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Starving Artists by peppersweet
Chapter 14: Minimalist Art Party
Chapter Fourteen - Minimalist Art Party
Over the next few weeks, I had to keep forcibly reminding myself of one key phrase:
Stop, drop, and roll.
The association went like this:
STOP overthinking everything.
DROP the stupid giddy attitude.
And just ROLL with it. It being Operation Hippogriff.
You see, Operation Hippogriff was becoming a little hard to, well, operate. It was a bit of a chore to keep meeting up with Al to discuss our masterplan when all I wanted to do was wave my hands around my head and yell screw Rose, I’m taking Scorpius and there’s nothing you can do about it!. I nearly did this a few times as well, but always stopped myself at the last minute. I may have been a fearless Hufflepuff, but Al is a lot taller than me. And Scorpius was, you know, unaware. I figured it might be pretty awkward if I burst into the flat and tried to elope with him.
I wasn’t even sure how I felt anyway, whether I actually fancied him or not – I’m not exactly known for my wise decisions, and this time, I decided to properly sit down and think it through. Really mull it over. Maybe I’d just confused wibbly love for some sort of illness. Easy mistake to make, really.
I started off by thinking about fifth year. Milky-tea-hair-nice-smelling boy. Were there wibbly knees then? Was there hair-ruffling? Sharing of clothes? I couldn’t even remember. It was around the time of my Firewhiskey enterprise and it had been more of a business relationship than anything, if one with added snogging.
But definitely no wibbly knees. Which is what got me so worried. Wibbly knees were a new and terrifying thing thing. I wondered for a bit if I’d actually caught some horribly weird disease that had wibbly knees as the main symptoms – well, that and slow-motion reminiscing. So then I decided that it must be a summer flu – there’s always a flu or two going around – and that I was totally fine and sane and wasn’t actually in love with Scorpius at all.
This comforting thought was kind of trashed by the fact that I caught the flu for real a week later.
I woke up on the Monday morning feeling like I had a stack of bricks Spellotaped to my head. There was that, and then there was the way that my mouth felt like it was made of sandpaper – and yet I hadn’t even so much as touched a drink the previous evening, too scared to get drunk in case I tried to eat Scorpius or something. That would be absolutely tragic; as far as everyone else was concerned, I was still committed to setting him up with my cousin.
So, apart from that, getting the flu wasn’t all that bad – I finally had an excuse for wibbly knees, and after the initial snotty nose and hacking cough fiesta, it gave me an excuse to sit around on the sofa, swaddled in a blanket, looking pale and attractively sad all day, drinking endless cups of tea. Of course, I was a fool for thinking that I was anywhere near attractive when I kept having to sneeze and cough. It was worth a shot, though. I wasn’t entirely in my right mind.
Having the flu also meant that it was very hard to just roll with Operation Hippogriff when Scorpius was being so obscenely nice.
Having known him since September, having read his poetry and been drunk with him and ended up living on his sofa, I already knew that he was generally quite a nice person. Nice, but a bit of a doormat – how many times had he just sat there and let Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven take the piss out of him for hours on end? Still, he was just…nice. As in, you know, thoughtful.
This is why I had stop, drop and roll: I was overthinking everything. My little flu epidemic seemed to bring out his thoughtful-nice tendencies in full flow, which was pretty distracting.
‘Good morning,’ he said, breezing into the flat on the second day of my flu epidemic and dumping a bag on the coffee table. I forced myself upwards from my horizontal angst and squinted at him for all of two seconds before I was overcome by a fit of hacking coughs.
‘Ouch, you sound rough,’ he perched on the armchair opposite, digging around in the bag. ‘I brought you drugs.’
‘Drugs?’ I managed to choke out. ‘Er…’
‘I don’t mean that,’ he said, going slightly pink. ‘I mean…medicinal drugs. And I got them from the Apothecary, so they’re okay. I didn’t make them,’ he reassured me, as I had sudden flashbacks to the both of us growing moustaches after drinking one of his home brews.
‘Ta,’ I said (I was restricting myself to monosyllables to preserve my throat).
‘They say this stuff is pretty intense,’ he said, handing me a small vial. ‘You should be dandy in a bit.’
Our hands brushed awkwardly as I took the vial from him. He looked perfectly cheerful and ordinary, but I was fighting a losing battle in my knees against wibbliness. I drained the vial in one sip, trying desperately to eradicate all thoughts of the awkward brushing of hands.
He’s your friend, my internal sane voice was murmuring. Best friend. Nothing more.
Unfortunately, that sane voice sounded nothing like me and a lot like my mother. Whose advice I generally tended to ignore.
‘Do you want anything?’ Scorpius asked, flashing one of his benign, look-at-me-I’m-nice smiles. ‘Tea? Toast?’
‘Tea, tea would be lovely,’ I garbled – at that moment, I felt he had to get out of my way or I would have lunged for him. The situation was fast becoming awkward.
He’s your friend, my mum’s voice soothed as Scorpius got up to stand by the boiling kettle. You’re just being silly.
Okay. I tried to reassure myself. Stop, drop, and roll.
Then another little voice in the back of my mind – that said, he’s got a nice smile.
Galloping gargoyles, how I wished that voice would shut up. Especially seeing as, just as that particular thought popped into my mind, Scorpius drifted back over with a mug of tea in each hand, doing that same nice smile. As soon as he set it down on the table I snatched it up and busied myself in taking a sip, trying to hide what I knew would be a killer blush forming.
Even tough ex-Hufflepuffs like me aren’t immune to matters of wibbly love.
After a few minutes of contented silent tea-drinking, Scorpius curled up in the armchair with his notebook on his lap, looking ready to get down to some serious iambic pentameter. For a moment, I forgot all wibbliness to giggle at him.
He nodded, although he didn’t look entirely sure. ‘Didn’t feel like going in today. Nothing to do now the show’s on. Thought I should stay here and keep you company.’
It wasn’t quite to the level of kicked-puppy-in-the-rain-Scorpius, but, well…wow. That was taking nice to a new level.
I wasn’t really sure what to say, so instead I started nodding like a fool. Unfortunately, I forgot to take the mug away from my mouth and ended up slopping boiling tea down my front. Engrossed in his notebook, Scorpius didn’t notice – my first stroke of luck in a few days. Setting the mug down on the table, I yanked the blanket up to my chin and stared into space, trying to ignore the scalding hot tea on my shirt.
Of course, moments like this slightly killed the attractively-pale-and-sad-Lucy thing I was trying to peddle. Especially when, a moment after tipping tea down my front, I sneezed, giving Scorpius such a fright that he dropped his pen.
After the initial shock, he shot me a frown over the top of his notebook.
‘Will you be alright in time for the party?’ he asked.
‘Hope so,’ I choked out, almost hiding under the blanket completely by this point. ‘Don’t want to miss it.’
It was true; the end-of-year art school party was the last thing I wanted to miss. In fact, I thought that if I missed those three crucial social dates, my life would officially self-combust and I’d have to move to another planet out of misery.
See, here was the thing. There was the art school minimalism-themed final party, the Potters’ wedding anniversary, and then the official Devon departure date. Three whole days spent in the company of Scorpius. Plenty of opportunities to get him on his own. Drink, flashy lights, good music. All three were very persuasive.
But there was also the small matter of Rose.
I knew that it would be nothing short of madness to try and cancel Operation Hippogriff there and then, but thought that, with a little persuasion and the ambience of a minimalist party, everything might sort itself out. If the party plan went, well, to plan, then I’d just have to confront Al before the wedding anniversary, tell him to call the whole reunion plan off, and then elope with Scorpius, leaving Al to deal with Rose.
That sounds all rather vague, so here’s putting it one way:
Get with Scorpius at minimalist party or be alone forever.
Ambitious, much? I should have been a Slytherin. But instead I was a tough, no-nonsense Hufflepuff. No pain, no gain. My speciality was hard work. And finding things.
I actually thought that getting Al to deal with Rose would be the most difficult part. I mean, Al – tall strong, but no match for Rose. Not like any of us were a match for Rose. I’d probably get back from eloping with Scorpius to find Al back in hospital again and a Hippogriff’s severed head on my pillow.
But, of course, actually persuading Scorpius to elope with me would be difficult to. I could just picture it going horrifically wrong. Everything exploding. Wibbly knees giving way. Scorpius staring at me like I was a loon. Tarquin laughing. Brooding Nameless Barry brooding. This would probably happen even if Scorpius did feel the same way, because I’m not exactly gifted in the luck or tact departments. And he’s awkward as they come. If it didn’t happen at the party, the Potters’ wedding anniversary would be my last chance. I’d just have to disrupt the lingering glance and hope I escaped Rose with my sanity and limbs intact.
All of these thoughts swirled through my mind non-stop for a week. It was stressful stuff.
Luckily, we didn’t have all that much left to do in the week running up to the party. Once I’d recovered from my bout of flu, I joined the others in the task of invigilating the end-of-year show. It wasn’t exactly the most riveting of jobs. We just had to place ourselves conveniently close to some artwork, then look bored and flip through magazines whilst members of the public wandered past, occasionally passing on whatever information we could about art, the directions to the loos, or the meaning of life in general. The ten of us rotated every four hours (I mean that we swapped, not that we just stood up and rotated on the spot or something) so that the job didn’t get too intensely boring.
It was on the penultimate day of the degree show that I finally cracked and confided in Gwendolyn/Raven. We were sat side-by-side on uncomfortable plastic chairs facing Scorpius’ wall of duct tape existentialism and sipping at lukewarm tea when I finally spoke.
‘Raven,’ I hissed, as the sole member of the public we’d had that day drifted out of the room. ‘I’m in dire straits.’
‘The band?’ she asked, barely looking up from her dog-eared magazine.
‘No,’ I murmured. ‘I mean, I’m in really dire straits.’
She shut the magazine and regarded me with raised eyebrows. ‘Go on,’ she said.
‘Well, um, it’s a thing…a big thing, and, erm, well-’
‘I know! I just…I can’t-’
‘Illness? Debt? Bad hair day?’
‘No, it’s…I’m in love.’
She gave me a very pointed look. ‘Love?’ she said, sounding incredulous. ‘Did you sort it out with Henry or something?’
‘Noooo…not him,’ I spluttered, staring as hard as I could at Scorpius’ wall of angst in the hope that she would get the message. Evidently she did, as a moment later both of her eyebrows shot halfway up her forehead in surprise.
‘Wow,’ she said. ‘I mean, that was unexpected.’
‘I don’t know what to do!’ I whined, throwing my hands in the air. ‘I’m supposed to be getting him and Rose back together!’
‘Are you…are you sure?’
‘I’m sure!’ I garbled on for five minutes about wibbly knees and awkward hand-brushing and the importance of a nice smile before she held up a hand to stop me.
‘Alright,’ she said. ‘Do you want me to talk to him?’
‘No!’ I flapped my hands at her. ‘Absolutely not! It’s a secret! Don’t tell anyone!’
‘I won’t tell, I promise,’ she said. ‘Well, alright, I’ll tell Tarquin.’
‘But he’ll make fun of me,’ I moaned. ‘Promise you won’t make fun of me!’
‘No, we will. Kind of in our contract,’ she admitted. ‘But, obviously, you’re in dire straits, so we’ll hold off for a bit. Okay, maybe a day.’
I covered my eyes with my hands, suddenly wishing I hadn’t told her.
‘What are you going to do?’ she asked. ‘I mean, if you are kind of head-over-heels for real.’
‘Party,’ I mumbled.
‘Really? Usually, when-’
‘No, I mean – at the party. I’m just going to…well, just roll with it. See if anything happens.’
‘That’s not very…proactive.’
‘I just don’t want to muck things up,’ I grimaced. ‘I used to be really good at that when I was at school, I’m trying to kick the habit.’
‘Good luck,’ she tittered. ‘If anything, it’ll be fun to watch.’
Reassurance wasn’t really something I looked for from her.
When the party finally arrived, I was so jittery I could hardly think straight – once we shut the doors on the show for good and started preparing for the Minimalism party, little butterflies started going mad in my stomach. It suddenly felt like everything hinged on this party.
Perhaps it’s my fault for putting a little too much importance on things.
But, the party – considering how raucous and frankly bonkers my fellow art students usually were, I felt minimalism was a strange theme to pick. Surrealism might have been better, maybe even Dada – but of all the art movements in the world, someone chose minimalism. Minimalism.
It was madness. Brooding Nameless Barry, of course, was responsible for the spell that turned everything in the common room black, including the lightbulbs – we all spent a few minutes staggering about in pitch darkness before Frances thought of the counter-jinx. The nibbles were all minimalist, Ellen providing a platter of asparagus stems all laid perpendicular to each other, ungarnished save for a single crystal of salt on each one. I didn’t really feel like making that much effort and just brought a gigantic bag of crisps, but it was touching to see she’d put in that amount of thought.
Of course, a minimalist party theme required minimalist outfits. Block colours were in order, and by colours I mean black and white. Which is why I ended up wearing Scorpius’ shirt again. I won’t go into how nice it smelled and how I stood there sniffing it like a fool for a bit when nobody was looking. I don’t think I have to repeat just how much of a fool I am. But there I was at nine pm, in Scorpius’ black shirt, my own black jeans and black boots, Gwendolyn/Raven’s black eyeliner and black lipstick on my face and my hair in a rather neat minimalist bun. So far, so cucumber cool.
But it’s me. I’m never cool. I was a riot inside. Scorpius was standing next to me, also clad in head-to-toe black, looking like my evil twin. Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven were on my other side, but I was too busy thinking about not thinking about Scorpius that they could have been completely invisible.
Inevitably, the minimalist art party had a hint of irony. No matter how minimalist we could make the furnishings, the dress code or the dancing (standing and nodding with arms folded), we could never quite make the drink supply minimalist. If anything, the drink supply was maximalist. Unlike the nibbles, which were laid out very neatly and minimally on a long table, the drinks had all been chucked unceremoniously into a giant bin full of ice which was already half empty by nine. The record player in the corner was playing some seriously minimalist music, to which most of my fellow art students were dancing.
And my minimalist music, I mean silence. And by dancing, I mean standing still.
Obviously, it was never quite destined to last for long. You can’t stick a bunch of mildly drunk artists in a small room and not expect a few capers to ensue. So, by ten, the stereo was blasting out the usual rounds of stodgy indie rock, and minimalist dancing had been replaced by regular dancing. Which was just jittery awkward moving across the floor with a drink in each hand, trying to keep time with the music and stay upright.
It wasn’t like it was just the ten of us at this party. That would be too awkward, especially considering how much food and drink had been laid on. Everyone had brought a few arty guests – with the exception of me, who’d been too busy stressing and being foolish to remember to invite anyone. At eleven, two girls and a boy who insisted they were Scorpius’ best friends from Hogwarts turned up, shook my hand, then plunged straight into the bin of drinks and headed for the makeshift dancefloor. They were already busily doing the twist by the time Scorpius got back from the loo.
‘Are they really your friends?’ I asked. He squinted towards the three twisting figures, and then grinned.
‘Yup,’ he said. ‘Glad you met them.’
He took the drink I’d been holding for him and sipped at it, still grinning.
‘Aren’t you going to go and talk to them?’ I asked.
‘Nah, I’m seeing them in a few weeks,’ he said. ‘And seeing as we coordinated our outfits so well, it’d be a shame if I ditched you.’
That provoked such an unexpectedly intense feeling of warmth/happiness/wibbly love from me that I had to hide behind my drink again.
‘The coordination wasn’t intentional,’ I finally managed to say.
‘It totally was. Haven’t really spent so much time with you recently anyway.’
I wanted to point out that he’d spent a few days hanging out with me when I was ill, but then realised that this was an important development. I was too busy trying to pick up signals and read into things in my mind to even respond so, instead, two minutes late, I started nodding into my drink again for the sake of doing something. Looking like a fool in front of the boy I fancied wasn’t really my plan. Even though I’d spent the previous nine months doing that.
So, pretty soon, I remembered that not only had Scorpius seen me ill but also drunk, destitute and livid with rage, and, well – I think I’d done enough damage already. Which is why, again, in the process of nodding into my drink, I slopped beer all down my front. Scorpius, in turn, snorted with laughter into his own drink, almost soaking himself in the process.
‘Ah, sorry!’ I cried, ‘I’m bad influence!’
Of course I was a bad influence. Rose had said so herself. But instead of agreeing or even giving me a funny look, Scorpius ruffled my hair. Again. Ordinarily, I would have pouted at him and made some joke about how unfair it was that he was tall enough to do that, but the little heart backflips and knee-wibbles were getting a bit ridiculous and I wasn’t sure I could say anything. Instead of hiding behind my drink, though, I forced myself to look up at him and try my best attractive grin. Scorpius grinned back.
‘That looks like fun,’ he said, tipping his drink towards the mass of art students and assorted guests doing the twist.
This was my moment. I needed slow-mo.
‘We should join in,’ I suggested.
So we did, Scorpius picking up a few more drinks on the way.
And…retracing the events of that evening became a little harder after that.
I wasn’t drunk – not at all, although my track record would generally suggest otherwise. Considering how nervy and busy I’d been in the week leading up to the party, I was pretty much running on pure adrenaline by the time it rolled around. I was mildly tipsy, perhaps, from the couple of drinks I had managed to sneak down in between stressing and being minimalist, but more drunk on the buoyant atmosphere of the evening than anything. Scorpius, by contrast, seemed so drunk that I don’t think he would have batted an eyelid if a hundred clones of Rose paraded before him naked singing ‘do the hippogriff’.
There isn’t, really, all that much funnier than Terribly Drunk Scorpius. ‘Losing his inhibitions’ is probably putting it mildly. The awkwardness vanishes, the sensitive, poetry-loving nerd with a big fringe goes away, and instead you get this mad, lanky boy who can free-rhyme his drunken slurrings and apparently isn’t so bad at dancing. Okay, phenomenally bad at dancing, but at least he dances when he’s drunk.
I danced so much at the common room minimalism party that my legs ached for a few days afterwards. I danced with Obscure Henry (no, really, and it wasn’t even awkward), I danced with Brooding Nameless Barry (such things are possible). I danced with Gwendolyn/Raven and Ellen and even participated in a bizarre thigh-slapping routine with Tarquin. I danced with others too, the ones I didn’t know – it doesn’t really matter who you’re jiving or twisting with if you’ve had a few. The music was loud, the drink – or, in my case adrenaline – was flowing, and my nerves had reached such a fever pitch that I was pretty much unable to sit down.
But, most importantly, I got to dance with Scorpius. On several occasions. I didn’t even care that he was drunk, or even that he dropped me when we attempted some fancy lift stuff. My memory is a bit hazy – like I said, it was mad – but I remember that when we were invited to make a toast at midnight, he referred to me as his best friend. At that point I was so giddy it felt like all of my internal organs were trying to make a speedy exit through my mouth and ears simultaneously.
And, finally, there was A Moment.
Towards the end of the evening – or, rather, at one in the morning – someone put a warbling and rather soppy ballad on the loudspeakers. At the beginning of the first chorus, I was already wibbly-kneed in the midst of a remarkably elegant waltz with Scorpius. You know what I mean by ‘soppy ballad’ and ‘waltz with Scorpius.’ Hand-holding was involved. Don’t blame my judgement; I could hardly think straight by this point.
That was when he leaned down and whispered (okay, yelled) the following magic words into my ear:
‘You dance like a demented puffin at a rave.’
Not quite ‘I love you’ or ‘be with me forever’…
…but close enough.
At half one I ended up leaving with Scorpius, his excuse being that ‘an early night was in order.’ You must forgive me for picking up hints from this. It was possibly the arm around my shoulders as he said it, the apathy towards Tarquin joining us and the general intimation that it was to be us, alone – I felt so giddy that I could have fallen to my knees and yelled ‘just take me now!’ to his stupid drunk face.
Tarquin later provided expert evidence to prove how totally misled I was, but, alas – not until a day or so later, as bloody typically late as usual. Too late, in fact.
Hazy memory aside, we must have got in at around quarter to two. The flat was pitch-black, and I tripped over the traffic cone in the hallway – I had a bruise to prove it. Then Scorpius flicked on the lights, and both of us were blinded momentarily. Then he looked at me through his enormous glasses and I squinted back at him, and it was like seeing each other for the first time all over again, which was when he said:
‘You really are quite awful at dancing.’
Still not quite ‘I love you’, but…oh, who was I even kidding? But, honestly, at that moment I was so giddy that I could have probably decked him right there by the traffic cone. But then he loped out of the way into the sitting room, and I followed.
‘You’re one to talk,’ I said. ‘You dance like my dad.’
‘My dancing is cool,’ he grinned, executing a bizarre shimmying move. ‘You can’t dance for toffee.’
‘No, I can, look,’ I said, starting up a fast jitterbug just to prove it. ‘It’s you who can’t, you’re lame.’
Thus ensued about five minutes of flinging dance-related insults and strange athletic moves at each other, and then-
‘You call that dancing!’ Scorpius hollered. ‘This is dancing!’
I only remember his next move because I had to describe it in detail to Tarquin the next day. It was a sort of a shimmy crossed with a twirl on one foot, and made rather a lot of noise. I stopped my own dance for a minute to watch his twirling pogo-stick impression, bent double with laughter, until-
THWACK. Scorpius’ head collided with the lampshade, he lost his balance, and with an almighty crash he fell on his back, glasses askew and slack-jawed, unmoving.
It was the second time I thought I’d killed him. Panicking, I ran over, but, being giddy, I accidentally tripped and kind of stumbled onto him, thus putting the two of us in what can be described as a rather compromising position.
Which might have been a wee bit intentional on my part.
In my defence, I honestly thought he was out cold. With his glasses half hanging off and his mouth gaping open like that, I very, very honestly thought he was unconscious.
So I did what was, obviously, the best course of action.
I gave him the kiss of life.
Turned out he wasn’t out cold. At once, he shot up, headbutting me. We both winced at the same time, clutching our foreheads.
‘Why does your forehead have to be so…pointy?’ I said, in an effort to diffuse the tension.
‘What were you doing?’
‘I was giving you the kiss of life! You were unconscious!’
‘I wasn’t unconscious, I was just a bit dazed! And that wasn’t artificial respiration, that was a snog!’
It was at that point that I should have noticed how impeccable his pronunciation was, given how supposedly drunk he was. It was about a week before I realised we’d both probably been about as sober as ever, and about a week before I realised the significance of that.
But, in that actual moment, I was like a pile of human jelly.
Then, Scorpius did a very un-Scorpius thing.
It was a foxy smile.
There really is no better word for it than foxy. It was devious and charming and smug and – if I may say so myself – even slightly sexy, all at the same time. And I’d always wondered why he’d been sorted into Slytherin when he was younger, and I think, at that moment, I sort of understood why.
And then, with that foxy smile slapped across his stupid pretend-drunk face, he said:
‘I didn’t say stop.’
By that time my voice was little more than a trembling squeak, but I believe I said something along the lines of ‘you-big-perv-you-just-want-a-snog’.
And, you know, I’m not even kidding when I say my destiny hinged on his glasses. Because, at that moment, I reached in and took them off, when really, I should have put them back on, got up and gone and hidden in a corner. I should have made Tarquin come back with us. He would’ve kept me under control.
But, you know, I took his glasses off and stuck them into his top pocket. And he just carried on with that foxy smile, looking as confident as I was giddy.
I didn’t even know what to do. I think I shook my head. I was numb.
But I might have given in and kissed him anyway.
a/n: sorry for slapping you all in the face with that megamega plot twist last chapter there, haha! from the reviews, well...let's just see what you make of this one. Think things are going a little too quickly here? A little too perfectly? Oh boy. Chapter fifteen really puts a spanner in the works. (I love dangling these hints around.)
Shipper goggles at the ready and full speed ahead...