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Starving Artists by peppersweet
Chapter 1: Art School
It was the day my dad disowned me.
No, not literally. He's far too nice to actually cast me out or try to pretend that he doesn't have a daughter or something. It wasn't actually that serious. It wasn't like I started seeing a questionable boy with too many piercings, got pregnant, joined the circus and then robbed Gringotts, although sometimes I wish I had.
I applied to art school.
Gasp. Shock. Horror. Art school? It's hardly the thing to get angry over. But if you think that, you obviously haven't met my dad. He is the physical manifestation of the stiff upper lip. Being a typical teenager and also being a Weasley, I've tried everything over the years - multiple detentions, underage drinking, dodgy boyfriends - but in all that time, all I'd raised from him was the twitching eye, the shaky hands, and the thundering 'We have morals and dignity in this house, Lucy Weasley!'
But nothing, nothing ever got him so mad as art school.
I started off casual. We were going to London for the day. 'Dad, when we're there, can we check out the Wizarding Institute of Arts?'
Dad hardly looked up from his newspaper. 'What, the art school? Is there an exhibition on?'
'No, I thought I'd just check it out, you know? For next year?'
He paid attention properly then. 'Pardon?'
'Y'know, Dad, studying. Art school. Next year.'
He frowned. 'Aren't you going to be a Healer? You can't go to Art school to do healing, Lucy.'
'I don't want to be Healer, Dad.'
'Well, I got four Acceptables in my N.E.W.T.S, a D in Muggle Studies, and I got a P in Herbology, and…and that's basically the essential subject for healing! Plus you need five Outstandings for most courses - I'm just not good enough, Dad.'
'I'm sure you'll find a course that'll take you on with those grades. You don't have to change your options, Lucy.'
'Yeah, but, Dad, I don't want to be a healer. I want to go to art school.'
'And what're you going to do with an art degree? Honestly?'
I was stuck there.
'Lucy, I will not let you throw your life away like that. I could always get you an internship at the Ministry-'
'Who says art school isn't respectable? For all you know, I could be a brilliant artist! I could make tons of money!'
Truth was that I hadn't painted a picture in my whole life. I'd sketched (badly), doodled (mostly to alleviate Transfiguration-induced boredom), even messed around with a cheap disposable camera (on family holidays). But I was barely an artist. With N.E.W.T results this bad and the deadline for post-Hogwarts courses so close, though, I was running out of options. And there was absolutely not a snowball's chance in hell I was ready to get anything as proper as a job.
'Lucy Weasley, you are not running off to art school!'
'You can't control my life!' I yelled, in a moment of adolescent fury. 'I'm of age, I can do what I want!'
It was hardly the best comeback I could have come out with, nor was it the first time I'd used it. But it seemed to have a strangely profound effect on Dad, who went a weird shade of purple.
'Not while you're under my roof,' Dad growled. 'While you live here, I have a duty of care over you! And that means you're going to train as a Healer and earn some Galleons!'
'Fine! I'll move out then! You just watch me!'
And I did. That's when he disowned me, after a bit more shouting, some rather violent door-slamming, and the smashing of an antique china vase my mum was particularly fond of.
It took everything – I'm not even kidding here - everything I'd saved in my Gringotts account to get a flat in London. Not even a nice one, either. Ten galleons a week on rent, mind, with a twenty galleon deposit. Tiny place – the guy renting it called it a studio – with only one room. I didn't even get my own bathroom, which put my excellent career prospects as a pop star to a swift end when I realised I couldn't warble old Weird Sisters hits in the shower anymore.
That was it. One room to myself. A tiny little square I could call my own. Mum and Dad actually visited, once, after they'd calmed down. They offered to help me clean the place up and even brought a bunch of flowers in a vase. It was quite miserable once they'd left. I was stuck in London, on my own, in a flat with peeling wallpaper, sharing a block with some of the sketchiest people I'd ever met. And I was going to art school when I couldn't even paint.
The flowers started to wilt after a few days.
Not that registering for art school was hard or anything. I turned up early in the morning on the sign-up day, expecting a queue, expecting them to turn me down so that I had an excuse to go back home and actually take up that healing course, but no. The place was deserted. I could almost imagine tumbleweed blowing across the hallway. I had to ring the bell at the front desk five times before anyone heard me.
When a man finally came running out of a nearby door and threw himself into the desk chair, I got the chance to speak.
'Hello, I'd like to register.'
'For what? Register for what?' the man, said, rubbing his mouth with the back of his hands. Crumbs fell from it and lay in his lap.
'Erm, art school? A course here?'
'Oh, that!' a light seemed to go on in the man's eyes. He scrabbled around on the desk, finally found a badge, and attached it to his shirt pocket.
Mr Holstone, the badge read. Dean.
'Here's the form,' Mr Holstone/Dean said, slapping a sheet of parchment on the desk in front of me. 'Do you have a portfolio?'
'A collection of drawings or other works, to support your application...?'
'Er, no. Do I need one?'
'Usually, you would, but considering you're only the fourth applicant this week, it's hardly necessary. We need all the students we can get. The more the merrier, eh? Well, we get more funding from the Ministry that way, you know?'
'I suppose...do you have a quill?'
Mr Holstone/Dean handed me a ruffled quill and a pot of violet ink. I filled in my name, address, date of birth, and my paltry set of qualifications.
'Right, that's that then. I'll take you on a tour,' he said.
Mr Holstone/Dean jumped out of his chair and led the way to the door he'd first appeared from.
'Right, are you a painter, a sculptor, visual artist, photographer?' he reeled off.
I blinked. 'None of them, really.'
'Oh, are you a conceptual artist?'
'Oh, let me introduce myself,' he said, throwing out a hand. It was rather difficult to shake it whilst walking so fast. 'I'm Mr Holstone, the Dean, head of discipline. Also head of art. Also the only permanent member of staff, come to think of it.'
I tried to ignore the fact that, up to that point, I'd been convinced that Dean was his first name.
He threw open a door which led on to a narrow corridor. 'You're pretty lucky. We haven't had a lot of applications this year - still a few places left. Most people go off to France to study art, and, well, half the students here don't even turn up most of the time.'
We were passing more doors, these set with windows. Most of the rooms were empty, but Mr Holstone paused outside one which was splattered with paint.
'Don't even think to clean up, either!' he exclaimed. Then, in a mutter: 'Artists.'
At the end of the corridor was a staircase. Mr Holstone took the steps two at a time; I had to run to keep up.
'So what's your main medium? I mean, paint-wise, we've got an issue, because we're so low on funding we can't even get decent oil stuff, and you'll have to pay if you want life classes or anything like that for your drawing, the school can't subsidise anything what with this no-nonsense economy Gringotts have come up with this year-'
'What's the cheapest thing to study?' I cut across. Mr Holstone considered it for a minute.
'Photography, I suppose. It's a galleon to hire a camera for the year and a sickle for a roll of film, but we don't charge for paper or the potion ingredients. We've got a bit of a surplus in the photography department, actually. It's not the most popular course. People don't tend to take it all that seriously, it being mostly muggle and all...'
I was a bit too preoccupied to consider the last point. I hadn't even taken Potions to N.E.W.T level; how was I supposed to handle this?
'Well, yes, you've got to develop your film, haven't you?'
'Develop it?' I was taken aback slightly. 'Don't you just…hand it into the shop and they do the thing for you?'
'Well, no, Louise-'
'Well, no, Lucy,' Mr Holstone was half-smiling. 'You do it the old fashioned way here. In a dark room. With potions. That's the point. You do everything yourself.'
I felt every part the idiot that I was. At the top of the stairs, he pushed open another door.
'This is the common room,' he announced. 'The heart and soul of student life at the art school.'
The two people sat in the room looked up.
'This is Tarquin and Gwendolyn,' he announced, pointing first at a boy with sticky-out ears, and then at a girl with scary amounts of eyeliner and a sneer.
'I keep telling you, my name's Raven,' she hissed.
'Alright then. This is Tarquin and Raven,' Mr Holstone said, pointing at the two again. 'Tarquin and Raven, this is Lucy.'
'Hello,' I held up a hand and smiled. The two of them simply stared at me.
Great start. Not. I turned to look about myself, taking in the common room – which seemed too hopelessly untidy and grubby to even begin to comprehend.
The common room also had even more doors. Mr Holstone pointed at them in turn, saying things like 'this is where we keep the kiln,' or 'this is the paint stock cupboard.'
'Dark rooms are upstairs,' he finished. 'So, are you game for a photography course, then?'
Mr Holstone turned back to Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven again. 'Where's our photography genius this week?'
Somehow, I got the feeling that he wasn't using the word 'genius' entirely seriously.
'Asleep,' Tarquin answered matter-of-factly. 'He didn't get in 'til five this morning.'
'Again?' Mr Holstone frowned. He turned back to face me. 'Right, if you come back tomorrow, I'll get Scorpius to show you the ropes photography-wise.'
I felt slightly punch-drunk.
'Malfoy? You know him?'
'After a fashion,' I said.
There is a story here, but this is not the time to tell it. I gave Mr Holstone what I hoped was a convincing smile.
'Alright, just show up tomorrow at ten, and you're done.'
'Really?' I said. 'That…that's it?'
'Really,' he smiled. 'That's all.'
He seemed very happy to show me out of the building. I got the feeling I had interrupted him mid-snack. Not that I wanted to stay, anyway. Gwendolyn/Raven had a touch of the psychotic about her stare.
This left me with a whole day spare to do nothing. Which, ideally, was the sort of life I'd have liked, but you don't exactly earn money by hanging around London doing naff all.
Call me mad, but I decided to visit my cousin Rose.
Rose was a year above me at school, a Ravenclaw, as smart as her mother with six Outstanding N.E.W.T.S and a place at one of the country's top Further Witchcraft and Wizardry Education Colleges to boot. As far as I knew, she was still on her summer holiday, but had come down to London early to 'use the library', typically.
I wondered if she knew that Scorpius went to that particular art school. Then I realised that if she did, there would be no art school for him to go to. She would have torched the place long ago.
Thing is - and she's legendary in our family - Rose has a very fearsome temper.
See, here's a vague outline of the whole tangled affair. Boy meets girl. Relationship begins. Happiness ensues. Boy and girl decide to continue education and go to study magical law together. Except boy isn't really too keen on law. Girl turns up on enrolment day and finds out boy has done a runner and gone to art school instead. Girl, raging mad, thumps boy's best friend for not telling her this.
That's the plot. But replace 'boy' with 'Scorpius', 'girl' with 'Rose', 'boy's best friend' with 'Albus, Scorpius' best friend and Rose's cousin', and 'hits' for 'calls Albus a lot of nasty four-letter words and gives him a minor bruise to boot'.
Humiliated, angry, and with sore knuckles, Rose went to law school anyway and – get this – 'cursed' the day Scorpius was born, and said that she never wanted to see him again, and if she did, she would skin him alive and then some.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm really related to her.
On the way to Rose's Kensington flat (ever since Aunt Hermione had been appointed head of the new Equality division at the ministry, Rose had been rolling in money) I wondered whether I should tell her I knew where Scorpius was or not. Here were my options:
a) Tell Rose which art school Scorpius goes to, be on the receiving end of one of her shrieking tantrums, and then have to bust her out of Azkaban for Scorpius' resulting murder, or
b) Not tell her anything, and have life continue as normal. And study photography off aforementioned Scorpius Malfoy. And maybe even become a photographer (in my dreams).
I think it's perfectly obvious that I chose option b.
Rose was at home when I rang the doorbell. She looked harassed when she answered; a pair of reading glasses perched on her nose, her hair pulled up into a messy ponytail. Her hands were covered in ink smudges.
'Lucy?' she said, frowning.
I gave what I hoped was a bright, cheery smile.
'Guess who's an art student?'
She gave a weak smile, stepping aside to let me in. But as I shimmied past her into the flat, her eyes snapped wide open, and she turned to face me, lip curling.
'This wouldn't be at the same art school as that tosser-'
'Nope, not a tosser in sight,' I lied, grinning cheesily. 'Haven't seen a blonde for days,' Rose's eyes drifted up to my hair, and I hastily corrected myself. 'Well, apart from me.'
She grimaced. 'You've caught me at a bad time. I'm studying for next term.'
'Ahh, holiday homework,' I sighed, wistfully. 'How I don't miss it.'
She frowned again.
'No, this is just some extra stuff to make sure I'm well ahead of everyone else. Would you like a cup of tea?'
'I'd love one.'
Rose was running low on teabags, so she rather grudgingly brewed me a cuppa. I grinned as she plonked it down in front of me, looking rather displeased with her more ordinary glass of water.
'I can't chat for very long, I'm in the midst of working on a very complicated case study about a man who tried to rob Gringotts and then entered a plea of insanity, but then it turned out he was under the Imperius curse and the real culprit was…oh, nevermind.' she sipped at her tea darkly. 'What're you even going to do at art school? I didn't have you down as an artist. I thought you were going to train as a Healer.'
'Oh, you know me; I'm always drawing in my spare time. I'm going to do photography.'
The first part was a lie. Rose's eyebrows almost hit her hairline.
'Right, okay. What sort of job are you going to get with that?'
'No idea!' I grinned sheepishly. 'I'll just coast along, see how life goes.'
She shook her head.
'Lucy, you should probably think about looking for a job. Even now, because even art school's going to cost you money.'
'I'll be fine,' I waved her away. 'I've got a knack for getting things on the cheap.'
'This isn't Hogwarts, Lucy, you need Galleons, and pronto.'
There was a silence. Rose sipped at her tea, glaring at me over the top of her mug.
'Come on, Rosie, stop being so serious, I'll be fine.'
'I'm just concerned.'
'You sound a lot like my dad.'
'Lucy...' she sighed, setting down her mug. 'You were quite the...ah...hell-raiser at Hogwarts. I imagine you'll be the same as a student. But you have to be careful; you don't have house elves and fellow Hufflepuffs to pick you up this time. You're on your own.'
She finished her sentence with a stern look she'd inherited from our Nan. Sensing it was probably best to shut up about art school as soon as possible, I gave her a bright smile, gulped at my tea, then changed the subject.
'Lovely weather we're having…'
Half an hour later we ran out of small talk. I scrutinised the remainder of my tea, decided it had probably gone too cold for human consumption, and knew it was time to take my leave.
'That was lovely, Rose, dear, but I think I should dash. You know, places to be, people to meet,' I handed her the mug. 'Thanks for the advice and the tea.'
She looked incredibly happy to show me out of her flat. People being happy to see the back of me seemed to be a theme that day and, as you can imagine, it didn't put me in the best of spirits.
From Rose's flat, I took another train to Diagon Alley. It was still only about ten in the morning, and I was at a loss for what to do for the rest of the day. Eventually, after some time wandering around, I found an old, dusty art shop in Knockturn alley as claustrophobic as my flat.
After a galleon was spent on a sketchbook and a pack of pencils (just in case, and to make me feel like an actual art student and not an impostor) I wandered back into Diagon Alley. I was almost at the Leaky Cauldron when I caught sight of myself in a shop window. Even in dusty glass, the dull-blonde hair I'd inherited from my mum was the first thing I saw. Not for the first time, I wished I'd got the Weasley red hair. Being a Hufflepuff and also a bit dense, you can imagine that having blonde hair did me a lot of favours. Not.
I didn't look anything like an art student. I actually looked quite conservative, and my jeans, fresh from the wardrobe, still bore some of their crisp neatness from Dad's ironing. My shirt even had pinstripes. There was nothing exciting about a side-ish parting of the hair and a fringe I'd spent the better part of five years growing out. Students, according to popular belief, were not neat. Students did not wear pinstripes and have boring hair. And art students - well, they were a species of their own. I was still firmly on the 'Rose' end of the spectrum in terms of appearance and cleanliness.
I wasn't an art student at all. I'd been talented, all my life, at making things up, but this was the first time I'd felt bad about being an impostor. As I walked out of the Leaky Cauldron and into the muggle road beyond, the paper-bagged sketchbook bumped against my legs, the pencils rattling in their tin, as if they were screaming out about me blagging my way onto an art course. I was an impostor, to be fair, but I didn't even look the part. I was barely trying. my mind went back to Gwendolyn/Raven with her scary eyeliner, the way her and that Tarquin boy seemed to stare in unison, as if synchronised staring was a national past time and they were the champions. That Gwendolyn/Raven girl had a much more exciting hairstyle than mine. She was a true art student.
I turned back to Diagon Alley, deciding to work from the top down. And, in the end, I spent seven sickles on hair dye.
A/N: updated 12/04/2012 and 11/09/2012 AND 21/06/2013 - COMPLETE edit, changing a bit of the story, straightening out all my hopeless grammar derps. erk. it's been two - no, three years since I started writing this and a huge edit of it is long overdue.
Thank you to everyone on the forums who helped me out with this idea about so long ago - without your witty comments, this would have been an angsty, fairly serious story about serious art students and not the total slapstick crackfic it turned out to be in the end. It's amazing how a simple topic like 'would you take a story about Scorpius Malfoy going to art school seriously?' can turn into 'Scorpius Malfoy is a brooding misanthropist poet who wears eyeliner and collects ceramic ducks'. Not that that's a spoiler or anything.
Reviews are love, especially the crazy ones!