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Chapter 2: How to Act Normal
There was no set hierarchy on the staff table save the requirement that the Headmaster or Mistress must always take the centre chair, but some sort of unspoken agreement meant there was a direct correlation between your status in the school and the chair you sat in. From Headmistress Dorothea ‘Dot’ House’s chair in the middle, the table spread out on either side to encompass the entire width of the Great Hall. On Professor House’s left was Professor Pippa Bowen, head of both Charms and Ravenclaw house, and on the right was Professor Liam Burns, a distinguished scholar of Arithmancy who often cropped up in academic journals. From there, on both sides, the pecking order of staff went further and further along until, right at the edge in a draughty chair before the Gryffindor table sat Professor Scorpius Malfoy, recently installed Professor of Art. Or, to be more accurate, recently installed (temporary) Professor of Art – but the students weren’t to be told that.
He had to privately admit to himself that he was glad to be sitting there, even if it made him feel like a postscript on the impressive staff roll. Two seats along sat his old Astronomy teacher Professor Cassiopeia Prenderghast ( he was finding it hard to call her by her first name after years of referring to her as ‘miss’) and, finally, by his side, was Professor Zarah Hussain, the woman who’d filled the History of Magic post he’d decided against applying for.
The opening feast had always been reason for Scorpius to be cheerful, and, later, reason for him to boss around younger students when he got his prefect badge. But it all looked very different from the staff table. Even tucked away in his draughty corner he could still pick out his old spot on the Ravenclaw table, roughly in the middle, where young and unfamiliar faces mixed amongst older students he recognised from his own time there. He was rather pleased to see the Ravenclaw prefects – a pair he’d always approved of – sat in very much the same place Scorpius had once occupied in his final few years at the school.
This cheered him up considerably. But he couldn’t quite shake the feeling of doubt that had accompanied him into the Great Hall – a feeling that had been so potent and felt so solid that he may as well have drawn a chair up for it.
All the same, it was hard to resist the feast the house elves had laid on for the start of term. Conveniently hard, even, as the more he busied himself with putting away the food on his plate, the less small talk he had to make. Small talk was not Scorpius’ forte. Then again, neither was big talk, if small talk had an opposite; truth be told, he wasn’t much of a conversationalist.
He speared a roast parsnip on the end of his fork and chanced a look at the Ravenclaw house table again, wondering if he’d see any of those vaguely familiar faces in any of the classes he was supposed to teach the next day. It would be weird, he thought – very weird – to be teaching students who could be as little as four years younger than him. If the older students even chose to take Art.
He was a lost in a waking nightmare about being laughed out of a classroom by students almost his own age, parsnip long fallen from the fork back onto his plate, when Professor House rose from her chair and the assembled students sank into silence.
Scorpius snapped out of his reverie and turned to look across the table. Professor House – although he kept forcing himself to think of her as Dot – stared out at the hall with a warm smile on her face, hands clasped together.
‘A very good evening to you all,’ she said. ‘And I do hope you are enjoying this fine feast as much as we are on the staff table. So begins another year at Hogwarts – and for our new students, so begins the start of secondary education.’
So begins a new job, Scorpius thought to himself. And possibly my downfall.
‘As we welcome these new students, we must also welcome some new members of staff…first, Professor Hussain, our new History of Magic teacher. I remember Miss Hussain’s sorting from the early days of my career, and thus she will be supporting Professor Longbottom in the management of Gryffindor house…’
Professor House’s words seemed to soak away into the air as Scorpius felt his stomach turn over with nerves. The chair beside him scraped back as Zarah stood and smiled graciously at the four house tables – secretly, he was glad that she had got the job instead of him. The last thing an established department like History of Magic needed was him at the helm. Actually, he was possibly the last thing a new department like Art needed either. His ears were ringing slightly, not tuned into a single word of Professor House’s speech any longer. He started to wish he hadn’t even bothered, but then Zarah was sitting down and he knew he was next and there was really nothing else to do but smile and hope for the best…
‘Hogwarts is also undergoing some very exciting changes this year. As a few of you probably know from The Daily Prophet, a new subject has been added to the timetable – Art. I know that some students, past and present, have questioned why we haven’t offered this to you before, and you should all know that I want nothing more than for this to be a school that will support you all, and we can only begin to become that school by expanding and improving the range of subjects that we offer. So I’m delighted to announce that, as of tomorrow, Room 11 will become the Art Room, and that, as of tonight, Art will be taught by Professor Malfoy, who some of you may remember as a Ravenclaw prefect.’
Scorpius was already halfway to his feet by the time he remembered he was still holding his fork. A smattering of applause passed through the room, loudest in the vicinity of the Ravenclaw table. He hastily dropped the fork and did his best to smile, although it was a little difficult when even his lips seemed to be trembling out of fear.
The applause was encouraging. The generally bemused appearance of the student populace was not.
He took his seat again, several different swear words occupying the emptiness in his mind. The fork, he noticed, had dropped to the floor. It was probable that the said bemused student populace had also noticed that. But weren’t art teachers supposed to be a bit…well…strange?
I’ll try my best, he thought, as the hall fell silent and Professor House moved onto general notices. Art teachers were generally a bit strange. And Scorpius was nothing if not strange.
Professor House – Dot, he thought desperately – and Professor Bowen met him in the staffroom after tea. He felt a little nervous about being called to meet them. Ordinarily, being sent to see the Headmistress and your Head of House did not bode well. But now he was in teacher’s robes, Professor Bowen was merely the next level of management and Professor House was just his boss. So he tried hard to smile and speak eloquently, even if the latter didn’t really become him.
There was a vague explanation of management strategies, lesson-planning, health and safety regulations and timetabling before Professor Bowen left – Scorpius had already forgotten half of it by the time the door had closed, but still felt a bit too scared of her to chance asking for another run-through. Then Professor House directed him to his quarters on the first floor (the idea of having quarters amused Scorpius no end) and abandoned him there in his classroom just after the clock had struck nine. Curfew.
Being a Prefect had given Scorpius an unprecedented knowledge of the hidden nooks and crannies of Hogwarts, but he’d never really known how the Professors lived. He knew for a fact that they had their own classrooms and offices – but beyond that? The Professors had the staff room for socialising and the Great Hall for meals, but they had to at least sleep somewhere. Somehow, he couldn’t imagine that the mostly middle-aged Professors shared a dormitory like the students did.
Behind the classroom there was a small office, and behind the small office there was a small flat, if you could call it a flat. It was a glorified bedroom with a small ensuite attached. A narrow bed had been placed under a window that overlooked what he supposed was the lake, although it was too dark to really figure out the view. Against the facing wall there was a wardrobe, an enormous bookshelf, and then, oddly, a rusted Bunsen burner and cauldron stand. His trunk had already been set beside the bed and he noted, with interest, that the curtains and bedspread were an unmistakeable blend of blue and bronze.
He left the flat/glorified bedroom behind and poked around in the office instead. Another fat bookshelf, completely empty – did they assume that, as an ex-Ravenclaw, he would have brought a veritable library with him? An antique desk topped with red leather. Another window that, presumably, would give him a good view of the lake. Guttering candles in brackets upon the walls. He shut his eyes and breathed in the faint, familiar smell of Hogwarts: candle wax and old stone. It was the freshest air he’d breathed for quite some time.
From the office, he wandered back into the classroom. He’d had a couple of lessons in there before. It was once a spare room used when ordinary classrooms were out of order – something that didn’t make him feel so assured about the permanence of its upgrade to art classroom. Rows of empty desks, stained with ink and ruined by the carved love-hearts and names of generations of students. He frowned; that wouldn’t do. He’d have to get some drawing boards in. He couldn’t expect students to draw on that.
And it suddenly occurred to him: materials! Where were the materials? He turned on the spot – the room seemed full of desks and chairs, far too many for the average class he was expecting – and caught sight of three cupboards at the back. Small cupboards. Not good enough. A sink, set in a chipped marble unit, had recently been installed beside them. The entire right-hand corner at the back was taken up by a massive, leafy house plant.
That was a start. If all else failed, a still life drawing of a plant was always a hit. Perhaps Professor – Dot – House had thought of that.
But he had to check the cupboards first. No point getting his hopes up yet. As far as he knew, he didn’t even have pencils.
Cupboard one. Ancient paints in ancient glass jars; the mixture had separated out and, in each jar, a layer of pigment slept beneath a layer of translucent oil. He lifted up Vermillion and gave it an experimental shake; the colour and oil mixed and bloomed into a vibrant red. That was also a start. Brushes…next shelf down. Cracked and peeling handles, bent bristles.
He shut the door on cupboard one. Well, it was better than nothing.
Cupboard two contained pencils, freshly sharpened, and a box of brand new drawing pens. Scorpius had to resist the urge to lift up the tin and inhale the woody, crisp scent of sharp pencils, or even the urge to snatch up a pen and start scribbling on the pile of creamy paper on the shelf below. Or the urge to open one of the several tins of watercolours and run a finger over the blocks of colour. He succumbed to the last one, Ultramarine dust clinging to his index finger.
The last cupboard was bigger than the others, largely dominated by a cast-iron mangle, printing rollers and inks. He shut the door on that cupboard fairly swiftly. Printmaking wasn’t something he’d want to start the term with. Painting and drawing, that’s what he’d stick to. And for the third-year class he had scheduled for second period tomorrow, there was always a still life of that enormous house plant to be drawn…
Except…if he wasn’t mistaken, the plant seemed to have grown.
He blinked several times. He’d been good at Herbology, and he knew that plants, even magical ones, did not simply grow within seconds. Not without the aid of a spell or Potion. He took a step back and regarded the plant again.
It hadn’t grown. It had moved.
Scorpius shut one eye and squinted at the plant. Was that even possible? Plants could be a little unpredictable. On a whim, he turned around and pretended to be admiring the graffiti on a desk in the back row. His finger traced a worn heart, giving it a fine coating of Ultramarine dust. His heart pounded in the silence.
And then…slowly…deliberately…something scraped across the floor.
Don’t panic. Scorpius turned back again, casually as he could, and chanced a look at the plant from the corner of his eye.
Just a spider plant. A spider plant that was no longer in the corner.
He took a few cautious steps backwards and collided with a desk. He was probably just tired. It had been an early start. And tea had been a little nerve-wracking. Plants did not move of their own accord.
Scorpius locked both the office and the bedroom door just in case.
a/n: sorry for taking so long on this one! I've had a pretty difficult and busy month so this chapter was pretty much written a paragraph at a time, unforunately. regardless, I hope you enjoyed it, and thank you to everyone who's read and reviewed so far ♥ / coming soon: first day of lessons - hogwarts isn't quite what Scorpius remembered - seeking help from the herbology assistant - worksheets are an acceptable form of payment