Everyone traipsed back to the castle for a quick wash and then the Gryffindors hurried off to Transfiguration.
Professor McGonagall's classes were always hard work, but today was especially difficult. Everything Harry had learned last year seemed to have leaked out of his head during the summer. He was supposed to be turning a beetle into a button, but all he managed to do was give his beetle a lot of exercise as it scuttled over the desktop avoiding his wand.
Ron was having far worse problems. He had patched up his wand with some borrowed Spellotape, but it seemed to be damaged beyond repair. It kept crackling and sparking at odd moments, and every time Ron tried to transfigure his beetle it engulfed him in thick gray smoke that smelled of rotten eggs. Unable to see what he was doing, Ron accidentally squashed his beetle with his elbow and had to ask for a new one. Professor McGonagall wasn't pleased.
Harry was relieved to hear the lunch bell. His brain felt like a wrung sponge. Everyone filed out of the classroom except him and Ron, who was whacking his wand furiously on the desk.
"Ron, that will make it worse", Key told Ron.
"Write home for another one," Harry suggested as the wand let off a volley of bangs like a firecracker.
"Oh, yeah, and get another Howler back," said Ron, stuffing the now hissing wand into his bag.
"It's your own fault your wand got snapped -'" said Hermione.
"Hermione, that is not helping", said Key.
They went down to lunch, where Ron's mood was not improved by Hermione's showing them the handful of perfect coat buttons she had produced in Transfiguration.
"What've we got this afternoon?" said Harry, hastily changing the subject.
"Defense Against the Dark Arts," said Hermione at once.
"Why," demanded Ron, seizing her schedule, "have you outlined all Lockhart's lessons in little hearts?"
Hermione snatched the schedule back, blushing furiously.
"Hermione please tell me you are not falling for that annoying teacher", said Key, looking annoyed.
"Lockhart is a legend, he has done so many amazing things", Hermione defended Lockhart.
"I don't sense him as that powerful, plus I can't stand that annoying smile", Key admitted.
"You are preaching to the choir", said Liza.
"Makai, you're on my side, right?" Hermione asks Makai.
"I don't really care, sorry, plus I hate taking sides", said Makai, while looking nervous.
They finished lunch and went outside into the overcast courtyard. Hermione sat down on a stone step and buried her nose in Voyages with Vampires again. Harry and Ron stood talking about Quidditch for several minutes before Harry became aware that he was being closely watched. Looking up, he saw the very small, mousy haired boy he'd seen trying on the Sorting Hat last night staring at Harry as though transfixed. He was clutching what looked like an ordinary Muggle camera, and the moment Harry looked at him, he went bright red.
Key also notices this boy taking a picture of her and Makai.
"All right, Harry, Key, Makai? I'm—I'm Colin Creevey," he said breathlessly, taking a tentative step forward. "I'm in Gryffindor, too. D'you think—would it be all right if—can I have a picture?" he said, raising the camera hopefully.
"A picture?" Harry repeated blankly.
"A picture for what?" Key asked.
"So I can prove I've met you," said Colin Creevey eagerly, edging further forward. "I know all about you. Everyone's told me. About how you survived when You-Know-Who tried to kill you and how he disappeared and everything and how you've still got a lightning scar on your forehead" (his eyes raked Harry's hairline) "and a boy in my dormitory said if I develop the film in the right potion, the pictures'll move." Colin drew a great shuddering breath of excitement and said, "It's amazing here, isn't it? I never knew all the odd stuff I could do was magic till I got the letter from Hogwarts. My dad's a milkman, he couldn't believe it either. So I'm taking loads of pictures to send home to him. And it'd be really good if I had one of you, your cousin, and your cousin's friend. I have also been interested in faes, and maybe you could sign that"—he looked imploringly at Harry, Key, and Makai.
"Signed photos? You're giving out signed photos, Potter?"
Loud and scathing, Draco Malfoy's voice echoed around the courtyard. He had stopped right behind Colin, flanked, as he always was at Hogwarts, by his large and thuggish cronies, Crabbe and Goyle.
"Everyone line up!" Malfoy roared to the crowd. "Harry Potter's giving out signed photos!"
"No, I'm not," said Harry angrily, his fists clenching. "Shut up, Malfoy."
"Don't pay attention to him", Key told Harry.
"You're just jealous," piped up Colin, whose entire body was about as thick as Crabbe's neck.
"Jealous?" said Malfoy, who didn't need to shout anymore: half the courtyard was listening in. "Of what? I don't want a foul scar right across my head, thanks. I don't think getting your head cut open makes you that special, myself."
Crabbe and Goyle were sniggering stupidly.
Key whispers a spell, which makes Malfoy fall back.
"You should know that making fun of someone won't get you anywhere in life, so leave my cousin be, okay Malfoy", Key told Draco, while looking angry.
"Careful, fae, you start using spells like that you might darken your blood", said Veronica.
"Stay out of this, Veronica", said Makai, seeming more brave.
"Fine", said Veronica, then walks away.
"What's all this, what's all this?" Gilderoy Lockhart was striding toward them, his turquoise robes swirling behind him. "Who's giving out signed photos?"
Harry started to speak but he was cut short as Lockhart flung an arm around his shoulders and thundered jovially, "Shouldn't have asked! We meet again, Harry!"
Key rolls her eyes.
Pinned to Lockhart's side and burning with humiliation, Harry saw Malfoy slide smirking back into the crowd.
"Come on then, Mr. Creevey," said Lockhart, beaming at Colin. "A double portrait, can't do better than that, and we'll both sign it for you."
"Colin, I have a better idea", said Key, then holds out her hand.
Colin gives Key his camera, she makes the camera fly, pulls Makai and Harry in for a hug, then the camera takes a picture.
Key gives the camera back to Colin and says "I hope it's a good photo".
"Thank you", said Colin, while looking nervous and walking away with a smile.
"Key, why did you take that photo?" Harry asks Key.
"He was so nervous and cute, so I thought it would make his day", said Key.
"That was a really nice thing to do", said Makai.
They had reached Lockhart's classroom.
Harry headed for a seat at the very back of the class, where he busied himself with piling all seven of Lockhart's books in front of him, so that he could avoid looking at the real thing.
Key joins Harry in the back with Makai and Qin.
The rest of the class came clattering in.
Ron and Hermione are sitting beside Harry.
When the whole class was seated, Lockhart cleared his throat loudly and silence fell. He reached forward, picked up Neville Longbottom's copy of Travels with Trolls, and held it up to show his own, winking portrait on the front.
"Me," said LockHart, pointing at it and winking as well. "Gilderoy Lockhart, Order of Merlin, Third Class, Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defense League, and five time winner of Witch Weekly's MostCharming Smile Award—but I don't talk about that. I didn't get rid of the Bandon Banshee by smiling at her!"
LockHart waited for them to laugh; a few people smiled weakly.
"I see you've all bought a complete set of my books—well done. I thought we'd start today with a little quiz. Nothing to worry about—just to check how well you've read them, how much you've taken in—" replied Lockhart.
When he had handed out the test papers he returned to the front of the class and said, "You have thirty minutes—start—now!"
Key looked down at his paper and read:
1. What is Gilderoy Lockhart's favorite color?
2. What is Gilderoy Lockhart's secret ambition?
3. What, in your opinion, is Gilderoy Lockhart's greatest achievement to date?
On and on it went, over three sides of paper, right down to:
54. When is Gilderoy Lockhart's birthday, and what would his ideal gift be?
"What the heck?" Key looked angry, while holding the paper.
Half an hour later, Lockhart collected the papers and rifled through them in front of the class.
"Tut, tut—hardly any of you remembered that my favorite color is lilac. I say so in Year with the Yeti. And a few of you need to read Wanderings with Werewolves more carefully—I clearly state in Chapter twelve that my ideal birthday gift would be harmony between all magic and non magic peoples—though I wouldn't say no to a large bottle of Ogden's Old Firewhisky!" Lockhart told the students, sounding kind of sad.
Professor Lockhart gave them another roguish wink.
Ron was now staring at Lockhart with an expression of disbelief on his face; Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas, who were sitting in front, were shaking with silent laughter.
Key and Qin roll their eyes.
Makai doesn't react.
Hermione, on the other hand, was listening to Lockhart with rapt attention and gave a start when he mentioned her name.
"…but Miss Hermione Granger knew my secret ambition is to rid the world of evil and market my own range of hair care potions—good girl! In fact—" he flipped her paper over "—full marks! Where is Miss Hermione Granger?"
Hermione raised a trembling hand.
"Oh brother", Key whispers.
"Excellent!" beamed Lockhart. "Quite excellent! Take ten points for Gryffindor! And so—to business—"
Lockhart bent down behind his desk and lifted a large, covered cage onto it.
"Now—be warned! It is my job to arm you against the foulest creatures known to wizardkind! You may find yourselves facing your worst fears in this room. Know only that no harm can befall you whilst I am here. All I ask is that you remain calm."
"I doubt he would know any foul creatures", Qin whispers.
"I feel the same", Key whispers back.
"We are the same wavelength", Qin whispers.
In spite of himself, Harry leaned around his pile of books for a better look at the cage. Lockhart placed a hand on the cover. Dean and Seamus had stopped laughing now. Neville was cowering in his front row seat.
"I must ask you not to scream," said Lockhart in a low voice. "It might provoke them." As the whole class held its breath, Lockhart whipped off the cover.
"Yes," he said dramatically. "Freshly caught Cornish pixies."
Seamus Finnigan couldn't control himself. He let out a snort of laughter that even Lockhart couldn't mistake for a scream of terror.
"Yes?" Professor Lockhart smiled at Seamus.
"Well, they're not—they're not very—dangerous, are they?" Seamus choked.
"Don't be so sure!" said Lockhart, waggling a finger annoyingly at Seamus. "Devilish tricky little blighters they can be!"
"Qin, do you have any idea about them?" Key asks Qin in a whisper.
"Yes, and I know what he is going to do, keep your wings out", Qin responded in a whisper.
The pixies were electric blue and about eight inches high, with pointed faces and voices so shrill it was like listening to a lot of budgies arguing. The moment the cover had been removed, they had started jabbering and rocketing around, rattling the bars and making bizarre faces at the people nearest them.
"Right, then," Lockhart said loudly. "Let's see what you make of them!" And he opened the cage.
It was pandemonium. The pixies shot in every direction like rockets. Two of them seized Neville by the ears and lifted him into the air. Several shot straight through the window, showering the back row with broken glass. The rest proceeded to wreck the classroom more effectively than a rampaging rhino. They grabbed ink bottles and sprayed the class with them, shredded books and papers, tore pictures from the walls, up ended the waste basket, grabbed bags and books and threw them out of the smashed window; within minutes, half the class was sheltering under desks and Neville was swinging from the iron chandelier in the ceiling.
"Come on now—round them up, round them up, they're only pixies," Lockhart shouted.
He rolled up his sleeves, brandished his wand, and bellowed, "Peskipiksi Pesternomi!"
It had absolutely no effect; one of the pixies seized his wand and threw it out of the window, too. Lockhart gulped and dived under his own desk, narrowly avoiding being squashed by Neville, who was about to fall a second later as the chandelier gave way.
Key grabs Neville before fell down.
"Thank you, Key", said Neville.
"No problem, Qin, we need to round up all those pixies", said Key.
"Got it", said Qin, then turns into a pixie and gets the pixies to follow him.
"Well, I see you two faes have everything handled, so I'll leave it to you", said Lockhart, then shut the door quickly behind him.
The bell rang and there was a mad rush toward the exit.
"Can you believe that guy?" Ron replied.
"He just wants to give us some hands-on experience," said Hermione.
"Hermione, wake up and smell the roses, he's a fake", said Key, as the pixies are led back to the cage by Qin.
Key closes the cage after all the pixies are in it, and puts a shield around it.
"Rubbish," said Hermione. "You've read his books—look at all those amazing things he's done—"
"He says he's done," Ron muttered.