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Starving Artists by peppersweet
Chapter 13: The Pear-Shaped Iceberg
Chapter Thirteen - The Pear-Shaped Iceberg
(or further strange titles)
By the time we got around to inviting Rose on the holiday, it was almost the end of May. Al and I were so worried about what her reaction would be that we’d actually held a rehearsal of what we were going to say to her – we’d take it in turns to either be Albus/Lucy or Rose herself. I’m no actress, but I felt my portrayal of Rose was uncanny; I accidentally smashed a mug in my fit of Rose-esque rage.
We even planned it down to the clothes we would wear when we visited her. We judged that fairly boring outfits would work best – she wouldn’t take either of us seriously in cheerful patterned jumpers and the like – and so turned up at her door mid-morning with a tin of shortbread, fresh, neat outfits and perfectly-parted hair, grinning like fools to hide the fact that we were both slightly nervous.
See, if she said no, Operation Hippogriff would go very much in the shape of the pear. They’d have their big lingering glance in the sitting room of the Potters’ house, see each other for a couple of hours, and then Scorpius would have to dash off to Devon with us and they wouldn’t have time to sort out their differences. Of which, boy, were there many.
I frequently asked Al how it was that the two of them had really ended up together, although I’d never really got around to asking Scorpius for his take on the matter. ‘Oh, the usual,’ he would say. ‘A plan went horribly wrong.’
‘How horribly wrong?’
‘Because,’ at this point he would lower his voice and lean in a little closer, just in case Rose was a brutal, repressive dictator or something and could hear us (I wouldn’t put it past her, to be honest). ‘It was a bit of fun at the start. But towards the end it turned a bit sour. You see, there were five of us in the group, and she practically banned Scorpius from seeing the others – there were two girls, you see, and at the time I thought she was just jealous.’
‘Why did she ban him?’
‘Oh, you know,’ Al usually rolled his eyebrows and made inverted commas with his fingers. ‘They were bad influences.’
Now, where had I heard that term before?
To be very frank, (something I wasn’t at the time, which actually, with the benefit of hindsight, wasn’t a good idea) the more I heard about this seventh-year incarnation of Rose, the more I disliked her.
‘The final straw came when he failed his Potions N.E.W.T,’ Al went on to explain, just as we were on our way to Rose’s. ‘After that, everything kind of unravelled.’
‘What’s wrong with failing a subject? I failed several.’
‘Ah, but, you see,’ Al grimaced. ‘She’d been tutoring him in Potions. And, well…it was our fault, really. Hufflepuff were having a party to celebrate the end of O.W.Ls the night before…you were there! Don’t you remember?’
I knew where this story went. It mostly went the way of the Whomping Willow and a very hungover Scorpius with a very broken arm that had been the talk of the school for the following week.
‘Yeah, but I wasn’t entirely lucid,’ I said. ‘I don’t remember the bit when everyone went outside.’
‘Phenomenally stupid,’ Al said. ‘Not just him, I mean, although you’ve got to be thick as a Gryffindor to get that close to the Whomping Willow. I mean…we only went for a little bit, didn’t drink, just thought we’d cool off the night before the exam. But we didn’t really keep an eye on him, and, well…already drunk as a lord by nine, and he’d barely even touched drunk before then. So stupid,’ he shook his head. ‘He can be a real idiot when he feels like it.’
‘Yeah, I know…’
‘Rose really wasn’t happy,’ Al concluded. ‘He had to sit his exam with a killer hangover, and he’d broken his arm, so he was conked out of his mind on painkillers too. I think he was the only one in the year to get a T in anything. And, you know, he wasn’t a bad student. He got a couple of Oustandings, mostly Exceeds Expectations…and then a Troll in Potions. Rose, naturally, got straight Os-’
‘I got four As, a P and a D,’ I reeled off. ‘And Rose didn’t kill me. Scorpius’ results can’t have been that bad – Al, is this wise? She really is a psycho. And he’s our best friend, right, so we’re liable if she breaks his fingers or something-’
‘Of course it’s wise,’ he said staunchly, marching on to her flat. ‘She’s nicer now. Doesn’t shout so much. It’ll make him happier too. He’s so miserable. She’s had time to think, right? She’s accepted him? Forgiven him? Come on, you know she’s nice, really. Selfless, you know? I mean, she evidently has a hard time trying to have emotions, but she cares about people…’
‘Yeah, I suppose.’
In the end, though, the appointment with Rose went rather swimmingly. We dithered around making small talk about the weather and forcing shortbread on her for a good ten minutes until Al used the same tactic he’d used on me and blurted out ‘wannacomeholiday?’
‘Albus, you shouldn’t talk with food in your mouth,’ Rose frowned. Al wiped shortbread crumbs from the side of his mouth and then said, very deliberately, ‘Rose, do you want to come on holiday with us?’
‘A holiday?’ Rose asked suspiciously. ‘Can you afford it?’
I got the feeling that last remark was intended as a dig at me.
‘Nah, one of my mates on the Healing course has a holiday home in Devon, and he said he’d give it to us at a discount price. So, we thought it’d be nice to get away from London for a bit, just the three of us.’
‘To the seaside,’ I piped up. ‘There’s a beach.’
Rose gave me a shrewd look over the top of her glasses. I imagined that, in that precise little head of hers, she was thinking about the sort of holidays degenerate artists would go on.
That must have explained her killer frown.
‘And it’s quiet,’ I told her – and this was probably the deciding factor. ‘The place is kind of popular with old folks, so it’s all calm and nice. They won the Britain in Bloom award last year for their stunning flowerbeds.’
Rose gave me one last extra-concentrated shrewd look with her narrowed eyes, and then nodded.
‘It sounds nice. You’re right, it’d be good to get away from London for a bit. It’s terribly busy here.’
And, just like that, the ice-queen mask slipped for a minute to allow a small smile to slip through.
Al and I discussed the holiday all the way back down the road, doing more of our extensive plotting.
‘We’ll give them loads of time alone,’ Al said, throwing out his arms and nearly whacking me on the nose to demonstrate just how much time alone we’d give them. ‘Time to sort out their differences, work on their relationship. And, I looked up the place, and it may be a bit fuddy-duddy and for old folks, but there’s stuff like miniature golf and boat hire and an arcade…with pinball!’
I was about to nod and revel in our shared love of pinball, but instead my voice came out with an edge of annoyance and I said ‘But can’t we have time with Scorp too? He is our friend and all. We can’t just ditch him with Rose.’
‘Alright,’ Al shrugged, looking rather wary. ‘I’m sure Scorpius would love the pinball too.’
The degree show rolled around a couple of days later. As promised, I hung my photographs on the outer wall of the art school (with Scorpius and Tarquin holding onto my ankles as I leant out of the window to charm the pictures into place) and, also as promised, Scorpius spent an intensive day or so covering a whole wall with black duct tape with a single sequin-sized white speck in the centre. With our pieces technically finished and the rest of our work being fairly easy to display, we spent the final day leading up to the degree show giggling behind our hands at everyone else’s work, feeling quite elitist as the first to finish.
The actual day of the degree show opening brought an unprecedented level of panic. Brooding Nameless Barry, on his way to hanging up a last-minute self-portrait (an entirely black canvas that Scorpius frowned at and called a rip-off), knocked one of Frances’ strange pots to the floor, where it smashed into a hundred or so tiny pieces. The ensuing argument, apparently, could be heard in the street below – nobody seemed to think to use a Reparo charm. Brooding Nameless Barry and Frances had just finished arguing and shook hands, Frances repairing the pot with her wand when, a moment later, Tarquin apparated on top of it, smashed it again, and all hell broke loose.
I think the most amusement came when, Scorpius, in a remarkable display of calm, got up and started making a cup of tea in the middle of all the yelling and hurling of pottery – alright, remarkable until the paintballing guns came out and the common room was split into teams, with no man’s land between the sofas and Scorpius left stranded in the middle, mug in hand, looking very forlorn indeed.
Which is why my first show at the art school was a complete shambles.
Dean Dean Holstone didn’t actually come upstairs to check on us until about half three in the afternoon (doors opened at five). At this point, most of the students were sheltering behind the overturned sofas, covered in paint and bits of pottery – everyone except for Obscure Henry, who, for reasons unknown, was stuck on top of a cupboard and couldn’t come down.
And the art? Ruined. The common room was a battlefield.
Dean Dean Holstone was so shocked that he actually dropped his biscuits.
The room went deadly silent. Scorpius held his breath next to me. Tarquin drew his paintball gun closer to his chest, finger held defiantly against the trigger. He’d somehow ended up with a strip of Scorpius’ cat vomit embroidery tied around his head like a bandana. There was a huge rip in the knee of my jeans and a large splodge of yellow paint by my shoulder; Gwendolyn/Raven beside me was very much the worse for wear, her usual uniform of head-to-toe black covered in multi-coloured paint.
‘Oh,’ Dean Dean Holstone breathed. ‘Oh my. Oh.’
Not a word was spoken. I half expected tumbleweed to blow across the carnage. Then, abruptly, he turned tail and left the room, leaving his biscuits abandoned on the floor. Tarquin snatched them up and stuffed a couple of custard creams into his mouth.
‘What are we going to do?’ came Eunice’s panicked voice from the other side of the room. ‘We’ve ruined everything!’
‘It’s your fault!’ I heard Frances hiss. ‘You decided you were a frog!’
‘This is ridiculous,’ Obscure Henry moaned, holding onto the sides of the cupboard for dear life. ‘This is bloody ridiculous, I should have taken up that curse-breaking apprenticeship…’
‘Look, everyone,’ Gwendolyn/Raven stood, holding up her hands to calm everyone down. ‘If we just sit up and talk nicely-’
‘You’re a bloody newt!’ Frances shouted. ‘And Tarquin broke my pot! I know you’re hiding him!’
Tarquin stood up at that point, the cat vomit embroidery still tied around his head and the paintball gun slung over his arm.
‘Fancy arguing now?’
Frances abruptly dropped to the floor again.
‘I hate arguments,’ Scorpius whispered, pointing his wand at a stray fragment of pottery at his feet. ‘Reparo.’ A moment later, one of the strange, misshapen pots sat whole and unbroken before him, and he crawled off across the bombsite to repair more. I stood alongside Gwendolyn/Raven and Tarquin, ignoring Brooding Nameless Barry, who was cowering in the corner with his hands over his head, his hair almost white with pottery dust.
‘Tea? Anyone want a cup of tea? Anyone,’ I babbled, already halfway to the kettle. ‘Tea? Tea will make everything better! Tea? Biscuits? Custard creams?’
I could see Ellen and Frances giving me the evil eye from behind their sofa, but then Eunice’s hand waved above the overturned cushions. ‘I’ll have one!’ she almost shrieked. ‘Two sugars!’
‘Don’t you dare!’ Frances snarled. ‘You’re – you’re betraying the name of all that is duck!’
‘We’re ducks too,’ Tarquin said, brandishing his paintball gun at her.
Gwendolyn/Raven quacked softly beside him.
‘Er, he’s right,’ Scorpius stood, cradling one of the lumpy pots in his arms like it was a small child. ‘We’re all ducks. We shouldn’t fight.’
The afternoon had taken such a ludicrous turn that it was unbelievably hard not to collapse into rabid giggles. My hands were shaking with the effort of suppressing the laugh, so much so that I accidentally knocked the kettle and slopped water all over myself. Out of the corner of my eye, I could just about see Scorpius hugging the stupid pot to his chest with a look of the utmost anguish on his face.
‘Look,’ he held out the pot to Frances. ‘I repaired it…’
He was doing that kicked-puppy-in-the-rain thing again.
‘Oh, alright,’ Frances said in her usual whispery voice, falling for it straight away. ‘That’s sweet. Okay. We’re all ducks. Have you got the kettle on, Lucy?’
‘Yep,’ I managed to choke out.
Right on cue, the kettle let out a shrill whistle that cut through the unbelievable tension like a giant axe wielded by an equally giant and raving mad warrior. Or, you know, like a loud whistle. Scorpius nearly dropped the pot in fright, which would have ruined everything. Again.
Tarquin shook hands with Frances, ditching the paintball gun on the side (although he kept the cat vomit embroidery tied around his head). Brooding Nameless Barry stood, ashen faced and shaking, and then darted into ‘where we keep the kiln’ without a word.
‘Help,’ Obscure Henry moaned from the top of the cupboard. ‘Someone, help…’
He was duly ignored. Over the course of ten minutes, the seven of us put the common room back in order, dusting off sofas and repairing artwork as we went, sharing out the biscuits Dean Dean Holstone had dropped. Soon, it was pretty much back in order, although Scorpius’ duct tape wall was covered in paint and pretty much ruined. I felt momentarily overjoyed that I’d chosen to hang my photos on the outside walls, where, really, the only dangers were high winds and enthusiastic pigeons.
Eventually, Obscure Henry jumped off the top of the cupboard, swearing at the top of his voice, miraculously landing on one of the sofas – and then his momentum carried him into a bizarre army roll across the coffee table and finally onto the floor at Ellen’s feet.
The rest of us took the hint and left.
Downstairs, we found Dean Dean Holstone surveying the poster on the front door with a paintbrush in his hand.
‘Did we get away with it?’ he asked, tentatively, swinging the door around to show us the poster.
Wizarding Insitute of the Arts Annual Degree Show, the Obscure-Henry-designed typeface declared, and, below, in a hasty scrawl, theme: warfare and destruction.
‘Good,’ he said, miraculously pulling a fresh packet of biscuits from his pocket. ‘Okay. Good. Did you repair anything?’
We exchanged a look.
‘Sort of,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said. ‘I mean…sort of.’
‘Well,’ he flapped his arms at us (arm-flapping seemed to be on the agenda that week) ‘go on then. Shoo. Get ready.’
We complied, fleeing up the stairs into various empty studios. Safely ensconced in one of Tarquin’s usual painting rooms, Gwendolyn/Raven dropped her bag to the floor and pulled out a jumble of black furry fabric. Tarquin, Scorpius and I stared down at it in a mix of horror and confusion I’m now going to christen Hornfusion. (I, Lucy Weasley, lexical clevery-wotsit…ah, right, genius. That word.)
‘Ta-dah!’ she said, throwing some enthusiastic jazz hands at the pile of fabric. ‘Bat costumes!’
The black-lipsticked grin on her face was so frightening that we decided not to argue.
If I’m to be precise, this is where things started to go in the shape of the pear. Not the common room war, not the nervy tension of Operation Hippogriff – no, it was this half an hour or so we spent in this painting studio.
We’d agreed to be ‘performance art’ for the first and last nights of the degree show. Of course, there was no way we were going to dress as bats for the few weeks the show actually ran for – not when there were pubs to visit and hangovers to get. No, we’d be donning entirely black uniforms, black face paint and furry black wings for just two nights. For two nights and two nights only, we’d be hanging upside down from the bannisters in the entrance hall, ready to brood at visitors. Oh, and, you know, draining all of the blood out of our legs. Which is why we were supposed to take breaks every ten minutes – although only on the condition that we continued to look broody and convey the miserable plight of the wandless.
I was slightly stumped at the whole one hundred percent black uniform thing. I was sorted into Hufflepuff for a reason. I do sunshine and rainbows, not bats and brooding. Black jeans, yeah, fine, they’re a wardrobe staple. But to be able to wear a blacker-than-black shirt worthy of Brooding Nameless Barry, I had to raid Scorpius’ wardrobe. Which meant navigating argyle socks. Which I might have pinched. Good socks are hard to come by, even if my tiny feet didn’t really fit them and I had to keep pulling them up. I’m totally innocent, I swear. I gave them back once they got all holey and stuff. He seemed happy enough. They’re only socks.
Back to the point in hand.
Not having a black shirt meant raiding Scorpius’ wardrobe, which meant having to put on one of his button-up black shirts (from his stint in Screaming Bloodthirsty Disco) over my own outfit in the painting studio.
So, there we were in the painting studio. Casually dressing up as bats.
As you do.
Anyway – well, I can’t even skirt around the subject here. I can’t even ramble up to it like I usually do.
Aforementioned shirt smelled bloody amazing.
Not like fusty vintage shops or beer or misery or anything. Just nice. I had one of those horrible moments where I get carried away with myself – I was fixing up the top four or so buttons when I got a whiff of this shirt I was wearing, and the smell kind of reminded me of one of my nicer questionable boyfriends (fifth year, hair the colour of milky tea, Gryffindor, since you’re asking). So, you know, a little caught up in nostalgia, I closed my eyes and took a great big sniff.
And then opened them again to find Tarquin, Scorpius and Gwendolyn/Raven staring at me like I was mad.
Which I was.
‘Mmmmmhiii,’ I finally managed to say. ‘New washing powder?’
And, you know, that was just the tip of the pear-shaped iceberg.
So you might say that disaster started with a shirt.
Somehow we managed to dress up as bats and get our face paint all done in time – and so, at ten to five, we dashed downstairs with our heavy eye-makeup, black lipstick and skull facepaint (Gwendolyn/Raven couldn’t resist) in place, furry black wings strapped to our backs and (nice-smelling) black shirts firmly buttoned in place.
Some levitation was required for getting us onto the bannisters. At five on the dot, the three of us had sort of unfolded into a bat trio. I was already feeling dizzy as the blood rushed to my head, and Scorpius was giving a reprisal of his smacked-over-the-head-and-conked-out-on-painkiller-potion wooziness. Tarquin wasn’t speaking.
‘I feel strange,’ Scorpius said after five minutes of being bats.
‘I can’t see properly,’ Tarquin said. ‘My vision’s all black at the edges.’
‘That’s because you’re wearing eyeliner,’ Scorpius reached out and accidentally biffed him on the side of the head, elbowing me in one smooth motion – the three of us wobbled dangerously.
‘Let’s get down,’ I suggested. ‘I think I might faint.’
We resigned to being seated bats for the rest of the evening.
Small amounts of people trickled in throughout the evening, most simply giving us pointed and rather alarmed looks before disappearing upstairs to the real show. Dean Dean Holstone brought us emergency biscuits at seven – by which time we’d got bored of being miserable wandless bats and pulled up a couple of chairs to sit around and have a chat and a cuppa.
At half seven, Scorpius’ dad turned up.
The scenario couldn’t have been more perfect. A blustery wind howled outside and the door slammed open, bringing in a few stray crisp packets and newspaper pages from the street outside. This litter danced on the doormat for a bit before the wind died and it dumped itself in the corner by Dean Dean’s desk. A tall silhouette appeared in the doorway; a car backfiring down the street sounded like an imperious thunderclap. The tall silhouette didn’t even stir. Total silence fell.
‘Get a move on,’ came a woman’s voice from behind the tall silhouette. ‘You’re blocking the door.’
At this point, two people entered. First, the tall silhouette, who looked disgruntled and was dressed in a rather shabby but severe set of black robes, and then a woman in what looked to be a tweed suit straight out of the nineteen-eighties, the jacket such a bad fit and so padded at the shoulders that it seemed to be wearing her.
‘Hi, mum,’ Scorpius said, and then ‘…hi, dad.’
At once, the two of them stepped forward, both throwing each other looks of deep irritation. ‘Mum, dad, this is Tarquin and Lucy-’ Scorpius began to say, but he was interrupted as his dad thrust his hand out to me, even though we'd met before, and said ‘Good evening, I’m-’
‘Pleasure to meet you,’ Scorpius’ mum grasped my hand instead. ‘I’m Astoria Greengrass.’
I didn’t know who to respond to first. Scorpius’ mum – or Ms Greengrass - looked quite smug. Mr Malfoy, by contrast, looked even more disgruntled, which was some feat.
‘So,’ he said, staring down at us with some distaste. ‘What’s this whole-’
‘I’m really looking forward to seeing your stuff,’ Ms Greengrass cut across, her voice growing rather loud. ‘Travelled all the way from up north to be here today-’
‘You’ve been staying in London for a week,’ Mr Malfoy said indignantly.
‘Oh, shut up,’ Ms Greengrass snapped. ‘You’re just jealous.’
‘You couldn’t even get time off your precious job to be here earlier-’
‘I’m an Unspeakable! I’m not supposed to go gallivanting around the country at the beck and call of-’
‘Sorry about this,’ Scorpius said in an undertone, covering his eyes.
‘Anyway,’ Ms Greengrass nearly shouted. ‘We’re here to see the show-’
‘What are you supposed to be?’ Mr Malfoy demanded. ‘Dementors?’
‘We’re here to represent the plight of the wandless,’ Tarquin said politely. ‘We’re bats. Care for a leaflet? It gives a map of the building-’
Mr Malfoy took the map, muttering something that sounded like ‘muggle-loving propaganda’ under his breath. His ex-wife glared at him.
‘It’ll be lovely,’ she said, her voice so angry and taut that it sounded like a command. ‘Of course, not everyone will appreciate your beautiful work,’ she added, with a pointed look at her ex-husband.
‘And who was the one who bought him the camera?’
‘Oh, you think you’re so important, just because your department gives you a bigger pay packet for arsing around with memories while I slave away in muggle liaison-’
‘My work’s upstairs,’ Scorpius nearly shouted. ‘Leaflets,’ he said, pressing more into his parents’ arms. ‘Take these leaflets. Go upstairs. Refreshments at eight. Enjoy.’
The two of them stopped bickering at once, looking rather guilty, and finally ascended the stairs, stacks of leaflets in their arms.
Unexpectedly, Scorpius chose that moment to burst into a fit of giggles.
I leaned across. ‘Tarquin, did you put something in his tea?’
‘No, I swear,’ Tarquin shook his head. ‘I have no idea what just happened.’
‘Heeheeheee,’ Scorpius giggled.
‘Scorpius, speak to us,’ Tarquin said, shaking him by the shoulders. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘Pathetic,’ Scorpius finally choked out. ‘They’re so…pathetic.’
I didn’t care to disagree with him; it was one of the very few times something mope-worthy had happened to Scorpius and his reaction had been anything but mope. You know, if my parents turned up to my degree show and had a big tiff in front of my mates, I’d be busy trying to dig myself a hole to Australia.
At nine o’clock – somehow, I still remember precise timings – the shape of the pear finally evolved into the shape of the fruitbowl.
And from there, the shape of the orchard.
We gathered for a group photograph at nine in the common room, the front doors finally shut, the art inspected, the refreshments devoured and Scorpius’ parents safely out of the building. As per usual, I lingered at the back with Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven while Scorpius did arty things with the camera (i.e he put it on a tripod and set up the self-timer). And then…
In my head, the next bit happened in slow-motion. And also possibly with mood lighting, because there isn’t much of an ambience in a trashed common room.
Scorpius set the camera self-timer. It started to click away (remember this is slow-mo): tick, tick…tick…and so he ran back (okay, well, he flapped back with his ginormous bat wings still on) to where the three of us stood.
Slow-mo fringe flopping. String music kicks in. The scene takes on a rather mysterious lighting scheme. We’re all suddenly in evening dresses, even the blokes. I catch his eye by mistake. Slow-mo turns it into a lingering stare instead of a mistaken glance. I get another whiff of my shirt. Milky-tea haired fifth year Gryffindor boy suddenly pops into my head, waggling his fingers at me, reminding me how nice it was to have a boyfriend.
String music swells. Someone in the audience coughs. Then I remember there isn’t an audience, nor are there strings or mood lighting, nor evening dresses.
Slow-mo continues regardless, because awkward moments of self-realisation do not stop for anyone, never mind slow their pace. Scorpius blunders into place beside me, his fringe going all over the place. One of his bat wings nearly takes my eye out. And then, in a perfectly ordinary display of matey friendliness, he throws his arm around my shoulder as the flash goes off.
And you know what?
I got them.
The reason Scorpius and I weren’t actually in that year’s photo was that, in my sudden fit of knee-wibble and internal string music, I toppled backwards. Scorpius, never one for balance, toppled with me.
It was with that third and final strange event of the evening that it dawned on me. It and another Far Bigger Thing. I suppose that the It had been brewing for most of my life, and the Far Bigger Thing was something I’d acquired in the past few months. I had only really half-acknowledged the one as simple bloody bad luck, but I’d been totally oblivious to the other.
But, at that moment, when I came to my senses and realised that I was lying on the floor with my legs in the air, a dozen inquisitive faces peering down at me – well. All I could think of was is it still a hug if it’s only one arm?
And then possibly bwark.
‘You alright?’ Tarquin asked.
‘I think I might have knocked my head,’ I told him, half-hoping that was true.
Not wanting to spend more time on the floor than was absolutely necessary, Scorpius and I stood up, brushing dust off our bat costumes and generally trying to look as sheepish as possible.
‘I’m fine,’ I said. ‘Totally fine.’
That was a lie; I still felt rather giddy.
‘We’re having drinks now,’ Ellen said. ‘You should stay and have a few, it’ll pep you up.’
The small crowd dispersed to various corners of the common room, leaving Scorpius and me alone (well, as alone as you can be in a room of ten or so people).
‘Sorry about that,’ I managed to say. ‘I…saw a wasp and panicked.’
Scorpius fell for it. ‘Nah, it’s fine,’ he said. ‘We can always take another picture. Do you want a drink?’
‘Cider would be lovely,’ I attempted a normal, cool-as-iced-cucumber smile.
‘You’re so embarrassed. It’s adorable,’ he said, ruffling my temporarily dyed bat-black hair as he left.
I realised that, even though I wanted a drink, I didn’t want him to leave. So that was when it really hit me, with all the force of two speeding double-decker buses driven head-first into giant, steel-enforced walls and then exploding. Then the walls exploding too.
There were two: the It and the Far Bigger Thing.
The It was simple: I was a fool. I was a massive, blundering fool, completely helpless and incapable. I couldn’t have been more of a fool if I’d invented a chocolate teapot, announced I was going to sail the Atlantic ocean in a wicker basket and tripped over my own feet in one fell swoop. I was an abject fool. My foolishness was incurable. I deserved little better than to be cast out of art school and left to fester in a gutter, forever shamed as a big, fat fool.
But, to be honest, I’d been a fool most of my life. It’s why I’d set up an illegal Hogwarts underground market in my fifth year. It’s why I’d gone to art school in the first place. It’s why I’d lost my flat. It’s why I’d failed half my subjects and couldn’t find a decent job. It was why I was standing alone, dressed as a bat, my face painted to look like a skull, my knees wibbling, caught up in a net of my own anxiety.
The Far Bigger Thing was worse. The Far Bigger Thing was not something that should have been left in the hands of a big fool like me. I was sure that, with the curse of this Far Bigger Thing, I’d end up making everything go the shape of the pear and explode simultaneously.
It’s cruel, but you don’t tend to notice things like this Far Bigger Thing until it’s way too late. And in a classic case of bad timing, I realised I was in love with Scorpius.
coming soon: tension, flu, foolish lucy, dancing, lingering glances...