terrorist sleeper cell dedicated to the principle of ethnic cleansing, and now this, the unconstrained power of a government inclined to be tyrannical, and what's left? I, and every other member of Magical Britain, seemed to be ideally situated to execute a maneuver airlines like to call a CFIT: controlled flight into terrain.
Was there any aspect of this that should give me hope?
Last night I was an American college graduate with an inordinate fondness for Harry Potter fan fiction. Now I'm a fraudulent celebrity in a world filled with unimaginable danger, and no idea how to proceed.
Right. Stay positive. J.K. Rowling's plot holes might annoy me to no end, but for the moment she's my own private Delphic Oracle. With her books in my corner, I have the luxury of knowing the future of this world were I not to interfere. I also have a broad vocabulary of memory charms (which will be quite handy, thank you) an extensive muggle education (common sense is so underrated), a celebrity appeal spanning most of Europe, and of course the ever-expanding bank account of a best-selling author at the height of his popularity.
My initial thought had been to defeat Voldemort with a combination of magical awesomeness and Rowling-based prescience. That was no longer an option. If the very foundations of a society have failed, then saving it would not be as simple as defeating a single terrroist organization.
No, it looked as though I might have to involve myself in politics after all.
As I waited for Glitzy's return, I turned to another excellent resource at my command: Lockhart's collection of pensieve memories, only surpassed to my knowledge by the collection belonging to Dumbledore. These would add nicely to my magical education.
The first step was to see the time differential, if any existed, between the pensieve world and the real world. I set the pensieve on the table, extracted a random memory, set a clock beside me and dove in. The memory itself was hardly noteworthy, as my main focus was keeping track of time. Since I couldn't guarantee my pocket watch would work in the same way, I simply counted the seconds aloud. After twelve minutes, the numbers started to jumble together, so I exited the pensieve. A quick glance at the clock told me that roughly one minute fifteen seconds had elapsed. Accounting for observational error, I'd guess that real time proceeded at roughly one-tenth the rate of time inside the pensieve.
I manfully resisted the urge to chortle. This just might work.
I commandeered an unused room and got an assembly line going. Most encounters with dark creatures necessitated some use of battle magic, so those memories would provide a fairly comprehensive review of necessary defensive skills, and would gradually desensitize me to the life-endangering perils of Rowling's universe. After each memory, I would cast what I'd just observe against walls or conjured targets.
After an hour, I was getting fairly proficient, and decided to break for a snack, as I'd skipped lunch during my time in Brockdale.
I was pleased to find that Glitzy had at last returned with my most important purchases and receipts. The books on Occlumency certainly cost a pretty penny – or pence, I suppose – but they were certainly worth it. Combining my own native talent for speed reading (I average 150 pages or about 70,000 words per hour) and Lockhart's gift for memory enhancement, it wasn't long before I set myself to devouring food for mind and body alike.
I decided to first skim through the text to get some basic understanding of the process, then knuckle down for a step-by-step. It turned out there were two forms of Occlumency. The first was a straight-forward barrier against external penetration. This was the most common and most vulnerable method. Though it may keep out foreign minds, it broadcasts your ability to sustain a mental defense, and if a enemy Legilimens were to overpower those initial defenses, the rest of your mind would be completely susceptible to attack.
The second method was both rare and, by all accounts, insanely difficult. It involved constructing a separate 'mindscape' to divert attention away from your true self. This secondary mind may have porous or solid external barriers, but it must be sufficiently complex to convince another Legilimencer that it is genuine.
The issues with this approach are manifold, but mainly boil down to a single nigh-insurmountable obstacle: constructing the secondary mind. The book detailed two ways to do so. The first entailed a coordinated long-term effort to create the desired mindscape. The second basically required a complete psychotic break.
Naturally, neither of those appealed to me. Fortunately, my situation apparently qualified as a viable third option. After all, I already had two sets of memories out of which to construct my false mind, and who knows how the trans-dimensional transfer might have affected my personality. (Now there's a frightening thought...).
Buckling down, I was quite pleased to find that the first step towards this advanced mental defense strategy involved attuning my mind to my own magical core. Now, I imagine this would take considerable time and effort for someone born with magic who didn't know what to look for. But for someone like me, who until last night was 100% pure Muggle, it was laughably easy. It wasn't long before I felt the magic and pinpointed my core somewhere in the neighborhood of my diaphragm.
The next step was to immerse my sense of self within that core, a process that reminded me vaguely of meditation and 'mindfulness' exercises. From there I allowed my mind to settle, and began to sift through the memories.
I, Lockhart, was a muggleborn, raised by a single mother of tight skirts and loose morals, who once told me that my father was a notable celebrity who couldn't be bothered to support his family. Once I grew up, I realize she was either lying or delusional, but either way didn't know who the father was. But as a child, it planted the seed of a desire to be a celebrity too, to do whatever it took to get my daddy's attention.
On my entry to Hogwarts, I was sorted into Ravenclaw (narrowly convincing the Hat not to place me in Slytherin for my ambitions). But I lacked the determination or work ethic to compete with the rest of my House academically. I fell behind in my studies, even further when I found I could attain some measure of fame by joining the Quidditch team as a Seeker. My reflexes were quite good, and my popularity rose among my fellow 'Claws.
Alas, either there weren't any openings for Seekers when I neared graduation, or I just wasn't good enough to make the cut. I foundered a bit, until I found myself (with the aid of a housemate) a position as a low-level Obliviator for the British Ministry of Magic.
Suddenly I had my inspiration. The power behind these simple charms was staggering, beyond mere comprehension. I could make these poor muggles forget anything, believe anything! And not just muggles, either. In this sphere, I could be a god among mortals.
My plans soon fell into place. I studied with more determination than I'd ever before displayed, rising through the ranks as my qualifications became apparent. I began my own independent research into memory charms, corresponding anonymously with Charms Masters around the continent to hear their insights into this particular branch of magical lore.
At the same time I began to expand my own network of contacts, reaching out to housemates and other acquaintances as they ascended the ladder of their own career paths. I requested international assignments, and made a name for myself in foreign Ministries as well.
At last my break came. A friend from the Irish Protectorate forwarded reports of a rogue Banshee somewhere in the south of Ireland. I filed for paid leave in my department, and was on the scent.
From the location of prior victims, I extrapolated the trail of fatalities to the town of Bandon, where I started to search for my quarry. I wasn't seeking the banshee. Rather, I was seeking someone else to fight the banshee for me.
Then I found her: a truly hideous witch, with no hygiene, peach fuzz and a harelip, living on the outskirts of town. She had no family, no friends to speak of, a few puffskeins for company and not even a kneazle to get in my way. She was perfect.
I introduced myself, secured an invitation for tea, and got to work on her mind. I gave her loyalty and trust compulsions keyed to me, enhanced her memories of various useful subjects to aid her in her adventures, and sent her on her way with food, water, and a massive compulsion to subdue that banshee.
I spent a comfortable week in her house, periodically checking into the village pub to spread word of my search and to keep my ears open in case she was sighted in any way that would lend her credit for taking down my banshee. Fortunately for me, that never happened.
A week later, she returned in success. After determining the basics of the story – where she found it, how she defeated it, and where it was being kept – I removed the compulsions and memories enhancements, extracted her memories for later review (I had purchased a pensieve at great expense), then obliviated her (giving her a memory of an otherwise uneventful week spent at home). Then I thanked her for the tea, left the house, found the banshee, and brought it to the Ministry for my reward.
It turns out defeating in single combat a dark creature that had cut a swathe out of magical neighborhoods in southern Ireland was pretty much a certain guarantor of celebrity. I was a hero, beloved by all. One month later I was the honored recipient of an Order of Merlin (Third Class), another month and my adventures were published in Break with a Banshee, and my path to glory was secured.
Later adventures followed much the same pattern. I even had a few lucky breaks where a dark creature was vanquished by an anonymous patsy, whom I tracked down in order to take credit myself. There were a few false starts, some occasions where I'd successfully extracted the memory but couldn't take credit as the true story had already circulated. Certainly I wouldn't want to compromise my streak of success. But even those memories were useful for further review.
I also made a habit of visiting the elderly, ostensibly to pay my respects to heroes in their decline, but really to extract their memories before they faded entirely, for later perusal or even publication. I pulled the same trick in muggle retirement homes, mainly looking for those whose experiences might guide my own path of celebrity. I also extracted the minds of a few accomplished musicians, for nothing quite compares to witnessing great music in the privacy of one's own pensieve. And if I accelerated their inevitable mental decline, who's to say?
Good God, my predecessor was despicable. Unfortunately, there was nothing to be done. Most of his victims had already passed away, and any attempt to return those stolen memories to the survivors would soon land me in Azkaban. And from what little I knew of that prison fortress, I definitely wasn't int the mood to chance it.
From reading ahead in the book, I had learned that the goal of sifting through memory and personality was to copy and gradually collect those elements in the desired false mind, which would then be tethered by magic to my magical body, specifically the region just behind my eyes. This would ensure any attacking Legilimencer would first encounter that false mindscape, while my true self was safely tethered elsewhere. The book gave several suggestions for that, including the heart, the spine, or the brain itself. Now, that was fine as far as it went, but if you could tether elements of myself to parts of my body, why not take that to its logical conclusion?
The first step of course was to parse out the various elements of me that I wished to tether, so I turned my attention inward. Though I still defined myself as not-Lockhart, I now possessed his entire set of memories, not to mention physical instincts. Now was the time to consolidate.
The beauty and horror of memory charms is that they are not an all-or-nothing proposition. They need not be as obvious and detectable as the blank stare of an Imperius victim would suggest. Subtle changes to personality are entirely possible, making this attempt at self-directed brain surgery a risky but feasible option. I practiced a few times on the table to ensure I retained the knowledge and muscle memory for it, and without further ado dove in.
The first thing I went to root out were any of the former Mr. Lockhart's unpleasant habits, especially any hint of deviancy. While Rowling was content to let the matter slide for the purposes of a children's book, I found it horrifying that Lockhart – a man with no morals and a mastery of memory modification – was ever allowed to be alone in the same room with an underage child. Thankfully, though I detected a slight attraction in a pubescent direction, Lockhart was evidently content to poach from his readily seducible fan club, and never gave such impulses any real consideration. Even so, it made me more than a little queasy, and it was the work of a moment to eradicate that element of his mind.
I also decided to marginalize his childhood and retain my own as a base. Lockhart didn't know about magic until he was eleven, and I vastly preferred my stable home to his broken one. I did enhance a few useful memories: accidental magic, trivial knowledge of British history and culture, that sort of thing.
I decided against messing with my own mind, opting instead to compress Lockhart's experiences and fit them where my own memories had faded. I kept much of his seven years at Hogwarts, enhancing the more useful classes and social connections while letting the rest fade, and arranged them however they would fit. As for his years after Hogwarts, I emphasized his research of memory charms over the adventures themselves, but made sure to keep my own college and post-graduation memories. Though the muggle subject-matter wouldn't be immediately useful, the study skills would more than compensate, and my work experience as a tutor would certainly help prepare for teaching at Hogwarts.
The personal history now completed, I got to work on personality.
Lockhart might have been an effete poseur, but he remained extraordinary talented in several respects. For one, he was a consummate celebrity, who understood and managed his fame very ably. He was also an exceptional writer and publicist, which would come in handy for herding the sheep that was the majority of the British Wizarding World. He was a decent flyer and possessed excellent reflexes – spot-obliviations were an occasional necessity in his line of work. Despite his narcissistic tendencies he was a natural extrovert who got along quite well with all manner of people, and despite his general laziness he could be a gifted researcher when he put his mind to it.
That said, he very rarely put his mind to it, his narcissistic tendencies did often overshadow his native charm, and he was on the whole an amoral bastard who did not hesitate to tear apart someone else's life to serve his own selfish purposes.
A few memory charms later and voila! A much more moral, magical me.
Now at last was the time to tether these elements to my body. I paid special care to muscle memory and physical reflexes. Lockhart's years of wand-waving were tied to wrists and elbows, while my fourteen years of piano lessons were tied to fingers and hands. Likewise, my many happy years of childhood sports were tied to upper arms and lower legs, while Lockhart's many happy hours of posing in front of mirrors (for portraiture and formal dueling) were tied to upper legs and shoulders.
Now I could immerse myself in the mental elements. The book had called this the most exhausting step, but with Lockhart's experience at copying and modifying memory, I could do it practically by rote. My academic pursuits and moral convictions were tied to my brain; Lockhart's magical experiences were tied to my diaphragm, as the nearest approximation of my core. Finally, every aspect of this system was linked to my spine, which served as the focal point for my true mindscape even if practically none of my true self were located 'on site.'
I began to feel somewhat faint by the time this process was nearing completion, and I realized it was probably getting on in the evening. At length I emerged from my magical core, enthused by all the progress I had made, and promptly succumbed to complete and total exhaustion.
The last thing I saw as my head plummeted to the side was the plate of cold food that Glitzy had lain out for my dinner some hours before.
And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
A/N: This fic was inspired by Skysaber's "My Gilded Life," though I will certainly be taking it in a different direction.
Please note that this is a gen fic: I started this story with no intended pairings, particularly not slash. That should hopefully pre-empt a few complaints.
Finally, please read and review: this was my first major work, and I appreciate all the feedback I receive.