Gilderoy Lockhart wrapped his orange, woolen, fur-trimmed winter robes closer around him as a gust of wind showered him with swirling snowflakes. He stopped to adjust his fluffy purple knit scarf, and realized that he was standing across lane from Madame Puddifoot’s Tea Shoppe. He watched wistfully as nervously-smiling Hogwarts students entered the already-bursting shop, from which rich, sweet aromas and convivial chatter escaped each time the door was opened. The large front window glowed with warm light, and dozens of couples, huddled over small tables, were visible through the glass.
This was a sorry Valentine’s Day indeed. The Hogwarts staff didn’t appreciate his holiday decor in the least, and neither, it seemed, did most of the students. He’d received forty-six — only forty-six! — Valentine’s cards from the Hogwarts community. Oh, he’d made a big show of being appreciative, but truly, it was a pathetic number.
He supposed he wouldn’t be so disappointed if he had a really special someone with whom to share this most special of holidays, but he seemed to be lacking in that department, too. Yes, he’d shared an early-morning rendesvous with a charming Ministry lady who’d flooed in for the occasion, and this evening he was meeting an absolutely delicious gentleman for a candlelit dinner in Diagon Alley, but neither of these encounters truly excited him. He didn’t feel the same way about the Ministry lady and the delicious gentleman that the Hogwarts couples, pressed together and exchanging longing glances as they left the shop, felt about each other.
He was about to head for Honeydukes to console himself with second-rate chocolate when a fellow stroller caught his eye. She was walking slowly up the street toward the Tea Shoppe. She didn’t seem to be wearing a robe, but rather an eclectic assortment of scarves, shawls, and wraps, many of which were pink and red, and trailed shiny paillettes and glittery beaded fringe. Her boots were of a red suede that was useless against snow, and her hair was covered by a red, sequined scarf that could not possibly keep out the cold. When she paused to peer into the cheery window of the Tea Shoppe, Gilderoy noticed her large, pinked-rimmed glasses. Could it be….? He called across the street.
Sybil Trelawney felt that her magic needed recharging. Her Inner Eye wasn’t working as well as it should. Her intuition, however, was working well enough to know that her students weren’t concentrating on anything else but Valentine’s Day, especially with those wretched hired cupids of Lockhart’s bursting into class every few minutes. So she’d cancelled the rest of her classes, and resolved to use the time to visit some of the shops in Hogsmeade for new oils and herbs and candles and music — all for her Inner Eye, of course.
Sybil didn’t like crowds and gatherings, but she found the occasional outing rejuvenating, and had decided to increase the magical efficacy of her trip by dressing to celebrate the holiday. She’d chosen as many pink and red items as she owned, charmed her glasses to match, and cast a warming spell about her, because it was easier than creating more weather-appropriate clothing. Sibyl was fairly adept at Charms, but had never mastered the art of dressmaking.
Sybil was enjoying her outing, her conversations with the shopkeepers, and her purchases, until she approached Madame Puddifoot’s. The smell of the cakes and biscuits drew her to the window, where the sight of the happy couples within filled her with a vague sense of longing. She didn’t actually know anyone with whom she’d like to whisper over a table, but the scene made her wish she had someone… anyone….
She felt an unpleasant thrill of guilt and embarrassment at the sound of her name. She turned and saw Gilderoy Lockhart striding across the street.
Well, not just anyone.
She pulled her outermost shawl more tightly around her as Lockhart loomed overhead.
“Sybil! I thought that was you!” he boomed convivially. “Come to meet a special someone for Valentine’s tea?”
“Oh! Oh, no, just looking in…. on the students… getting a feel for… their futures….” she mumbled, trying to cover her embarrassment and end the conversation. “Well, I mustn’t let them catch me spying…”
“Well, then!” said Lockhart, his face beaming, “If you don’t have a special someone, why not join me?”
Sybil felt wrong-footed. “It’s not that I don’t have someone….” she sputtered, but Lockhart didn’t hear. He grabbed her arm and steered her into the shop, saying “Let’s go in and get warm, shall we?”
Sybil was dismayed. People were staring. She saw a few of her students giggling behind their hands. It was probably best to go along quietly, and let the fuss subside. But what on earth did this loud, crass man want with her?
Gilderoy couldn’t believe his luck. Just the person to keep his mind off his woes! He’d only met Sibyl Trelawney a few times, always at a staff meeting. She kept herself shut up in the Divination Tower to shield her “inner eye,” a fact that she always announced very dramatically. Gilderoy appreciated her theatricality. He also wondered if she might read his fortune. Surely it had to improve!
“Oh, Mr. Lockhart!” gushed Madame Puddifoot when she saw Gilderoy and Sybil lingering by the door. “It’s so good to see you again!”
“It’s Professor Lockhart now!” said Gilderoy with pride. “And this is my colleague, Professor Trelawney.”
Was it his imagination, or did Madame Puddifoot look a little crestfallen to see that he had a date? My, it was fortuitous to have met Sybil on the street. Nothing made one more desirable than being desired.
They were ushered to a table at the center of the room, and Gilderoy ordered tea for them both. He was heartened by the stares and whispers of the patrons. His public still loved him, even if the pedestrian Hogwarts staff didn’t. But Sybil looked uncomfortable. She removed her head scarf with trembling fingers.
“Is everything all right, Sybil?” he asked.
“We seem to be the center of attention,” she said, glancing quickly about the room.
Her discomfort surprised Gilderoy. Surely someone as flamboyant as Sybil enjoyed attention as much as he.
“But that’s marvelous!” he declared. “I’m certain they’re all admiring your stunning Valentine’s costume!” This wasn’t true, of course; they were undoubtedly star-struck by his own celebrity, but Sybil did look as through she needed some bucking up.
“My… costume?” she said, uncertainly.
“Why, of course! It’s very appropriate for the day, and quite flattering, too.” And these statements were true, he realized, when Sybil smiled in response, and smoothed her hair. She had a nice smile; perfect teeth, like his.
“Do you really think so?” she asked — hopefully, he thought.
“Of course! I wish I’d thought of donning red and pink!” And he was rewarded with another perfect grin.
Was it her imagination, or did Gilderoy look a little startled? She must have really impressed him. He recovered himself, and said, “Well, that’s quite notable, a testament to your skills! I look forward to producing an equal number of Aurors. Perhaps you’ll be able to read my tea leaves and tell me if I’ll succeed.”
He looked hopeful; Sybil suspected he’d been wanting a reading all along. She asked, “Have you ever explored the art of Divination, Gilderoy?”
“Alas, I have not!” he said, raising his hands in dismay. “Not that I wouldn’t have succeeded brilliantly, but where to find the time? I must tell you, however, how much I regretted my lack of skill when the Seer I brought with me to find the Mummy of Malta turned out to be a demon who tried to rouse the mummy herself! I was fighting a double duel: the demon on my right, and the mummy on my left. I sent the demon’s spell back upon her and she was incinerated in a column of flame, but the mummy kept advancing! I tried spell after spell to stop him, but it appeared I would be forced reduce him to a pile of dust. Then I remembered the Seer’s cards. She was supposed to use them to divine the precise spell to control the mummy. I dove for them, and flung them into the air! As the mummy bore down upon me, I picked up card after card, desperately trying the incantation I thought the card suggested. Finally, at the very last moment, when the mummy was so close that I would have reduced us both to dust, I hit upon the right spell, and froze the mummy’s feet to the ground!”
“Merciful heavens!” This was Madame Puddifoot, who had paused in delivering their tea to listen to the story. “You’re such a brave man!” As Puddifoot set down the tea things and a plate of sweets, Sybil heard murmurs of assent. Their neighbors were leaning in, listening. One of them was Sybil’s outstanding fourth-year student Angelina Johnson, whose date, Lee Jordan, appeared grumbly as Angelina sighed and said, “That was incredible, wasn’t it, Professor Trelawney?”
Personally, Sybil wondered how the cards could possibly have still been there, seeing as their owner had been burnt to ashes, but suddenly Gilderoy was offering her a bowl of sugar lumps and saying, “Now, I’m certain Professor Trelawney isn’t impressed by such bumbling, successful though it was! You must have your own tales to tell, don’t you, Sybil?”
The truth was, she’d never done anything to top that, but she felt that she must keep Divination thrilling for students like Angelina, so she accepted a sugar lump, rearranged her shawls so their spangles caught the light for the most exotic effect, and began her story.
Gilderoy listened with a mixture of awe and disbelief to Sybil’s tale of channeling a prophecy when she was just a child. After she had correctly predicted several professional Quidditch injuries, the Chudley Cannons had begged her to do a reading about their upcoming matches in the 1972 International Quidditch Tournament. Over the objections of her parents, and at great risk to her Inner Eye, ten-year-old Sybil took her grandfather’s broom and flew to Chudley all by herself.
She said, “They set me up in the middle of their massive Quidditch pitch, surrounded by all the players, and the stands were filled with eager fans. Oh, the noise! Oh, what violence it did to my Inner Eye! But it was too late to back out! I waited until the last moment to unveil my crystal ball. Suddenly, the stadium was so quiet that the silence itself seemed to echo. I peered into the ball, into the unknown… and what I saw! Oh, what I saw!”
Lost in her story, Sybil stared at the table, as if into an invisible crystal ball, her hands spread as if hovering beneath it.
“What was it, Professor? What did you see?” said Angelina with a mixture of excitement and fear.
Sybil spoke to the ceiling. “Oh, the calamity!” Then she closed her eyes and placed her the back of her hand to her forehead, saying, “Perhaps it’s best not to tell….”
“No, tell! Tell!” shouted several students, who had pulled their chairs closer to hear.
Reluctantly, Sybil brought herself back into the present, although she couldn’t keep a tone of relish out of her voice as she said, “I saw injuries, terrible injuries… broken bones, heart attacks, blood spurting everywhere… and death.”
The students gasped. Even Gilderoy felt frightened, though he knew that no member of the Chudley Cannons had ever died during a match.
Sybil continued, “They asked me what to do in order to escape this fate. At first I was at a loss. What did I know about Quidditch? And I saw no solution in my crystal ball. But then my body began to shake, and I felt a great Spirit possess me! It opened my mouth, and after that I knew no more until I came to in the infirmary. But they told me what I had said.”
“What? What?” urged the crowd.
“The Spirit I channeled said that the team would be cursed unless they changed their team colors to purple and gold.” Sybil heaved a sigh. “Sadly, they did not heed the Spirit.”
“Wasn’t 1972 the year that the Cannons changed their motto from “We shall conquer” to “Let’s all just keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best?” asked Lee, who was obsessed with Quidditch history.
“Yes, as much good as it did them!” said Angelina. ”They should’ve listened to Professor Trelawney!”
“Some curse!” snorted Madame Puddifoot. “They only lost their standing. They didn’t lose their lives at all!”
Sybil looked a bit flustered by that, and Gilderoy felt he should support her. “It certainly seems like a curse to me, to never win, to always come in last!”
And then Gilderoy shivered, for that, in his view, was a terrible curse indeed. His stomach felt cold at the thought of asking the question on his mind, but he had to know. His voice shook a little as he spoke.
“Can you tell, Sibyl, when you do a reading… if the person for whom you’re reading… has been cursed?”
Sybil saw that Gilderoy was shaken by the Cannon’s curse. She decided that she wouldn’t mind doing a reading for him at all. In fact, she felt she would enjoy it. She had begin to feel warmly towards him. They were kindred souls, with a shared appreciation for the Beyond.
So in full view of the assembled students, she said, “These are weighty matters, and this shop is rather crowded, which is no good for my Inner Eye. Perhaps we should meet later, in the Divination Tower, for dinner, to discuss them?”
And in full view of all the assembled students, and knowing full well he would be cancelling on the delicious gentleman, Gilderoy Lockhart said, “Yes. That would be splendid.”