25 The Second Teacher
When Hermione and Luna stopped bickering, the four of them rose and went down the familiar path to Gryffindor Tower.
They walked past muttering portraits and creaking suits of armor, and climbed narrow flights of stone stairs, until at last they reached the passage where the secret entrance to Gryffindor Tower was hidden, behind an oil painting of a very fat woman in a pink silk dress.
"Password?" she said as they approached.
"Er —" said Harry.
"It's alright, I got it," said Arth. "I overheard it from Percy while he was talking. Wattlebird."
They entered the all to familiar circular common room, the lopsided tables and squashy armchairs.
"Damn I missed this place. These chairs were always the best to read a book in."
"They are pretty comfortable, but Arth. You still haven't made a decision, Loony or me?"
Arth ignored Hermione's look and walked up towards the male dormitories.
They managed to get to the other side of the common room, still hearing the grumblings of Hermione, and gained the peace of the staircase.
"I've never seen Hermione like this," said Ron, "she wasn't even this agitated when she was waiting for her exam grades. And to Hermione, grades are more important than life."
"Yes, she seemed a little too agitated, but the first year girl Luna, I can't believe that she actually fought in equal terms with Hermione. Unbelievable. I never thought that someone who looked so... ditzy could be so fierce."
They walked up, right to the top, and at last reached the door of their old dormitory, which now had a sign on it saying SECOND YEARS. They entered the familiar, circular room, with its six four-posters hung with red velvet and its high, narrow windows. Their trunks had been brought up for them and stood at the ends of their beds.
Corvus was sitting on the bed frame ledge while cawing at Arth with an excited look. Arth threw the leftovers of a turkey leg into the air, Corvus caught it with delight before proceeding to eat on Ron's bed.
"AHHH! NOOO! MY BED SHEETS!"
"Calm down Ron, it's only a few grease marks."
"Do you want to trade beds with me then?" Asked Ron with a murderous look on his face.
"Why would I, it's your bed."
"Well, it's going to be a hard day tommorow, let's get to sleep Harry."
"...but my bed-"
"Goodnight Harry, Ron."
"Goodnight Arth, Ron."
"...Goodnight Arth, Harry."
Arth signaled to Corvus, who immediately obeyed and flew towards Arth. After rubbing his head a few times on Arth's face, the Raven hopped on top of the bed frame and began to roost.
Arth closed his eyes and slept, soundly and silently, while ignoring the sound of Ron cleaning his bed.
The next morning, the three of them got out of bed, two of them were apparently still in sleep mode.
Seeing the groggy Harry and Ron, Arth sighed.
"Come on boy's, let's get moving. Early bird gets the worm."
"Early bird dies from exhaustion. Why do we have to get up so early in the morning."
"It's good for the mind and body."
Arth led the two sleepyheads down to the great hall where breakfast was being served.
Hermione was already eating breakfast at the table. When she saw the trio, she waved furiously indicating for them to sit next to her.
Professor McGonagall was moving along the Gryffindor table, handing out course schedules. Arth took his and saw that they had double Herbology with the Hufflepuffs first.
They left the castle together, crossed the vegetable patch, and made for the greenhouses, where the magical plants were kept.
As they neared the greenhouses they saw the rest of the class standing outside, waiting for Professor Sprout. Harry, Ron, and Hermione had only just joined them when she came striding into view across the lawn, accompanied by Gilderoy Lockhart.
Professor Sprout was a squat little witch who wore a patched hat over her flyaway hair. There was usually a large amount of earth on her clothes and her fingernails. Gilderoy Lockhart, however, 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 around at the assembled students. "Just been showing Professor Sprout the right way to take care of plants! 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!" said Professor Sprout, who was looking distinctly disgruntled, not at all her usual cheerful self.
There was a murmur of interest. They had only ever worked in greenhouse one before — greenhouse three housed far more interesting and dangerous plants. Professor Sprout took a large key from her belt and unlocked the door.
Arth caught a whiff of damp earth and fertilizer mingling with the heavy perfume of some giant, umbrella-sized flowers dangling from the ceiling.
"Well then, Professor Sprout, I shall take my leave. If you have any questions, please do ask."
Professor Sprout curtly nodded her head before was standing behind a trestle bench in the center of the greenhouse. About twenty pairs of different-colored ear muffs were lying on the bench.
She said, "We'll be repotting Mandrakes today. Now, who can tell me the properties of the Mandrake?"
To nobody's surprise, Hermione's hand was first into the air.
"Mandrake, or Mandragora, is a powerful restorative," said Hermione, sounding as usual as though she had swallowed the textbook. "It is used to return people who have been transfigured or cursed to their original state."
"Excellent. Ten points to Gryffindor," said 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 Harry's glasses as it shot up again. However, Professor Sprout decided to chose someone else.
"Mister Arth, Do you care to explain?"
"The cry of the Mandrake is fatal to anyone who hears it," he answered. "However, underdeveloped mandrakes will at most knock you out."
"Precisely. Take another ten points," said Professor Sprout. "Now, the Mandrakes we have here are still very young. As mister Arth has mentioned, they will not kill, only knock out."
She pointed to a row of deep trays as she spoke, and everyone shuffled forward for a better look. A hundred or so tufty little plants, purplish green in color, were growing there in rows.
"Everyone take a pair of earmuffs," said Professor Sprout.
Arth grabbed a fluffy pink earmuff and watched as there was a rush to grab earmuffs that weren't pink and fluffy.
"I wonder why people don't like pink earmuffs. They are so comfortable."
"It's because they care about their looks Arth."
"When I tell you to put them on, make sure your ears are completely covered," said Professor Sprout. "When it is safe to remove them, I will give you the thumbs-up. Right — earmuffs on."
Professor Sprout put a pink, fluffy pair over her own ears, rolled up the sleeves of her robes, grasped one of the tufty plants firmly, and pulled hard.
Instead of roots, a small, muddy, and extremely ugly baby popped out of the earth. The leaves were growing right out of his head. He had pale green, mottled skin, and was clearly bawling at the top of his lungs.
Professor Sprout took a large plant pot from under the table and plunged the Mandrake into it, burying him in dark, damp compost until only the tufted leaves were visible. Professor Sprout dusted off her hands, gave them all the thumbs-up, and removed her own earmuffs.
"I will attract your attention when it is 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 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.
They were joined at their tray by a curly-haired Hufflepuff boy Harry knew by sight but had never spoken to.
"Justin Finch-Fletchley," he said brightly, shaking Harry by the hand. "Know who you are, of course, the famous Harry Potter...And you're Hermione Granger, always top in everything, and Ron Weasley, best mate of Harry Potter... and you are?"
Arth sighed. He was getting used to it.
"I'm Arth, Arthur Kingscrown."
Justin let out a yell.
"You're the guy who figured out that Quirrell was being possessed by You-Know-Who... bloody amazing man. I admire you for it."
But you didn't know my face until a minute ago, Arth wanted to retort.
That Lockhart's something, isn't he?" said Justin happily as they began filling their plant pots with dragon dung compost. "Awfully brave chap. Have you read his books? I'd have died of fear if Id been cornered in a telephone booth by a werewolf, but he stayed cool and — zap — just fantastic."
"Really?" Said Arth with an eyebrow raised. "I found him particularly egotistical, however, most egotistical people have the skill to back them up."
"I'm sure your right. My name was down for Eton, you know. I can't tell you how glad I am I came here instead. Of course, Mother was slightly disappointed, but since I made her read Lockhart's books I think she's begun to see how useful it'll be to have a fully trained wizard in the family..."
After that they didn't have much chance to talk. Their earmuffs were back on and they needed to concentrate on the Mandrakes. Professor Sprout had made it look extremely easy, but it wasn't. The Mandrakes didn't like coming out of the earth, but didn't seem to want to go back into it either. They squirmed, kicked, flailed their sharp little fists, and gnashed their teeth.
Arth was the only one who had relative ease in planting the mandrakes. A little too much.
The mandrake babies would start to cry when they felt the warmth of the sun but immediately calmed down when they saw that it was Arth who was handling them.
In fact, the mandrakes would only cry when Arth let go of them. Professor Sprout awarded thirty points to Gryffindor for it, calling Arth a genius.
By the end of the class, everyone was sweaty, aching, and covered in earth. Everyone traveled 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. He turned his beetle into a button, but everyone else seemed to have trouble, excluding Hermione. Harry had not even changed the beetle in any way.
Ron was having far worse problems. 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. She really wasn't.
They went down to lunch, where Ron's mood was spoiled 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 Arth. "With the egotistical blonde man."
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 Arth noticed that Harry was being closely watched by a boy.
The boy was clutching what looked like an ordinary Muggle camera, and the moment Harry looked at him, he went bright red.
"All right, Harry? 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 said breathlessly, taking a tentative step forward. "I'm in Gryffindor, too. D'you think — would it be all right if — can I have picture?" he said, raising the camera hopefully.
"A picture?" Harry repeated blankly.
"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 and a boy in my dormitory said if I develop the film in the right potion, the pictures'll move."
Arthur nudged Ron in the shoulder.
"Here comes the Harry Potter fan club. You reckon we can make money off of selling Harry's signed autographs?"
"We might, there might be a few witches who are into that thing."
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," he looked imploringly at Harry "maybe your friend could take it and I could stand next to you? And then, could you sign it?"
Seeing that Harry was confused, Arth sighed and took the camera from Colin.
"I'll take the picture so go stand next to Harry."
Arth placed the camera and looked through the lenses.
"Get together, even more, closer. That's good. Now Harry, smile. No, not like that smile naturally. Yes there we go. Colin, stand a little bit taller."
"There's not enough lighting... Ron, Hermione, can you give me some lighting? The spell is Lumos."
Ron and Hermione lighted up their wands and stood there, causing Arth to get irritated.
"Have you guys never taken a photo before... Hold it up high, above my head... Keep it perfectly still."
Finally satisfied with the lighting, Arth once more looked into the lenses and the camera let out a loud click. He checked the film and clicked his tongue.
It could've been better.
"I don't like this photo, I'll take another one. Harry will sign the photo after I'm done, I promise."
He was about to take another photo when he heard a drawling voice.
"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."
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."
"Surviving the attack from a Dark Lord does though, you wouldn't know, your entire family were enslaved by him, according to your information. You can't really consider yourself famous can you? Or maybe it's infamy."
Malfoy was dumbfounded, unable to speak a word. Harry gave a small smile as thanks while Ron patted him on the back.
Malfoy finally recovered and narrowed his eyes.
"Shut up Kingscrown, my father was never a slave-"
"Are you implying that your father wasn't enslaved by the Dark Lord? Are you saying that your father willingly joined the Dark Lord in battle?"
Arth smirked while drawing his wand.
"Watch your words Malfoy, one toenail out of line, and you might have to celebrate your father's birthday in Azkaban."
"What's Azkaban?" Arth could heat Harry ask.
"Wizard prison Harry," answered Ron. "It's where they keep Evil wizards like you-know-who supporters."
Malfoy flushed in anger before taking out his wand. The two of them were about to duke it out when.
"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 Potter! Nice to meet you." said Lockhart, his smile bright enough to burn a hole in an eyeball.
"I should've know it was you. Who else would have enough fame to sign photos. 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 took his camera from Arth and took the picture as the bell rang behind them, signaling the start of afternoon classes.
"Off you go, move along there," Lockhart called to the crowd, and he set off back to the castle with Harry, who looked like a cornered animal.
"He is a bit egotistical isn't he?" Said Hermione with an eyebrow raised.
"Yep, What kind of teacher jumps at the opportunity to sign a photo?" Said Ron with a disdainful look.
They had reached Lockhart's classroom and saw that Harry was already in 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.
The rest of the class came clattering in, and Arth, Ron and Hermione sat down on either side of Harry.
"You could've fried an egg on your face" said Ron. "You'd better hope Creevey doesn't meet Ginny, or they'll be starting a Harry Potter fan club."
"Shut up," snapped Harry.
"You really should Ron, they wouldn't make a fan club, they would make a religion," said Arth with a smug look as if proud of himself. Harry gave a particularly nasty look.
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," he said, 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 Most Charming Smile Award but I don't talk about that. I didn't get rid of the Bandon Banshee by smiling at her!"
He 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 —"
When he had handed out the test papers he returned to the front of the class and said, "You have thirty minutes — start —now!"
Arthur 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?
At that moment, Arth knew, that this class was going to be a load of bullshit.