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Starving Artists by peppersweet
Chapter 7: The Shape of the Pear
Chapter Seven - The Shape of the Pear
(aka Scorpius throws a hissy fit and has troubles with his hair and begonias.)
I woke up very early on the morning of November the twentieth – well, if you count eight in the morning as early – to the sound of a letter slithering its way underneath the door. A very thick, red letter.
Rolling out of bed with gummed-up eyes and a tongue that felt like sandpaper, I crawled across the floor towards it; it seemed like a troupe of drummers were doing a bit of light drumming in my head in preparation for what promised to be a good old-fashioned hangover headache. The red letter sat on the doormat, and, stupidly, I picked it up and slit it open without thinking. Almost the second the envelope ripped it shrieked into life, giving me such a fright that I toppled over backwards and smacked my head off a chair. The imaginary mental drummers only took this as encouragement to drum harder.
‘THREE MONTHS OF UNPAID RENT!’ the letter – which I now recognised to be a Howler – screamed in the cut-glass voice of my snooty landlord. ‘THE MOST BLOODY INCONSIDERATE TENANT I’VE EVER HAD TO PUT UP WITH IN MY LIFE! I’VE HALF A MIND TO CURSE YOUR ARSE ALL THE WAY BACK TO LIVERPOOL-’
I snatched the Howler out of the air and stuffed it underneath a pile of dirty clothes, where the screaming was slightly muffled. For five minutes I sat there, waiting, with bated breath, for the Howler to stop howling.
It seemed to stop. Not that my headache got any better because of it; it was like the drummers had donned hobnailed boots.
Carefully, I lifted the clothes, but the Howler wasn’t done – it leapt into the air again, screeching ‘MARK MY WORDS, WEASLEY, ONE MORE MONTH OF UNPAID RENT AND YOU’RE OUT!’
‘Crap,’ I breathed, scrambling around the flat. The mental drummers decided this was a good time to invite a herd of elephants along to the headache party. In a moment of hungover rage, I yelled ‘shut up!’ at nobody in particular, causing an irritated next-door-neighbour to thump on the wall.
‘It’s all your fault, Tarquin!’ I mumbled to the silence. Hazy memories of the night before floated into my mind, including Tarquin’s grinning double-double-dare to drink Scorpius under the table. I won. Of course. I think it was the dare to arm-wrestle Scorpius that finally broke me – or the both of us, rather. I had distinct memories of defeating Scorp in a matter of seconds and crashing to the floor in a jumble of bottles, furniture and Gwendolyn/Raven.
Crushing the Howler in my palm, I stood and hurled it across the room towards the bin. It missed by a mile and lay on the floor, smouldering contentedly.
An hour later I was walking towards the art school, a fiesta of drummers and elephants inside my skull. I could hardly blame the muggles that saw me for giving me such a wide berth – blue-haired, grubby, scowling, and nursing a bruised wrist from Scorpius’ feeble arm-wrestling attempts the night before, I must’ve looked a tad frightening. Besides, it was bitterly cold, and a lack of gloves meant that by the time I reached the art school my fingers were frozen stiff into some sort of tortured clawing position.
Almost at the precise moment I went to open the front door there was a quiet popping noise from behind me, then an anguished ‘aahhhh-’ before I turned around to see Scorpius topple over sideways into a lamppost.
‘Good morning,’ I said blearily, putting out a hand to help him up. ‘Drink getting to you?’
‘I splinched my fringe,’ he said miserably. ‘I always do that. I don’t even know how I got my licence…’
‘Walk, it’s what I do. You’re less likely to dismember yourself...’
He followed me inside, tugging at his mutilated fringe with some disdain.
‘I think you broke my wrist,’ he told me, holding up his arm. A few purple bruises had appeared on the skin; he winced as he lowered it again. ‘Look, sorry about the whole, erm, well, thing.’
‘Scorpius, a couple of bruises is hardly a break…besides, I think the table got off worse than we did. Know a decent headache potion?’
‘No, but Tarquin will...’
‘Is he here?’ I asked.
‘He’s out cold.’ Scorpius said hopelessly. ‘He threw a mug of cold tea at me when I tried to wake him up.’
‘Oh. When will he get up?’
‘Not till tomorrow, I should think.’
‘What about Raven?’
‘Probably off killing puppies and making children cry,’ Scorpius’ expression was deadly serious. ‘Or maybe devising a new way to ruin my life, I don’t know.’
‘Is there actually any point in us being here?’ I asked, thinking of my warm bed (the only good thing about my cold flat).
We’d reached the top of the stairs. ‘Don’t think so,’ Scorpius shrugged. ‘Well, the dark room could do with a bit of a tidy…’
He took hold of the door handle and then kicked the door open with his foot. The first thing I noticed was the screeching. Scorpius did a double take, shut the door, then opened it again, but it was definitely the common room both times he checked. The furniture had been pushed back against the walls and a space had been cleared on the floor, in which Frances, Ellen, Obscure Henry and Brooding Nameless Barry were all seated, cross-legged and po-faced, staring forwards. Frances had a feather in her hair and was barefoot.
‘Namaste, Scorpius, Lucy.’ She said, her delicate whisper barely audible over the screeching, which seemed to be coming from the ancient tape deck in the corner. ‘We saved some mats for you.’
‘What...?’ Scorpius dithered about, staring from the tape machine to Frances.
‘We’re doing Yoga,’ Obscure Henry explained. ‘Hungover.’
‘To channel away negative energy,’ Frances raised her voice. ‘To expand the positive aura of the school...Scorpius, I sense you have a lot of negative energy you need expunge, you must become at one with your inner self...’
Scorpius had gone bright red. He backed towards the door, mumbling incoherently, but I grabbed his arm.
‘Come on, at least for the headache,’ I told him. ‘It’ll be fun.’
‘Fun?’ he said, in a strangled sort of whisper. ‘Fun?’
Ellen fetched two spare mats and set them on the floor between her and Brooding Nameless Barry, who was in the corner pretending to be the physical manifestation of a thundercloud as per usual. Scorpius sat next to him, looking self-conscious and nursing his sore wrist. Frances shut her eyes, breathing in deeply.
‘Become at one with the universe,’ she whispered. ‘Sense the negative energy in the room and expel it, expel the negative energy. Welcome the positive, bring it into your body and feel it lighting up your sooooooul.’
She stretched out her arms above her head, holding them there for a full minute. Ellen copied her instantaneously. Obscure Henry looked around, perplexed, and then half-heartedly threw his hands up above him, shrugging at Scorpius. Scorpius and Brooding Nameless Barry both glowered at me, although considering the latter glowered permanently, it wasn’t much of a surprise.
‘Lucy…can we leave?’ Scorpius whispered. Frances’ eyes snapped open.
‘Scorpius!’ she shot across the circle. ‘Focus on the negative energy, feel it leaving your body and flying away into the atmosphere, feel it purging you of your woes and worries, feel the positive energy entering your mind...’
Simultaneously, she and Ellen both lay flat on their mats, stretching their arms out to the ceiling. Obscure Henry and Scorpius exchanged looks. Brooding Nameless Barry brooded.
‘You are a lighthouse,’ Frances continued. ‘You are a beacon, you are a pillar of light, you are a positive, friendly soooooul.’
The screeching moved to another key. ‘What is that?’ I whispered.
‘Whale music.’ Obscure Henry answered. ‘Load of bollocks.’
‘You are a lighthouse standing calm amongst the storm...’
‘Can we leave?’ Scorpius pleaded. ‘I mean, there’s no hope I’ll ever be purged of woes-’
‘You are a lighthouse!’ Frances bawled over the whale music. ‘A lighthouse in the storm!’
‘Yeah, but the bloody blub has gone and we don’t have any spares,’ Obscure Henry drawled.
‘You are a beacon of hope!’
‘I’m getting out of here,’ I told Scorpius, as my imaginary drummers and elephants started up again in full force. ‘If there’s no work, I’m off.’
‘Me too,’ Scorpius stood, pulling at his fringe again. ‘Argh, that whale music…’
A minute later we were on the staircase again, and then a minute after that we were back out on the streets again. Shivering, Scorpius dug his hands into his pockets. With his hunched shoulders, splinched fringe and miserable frown, he looked like a long-lost relative of Brooding Nameless Barry.
‘You look bloody miserable,’ I told him, with a friendly punch to the arm that almost knocked him into the gutter. ‘Come on, cheer up, you’ve got a gig tonight.’
He let an anguished sigh, staring dramatically upwards.
‘Yes you can. Just think, you get to see your band-’
‘You don’t understand, Lucy.’ He sighed again.
‘I do. I know you hate Lettuce, don’t forget, I had to put up with Rose for years. I know just how it feels.’
Scorpius didn’t react with his usual mad hop, skip, jump and shriek, instead blinking at me wearily.
‘You’re not reacting,’ I panicked. ‘Why are you not reacting?’
‘Lucy, it feels like a load of heavy metal drummers are heavy metal drumming inside my head. I don’t really care about the band, or R-Rose, or-’
‘Ah! Look! It’s Rose!’
‘Don’t…’ he took a deep breath. ‘Don’t even…’
‘Haven’t seen her for ages, you’ve got nothing to worry about,’ I shrugged. ‘So what sort of practise do you have to do for your gig?’
He carried on walking in stony silence, throwing me a dark look.
‘Sorry, Scorp, didn’t mean to freak you out-’
‘Music. Piano practice,’ he interrupted. ‘Duh.’
The sarcastic sting of his words was somewhat ruined by the bus that drove through a nearby puddle at that precise moment and drowned Scorpius’ feet. He frowned down at his sodden trainers, looking as miserable as the small, scummy puddle he now stood in.
‘At least you didn’t trip?’ I tried to console him. ‘At least it wasn’t a small child on a bike?’
He opened his mouth to answer back, but another bus thundered through the puddle and sent another small tsunami towards us. Scorpius had the good sense to jump this time, although I wasn’t so lucky.
‘Ha.’ He pointed at my feet. ‘Evens.’
‘Forget that,’ I said, starting up our walk again. ‘Where can I get a decent headache potion? I’ve got drummers in my head too.
‘Drumming? I’ve got this horrible headache that feels like a heavy metal drumming convention-’
‘Er...isn’t that what drummers do? I’ve got another warning notice about my rent as well, I’m worried I’m going to go home and find everything I own in a skip.’
‘Oh. We’ve probably got some stuff back in the flat, you could drop in for a while...maybe you’ll be able to resurrect Tarquin…’
It began to rain. Scorpius frowned at the sky this time, as if pulling faces could influence the weather.
‘Just in time as well.’ I said cheerfully. ‘Can we apparate? I’m tired.’
‘Technically, you’re probably still over the limit…and I don’t want to lose any more of my fringe.’
‘Come on, focus...destination, determination-’
‘Oh, shut it,’ he waved me away. ‘Alright, come on...’ he offered me his elbow.
A moment later the two of us stumbled into existence on a deserted street. Scorpius fell sideways, put his foot into a plant pot and scattered soil across the cracked pavement. I had to hold onto a postbox with both hands to stay standing; the world spun.
‘Sorry,’ Scorpius said sheepishly, wobbling on one foot. He shook the other free from the plant pot, a crumpled begonia peeking out from the turn-up of his jeans. ‘Never really cracked apparition...’
‘It’s okay,’ I gasped, clinging onto the lamppost for dear life. ‘Me neither. How the hell did you pass?’
‘Flat’s that way,’ he pointed up the street, ignoring me. A long row of terraced houses stretched into the distance.
‘Splinch?’ I asked him, hesitantly. He thought about it for a second.
‘Don’t think so.’ He said, slowly. ‘My fringe-’
‘Your fringe is fine. Which one’s your flat?’
I followed him along the street. I didn’t need Scorpius to point out which one his flat was; Tarquin was standing at the front door, looking incredibly smug.
‘Nicely done with the plant pot, Scorp.’ He grinned. ‘You’ll be the scourge of the neighbourhood for the next year or so.’
‘It wasn’t intentional,’ Scorpius grimaced. The begonia was still stuck up his trouser leg. Tarquin raised his eyebrows at it.
‘Scorpius,’ I said delicately. ‘You’ve got a begonia...’
Shooting the both of us a murderous look, Scorpius knelt down and pulled the begonia free, tossing it over his shoulder.
‘Come on up,’ Tarquin said. ‘Can’t believe you’ve never been before, Lucy. Raven’s over for tea, she’s got a cracking black eye from when you two ruined that table last night.’
‘It wasn’t our fault that we picked one with wobbly legs…’
Scorpius and Tarquin’s flat was on the second floor. It was a little bit bigger than mine, although possibly even shabbier (and I wasn’t even sure that was possible). A traffic cone stood inside the front door, a ketchup-crusted plate tossed carelessly beside it. A giant poster of a melting clock was tacked to the wall, next to a sulky-looking Gwendolyn/Raven, who was covering her bruised eye with one hand. Okay, I say bruised, but she had a habit of wearing a lot of eye make-up and it could have just been a radical new asymmetrical eyeshadow experiment.
‘Good morning,’ she scowled. ‘Thanks for the black eye.’
‘I’ll get you back one day, promise.’
Scorpius and I traipsed through the hallway into the kitchen. It was a small, rather cramped room, crammed to the gunnels with furniture and with alarmingly colourful wallpaper. A battered upright piano leaned against one wall, a pile of sheet music towering ominously atop it. There was only a sliver of space between the piano stool and an old, worn sofa, which had a coffee table drawn precariously close to it at knee height. A tired armchair was placed next to it, and the ripped cover and mismatching legs gave me the impression that Scorpius had found it in a skip and then thrown it off a building before deciding to take it back to the flat.
‘Like our humble abode, Lucy?’ Tarquin asked, spreading out his arms and leaning nonchalantly on the sofa.
‘It’s…er, homely.’ I told him, casting my gaze over the walls, where a number of Hippogriff paintings had been lovingly hung at crooked angles.
‘The fancy Hippogriffs are good,’ Tarquin beamed. ‘Brought them back from a flea market. Proper antiques.’
‘Brought back the fleas too.’ Scorpius muttered.
Tarquin marched across the room towards a small kitchen area, offering us all tea. He hummed cheerfully as the kettle boiled, face framed by a window that was almost entirely obscured by a large purple house plant.
‘So…’ I said. ‘Nice assortment of…stuff you’ve got here.’
‘My dad told me he’d set fire to the piano if I didn’t move out with it…’ Scorpius said glumly.
‘Take a seat, Lucy.’ Tarquin passed me a mug of hot tea and dipped his head towards the sofa. Gwendolyn/Raven had already sat down, and looked in grave danger of being swallowed up by the sagging leather. Tucking my knees in carefully, I sat beside her. The sofa dipped alarmingly. I guessed that it might be a wee bit of a struggle to get out again, what with the coffee table getting so acquainted with my kneecaps and all.
‘Whoops, table.’ Gwendolyn/Raven kicked it forwards. It slammed into the wall with an almighty crash, knocking a fancy Hippogriff painting off its hook. Tarquin dived forwards and caught it deftly one-handed, grinning like a fool.
Scorpius sunk into the old armchair, clutching a small glass bottle. ‘Headache potion. Or at least I think it is,’ he explained, taking a sip. ‘Ugh, that’s foul…’
Scorpius was right. The spectacular grimace I pulled after my own hearty swig would have put a troll to shame.
‘That’s bloody disgusting,’ I pushed the bottle back into Scorpius’ hands. ‘Does it work?’
‘I hope so,’ he looked at the bottle with his eyes screwed up in disgust. ‘I dunno, it doesn’t have a label. Kind of looks home-brewed. My head feels better anyway.’
I meant to respond, but was rather distracted by the sudden moustache that Scorpius seemed to have grown.
‘Scorpius,’ I said, quite bewildered, ‘I don’t mean to alarm you, but...’
I didn’t need to finish my sentence; Scorpius was staring at me, eyes wide with confusion. Slowly, he pointed at my face.
‘Nice beard, Lucy,’ Tarquin said, pointedly. ‘Shame Scorpius failed his Potions N.E.W.T, isn’t it?’
Eight hours later and with all traces of facial hair vanished, and I was standing in a small, dim bar with Scorpius at my side, listening (or, rather, not listening) to him bitterly complaining about Potions, piano, and all things Lettuce.
‘Okay, for starters, in my defence, I only failed Potions because I had a broken arm and I couldn’t even think for the pain…and why did I even have to have piano lessons, anyway? If my dad didn’t want to inherit it he could have just sold it or given it away or something! It’s not like I could ever practice in term time! And I don’t understand why he annoys me so much!’ he fumed. ‘I mean, Lettuce, not my dad. Except my dad annoys me too. But Lettuce...he’s just so...so...’
‘Yeah! He’s like the useless bit of the salad that nobody wants!’
‘Doesn’t he have a sister called Carrot?’
‘Yeah, but she’s not much better,’ Scorpius kicked at an empty cider can on the floor. ‘Sort of hardcore with the politics thing, likes to dress up as a vegetable and jump out at gardeners, ‘cause apparently vegetables have rights too...kind of weird, you know?’
‘I know. When are you lot on stage?’
‘Dunno,’ he kicked at the can again and missed, losing his balance. Gripping onto my shoulder, he steadied himself, casting a furtive look around to check nobody had seen. ‘I don’t care, either. What if I just…walked out…’
‘It pays the bills?’
‘Pfft. It pays for photo paper and not much else. I’d earn more if I was a House Elf, and, y’know, they get nothing.’ He whinged. ‘Lettuce gets most of the money because he’s a singer…sorry, I meant poser.’
‘Right,’ I nodded. ‘Poser.’
‘It’s...its...oh, nevermind.’ He sighed heavily. ‘I’ve just got to go and get on that stage and play a load of crappy songs about cats and the apocalypse, and maybe the inner angst of vegetables-ouch!’
He was cut off as what felt like a ten-tonne truck smashed into the two of us. Coughing, Scorpius wheeled around and was almost immediately knocked to the floor by a ten-foot tall blur.
‘Al!’ I grinned. ‘It’s been a while!’
‘Lucy!’ Albus roared, sweeping me into a one-armed hug so powerful I thought I felt my ribs snap. ‘How are you?’
‘Alright,’ I wheezed, almost colliding foreheads with Scorpius as he was swept into a hug as well. ‘Struggling to breathe-’
Albus let me and Scorpius go. ‘I heard you were playing tonight, mate, thought I’d come have a look!’ he beamed.
‘Oh, no, Al, please, it’s going to be rubbish,’ Scorpius pleaded. ‘Don’t watch, seriously, go home, don’t-’
‘All the more reason to stick around!’ Albus gave Scorpius a jovial pat on the back that made him stagger forwards.
At that moment Lettuce and the untalkative Griff and Skylark appeared, wielding their instruments. Lettuce had ditched the sparkly catsuit for a strange mess of silk and taffeta that made him look like a skinny, eyeliner-wearing meringue, and the cast around his leg had been delicately painted with a pattern of flowers and stars. He winked at me.
‘Well, I suppose I’ll see you later.’ Scorpius said miserably, following the band towards the stage.
‘That skinny boy has a thing for you,’ Al grinned, once the band was out of earshot. Startled, I blinked at him.
‘What? Scorpius? We’re just friends-’
‘No, the one in all the pink, silly.’ Al laughed. ‘Although, to be honest...you could do better.’
‘Eurgh, Lettuce,’ I grimaced. ‘He’s so...so...’
‘Precisely what I was saying earlier! Scorpius reckons he’s the bit in the salad nobody wants-’
Albus hushed me at that point, nodding his head towards the stage. Scorpius had blundered on, blinking in the bright lights, joined moments later by the other in the band. Looking slightly lost, he drifted towards the piano and took his place there, shuffling a pile of sheet music. Lettuce strode up to the front, clutching his microphone and blowing kisses to the crowd – which was, at that point, me, Albus, and a couple of drunk guys at the back who looked to be comatose.
‘Helloooo, everyone,’ Lettuce crooned at us. ‘Are you having a lovely night?’
‘No,’ one of the drunk guys shouted.
‘Great!’ Lettuce grinned. He pulled his wand from a pocket somewhere inside the explosion of fluffy pink and white fabric he was sporting and waved it through the air; a bunch of bedraggled daffodils appeared. He scattered them over his shoulder and around the stage.
‘Now,’ he breathed, into the microphone. ‘We’re going to play a little song for you about global warming...and kittens!’
Five songs later and the set still hadn’t improved much. Scorpius was hunched so far over the piano that he was almost lying on it, and every other note he played seemed to be a wrong one – then again, the songs were so avant-garde that it was hard to tell what was a wrong note and what was a right one.
‘You’re a lovely audience,’ Lettuce sang to us at the end of the sixth song – all eight of us, now that a rather confused party of witches had wandered in and taken up residence at the bar. ‘Really lovely. Would you like to hear a little song I wrote about saving the earth from the destructive power of climate change?’
There was no response – not even from the drunkards at the back. A strange silence fell over the bar as Lettuce looked to each of us in turn, beaming. Then, there was a sudden scraping noise as Scorpius stood and kicked his piano stool back, brow furrowed.
‘Scorpius, darling!’ Lettuce simpered. ‘What’s the matter?’
Scorpius seemed to struggle to find something to say for a moment, but then he looked over at me and Albus, who, by now, were perched on high chairs at the back nestling cans of cider – and seemed to explode.
‘Cats? Climate change?’ he spluttered. ‘Kittens?’
‘Oh, yes,’ Lettuce trilled. ‘There is nothing of more importance in this world-’
Scorpius had picked up one of the conjured daffodils and, passing it idly between his hands, had accidentally snapped the head off of it (okay, I assume it was an accident, but for all I know, the decapitation of the daffodil could have had a more symbolic meaning). Shocked, Lettuce dropped the microphone, staring at Scorpius, who was busily gathering up his sheet music into one arm with a sheepish look.
‘Does this happen at every gig?’ Al breathed. I shook my head.
‘Never seen Scorpius this…er…violent before,’ I admitted, as Scorpius stormed off the stage to an epic drumroll thanks to Skylark. ‘Worries me, kind of. I mean, he…didn’t he just decapitate a daffodil? That's hardcore for Scorpius.’
'Wouldn't say boo to a goose,' Al nodded.
A few moments later Scorpius appeared from a side door and stalked towards us, sheet music clutched firmly in one hand.
‘Okay, that’s it,’ he said. ‘We’re leaving, I’ve quit the band, and-’
‘Hold it, I’ve got a drink to finish.’ Albus complained, waving his cider can in Scorpius’ face. ‘Come on, have a seat, get comfy.’
‘I’d really rather-’
Albus grabbed Scorpius by the arm and pulled him down into a nearby chair. Scorpius, looking extremely uncomfortable, cast a furtive glance at the stage (where Lettuce, Griff and Skylark were bravely screeching, drumming and failing at playing guitar without him) before accepting a sip of cider from Albus.
‘I really hate my life,’ he said. ‘First I splinch my fringe, then I apparate into a plant pot, then I mix up headache potion and facial hair restorer, then-’
‘You think you’ve got problems?’ I said archly. ‘I might get kicked out of my flat next month.’
‘Yeah,’ Al cut in. ‘And did you know that Rose still wants your head on a gilded platter?’
Scorpius’ head hit the table with a loud thump, his floppy fringe falling into a small puddle of cider.
‘What did I tell you?’ he grimaced, a moment later, sitting up straight. ‘Everything’s going in the shape of the pear…’
A/N: I couldn't resist that last line. I do love it when people slip chapter names/story names into their chapters. Please feel free to drop me a review and let me know what you think of the glorious failure that is the world of the Starving Artists and their respective woe. Especially Scorpius' woe. He has too much for his own good.
edited again 22/04/2011.
...and edited yet again 19/08/2011.
.........and edited AGAAIN 17/06/2012. I am the queen of edits, srsly.