Chicago is nothing like the cities Gilderoy knows by heart. It has none of London's gloomy, old charm; its buildings are dizzyingly higher and far more crowded than those in Glasgow; and the faint traces of home—Belfast—lead only to a handful of Irish-American pubs.
Worst of all, there's nothing magical about it.
(Nothing he's yet discovered, anyway, save for his now ex-students.)
As he stands on the Kashtta's roof and surveys the city's glittering lights below, he wants to draw up some kind of metaphor—stars, or fireflies, or anything pretty—but his heart's not in it. He's far too distracted and concerned—or distracted by his concerns, rather—to focus on anything other than his own problems.
But that, he knows, is nothing new.
He backs away from the roof's edge and looks up. There's not much to see due to the light and particle pollution and clouds, but the moon is visible in spite of it all, hanging in the blackness like a hook.
That's when the nausea hits.
The thought that this isn't the sky that's drifted overhead his entire life, that this moon might not be the moon whose craters he knew so well as a boy, that the pricks of light he can barely distinguish might not make the same constellations he learned about in his father's books sends him reeling. His stomach lurches, his heart leaps into his throat, and he sits before his sense of balance vanishes.
This does nothing to stop the way the world is spinning. He shuts his eyes to close the vertigo out and claws through his memories, grasping onto the evening of March 29, 1975. All at once, he's back in the Ravenclaw common room, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and high windows and concentrating on nothing other than the fingers threading through his hair.
"Can you really believe we're almost finished?" he asked, tilting his head back to look into a pair of dark green, owlish eyes.
"It was… quick, yes. Too quick. Seven years, just like that, gone in a flash." The young lady seated on the couch above him smiled, somewhat preoccupied with unraveling one of his curls. She was pretty, but not stunning—her hair was the same color as Gilderoy's and her features were rather small and pointy, but he loved her just the same. It was a surprise to most of the school when they started dating—who knew Gilderoy Lockhart could care for anyone other than himself?—but their personalities meshed well, and they bonded quickly over many little things.
"I can't help but wonder what's next," he said. "I don't suppose you'd happen to know?"
The girl snicker-snorted, a strange but pleasing sound, and shook her head. "I will tell you nothing. Your journey will be exactly that, and I will have no part in guiding you through it."
He felt a pang in his chest and looked to the nearest window, blue eyes sweeping the sunset-painted mountains. "I know."
Though they made a fine couple and were happy enough together, both knew—one more certainly than the other—that their relationship would end with graduation. Gilderoy frowned at the thought. She didn't seem so bothered, but she was always difficult to read.
"There is... one thing. One thing that is very little right now, but will be very big someday."
He looked back up at her, fingers absently tracing the pattern in the ornate carpet underfoot. "What?"
"I know that you will always be a liar, Gilderoy Lockhart—" And here he opened his mouth to protest, but a slim finger pressed his lips closed. "But one day you will be handed a blank slate, and you must promise me that you will take it."
He considered her words for a few moments, then nodded. "I promise."
Part of him wanted to ask what she meant, when this slate-handing would happen, but most of him knew better. He trusted her.
Sybill Trelawney, after all, was rarely wrong.
When he opens his eyes, he's atop the Kashtta once more. The nausea's faded and his heart's back in his chest, but he can't shake the feeling that he won't be able to keep his promise. Even he's not sure who he is under all the lies and expensive fabric, so how can anyone expect him to let it all drop away so easily?
A breeze kicks up. He shivers, casts one more glance at the sky, then heads inside.