"Why, hello everyone!" the blonde professor in dress robes called as if he was surprised to see his class of second years. "I do hope you all have copies of the required reading this year?"
A couple people grumbled at his ridiculously cheery expression; most likely those who had read his books.
Lockhart took their mutterings as a "yes". "Well then, you will already know who I am, who would care to introduce me?"
A small girl in the front row raised her hand eagerly. Ron gave a snort from behind Harry.
"You're Gilderoy Lockhart," she stated, "Order of Merlin, third class-"
"Order of moron, third class," Ron whispered mockingly to Harry who tried to hold back a laugh.
"-member of the Dark Force Defense League-"
"More like the Dork Face Development League."
"And five time winner of Witch Weekly's most charming smile award," she finished.
"Or five time winner of the most Stunningly Stupid award," Ron muttered.
This time, Harry could not hold it in. He burst out laughing, drawing attention to both himself ad Ron who had joined him. Lockhart favored them with an interested stare. Harry sure felt honored.
"Ah, Mr. Harry Potter," he said grandly as if they were close friends. "So nice to see you again. Don't laugh, dear boy, this will be you one day. That is, if you can handle the fame such as I have." He smiled. Harry gagged.
"I'd rather die," Harry said under his breath.
"What was that?" Lockhart asked.
"I said, 'You're an interesting guy'," Harry said loudly. Lockhart gave a bow of his head and turned with a sweep of his unnecessarily long robes. While he still had his fellow students' attention, he rolled his eyes dramatically. The girls looked annoyed but a few of the guys gave a snicker.
"Yes well, I hope that your career will flourish as mine did, and is continuing to do!" Lockhart said arrogantly.
"I thought that when someone started teaching, it meant that their career is over," Harry said out of the side of his mouth. Ron snorted.
"Now, let's start with a quiz."
Seamus raised his hand lazily into the air. "Excuse me, but how can we have a quiz if you haven't taught us anything?"
"Ah, a very good question, Mr. Flannegan, was it?" Lockhart said with a dismissive wave that said it didn't matter either way. "You see, this is a quiz on what I consider to be essential common knowledge about yours truly."
A subdued groan rippled around the room. Parchment came flying from a stack on the front table and a sheet landed gently on each desk. Harry looked down at the first question.
What is Gilderoy Lockhart's preferred brand of shampoo? (be sure to include the scent infusion)
Harry glanced over at Hermione who was scribbling rapidly with her quill. He shot Draco a commiserating look and randomly filled in nonsensical answers. When at last he guessed periwinkle as his favorite color, Harry set down his quill and sent his paper flying back to the front of the room. When they were all collected, Lockhart leafed through them."My, my, you children will have to do better than this. My favorite tea time snack is Bleeding Bonbons? I think not," he said, honestly disturbed. "Well, here's someone who got it right: Ms. Granger. Yes, Saccharine Shortbreads is correct."
"Well, that was fun, wasn't it?" Lockhart looked around as if expecting an answer. The class stared back with dull eyes. "You are all lively today. Shall we move on to the lesson? Open Voyages With Vampires to the preface, please. Who can tell me the name of the person who requested my presence?"
With a deep sigh, Harry flopped open the cover of his book, preparing for a long, boring class.
"He is almost completely incompetent," Harry complained the next day. He had ventured down to the dungeons for a chat with his guardian. "If You-Know-Who comes again, how is knowing that Lockhart washes his hair with Silver Sisters Silky Soft Shampoo going to help me?" Harry demanded during his rant. "Mind you, it is infused with lavender and pine oils."
Severus looked mildly amused. "What say you to continuing our mini defense lessons like last year? That way you will at least have some sort of instruction in the matter."
Harry nodded in relief, "That'd be good."
"And I would like to add that knowing that fool's shampoo preferences may actually be useful. For example, pine oil is in the second class of oils and there is a particularly nice spell for igniting substances of that nature..." Severus said suggestively, albeit not seriously.
Harry grinned. "Best not try that; people will think that you just want his job."
"I do want his job. Why Dumbledore won't let me have it is beyond me," he scowled.
"I heard that a dueling club is starting?" Harry asked curiously based off rumors.
"Indeed. I shall be moderating," he said with a wicked sneer. "Care to join?"
"Absolutely!" Harry said eagerly. "Can you give me a few pointers?"
"No," Severus stated simply. "That would give you an unfair advantage."
Harry scoffed. "Like I don't already have one."
"Do not get cocky," Severus warned. "You will remind me of your father. And do keep in mind that this is open to all students."
Harry nodded. "When does it start?"
"Not for a while yet," he responded. "Best start having tryouts for your second," he sneered. "I am certain that Mr. Creevey will physically fight to win the position."
Harry glared at him, not wanting to admit that he didn't know what a second meant.
The first week of school simply drug on. Compared to the freedom of summer, school seemed stifling. During the last period on Friday, Harry sat, fidgeting, in Transfiguration, itching to leave.
"Mr. Potter, are you quite alright?" Professor McGonagall snapped.
"Yes, ma'm," Harry replied, resisting yet another glance at the clock.
She made a noncommittal noise and shifted her attention elsewhere. When at last they were dismissed, Harry was intensely relieved. He recalled how eager he was to return to Hogwarts, but he failed to realize that the classes became significantly more demanding. They were easily handled, for him at least, but required paying attention. Harry could do without that aspect.
Harry strolled down the hall with his friends. "Let's do something fun."
"Like what?" Draco asked.
"I don't know."
Ron snorted, "Great suggestion."
"What do normal wizards do for fun?" Harry asked.
"And witches," Hermione pointed out.
"Exploding Snap?" Ron suggested. "I can see if Fred or George has a pack."
"Alright," Harry agreed, secretly disappointed. There had to be something other than card games to liven the place up or Hogwarts was going to be very dull this year.
They pushed their way into the common room amidst the veritable throng of people around the message board.
"What is it?" Hermione stretched to see. Harry was reminded of the flying lesson announcement around this time the year before.
Ron, the tallest, stretched to see over everyone. "Dueling club!"Harry's eyes lit up, "Severus said that it wouldn't be for a while yet."
They pushed closer. "Next week," Draco commented. "Headed by Lockhart and Snape."
Ron's expression spoke of distaste. "This'll be great," he said sarcastically.
Harry grinned, imagining the two pitted against each other. "Oh, it will be," came Harry's serious reply.
For the following night and much of the next day, the dueling club was the topic of conversation for much of the Hogwarts student body. Whispers rang through the halls about rumored duels between students and challenges yet to be made. By the end of the week, Harry was said to have been in three duels, incapacitating Pansy Parkinson (really down with the flu), drawing to Susan Bones and flat out winning against Theodore Nott. None of these had actually happened of course, but duelling was technically against school rules, unsupervised at least, so any attempt to deny it was seen as covering for rule breaking.
After uttering the words, "I didn't duel anyone" for what seemed like the thousandth time, Harry let out a large sigh. A group of first years turned away disappointed.
"Say, Harry," Ron spoke up. "If you were to duel someone, who would be your second?"
"In a duel," Hermione began, slipping into lecture mode, "if the primary dueler dies or becomes otherwise incapacitated, their second will take their place. It is usually a trusted ally who will loyally face down the opponent."
"Um." Harry looked at the three friends surrounding him. Ron grew up with many older brothers; two of which were Fred and George: training in itself. Hermione could master many spells on almost her first try and had read more than everyone else combined. Draco, on the other hand, had been exposed to dark magic since a young age, meaning he was most likely very familiar with offensive spells. Harry honestly could not choose. "Ginny," he blurted as hers was the first name that came to mind.
"Ginny?" Ron asked incredulously. "Not one of us?"
"I honestly couldn't pick one of you," Harry said truthfully. "And Ginny had the benefit of being essentially trained by Fred and George."
"So have I," Ron grumbled.
"It is rather logical, except for the fact that she is only a first year. I mean, she has had her wand for what, two weeks?" Hermione pointed out.
Ron felt compelled to add, "No, she found my grandfather's old wand in our attic and has been practicing with that since she was eight. I think the twins took it upon themselves to teach her their favorite spells," he said grudgingly.
"Anyway, this is purely hypothetical, right?" Draco broke in. "Harry isn't actually duelling anyone, is he?"
They turned to Harry questioningly. "No, of course not! I mean, no one has challenged me anyway..."
"We all know Harry can't bear to back down from a challenge," Hermione said.
Draco and Ron nodded knowingly.
"You what?" Severus drawled.
"Um, yeah," Harry responded. "He asked in front of the whole breakfast table, how was I supposed to say no?"
"Harry," Severus said, exasperated. "The first duelling lesson is in two days. You couldn't wait to accept a challenge until you at least know the basics?"
Harry looked sheepish.
"When is it planned for?"
"Tomorrow at midnight in the Astronomy tower. Goyle is Nott's second," Harry said, thinking he wished it were the other way around."Who is yours?" Severus asked.
He raised an eyebrow. "Odd choice. You do not think one of your... older friends better equipped?"
"I didn't want to show favoritism," Harry admitted.
Severus shook his head. "You will risk your safety to avoid offending your friends? I am sure they clamor over your attention; the slightest bit of favoritism would throw them into turmoil..."
Harry rolled his eyes.
"Did Ms. Weasley agree?"
"She stammered something," Harry said with a furrowed brow. "I think it was a yes."
Severus sighed. "Very well. I suppose I ought to teach you the basics. Come, I will show you the formal procedure. Do be aware, however, that Slytherins are known to cheat."
"Oh, I'm well aware of that," Harry muttered under his breath. Severus shot him a dark look and explained the counting and turning.
"Expelliarmus will be your best choice, seeing as if you harm him, you will be in far more trouble than you already will be," Severus said.
"I'm a little rusty, I think," Harry said after sending a few spells across the room.
"I agree. Where Expelliarmus will not work, a petrifying spell or the like will suffice," Severus said. "Now let me teach you a basic block. Hopefully, Nott will not know which spells penetrate which blocks. Goyle certainly will not."
Severus positioned his wand directly in front of him. "The incantation is protego."
A bluish field of energy sprung up in a dome before Severus upon command, and Harry hesitantly fired a Stupefy at it. It was absorbed.
"Nice, can I try?" Harry asked.
By the time Harry returned to the common room, he was tired but satisfied that he was well prepared. He slumped into the chair near the fire and scanned the room. He spotted Ginny on another couch across the room and went over to her.
"Hey Ginny," he said casually. She nearly jumped off the couch.
"H-h-hi." she stammered then blushed.
"Professor Snape taught me a shield charm in preparation for the duel. Just in case, do you want me to teach you it?" Harry asked patiently.
By this time, she had mostly recovered herself. "Yeah, thanks. That was one spell the twins didn't want me to know."
Harry smiled and showed her the movement and the incantation. Stepping off into the corner of the emptying room, she managed to produce a weak shield after three or four tries.
"I'll keep practicing," she promised.
"Good," Harry said. "I wouldn't want you to get hurt on my account."
She blushed fiercely and seemed to lose the ability to talk. Harry awkwardly walked away, mystified by the strange actions of the opposite gender.