The Almost Chosen Ones and the Chamber of Secrets

Howlers, Lockhart, Ugly Plant Babies and Other Obnoxious Things

The next morning Nev and I sat down at the Gryffindor table next to Hermione who was reading her copy of Voyages with Vampires propped against a milk jug as she ate. Ron and Harry joined us as I was pouring some coffee. “Morning.” Hermione said stiffly, obviously still not happy with the boys big entrance yesterday. We were a bit more cheerful with our morning greetings. Well, as cheerful as I could be with only one cup of coffee and a bad nights sleep. I barely remember the nightmare anymore, except for a faint hissing in the darkness.

“Mail’s due any minute – I think Gran’s sending a few things that I forgot.” I hope she sends my Gryffindor scarf too. Not even a few minutes later came the swooshing of wings as about a hundred owls streamed in carrying the morning post. Gazi swooped above and dropped a large, lumpy package on my head and a second later something large and gray fell into Hermione’s jug, spraying us all with milk and feathers. “Errol!” Ron yelled as he pulled the bedraggled owl out by its feet. Errol slumped, unconscious, onto the table, his legs in the air and a damp red envelope in his beak. “Oh, no–” Ron gasped with fear. “It’s all right, he’s still alive,” Hermione said, prodding Errol gently with the other end of her fork. “It’s not that–it’s that.”

To Harry and Hermione it was just a red envelope. What harm could an envelope do? Ron, Nev and I knew otherwise. That baby’s about to blow. “What’s the matter?” Harry asked full of ignorance of the common punishments of the magical community. “She’s – she’s sent me a Howler,” Ron said faintly. “You’d better open it Ron,” Nev said in a timid whisper. “It’ll be worse if you don’t. My gran sent us one once and we ignored it and”–he gulped–”it was horrible.” I shuddered and cast my eyes down as I remembered the incident he was talking about. Harry and Hermione’s gaze flickered between the red envelope and our apprehensive faces. “What’s a Howler?” he asked, but Ron’s attention hadn’t shifted from the letter. “Open it,” Nev insisted. “It’ll all be over in a few minutes–”

“I would probably take it and run. While you still can…” I added. Ron stretched out a shaking hand, eased the envelope from Errol’s beak, and slit it open. Here it comes… Nev and I put our hands over our ears to protect us from the imminent vocal explosion.


Mrs. Weasley’s yells echoed off of the stone walls of the Great Hall, making the plates and spoons rattle on the table. Throughout the Great Hall everyone was swiveling and craning their necks to find out who got the Howler. Ron slowly sank into his chair to avoid the stares as his face turned Weasley red to match his hair.


Harry began to fidget uncomfortably in his seat once his name was brought up. Despite being a magical celebrity, Harry hated attention.


Complete silence rung throughout the Great Hall. You could have heard a knut drop. The Howler, that had fell through Ron’s mortified fingers, burst into flames and curled into ashes. We were still all frozen with shock. Well, that was awkward. Unfortunately the same could not be said for the rest of the Great Hall as gradually a babble of talk and giggles broke out again. Hermione closed Voyages with Vampires and looked down at the top of Ron’s head. “Well, I don’t know what you expected, Ron, but you–”

“Don’t tell me I deserved it,” snapped Ron. Well, you did steal a car and break the International Statute of Secrecy… Harry pushed his porridge away as he lost his appetite. Professor McGonagall gave us the prefect distraction in the form of class schedules. First on the agenda was double Herbology with the Hufflepuffs.

Most of the class was already waiting outside by the time we got to the greenhouses. A few minutes later we saw Professor Sprout accompanied by Gilderoy Lockhart. Professor Sprout’s arm were full of bandages and saw that the Whomping Willow swaying slightly in the distance, several branches now in slings. That must have been why she was a little late, I thought as she met us at the greenhouses. Gilderoy Lockhart was immaculate in sweeping robes of turquoise, his golden hair shining under a perfectly positioned turquoise hat with gold trimming.

“Oh, hello there!” he called, beaming at us. How goes he get his teeth to gleam that way? “Just been showing Professor Sprout the right way to doctor a Whomping Willow! But I don’t want you running away with the idea that I’m better at Herbology than she is! I just happen to have met several of these exotic plants on my travels…”

“Greenhouse three today, chaps!” Professor Sprout said. She looked slightly disgruntled, not at all like her usual cheerful self. You don’t mess with Professor Sprout and her plants. Nev’s the same way. I remember when I fell into his fat cactus-like plant. He cried and cried and cried, thinking I killed Mr. Prickles on purpose. You’d think I would be the one crying because I had the spines stuck to my arse. And I probably would have, if I had felt it.

We had only ever worked in greenhouse one. Greenhouse three housed far more interesting and dangerous plants. I could already sense Nev’s excitement. Professor Sprout took a large key from her belt and unlocked the door. I caught a whiff of damp earth and fertilizer mingling with the heavy perfume of giant, umbrella-sized flowers dangling from the ceiling.

“Harry! I’ve been wanting a word–you don’t mind if he’s a couple minutes late, do you, Professor Sprout?” Judging by the look on her face she did, in fact, mind, but after barely a seconds pause Lockhart said, “That’s the ticket,” and closed the greenhouse door in her face. I still don’t understand why people think he’s the best thing since Fizzing Whizzbees.

Professor Sprout was standing behind a trestle bench in the center of the greenhouse. There were about twenty pairs of different-colored earmuffs were lying on the bench. “We’ll be repotting Mandrakes today. Now, who can tell me the properties of the Mandrake?” None of us were surprised that Hermione was the first one to raise her hand. “Mandrake, or Mandragora, is a powerful restorative. It is used to return people who have been transfigured or cursed to their original state.” Hermione recited as if she was reading from the textbook.

“Excellent. Ten points to Gryffindor,” congratulated Professor Sprout. “The Mandrake forms an essential part of most antidotes. It is also, however, dangerous. Who can tell me why?” Hermione’s hand narrowly missed hitting my head as it shot up again. “The cry of the Mandrake is fatal to anyone who hears it.” she answered. “Precisely. Take another ten points,” said Professor Sprout.

“Now, the Mandrakes we have here are still very young. As they are only seedling, their cries won’t kill you, yet. However, they will knock you out for several hours, and as I’m sure none of you want to miss your first day back, make sure that your earmuffs are securely in place while you work. I will attract your attention when it’s time to pack up. Five to a tray – there is a large supply of pots here – compost in the sacks over there – and be careful of the Venemous Tentacula, it’s teething.” She pointed to a row of deep trays as she spoke and we all shuffled closer for a better look. A hundred or so tufty little plants, purplish green in color, were growing in rows. She gave a sharp slap to a spiky, dark red plant as she spoke, making it draw in the long feelers that had been inching sneakily over her shoulder.

“Everyone take a pair of earmuffs.” There was a bunch of pushing and shoving to grab the earmuffs. Nobody wanted to get stuck with the fluffy hot pink ones. “When I tell you to put them on, make sure your ears are completely covered. When it is safe to remove them, I will give you the thumbs-up. Right – earmuffs on.”

Harry, Ron, Hermione, Nev, and I decided to work on a tray together, of course. We rolled up the sleeves of our robes, grabbed our earmuffs and secured them onto our heads. Professor Sprout grasped one of the tufty plants firmly, and pulled hard. Instead of roots, a small, ugly, dirty baby popped out. He had pale green, mottled skin, leaves growing out of his head, and screaming at the top of his lungs. I’ve never heard anything so loud.

I heard a thud next to me and turned to see Nev by my feet. Oh, Nev. “Longbottom’s been neglecting his earmuffs.” Professor Sprout said in a disappointed tone. I looked back down at him, earmuffs still firmly in place. “No, Professor. He just feinted.” I rebutted. She sighed, “Oh, well. Just leave him there.” My eyes widened involuntarily. What? So much for Hufflepuff’s being kind, I thought as I took off my robes, bundled them up, and stuffed it under his head as a makeshift pillow.

Professor Sprout made it look so easy. Like most babies of other species, the baby Mandrakes didn’t want to their warm bed of soil and they didn’t want to go back to bed either. They screamed, they kicked, and squirmed. They also have that one moment where they’re so cute that you almost forget how much of a pain they are. That moment was when a Mandrake bit Malfoy’s finger. The idiot shouldn’t have been putting his finger by his mouth anyway. What did he think was gonna happen? That the baby Mandrake was gonna give Drakie a little kiss? Even baby Mandrakes aren’t that stupid. Although Pansy Parkinson was. It was a little hard to read the expression of her pug-like face, but she looked a little jealous of the baby Mandrake that was making more progress than she was on her Drakie. Now that I think about it, I do see a resemblance besides their high-pitched voices and scrunched up noses.

By the end of class we were all dirty, sweaty, and achy. We trekked up to the castle for a much needed quick wash before we hurried off to Transfiguration. Professor McGonagall wasn’t the teacher to accept tardiness, no matter how smelly the reason. Today we were supposed to turn a beetle into a button. It took a while, but by the end of the lesson my button still had legs that twitched every few seconds. Ron was having a much harder time with his assignment. He had “fixed” his wand with some Spell-o-tape. I use the term “fixed” loosely as it seemed to be damaged beyond repair. It crackled and sparked at random moments. Every time Ron tried to Transfigure his beetle it enveloped him in thick gray smoke that smelled like rotten eggs. Blinded by the smoke, Ron accidentally squashed his beetle with his elbow and had to ask for a new one. Needless to say, Professor McGonagall wasn’t pleased.

“Stupid – useless – thing –” Ron was still insulting his wand during the lunch break; whacking his wand furiously at the table, as if that would fix it. “Write home for another one,” Harry suggested as the wand discharged a few sparks. “Oh, yeah, and get another Howler back,” Ron said pessimistically, stuffing the hissing wand into his bag. “‘It’s your own fault your wand got snapped–’” Ron should really not let his voice get that high, it sounds really strange.

“What do we have this afternoon?” Nev asked to change the subject. “Defense Against the Dark Arts,” Hermione answered immediately. Did she really…? Ron grabbed her schedule, obviously catching the same thing I saw. “Why,” he demanded, “have you outlined all of Lockhart’s lessons in little hearts?” Hermione blushed, snatched back her schedule, and retreated back into Voyages with Vampires. I have to admit though, for once, Ron had a point. There was an awkward moment of silence where we all just looked at each other, but then Ron broke it by stuffing his face with food and almost choking.

Little hairs rose on the back of my neck. I twisted my hair onto my shoulder and looked around the Great Hall wondering if it was all in my head. Was someone watching me? Harry kept fidgeting so at least it wasn’t just me. Then I saw him, as he slowly inched closer, looking very nervous and holding a very small camera. Maybe it was a muggle camera? “All right, Harry? I’m – I’m Colin Creevey,” he said taking a tentative step forward. “I’m in Gryffindor, too. Do you think – would it be alright if – can I have a picture?” he asked hopefully, slightly raising his camera.

“A picture?” Harry repeated blankly as his cheeks turned pink. “So I can prove I’ve met you,” Collin said eagerly. “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 raised to peer through Harry’s fringe, “and a boy in my dormitory said that if I develop the film in the right potion, the pictures’ll move. 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, 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. Maybe your friend could take it and I could stand next to you? And then, could you sign it?” I didn’t know whether to think it was a little sweet or a little creepy, but either way it was funny to see Harry so embarrassed.

Signed photos? You’re giving out signed photos, Potter?” If there was a chance to embarrass Harry, then of course Malfoy would be there, his groupies not far behind. “Everyone line up! Harry Potter’s giving out signed photos!”

“No, I’m not. Shut up, Malfoy.” Harry said angrily, clenching his fist. “You could charge a knut for each picture and donate it to Weaselbee. Maybe he’ll be able to buy himself a clue.” If only you could kill someone with glares…

“You’re just jealous,” Collin snapped even though his whole body was the size of Crabbe’s arm. “Jealous? Of what? Saint Potter? I don’t want a stupid scar right across my head, thanks. Looks like what’s left over from when they took your brain.” Malfoy sneered. Crabbe and Goyle snickered stupidly.

“As if you were born with one in the first place. Your daddy probably had to buy one for you.” I retorted as Ron angrily said, “Eat slugs, Malfoy.” Malfoy glared furiously at me and focused on the battle that he could win. “Be careful, Weasley. You don’t want to start any trouble or your mummy will have to come and take you away from school.” He put on a high-pitched, shrieking voice. “If you put another toe out of line–” A group of nearby Slytherins started laughing. “Weasley would like a signed photo, Potter,” he smirked. “It’d be worth more than his family’s whole house–”

Ron whipped out his Spell-o-taped wand, sensing the disaster that could result from that I whipped mine out as well. Hermione popped her head out of Voyages with Vampires and whispered, “Look out!”

“What’s all this, what’s all this?” Lockhart asked, his pale green robes swirling behind him. Repeating it twice won’t make us answer you any faster, or at all, really. “Who’s giving out signed photos?” Of course, he comes when he catches a whiff of arrogance that didn’t come from him. “Shouldn’t have asked! We meet again, Harry!” Lockhart flung an arm around Harry and pinned him to his side. “Come on then, Mr. Creevey. A double portrait, can’t do better than that, and we’ll both sign it for you.” Lockhart beamed. Poor Harry, don’t know if he’s gonna die from the embarrassment or the proximity to Lockhart. Malfoy’s smirk broadened as he slithered back into the crowd. Until next time, Malfoy.

“Come on then, Mr. Creevey. A double portrait, can’t do better than that, and we’ll both sign it for you.” Colin fumbled with the camera, almost dropping it, and took the picture just as the bell rang, letting us know that we were late for class. Luckily we won’t get in trouble since it’s his fault we’re late.

“A word to the wise, Harry. I covered up for you back there with young Creevey – if he was photographing me too then your schoolmates won’t think you’re setting yourself up so much…” Harry’s protests fell on deaf ears. “Let me just say that handing out signed pictures at this stage of your career isn’t sensible – looks a tad big headed to be frank.” Lockhart said hypocritically. I snorted. That’s hilarious coming from him. “There may well come a time when, like me, you’ll need to keep a stack handy wherever you go, but” – he chuckled – “I don’t think you’re quite there yet.”

Nev and I couldn’t hold our laughter this time, but we tried to pass it off as a cough. By the look of Harry’s glare I don’t think we did a very good job. We finally reached Lockhart’s classroom and grabbed a seat towards the back. Hermione decided to sit in the front with Lavender and Parvati to be able to “listen” better. Who did she think she was fooling? I turned to the guys. Yeah she wasn’t fooling them either, not even Ron.

Once we all claimed our seats Lockhart cleared his throat loudly. Need a cough drop? When everyone stopped gossiping he picked up Nev’s copy of Travels with Trolls and held it up to show his winking portrait. “Me,” he said, pointing out the obvious. “Gilderoy Lockhart, Order of Merlin, Third Class, Honorary Member of the Dark Force League, and five-time winner of Witch Weekly’s Most-Charming-Smile Award – but I don’t want to talk about that.” I beg to differ. “I didn’t get rid of the Bandon Banshee by smiling at her!” Maybe he did it by talking to her. He waited for people to laugh, but only the star struck girls 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–” he said as he passed out the quiz papers. When he returned to his desk he said, “You have thirty minutes – start – now!

I looked down and scanned through the questions. You have got to be kidding me. None of the questions had anything to do with Defense Against the Dark Arts. They were all about him! I turned to the guys to see if maybe I was imagining things, but by the looks on their faces it seems that I wasn’t. How many questions could there possibly be? I quickly scanned through the quiz. Each question was more and more ridiculous. There were fifty-four questions! About him! After a few seconds my incredulous face soon turned into a mischievous smirk. I could work with this.

What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s favorite color?

A perfect mixture between the yellow of his hair and the green of his robes. A marvelous vomit color to make his eyes really pop.

What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s secret ambition?

To create his own line of toothpaste and hair care so that everyone could look as marvelous as he does.

What, in your opinion, is Gilderoy Lockhart’s greatest achievement to date?

Being the only person more self absorbed than the Malfoys.

How many times has Gilderoy Lockhart won Witch Weekly’s Most-Charming-Smile Award?

Too many.

In his book Break with a Banshee, how did Gilderoy Lockhart bravely banish the Bandon Banshee?

If not by smiling at her, then by reading one of your books.

Which side is Gilderoy Lockhart’s best side for photographs?

Whichever side has the Sparkling Tooth of the Day.

Has Gilderoy Lockhart ever won the Dunstable Dueling Championship for wizards or just been pipped at the post?

Pipped at the post.

Who is Gilderoy Lockhart’s favorite author?


Who is Gilderoy Lockhart’s favorite relative?

Rita Skeeter, I can see the resemblance.

What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s favorite Greek Myth?

The myth of Narcissus.

And on and on it went. Three pages of it. I already knew that I would have to study it on my own again, so I just breezed through them with tons of time to spare. With about twenty minutes left I was bored, so I took out my journal. I began to doodle a comic of Lockhart getting his head checked, only to find that there was nothing inside. And who is this idiot? I sighed. Unfortunately this moron is my new DADA professor. Another year where I don’t learn anything in class. I drew a thought bubble of Lockhart talking about himself. I was the Head Boy during my years at Hogwarts. I could help you. I’ll teach you everything I know. I smiled, Thanks Tom.

“Time’s up, although I’m sure most of you were done anyway.” Lockhart said as he collected our papers and rifled through them in front of the class. I have to go. Bye Tom. Until next time. I closed my journal and put it back in my bag. “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 Firewhiskey!”

He winked shamelessly, I tried to hide my grimace. Nev, Ron and Harry were looking at him in disbelief. Dean and Seamus were shaking silently with laughter. Unlike Hermione who was hanging onto his every word and jumped in her seat when he mentioned her name. “…but Miss Hermione Granger knew that 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 quivering hand. “Excellent!” Lockhart beamed. “Quite excellent! Take ten points to Gryffindor! And so – to business –” He bent down behind his desk and grabbed a large, covered cage. “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’m here. All I ask is that you remain calm.”

I rolled my eyes, yet I couldn’t help scooting up in my seat out of curiosity, while Nev cringed back. Even Dean and Seamus stopped laughing. “I must ask you not to scream, it might provoke them.” I rolled my eyes again. The whole class seemed to be holding their breath as Lockhart whipped off the cover. “Yes,” he said dramatically. “Freshly caught Cornish pixies!”

You’ve got to be kidding me. I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Seamus let out a snort of laughter that not even Lockhart could mistake for a scream of terror. “Yes?” Lockhart smiled stupidly at Seamus. “Well, they’re not – they’re not very – dangerous, are they?” Seamus choked out. “Don’t be so sure!” Lockhart exclaimed, waving a manicured finger at us. “Devilish tricky little blighters they can be!”

We covered our ears to protect us from their high-pitched shrieking. They started shaking the bars, elbowing each other and making weird faces at the students closest to them in the front row. Good thing we sat in the back. “Right then,” Lockhart said loudly. “Let’s see what you make of them!” Please Merlin, let him not be that stupid, and he opened the cage, but of course he is.

It was absolute chaos. Pixies were everywhere. Two of them grabbed Nev by the ears and lifted him into the air. For such tiny little buggers, they sure were strong. I jumped to try to get Nev down while trying to swat away pixies that were trying to grab me too. For a second my feet were hovering above the ground and I thought I was a goner too, but then another group of pixies shot straight through the window, spraying glass everywhere, which caused them to drop me on my arse. I spit the hair out of my face only to meet the sight of Nev swinging from the iron chandelier. Pixies were everywhere. They were grabbing ink bottles and spraying us with it, shredding books and papers tossing it like confetti. They tore pictures from the walls, though I couldn’t really blame them for that; I’d want to get rid of the Many Faces of Lockhart too.

“Come on now – round them up, round them up, they’re only pixies,” Lockhart shouted. Yeah, only pixies Merlin’s left butt cheek. He rolled up his sleeves, flourished his wand and yelled, “Peskipiksi Pesternomi!” That did absolutely nothing. One of the pixies stole his wand and threw it out the window. Lockhart gulped loudly and dived under his desk like a majority of the other students. How did he even get the teaching position is beyond me. I mentally shook myself and tried to concentrate at the matter at hand. How the hell was I supposed to get Nev down from there? Wait a minute...I know.

“Windgardium Leviosa.” I flicked my wand up, unhooking him from the iron chandelier and slowly guided him back to the ground. The bell rang and everyone jumped out from under their desks and ran for the door. Lockhart slowly peaked out from his desk before he fully emerged and brushed off his robes. “Well, I’ll ask you five to just nip the rest of them back into their cage.” He’s joking, right? The flourishing of his pale yellow robes as he swept past us, out the door showed that no, he was not joking.

“Can you believe him?” Ron roared as a pixie bit him painfully on the ear. Unfortunately, I could believe that. “He just wants to give us some hands-on experience,” Hermione said, immobilizing two pixies at once with a freezing spell and stuffing them back into their cage. Good idea, I thought before following her example.

“Hands on? Isn’t ears-up enough?” Nev said incredulously. “Hermione, he didn’t have a clue what he was doing if a clue came out and slapped him across his oversized head.”

“Rubbish,” Hermione denied. “You’ve read his books – look at all those amazing things he’s done –” I rolled my eyes at her naiveté. “The things he says he’s done.” For such a smart girl, she could be so stupid.

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