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Chapter 4: How to Make an Impression
Scorpius was late for breakfast the next morning. Hester hadn’t given him any trouble since Lucy had visited, but it had been an exhausting day and he’d overslept. He made sure to stroke a couple of Hester’s leaves before he left, adjusting his tie as he darted through the corridors.
A large portion of the student body eyed him suspiciously as he hurried up the side of the Great Hall to his seat at the staff table. There wasn’t exactly a fixed time for breakfast, as such, but Scorpius assumed that arriving ten minutes before the start of lessons wasn’t the best way of setting an example. Besides, word must have travelled since his lesson with the second years the day before. He wasn’t sure what they’d been expecting, but it probably wasn’t the sight of him heaving an enormous house plant onto the table, saying ‘This is Hester. I’d like you to draw her.’
As he prodded bits of scrambled egg and toast about his plate, his mind went involuntarily to the original Hester. He hadn’t spoken to her since he’d embarked on his art foundation course. It wasn’t like she hadn’t approved – it had been her who’d suggested it, in fact – they’d simply fallen out over something stupid and never bothered to make up. Not that he supposed they’d ever been hugely close, considering they were a couple. She’d never been to his house or met his father. He hadn’t done much more than hold her hand and kiss her now and again. They hadn’t exactly stood the test of time.
He laughed to himself, forgetting he had a mouthful of breakfast. Hastily, he swiped up a napkin and stared down at the table, hoping none of the students had noticed. He’d already proved he was weird enough. He didn’t want them to think he was weirder.
A little further down the table, a sudden movement caught his eye. He glanced across, napkin still pressed to his mouth, and caught sight of Lucy waving at him.
Everything okay? She mouthed. He gave her the thumbs up in response. Satisfied, she turned back to her (substantially healthier) breakfast. Scorpius shovelled the last of his toast into his mouth and then abandoned his plate, hurrying back upstairs to prepare for first period.
Another first year class. Another set of pumpkin prints. He reminded himself to sit down for a proper brainstorm session that evening, to come up with something more interesting. A bit more ambitious.
He would run out of pumpkins sooner or later anyway.
The sixth years were due fourth period. Scorpius took his time to prepare, managing a meagre lunch in the Great Hall before biding the time in his office, sorting and re-sorting through supplies and classlists. He’d decided that the senior students needed their own personal sketchbooks but had no idea where to procure them from. And then they’d turned up in the cupboards. The top sketchbook even had a thin layer of dust on the top, as if they’d been sitting there all along.
It was curious, even a little bit suspicious – but he decided not to dwell on it. Hogwarts was like that. Hogwarts was not the sort of place you questioned. Things just happened, and you just accepted them. Eight sketchbooks appeared in a cupboard, complete with dust, and you just took them and handed them to your sixth years like nothing was wrong.
It was a small list, but he couldn’t say he was disappointed. Eight was good, considering it was a new subject. Eight would let him concentrate on individual students more. Eight was fantastic compared to his seventh year class, given that he didn’t have a seventh year class at all. He couldn’t blame them; no seventh year would want to waste their last year on half a qualification.
But eight sixth years had evidently decided that he was worth their time. They wouldn’t get a N.E.W.T for it; it would be a variant of the muggle Advanced Level art, externally assessed by a Ministry official. This made him privately very scared. He hadn’t had much luck with Ministry assessors in his life; he had a tendency to blow things up in their faces. The examiner for his Transfiguration Practical had needed seven stitches after the incident with the tea service.
He scanned the list one last time before the bell for afternoon lessons would ring. Three Hufflepuffs and only one Gryffindor. Two each from Ravenclaw and Slytherin. And Puja Khanna, third on the register, who was supposedly good at art. He tried to put this thought out of his head, though. The rest of the class could be just as good. Or even better. Or maybe none of them would be especially good at all. Who knew?
He checked the other Ravenclaw name. Maeve McGreevey didn’t ring any bells either. Ah, well, he thought. Things had changed since his time. It was probably better if he didn’t know any of his students from before. It made for less awkwardness.
But Scorpius still felt awkward when they filed into his classroom at twenty-five to two. At first, all he could do was grin sheepishly as they picked their seats – he’d decided against a seating plan – and try and guess who was who. Then he fumbled his introduction, skipping the odd word as he outlined the plan to put them through an art A-Level Art, dropping one of the sketchbooks when he handed them out – he took a moment to himself in his office, pretending to fetch the register that was already on his desk, to thump his head against the wall and cringe at his own hopelessness.
He resolved to do better when he stepped out in front of the class. Sweeping his own sketchbook (and the register) up from the desk, he took a deep breath, stood squarely in front of them, and said ‘So. Welcome to art. I’m Mr Malfoy, and this is Hester.’
And before he knew it, he was standing there with his right arm stuck out towards the corner like a sign post. Hester shivered appreciatively.
‘Er, shall we take a register?’ he said.
The class, bemused but attentive, was all present. Penicuik Stephens and Irwin Crane, the two Slytherins, shared the table with Maeve MacGreevey and Puja Khanna. The other table had the lone Gryffindor, Reece Munroe, and then the three Hufflepuffs: Nina Holmes, William Livingstoun, and Esther Muir. Scorpius couldn’t decide whether he was pleased or irritated that the old house divisions hadn’t carried over to his class. It seemed to be a sort of rule that Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs studied together, just as the Gryffindors and Slytherins did. But things had evidently changed since his time.
‘I don’t know how technically able any of you are, but I’m working on the assumption that if you’ve picked this for one of your N.E.W.Ts art is pretty important to you,’ he said. ‘So I thought we’d skip a lot of the technical stuff – unless you really want it – and jump right into a project.’
The class seemed to sit up straighter. A couple of students looked worried.
‘How many of you paint?’ Scorpius asked.
A few hands went up into the air.
‘Anyone take photographs?’
Penicuik Stephens and William Livingstoun both put up their hands. They caught sight of each other, expressions slack with surprise, and then turned back to their desks.
‘Cool. Has anyone actually taken an art class before? Any of you been to art club here?’
Every hand went up.
‘Anyone want to…um…tell us what sort of art classes they’ve been to?’
Penicuik Stephens put her hand up again. Scorpius nodded to her.
‘I’ve been to a couple,’ she said. ‘But, um, sir, by the way, can you just call me Penny?’
He made a mental note to change the register to Penny Stephens, although he hadn’t had the best of luck with remembering to call Professor House Dot so far. Learning the names of all of his new students was proving a little difficult.
‘Okay, Penny,’ he said.
‘I did a photography class last summer,’ she said. ‘But I had to do it the muggle way. I can’t do
moving photos or anything like that. But I’ve been in art club since third year. A lot of us have.’
‘Oh. Cool. Anyone else?’
It was Maeve McGreevey’s turn. ‘I did a life drawing class last year. Over the summer as well.’
Reece Munroe twisted around in his seat. ‘There’s one in Hogsmeade on Saturdays. If you speak to your Head of House you can get special permission to go.’
‘Excellent,’ Scorpius said. ‘Maybe some of you could sign up to that.’
‘I dunno, sir,’ Reece turned to face the front. ‘It’s twelve Galleons a term.’
‘Well, I’ll speak to Professor House and see if we can sort something out,’ Scorpius said, privately reminding himself that he was once a sixth year too and twelve Galleons was a lot to spend on one thing. ‘Anyway, good to hear that so many of you have ventured into art already. I hope you’ll benefit a lot from this year. And next year, if they let me come back. Er, alright, the project. Like I said, the advanced level structure requires you do one coursework project and another project for your exam, but we won’t get the exam papers until about February. So…coursework. That’s all we need to focus on this term.’
The class had all reached for their sketchbooks. A couple of students had even taken out quills, as if preparing to jot down some notes.
‘I’ve got project briefs for you here,’ Scorpius said, reaching blindly behind him for the stack of parchment on his desk. ‘You can write notes on that if you want.’
He was slightly amazed at his own level of preparation, so decided not to ruin it by charming the project briefs to fly to each student and gave them out by hand instead.
‘So…’ he trailed off, once all the briefs had been given out. Some of the students had skim-read them already, and he could see a few pairs of eyes widening in disbelief. ‘Your coursework project. It’s about ghosts.’
He felt like there was reasoning behind the choice of title – having been a sixth year with his own fair share of angst, once, he knew that teenagers had a fondness for the macabre and gothic – but some of the class seemed to disagree.
‘This is a bit morbid, sir,’ Reece called out.
‘Not exactly,’ Scorpius shrugged. ‘It’s open. You can look at it anyway you like.’
Reece and the Hufflepuffs at his table exchanged glances.
‘Well, I mean, in the most literal sense of it, you could look at actual ghosts. You know, talk to a few of the ones kicking around here. Study their movements and stuff. Create a visual response based on the stories they’ve got to tell. Or you could go a bit more abstract. You could be morbid and base your project on death, I guess, but…I dunno, you could be a bit unusual. Think of the ghosts we can’t see or interact with – stuff that gets left behind, memories, the like. It’s totally open. Take it anywhere you want.’
The eight of them had started to scribble notes on the parchment. ‘Just some ideas,’ Scorpius said quickly. ‘Just a few suggestions. Do whatever you want with the project. Make it your own.’
He heard Nina Holmes whisper ‘I’m going to interview the Fat Friar.’
‘Any questions?’ he asked, as the other two Hufflepuffs burst into giggles.
Irwin Crane put up his hand. ‘Sir, is it possible to draw a ghost? They don’t exactly stay still.’
‘You don’t have to draw things that stay still. Find a means of representing their movement in your drawing.’
‘Look,’ Scorpius ran a hand through his hair. ‘When I was at art school, we had to do this one drawing exercise where…basically, a bundle of firewood was suspended from the ceiling and swung back and forth. And we weren’t allowed to draw it, we had to draw the way it moved.’
He felt like he’d lost a lot of the class.
‘Okay, I know that’s all a bit…deep,’ he sighed. ‘But, you know. Think outside the box.’
Scorpius felt like he was swiftly unravelling in front of the class. ‘Any more?’
‘Do we have any deadlines?’ Esther asked.
‘Nothing fixed, yet, but I’ll collect your sketchbooks in in a week or two to see how far you’ve got. I think if we can have the coursework project finished by December, it’ll be…’
He faltered for a moment. A miracle, he thought to himself.
‘Good,’ he said. ‘Yeah, December’s when the coursework should be done. Anything else?’
The class was silent.
‘Excellent,’ he said. ‘Well…if any of you want to go and start researching in the Library or go and draw or anything, that’s fine, I’ll sign a slip for you.’
Scorpius had to admit he hadn’t expected many of them to stay, but it was a little disheartening to see the entire class queue up with scraps of parchment for him to sign. He scrawled his name in ultramarine ink eight times over, thinking that he could probably use the rest of the lesson to draw up some plans for his first years.
It was only when the last bit of parchment had been taken from him that he realised. Puja Khanna, the promised artist, hadn’t spoken once. He looked up from his desk only in time to see her leaving the room with the others, her face concealed behind her shoulder-length black hair.
She hadn’t so much as said a single word. He couldn’t even remember if she’d put up her hand.
Gathering up his sketchbook again, Scorpius slipped out from behind his desk and followed the class to the Library.