For the Record
22nd November 1992
The sound of the quill-tip snapping under his fingers brought Harry's attention back to the real world. Looking at the parchment, he realised that he had managed to doodle a rather ornate looking snitch on it. Sighing audibly, he looked over to his companions. Hermione was writing down copious notes from one of the reference books on Potions, her brows furrowed in concentration. Ron, on the other hand, was reading through a battered notebook filled with sparse notes while referencing it with an equally sparse copy of Mark's notes. Harry was still in awe of the efficiency with which his friend studied. Exactly what was required—neither more nor less. Harry had tried reading through Mark's haphazard notes, trying to make some sense of the broken sentences and circled words. He couldn't. But Ron could.
They were here in the library today because Hermione had insisted that they start preparing for the term exams already—even though they were still four weeks away. Not that Harry didn't want to study; a small part of him wanted to do his best to make his parents proud, now that he was away from the Dursleys. But today, all his mind kept returning to was the last conversation he had had with Hagrid.
"Hermione, what do they do with all the essays and homework that we submit?" asked Harry, voicing the question that was niggling in the back of his mind for the past few days. Hermione, surprised by the question, narrowed her eyes at him.
"Why do you ask Harry?"
He could see that Hermione wasn't entirely convinced by his explanation, but she carried on anyway.
"Well, it depends on the professor —" said Hermione.
"Maybe Snape uses his to blow his nose," Ron interrupted. "Or to wipe his —"
"That's Professor Snape, Ron," Hermione interrupted, a slight smile on her face. She must be warming up to their jokes about Snape, thought Harry. "Anyway," she continued, "all the student records are kept in the records room beside Filch's office."
"Really? All of them?" Harry asked, his mind quickly trying to fathom the implications. "Hogwarts must be keeping a thousand years of records then! The room must be huge!"
"It's not that big of a deal, Harry," Ron said. "Magic, remember? A few spells and you can expand the room to your liking."
Harry nodded in understanding. He still wasn't accustomed to thinking in terms of magic and all that it could do; all the things wizards like Ron took for granted.
"Although that's correct," Hermione intervened, drawing their attention back to her. "Hogwarts doesn't keep all the records beyond twenty-five years."
Seeing the looks of curiosity and disbelief on the two boys, she continued her explanation.
"Yes. In eighteen twenty-seven, a man named Dervin appealed to the board to have all old records purged periodically."
"Why?" asked Harry.
"Probably didn't want anyone to see how bad he did at Charms when he was twelve," scoffed Ron before turning towards Hermione. "But how and why do you know this Hermione?"
"Well — um." Hermione spluttered, her cheeks colouring in embarrassment. As both of them showed no signs of backing down on the matter, she relented.
"Okay, fine. I wanted to check Professor Dumbledore's school records," she took a pause, before continuing in a low voice, "So that I could keep them as a target for me to look up to."
"You don't need to do that Hermione. You're already brilliant!" Ron exploded, "Plus that was a century ago. You can't expect to compare against the curriculum of that time. Mental, that is!"
Hermione's face flushed, unable to decide whether to smile at Ron's backhanded praise or not.
"Hermione, how old is Professor Lockhart?" asked Harry, deciding to get to the pertinent question on his mind.
"He was born in nineteen sixty-four. That makes him twenty-eight," Hermione replied automatically before she could wonder why he wanted that information. "Why are you asking Harry? You aren't thinking of checking his records, are you?" she asked once she cottoned on. "You are. Why?"
Knowing Hermione wouldn't give in now, Harry decided to come clean.
"I'm going to see if something sticks out," he said.
"Sticks out? Like, look for inconsistencies? Why? Why would there be inconsistencies?" asked Hermione, confused.
"Look, I went to Hagrid the other day, right?" Seeing two nods, he continued, "Well, he implied that Lockhart wasn't that good of a student at school. Certainly not as good as he now claims to be."
"People learn new things all their lives Harry," Hermione spoke immediately, "Besides, Hagrid is not even a Professor. How would he know?"
"But he's seen enough students pass by in the school. He's bound to have noticed something," said Ron, coming to Hagrid's defence. "Plus, if Lockhart was putting on an act in front of the other professors, chances are it's only Hagrid who noticed"
"But his books. He's done such great things —"
"Thing he says he's done —"
"Don't be daft Ron. All of those things were reported in international news. You can't just fabricate things like that," said Hermione, "Plus, Professor Dumbledore hired him, right? He wouldn't have chosen —"
"Only he didn't choose, Hermione," interrupted Harry, "Lockhart was the only applicant."
There was the clincher. Harry watched as Ron got a gleam in his eye, as if he'd found a shiny galleon in the mud. Hermione meanwhile gaped like a fish.
"I—This is crazy. You're making allegations without any proof!" she almost shouted. Harry tried to calm her down.
"That's why I want to look at the records, Hermione. To find some proof." Seeing the look of extreme discomfort on her face, he added, "Look you don't have to come with us if you don't want to."
"But if we find something …" he looked straight at her. Hermione gave a slow nod in reply.
Satisfied, Harry looked at Ron. He hadn't actually asked his friend if he would come along. But Ron had never backed away before, and he didn't now.
24th November 1992
"You reckon Filch ever files any of this stuff?" Ron asked, as he picked up another box to search through. Looking through these records was much more boring than he had realised.
"Yeah. Maybe file under 'I don't give a damn, just stick it in'," Harry replied, imitating the old caretaker's rough accent. Ron snickered after a moment.
"What?" Harry asked.
"Nothing," said Ron. "Just stick it in," he chuckled. It must have taken a moment for Harry to realise what he meant, and he hit Ron with the folder he had in his hand, his cheeks flushed.
"Shut up. You're lucky Hermione isn't here. She'd have your hide for that."
Ron shivered. Growing up amongst many brothers, such talk was common for him. Of course, his mother would punish them if they were caught, and Ron was used to that. But Hermione—she was something else entirely.
Deciding to get back to the task at hand, Ron combed through the large stack of parchments in the box in front of him, looking for any bearing the name of Gilderoy Lockhart. If they found any, they were making a quick copy; staying in the records room any longer than necessary was only inviting for more trouble, especially since Filch was particularly angry with Harry and Ron. After all, they had been present at the scene of his beloved cat's petrification.
"Shit," Harry cursed, and Ron looked at him. He was nursing a small cut on his left thumb, his right hand holding a manila folder with a green and silver crest on top, the Slytherin snake adorning it.
"Stupid bug, in the stupid Slytherin file," Harry began angrily, "Bloody sshasahshhhhahssssss"
Ron froze, the amused smile on his face melting off like ice-cream in the sun.
"What?" asked Harry, his thumb in his mouth.
"You—You just hissed at—at that," Ron managed to splutter out, fear slowly gripping him. If what he was thinking was correct …
Harry must have thought he was playing a prank, because he just scoffed.
"What? No, I didn't. I just said it was a bloody idiotic pile of horse shit with —" Harry stopped, now concerned about Ron's paling face. "Why did you think I hissed?" asked Harry.
'Was he playing a prank on him?' thought Ron. 'Or was Harry genuinely unaware of what he'd done?' He decided to answer Harry and get to the bottom of this.
"Because you did. You looked at that snake and—and spoke," said Ron, before he noticed something. Harry wasn't surprised by the implication that he had been speaking to snakes, only by the fact that he had been hissing.
"Have you ever spoken to a snake before?" Ron asked, his tone a bit too accusatory than he'd intended. Harry became a bit guarded at this.
"Yes," said Harry. "Once. Before," he added slowly, trying to look for Ron's reaction. "On Dudley's birthday. We had gone to the zoo, and there was this Boa Constrictor —"
"You spoke to the Boa Constrictor," said Ron, his fears confirmed.
"Yeah. I actually set him loose on my cousin. Accidently of course," Harry added hastily. "It escaped and —" he trailed off, lost in the memory.
"Did it understand you?" Ron asked, silently praying Harry would say no.
"I think so," said Harry, a frown on his face. "Why, can't you talk to them?"
"No one can, Harry."
"That's not possible. Someone else might be able to do it. There's loads of people here."
"Look. The ability to speak to snakes is—the people who can are called Parselmouths. The snake language is called Parseltongue. It's made up of hissing —"
"Hissing? But I was speaking in English," Harry interrupted. Ron closed his eyes and breathed in deeply before continuing.
"For you maybe. I don't know how Parseltongue works. But I heard it as hissing," said Ron. He clenched his jaw, trying to make sense of everything. All of this was too much for him. His friend—Harry Potter himself—a bloody Parselmouth. He was sure of it—Ron knew what he had heard.
Ron watched as Harry's face fell, frustration slowly growing on it.
"So what? I have another freakish thing about me. It's not that people don't mock me enough already" he said bitterly. Underneath the apathy, Ron saw the way his friend was hurt.
"I won't go around telling anyone Harry," said Ron, "It is generally considered to be a Dark Art. The only wizards who ever spoke it were all Dark Wizards. Salazar Slytherin himself was one. That's why their symbol is a snake," he explained.
Harry's face took on a serious expression, obviously worried about the implications of Ron's statement. Ron decided to put Harry at ease.
"Doesn't make you Slytherin though, right?" he said with a small chuckle. "The Hat put you in Gryffindor with all of us."
Harry's eyes widened in shock, his face losing any colour it had before. Whatever Ron should have said to make Harry feel more comfortable, that was clearly not it. Though, he didn't know what he said wrong.
"Let's just get back to this then," said Ron, deciding just to change the topic entirely. Harry nodded silently and the two of them resumed their search for Lockhart's records. As he picked up the next box to go through, Ron wondered what he should do about the new information he'd learned. What its implications were.
One thing was certain; Hermione needed to know about this.
27th November 1992
Harry looked through the files once more, trying to make sure once again that he wasn't mistaken. He had found it; irrefutable proof that there was something fishy about Lockhart.
He had come to the records room alone today, since Ron wanted to work on his transfiguration essay with Hermione. While shuffling through the parchments, something had caught his eye—one particular essay, with a familiar-looking handwriting. Except, the name on the top was not Lockhart's. Curious, he had looked at the copies of essays that Lockhart had written during his years at Hogwarts. What he found was confusing. Some of Lockhart's essays were written in one handwriting, while some were in another. They were similar, yes. Not discernible at first glance. But Harry could make out the difference, two parchments placed side by side. There was 'g' or a 'k' that was written differently each time. He tried compiling these differences, trying to find the first occurrence. It took time—much more than he had expected. He missed his lunch, trying to follow the breadcrumbs. But finally, his efforts bore fruit.
In his first and second years, Lockhart had above-average scores—all E's and O's. Then came the third year, where his grades began to dip. First A's, then P's. Finally, all D's and T's. This continued in his fourth year—which Lockhart had to repeat. Then it all changed. Slowly, but steadily, his grades improved. To an observer, it would seem he was just studying better and therefore scoring more. Except, that was when the different handwritings began to appear. Harry cross-referenced them, at first with the other Ravenclaws and the with his entire year. And he found matches. Not to the class toppers, but to the students who were in the top fifteen. Not too brilliant that they would be noticed, but good enough to make a difference.
When he compared the OWL's scores, he found the main piece of evidence—all other students scored higher in it than they did in the Hogwarts exams. All except Lockhart.
It was time to tell Hermione. There was enough evidence; he just didn't know what to do with it. Maybe she would have some idea. Maybe they needed to find something more; Harry still didn't have a plausible explanation for Lockhart's NEWT scores. They were those of a competent wizard—certainly not those of Lockhart. Not in Harry's opinion, at least. Whatever it was they needed to find, having Ron and Hermione on the case with him was the best way to do it.
Gathering all the copies, Harry quickly stuffed the originals back into the boxes. As he rolled the large sheet of blank parchment that he had brought along to make copies, Harry felt grateful towards the copy-making spell that the Weasley Twins had taught Ron. Obviously, the copy it made couldn't pass for the original—there was no way they could make magical copies of their homework. But it was still useful for making copies from books, or in this case, student records.
Harry checked the room after he was done—no sign to indicate that he had been there today. Satisfied, he packed all the record copies into his bag and quietly left the room after checking the corridor. Slinging his bag on his shoulder, he began to make his way towards Gryffindor tower as quickly as his legs could carry him. He walked with a spring in his step; the fact that he had been right about Lockhart was an oddly pleasing thought. With a wide grin on his face, he told the week's password to the Fat Lady—the portrait that concealed the entrance to Gryffindor Tower.
His grin didn't last, however. Sitting on the couch by the fireplace were Hermione and Ron, sombre expressions on their faces. On seeing Harry, Hermione walked over immediately.
"Where have you been? We've been waiting for more than an hour here. It's almost time for dinner"
"Hey, hey, relax," said Harry "I made it back in time, didn't I? Besides, I was in the records room," he added in a low voice.
"For five hours? You missed lunch"
"Well, I found something interesting. I think you should —" Harry stopped as he noticed their still serious expressions.
"What's the matter? Why were you guys waiting up for me?" Harry asked Hermione. He turned to Ron, who was standing behind her. "What's up with the worried faces?"
"That's because we were worried—we are worried Harry," said Hermione, after a moment. She gave Ron a quick glance. "Ron told me about you being a Parselmouth."
The penny dropped. Harry didn't know whether to feel sad or angry. This must have been the reason Ron didn't join him today—the essay must have been an excuse to talk to Hermione alone. Wondering whether to stay friends with Harry or not. And they had obviously come to a decision.
"So you guys decided then? Okay," he said after a while, trying to control the hurt in his voice. He failed. He wasn't that sad actually—just disappointed in himself. He understood that nobody would like to be friends with a freak like him. He was used to it.
Harry decided to not stay back any longer. Taking a deep breath, he began to head to the boy's dormitory, but was stopped as Hermione grabbed a hold of his arm.
"Wait! Where are you going?"
"I thought you guys don't want to be my friends anymore. It's alright, I understand. I'll keep my distance," said Harry.
"What! Why would you think that?" Hermione asked, a confused expression on his face. Harry wasn't sure exactly what she was confused about.
"Because I'm a —" he paused. Turning to look at Ron, he continued, "You told me that it meant I was a dark wizard. I can understand. Nobody wants to be friends with —"
"Don't be daft Harry," Hermione snapped, to Harry's surprise. "We wouldn't stop being friends with you over such a silly thing," she said dismissively, as if the very idea was ridiculous.
Harry was confused. They didn't want to stop being friends with him? As if he'd read Harry's mind, Ron spoke next.
"Of course. We're friends Harry. The only reason I told Hermione was that I didn't want to hide it from her. You know she would've figured it out sooner or later. Sooner's better," he explained as if it were the most obvious thing ever.
"Parseltongue doesn't change you from what you are. It's just like being able to speak French, for example," said Hermione. This only confused Harry further.
"But then what were you worried about? You said earlier—"
"Well we understand, but others might not. There're still rumours floating around—about the Heir of Slytherin and all. Given that Slytherin was a Parselmouth—"
"— People might think I'm his heir," Harry finished. "But I didn't—"
"We know that Harry," said Ron, stressing every word. "We were there, standing beside you, remember? You couldn't have attacked Mrs Norris."
"We just want to make sure that no one catches hold of the fact that you're a Parselmouth," added Hermione
"Like Malfoy," said Ron. "He would love for you to get into trouble, especially for something he's responsible for—"
"Are you still on about that?"
"I'm telling you, it's him. He's behind the message, Hermione."
Harry watched as his friends started bickering; something that wasn't unusual for them. Clearly, this was part of an earlier argument. Harry cleared his throat, trying to draw their attention back to him before the arguments could grow further.
"You guys meant that? About—about being friends?"
"Of course, Harry." Hermione gave him a friendly smile, while Ron neared and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Yeah, mate. We're Gryffindors aren't we?"
The smile that had appeared on Harry's face melted off. Gryffindor. Why did Ron have to say that? One word and it had squashed the small bloom of hope in Harry's chest. Would they still want to be friends with him if they knew the whole truth? Harry decided to come clean, for their sake and for his. Their friendship could not be built on a lie.
"What if I told you the Sorting Hat wanted to put me in Slytherin?" said Harry, holding his emotions in check. "That it insisted I be put in Slytherin?"
Harry's word had an immediate effect—like being hit by a jet of ice-cold water. Ron's face paled, his face undergoing a million different combination of expressions. Hermione's would have also been the same, except Harry could see her make an effort to show no change.
"I—I don't know what to say, Harry," said Hermione, after a few moments, her eyes darting at the floor in confusion. Ron, however, looked Harry in the eye.
"Why didn't it?"
"I—I asked it not to," said Harry immediately. Wasn't that obvious?
"Why?" asked Ron
"Why did you ask that? Of the Hat? To not put you in Slytherin?"
Harry opened his mouth to answer but hesitated. To be honest, he hadn't expected this question. Especially not from Ron.
"Malfoy, on the train," said Harry. "And—and what Hagrid told me—that many dark wizards had been once in Slytherin."
Hermione's eyes widened in surprise, while Ron assumed a triumphant expression—as if he'd won the lottery.
"Then you have your answer, Harry," said Ron. "You might be ambitious; you might be cunning. Hell, you might be slimy as a snake. But you aren't mean or evil. You don't want to go dark. And as long as you want that—to not be evil—to be good, we'll stay as your friends."
Harry was dumbstruck, emotions surging within him. He glanced over at Hermione, who was watching Ron intently, her jaw hanging open in amazement.
"That—that was wonderful Ron," said Hermione after a minute. Turning to Harry she gave him a confident smile. "I agree with him. For the record, I think you're an idiot for ever doubting our friendship, Harry." She paused before continuing with a smirk, "Still, you're our idiot."
Harry looked back and forth between his friends. He was lucky to have them. Ron, aware of the uncomfortable silence, gave Harry a solid pat on the back.
"I do prefer you dressed in red and gold, though. Need someone to kick Malfoy's arse at Quidditch, right?"
"Language, Ronald," said Hermione immediately, her tone half amused. She turned to Harry. "What was it that you wanted to show us before?"
Harry snapped in attention. He had almost forgotten all about it. As he reached for his bag, a predatory smile gripped his face. With a dramatic flush, he removed the large stack of parchments.
"Boys and girls, let me present to you the records of Mr Gilderoy Lockhart"
AN: I hope you enjoyed the chapter. I'm extremely grateful for all the reviews that I have been getting from the readers, and for your feedback about my writing. I've taken note of the grammatical and vocabulary issues that have been pointed out and will make the corrections soon.
This chapter was a Harry only chapter. As the petrification attacks on the students didn't occur in here, there was no reason for the Duelling Club to established. As that didn't happen, Harry's parselmouth ability wasn't revealed to the public, and he wasn't vilified amongst the students. Instead, it is only his closest friends who find out about this. This, coupled with the fact that Harry didn't pull Gryffindor's sword from the Hat will have him embrace his Slytherin side instead of fighting it.
Since some of the readers might be unaware, I'm gradually rewriting old chapters along with new ones, and have thus far reached Chapter 14. The few chapters between 15 and 21 might seem different since they are still the old versions. I'm pretty satisfied with the quality after 22, and thus won't be changing them (beyond correcting errors) anytime soon.
Your feedback is welcome and appreciated. Please read and review. Thanks!