Pesky Pixies

Professor Lockhart unleashes chaos during his first Defence Against The Dark Arts class with Harry

Extract from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

by J.K. Rowling

‘What’ve we got this afternoon?’ said Harry, hastily changing the subject.

‘Defence Against the Dark Arts,’ said Hermione at once.

‘Why,’ demanded Ron, seizing her timetable, ‘have you outlined all Lockhart’s lessons in little hearts?’

Hermione snatched the timetable back, flushing furiously.

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, mousey-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.

‘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 a 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 forwards. ‘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 brilliant 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?’

‘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 queue 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 any more; 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.

‘Eat slugs, Malfoy,’ said Ron angrily. Crabbe stopped laughing and started rubbing his conker-like knuckles in a menacing way.

‘Be careful, Weasley,’ sneered Malfoy. ‘You don’t want to start any trouble or your mummy'll have to come and take you away from school.’ He put on a shrill, piercing voice. ‘If you put another toe out of line –’

A knot of Slytherin fifth-years nearby laughed loudly at this.

‘Weasley would like a signed photo, Potter,’ smirked Malfoy. ‘It’d be worth more than his family’s whole house.’

Ron whipped out his Spellotaped wand, but Hermione shut Voyages with Vampires with a snap and whispered, ‘Look out!’

‘What’s all this, what’s all this?’ Gilderoy Lockhart was striding towards 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!’

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 say fairer than that, and we’ll both sign it for you.’

Colin fumbled for his camera and took the picture as the bell rang behind them, signalling 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 was wishing he knew a good vanishing spell, still clasped to his side.

‘A word to the wise, Harry,’ said Lockhart paternally as they entered the building through a side door. ‘I covered up for you back there with young Creevey – if he was photographing me, too, your schoolfellows won’t think you’re setting yourself up so much ...’

Deaf to Harry’s stammers, Lockhart swept him down a corridor lined with staring students and up a staircase.

‘Let me just say that handing out signed pictures at this stage of your career isn’t sensible – looks a tad bigheaded, Harry, to be frank. There may well come a time when, like me, you’ll need to keep a stack handy wherever you go, but –’ he gave a little chortle, ‘I don’t think you’re quite there yet.’

They had reached Lockhart’s classroom and he let Harry go at last. Harry yanked his robes straight and 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.

The rest of the class came clattering in and 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, they’ll be starting a Harry Potter fan club.’

‘Shut up,’ snapped Harry. The last thing he needed was for Lockhart to hear the phrase ‘Harry Potter fan club’.

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 Defence League and five times 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!’

Harry looked down at his paper and read:

  1. What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s favourite colour?
  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:

  1. When is Gilderoy Lockhart’s birthday, and what would his ideal gift be?

Half an hour later, Lockhart collected in the papers and rifled through them in front of the class.

‘Tut, tut – hardly any of you remembered that my favourite colour is lilac. I say so in Year with a 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!’

He 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. 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.

‘Excellent!’ beamed Lockhart. ‘Quite excellent! Take ten points for Gryffindor! And so, to business ...’

He 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.’

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 which even Lockhart couldn’t mistake for a scream of terror.

‘Yes?’ he 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!’

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 pulling 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, upended the waste bin, 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 candelabra 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 Lockhart’s wand and threw it out of the window, too. Lockhart gulped and dived under his own desk, narrowly avoiding being squashed by Neville, who fell a second later as the candelabra gave way.

The bell rang and there was a mad rush towards the exit. In the relative calm that followed, Lockhart straightened up, caught sight of Harry, Ron and Hermione, who were almost at the door, and said, ‘Well, I’ll ask you three to just nip the rest of them back into their cage.’ He swept past them and shut the door quickly behind him.

‘Can you believe him?’ roared Ron, as one of the remaining pixies bit him painfully on the ear.

‘He just wants to give us some hands-on experience,’ said Hermione, immobilising two pixies at once with a clever Freezing Charm and stuffing them back into their cage.

‘Hands on?’ said Harry, who was trying to grab a pixie dancing out of reach with its tongue out. ‘Hermione, he didn’t have a clue what he was doing.’

‘Rubbish,’ said Hermione. ‘You’ve read his books – look at all those amazing things he’s done ...’

‘He says he’s done,’ Ron muttered.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

by J.K. Rowling