Burrow and Books
I made my way to the lifts and then to the Ministry Atrium, passing the security desk on my way to an open fireplace on the right-hand side.
I took a deep breath. Floo-calling would be a... novel experience.
Throwing the Floo powder in, I called "The Burrow!" and stuck my face into the fire.
As my head met the flame, I felt a tugging sensation take hold of my nose, then my face, then my scalp and finally my neck, each feature being stretched on first contact with the Floo then compressed as it was joined by others, until it was only my neck that was strung out like silly putty. My field of vision flew forward until it opened finally on a cozy-looking living space.
"Mrs. Weasley?" I called out, trying to attract attention.
I was successful. Very successful.
Seconds later a sound not unlike a herd of graphorns came thundering down the stairs. A freckly red-haired face came into view, trailed by a rather gangly teenage body. "Hello? Who's there?"
A cocky grin. "Gilderoy Lockhart, m'boy. And you must be Percy?"
"That's me. How can I help you?"
"I sent your mother a note that I'd be dropping by. May I come through?"
He slowly nodded. "That'd explain why she made us drop everything and clean." He suddenly looked mortified. "I… erm, can I… can you wait there while I get her?"
I tried to nod comfortingly. "Of course."
Percy left in haste. A few seconds later, the twins appeared.
"What brings you"
"To our fine establishment?"
Okay, so twin-speak is real. Damn. I always figured it was an exaggeration by fan-fic authors. This would be seriously distracting.
"You have got to tell me how you manage that trick."
They looked at each other and grinned.
"We could tell you."
"But then we'd have to Obliviate you"
"And replace it with a memory of one of our prank candies."
They paused, and I struggled to contain my smile, despite feeling a twinge of discomfort at the subject-matter.
"I don't think he'd be convinced without firsthand experience."
"Sweet Circe you're right!"
"So what do we do?"
"Well George, now that you mention it"
"It just so happens I have one of those candies with me."
I couldn't help it. I gave a short bark of laughter. The twins looked inordinately pleased with themselves. "All right, all right, I give. And to answer your question, I was dropping by for tea. Just waiting for—"
"—your Mum. And here she is. Mrs. Weasley, how good to see you!"
The Weasley matriarch came into view, as the twins hid smiles and moved away. "Oh Mr. Lockhart, it was so good to get your letter. Of course you can come through."
I smiled. "Very well, see you soon." I withdrew, my field of vision constricting as though being sucked through a straw. Finding myself back in the Atrium, I quickly pulled out the replica diary and tapped it twice, front and back. I wouldn't have time to prepare the switching spell later. That done, I called out "The Burrow!" and stepped again into the flame.
The scene at the Burrow hadn't changed. I shook Molly's extended hand, and accepted her offer of tea. I'd never been a fan of tea, but this was Britain, so my old palate was basically doomed.
We had barely sat down to the table when Ron clambered in from outside. "Oh…" he stopped dead in his tracks. "Hullo Mr. Lockhart. Er… I suppose we'll be calling you Professor now." Molly beamed, and I shifted in my seat. "Uh, I'll be going upstairs then." He dashed up the stairs.
Okay, so that was Ron. I turned back to Mrs. Weasley.
"—ma'am. I came to ask for a favor." She blushed faintly. "As you know, I'm going to be at Hogwarts this year. It's my first time teaching, and I want to be sure I'm ready." She clucked reassuringly. "I've already approached several other professors for help dealing with the upper years, so I can build on what they've already covered in past years. Where they can't help me, however, is in dealing with the First Years. Specifically those—"
We heard a terrific crash from upstairs.
I sat back to watch the show. Maybe I wouldn't have to ask Molly to call Ginny down, as she was making pretty good time coming down on her own. Though for such a little girl, she made an impressive ruckus.
Molly had reached the landing by the time her daughter arrived. "Mum, Mum! Ron put Scabbers in my – oh." She suddenly stopped, catching sight of me behind Mrs. Weasley. "Um… I was in the loo and when I got out Scabbers was in my bed but I didn't see him and practically sat on him and Ron was outside laughing and Mummy he was really mean!"
Molly bellowed. "Ron!"
He was already there. "Mum! Whatever she said I didn't do it. I was playing with Scabbers and he escaped and then I heard Ginny scream and then she just hit me! Mum, she hit me!"
I had to keep myself from chuckling. Perhaps I did feel a bit of sympathy with Mrs. Weasley after all.
She took a deep breath. "Ginny?"
Her daughter's expression was an odd mixture between sly and sheepish. "Well, I may have pushed him out of the way."
"Pushed him out of the way?"
"When I was trying to get to the stairs," Ginny nodded.
"And did you, perhaps, push him a little harder than necessary?"
"Maybe?" Now Ginny's expression was entirely sheepish.
"All right." Molly sighed. "Ron, you're going to go de-gnome the garden and Ginny, you're going to go clean the kitchen."
It was two very disgruntled children who left the room, and Mrs. Weasley turned apologetically back to me. "I'm so sorry Mr. Lockhart. Children, you understand?"
"Of course." She rejoined me at the table. Suddenly I had a brainstorm. "Scabbers?"
"The family rat. It used to be Percy's, but now Ron takes care of it."
"Really? It must be getting on in years. How old is it?"
She paused in thought. "Well, we've had it since Percy was still an infant. So… maybe twelve years now?"
"Really! How extraordinary!" I paused. "Say, I wonder if Ron would let me take a gander at it. Most rats live three years, four at most. Twelve years… well, I have a friend who's a magical creatures expert who I could ask to take a look, see what he finds."
"Of course." Mrs. Weasley looked oddly pleased. She went to go call her son.
Ron was already grimy with sweat. "Ronald!" I began enthusiastically. "Your mother was just telling me about your pet Scabbers, and I say, it must be quite an extraordinary rat, to have lived so long. I was hoping to have a look at it, and wondered if you'd be willing to part with it. I know it must have sentimental value, so I'd of course be willing to pay extra."
He gaped at me for a second, before nodding eagerly. "Yes, yes of course. Want it for... er, three sickles?"
"Ronald!" His mother began to chide him.
"How about three galleons?" I responded generously.
His eyes widened to marble-size, and he nodded anew, more vigorously. Mrs. Weasley, of course, spoke first. "Oh, Mr. Lockhart, it's too much, we couldn't possibly–"
Ron shot his mother a look of anguished betrayal, but I interrupted before she could finish. "Pish posh. I'm willing to pay, and it should be enough for Ronald here to buy a new pet in Scabbers' place."
Mrs. Weasley was forced to concede the argument, and Ron shot up the stairs to bring down the rat.
"Glitzy!" He popped in. "Please fetch my money pouch and a cage." He vanished and I pulled out my wand to wait. The first to return was the elf, who placed the pouch in my hand and the cage on the table. First things first. I cast my mind back on an old Charms class, and cast a spell to make the cage unbreakable. Let's see him get out of that. Then I opened the latch and waited, counting out three gold coins on the table. Then Ron thundered down the stairs, and thrust the disoriented rat into my hands.
"Here he is, Mr. Lock— Professor Lockhart, sir."
"Very good Ronald, and here are your galleons." Very quickly I placed the rat in the cage, closed the door, and cast Colloportus. "Glitzy," I whispered as the Weasleys' attention was diverted, "please bring this cage back to my flat, and keep an eye on it—I don't want the rat to escape."
"Glitzy will keep the rat-man as Master says!"
Huh. I wonder if house elves can see through any magical disguise, or just animagus forms. Nifty trick.
I turned back as Molly ordered her son about. "Go put those coins away then back to the garden, young man!" Ron raced out of sight.
We turned back to the tea, as I inwardly crowed in triumph. Pettigrew's ass was mine! I shook my head to remind myself of my primary errand. "Mrs. Weasley—"
"—ma'am. I believe I was about to tell you the real reason I'm here. I've already asked the other teachers for advice on dealing with the older students, but well, they can't help me as much with the First Years, specifically those who grew up with wizarding families. I was muggleborn myself, so I know what to expect out of them, but I have no idea what it to grow up in the Wizarding World from birth, so I'm not sure of the sort of things to teach them."
She clucked reassuringly, then inclined her head for me to go on.
"I understand that your youngest daughter Ginevra will be joining Hogwarts this term. With your permission, I'd like to invite her to join us so I can ask a few questions."
"Of course, of course! Just a moment, I'll call her in."
She rose and moved away, and I soon heard her fussing over Ginny in the kitchen. At last they both emerged and moved towards the table.
"Hullo Mr. – Professor Lockhart, sir."
"And you must be Ginevra, it's a real—"
"Ginny," she piped up.
"Pardon?" I looked towards her mother.
Her face had fallen. "My daughter insists…."
"Ah, I see. Not uncommon, actually, to dislike your given name. I'll keep it in mind for class though. Ginny, not Ginevra." I mimed doffing a cap, and extended my hand in faux formality. "It's a pleasure, ma'am." She giggled and Molly relaxed.
"Moving on. As I was telling your mum, this year will be my first time teaching, and I've been learning as much as I can about the upper year students I'll be teaching. But no one had any help for dealing with First Years, and I was hoping you could help."
Ginny retreated into the chair. "Me?"
"You. You see, unlike me, you grew up in a wizarding family, and while I'm sure you consider it nothing special, I do. I'd very much like to learn the sort of things you pick up, even in the course of everyday life."
"Oh. Makes sense, I 'spose."
"Great! So I'll just ask you a few questions, and we'll go on from there, 'kay?" She nodded. "So, first question… hmm. You got a new wand yesterday?" She nodded again. "Good, good. Have you ever used a wand before?"
She pinked at the abrupt question. Mrs. Weasley piped up, "Of course my Ginny never—"
"Mrs. Weasley, please." I turned back to her daughter. "Ginny?"
Very reluctantly she nodded. "Last summer Bill let me use his wand a few times."
"Really?" I struggled not to laugh at the shock on her mother's face.
"Yeah," she replied sheepishly. "I kinda begged him to."
I almost laughed at the shocked look on her mother's face. "Any particular reason?"
"Well… he used this one hex on the twins one morning after they pranked me. He showed me the wand movements and let me try it. It makes your bogeys fly out and attack you!" she finished proudly.
Oh, good grief. The Bat-Bogey Hex. No wonder it was her specialty. I hastily moved on.
"Okay… so what sort of preparation do you receive for Hogwarts?"
She looked in surprise at her mother, who straightened in her chair before responding. "Well! I wasn't aware this wasn't common knowledge, even among the muggle-born. There is no registered primary school, of course, but most magical families cooperate to prepare our children for Hogwarts. Most of the old pureblood families meet out of a place up north near Pendle Hill in Lancashire. For everyone else, there's a family in Ceredigion that takes in the children of half-bloods and working wizards, while most of the families in the West District send our children in a day school in Cornwall. That's where Ginny, and all of our children, went for primary."
Huh. Learn something new every day. "And what did you learn there, Ginny?"
Ginny's answer was long and rambling, but it boiled down to her receiving a fairly typical primary school education, comparable to anything you might find in Muggle England. There were of course a few exceptions, like studying magical history or bring home very different reading material.
"And what sort of books do you read for fun?"
"Oh, that's easy, my favorite was the Boy-Who-Lived series, it's something I read when I was younger, it was just so—erk!"
Oh poor Ginny. Of all the times for Harry Potter to show up, it had to be then. She turned bright red, and squirmed silently in her chair as though to bury herself within it.
As for Harry, poor boy just looked dumbfounded. "You mean to tell me there are storybooks about me?" He said the word with disgust. He was at the stage of life where girls are icky. It couldn't have been easy for him to learn that he was the romantic hero in a series of books read by those very girls.
I wasn't sure how to respond, so I decided to just greet him normally. "Hello Harry, good to see you again."
"Uh…" he shook himself. "Hullo Professor Lockhart. Why're you here?"
"Harry!" Molly warned.
"No, no, it's fine. I was asking Ginny some questions so I'd know how to teach the First Years. I was muggle-born, so I was looking to learn about a normal magical childhood."
Harry at first looked pleased that attention was focused on someone other than him, but his face fell when I talked about a 'normal' childhood. Damn, those Dursleys did a number on him.
"Something wrong, Harry?"
"Nuthin'. I'll just be going outside then?" His voice hitched, but before I could respond had turned away and fled out of doors.
Ginny was still beet-red, but at least there were no butter dishes in sight. Time to drag the conversational train back to its tracks. "So, I guess… besides the Boy-Who-Lived stories, what other sort of books do you read?"
"Erm… well I read a few of your books, they were pretty good—d'ya know Mum has the whole set?—"
"And one time I picked up Ron's 'Mad Muggle' comics one time, but I thought they were pretty silly. But really most of what I read were assignments for Hogwarts prep" her voice dropped "besides the Harry Potter books, I mean."
I grunted – and immediately made a mental note to never do it again, it was not a flattering sound the image-conscious Lockhart would indulge in. "Would this be typical of most First Years, do you imagine?"
Ginny paused, "I honesty wouldn't know. Outside of day school, I never saw many girls – my best friend was Luna, but she was home-schooled."
"Lovegood. Her family lives nearby. They're rather… odd."
"Luna's father prints the Quibbler." Mrs. Weasley explained curtly.
"Ahh." She was clearly not a fan of Xenophilius. "And Mrs. Lovegood?"
"Selene died about two years ago in a magical accident." The grief on Mrs. Weasley's face gave way to repressed anger. "Luna's father… he didn't do much to take care of her after that."
"She used to visit, but she only came by once after the funeral, and now I barely see her anymore." Ginny's eyes were cast down; she looked more than a little lost.
I tried to smile encouragingly. "Well, people sometimes push their friends away when they're trying to deal with a loved one's death. I've seen it before. Just keep being her friend, and I'm sure she'll come around."
Ginny met my eyes as Mrs. Weasley's expression lightened. "Thank you Mr. Lockhart."
"Not a problem, Miss Weasley." I shook my head and redirected the conversation. Again. "I only have one last question for you before I leave – really a request. I wonder if you could show me the books you got yesterday for Hogwarts, let me know which one's you've read or seen already, which ones catch your interest, that sort of thing."
"Of course, Mr. Lockhart. Professor. Sorry. My books are still in my cauldron. Mum?"
"Yes dear, it'll be in your room, up you go."
And Ginny raced up the stairs, while I breathed a sigh of relief. Still in the cauldron meant still unpacked, still unpacked meant unopened diary, unopened diary meant I didn't have to replace it with my replica. I immediately tore off a spare page from the replica diary and shifted my wand (still in my sleeve) to tap it on the front and back. I would still use a switching spell, but I would prime it with the paper instead.
She returned, much more slowly this time, carrying the pewter cauldron with her schoolbooks. She started picking out books and putting them on the table, starting with Magical Drafts and Potions.
"We read about a few potions in primary, and they had a copy of this in the library, so I've flipped through it. It's dead dull, though. I'll probably read ahead anyway. I'd rather not face Snape in one of his moods…."
"Ginny!" Her mother chided.
"What, it's true! Even Percy agrees, and you know how he goes on about respecting authority and all!"
Not even Mrs. Weasley could counter that argument.
Next out of the cauldron was Bathilda Bagshot's A History of Magic. I'd forgotten about her. Later in the original timeline she gave Rita Skeeter all kinds of dirt on the then-late Dumbledore. She'd be dead useful as an ally.
Ginny was speaking about it, though. "Merlin, I got so tired of that in primary! We used it all the time, though we only read a paragraph at a time in class." She pulled out Goshawk's Standard Book of Spells (Grade 1) and blushed deeply. "It was never assigned," she answered my unasked question, "but Ron left his copy lying around last summer, so I paged through it and… and… I practiced the wand movements with a twig." She finished very quickly. I hastened to reassure her. Merlin, you'd think for wizards there wouldn't be such a taboo against underage practicing like that.
Moving on, she indicated that Waffling's Magical Theory was also excerpted by the primary school, and was exactly as dreary as it sounded. It also became apparent that the primary school had done a few lessons on potion-making, both safety techniques and ingredient preparation, as they used One Thousand Magical Herbs and Fungi by Phyllida Spore (no pun there) as a reference work.
Finally, she pulled out A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration. It was a large-ish tome with a bulge in the middle, subtly emphasizing the author's name on the cover. I found this more than a little ironic as I cast the switching spell, for the author was Emeric Switch. I wrestled to contain a single bark of laughter as I felt the weight of an additional diary shift in my robe.
"And of course your books, but Mum keeps them down in the kitchen with her copies." Ginny concluded, to her mother's embarrassment. I could have been wrong, but I thought I saw a mischievous glimmer in her eye as she said it.
"Well," I concluded a bit abruptly, "thank you for being so helpful." I started packing her books back in her cauldron. "That's all the questions I have for you, Miss Weasley, so I'd thank again for your honesty, even if it occasionally got you in trouble." I shot a quick glance-and-back towards her mother. Ginny noticed it and grinned. "And thank you Mrs. Weasley for your hospitality, though I don't dare impinge on it any longer than necessary." Stretching slightly I rose to my feet, and the two Weasley women mirrored my movements. "Well, it's been a pleasure." I bowed slightly to them both and moved towards the door. "Good day!"
"Oh, won't you take the Floo?"
And give up the address to my flat? Not a chance. "No thanks, ma'am. I prefer to apparate, and the walk will be good for me." This was Lockhart's standard policy, unless he were bringing back a conquest, and even then the information was Memory Charmed away. Along with any performance issues – after all, he had his reputation to live up to.
Again, my predecessor was most definitely NOT a nice guy.
Mrs. Weasley ordered Ginny back to work in the kitchen, and escorted me to the door. Shortly after I left the building, the twins came tumbling out the door and fell in step behind me. "Mr. Lockhart!"
"Weren't you going to tell us"
"About the Mauraders?"
Oh, the look of hope on their faces was truly delightful. Too bad I was going to be (temporarily) squashing it like a bug. "Didn't I say I'd tell you on the Hogwarts Express?"
Their faces fell in unison.
I decided to throw them a bone. "I can tell you, though, that Harry is related to one of them."
That stopped them in their tracks. It also stopped Harry in his tracks – he had seen the twins and inadvertently overheard the last part of our conversation.
He looked on me almost with a sense of awe. "I have magical relatives? You knew them?" My heart broke anew – this kid was truly desperate for any connection to his parents or past.
I partially knelt in front of him. "Yes I did, but not well and not anymore. I'll tell you about it on the train, okay? Right now I think you should enjoy the time with your friends." I rose, catching the eyes of the twins and nodded seriously. They were good kids; they'd look after Harry, at least for the next month.
A few seconds later, I reached the edge of the wards and turned back to wave good-bye to the three boys. "Until the Express, all right?" My vision blurred as I disapparated.
I reappeared in my flat and immediately threw both diaries on the table. I wracked my mind for some way to store it. I didn't have a safe, and I didn't want to trust it to Gringotts, so my vault was out of the question. Whatever I used, it'd have to last until I could safely destroy the diary.
"Glitzy!" My elf popped in. "Can you go to Diagon Alley and purchase a jewelry box?" He nodded, eager for the errand. "It'll need to be bronze or silver, big enough to contain a book this size." I picked up the replica I'd bought earlier. "On second thought, a small cauldron would do as well, if it has a cover. Here's my money pouch. Just make sure it's the right materials."
"Bronze or silver, as you say Master." He popped away.
There are three metals that are magical insulators: gold, silver, and bronze. That's why they're used for currency, and why goblins rely on them for their war-blades. Those metals are effectively immune to magic. If I could store the diary horcrux in such a container, it would isolate its ill effects.
Then I noticed a slight squirming in the corner. So… what do I do with Pettigrew?
The rat was still locked in his cage, placed near my fireplace, and he was not finding captivity to his liking. I found it fairly amusing that he was far too fat to squeeze through the bars, and far too weak to create a larger opening.
But what do I do with Pettigrew?
First things first, I needed to have a plausible excuse, which meant learning the animus detection charm. I could ask Filius when I saw him, or make a quick detour to Kettleburn's office.
Speaking of Filius…. I moved over to my mail-box and sorted through the day's post. Filius had received my response and extended his invitation for the very next day. I quickly moved to the fireplace to confirm by Floo as he requested.
"Hogwarts, Flitwick's Quarters!" I called, and stuck my head in the flame, doing my giraffe impression for the second time that day. Wizards can be ingenious, but they seem to have a universal policy that any magical ingenuity be accompanied by pain or at the very least a sense of discombobulation.
Flitwick's office was impressively pristine, though all the furniture (except for the seats nearest the door) were miniaturized, suited to Flitwick's part-goblin stature. "Professor!" I called cheerily. "Professor?"
When he rounded the corner, I always lost my balance in surprise.
"Mr. Lockhart, how good to hear from you. You got my message?"
"Indeed I did." I replied drily. "Professor Flitwick, may I inquire—"
The short man interrupted with an apologetic smile. "We're colleagues now, call me Filius."
"It's Filius, I insist."
"Professor Filius, then. It's hard for me, you know – I still remember you as my Head of House when I was a firstie."
"Wasn't much taller than you, though, was I? Still, I can see that would be difficult. But you must try. We are colleagues, so it's only right that our conversation be collegial."
I mirrored his smile. "Still, it would be easier to think of you as Filius if you didn't look about a hundred years older than when I left. What happened?"
He sighed. "I was experimenting with an aging charm. It worked, but went a little further than expected. It should wear off in a week, but then I was thinking of keeping this look for the rest of term. It's starting to grow on me."
"Along with a pretty spectacular amount of facial hair, I'd say"
He hid a grin. "That was an unanticipated bonus. I figure that I look so different with this hair, most of my students would spend most of the Welcoming Feast wondering who I was or why I seemed familiar." This time he let the grin out. "A well-deserves prank on the students, I think."
I stared, then started to chuckle. I would have never expected that from the straight-laced Flitwick. By the time I got my laughing fit under control, he had already resumed the conversational thread. "So you received my note."
"Indeed. Originally I thought about dropping by here, but I have a few things I'd like you to look at, so I'm extending an invitation for you to visit my flat tomorrow morning."
"Of course, I'd be delighted to accept! What's the Floo address?"
I shifted uneasily. "The Floo is Lockhart Hall."
He noted the name with surprise. "Oh, I wasn't aware yours was an established family…."
Damn my predecessor, now I had to explain. "Alas it wasn't. I chose the name in hopes of making it so." A good enough excuse, certainly better than "I used to be a pompous prick," and such motives would be well-understand by Flitwick. 'Half-breeds' were often treated with equal if not greater contempt than the muggle-born by the prejudiced upper crust.
Flitwick nodded seriously.
"Well, that's it then. See you tomorrow, and be ready to put your thinking cap on."
He looked alarmed, "You wish me to bring the Sorting Hat? It hasn't been outside Hogwart's wards in centuries!"
"No, no, sorry, muggle expression." Damn that was going to give me away. "It means be prepared for some serious mental calisthenics."
"Ah. Makes more sense. See you tomorrow then, Mr. Lockhart."
"And you, Professor—Filius" I finished resignedly, and withdrew from the Floo.
By this time Glitzy had returned. "Is this good enough for Master?"
"Excellent work, Glitzy. Thank you." He bounded away. He had purchased a small bronze cauldron and cover, but would more than amply fit the diary despite its size. I put it in, closed the cover, and put it in the same corner as the rat.
So…. What do I do with Pettigrew? I'll see if I can get Flitwick to show me the charms I'd need. I definitely wanted to get Black out of Azkaban, but at the same time wasn't sure if I could accomplish it through the courts. Dumbledore could have gotten Sirius a trial, but he didn't; Sirius was intended to be Harry's guardian if James and Lily died, but in Azkaban he couldn't be. I wasn't the only fan-fic author to see the connection, and it would be foolhardy to the extreme to poke such a tiger without due preparation.
Plus, Dumbledore would probably pin the non-trial on Crouch Sr., and the whole thing would blow up in his face. Before that happened, I wanted to see if I could maneuver my own ally (Cresswell) to replace him. But that was a secondary concern. The main issue was Dumbledore, and I was nowhere near ready to confront him.
Even so, if I could unmask Pettigrew, I could easily bring in Amelia, and together we might find a way to get Sirius transferred to a dementor-free area, or even if necessary stage a jailbreak.
I wasn't ruling anything out.
I spent the rest of the evening by the fire with book in hand, contemplating rats, Dark Lords, and the magical theory behind using elemental spells in combat.
Yes, life was pretty good.
A/N: Please read and review. This was my first attempt to write sustained dialogue with known characters like the Weasleys, so any feedback is helpful.
Update: If you'd like to see why Lockhart was so surprised by Flitwick's appearance, check out my fanfic album here: www . imgur . com / a / cxU36