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Starving Artists by peppersweet
Chapter 20: Sunny with a Chance of Showers
Chapter Twenty - Sunny with a Chance of Showers
Given the events of the last week or so, I was more than surprised when I woke the next morning to find Scorpius standing over me, hand hovering in the air and a very apprehensive look on his face.
‘Hello Rose is still asleep and I wondered if you wanted to go out,’ he reeled off in one breath. It sounded rather rehearsed. He took a nervous step back as I extracted my face from beneath the pillow, leaving two black smudges of eyeliner on the sheet.
‘Pardon?’ I managed to say, although my mouth felt like sandpaper.
‘Umm,’ he ran a hand through his hair. ‘Well, the weird thing is that Rose only sleeps for exactly nine hours at a time or something strange like that, and seeing as she didn’t go off to bed until one, I figured she won’t wake up until ten and I know you two don’t get on and there’s loads of stuff you wanted to do on his holiday, and it’s seven now so if you get dressed really fast we can easily go and play pinball…and stuff.’
He spoke so fast I almost missed it. ‘Er…cool,’ I mumbled, getting a mouthful of pillow in the process.
‘Yeah, cool,’ Scorpius dithered. ‘So…I’ll wait outside.’
I nodded, head digging itself deeper into the pillows. I waited until Scorpius had left the room before I rolled out of bed (almost literally). A glance in the mirror showed me that I looked like a bleary panda with a haystack for hair – I jammed a few clips in it, which at least stopped it from pointing skyward. To deal with the eye makeup, I simply rubbed my eyes a bit more, hoping it looked like an intentional attempt at sultry, smoky eyes. It didn’t; it just looked like I’d taken on Rose and lost.
Five minutes after being woken up, I staggered out into the corridor, trying to yank my trainers onto the wrong feet. Thankfully, Scorpius looked about as worse for wear as I did, his hair sticking out in all directions except for down.
‘If there’s anything we’re good at,’ I said, still trying to put my shoes on the wrong feet. ‘It’s maintaining the whole all-artists-are-degenerates stereotype.’
‘Yeah, I know,’ Scorpius yawned. ‘You’ve got your trainers mixed up.’
‘Thanks,’ I swapped them round, feeling a bit daft. ‘How come Rose only sleeps nine hours? How d’you work that out?’
‘Just something I noticed a while ago,’ he furrowed his brow. ‘She’s very…methodical like that.’
A minute later we apparated out into the front garden, narrowly avoiding landing on the bonnet of Rose’s car. We’d gone halfway down the cobbled lane before I fully woke up and realised what was happening.
‘Hang on,’ I said. ‘Why are we sneaking out like this whilst Rose is asleep? Bit shady, isn’t it?’
‘We are sneaking out like this whilst Rose is asleep, Lucy, because I wish for us to elope and be wed. Quickly, we must have a pre-wedding game of pinball, and then we can pack and get busy with the eloping. Summon the frogs and gather the ducks, etc.’
Scorpius actually said ‘Yeah…bit shady.’
‘You didn’t answer my question.’
‘Well, neither of you are happy,’ he said. ‘And I figured that, well, this is the way to keep you cheery.’
‘Well, you and Rose don’t get on, obviously-’
‘Scorpius, that’s an understatement.’
‘And you don’t really like doing the same things, but I like spending time with both of you, and, well, I don’t want to cause any arguments. So this is me spending time with both of you, separately, so, you know, you don’t kill each other with swan pedalos and butter knives and whatnot.’
Was it too late to expect him to fulfil my fantasies of elopement and impending marriage? The answer was probably yes. No matter how much my mind wandered into fantasies of wild, Gretna Green-bound elopement, marriage, and gathering of ducks, it was clear that this was just another case of Scorpius Being Terribly Nice.
‘Cool,’ I said.
It wasn’t really cool. I felt a little cheated. Rose got a load of time/scrabble games/museum visits/pedalo debacles with him, whereas I got three measly hours, possibly pinball. And I didn’t even look nice or anything. It was basically the most epic sort of pity date, except we were supposed to be best friends and I didn’t want to use the word ‘date’ in front of him in case he had a total mental breakdown out of the sheer awkwardness of the whole situation.
But, really, being taken out on a pity date made me feel great. Really, really, fantastic brillopads awesome great and then some. No, I actually felt like swatting him around the head and kicking him in the shins. Then I felt like storming off to find a pub that would not only be open at seven in the morning, but would serve me a stiff drink and some complimentary peanuts.
‘You know, Scorpius, I’d be much happier if you didn’t drag me out of bed to go somewhere for, like, three hours – maybe if it was an afternoon, or an evening-’
‘Rose will flip,’ he said, wearily. ‘She’s like a big kettle of boiling water, and if I take the lid off, we’ll both get scalded by the steam.’
‘Thank you. Besides, I don’t want to mess things up more than I already have.’
I wanted to tell him that the only way he could have made it worse was if he eloped with Rose instead, but he looked pretty miserable at this point. Me, jumping to conclusions as ever, chose that moment to pop the question. (Not that question. For all my talk of elopement, I wasn’t quite prepared to go down on bended knee yet.)
‘Are you happy with Rose?’
Scorpius looked flabbergasted, then flummoxed, then gobsmacked, and then evidently remembered himself and rearranged his stupid mopey face into a calm, frozen-cucumber-cool glacier of neutrality.
Cool as a glacier indeed, but twice as thick. That flabber/flummox/gobsmack expression had been quite telling.
‘Oh, fine,’ he said nonchalantly. ‘It’s only been four days, though. We’ve done a lot of talking.’
‘About what? Serious talking or just casual blethering?’
‘Oh, just stuff.’
‘I mean, well…’ he hesitated.
‘You can tell me, I’m your best friend.’ I said, not doing a very good job of holding back the sarcasm. Scorpius looked highly uncomfortable. I didn’t blame him. I probably looked like the mad, unwashed wild woman of the forest, fluent in sarcasm and idiocy.
‘There’s…there’s just been a lot of apologising,’ he said evasively.
‘For ditching her at the last minute for art school,’ he said. ‘Then for hiding from her, pretending I didn’t exist, not replying to any of her owls – but, I mean, they did peck me a lot-’
‘And has she apologised for anything? Like, you know, punching Al in the face?’
We reached the end of the lane and took a right, heading down to the beachfront. Scorpius pretended he hadn’t heard me.
‘I know you heard that,’ I said. ‘Don’t you think Rose has some stuff to apologise for too?’
‘I suppose,’ he mumbled. ‘But I have way more to apologise for…and, I mean, with her – everyone makes mistakes, right?’ he added feebly.
‘I know that,’ I rolled my eyes. ‘I’m queen of mistakes. I’ve got loads of stuff to be sorry for.’
‘Oh, you know,’ I shrugged. ‘I’m sorry I read your poem at the open mic, I’m sorry I’ve knocked you out about…ooh, three times, I’m sorry I wrestled you at the New Year’s thing, I’m sorry I had to screw up our friendship by trying to eat you the other night – actually, I’m sorry that most of your friendship has been me basically roughing you up. I didn’t mean it. I’m quite nice when, you know, I’m sober.’
‘It’s cool,’ he said. ‘Wouldn’t have had it any other way.’
So the last words might have been mumbled and directed in the general vicinity of the easterly winds, but, Merlin’s beard, moustache, eyebrows and mullet, I heard them.
It certainly put a spring in my step.
‘So, don’t you think you should have a chat with Rose?’ I pressed on, but he grimaced and turned away again.
‘Lucy, can we just – I don’t know, can we just enjoy these three hours we have to play pinball? I love pinball-’
‘It’s quarter past seven in the morning. The arcade won’t be open.’
‘True, but it does open at nine.’
‘Yeah, but that’s not three hours of pinball, that’s barely even one-’
‘Oh, fine,’ he threw up his hands. ‘A tiny bit of pinball, but the rest of the time there’s the beach and the ice cream place that opens at eight and, you know, conversation?’
We took a left, heading straight for the shore. Mordeonton-on-Sea was completely deserted, silent save for a few seagulls crying yeahyeahyeah in the sky above. Soon enough, we reached the car park and the first few sand dunes – Scorpius passed the time by telling me as many bad jokes as he could remember, and I tried to be nice and act normal and laugh along and ignore the fact that my heart was in little pieces.
But, actually, I did feel a lot better. Really, I did. I was actually starting to buy the whole just-two-friends-casually-out-together thing.
When we reached the sand dunes, I was struck by a sudden thought. And, no, it wasn’t screw Rose and everything she stands for, let’s snog until the cows come home and then tell the cows to go away and snog some more etcetera etcetera let’s not go into this again.
‘Scorpius, have you ever tried running down a hill whilst looking up at the sky?’
‘It’s mad,’ I said. ‘But really fun.’
He regarded the steep sand dunes. ‘Why not?’
‘Okay?’ I threw back my head, staring at the relentlessly grey sky. ‘One, two-’
Without warning, Scorpius grabbed for my hand and launched himself down the sand dune, pulling me with him. Of course, it was steep and entirely made of sand, so of course we fell over almost straight away, and of course I thought that, lying there all tangled up and laughing like drains, it’d be the perfect moment if he’d wanted to kiss me – but I tried to ignore that, because everything really was lovely, if only for three hours.
We went to the ice cream place at eight as promised, having exhausted our combined repertoire of terrible jokes (What’s brown and sticky? A stick.) and having had our fill of tripping over and accidentally eating sand. (We lead a terribly diverse and exciting life, we do).
‘What’ll it be?’ the woman at the counter asked Scorpius, who dithered about for several centuries before going for strawberry with a flake.
‘I’m going to splash out,’ I said. ‘Three scoops please…chocolate, some of that chocolate chip stuff, and, er, another scoop of chocolate. Chocolate sauce and a flake as well, if you don’t mind.’
We decamped to the end of the pier with the ice creams (which were, strictly speaking, our breakfasts) and perched on a bench, watching a ferry idly drift into the harbour. Scorpius politely nibbled at his flake, whereas I sat about demolishing as much of my chocolate extravaganza as I possibly could.
‘This is nice,’ Scorpius said, still pecking demurely at his single scoop of strawberry – in the meantime, I’d cleared half of mine.
‘So,’ I said, through a vast mouthful of chocolate nirvana. ‘What actually happened with Rose when you saw her for the first time the other night?’
‘Do we have to talk about this?’
‘I’m not, like, attacking you,’ I brandished the ice cream at him. ‘This is, you know, best friend to best friend, spill the beans kind of affair. Juicy gossip and the like.’
‘Mad? Yes. Seriously, I want to know. Let the cats, ducks and frogs out of the bag…’
‘Um,’ he fiddled with his fringe, looking ready to self-combust with embarrassment. ‘Well, I walked in and saw her-’
‘Sort of…and then she did this funny face and I thought she was going to kill me, so I kind of hid behind Al. But then she was all, ooh, we need to talk, so we went into the garden and then, poof! She took me side-along to this swanky street in London.’
‘I love how you thought she was going to kill you.’
‘Yeah, well, remember Al?’
‘Lest we forget.’
‘Anyway, so she suggested we find a pub, so we went to this muggle place that was about a fiver a pint, it was ridiculous, but Rose was buying so I didn’t mind.’
‘Always,’ he held up his ice cream as if to make a toast. ‘So then we got chucked out at closing time, and she was all ‘let’s go back to my flat’, and, well, you know me,’ he smiled apologetically. ‘Doormat. So I went. And we just talked,’ he added hastily. ‘Just, you know, talked things through. And then it got to two in the morning and I realised it was too late to go back to the party, so she said I could, uh,’ he held up his fingers to indicated inverted commas, almost shoving the ice cream into my face. ‘Crash on her couch. So I did, but I didn’t sleep because I was kind of worried…and then I apparated home the next morning and, well, there you have it. Beans have been spilt…’
‘…and cats have been let out of the bag. Cool. What did you talk about?’
‘Oh, the economy, the weather, the meaning of life-’
‘Just…stuff. Why I ran away. Why I screw things up. The like. She didn’t shout…well, she didn’t shout much.’
‘And why did you run away in the first place?’
‘Um,’ he thought about it for ages, staring at his feet as if he expected them to start tap dancing of their own accord.
‘Because you were sick of her pushing you around, right?’
He looked up at me in disbelief. ‘No. Yes. I mean – no. Actually, yeah,’ he blurted out. ‘Partly that, but also because I’m just really good at screwing things up and making them all…all clunky! And…I wanted to be an artist.’
‘Yeah,’ I said, crunching the last of my ice cream cone and trying to ignore the horrible feeling that I had chocolate on the end of my nose. ‘Well, look at what happened the other night after the party.’
‘The other – that was a screw-up?’
‘Trademark screw-up. Except on my part. You shouldn’t worry, I’m equally good at making a hash of things.’
‘Yeah, but…no, that was my fault-’
‘Unfortunately,’ he sunk his head into his hands, no mean feat considering he was still holding his ice cream. In fact, some of it did get into his hair, but it wasn’t really the moment to tell him. Then, still clutching the ice cream, he made inverted commas with his fingers again. ‘I didn’t say stop…’ he trailed off.
‘I didn’t think you remembered it that well.’
‘Of course I – no, I mean,’ he added quickly, a growing look of horror on his face. ‘It was just-’
‘Were you…pretending to be drunk?’
‘Um, well,’ he fidgeted. ‘I was drunk, just-’
‘Not drunk enough?’
‘Er, yes?’ he sounded hopeful.
‘You bastard,’ I whispered. The look of horror grew on Scorpius’ face; he evidently thought I was about to pull a Rose on him.
‘You know,’ I brought my voice back to its normal volume. ‘It’s funny, because I was sort of pretending to be drunk too. We’re even stevens.’
He still looked highly uncomfortable, but no longer horrified.
‘We’ll just forget it ever happened,’ I shrugged. ‘Well, not forget it, but it’ll just be some meaningless thing that happened an age ago we’ll just laugh about in the years to come.’
It was painful to lie so fluently, but I spread out my arms and gave what I hoped was a huge, shiny, toothy smile.
‘Yeah!’ I laughed. ‘Mistaken night of drunken passion! It’s bloody hilarious!’
‘Passion?’ he snorted.
‘Drunken passion!’ I repeated. ‘Faux-drunken passion! Knee-trembling, hair-raising, faux-drunk passion!’
He laughed so hard he nearly poked himself in the eye with his half-eaten flake.
‘Dead fun while it lasted,’ I said. ‘But, ultimately, regretful.’
‘Passion!’ he giggled. ‘That word – I hate it!’
‘Yeah, it’s…passion,’ he dissolved into a fit of giggling. ‘It’s such a lame word!’
‘Lame like you,’ I elbowed him in the ribs. ‘You kiss like a whelk, I’m not missing anything.’
‘A whelk?’ he repeated. ‘You got much experience of kissing whelks, then?’
‘Oh, yeah, all the time.’
‘Yeah, well, you kiss like…’ he screwed up his face, thinking hard. ‘…a horklump. On acid.’
‘Yay, we’re rubbish!’ I cried, going in for a high-five. Neither of us have the best coordination, so it was more like a thumb-five, but the sentiment was there and mutual.
‘So, yeah,’ I said, once we’d both calmed down sufficiently. ‘You’re a whelk and I’m a horklump on acid, and it was just one big mistake and we’re still best friends and everything is hunky dory.’
I was still lying through my teeth, but at least I felt more accepting of what seemed to be the inevitable outcome – he’d work things out with Rose and be in troo wub with her forever, and I’d be the one returning to London as a spinster, destined to relegate Scorpius to the ‘friends I kind of fancy’ subdivision of my mind. He could have his own whole subdivision to himself. He could even stay in the ‘best friends’ subdivision and have a bit of a Venn diagram to himself. He could be the anomaly in my mental filing system. I mean, how romantic does that sound? Ooh, Scorpius, you’re the anomaly in my mental filing system.
Back to the point in hand.
It wasn’t as if I was exactly deficient on the romance front or anything. I mean, I could always nip back to London, shack up with Lettuce, live out the rest of my days in a smog of existentialism, environmental politics and cat litter.
Which, you know, wouldn’t be too bad. Existentialism gives life a bit of variety, and cats are fabbo. I suppose I’d get used to the sequins after a while. Either that or I’d go around blindfolded. I’d be the amazing blindfolded Mrs Spebbington; I could join the circus. There was always the choice of being Barry’s partner in nihilism, though. I could totally fall for that broody stare. Hey, I could easily dye my hair black, nick Gwendolyn/Raven’s wardrobe and start calling myself Nothing Weasley.
Scorpius prodded my shoulder, evidently aware that my mind had not only wandered, but effectively travelled to the other side of the galaxy.
‘Hey, still there?’ he said.
‘Yeah. Scorpius, what do you think would be a good name for a cat?’
‘I’m planning my future as a spinster,’ I said, choosing not to tell him of my ‘shack up with Lettuce/Barry’ plans. ‘I want to know what I’ll name my many cats.’
‘You won’t be a spinster. And I always thought Socks was a good name for a cat.’
‘I was thinking of normal names, like Andrew – why would you call a cat Socks? You call your socks Socks.’
‘Andrew isn’t a cat name!’
‘It so is!’
‘No it’s not, it’s a person name!’
‘Socks is a sock name!’
‘Socks is a fab name!’
‘You have ice cream in your hair, you loon!’
‘You have ice cream on your nose!’
The conversation degraded into dithering and giggling again, until Scorpius said ‘-here.’ And wiped the ice cream off my nose with his thumb.
It was then that I realised that whatever back up plan I had involving Lettuce and hair dye would simply not do. I had to steal him back.
It was also immediately after that that I realised I was probably reading too much into things, seeing as all he’d done was basically tidy up my face a bit.
‘You’ve…sort of got chocolate around your mouth too,’ he said.
‘Oh, right,’ I hurriedly thumbed it away, sort of wishing he would go here, let me just snog that chocolate off your face for you – but, ah well, beggars can’t be choosers.
Ten minutes later, ice cream finished and removed from hair/face, Scorpius and I walked back along the pier. I was busy fighting a losing battle with my internal secretary, who would not accept that he had to be an anomaly in the mental filing system and wanted him to stay in the ‘love of life’ category, which was pretty much a drawer in the mental filing cabinet of lurve. Said cabinet was probably made of some pretty polished metal and was crammed in between ‘family’ and ‘friends’ in the office of Lucy Weasley’s Matters of the Heart. Actually, I think I should wind up this analogy. It’s analogies like those that put boys right off me.
‘Right, pinball!’ he fell into step alongside me. ‘I’ve been looking forward to this all holiday!’
‘Hang on, there’s another thing I’ve been thinking about,’ I said. ‘Did you ever introduce Rose to your parents?’
‘Of course not!’
‘I kind of thought that – no offence, but I’d hate to be trapped in the same room as Rose and your dad.’
‘That was my thinking. I mean, she was my girlfriend, and I’m still terrified of her.’
‘I’m related to her and I’m still terrified of her.’
‘Pinball, pinball indeed,’ I rubbed my hands together. ‘Best of three?’
‘Yep. Loser buys next round?’
‘If we ever get to a decent pub.’
‘We’ll find a pub,’ he reassured me. ‘It’s supposed to piss it down today. You can always find a pub when it’s raining’
‘It’s always pissing it down here.’
‘Good old Mordenton-on-Sea,’ Scorpius said. ‘Wish Al was here.’
‘Me too. He’d make me feel like less of a lemon.’
‘Do I what?’
‘Feel like a lemon?’
‘Yep, I’m small, yellow, waxy, and totally sour.’
‘I mean – do you feel like a third wheel?’
‘I’m beyond feeling like a third wheel. I feel like a fourth wheel. It’s a lemon and third wheel fiesta when I’m around you two, Scorpius, but that’s inevitable. Can’t be helped.’
‘No worries; this little pinball escapade has cheered me up,’ I beamed. ‘Hurrah for pinball.’
‘We haven’t even got to the arcade yet.’
‘Well, this is me being prophetic. I was always pretty good at Divination. I read your tea leaves last night, by the way – Jupiter’s moving into the six of pentacles and you’re set to meet a tall, dark stranger. He’s called Brian…’
‘I look forward to it.’
‘So does Brian.’
Scorpius gave me a long, hard look. ‘You’re weird,’ he said. ‘But in a…a cool way.’
‘Hark who’s talking.’
Considering how much we’d psyched ourselves up for the pinball, the actual pinball tournament was a relatively minor fraction of the three hours’ ‘let’s take Lucy on a pity date’ time. We were a bit too busy nattering away to play much pinball and, besides, we discovered air hockey. I won, obviously. Scorpius ‘Balance, coordination, stability? What balance, coordination, stability?’ Malfoy proved to be more adept at flinging the air hockey paddles off to the four corners of the earth than actually scoring goals.
I’d just steamrollered him in our fifth pinball tournament of the morning when he looked at his watch, nearly shrieked, and then dragged me outside.
‘It’s three minutes to ten!’ he panicked. ‘We have to go back!’
Before I had a chance to say anything, he’d grabbed my arm and twisted on the spot – and then we were standing in the kitchen, my head spinning. Apparating on a sugar high never did anyone good.
Sensing he was about to leg it back upstairs to pretend he’d been in the house all along, I seized the sleeve of his jumper.
‘Thanks!’ I blurted out. ‘Thanks for the three hours!’
‘No problem,’ he said – he looked torn between dashing out the room and staying put. Then, quite unexpectedly, he pulled me into a hug. As much as I was trying to keep my mind off of him (or, rather, shift him around the bureaucracy of my internal filing system), I couldn’t help but think about how nicely my head fitted in under his chin and then how utterly unromantic that sounded.
(Ooh, Scorpius, not only are you the perfect anomaly for my internal filing system, but we have a rather remarkable head-to-chin ratio that makes hugs pretty sublime. Did I mention you make me feel wibbly, like an instant pudding?)
I was so busy contemplating internal filing systems/head-to-chin ratios/instant pudding that it took me a while to realise that it was a rather long hug and I should probably let go before the awkwardness set in. I mean, the two of us were excellent at peddling awkwardness. So I released him and waved him off upstairs.
‘Made it back with one minute to spare,’ I smiled. ‘It’d be a shame if Rose killed you, you were just starting to grow on me.’
‘Likewise,’ he said. ‘See you in a bit.’
He vanished upstairs; I set about making toast and tea, and then sat down at the table to flick through yesterday’s Prophet. The weather forecast was abysmal for that day – you couldn’t even see Devon for the ominous grey cloud hovering over the map. The five-day forecast was better. South-west England: sunny with a chance of showers. I folded up the newspaper and contented myself with staring out the window instead, munching away on my toast.
Rose came down at half-past, already immaculately groomed and made-up, another one of her ludicrously cheerful summer shirts buttoned demurely to her neck. She took a seat opposite me, snatched up the paper, and immersed herself in an article about inheritance tax. Not a word passed between us. Then Scorpius followed, sitting to my right. We shared a meaningful look.
‘Hello, stranger,’ he said. ‘Pass the tea.’
We both had to turn away to suppress fits of giggles. Rose remained completely oblivious, hidden behind her newspaper. From the weather report on the back page, the ominous grey cloud over Devon hovered ominously, glowering like Brooding Nameless Barry on a bad day.
So it might have been awful weather, but, you know what? The five-day forecast was much better. Sunny with a chance of showers suited me fine.
a/n: yay for updating mega fast (I'd like to thank the smiths, midget gems, custard creams and tea for getting me through these late-night writing marathons) ♥