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Starving Artists by peppersweet

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Format: Novel
Chapters: 22
Word Count: 109,037
Status: COMPLETED

Rating: 15+
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse

Genres: Fluff, Humor, Romance
Characters: Percy, Scorpius, Albus, Rose, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: Other Pairing, Rose/Scorpius, OC/OC

First Published: 05/01/2010
Last Chapter: 09/15/2011
Last Updated: 06/21/2013

Summary:
best next generation - 2011 dobby & golden snitch awards
banner by justonemorefic @ TDA!

Lucy Weasley doesn't know what to do with her life. Luckily, there's art school.


Chapter 1: Art School
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Chapter One - Art School




It was the day my dad disowned me.

No, not literally. He's far too nice to actually cast me out or try to pretend that he doesn't have a daughter or something. It wasn't actually that serious. It wasn't like I started seeing a questionable boy with too many piercings, got pregnant, joined the circus and then robbed Gringotts, although sometimes I wish I had.

I applied to art school.

Gasp. Shock. Horror. Art school? It's hardly the thing to get angry over. But if you think that, you obviously haven't met my dad. He is the physical manifestation of the stiff upper lip. Being a typical teenager and also being a Weasley, I've tried everything over the years - multiple detentions, underage drinking, dodgy boyfriends - but in all that time, all I'd raised from him was the twitching eye, the shaky hands, and the thundering 'We have morals and dignity in this house, Lucy Weasley!'

But nothing, nothing ever got him so mad as art school.

I started off casual. We were going to London for the day. 'Dad, when we're there, can we check out the Wizarding Institute of Arts?'

Dad hardly looked up from his newspaper. 'What, the art school? Is there an exhibition on?'

'No, I thought I'd just check it out, you know? For next year?'

He paid attention properly then. 'Pardon?'

'Y'know, Dad, studying. Art school. Next year.'

He frowned. 'Aren't you going to be a Healer? You can't go to Art school to do healing, Lucy.'

'I don't want to be Healer, Dad.'

'Why not?'

'Well, I got four Acceptables in my N.E.W.T.S, a D in Muggle Studies, and I got a P in Herbology, and…and that's basically the essential subject for healing! Plus you need five Outstandings for most courses - I'm just not good enough, Dad.'

'I'm sure you'll find a course that'll take you on with those grades. You don't have to change your options, Lucy.'

'Yeah, but, Dad, I don't want to be a healer. I want to go to art school.'

'And what're you going to do with an art degree? Honestly?'

I was stuck there.

'Lucy, I will not let you throw your life away like that. I could always get you an internship at the Ministry-'

'Who says art school isn't respectable? For all you know, I could be a brilliant artist! I could make tons of money!'

Truth was that I hadn't painted a picture in my whole life. I'd sketched (badly), doodled (mostly to alleviate Transfiguration-induced boredom), even messed around with a cheap disposable camera (on family holidays). But I was barely an artist. With N.E.W.T results this bad and the deadline for post-Hogwarts courses so close, though, I was running out of options. And there was absolutely not a snowball's chance in hell I was ready to get anything as proper as a job.

'Lucy Weasley, you are not running off to art school!'

'You can't control my life!' I yelled, in a moment of adolescent fury. 'I'm of age, I can do what I want!'

It was hardly the best comeback I could have come out with, nor was it the first time I'd used it. But it seemed to have a strangely profound effect on Dad, who went a weird shade of purple.

'Not while you're under my roof,' Dad growled. 'While you live here, I have a duty of care over you! And that means you're going to train as a Healer and earn some Galleons!'

'Fine! I'll move out then! You just watch me!'

And I did. That's when he disowned me, after a bit more shouting, some rather violent door-slamming, and the smashing of an antique china vase my mum was particularly fond of.

It took everything – I'm not even kidding here - everything I'd saved in my Gringotts account to get a flat in London. Not even a nice one, either. Ten galleons a week on rent, mind, with a twenty galleon deposit. Tiny place – the guy renting it called it a studio – with only one room. I didn't even get my own bathroom, which put my excellent career prospects as a pop star to a swift end when I realised I couldn't warble old Weird Sisters hits in the shower anymore.

That was it. One room to myself. A tiny little square I could call my own. Mum and Dad actually visited, once, after they'd calmed down. They offered to help me clean the place up and even brought a bunch of flowers in a vase. It was quite miserable once they'd left. I was stuck in London, on my own, in a flat with peeling wallpaper, sharing a block with some of the sketchiest people I'd ever met. And I was going to art school when I couldn't even paint.

The flowers started to wilt after a few days.

Not that registering for art school was hard or anything. I turned up early in the morning on the sign-up day, expecting a queue, expecting them to turn me down so that I had an excuse to go back home and actually take up that healing course, but no. The place was deserted. I could almost imagine tumbleweed blowing across the hallway. I had to ring the bell at the front desk five times before anyone heard me.

When a man finally came running out of a nearby door and threw himself into the desk chair, I got the chance to speak.

'Hello, I'd like to register.'

'For what? Register for what?' the man, said, rubbing his mouth with the back of his hands. Crumbs fell from it and lay in his lap.

'Erm, art school? A course here?'

'Oh, that!' a light seemed to go on in the man's eyes. He scrabbled around on the desk, finally found a badge, and attached it to his shirt pocket.

Mr Holstone, the badge read. Dean.

'Here's the form,' Mr Holstone/Dean said, slapping a sheet of parchment on the desk in front of me. 'Do you have a portfolio?'

'A what?'

'A collection of drawings or other works, to support your application...?'

'Er, no. Do I need one?'

'Usually, you would, but considering you're only the fourth applicant this week, it's hardly necessary. We need all the students we can get. The more the merrier, eh? Well, we get more funding from the Ministry that way, you know?'

'I suppose...do you have a quill?'

Mr Holstone/Dean handed me a ruffled quill and a pot of violet ink. I filled in my name, address, date of birth, and my paltry set of qualifications.

'Right, that's that then. I'll take you on a tour,' he said.

Mr Holstone/Dean jumped out of his chair and led the way to the door he'd first appeared from.

'Right, are you a painter, a sculptor, visual artist, photographer?' he reeled off.

I blinked. 'None of them, really.'

'Oh, are you a conceptual artist?'

'Er...sure?'

'Oh, let me introduce myself,' he said, throwing out a hand. It was rather difficult to shake it whilst walking so fast. 'I'm Mr Holstone, the Dean, head of discipline. Also head of art. Also the only permanent member of staff, come to think of it.'

I tried to ignore the fact that, up to that point, I'd been convinced that Dean was his first name.

'I'm Lucy.'

He threw open a door which led on to a narrow corridor. 'You're pretty lucky. We haven't had a lot of applications this year - still a few places left. Most people go off to France to study art, and, well, half the students here don't even turn up most of the time.'

We were passing more doors, these set with windows. Most of the rooms were empty, but Mr Holstone paused outside one which was splattered with paint.

'Don't even think to clean up, either!' he exclaimed. Then, in a mutter: 'Artists.'

At the end of the corridor was a staircase. Mr Holstone took the steps two at a time; I had to run to keep up.

'So what's your main medium? I mean, paint-wise, we've got an issue, because we're so low on funding we can't even get decent oil stuff, and you'll have to pay if you want life classes or anything like that for your drawing, the school can't subsidise anything what with this no-nonsense economy Gringotts have come up with this year-'

'What's the cheapest thing to study?' I cut across. Mr Holstone considered it for a minute.

'Photography, I suppose. It's a galleon to hire a camera for the year and a sickle for a roll of film, but we don't charge for paper or the potion ingredients. We've got a bit of a surplus in the photography department, actually. It's not the most popular course. People don't tend to take it all that seriously, it being mostly muggle and all...'

I was a bit too preoccupied to consider the last point. I hadn't even taken Potions to N.E.W.T level; how was I supposed to handle this?

'Potion ingredients?'

'Well, yes, you've got to develop your film, haven't you?'

'Develop it?' I was taken aback slightly. 'Don't you just…hand it into the shop and they do the thing for you?'

'Well, no, Louise-'

'It's Lucy.'

'Well, no, Lucy,' Mr Holstone was half-smiling. 'You do it the old fashioned way here. In a dark room. With potions. That's the point. You do everything yourself.'

I felt every part the idiot that I was. At the top of the stairs, he pushed open another door.

'This is the common room,' he announced. 'The heart and soul of student life at the art school.'

The two people sat in the room looked up.

'This is Tarquin and Gwendolyn,' he announced, pointing first at a boy with sticky-out ears, and then at a girl with scary amounts of eyeliner and a sneer.

'I keep telling you, my name's Raven,' she hissed.

'Alright then. This is Tarquin and Raven,' Mr Holstone said, pointing at the two again. 'Tarquin and Raven, this is Lucy.'

'Hello,' I held up a hand and smiled. The two of them simply stared at me.

Great start. Not. I turned to look about myself, taking in the common room – which seemed too hopelessly untidy and grubby to even begin to comprehend.

The common room also had even more doors. Mr Holstone pointed at them in turn, saying things like 'this is where we keep the kiln,' or 'this is the paint stock cupboard.'

'Dark rooms are upstairs,' he finished. 'So, are you game for a photography course, then?'

I nodded.

Mr Holstone turned back to Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven again. 'Where's our photography genius this week?'

Somehow, I got the feeling that he wasn't using the word 'genius' entirely seriously.

'Asleep,' Tarquin answered matter-of-factly. 'He didn't get in 'til five this morning.'

'Again?' Mr Holstone frowned. He turned back to face me. 'Right, if you come back tomorrow, I'll get Scorpius to show you the ropes photography-wise.'

I felt slightly punch-drunk.

'Scorpius...?'

'Malfoy? You know him?'

'After a fashion,' I said.

There is a story here, but this is not the time to tell it. I gave Mr Holstone what I hoped was a convincing smile.

'Alright, just show up tomorrow at ten, and you're done.'

'Really?' I said. 'That…that's it?'

'Really,' he smiled. 'That's all.'

He seemed very happy to show me out of the building. I got the feeling I had interrupted him mid-snack. Not that I wanted to stay, anyway. Gwendolyn/Raven had a touch of the psychotic about her stare.

This left me with a whole day spare to do nothing. Which, ideally, was the sort of life I'd have liked, but you don't exactly earn money by hanging around London doing naff all.

Call me mad, but I decided to visit my cousin Rose.

Rose was a year above me at school, a Ravenclaw, as smart as her mother with six Outstanding N.E.W.T.S and a place at one of the country's top Further Witchcraft and Wizardry Education Colleges to boot. As far as I knew, she was still on her summer holiday, but had come down to London early to 'use the library', typically.

I wondered if she knew that Scorpius went to that particular art school. Then I realised that if she did, there would be no art school for him to go to. She would have torched the place long ago.

Thing is - and she's legendary in our family - Rose has a very fearsome temper.

See, here's a vague outline of the whole tangled affair. Boy meets girl. Relationship begins. Happiness ensues. Boy and girl decide to continue education and go to study magical law together. Except boy isn't really too keen on law. Girl turns up on enrolment day and finds out boy has done a runner and gone to art school instead. Girl, raging mad, thumps boy's best friend for not telling her this.

That's the plot. But replace 'boy' with 'Scorpius', 'girl' with 'Rose', 'boy's best friend' with 'Albus, Scorpius' best friend and Rose's cousin', and 'hits' for 'calls Albus a lot of nasty four-letter words and gives him a minor bruise to boot'.

Humiliated, angry, and with sore knuckles, Rose went to law school anyway and – get this – 'cursed' the day Scorpius was born, and said that she never wanted to see him again, and if she did, she would skin him alive and then some.

Sometimes I wonder if I'm really related to her.

On the way to Rose's Kensington flat (ever since Aunt Hermione had been appointed head of the new Equality division at the ministry, Rose had been rolling in money) I wondered whether I should tell her I knew where Scorpius was or not. Here were my options:

a) Tell Rose which art school Scorpius goes to, be on the receiving end of one of her shrieking tantrums, and then have to bust her out of Azkaban for Scorpius' resulting murder, or

b) Not tell her anything, and have life continue as normal. And study photography off aforementioned Scorpius Malfoy. And maybe even become a photographer (in my dreams).

I think it's perfectly obvious that I chose option b.

Rose was at home when I rang the doorbell. She looked harassed when she answered; a pair of reading glasses perched on her nose, her hair pulled up into a messy ponytail. Her hands were covered in ink smudges.

'Lucy?' she said, frowning.

I gave what I hoped was a bright, cheery smile.

'Guess who's an art student?'

She gave a weak smile, stepping aside to let me in. But as I shimmied past her into the flat, her eyes snapped wide open, and she turned to face me, lip curling.

'This wouldn't be at the same art school as that tosser-'

'Nope, not a tosser in sight,' I lied, grinning cheesily. 'Haven't seen a blonde for days,' Rose's eyes drifted up to my hair, and I hastily corrected myself. 'Well, apart from me.'

She grimaced. 'You've caught me at a bad time. I'm studying for next term.'

'Ahh, holiday homework,' I sighed, wistfully. 'How I don't miss it.'

She frowned again.

'No, this is just some extra stuff to make sure I'm well ahead of everyone else. Would you like a cup of tea?'

'I'd love one.'

Rose was running low on teabags, so she rather grudgingly brewed me a cuppa. I grinned as she plonked it down in front of me, looking rather displeased with her more ordinary glass of water.

'I can't chat for very long, I'm in the midst of working on a very complicated case study about a man who tried to rob Gringotts and then entered a plea of insanity, but then it turned out he was under the Imperius curse and the real culprit was…oh, nevermind.' she sipped at her tea darkly. 'What're you even going to do at art school? I didn't have you down as an artist. I thought you were going to train as a Healer.'

'Oh, you know me; I'm always drawing in my spare time. I'm going to do photography.'

The first part was a lie. Rose's eyebrows almost hit her hairline.

'Right, okay. What sort of job are you going to get with that?'

'No idea!' I grinned sheepishly. 'I'll just coast along, see how life goes.'

She shook her head.

'Lucy, you should probably think about looking for a job. Even now, because even art school's going to cost you money.'

'I'll be fine,' I waved her away. 'I've got a knack for getting things on the cheap.'

'This isn't Hogwarts, Lucy, you need Galleons, and pronto.'

There was a silence. Rose sipped at her tea, glaring at me over the top of her mug.

'Come on, Rosie, stop being so serious, I'll be fine.'

'I'm just concerned.'

'You sound a lot like my dad.'

'Lucy...' she sighed, setting down her mug. 'You were quite the...ah...hell-raiser at Hogwarts. I imagine you'll be the same as a student. But you have to be careful; you don't have house elves and fellow Hufflepuffs to pick you up this time. You're on your own.'

She finished her sentence with a stern look she'd inherited from our Nan. Sensing it was probably best to shut up about art school as soon as possible, I gave her a bright smile, gulped at my tea, then changed the subject.

'Lovely weather we're having…'

Half an hour later we ran out of small talk. I scrutinised the remainder of my tea, decided it had probably gone too cold for human consumption, and knew it was time to take my leave.

'That was lovely, Rose, dear, but I think I should dash. You know, places to be, people to meet,' I handed her the mug. 'Thanks for the advice and the tea.'

She looked incredibly happy to show me out of her flat. People being happy to see the back of me seemed to be a theme that day and, as you can imagine, it didn't put me in the best of spirits.

From Rose's flat, I took another train to Diagon Alley. It was still only about ten in the morning, and I was at a loss for what to do for the rest of the day. Eventually, after some time wandering around, I found an old, dusty art shop in Knockturn alley as claustrophobic as my flat.

After a galleon was spent on a sketchbook and a pack of pencils (just in case, and to make me feel like an actual art student and not an impostor) I wandered back into Diagon Alley. I was almost at the Leaky Cauldron when I caught sight of myself in a shop window. Even in dusty glass, the dull-blonde hair I'd inherited from my mum was the first thing I saw. Not for the first time, I wished I'd got the Weasley red hair. Being a Hufflepuff and also a bit dense, you can imagine that having blonde hair did me a lot of favours. Not.

I didn't look anything like an art student. I actually looked quite conservative, and my jeans, fresh from the wardrobe, still bore some of their crisp neatness from Dad's ironing. My shirt even had pinstripes. There was nothing exciting about a side-ish parting of the hair and a fringe I'd spent the better part of five years growing out. Students, according to popular belief, were not neat. Students did not wear pinstripes and have boring hair. And art students - well, they were a species of their own. I was still firmly on the 'Rose' end of the spectrum in terms of appearance and cleanliness.

I wasn't an art student at all. I'd been talented, all my life, at making things up, but this was the first time I'd felt bad about being an impostor. As I walked out of the Leaky Cauldron and into the muggle road beyond, the paper-bagged sketchbook bumped against my legs, the pencils rattling in their tin, as if they were screaming out about me blagging my way onto an art course. I was an impostor, to be fair, but I didn't even look the part. I was barely trying. my mind went back to Gwendolyn/Raven with her scary eyeliner, the way her and that Tarquin boy seemed to stare in unison, as if synchronised staring was a national past time and they were the champions. That Gwendolyn/Raven girl had a much more exciting hairstyle than mine. She was a true art student.

I turned back to Diagon Alley, deciding to work from the top down. And, in the end, I spent seven sickles on hair dye.



A/N: updated 12/04/2012 and 11/09/2012 AND 21/06/2013 - COMPLETE edit, changing a bit of the story, straightening out all my hopeless grammar derps. erk. it's been two - no, three years since I started writing this and a huge edit of it is long overdue.
Thank you to everyone on the forums who helped me out with this idea about so long ago - without your witty comments, this would have been an angsty, fairly serious story about serious art students and not the total slapstick crackfic it turned out to be in the end. It's amazing how a simple topic like 'would you take a story about Scorpius Malfoy going to art school seriously?' can turn into 'Scorpius Malfoy is a brooding misanthropist poet who wears eyeliner and collects ceramic ducks'. Not that that's a spoiler or anything.
Reviews are love, especially the crazy ones!

Chapter 2: A Dark Room
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Chapter two - A Dark Room




(sounds mysterious, doesn't it? Well, it's not.)


I turned up at the art school at ten on the dot. Mr Holstone was slumped on the front desk, snoring, with crumbs nestled in his thick hair like dandruff. I gave the bell a sharp ring and he jumped up, wincing.

'What do you want?' he groaned, rubbing his eyes.

'I'm Lucy, I came in yesterday...'

'Oh, yeah, you,' he heaved himself out of his chair. 'Well, come on, time for you to learn…stuff. You got a galleon for a camera?'

I passed over a galleon and a token sickle for film. He gave me the thumbs up and dashed towards the stairs.

'Was there a spell accident?' he asked kindly. I frowned, and his eyes drifted towards my newly-dyed blue hair.

'Oh...no...it's just...' I trailed off.

Mr Holstone didn't appear to be listening, however. As we ascended the stairs at an alarming pace, he stared through the windowed doors we'd passed yesterday. In the room filled with paint splatters, Gwendolyn/Raven was standing against a wall, arms splayed, with Tarquin opposite her brandishing a gun.

'Artists!' Mr Holstone exclaimed, throwing open the door, just as Tarquin fired a shot. I lunged backwards, ready to run off and scream for the Hitwizards - but then paint exploded in Gwendolyn/Raven's hair.

'Do you really have to paintball at this time in the morning?' Mr Holstone yelled over the volley of paint from Tarquin's gun. 'Can't you just do some nice watercolours or something?'

'No!' Gwendolyn/Raven shouted, dodging a splodge of paint that almost hit her eye. Tarquin lowered the gun.

'Just use your wands! Those things are deadly!' Mr Holstone gesticulated wildly at the gun.

'No, sir, that's the whole point,' Tarquin rolled his eyes. 'We're subverting the norm, we're using muggle instruments as a way of creating beauty, to show that we don't have to-'

Whatever he didn't have to do, however, was cut off by Mr Holstone slamming the door.

'I'll tell you this, Louise-'

'Lucy.'

'-Lucy, whatever. I'm very happy that you're deciding to concentrate on photography.'

He continued the madcap dash up the stairs. It was only when we reached the door to the common room that I felt a distinct lurch in my stomach; I'd almost forgotten who was due to be teaching me photography. My cousin's ex-boyfriend, a boy who I'd once sold smuggled Firewhiskey too in my infamous business enterprise of fifth year. Naturally, it did not end well, and I'd always had the feeling Scorpius Malfoy held a slight grudge against me for landing him in three months' worth of detentions.

Mr Holstone threw open the door. The room was almost deserted, except for a brown-haired boy engrossed in a book on one of the squishier sofas. I breathed a sigh of relief.

'Well, I'll just wait here…' I said. But Mr Holstone frowned.

'That's him there,' he pointed at the unrecognisable boy, calling out his name. The boy looked up, and – if it wasn't for the almost comical enormous glasses that gave him away – I wouldn't have recognised this Scorpius Malfoy if I'd passed him in the street.

Turned out he was actually the real thing, though. He closed his book with a sigh, and then shuffled his way over, giving me quite a guarded look. He was a lot thinner and lankier than I'd remembered.

'Scorpius, this is Lucy, our new girl. Right, I'll be off then,' he said, and without further ado, dashed off down the stairs again.

The door slammed. Scorpius squinted at me through his glasses.

'Are you actually Lucy Weasley?' he said incredulously. Even if the crumpled second-hand attire and brown hair was unfamiliar, the Mancunian accent certainly was not.

I nodded.

'No, you're not,' he shook his head. 'She was…going to be a Healer?

'Well, you don't look anything like Scorpius Malfoy, but apparently you are.'

'No, I am,' he dragged his fringe away from his eyes. 'Why is your hair blue?'

'I'm an artist,' I said, brusquely. 'Why is your hair not blonde?'

'Fancied a change.'

'Right.'

I'd never been great friends with Scorpius at school. The only times I'd talked to him, Rose had been clinging onto his side like a blood-sucking eel. And she'd usually spoken for him. If there was one thing I could say for sure about him it was that he was a bit of a wuss, really, and pretty accident prone if his Quidditch record was anything to go by. Seeing him apart from Rose was…odd, to say the least. But, then again, it was also odd not to see him in muddy flying robes with blood on his face - Rose and a calamitous Quidditch career were the only two things he'd really ever been known for.

'Seen, um, Rose recently?' he asked, casually.

'Er, she…she's not happy with you.'

'Ah. Well.' He shuffled uncomfortably, which was probably pretty appropriate considering the way his jeans seemed to be strangling him from the waist down. Oh, and he was facing the cousin of a girlfriend he hadn't exactly parted on good terms with.

A most awkward silence indeed followed.

'So,' he said conversationally. 'Fancy, er, learning some photography?'

I only just realised that Mr Holstone had run off with my Galleon and Sickle.

'I need a camera and film.'

'Not to worry,' Scorpius said. 'Follow me.'

I followed him up a flight of twisting stairs to what I presumed was the dark room. At the first landing, he opened a cupboard door, reached in, and extracted an ancient camera and a small black container. Handing these over to me, he continued up the next flight of stairs.

I held the camera out at arm's length. Weight-wise, it was like trying to balance a hippogriff on my little finger. Rust had gathered in every nook and cranny of the metal casing, and the lens was coated in thick dust.

'That's a…well, it's old,' Scorpius explained, a good five steps in front of me. 'We don't tend to give the…the shiny cameras to new people.'

Frowning, I pulled the strap of the camera over my shoulders, the leather creaking ominously.

'We?' I said. 'How many of you are there?'

He didn't even have to think about it. 'In photography? One. Me.'

At the top of the stairs was another corridor lined with doors (if the art school had anything, it was an abundance of doors). Scorpius pointed to each of them in turn.

'Normal dark room, colour developing dark room, store cupboard, and studio. Not that I've ever really used the last one. You'll start off in the normal dark room, it's too difficult to get you on colour developing yet,' Scorpius' tone was professional and clipped. I really wondered whether this was the same boy that used to be ridiculed for his talent of falling up stairs.

There was another most awkward silence, during which Scorpius stared intently at the floor.

'So...what now?' I asked. He flinched.

'Well, you won't have any negatives, will you?'

I felt my face burn. 'Er, sure, whatever negatives are.'

He gave me an incredulous look. 'You know, the film? Where the pictures are? Black and white things?'

I nodded. He rolled his eyes.

'Well, I'll just show you the basics today with some of my old pictures. Come on, then,' he opened the door on a tiny, broom-cupboard sized space lit with a dull red glow. He stepped inside.

'Um, isn't it a bit small?'

He rolled his eyes again, pointing further into the cupboard at another door.

'This is just the entryway. Basic dark room safety… you need to get in so I can shut this door. Then we can go into the real dark room. It stops white light getting in and ruining any unexposed paper or film. And stuff.'

I didn't understand him at all, but took a tentative step into the tiny space. Scorpius let the door swing shut behind me, and for a second, we were bathed in dim red light. As soon as the door clicked shut, Scorpius threw open the other. I had a sneaking suspicion it was something to do with how cramped the cupboard/entryway was. I mean, the mood at that moment was already toe-curlingly awkward. Accidental body contact might just have ratcheted up the tension a bit too much.

The next room was lit with dim red light as well. Squinting, I could just about make out a large sink in the middle of the room where a neat stack of tubs sat. Around the walls there were surfaces upon which sat a number of bizarre-looking contraptions I didn't think I'd like to get my hair stuck in.

'Can you turn a light on?' I asked. I couldn't see Scorpius in the almost-darkness, but he gave an audible tut.

'First rule of the dark room, no white light unless it's safe. Do you know how much a pack of photo paper costs?'

There was a silence.

'Er…okay. Well, as soon as paper is exposed to white light, bam! It's ruined. Unless you actually intend to expose it, because when you go to print pictures, you expose the paper, and, er…' Scorpius trailed off. His all-knowing façade was starting to crumble slightly. He reached into a dark corner and pulled out a bizarre white object.

'This,' he said, holding it aloft, 'is a spool. You put film in it. Er, undeveloped film. So it can develop. In the spool. Like this.'

He reached into another corner and pulled out a long, thin strip of what looked like black plastic and started threading it into the bizarre white object, twisting it around. After a few minutes' frantic twisting, there was an ominous crunching sound, and the plastic tore.

'Bollocks,' he muttered darkly.

I peered around the room. 'Please can we turn a light on? I mean, it doesn't look like there's any paper out, and I can't see too well…'

'Yeah, sure,' he waved me away. 'There's a cord hanging from the ceiling somewhere, give it a pull…' he watched me flailing my arms around for a bit before he said, quite calmly, '…right behind you.'

Eventually, I found the cord and gave it a quick tug. The room suddenly flooded with bright light.

'Ouch!'

Scorpius had covered his eyes with his left hand. 'Yes, I should have warned you about that.'

He was still holding the spool and mangled plastic in his right. Reaching for a pair of scissors, he cut away the scrunched up bits and held the spool aloft, where a considerably shorter strip of black plastic now nestled.

'This is a film,' he said, 'in a spool.'

Another awkward silence followed. I broke it first.

'Okay. What next?'

He frowned. 'Well, this is already developed, so we can cut the whole chemicals bit. But basically, it goes in one of those tubs, and you put chemicals in, give it a bit of a swill…timing's pretty precise, so a watch is advisable. Preferably one with hands that glow in the dark.'

'That's oddly specific,' I said. He blinked at me. The silence that followed was even more uncomfortable than the last, which was some feat.

'Um…why are you here? I mean…yeah. This is a bit...odd,' he said, finally.

'I would have thought that was obvious. I'm here to do arty things and be an artist,'

'Yeah, since when?'

'Since yesterday.'

Pause.

'Did…did Rose put you up to this?'

'As a matter of fact, she didn't. She doesn't actually know which art school you're at. I think she thinks you've run off to France. Do I really need a clever excuse to, you know, express myself? As an artist? I'm just, you know, here to…be…creative.'

There was another pause as my brain filled in the words well, at least that's what I'm supposed to be here for.

'Okay, not really,' he sighed heavily. 'But, see, when people want to get a real art degree, they just...they don't come here. I…look, I applied to five places. And this was my last choice.'

I gave what I hoped was a sincere smile. 'I failed most of my O.W.L.S, and I only passed the majority of my N.E.W.T.S by chance. This…this was a last-minute decision.'

He shrugged. 'A lot of people flunked their N.E.W.T.S.'

'I failed muggle studies.'

Scorpius suddenly looked concerned. 'Oh. That is bad.'

'And it's a bit of anarchy. You know, sticking it to the man. Being a rebel. Being cool.'

Scorpius shook his head, evidently confirming what I already knew. This art school was just a big metaphorical dead end, nothing rebellious about it at all.

'Well..it is rebellious. For me anyway.' I said. 'My dad…for the past ten years he's been telling me I should be a Healer, taking me on summer courses and activity days, making sure I got all of the basic first aid certificates - and then turning round and telling him I'm going to be an artist is like a giant middle finger. This is just about the most rebellious thing I've ever done in my whole life. Well, apart from the time I smuggled Firewhiskey into school and started selling it, and then you bought some and-'

'Yeah, I know,' he cut me off. Evidently the memory of that three months' detention was still sore in his mind, although I suspected his drunken tussle with the Whomping Willow was perhaps a more painful memory.

'So if this is a crap art school,' I changed tack, 'why are you here?'

He shuffled uneasily. 'Well, you know…'

Pause.

'No, I don't know.'

He pulled a variety of uncomfortable faces.

'Four rejections. None of the other places would have me. And…and didn't want to do law. Or get a job. Or go into the Ministry,' he finally mumbled, grimacing.

I wasn't sure this was entirely truthful - Rose must have factored into it at least a bit more – but I nodded. I felt like I could empathise, having had umpteen rejections for Healing courses. But, you know, it was all perfectly understandable for one sole reason: hiring someone like him as a lawyer would be a waste of perfectly good Galleons. The boy couldn't even argue his own point, let alone someone else's - which was perhaps why he was still hiding from Rose.

'But why art school?'

He shrugged. 'I like art.'

'And better than the prospects of spending four years letting Rose bash you around, no?'

He pulled a face that suggested he'd rather be chased by rabid hippogriffs than admit that he was a pushover. But then he nodded, confirming his position as pushover extraordinaire: a lot more like the boy I'd sort of known at school.

I couldn't resist a laugh. He flinched again.

'I don't want to talk about it,' he said. I shrugged.

'Alright then. So, film in spool, then in chemicals, be specific about time. Next?'

'That's film in your hand,' he said, pointing at the squat black tube I was still holding. 'I'll show you how to load a camera later. But, basically, once it's all developed-' he started to extract the twisted film from the spool with some difficulty, but finally separated the two. 'Look at it up close,' he said, passing me the film. 'Can you see the little pictures on it?'

'Yeah, sure,' I said, squinting at the narrow film. The tiny, see-through pictures were barely visible, and they weren't moving. I let out an involuntary gasp.

'They don't move until you develop the actual photo,' Scorpius said, sounding bored, as if he'd explained this a thousand times already. 'It's all muggle stuff until we get to the actual printing. See, the camera shoots a series of still frames that get printed in quick succession-'

'Weird,' I muttered. Scorpius pulled the film from my hands and took it over to one of the bizarre-looking contraptions atop a desk. 'Oh, get the lights, would you?' he said.

Rather reluctantly, I pulled on the cord and plunged us both into blood-red dim light again. Scorpius had taken out his wand and was tapping the device with a mighty frown on his face. Nothing happened. Abandoning his wand, he gave the thing a good smack and it hummed into life, white light spewing from it and hitting the floor in narrow bars.

'This,' he said, impressively, 'is an Enlarger.'

'What does it do?'

'Enlarges.'

'Oh.'

Scorpius pulled out a sort of clamp from the top of the Enlarger, placing the film inside.

'It's very important,' he said, 'that you put it in the right way.' He slid the clamp back into the enlarger and, below, on the tabletop, I saw a vague, fuzzy projection of what could have been a face. With an almighty squealing of metal, he pulled the Enlarger down, and as he did so, the picture became clearer.

'Yeah, so, it's important to make sure your photo is the right way up, so you don't develop it back to front.' he leant over and peered at the projection of the picture. 'I think this is the right way up. Does this face look normal to you?'

I gazed down at what seemed to be a very sulky looking portrait of Gwendolyn/Raven outside the front door of the Art School.

'Yeah, it's fine...'

Insofar and insomuch as it is a face, I thought. But no normal person is that sulky all the time.

'Good. Well, here's a board.' he reached underneath the desk and pulled up a hefty wooden slab, finally slamming it down in front of me. The pair of flimsy rulers attached to it wobbled ominously. 'Just fiddle around with the rulers and the Enlarger and make sure the picture's square. I'll go deal with the chemistry.'

Slightly taken aback at being left to deal with the machinery by myself, I spent a good few minutes twiddling with the metal rulers, which seemed adamant that they would not become a square. Giving up on this, I tried to re-adjust the Enlarger, but with the slightest touch the whole thing shook precariously and I decided not to break everything in the Dark Room on my very first day. Behind me, I could hear Scorpius running taps and pouring things, a sound that was all too reminiscent of Potions for comfort. Potions meant explosions and burning holes in desks.

The whole situation was even more awkward than when my Uncle Ron got drunk at Christmas and started can-can dancing with a lampshade on his head in front of the whole family. And believe me, that was awkward.

Scorpius reappeared with a thin box in his hands, reached over, and gave the Enlarger another good smack. The light changed to red.

'Just so we don't accidentally ruin the paper. Dev time is usually two seconds at this size,' Scorpius said, sounding like a smarmy professional again. Opening the box, he slid out a piece of paper and placed it on the board, lining up the rulers into a perfect square.

'Right, Lucy, what's going to happen is that the light is going to shine the picture onto the paper for two seconds, and then we're going to run like hell and put it in the developing chemical. Okay?'

I nodded. He gave me the thumbs up and hit the Enlarger again, turning the light off completely.

'Ready?' he said. I nodded, and then remembered he couldn't see me all that well and answered in the affirmative.

He lifted his wand again and gave the device a sharp tap. The light flickered on again and I started to count. One second, two seconds…the light flickered and died. Scorpius snatched up the paper and practically pranced over to the sink, sliding it into a tray full of what looked like water.

'Watch,' he said, sounding a little out of breath. I leaned over to watch, but after a few seconds the fumes started to choke me. Holding a hand over my mouth and nose, I squinted down at the paper in the solution. Scorpius was rocking the tray back and forth, gently, as if it were a baby of some sort.

I thought this was a little bit weird but instead, I said 'What's happening? It's just paper-'

He hushed me. Then, slowly, the picture started to appear on the paper, with darker sections showing up first, then the lighter greys fading in. Scorpius frowned down at it.

'Stopper next,' he said, lifting a pair of tongs from the side and grabbing up the picture. 'That's the next tray. Stops the photo developing,' he explained, sliding the newly-developed photo into another tray. 'A minute or so in here, then we move it on to the fixing chemical for three minutes, then we wash it.'

I fixed him with a frown. 'Why would you wash paper?'

'Just…be quiet and watch.'

I did as he asked. Peering closer at the picture, I saw that Gwendolyn/Raven had started to move; a wind was lifting at her hair, sending it drifting around her face. Her grumpy look seemed to be permanent. After a minute's silence, Scorpius lifted the photo from the tray and dumped it in the next one.

'I swear you never wore glasses before. Well, not all the time,' I said, going back to our earlier conversation. He gave a grumpy sort of sigh, but responded anyway.

'They're only for…you know, distance stuff. I can't afford optometry charms anymore.'

We lapsed back into silence. Eventually, he dumped the photo in the water, stowed the box of paper beneath the sink and crossed the room to pull at the light-cord.

'This,' he said, dipping his hand into the water and retrieving the picture, 'is a developed photo.'

I was still trying to adjust to the sudden light, but I gave a vague sort of nod.

'Looks fine to me. When do I start?'

'As soon as I teach you how to load a film…' he said, and then squinted at me a bit more. '…actually, I'll just load it for you.'

He grabbed the camera and film from the side, and in one quick, rather deft movement (considering it was him and he was all that was clumsy in living form), snapped open the back of the camera and slotted the film in. In seconds, the back was shut again and he was handing the camera over.

'Obviously, it'll take a while for you to be that good. It's more about being careful than showing off,' He brushed past and headed for the door. When I didn't follow, he gave an exaggerated roll of the eyes. 'Well, come on then, time for you to meet the others.'

The door banged shut and he was gone.



A/N: edited 12/04/2012 and 21/06/2013 - cleaning up all my punctuation fails, haha.
there's a lot of dark room developing lingo in here - I hope it's not too tricky. I do develop photos myself (exceedingly badly), and Scorpius' arty-farty know-how in this chapter is basically paraphrased from my art teacher - 'this is an enlarger. It enlarges.' was essentially the way I learned to develop. Bit of background info for you there~

Chapter 3: Hedonism is our Middle Name
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Chapter Three - Hedonism is our Middle Name




When Scorpius had said we'd be meeting the others, I assumed that he'd introduce me to the other students his age, or maybe even other new students. I was used to sharing my year at Hogwarts with nine other pupils, and I'd assumed when I first arrived that there'd be about nine or so other people on my course. I also assumed that this being the only magical art school in Southern England, it would be quite popular.

I did get my nine other students, but I was ambitious to think they'd be my fellow new starters. No, there were nine other students in the whole school.

I think that at that point I fully understood Scorpius when he'd said that the place was a bit of a joke.

Okay, it's a slight exaggeration. Nine other students in the school of Fine Art, if the half-assed drawing skills and shoddy camera knowledge I displayed could really be considered Fine Art with a capital F and a capital A. There were other students there doing exciting and mystifying things like Silversmithing and Communication Design, but they were never more than vague shadows hanging outside the back door on fag breaks where they were in view of the common room window.

Nine students in Fine Art though. Nine whole students who, if what Scorpius had said was anything to go by, hadn't exactly wanted the place as their first choice.

The common room was a tad busier when we re-entered. Two of the squishy couches were occupied with people I didn't recognise. Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven were nowhere to be seen. On one couch two girls sat side-by-side, flicking through a magazine with about as much interest as a pair of dead pigeons. One of them looked up and gave me a vague smile. On the other side of the room, a boy with dark eyes, dark hair, dark clothes and a dark smog of misery hanging about him stared at the floor, brooding.

'Hi Ellen, Frances,' Scorpius said to the two girls. 'This is Lucy. Lucy, this is Ellen and Frances.'

Ellen turned out to be the one with the smile.

'Hello, Lucy,' she said. 'Welcome to WIA.'

I thought she was about the sanest person I'd met all day. Frances, on the other hand, didn't say a word, and Scorpius didn't bother to introduce the boy. Nor did the boy even acknowledge that he was sharing the room with four other people.

As I supposed was wont to happen in this particular art school, an awkward silence fell over us. Scorpius fidgeted, looking dangerously ready to say something stupid like 'Nice weather we're having,' but he was saved by the door opening. Mr Holstone entered with a boy and girl trailing after him, each clutching a hefty sketchbook.

'New students, photography genius.' he said to Scorpius, whose face turned a delicate shade of pink. Once again, the word genius didn't sound all too encouraging. 'You deal with them. I'm off to get a sandwich,'

He left without further ado. I glanced over at Scorpius, who shuffled on the spot and looked as if he would dearly rather be back in the dark room again.

'Hello.' he said finally. 'I'm Scorpius,'

'I'm Henry. Henry Jarvis,' the boy said, in a smooth, effortlessly cool voice. His checked shirt was fashionably faded and his hair was casually rumpled in a way that suggested he'd spent three hours in front of the mirror trying to make it look as if he'd just rolled out of bed.

'Eunice Gillispie,' the girl gave a frighteningly tooth-filled smile. 'But you can call me Nice!'

The girl called Frances gave her a long, hard look. Scorpius coughed. I seized the moment.

'I'm Lucy, I'm new too,' I said, extending a hand to Henry, and then Eunice. 'It's nice to meet-'

A sudden BANG! interrupted me. Scorpius ducked, and a moment later a splat of yellow paint exploded on the opposite wall.

'Reaction time – poor.' Gwendolyn/Raven entered, Tarquin and his gun beside her. 'Needs improvement, newbies. Scorpius, you were fabulous as per.'

Scorpius hastily straightened up, his face flushed. Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven strode towards us with little matching smug smiles plastered across their faces.

'Right, you lot, introductions are due,' Tarquin said. 'Gather round.'

Gwendolyn/Raven rolled her eyes, but took a seat on one of the squashy couches regardless. Everyone followed suit. I ended up between Scorpius and Tarquin, trying to stop myself being swallowed by the sagging leather. Tarquin started talking.

'Every year, when we get new students, we have a little meeting-'

'A pow-wow.' Gwendolyn/Raven interrupted.

'-a little pow-wow, where we all say our names, and something interesting about ourselves, so we can get to know each other-'

'It's really stupid.' Gwendolyn/Raven cut across.

'-It's a little bit cheesy, I admit, but it lets us make new friends-'

'It's really stupid.'

'-so once Raven's done interrupting, we can get on with it. I'll go first, shall I?' Tarquin said. 'I'm Tarquin, I'm doing some sort of degree that's art related in the school of absolutely awesome.'

Another silence fell. Scorpius gave me a sharp jab in the ribs.

'I'm Lucy,' I smiled. 'I'm doing photography. And I'm only here because I'm an academic failure.'

'Hear, hear,' Tarquin murmured.

Scorpius went next. 'I'm Scorpius, and I'm doing photography.'

Eunice followed suit. 'I'm Eunice, and I'm nice! And I'm studying painting.'

'I'm Henry, I'm doing painting too, and I like cult literature and obscure bands.'

'I'm Raven, and I like poking dead things with a stick.'

The brooding boy was next. He stared straight at Tarquin with his deep, dark eyes.

'I don't exist.' he finally said, then went back to looking profound and miserable.

'Frances, doing pottery.' Frances said, in a wispy voice that was almost a whisper.

'Erm, I'm Ellen, and, er, I like-'

'Being indecisive.' Tarquin muttered.

'Intermedia art,' Ellen finished.

'That's all, I think, unless Dean's coming up…' Scorpius looked around hopefully.

'He went to get a sandwich, photography genius.' Gwendolyn/Raven smirked. Scorpius' face went pink again. He seemed to have left his dignity in the dark room. If he'd even had any to leave anywhere.

'That's all. Pip pip,' Tarquin called. Everyone stared around for a bit, then took the hint and started to talk amongst themselves. Gwendolyn/Raven pushed up off her sofa and perched next to Tarquin.

'Lucy,' she said. 'You're interesting. Fancy a cup of tea?'

I turned to Scorpius, who dipped his head slightly. I nodded.

'We'll be nice,' Gwendolyn/Raven said reassuringly. She looked at me, but I'm sure her words were intended for Scorpius. 'The place across the road does a cracking cuppa, but you've got to pay in muggle cash.'

'Er, don't we have lessons?' I asked. 'This being a school, and all?'

Both Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven stared at me blankly.

'Well, it's more open than that,' Scorpius explained. 'We just sort of...well, we just work when we want, really. Which in some cases,' he stared pointedly at Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven, 'isn't very much at all.'

'Isn't he adorable when he's trying to be stern?' Gwendolyn/Raven said fondly.

Five minutes and a crossing of a busy road later, we ended up in a titchy café. The place was deserted, a radio blasting out chart pop from behind the counter. Gwendolyn/Raven surveyed the room, hands on hips, and then selected a greasy table near the back.

'Come on Lucy, sit by me,' she pulled on my wrist. Rather reluctantly, I sat next to her. She rested her elbows on the table, steepled her fingers into a point, and then stared into the distance. Tarquin and Scorpius took the seats opposite.

A bored waitress sauntered over, notepad and pen in hand.

'Yeah?' she said, staring at the wall.

Gwendolyn/Raven fixed her eyes on the waitress. 'I'd like a Tia Maria on the rocks.'

'Make mine a Bloody Mary,' Tarquin added.

'Double shot of Firewhiskey for me,' I said, forgetting where I was.

Silence followed. Scorpius fidgeted and ordered four cups of tea.

'So,' Tarquin said, once the waitress had sloped off. 'Lucy. You've come to art school.'

'Expecting artistic talent, a good academic degree and some form of education, presumably.' Gwendolyn/Raven chipped in.

'However, you might find it rather…different. We're just giving you advance notice.'

'If you do feel educated and academically motivated in anyway, please let us know so that we can knock it out of you post haste.'

'Hedonism is our middle name. Well, we have lots of middle names, but that's one.'

'Don't be offended if we decide to give you concussion, it just means that we like you.'

'You two...' Scorpius sighed. I somehow got the feeling he'd seen a lot of this before.

'Of course,' Gwendolyn/Raven said darkly, 'There are some philistines like Scorpius that insist on...what's the saying?'

'A rigorous academic mindset,' Tarquin half-sang.

'But we tend to ignore them. Basically, what we're trying to say is that art school – or this particular art school anyway – is like the giant proverbial middle finger of life.'

'It tends to annoy and offend people,' Tarquin cut in. 'And, aesthetically, it looks quite neat.'

'And if you show it to your gran, she'll probably have kittens. Not literally. That's a figure of speech.'

Scorpius started to fiddle with his fringe. 'It's just a glorified college, Lucy.'

'You underestimate us, Scorpius. How's the band going?'

Scorpius' face turned a delicate shade of pink. His mouth opened and closed for a bit, and then he simply shrugged. Thankfully, he was saved by the waitress' reappearance with the tea. Scorpius grabbed his mug and busied himself with taking a sip.

'So,' I said, trying to spark a conversation. 'What's life like outside of art school?'

'Infinitely boring,' Tarquin said, 'although Scorpius is quite the poet.'

Scorpius spluttered into his tea and emerged coughing. Tarquin gave him a hearty thump on the back and continued. 'Well, we just hang around, really. Plenty of lovely little pubs.'

'They're all complete dives,' Gwendolyn/Raven muttered darkly. 'Don't buy a drink from The Lantern two streets down, I found an earwig in my pint once. Disappointing lack of ears and wigs.'

'We like going to see Scorpius' band too...'

'...it's good for practising your heckling.'

Scorpius went pink again.

'So you're in a band?' I asked. Scorpius made to answer, but Gwendolyn/Raven beat him to it.

'They're called Screaming Bloodthirsty Disco. It's a stinker of a name, isn't it?'

'I didn't choose it myself,' Scorpius said, huffily. 'I'm just a…a…a hired piano-playing lackey.'

'Whatever,' Gwendolyn/Raven waved him away. 'We also like going to those things where people read poetry and shout a lot.'

'It's called an open mic,' Scorpius muttered.

'There's one on tonight, I think,' Tarquin mused. 'We should go, just for kicks. Down at The Banshee on Knockturn alley. Should be a scream.'

I took a sip of my tea. It tasted like tepid dishwater.

'You should come, Lucy. Get an induction into our hectic lifestyles,' Tarquin said. 'And you can hear Scorpius read his poetry.'

'Please, no,' Scorpius mumbled.

'Come on, Scorpius, you need to build your fanbase,' Tarquin said. 'Get the word spread around, yeah?'

Scorpius shrugged.

'I'll go,' I attempted a smile, and I couldn't help but wonder what Rose would have said if she were there. It'd probably be something very loud and possibly also a tiny bit obscene.

The four of us lapsed into silence. Gwendolyn/Raven stirred her tea with her finger.

'So when do we meet?' I broke the silence.

Scorpius seemed to accept the inevitable. 'It starts at nine. It's next to the Apothecary on Knockturn Alley,' then, he added, 'Please don't come. It'll be rubbish.'

'May as well. I've got nothing better to do.'

'Scorpius is quite the poet,' Tarquin repeated. 'You can drop round our place before, Raven usually does.'

'You're flatmates?' I asked Scorpius.

'Unfortunately,' he said, rather quietly.

'Scorp is joking, he actually really loves living with me,' Tarquin said. 'Anyhow, either drop by us or we'll see you there.'

I shrugged. 'I'm pretty close to Knockturn Alley, I'll just meet you there.'

Scorpius swore under his breath.

Nine o'clock arrived quickly. By the time I'd got home and had lunch it was two in the afternoon. I fired off a couple of letters to my parents and to my sister, Molly, who'd just started fifth year at Hogwarts, to let them know I was still alive and, contrary to my mother's warnings, hadn't been mugged or abducted yet (neglecting to mention Scorpius in either letter for fear they might be in contact with a vengeful Rose). Then, at a quarter to eight, I left the flat, taking time to throw my landlord a dirty look as I passed through the hallway (the taps had been leaking non-stop since I arrived and he refused to fix them). Then it was off to Knockturn Alley, I place I'd only visited twice before: once with my father, when he insisted on holding my hand for my security, and the second time with a boyfriend who insisted on holding my hand for his security.

The Banshee was a small place close to the end of the street. I found Gwendolyn/Raven outside, desperately puffing on a tiny stub of cigarette, engulfed in a cloud of purple smoke. When she saw me she dropped it and dug it into the cobblestones with her heel.

'Hello, Lucy,' she grinned. 'Joining us?'

I nodded, then followed her inside into a dimly-lit room. A makeshift stage was propped up at the front, a man with a wild beard that gave him the appearance of a distinguished but somewhat mad hermit stood on it. He was shouting into what looked like a purple gramophone and I couldn't figure out a word he was saying; the audience hardly seemed to care less.

Gwendolyn/Raven led me to the back of the room, where Tarquin and Scorpius were sat at a grimy table. A battalion of bottles stood before them, and Scorpius had sunk down in his seat so low that only his face was visible.

'Drunk?' I asked.

'No,' Gwendolyn/Raven said, as we drew closer. 'He just has bad nerves. Most of that is Tarquin's.'

Tarquin didn't seem at all affected by the contents of the bottles he'd obviously just drunk. He gave me a friendly smile as we sat down.

'Hello, Lucy,' he said. 'Welcome to art school life.'

'Who's the guy on the stage?' I asked.

'Oh, He works in Flourish and Blotts. Does a lot of stuff about the theory of infinity and the complexity of the human mind. Very interesting stuff. Got a muggle degree in something. Amazingly clever guy. Barking mad, though. No idea what he's on about at the moment. Beer?'

I accepted a bottle from him. Gwendolyn/Raven was staring off into space. I had to admit that the two of them seemed a good deal more normal than the slightly frightening first impression I'd got of them the day before.

Scorpius still hadn't said a word. I gave him a little nudge.

'Hello,' I said. 'Ready to read us your poem?'

'I've got one,' he said, showing me a tightly-folded square of white parchment. 'But it's terrible. I'm not reading it.'

'Can't be that bad, can I have a look?'

I lunged for the parchment, but he stuffed it into his shirt pocket.

'No,' he said firmly. 'Absolutely not.'

Silence fell. Tarquin drummed his fingers on the table. The bearded hermit man on stage finished spluttering at the gramophone and left, clambering down and disappearing into the crowd. A girl with a shock of frizzy red hair stepped up with what looked like a bright yellow guitar in her hand. Well, a very small guitar. A bonsai guitar, if you will.

'That's Morgana and her ukulele,' Gwendolyn/Raven explained. 'She's got adequate mastery of the instrument, but her singing standards are-'

Gwendolyn/Raven was interrupted by what sounded like a cat being slowly throttled, slightly out of odds with the genteel plinking of the ukulele.

'-somewhat lacking,' she finished.

Thankfully, most of Morgana's screeching wail was drowned out by the crowd, who had started talking a little louder and more animatedly since she'd arrived on stage. I cast a glance around my fellow audience members. A rather large majority of them would probably have given my dad multiple heart attacks and a reason to write angry letters to The Daily Prophet. I counted seven other people with blue hair.

It struck me as funny how these were the sorts of people I'd be spending the next three years of my life with. And there was no backing out now.

Tarquin struck up conversation again. 'Have you heard?' he said, a little more loudly, as Morgana struck up a number that seemed to be called This Is How I Scream, It's Rather Noisy. 'The Weird Sisters are thinking of doing a reunion tour? We should go and see them, you know, just to be more at one with the world.'

'Ugh, I would, but they'll only play big venues.' Gwendolyn/Raven said, rolling her eyes. 'And if there's anything I hate, it's an abundance of people.'

'Yeah, but, Gwen-'

'Stop calling me Gwen!' Gwendolyn/Raven cried so loudly that a group of people standing at the bar turned and stared. Tarquin threw his hands up in apology.

'Whoops, forgot, sorry,' he said, then turned to me. 'You into much music, Lucy?'

I shrugged. 'Yeah, kind of. Muggle stuff too. Thing is, I come from a family where the Weird Sisters are still considered, well, of-the-moment.'

'She's not joking,' came Scorpius' voice from under the table.

'How do you know?' Tarquin said, one eyebrow raised. 'Have you two met before?'

'He used to go out with my cousin Rose.'

'Ah!' Tarquin's face lit up. 'She's the…the slightly…um….'

'Violent one?' I said. 'Yeah, her.'

'I was going to say ginger, but violent will do. How's she doing?' he turned to the top of Scorpius' head, which seemed to be sinking lower into the seat. 'Scorpius, you haven't invited Albus over in ages, he was a decent chap.'

'Well,' I started to explain. 'Al was on a gap year, but now he's gone off to train as a Healer, and Rose is studying law someplace in Westminster, I think, I went to see her yesterday and-'

Scorpius shot up so fast he nearly smacked his head off the table. 'You saw Rose?'

'Just in case you're wondering, no, I didn't tell her you were here.'

He sunk back under the table again. 'Good. Oh, she'd kill me if she found out.'

'Remind me, Scorp, why you did a runner?' Gwendolyn/Raven asked, in the sort of nasty voice that suggested she was quite enjoying his misery.

Indecipherable mumbling came from the top of Scorpius' head.

'A little louder, Scorpius, for those of us who aren't blessed with the ears of a bat.'

Scorpius sat up slightly. 'I've told you this story about five hundred times.'

'Yeah, well, I've got selective amnesia.' she said. 'Go for it.'

Scorpius sighed, but started talking rather reluctantly. 'Rose wanted me to live with her, study law and whatnot, I didn't, she's a bit, uh, well, you know, I couldn't..., well I just decided it was best to, you know, do a runner. There. That's the story.' He grabbed a bottle and started to down it like there was no tomorrow (I couldn't blame him for that). Gwendolyn/Raven smirked.

Morgana and her ukulele finished onstage. A short man dressed entirely in black stepped up to the gramophone and cleared his throat.

'Just to let you know,' he said, in a reedy voice, 'that the microphone will only be open for half an hour more, and then we'll switch to our regular schedule. Erm, thanks.'

The audience had already started talking by the time he finished. Scorpius gave an almighty sigh.

'Shame, doesn't look like I'll get to read my poem, then.' he said, in a forced wistful voice. Both Gwendolyn/Raven and Tarquin turned, and I suddenly had a rather sneaky plan.

'Yeah, that is a shame, isn't it,' I said, winking at Gwendolyn/Raven. Deftly, I reached into Scorpius' shirt pocket (which would have been awkward in most situations, but I was a girl on a mission) and snatched out the poem, then, before he had a chance to react, darted out from behind the table and sped towards the stage. From behind me, I thought I heard Scorpius shout something like 'Lucy, no!' but already I was halfway through the crowd, pushing my way through the knots of people, almost at the stage.

It looked surprisingly big up close. After asking for a leg-up from a bemused man with a mullet, I scrambled up to the gramophone and unfolded the parchment, gazing out at a crowd which suddenly looked a lot more intimidating now that I could see their faces.

'Hi everyone!' I said, cheerfully as possible, although my voice was trembling. 'This is a poem by my friend Scorpius, but he doesn't want to read it, so, er, I'm reading it for him!'

Blank faces stared at me from around the room. Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven were waving frantically at the back, Scorpius nowhere in sight. I presumed he'd given up all hope and slid under the table completely. I couldn't exactly blame him for that either.

The poem was rather difficult to read. For a moment I thought Scorpius had written it in hieroglyphics, then I squinted at the parchment, realised it was upside down, corrected my mistake, and started to read.

'As you perambulate through the door,
I gaze on the future we had before
you left. Left for the law, a cruel
mistress, walked o'er our plans,
turned me fool.
Now look who's in the tower. Get
down from your turret and-'


I stopped, held the poem away and waved at the back of the room. 'Hey, Scorpius, is this about my cousin?'

The crowd rippled with laughter. I turned back to the poem, which had become such a frantic scribble that I couldn't read it anymore. I shrugged.

'Okay, so the rest of it is basically illegible…blah blah blah, something something heart, something something power…more scribbling…' I reached the last two lines, which were printed in clear, block capitals. 'When picking a rose, watch out for thorns. Oh, wait…' squinting down at the parchment, I saw that Scorpius had written shout!!! next to this. 'Sorry, everyone. I was supposed to shout that. Oh, well, nevermind. Thank you!'

A smattering of applause came from the crowd. Mullet-man helped me back down off the stage, giving me a hearty thump on the back and an encouraging grin. I made my way back towards where Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven were sat, doubled over laughing, the bottles scattered around them. Scorpius was nowhere to be seen.

'Where's Scorpius?' I asked. Tarquin pointed to underneath the table. Looking more closely, I could see a tuft of brown hair sticking out over the table edge.

'That was hilarious,' Tarquin said, through a mighty grin. Gwendolyn/Raven ducked her head under the table then emerged a few seconds later.

'He's not resurfacing until everyone's gone home. Oh, and he wants to murder you with passive-aggression, Lucy.'

I copied her, crouching down to see Scorpius hunched beside the table leg, nursing a bottle and looking nothing short of traumatised.

'I know,' I told him, grinning stupidly. 'It was rather cruel. But you got your poem read, didn't you?'

He stared blankly at me.

'Come on,' I said, in a jolly sort of voice. 'It was just a bit of fun. Okay, I know I barely know you, but you basically asked for it to be read-'

'You didn't read it right,' he said, sounding a little hurt. 'And it was iambic pentameter, you were supposed to stress every other syllable, and there's ten syllables in a line…' he shook his head, evidently realising how silly he sounded. 'No, never mind.'

'Exactly.' I grinned. The two of us stared in opposite directions, silent for a moment, and I think I meant to apologise, but was saved from doing so by Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven slithering down from their seats with their arms full of bottles.

'Can we join in?' Gwendolyn/Raven said. 'Looks rather cosy down here,'

It was, in reality, an adequately bizarre way to end my first day at art school. But, truth be told, crammed underneath a table, sitting on a sticky floor with three of the oddest people I'd ever encountered in my life, I think I felt perfectly at home.

Well, you know what they say. It takes one to know one.



A/N: edited 22/04/2011, 19/08/2011, 13/04/2012 and also 21/06/2013 oh god when will the edits stop *screeches*
nb - I'm aware that Molly is, in fact, the younger sister, but I am an idiot who copied the family tree from the lexicon wrong and switched Molly and Lucy around. erkk. Anyway, by the time I noticed I was too far into this story to change it, so I'd like to apologise for being a blithering idiot and ask that you all suspend your disbelief and pretend that Lucy was blates the older sister all along~
And a wee spot of shameless self-promotion: I have a tumblr for fanfiction extras, the link to which can be found on my author's page (the url is peppersweet-hpff). There's a lot of material for this story on there, including drawings and a playlist or two! I'd love it if you checked it out (it'll give you valuable insight into my pea-sized brain).

Chapter 4: Al and his Many Elbows
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Chapter Four : Al and his Many Elbows





Dear Lucy,
How are you doing? We were delighted to get your letter the other day; it’s lovely to hear that you’re making new friends so quickly. Your Dad is pleased that you’ve decided to do photography, he says you’ll come in handy when Dominique gets married, because it’ll save money if we don’t have to get a proper photographer.
Are you free next Saturday? Molly has a visit to Hogsmeade that weekend, and we thought we’d meet her and some of the family in the Three Broomsticks to catch up. The Potters and Uncle Ron’s family have already said yes, it’d be really lovely if you could come. Molly’s dying to hear about your new friends. We’re meeting there at one. If you do decide to come, please remember to dress sensibly. I know you’re an art student now, but I don’t know how much more your poor Dad can take.
Lots of love,
Mummy.



My mother was never one for tact, but, with nothing else to do and a virtually non-existent workload, I decided to meet up with them anyway. I didn’t quite know how to interpret ‘dress sensibly’- wouldn’t the blue hair give it away a little? – so I stuck to a usual dull combination of shirt (pinstripes, of course) and a pair of jeans that had been stagnating on the floor for three days. The camera came with me, after an hour’s patient tutorial from Scorpius and a hastily-scrawled manual with a little diagram of what all the buttons did and which ones I shouldn’t press.


That was really the only learning I’d done all week. I turned up at ten every morning without fail, usually to find Henry and Eunice inside looking understandably concerned about the lack of students and especially the lack of Mr Holstone at the front desk. I later discovered that he lived in a small bedsit just behind the Art School, and at quiet times in the year, wasn’t known to surface before at least one in the afternoon. Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven seemed to appear and disappear whenever it took their fancy, sometimes dissapparating in the middle of conversations when they felt bored. I didn’t see anything of the other three – Ellen, Frances, or the brooding nameless boy - until Scorpius told me that they were all doing things like Pottery and Ceramics and were more likely to be cloistered in ‘where we keep the kiln’. Once Eunice had figured out where the paint stock cupboard was, she tended to shut herself up in there all day. Painting, according to her, was ‘super fun’. So, in the end, the regular common-room lodgers were me, Scorpius, and Henry, although Scorpius assured me that once I’d taken some pictures, we’d probably be in the Dark Room all day.


I didn’t know whether to look forward to this or not. I mean, the idea of learning to develop my own photographs was pretty cool, but the idea of being locked into a small, fusty cupboard with my cousin’s ex-boyfriend really wasn’t so cool. He wasn’t much of a conversationalist.


I had no deadline to take the photos by. Scorpius seemed content with hanging about aimlessly in the common room, drinking endless cups of tea and scribbling in a battered notebook that I suspected had something to do with poetry. Henry brought in some of his ‘obscure band’ records to play on the art school’s worn old gramophone, although I’m sure his music taste was a little more pedestrian than he’d hinted at. Soon, I had a ‘place’ on the sofa, my own mug for tea breaks, and my own little stash of records that Henry would sneer at and call ‘mainstream’. When I’d started Hogwarts, it had taken a week for me to even talk to anyone or do anything apart from stare at my shoes. By the end of my first week at art school, I was already bickering with Obscure Henry and reading Scorpius’ poetry. Which was awful, mind.


So although there wasn’t much to do at the weekend (apart from what Gwendolyn/Raven described as ‘Hedge hopping’ and I suspected was largely illegal) it was with some reluctance that I dragged myself out of bed on the Saturday morning, dressed and hauled myself over to Rose’s flat in Kensington, which, with a fireplace, was the only viable way to get up to Hogsmeade. I was still bleary-eyed when I rang her doorbell. Rose, by contrast, was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, although I think that had something to do with the fact that since I’d last seen her, I’d dyed my hair blue.


‘Lucy!’ she squealed. ‘What have you done?’


‘To my hair?’ I asked, already used to the reactions (most of which were astonished or, in the occasional art student’s case, approving). ‘Yeah, I had an accident in an apothecary. No biggie.’


She stared for a full minute.


‘Your dad is going to murder you,’ she said, evidently having some difficulty concealing a smug grin. ‘Not to mention your mum, and I think Molly might be a little shocked too.’


‘It’s my hair, not theirs,’ I told her, airily. ‘I can dye it whichever colour I wish.’


I pushed past her and into the sitting room. I’d barely made it within three paces of the door when a gangly blur ran into me.


‘Lucy!’ the blur yelled. ‘How nice to see you!’


Slightly winded, I stepped back from the blur - which turned out to be my cousin Al. He gave me a high-five so powerful I thought I heard my fingers snap. He seemed to have grown about ten extra knees and elbows since I’d last seen him a year or so ago when he’d gone off on his gap year. His hair was as messy as ever, and, even without glasses, he bore an uncanny resemblance to Uncle Harry.


‘How’s it going?’ I asked him. He grinned.


‘Just starting my course. Did you know, once I’m fully qualified, I could section you?’


‘Nope, but now I do.’


He hadn’t stopped grinning. ‘And I hear you’re at art school?’


‘Ooh, yeah, it’s great fun! I’ve made some really good friends, including Sc-Tarquin!’


‘Sc-Tarquin?’ Al said, curiously. ‘That’s an odd name.’


I felt my face flush a dull red, knowing that I’d almost said ‘Scorpius’ in the presence of Rose. And, you know, I didn’t want to be responsible for triggering her complete mental breakdown.


‘It’s just Tarquin,’ I told him. ‘Sc-Tarquin’s his nickname.’


He gave me an odd look, but the moment was salvaged by Rose clearing her throat.


‘Come on,’ she said, gesticulating towards the fireplace. ‘No time for dilly-dallying, we’re going to be late!’


Al rolled his eyes. Rose grabbed a handful of Floo powder and threw it into the fire. Deep green flames roared up in the grate, and she stepped in, yelling ‘The Three Broomsticks, Hogsmeade!’ before vanishing.


‘Ladies first,’ Al said, pushing me forwards. I stared at the fire for a second and then wheeled round, thinking fast.


‘Al,’ I said, hurriedly. ‘You know how I said I was at Art School with Sc-Tarquin? Well, you also know how there’s only one art school in south England, and Scorpius happens to be there too?’


‘Yeah.’ He nodded.


‘Well, don’t let Rose find that out. Or we’ll all be dead.’


‘I’ve kept it secret for a year already,’ he shrugged. ‘I haven’t seen him in a bit, what with being away and all. Is he alright?’


‘He’s fine. Bit weird, but he’s nice.’


‘Yeah, well, he’s always been like that. Still writing poetry?’


I nodded.


‘Ah, he’s such a weirdo. Poetry.’ Al tutted to himself. ‘I always wondered why Rose went for him, I mean, self-respecting-’


‘Stuck up.’


‘Yeah, okay, stuck-up girl like her, not really the type to go for a camera-fancying poet, is she?’


We both considered the logistics of the relationship for a second.


‘Well, we better get to Hogsmeade,’ Al sighed. ‘You know what Rose is like with…you know, timekeeping.’


I stepped into the fire and threw a handful of Floo Powder into the grate, calling out ‘The Three Broomsticks, Hogsmeade!’


A few minutes and a highly uncomfortable journey through the nation’s fireplaces later, I was sprawled on the floor in The Three Broomsticks, covered in soot, coughing. Rose stared down at me disapprovingly, but, then again, she didn’t have many other facial expressions to pick from.


‘Honestly, Lucy, what on earth took you so long!’


‘I forgot how to work the fire,’


She gave me a blank look. ‘You forgot how to work a fire?’


‘Yeah, well, not all of us are at Law school, Rosie. I’ve been inhaling paint and chemical fumes for a week, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’d had an effect on me.’


Rose tittered. A second later, Al shot out of the fireplace, landing on the rug in a tangle of limbs. Straightening up, he nearly whacked his head off the low ceiling.


‘We’re early,’ Rose said, crisply. ‘Just as planned. We’ve got a room booked. Bit of privacy, hmm?'


I was about to blurt out something stupid about hardly needing privacy when we had a family so big and obvious (and mostly ginger), but stopped myself. Al loped across the room and dropped into a seat.


‘Comfy, isn’t it?’ he said, brightly. ‘You got a camera there, Lucy? Going to take some pictures?’


I curled my hands around the camera, trying to hide it behind my back. ‘Erm, I might. If the lighting’s right.’


‘Excuses, excuses.’ Al tittered.


That moment, the door opened and my parents entered. My mother screamed.


‘Lucy! Your hair!’ she gasped. My father’s eyebrows had nearly hit his hairline, and considering that he was almost bald, that was some achievement.


I shrugged. After a moment’s stunned silence from both of my parents, they were jostled out of the way by my sister Molly, who barged into the room and gawped at me. Slowly, her face grew into a smile.


‘Lucy, you’re such a rebel!’ she grinned. ‘Your hair looks like Drooble’s Gum!’


‘Chewy?’ came Albus’ voice from the other side of the room. He was duly ignored. A moment later, the door opened again and The Potters entered, closely followed by Uncle Ron, Aunt Hermione, and my cousin Hugo. Aunt Hermione looked positively startled at the sight of me, while the others looked entirely nonplussed.


In five minutes’ time, we were sat around the large table that dominated the room. A waiter took an order for drinks and then shut the door, leaving us in a peculiar sort of silence – well, peculiar considering that there were thirteen of us sat there. Al coughed.


‘So, um, Rose,’ he said, glancing around the table as if to persuade us into joining the conversation. ‘How’s law school?’


Rose sat up slightly. ‘Very interesting, funny you should ask. The other day we were doing a case study about this man who bought a wand from a shop in Knockturn Alley, and then when it started backfiring on him, he was refused a refund because it had ‘chosen him’ and the wand-makers claimed that the wand just didn’t like him very much...’


I decided that the small piece of fluff on the table in front of me was more interesting than Rose’s anecdote. Ten minutes later when she had finished and the drinks still hadn’t arrived yet, Uncle Ron broke the stupor by leaving in search of them, closely followed by Uncle Harry, Aunt Ginny, and my cousins James and Al.


‘Molly,’ my dad asked, to the half-empty room. Molly shot up from where she’d been slumped on the table, carving lines in the wood with a talon-like fingernail. ‘How’s school coming along?’


‘Eh.’ Molly shrugged.


‘What about Transfiguration? You like Transfiguration, don’t you?’


‘Eh.’


‘How’s the O.W.L work?’


‘Eh.’


My dad changed tack.


‘Lucy, what’s art school like for you?’


‘Eh.’ I told him. He shot me a look so filthy I instantly had a burning desire to wash my face. ‘Oh, well, it’s super. Super duper. Fantastic. Ace. Etcetera.’


‘What sort of painters are you studying? I hear that the syllabus even goes into looking at muggle artists, seen any you like yet?’


The only ‘art’ I’d seen so far had been Tarquin’s paintball madness. I shrugged.


‘We’re mostly doing technical stuff. Plus I’m doing photography, so I don’t really mingle with the painters.’


‘Ah, alright. How’s that going?’


‘It’s good fun. The other day Sc-Tarquin showed me how to develop a photo all by myself.’ I said, in a rush, knowing that I had almost said Scorpius again. Forget cats; that would have let the whole bloody zoo out of the bag. I thought I saw Rose stiffen slightly just along the table from me.


Thankfully, the moment was salvaged by the re-entry of the rest of the party, accompanied by a large levitating tray of drinks. I busied myself in my Butterbeer the moment it was plonked down in front of me by an especially tall-looking Al.


‘How was the gap year, Al?’ Uncle Ron asked. ‘Don’t think we’ve seen you since you came back.’


‘It was really good,’ Al said, sitting in his chair and folding his legs under the table. ‘I went to visit Uncle Charlie in Romania and he showed me these really cool dragons, and then there were a few Quidditch matches and a pub crawl in Transylvania, my mate got totally wasted, it was hilarious, we stripped him off and tied him to a-’


‘Let’s have a toast, shall we?’ Uncle Harry said, hurriedly. ‘To the students amongst us!’


A moment’s silence fell over the table as we drank.


‘Are you going to take any pictures, Lucy?’ my mum asked. ‘That’s a nice camera you’ve got there.’


I glanced down at the rusty old box-like camera carefully balanced on the edge of the table.


‘Ah, yes,’ I told her. ‘It’s a...er...phototronic X78BBQ.’


‘Oh! I’ve never heard of that make before. Is it a special one for artists?’


I wanted to tell her that I’d never heard of the make before either having just made it up, but I decided that I’d done enough looking stupid for one week and kept quiet, nodding.


‘Well,’ she said. ‘Do you want your dad and I to pose for a photo?’ she started shuffling in her chair next to my dad, who looked very uncomfortable.


‘Erm, nah, it’s alright...’ I shrugged. At my mum’s affronted face, I dredged up one of Scorpius’ wise photography sayings. ‘Candid photos are always the best because you get the subject looking really natural, posed photos are quite forced.’


The photography conversation died after that. Talk turned again to one of Rose’s lengthy law yarns.


‘Very good excuse, Lucy, did you come up with that one yourself?’ Al murmured. I gave him the evil eye.


‘Of course I didn’t. It’s one of Sc-Tarquin’s pearls of photography wisdom.’


Al grinned and lifted his butterbeer to take a sip. Seizing the moment, I lifted the camera, aimed the lens at him, and hit the shutter release.


There was an almighty BANG! and for a second I was blinded, engulfed in a cloud of acid-green smoke.


‘Bloody hell!’ Al exclaimed, once enough of the smoke had cleared. He appeared to have slopped a fair bit of Butterbeer down his front. ‘Lucy, give us a little warning the next time!’


Coughing, I held the camera out at arm’s length. ‘I didn’t know that was going to happen!’


On the plus side, the blast seemed to have knocked a fair bit of rust off the casing. And Rose had shut up.


‘Lucy,’ my dad said, slowly. ‘Aren’t you supposed to take the lens cap off before you take a picture?’


The ensuing blush might have been hot enough to fry an egg, had anybody put an egg on my face. Which would be weird.


‘Ah,’ I said. ‘You might be right about that.’


Thirteen pairs of eyes watched – no, stared - at me as I clipped off the lens cap and shoved it in my pocket. Heaving the camera up again (rust came off and stuck to my fingers) I attempted a nonchalant grin.


‘Art school is going well.’ I told them, brightly.


After a moment or two of stunned silence, talk resumed. Al glared at me, still soaked with Butterbeer.


I lifted the camera. ‘One more for good luck?’


He flinched as I hit the shutter release. Thankfully, this time there were no theatrics, but a satisfying little click-whirr as the picture was taken. Remembering what Scorpius had told me, I flicked the lever that would wind the film on, ready for the next photo.


Al opened one eye. ‘Is it safe to come out yet?’


‘Definitely,’ I waved the camera in his face. ‘It’s all hunky dory, camera-wise.’


An arm shot out in front of us and we both jumped.


‘Take my photo!’ Molly grinned, waving her arm about in my face. With her other hand, she plumped up her hair, throwing a little pout in for good measure. Al gave her a funny look. With another click-whirr of the camera, my second picture was taken.


Molly threw her arm around a baffled-looking James and dragged him next to her. Click-whirr. Another photo. Then Rose was in the frame, looking positively alarmed, and soon Molly had been around the whole table and I’d used up half a roll of film.


‘Individual shots!’ Molly called out, to a collective rolling of the eyes. She pushed Rose forwards, and, squinting through the viewfinder, I managed to get the perfect picture of her in mid-surprise. Molly gave me the thumbs up and shoved Lily and Hugo forward for the next photo.


‘Sc-Tarquin will like that one of Rose.’ Al murmured, as I snapped Lily and Hugo looking distinctly uncomfortable.


‘Sc-Tarquin cares not for Rose,’ I lied, remembering how Scorpius jumped every time he heard her name. ‘He cares for the simple things in life, like poetry and photography and-’


Al shook his head. ‘He’s in a state whenever he gets a whiff of her, isn’t he?’


I wasn’t sure that ‘whiff’ was the right word to describe Rose, but nodded anyway.


‘I’ll come and visit sometime,’ he said. ‘It’d be nice to catch up. Is the scary girl with the eyeliner still there?’


‘You bet.’


‘Ah. They’re such a mad lot.’


‘You’re telling me. I have to hang out with them.’


‘You love it really.’


There was a pause.


‘Yes. Yes, I do.’




A/N: edited 05/05/2012
edited 19/08/2011 - new chapter image
edited 22/04/2011

Chapter 5: A Sparkly Lettuce
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Chapter Five: A Sparkly Lettuce




(A.K.A Tarquin fails at pranks.)




‘We’re nearly done,’ Scorpius said, consulting his glow-in-the-dark watch. ‘Only thirty seconds or so now.’


Prodding the tray of developing chemical in front of him, he squinted down at the first of my slowly-appearing photos. Well, I could only assume that he was squinting, given that we were bathed in rather dim red light, and for all I could see of him he could have had no head. Sure enough, the picture darkened and eventually became clearer – it was Al, in a perfect comedy pose of surprise, with his head pulled back enough to give himself a glorious amount of chins.


‘That’s Al, isn’t it.’ Scorpius said, quite fondly, as he hoisted the photo out of the tray with the tongs and dumped it into the stopping chemical.


‘Yep. Surprised Al, anyway.’


‘At his best.’


Silence fell. Scorpius transferred the picture to the last tray, rubbed his hands together in a business-like fashion, and then crossed the room back to the Enlarger.


‘We’ll do a few before we turn the light on.’ he said. We fell into another companionable silence while the next two photos were processed, him occasionally muttering something like ‘nice composition’ or ‘that’s…an interesting photo.’


I’d completely forgotten that Rose was in the majority of the fourth photo. Not even that: Rose was the fourth photo. When Scorpius gave the Enlarger another good smack to expose it onto the paper, his reaction was a rather odd move that was somewhere between a hop, a skip, and a jump, and resulted in him whacking his head off the low-hanging lamp.


‘Ah,’ he said, weakly. ‘Rose. Er...’


He dithered about for a second longer while the picture was developing, then lifted the paper between a thumb and forefinger and tossed it into the developing chemical as if it was a bomb. I watched with some interest.


‘Surprised me there, a bit,’ he gibbered. ‘Didn’t expect to see...erm...shall we do the next photo?’


He turned around and hit his head off the low-hanging lamp again.


‘Do you need to have a seat for a second?’ I asked. He waved me away and ducked under the lamp, moving over to the Enlarger again. I peered into the developing chemical, saw that Rose’s picture was done, and transferred it to the bowl of stopper. Like Al’s, it was a comedy snap; her eyes were wide, staring, her jaw slack, mouth hanging open in a way that wasn’t at all attractive. The photo did move, but Rose seemed to do nothing more than blink and look eternally alarmed.


I had a sudden sneaky suspicion that Scorpius would steal this photo, possibly to make into a dartboard. To ward off any light-fingered thievery, I pinned it up onto the makeshift washing-line Scorpius had strung across the room to hang wet pictures on. Scorpius had already delivered two more photos to the developing chemical by this point.


‘Blimey, what did you do to your family?’ he said, gazing at the row of developed photos and surprised faces.


‘It was my hair,’ I told him, sadly. ‘Gave them all the heebie-jeebies. And just the art school thing in general. Plus the camera was about the size of a hippopotamus, it was just a tad alarming…’


‘You should have seen my dad when I told him I was going to study art,’ he said, mournfully. ‘Nearly did the Avada Kedavra on me. But, anyway,’ he added, breezily. ‘Not bad for your first batch of photos.’


I started to gather the finished pictures together. Scorpius consulted his watch.


‘Eleven o’clock,’ he said. ‘Tea break.’


‘Didn’t we have a tea break at half ten?’


‘Yes. But we have a tea break at eleven too. Then the next is at twelve, which is officially lunch, then there’s...’ he thought about it for a moment. ‘Half one, quarter past two, and half three. If nobody’s buggered off home by that point.’


‘How many breaks do you have?’


He shook a finger at me. ‘You can’t develop photos on an empty stomach. So we have a few. Well, Raven gets more, because she seems to take a fag break every ten minutes or so.’


‘I’m not complaining, I’m all for the idea of...well, tea...’


Scorpius started clearing away the chemicals; I fixed an elastic band around my batch of photos and stashed them on the shelf. Pulling on the cord, Scorpius flooded the room with light.


‘A little warning next time.’ I told him, through gritted teeth, half-blinded. He was already leaving, holding the door open for me as I staggered, squinting, towards it. We were halfway down the stairs before I got my sight back, which was just as well. I hated the thought of falling downstairs and landing on Scorpius, of all people. Not much to break the fall with, considering he was almost skinny enough to disappear when he turned sideways.


The common room was deserted aside from The Brooding Nameless One and Obscure Henry, who was perusing an issue of a music magazine that looked to be more pictures than words. Scorpius waved his wand in the vague direction of the kettle, sending a box of teabags soaring across the room. Obscure Henry deftly caught it one-handed and threw it back with a heavy roll of the eyes.


Once the kettle was on the boil, I took my usual cross-legged seat on one of the squishy sofas as far away as The Brooding Nameless One as possible. He gave me a brooding and frankly rather malicious look. I looked back with what I assumed was equal doom and gloom. An anguished staring contest unfortunately commenced, broken by Scorpius loyally missing a mug and pouring boiling water all over his shoes, which was quite the distraction.


Minor flood catastrophe averted, he handed me my usual cup (two sugars, natch) and settled down on the sofa beside me, taking a hefty sip of his own. He looked up, glasses entirely steamed up, before pulling them off and folding them into his pocket.


‘Lovely tea.’ he said, in a voice that didn’t quite sound like Scorpius. Mainly because it was disguised by a thick Russian accent, and it took me about five minutes to process.


‘Huh?’ I asked him.


‘Lovely tea.’ he repeated. The distinct Slavic tone only seemed stonger.


‘What are you even saying?’ I asked. He gave me a funny look.


He said something else indecipherable, slowly pointing at the tea.


‘You’re...talking Russian?’ I told him, equally slowly. Once again he shot me a perplexed look and said something else in his new-found Russian accent that I couldn’t quite get my head around.


But then something seemed to dawn on him. Grabbing a sheet of parchment and a broken biro from a nearby table, he scribbled a message and passed it to me.


‘I can’t read it,’ I told him. ‘It’s in Russian.’


Obscure Henry and The Brooding Nameless One were staring.


‘What’s is wrong with him?’ Obscure Henry asked, only he’d suddenly acquired an accent straight out of Germany. Me, Scorpius, and The Brooding Nameless One all turned to stare.


‘Scorpius is Russian.’ I said, helplessly. Scorpius rolled his eyes and grabbed back the parchment, scribbling furiously again. After a few moments he handed it back; he’d drawn two little stick figures, one in a dress pointing to a Scottish flag, the other in trousers pointing at a German flag. Then, underneath, he’d drawn a bird, and managed to scrawl ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ next to it.


‘Scorpius, I don’t even get what you’re trying to say with this, but it makes no sense whatsoever, much like you...’


He said something else I couldn’t understand for the life of me, coupled with another hefty eye-roll. Just then, the door to ‘where we keep the kiln’ burst open and Frances rushed in. She looked about desperately, saw us all politely staring at her, and then exclaimed ‘Zut Alors!’


She was closely followed by Ellen, who barged past and looked at us all in turn.


‘What’s going on?’ she said, in a West Country accent so think I could have sworn on my life that she’d been born there and lived there to this day, and probably confirmed a whole lot of regional stereotypes in her spare time. Scorpius said something in a very Russian manner, whilst Frances jabbered away in the sort of fluent French I hadn’t heard since I’d last seen my auntie Fleur.


‘You’re Russian!’ Ellen exclaimed, pointing at Scorpius.


‘He’s not making any sense at all-’ I started to say, but Ellen cut across.


‘Woah! Lucy! Since when were you from Glasgow!’ she giggled. I stared at her. Moments later, they were joined by Eunice, who was babbling away in something that sounded like Latin.


‘I’m not from Glasgow! And since when were you from the West Country?’


‘I’m not! I’m from Newcastle!’ she said.


‘Say combine harvester.’


She said combine harvester. Scorpius said something panicky in Russian.


‘We’re all speaking in tongues,’ Ellen said, in her West Country way. ‘Well, you and me are making perfect sense, but I’d be a genius if I understood what any of this lot-’ she gestured around the room, ‘are saying.’


Just then, the door was thrown open and Mr Holstone dashed in, wearing what looked to be a veil of crumbs, a half-eaten sandwich clenched in one hand.


‘I say!’ he cried, uncharacteristically enthusiastic and also uncharacteristically cut-glass and snooty. ‘This is jolly queer!’


Ellen and I exchanged looks. Scorpius said something to Mr Holstone in Russian, but was duly ignored as he took a large bite out of the sandwich and chewed it thoughtfully.


‘Well, whatever’s happened, we’re all talking odd.’ I told him, in an accent I supposed must have been Scottish, but sounded perfectly Lucy to me. Glasgow must have still been in my voice, though, because Mr Holstone’s jaw dropped open slightly, displaying an attractive array of partially-chewed food. From behind him, Gwendolyn/Raven entered, inspecting her nails with apparent boredom.


‘Tarquin’s downstairs,’ she said, to the room in general. If I hadn’t known better, I would have judged that she’d lived in Texas all her life. ‘You may want to speak to him.’


Mr Holstone abandoned his sandwich on a nearby shelf and made for the stairs, saying ‘Well, he’s being ebsolutely bloody, this is just orful...’


A moment later, there was an immense crash-bang-wallop and a strangled sort of cry.


‘Don’t mean to alarm you, guys...’ Tarquin’s curiously normal voice drifted up from the stairwell. ‘But Mr Holstone’s fallen down the stairs.’


There was a moment of scuffling, then Mr Holstone shouted ‘Unhand me, you rogue!’


Ellen and I exchanged looks again. Frances and Eunice were hopping from foot to foot, looking distressed in their respective French and Latin ways. Tarquin emerged from the staircase, as cool as a particularly cool cucumber, dusted off his shoulder, and glanced at us all.


‘Tarquin,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, in a calm voice that was slightly at odds with her expression, which seemed to indicate the burning, angry passion of a thousand rather pissed-off Hungarian Horntails. ‘Is this your idea of a joke?’


‘Funny, isn’t it?’ he said, cheerily. ‘I found this spell that’s supposed to-’


He didn’t get the chance to finish speaking, however, as Gwendolyn/Raven smacked him over the back of the head with her palm.


‘You planned a joke without me!’ she fumed in her southern twang. ‘Come on! We were going to glue the sofas to the ceiling! What happened to that?’


‘Well,’ Tarquin said, with a heavy sigh. ‘We were going to do that, but now you’ve gone and revealed it, you prat-’


She smacked him over the head again. ‘Take the spell off!’ she commanded. Tarquin had the nerve to stick his tongue out at her before her hand went up again, and he dug in his pocket with a weary sort of resignation.


‘Alright, alright, I’ll take the spell off. How did everyone turn out?’


‘Just hurry up and cast it!’ Ellen exclaimed. Tarquin’s smile twitched.


‘Fine.’ He said, extracting his wand from his pocket, and giving it a straggly sort of wave over the room, which let out a collective gasp of relief (curiously, it sounded like a giant balloon deflating. It was difficult not to smile.) ‘Finite.’


Scorpius turned to me without hesitation. ‘Lucy, honestly,’ he pointed to the picture he’d drawn. ‘Look, that’s supposed to be you, with the flag symbolising your Scottish-ness, and then that’s Henry, with a German flag because he was speaking German, and then that’s a bird which is supposed to be Raven, because I thought she was behind it...duh!’


‘You sound superior,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, plonking herself down onto the sofa between us. ‘Why do you sound superior? That gives me some cause for concern.’


‘Lucy didn’t get my drawing-’


‘You were speaking Russian!’


‘Well,’ she said, comfortably. ‘Let bygones be bygones. Look what I found!’


With the air of a magician producing a rabbit from a hat, she pulled a flyer out of her pocket and dangled it in front of my face. Given that it was about a centimetre away from my nose, I couldn’t make head nor tail of what was printed on it and shrugged, the awkward silence that followed having the air of the magician discovering that the rabbit was dead.


‘Isn’t that exciting!’ she said.


‘Yes, blurry, out-of-focus flyers really do wonders for my heart rate-’


She hit me over the head – a little less hard than she’d hit Tarquin, thankfully – and handed me the flyer.


‘Ta-dah! Screaming Bloodthirsty Disco are on tour!’ she cried. Scorpius groaned and put his head in his hands.


‘Where did you get that?’ he moaned. Gwendolyn/Raven flashed him one of her disturbing smiles.


‘Pasted on the wall at The Lantern, darling,’ she said, her teeth glinting evilly in the light. ‘And...first gig is there, tonight!’


‘I was hoping you wouldn’t find that out,’ he murmured. Gwendolyn/Raven threw an arm around him.


‘Come on, Scorp, you need all the moral support you can get!’


‘I’m just a piano-playing...person,’ he protested. ‘It’s not a big thing for me-’


He was silenced as Gwendolyn/Raven drew him into a bone-crushing hug. A moment later, she released him.


‘Ouch.’ He said, finally.


‘And even if it goes badly, you’ll still get really inspired for another anguished poem...or maybe even a play!’


‘Please shut up.’


‘Or, if it goes really badly, it’ll at least give you an excuse to beat up your singer!’


‘Raven, please-’


‘What’s wrong with the singer?’ I butted in.


‘Oh, he’s a total idiot,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, with a heavy roll of her eyes. ‘Fancies himself a bit...well, a lot. Wears big girls’ blouses and likes to quote muggle authors a lot, he used to go here but got kicked out because he was too much of an ar-teeste.’ She said the last word with a vague hint of disgust, forming quote marks in the air with her fingers. ‘Oh, Scorpius, that’ll be you in a year or two-’


‘I don’t wear…b-big girls’ blouses!’ Scorpius shot up. ‘And anyway, he only got kicked out because he was stupid enough to set fire to the kiln...’


‘That’ll be you in a year or two,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, fondly. ‘We all end up that way, in the end.’


Scorpius snatched the flyer out of my hand.


‘The flyer’s wrong,’ he said, lamely. ‘We’re not touring.’


‘Yes you are. And we’re going.’


Scorpius frowned. ‘Is this going to be like the open mic again? Tarquin getting drunk and leading a one-man stage invasion? A vendetta against me and my art?’


‘Don’t be such a drama queen. Vendetta.’ Gwendolyn/Raven snorted. ‘If we really had a Vendetta against you, we would have poisoned you by now. Anyhow, Lucy,’ she turned to me. ‘Will you come to watch Scorpius beat up a piano for half an hour?’


‘Erm, alright,’ I shrugged. ‘What sort of music do you play?’


It was a reasonable attempt to draw the conversation back to normality, but Gwendolyn/Raven was having none of it.


‘Well, we’re an alternative rock-’ Scorpius began, but she cut across him.


‘They’re a bunch of avant-garde ar-teestes in too much makeup and tights. Like poets…only in drag, and with about an ounce of musical talent between them.’


Scorpius sighed heavily and stood up, pushing Gwendolyn/Raven away. ‘I’m going for a walk.’ He said, with a defeated, hunched sort of look that made me feel momentarily rather sorry for him.


‘You’re not very nice to Scorpius.’ I finally plucked up the courage to say.


‘He’s an easy target,’ Gwendolyn/Raven shrugged. ‘Anyway, I can’t wait till you see his band. They’re absolutely dire!’


‘It’s not my band!’ Scorpius shouted from somewhere across the room.


‘Should be…erm…’ I glanced down at the flyer again. ‘…smashing.’


‘Well, yes, if things get too out of hand, Scorpius might break a few glasses, but don’t take such a defeatist tone already, Lucy. They’re only the support band as well, so Scorpius can cheer himself up a bit by heckling the headliners.’


I consulted the flyer again. ‘Who…?’


‘The Ragged-Trousered Misanthropists,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, with a proud air. ‘They’re even worse.’


‘Ragged-trousered…?’


‘Yes, apparently it’s some sort of literary reference. Beats me. Ask Barry, he’s bound to know.’


There was a pause.


‘Barry…?’ I asked, confused.


‘Barry.’ Gwendolyn/Raven nodded. ‘You haven’t been introduced?’


I shook my head. She gestured across the room, and, following the line of her finger, I saw the Brooding Nameless One – or, Brooding Nameless Barry – who instantly looked up and met my eye, with an expression of the deepest, darkest, most miserable doom and gloom. He seemed to be a deserted moor and a thunderstorm short of every Victorian novel set in Yorkshire ever. Or a few swans short of a treacherous, rain-battered lake. Or maybe even a couple of sandwiches short of an especially miserable picnic. You know, the sort of picnic where the moment you open the Butterbeer, it’s like wasp city. And then it starts to rain, and your food gets all soggy and someone forgets to bring the Frisbee.


I digress.


‘Yes,’ Gwendolyn/Raven continued. ‘That’s Barry. A deceptively lovely, if a little shy, boy…’


‘Are you sure about that?’ I said, voice lowered. Brooding Nameless Barry still stared.


‘Well, not entirely…shall we go and bother Scorpius again? It’s ever so fun…’


She bothered Scorpius for about three hours before she got bored. Scorpius got bored of being bothered within about five minutes, however, and spent the three hours idling about with his notebook while Gwendolyn/Raven amused herself in smacking him around the head, imitating him playing the piano, and generally making a fool of him. Later, when I checked his notebook to see what he’d written, the latest poem was entitled ‘Rainy Tuesday (death of the Raven).’ The forecast for the next day had indicated nothing short of a torrential downpour, so I made a mental note to hide all sharp objects lest Scorpius should become a murderer.


By the time the gig finally rolled around, the weather was looking as glum as Brooding Nameless Barry on a good day. Gwendolyn/Raven stared up at the sky and grinned, evidently being the sort of person that enjoys rain. Scorpius started mumbling something about it being a bad omen and said he didn’t want to play the gig anymore. Tarquin punched him in the arm and told him to stop being such a wuss, and Gwendolyn/Raven nearly decapitated him following up with her own encouraging smack around the head. Scorpius looked a bit concussed by the time we reached the venue.


It was a lot like The Banshee in the way that it was small, grubby, and looked as if it had been put together by a construction team who were reading the plans the wrong way up. The stage looked particularly treacherous; loose planks and nails stuck out at odd angles, and I was pretty sure that it had sunk under the weight of the heavy piano pushed against the wall at the back. A lone microphone stand was placed at the front, backed up by a guitar, a drumkit, and a stack of amplifiers that looked ready to give up and topple over.


The place was almost empty. This worried me slightly, given that there was only half an hour left until the gig started.


‘Why don’t you introduce Lucy to the guys?’ Gwendolyn/Raven said with a nasty sort of sneer, before making a beeline for the opposite side of the room, Tarquin hot on her heels. They immediately threw themselves down into a rather old and dilapidated sofa, apparently claiming the comfy places.


Scorpius, rather grudgingly, led me towards the back of the room, where a ramshackle counter served as a bar. I squinted at the cabinets behind; most of the bottles were dusty and full of more than the daily recommended intake of units of alcohol. Not a Butterbeer or Shandy in sight. I guessed that my father would not approve. Three men stood in front of the bar – well, alright, three adolescents – with half-empty drinks in their hands, eyeing up the stage with a certain look of apprehension. Like Scorpius, they also seemed to have mastered the skin-tight jeans and underfed look, although none of them had quite the impressive fringe that he did.


‘This is the…band,’ Scorpius said lamely, throwing out a hand to the three skinny people before him. As we drew closer, I saw that the lead singer seemed to have covered himself in glue and rolled around in a vat of sequins. Either that or he was wearing a highly decorated bodysuit, I don’t know. I think I liked the vat of sequins idea better. To cut a long story short, his dress sense was beyond the kingdom of the weird and into the realm of the oh dear.


‘I’m Felix. Felix Felicis,’ the sparkly one stepped forward, a rather self-assured smile on his face.


‘Er, hello, I’m Lucy.’


He shook my hand for longer than I would call necessary, and looked me up and down in a way that I would very politely call disturbing. The sequins just added an extra smidge of perversity to it.


‘Niceeee,’ he whistled. ‘Nice catch, Scorp.’


‘Oh, no, it isn’t like that-’ Scorpius flustered, pink spots rising in his cheeks. But Felix grinned.


‘Sure, mate, sure. Hey, darling, if you ever get tired of Scorp here...well, remember they call me Felix Felicis for a reason.’


He winked and walked off.


‘Scorpius…’ I said. ‘Please tell him never to come near me again.’


Scorpius shrugged apologetically. ‘And, er, here’s the other two. This is Griff and Skylark.’


The other two guys nodded before heading off and following Felix.


‘Wow, do any of you have normal names?’


Scorpius pulled a face. ‘Well, mine’s the only real one. But mine’s good enough to be fake anyway. They’re all stage names. Griff’s second name is Findor...’


'Oh. Wow.'


‘...and I don’t know what Skylark’s name is. It’s just Skylark. He doesn’t actually talk much, to be honest. I don’t know a thing about him apart from the fact that he drums in the band I’m in.’


‘Tell me,’ I sighed. ‘They’ve all got really cringe-worthy real names or something, haven’t they?’


‘Well, Griff’s not too bad. He’s just Thomas Wright, but that’s a bit dull.’


‘And what about Mr Felicis?’


Scorpius looked me straight in the eye. ‘You won’t believe me when I tell you.’


‘Go on.’


‘No, seriously, you won’t believe me.’


‘Please,’ I held a hand up. ‘I’m pretty open-minded.’


‘Oh, alright then. It’s Lettuce Spebbington.’


There was an extremely pregnant pause.


‘I can’t ever think why he changed it to Felix.’


‘I know.’


‘But why would you name a child Lettuce?’


‘His parents are really hardcore vegetarians, he said. He’s got a sister called Carrot.’


‘Weird.’


‘You’re telling me.’


‘Buh...buh...but...Lettuce?’


‘Lettuce.’


‘And you’re not kidding?’


‘I’m not kidding.’


‘Serious?’


‘Very much so.’


I stared after the sparkly Lettuce’s retreating back, feeling, suddenly, a little sorry for him. I thought Scorpius was an unfortunate name, but Lettuce...


‘Anyway,’ Scorpius said, with a heavy sigh. ‘I better go and...well...prepare myself for death by humiliation. See you in a bit.’


He wandered off after his bandmates. I drifted over towards Gwendolyn/Raven and Tarquin, who were carefully patting down the patches of sofa around them as if they were cats preparing to sleep.


‘Did you bring earmuffs, Lucy? I do hope you brought earmuffs.’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, reaching into her bag and withdrawing a large and particularly fluffy pair of black earmuffs. She fixed them on and grinned at us, looking like a demented animal.


‘I didn’t bring earmuffs.’ I told Tarquin. He shrugged.


‘Just...don’t get too close to the amplifiers. They...well, they pack a punch.’


We sat in companionable silence for five minutes or so, Gwendolyn/Raven merrily wriggling her earmuffs around on her head to get the best fit. After a while, Tarquin pulled out a set of cards from his pocket and started up a game of exploding snap. The place was starting to fill up; the occasional bangs as Tarquin continued to beat me at the game drew some rather nasty looks from fellow gig-goers.


When, finally, the lights were thrown on and the stage was lit up, Tarquin tucked the cards away and we turned to stare. An immense glittering, sparkling thing waltzed on and took position behind the microphone. I presumed it was Lettuce, but I was a little dazzled by the sequins. Behind the skinny six feet or so of twinkling, I saw Scorpius trying to get comfy at the piano, his face determinedly turned away from the crowd.


The person in control of the lights had the good sense to dim them slightly, and the cornucopia of glitter that was Lettuce stopped being so blinding. I saw him lean over and carefully place a collection of candles around the bottom of his microphone stand. Then, gently, he lit each one with a touch of his wand. When this was done, he reached out an arm behind him and was handed a beautiful silk scarf by the guitarist, whereby he proceeded to drape it lovingly around the stand before him.


(The scarf, not the guitarist. Just to clarify.)


‘He’s a total prat.’ Tarquin muttered darkly. ‘He got kicked out of art school because he was doing this project on destruction and the human impact on the planet, so he set fire to the kiln just as Holstone walked in...never a good idea. It was only a week after Scorpius had got there, he was running around like a headless chicken, trying to put the fire out...forgot about the Aguamenti charm and all, he was just chucking tea on it for a bit…’


Tarquin was drowned out as Lettuce put his mouth close to the microphone and crooned ‘Helloooooooo everyone, are you having a lovely night?’


A few people cheered half-heartedly. Without preamble, Screaming Bloodthirsty Disco launched into their first song, which seemed to mostly consist of the guitarist playing one note over and over again while Scorpius did some impressive thundering away at the piano and the drummer sat around looking confused. Most of Lettuce’s contribution seemed to be lyrics about cats.


‘Well,’ I said to Tarquin, who was looking longingly at his pack of exploding snap cards. ‘At least Scorpius can play his instrument moderately well...or at least he can play it at all…’


‘You should hear him practising in the flat,’ Tarquin shot across. ‘Always at the least appropriate times. Did you know, I once had a girlfriend over, and we were just, y’know, when Scorpius decided it was the best time to run through his experimentalist collection? As much as I love the bloke, dissonance really isn’t the best for romance, you know?’


I nodded as if I did know, although the truth was that, in all the relationships I’d been in, not one had been soundtracked by experimental dissonant piano music, thankfully. The song finished, to a smattering of bemused applause from the audience.


‘Thanks, everyone...’ Lettuce said, grinning smarmily. ‘Next, we’re going to play a little song for you about heartbreak...and the destructive power of humans on earth.’


I saw Scorpius exchange a worried glance with the guitarist, who hastily started to tune up.


Their second song was marginally better. This was mostly due to the fact that halfway through a rather ambitious high-kick, Lettuce upset one of the candles and set the hem of his sparkly bodysuit on fire. Thanks to the well-aimed pint of a front-row audience member, catastrophe was soon averted, but I don’t think there’s anything more miserable than seeing someone in a glittery catsuit being drenched mid-kick. At the back of the stage, Scorpius took a hand off of the piano for a second to facepalm.


Their set finished quickly. Whether this was due to a small repertoire or shame, I don’t really know. Scorpius shot up off his piano stool and was clear of the stage in a matter of seconds while the rest of the band took their time to pack away. He rejoined us, looking somewhat dejected.


‘We were bad, weren’t we?’ he said hurriedly. ‘We were awful. We were pants. We were bloomers. We were so pants we were basically long johns-’


‘Not awful, as such,’ Tarquin mused. ‘But certainly consistent…ly not fabulous.’


‘Budge up, Lucy.’ Scorpius said, before throwing himself down into the tiny sliver of space left on the sofa. The sudden weight almost made Gwendolyn/Raven shoot up off the other end, but she kept her dignity remarkably well, which is difficult when your earmuffs are at a jaunty angle.


‘I hate my life,’ Scorpius said in a dejected voice. ‘I never want to be in a band ever again, ever. That was excruciating.’


I offered some sympathy. ‘Well, you weren’t that bad-’


The three of them turned to stare at me in shock.


‘Not that bad? Lucy, our lead singer caught fire.’ Scorpius told me, wincing slightly at the memory.


‘It’s alright,’ Tarquin leaned over me and patted him on the back. ‘It’ll all be okay, Scorp.’


‘And then they had to put him out with beer!’


‘It’s fine, Scorp. Think happy thoughts.’


‘He made us play the song about cats! I hate that song!’


‘You played quite well, though.’ I offered, but was instantly ignored.


‘Cats!’ Scorpius blustered, as if he didn’t know what to do with himself. ‘Cats!


‘Cats,’ Tarquin nodded in agreement. ‘Big, hairy cats.’


Scorpius folded his arms and sunk into the sofa in what appeared to be the first stage of a sulk. Given that there were four of us trying to sit on an especially old sofa built for two, the cushions started to dip alarmingly in the middle. In a matter of minutes, I was squashed rather uncomfortably in-between Scorpius’ bony elbow and Tarquin’s knee, which was painful, to say the least.


‘I’ll get another sofa, shall I?’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, voice muffled somewhat. I couldn’t see very well, but judging by the yelps and bangs that preceded these words, she’d turfed the people next to us out of their sofa and drawn it up to face ours. She and Tarquin scrambled onto it instantly, leaving me and Scorpius to hastily claw away from each other from what had been quite an awkward almost-hug.


‘All in all,’ Tarquin sighed. ‘Not one of your better gigs, Scorp.’




A/N: 19/08/2011 - new CI added
edited 22/04/2011
edited AGAAAAIN 03/06/2012
Massive, existentialist & poetic thanks to Nar for all the help and madness from the original forums thread.

Zut Alors = darn it/blimey. Basically.

Chapter 6: The Benefits of a Flashback
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Chapter Six - The Benefits of a Flashback





Life slotted neatly into a routine after that particularly disastrous gig. October and most of November passed without much complaint (aside from the heating in my flat. Or, rather, the lack of heating in my flat, and my landlord’s stubborn habit of being about as useful as a chocolate teapot). I took more photographs, developed them, and pasted them neatly into a little notebook for safekeeping. Gwendolyn/Raven continued her favourite hobby of bothering Scorpius, Scorpius continued his favourite hobby of pretending that Gwendolyn/Raven wasn’t bothering him, and Tarquin took up a new hobby of sitting down and idly watching the bothering take place. Mr Holstone continued to be coated with crumbs in his official position as local sandwich fanatic, and Brooding Nameless Barry continued to brood and be silent. And be called Barry.


There were a few memorable milestones; Obscure Henry turned up at a Screaming Bloodthirsty Disco gig with us and nodded along to the music, looking cool, until someone decided it was best to trip over and shower him with beer. Lettuce didn’t do anything as spectacular as catch fire at another gig, but he did trip off the stage one night and fell, flailing, into the thin crowd, who weren’t exactly prepared or willing to catch him (and, let’s face it, who really would be willing to catch a beansprout in a sequinned catsuit?) So the band was put on hold for a couple of months so Lettuce could rest his broken legs, much to Scorpius’ anguish and delight.


The weather got steadily worse, as weather in Britain is wont to do. Given the lack of heating, it was freezing in my flat. Fluffy jumpers became the loves of my life, seeing as I frequently shared body heat and personal space with several at a time. Dwindling savings and lack of a job didn’t help, and on Bonfire Night my Landlord decided to hate me a little bit more and served me my first warning notice on the rent, after a few paragraphs of calling me a ‘typical student’ and a ‘filthy degenerate’. This, of course, was entirely pleasant and normal business-like behaviour, and definitely encouraged me to pay up on the rent. I think not.


Unwilling to take part in Gwendolyn/Raven’s seemingly weekly exercise regime of hedge-hopping, I often found myself weirdly free at weekends – well, free when I wasn’t following Scorpius around London, laden down with cameras like a blue-haired donkey. Not that he made me do all of the dirty work or anything; mostly, I think, I offered to carry so much stuff because of his determination to trip over a lot and my fear for the expensive cameras.


I actually did find myself feeling quite sorry for Scorpius. Which wasn’t actually hard, to be honest; he was so pathetic that he was a pretty easy target for any spare sympathy. A fear of anything Rose-shaped had extended, seemingly, to anything vaguely-Rose-shaped, up to the point where a simple excursion to the Kensington area resulted in him throwing himself into an alleyway at the sight of a red ponytail bobbing amongst the crowd up ahead.


‘Sorry,’ he told me, flattened against the wall. ‘I thought it was…you know…erm…’


‘Scorpius, that’s a man.’ I said, as the ponytail walked past, not even noticing us. ‘Last time I checked, Rose was definitely a girl. Stop being such a wuss.’


After a few minutes’ gentle coaxing and persuasion, Scorpius finally decided to stop being a wuss, confidently stepped out onto the street, and was promptly run over by a small child on a bicycle.


‘I hate my life.’ he said, miserably, as I offered him a plaster for his bleeding forehead.


A week or so after the rent incident, I abandoned Scorpius for the day and went to visit my parents. Not with the aim of scrounging money off them, you must understand – I think I was actually far too scared of my Dad to admit that I’d fallen behind on rent. Even that beats blue hair.


After a wobbly bit of apparition (I splinched a little bit of my fringe, but who was really going to notice?) I stood on the doorstep of the house in Liverpool and rang the bell. Never one to keep anyone waiting, Dad opened it almost instantly.


‘Good morning, Lucy.’ he said. ‘You’re just in time for soup.’


A couple of months of living in my grotty little flat had made me forget just how neat and tidy the place was. The walls were a pristine off-white (‘white with a hint of cream!’ Mum called them) with a matching carpet…well, a matching carpet that was more white with a hint of ground-in mud once I’d crossed the threshold.


‘Shoes!’ my father yelped.


‘Shoes?’ I asked, quite bemused. He glared at my feet, and after a few moments I took the hint and removed my beaten-up trainers. It took an almighty yank to get the left one off, sending dried mud scattering across the carpet.


‘Erm…whoops. I’ll clean that up.’


I swept my wand through the air in the vague direction of the muddied carpet. Not a lot happened, but a lace doily on a nearby table did a half-hearted sort of wiggle in midair and then collapsed back into lifelessness.


‘Sorry about the mud. And the doily.’ I mumbled.


‘It’s alright. Go on through to the kitchen, we’re just about to have lunch.’


Down to my mismatching socks (which Dad glowered at) I made my way through to the kitchen, where Mum was already sitting at the table.


‘Hello, dear.’ she said. ‘Stilton and courgette today.’


I took a seat as instructed and sunk a spoon into a bowl of what Molly used to call ‘cheese and veg gloop’ – although, to be fair, it was a far cry from my diet of instant noodles and scummy tea.


‘Are you eating well?’ Mum asked, as if reading my thoughts. ‘Getting enough fruit and vegetables?’


‘Definitely,’ I nodded violently. ‘Five a day. Every day. Six on Sundays.’


‘That’s nice.’ she smiled, picking up her spoon as Dad took the seat beside her.


(The five a day thing was partly true, if you could count the fact that cider was made from apples. My only excuse was that it was peer pressure; Tarquin’s seemingly amazing ability to hold his drink only encouraged me further, plus there was the added satisfaction of getting to hear Scorpius veer off on drunken rants about life, the universe, and everything, but mostly Lettuce.)


I took a gulp of the boiling soup, doing my best not to grimace. Cheese and veg gloop had never really been my favourite flavour.


‘Is it too hot?’ Mum simpered. I attempted a jovial nod and blew on the spoon for effect.


‘Art school coming along well?’ Dad asked, just as I took another mouthful of the cheese and veg gloop. The jovial nod made a half-hearted reappearance.


‘Albus was telling us all about your adventures around London taking photographs,’ said Mum, already scraping the last globs of goop from the bottom of her bowl. ‘He says you’re getting on very well.’


‘Ooh, yes, it’s super-duper,’ I told her, keen to abandon my soup. ‘We’ve been going round places like…erm, well we went to Hyde Park to take pictures of trees, and then to Camden to, er, take more pictures, and then we went to Kensington and Scorpius got run over by…by…’


I trailed into silence, realising my mistake.


‘Something wrong, Lucy?’ Dad said.


‘Oh, erm, no, nothing, nothing at all!’ I grinned. ‘Just…erm, just saw a wasp! Distracted me a bit.’


I pretended to look around the room for the ‘wasp’ before Dad casually reminded me that pretty much all of the wasps had died out by November.


‘Anyway, Lucy, you were saying,’ Mum cut across. ‘Scorpius got run over…’


I gave her one of my famous slack-jawed gazes at the abnormally blasé reaction to hearing Scorpius’ name mentioned in the house.


‘Another wasp, Lucy?’ Mum said.


‘No, erm, no, I’m fine,’ I stammered. ‘What, did you know?’


‘Know what?’


‘That – that, erm, Scorpius is still alive?’


‘You’re not making much sense, darling.’


‘Well,’ I was fidgeting madly, worrying that this would be my one major slip-up that would lead to a very hacked-off Rose and a very murdered Scorpius. ‘Well, erm, he was the one who went out with Rose-’

‘Oh, that Scorpius.’


‘How many Scorpiuses do we know?’ I said.


‘Don’t be flippant,’ Dad said.


‘The one who did a runner on Rose,’ I said. ‘Nobody’s supposed to know he still exists. Rose wants to kill him.’


‘Goodness!’ Mum exclaimed. ‘I can’t think such a nice girl as Rosie would want someone dead. Don’t be silly, Lucy. And honesty is the best policy, you know.’


‘Yeah, but-’


‘Tea?’ Dad offered, ignoring me. Swooping up the bowls of soup (including my unfinished one) into one arm, he deftly flicked on the kettle with the other and busied himself with finding mugs and teaspoons.


‘Anyway, Lucy, have you been visiting Rose much? She’s near you, isn’t she?’


‘She isn’t really near me. And she’s very busy.’


‘Oh, I expect so, she’s always been a hard worker. Do they give you much work at the art school?’


I almost laughed aloud at the memory of Mr Holstone’s weekly homework task of ‘basically, have an awesome weekend, but please don’t get too hungover and forget to turn up on Monday like Frances does, because, let’s face it, guys, you’re here to study.’ and the resulting ‘pah!’ from the general direction of Tarquin.


‘Oh yes, heaps,’ I lied. The kettle had finished boiling, and my Dad passed me a cup of tea in a fine china mug I had a nasty feeling I was going to break.


‘Shall we move to the sitting room?’ Mum rose from her chair, looking very formal and dainty, clutching her cup of tea with her little finger sticking out. I followed her through, taking care not to upset any more doilies. It was difficult; they seemed to cover every surface in the house, and simply the draught caused by walking past them seemed to send them into such a frenzy that I had to take a sedate snail’s pace through the narrow, furniture-lined corridor to avoid them.


Seated on the pristine sofa in the sitting room, I took a sip of the tea. Admittedly, it was the best I’d had in weeks. It beat Scorpius’ sort of tea anyway, which was a half-hearted cup of tea-flavoured lukewarm water and a heap of what tasted like sugar mixed with gravel. A moment later I went to put my mug on the spindly table next to me, but was stopped by my father, who threw himself across the room in a terrifying prance, slamming another doily down on the varnished surface where, moments later, my mug would have landed.


‘Doily!’ he bellowed. Mum rolled her eyes. I put my tea on the doily, ears ringing slightly.


‘So, anyway, Lucy, what sort of things have you been getting up to at the art school? What sort of classes are you taking? Tell us all about them.’


And that’s when I had a flashback.


Not really – that’s the sort of amateur dramatics I’d reserve for Scorpius – but, in a vain attempt to come up with a class I actually had been to, I’d accidentally remembered the farce that had been life-drawing class and almost spat out my tea in the overwhelming intensity of aforementioned flashback.


Of this life-drawing class, I shall say one thing. Scorpius was wearing a smock.


I’ll repeat that, just for some extra oomph.


Scorpius was wearing a smock.


Sitting on the sofa with my cheeks bulging out like a hamster trying to stop myself spitting tea everywhere in a fit of the giggles, I completely understood my Mum’s alarmed expression.


‘Sorry,’ I said, after gulping down the tea. ‘Erm...just a joke one of my friends told me…came back to me just then…’


Okay, I’ll say a little more about life-drawing class. Mostly, it was just one big, fat dollop of fail on the already soggy sandwich of failure that is the art school. Possibly a soggy sandwich of failure with a filling of Lettuce.


It started on a Monday, as all good failures should. Mr Holstone came barging into the common room with a baguette clutched in one hand, and told us, through a mouth of crumbs, that a life-drawing class had been booked for that Tuesday and under no uncertain terms were we to miss it because it cost him a fair few Galleons and anyway, last year, only one student turned up, and there’s nothing more awkward than that.


‘That was me,’ Scorpius said guiltily. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever felt more awkward in my life.’


‘What is a life-drawing class, even?’ I asked. ‘Is he sending us out into the real world to draw…life?’


Gwendolyn/Raven was overcome by such a fit of the giggles at this point that she had to go outside to calm down.


‘Ah, Lucy,’ Tarquin said, wistfully. ‘To have such innocence, to have such a pure mind-’


‘That’s debatable,’ Scorpius said. ‘Have you heard her jokes?’


‘No worse than mine,’ Tarquin said, airily. ‘Toodle pip.’ He drifted from the room with a smug smile fixed upon his face. I turned to Scorpius.


‘Well?’ I demanded. ‘Do we draw life?’


‘Well, yes, in theory,’ he said. ‘But it’s more a practice of drawing from life.’


‘Okay, yeah, but drawing what? Fruit? Flowers?’


‘People.’


‘Oh. Seems alright-’


‘Naked people.’ Scorpius said bluntly. ‘And that’s why it was so awkward. Believe me, when it’s just you, Mr Holstone, and this shivering guy in his birthday suit all sitting in silence together, it’s awkward.’


‘I understand…?’


He shot a look towards the door, then lowered his voice.


‘Look, just, please, come. I mean, aside from the fact that it’s actually really good artistic practice-’


‘What artistic practice?’


‘Oh, whatever, basically, otherwise, I bet you it’ll just be me, and I’ll look like a total prat all by myself-’


‘But you always look like a total prat,’ Gwendolyn/Raven interjected, appearing seemingly out of nowhere in a cloud of purple smoke. ‘Sorry, what are we talking about?’


‘Lucy and I,’ Scorpius said, pointedly. ‘Were discussing whether to go to life-drawing class or not. And we are.’


‘No I’m not-’


‘So,’ Scorpius raised his voice. ‘I presume you won’t be going, Raven, because it’s too serious for you.’


Au contraire, Scorp. I need to work on my drawing skills. We’re not all photographers, you know.’


Scorpius looked very huffy indeed, but didn’t say anything else.


That wasn’t really the amusing thing about life-drawing class; that was more the preamble to the farce. The failure. The shambles. The preamble to the shambles, if you’re a poet like Scorpius and like things to rhyme. The shamble preamble.


‘I’ve been to life drawing class,’ I told my Mum, back in the present again, trying to push the flashback into the dusty depths of my mind to join everything I’d ever learnt at Hogwarts. ‘Which was fun.’


Fun being an understatement.


‘Good,’ Mum said. ‘Of course, you can only improve through practice. When I was a girl…’


I took this as a sign to lose myself in a flashback again; my mum’s anecdotes tended to be a bit on the long side and, besides, I was having a hard time trying to erase the mental image of Scorpius in a smock.


‘So, Lucy, are you going?’ Gwendolyn/Raven asked, casually shoving Scorpius aside and stealing the best seat on the sofa.


‘Erm, sure, if it helps with the…arty farty-ness.’ I told her.


I tried to forget the fact that I couldn’t draw and signed up for the class alongside Scorpius, who assured me that it’d all be alright and bribed me with the promise of a drink afterwards.


I turned up at three o’clock for the class, almost apparating on top of Gwendolyn/Raven, who was sitting twiddling her thumbs in the common room. Tarquin slouched in a moment later, followed closely by Obscure Henry, who surveyed the room with a sigh and then dropped into an armchair.


‘Me and my mate were totally on the lash last night,’ he drawled, head lolling back in his chair. ‘It was a massacre, I tell you. I’m totally not up for this absurd lesson.’


‘I totally am,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, sitting up a little straighter. ‘It’s a valuable opportunity to view the human body in its natural state.’


At this point, Tarquin made a rude point that went something along the lines of if Gwendolyn/Raven wanted to see the human body in its natural state she could come round his flat any time, but I’m not particularly inclined to repeat it here.


‘You know,’ Obscure Henry said imperiously. ‘What I really love about this art school is the total banter.’


Tarquin looked ready to retort, but then the door was flung open and Scorpius entered.


‘Scorpius,’ Gwendolyn/Raven’s voice was hushed. ‘You’re – you’re wearing a smock!’


Tarquin’s mouth had fallen open so wide that I had the temptation to throw things into it.


‘I’m painting, Raven,’ Scorpius said through gritted teeth. ‘Of course I’m wearing a smock.’


‘You’re wearing a smock!’ she cried.


‘And…?’


‘It’s a smock!’


Scorpius chose that moment to beat a hasty backwards retreat through the door again. I followed him, a box of pencils tucked under my arm.


‘Scorpius,’ I said, calmly. ‘You’re my mate and all, but you look ridiculous in that smock.’


‘Don’t want paint to get on my clothes.’ he said stubbornly.


‘Use a spell.’


‘I’m scared of blowing the building up.’


‘You’re not that bad at magic-’


Scorpius nodded frantically. ‘I am. I really am.’


‘At least you didn’t fail muggle studies.’ I muttered. Scorpius had already wandered off in search of an easel and didn’t appear to hear me.


Ten minutes later, I was sitting at an easel next to Scorpius, drawing board propped up in front of me and a fresh piece of paper Spellotaped over the top. Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven sat on my left, and, opposite, I could see Eunice and Obscure Henry swapping sticks of charcoal behind their own easels. The Brooding Nameless Barry was brooding in a corner like a human manifestation of a miserably wet January morning.


The door opened suddenly and Mr Holstone walked in, cramming a biscuit into his mouth, with Ellen and Frances hot on his heels. They hurriedly set up their own easels at the side, while Mr Holstone conjured an armchair out of thin air with a flourish. Carefully, he started to unbutton his jacket.


‘Scorpius!’ I hissed. ‘Do we have to draw him?’


Scorpius shook his head, looking horrified. ‘Oh no! No, no!’ he whispered. ‘I think I’d have nightmares.’


‘Alright, gang,’ Mr Holstone said, staring around the room. ‘Model’s going to walk through that door in a moment. We’ll do a ten minute sketch first. Talk and you get cursed.’


Scorpius surveyed his paint palette and brushes for a moment, and then selected a particularly fat, round brush. I shifted my easel strategically so I could only see the top half of the armchair. A moment’s total silence fell over the room, and then the door clicked open. I’ll spare you the details, but I chose that moment to stare at my shoes until the model was safely seated.


‘Scorpius…’ I murmured, peeking over the top of the easel. ‘There’s a guy…and he’s starkers!’


‘Contrary to popular belief, I can see,’ Scorpius frowned, and then started to paint.


I steeled myself and looked back at the model, of whom I could see little more than a pair of shoulders and a heavily bearded face.


‘Think of him as an object,’ Scorpius whispered. ‘Not as a person, that’s too awkward.’


‘Scorpius,’ Gwendolyn/Raven hissed across me. ‘Stop encouraging Lucy to objectify people. It’s rude.’


Scorpius looked a little miffed, but continued painting as if she hadn’t said anything.


I started to draw as best I could, but five minutes later, the wild pencil marks I’d made on the page looked more like a duck than most ducks.


‘Scorp,’ I muttered. ‘My drawing looks like a duck.’


Scorpius ignored me. I nudged him.


‘Hey, Scorp, help me with my drawing-’


Scorpius frantically shushed me, brush still in hand. In his eagerness, he managed to flick paint across his glasses. Rolling his eyes, he pointed at them, looking incredibly hacked off.


‘Sorry about your glasses,’ I said, in an undertone. ‘Come on, help me-’


This time, Scorpius waved his arms about alarmingly, almost spattering me with paint.


Not contented with this lack of help, I started to mime drawing at Scorpius, swooping my pencil through the air, jabbing a finger at my duck drawing in the process. He flapped his arms at me again, looking highly irritated, and the whole fandango continued for another few minutes until Mr Holstone barked ‘Lucy! Scorpius! Stop dancing!’


Annoyed, Scorpius flicked his paint brush at me. My duck grew a vivid green Mohican.


Mr Holstone coughed and started to walk around the room, watching everyone sketch. I outlined my duck in a slightly darker pencil. He finally reached me and stood back from my easel, looking a little perplexed.


‘Lucy, why did you draw a duck?’ he asked, finally.


‘Well, sir,’ I said, thinking fast. ‘It’s…erm, well, it’s a commentary on…on the way that human beings behave like ducks sometimes in modern society, how it’s got to the point where people, erm, people begin to resemble ducks…’ I trailed off into silence.


‘In what way do people act like ducks, Lucy?’ Mr Holstone mused, and, for a moment, I thought I’d got away with it.


‘Er…they eat a lot of bread?’


‘Try again, Lucy.’ he sighed, peeling the paper away from the easel and turning it over to the fresh side. Slightly dejected, I lifted my pencil to draw again, but then Gwendolyn/Raven reached over and stopped me.


‘Can I see your duck, Lucy?’


‘Yeah, I want to see the duck too.’ Tarquin chimed in, poking his head out from underneath Gwendolyn/Raven’s arm.


‘Ooh, nice duck-’


‘Did Lucy draw a duck?’


‘That duck has a nice mohican.’ Ellen scampered over, resting her paintbrush on my shoulder.


‘Ducks as people,’ a voice said, apathetically. ‘How very profound.’


The Brooding Nameless Barry was contemplating my duck drawing with his head dipped to one side, stroking his chin.


‘Er, thanks, Barry.’


‘I don’t have a name,’ he said. ‘I am…nothing.’


‘You’re a duck.’ Frances whispered. ‘We’re all ducks. Maybe that’s the answer – maybe this isn’t real life, maybe we’re just the dreams of ducks floating around in a duck pond…’


‘And any sort of divine presence like a God would be the bread on which the ducks feed-’


‘Oh, and the ripples they make as they swim all affect fate and chance, the destinies of us parasitic humans living inside the dreams of the ducks-’


‘On lily-pads-’


‘Are there frogs in this belief system?’


‘Is the class finished now?’ the model said, looking a little hurt. He was duly ignored. Mr Holstone seemed too interested in a pack of biscuits to resume order.


‘Perhaps we are not the dreams of the ducks – perhaps we are the ducks.’


‘We use our beaks to speak, but we are mute, like the swan, condemned to silence by the crush of political correctness and politics-’


‘And we float around all day in the pond, waiting for bread-’


‘I don’t want to be a duck.’ Tarquin said, firmly. ‘I’d rather be a frog.’


‘I think I’d make quite a good newt.’ Gwendolyn/Raven mused.


‘I like the idea of being a duck…’


I noticed the life model quietly get up from his chair and leave.


‘Would you be a duck, Lucy?’ Tarquin asked. ‘Choose wisely, this may answer any valuable questions you might have about your identity and meaning in life.’


‘Sure…’ I told him. ‘I’m a duck.’


Half an hour and a lot of philosophy and tea later, I left the art school with Scorpius in tow, still dithering about whether he was a duck or a frog.


‘I mean,’ he said. ‘I understand Frances’ point about the existence of a duck being largely pointless and dull because you basically just float around all day doing naff all and eating bread, and frogs get to jump around and-’


‘Get eaten by the French?’


‘Yeah, I suppose, but people eat duck too, Lucy, it’s not an exclusively frog thing.’


‘Well, I’m a duck. I’d rather have feathers than scales.’


‘I just don’t know!’ Scorpius said, exasperated. ‘I can’t decide-’


I took this as a vital opportunity to push him into a puddle.


‘What was that for?’ he yelped, arms windmilling madly, jeans soaked halfway up his shins.


‘Easy,’ I told him. ‘You’re a duck. You tried to paddle. If you were a frog, you would have made that funny noise that frogs make.’


‘Your test is completely flawed,’ Scorpius accused. ‘About ten times out of ten, I bet you that people would paddle and not croak. What sort of person croaks on instinct? I mean, it’s just silly…’


‘…and anyway, all we had for tea that night was a single digestive biscuit and a small carrot, but it all turned out lovely in the end and we won the trophy anyway. Tea, Lucy?’


Arriving back in the living room and the present with a slight jolt, I shook my head, pointing to my full mug. I went to take a sip, but it was stone cold. Or as cold as Brooding Nameless Barry’s heart.


‘Aunt Hermione’s asked us to a party in June, by the way. Said it was better to give it such long notice because there’s so many of us but, really, if you ask me,’ Mum lowered her voice. ‘The woman’s a complete control freak.’


‘Rose inherited that-’ I started to say, but then Mum interrupted me.


‘Ah, Rose is such a lovely girl. Such good grades. Always very polite.’


‘Oh, yeah,’ I said, and it felt like the sarcasm was actually burning my tongue. ‘Rose is just fan-dabby-do.’


‘Speaking of Rose and Hermione, I’ve bought this wonderful new hair product from Witch Weekly, really marvellous for frizz…’


I sank back into the sofa, willing the clock to tick closer to five.





A/N: 19/08/2011 - new CI
edited 22/04/2011
edited again 03/06/2012
I did mention this in my original author's note, but somewhere between a tired mind and a mouse click that got deleted. So I'm typing out my acknowledgments again to Gina, (justonemorefic), simply for shipping Scorpius/Gwendoraven. I feel I want to make it my OTP now, but plot prevents me. Also, on the second edit, I feel I should also thank Celeste for shipping Scorpius/Lettuce. My new OTP for reals.

Au contraire = on the contrary, basically.


Chapter 7: The Shape of the Pear
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Chapter Seven - The Shape of the Pear






(aka Scorpius throws a hissy fit and has troubles with his hair and begonias.)





I woke up very early on the morning of November the twentieth – well, if you count eight in the morning as early – to the sound of a letter slithering its way underneath the door. A very thick, red letter.


Rolling out of bed with gummed-up eyes and a tongue that felt like sandpaper, I crawled across the floor towards it; it seemed like a troupe of drummers were doing a bit of light drumming in my head in preparation for what promised to be a good old-fashioned hangover headache. The red letter sat on the doormat, and, stupidly, I picked it up and slit it open without thinking. Almost the second the envelope ripped it shrieked into life, giving me such a fright that I toppled over backwards and smacked my head off a chair. The imaginary mental drummers only took this as encouragement to drum harder.


‘THREE MONTHS OF UNPAID RENT!’ the letter – which I now recognised to be a Howler – screamed in the cut-glass voice of my snooty landlord. ‘THE MOST BLOODY INCONSIDERATE TENANT I’VE EVER HAD TO PUT UP WITH IN MY LIFE! I’VE HALF A MIND TO CURSE YOUR ARSE ALL THE WAY BACK TO LIVERPOOL-’


I snatched the Howler out of the air and stuffed it underneath a pile of dirty clothes, where the screaming was slightly muffled. For five minutes I sat there, waiting, with bated breath, for the Howler to stop howling.


It seemed to stop. Not that my headache got any better because of it; it was like the drummers had donned hobnailed boots.


Carefully, I lifted the clothes, but the Howler wasn’t done – it leapt into the air again, screeching ‘MARK MY WORDS, WEASLEY, ONE MORE MONTH OF UNPAID RENT AND YOU’RE OUT!’


‘Crap,’ I breathed, scrambling around the flat. The mental drummers decided this was a good time to invite a herd of elephants along to the headache party. In a moment of hungover rage, I yelled ‘shut up!’ at nobody in particular, causing an irritated next-door-neighbour to thump on the wall.


‘It’s all your fault, Tarquin!’ I mumbled to the silence. Hazy memories of the night before floated into my mind, including Tarquin’s grinning double-double-dare to drink Scorpius under the table. I won. Of course. I think it was the dare to arm-wrestle Scorpius that finally broke me – or the both of us, rather. I had distinct memories of defeating Scorp in a matter of seconds and crashing to the floor in a jumble of bottles, furniture and Gwendolyn/Raven.


Crushing the Howler in my palm, I stood and hurled it across the room towards the bin. It missed by a mile and lay on the floor, smouldering contentedly.


An hour later I was walking towards the art school, a fiesta of drummers and elephants inside my skull. I could hardly blame the muggles that saw me for giving me such a wide berth – blue-haired, grubby, scowling, and nursing a bruised wrist from Scorpius’ feeble arm-wrestling attempts the night before, I must’ve looked a tad frightening. Besides, it was bitterly cold, and a lack of gloves meant that by the time I reached the art school my fingers were frozen stiff into some sort of tortured clawing position.


Almost at the precise moment I went to open the front door there was a quiet popping noise from behind me, then an anguished ‘aahhhh-’ before I turned around to see Scorpius topple over sideways into a lamppost.


‘Good morning,’ I said blearily, putting out a hand to help him up. ‘Drink getting to you?’


‘I splinched my fringe,’ he said miserably. ‘I always do that. I don’t even know how I got my licence…’


‘Walk, it’s what I do. You’re less likely to dismember yourself...’


He followed me inside, tugging at his mutilated fringe with some disdain.


‘I think you broke my wrist,’ he told me, holding up his arm. A few purple bruises had appeared on the skin; he winced as he lowered it again. ‘Look, sorry about the whole, erm, well, thing.’


‘Scorpius, a couple of bruises is hardly a break…besides, I think the table got off worse than we did. Know a decent headache potion?’


‘No, but Tarquin will...’


‘Is he here?’ I asked.


‘He’s out cold.’ Scorpius said hopelessly. ‘He threw a mug of cold tea at me when I tried to wake him up.’


‘Oh. When will he get up?’


‘Not till tomorrow, I should think.’


‘What about Raven?’


‘Probably off killing puppies and making children cry,’ Scorpius’ expression was deadly serious. ‘Or maybe devising a new way to ruin my life, I don’t know.’


‘Is there actually any point in us being here?’ I asked, thinking of my warm bed (the only good thing about my cold flat).


We’d reached the top of the stairs. ‘Don’t think so,’ Scorpius shrugged. ‘Well, the dark room could do with a bit of a tidy…’


He took hold of the door handle and then kicked the door open with his foot. The first thing I noticed was the screeching. Scorpius did a double take, shut the door, then opened it again, but it was definitely the common room both times he checked. The furniture had been pushed back against the walls and a space had been cleared on the floor, in which Frances, Ellen, Obscure Henry and Brooding Nameless Barry were all seated, cross-legged and po-faced, staring forwards. Frances had a feather in her hair and was barefoot.


‘Namaste, Scorpius, Lucy.’ She said, her delicate whisper barely audible over the screeching, which seemed to be coming from the ancient tape deck in the corner. ‘We saved some mats for you.’


‘What...?’ Scorpius dithered about, staring from the tape machine to Frances.


‘We’re doing Yoga,’ Obscure Henry explained. ‘Hungover.’


‘To channel away negative energy,’ Frances raised her voice. ‘To expand the positive aura of the school...Scorpius, I sense you have a lot of negative energy you need expunge, you must become at one with your inner self...’


Scorpius had gone bright red. He backed towards the door, mumbling incoherently, but I grabbed his arm.


‘Come on, at least for the headache,’ I told him. ‘It’ll be fun.’


‘Fun?’ he said, in a strangled sort of whisper. ‘Fun?


Ellen fetched two spare mats and set them on the floor between her and Brooding Nameless Barry, who was in the corner pretending to be the physical manifestation of a thundercloud as per usual. Scorpius sat next to him, looking self-conscious and nursing his sore wrist. Frances shut her eyes, breathing in deeply.


‘Become at one with the universe,’ she whispered. ‘Sense the negative energy in the room and expel it, expel the negative energy. Welcome the positive, bring it into your body and feel it lighting up your sooooooul.’


She stretched out her arms above her head, holding them there for a full minute. Ellen copied her instantaneously. Obscure Henry looked around, perplexed, and then half-heartedly threw his hands up above him, shrugging at Scorpius. Scorpius and Brooding Nameless Barry both glowered at me, although considering the latter glowered permanently, it wasn’t much of a surprise.


‘Lucy…can we leave?’ Scorpius whispered. Frances’ eyes snapped open.


‘Scorpius!’ she shot across the circle. ‘Focus on the negative energy, feel it leaving your body and flying away into the atmosphere, feel it purging you of your woes and worries, feel the positive energy entering your mind...’


Simultaneously, she and Ellen both lay flat on their mats, stretching their arms out to the ceiling. Obscure Henry and Scorpius exchanged looks. Brooding Nameless Barry brooded.


‘You are a lighthouse,’ Frances continued. ‘You are a beacon, you are a pillar of light, you are a positive, friendly soooooul.’


The screeching moved to another key. ‘What is that?’ I whispered.


‘Whale music.’ Obscure Henry answered. ‘Load of bollocks.’


‘You are a lighthouse standing calm amongst the storm...’


‘Can we leave?’ Scorpius pleaded. ‘I mean, there’s no hope I’ll ever be purged of woes-’


‘You are a lighthouse!’ Frances bawled over the whale music. ‘A lighthouse in the storm!


‘Yeah, but the bloody blub has gone and we don’t have any spares,’ Obscure Henry drawled.


‘You are a beacon of hope!’


‘I’m getting out of here,’ I told Scorpius, as my imaginary drummers and elephants started up again in full force. ‘If there’s no work, I’m off.’


‘Me too,’ Scorpius stood, pulling at his fringe again. ‘Argh, that whale music…’


A minute later we were on the staircase again, and then a minute after that we were back out on the streets again. Shivering, Scorpius dug his hands into his pockets. With his hunched shoulders, splinched fringe and miserable frown, he looked like a long-lost relative of Brooding Nameless Barry.


‘You look bloody miserable,’ I told him, with a friendly punch to the arm that almost knocked him into the gutter. ‘Come on, cheer up, you’ve got a gig tonight.’


He let an anguished sigh, staring dramatically upwards.


‘I can’t.’


‘Yes you can. Just think, you get to see your band-’


‘You don’t understand, Lucy.’ He sighed again.


‘I do. I know you hate Lettuce, don’t forget, I had to put up with Rose for years. I know just how it feels.’


Scorpius didn’t react with his usual mad hop, skip, jump and shriek, instead blinking at me wearily.


‘You’re not reacting,’ I panicked. ‘Why are you not reacting?’


‘Lucy, it feels like a load of heavy metal drummers are heavy metal drumming inside my head. I don’t really care about the band, or R-Rose, or-’


‘Ah! Look! It’s Rose!’


‘Don’t…’ he took a deep breath. ‘Don’t even…’


‘Haven’t seen her for ages, you’ve got nothing to worry about,’ I shrugged. ‘So what sort of practise do you have to do for your gig?’


He carried on walking in stony silence, throwing me a dark look.


‘Sorry, Scorp, didn’t mean to freak you out-’


‘Music. Piano practice,’ he interrupted. ‘Duh.’


The sarcastic sting of his words was somewhat ruined by the bus that drove through a nearby puddle at that precise moment and drowned Scorpius’ feet. He frowned down at his sodden trainers, looking as miserable as the small, scummy puddle he now stood in.


‘At least you didn’t trip?’ I tried to console him. ‘At least it wasn’t a small child on a bike?’


He opened his mouth to answer back, but another bus thundered through the puddle and sent another small tsunami towards us. Scorpius had the good sense to jump this time, although I wasn’t so lucky.


‘Ha.’ He pointed at my feet. ‘Evens.’


‘Forget that,’ I said, starting up our walk again. ‘Where can I get a decent headache potion? I’ve got drummers in my head too.


‘Drumming? I’ve got this horrible headache that feels like a heavy metal drumming convention-’


‘Er...isn’t that what drummers do? I’ve got another warning notice about my rent as well, I’m worried I’m going to go home and find everything I own in a skip.’


‘Oh. We’ve probably got some stuff back in the flat, you could drop in for a while...maybe you’ll be able to resurrect Tarquin…’


It began to rain. Scorpius frowned at the sky this time, as if pulling faces could influence the weather.


‘Just in time as well.’ I said cheerfully. ‘Can we apparate? I’m tired.’


‘Technically, you’re probably still over the limit…and I don’t want to lose any more of my fringe.’


‘Come on, focus...destination, determination-’


‘Oh, shut it,’ he waved me away. ‘Alright, come on...’ he offered me his elbow.


A moment later the two of us stumbled into existence on a deserted street. Scorpius fell sideways, put his foot into a plant pot and scattered soil across the cracked pavement. I had to hold onto a postbox with both hands to stay standing; the world spun.


‘Sorry,’ Scorpius said sheepishly, wobbling on one foot. He shook the other free from the plant pot, a crumpled begonia peeking out from the turn-up of his jeans. ‘Never really cracked apparition...’


‘It’s okay,’ I gasped, clinging onto the lamppost for dear life. ‘Me neither. How the hell did you pass?’


‘Flat’s that way,’ he pointed up the street, ignoring me. A long row of terraced houses stretched into the distance.


‘Splinch?’ I asked him, hesitantly. He thought about it for a second.


‘Don’t think so.’ He said, slowly. ‘My fringe-’


‘Your fringe is fine. Which one’s your flat?’


‘This way...’


I followed him along the street. I didn’t need Scorpius to point out which one his flat was; Tarquin was standing at the front door, looking incredibly smug.


‘Nicely done with the plant pot, Scorp.’ He grinned. ‘You’ll be the scourge of the neighbourhood for the next year or so.’


‘It wasn’t intentional,’ Scorpius grimaced. The begonia was still stuck up his trouser leg. Tarquin raised his eyebrows at it.


‘Scorpius,’ I said delicately. ‘You’ve got a begonia...’


Shooting the both of us a murderous look, Scorpius knelt down and pulled the begonia free, tossing it over his shoulder.


‘Come on up,’ Tarquin said. ‘Can’t believe you’ve never been before, Lucy. Raven’s over for tea, she’s got a cracking black eye from when you two ruined that table last night.’


‘It wasn’t our fault that we picked one with wobbly legs…’


Scorpius and Tarquin’s flat was on the second floor. It was a little bit bigger than mine, although possibly even shabbier (and I wasn’t even sure that was possible). A traffic cone stood inside the front door, a ketchup-crusted plate tossed carelessly beside it. A giant poster of a melting clock was tacked to the wall, next to a sulky-looking Gwendolyn/Raven, who was covering her bruised eye with one hand. Okay, I say bruised, but she had a habit of wearing a lot of eye make-up and it could have just been a radical new asymmetrical eyeshadow experiment.


‘Good morning,’ she scowled. ‘Thanks for the black eye.’


‘Sorry...’


‘I’ll get you back one day, promise.’


Scorpius and I traipsed through the hallway into the kitchen. It was a small, rather cramped room, crammed to the gunnels with furniture and with alarmingly colourful wallpaper. A battered upright piano leaned against one wall, a pile of sheet music towering ominously atop it. There was only a sliver of space between the piano stool and an old, worn sofa, which had a coffee table drawn precariously close to it at knee height. A tired armchair was placed next to it, and the ripped cover and mismatching legs gave me the impression that Scorpius had found it in a skip and then thrown it off a building before deciding to take it back to the flat.


‘Like our humble abode, Lucy?’ Tarquin asked, spreading out his arms and leaning nonchalantly on the sofa.


‘It’s…er, homely.’ I told him, casting my gaze over the walls, where a number of Hippogriff paintings had been lovingly hung at crooked angles.


‘The fancy Hippogriffs are good,’ Tarquin beamed. ‘Brought them back from a flea market. Proper antiques.’


‘Brought back the fleas too.’ Scorpius muttered.


Tarquin marched across the room towards a small kitchen area, offering us all tea. He hummed cheerfully as the kettle boiled, face framed by a window that was almost entirely obscured by a large purple house plant.


‘So…’ I said. ‘Nice assortment of…stuff you’ve got here.’


‘My dad told me he’d set fire to the piano if I didn’t move out with it…’ Scorpius said glumly.


‘Take a seat, Lucy.’ Tarquin passed me a mug of hot tea and dipped his head towards the sofa. Gwendolyn/Raven had already sat down, and looked in grave danger of being swallowed up by the sagging leather. Tucking my knees in carefully, I sat beside her. The sofa dipped alarmingly. I guessed that it might be a wee bit of a struggle to get out again, what with the coffee table getting so acquainted with my kneecaps and all.


‘Whoops, table.’ Gwendolyn/Raven kicked it forwards. It slammed into the wall with an almighty crash, knocking a fancy Hippogriff painting off its hook. Tarquin dived forwards and caught it deftly one-handed, grinning like a fool.


Scorpius sunk into the old armchair, clutching a small glass bottle. ‘Headache potion. Or at least I think it is,’ he explained, taking a sip. ‘Ugh, that’s foul…’


Scorpius was right. The spectacular grimace I pulled after my own hearty swig would have put a troll to shame.


‘That’s bloody disgusting,’ I pushed the bottle back into Scorpius’ hands. ‘Does it work?’


‘I hope so,’ he looked at the bottle with his eyes screwed up in disgust. ‘I dunno, it doesn’t have a label. Kind of looks home-brewed. My head feels better anyway.’


I meant to respond, but was rather distracted by the sudden moustache that Scorpius seemed to have grown.


‘Scorpius,’ I said, quite bewildered, ‘I don’t mean to alarm you, but...’


I didn’t need to finish my sentence; Scorpius was staring at me, eyes wide with confusion. Slowly, he pointed at my face.


‘Nice beard, Lucy,’ Tarquin said, pointedly. ‘Shame Scorpius failed his Potions N.E.W.T, isn’t it?’


*



Eight hours later and with all traces of facial hair vanished, and I was standing in a small, dim bar with Scorpius at my side, listening (or, rather, not listening) to him bitterly complaining about Potions, piano, and all things Lettuce.


‘Okay, for starters, in my defence, I only failed Potions because I had a broken arm and I couldn’t even think for the pain…and why did I even have to have piano lessons, anyway? If my dad didn’t want to inherit it he could have just sold it or given it away or something! It’s not like I could ever practice in term time! And I don’t understand why he annoys me so much!’ he fumed. ‘I mean, Lettuce, not my dad. Except my dad annoys me too. But Lettuce...he’s just so...so...’


‘Limp?’


‘Yeah! He’s like the useless bit of the salad that nobody wants!’


‘Doesn’t he have a sister called Carrot?’


‘Yeah, but she’s not much better,’ Scorpius kicked at an empty cider can on the floor. ‘Sort of hardcore with the politics thing, likes to dress up as a vegetable and jump out at gardeners, ‘cause apparently vegetables have rights too...kind of weird, you know?’


‘I know. When are you lot on stage?’


‘Dunno,’ he kicked at the can again and missed, losing his balance. Gripping onto my shoulder, he steadied himself, casting a furtive look around to check nobody had seen. ‘I don’t care, either. What if I just…walked out…’


‘It pays the bills?’


‘Pfft. It pays for photo paper and not much else. I’d earn more if I was a House Elf, and, y’know, they get nothing.’ He whinged. ‘Lettuce gets most of the money because he’s a singer…sorry, I meant poser.’


‘Right,’ I nodded. ‘Poser.’


‘It’s...its...oh, nevermind.’ He sighed heavily. ‘I’ve just got to go and get on that stage and play a load of crappy songs about cats and the apocalypse, and maybe the inner angst of vegetables-ouch!’


He was cut off as what felt like a ten-tonne truck smashed into the two of us. Coughing, Scorpius wheeled around and was almost immediately knocked to the floor by a ten-foot tall blur.


‘Al!’ I grinned. ‘It’s been a while!’


‘Lucy!’ Albus roared, sweeping me into a one-armed hug so powerful I thought I felt my ribs snap. ‘How are you?’


‘Alright,’ I wheezed, almost colliding foreheads with Scorpius as he was swept into a hug as well. ‘Struggling to breathe-’


Albus let me and Scorpius go. ‘I heard you were playing tonight, mate, thought I’d come have a look!’ he beamed.


‘Oh, no, Al, please, it’s going to be rubbish,’ Scorpius pleaded. ‘Don’t watch, seriously, go home, don’t-’


‘All the more reason to stick around!’ Albus gave Scorpius a jovial pat on the back that made him stagger forwards.


At that moment Lettuce and the untalkative Griff and Skylark appeared, wielding their instruments. Lettuce had ditched the sparkly catsuit for a strange mess of silk and taffeta that made him look like a skinny, eyeliner-wearing meringue, and the cast around his leg had been delicately painted with a pattern of flowers and stars. He winked at me.


‘Well, I suppose I’ll see you later.’ Scorpius said miserably, following the band towards the stage.


‘That skinny boy has a thing for you,’ Al grinned, once the band was out of earshot. Startled, I blinked at him.


‘What? Scorpius? We’re just friends-’


‘No, the one in all the pink, silly.’ Al laughed. ‘Although, to be honest...you could do better.’


‘Eurgh, Lettuce,’ I grimaced. ‘He’s so...so...’


‘Limp?’


‘Precisely what I was saying earlier! Scorpius reckons he’s the bit in the salad nobody wants-’


Albus hushed me at that point, nodding his head towards the stage. Scorpius had blundered on, blinking in the bright lights, joined moments later by the other in the band. Looking slightly lost, he drifted towards the piano and took his place there, shuffling a pile of sheet music. Lettuce strode up to the front, clutching his microphone and blowing kisses to the crowd – which was, at that point, me, Albus, and a couple of drunk guys at the back who looked to be comatose.


‘Helloooo, everyone,’ Lettuce crooned at us. ‘Are you having a lovely night?’


‘No,’ one of the drunk guys shouted.


‘Great!’ Lettuce grinned. He pulled his wand from a pocket somewhere inside the explosion of fluffy pink and white fabric he was sporting and waved it through the air; a bunch of bedraggled daffodils appeared. He scattered them over his shoulder and around the stage.


‘Now,’ he breathed, into the microphone. ‘We’re going to play a little song for you about global warming...and kittens!’


Five songs later and the set still hadn’t improved much. Scorpius was hunched so far over the piano that he was almost lying on it, and every other note he played seemed to be a wrong one – then again, the songs were so avant-garde that it was hard to tell what was a wrong note and what was a right one.


‘You’re a lovely audience,’ Lettuce sang to us at the end of the sixth song – all eight of us, now that a rather confused party of witches had wandered in and taken up residence at the bar. ‘Really lovely. Would you like to hear a little song I wrote about saving the earth from the destructive power of climate change?’


There was no response – not even from the drunkards at the back. A strange silence fell over the bar as Lettuce looked to each of us in turn, beaming. Then, there was a sudden scraping noise as Scorpius stood and kicked his piano stool back, brow furrowed.


‘Scorpius, darling!’ Lettuce simpered. ‘What’s the matter?’


Scorpius seemed to struggle to find something to say for a moment, but then he looked over at me and Albus, who, by now, were perched on high chairs at the back nestling cans of cider – and seemed to explode.


‘Cats? Climate change?’ he spluttered. ‘Kittens?’


‘Oh, yes,’ Lettuce trilled. ‘There is nothing of more importance in this world-’


Scorpius had picked up one of the conjured daffodils and, passing it idly between his hands, had accidentally snapped the head off of it (okay, I assume it was an accident, but for all I know, the decapitation of the daffodil could have had a more symbolic meaning). Shocked, Lettuce dropped the microphone, staring at Scorpius, who was busily gathering up his sheet music into one arm with a sheepish look.


‘Does this happen at every gig?’ Al breathed. I shook my head.


‘Never seen Scorpius this…er…violent before,’ I admitted, as Scorpius stormed off the stage to an epic drumroll thanks to Skylark. ‘Worries me, kind of. I mean, he…didn’t he just decapitate a daffodil? That's hardcore for Scorpius.’


'Wouldn't say boo to a goose,' Al nodded.


A few moments later Scorpius appeared from a side door and stalked towards us, sheet music clutched firmly in one hand.


‘Okay, that’s it,’ he said. ‘We’re leaving, I’ve quit the band, and-’


‘Hold it, I’ve got a drink to finish.’ Albus complained, waving his cider can in Scorpius’ face. ‘Come on, have a seat, get comfy.’


‘I’d really rather-’


Albus grabbed Scorpius by the arm and pulled him down into a nearby chair. Scorpius, looking extremely uncomfortable, cast a furtive glance at the stage (where Lettuce, Griff and Skylark were bravely screeching, drumming and failing at playing guitar without him) before accepting a sip of cider from Albus.


‘I really hate my life,’ he said. ‘First I splinch my fringe, then I apparate into a plant pot, then I mix up headache potion and facial hair restorer, then-’


‘You think you’ve got problems?’ I said archly. ‘I might get kicked out of my flat next month.’


‘Yeah,’ Al cut in. ‘And did you know that Rose still wants your head on a gilded platter?’


Scorpius’ head hit the table with a loud thump, his floppy fringe falling into a small puddle of cider.


‘What did I tell you?’ he grimaced, a moment later, sitting up straight. ‘Everything’s going in the shape of the pear…’




A/N: I couldn't resist that last line. I do love it when people slip chapter names/story names into their chapters. Please feel free to drop me a review and let me know what you think of the glorious failure that is the world of the Starving Artists and their respective woe. Especially Scorpius' woe. He has too much for his own good.

edited 19/01/2011.
edited again 22/04/2011.
...and edited yet again 19/08/2011.
.........and edited AGAAIN 17/06/2012. I am the queen of edits, srsly.


Chapter 8: Rose has a Human Side
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Chapter Eight - Rose has a Human Side






Considering that Scorpius was by now seeing the world as entirely pear-shaped and not as an oblate spheroid as it should be, he held up remarkably well in the final month up to Christmas. When I say he held up remarkably well, I mean that he didn’t descend into a full-scale nervous breakdown. He was still the same old Scorpius (although I’d only really known him for a couple of months, so I wasn’t really sure about this), still troubled by the minor woes and social anxieties of everyday life at the Art School. You know that joke? The one where a horse walks into the bar and the bartender goes ‘Why the long face?’ Well, he was kind of like that, except it was more like ‘Why the long face, Scorpius? Oh, no, wait, that’s a horse.’


Truth be told it wasn’t really anything like that at all. You know that thing where you try to be witty but, instead of laughter and admiration all you get is an awkward silence and a lot of staring? Happens to me a lot. Like just then. Anyway.


Scorpius doesn’t look anything like a horse, by the way. To make a short story long, he was basically still the miserable wretch of a boy I’d met in September. Not even in an outwardly miserable, woe-is-me tortured artistic turmoil sort of way. That was Barry’s trademark. No, Scorpius was miserable in that sort of resigned way. The sort of person whose nose (or camera) you could break and get no reaction apart from some serious puppy-dog eyes and a bit of fringe-flopping.


I could kind of see why Rose fancied him, in an abstract way. You could totally bully him into doing anything. Minor theft, for example, but I’m not going to go into that for reasons that I never hope to make clear. People like Rose always need minions, and by the fault of his own resigned misery, Scorpius was an unwilling minion of Gwendolyn/Raven and Tarquin. Not that I was any better, mind, I just like to think I had a bit more in the way of free will.


A letter came from my mother on the sixth of December, inviting me to spend Christmas with my family at my Nan Weasley’s place. Molly, Rose, Hugo, Dominique and Lily will all be there too, so you’ll have someone your age to talk to! she’d written, sounding quite desperate. We’ve already heard from the others but most are busy. I suppose you’re in contact with Albus so you probably know that he’s away to hotter climes for the fortnight. I hear James is taking his girlfriend to Paris for the holiday. Roxanne, on the other hand, is going up to Scotland to spend some time with her penfriend. I heard that this...and so the letter went on for another three feet of parchment, ending with but you probably knew that all already. See you on Christmas Eve! Love Mum.


‘What’s everyone doing for Christmas?’ I asked, the day after the letter, lounging in the common room. The windows had been Spellotaped shut to keep out the draughts that the weatherwitch promised would bring snow by the end of the week, but it was still fairly cold inside. Scorpius was shivering pathetically next to me in spite of the raucously patterned knitted jumper that he was wearing.


‘Going up to Birmingham to see the family.’ Tarquin said.


‘Going about a mile down the road to see my parents.’ Gwendolyn/Raven said.


‘Dunno,’ Scorpius dithered. ‘Think I’m staying with my Mum.’


‘I’m going to my Nan’s house,’ I explained. ‘Big family. Crazy Rose is going.’


Scorpius stiffened slightly, but didn’t say anything.


‘Oh, you big girl’s blouse,’ Gwendolyn/Raven tutted at Scorpius. ‘She’s not going to break down your door with an axe or anything.’


‘Wouldn’t put it past her,’ Scorpius said, quietly.


‘Where does your mum live?’ I asked, changing the subject.


‘Up north. Yorkshire way.’


‘I thought she was in London too?’ Tarquin asked.


‘She was,’ Scorpius looked confused. ‘I mean, she moves a lot. My dad’s the one in London.’


‘Your parents are divorced?’


The three of them looked at me like I was an idiot. (Which, I’ll admit, I was.)


‘Well, yeah.’ Scorpius said, slowly. ‘Have been for ages.’


‘Gosh, I didn’t know.’


‘It’s not a big deal,’ he looked uncomfortable. ‘Anyone want a cup of tea?’ he stood, almost knocking over one of France’s strange, misshaped pots in the process. Tarquin caught it one-handed. Catching was something Tarquin was very good at, it transpired, especially when it came to Scorpius knocking over things. I suppose it came from them living together.


Scorpius and Tarquin’s flat became a regular place of socialising that month. The pub, expensive and crammed with merry Christmas revellers on office parties, wasn’t the best choice anymore, and the open mic was suddenly awash with Christmas carols and festive poems. Festive poetry, of course, being a lot like normal poetry, just with bells on. After the second open mic we went to, Gwendolyn/Raven announced that she was sick to the death of Santa hats and festive angst, and insisted on a more home-grown form of recreation. This happened to be piling into Scorpius and Tarquin’s kitchen-cum-living room, wearing Santa hats and mocking Scorpius and his festive angst. Which, of course, was as dire as usual.


Take one such social evening, for example. Gwendolyn/Raven had fully got into the spirit with her old pointed Hogwarts hat by draping it entirely in tinsel and fixing a sparkly pom-pom to the tip. Tarquin had made mulled wine. Obscure Henry had bought a box of mince pies that Scorpius avoided like the plague until someone pointed out that they didn’t actually have mince in them. Frances and Ellen turned up and stared conspiratorially at everyone until, after a few drinks, Ellen sat at the piano and gave a rather wobbly and out-of-tune version of ‘Jingle Bells’ that nobody could quite remember the words to.


‘And as I stare/ into the whirlpool of my turmoil/ the spider’s web disintegrates/ in flaxen...in...’ Scorpius trailed off, reading his latest poem to me and Tarquin, already slightly drunk and slurring his words. ‘Any ideas?’


Tarquin thought about it for a second. ‘How about...as I stare into the festive whirlpool of my turmoil...my festive turmoil?’


‘What about the spider’s web disintegrates/ like old tinsel in the rain?’ I offered.


‘In festive rain?’


‘No use,’ Scorpius sighed, tucking his notebook back into his pocket. ‘Christmas is taking over everything.’


‘In a very festive way, I’ll say. When’s our big Christmas knees-up?’


‘What, you mean the party? I think it’s the-’


‘We’re having a party?’ I interrupted. ‘Exciting!’


‘Not really a party per se,’ Tarquin said, shrugging. ‘More like a bin full of cheap drinks and a lot of loud music...festive music.’


‘Could you stop with the festive thing?’ Scorpius pleaded.


‘No,’ Tarquin said, simply. ‘Anyway, the deal is that everyone chips in a Galleon and buys as much in the way of alcohol that they can, someone clears their living room out and then we get really hammered and do Christmassy things. To festive music. I believe that Screaming Bloodthirsty Disco recorded a Christmas EP last year...’


‘Oh no, don’t mention that,’ Scorpius moaned, putting his hands over his ears.


‘How did it go again? It’s Christmas, it’s Christmas, stop global warming, it’s Christmas, it’s Christmas, cats cats cats or something like that. How’s Lettuce doing, Scorpius?’


‘He’s in a new band,’ Scorpius said, mournfully. ‘Called the Sparkly Church Boys.’


‘Wowzers. He’s really outdone himself. How...festive.’


‘Bah...’ Scorpius accepted a small sweet from a passing Gwendolyn/Raven. ‘Humbug, anyone?’


‘So, what date’s the Christmas shindig?’ I said, taking a humbug. Tarquin unwrapped his and popped it into his mouth, sucking it into his cheek like a hamster with sticky-out ears.


‘Usually the twenty third, just before everyone jets off to Yorkshire and such.’


‘I wouldn’t travel on Christmas eve, if I were you,’ Scorpius cautioned. ‘If it’s anything like last year you’ll still be tipsy into Boxing Day.’


‘I’ll be good,’ I promised. ‘I’m off to see the family on Christmas Eve, so I’ll stick to Pumpkin juice.’


Scorpius and Tarquin both raised their eyebrows at me.


‘You’re as bad as he is,’ Scorpius jabbed a finger at Tarquin. ‘If you’re sticking to Pumpkin juice then I’m a giraffe.’


‘What if you are a giraffe? What if your perceptions of reality are so distorted that you’re actually a giraffe that thinks it’s a human? What if-’


‘What if we’re all ducks in a duck pond eating the bread of sorrow? Yeah, Tarquin, to be honest, all this existentialism is getting kind of old.’


‘Only if you’re a duck.’


‘Oh, just...if you don’t stop I’ll...I’ll-’


‘Write a poem about it? What, TARQUIN! Your theories are SPARKLIN’! For you I’d go to Berlin with a kilt pin...’


Scorpius stared at him, slack-mouthed.


‘I’m a poet, see!’ Tarquin grinned. ‘LUCY! You look kind of juicy, let’s listen to Debussy...here comes Raven, she looks quite unshaven...Scorpius, stop being such a fool and get on that piano stool!


Scorpius looked completely blank. I was trying hard not to snort into my mulled wine.


‘Charming.’ Scorpius said, eventually.


Scorpius turned out to be right on two counts. On the twenty fourth I stood beside my front door with suitcase in hand, fumbling with what I thought was my wand in the pocket of my handbag but actually turned out to be a self-inking quill that had turned both my hand and my bag an interesting shade of purple. Sleep-deprived and fresh from Scorpius and Tarquin’s flat (which seemed to have become an art school second home) I hadn’t had a chance to make myself look at all presentable. I was due to shoot away into the block’s communal fireplace in ten minutes, and my hair was still trying to play the part of a blue haystack on my head. I did have clips for it somewhere, but, honestly, they could have been needles for all the luck I had finding them. I half expected to arrive at my Nan’s house in the country and be mauled by cows thinking I was tasty blue food. I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to get started on thinking about the clothes, or even what Floo Powder would do to my fuzzy mind.


‘Wand,’ I scraped my hand around the rest of my bag. ‘Wand...’


A knock on the door interrupted my mumblings. Setting down the suitcase, I flung the door open to find Scorpius bent double on the doormat, wheezing.


‘You...left...this,’ he panted, holding out my wand at arms’ length. ‘Thought I’d catch you...before you...went...away.’


‘Ooh, thanks,’ I took it from him. ‘I know, there are a lot of stairs on the way up.’


‘What?’ he choked. ‘Oh, ran...didn’t fancy...apparating into flat...over the limit…splinch...’


‘You ran halfway across London to bring my wand? That’s nice, would you like a speedy cup of tea?’


‘Only…up the stairs…can’t...stay...for long. Also this...’ he pulled an envelope from his pocket. ‘Forgot...Christmas card.’


‘Thanks,’ I put down my handbag and took it. We’d swapped presents the night before, although I couldn’t actually remember who had given me what or even where I’d put it.


‘What happened to you?’ he asked, straightening up. ‘You look like you slept in a ditch.’


‘Feel like it too. You’re not much better,’ I said, taking in his appearance. The fact that his jumper was on back-to-front was enough, but the shiny red face, plastered back fringe and the glasses at a jaunty angle made him look like a librarian in a sauna.


‘Raven’s worse, I think her shoes are still in next door’s garden...I think Henry might be there too.’


‘Ah, right.’


‘Got a lot of cleaning up to do,’ he grimaced. ‘Did you bring the snake?’


‘What snake?’


‘I found a snake in the piano-’


In the piano?’


‘Yeah, not a real one, it’s an ornament or something, but it’s huge. There’s also a flock of birds in the bathroom, I’m too scared to open the door in case they all fly out and peck me,’ he flapped his arms around his head for effect. ‘I think they’re charms, but I don’t want to chance it...’


‘Raven? Or maybe Barry, he’s a bit of a dark horse.’


‘Dunno. I’m just...’ he yawned, not bothering to cover his mouth.


‘Tired. Looking forward to the break.’


‘Yeah,’ he nodded emphatically. ‘Suppose you’re off in a minute...’


‘Just going to use the Floo network. Can’t chance apparating that far in this state.’


‘Ah. Well. Enjoy yourself...’


‘I will. Happy Christmas, Scorp.’


‘Happy Christmas,’ he beamed. ‘See you in a week or so...I better start back to the flat and get some breakfast,’ he checked his glow-in-the-dark watch. ‘Or lunch, rather.’


‘Bye, then.’


I wasn’t sure what the etiquette was for saying goodbye, so I went in for a sort of one-armed hug that, I think, caught him a bit by surprise. He patted me awkwardly on the back before I released him and waved him off down the corridor, re-gathered my bags and stowed my wand safely into my pocket, grinning foolishly to myself. Giving Scorpius a headstart out of the building, I stalled for a moment by opening the card he’d given me.


It wasn’t actually a card at all. It was a photograph, one I instantly recognised as being hand-developed. Gwendolyn/Raven and Tarquin stood to one side with matching cheesy grins and pointy hats poker-straight, Scorpius and I on their left looking quite sheepish. The four of us were grinning stupidly, posing for the camera, and the vague blur of Obscure Henry hung around in the background. Beneath the scene, Scorpius had scrawled ‘Merry Christmas’ in red ink. Or, at least I thought it said Merry Christmas anyway, but Scorpius had pretty messy handwriting and I wasn’t totally sure.


To quote Tarquin, thought, I would have said that the whole thing was very...festive.


The photograph was an admittedly lovely gesture. I was still thinking about it when I sprawled onto my Gran’s carpet ten minutes later, coated in a fine layer of soot and with my haystack hair in an even worse state. My Mum seemed to have been hovering around all day waiting for me to arrive.


‘Lucy!’ she trilled, scooping me up into a hug. ‘How are you?’


‘Splendid,’ I told her through gritted teeth. Another drumming party was getting warmed up in my head and I was fully aware of the staleness of my breath.


‘Oh,’ she drew away, grimacing slightly. ‘You look...tired.’


‘I have that seasonal flu that’s going around,’ I searched in my pockets for a tissue and found a grotty handkerchief, sniffing for effect. ‘I’ve not been very well.’


‘Oh, my poor wee lamb,’ my Mum soothed, bustling off towards the kitchen. ‘I’ll fetch you some potion.’


‘That’s not a cold, is it?’ a voice came from the other side of the room. Molly rose from an armchair, devastatingly attractive in makeup that seemed to have been applied with a trowel. In the dark. ‘You’ve been out.’


‘What’s it to you?’ I stuffed the tissue back into my pocket.


‘Mum’d kill you if she knew what you got up to.’


‘Whatever do you mean, Molly? I’m the perfect model of a daughter. Purity is my middle name.’


‘Your middle name is Carol,’ she snorted. ‘Come off it, you look like the wild woman of the Forbidden Forest. Smell like her too...’


‘Says the girl who’s got so much makeup on she looks like a Satsuma.’


‘Oh, yeah, original, Lucy. At least I go to decent parties, you look like you party in a skip.’


‘It’s how we art students chill out. Keep up.’


Molly made to speak, but my Mum entered again, a steaming cup of potion in her hand. I downed it in one, thankful that it wasn’t Scorpius’ home brew.


‘Thanks, Mum. Molly was just telling me about her exciting social life,’ I said, casually. ‘All those parties she goes to.’


‘Parties?’


‘She’s joking, Mum,’ Molly whined. ‘She always does this.’


‘Not really,’ I shrugged. ‘All those Hogsmeade weekends, Molly...I didn’t know they let fifth years buy Firewhiskey. Professor Aspidistra would have your head served up on the Ravenclaw table for dinner if she knew.’


‘What are you trying to say, Lucy?’ my Mum demanded. ‘Molly, is this true?’


‘Of course it’s true. Molly is-’


‘Lucy has a hangover,’ Molly blurted out. ‘She’s faking the cold.’


My Mum turned to stare at me.


‘I’m totally innocent,’ I held up my hands. ‘Seasonal flu, I swear.’


‘Girls,’ my Mum’s voice was stern. ‘I don’t know what’s going on here, but this is Christmas and it’s time for family, so please be polite. Molly, why don’t you take Lucy upstairs and – er – let her get cleaned up?’


Tossing her hair over her shoulder, Molly stormed from the room. Lifting my suitcase, I followed her.


‘We’re sharing with Rose,’ she called as we ascended the stairs. ‘Worst Christmas ever, she’s such a killjoy, I swear I’ll murder her – oh, hi, Rose!’


In a perfect example of bad timing, Rose had appeared on the landing at the top of the stairs, a tray of mince pies in her hand and a dying smile on her face.


‘Oh, hello, Lucy. I didn’t realise you were here.’


‘Hi Rose,’ I waved cheerily with my free hand. ‘Merry Christmas.’


‘Yes,’ she looked distracted. ‘Well, I best be off and get the dinner started.’


She bustled past us, almost upsetting the tray of pies as she squeezed past my suitcase. Molly raised her fiercely plucked eyebrows at me.


‘Yeah, so, anyway,’ she continued up the stairs. ‘Dom and Lily are across the corridor and Hugo’s in with Ron and Hermione. This is going to be soooo boring, I really wanted to stay at Hogwarts with my mates but Mum insisted.’


‘Chin up, it’ll be fine.’


Molly barged her way into the room. Three single beds had been set up; two were neat with sheets folded precisely, the third a jumble of blankets and clothes, the bedside table heaped with cosmetics and dog-eared magazines. Molly plonked herself down on top of the mess, twisting a blonde curl around one finger.


‘You’re in the middle,’ she said. ‘Be careful not to put any of your stuff in Rose’s area or she’ll flip. Don’t even breathe on it.’


‘Right.’ I dumped my suitcase on the top of the middle bed, wrinkling the sheets beyond repair. Molly had fallen back on her bed, feet resting on a pillow, flicking through a copy of Witch Weekly that boasted headlines such as ‘the best party dresses’ and ‘improve your performance in the bedroom with these top ten tips.’


‘Got a boyfriend, Molly?’ I asked.


‘Why do you ask?’


‘Didn’t know you were so keen to improve your performance in the bedroom-’


‘Shut your face,’ a tube of lipstick came whizzing at my head and missed. I chose that moment to beat a hasty retreat to the bathroom.


As much as I loved my family (well, as much as I loved anyone that wasn’t Molly or Rose) I had to admit that I shared Molly’s lack of enthusiasm about the whole Christmas fandango. No Albus, no James, no Louis – I was abandoned with nitpicking control freaks like Rose and boy-obsessed sisters like Molly who had long ago sacrificed normal skin for a layer of orange foundation. Not to mention my doily-loving mother and father. And Rose was making dinner. I felt sick at the thought of having my carrots and parsnips arranged at perfect right angles on my plate.


Two hours later the family were gathered in the sitting room, all half-asleep around a roaring fire. I’d somehow managed to tame my haystack into a ponytail, although I was still at a loss to why I’d found a twig in it (obviously some remnant of the previous night). Rose had shut herself in the kitchen, leaving the rest of us to nod off over books and games of wizard chess. My Nan kept throwing anxious glances towards the kitchen door, reassured every so often by Aunt Hermione.


‘Rose is a good cook,’ she soothed. ‘Very organised. It’ll be perfect, I’m sure.’


‘If I could just oversee the trifle...’


‘Rose is fine,’ Hugo said determinedly, putting an end to the conversation.


An hour later and there was still no sign of Rose. The family seemed relatively unconcerned, but this was probably down to the fact that most of them were asleep or, in the case of Hugo and Dominique, orchestrating a violent tussle between a bishop and a castle.


‘I’ll just go check on Rose, shall I?’ I asked to the room at large. I got nothing but an almighty snore from my father, which I took as a yes.


‘Rose?’ I knocked on the door. There was no answer. ‘Parsnips behaving properly?’


Still no response. I shrugged and pushed the door open. Rose was kneeling on the floor, a fat turkey resting squat on a tray in front of her.


‘Hello,’ I said, cheerfully. ‘How’s it going?’


It was at that inconvenient moment that I noticed Rose was crying.


‘The turkey!’ she sniffed. ‘Won’t...won’t fit in the oven!’


‘Erm...oh dear,’ I knelt beside her, looking from the turkey to the oven door. There was no chance in a million years that the two would meet.


‘And I promised Mum I’d sort out the whole dinner and the vegetables are done and they’re going cold and it all went fine when I did the Christmas dinner at the law school and speaking of the law school I have so much work to do this holiday and I really don’t want to fail and half of my friends don’t talk to me anymore and I really miss him...’ she blubbered. A few tears fell onto the turkey. The whole situation would have looked absurd to anybody watching, but I was pretty sure that the family was comatose in the next room and wouldn’t bother us.


‘Erm...sorry, Rose,’ I said, patting her shoulder awkwardly. The two of us had never really got on too well (to cut a long story short, she disagreed with my rulebreaking, I disagreed with her disagreeing). She gave an almighty, snotty sniff, and then sat back against the wall. Just as well, as I was beginning to worry about how hygienic our Christmas dinner would be with her crying over it. The next problem was figuring out how to make her stop crying.


‘It’s alright,’ she sniffed again, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. ‘It’s silly, really...you won’t...you won’t tell anyone about this, will you?’


‘Alright, sure...who do you miss?’ I asked, but she ignored me, standing and crossing the room in search of a piece of kitchen paper.


‘It’s so stupid!’ she blurted out, blotting at her eyes with the extra-absorbent tissue. ‘I’m crying about a bird!’


‘Yeah...’


‘The oven just isn’t big enough!’


‘I know...’


‘It’s utterly absurd!’ Rose tossed the mascara-stained piece of kitchen paper aside, her usual crisp voice returning. ‘I can’t believe it!’


‘Hmm...’


‘I just don’t know what to do!’


I shrugged. ‘You were the Ravenclaw.’


‘I know!’


‘Make the oven bigger?’


‘How?’


‘I dunno, maybe...’ I took my wand from my pocket and pointed it squarely at the oven, but Rose grabbed my wrist and pushed it back again.


‘Erm, should I do it? Perhaps an undetectable extension charm would do the trick...’


‘Yeah, thought so,’ I said, trying to forget the fact that I’d been on the verge of saying Reducto and blasting my Nan’s kitchen to smithereens.


Rose swept her wand through the air in a figure of eight, sticking out her tongue in concentration. The oven did nothing.


‘Rose, it isn’t working.’


‘That’s because it’s an undetectable extension charm?’


‘Oh. Right.’


It did work, however, because five minutes later Rose had popped the turkey in with no trouble at all, straight-faced, prim and proper again.


‘Right, that’s that sorted,’ she said, sounding businesslike. ‘I’ll get the sauce done then. You can go back through.’


The crying seemed to have been forgotten. Slightly miffed at being brushed off that quickly, I wandered back through to the living room to find that Molly had taken my armchair.


‘Shove it, Molly.’


‘Nope.’


Such was the mood for the rest of Christmas Eve. Rose, organiser in chief, served up a pretty much perfect dinner later that evening, much to my Aunt Hermione’s delight. She was all smiles as she doled out the sprouts and the parsnips, but by the time we got to pudding she was as miserable as Barry on a good day, poking glumly at her trifle without eating a bite.


‘What’s the matter?’ I accosted her in our room later that night, after what felt like a century of ‘traditional’ Satsuma peeling and sherry drinking.


‘Nothing,’ she said, briskly. ‘I’m absolutely fine, Lucy.’


‘You were crying earlier!’


‘What on earth are you talking about? I’m absolutely fantastic,’ she beamed. The conversation ended a moment later as Molly slouched in, party hat askew on her head, yawning widely.


Christmas day is, in the Weasley clan, a day for the family. Sharing a room with Molly and Rose meant that the family day started at seven, with Rose leaping out of bed and throwing the curtains open, hollering all sorts of generic proverbs at the room in an attempt to wake Molly and I up. Which, of course, didn’t happen until about ten, when Molly, rolled up in her duvet like a giant sausage roll, trundled into the bathroom and stuck a brush into her hair. Not that I was much better. By then I’d only managed to get one sock on, and I wasn’t really planning to get out of my pyjamas until at least six in the evening. Rose, by contrast, was fully dressed, washed, brushed and sitting downstairs in the living room waiting for the rest of the house to rise and shine.


‘Blergh,’ Molly said as she came out of the bathroom.


‘Merry Christmas to you to, dear.’


Still in my pyjamas, I made my way downstairs, bleary-eyed in the bright winter sun streaming in through the windows. I bumped into Hugo on the stairs, just as bleary as I was, nursing a hot cup of tea.


‘Morning,’ he said. ‘Rose is going mad in the sitting room, I swear she’s organising the presents by colour or something by now.’


‘I’m not going in there alone.’


‘Lily and Dom are in there, you better rescue them.’


And so I ended up playing Scrabble. I know, I know, I’m absolutely insane. I voluntarily wandered into the sitting room, sat down next to Rose, and started playing Scrabble with them.


(Never play Scrabble with a nitpicker extraordinaire. Not only will you never win, but you will also look like the biggest fool since foolish behaviour began).


‘G-L-A-S-G-O-W,’ I spelt out, laying down my tiles on the board under the beady eye of Rose. ‘Triple word score, if you please.’


‘It’s a proper noun,’ she said, brusquely. ‘You can’t have them.’


Dom and Lily shot me sympathetic smiles from the other side of the table. Rose was mopping the floor with us. Not literally, of course, more in a metaphorical way.


So, still in my jammies, I wandered back upstairs, searching for a Hugo or even a Mum to escape to. No such luck; I ended up back in the bedroom, looking from Molly’s bed to Rose’s and wondering how different cousins really could be.


Perched on the end of my bed and contemplating the slice of toast in my hand, my mind drifted to the Christmas days I supposed my friends were enjoying. Tarquin and Scorpius were both easy to picture in novelty jumpers (well, Scorpius did wear interesting knitwear on a daily basis) but somehow I couldn’t picture Gwendolyn/Raven in any sort of festive family scenario. In my mind, she slept in a coffin and was secretly a bat animagus.


This reminded me of the presents they’d given, which were still stashed in my suitcase, unopened. So I decided to open them when I was alone in the bedroom - which, I have to say, was my first wise action of the Christmas holiday. I didn’t think I could get away with Sc-Tarquin again, and any hint of Scorpius and his festive angst would turn Rose into the extremely organised banshee I knew lurked beneath her prim mask.


The first present was from Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven: a pack of exploding snap cards featuring a collection of fancy hippogriff paintings on the backs. Scorpius’ was a typical slab of chocolate. Chocolate was one step down from tea on the ultimate foodstuffs-that-make-everything-much-better scale, and I was pretty chuffed that Scorpius had gone for the giant slab option instead of the tricky, over-packaged posh box of truffles most people went for at Christmas. He evidently knew me well.


I told him this after I’d opened the bar and taken a square or two. Not that he heard, mind, mostly because I was talking to the photograph he’d given me as a card. Bearing in mind that I spent a lot of time holed up in a pitch-black room inhaling photographic chemicals, I didn’t exactly consider this strange behaviour.


‘I know you can’t hear me, but, mmm,’ I said to the photo, snapping off another ten squares or so of the chocolate, ‘but this is a really great present. All I need is a cup of tea and it’ll be super stuff. It’s really boring here, it’s like being hit over the head repeatedly with a huge brick whilst being force-fed citrus fruits...it’s like satsuma city here, I hope things are better with you lot. Nice fancy hippogriffs, by the way, Tarquin, didn’t realise you were such a fan-’


This was the moment that Rose picked to walk in. Unfortunately. With a speed and agility I didn’t quite know I had, I thrust the photograph down the back of the bedstand with one hand and held up the slab of chocolate with the other, grinning as if I’d meant to hand it to her all along.


‘Hi, Lucy,’ Rose said, staring down her nose at the chocolate, which I was now waving in front of her face in an effort to distract her from the fact that my hand had got stuck behind the bed. ‘Er, no thanks.’


‘Go on, have a piece!’ I beamed, waving it in her face. ‘I was just about to come downstairs and, er, carry on the game!’


‘We finished ages ago. I won with a-’


‘Argh!’


‘Something wrong?’ Rose asked, curiously.


‘Just my hand,’ I panted, waving it around madly as if that’d take away the sudden, throbbing pain. ‘Stuck behind the bed.’


‘Er...why?’


‘Lost my wand!’


‘Your wand is on the bedside table...’


‘That’s because...er, I just put it there!’


‘No, you...well, nevermind. I came up to ask if you wanted a drink...’


‘Yes please!’ I nodded furiously, nursing my sore hand.


‘What-’


‘Something alcoholic. Please.’


‘It’s only two in the afternoon,’


‘It’s Christmas! And I’m a student.’


‘Fair enough,’ Rose shrugged. ‘Could use a drink myself.’




A/N: I suppose I should mention here that Scrabble is a trademark of Mattel, and Jingle Bells is apparently a public domain song so I think I can mention it here.
edited 22/04/2011
edited 19/08/2011
edited yet again 17/06/2012

Chapter 9: Thus Spoke Scorpius
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Chapter Nine - Thus Spoke Scorpius





‘Poetry isn’t just a type of literature, it’s a way of life.’


Thus spoke Scorpius. Or, rather, thus mumbled Scorpius, sitting upside down on a sofa with his legs sticking up in the air and a wet cloth on his forehead.


I’ll begin at the beginning.


I arrived back from my Grandma’s on New Year’s Eve to find my Landlord standing outside my front door, tapping his foot impatiently, wearing a glare that could have killed a troll three times over.


‘Wow,’ was all I could say when I saw him. Apparently this did not suffice, because his glare contorted through what looked like the five stages of grief before finally settling on anger.


‘I warned you,’ he said, slowly. ‘I warned you about the rent, and-’


‘Oh, that,’ I assumed a cheery grin that did nothing to wipe the rage from his face. ‘Well, you know, I’m a student, I don’t make much money-’


‘YOU DON’T MAKE ANY MONEY!’ he screeched.


‘True,’ my voice sounded small.


‘NO BLOODY CONSIDERATION!’


‘Mmmmaybe.’


‘I HAVE A FAMILY TO FEED!’


That was a blatant lie; he was single and lived alone on the ground floor with a budgerigar. Unless that was his family. Maybe his wife had been transfigured into a budgie in a horrific accident three years ago and he was using rent from his tenants to pay for her treatment. Maybe my lack of rent had set them back for another year. Maybe his kids were little budgies too, but they’d all grown up and literally flown the nest and all the heartbreak of having a budgerigar family was what had made my landlord so surly and bitter.


Or maybe my mind was wandering again.


‘I WANT YOU OUT!’ he screamed. ‘GET OUT OF MY PROPERTY, AND NEVER COME BACK!’


Ouch. I got the feeling that when I was eighty-three those words would still sting. Those words were also why an hour later my life was packed into two cardboard boxes (because my landlord evidently knew nothing about the typical two-months’-eviction-notice-rule). Those words are also why I managed to knock Scorpius out. I’ll get on to that in a minute.


My mind raced. Where was I going to live? With Rose? Al? That was when my mind got a stitch and had to sit out of the race for a few minutes.


I weighed up the possibilities in my mind. Rose meant having to iron creases down the front of my trousers, but then again, Rose did also mean living in a large, comfy, well-heated Kensington flat.


However, Rose also meant living with Rose.


As far as I knew, Al shared a flat with four burly and rather posh Healing students on his course, and there was barely enough room in his flat to swing a Kneazle, let alone a Lucy with two cardboard boxes.


My mind got up on sore legs, did a couple of stretches, jogged tentatively back into the race, and then was hit by a bus.


Scorpius and Tarquin. They were the only viable option, the only people I thought I could safely leech off until I found another hovel to live in. I thought of their flat – there was a free sofa, from memory, and I’d never really been particularly choosy about where I slept.


The only problem was how to ask them. Balancing my worldly possessions in my arms, I counted to three, turned on the spot, almost suffocated, and then arrived a moment later in the front room of Scorpius and Tarquin’s flat. There was a strangely high-pitched squeak as something collided with me, then there was a crash, an ominous tinkle of china, and then deadly silence.


I was safe, as were my boxes. Scorpius wasn’t, however. It seemed that he’d been crossing the room at speed and I had appeared in his path like some sort of ghostly, blue-haired angel of death wielding a couple of crumpled boxes. Judging by the awkward way he was lying on the floor, the crash had been the sound of his head smacking against the coffee table. He wasn’t moving.


‘Eek,’ was all I could say. Tarquin appeared at my side, having rushed out of his room, but stopped dead in his tracks at the sight of what looked like a bizarre murder scene.


‘Oh my god, you’ve killed Scorpius,’ he breathed.


The two of us stared in horror for a full thirty seconds before Scorpius sat up abruptly, looking quite dazed.


‘Wssffttttthnnnnggg,’ was all he could say.


‘This is strange,’ Tarquin said, vocalising my thoughts.


‘I didn’t mean it, Scorpius, I’m really sorry,’ I finally said, as Scorpius re-adjusted his glasses, which were at an odd angle on his face. I say face, but they were actually in his mouth for reasons I didn’t think I could explain.


‘Ggwwwrrrrrrggg,’ Scorpius said, busy extracting the glasses from his mouth. Tarquin dashed over to the sink and started filling a glass with water.


‘Are you alright?’ I asked Scorpius, as he carefully put his glasses back on.


‘I feel dizzy,’ he said, in a strangely light voice. ‘I think I should lie down.’


‘Put your legs up in the air,’ Tarquin called from the sink. ‘I dunno what it’s for, but my mum always made me do it when I felt faint.’


Five minutes later Scorpius was lying upside down on the sofa with his feet pointing skywards, a sizeable lump coming up on the back of his head. Tarquin bustled over from the sink, cloth in hand, and then dropped it on Scorpius’ forehead where it landed with a wet slap.


‘How are you feeling now?’ Tarquin asked him, sitting in the flea-bitten armchair.


‘Floaty,’ Scorpius murmured. ‘Like a cloud.’


I, sitting next to Scorpius, was trying hard not to let my face turn tomato red. It's always a good idea to knock someone out if you want a favour from them. Always.


‘Uh-huh,’ Tarquin leaned forward, held up a hand, and studied Scorpius’ upside-down face. ‘How many fingers am I holding up?’


‘The question is not how, but why.’


‘Who is the current Minister for Magic?’


‘Dunno,’ Scorpius said, sounding quite dreamy.


‘What’s your middle name?’


‘I wanted it to be Socrates, but my mum said no.’


Tarquin and I exchanged a glance.


‘I think you hit your head quite hard, Scorp,’ Tarquin said, cheerily, then lowered his voice, turning to me, ‘I’ve only ever seen him like this once before, and, well, very different circumstances and the like. Scorpius, define love.’


‘Love?’ Scorpius said, in his slow, dreamy voice. ‘Love is art, and without art society is not society because it’s all uncivilised…dog eat dog world…but my basic point is poetry.’


‘Poetry?’


‘Poetry isn’t just a type of literature, it’s a way of life.’


‘Oh, really?’


‘And love is life and without love you do not have life and vice versa…or is it the other way around? I want to go for a walk,’ he sat up abruptly, forgot that he was upside down, and poked himself in the eye with his own knee. ‘Oww…can I have a pen?’


‘A pen?’ Tarquin and I said in unison.


‘I…I think I have a poem,’ Scorpius said, with a lazy smile, ‘about…about love.’


‘I don’t think you’re in any sort of fit state to write, mate-’


‘Get me a pen!’ Scorpius demanded. The wet cloth slid off his forehead and landed with a soggy thump on the floor.


‘Fine, I’ll get you a pen,’ Tarquin said, standing up. ‘Lucy, make sure he doesn’t…I dunno, make sure he doesn’t poke himself in the eye with his foot or anything.’


‘Will do,’ I said, as Scorpius hummed away to himself next to me, head dangling over the edge of the sofa.


Call me manipulative, but I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to ask Scorpius the difficult question I’d actually apparated into him to ask.


‘Scorpius, this is mad, but I’ve kind of been chucked out of my flat and canImoveinwithyouplease?’


Scorpius continued to hum to himself.


‘It’ll only be temporary,’ I gabbled, trying not to sound too desperate. ‘Just until I find somewhere, and I promise to pitch in with the bills and the washing and stuff.’


‘Okay,’ he said, cheerfully. ‘But we have rules, listen…rule number one is…is…bloody hell, I can’t remember.’


‘It’s alright, thanks, this means a lot-’


‘TARQUIN!’ Scorpius yelled, ignoring me. ‘What’s rule number one?’


‘Rule number one is that you don’t talk about Scorpius’ dad!’ Tarquin yelled back.


‘You idiot!’ Scorpius cried in response. ‘You just brought him up!’


‘Why aren’t we supposed to?’ I asked.


‘My dad’s a prat,’ Scorpius said, then slapped a hand over his mouth so carelessly that he poked himself in the eye again. ‘Ouch…oh, bugger, I just brought him up again.’


‘How come?’


‘He doesn’t appreciate my art!’ Scorpius cried. ‘He never will!’


Tarquin reappeared at that moment and handed Scorpius his pen and poetry notebook.


‘Thanks…hey, did you hear, Lucy says she wants to move in with us!’ Scorpius beamed.
‘Isn’t that cool? We can jam.’


‘I should really knock him out again,’ Tarquin admitted to me. ‘He’s talking a load of bollocks.’


‘No I’m not,’ Scorpius said stubbornly, holding his notebook aloft and opening it. Loose paper cascaded down onto his face, each sheet covered with his scrawled handwriting. A quick glance showed that the word ‘Rose’ was a popular one in his vocabulary, appearing fairly often in capital letters. ‘Tarquin, it’s true,’ he said, voice muffled by the weight of his poetry. ‘Lucy is our new flatmate!’


‘Ignore him,’ Tarquin grinned sheepishly.


‘Er, well, the thing is,’ I said uncomfortably. ‘I kind of got chucked out of my flat this morning, and I am kind of homeless, so Scorpius is actually making a lot of sense.’


Tarquin scratched his head in confusion then looked between me and Scorpius.


‘Homeless, you say?’


‘Technically, yes.’


‘We do have a spare sofa,’ he said, slowly. ‘And I think we’ve got a sleeping bag we took to a festival last year…it may be a bit muddy, but it’ll clean up alright.’


‘S’alright, I brought blankets and stuff…thank you,’ I said, feeling very relieved indeed. ‘I promise to pay my share of the bills and the rent-’


‘Reduced rent,’ Scorpius said happily, his face covered in poetry. ‘Tarquin’s dad owns this dive.’


‘Hey, don’t insult my dive.’


‘I love you two,’ I said, sinking back into the sofa. ‘You’ve saved me from the prospect of living with Rose.’


Scorpius did an involuntary spasm at the sound of Rose’s name, then brushed the paper from his face. ‘Really? But her flat is super, according to Al.’


‘I’d rather live with you two than evil queen Rose,’ I said, truthfully.


‘That’s very kind of you,’ Tarquin beamed. Scorpius held the pen up above his face and promptly dropped it, poking himself in the eye for the third time that afternoon.


‘That is very kind,’ he said, vaguely, rubbing his watering eye with the back of his hand. 'We’re both pretty big losers, I dunno why you’d want to live with us.’


‘Well, Scorp is a loser, anyway,’ Tarquin chipped in.


‘And we’re not very good at…I dunno, housework things.’


‘Neither am I,’ I admitted. ‘I tend to just shove things under a rug. Come to think of it, I don’t remember picking up that rug when I left…’


‘I see you graduated from the Scorpius Malfoy school of housewifery,’ Tarquin said.


‘I went there,’ Scorpius piped up. What with all the poking himself in the eye he’d done, it looked like half of his face was weeping.


‘I love him when he’s like this,’ Tarquin said, sounding proud. ‘All dazed and stupid. Sometimes when I’m bored I think I should just whack him over the head with a frying pan and see what happens. Anyway,’ he held up his hands; they were black with paint. ‘I was painting when you got here, so I should get back before it dries. Give me a shout if he starts trying to eat the table or anything.’


Tarquin vanished into his room, leaving me and Scorpius on the sofa. This would have been an entirely normal and rather pleasant scenario if it wasn’t for the fact that Scorpius was sitting upside down, humming, and seemingly concussed.


‘Lovely day,’ he said, conversationally.


‘How are you feeling?’


‘Super-duper.’


We fell into silence. Scorpius squinted at the ceiling.


‘Did you have a nice Christmas?’ I asked.


‘It was alright,’ he said. ‘Just…alright.’


‘Oh, really?’


‘Yeah, just…it was pretty crummy, actually. How was the Weasley bash?’


‘Same old, same old,’ I shrugged. ‘Death by satsumas and board games. Thanks for the chocolate, really kept me going.’


‘Thanks for the book,’ he said, trying to sit up and almost digging his knee into his eye again. In a strange movement that seemed to take about a century to perform and would have landed him in St Mungo’s had he not been more careful, he swung his legs up, did a sort of backward roll and ended up sitting upright on the coffee table, fringe sticking up as if he’d been electrocuted. ‘That’s better,’ he added, voice sounding strained. ‘Ouch, bugger, my head really hurts.’


‘You did smack it against the table.’


‘Aah,’ he rubbed his hand against the back of his head, making the sticky-up hair a bit more widespread. ‘Bloody hell, is painkiller potion only valid when you’re upside down? Ouch.’


‘Apparently so.’


‘Is there any more?’ he said, and then added a fluent string of swear words that I’m sure would have made Tarquin blush.


‘I don’t really think you should be taking more than your daily recommended dose.’


‘But it hurts,’ he whined, but reluctantly got back on the sofa and resumed his previous position, hooking his legs over the back of the sofa so that he looked like a pale, skinny bat.


‘I can’t go out tonight like this,’ he said, continuing the whining. ‘I’ll have to do headstands all night.’


‘What’s going on tonight?’


‘It’s New Year’s,’ he said, looking at me as if I were stupid. I hastened to point out that, given that he was upside down, he looked a good deal more stupid than I did. ‘I think the plan is Ellen and Frances’ place, but, I dunno, if it’s Frances, something strange will be planned, no doubt.’


I definitely saw the irony in pointing out that art students might do something strange in their spare time. Scorpius didn’t, however, and rubbed at his sore eye again.


‘I don’t really think I’m in for a piss-up,’ I told him. ‘I’m really tired, I’ve just had to put up with my family for the past few days. I mean, Molly’s permanently pouting and applying slap to her face with a shovel, and my parents are all-’


‘Oh, tell me about it,’ Scorpius said, sounding as dejected as if someone had just told him he had to stay upside down for the rest of his life. ‘I’ve got to spend Christmas with my dad next year...’


‘I can imagine,’ (I couldn’t, actually, but there was nothing else I could say, really.)


‘My mum even forgot I was coming, and then when she got up on Christmas morning she saw me on the sofa and nearly clobbered me with a cauldron, thought I was a burglar, and I had to fully explain what I was doing in her living room and why I was covered in soil – from breaking in, see – and then…’


I got the feeling that this was the first time Scorpius had told anybody about his Christmas fandango. This didn’t exactly comfort me, though. I felt as awkward as a two-legged turtle trying to crawl across quicksand. I did, however, draw a teensy bit of relief from the fact that he was concussed and conked out of his mind on painkilling potion.


‘…and next year I’m supposed to go to my Dad’s and he’s just going to bitch at me endlessly about being an art student and not making any money, and then, like last year, it’s going to end up with a huge bust-up on Christmas day and he’s just going to moan and moan about how worthless my life is…’


‘Scorpius, chill, I get the idea.’


He continued to jabber away to himself, making several extended and quite rude points about his dad’s beliefs, people skills and hygiene. By the time he had finished I’d made myself at home by brewing up a few cups of tea. Tea, to any miserable soul, is the kiss of life.


‘Tea, Scorpius,’ I said, setting down his favourite mug (heavily chipped and featuring an abstract print by his second favourite artist that looked like cat vomit) on the table. ‘You might have to sit up for this.’


‘Can’t I drink it upside down?’ he whined.


‘Not unless you want to scald yourself. Come on, sit up.’


Grudgingly, he did his strange stationary backflip manoeuvre and ended up sitting on the table again, only narrowly avoiding his cat vomit mug. With a sigh of anguish, he took a sip.


‘That’s nice,’ he said, putting the mug down again.


Tarquin re-joined us at that point, wiping paint from his hands with a rag that looked to be more hole than actual rag. He grabbed the third cup of tea from the tray (unchipped, relatively new and featuring the Weird Sisters logo) and immersed himself in drinking from it. Following the crowd, I raised my own mug (moderately chipped, bearing the legend ‘Montrose Magpies for the Cup’) and drank too.


After a cuppa, Scorpius looked the picture of health. He actually beamed at me when I offered to take his cup away to the sink. However, when Tarquin stood up and knocked the table, Scorpius winced and then said, defiantly – ‘sod it, I’m not going tonight.’


‘You are,’ Tarquin said, clapping him on the back. Scorpius winced again. ‘It’s New Year, staying in is for old people!’


‘Maybe I am an old person,’ Scorpius said miserably. ‘I mean, just look at me-’


I wanted to point out that wearing corduroy trousers and cardigans was a pretty good sign of age, but Tarquin interrupted me. ‘Honestly, Scorp,’ he said. ‘You’re young, you better enjoy it while you are. There’s a big, scary world out there and soon you’ll need to get a big, scary job and a big, scary house and a big, scary marriage then the next thing you know you’ll be wearing socks with your sandals and a dog will be your best friend.’


His little outburst was quite unexpected. Scorpius and I gave him a funny look until he shrugged and announced that he needed to work more on his painting, disappearing into his room again, from which the powerful smell of spray paint was now wafting. Scorpius slumped forward and put his head on his hands, looking dejected once more. It seemed to be somewhat of a pastime with him.


‘Your roots are showing,’ I told him. They were. His hair looked awful; the brown dye was growing out in a bad way, leaving a clear inch of what was clearly blonde verging on platinum at the top. Taking in his appearance in general, cords and cardigan and all, he looked like a singer in a failed 90’s grunge band.


‘I know,’ he said. ‘I keep meaning to dye my hair again…’


‘You shouldn’t bother,’ I said. ‘It’s bad to keep dyeing it. Plus, what’s the point? Your eyebrows are blonde…’


Scorpius sat up a little straighter and gave me a look, one that told me I was not exactly the right person to give him advice about hair dye.


‘Just get rid of it,’ I said. ‘I know loads of people who would kill to be naturally blonde.’


‘You think?’ he ran a hand through his hair self-consciously, upsetting his fringe again. ‘I dunno, I considered going back, but, you know, there’s the small matter of-’


‘By now, I think Rose might have got over it. She’s not likely to attack you in the street anyway, she’d never be that reckless…not in broad daylight anyway…’


‘Er, alright, then, if you think so,’ he said. ‘I’ll go blonde again. But,’ he added, quickly, ‘only if you do too.’


‘That’s absurd,’ I told him. ‘I’m an art student, blue hair is part of my ethos.’


‘What ethos?’ he snorted. ‘Lucy, you’re a glorified photographer with horrid roots…to be honest, you look like a singer in some sort of failure of a grunge band.’


Touché, Scorpius, touché. I wished I had a comeback, but unfortunately the best I could do was raise my eyebrows and sip at my tea.


‘So, anyway, I’ll only go back to blonde if you do too. You look like a fool.’


You look like a fool!’


‘Let’s shake on it,’ he said, holding out a hand stained with ink. ‘Our New Year’s resolution is to both go blonde again.’


‘Deal,’ I said, shaking his hand without much thought. Truth was I didn’t really mind the thought of being blonde again. Blue hair is a little high-maintenance and does draw a lot of funny looks. Not that I mind funny looks that much, it’s just when you get them from your own family that they start to sting a bit.


By nine o’clock Scorpius had recovered sufficiently to go to the New Year’s party, although not with a fair amount of amateur dramatics in the form of swooning, anguished speech and wobbly legs. At half nine we were groomed and halfway down the high street near Ellen and Frances’ house, Tarquin sporting a rucksack that was clinking suspiciously. Typically, it was freezing. I had three pairs of socks on, not one of which actually matched, something I put down to my frantic packing. As well as the socks I had a pair of tights, a woolly skirt, two shirts, a thick knitted jumper and a mac on top of that, plus a bobble hat at a jaunty angle on my head and mittens on my hands. Scorpius was basically wearing the same. Well, apart from the skirt, he still stuck firmly to the corduroy trousers, but I have to say I wouldn’t have been surprised if he came out in a dirndl. I think the main reason the two of us were so keen to wear such ridiculous hats was that we were both too scared and self-conscious of out terrible hair. Tarquin, by contrast, seemed to be doing fine in a sweatshirt and jeans.


‘It’s my hot Spanish blood,’ he said. ‘Keeps me warm.’


‘You’re from Birmingham,’ Scorpius said.


‘Half-Spanish,’ Tarquin corrected himself.


When we got to Ellen and Frances’ flat we found what seemed to be the rest of the art school pack sitting on the steps outside, all wrapped up warm and passing around biscuits. Even Mr Holstone was there, sat at the back with a stack of digestives on his lap.


‘Do the teachers usually come to parties?’ I asked Scorpius as we approached.


‘He’s not technically a teacher,’ Scorpius explained. ‘He’s officially just the student that never left. He’s a great guy, Dean, took over the admin of the place.’


‘Dean? I thought he was the Dean,’ I said. ‘You know, head of discipline and all.’


‘He couldn’t discipline a dead sheep,’ Scorpius tittered. ‘No, he’s just Dean. Dean’s his name, Dean’s his…well, you get the idea.’


When we finally arrived at the steps, Ellen stood up, tucking a carrier bag under her arm.


‘You’re late,’ she said, sounding cross. ‘We were supposed to leave half an hour ago!’


‘Scorpius had a wound…leave? Where are we going?’


Most of the group had set off before Tarquin finished his sentence. Gwendolyn/Raven fell into step beside us.


‘Only got back an hour ago,’ she yawned. ‘We’re going to a fireworks display by the Thames, it’s a big muggle thing, we have sparklers and secret booze.’


The walk gave us a chance to catch up. After twenty minutes, the four of us had exchanged holiday stories (Gwendolyn/Raven had a dodgy ankle after a sledging incident on boxing day and couldn’t wear her favourite boots with chains on them) and filled her in on my homeless situation.


‘I would offer to let you move in with me,’ she said, ‘but, literally, I live in a box. Well, not literally, but it’s a very small flat and there’s just about room for me, and it is quite far away from everything.’


‘It’s alright, I’ll be fine living with these two. They could do with someone who knows how to make a proper cup of tea.’


We arrived at the fireworks site at ten. There was already a large crowd there and a small stage had been set up at the front draped in adverts for radio stations and a famous brand of crisps – but Ellen led everyone further to the back, past the metal barriers, where the nearby park began. She asked everyone to make a human shield, which involved us all standing around looking bored and innocent so that she could conjure a picnic blanket and several folding chairs in peace. This done, the assembled artists took their seats, shivering.


‘Blimey, it’s cold,’ Tarquin said, taking a sip from a water bottle. ‘Thirsty, Lucy?’


‘Yeah,’ I took the bottle from him. ‘Thanks.’


I understood what Gwendolyn/Raven meant by secret booze when I took a sip from the bottle, which, by taste, seemed to be undiluted Firewhiskey, or maybe even Bubotuber pus. I wasn’t really sure, it didn’t stay in my mouth for too long. Eyes watering and fire blazing in my throat, I passed the bottle to Scorpius, asking him quite innocently if he wanted some water.


It was at ten to twelve that Ellen finally handed out the sparklers. ‘Gloves on, everyone, and hold them at arm’s length, I’ve got a wee bucket of water here you’re supposed to put them in when you’re done,’ she said breathlessly. ‘Don’t use magic to light them, we’re surrounded and I don’t want us to get in trouble, I have matches in my bag if anyone needs them…’


‘Sod that,’ Tarquin said, taking his wand from his rucksack. ‘I’ll burn my fingers off if I use real fire.’


While Ellen gave us the safety lecture, Eunice set up a large tripod before us and then borrowed Scorpius’ camera, fixing it to the top. However, she pointed it towards us and not the site of the actual fireworks display.


‘I want you to dance,’ she said, breezily. ‘With your sparklers. Just, you know, go mad. It’s on a slow shutter speed so we’ll get all these pretty light pictures…’


Scorpius shot forward as if he’d been jabbed with a hot poker and was at her side in a split second, babbling away about exposure and film sensitivity. The more and more he talked the less Eunice smiled, and eventually he took over the camera entirely, fiddling with all the strange buttons and dials I hadn’t quite figured out yet, muttering to himself. It was bizarre to see Eunice with such a straight face. I was under the impression that she’d had some sort of horrific accident as a child which meant her mouth was permanently fixed in such a wide grin. Ellen and Frances were soon on hand with a packet of biscuits that Mr Holstone seemed to have neglected to eat.


‘What do you even do at New Year?’ I asked the others. ‘I mean, at home, it’s drink and people embarrassing themselves.’


‘No different from ours then,’ Tarquin shrugged. ‘But everyone snogs at midnight. It’s tradition, you know, happy New Year, let’s eat each other.’


‘It’s traditional,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, ‘to kiss your family and friends on the cheek at midnight and wish them the best for the coming year.’


‘Yeah, that’s what I said-’


‘No it isn’t-’


They continued to bicker as Scorpius returned from his muttering, looking very pleased with himself.


‘I’ve set the camera up precisely to the right settings,’ he said, ignoring the raging argument about New Year snogging going on behind him. ‘It should work beautifully. I put colour film in there as well, so it’ll really capture the vivid flare of the lights-’


He was interrupted as a man on stage began to count down from ten in a booming voice. Scorpius shrugged and, checking the area around him, lit the end of his wand. Just as the countdown reached two the sparklers caught; flaming sparkler in hand, Scorpius dashed over to the camera and pressed a finger down on the shutter. I heard the click-whirr even over the sounds of the cheering crowd and the fireworks exploding overhead. Around me, fellow art students seemed to be engaged in a tormented ballet of sparkler-dancing. Even Brooding Nameless Barry was sinking into an anguished dying swan pose, sparkler held aloft like a sword. Tarquin was trying to do the tango with Gwendolyn/Raven, who looked baffled and could do nothing more than be whirled around violently and try not to set everyone else on fire. I, however, feeling more than a little self-conscious, simply stood and whirled my sparkler round in the air a bit.


Obscure Henry danced into view next to me, sparkler aloft. ‘Happy New Year!’ he bellowed, taking me by the wrist and spinning me around. My sparkler past dangerously close to his carefully tousled hair.


‘Watch it,’ I shouted back, ‘or I’ll end up setting you on fire-’


Obscure Henry obviously had no care for fire and was more concerned in his token New Year snog. His lips sort of slammed onto mine and I felt like I’d been knocked out for a second before I remembered that both of us were holding flaming sparklers and we were at serious risk of turning into a two-person bonfire. Obscure Henry seemed to realise this at the same time; we jumped away from each other only to see that the sparklers were fizzling themselves out.


‘Er,’ Obscure Henry said, looking sheepish. ‘All the best…er, I’m…going over there…sorry…blame the drink…’


‘Well,’ I said, to nobody in particular. ‘Well,’ I repeated, tossing my sparkler into the bucket Ellen had provided. I couldn’t think for the life of me why Obscure Henry would happen to pick me for his first snog of the year and could only guess by his sheepish look and stammered excuse that it was a mistake and he’d probably intended to grab Ellen instead. Then I remembered that I had blue hair and thought that this was pretty bloody unlikely, at which point I also remembered I was wearing a hat and turned to my friends for a bit of help. Tarquin looked confused. Gwendolyn/Raven was on the floor. Scorpius, by contrast, was lost in a fit of giggles, sparkler coughing itself into darkness.


‘Your…face!’ he wheezed, giggling like a maniac. ‘Oh, I wish you could see it…that was hilarious.’


‘I would nudge you if I was standing up,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said from the floor. ‘So nudge nudge, wink wink and all. Also Happy New Year.’


Tarquin continued to look confused, but found the time to wink at me. I leant down to help Gwendolyn/Raven up.


‘He kind of went in for a New Year snog,’ she whispered, hurriedly, jerking her head at Tarquin. ‘So I pretended to fall over. Better luck next year, eh?’


‘Quite.’


Scorpius was still laughing, stomping over to check his camera. ‘The funny thing,’ he shouted back to us, ‘is that it’s not actually set to slow shutter speed.’ He walked back over to us, cradling his camera like a small child, which is actually a pretty accurate description given the size of the thing. ‘Which means we’ll have a lovely batch of full colour prints of the…ahem…festivities. I’m going to print loads of copies and pin them everywhere.’


‘Don’t you dare,’ I said, reaching for the camera. ‘I’m in the know on the camera stuff too, I can destroy your film-’


‘Nope,’ he said, holding it out of my reach. Given that I’m a bit on the short side and he’s quite tall, I’m sure my attempts to jump up and grab it back looked hilarious to anyone watching.


‘Be nice,’ I pleaded. ‘I’m sure he didn’t mean it, I totally thought he was aiming for Ellen, I’m sure he fancies her-’


‘Nope,’ he said, grinning like a fool. I lunged for the camera again and he dodged backwards, holding it aloft. ‘Come and get it!’ he shouted gleefully (a very un-Scorpius adverb, I assure you).


Of course, being in public and especially being amongst muggles requires a certain amount of decorum and good behaviour. But I am Lucy Weasley and I am a true Hufflepuff, and I will not let a challenge pass that easily. So I chased him.


For someone so puny, Scorpius is in fact quite a fast runner. After about three circuits of the art student area I was running out of breath but he seemed intent to keep up the chase. Bent double with my hands on my knees, I stopped to rest beside Brooding Nameless Barry, who was brooding on a picnic chair – actually quite a difficult thing to achieve as the chair in question was a lurid shade of pink and decorated with flowers.


‘Come on,’ Scorpius goaded, holding the camera aloft. ‘I’m going to print two hundred copies – in full colour!’


‘Alright!’ I gasped, resuming the running. ‘As soon as you run out of energy I’m going to – argh!’


I didn’t see the tree root. Scorpius, running backwards with the camera over his head, didn’t see it either. I don’t even think the tree root saw us. It all happened very quickly. One minute I was on the ground, the next minute I wasn’t, and then the minute after that I was in quite a bit of pain and one of my hands was around Scorpius’ wrist.


‘Gotcha,’ I said through a mouthful of mud.


‘I’ve still got the film though!’ Scorpius choked, hoisting the camera aloft.


As I’ve already mentioned, being in public means good behaviour. But as I have also already mentioned, I am a true Hufflepuff and no skinny Slytherin was going to get the better of me. So I might have wrestled him for the camera. I also might have won, and I also might have pinned him down and made him watch me open the back of the camera and expose the film in it to all the light of the firework display still going off overhead, ruining every photo and securing my reputation.


‘Victory is mine!’ I yelled, sounding very mature, much to the tutting of various muggles surrounding us. Scorpius glared at me, but the mud on his face and the whole corduroy trousers and bobble hat thing kind of ruined it.


At that moment Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven appeared on the scene, faces lit up by the fresh sparklers they were holding. ‘Woah,’ Tarquin said. ‘Henry and Scorp in one night, Lucy, you’re on a roll.’


‘It’s not what you think,’ I said, helping Scorpius up.


‘That’s what they all say,’ Tarquin said, with a knowing waggle of the eyebrow.


‘Sorry about your film, Scorp,’ I said, ‘but I have a reputation at stake.’


‘It’s no matter,’ he took the camera and snapped the back of it shut. ‘You won fair and square.’


The reaction slightly unnerved me. I had expected a little more in the way of woe-is-me-for-I-am-Scorpius misery. But, I supposed, it was New Year, and he was probably letting bygones be bygones.


‘We should make our resolution properly,’ he said, hooking the camera over his arm again. ‘You know, make it binding.’


‘Resolution?’ Gwendolyn/Raven asked.


‘We’re both going blonde again,’ I explained. ‘No more dodgy roots.’


‘Right,’ Scorpius said, pointing to Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven. ‘You two are witnesses. This is a legally binding contract. If Lucy doesn’t go blonde then the punishment shall be…’


‘Hang on,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said. ‘She just kicked your arse back there, hasn’t she already won some sort of victory?’


‘Yeah,’ Tarquin nodded. ‘She deserves some sort of prize.’


Barely a moment passed before Gwendolyn/Raven said ‘pay for the hair dye remover!’ and Tarquin cried out ‘give her a kiss!’


Scorpius looked a bit taken aback. ‘Buh-wah-I don’t have enough money-’


‘Swap for a night?’ I suggested. ‘You get the sofa and the sleeping bag, I get your bed.’


‘But…’


‘She won,’ Gwendolyn/Raven shrugged.


I grinned at Scorpius, who looked dejected once more. ‘Hair dye remover, and I get your bed for the night.’


‘But the sofa isn’t comfy!’


‘And I just wrestled you for your camera and won!


Knowing that I’d at least have a proper bed for my first night in their flat, I was pretty keen to get straight home.


‘Alright, repeat after me,’ Tarquin said. ‘I solemnly swear that by eight pm tomorrow I will be blonde again.’


We shook on it.




A/N:sShould probably point out that 'Thus spoke Scorpius' is a bit of a rip off of Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra. I feel quite deep having to point that out when essentially all I did was steal half of the title for a comedy fanfic about a bunch of losers at art school. Anyway.
edited 22/04/2011
edited 19/08/2011
edited 17/06/2012

Chapter 10: Operation Hippogriff is Go!
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Chapter Ten - Operation Hippogriff is Go!





Gwendolyn/Raven was wearing pink. This instantly struck me as quite strange, given that she was the sort of person who habitually lived in black and things with spikes on them. We sat side by side on the common room sofa, an elaborate tea set on the table before us, macaroons and finger sandwiches stacked high on a cake stand.


‘Macaroon, Lucy?’ she asked, gesturing to the stand. I took a violently blue macaroon and bit into it, but it dissolved instantly. Confused, I looked at my hand, but the macaroon had gone; instead my hand was stained entirely blue.


‘Yes, they have a tendency to do that,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said. ‘The sandwiches are a little more polite.’


‘I see,’ I said.


‘Lucy?’


‘Yes?’


‘Lucy,’ she repeated, staring blankly at the cake stand.


‘Yes?’


Only then was I aware of a sudden sharp prodding in the small of my back.


‘Ouch, stop it.’


‘Lucy,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said again.


‘I know, I can hear you, stop it-’


‘Lucy!’


‘I’m right here,’ I waved a hand in front of her face. ‘I’m listening!’


But something was strange. My hand moved slowly, as if it moved through water and not air. The persistent prodding continued.


‘Lucy!’


‘I’m right here!’ I yelled, sitting up poker-straight and smacking at the source of the jabbing. ‘Stop shouting!’


‘Lucy…’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, in a very quiet and considerably more masculine voice. ‘It’s you that’s shouting.’


That was when I properly open my eyes and realised where I was: Scorpius’ bed, the duvet the wrong way round, leaving my feet exposed to the cold air. And what I’d thought was Gwendolyn/Raven was actually Scorpius, standing over me, cradling his face in his hands.


‘Sorry,’ he said, voice muffled through his fingers. ‘Couldn’t figure out how to wake you up.’


‘There were macaroons,’ I dithered, trying to cover my embarrassment at having just clobbered him in the face whilst half-asleep. ‘I was having a macaroon…’


‘It’s nearly eleven,’ he said, rubbing the bridge of his nose. ‘I’m about to make lunch.’


‘My macaroon…’


‘Huh?’


‘Nothing,’ I said, rubbing my eyes. ‘Did I break your nose?’


‘Just about,’ he replied. ‘Look, I found some potion in the bathroom cabinet that’ll fix our hair, shall we use it this afternoon?’


‘Ace,’ I said. ‘Of course.’


‘Also,’ Scorpius held up a scrap of parchment. ‘Al sent an owl round, he’s back in London and he wanted to know if you were up for a drink the day after tomorrow.’


‘Yeah, that should be good.’


‘And, er…’ Scorpius gazed down at me before hurriedly turning away to the door. ‘I’ll give you a chance to get sorted.’


‘Sorted? Huh?’ I said, sitting up sharply. It was then that I remembered that I was in my pyjamas and, well, in his bed, and from the state of my hair it was probably clear that I hadn’t had a chance to wash it in three days.


‘Right you are,’ I said, shimmying out from beneath the duvet and reaching into one of my cardboard boxes for some clean clothes. ‘Don’t run any water, I’m going to have a shower…that applies to you too, Tarquin,’ I added, as the two of us entered the kitchen and I noticed him sitting at the table, busily tying his hair up with a vividly orange scrunchie.


‘I won’t be an inconvenience, I’m off,’ Tarquin said. ‘They’re doing a sale on spray paint somewhere in town, I need fresh stock.’


I’d gathered since the start of the year that Tarquin only painted in two ways: with a paintballing gun, or with a can. This, I think, contributed to the heavy cloud of fumes that seemed to hang around his bedroom door and also around several of the studios at the Art School, not to mention around Gwendolyn/Raven herself, who seemed to also be fair game as a painting material.


I shrugged. ‘Alright. See you later then.’


Clothes and washbag tucked under one arm, I stepped into the bathroom. For a couple of boys and specifically art students living on their own, it was surprisingly clean. Not Rose Weasley clean, perhaps, but clean and tidy none the less. Given the state of Scorpius’ hair, I more put this down to an actual lack of use than simple good habits. The flat had obviously been built and decorated in the nineteen seventies and not been touched since – the bathroom walls were a particularly garish shade of pink with pastel-green curtains tacked up over the windows and a yellow suite. The shower curtain looked as if it had once been a painting experiment of Tarquin’s, or perhaps had been accidentally dropped on the floor and trampled on a bit. I suspected the latter.


Not that any of this bothered me. The more I spent time in London away from my family and in a close proximity with the likes of Rose, the more I realised how unlike my Dad or my cousins I’d turned out to be. Fair enough, I’d inherited the Weasley sense of fun and ability to keep down drink, but I certainly hadn’t inherited the obsessive cleanliness and nitpicking of my parents, and I was certainly at the other end of the ‘tidy’ spectrum from Rose. Then again, I was an art student. It was all part of my ethos. Old habits die hard anyway. Back when I was a Hufflepuff and had to share a dormitory, I was notorious for leaving things lying around where they would be tripped over. Luckily Rose turned out to be a Ravenclaw, so any serious meltdowns common-room wise were easily avoided.


And usually it was me who tripped over the stuff anyway.


I managed to survive using the shower. After five minutes of it being on anyway. It seemed to have a life of its own, and for a while I was warding it off with a bottle of shampoo whilst trying not to drench myself in freezing water. Eventually, I managed to coax it into actually staying fixed to the wall; it shuddered out a few pitiful jets of lukewarm water and then went cold again. I did manage to get used to it, after a fashion, but met some difficulty in actually trying to turn it off afterwards. It took me at least a good ten minutes, by which time I’d almost managed to skin my hands raw wrenching at the temperature dial.


Art student life, you know. Just an occupational hazard.


Finally, I emerged back into the sitting room, dressed in clean clothes and with a large, tie-dyed towel wrapped around my hair. Scorpius looked up from his place at the piano, a clanging chord echoing into silence.


‘Er, that’s Tarquin’s towel,’ he said.


‘Oh, right.’ I pulled the towel free of my head and tossed it back through the bathroom door. Scorpius was trying hard not to grin, toying with the piano keys. In an effort to regain composure, I busied myself in pointing my wand at my head to dry my hair. Quick, but with alarmingly frizzy results.


‘You have to use the potion stuff when you hair’s dry,’ Scorpius explained. ‘It takes ten minutes or something, just lifts the colour off, apparently. You know, pow, colour gone.’

‘Good. Er, what are you playing, by the way?’ I said, indicating the score, which looked like a mass of scribbled lines.


‘It’s…er…it’s some-’


The doorbell rang, cutting him off. ‘That’s probably Tarquin back,’ I said, crossing over to the front door. ‘I’ll get it.’


Humming under my breath, I unlatched the front door. But it wasn’t Tarquin on the doorstep. It was a tall, pale man with one finger hovering over the doorbell, a hairline that seemed to have chased itself all the way to the back of his head, and a killer sneer that brought colour to my face.


‘Erm,’ I said.


‘Is Scorpius in?’ the man demanded. He looked quite scary. I wasn’t sure whether to let him in or not – one head injury in forty-eight hours was probably too much for Scorpius, and this man looked like he meant mean business – so instead I kept one hand on the doorframe and asked who he was.


‘I,’ he said imperiously. ‘Am Scorpius’ father.’


‘Lucy Weasley,’ I held out a hand. ‘Pleased to meet you.’


He grimaced down at my hand, then shook it for the briefest of moments. ‘Charmed.’


At that moment Scorpius managed to struggle free from his piano stool and, looking alarmed, shot over to the door, prising my fingers from the frame. ‘I’ll…er…thanks, Lucy, I’ll…handle this…’


I stepped back from the door, letting Scorpius’ Dad sweep into the hallway. His disdainful gaze fell on the traffic cone and the collection of muddy shoes by the door before rising to the wall, where, beside the poster of the melting clock, Tarquin had pinned up a poster with a rather rude limerick he’d written about Scorpius. His eyes widened slightly; I cast my eyes to the floor in embarrassment, but saw that he was clenching his fists as if he was ready for a fight.


‘Lucy…er…do you want to…’


‘Go somewhere else?’ I offered. ‘Yeah, no problem.’


Glad to be excused from the intense hurricane of tension that was whirling through the hallway, I hurried through into the kitchen/sitting room then down the narrow corridor where the bathroom and bedrooms were. I contemplated dashing into the bathroom – but then what would Scorpius’ Dad think if he stayed there for hours and the whole time I was locked in the loo?


So instead I made a beeline for Tarquin’s room, but upon opening the door an immense cloud of paint fumes drifted out and I jumped back, coughing, reaching for the next door, which happened to be Scorpius’ room again.


Given how apparently sensitive and caring Scorpius seemed to be, I’d expected his room to be quite orderly, maybe a little on the eccentric side, but probably quite well tidied. He was, after all, often seen tidying up after the tornado that was Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven. His room was, in reality, a total mess. I’m not even kidding. I hadn’t really had a chance to look at it much when I’d staggered in blind drunk and claimed the bed the night before, but, in the clear daylight, I could see how well it justified the use of the phrase ‘this room is like a bombsite’. It was even worse than mine had been. Stuff was everywhere, and the thin curtain that had been pulled back over the open window looked like it was made of several curtains. I didn’t know what colour the walls were; there weren’t actually any walls left. They were just covered in…stuff.


After a minute of slack-jawed staring, I picked my way around the room a bit. I began to see a sort of order to the chaos. Clothes – mostly knitted jumpers and cardigans – were definitely confined to a heap in a corner. There was a clear distinction between stacks of photographs and stacks of paper. The desk was obviously a dumping ground for what looked like a half-finished piece of embroidery, although my Mum as an embroidery fan probably would have fainted at the sight of it. I don’t know how talented you really have to be to bring cat vomit to life through the medium of embroidery, but Scorpius obviously had that talent.


A number of drawings and posters had been tacked to the walls, all done on varying qualities of paper. A few confined to the left of the door looked like sketches for the cat vomit embroidery, whereas a group of sketches on the opposite wall were in fact quite tasteful drawings of Tower Bridge. Over the bed, a large poster of a band in frilly shirts, mopey gazes and floppy fringes was hung beside another of the melting clock prints. Not a poem in sight, although I recognised the notebook that had been tossed unceremoniously onto a chair.


I was quite happily making my way around the room, treating it as a sort of mini-gallery, when I realised how silent it had actually become in the flat. For a second I thought Scorpius’ Dad might have left and put my hand on the door handle, ready to leave, but then raised voices came from the kitchen and I let go. I was busily examining a sheaf of photographs from the Christmas party when I heard Scorpius shout ‘IT’S A METAPHOR, DAD!’


‘Oh dear,’ I muttered to myself, putting the photos back down again.


Half an hour later it occurred to me that Scorpius’ Dad was probably planning to visit for a long time, and I’d run out of things to look at in the room. I didn’t much fancy reading anything out of the poetry notebook – I felt I’d heard enough already and, besides, it was likely to just depress me – so instead I pushed the cat vomit embroidery aside and took a seat on the edge of the bed, trying not to wrinkle the duvet cover seeing as I’d just made the bed out of absolute boredom. That’s when my eyes fell on another notebook, tucked under the poetry one on the chair. I thought maybe it was poetry notebook the second, but slid it out anyway, thinking that as I was probably going to be stuck there for a while I may as well find some reading material.


It wasn’t, however, a writing notebook. It was a photo album. Perhaps he’d been using it as inspiration for his latest bucketload of tortured, rhyming outpourings. The first picture confirmed this in that it contained Rose. It wasn’t exclusively a photograph of her – Al seemed to be the focal point, and a few other people hung around the edges of the picture, smiling, cast into sallow light in what was unmistakeably the Slytherin common room. I did a bit of a double-take – Rose was, after all, a Ravenclaw through-and-through – but then as the people in the photo continued to blink and smile up at me I remembered that in the last few years of school she’d hung around with Al and Scorpius anyway, so she was probably bound to have been in the Slytherin common room sometimes. I, after all, had been to the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw towers plenty of times, and had made occasional visits to the dungeons, mostly on my ill-fated Firewhiskey smuggling business of fifth year.


So I continued to turn the pages, looking at photos of various people in Slytherin robes I didn’t know and my two cousins. It got a little boring after a while, especially when it came to the fourth shot of the Slytherin Quidditch team looking cold and uncomfortable, a grim-faced Al at the helm. But, then, halfway through the book, I found a happier photograph of a party and a very recognisable blonde girl making an idiot of herself in the background. The party in question being the end-of-O.W.Ls Hufflepuff house party, and the girl in question being me. It was supposed to be a photo of Al and Scorpius, but I think the picture was kind of stolen by me shimmying past in the background and then tripping over, pulling several other fifth years down with me.


I turned another page. Here was a picture that made me do a bit of a double-take; Rose and Scorpius. Side by side. In a park. Both smiling. A picture about as rare as a Dodo and twice as strange to look at. I flipped past that page quickly, slighty unnerved by Rose’s grin. It just wasn’t…right.


After that there weren’t really any more pictures of note, just a few holiday snaps of a pretty beach and an especially goofy shot of Scorpius in oversized sunglasses, moping beneath a bright sun. Then the album finished. I turned it back to the first page, ignoring the raised voices from the kitchen, looking down at my cousin’s rare smile.


‘You miss her, don’t you?’ I said to nobody in particular. The voices outside fell silent. I clapped my hand over my mouth, thinking that Scorpius and his Dad were probably a little bemused after hearing my disembodied voice float through the walls. But then the arguing resumed, just as loud as it had been before – Scorpius leading with an anguished cry of ‘You just don’t appreciate my art!’


Sighing, I put the photo album aside, and reflected that I was probably there for the long run.


*




Scorpius finally let me out of his room an hour and a half later, by which time I was amusing myself by sitting upside down on the bed and trying to figure out if his drawings made any more sense when viewed the wrong way up (they didn’t). He opened the door, gave me a funny look, then turned the colour of a beetroot with bad sunburn and muttered something about it being alright to come out now. I followed him out, taking care to stretch my legs, which had gone dead in my spate of upside-down picture viewing.


His Dad hadn’t left yet, however. He was standing in the middle of the kitchen, pulling on a pair of gloves with such ferocity it seemed each mitt had done him great personal harm. When I entered the room he looked up with that killer sneer he’d given me on the threshold, but didn’t say a word. Somehow I felt the sneer communicated his feelings about me enough. Scorpius stood between the two of us, playing with his fringe and looking increasingly uncomfortable.


‘Have you heard from your mother?’ Scorpius’ Dad asked him, sounding very bitter indeed. In the split second before Scorpius answered I managed to capture the scene; one hell of a bitter father, one hell of a family background – and for a moment fully understood why Scorpius presented himself as such a tortured soul.


‘I stayed with her at Christmas,’ Scorpius said, shuffling from foot to foot. ‘She was asking after you.’


‘Right,’ his Dad said. ‘Right. Okay.’


‘But she asked me to tell you to stop sending her owl post, because she gets the message.’


Right.’


‘She also said to tell you that in no way has she forgotten the year before and-’


‘Fine.’


‘I’m just passing on the message-’


‘Yes, fine.’


‘You are leaving, aren’t you?’ Scorpius asked, sounding a little hopeful.


‘Yes, I have business to attend to in-’


‘Great.’


Without further ado, Scorpius stopped playing with his fringe and marched over to the front door, unlatching it and letting it swing wide open. His Dad looked affronted, but made for the door anyway, taking extra care to kick aside one of my cardboard boxes as he passed. I caught Scorpius’ eye – he rolled his eyes and mouthed an apology, making to shut the door – but then his Dad turned on the doorstep for one last dig at his son.


‘You’re-’ he said, but then Scorpius slammed the door in his face. A huge awkward silence ensued. The phrase ‘elephant in the room’ wouldn’t have been appropriate enough. It was more like ‘safari park in the room’.


‘I think your Dad was about to say something.’


Scorpius made a face. ‘Eek, I didn’t realise. I thought he’d gone.’


‘Ooh, he’s really horrible-’


‘You try being brought up by him.’


‘How did he end up spawning you?’


Spawning me? We’re not frogs, Lucy-’


‘No, of course not, we’re ducks.’


The safari park in the room slowly decreased back to the size of an elephant. Scorpius sighed, did one of his token anguished running-of-hands-through-hair, and then moved back into the sitting room, finally flopping down on the sofa. I took a seat in the armchair.


‘Er, that was some argument you had,’ I said, addressing the problem of the elephant in the room.


‘Yep.’


‘Are you alright?’


‘Fine and dandy.’


The elephant still lingered in the room.


‘Um – hope you don’t mind me asking – what were you actually arguing about?’


‘Various things,’ Scorpius said, vaguely. I was about to ask him to elaborate when he read my mind and spoke again. ‘Quite a lot, actually. Er, he had a bit of a rant about the flat, says he can’t understand why I’m sharing with a ‘waster’ and a Weasley.’


‘Oh. Right.’


‘Nothing personal, I think he just kind of hates your family…which is kind of weird, because there are a lot of you.’


‘You don’t say.’


‘And another thing,’ Scorpius continued, ‘is apparently I take my mum’s side too much and I should be a bit more impartial…kind of hard to take the side of an idiot, though.’


‘I see what you mean.’


And…well, he said he’s never sending me money for food again. Ergo I have to get a job. Quickly. Or I’ll starve.’


This last phrase reminded me of something. ‘Lunch,’ I said. ‘It’s lunchtime, right?’


Scorpius glanced at his watch – the glow-in-the-dark one, naturally – and nodded, before getting up off the sofa and making his way over to the kitchen cupboards. He opened one and had a good look inside before withdrawing his head and saying ‘well, you can have noodles or beans, or both.’


A few minutes later the two of us sat at opposite ends of the sofa, tucking into noodles with a bean garnish. Scorpius, evidently not pleased, was shaking a small heap of pepper onto his dish. I didn’t blame him; my noodles were a solid lump with a few half-hearted cold beans chucked on the top. I wasn’t sure Scorpius actually knew how to work the cooker, but at that moment in time, given the state of him, I was too polite to ask.


‘Right,’ he said, brusquely, after he’d dumped the pots and bowls in the sink and made a promise to deal with them later (translation: made a promise to let me take care of them the next morning when I wanted to make breakfast and couldn’t find anything to eat it off). ‘On to the hair un-dye, then.’


We decamped to the bathroom. I sat on the edge of the bath, twiddling my thumbs, while Scorpius leant against the wall and tried to decipher the mostly foreign instructions on the back of the bottle.


‘This is worse than Runes,’ he said. ‘It’s in Russian.’


‘Can you read Russian?’


‘Of course not. There is a translation in German...’


‘Can you read German, then?’


‘Not at all, but I think the general gist is you put it on your head, leave it there for about five minutes and then…woosh, dye gone. Seems a bit simple…’


‘Whatever,’ I took the bottle from his hands; he was staring at the label, possibly getting ready to critique the design and artistic qualities of the logo. ‘Let’s get cracking.’


*




That’s how we ended up honouring the resolution. Simple as. It gave Al a bit of a fright when we turned up at The Hornet, a favourite pub for Al and his Healing student friends. Unlike the usual sort of hovels I was used to hanging around with Scorpius in, The Hornet was a smart, elegantly decorated pub, with proper cushions on the seat and warm, complimentary lighting throughout. The bartender even had a walrus moustache.


I had to tap Al on the shoulder before he noticed us. He looked up, pulled a face, did a double take, and then smiled.


‘It’s been ages since I’ve seen you two blonde,’ he grinned. ‘What’s the occasion?’


‘Me and Scorpius are getting married. No, it’s just general hair maintenance.’


I took the seat next to Al – incidentally the one with the plumpest cushions and the armrests – and Scorpius sat opposite, looking quite mopey and out of place in the warmly-lit, upmarket pub surroundings. Al had chosen a seat right at the back, as far away from the bar as possible, half-hidden behind a wall. A large pair of antlers hung on the wall behind Scorpius. If I squinted and tilted my head back enough, it actually looked like he was half-stag.


‘Right,’ Al said. ‘I’ll go and-’


But I cut him off by kicking him under the table. See, I had a plan. A plan that concerned Scorpius, and therefore not for Scorpius’ ears.


‘Al went up last time and I did the time before, Scorpius, it’s your turn to get the first round,’ I lied. Scorpius looked a little baffled, but shrugged and sloped off to the bar anyway.


I turned to Al instantly, flattening my hands on the table. ‘I have a plan,’ I said, ‘but I’ll have to tell you really quickly before Scorpius comes back-’


‘Does it involve the antlers? I was thinking it might involve the antlers-’


‘No, not the antlers – Al, have you ever noticed how mopey and miserable Scorpius is?’


‘Do bears crap in the woods?’


‘Yeah, I know. See, I was in his room the other day – long story,’ I added, at Al’s inquisitive look. ‘And I found this photo album, see, and you’re in it with all these other Slytherins, but then Rose is in it too, and there’s all these photos of her and Scorpius looking all happy and nice together, and then when I was at our Nan’s for Christmas I walked in on Rose having this total crying fit in the kitchen, and from her mumblings I gleaned that she ‘misses’ a certain ‘him’ and, well, I was just thinking-’


‘We should kick some sense into Rose and burn Scorpius’ photographs?’


‘Not quite. See, I was thinking, we should-’


At that moment Scorpius wandered back over, two pints and a glass of cider for me in hand. He sat back in front of the antlers, blissfully unaware of the conversation I’d just been having with Al and also his likeliness to a stag. Al and I took our drinks and busied ourselves in sipping from them, trying to look inconspicuous. Of course, as soon as you make a conscious effort to look inconspicuous, you suddenly become very conspicuously inconspicuous indeed. Try saying that repeatedly, but seven times as fast.


Scorpius seemed to notice our consciously conspicuous inconspicuousness. (Actually, try saying that seven times as fast). He put his pint down and looked at us suspiciously, the frothy moustache he’d got from his drink giving him the appearance of a shrewd detective.


‘What?’ he asked. ‘Did you…is there soap in my drink? Have you done something to my chair?’


‘Er, no,’ I said, thinking on the spot. ‘It’s just you kind of look like a stag.’


‘Pardon?’


‘The antlers,’ I said, gesturing wildly to the wall behind him. ‘They’re kind of…behind your head, and you…’


Scorpius slunk low in his seat, wiping away his froth moustache with the back of his hand. Somehow some paint or ink residue was left there and the froth was swiftly replaced by a bright blue smudge of a moustache. He didn’t seem to notice and I don’t think Al and I had the heart to tell him.


Conversation began to flow, with Al launching into a lengthy anecdote about one of his posh Healer mates. I wasn’t listening, however – I was busily figuring out how to get Al on his own again and tell him every single detail of my master plan. Details of which are to follow for reasons of suspense.


Five minutes later I had an epiphany. I thought, suddenly, that an easy way to get Scorpius to push off and leave me and Al alone for a few minutes was to feed some line about seeing Rose walk through the door – but in my moment of startled epiphany I managed to knock over his drink and send about half a pint of beer cascading onto him. Typically. Forget Carol, clumsy should have been my middle name. Or my first name, for that matter.


Most people would react to this sort of situation by shouting, or perhaps by punching me in the face. You would expect, at the very least, for someone to have a bit of a moan. But, no, Scorpius sat there, looking dejected and sodden, and murmured a single sound.


‘Oh.’


Just when I was blushing bright scarlet and mentally slapping myself around the fact for being so clumsy, epiphany number two came hurtling out of nowhere, warded off the mental incarnation of myself that was busy doing the slapping, and then-


‘Scorpius!’ I hissed, as he dug in his pockets for his wand. ‘There are muggles here, you can’t! But if you go off to the loo then-’


Al gave me a look that suggested he knew exactly what I was up to. And also that he knew there weren’t actually any muggles in the pub at all, this being Diagon Alley.


‘Really?’ Scorpius said. ‘I thought-’


‘No, no, you can’t do magic, the barman told us when we came in, he’s got a big party of muggles in here today…strictly no magic, international statute of secrecy and all, hush-hush.’


Bemused, Scorpius plodded in the direction of the loos, plucking at his soaked shirt with a miserable grimace. Al raised his eyebrows at me.


‘You’ve never been very good at making stuff up, Lucy. Come on, what’s your plan?’


‘Right, well, we should,’ I spread my arms wide for dramatic effect. ‘Get Rose and Scorpius back together.’


Al’s jaw nearly hit the floor. He blinked at me, blinked again, and then said, a little disbelievingly, ‘Lucy – when they broke up…she hit me! She’ll kill him if she sees him!’


‘No, that’s the thing – see, we drop them into each other’s lives really casually, really carefully – mention them briefly, tell each of them how awesome the other is…and then, bam, one day they’ll see each other again and it’ll all be peachy! Al, the photos! They both looked so happy together!’


‘I don’t know,’ Al shook his head. ‘Rose is fairly stubborn…’


‘But she obviously still fancies him, and he obviously still fancies her, they just need to accept the fact that she wants to be a Ministry thingy and he wants to be an artist and, wow, sorted!’ I explained. ‘Trust me, it’ll be fine! I even thought of a name – Operation Hippogriff! See, I’ll keep casually mentioning Rose to Scorpius, and then you can deal with Rose-’


‘I’m not seeing her alone, I’m terrified of her!’


‘Okay, fine, we’ll see Rose together – I thought maybe if we went and explained to her calmly that we know Scorpius, you know, bring it out into the open, be honest, she might take to the idea…isn’t a year enough time to cool down?’


Al was still looking at me incredulously. ‘Operation Hippogriff? Why?’


‘Because Rose has the temper of one and Scorpius runs like one. Why not?’


‘It’s funny,’ he said, a smile twitching at the corner of his lips. ‘They only got together in the first place because of a sort of…scheme.’


‘Really?’


‘Yeah,’ he said. ‘In sixth year, I think…I don’t even know how it started. He was a loser – look, you have no idea how lame he was – and she was, as you know too well, this neurotic rule freak that nobody could stand, so someone just…decided to throw them together. And it worked really well to start with, but…she kind of stole him, you know? Stopped him seeing us. And so he went a bit weird in his last few months of school, did whatever he did to break the rules and piss her off. It really backfired, because it only made her hang on tighter and, well…they just ended up unhappy.’


‘That’s backfiring in a big way, I’d say.’


‘Yeah, I know, it was pretty…weird.’


‘So.’ I said, brusquely, aware of how little time we had before Scorpius returned. ‘What say you to Operation Hippogriff? Come on, Al, they’re both really down in the dumps and we have a duty of care towards our fellow artists and cousins…’


Al thought about it for a moment. ‘Okay, why not?’ he said, finally. ‘Who do we start with?’


I considered it. ‘Rose? She might need a bit more persuading…and, I mean, based on her reaction we can judge whether our scheme is schemey enough to go through with.’


‘Good plan. Then we can start on Scorpius…’


‘Yeah, and we’ll make an effort to see Rose every week…’


‘How long do we plan to take with this?’


‘I dunno, I was thinking as long as it takes…’


Al looked ponderous again. ‘June,’ he said, suddenly. ‘My parents' wedding anniversary – there’s a huge party, I know you’re invited because your mum and Dad are – we’re all allowed plus ones, aren’t we? If you bring Scorpius…’


‘…then we put him in the same room as Rose…’


‘…and if they haven’t cursed each other within five minutes we’ll know it’s gone well.’


‘Genius plan.’ I said. ‘We’ve outdone ourselves.’



A/N: finally the actual plot turns up to the party!
& edit 22/04/2011
edited 19/08/2011
edited 17/06/2012
The line 'IT'S A METAPHOR, DAD!' comes from Nar, who, in the frenzy of the forum thread from which this story actually came, suggested this for a Scorpius & Draco argument. So I used it. It is so brilliant I still love it, even after all this time.

Chapter 11: Obscurity is Overrated
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Chapter Eleven - Obscurity is Overrated





Art school started back a week after New Year. Strictly speaking, we were all expected there on the first day for a briefing about our end of year show, which was due to happen in May, but by lunchtime on the first day Tarquin still hadn’t emerged from his room and I was still shuffling around the kitchen in my slippers. Scorpius, by contrast, had left at eight o’clock sharp, ever the eager beaver. I knew this because he’d tripped over his own feet, flailed against the piano on his way towards the floor, and had played a great big crashing chord that he later told me was an f sharp minor thirteenth or something to that effect. This was of no consequence to me at the time; I was just angry he’d woken me up. His argument about it being an important chord in the world of jazz music fell on deaf ears; I threw a cushion at him and he finally apparated out of the flat, leaving me in peace to snooze some more.


This, of course, was just an average day in Scorpius and Tarquin’s flat. Tarquin, ever the one to take things at his own leisurely pace, finally awoke from the depths of sleep at half past one and blundered into the kitchen, rubbing his eyes.


‘I’ve thought of a brilliant final piece,’ he said. ‘It’s going to be a social commentary on society.’


‘Isn’t that what a social commentary generally comments on?’


He stared at me a little stupidly. ‘I’ll get back to you on that.’


Over a breakfast of toast and piping hot tea, I told him of the plan Al and I had concocted at the pub a few days before.


‘Operation Hippogriff,’ Tarquin mused, stroking an imaginary beard. ‘Yes, interesting.’


‘Did you ever meet Rose?’


‘Unfortunately, yes...on the day of the break-up in question, well, Scorpius had just moved in and his mate Albus was over to visit…and me and Al were by the door, trying to look casual, and Scorpius was levitating in the wardrobe-’


‘Sorry?’


‘He was levitating in the wardrobe.’


‘Any reason why?’


‘So that when Rose opened the door, as she did, she wouldn’t be able to see him. Clever, really, I thought, but then the next thing was she slammed the wardrobe door, grabbed Al by the neck of his shirt, and then took him side-along heaven knows where, but the next night Scorpius was taking him to St Mungo’s to get his eye looked at.’


‘I know.’


‘It wasn’t pretty.’


‘Not in the slightest. So,’ I said, trying my best to sound businesslike. ‘The plan. Do you approve?’


‘I’m not sure,’ Tarquin said. ‘She’s a bit…you know, a bit insane.’


‘She can be quite nice sometimes.’


Sometimes isn’t really promising.’


‘Scorpius loves her. Come on, you can see it in the way he looks at old photos of her and writes crappy poetry about how horrible she is.’


‘Scorpius is a bit of a prat. But,’ he leaned back in his chair, pushing his empty plate away. ‘Alright. I approve, if only for the comedy value. Me and Raven will do our best to drop hints, be subtle…’


I raised my eyebrows at the thought of the likes of Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven being subtle. Tarquin noticed and nodded, smirking.


‘I know, alright, we’ll be as bleeding obvious as we usually are.’


By the time the two of us were ready to go it was approaching half past two. Tarquin and I apparated from inside one front door to another, startling Mr Holstone from his nap at the front desk so much that he sent a pack of biscuits flying across the room and almost into orbit. After lecturing us for about ten minutes on the perils of apparition and plain good manners, he made us pick up the biscuits and then stormed off in a huff.


‘Lovely chap,’ Tarquin said, nibbling on a hobnob as we took the stairs. ‘Always very friendly.’


The first indication that something was about to go horribly wrong for me was at the top of the stairs. A photograph had been taped to the common room door, and as much as I wanted to admire the way it had been shot and the careful way it had been developed to show an infinite loop of me almost setting Obscure Henry on fire, well…


‘Ooh, that’s a lovely shot of you and Henry,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, apparating out of thin air.


Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven acted like nothing was wrong, Tarquin offering half of his hobnob to Gwendolyn/Raven, who accepted it and then said ‘aren’t you proud of Scorpius? I’m proud of Scorpius. Scorpius makes me proud. I am very proud of Scorpius.’


‘First successful practical joke.’ Tarquin said. ‘Not bad.’


I, however, felt like screaming.


‘It really brings out the vibrancy of the red hues…’


‘Lovely composition…’


I meant to start off on an angry rant about how much I hated New Year snogs, Scorpius’ photography skills, and life in general. But in a fit of rage, all I managed to say was ‘bwaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrk.’


‘Bwark?’ Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven echoed in unison.


I didn’t answer; I was busy tearing the photograph into eighteen little pieces and then shredding them in turn. In a moment of rage, I then turned and kicked the common room door open. Of course, this would have worked if I hadn’t missed it by an inch. I’m afraid that, for all my bravado and rages, I’m extremely talented at making a fool of myself, so I just sort of ended up standing on one leg with my foot hovering in front of the door, silently fuming.


Sensing my rage, Tarquin politely leaned over and opened the door for me. I hobbled in as fast as I could, catching sight of Scorpius idly reading on one of the sofas, the walls around him plastered with photographs of my unfortunate awkward snog with Obscure Henry. Brooding Nameless Barry stood by the window, looking fairly nonplussed (which was a change from his usual frown).


‘SCORPIUS!’ I tried to yell – of course, my rage made it come out more like ‘bwark’ again. Scorpius looked up from his book, swore, and then leapt over the back of the sofa and legged it to the stairs.


‘YOU GET BACK HERE!’ I shouted, hobbling after him as fast as I could. ‘OR I’M GOING TO JINX YOU HALFWAY TO THE SHETLAND ISLANDS-’


‘That’s not very far!’ Scorpius yelled back, already halfway up the stairs.


With a gammy leg and a fit of rage that reduced me to simply shouting ‘bwark’ at the top of my voice, I had no choice but to resort to magic. The next thing I did was – if I may say so myself - so brilliant that, even now, I’m surprised that I actually pulled it off. I grabbed my wand from my pocket, brandished it in the direction of the stairs, and then with an imperious swoop charmed all of the photographs into little flapping origami birds.


‘FLY!’ I yelled, pointing to the stairs. ‘KILL!’


The birds did as they were told – oh, alright, maybe not the killing part, but certainly the flying part. A minute later there were several thuds from the staircase, an anguished cry, and then Scorpius rolled to the bottom step with several origami birds stuck in his hair and the others pecking at his cardigan.


‘Call them off!’ he cried. ‘Call them off! I’m getting papercuts!’


I didn’t have to call them off; a moment later the charm wore off and he was covered in crumpled photographs instead.


‘You blithering idiot!’ I seethed. ‘You said you’d lost that picture!’


‘I was kidding, I was just kidding! It was really funny, come on-’


‘DON’T PUSH YOUR LUCK!’


‘Alright, I’m sorry!’


Still fuming, I jammed my wand back into my pocket and kicked at one of the crumpled photos.


‘You maniac,’ Scorpius said reproachfully, sitting himself back up again. ‘It was just a bit of fun-’


He stopped talking when he saw me reaching for my wand again. A hand fell on my shoulder – I almost jumped three feet into the air – but it was just Tarquin, looking a bit concerned, holding another of the photographs in his hand.


‘Chill out, Lucy,’ he said. ‘And…good spellwork.’


At that moment the door opened and in walked the other member of the photograph. Yes, Obscure Henry chose that moment in particular to gander into the common room and see us all standing around looking at photographs of our New Year snog…well, with the exception of Scorpius, who was sitting on the floor.


‘Morning, morning, morning…’ Obscure Henry said, then stopped dead in his tracks. His mouth fell open.


‘It’s the afternoon,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said kindly. ‘Tea?’


*



The next few hours we spent in the common room that day were strangely awkward. Scorpius, evidently more than a bit miffed, decamped to the dark room with a teapot and a packet of digestives, shooting me looks that ranged from hurt to angry on his way up the stairs. In fact, he was so busy making faces at me that he tripped on the bottom steps, flailed for a bit, then, much to my chagrin, recovered.


Along with Scorpius’ snubbing, Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven seemed to now be treating the whole fandango of myself and Obscure Henry as a sort of social experiment, and spent the whole afternoon perched on the edge of their sofa, wide-eyed, hands folded on their laps, studying us with a keen eye. Us being Henry and I, sat at either end of the sofa, him busily sketching in his sketchbook and me sorting out my photo album, both trying to avoid each other like the proverbial plague. Which is difficult when you’re sharing a sofa.


By five o’clock Scorpius still hadn’t returned from the dark room and Tarquin was getting fidgety; I took the hint and gathered up my things, judging it was time to leave. But just as Tarquin, Gwendolyn/Raven and I all stood, ready to apparate back to the flat, Obscure Henry leapt up from his seat and pointed his pencil at me.


‘Lucy,’ he said, brusquely. ‘I’d like a word.’


To much eyebrow-waggling from Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven, we went into the room ‘where we keep the kiln’.


‘Sorry about the photographs,’ I said, as soon as the door was shut. ‘It’s all Scorpius’ fault, he’s an idiot and needs a kick up the-’


‘Yeah, I know, it’s alright, you don’t have to apologise.’


There was a moment’s silence, then Obscure Henry ran a hand through his hair and shifted from foot to foot.


‘I, er…kind of wanted to ask if…erm, drink, sometime?’


‘Er,’ I said. ‘Yeah, sure…sounds cool.’


‘I’m, um, really, er, sorry about New Year’s eve…’


‘Actually, it was New Year’s day, just, er…really early in the morning.’


There was another silence.


‘Cool,’ Obscure Henry said, finally. ‘So…erm, tomorrow night?’


‘Sure.’


‘The Horse’s Arms?’


‘Pardon?’


‘The Horse’s Arms,’ he repeated.


‘Horses don’t have arms, they just have legs…’


‘No, I mean the pub…’


‘Oh, right.’


‘Eight o’clock?’


‘On the dot.’


When we left ‘where we keep the kiln’, Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven were still waggling their eyebrows like a pair of demented eyebrow-waggling twins.


‘That was more than a word,’ Tarquin said. ‘Or did you converse non-verbally?’


‘Shut your face.’


That was me fully booked for the next day. I’d made plans with Al to go and visit Rose in the afternoon, with the aim of telling her that Scorpius was still very much alive and kicking and living less than a mile down the road from her. Whether we planned to take riot gear and a taskforce of hitwizards with us was still unclear, although it sounded like a mighty fine plan to me.


I was midway through a fantasy about wearing riot gear to my date-of-sorts with Obscure Henry when Tarquin tapped me on the shoulder.


‘Alright,’ he said. ‘Spill the cats, let the beans out of the bag. What did Henry ask you?’


‘I’m going for a drink with him at the Horse’s Arms at eight tomorrow…’


‘Horses don’t have arms.’


‘I know.’


‘Right, so, anyway,’ Gwendolyn/Raven continued. ‘You’re going for a drink? With Henry?’


‘I believe I am.’


‘A drink…or a drink?’ Tarquin said, with a rather suggestive emphasis on the latter.


‘A drink.’ I said, firmly.


‘But do you fancy him?’


‘Of course not,’ I said, quite truthfully. ‘He’s…not really my type.’


I was still thinking about this when I curled up in my sleeping bag on the sofa that night, trying to doze off despite the repeated hissing noise from a spray can coming from Tarquin’s room. There was also a bit of a fracas on the pavement outside, where it seemed that five local lads had discovered a traffic cone and were using it as a loudspeaker to tell anyone who wanted to hear that they were pirates and also really, really drunk. If I shut my eyes, I could just about put the voice of the posh one of the five outside to the face of Obscure Henry who was, come to think of it, fairly snobbish.


I was just on the verge of sleep when Scorpius decided to apparate into the kitchen, trip over my shoes, and land on the piano again, playing a chord he insisted was a D suspended fourth.


‘I don’t care about your stupid chords,’ I muttered, rubbing my eyes, as Scorpius peered over the top of the sofa. ‘Just let me sleep for a change.’


He didn’t apologise, evidently still huffy from the origami birds incident earlier.


‘I need my sleep,’ I continued whining. ‘I have a date tomorrow, I need to look lovely.’


‘A date?’ Scorpius said. ‘With who?’


‘Take a guess, you dolt. Henry.’


‘Why?’


‘Because he asked me?’


‘Where? When?’


‘The Horse’s Arms at eight-’


‘Horses don’t have eight arms.’


‘Yes, I’m well aware. Go to bed.’


Scorpius toddled off to his room, taking extra care to tiptoe on his way through for a change.


*



Three o’clock the next day found me and Al standing on Rose’s doorstep in Kensington, shaking like leaves in a blizzard and both chickening out of ringing the doorbell.


‘You ring, I’ll talk,’ I pleaded. ‘I don’t want to ring the doorbell!’


You ring it! It was your idea!’


‘I’m not ringing, what if she sees me?’


‘She’s going to see us anyway when she opens the door-’


‘I don’t want to ring!’


Neither of us had to ring; a moment later the door snapped open and Rose glared at us both from behind a pair of horn-rimmed spectacles.


‘How long are you going to spend arguing about ringing the doorbell? Heaven’s sake…’


She stood aside to let us in, insisting we took off our shoes and hung up our jackets for the sake of cleanliness. Then the let us into the sitting room, which was pristine as usual – aside from a table groaning under the weight of what seemed to be the Himalayas made out of textbooks and parchment. Following Rose’s finger, Al and I perched on the edge of an immaculate sofa, taking care not to rumple the cover.


‘Tea?’ she demanded. It came out as more of a threat than a request; Al and I nodded eagerly and she stalked off to the kitchen, her ferociously polished shoes clicking on the floorboards as she went.


‘I’m scared!’ Al whispered as soon as the door had shut. ‘I’m really scared! I feel like I’m going to throw up! I’m terrified!’


I couldn’t say anything in response; I felt like I was going to throw up the entire packet of chocolate biscuits I’d eaten for a dare at lunch. I had horrific mental images of Rose sprinting out of the kitchen with a knife in her hands, attacking me and Al, having to apparate back to the flat with only one leg and then being laughed out of the door by Scorpius. And when Scorpius is laughing at you, you know something has gone wrong.


Rose returned after a few minutes bearing a tray of china and biscuits. As she set it down, I noticed her hands were shaking, the teacups rattling against each other. I took my tea but declined a biscuit; Al, by contrast, picked up five custard creams, put three in his pocket, and then popped the remaining two in his mouth in one go.


Nobody talked.


‘So, Rose,’ Al said, spraying the two of us with crumbs. ‘Let’s get this over with.’


‘What we came to tell you was-’ I began, but then-


‘Save your breath,’ Rose snapped, reaching into her pocket for something. A moment later, she pulled out a small, squarish, plasticy piece of paper, and held it aloft. ‘Lucy, explain.’


It was a photograph. To be specific, a photograph that Scorpius had given me for Christmas. Of me. And Tarquin. And Gwendolyn/Raven. And, oh yeah, Scorpius himself.


I expected a fanfare, possibly even a spontaneous brass band – it was a big moment – but instead there was deadly silence. I couldn’t even breathe. I just sat, blinked, and open my mouth and shut it again like a goldfish.


I somehow had forgotten that I had left it stuck behind the bed at my Nan’s house.


Rose seemed unable to contain herself. ‘What the hell do you think you’re playing at? When was this taken? How do you know him? Why didn’t you tell me? Where is he? Are you seeing him? Are you serious? Why!’


Pause. Tumbleweed. Rose glaring.


‘Which one do you want me to answer first?’


Not the right answer. Rose fumed, opened her mouth and shut it again, pushed her glasses up, looked at the photograph then back at me, and then opened her mouth again. Happily, Al interrupted her.


‘What we were trying to say was-’


‘We’re kind of mates with Scorpius – just mates-’


‘And we want to settle this and get rid of all of the misery.’


‘Once and for all.’


Rose narrowed her eyes at us, but then sat the photograph back onto the tea tray, folded her hands in her lap, and said ‘I’m listening.’


‘Well,’ Al said, letting out a long breath that whistled through his teeth. ‘You know how you kind of…tried to fight me when Scorpius ditched you?’


Rose’s fists clenched on her lap, but she didn’t say anything.


‘Given that you do remember,’ Al continued, ‘You can hardly be surprised that Scorpius did a runner. You’re terrifying, Rose, really. I have a bit of a bone to pick with you, actually – d’you remember our last year at Hogwarts, towards the end, when you and Scorpius got together? Do you remember how you basically banned him from seeing all of his friends? From going to parties? From-’


‘I did that for his own good!’ Rose snapped. ‘He would have failed half of his subjects! And his friends were bad influences!’


Really? They were the best friends he had, bar me-’


‘One of them swore a lot!’ Rose hissed. ‘It’s unbecoming of a girl of her age!’


‘Calm down, guys,’ I tried to say, but Al pointed a threatening finger at Rose.


‘You stole his life!’ he accused. ‘Trying to force him into a Ministry apprenticeship, into law like that? Were you thick or something? I mean, on what planet would someone ever hire Scorpius to defend them in a court?’


‘I,’ Rose said imperiously, ‘was top of our year, I’m more than capable of making decisions-’


‘Oh, yeah, and when he broke his arm and failed Potions your only words to him were you deserve it? Some girlfriend you were-’


‘It was his fault for breaking the rules!’


‘GUYS!’ I shouted, remembering the pact I’d made with Al to gently try and ease Rose and Scorpius back into a comfortable little relationship without insulting either of them. ‘Calm down! There were good times, right?’


‘Not for me,’ Al said, folding his arms over his chest. ‘I lost a chaser because she insisted on extra study sessions for the two of them.’


Rose went slightly pink and adjusted her glasses, floundering for words.


‘But he wasn’t really a good chaser,’ I said. ‘In fact, he was an awful Chaser, Al. All in all, it wasn’t-’


‘We were slaughtered by Hufflepuff in the last match of the season because she wouldn’t let him play-’


‘You were always wrecked, every match,’ Rose snapped. ‘And Hufflepuff always got the cup anyway.’


‘She’s right,’ I chipped in. ‘Hufflepuff is and always has been the best house in the world, full stop, end of story.’


The Ravenclaw and the Slytherin in the room turned to glare at me.


‘What? It’s a fact-’


‘Scorpius was an irresponsible person before I met him,’ Rose cut in, shaking a finger at all. ‘I did some good work on him, you can hardly be surprised that I reacted the way I did, I think it’s entirely justified-’


‘Rose, you made him worse!


‘I don’t regret what I did!’ Rose nearly shouted, folding her arms across her chest defiantly. ‘It was all worth it in the end!


‘We need to put this all behind us and start again,’ I said. ‘Let bygones be bygones…’


Rose and Al did not respond. They sat facing away from each other, arms folded, faces arranged in grumpy frowns. Rose looked ready to break an arm. Al turned, raised his eyebrows at me, and then helped himself to another custard cream, chewing on it moodily.


‘With a New Year comes a new attitude,’ I said, raising my voice a little this time. ‘I think we should all resolve to be more peaceful and loving people, to be kind, to share, to be generally nice, and to celebrate the reunion of Rose and-’


Rose gave me the sort of look that I knew would have meant instant death if she had a wand to hand.


‘In a totally friendly way, of course,’ I added. ‘Nice and friendly.’


Rose gave me another look that suggested she was about as friendly as a shark with a temper problem that’d just been clobbered over the head with a frying pan. I chose that moment to pull Al upwards and announce that I was leaving.


‘Leaving!’ Rose exclaimed, sweeping her hand out to the tray of tea and biscuits. ‘So soon?’


‘I’m leaving unless you calm down-’


‘I’m very calm!’


‘-and I’m not coming back until you agree to something.’


Both Al and Rose turned to look at me.


‘I think you need to forgive Scorpius,’ I said. ‘Be the bigger man, wear the trousers and whatnot.’


‘She always did wear the trousers,’ Al said in an undertone.


‘He’s so miserable, Rose, everyone will be far happier if we just get this mess sorted out.’


Rose adjusted her glasses and stared at the tray in front of her.


‘Alright,’ she said, after a pause. ‘I’ll try.’


*



I ended up having much the same conversation with Scorpius later, only with a lot less of the rage and biscuits, and a lot more leafy foliage.


I’ll get onto that later.


By the time we’d finished chatting to Rose and dawdled home it was seven, and I was running a little late if I had any hope of looking halfway decent for my ‘date’.


‘Scorpius?’ I shouted, standing in front of the mirror with a brush tangled in my hair. ‘What am I supposed to wear?’


‘Clothes?’ he suggested helpfully, barely looking up from his book.


‘Specifically…?’


‘Nice clothes?’


‘Just a tad more clarification…?’


‘Well,’ he said. ‘For starters, fancy dress isn’t going to work.’


‘But what if it will?’ I moaned. ‘Isn’t that spontaneous? Don’t menfolk like spontaneity?’


‘Hmm,’ Scorpius turned a page. ‘I don’t know. Rose wasn’t very spontaneous, and I got on fairly well with her.’


Score! I thought. He just mentioned Rose without flinching!


Scorpius looked up as if he’d heard my thoughts. I busied myself in yanking the brush out of my hair, swearing fluently in a way that would have made my father swoon.


‘Do you need any scissors?’ Scorpius asked politely.


‘Nope,’ I said, and with a final tug the hairbrush came free, taking a large clump of my hair with it. ‘Please, help me out. I don’t know what to wear.’


‘Just go in what you’re wearing,’ Scorpius said, turning back to his book. ‘It’s only Henry.’


Only Henry?’ I exclaimed. ‘He’s not just Henry…he’s…Obscure Henry! He likes indie bands and arty films and strange clothes from shops that smell weird-’


‘So?’ Scorpius said. ‘I like indie bands and arty films. And, er, some of the places I get my clothes from smell a bit funky.’


‘Yes, but you’re you…what on earth do I wear? What do you indie types like?’


Scorpius shrugged, setting the book aside. ‘I dunno,’ he said. ‘I’m partial to socks with an argyle pattern.’


‘Socks?’ I nearly yelled. ‘Socks?


‘They’re an incredibly understated and useful item of clothing-’


‘I can’t just wear socks tonight!’


‘Yes, well, the idea is that you wear other clothes too.’


‘But what?


Scorpius shrugged again. ‘Beats me,’ he said. ‘I’m a boy, in case you didn’t notice.’


After another casual half hour of bickering and raiding both my set of cardboard boxes and Scorpius’ wardrobe, I ended up wearing exhausted jeans (mine), a baggy shirt with the logo of a mopey band with big fringes on it (Scorpius’) and a bobbly knitted cardigan in a tasteful shade of maroon I think my Mum knitted back in the age of the dinosaurs. To top it off, I had a pair of tough boots Gwendolyn/Raven had accidentally left behind one night, and a pair of argyle patterned socks of questionable ownership.


‘You look…’ Scorpius said, dithering about for a way to finish his sentence. I was adding the final touches to some hastily applied eyeliner which made me look like both of my eyes had been thumped in a vicious pub brawl.


‘Fierce?’ I said. ‘Rebellious? Angry? Homeless?’


‘Er…’


‘Like an off-duty History of Magic professor with a staunch determination to get down with the kids?


‘Most likely.’


‘Argh,’ I arghed. ‘He’s going to take one look at me and do a runner.’


‘Do you need reinforcements?’ Scorpius asked. ‘I can tag along and hang out in the background, then I can jump in if things look a bit clunky.’


‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Please, please, please be my third wheel for the evening. Okay, I know that’s kind of harsh on Henry but the two of you are friends, right, he won’t mind! Right? And you can consider it payback for the whole photo thing earlier, that was a complete humiliation-’


‘Sorry,’ Scorpius said. ‘And alright, I’ll be your third wheel.’


So it was that an hour into my date with Obscure Henry at the Horses’ Arms, I signalled for Scorpius to wheel in by making our agreed signal, which was a peace sign made under the table with my left hand. Unfortunately, by that time I was so bored and frustrated by the whole thing that it ended up being quite vicious and I actually poked Henry on the knee.


It’s not that he was a terrible date. Actually, he was fine, even if he did come across like the most pretentious thing since the last degree show I’d seen at the art school. His wittering on about all the indie bands he liked and all of the arty films he’d been to see at indie cinemas with his indie mates wearing indie clothes from indie vintage shops staffed by beautiful indie people was fine, really, given that I put up with a lot of that chatter from most of my artistic pals on a daily basis. It was mostly the lack of spark or any chemistry whatsoever that nearly bored me to tears. It must be said here that while drinks in the pub are all well and good, I mostly drink with types like Scorpius, who turn into mildly insane prats when drunk and are nothing if entertainment value. It seemed that the more Henry drank, the more vacuous and ‘indie’ he became, and the more words like ‘year’ were pronounced ‘yah’.


Actually, I kind of hated the whole thing and spent a lot of time picking the bobbles off of my cardigan, especially during a hideously dull monologue about Henry’s Gap Yah, which was about the time I jabbed him in the knee and Scorpius came shooting out of nowhere ready to be my third wheel.


‘Lucy! Henry!’ Scorpius cried dramatically, waving his half-finished pint around in the air dangerously. ‘Fancy seeing you here!’


I hastily shuffled up on the seat I was sitting on to make room for him. Henry looked quite disgruntled, but said a polite hello.


‘Henry was just telling me about his Gap Year in Tanzania,’ I said, helping myself to a sip of Scorpius’ pint (mine was long finished). ‘Fascinating stuff.’


‘Fascinating, you say?’ Scorpius said, catching onto the code we’d agreed earlier. ‘Er…iveting?’


‘Oh, yes, riveting.’


‘Are you…overwhelmed?’


‘Yes,’ I nodded. ‘Whelmed to the point of exhaustion.’


Scorpius frowned, picking up on the code words which we’d loosely agreed meant I don’t care how you do it or how many people you injure in the process, but you have to get me out of here. Henry was looking between the two of us, quite the picture of perplexity.


‘I don’t want to break up your wonderful date,’ Scorpius said, ‘but I’m afraid I have dramatic – no…chilling news.’


I didn’t remember hamming it up being part of our escape plan, but decided to play along anyway.


‘Chilling news?’ I cried, throwing a hand to my forehead. ‘Whatever could it be?’


‘Grave news,’ Scorpius said. ‘Grave, grave news. Tarquin’s illegitimate son has been taken seriously ill-’


‘No!’ I cried, now clapping a hand over my mouth. ‘It cannot be!’


‘Tarquin’s illegitimate son?’ Henry asked.


‘Yes,’ Scorpius nodded. ‘Yes, his illegitimate son from his tryst with legendary Gobstones player Mariella Slater-Godfrey…’


‘Didn’t she pass away a couple of years ago?’


‘Therein lies the scandal,’ Scorpius proclaimed. ‘The mother is in fact...her daughter! He seduced them both!’


‘What’s the son called?’ Henry asked suspiciously.


‘Um…’


‘Um Slater-Godfrey!’ I interjected. ‘His name is Um Slater-Godfrey, but his middle name is Tarquin in honour of his secret father!’


‘I don’t follow,’ Henry said.


‘But back to my original point,’ Scorpius said. ‘Young Um Tarquin Slater-Godfrey has been taken seriously ill and rushed to St Mungo’s…Tarquin is at his bedside now, Lucy, and he insists that, as you are his one and only true friend, that you be by his side in this…this difficult time of need.’


‘But of course,’ I said, standing and pulling Scorpius up alongside me. ‘Tarquin needs me! I’m ever so sorry, Henry, but we’ll have to do this some other time.’


‘Er, it’s okay,’ Henry said, the look on his face saying he hadn’t fallen for the whole Tarquin-has-a-sick-illegitimate-child-thing for one minute. ‘I guess that Tarquin needs you.’


‘I’m sure Tarquin appreciates your sympathy,’ I said, touching his hand for the briefest of moments and flashing him what I hoped was a charming smile. ‘I’ll see you tomorrow morning.’


Scorpius and I did our best to leave the pub in a calm and orderly fashion, but the moment we were clear of the doors we broke into a sort of jog.


‘Cripes,’ I said. ‘That was hammier than an all-you-can-eat all-pork buffet.’


‘Was I okay?’


‘You were marvellous,’ I said. ‘A true ac-tor. Let’s make a turn here…’


Together we jogged into the local park, plunged into relative darkness for a moment.


‘Phew,’ I said. ‘We can stop running now, I don’t think he followed us.’


‘Suits me,’ Scorpius said, plonking himself down onto the nearest bench. ‘It was pretty awkward in there.’


‘He’s so boring,’ I whined, sitting next to him. ‘Why did I even agree to that stupid date? If I’d wanted to hear about dullsville indie bands and such, I would have stayed in the flat with you.’


He rolled his eyes. ‘Thanks.’


‘Is that how dates really are supposed to run?’ I said. ‘I mean, I’ve only ever really been out with boys at Hogwarts before, and there was a kind of basic Hogwarts template of three broomsticks, butterbeer, snog behind the broom sheds, Hufflepuff party…’


Scorpius shrugged, then added ‘I only went out with Rose, I can’t really help you on that.’


‘So what did Rose do?’ I asked, seizing the opportunity to lead the conversation into the uncharted territories of Operation Hippogriff. ‘She’s not really the type I imagine would go in for a snog amongst the Cleansweeps.’


Scorpius raised his eyebrows.


‘Nor the type to attend a Hufflepuff party either…they were pretty awesome, if I may say so myself.’


‘No, she wasn’t,’ he said, cautiously.


‘What did you do, then?’


‘Oh, you know, this and that.’


‘Specify.’


‘Uh...’ his face flushed with colour. ‘The…the library, and, er, out of school, um, we went to the park, to museums-’


‘Museums?’ I burst out laughing. ‘What, her idea of a hot date is looking at stuffed animals and dinosaur skeletons?’


‘She liked History of Magic…’


‘She’s the fustiest old bore I think I’ve met in my life,’ I said, then remembered that I should be putting in a good word for Rose, hastily adding ‘which is why she’s so brilliant.’


‘Yeah,’ Scorpius prodded at an empty crisp packet on the floor with the toe of his trainer. ‘Museums aren’t actually that bad, it’s just getting a photography permit that can be a bit tricky. You know me,’ he smiled. ‘I lead a quiet life.’


At that moment I spotted a figure entering the park a few metres away. A particularly indie figure, with an obscure dress sense and very painstakingly casually coiffed hair. An indie figure who I was technically supposed to be enjoying a drink with right now, had it not been for Scorpius’ spur-of-the-moment yarn about Tarquin’s fake (and seriously ill) illegitimate son.


‘Eek, it’s Henry!’ I whispered to Scorpius. ‘Quick, we have to hide!’


That’s how we ended up crouched in a bush somewhere in Central London talking about Rose.


‘It’s good to know that Rose has got over it,’ Scorpius said, drawing in the dirt with a twig as we hid from Obscure Henry, who was currently enjoying a smoke on the park bench we’d just vacated. I’d spent the past five minutes it had taken Henry to find a cigarette and light it telling Scorpius about my earlier meeting with Rose. He hadn’t flinched once at her name.


‘She sounds pretty keen about everything. About you, in fact. I think she’s put it all behind her, which I suppose it’s hard when you have such a volcanic temper.’


‘That’s nice of her,’ he mumbled.


‘I don’t know how you feel about her,’ I said. ‘I would have thought that, given the circumstances, what with her landing Al in hospital and all…I thought you would have given up on her for good.’


Scorpius was now resting his chin on his knees, looking rather like a small, timid child. ‘No,’ he muttered. ‘I…well, I haven’t…really.’


‘Didn’t think you had. I don’t think she’s given up on you either, you should have seen her at Christmas.’


‘What happened at Christmas?’ he said, sitting up slightly.


‘Well,’ I said, leaning forward. ‘There I was, sitting in the sitting room, watching a mountain of Satsuma peel growing on the coffee table and listening to my Dad snoring…then, all of a sudden, I noticed Rose was missing! But it was okay, she was just in the kitchen.’


I added a dramatic pause there, but Scorpius seemed to think the story was over and carried on drawing patterns in the mud with a grumpy look.


‘Wait, there’s more! She was in the kitchen, right, so I walked into the kitchen and I was like, ‘hey Rose, how’s it going?’ and she was crying and all, and it was a bit awkward but it soon transpired that the turkey wouldn’t fit in the oven so she was crying about that. But then she went off on this little rant thing about the turkey, but then it kind of expanded and went on and soon she was ranting about everything that was making her upset, and guess what she finished it with?’


Scorpius looked up inquisitively.


I miss him.’


A brief little glimmer of hope seemed to flicker over his face, but then he went back to his grumpy mud doodling.


‘Could be anybody,’ he muttered. ‘She probably met someone at law school. Someone who’s better for her.’


It was the best impersonation of a kicked puppy left out in the rain I’d seen him do in all the time I’d known him. And, I tell you, it broke my heart a little bit. Just a tad.


‘I’m pretty sure it was you,’ I said, doing my best to sound encouraging. ‘Didn’t I tell you about when we saw her earlier? You know the picture I accidentally left at my Nan’s? She found it, and you’re in the picture, and she seemed quite upset – she’s not going to be upset about seeing a picture of me or Tarquin or Raven, is she? It’s about you.’


‘It’s not.’


‘But it is. I’m sure she still…I dunno what you guys were like, but I suppose she still fancies you.’


‘Yeah, I thought about that,’ he said, rubbing out his picture in the dirt with the sole of his shoe and starting again. ‘But then I kind of thought back, all the bits at the end like in seventh year…she kind of banned me from seeing some of my friends, you know? Only really sneakily, so I didn’t notice it at the time. And I think if I started seeing her again, she’d probably end up banning me from seeing Tarquin or Raven or you, because she probably thinks you’re all bad influences. She definitely thinks you’re a bad influence, Lucy.’


‘Flattered as I am to be called a bad influence, I think she’s changed.’


This was a bit of a lie, but if my grand scheme was to work, I couldn’t have Scorpius thinking any negative thoughts about Rose whatsoever.


‘And she didn’t approve of art school,’ he said. ‘Not in the slightest. She, er, said that artists were degenerates.’


‘Sometimes I could thump the girl, Scorp, but you really have to take the good with the bad.’


At that moment Obscure Henry finished his lonely smoke, got up, looked around the park, and then disapparated.


‘Coast is clear,’ I sighed. ‘We should probably get going.’


‘I quite like it here,’ Scorpius mumbled, doing his kicked-puppy-in-the-rain thing again. ‘It’s nice and quiet.’


‘And dirty, and leafy, and quite cold,’ I pointed out. ‘And a copper will probably tell us to move on in a bit. Besides, it’s mostly people of ill repute that hang out in bushes in London in the middle of the night.’


‘You have a fair point.’


‘Well,’ I said, extending a hand to help him up. ‘I know I’m supposed to be a bad influence and all, but we really should go home. You look like you could use a cup of tea.'




A/N: psst...I've updated this author's note on the edit...how sneaky. just to alert you all to the presence of my shiny prequel to this fic (okay, not really shiny, but, you know). it's a cluster of vignettes that explore the life and times of the angst-magnet that is teenage scorpius and his mates at school, and, yes, seeks to answer the question of 'how the hell did he end up with rose?'. it's definitely not in the same vein of slapstick as this fic, more angst-based, but it's one I've enjoyed writing and I'd appreciate it if you could take a wee look at it. I also have a sequel to this but...ahem...you should probably finish reading this first...
edited 19/08/2011
edited 18/06/2012

Chapter 12: Plan, Plot, Scheme
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Chapter Twelve - Plan, Plot, Scheme





And suddenly it was April.


Okay, I’m exaggerating there. April wasn’t sudden at all. April kind of limped along in succession of moody thunderstorms, bringing up the rear behind March – a March of unusually good weather, although a bad bout of flu kept me out of action and under Tarquin’s motherly gaze for a week or so – and February, which, as Februaries go, was pretty average. February is typically a cold and rather miserable month, although not as cold and miserable as January. Scorpius, as resident mope, seemed to be in his natural habitat amongst the brooding, endless rain and the grey London streets. If he was a month, he would be January. Thirty days of non-stop pessimism.


I don’t mean it to sound like these months were boring or anything. They were, in fact, as memorable as any. Take, for example, a night out in March that seemed to end up with Scorpius upside down in a skip, and another awkward date with Obscure Henry in late February that resulted in nothing more than an awkward snog and another awkward interjection from Scorpius and a yarn about Tarquin’s ‘illegitimate son’. Scorpius timed his third-wheel interjection so well that Obscure Henry actually accidentally headbutted me. I may still have a dent on my forehead. And it was pretty alarming to have Scorpius pop-up dramatically mid snog.


Minor injuries aside, I was starting to see it as one of the best years of my life. Hogwarts had been all well and good, but where’s the fun in libraries and second-rate Quidditch games? The most excitement I’d had before this was my little Firewhisky enterprise in fifth year, and that had been cut prematurely short with my near expulsion and staff insisting I was only allowed to carry on because of ‘concerns for my education’ – concerns for the sanity of my father, more like. Art school was mad. I’d never known such sociable people in my life. Now I was living with Scorpius and Tarquin, I had round-the-clock mild eccentricity to keep me company. At Hogwarts, I had to share a room with four hormonal little harpies who didn’t quite agree with my rule-breaking escapades or my cousins. My social circle was largely made up of boys for a reason, although most people saw that reason in a rather unsavoury way.


As I’ve probably mentioned before, I had an absolutely cracking reputation at school, both social and academic. Once upon a time, there was a name oft applied to me, and it rhymed with witch. And nobody had called me that since I’d come to London, so I felt like it was really the place to be.


I turned nineteen at last on the fourth of April, finally catching up with Scorpius in the age stakes before he would turn twenty in July. I wasn’t by any means the baby of the art gang – Eunice, as far as I knew, had been born in August – but I was the youngest out of my usual group (Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven both on the cusp of twenty-one – that’s a great phrase, isn’t it? On the cusp. I think it’s fab. Moving on…). I kind of wished I was a year older, thinking I’d have had more fun in life that way. Al and Scorpius had their own in-jokes from Hogwarts, as did Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven – there were people from my year in London, alright, but I wasn’t exactly inclined to meet up with any of them. I hadn’t parted with any of my friends on the best of terms.


So I wished I’d been born a year earlier and had been part of the whole Rose/Scorpius drama from the outset. When Al told me all about it, I could only think how much fun it would’ve been to be a part of it, how much of a laugh the teenage Scorpius might have been to have around. Okay, I’d met him at school and known he existed, but we’d probably exchanged about three words in the entire time we were both there and were pretty much total strangers. It would have cheered me up no end to have been friends with Scorpius at Hogwarts. The boy’s good entertainment value – his poor coordination alone would have kept me chirpy for a year or two.


So, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, April kind of just…arrived. Time flies when you’re having fun.


Operation Hippogriff was going well. At least once a week, Albus and I would either take Rose out somewhere or visit her, and at least once a week we would do the same with Scorpius. Neither of them were none the wiser – there was vague talk of ‘forgiving’ each other, but their paths never once crossed, and as far as Scorpius was aware my visits to Rose were actually visits to my parents. Considering how dim and clumsy I usually am, I kept Operation Hippogriff surprisingly secret. Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven were in on it, of course, but more in a casual observational capacity. ‘Casual observational capacity’ meaning that they spent a lot of time peering at Scorpius like demented hawks.


Up until the end of April, it was a fairly casual affair. Hints were dropped, glances were exchanged, music was faced at Rose’s flat. In whatever spare time we could find together, Albus and I schemed. We made diagrams. We drew maps. We sat in dingy rooms, building forts out of empty bottles and shooing away bystanders. We took up casual espionage. We confined ourselves to darkness, cupboards and codewords; we took it in turns to crouch outside Rose’s window, occasionally peering in; I spent an uncomfortable afternoon in Scorpius’ wardrobe until I realised he was out all day and I wasn’t really achieving much by shoving myself into his sock drawer.


We stayed up past the very small hours of the morning, we paid Tarquin in cans of spray paint for arranging an elaborate practical joke that, really, had no relevance to the project and was just a little bit of comic relief. Then we remembered that all we had to do was set two people up – a pisstake of a job, really - and started getting a lot more fresh air and light in celebration.


Considering the level of blundering stupidity and incompetence we were running Operation Hippogriff at, Scorpius and Rose remained absolutely clueless. I was amazed.


Scorpius also somehow - somehow - managed to break into the world of paid employment. What with his dramatic resignation from the farce that had been Screaming Bloodthirsty Disco and his father’s disapproval of the whole art school life, he was running rather low on funds. He took a job in a background jazz band at some dingy bar near Diagon Alley. I started looking for a job too, although not very successfully. I tended to make the mistake of being myself in interviews. I was also supposed to be flat-hunting, although that wasn’t going anywhere either. I wouldn’t admit it to them, but I was enjoying living on Scorpius and Tarquin’s sofa too much to move out.


Not that my life was stagnating or anything, as I’ve already pointed out. Simply put, I was having too much fun to do serious grown-up things like work and hunting for proper accommodation. Occasionally, I do feel that the reputation I had at school was justified.


One afternoon in late April, Al and I met up, as usual, in a pub. It was brilliantly sunny outside, but the pub was dark and dingy; I thought I’d been blinded as I walked in and nearly walked into a party of Warlocks in my blindness. Skirting around them, I made a beeline for Al, who was sitting near the back.


‘Hey, Al,’ I perched on the edge of the free stool, dumping a bag of film (that morning’s purchase) onto the table. ‘How’s it going?’


‘Oh, fine,’ Al said. ‘We’ve got the details of the – what are you wearing?’


‘Er, clothes?’


‘I’ve never seen you in a shirt like that before,’ he grimaced. ‘You look like a lumberjack. And are there birds nesting in that hair?’


‘It’s not my shirt, I just borrowed it. Since when were you a style guru? You can hardly talk,’ I pointed to his own mop of hair. ‘You look like you’ve got a cat sleeping on your head.’


‘Oh, burn, great comeback. I’m a boy, I’m allowed to look messy,’ he said. ‘You’re usually just a good deal more well-groomed than this, did something happen?’


‘Since when have I been well-groomed? Well, we were out last night and-’


‘Say no more. Something happened involving a skip, a wheely bin, a hedge, a cow? Or all of the above?’


‘Wheely bin, yes, skip, hedge, cow, no. Not to my recollection.’


Al groaned and cast his gaze to the floor. Then, suddenly, he lunged for my feet and hoisted them upwards, almost making me fall backwards off of my stool. A few funny looks were cast our way as my arms windmilled pathetically, then grasped the edges of the table. Al scrutinised my leather boots with a disdainful eye.


‘I’ve never seen you in anything but trainers,’ he let my feet drop with a clatter, this time nearly making me fall forwards off the stool. I gripped the table again and stared daggers at him, clutching to the bag of film for reassurance.


‘Al, this isn’t funny. These boots have reinforced toecaps and I am not afraid to use them-’


‘Art school is having a big effect on you,’ he tittered, peering into the bag of film. ‘You’ve started dressing like Scorpius, this is hilarious. I thought you were supposed to be the bad influence…’


‘You’re not exactly in fits of laughter here-’


‘Well, what I brought you here to talk about was our plan.’


Wardrobe discussions went out the window. ‘Yes,’ I leaned in. ‘Our plan.’


‘My parents’ wedding anniversary is the fifteenth of June,’ he said. ‘That’s the date.’


The date?’


‘The date,’ he confirmed. ‘We’re allowed a guest each.’


‘I’ll bring Scorpius,’ I said, without hesitation.


‘Good. So. We’ll enter the house. We need to plan our arrival well, we don’t want him arriving at the same time as Rose – could you imagine how awkward that would be in the vestibule?’


‘The what?’


‘Erm, the porch.’


‘Right. Well, Rose will be early anyway,’ I said. ‘And there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell me and Scorp would ever turn up at any time other than fashionably late.’


‘It starts at seven,’ Al adopted a ponderous look. ‘Maybe if you turned up at…hmm, nine?’


‘We’ll meet you before we go in, make sure we’re both close by, just in case...’


‘Wise. So we’ll meet outside at nine, then we’ll get Molly to divert Rose or something?’


‘Yeah. If they stick to a vaguely quiet place…’


‘The morning room?’


‘Huh?’


‘The one off the kitchen…oh, nevermind, we’ll put them in the parlour.’


‘You have a parlour?’


‘Sitting room. Living room. Room with the sofas in,’ he said, changing tack. ‘We’ll get Rose on one side of the room and enter through the door with him opposite her-’


‘And they will share a lingering glance-’


‘Or Rose will blow the house up.’


‘We’ll just have to wait and see.’


Waiting and seeing seemed to be on the agenda that month. In a bizarre twist of fate and coincidence, the end-of-year show was planned to finish on June the fourteenth, with the end-of-year party set to take place later that night. I didn’t actually have a final piece or anything to display – just a bunch of photos – but then again, neither did anyone else. What had been a mildly peaceful and lazy bunch of artists throughout the year morphed into a frenetic bunch of diagram-drawing, paint-hoarding, caffeine-quaffing freaks. It became a bit of a tradition that, when asked what their final piece was, the student in question would reply ‘wait and see’.


Gwendolyn/Raven was the first to come up with her final piece.


‘I want you all to dress up as bats,’ she said, breezing into the common room around lunchtime early in May (alright, not that much happened in April).


‘What’s the occasion?’


‘For my final piece,’ she explained, scrutinising the common room with her arms folded. ‘Do you think the light fittings are strong enough to support our weight?’


The three of us (Scorpius, Tarquin and I, engaged in a game of snap) looked up at the grimy strip-lighting that hung above us. I don’t know how the light fittings got so grubby when they hung out of our reach – but, then again, this was art school and the laws of physics didn’t really apply.


‘No,’ Tarquin said. ‘Definitely not. But I’m sure Scorpius would be willing to test them for you.’


Gwendolyn/Raven frowned. ‘I need you all to dangle from something, though…the roof?’


‘You could hire a barrage balloon of some sort?’ Scorpius suggested.


‘What about a simple levitation spell?’ I chipped in.


‘No,’ she said, sounding cross. ‘The whole point is we don’t use magic. It’s to emphasise how, we, as magically able beings, rely on magic for everything, and it’s to show the underlying problems of dependency and basic self-sufficiency in this society by showing the anguish of having to go without magic. You’ll be dressed as bats to show your mourning for your lost powers.’


‘Right. That…makes sense.’ Tarquin said.


‘It’s called The Plight of the Wandless,’ she said dramatically. ‘The Plight. Of the Wandless.’


Silence answered her, then-


‘Where do we get bat costumes from?’


‘I might make them,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, with a pensive stare at the lights. ‘I’ll use wire for the wings…’


She trailed off, mumbling to herself. A moment later, she took a seat next to Tarquin, folding her hands into her lap and staring abstractly into the distance. The snap game continued – Tarquin won by a narrow margin, leaving Scorpius and I nursing bruised fingers – until, finally, the hour hand of the clock dragged itself to four, and Scorpius announced he was going to make a batch of tea.


Tarquin, Gwendolyn/Raven and I casually watched him for a few minutes as he dropped a box of teabags, got a spoon stuck up his sleeve and, for the grand finale, upended half of the (mercifully unboiled) kettle onto Obscure Henry’s head. As per bloody usual.


The three of us continued to watch in vague interest as Scorpius flapped his arms and hopped around from foot to foot, apologising profusely to Henry, who had got up from the sofa and had joined in the flapping and hopping (flopping?). As the two of them hopped and flapped around each other, probably communicating their hair woes to each other through the medium of interpretive dance, Gwendolyn/Raven leaned in and said, in an undertone, ‘how’re things with Henry?’


‘Things with Henry?’ I laughed. ‘Well…’


As if on cue, Henry turned away from his flopping and brushed down the front of his checked shirt, staring murderously in our direction. Okay, not at us – I got the feeling he was frowning at the pinboard behind us instead – but it proved my point so well that Tarquin actually chuckled.


‘Awkward,’ he said.


‘He wasn’t a bad catch,’ Gwendolyn/Raven mused. ‘But you could do far better.’


At this point, Scorpius hopped over to where Henry was standing with a wodge of kitchen paper in his hand. The two of them seemed to exchange a meaningful glance – there was a sharp intake of breath from Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven – and then Henry accepted the kitchen paper and patted Scorpius on the back in that way that blokes always do.


‘Nah,’ I said. ‘There isn’t exactly a whole heap of choice.’


Tarquin looked mildly affronted. ‘What are you trying to say?’ he swept his arm about the room. ‘Are you not entranced by the mysterious élan of Barry?’


The Barry in question looked up from his tormented brooding at the rug, looking moody and confused. Tarquin threw him a lively wave.


‘I like guys with a bit of cheer, to be honest,’ I admitted.


‘Do you now?’ Gwendolyn/Raven leant forward, chin resting on her hand. ‘What else?’


‘Why do you ask?’


‘Oh, you know,’ she said dismissively. ‘Just wondering. Henry’s deep. He’s moody. Not your type, obviously.’


‘I dunno,’ I said. ‘But, then again, he did ask me out…’


‘You’re a very cheerful person,’ Tarquin chipped in. ‘Ever the optimist…’


‘…which makes your choice of Henry somewhat curious.’


‘I didn’t choose him, he asked me out-’


‘And why did you say yes? Because opposites attract,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said firmly. ‘What’s your final piece, Tarquin?’


‘Wait and see.’


‘Lucy, do you have one?’


‘Oh, I dunno,’ I said. ‘I thought I’d just frame a bunch of my photos all nice, stick them on the wall…’


At that moment, Scorpius came wandering back over, a tray of teacups rattling in his arms. He set them down carefully on the table – just in time, as well, as a moment later he stood on his own shoelace and ended up falling into his chair.


‘Smooth,’ Tarquin tittered. ‘Do you have a final piece, Scorp?’


‘Erm,’ Scorpius said, struggling to free himself from the vast, squishy cushions. ‘I had this idea about covering a wall in duct tape, black duct tape – the whole thing, like a massive, bottomless pit-’


‘Except it’s a wall.’


‘Well, yeah, but it’s supposed to be-’


‘Covered in tape.’


‘Well, paint is expensive.’


‘And duct tape isn’t?’


‘Erm,’ Scorpius repeated. ‘Erm, alright. I’ll just paint some masking tape then-’


‘Paint is expensive,’ Gwendolyn/Raven echoed. ‘So you’re covering a wall in duct tape?’


‘Yeah,’ Scorpius spread out his arms as if to indicate just how big this bottomless-pit-made-of-tape-and-not-actually-a-pit-but-a-wall would be. ‘And in the middle there’ll be a little white speck about the size of a sequin.’


Everyone grimaced; I got the feeling we were all sharing a Lettuce flashback.


‘Right. So what does the…er, the white speck represent?’ Tarquin asked.


‘Um,’ Scorpius shuffled about uncomfortably, pulling his sleeves over his hands. ‘Well…me.’


The three of us gaped at him.


‘That’s…deep,’ I finally managed to choke out.


‘Pretentious.’ Tarquin said firmly.


‘Henry’s making a sculpture out of air,’ Scorpius whined, as if to shift the label of ‘pretentious’ onto someone else. ‘To represent…oh, I dunno, it’s a load of bollocks.’


‘And here’s me just hanging pictures on a wall,’ I said. ‘Maybe I should hang them on the outside wall instead, just to get that extra dash of deepness-’


I broke off when I realised that the other three were nodding in approval.


‘That’s a really good idea!’ Scorpius said.


My artistic ego inflated just a little bit more.


As well as being a month of waiting and seeing, May was also a month of scheming. On one rather cold night in May, I ended up shivering in a phone box outside the flat, hair still damp from the shower and staring up at several rather dodgy business cards that had been tacked to the back wall.


‘Albus,’ I hissed down the phone, as soon as the connection was made. ‘An owl would have sufficed.’


‘It couldn’t wait!’ Al cried. ‘I have important news!’


(See, Tarquin had got into the flat no less than five minutes ago to say that some idiot had been ringing the phone box outside pretty much non-stop since nine o’clock that evening, and the muggles in the surrounding flats with all their neighbourhood watch curtain-twitching had got a bit mardy about it. Which was why, if I turned around, I’d be able to see several of them watching me to make sure I was telling my idiot cousin to stop calling.)


‘Be quick,’ I told him. ‘I’ve got the mad muggle brigade breathing down my neck-’


‘Wannacomeholiday?’ Al nearly yelled down the phone.


‘Pardon?’


‘Wanna…come…holiday?’ he said, sounding breathless.


‘I’m still confused-’


Al let out a cry of frustration. ‘Posh Healer mate!’ he cried. ‘In my flat! Dad of posh Healer mate has holiday home in Devon! Posh Healer mate is lending it to me for a week! For a discount price! It takes four people! Four! Four!


‘So take your posh Healer mates-’


Four!’ Al nearly screamed. ‘Me and you makes two, and Rose and Sc-’


Oh!


‘Yes!’


‘Wow!’


‘I know!’


I nearly jumped up and down in the phonebox (the surly muggles outside were giving me the evil eye like nothing else). ‘But that’s perfect! They’ll have ages to work out their differences away from…away from all the theness of London!’


‘That’s what I thought!’ Al said. ‘Only in less words. And a bit less shouty.’


‘And a holiday!’ I nearly screeched. ‘Is there a beach?’


‘Why would there not be a beach?’


‘There’s a beach!’ I hollered, twisting round to face the muggles outside. Looking positively alarmed, they started to inch away back to their flats.


‘And we’ve got it for a week from the sixteenth of June!’ Al cried. ‘Perfect timing or what?


‘Perfect timing!’ I shrieked back at him.


We spent the next five minutes essentially shrieking at each other and planning the aforementioned holiday, right down to what flavours of ice cream we would buy each day. Albus was just contemplating what pistachio flavour would taste like with chocolate when the phone line beeped and he swore very colourfully at the top of his voice.


‘Ah!’ he cried. ‘Phones aren’t free! Or cheap!’


A second later the line went dead. I hung up and left the phone box, casting the gaggle of muggles what I hoped was a sincere and apologetic smile before retreating back to the flat.


‘Did you manage to talk to Al?’ Tarquin asked, when I finally flopped back into the sofa, running my hands through my now slightly less damp but a great deal frizzier hair.


‘Yes,’ I said, then told him all about the holiday situation.


‘Wow, wish I was going,’ Tarquin said. ‘Although somehow I can’t picture Scorpius in sunglasses and surfing shorts-’


He was cut off as the front door slammed open and Scorpius himself came thundering through, looking as though he’d been told that fringes had been declared illegal and Christmas cancelled in one fell swoop. He paused to slam the door shut again with his foot, and then stormed into the kitchen. Tossing his jacket in the vague vicinity of the table (and missing), he finally threw himself into the armchair, the worn cushions letting out a rather ungainly noise that can only be described as akin to the passing of wind.


‘Bad day?’ Tarquin asked, politely.


Scorpius grimaced. ‘I hate my job,’ he whined. ‘It’s so hopelessly boring. They only want me to play background jazz and it’s dead dull, and then I get requests from people who are all like, ooh, play this by the Weird Sisters, play that by Celestina Warbeck, and all they want is rubbish music that uses, like, three chords-’


‘Such philistines,’ Tarquin said, making no effort to conceal his broad grin.


‘And then this one woman came up to me and was all, oh, play this by the bugs, or the insects, or something, some stupid muggle band I’ve never heard of, and she fully did her nut – it’s ridiculous! We’re a bunch of- of-’ he flapped his arms around his head, searching for the right word. ‘Magicfolk!’ he finally spluttered, with a horrified look.


‘Scorpius,’ I said, trying to keep a trembling laugh at bay. ‘Was it the Beatles?’


‘Something like that,’ he waved me away. ‘It’s ridiculous, who’s ever heard of them?’


Tarquin and I exchanged a pointed look. Then, Tarquin sighed, and came to sit beside me on the sofa, facing Scorpius.


‘Scorp,’ he said, patiently. ‘Everybody has heard of the Beatles.’


Scorpius blundered through several lame excuses, flapping his hands around again, before, finally, he turned the colour of a ripe tomato and said, ‘er, but, my dad. He’s all…pureblood. And stuff. And he banned muggle things.’


‘Isn’t your mum muggle liaison?’ Tarquin said.


‘And didn’t they play you the songs in Muggle Studies?’ I chipped in. ‘They did to my class. We had to learn about them for the culture section of the O.W.L…’


Scorpius did more hand-flapping, looking incredibly flustered – I imagined he’d stormed all the way up the stairs and was still out of breath. ‘Yeah, but, nobody paid attention in Muggle Studies.’


‘Nah, it was a really good lesson when they played us The Beatles,’ Tarquin said, a faraway, dreamy look on his face. ‘Maybe they just skipped your year.’


‘I dunno,’ Scorpius said. ‘Maybe…maybe I just forgot. Are they any good?’


Tarquin and I exchanged another look.


‘Put it this way,’ I said. ‘They’re the most famous band ever for a reason.’


‘Well,’ Scorpius threw up his hands. ‘Passed me by.’


‘To be fair, they were around a time ago,’ Tarquin said. ‘But what about muggle music in general? Do you know anything?


‘Er…no,’ Scorpius said. ‘Honestly? No.’


‘But they play muggle stuff on the WWN all the time-’


‘I don’t listen to the wireless!’ he burst out. ‘I – I grew up in a Pureblood house! And my mum isn’t really in muggle liaison for the music, more like in it for the pay-’


‘What about Al?’ I chipped in. ‘Al always liked muggle music, he’s practically an authority on Britpop…’


‘Well,’ Scorpius shrugged. ‘He played records around and about the dorm, yeah, but it’s not like I paid too much attention to them or anything.’


‘Come on, Scorp,’ I said. ‘You’ve got to have liked at least one muggle band.’


‘Er…’ he went bright red again. ‘Er, um, Al listened to The Smiths a lot. And I guess they were okay.’


I exchanged a third look with Tarquin.


‘Typical,’ I said.

‘Right up your street, I guess,’ Tarquin said. ‘Just okay, were they?’


‘Nooo,’ Scorpius had gone bright red again. He blundered about for words for a bit, and then, finally, said ‘…Rose. Rose liked them too.’


‘Rose?’ Tarquin and I exclaimed in unison.


I somehow found it hard to believe that even Rose listened to music.


‘Well, um, you know-’


‘No, we don’t know,’ Tarquin said. ‘Stop being so you and just spit it out.’


‘They had that song. It was our song,’ Scorpius said in a very, very, very small voice.


The general pfffffttting from the direction of me and Tarquin made Scorpius shrink back in his chair and clutch at the armrests.


‘Your song?’


‘Mmmmmmm,’ Scorpius mmmd.


‘Oh. Wow. You had a song,’ I said. ‘Wow. That’s…wow.’


‘Mmmmmmm,’ Scorpius mmmd again, sinking into his chair as if hoping it would swallow him whole.


‘Wow.’


‘Well. Wow,’ Tarquin echoed.


I honestly couldn’t imagine Rose being sentimental enough to have ‘a song’ and, for a second, I didn’t think I fully believed Scorpius. But then I noticed how hopelessly embarrassed he looked, and realised that he was actually telling the truth.


My first reaction was that I should extract from Scorpius the name of this song, then make a madcap dash to the phone booth outside and update Al on this latest development, so that we might play it at the promised Rose-and-Scorpius reunion. I’d just opened my mouth to ask him when Tarquin got up, gave me a very pointed look that seemed to say ‘ask him about the holiday already, you fool’ (or maybe I was imagining things and he was just giving a general look) and sloped off to the loo.


‘So, Scorpius,’ I said, casually. ‘Are you doing anything this holiday?’


‘Nooooo,’ he seemed to sink deeper into his chair. ‘Nothing planned…might go and see my mum…’


‘Well, fancy going somewhere?’


‘Huh?’ he sat up a little straighter. ‘What, like a day trip?’


‘Better! Al’s managed to get hold of a place from one of his posh Healer mates…it’s in Devon. He says we can have it for a week. Just the three of us!’


See, this was all part of the plan. Keep Rose and Scorpius in the dark until we actually set off. Then the reconciliation/total madness would begin.


‘Oh!’ he sat up fully, a small, smile replacing the radioactive blush. ‘That’d be lovely.’


And so, you know, the plan sort of came together.


I hoped.



a/n: haai. Oh my word, I'm sorry this chapter took me so long and then turned out so generally meh and naff. It's one of those transition-y chapters that kind of sets up the plot for later action, and was mostly written in little snatches between exams (they're over! at last!) so it's a bit...meh. Hopefully I can get the next one up quickly.
I'm actually unbelievably chuffed (still) because, well, I got featured story of the month at TGS this May. I'm really honoured that my arty-farty slapstick was recognised in this way, and I'd like to thank Gubby for nominating me (I fully flailed for about an hour and it really made a horrendous week a lot better) and also anyone who voted. To use a much over-used phrase, I was over the moon. Also, I should thank Gina and Hattie for helping me out with these final piece ideas, more of which will appear later. I may be an art student, but even I'm not pretentious enough to think about what this bunch would do. So thank you, guys!
edited 19/08/2011
edited 19/06/2012 - made considerable changes to much of this chapter

Chapter 13: The Pear-Shaped Iceberg
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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.


We nodded.


‘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.


And then-


‘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.’


‘Of what?’


‘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?


Wibbly knees.


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.



a/n: gasp.
coming soon: tension, flu, foolish lucy, dancing, lingering glances...
edited 19/08/2011
edited 19/06/2012

Chapter 14: Minimalist Art Party
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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.


‘Poetry?’


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-’


‘You’re dithering.’


‘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...
edited 19/08/2011
edited 19/06/2012

Chapter 15: Destination: Gretna Green
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Chapter Fifteen - Destination: Gretna Green





The next morning, I awoke to find Tarquin’s face hovering a few inches from my own, wearing such a smug and self-satisfied grin that I momentarily panicked.


‘Morning,’ he said, in a tone I didn’t like. ‘Would Madame care for breakfast in bed?’


‘Bed?’ I whispered, craning my neck – hard when you’re horizontal – and trying to get my bearings. ‘Oh, piss off, Tarquin, this is a sofa.’


‘Sofabed,’ he said, in that same tone. ‘Using our Scorp for a pillow. I see-’


I jerked my head back and forth, doing my best not to disturb Scorpius, who was fast asleep with his arms around my waist.


It was like a ton of bricks had fallen on my head…except in a good way.


‘So,’ Tarquin’s grin had taken on a malicious edge. ‘How much do you remember?’


‘Er, not very much,’ I lied. ‘Care to fill me in?’


‘Well, I’m surprised to find you here,’ Tarquin’s voice had taken on a lofty tone. ‘I honestly thought you’d be…you know,’ he jerked his head in the direction of Scorpius’ room. ‘Off the sofa for a change.’


‘Tarquin, that’s…that’s disgusting,’ I grimaced, although that little voice in my head was going ooh, wouldn’t mind that.


‘You two were hilarious last night,’ he snorted. ‘Like this.’


He brought up both of his hands, wriggled his fingers about for a bit, and then abruptly brought them together, tangling his fingers into a wild knot.


‘Me and Raven thought you’d have eloped to Gretna Green by now,’ he added.


‘Shh, you’ll wake him up!’ I hissed, trying to connect the party in my memory to Tarquin’s illustrative hand gestures. Given that I’d been pretty lucid and sober for just about all of it (for a change), those hand gestures were somewhat...worrying. They smacked of drunken buffoonery and loss of control. And, well…they also smacked a tiny bit of desperation.


Or perhaps I was reading into them a wee bit too much.


‘So, what actually happened?’ Tarquin said, in a voice that reminded me of Molly fishing for juicy gossip. ‘Poetry? Please tell me there was poetry-’


‘No!’ I cut across. ‘Well, we danced, and-’


I stopped short at that moment, realising just how quiet it was when I wasn’t talking. I somehow got the feeling that Scorpius wasn’t sleeping anymore.


I panicked. Slightly.


‘And we danced,’ I added hurriedly. ‘We danced and we danced.’


An explanation for my panic: I was still convinced that Scorpius had been a tad tipsy the night before, and I didn’t fancy blurting out to Tarquin ‘we snogged!’ and having Scorpius, memory empty, freaking out – especially when he realised he was, well, holding me. Not that Scorpius would ever get violent or anything, mind, it’s just I knew that his first reaction would be to flap his arms around, and my face was dangerously close to his hands. I’m not particularly fond of being poked in the eye.


Tarquin gave me a look that showed he didn’t believe me in the slightest. However, Scorpius finally seemed to wake up at that moment, letting go of me to rub his tired eyes.


‘Oh,’ he said, when he saw me. ‘Erm, hello.’


‘Good morning,’ I said, trying to keep my voice calm. Tarquin looked between the two of us, evidently amused.


‘How are you?’ he asked Scorpius, with a slight waggle of the eyebrows.


(Like his tone, his expression and his hand gestures, I didn’t particularly like that eyebrow waggle.)


‘Fine,’ Scorpius mumbled.


‘Had a good night?’


‘Er, yeah, s’pose. Bit…hungover, actually. My head is killing me…’


With the benefit of hindsight, this was a lie. But, at the time, I was far too busy staring gooey-eyed at his stupid face, very comfortable indeed.


‘Can I get you anything?’ Tarquin asked, shooting upright. ‘Food, drink, a vicar…’


‘What?’


‘Nothing,’ Tarquin grinned, ambling over to the sink.


My face had gone bright red at Tarquin’s last comment (although the Gretna Green idea did sound pretty nifty to me), but Scorpius, who apparently hadn’t heard, was staring up at the ceiling with a slight frown, one hand on the back of his head.


‘I hit my head last night, didn’t I,’ he said, deadpan. ‘I’ve got a bruise.’


‘You did,’ I told him. ‘You, er, jumped up at the light fitting and, uh, fell over.’


‘Right. Okay. That’s bizarre.’


‘Ain’t half,’ Tarquin called from the other side of the room.


‘Ouch,’ he said, in that same deadpan voice. More than a little concerned, I finally pushed myself up and gave him room to move, having never seen this poker-faced version of Scorpius before – but then a little trace of his usual woe-is-me puppy eyes thing kicked in and I felt reassured once more.


‘How are you?’ he asked.


‘Oh, fine, good, fine,’ I dithered, smoothing down my hair (and almost smacking him in the face in the process). ‘You know, bit hungover and stuff.’


Which was a total lie. But, again, with the benefit of hindsight, we were both liars and therefore even stevens.


‘Your hair is a bit…’ he flapped his arms around, obviously taking a leaf from Tarquin’s book of illustrative hand gestures.


‘So’s yours.’


Which wasn’t a lie, for a change. I kind of wanted to add well, what do you expect if you do some manic dancing, nearly knock yourself out and then roll around on the floor snogging your flatmate/friend/local fool?


But, at that moment, I wasn’t sure he remembered.


‘It was a good party, though,’ I continued, putting as much emphasis on the good as possible. Scorpius didn’t seem to get the hint. Where was Tarquin with his illustrative hand gestures and violently waggling eyebrows when you needed him?


‘I promised Dean I’d go and help him clean up today,’ he said. ‘I suspect it’s a mess.’


This was true. The minimalism theme didn’t really stick for long.


‘Oh,’ I said, although I meant to say but you have to stay here so we can elope to Gretna Green and be wed. Don’t even bother brushing your hair, we can just apparate…


Although, somehow, apparating to your own wedding doesn’t really sound all that romantic.


Tarquin ambled over with two mugs, handing one each to me and Scorpius. I noted a distinct eyebrow waggle aimed at both of us – but, once again, Captain Oblivious Malfoy didn’t get the message.


‘I haven’t slept,’ Tarquin said conversationally.


‘Great,’ Scorpius’ voice was muffled by his mug. ‘What time did you get in?’


‘Four. Me and Raven had to drop Barry home. We got lost.’


Unable to think of a response, Scorpius and I sat in silence whilst Tarquin beamed at us, his red-rimmed eyes screwed up a little against the light.


‘You were asleep by the time I got in,’ he said, adding comedy arched eyebrows for effect. For a second, Scorpius’ eyes narrowed, as if he was finally resigning from his post as Captain Oblivious and remembered, but then-


‘What’s the time now?’ he asked.


‘Twelve,’ Tarquin’s voice was cheerful. ‘Quarter past, in fact.’


‘Bugger!’ Scorpius threw down his mug. ‘I was supposed to be there three hours ago!’


‘Where?’ Tarquin called, as Scorpius leapt up from the sofa, stumbled over the rug and ended up sitting on the piano stool, looking as cool as if he’d intended to sit there all along.


‘In the common room,’ he said, jumping up again and grabbing his jacket from the hook in the wall and his glasses from his top pocket at the same time. ‘Helping to clear up!’


He didn’t actually trip over on his way to the door, but instead turned as if he’d forgotten to say something, his gaze falling on me. Tarquin shot up out of his chair as if he’d been electrocuted, dashing over to the sink, because that’s how Tarquin gives people personal space.


‘I’ll see you later,’ Scorpius told me. ‘When are we going?’


‘Going to what?’ I said, slightly numb.


‘Al’s party thing. Tonight, isn’t it?’


‘Oh, yes, that,’ I dithered. ‘We’re supposed to be there for nine. Nine? I think?’


‘Yeah, cool,’ he said. ‘I, er, should be back around…seven? I promised I’d drop in to see my mum but I’ll be back in plenty of time.’


‘Great,’ I said. ‘Splendid.’


He cracked out a lopsided smile at this point. Not quite the mind-blowing foxy smile of the early hours of the morning, but close. He looked a bit confused, though.


I was too wibbly at this point to even notice Tarquin staring at us with his mouth agape.
Then, without another word, Scorpius raised a hand in farewell, keeping that almost-foxy-but-not-quite-and-mostly-baffled smile in place – and then dissaparated.


At once, Tarquin threw himself onto the sofa next to me.


‘You lair!’ he accused. ‘You danced and you danced? Didn’t look like it when I got in-’


‘I know,’ I pressed my hands over my eyes, still on a comedown from the general wibbliness I’d been caught up in. I had a vague recollection of Tarquin getting in that morning, although I wasn’t even sure if I was dreaming it at the time. Or dreaming the fact that, you know, I’d somehow managed to doze off in Scorpius’ arms. Which kind of seemed too good to be true, especially now I was awake and felt a bit lonely.


‘About time,’ Tarquin snorted. ‘When you first turned up last year, Raven was all, ooh, let’s set them up and I was all nah, it’ll just-


‘What?’


‘No, it’s fine, we didn’t try to set you up, we just…nudged you.’


‘Did you?’


‘We did our best.’


‘I didn’t realise.’


‘We’re subtle.’


‘No you’re not.’


‘True,’ he said, looking pensive. ‘True.’


‘It’s no big deal,’ I told him. ‘We were both a bit…you know. Hammered. Doubt he even knows what went on.’


‘No you weren’t,’ his tone switched to incredulous. ‘You were a bit silly, maybe, but drunk? No. I know what you're like when you're drunk. You jump in skips and do the hurdles over garden hedges-’


‘Okay, maybe not me, but he was-’


Tarquin raised his eyebrows. ‘What actually happened? I mean, I was going to pop over to Raven’s later and tell her-’


‘N-not much!’ I stammered, holding up my hands to stop him. ‘I don’t think he remembers! You can’t tell Raven! She’ll…she’ll tell him!’


‘Isn’t that what you want?’


Good question.


‘Maybe,’ I said, after a minute or so of dithering. ‘Maybe. I don’t know. But I think I should be the one to, you know, break the news.’


‘But you have to tell him before tonight,’ Tarquin pressed. ‘Otherwise crazy Rose will snap him up.’


At the mention of Rose, my fists involuntarily clenched on my lap. Tarquin looked alarmed.


‘I know,’ I admitted. ‘I’ll talk to him when he gets back.’


‘You better,’ Tarquin waggled a finger at my nose. ‘You really better better.’


‘He’s a good kisser-’


‘I didn’t need to know that, really…’


‘You’re like my sister!’ I shoved his arm away. ‘You big gossip! It’ll all be cool. Trust me. Everything will be cool.’


‘I’ll just have to take your word for it,’ he leaned back, folding his arms over his chest. ‘But then what will you do about the holiday?’


‘Fiddlesticks. I don’t know.’


‘I mean,’ he frowned. ‘Crazy Rose is going. And Al.’


‘Al can deal with it,’ I said. ‘He wouldn’t flip out. He’d be fine with it. And Rose might not even care! They split up about two years ago, that’s ages for her to get over him! They might just want to be friends!’


‘I’m just saying,’ Tarquin held up his hands. ‘She might not be too peachy about spending a week in the close company of her ex-boyfriend if he’s going out with her cousin.’


‘True, that.’


‘And if she’s being mardy and you two are being gooey, Al’s going to feel like a right prat.’


‘Maybe…’ I screwed up my tired eyes, thinking hard. ‘Maybe I can just kick her off the holiday. Or maybe me and Scorpius can just cancel. We could go to Gretna Green after all.’


‘In principle, that’s fine,’ Tarquin said. Perhaps he’d read my mind – I was already imagining him and Gwendolyn/Raven in matching maid of honour/best man suits. ‘But know this: Crazy Rose will hunt you down and Crazy Rose will kill you. And Al might be a bit upset too.’


‘Yeah, I know, I saw how his eye looked after Rose had finished with him, I’m not daft.’


‘So I’d recommend you just roll with the plan for now,’ Tarquin concluded. ‘And if you come back from Devon in a matchbox, I’ll know it hasn’t gone to plan.’


‘We’re leaving at midday tomorrow, though,’ I said. ‘That doesn’t give me much time.’


Silence fell over the two of us. Steam still curled from Scorpius’ abandoned mug of tea. Tarquin picked it up and took a long, thoughtful sip, eyes narrowed.


‘Good luck, then,’ he said, once he’d finished. ‘That’s all. Good luck.’


*



I ended up spending the rest of the day alone. At the time, it was kind of a bonus, being on my own; it gave me time to clear my head and get rid of all symptoms of wibbliness before the party. In retrospect, though, it was truly my finest hour as a loser. It actually took me two hours to get dressed.


So, of the seven hours I had until Scorpius was due to return, five were spent moping around and killing time, and two were spent putting on every single item of clothing I owned and then throwing it off into a large pile outside the bathroom door.


Getting dressed had never been so hard. Literally.


I had no idea what I was supposed to wear. I wasn’t exactly a girly-girl; I lived in jeans and only owned two skirts which were rotated for special occasions. I didn’t have anything in the way of fancy shoes, and the only remotely smart top I owned was covered in battered sequins. I couldn’t even bear to look at this for fear of a Lettuce flashback and, besides, it had been bought as a joke in the first place. After that, I just had baggy shirts and a mountain of old t-shirts to pick from.


I ended up just wearing the same old formula I did every day. Tired jeans, baggy shirt, bobbly cardigan knitted in the age of the dinosaurs. Also, Argyle patterned socks in a questionable blue and orange colour scheme, the left sock with a small hole at the heel. I’m an extraordinarily classy person, especially once you chuck in trainers caked with Hyde Park mud and a necklace with a plastic octopus hanging off it. I won’t even go into how I did my hair, mostly because I didn’t exactly do my hair as such. I let my hair do itself.


The pinnacle of the outfit was the rolled-up jeans, though. Jeans that were specifically rolled up at the ends as if to hint at the lovely June sun blazing down outside, but more to hint at the crumpled Argyle-patterned socks.


But seven passed, and then eight, and Scorpius still hadn’t come home yet.


I started to panic. I rolled down my jeans, then rolled them up again. I changed my shoes three times. I put on a pair of earrings shaped like golden snitches, then remembered they’d been a present from an ex-boyfriend and took them off. I even started talking to the plastic octopus dangling from around my neck.


At about ten to nine I was in the middle of a vast, meandering soliloquy to aforementioned octopus when there was a loud crack from the hallway and Scorpius stumbled into the living room, looking as exhausted as if he’d run to John O’Groats’ and back again.


‘Sorry I’m late,’ he said, flicking back a large segment of his fringe. ‘My mum’s got new shelves, I had to help her put them up, and then there was loads to clean up in the common room, I had to peel all of that duct tape off the wall and – you look nice.’


All of the work I’d spent that afternoon conquering my wibbliness went straight out of the window.


‘Thanks,’ I said, feeling my face turn the colour of a beetroot. ‘So do you.’


He gave his own grubby quilted jacket and frayed jeans a rather pointed look. He didn’t look neat or smart – he was far from it – but nice? To fools like me, yes.


Definitely.


‘Ready to go?’ he held out a hand. ‘I think I remember where Al’s parents’ live.’


I nodded, taking his hand.


‘I like your octopus,’ he said, prodding my necklace.


I was about to say something very foolish like the octopus likes you too, but luckily Scorpius chose that moment for us to apparate, and whatever idiotic drivel came out of my mouth was lost as it felt like I was being swallowed whole by thin air.


A second later, we stumbled into existence on a deserted suburban street, almost collapsing into a nearby row of shrubs.


‘I’m getting better at this!’ Scorpius beamed, holding up our conjoined hands in a sort of victory celebration. ‘But we’re still nowhere near the house, are we?’ he added, looking around.


Indeed, the surrounding street did look vaguely unfamiliar. In the distance, however, I could see a large house on a slight hill, lit up by the bright setting sun. If I squinted, I could just about make out a clutch of balloons by the front door.


‘That’s it,’ I pointed with my free hand. ‘Not too far.’


Scorpius adjusted his glasses, staring at the house.


‘Yeah, I recognise it,’ he said. ‘Wow, wish I could afford a place like that.’


He let go of my hand, instead plunging both of his hands into his pockets. We started to walk.


‘Feeling any better?’ I asked.


‘Huh?’


‘After your hangover. Over it yet?’


‘Hangover?’ he said. ‘Oh, right, yeah. Much better.’


If I hadn’t been so wibbly at that point in time, I would have been able to pick out the lie.


‘Me too,’ I said. ‘Peachy. I feel great.’


We continued to amble on in companionable silence, drawing closer to the Potters’ house atop the hill.


‘Listen,’ I said, seeing that my chance was fast slipping away from me. ‘I meant to talk to you this morning. Before you left.’


‘About what?’ he asked. The sun was in my eyes; I couldn’t properly judge his facial expression. I held up a hand to shield my eyes and slowed to a stop beside a phonebox, Scorpius doing the same a moment later.


‘Well, you know,’ I said, feeling my face go the colour of a beetroot again. ‘About last night.’


‘What about last night?’ he sounded nervy. Despite shielding my eyes, the sun’s glare still blocked his face from my view. Sighing, I grabbed his sleeve and pulled us both behind the phonebox into the shadows.


Of course, I’m a wise person who always thinks things through properly, which is why I picked a grimy, smelly scrap of concrete behind a phonebox for my ultimate moment of romantic confession. At least there were flowers; Scorpius moved his foot so he didn’t crush a fierce-looking dandelion pushing through a crack in the floor.


‘Last night,’ I repeated. ‘Or technically this morning. When we got home after the party. And stuff happened.’


‘Stuff?’ he echoed. ‘Stuff stuff?’


‘Not like that,’ I said, hurriedly. ‘But-’


‘Can we move?’ he interjected. ‘Sorry, it stinks here…’


Grudgingly, I stepped away from the phonebox. Scorpius swept down and plucked the dandelion from the floor, tucking it into his top pocket, before we moved on and carried walking. And, in my case, being completely blinded by the sun.


‘I don’t know how I can put it lightly,’ I said. ‘We, well…’


‘I think I remember,’ he said abruptly. ‘Being knocked out. Or actually not knocked out. And stuff.’


‘But after that-’


‘Yeah,’ he cut across. ‘That too. It kind of…’ he flapped his arms about a bit, looking for the right word. ‘Came trickling back.’


We were almost at the end of the Potters’ street by now. It was, so to speak, my final chance.


‘I just – I have to say it!’ I blurted out. ‘You’re a lovely person. Bit weird, but lovely,’ I could feel my face burning even more. ‘And you’re alright looking. I mean, you’ve got kind of googly eyes and you’re a bit gangly and, frankly, you’re strange, but I think you’re fab. You’ve got a nice smile and you’re fab. Really brillopads.’


‘Fab,’ he repeated, staring ahead. ‘Um…thanks.’


‘And I may as well admit it all now because I already feel like a prize twat – I just realised, really recently, at first I felt kind of sorry for you and then I liked you and now I think you’re really cool and fab and – well, I didn’t know how to say and I didn’t, but then after last night, I mean, neither of us really remember but…but….it was fab too.’


Scorpius raised his eyebrows at this, but didn’t speak.


‘But I’m not even sure if it was a, hey, let’s get drunk and make out thing, or if it was for real or what, I don’t even – whatever. I don’t mind either but I think I’d prefer the latter, and, well – I’m completely insane and now I wish I hadn’t said anything but you did ask for it.’


‘Did I?’ he sounded mildly amused. ‘And…what?’


‘I like you,’ I dithered. ‘Fancy you. Whatever.’


He didn’t respond. I could hardly blame him. I doubt I could have been any more awkward. He had actually gone that radioactive shade of pink he always turned when he was embarrassed, and looked like he didn’t know whether to burst out laughing or frown.


‘Please say something,’ I begged. ‘Don’t be so…just say something, please, I’m sorry, I just can’t – I had to say something, but now I bet it’s all screwed up and messy and awkward and I wouldn’t be allowed to be alone with you in the dark room ever again-’


‘No!’ he interrupted, sounding mildly alarmed. ‘No, it’s fine! It’s cool, I think you’re charming and cute and interesting and-’


Whatever else I was I never found out, because he chose that moment to walk headfirst into a lamppost. Concerned as I was for his safety, I was also quite flattered that he’d been too busy concentrating on me to look where he was going.


He seemed to recover quickly, regaining his balance and pressing a hand to his forehead. Thinking quick, I grasped for his free hand – hey, any excuse is a good one.


‘Ouch, bloody sodding…argh,’ he muttered, eyes watering with pain. I squeezed his hand, playing what I thought was the role of the sympathetic and doting girlfriend. Which I wasn’t.


‘Are you alright?’


‘Nah…I’ll be fine,’ he said.


‘I’ll kiss it better?’ I offered, with what I hoped was a passable imitation of his foxy smile. It didn’t seem to work – a momentary flicker of confusion passed over his face – but then he smiled, a little patiently, as if I was an overenthusiastic child.


‘You’re too short,’ he said. ‘You’d never be able to reach.’


‘I can try?’


‘At least you’re determined,’ he laughed me off. After a moment’s awkward pause, we carried on walking. He didn’t let go of my hand, but I felt the moment slipping away from me so quickly that I began to feel quite desperate.


Desperation, one must remember, is never a good thing. I should have stopped there and then.


‘So, I’ve told you everything,’ I said, trying not to sound as panicky as I felt. ‘I’m not sure what else there is to say…I k-kind of l-love you, because you’re mad and I’m mad and it makes sense.’


Saying the word love had never been so difficult in my life. So much for being a fearless Hufflepuff. Scorpius grimaced. I panicked even more.


‘You’re upset, aren’t you, I’ve upset you, I’ve made it all awkward and you actually hate me, and oh my days maybe it was just a drunk spur-of-the-moment thing and you don’t fancy me at all and I’ll have to move to Australia and be a spinster for life-’


‘No, no!’ Scorpius looked quite alarmed. ‘You’re just – argh - breaking my fingers!’


‘Oh, right,’ I relaxed my grip on his hand. ‘Well, what do you-’


‘I’m not sure,’ he said abruptly.


We had stopped walking again. This whole stop-start thing really unnerved me, and I felt even more jittery and wibbly than usual. I cursed myself for even dreaming up Operation Hippogriff. Scorpius was also being alarmingly indifferent. He hadn’t done any hand-flapping or fringe-flopping for a good five minutes. I should really have picked up on this at the time, but, standing there and gazing up at him, my mind had gone totally blank and I actually felt vaguely nauseous.


I meant to reel off another awkward confession of love and longing, but something malfunctioned between my brain and my mouth, and all I could come up with was ‘Ummm.’


‘You alright?’ Scorpius asked.


I tried not to look into his (googly) eyes, nor think about how his glasses had slipped down the bridge of his nose and how I really wanted to just push them up again. Or, you know, take them off.


‘I’m fine,’ I told him. ‘I just feel a bit…dizzy.’


‘Right…so either you’re ill, or you really are…erm…’


Neither of us could quite finish the sentence. Guessing what he’d meant to say though, I nodded violently, doing my best to stop a herd of butterflies/more incoherent babbling/a fit of violent sneezing from escaping me.


‘Why?’ he asked.


I laughed, expecting it was a joke. In light of the nerves and general wibbliness, the laugh came out as more of a demented shriek. Then I realised he was actually serious. And we were kind of closer than we’d usually be, because we’d probably transcended that little boundary that required us to keep a respectable distance apart. Kind of become, well, more than best friends.


‘I’ve already said. We’re…we’re both mad, and it makes sense. To me,’ I added, quickly. ‘It’s also kind of handy because – oh, nevermind, I’ll shut up, you obviously think I’m off my face or something.’


‘You’re actually surprisingly lucid.’


I didn’t answer. I was having a staring contest with my shoes, my heart busily doing the pole vault somewhere in my chest. It was then that Scorpius did what only two other boys have done to me in my life and what must be step number one in the snogging handbook (if such a thing exists) – he lifted a hand to my chin and tilted my face up to his.


‘You’re really tall,’ was all I could think to say.


‘I know,’ he said. Then, he pulled the dandelion from his pocket with his free hand, and carefully tucked it into my hair, just over my left ear.


I didn’t even care if the dandelion had come from cracked concrete round the back of a phonebox stinking of piss; it was a flower nonetheless. Okay, a weed. But it was, essentially, appropriate. I’m a bit of a weed myself.


Thus followed a strange moment where we just seemed to be standing there staring at each other, both probably a little too nervy to say anything. Scorpius looked mildly confused, as if still trying to decide whether following snog rule number one and sticking a weed into my hair was a good idea.


Meanwhile, I was busily trying to fight off the urge to attach myself to his face.


I’m still not sure how the next bit happened, and even now I’m still fairly convinced it was a bit of a mistake on my part. Scorpius seemed to shrug, and then leaned in as if going for a gentlemanly little peck on the cheek, but I leaned in at the same time, taking a more of an I’m Lucy Weasley, a fearless Hufflepuff, and I do not do things by halves attitude to the situation. To be fair, I wasn’t exactly thinking straight. At that moment, I just wanted to instigate a snog that would last until the cows came home. And then some. And with the benefit of hindsight, I don’t think this was the best idea. I think I gave Scorpius a bit of a fright.


When I finally released him, legs still wibbly and mind still made out of jelly, all he seemed to be able to say was ‘…whoa.’


Great. I’d used up my last chance with him pretending I was a barnacle.


I meant to talk to him again, perhaps apparate straight away to Gretna Green where we could successfully elope and be wed – but then there was a loud crack from further up the street and a familiar lanky, black-haired figure came loping towards us, beaming like smiles were going out of fashion.


‘Lucy! Scorp!’ Al cried as he reached us. He flung his arms around me on the pretext of a cousinly hug, nearly winding me in the process, and whispered into my ear the following:


‘Operation Hippogriff is go!


‘Wait, Al-’ I started to say, but Al had already released me and gone in to give Scorpius a powerful pat on the back.


‘Scorpius!’ he cried. ‘It’s been so long!’


And then as Scorpius lurched forwards, looking equally confused and stunned-


‘-why are you wearing lipstick?’


‘It’s a dare,’ Scorpius said quickly.


Al looked between us, obviously noticing that both of us were sporting Miss Magic Supershine Lipstick in Salamander Red, free off the cover of Witch Weekly some three years previously. He also couldn’t have failed to notice that, in Scorpius’ case, it was more than a little smudged. But, oblivious and tactless as ever, Al simply roared with laughter and thwacked Scorpius on the back again, nearly knocking him to the floor.


‘Thought I’d come down from the house to escort you up!’ he said, cheerily. ‘Had a good day?’


I was just on the verge of starting a long monologue about the epic snogathon he’d missed and how it was really about time we bailed out on Operation Hippogriff, but Scorpius gave me no chance to speak, immediately launching into an anecdote about how he’d seen his old Hogwarts friends at the party of the previous night. Al and Scorpius talked about this all the way up to the house, almost ignoring me all the way. This behaviour is a little strange and frankly quite alarming, I know, but at the time I felt like breaking into song. Snogging tends to have that effect on me.


The anniversary party seemed to already be in full swing by the time we arrived at the house. After several months of partying in dingy pubs with cheap cider and strange people, it was a bit of a shock to be somewhere so civilised and normal – I did a double take as my cousin James walked past, looking extraordinarily well-groomed, a respectable girlfriend at his side. And, well, I’d brought a grubby Malfoy with lipstick on his face.


‘I’ll take your jackets,’ Al said, ‘And then we can move into the parlour…’


‘Al, I have to tell you something,’ I hissed. ‘We’ve got to-’


‘Lucy!’ a voice called from behind. I wheeled around to see my parents standing behind me, both clutching sparkling glasses of white wine and wearing matching little smiles.


‘It’s been so long!’ my mum said, pulling me into a bone-crushing hug.


‘We popped in on your show,’ my dad beamed. ‘You weren’t there and we couldn’t find your work, but we did see some…interesting things.’


‘You must be Scorpius,’ my mum grasped Scorpius’ hand and shook it wildly, choosing to ignore the fact that he still had lipstick smudged on his face and looked nothing short of nervy. ‘We’ve heard so much about you.’


‘Er, yeah,’ was all Scorpius could say. ‘Nice to meet you.’


‘Me and Scorpius will go and get drinks,’ Al said, winking at me. ‘Give you a chance to catch up.’


‘No, Al, wait-’ I protested, but it was too late – he’d already taken Scorpius by the shoulder and steered him through to the kitchen. Scorpius was still looking at me even as he was pulled through the door and, wow, you could almost see the cogs whirring in his brain.


‘Molly’s ever so excited to see you,’ my dad said. ‘She’s been waiting for you to arrive since six.’


‘Great, but I have to-’


‘How’s art school going? Are you enjoying it?’


‘It’s lovely, but-’


‘Your photography skills must really be coming along. Did you bring your camera? I expect Harry and Ginny will want a few pictures to commemorate the occasion.’


‘I didn’t, but-’


‘And we hear you’re going to Devon with Albus and Rose this week,’ mum beamed. ‘That’s very kind of you. We gather that Rose is rather excited.’


‘I know, mum, but-’


‘Which part of Devon? Will you send us a postcard?’


‘Sure!’ I blurted out. ‘And I don’t know! I’ll have to ask Al! Just let me-’


‘Wait, Lucy, we meant to introduce you to this gentleman we’ve met here – he’s an official wedding photographer, you see, and he might be able to get you some sort of work experience over the summer. Isn’t that exciting?’


Seething inside, I let my mum steer me through to the next room. Molly was there, slumped on a sofa with Lily and Dominique, the three of them looking about as cheery as a wet Monday morning in January. Molly stood and sloped over, brushing down her dress.


‘Hello,’ she said, sounding glum. ‘Nice to see you, Lucy.’


‘And you. Molly, I need help,’ I dropped my voice to a whisper as my parents started to look around the room for the wedding photographer. ‘Please, I need to find Albus and mum isn’t letting me go-’


‘I heard about your plan,’ she grinned. ‘He ordered Victoire to make sure she stays in the parlour, they’ve been there since seven, Vicky must be tearing her hair out by now-’


‘Molly, we have to stop it!’ I pleaded. ‘This is a horrible mistake!’


‘I know, it’s so horrible to Vicky-’


‘That’s not it!’ I cried. ‘It’s-’


‘Here he is!’ my mum beamed, pulling me away from Molly. An unkempt man with tired, drooping eyes and a rather colourful set of wizard’s robes stared down at me with some interest.


‘Oh dear,’ mum said. ‘You seem to have got a dandelion stuck in your hair, I’ll just get rid of that-’


I swatted her hand away impatiently, clutching onto the dandelion with my other.


‘I gather you’re looking for a work placement-’ the wizard started.


‘I’m sorry, I – I don’t feel too well!’ I babbled, thrusting my mum’s hand off of my shoulder and dashing out of the room. Molly followed, looking alarmed, as I strode into the kitchen – but Al and Scorpius weren’t there.


‘What’s wrong?’ Molly asked, grabbing my shoulders – a wise action, seeing as I probably looked rather deranged.


‘Molly, I –I can’t – this can’t happen!’


‘What?’


‘The thing!’ I babbled, throwing up my hands.


What thing?’


The thing! The Rose thing!’


‘You’re not making any sense!’ she cried, tightening her grip on my shoulders. But at that moment Al breezed in with an empty glass in hand, humming to himself. I wrenched Molly’s hands off of me and marched over to him.


‘Where did you leave Scorpius?’ I demanded. ‘What have you done with him?’


‘Chill out,’ Al grinned, holding up his hands. ‘I’ve sorted it. Rose didn’t blow up the house. She was surprisingly cool about the whole thing.’


‘You mean – you mean they’ve seen each other?’


‘Well, yeah,’ Al shrugged. ‘That’s the plan, right?’


And what did he do?


‘They’re just having a chat,’ he said. ‘Look, it’s all going smoothly, you don’t need to worry-’


‘I do!’ I nearly shrieked, so desperate by this point that the power of ordinary speech was starting to escape me. ‘We have to stop it!’


Al stared at me in horror.


‘But – what? Why? It’s going so well! Look, I swear she hasn’t done anything yet-’


‘I can’t let her have him!’ I wailed. ‘I didn’t mean it, I’m sorry!’


‘You’re kidding, right?’ Al said. ‘This is a joke?’


‘No!’ I pressed my hands to my eyes, wishing the kitchen floor would just split open and swallow me whole. ‘I’m sorry!’


‘Lucy – I don’t know what to say-’


‘We have to stop them!’


‘But – Lucy – we’ve put so much work into this-’


I pushed past Al, nearly knocking his glass to the floor. Both he and Molly shouted after me, but I’d already stormed out of the kitchen and into the sitting room – alright, parlour – but the only familiar face in there was Victoire, who was filing her nails idly by the window.


‘Have you-’


‘Just left,’ she said, as if reading my mind. ‘She took it surprisingly well.’


I checked the dining room next, but they weren’t there either. Then the downstairs study, then the morning room, then the utility room, even the cupboard under the stairs – no Scorpius, not even Rose. I even dashed upstairs and nosed through a few bedrooms, but every room was empty, without a speck of mud on the carpet or door left ajar that might have signalled human presence.


I don’t even think I have to point out how utterly my life had gone the shape of the pear/fruitbowl/orchard.


So there I was, marching from room to room like a woman possessed, an ever increasing anchor of dread dragging in the pit of my stomach. Possibly an anchor from a ship with an incredibly pointy bow that was repeatedly sailing itself into my heart. And a foul-mouthed mermaid statue nailed to the front, flicking a few v signs at my internal organs. My plan was disintegrating like a tissue in the rain.


I felt miserable. Very miserable. That being an understatement. Possibly even miserable enough to merit a poem. A poem by Scorpius. And at the thought of my equally miserable floppy-haired partner in crime, the little metaphorical ship in my stomach manned the guns and promptly fired a couple of torpedoes at my heart.


'Louis!' I called, catching sight of one of my thousands of cousins chatting up a girl in the sitting room (I was on my third circuit of the house by this point). 'Have you seen Rose?'


'I have, actually,' he said. 'Came past about five minutes ago?'


'Was she with anyone?'


Louis shrugged. 'Blonde guy?' he said, holding up a hand. 'Funny cardigan. About so tall.’


‘Oh, no – which way?’


He pointed in the direction of the patio windows, which had been thrown open to let guests spill into the vast, well-pruned garden that the Potters kept.


‘Thanks,’ I told Louis, although I actually felt like throwing up all over his shoes.


I then wandered (alright, I kind of leapt nervously, frightening a few small children) into the garden, doing my best to look calm and collected (which I wasn’t entirely successful at). The little voice that sounded like my mum in my head was saying it’ll all be peachy. They’re probably just chatting. Or maybe Rose has stolen him so she can beat him up and then come back for seconds. Or maybe there’s been a bizarre twist of fate, and Scorpius is now trying to murder her instead.


The bushes around had been strung with a dazzling set of rather posh fairy lights, with little benches and garden chairs scattered beneath them. On these scattered benches and garden chairs sat several scattered groups of people or couples, all chattering away merrily, none of them paying any heed to the blonde, wibbly wreck clenching and unclenching her fists by the door.


None of those aforementioned groups or couples seemed to have Rose or Scorpius in it. But then there was a vague flash from the end of the garden by the compost heap, one that distracted my eyes – and I could have sworn I saw two people dissaparating.


My life was definitely going the shape of the orchard.


‘Excuse me,’ I said, lunging at a passing couple. ‘Have you seen two people go past? She’s short, has awful hair, is a complete bitch, he’s lanky and blonde with an aubergine cardigan-’


‘Er, yeah,’ the man nodded. He pointed his finger in the direction of the compost heap. ‘You just missed them.’



edited 19/08/2011
edited 19/06/2012

Chapter 16: In Case of Emergency, Break Things
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Chapter Sixteen - In Case of Emergency, Break Things
(mugs, hearts, Albus...)






The little metaphorical ship in my chest was nothing compared to what I felt next. It was a tugboat – no, it was a tiny dinghy compared to my next deluge of woe. It felt like an entire navy of ships covered in spikes had turned up and started attacking my heart from all angles, taking care to fire missiles at the softer, squishier bits.


Ship analogies are appropriate in all walks of life.


There was a big, fat, frankly depressing fact in front of me, and that was that Operation Hippogriff had truly gone to plan after all, and the two people who had just disapparated from the end of the garden were Rose and Scorpius. And apparating together involves holding hands.


I was not happy. That being the understatement of the millennium.


In a bizarre twist of luck, Albus and Molly were the first on the scene. Not before I’d scared away the couple with my sudden downpour of tears, but thankfully before Uncle Ron led the rest of the party into the garden for fireworks. In another bizarre twist of luck, this meant that Molly and Al could lead me up the stairs and into Al’s bedroom in peace.


When I say lead, I mean that literally. I’d become the human personification of a wet tissue – soggy and falling apart into mushy bits. Soon enough, they had me sat on the end of Al’s bed, Molly awkwardly patting me on the shoulder. Al stood by the door, a safe distance away from his wet tissue of a cousin.


‘Take deep breaths,’ Molly said. ‘Think carefully.’


‘I can’t!’ I blubbered. Molly and Al exchanged a look, and then Al leaned out of the door and summoned something alcoholic.


‘I think there’s a question we both want answered,’ Al said. ‘And that question is…what?’


I didn’t respond. I was too busy trying to get drunk enough to forget my woes. Which, knowing me, would take more than one bottle of cheap Firewhisky.


‘I think what Albus means is-’


‘What the bloody hell?’ Al exploded. ‘Are you mad?’


‘I can’t help it!’ I exploded back at him, brandishing the empty bottle at him.


‘Will someone tell me what’s going on?’ Molly demanded.


‘Well-’ I began, but Al interrupted instantly, shoving the bottle back at me.


‘Lucy’s a daft idiot who’s convinced she’s in love with-’


‘I’m not daft!’


‘Shut it!’ Molly said, sticking out an arm between us. It was only then that I realised how, in a moment of blind, heartbroken rage, I was on my feet with my fist dangerously close to Al’s face.


‘Sit down,’ she ordered. ‘Stop crying. Drink up.’


‘I can’t,’ I sniffed. ‘Finished it all.’


She gave me a look of such abject disgust and disappointment that I sat down meekly, lip quivering.


‘We had this thing called Operation Hippogriff,’ Al explained tentatively. ‘See, we were trying to get Rose and Scorpius – oh, Lucy, don’t wail like that, you’ll frighten the neighbours – anyway, we were trying to get them back together again.’


‘What?’ Molly exclaimed. ‘She’s a psycho!’


‘Yeah, we know,’ Al sighed. ‘But she was always nicer when she was with him, wasn’t she? Oh, grow up, Lucy.’


I bundled my sleeve up into a fist and jammed it over my mouth to try and stop the blubbering. It didn’t exactly work; I just got a very soggy sleeve.


‘But your plan worked, didn’t it?’ Molly said. ‘They just disapparated-’


‘Yeah, I know, but the fly in the ointment is kind of that Lucy, well, Lucy is kind of…well, I think you can guess.’ Al dithered.


Molly looked blank. ‘Lucy’s kind of what?’


‘In love with Scorpius.’


As another fresh wave of miserable tears broke loose, I expected Molly to turn and give me a comforting, sympathetic pat on the back, or maybe even impart a few words of sisterly wisdom. But instead she wheeled around dramatically, mouth agape, and said, ‘Lucy, really? That loser?’


‘Really,’ Al told her.


Molly shook her head in disbelief. ‘Honestly, first Rose and now you – dunno what you see in him-’


‘What Molly’s trying to say,’ Al interrupted, ‘is that everything will be okay, let it be, and there are plenty more fish in the sea.’


Good old reliable Al with his dispensation of generic relationship advice. I meant to tell him this, but instead I threw back my head and bawled ‘but he is the only fish in my sea!’


Molly and Al exchanged another look.


‘You know,’ Molly said. ‘I wondered how he’d managed to get one girl, let alone two, but I really think Lucy is crazy enough for him.’


‘We’re in for the long run,’ Al said. ‘Accio Firewhisky.’


After another bottle had floated through the door and into my hands, Al came to sit beside me, the mattress sagging alarmingly. Balancing precariously on the edge, I concentrated all of my effort on draining approximately three-quarters of the new bottle in one go.


‘Cheer up,’ Al said brightly. ‘Scorpius would have been a terrible boyfriend anyway.’


I begged to differ.


‘How do you know?’ Molly asked.


‘Er,’ Al looked rather sheepish. ‘Just guessing. But, you know, if he’s Rose’s type, then that can’t exactly bode well. Plus, Lucy, think of the poetry he would have written!’


‘I would have loved a poem!’ I blubbered. ‘Poetry’s ace!’


Only half-true - I didn’t give a fig about the poetry.


‘Yeah, but, he’s got no sense of coordination, you’d be picking him up off the floor half the time. Remember that Quidditch match where he nearly died because he couldn’t keep his balance on the broom?’


‘I was in detention that day,’ I sniffed.


‘Lucky you,’ Al grumbled. ‘It wasn’t a pretty sight.’


‘And think of the dress sense,’ Molly piped up. ‘What’s up with the cardigan thing?’


‘He’s also quite insensitive,’ Al pitched in. ‘Given that he’s supposed to be an arty poet and all.’


‘Insensitive?’ I demanded. ‘How?’


‘Well, oblivious,’ Al corrected. ‘He’s off in Scorpiusland half the time. Always dithering off into corners, burying his head in the sand, running away from stuff-’


‘I don’t care!


‘Well…at least I tried,’ Al shrugged. ‘Can I have some of that Firewhisky?’


I grudgingly passed him the bottle.


‘It’ll pass, Lucy, you’ll get over it,’ Molly said. ‘You’re just drunk.’


‘I’m not drunk!’ I sobbed, overly conscious of the fact that my hair was all at funny angles and I was, in fact, slurring my words. ‘I’m just upset! I can’t believe he’d be so horrible!’


‘He probably didn’t realise,’ Molly said. ‘He didn’t know how you felt-’


‘Of course he knew!’ I cried, snatching the bottle back off of Al as if to emphasise my point. ‘I told him!’


‘You told him?’ Al said.


‘Yeah, and if the snogging wasn’t enough of a hint-’


‘Snogging? Since when?’ Molly demanded, turning a vicious glare on Al.


‘Hey, calm down,’ Al held up his hands. ‘I know nothing.’


The two of them turned to gaze at me in shock.


‘There was kind of a…a sort of…party last night,’ I explained in a tiny voice. Then, with a quivering lip and eyes brimming with tears, I told them the story of the drunken dancing and the ensuing kiss of life fandango.


‘Boy, you really do pick them,’ Molly said once I’d finished. ‘But, seriously, that was once and you were both drunk. You know what you’re like when you’re drunk. You do silly things. He probably thought it was nothing.’


‘Twice,’ I corrected her. ‘And he told me I was cute and charming and interesting and put a dandelion into my hair…then walked into a lamppost.’


‘Twice?’ Molly looked incredulous. ‘What, did you trip and accidentally smack your faces together or something?’


‘No…it was before we got here tonight,’ I admitted, ignoring Al, who was starting to look nothing short of horrified. ‘Right before Al turned up. We…y’know. Kissed. Al, as if the lipstick wasn’t enough of a giveaway-’


‘Kissed or snogged?’ Molly cut in. ‘There’s a clear difference.’


Thinking about it, there was a difference. During my sole awkward snog with Obscure Henry, my mind had been fixated on what I was having for tea that night and whether I needed to go out and buy some new toothpaste or not. Snogging Scorpius had left me with a rather blank mind and very wibbly legs.


Which, really, just shows that I only really cared about the latter.


‘Kissed, then,’ I said. ‘I felt sick.’


‘That’s generally not a good thing.’


‘No, I mean…you know, nervous. Wibbly. Wibbly’s really the only word.’


‘Wibbly?’ Al echoed.


Molly crossed her arms and sat back against the headboard. ‘Lucy, you’ve really got yourself a problem here. ‘Haven’t you been trying to drop Rose back into his life for the past few months? What’s he going to think? One minute you’re harping on about how great Rose is and how fantastic a couple they’ll make, the next you’re throwing yourself at him-’


‘I did not throw myself at him-’


Run into him, I don’t know! Lucy, I’m not daft. I was at school with you, you’ve done a lot of throwing yourself around in your time.’


‘I have not! And you’re one to talk-’


‘Hey,’ Al lurched forwards. ‘This isn’t about insulting each other.’


Molly and I fell silent; the conversation continued through the medium of meaningful glares.


‘Look, Lucy,’ Al sighed. ‘I’m sure Scorpius just misunderstood.’


‘Misunderstood?’ I said. ‘He’s supposed to be an arty poet, Al, he’s supposed to get matters of love. You know, my love is like a red red Rose - ’ I broke down wailing again. ‘Rose...’


‘I’m not going to lie,’ Al said patiently. ‘His history isn’t great.’


‘What do you mean?’


‘Well, if you think about it, his parents split up when he was thirteen - have you met his parents? Anyone growing up with them isn’t exactly going to have a positive outlook on any sort of relationship. And his only girlfriend was a know-it-all psychotic neat freak who basically banned him from seeing his friends by the end. And I’m pretty sure he’s never been with anyone else, not like you and your…boys. Not to make excuses for him, Lucy, but…well, nobody’s perfect.’


‘Yeah, but, Al, really-’


‘I was his best mate for about seven years,’ Al said. ‘I think I know him well enough.’


‘I live with him!’ I blurted out. ‘I hang out with him all the time! We’re supposed to be best friends – sorry, Al, it’s true! Why would he risk messing up our friendship like that? It’s not like he’s a serial womaniser if he’s only ever snogged Rose-’


‘Well, snogging’s different,’ Al shrugged. ‘It doesn’t mean anything.’


‘This is the attitude I hate!’ I exploded, lifting the empty bottle so I could brandish it at him again. I thought that, if the whole art school thing went totally pear-shaped, then I’d still have the career option of neighbourhood drunk. But, you know. Funnier and less tragic. ‘It does mean something! You don’t just go around handing out snogs all over the place whenever you feel like it!’


‘Some people do,’ Al said, with a pointed glance at Molly, who turned a pale shade of pink.


‘You’ll be fine, Lucy,’ Molly said, ignoring Al’s last comment. ‘Just have a chat with him. Besides – you only saw them disapparate, right? Maybe they just went to talk somewhere quieter?’


I hadn’t thought of that. The idea gave me a certain degree of fresh hope until I remembered that side-along apparition involves hand-holding.


‘It’s useless,’ I said. ‘Rose doesn’t do…quiet talking. And she would have beat him up on the spot if she was angry.’


‘True,’ Al mused.


‘It’s useless,’ I repeated. ‘Absolutely useless. And, oh no,’ I dropped the bottle and put my head in my hands. ‘They’re coming on holiday with us.’


Molly and Al didn’t respond.


‘Useless,’ I continued to mutter into my hands. ‘Useless.’


‘Yep,’ Molly sighed, giving me a sympathetic pat on the back. ‘We all know what happened to Al. I wouldn’t recommend you try and chase Rose.’


‘Oh, Merlin, no,’ I moaned. ‘I like having…limbs, and fingers, and stuff. But what about Scorpius?’ I shot up. ‘What if- what if she-’


‘Beats him up? He’s had worse,’ Al said casually.


Worse? Worse than Rose?’


‘You should have seen some of our Quidditch accidents,’ he grinned. ‘They’d cheer anyone up.’


‘Come on,’ Molly gripped my arm. ‘Chin up, we’ll go back downstairs and enjoy the party – you never know, they might come back and it might be fine and dandy after all!’


How wrong could Molly be?


The two of them lead me out of Al’s room, politely ignoring my hiccupping, sniffy misery. At the top of the stairs Al turned and grinned at me.


‘It’ll all be fine, Lucy,’ he said. ‘We’ll have a fantastic time in Devon, I’m sure.’


He then turned and stuck his leg out, intending, I’m sure, to descend the stairs in an orderly, sensible manner. But instead his foot landed on thin air. Too late, he tried to pull his balance back – but then there was a strangled cry, a lot of thumping, a loud crash, and then Al wasn’t at the top of the stairs with us anymore.


Gingerly, Molly and I peered over the edge of the staircase.


‘Are legs…supposed to do that?’ Molly winced.


‘Are you alright?’ I called down to Al, who was moaning vaguely at the foot of the stairs. I took that to be a no.


‘Mum!’ Molly yelled, dashing down the stairs and hopping over Al’s barely stirring form. ‘Mum!


Molly disappeared off into the kitchen, yelling for help. Aware that my legs were shaking like a pair of vertical load-bearing jellies, I clambered down the stairs, taking care not to follow Al’s example in my slightly drunken state.


‘Al,’ I murmured, suppressing a fresh wave of mopey tears. ‘Al, are you okay?’


‘Argh,’ he arghed.


‘No? You’re not okay?’


‘My leg,’ he moaned. ‘My leg…


I got the feeling both he and Molly were about to eat their words.


*



It was horrific. It was like falling down a dark pit of angst with limbs windmilling, knowing that it was all my fault for sticking my stupid head over the edge in the first place. The blind optimism I’d basked in in the days leading up to the party vanished, and I suddenly felt very small and very stupid.


Karma was coming around to bite me in the backside in a big way.


Molly returned about five minutes later – by which point I was hopping around Al like a headless chicken, flapping my arms (I’d taken a leaf out of Scorpius’ book) and completely mystified about what to do. Following Molly were Uncle Harry, Aunt Ginny and James. The three of them stared at the scene before them with a mixture of shock and horror; I took a step backwards and pressed myself to the wall, trying not to look as drunk as I felt in front of my relatives.


In a matter of minutes, they’d figured out that Al had broken his leg. In another matter of minutes, they’d figured out that they had to somehow get him to St Mungo’s, but had also figured out that he wasn’t perhaps well enough for the Floo network, side-along apparition, nor a portkey. Even in my blibbering, drunk state, I took a moment to marvel at the fact that out of all the specifically magical methods of travel invented, not one of them could provide a comfortable or smooth journey.


Heads were scratched. Confused faces were pulled. Aunt Hermione was called in. The suggestion was made that, if Al couldn’t go to a Healer, a Healer could be brought to Al. Al moaned in pain on the floor and then reminded everyone that I’m a bloody Healer, remember?


Eventually, someone remembered the Knight Bus – and within ten minutes, we were hurtling down the M25, traffic jumping out of our way on either side. I sat and stared at my shoes, trying not to make eye contact with my Aunt and Uncle. I was only there on Al’s insistence that I come along because it was my fault I’d got him into the mess he was in.


Thankfully, the journey on the Knight Bus was as short as it was jolty and uncomfortable. Al was whisked away the moment we got to St Mungo’s, Uncle Harry and Aunt Ginny following at a brisk trot, leaving James and I to sit in the waiting room like fools.


‘Yikes, you look like an Inferius,’ James said, once we were seated and clutching old copies of Witch Weekly. ‘Do you need a tissue?’


‘I’m fine,’ I said, blatantly contradicting the fat tears that were rolling down my face. ‘Completely fine.’


This was the biggest fib I’d told all year. I was not fine. I was the polar opposite of fine. I was light years away from fine. If fine was the sun, I was Pluto. Cold, small, miserable, and made of rock.


James evidently didn’t like to probe further. He put his feet up on the table and began to lazily flick through the copy of Witch Weekly, occasionally sniggering at an article or two. I followed suit, opening it at a random page and staring blankly at the words through bleary eyes.


No matter what Al and Molly had said, I knew that everything had gone wrong. I knew that Rose had apparated off with Scorpius because she wanted to attach herself to him, not because she wanted to beat him up. I knew that Scorpius wouldn’t say no to her, because he just doesn’t stick up for himself. I knew that, therefore, the two of them were probably back at her flat. I didn’t want to think about what they might be doing, although I sincerely hoped it involved nothing more than tea and biscuits.


I also had a nagging suspicion that Al breaking his leg the night before our holiday probably wasn’t a good thing. And that it was all probably my fault, because if I hadn’t broken down crying, Al never would have come upstairs…


This nagging suspicion was confirmed when my Uncle appeared in the waiting room and said-


‘He’s doing fine. It’s a bad break, though, they want to keep him in for a week.’


‘A week?’ I repeated, feeling numb. ‘A week?


We were supposed to be back from Devon in a week.


‘Yes, unfortunately,’ he said. ‘He’s quite upset he’ll miss your holiday. James, shall we nip back to the house? We can pick up some of Albus’ things and bring Lily back with us…oh, and, Lucy, I think Albus wants to speak to you.’


Still numb, I drifted into the ward where Al was tucked up in one of the beds, his leg swaddled in bandages and a large frown swaddling his face.


‘Hello, Al,’ I said, tentatively, wiping at my brimming eyes (even I admit that, at this point, the amount of crying I’d done was a bit extreme). ‘How are you feeling?’


‘Sublime,’ he spat. ‘Absolutely effing sublime.’


‘I’m sorry!’ I gabbled. ‘I really didn’t mean to get upset and ruin your evening and then make you fall down the stairs-’


‘Make me fall down the stairs? Oh, Lucy,’ Al groaned. ‘Unless you pushed me and then Obliviated me and Molly to remove the evidence, then it really wasn’t your fault.’


‘But – but – but-’ I sniffed. ‘You – you can’t come on our – hic – holiday!’


‘I know,’ he glowered.


‘We were g-going to play p – pinball!’


‘Pinball,’ he repeated, looking rather resigned. ‘That’s only the tip of the iceberg.’


‘Pear-shaped iceberg,’ I said, wiping my eyes again.


‘Pear-shaped iceberg?’ Al echoed. I ignored him, taking the empty seat beside his bed.


‘Mum went to see the Healers,’ he said. ‘I wanted to see if you were alright.’


‘If I was alright?’ I said. ‘It’s you we should be worried about!’


‘Lucy, it’s a broken leg,’ he rolled his eyes. ‘I can deal with it. I’m worried about you. The holiday.’


‘Well, obviously I’m not going now,’ I said, letting him in on the rash decision I’d made in the Waiting Room some ten minutes previously. ‘I don’t want to spend a week watching Miss Mardy Guts rubbing it in my face that she’s got Scorpius-’


‘That is if they’ve decided to make up,’ Al reminded me. ‘They might just have gone for a chat. A natter. A good old chinwag.’


‘No, no, no!’ I said. ‘Rose would-’


‘I know,’ Al said, patiently. ‘But you’ve got to have some hope.’


‘I don’t want to go anymore,’ I blubbered. ‘I don’t want to see either of them.’


‘You have to go,’ Al insisted. ‘I’m not even kidding.’


I looked up, thumbing fat tears out of my eyes. ‘Why?’


‘Call me mad,’ he said, slowly. ‘But I want you to go so you can steal him back.’


‘But – but-’ I stammered. ‘I thought you wanted Rose and Scorpius back together!’


‘Well, I’ve done some more thinking,’ he said. ‘And I’ve been thinking about what you’re like, and about what Rose is like, and, well…’


‘What?’


‘I think you’re better than Rose,’ he said. ‘Better for him, anyway.’


‘Really?’


‘Thinking back to my seventh year,’ he said, looking quite misty-eyed. ‘The drama. Some things I should have noticed. She’s a nice girl, Lucy, don’t get me wrong, but only when she wants to be. And Scorpius…like I said, he’s off in Scorpiusland half the time. And while she’s kind of rotten, he’s so nice it should be illegal. He’s a doormat, and she likes that. She just likes stamping on him with her big self-righteous feet and then tromping in the mud and stomping some more. I’m not sure I want any more of that.’


It was the most honest, heartfelt thing I’d heard Al say in ages. Actually, more like the most honest, heartfelt thing I'd ever heard Al say ever and I wouldn’t have believed it was him if he hadn’t put down everyone else at the same time. He's not really the type for honest, heartfelt things.


‘You’re nothing like Rose,’ Al continued. ‘If Scorpius has to be with anybody, I’d want him to be with you. Don’t sit with your mouth open like that, you’ll catch flies.’


I quickly shut my mouth and simply stared at him.


‘I give you my blessing,’ Al said imperiously. ‘Go forth. Go forth and get him back.’


‘Erm, thanks,’ I said. ‘Uh, never…never seen this side of you before.’


‘I’ve had quite a lot of painkilling potion,’ Al said in that same imperious tone. ‘And my leg hurts like hell. If there’s anything that’s going to cheer me up, it’s going to be seeing my oldest friend and my favourite cousin happy.’


‘Favourite cousin?’ I repeated, slightly dumbstruck. ‘Thanks, Al. It’s…it’s mutual.’


At that moment, the rest of Al’s family re-entered the ward. I took that as my cue to leave, but, at the door, took Lily aside.


‘Did Rose come back? I asked her, hurriedly.


‘No,’ she said, looking puzzled. ‘I haven’t seen her at all.’


‘Thanks,’ I said, not feeling especially thankful.


It was close to one in the morning by the time I finally left St Mungo’s. I apparated into the cool darkness of the flat, feeling suddenly very weary, still not quite ready to believe that Al really wasn’t coming to Devon with us.


Still not quite ready to believe that Scorpius had gone off with Rose.


I wasn’t sure whether to be angry, upset, or worried – being all three at the same time just made me feel sick. Tired, and with my empty stomach churning, I curled up straight into my sleeping bag on the sofa. About ten minutes later, the front door clicked open; I nearly sat up, suddenly full of hope that it might be Scorpius. But I could tell instantly from the silhouette that it was Tarquin, returning from wherever he’d been. So I pretended to be asleep.


Tarquin inched towards the sofa and then paused, peering at me over the edge of the cushions. He seemed to be thinking. Then, he turned and walked towards his own bedroom, but not before he paused again. I knew he was looking at Scorpius’ bedroom door, trying to figure out whether he was in or not. Perhaps he thought we’d had a row. He didn’t try to wake me and ask, though, instead letting himself into his bedroom and shutting the door behind him with a soft click. Alone in the darkness, I stared out at the window and the orange-soaked sky beyond.


Angst was very much on the agenda.


I didn’t sleep much well at all. At seven I was already up with the kettle on, having decided that tea was the only thing that could truly get me through my angst. At eight o’clock, I was halfway through my second cuppa of the morning when there was a small popping sound from behind me and the sound of someone clutching onto a piano stool to stay upright – I instantly abandoned my tea and shot upwards, face-to-face with Scorpius at last.


‘Hi,’ he muttered.


‘Hi,’ I mumbled in return.


The rest of the conversation passed in little more than facial expressions. Scorpius obviously took in my swollen, tear-streaked face and crumpled clothes and decided not to ask, because a moment later he ran a hand through his hair and rocked back and forth on his feet, as if to pinpoint the awkwardness of the not-really-a-conversation.


But, then again, his grimace that seemed to say bloody hell, you look awful was a strange, non-verbal case of pot and kettle, because he looked about as weary and bedraggled as I did. I imagined that he hadn’t had much sleep either, if he’d had any.


He also evidently thought I’d been crying over him. Which was really only three-quarters true.


‘I’ve just come back from St Mungo’s,’ I said, adding a dramatic pause for effect. He gave me an incredulous look, as if to say what are you on about, they don’t treat hormonal screwed-up fools like you there. If only they did.


‘Al can’t come on holiday with us,’ I said. ‘He fell down the stairs and broke his leg pretty badly. Right after you left.’


Scorpius continued to give me that incredulous look, but eventually figured out that I wasn’t joking and started looking alarmed.


‘But he – won’t he-’


‘It was a bad break,’ I explained. ‘Mega bad.’


‘Mega bad?’


‘They’re keeping him in for a week.’


‘Oh. Ouch,’ Scorpius grimaced.


We’d only been pseudo-talking/shuffling awkwardly for a few minutes, but I was more than a little disappointed that, well…it was as if the previous week hadn’t even happened. For a split second, I wondered if Rose had Obliviated him.


‘Well,’ he said. ‘I was just on my way out-’


‘What? But you only just-’


‘I have some errands to run,’ he cut across, talking to my shoes so he didn’t have to look me in the eye. ‘You know, it’s funny you didn’t mention that Rose was coming on holiday with us too.’


He actually looked slightly angry. I didn’t know what to say, which is why I said ‘erk’ next.


He didn’t look amused.


‘I mean…shouldn’t we…talk?’ I said, feeling about this big.


‘Talk about what?’


Awkward/angry/not-amused Scorpius wasn’t something I thought I liked. My lip quivered. A single, fat tear broke free of my eye and then got stuck by the bridge of my nose, hanging there all obvious and tear-like. It was annoying me like hell and I really wanted to get rid of it, but I also wanted him to see how bloody upset I was.


Thing is, it was so irritating that my eye started to screw up a bit. So, after a minute or so of awkward silence, I was essentially staring up at him with one good eye and one crazy, flickering, watery eye.


He probably thought I’d gone mad. I couldn’t blame him.


‘I’ve got to go,’ he said. ‘I’m late.’


‘For what?’


‘I – er – have stuff to do.’


‘Like…?’


‘I’m meeting Rose,’ he said, a little grudgingly.


Abruptly, we turned from each other; he went to the door, and I…well, I just marched over to the other side of the sofa and then stood there looking like an idiot with nowhere to go. I felt so crushed and furious simultaneously that, for a moment, I was tempted to stalk Scorpius, and then jump out from behind a bush and challenge Rose to a duel. Which I would never win.


Which is why I let Scorpius go without another word. He might have said sorry before the door slammed shut, or it might just have been the hinges creaking – who knows? But, in typical woe-is-me fashion, the tears started to leak from my eyes the moment he’d gone.


It seemed like the tables had turned. Somehow, in between arriving at the Potters’ house and leaving it, Scorpius had inherited whatever confidence I’d had, and I had inherited his woe and angst. All the same, I remembered what Al had said, about how Scorpius ran away from things, buried his head in the sand…


I imagined writing to the Prophet’s Aunt Agony page.


Hi, Aunt Agony. My name is Lucy Weasley, middle name ‘fool’. You can call me idiot for short, or daft, if you’d prefer. My psycho cousin with anger management issues just stole my boy, and I’m not man enough to go and fight her for him. Oh, yeah, the boy in question is a mopey photographer type who embroiders stuff, and I might only love him because his clothes smell lovely and he’s criminally nice. He makes my knees go wibbly, and we kind of snogged so we’re basically going out anyway. He’s just two-timing me with Bitch Weasley – that’s my cousin, by the way. Except I don’t know if they’re going out or not. I’m making assumptions. But I’m too scared to ask. She’s terrifying. She hit my other cousin who’s all strong and tall and fast, so everyone know just how scary she really is. I mean, she doesn’t even have milk or sugar in her tea or anything and doesn’t like chocolate biscuits. She’s bonkers.


Etcetra, etcetera.


I picked up my mug of cold tea, intending to go and make myself a fresh cuppa, but then I thought of a hasty postscript.


p.s he’s got a secret foxy smile and I don’t think anybody knows about it except me.


Suddenly, there was no mug in my hand and a small pile of bits of mug lying in a puddle of cold tea on the floor.


I am Lucy Weasley, and heartbreak makes me smash mugs.


Hear me roar.


Caught up in a deluge of miserable, self-pitying rage, I sunk into the sofa. I was so caught up in feeling sorry for myself that I didn’t even notice Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven taking the armchairs either side of me until Tarquin reached over and gave me a comforting pat on the back, at which point I was so surprised that I jumped about six feet in the air and stopped crying out of shock.


‘Are you alright?’ Tarquin asked.


‘Idiot,’ Gwendolyn/Raven tutted. ‘What do you think?’


‘We were lurking,’ Tarquin said. ‘We heard everything…we’re sorry.’


Once again, words escaped me; I ended up making an odd sort of moaning noise like a creaky door.


‘Sorry,’ Tarquin repeated, patting me on the shoulder again.


I had that same horrible feeling of being incredibly small and stupid. ‘He went to see Rose,’ I finally managed to say. ‘Why would he do that?


‘Dunno,’ Tarquin shrugged. ‘He’s a bit silly sometimes.’


‘When are you leaving, by the way?’ Gwendolyn/Raven asked. ‘We’ll help you pack…’


‘Pack?’ I said. ‘I’m not going.’


‘Yes you are,’ Tarquin said, waggling a finger at me. ‘You’re going to Devon.’


‘And you’re going to shout at Rose.’


‘Show her who’s boss.’


‘Then you can elope.’


‘I don’t know,’ I mumbled. ‘I’m not so sure…’


‘Look, we even have a plan,’ Tarquin said. ‘You start shouting at Rose-’


‘She’ll beat me up!’


‘Yeah, well, it’s not the best plan.’


‘Would you ever take advice from us? No,’ Gwendolyn/Raven chipped in. ‘Which is, er, why we think you should take our advice and go to Devon.’


‘Right,’ I said. ‘So I’m just expected to-’


‘Walk in and show Rose who’s boss. The boss being you. You are the boss,’ Tarquin said. ‘That just about sums it up.’


Which is why at twelve that day, when the doorbell finally rang, I was standing at action stations with suitcase in hand and sunglasses on face.


I opened the door. Rose stood there, beaming. Slowly, I lowered my sunglasses.


‘Hello!’ she chirped. ‘Here to pick you up for the holiday!’


I fiddled with the studded cuff of my leather jacket. I folded the sunglasses and put them into my pocket. I considered my words, pursing my black-lipsticked lips, narrowing my black-eyeliner’d eyes.


‘Cool,’ I said, doing my best to sound as cool as a frozen cucumber on a January morning. In Antarctica.


Rose’s smile faltered. Little did she know that it was all an act, carefully choreographed by Tarquin, who was hiding behind the door, caught up in a fit of silent giggles. The wardrobe had been supplied by Gwendolyn/Raven, who was hiding beside him.


‘I’ll take your suitcase-’ Rose began.


‘No problem,’ I held up my wand. ‘I can deal with it.’


My cool plan of levitating the suitcase out of the window and into her car would have, er, gone a lot more to plan if I’d paid more attention to first year charms. The suitcase did get into her car eventually, but it took a rather long-winded and destructive route there that mostly focused on a detour to Scorpius’ head.


I considered this…


revenge.


Even if I did feel mega guilty afterwards. He did try to duck, at least. And I got a very, very scandalised look from Rose for it.


I actually quite enjoyed being a bad influence.


‘Are we all ready to leave, then?’ Rose said cheerily. ‘All set?’


We weren’t; just at that moment, Scorpius came loping up the stairs, clutching a hand to his head.


‘Forgot some stuff,’ he said, squeezing past me and into the flat – I noticed how, even when we were jammed into the same doorway, he tried to pretend that I didn’t exist – and then barrelling straight into his room.


Rose probably would have said something at this point, but I slammed the door in her face.


I’d found – or, rather, Tarquin had found – a new side of myself. I like to call it Badass and Completely Not Bothered (but actually very much bothered) Lucy. BACNB(BAVMB)L for short. And I was going to unleash BACNB(BAVMB)L on Rose like nothing else.


Or so I planned.


‘All set?’ Tarquin said.


Gwendolyn/Raven lifted a fist of encouragement.


‘Ready,’ I put my sunglasses back on. Which was a mistake, because it wasn’t really a sunny day, and I was likely to trip blindly down the stairs if I wore them.


I didn’t even care. That was the point of BACNB(BAVMB)L.


Scorpius emerged from his room, holding a few old record in one hand and a pair of argyle socks in the other. I gave him a hard, piercing stare, and then remembered that my eyes were hidden by the sunglasses and he wouldn’t have noticed.


‘Um, are we – are we ready?’ he mumbled, catching sight of me in my terrifying, borrowed goth get-up and shades.


‘We’re cool,’ I said.


‘Have fun,’ Tarquin said, and then, in an undertone to me – ‘good luck.’


‘Write and let us know how you’re getting on,’ Gwendolyn/Raven added. ‘Send pictures if you can.’


‘Chill out and relax.’


‘Don’t come back in a matchbox.’


‘Remember to stop, drop, and roll.’


‘An apple a day keeps the Healer away.’


‘Many a mickle makes a muckle-’


‘Er, alright, bye, thanks,’ I said, throwing open the door to let me and Scorpius out. ‘See you in a week.’


Outside the door of the flat, Scorpius hovered. (Not literally.)


‘Are you…are you really…um, ready to go?’ he dithered.


‘Absolutely,’ I adjusted my shades for emphasis. ‘We’re cool.’


It was hard to keep up the ice-queen act when I felt so wibbly. I could never stay angry at Scorpius for long. Well, I could never really get all that angry with him in the first place.


So I followed him down the stairs and out to Rose and her car, Al, Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven’s multiple blessings behind me, ready to steal him back.


Whatever it might take.


(To a certain extent).




a/n: eek, sorry for taking slightly longer on this one! and sorry it’s an angsfest too - gotta have my quota of angst somehow. Undying and endless thanks to Gina and Gubby for reading this through and correcting up my mistakes. Thank you also to everyone who’s reviewed so far - I love hearing what you have to say, and some of the comments have made me burst out laughing (: please just remember to keep the reviews 12+!
also - the line ‘my love is like a red, red, rose’ is a line taken from the poem ‘my love is like a red, red, rose’ by Robert Burns and was definitely not written by me. Or Scorpius.
edited 19/06/2012


Chapter 17: Everything is Lovely
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Chapter Seventeen - Everything is Lovely





It started to rain as the car trundled out onto the M25. Without taking her eyes of the road, Rose calmly tapped the windscreen with her wand and muttered a spell; the rainwater slid straight off it, giving her perfect visibility. Smiling, she pulled out and overtook an ancient campervan, waving graciously to the driver as if she was the Queen, something that was ruined by me gawking at her from the back and Scorpius doing his best impression of a hibernating tortoise in the front seat.


‘This is lovely,’ she said. ‘Isn’t this so lovely?’


If hurtling down a motorway on a rainy morning with two hours’ sleep and a thumping headache was her idea of lovely then, yes, yes it was so lovely.


It was so lovely I felt like punching out the sunroof.


‘Bit chilly, isn’t it?’ she said to the silence. ‘I’ll just turn up the heater.’


It wasn’t chilly at all. The strange arrangement of luggage in the car had forced me to sit in the middle at the back, directly opposite the air vents and the stereo. Rose’s promises of a ‘mild, warm breeze’ were lies; the two air vents were like miniature volcanoes. My nose felt like it was on fire. Still trying to maintain the glacial aura of an ice queen, I clapped a hand over my nose and reflected that it probably wasn’t best to get sunburn from Rose’s car before we’d even got to Devon.


‘So!’ Rose chirped. ‘Shall we have some music?’


Both Scorpius and I engaged in a bit of a shrugging fiesta. Rose looked heartily disappointed.


‘Shall we see what’s on the radio?’


‘Sure,’ I said. ‘But we won’t see it, we’ll hear it.’


‘Hahahaha!’ Rose gave a very forced laugh. ‘Very good, Lucy.’


She flicked the radio on. Perfect timing; the mournful crooning of a mopey Smiths song drifted out of the speakers. Scorpius shifted in his seat and stared out of the window.


‘Good song,’ I said, feeling rather at one with the aforementioned mopey, mournful crooning.


‘Hmm, not very cheerful,’ Rose said, turning the dial to the next station. At once, cheery bubblegum-pop blasted out. She started tapping along to the song with her fingers on the steering wheel, neatly overtaking a sports car.


‘I don’t normally use this,’ she said, ‘but there’s reports of a traffic jam further down the road, so…’


She pressed a purple button on the dashboard. At once, a whole lane seemed to open up in front of us, cars jumping aside. Rose sped up, overtaking about ten cars in a row.


‘Much better!’ she grinned.


Five minutes passed in silence, save for the radio station’s cheerful pop music and the drumming of rain on the windows.


‘You two aren’t very talkative today,’ Rose frowned.


‘Didn’t sleep much,’ I explained, taking my hand away from my face.


‘Me neither,’ Scorpius mumbled, as I noticed the print of black lipstick on my palm a second after noticing the black smudge across my face in the rear view mirror. Desperately, I tried to rub it off, hoping that neither of them would turn around and see me.


‘Well, hopefully we’ll get a lot of rest on this holiday,’ Rose said brightly. ‘Early to bed, early to rise, early bird gets the worm and all that…’


Seething, the tip of my nose aflame and my face all smudged with black lipstick, I wondered just how many of Rose’s generic proverbs I could put up with before I throttled her.


‘…and, of course, too many cooks spoil the broth.’


Bloody hell.


Rose continued to witter on from the driver’s seat, occasionally giving the purple button another jab to make the traffic zoom out of her way. Not for the first time that journey, I wished that cars had an inbuilt kettle and stash of teabags. And also, possibly, a device for shutting Rose up.


We’d just hurtled past a sign that read Welcome to Devon when I decided I should probably ask a very important question.


‘So,’ I lurched forward between the two front seats. ‘Are you two, like…a couple again?’


‘We’re working on it!’ Rose chirruped merrily. Scorpius sunk down further in his seat. By this point in time, he’d tried so hard to make himself invisible that his collar was actually up around his ears. Rose took her hand off the gearstick for a minute to pat his knee in what was supposed to be a loving gesture; I ducked back behind her chair, fighting back the urge to shout and vomit at the same time.


‘Lovely,’ I said, doing my best fake smile. Scorpius, still in hibernating tortoise mode, sunk further in his seat. I sat back again, inspecting my face in the rear view mirror for further signs of smudged black lipstick. It was confined to my lips, at least, but it had gone a funny faded grey colour, and instead of looking badass, I just looked ill. The eyeliner was no better. Cursing inside, I tried to wipe the lipstick off with the back of my hand. Rose noticed and glance around from the front seat, a giant, toothy grin still fixed on her face.


‘You alright there, Lucy?’ she trilled.


‘Lovely,’ I repeated, putting my sunglasses back on again. ‘Sooo lovely.’


I couldn’t have possibly sounded more insincere. Rose seemed to buy it, though, and turned back to the road with her gigantic, scary grin still in place, humming along to the latest sugary pop song on the radio. I sat back in my seat and reflected that I had a bit of a problem.


The joke in the family often went that Rose had inherited the worst parts of her parents. From her father, she’d inherited a complete absence of tact and sensitivity, whereas from her mother she’d inherited a touch of the workaholic, possibly a smidge of the know-it-all. Nobody quite knew where her temper had come from, although the bossiness had definitely come from her mother. This joke was somewhat contradicted, however, by Rose’s appearance. She was by no means a beauty, but, well, she was prettier than me or even Molly by miles. At least she’d got the Weasley red hair. I’d been lumped with dull dirty-blonde. And Rose had curves, the vast majority of which were in the right places. In terms of figure, I was an ironing board. An ironing board with terrible hair.


Rose also had the advantage of being absolutely terrifying. It was very difficult to say no to her. Anyone who stood up to her was likely to end up in St Mungo’s, as Al had proved almost two years previously. So, really, I could hardly blame Scorpius for running off to her like some lost puppy/lamb to the slaughter. If I was him, I probably would.


But, then again, if I was him, I would have noticed that I was obviously the better choice. But that implies that I kind of fancy myself, so I’m going to shut up about that right now.


‘Almost there!’ Rose piped up, indicating a sign at the side of the road. I caught a brief glimpse of-


Mordenton-on-Sea, 10 miles.


- before we sped off down the road again, Rose jabbing at the purple button to overtake a convoy of lorries.


‘Mordenton – Morden?’ I said. ‘I thought we’d left London?’


‘Oh, yes, we got out of London fifteen minutes ago,’ Rose said, patting the purple button affectionately. ‘All thanks to this rather splendid gadget.’


‘I meant – oh, nevermind.’ I settled back in my seat.


Although I have nothing against Morden as a place, I’ve long been of the opinion that place names don’t come much more depressing than Morden. The name just smacks of misery and moping (Scorpius would be right at home there – I actually think his dad lived there at some point). Perhaps I’m just biased – maybe there are some folk out there who are terribly fond of the name Morden for a place. But I’m not.


Going to a place called Mordenton-on-Sea, however, somehow didn’t bode all that well. Especially when you chuck in the stunning flowerbeds, multiple Britain in Bloom awards and popularity with old folk. I just wished I’d dragged Scorpius to Heathrow and ended up sozzled on some hot party-obsessed island instead. That’d be a better summer holiday than flowery pensioner land, even with the promise of pinball.


Perhaps I was making premature assumptions. A little later, however, we rolled into Mordenton-on-Sea in the midst of a torrential downpour, and my worst fears were confirmed. The place was dead. Not a soul stirred on the streets. Bedraggled flowers lay limp in soggy, albeit neat, flowerbeds. Three shops stood on the seafront – a knick-knacks place, a budget supermarket and a fuddy-duddy clothing establishment. All were shut. Further up, a greasy spoon café shot out gloomy electric light onto the slick pavement. The sea was a terrifyingly dull grey, much like the sky and just about everything else apart from the flowerbeds.


Rose was grinning like it was going out of fashion.


‘Right!’ she chirped, parking the car neatly in front of the café. ‘Let’s have a walk around, shall we?’


Rose hopped out of the car, umbrella in hand. Scorpius schlepped out a moment later, fiddling with his fringe. I followed, trying to look as bored and serious as I possibly could with makeup all over my face. Unsurprisingly, Rose only had room under her umbrella for her and Scorpius. So, I moped behind them like the spare wheel that I was, getting soaked and frowning at everything I saw, including my own feet, repeatedly insisting that I didn’t mind the rain and was happy to go without an umbrella.


‘Lovely!’ Rose exclaimed, as we strolled, schlepped and moped along the seafront. I pulled back my sodden hair to gaze out at the expanse of grey sand and grey sea before us.


Lovely wasn’t the first word that sprang to mind.


‘I looked up this town last week,’ Rose produced a glossy tourist brochure from her handbag. ‘This is the new town – further up there’s an ice cream shop that’s supposed to be rather good, a children’s arcade, boat hire places, good walks…’


‘Are they lovely?’ I said. I was duly ignored by the happy couple, although I thought I heard Rose tut.


‘Where are we actually staying?’ Scorpius asked – I say asked, but he was really just mumbling everything into the collar of his shirt.


‘Further up that way,’ Rose gesticulated towards the direction of the good walks, etc. ‘Overlooking the coast…it’ll be lovely.’


‘Yeah…’ Scorpius gazed around the grey scene, and then said, more than a little half-heartedly: ‘…lovely.’


We retreated back to the car after ten minutes of strolling/schlepping/moping. I folded into the back of the car like soggy origami, taking care to kick the back of Rose’s seat as much as possible on my way in. From there it was another ten minutes up to the house, which, thankfully, was quite some distance from the café and the dull shops at the end of a cobbled lane. We disembarked, unloaded luggage and then stared up at the house, which Rose threw several generic ‘lovely’s at before unlocking the front door.


It was a nice house, really. Al had been very wise in befriending posh Healing students. Three storeys tall and made of some pretty sand-coloured stone, I even had to admit in my mopey state that I would rather have liked to live there. I followed Scorpius across the threshold, dragging my suitcase behind me and resisting the urge to kick his skinny ankles.


‘Well, isn’t this nice?’ Rose said, hands on hips, as she surveyed the hallway. ‘I mean, look at that décor! How lovely!’


I gritted my teeth and followed her example, taking in the beige walls, beige ceiling, beige carpet, beige curtains, beige skirting boards and beige lampshade.


I wanted to be sick.


‘I suppose the bedrooms are upstairs,’ Rose said. ‘From memory, there are two on the first floor and just the one up in the attic-’


‘I bagsy the attic!’ I blurted out, lunging for the stairs with my suitcase. ‘Room with a view!’


‘Well,’ Rose said. ‘We’ll just head up to the first floor-’


‘Lovely!’ I cried, already halfway up the stairs. ‘Crikey, how lovely!’


Balderdash and piffle!, my internal foolish voice cried. What if they share a room!


‘Is she…alright?’ I heard Rose mutter to Scorpius as I bounded up to the top of the stairs, dragging my suitcase behind me. It bounced off every step with a nasty thwack, making a nasty rattling sound I had a funny feeling was my camera having a party with my toothbrush. I sprinted along the landing, suitcase rattling and thwacking away, and then leapt up the next flight of stairs. When I finally reached the attic room, I collapsed back onto the skinny single bed and glared up at the ceiling.


Things were beyond the shape of the pear, fruitbowl or orchard. Things were more pear shaped than two pears at a pear party eating pear drops and drinking pear cider. The fact that Rose and Scorpius were now working onbeing a pear made things even more pair-shaped than usual.


Or perhaps that should be the other way around.


I’d left the door open by mistake; I could hear Rose and Scorpius checking out rooms on the floor below. Rose was giggling. In a fit of rage I threw myself up off the bed, lunged for my suitcase, tripped, and then fell flat on my face in the middle of the floor. So not only was I heartbroken, angry and mildly nauseous, but my nose hurt like billy-o and I could feel the tender beginnings of a bruise or two on my thigh.


Downstairs, everything had gone very silent.


Blinking tears of pain out of my eyes, I got to my feet, threw open my suitcase and started unpacking with venomous speed. There was a handy chest of drawers in the room – the only furniture apart from the single bed and the bedside lamp – and I immediately set about transferring the crumpled piles of clothes from my suitcase into even more crumpled piles of clothes in the drawers. I worked for about fifteen minutes solid, happily peeling creased t-shirts apart, until there was a knock at the door and Scorpius appeared, looking incredibly glum even by his standards.


‘Hi,’ he held up a battered green satchel. ‘You left this at the bottom of the stairs.’


I looked at him, then at the fistful of knickers I was holding, then back at him, then back at the knickers.


It’s hard to look sad and angry and be taken seriously when you’re holding your pants.


‘Er, thanks,’ I stuffed the knickers into the top drawer and slammed it shut. The whole chest of drawers wobbled alarmingly; I had to grab onto it for fear it would topple over. Scorpius flinched, staring at his shoes, slowly turning a tortuously embarrassed shade of crimson.


‘Just dump it there,’ I indicated the satchel. ‘It’s okay.’


‘Alright,’ he said, his voice so strangled and small I could barely make it out. ‘And…I’m sorry.’


And with that he dropped the bag, span on his heel and lurched tragically out of the room, almost falling down the stairs as he went.


It seemed that foxy Scorpius had been somewhat short-lived. Tragically awkward Scorpius was here to stay.


Half an hour later there was another knock at the door and Rose hurried in, kitted out in a sunhat, sunglasses, shorts and a flowery top, a large raffia bag slung over her shoulder. She looked ready to hit the beach.


‘Off to the shops!’ she trilled. ‘Need to stock up the kitchen! Coming?’


‘Erm,’ I gazed at the chaos of clothes strewn about the room. Honestly, I swear I have no idea how my favourite top ended up on the lampshade. ‘I still need to unpack. I might give it a miss.’


‘Alright. Well, Scorpius and I are just going to nip down to the supermarket, we should be about an hour. Plenty of time to get tidied up!’


‘Cool,’ I threw a pair of socks into the drawer with as much fury as I could muster. They missed and boinged off the wall, landing at Rose’s feet.


Rose seemed to take that as an adequate send-off and left the room. Five minutes later, I heard the front door slam, and the house was silent.


It took me five more minutes of unpacking before I succumbed and went into ninja mode.


There were four doors on the floor below, all shut – I did a spin before choosing door one, which turned out to be a swanky bathroom. Shutting the door on the fluffy towels and well-polished suite, I burst into the next room, which, judging by the neat suitcase on the floor, was to be the domain of Rose.


This may all seem rather odd. Don’t worry, I’m quite accustomed to snooping around. I’m as nosey as the next person – I mean, I did once spend an afternoon hiding in Scorpius’ wardrobe. I was about to flip Rose’s suitcase open and have a poke about when I noticed the purse lying on the bed and froze.


My first thought was that Rose had forgotten her purse and would apparate into the room at any minute to reclaim it. Then I’d have to come up with some nonsensical explanation for snooping in their room, would fail, and would be exposed as a bitter spurned lover and bad cousin. Then, I’d have to shove all my grimy shirts back into my bag and mope back to London, move out of the flat, and ultimately end up festering in a gutter. Or end up as a neighbourhood drunk, I’m not picky.


I was so caught up in this nightmarish vision of my future self that I failed to notice that the purse was empty. See, Rose is the sort of mega prepared person that actually owns more than one purse so she can make it match her outfit. I know. Organised like nothing else. So this purse, gutted except for a few receipts and business cards, was obviously the rejected one that didn’t go with her flowery shirt, raffia bag or newly acquired pathetic boyfriend.


Still in ninja mode, I picked up the purse and had a bit of a nosey, flicking through receipts for textbooks and posh clothes – the raffia bag was surprisingly pricey, according to one receipt. Business cards for various solicitors and ministry officials were tied together neatly with an elastic band; Rose had obviously been job-hunting.


There was also a photograph tucked in at the back. I pulled it out and took a long, hard look at it; at the three familiar black and white subjects shuffling and smiling blindly up at me, at the mess of the art school common room behind them, at the faint shadow of Scorpius’ handwriting showing through from the back – and then at the long, neat rip along the edge, where Rose had torn me right out of the picture.



a/n: just a wee short chapter for you there! Thank you for everyone's reviews - my word, I love the reactions to those cliffhangers/spanners in the works in previous chapters. You wonderful reviewers, please continue with your campaign of unabashed crackery - it fair cheers me up! ♥
edited 19/06/2012

Chapter 18: Scrabble Smackdown
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Chapter Eighteen - Scrabble Smackdown





Lovely, lovely, lovely, it was all so lovely – the next three days passed in a near unbearable smog of loveliness, boring board games, boring museums and boring strolls along the boring promenade. I moped through it all like a drunk person trying to wade through the sea. Time passed so slowly that I was convinced Rose kept putting back the clocks just to spite me. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if she was; Rose did a lot to spite me over those three days. Whether she did it on purpose or not wasn’t clear. But, certainly, Rose was blind to the intense amounts of awkward that existed between me and Scorpius.


Truthfully, the awkwardness upset me – but at the same time I was all too aware that I was perpetuating it. While I guessed that I should probably man up, accept that Rose and Scorpius were going out and then get on with my life, I also guessed that I’d be a fool to just let him go. So I avoided the two of them as much as possible. Long walks on the beach? I’d ramble off into the sand dunes, camera in hand, claiming I needed to take pictures. After three days, I hadn’t even used up half a roll of film. I just wandered about on the sand and moped, half-hoping each time that Scorpius would come chasing after me.


I couldn’t take my mind off of the photograph I’d found in Rose’s purse. Of course, it was entirely my fault that Rose had it. I’d left it behind the bed at Christmas, and I’d neglected to take it back off her when I’d found out she had it. The thought of it unsettled me – the thought of that meticulous, deliberate rip along the edge, the fact that she’d ripped me out but left the other two in – it all seemed rather odd. I concluded after a bit of thinking that Rose probably hated my guts as much as I hated hers. She probably hated me for being Scorpius’ friend when she was busy hating on him on the other side of London. She probably hated me for being the unwanted third wheel spoiling her holiday. I wondered whether she knew what had gone on in the days preceding the holiday, although I knew that Scorpius wouldn’t have told her. The more time I spent with her, the more time I noticed her lack of objection at me wandering off by myself all the time- I realised that she simply didn’t like me or want me there.


Which, of course, made me want to stay all the more. As awkward as it was, I was determined to stick it out to the very end. If Rose was going down, I wanted to be responsible for it.


So, after digging in Rose’s purse on that first day, I ripped Scorpius out of the photo and left her with a lovely portrait of Gwendolyn/Raven and Tarquin. Then, I replaced the photograph in her purse and the purse on the bed, taking extra care to make it look as if it hadn’t been touched, and then walked sedately back to my room and finished my unpacking, feeling very much that I’d won some small victory over her. And then I felt a bit awkward about having a torn photo of Scorpius about my person and hid it in the bottom of my suitcase, where he continued to blink up at the muddy sole of my trainer.


This small victory aside, I didn’t really feel like I’d made any headway over those three days. Instead, I put up with the boring board games and museum visits in grim silence – although, honestly, I thought that one more game of Scrabble would make me scream – and kept telling myself that things would be alright in the end, even if I didn’t really believe it.


And whenever Rose decided to give another public display of affection by holding Scorpius’ hand or looping her arm around his, I turned away and gritted my teeth and knew that, one day, vengeance would be mine.


Honestly, I was becoming so dramatic that I was surprised I didn’t just whip out my wand and volley a few Unforgivables at Rose every time this happened.


Day three brought the fifteenth game of Scrabble since our arrival. Outside, light rain pattered against the windows, the sky a dusky grey. Mordenton-on-Sea had fulfilled all expectations by being about as exciting and sunny as a three-week old dishcloth, only three times as limp. Rose loved it. Scorpius unusually showed no emotion. I sulked, stropped, pouted, moped and brooded along the grey cobbled streets and soggy grey beach, staring as many metaphorical daggers as I could at Rose’s back.


‘Quiz,’ Rose declared proudly, placing her letters on the board. ‘And I believe that Z falls on a triple word score…’


I glowered at her as she added her points to the score sheet. She was winning by miles. Me and my paltry vocabulary were suffering, as was Scorpius, who was frowning down at the tiles he had left.


It was my turn. I glared at my own tiles, shuffled a few around, then glared again.


AEOJIUH probably wasn’t a legitimate word, but I was so bored out of my mind that I hardly cared less and put it down on the board anyway, using a handy ‘M’ from one of my earlier attempts.


‘Mayeojaye-uh,’ I said, face twisting as I tried to pronounce the word I’d just invented. ‘That’s nineteen, plus a double word score…thirty-eight points, please.’


‘Lucy, that’s not a word,’ Rose said testily. ‘You just made that up.’


‘Did not!’ I exclaimed. ‘Mayeojayeuh is so a word.’


‘No it isn’t,’ Scorpius said, sounding tired. ‘You could have put something else down with those letters like…ham.’


‘But why would I put down ham when I could put down mayeojayeuh?’


‘Because maye-whatever doesn’t exist!’ Rose fumed. Much to her chagrin, Scorpius suppressed a laugh.


‘It does exist!’


‘Really?’ Well, define it!’


Mayeojayeuh,’ I said, doing my best to look deep. ‘It’s…uh…a noun for…’ I looked to Scorpius for help and saw that he was leaning backwards in his chair, teetering on the verge of total backwards collapse. Inspiration struck. ‘…the feeling you get when you’re leaning back in your chair, and, uh, you think you’re going to fall back but then sort yourself out at the last minute, and then your heart starts pounding even though you’re okay and stuff and…yeah, that’s Mayeojayeuh.’


Rose snatched up the dictionary. ‘Fine,’ she said. ‘If you’re so confident-’


‘Oh, you won’t find it in there,’ I pointed at the rather slim dictionary that the holiday home had provided. ‘It’s a rather obscure word, you need, like, a massive dictionary if you want to find Mayeojayeuh.’


Scorpius let a giggle break free, and, as Rose spun around to give him a filthy look, lost his balance and had to grab onto the table, the front legs of his chair slamming back to the floor with an almighty thunk.


‘See,’ I said, casually as I could. ‘That’s Mayeojayeuh for you.’


Rose, fuming, but evidently sensing she’d lost the battle, duly added thirty eight points to my running total. It didn’t make much difference; I was still very much in last place. I’d still won, though, in my own way – not only had Rose left my epic new addition to the English vernacular on the game board, but Scorpius had laughed at one of my jokes.


A moment later, however, he was back in serious Scorpius mode as he frowned at his tiles again.


‘Sorry, this is the best I can do,’ he laid two tiles on the board to make the word ‘red’.


I considered it ironic that the wordsmith amongst us really wasn’t that good at scrabble. I mean, he was better than me, but, as a poet, by all accounts he should have been owning Rose at the game. Instead, Rose was owning us by…oh, about three hundred points.


Ten minutes later, the game was over, and Rose had steamrollered the two of us. Even with my grand addition of thirty eight for Mayeojayeuh, I still hadn’t got my points over the sixty mark. Scorpius came in second with a paltry eighty. Rose was…Rose was in another dimension, scrabble-wise.


‘That was fun,’ Rose snapped, as she packed away the game (i.e she sat and flicked her wand imperiously at the table). ‘Lots of fun.’


‘It was lovely,’ I nodded. ‘Very lovely.’


Scorpius looked between the two of us as if wondering who to disagree with first.


‘Um…I’ll make some tea, shall I?’ he said, shooting up out of his chair. Rose shooed him away and then slammed the lid back onto the box. Her eyes looked as if they could start shooting out Cruciatus curses across the room.


‘What’s the plan for tomorrow?’ I said, trying not to sound as nervous as I felt.


‘Not much, maybe we’ll just relax, go to the beach,’ she said, although she sounded so furious she might just as well have said die, Lucy, die.


‘Sounds cool.’


‘Yes.’


I sat and twiddled my thumbs, at a total loss for words.


‘Do you know how Albus is getting along?’ Rose asked.


‘Nope, haven’t heard a word.’


An awkward silence prevailed. Rose got up and left the room on the pretext of helping Scorpius to make tea. A minute later they both returned, Rose as crabby and Scorpius as awkward and mopey as ever.


‘So. Beach tomorrow,’ I said conversationally. Rose ignored me and flicked on the wireless, tuning in instantly to some deeply dull documentary about the manufacture of self-inking quills in Essex. After frowning at the radio for a full minute, she perched demurely on the edge of the sofa and then picked up her book, immersing herself in it completely. In this time, Scorpius had stepped forward, stubbed his toe, hopped about in pain for a bit, flopped onto the sofa and then nearly upset the three mugs of tea before him.


Well, I suppose that, if anything, the two of them fulfilled that age-old adage that opposites attract.


‘So, self-inking quills,’ I said. ‘How fascinating.’


Rose turned up the volume on the radio without even looking up. Scorpius looked between us, helpless, and then turned his gaze on his shoes.


This went on for about an hour before I decided I couldn’t take anymore and stood up.


‘I’m going to bed,’ I called to nobody in particular, already halfway to the door before Rose even looked up from her book/Scorpius even looked up from his mopey staring contest with his shoes.


‘Goodnight,’ Rose called. I refused to acknowledge her, fuming as I turned out of the sitting room and into the corridor. Over an hour of near silence (apart from an introduction to the many wonders of quill manufacture in Essex) had made my anger and frustration build and build until I was certain I could easily have gone back into ninja-mode and karate-chopped the coffee table into little pieces. That said, I did honestly mean to go to bed next. No, really, I did.


I don’t know why I did what I did next. It was maybe the way that my shoes had been abandoned by the front door, all worn and exhausted and so misshaped that I could slip my feet right into them like slippers. It was maybe the way that I could see that it had stopped raining outside, and the sky had turned a deep, dusky blue dotted with stars. Or maybe it was because I’m a bit weird, the latter being the most likely explanation.


Within a minute, I’d jammed those tired shoes on my feet and burst through the front door, slamming it behind me with as much force as I could muster. Typically, though, the stiff hinges meant that it actually shut quietly, meaning I couldn’t get the whole ‘Lucy storms off in a rage’ thing I’d been aiming for.


It was when I turned from the door and saw the town in the distance, silent and lit only by streetlamps in a sickly shade of orange, that I realised what a mistake I’d made.


The air was just on the wrong side of mild; the slightest breeze sent shivers over my skin. So, great, I was cold, I had nothing to do, and, of course, I couldn’t just wander back in, I’d look like a total dolt.


So instead, I headed for the beach. I couldn’t go without getting something to keep me warm first, though, so my first action was to shimmy along the wall of the house, lean in through the kitchen window and summon a bottle of Firewhisky from the cupboard. It nearly smacked me in the face, and the ensuing ruckus was loud enough to make Rose run in from the sitting room in alarm. I crouched in the bushes and hugged the bottle to my chest, wanting nothing more than for her to just apparate back to London and leave me and Scorpius alone.


But that was never going to happen. So I stuck to my original plan and set off out of the back gate and down the cobbled lane to the beach, exhausted shoes slapping on the stones as I walked. Of course, it didn’t occur to me once that I could have summoned a sensible cardigan or jumper instead of straight alcohol for warmth purposes but, hey ho.


Once I’d had a bit to drink, the night didn’t seem as cold anymore. In fact, it was rather nice. Totally silent save for the distant rumbling of the motorway bypass, the smell of stunning flowerbeds on the breeze. The moon gleamed in the sky like a shiny silver Sickle, leaving a glimmering trail across the still sea. After about ten minutes or so of walking I reached the sand dunes and plonked myself down there, staring ahead, digging the half-empty bottle into the sand next to me.


But apart from the pretty moon and the nice drink and the mild air, it was a bloody miserable evening.


I hate to admit it, but I cried. Just a little bit.


I’m not weak, though. I’m not a wuss. I didn’t weep and wail and break things, and I certainly didn’t start shouting and sobbing spontaneously like I’d done a few days earlier. No, I just looked out at the sea and moped, fat little tears dripping silently off the end of my nose and onto my shirt. After about five minutes, I had a sort of necklace of teardrops on the collar of my top and realised that it was all probably useless. I balled my sleeve into my fist and wiped the tears away, reflecting that I probably needed more to drink, possibly also a poem.


Just when I was meditating on my internal angst and the idea of a broody poem, I heard footsteps behind me.


‘Er-’ a voice started, and from that I knew it was Scorpius; the boy practically had his own monosyllabic language of ums and ahs and ers. ‘Rose was wondering why you’d gone.’


The wittiest response I could come up with was ‘was she now?’ in a small, trembling, petulant voice.


‘Yes, well…you sort of just…ran off.’ Scorpius mumbled.


‘Did I now?’


‘Er…yeah,’ Scorpius dithered about in his usual dithery way. Then he sat beside me, drawing his knees up under his chin and staring out at the sea.


‘Rose went to bed. She asked if you’d been drinking.’


‘I haven’t,’ I said indignantly. Scorpius gave the bottle at my side a very pointed look.


‘She’s just concerned.’


‘Concerned? Don’t make me laugh.’


‘She…well…’ he dithered. ‘She wants you to have a good time.’


‘No, she wants me to piss off back to London ‘cause I’m a degenerate and a bad influence,’ I spat. ‘She’s a bitch.’


‘Um…well…’


‘What?’


‘Well,’ he grimaced, running a hand through his hair. ‘You did just swear. And you have been drinking, you’re slurring your words.’


‘So?’ I demanded, almost poking Scorpius in the eye as I threw my hands up in exasperation. ‘You’ve done worse! You failed your Potions N.E.W.T because you got hammered the night before! You ended up upside down in a skip a couple of weeks ago because you drank so much! And the other night, you-’


‘Lucy, no,’ he winced.


‘I was going to say danced like a maniac and nearly knocked yourself out, but, yeah, whatever, you know what happened.’


I jabbed my finger at him threateningly at this point, but in my enthusiasm, I lost my balance on the unstable sand and had to throw my arms around his neck to stop myself from falling over. Remarkably, he barely batted an eyelid, probably quite used to my erratic behaviour by this point.


‘Sorry,’ I muttered, conscious of the terribly close proximity of our faces and the fact that he could probably feel my hammering heart against his shoulder. I pulled myself away.


‘You should probably go back,’ he said. ‘Rose wants-’


‘Screw what Rose wants!’ I thumped my fist on the sand for emphasis.


‘I’m – I’m just saying-’


‘Ever since we’ve got here you’ve been all Rose this, Rose that, running around taking orders from her like you’re her house elf or something – it’s awful! She’s a bully! You’re always letting people bully you!’


He stared tragically at his own feet. ‘Sorry.’


‘Shut up! That’s just it! You’re a doormat, Scorpius, a total doormat, you may as well just tattoo the word ‘welcome’ onto your forehead!’


He didn’t answer. Egged on by the drink and my internal fool, I continued.


‘Your dad bullies you, Rose bullies you, Tarquin and Raven sort of bully you and Al sort of bullies you too! You’ve got to stop doing what other people tell you to do and start taking control of your own life!’


‘Rose didn’t tell me to come after you, actually,’ he said, in a very small, very dejected voice. ‘She thinks I’m doing the washing up.’


The wind went out of my sails.


‘But…why?’


‘I’m your friend,’ he said, his voice even smaller and even more dejected. ‘Well, you’re my best friend.’


Undoubtedly, it was a nice gesture. But out of spite, I snapped.


‘This isn’t the way you treat your best friend.’


Scorpius didn’t say a word, but turned his head away. I felt my eyes burn again.


‘We should get back,’ he said eventually. ‘It’s late.’


‘It’s only ten,’ I said, sounding petulant once more. ‘I’m not moving anywhere. And we need to talk-’


‘Oh, come on-’


‘No!’ I said. ‘Can’t you just – why won’t you talk to me about anything that happened?’


Total silence; I may as well have asked the beach.


‘Things will never be right unless you tell me why – I mean, after all that before the party at the Potters’ place, I thought…I thought you liked me.’


‘I do…like you,’ he said quickly. ‘But…’


‘But?’ I repeated.


‘But…’ and his voice was smaller than ever. ‘It was dishonest.’


It felt like my stomach had plummeted through six feet of earth.


‘I mean…’ he went on. ‘Technically, I mean…I still…it was wrong to…do that when, technically…I’d never sorted things out with Rose. It was dishonest.’


‘It doesn’t matter!’ I hissed. ‘You hadn’t seen her for over a year!’


‘Yes, but…’


I put my head on my knees. ‘God, you’re infuriating.’


He cast his eyes to the sand again. ‘Sorry.’


‘But wasn’t it dishonest to me as well?’


‘Yes, but…’


Silence. Again. I couldn’t think of a single thing to say to him.


‘Lucy?’ he hazarded.


‘This is just effing unfair,’ I snapped. ‘I don’t even care anymore.’


Wasn’t the first time I’d lied to him.


‘I give up,’ Scorpius stood. ‘Come on, you have to come back. There’s only so long I can be washing up for before Rose gets suspicious.’


‘I’m not moving,’ I repeated. ‘And if you really were my best friend, you would stay.’


‘I can’t…’ he trailed off, somehow unable to finish his sentence.


‘Please,’ I felt a bit desperate. ‘Stay out. Live a little.’


‘I don’t…I don’t want to make things more awkward.’


‘How much more awkward can it get?’ I cried. ‘I’ve got to look at your face every day and pretend we didn’t, you know…’


‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘I’m going to go back-’


‘No, don’t,’ I stood too, snatching up my bottle. ‘Please-’


Scorpius looked tired, unwilling to continue. He held out a hand.


‘Come on,’ his voice was resigned. ‘We’ll just apparate back. Please.’


‘I don’t want to-’


But I took his hand anyway.


‘Okay?’ he said.


‘Yeah,’ I lied.



a/n: another short chapter...another angsty chapter...don't worry, this won't last for long. There's plenty to come, and, yes, the mood picks up after this! There's lots of awkwardness, fluff and cracky humour to come. Hope you enjoyed this mild diversion into angst (I did deliberate making this a longer chapter, but then thought - no, I like my cliffhangers and my spanners in works). I should probably also add that Scrabble is a registed trademark of Mattel and whatnot. Ooh, also, I made new chapter images (that are EVEN MORE mock-hipster) for every single chapter so far. Hope you like them. Finally, thanks to Helena, Gina & Gubby for proofreading and such.
p.s. helena - NOOT NOOT.
edited 19/06/2012

Chapter 19: Breakfast Epiphanies
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Chapter Nineteen - Breakfast Epiphanies





Helpfully, things started to pick up a lot more after that.


In retrospect, my pouting, storming off and slamming doors (or attempted slamming doors) escapade was probably not the best of ideas. After we apparated back to the house (a chunk of my hair went missing thanks to Scorpius’ erratic apparition skills, but I was too busy pouting to care) we both went our separate ways with barely a word – he to the washing up, and me to my single bed in the attic, where I lay awake and glowered at the ceiling for three full hours, listening out for his footsteps on the stairs. The house was silent the whole time. I never asked what he was up to or dared to go down and see, but I briefly entertained the idea that he’d apparated back to London. I wouldn’t have blamed him if he had.


The next morning was a different affair. After my dark night of the soul (lots of tossing and turning, preoccupied thoughts, tears of angst and rage) I’d expected an awkward, fidgety breakfast. I’d envisioned a horrible scenario where me and Scorpius sat opposite each other in total silence, avoiding eye contact, both trying to pretend the other was invisible. I envisioned this going totally wrong. I envisioned myself reaching over for a slice of toast, accidentally brushing his hand, awkwardly snatching my own hand away and then upsetting the milk jug right into his lap. I envisioned Rose sitting at the head of the table, smiling.


I envisioned her with a rather gloating smile. One that was smug, victorious and arrogant all at once. I envisioned that, once I’d spilt the milk over Scorpius, dropped my toast (which would land jam side down) and also probably set fire to the house, she’d turn to me and say I told you so in the most condescending voice she could muster. Then, almost skipping in her smug happiness, she would lift Scorpius up above her head (because, let’s face it, she could overpower him any day) and then run off into the distance, possibly chanting some sort of barbaric war cry – then she’d use her newfound law/ministry powers to sue me for being an idiot. And, of course, being an art student, I would have no money to pay her and I’d end up in Azkaban for the rest of my life.


This is the sort of thing that happens when I’m left alone with my imagination.


Luckily, none of my prophetic visions of awkward Scorpius/gloating Rose/me in Azkaban came true. In fact, when I came down to breakfast at the spectacularly early hour of ten in the morning, Rose was out and Scorpius was sitting cross-legged on the kitchen counter, directing dishes into the washing-up bowl with his wand. From the radio, jangly guitars jangled and a mournful voice crooned.


‘Hey,’ he said. ‘We left some bread for you.’


I took up the two slices of wholemeal (because, of course, Rose would only eat wholemeal bread) by the toaster and jammed them in, face burning with the memory of the previous night’s argument.


‘Where’s Rose?’


‘She popped down to the shop, we’re out of milk.’


‘Ah. Right.’


I felt as awkward as a wire coat hanger stuffed inside a pillowcase; Scorpius, by contrast, was taking it all in with apparent ease. He hadn’t dropped a single plate yet, which I supposed was a record. He was even humming along to the radio.


‘I like this song,’ I said vaguely, perching on the edge of the table.


‘Me too. Always have.’


He continued to hum along, sending an unwieldy frying pan into the sink. I shielded my eyes as soapy water splashed up and slopped to the floor.


‘It’s funny,’ I blurted out, in a desperate attempt to say something. ‘They’re so you it’s unreal. The Smiths, I mean.’ I finished off with a completely insincere laugh, drawing my cardigan tighter around myself as if to pinpoint just how awkward I still felt about the previous night.


‘Really?’ he said. ‘Well, actually, this is…sort of…the song.’


‘The song? Come again?’


He looked flustered; a ramekin overshot the sink and clattered onto the draining board. ‘Argh, wait-’ he sent it back into the sink and then set his wand aside, evidently judging that the washing up was done. I cocked my head and listened to the song, waiting for him to speak.


‘You know what I said a while back…’


…a dreaded sunny day, so we go where we’re happy and I meet you at the cemetery gates…


Somehow I understood. ‘This is your song?’ I nearly shouted. ‘This?


He nodded, suddenly speechless.


‘Oh, you,’ I couldn’t help but smile. ‘So typical you, so typically cheerful, so romantic, so upbeat…


‘Oh, shut up,’ he grinned, putting his head in his hands in mock shame. ‘I didn’t pick it.’


‘Why this?’


‘Um,’ he went bright red. ‘Well…first time we met up out of school-’


‘First date?’


‘Sort of…Highgate cemetery. London.’


‘You…you went to a cemetery?


‘Oh, god, not, like-’ he dithered, flapping his arms about. ‘She picked it-’


‘She would, wouldn’t she?’


‘No, I meant, I was reading Dickens that summer and Dickens is buried there…er, well, she thought I was reading Dickens, but I totally wasn’t-’


‘Ugh, you’re such an intellectual.’


‘Only pretending. I’m a pseudo-intellectual.’


‘I know Rosie is keen as mustard on her muggle literature, did she shove Dickens onto you or something?’


‘No, muggle studies project…Lucy, I’ve barely read a page of muggle literature in my life, but it was a nice gesture at the time.’


‘I only read what they forced on us in muggle studies.’


‘I might have…browsed some poetry, now and again-’


‘I imagined you’ve browsed more than your fair share of poetry,’ I said. ‘You know, being a poet and all.’


‘A miserable, poverty-stricken poet-’


‘More like miserable, poverty-stricken arteeste-’


‘Nihilist,’ he added. ‘Barry’s grown on me.’


‘Cynicist.’


‘Vorticist.’


‘Experimental musician.’


Bloody awful experimental musician,’ he corrected me.


‘If anything, self-parodist.’


‘That’s true,’ he nodded, grinning. ‘I mean, the song that reminds me most of the girl I’m supposed to love is about bloody plagiarism-’


Right on cue, the front door slammed. Rose was home. The conversation died instantly; Scorpius took up his wand again and resumed the washing up just as Rose strode through the door, carton of milk in hand.


‘Someone’s toast is done,’ she indicated to the toaster. I’d been so wrapped up in the conversation with Scorpius that I’d barely noticed that my toast had popped up, nor that the radio had changed to playing something appropriately sterile and bubblegum-y for Rose’s entrance.


‘That’s mine,’ I scuttled over and made myself busy with raspberry jam, ignoring the happy couple behind me.


‘You’ve done all the washing up wrong,’ Rose snapped. ‘Do cutlery first, greasy frying pans last.’


Or not-so happy after all.


‘Sorry,’ Scorpius slid off the counter, letting Rose take over the washing up. I watched with some interest, nibbling at my toast.


‘And you’ve stacked the mugs all wrong,’ Rose continued. ‘And the carafe hasn’t been washed properly…’


Rose, up to her elbows in soap bubbles and complaints, didn’t notice Scorpius sidle over to me, lift the second piece of toast from my plate, and then take up position at the back of the room to nibble and observe. I let him take the toast without protest- my mind was still digesting the song that reminds me of the girl I’m supposed to love.


Supposed was the best word I’d heard all week.


‘So, beach today,’ Rose declared. ‘And I found this place on the beachfront that hires pedalos.’


She waited for a reaction. None was given.


‘Pedalos,’ she repeated. ‘Thought we’d get into the holiday spirit.’


‘Fan-dabby-doo,’ was the most I could contribute to the conversation. ‘Pedalos.’


‘Look at this,’ Rose held up an elaborate serving dish. ‘Look at this…filth.’


I strained to see the miniscule speck of dirt she was pointing to. Scorpius rolled his eyes, cramming more toast into his mouth.


‘And this!’ Rose suddenly cried, sweeping an admittedly dirty plate into the air. Scorpius, startled, choked on the toast; I thumped him on the back as he spluttered apologies in Rose’s direction.


(Look at this filth! I imagined Rose shouting, brandishing a finger at me. Look at this degenerate faux-arteeste filth!)


‘Chill, Rose,’ I said. ‘They’re not too bad…’


Rose ignored me, plunging most of the draining board back into the sink. She stood back, tutting to herself, and whisked her wand through the air, sending the crockery into a frenzied sort of ballet with scouring pads and dishcloths.


‘Should I go and get ready?’ I asked tentatively. Rose gave a curt nod and I turned from the room, ditching my crumb-encrusted plate on the table. Much to my surprise, Scorpius followed me.


‘Pedalos?’ he whispered, once we’d put three closed doors, a set of stairs, three brick walls and a whole storey of the house between us and Rose. ‘Not being funny, but…what’s a pedalo?’


‘A pedalo is a torture device Rose is going to use on you as a consequence of your lack of washing-up skills,’ I said. ‘No, it’s like a small boat you have to pedal. Rose’s idea of fun.’


‘Um, great,’ he didn’t look at all enthused. ‘Isn’t it supposed to rain today?’


‘Does it ever stop raining?’


‘True…well, thanks.’


I took my time over getting ready; I had a lot to ponder. There had been a rather noticeable change when Rose returned – she’d definitely been the rain on the pseudo-intellectual parade. This comforted me. Nobody likes a killjoy, and she was the biggest killer of joys I’d ever known. There was also a noticeable lack of intimacy between her and Scorpius – noticeable to me, anyway, but, then again, I was the vengeful third wheel and Rose was my arch nemesis.


I kept forgetting I was related to her. That's actually how annoyed I was. Blood, thicker than water? Pfft. Not on your life.


Half an hour later I joined them at the foot of the stairs. Rose, raffia bag on arm and lurid colours on shirt, gave me a cold smile. Scorpius stared at his shoes. I stared at them too, because I needed something to look intently at or it’d be really awkward.


‘I thought we’d walk down,’ Rose said brusquely. ‘It’s not raining.’


I found that very hard to believe, but followed her outdoors anyway. Surprisingly, it wasn’t raining – although the sky was a moody, overcast grey; perfect for my inner mope. We took the path down to the main road and then followed that along to the beach. I saw sand dunes in the distance, remembered the night before, and then stared at Scorpius’ shoes so as to hide my embarrassed, stupid face. I’d left the empty bottle out where I’d been sitting.


I was quite content with my staring until Rose rudely interrupted me.


‘There we go,’ she indicated a shack on the beachfront. The walls had been painted in a variety of drab, pastel colours, and a number of swan-shaped pedalos had been left outside the front. Rose made a beeline for the front door, abandoning Scorpius and I outside.


‘This looks…interesting,’ Scorpius said, running a hand over the chipped paint of the nearest swan pedalo.


‘Definitely.’


I glanced up at the rusty sign swinging from the shack – Skipping Centaur Pedalo Hire, the sign proclaimed in bright letters, above a cheerful drawing of a frolicking centaur. Somehow, I suspected that no Centaur worth his salt would be caught frolicking. Especially not outside the front of a shack painted in bloody pastel colours in front of all those twee swan pedalos.


I was turning into quite the cynicist. I think it was Tarquin’s influence.


Then, unexpectedly, Scorpius said-


‘This is such a joke.’


‘Huh?’


‘This place,’ he spread out his arms, indicating Mordenton-on-Sea at large. ‘I mean, everything is beige. It’s all just…beige beige beige. Beige or twee. Or dead boring. And that art gallery we went to the other day? The art was rubbish. Just, you know, totally naff. No meaning or concept whatsoever. Just pretty little biscuit tin pictures. It’s all so…commercial.’


‘Er…’ I started.


‘It’s just…it’s all so cheap,’ he continued. ‘All those little paintings of beach huts and…swan pedalos! No artistic integrity! I don’t even…’


In a moment’s panic, I wondered whether Rose was beginning to rub off on him, whether she’d tapped some secret source of Scorpius Art Rage that had been hitherto concealed.


‘I’ve been wanting to say this for ages,’ he said, ignoring the fact that we’d only been in Mordenton-on-Sea for four days. ‘But Rose just loves this place to bits.’


‘I hate it here,’ I cut in, quick to agree with him. ‘Yeah, total lack of artistic integrity and whatnot. And, like, it rains even more than it does in London.’


‘I don’t mind the rain,’ Scorpius tilted his head back to scowl up at the sky – his way of summoning a thunderstorm, I supposed.


‘Yeah, rain’s great,’ I figured that the more I agreed with him, the better. ‘Super-duper rain.’


Rose emerged from the Skipping Centaur pedalo shack at this moment, oblivious to Scorpius Art Rage/Diplomatic Lucy.


‘We’ve got number nine for an hour,’ she said, patting the head of a nearby swan. ‘We can go as far as those orange buoys.’


I looked to the sea; the orange buoys weren’t too far out, which was a little disappointing. On the walk there, I’d briefly entertained a wild fantasy in which I kicked Rose off of the pedalo and pedalled as fast as I could back to the beach with Scorpius.


Of course, this would never happen. Rose decided to take charge as Rose always does, and so forty minutes later I was slumped in the back of the pedalo, staring at the vast, flat expanse of sea. Rose was driving. I say driving, but, really, she’d just done a bit of fancy wand-pointing at the pedals and was sitting at the front with her hands on the steering wheel, jabbering on about law school. Scorpius, bless him, was doing his best to sound interested, but was staring wistfully out at the sea as if he thought he’d rather be hanging out with the sea anemones than with Rose.


‘And, in a Magnusson case, so named after the famous Scandanavian representative to the International Confederation of Wizards, the defendant…’


I was bored out of my mind. I leant over the edge of the pedalo, staring down at the water. Something silvery glimmered before the surface – I leaned in closer, but it flashed and then was gone, quick as a bolt of lightning. Careful not to attract Rose’s attention, I grabbed Scorpius’ shoulder and pulled him over.


‘Down there,’ I whispered. ‘In the water…shiny.’


He seemed to understand. We leaned over the edge of the pedalo (blissfully unaware that we were sitting somewhere in the swan’s backside and this probably all looked a bit strange), both staring intently at the water.


‘There it is!’ I hissed, as the silvery thing darted up to the surface again.


‘What do you think it is?’


‘I...maybe…a fish or something?’ I tried to summon my paltry knowledge of everything sea-related. ‘Like…a Shrake?’


‘Dunno…could be…’


‘It’s pretty.’


‘Shiny,’ Scorpius agreed.


Rose, sensing that she’d lost our attention completely, turned from her position at the front.


‘What is it?’ she demanded. ‘What?’


It wasn’t one of her finest moments. She’d turned so sharply that, by accident (or maybe it was on purpose? Wouldn’t put it past her), she’d yanked on the steering wheel and the pedalo suddenly veered to the left. Ordinarily, this would’ve been a minor wobble, but this was a pedalo with Rose’s own brand of magic driving it, and it was going quite a bit over what the normal speed limit for a pedalo should be.


Which is why Scorpius and I were unceremoniously turfed out into the English Channel.


Panic ensued; one minute I was happily admiring an unknown shiny object from the comfort of the pedalo, the next I’d been plunged into something shocking cold, shockingly deep, shockingly wet. I flailed about for a bit until my head broke the surface, which is when I discovered that the shiny object in question was actually a large piece of foil.


That was probably the biggest anti-climax of the whole holiday.


Dissapointed, soaked, and pedalling water, I clung to the side of the pedalo for dear life. Scorpius was doing much the same beside me, his fringe plastered to his head and glasses hanging on by one leg.


‘It was just foil!’ I told him.


He responded by spitting out a mouthful of seawater. The pedalo slowly drifted to a halt, then rocked dangerously as Rose clambered over.


‘Hang on!’ she screeched, grabbing for Scorpius’ wrist instantly. ‘I’ll get you out!’


‘Take Lucy first!’ he cried. I was momentarily flattered, but then he added – ‘she’s smaller!’


Rose, shocked, let go of him, reaching instead for her wand. ‘Right – Wingardium Leviosa!’ she spluttered.


Being levitated into a pedalo whilst dripping wet is not an experience I’d like to repeat.


Whilst I lay there, gasping, still clutching the foil, Rose helped Scorpius back on board – and then the panic was over, the sky above splitting to reveal a watery sun.


‘Well,’ was all I could say. ‘Well.


Scorpius seemed to be speechless. Rose, looking as shocked as I felt, pointed her wand at us both in turn, our clothes drying instantly.


‘Sorry!’ she blurted out. ‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean it! I’m really, really sorry!’


This was the moment where I wanted Scorpius to stand up, hands on hips, and say ‘No, Rose. You are not sorry. You are a charlatan and a knave and I command you to take us back to land right now so that Lucy and I might escape to London, where we can prepare for our elopement to Gretna Green. Coincidentally, you’re not invited to the wedding.’


But instead he simply swept his sodden fringe out of his eyes and said ‘…it’s okay, Rose. These things happen.’


Well, it was a rather far-fetched fantasy. And, besides, it’s virtually impossible to stand up in a pedalo, especially when you’re someone like Scorpius ‘Coordination? What coordination?’ Malfoy.


‘Maybe we should head back,’ Rose bit her lip. ‘Hour’s nearly up.’


‘Yeah, cool,’ Scorpius said.


In the name of all that is duck! I wanted to scream. Why do you like her?


Rose steered the pedalo back to the beach – carefully, this time – and we jumped out into the shallows, trouser hems and trainers soaked. I didn’t bother drying mine, it wasn’t exactly a big deal considering I’d been completely underwater ten minutes or so previously. Scorpius and I waited outside again while Rose returned the pedalo.


‘That was interesting,’ I observed.


‘Hmm,’ Scorpius hmmd.


‘Pretty crummy of Rose to dump us in the sea like that.’


‘I don’t think she meant it,’ he frowned. ‘But it was crummy.’


‘This whole place is crummy.’


‘Yeah…’ he murmured, but then Rose returned and we both shut up.



*



Considering all this, it seemed that Scorpius was slowly being won over to my side. Of course, I’d blown the whole thing out of proportion and made it into a battle – it was me versus Rose, even if Rose didn’t realise. The pedalo incident was a small victory, Scorpius’ Art Rage was a small victory, the conversation we’d had at breakfast was a victory smaller still – seeing the two of them together just proved to me that it was a match destined for disaster. Scorpius was a completely different person around Rose. He was basically a mute around Rose. He barely said a word, and, if he did, it was usually some sort of apology for something he’d said earlier. Rose, by contrast, became even more lippy and demanding when he was there, as if she was hyper-aware of herself. If I hadn’t been so caught up in stealing Scorpius back off her, I would have found the whole thing rather amusing. And a little bit tragic too.


I can be accused of being a little hypocritical, though. I mean, I know I changed a lot when I was around Scorpius (wibbliness/stupidity levels went through the roof). This was also rather amusing. What wasn’t amusing, though, was Rose’s behaviour when she was with me.


That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Generally, she was alright. Generally, she just ignored me. Generally, she acted like we barely knew each other, keeping words to a minimum. I didn’t see her on her own much anyway – she was usually with Scorpius, or I was schlepping about by myself. But the night after The Great Pedalo Debacle, I somehow ended up on my own in the kitchen with her.


It started off perfectly innocently. She was chopping potatoes by the sink. I was stirring sugar and milk into three fresh cups of tea. Tinny bubblegum-pop drifted from the radio in the corner. A song finished; Rose hacked at one last potato and then put down her knife.


‘What is Scorpius to you?’ she asked.


I flinched, noticing the dangerously close proximity of the knife to her hand.


‘Um…’


‘I mean it. What is he to you?’


Future husband if I get my way, the voice in my head said. Instead, I said -


‘Just a friend. I mean, he’s my best friend-’


‘You’re lying.’


‘Er…I’m not?’


‘No, I know there’s something else, Lucy. You’re not very good at hiding things.’


I was frozen to the spot, a teaspoon hanging limp from my fingers.


‘I suppose I knew it when I found that photograph,’ Rose said, keeping a remarkably steady voice. ‘Of you and him and the two others – I know you left it there on purpose, I know you wanted me to see it.’


‘I didn’t,’ my voice, by contrast, quivered with fear.


‘You just had to rub it in by turning up with Albus, didn’t you? I could have found him of my own accord, I was planning to, but then you had to wedge your foot in the door like that – you’re getting in my way, Lucy.’


‘I don’t know what you mean,’ I lied.


‘I know what’s gone on between the two of you,’ Rose’s voice was pure ice. ‘And it shouldn’t have. I want you to take your foot out of the door.’


‘Nothing went on-’


She turned to face me. ‘I also know what you think. I know you think that you’re better than me – you should see yourself when you’re around him. It’s pathetic.’


Pot calling the kettle black, much?


‘I don’t think you realise that he’s happy now,’ she continued.


I don’t think you realise that you’re deluded, I felt like retorting.


But then came the biggest weapon on Rosie’s arsenal.


‘I don’t think you realise he doesn’t want you.’


Bam. Tears.


I stood there, still holding the teaspoon, sniffing away. Rose’s glacial mask slipped a little – she almost looked guilty.


‘Don’t – don’t even try,’ she said, although this time, she sounded uncertain.


‘Try what?’ I whispered.


‘Don’t take him from me,’ the words came out in a rush. ‘Please, please, please don’t take him from me.’


There was really nothing meaningful I could say. My mind had gone totally blank. I snatched up my tea and backed away to the door.


‘Goodnight, Rose,’ I said.


I climbed the stairs in a daze, my mind reeling. I’d just reached the second landing when I found my path blocked by Scorpius – I tried to squeeze past, but he caught the sleeve of my cardigan.


‘Hey,’ he said. ‘What’s wrong?’


‘Nothing!’ I attempted my best cheesy smile. It did nothing to take the look of concern off his face. ‘Just – something in my eye. You know, dust and stuff. Or grit. Or an eyelash. Stuff like that. It’s like an eye pain party here, I can’t help it. Dead silly and all,’ I said, thumbing the tears and smudged eyeliner off my face with my spare hand. ‘Your tea’s ready, by the way, in the kitchen.’


‘Are you sure?’ he asked.


‘Yeah, just made it myself, it’s sitting by the kettle-’


‘No – I mean, are you alright?’


It hurt to smile up at him, to lie so extravagantly.


‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Completely and utterly one hundred percent awesome and then some.’


‘Er, alright,’ he said, as I continued past him and up the next flight of stairs. He didn’t seem reassured, but went downstairs to join Rose anyway.


Despite all the tears, I couldn’t help but crack a smile when I reached the sanctuary of my bedroom. For despite Rose’s steely, stern speech and despite the fact that I still had to lie to Scorpius and such – Rose had sounded more than a little desperate. Even more desperate than I had a few days previously, which was saying something.


She obviously saw me as a true threat.


So I didn’t have Scorpius back yet. So I was standing at the top of the stairs facing my single bed whilst he went to spend time with Rose. But Rose was desperate. And for now I had my tea, and another small, small victory – Lucy one, Rose nil.



a/n: phew, just made another cheeky wee update there! There's lots of pseudo-intellectual references in this (I set myself a bit of a challenge, including getting the words 'carafe' and 'ramekin' into one chapter). Most notably, there are references to The Smiths, and the line 'a dreaded sunny day, so we go where we're happy and I meet you at the cemetery gates' is from the song 'Cemetery Gates' by The Smiths. The chapter title 'Breakfast Epiphanies' is not mine, but is a widely popular play on 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' by Truman Capote - I couldn't find the origin of the pun, but, you know, whoever made it up was pretty cool. So, crediting done. I also had to slip in a 'skipping centaur' reference for one reviewer...
as usual, thank you for reading & I hope you enjoyed!
edited 20/06/2012

Chapter 20: Sunny with a Chance of Showers
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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.’


I wish.


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.’


‘How?’


‘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.’


‘Fantastic metaphor.’


‘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.’


‘How precise.’


‘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 what?’


‘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.’


‘Like what?’


‘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?’


‘Um, no?’


‘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.’


‘Oh…are you…’


‘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-’


‘Lingering glance?’


‘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.’


‘You gold-digger.’


‘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-’


‘Seriously.’


‘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-’


‘Really?’


‘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.’


‘Meaningless?’


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!’


‘Really?’


‘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?’


‘Sorry?’


‘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.’


‘Socks?’


‘Yep.’


‘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.’


‘True.’


‘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 you?’


‘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.’


‘I’m sorry.’


‘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) ♥
edited 20/06/2012

Chapter 21: Emotional Wronski Feint
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Chapter Twenty-One - Emotional Wronksi Feint





Sunny with a chance of showers would have been great. In retrospect, I would have killed for sunny with a chance of showers. Sunny with a chance of showers suggests an average week, kind of mild, few little hiccups along the way – but generally progressing smoothly into nicer weather, possibly into a nice long heatwave, something I could wear sandals in. You know, sun in the sky, pretty flowers out on the streets, bees in the air and ice cream in hand? Like that. But, you know, metaphorical. I like metaphors, and I liked the idea of my mood being a nicely metaphorical sunny with a chance of showers, progressing into an equally nicely metaphorical heatwave.


I hadn’t expected a bloody thunderstorm.


The two of us sat facing each other in numb shock, footsteps echoing down the corridor beyond to the front door, which opened - then slammed. The same footsteps crunched across gravel and then were gone. In a perfect example of a pathetic fallacy, the sky cracked open and started to pour with rain.


Ironically, the radio was playing Cemetery Gates again.


‘Oh, bugger,’ was all I managed to say.


But maybe I should start at the beginning.


*



It was my turn to do the washing up. I’ve never been good at anything involving magic and crockery, and, really, it was safer to wash everything by hand. But, honestly, I’ve never been much good at washing things by hand either. My technique was just to fill a bowl with scalding hot water, dump washing up liquid in it, then dump bits of crockery in it one-by-one, swill them about a bit, then dump them on the draining rack.


I was halfway through swilling out the carafe when Rose came in from the back garden. I didn’t look up; it was Thursday, the penultimate day of the holiday, and I was feeling more than a little downtrodden. There’d been the pinball and a few other scant moments where me and Scorpius had managed to sneak off to find an arcade or a tacky souvenir shop or ice cream – but apart from that, the final few days of the holiday had been mostly meh. A big, resounding, echoing meh. I was resigned to my inevitable fate by this point, a fate that mostly involved Lettuce and/or Barry.


‘I’m going to use the phone,’ Rose announced breezily. ‘Just to let you know.’


‘Cool,’ I told the carafe, which I dunked back into the scummy water. I then picked up a ketchup-encrusted plate and a scouring pad, reading to recommence washing-up – but then, something compelled me to turn and watch Rose leaving the room. She had a rather purposeful stride, something that said she was gearing herself up for something. So, you know, like any other sane person, I crept after her and, as the kitchen door began to swing shut, jammed my foot between the doorframe and the door itself.


The door slammed right onto my foot. It was bloody painful; I had to grit my teeth. But whatever Rose had to say on the phone suddenly seemed very, very important to me. Standing there, with yellow magnolia gloves on my hand and soap dripping from the half-washed plate to the floor, I listened hard.


Rose was tapping her foot as she dialled from the phone out in the corridor. Mercifully, the corridor was L-shaped – she wouldn’t be able to see me propping open the door from her spot near the stairs. It was one of those old rotary dial telephones, and it took her ages to dial the number she wanted – she kept sighing impatiently, tapping her feet, tapping the earpiece against the desk, until finally, she seemed to get a connection.


I kept listening, staring down at the foot I had wedged in the door. I found it kind of amusing – a few nights ago, she’d accused me of putting my foot in the door. Metaphorically, of course. But now I had a physical foot in a physical door too. The coincidence amused me for a bit until Rose said ‘Hello!’ in a bright, cheerful voice.


Cheerful Rose? I pressed my ear to the crack in the door.


‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I’m looking for Albus Potter.’


Pause.


‘Albus Potter? Yes, I believe he’s on the ground floor. Leg injury. Yes, that’s the one.’


Another pause.


‘Tell him it’s Rose, calling from Devon.’


There passed a long silence. I frowned, wondering what on earth Rose wanted to speak to Al about when she was on holiday and he was in hospital.


‘Hello, Albus,’ she said, finally. The cheerfulness had all but evaporated from her voice. ‘How’s your leg doing? Oh, good. Glad to hear that. The holiday? It’s lovely, really lovely. Pardon? Yes, the house is nice, please pass on my thanks to your friend.’


Another silence; Albus seemed to be talking at length. Somehow, the idea that Rose was chatting to him while I stood eavesdropping with soap all over my hands irritated me intensely. After all, he was more of a friend to me than to her.


‘Do I need a reason to phone you?’ Rose said, sounding annoyed. ‘Actually, there was something I wanted to ask. I don’t want to sound impertinent, but how possible do you think it is that we could stay another week in Devon? In your friend’s house?’


I had to clap a soapy hand over my mouth to stop myself exclaiming aloud.


‘Well, we’re really enjoying ourselves. And there’s a lot we haven’t had a chance to do yet in the town, and we were thinking of taking a day trip to Exeter…’


What lies. What stinking, fat lies. We’d pretty much exhausted everything Mordenton-on-Sea had to offer by day one.


‘Okay, so, maybe if you give me the phone number of your friend, I’ll call him after I hang up. It’s such a wonderful place. It’s a shame you can’t be here. Maybe if we stay another week, you could join us.’


Rose sounded astonishingly insincere. All I could think was that I wished Al was with us more than anything. He’d certainly have cheered me up in my miserable, mopey, heartbroken state. Shaking myself out of this thought, I turned my attentions back to Rose’s side of the phone call.


‘Pardon? No, sorry, Lucy isn’t here right now.’


Screw trying to be inconspicuous; I kicked the door open with my foot and blundered out into the hall, still clutching the plate and the scouring pad, leaving a trail of soap suds on the floor behind me.


‘I am here,’ I protested. ‘I can talk to him.’


‘Oh – er, she’s here now, Albus,’ Rose flustered. ‘I’ll put you on.’


I abandoned the magnolias, plate and scouring pad on the table and took up the receiver, pressing it to my ear.


‘Hi Al,’ I did my best to sound chirpy. ‘How’s the leg?’


‘Hey Lucy! It’s coming along nicely,’ Al said, his voice crackling with static – and at once I felt relief wash over me at hearing a friendly voice. Rose stood to my side, tapping her feet, pretending to shuffle through the post. ‘And how’s your holiday?’


I paused, trying to think of something to say.


‘It’s fab,’ I said, half-heartedly. ‘Really…fab.’


Al lowered his voice. ‘The old hag’s listening in, isn’t she?’


‘Yeah,’ I smiled, pretending I was continuing the holiday conversation for Rose’s benefit. ‘Wow, it’s been great here.’


‘Lucy, you really don’t sound like you’re enjoying it.’


‘Yeah!’ I gave an enthusiastic nod, smiling even more. ‘Yeah, the weather…the weather’s been…fab!’


‘Well, this is a bizarre conversation,’ Al sighed. ‘Okay, so, I’m obviously not going to get any straight answers out of you. Maybe we need a code?’


‘Yup,’ I nodded again, even though Al couldn’t see me. ‘Yeah, that’s right.’


‘Okay…pretend we’re talking about Quidditch? So, what’s Rose up to?’


‘Oh, yes, absolutely, the Cannons have a great chance of winning the cup,’ I garbled, hoping Al would pick up on the team name. ‘Not Pride of Portree, though, they’re really struggling.’


Al went silent, obviously thinking. I crossed my fingers, hoping he’d remember that Pride of Portree were my team, and I was using them as shorthand for me.


‘What about the Montrose Magpies?’ Al asked eventually.


‘The Magpies? Oh, I really have no idea. Confusing team. Zig-zagging all over the league, I mean, one minute they’re way up on points, way above the Cannons, next minute they just…lose it, or something, and fall way behind. Dead confusing team. Can’t make sense of them.’


Of course, I’d remembered that Scorpius was the sole Montrose Magpies supporter I knew.


‘But, I mean – what’s he doing? Is he with Rose or what?’


‘The Magpies and the Cannons are drawing,’ I said, hoping Al could make sense of what I was trying to tell him. ‘And Pride of Portree are lagging way, way behind.’


‘And…I sense you’re not getting on with Rose. At all.’


‘Funny story, that,’ I babbled. ‘You know the coach Portree hired last season – Roseanne Puckle, or whatever her name was? I suppose it’s her fault the team’s started to fall apart. I mean, she really doesn’t get on with their seeker, Quigley, or whatever her name is. She’s really picking on her, it looks like Quigley will be off the team soon enough if they don’t stop bickering. But Quigley’s their star player, you know? As soon as she leaves, the team will drop straight out of the league.’


There was no such coach as Roseanne Puckle, no such seeker as Quigley – once again, I’d constructed metaphorical Quidditch players to represent Rose and myself. Wow, I was kind of getting the hang of this metaphor thing.


‘Oh, crud,’ Al said. ‘But…but surely she doesn’t know?


‘Puckle? Oh, Puckle found out about that scandal. You know, when that Magpies player – wossisname, Cadwallader - got caught trying to bribe Quigley to lose a match or something. Puckle was miffed, they wrote about it in the Prophet. Word is that she cornered Quigley in the changing rooms after last match, accused her of conspiring with Cadwallader. Big bloody mess the league’s in, glad I didn’t put a bet on any of the teams this year.’


Al actually sounded quite amused, evidently enjoying the Quidditch allegory. ‘And Cadwallader? How’s his playing?’


‘Cadwallader? Ooh,’ I sighed heavily. ‘I mean, the Magpies are all over the place, but him especially. Can’t get his act together. He’s such an anomaly.’


‘I wish I was there so I could hit some sense into him. What do you mean?’


‘Well…’ I twisted the cord of the telephone around one soapy finger. ‘The transfer window’s open, right? It seems that Cadwallader can’t decide whether he wants to transfer to the Cannons or Portree.’


‘And…?’


‘I think Cadwallader should transfer to Portree,’ I said firmly. ‘He’s just what the team needs.’


‘I think he should go to Portree too.’


‘Mhmm. Yes,’ I nodded fervently, aware that Rose was still listening to my end of the conversation. ‘Absolutely.’


‘Is she still hanging around?’


‘Yes.’


‘Oh boy,’ Al sighed. ‘Well, there isn’t much else I can say. I’m sorry that Devon’s been the pits for you.’


‘Not at all, not at all,’ I said. ‘The League’s actually been alright. There was a great match between Portree and the Magpies yesterday, Portree beat the Magpies about five times at pinball.’


Rose turned her head in my direction inquisitively. ‘Quidditch stuff,’ I mouthed.


‘Really?’ Al laughed. ‘Hope it gets better for you. Good luck and all that.’


‘Yeah. Good luck with your leg. I’ll keep you updated on the transfer window situation. I know we’re all waiting for Cadwallader to hurry up and make his bloody decision.’


‘I’ll keep an eye on it,’ Al said. ‘Good to speak to you, Lucy. Bye then.’


‘Bye, Al. Get well soon,’ I hung up. Rose was still looking at me with narrowed eyes.


‘I’m going to finish the washing up,’ I said, lifting the plate and the scouring pad. ‘Then I was going to go for a walk, maybe take some photos.’


‘Alright,’ she said. ‘I was going to make another few calls, then I thought I’d get some holiday reading done. For my course, you know?’


‘Cool,’ I retreated to the kitchen, banging the door shut behind me.


My mind was still full of Quidditch allegories, but I could feel Rose’s stare following me all the way into the kitchen. For a moment I panicked, wondering if Rose was actually a mega Quidditch fan and knew I’d made the whole thing up (hell-o, since when have the Cannons ever had a chance in the league?). But, obviously, Rose was never a fan of Quidditch. I was pretty sure that the only reason she’d gone to matches at school was because of her duty as a prefect. I, however, wouldn’t have missed a match for the world, and I would have been on the team more often if it wasn’t for my frequent dates with Detention.


It didn’t take long to finish the washing up. Then it was just a matter of locating my trainers, purse and camera, and finally descending the stairs, squinting at the rain-soaked sky beyond the window. Rose was nowhere to be seen – evidently, it had been a short few phone calls – but I found Scorpius in the kitchen, drumming his fingers on the table, scrutinising the sky outside.


‘Hey, going out?’ he said, noticing the camera over my shoulder.


‘Thought it’d be nice to go out for a walk,’ I said. ‘Take a few pictures, something to remember Mordenton-on-Sea by.’


‘Cool. Can…er…’


‘What?’


‘Um…can I come?’


‘Yeah, sure,’ I said. ‘But no running down sand dunes again.’


So we left the house and ambled down to the beach.


It’s funny how quickly things changed after that phone call to Al.


It’s more funny, actually, to think of how much I was probably overreacting at the time. It’s funny to think that, if I hadn’t been such a thick, mopey fool, I might have noticed quite a few more things. If I’d been beady-eyed enough, if I’d gone through Rose and Scorpius with a fine-toothed comb…er, not literally. That’s the stuff of horror. I mean more…studied them carefully. Yeah, that’s it. If I’d calmed my stupid hysterics and mopey rage for long enough, I might have noticed things.


Things like – I can’t list every example. Lots of them are small, petty things. My small, small victories. I was stacking them up like a greedy goblin. Hey, if I’d had a knut for everyone one of those small, small victories, I’d have been rich. Well, slightly richer anyway. Probably about ten Galleons or so up? Well, I was unemployed, an extra ten Galleons was an exciting prospect.


Certain small, small victories stick out. Small, small things – like Rose reaching out to take Scorpius’ hand and him turning away. Okay, it was a bit more dramatic than that. It was more like Rose lunging and Scorpius falling into a hedgerow because he was too busy trying to ignore her nonchalantly to look where he was going. Pure comedy, yes, but also a small, small victory moment. It was always hard to resist punching the air whenever stuff like this happened.


But, yes, if I had a knut for every one of those small, small victories, I’m be marginally richer. I could probably have bought a few pints, a new pointy hat and a few rolls of film with that.


Rose didn’t manage to secure us an extra week in Devon in the end. I don’t know why she was after another week. I have no idea what she was planning. Honestly, I would have thought that another week cooped up in a house with me would have driven her insane – we really weren’t getting on. Perhaps, in a fit of malice, she wanted an extra week just to spite me. That seemed kind of OTT, though. No matter how much I disliked her then, I must admit that she was pretty subtle. Maybe she just really liked Mordenton-on-Sea. I don’t know. I don’t know whether I ever will know.


One thing I do know is that it was Scorpius who talked her out of staying in Devon another week.


He brought it up after our walk, when we were kicking off our shoes in the kitchen. Rose, again, was nowhere to be seen – I imagine she’d have been scandalised if she’d seen my mud-encrusted trainers zooming across the floor.


‘Flick the kettle on,’ I told Scorpius. ‘And the radio, while you’re at it.’


He complied. Strangely, he seemed to be less clumsy – I could recall a vast number of times he’d tried to make tea back in the common room and ended up pouring the kettle onto his shoes/adding salt instead of sugar/getting teaspoons stuck in his hair. This time he made tea, he simply switched the kettle on, chucked a couple of teabags into two mugs, added the boiling water, stirred, removed teabags, added sugar, and then brought them over to the table. Not once did he trip, spill anything, or blow up the universe. Which is quite the mean feat for him.


‘Hey, did Rose tell you about her, um…plan?’ he said, running a hand through his hair.


‘Plan?’


‘To stay another week,’ he grimaced. ‘Here.’


I sipped at my tea, thinking how best to answer. ‘She didn’t tell me as such,’ I said. ‘I kind of eavesdropped on her phone conversation.’


‘Yeah, well, she didn’t tell me as such either, I was eavesdropping too.’


I nearly choked.


‘Meant to ask you about that…yeah, I have no idea who that Cadwallader bloke is, but let’s hope he gets his act together.’


‘Um,’ I set my mug down. ‘Funny, that.’


‘Either your knowledge of the Quidditch League is woeful, or there’s something afoot.’


‘About that – well, I wanted to talk to Al myself, but Rose was kind of hawking around and it was a bit…hawkward.’


‘Er – why didn’t you want Rose to hear?’


‘You know we don’t get on-’


‘Yes, but…it’s not like you’ve been too choosy with your words around her in the past.’


‘It would have just been too awkward,’ I said, my voice rising dangerously in pitch. I didn’t quite want to let slip that I’d been talking about him as well, especially now that I knew he’d been listening in too. ‘How much did you understand?’


‘Oh, quite a bit,’ he said, vaguely.


I had to snatch up my mug and hide behind it. A blush had spread across my face, my heart hammering like…like an enthusiastic person with a hammer, hammering enthusiastically.


I was too flustered even to come up with an appropriate simile.


But I decided to be enigmatic and, I daresay, a little flirty, so I pressed on.


‘So,’ it was an effort to keep my voice calm and steady. ‘What sort of chance do you think Portree actually have? I mean,’ I added, hastily, in an effort to claw back the conversation just in case he didn’t get it. ‘I didn’t read the sports section of the Prophet this morning, I have no idea…’


I trailed off into silence. He seemed to be thinking; he wouldn’t meet my eye.


‘Portree?’ he mused. ‘They’re…oh, they’re an alright team.’


‘I mean, I know you’re a Magpies supporter,’ I babbled. ‘They’re pretty cool too. But then I know the Cannons have a pretty hardcore fanbase, half my family is obsessed with them…’


‘The Cannons are terrible,’ he wrinkled his nose. ‘When was the last time they won anything?’


‘Exactly,’ I thumped my fist on the table for emphasis – perhaps he didn’t realise the significance of the team names. Perhaps, from his side, it was just a casual, run-of-the-mill conversation about Quidditch.


‘So why did you pick the Cannons for Rose?’


Or maybe not.


‘Maybe I’m wrong, it took me a while to pick up on,’ he said. ‘At first I was dead confused, but then I remembered what you’d told me ages ago, about everyone in your family supporting the Cannons, except you were a Portree fan. Then you kind of mentioned pinball to Al and it clicked.’


Oh.


‘I didn’t mean to eavesdrop,’ he looked uncomfortable. ‘I was just out on the landing and…kind of just listened. But, anyway, back to my original point,’ he looked flustered, as if he wanted to forget everything he’d just said. ‘So I persuaded Rose not to stay another week, because I thought it’d be crummy if you two had to stay shut up here together and…’ he faltered.


‘You heard,’ I murmured, sounding about ten times more morose than I’d intended.


The realisation that he’d heard my conversation with Al gave me this horrible feeling – like someone had cracked an egg on my head, and cold yolk was dripping down my neck, through the collar of my shirt, along my spine. It was that weird egg yolk of realisation. And somehow, there wasn’t anything remotely funny about it.


Because I think he’d pretty much understood the whole Quidditch allegory and knew what a desperate, lovesick fool I was. Which, you know, was a bit of a fly in the ointment. More like an Acromantula in the ointment.


‘Um…yes,’ he said. ‘And…I’m sorry for being difficult. Sorry. Er – oh, just, sorry I mess things up.’


A horrendously awkward silence fell.


And Cadwallader of the Montrose Magpies is leading Quigley of Pride of Portree into a nosedive! Have they seen the snitch? My inner Quidditch commentator (married to my mental secretary, naturally) screamed. They think it’s all over – it is now! Quigley smashes into the ground and Cadwallader pulls away – ladies and gentlemen, that’s the best emotional Wronski Feint I’ve seen in all my years!


Because, really, the conversation had been the emotional equivalent of a particularly brutal Wronski Feint. One minute, it was all nice and cheerful and normal, the next minute – zoom, blam. I felt a lump building in my throat.


I muttered something along the lines of ‘we can’t go into this again’, but he interrupted me.


‘Sorry – I just, couldn’t help but listen in, and then I thought of that sort-of argument we had the other night and then I sort of thought it was all sorted, especially after the pinball and all, but now I think it isn’t sorted and oh god I shouldn’t have brought this up again-’


‘No, no worries,’ I babbled. ‘Hey, it’s totally fine, all hunky dory and stuff.’


‘But it’s not fine,’ he was doing that kicked-puppy-in-the-rain thing again. ‘It’s…it’s all…I don’t even get what’s going on anymore, but I know it’s my fault.’


It was the most horrifically awkward moment we’d shared since that first conversation in the dark room. The two mugs of tea sat to the side, slowly turning cold. Tinny indie-rock dribbled from the radio, ignored by both of us. I couldn’t meet his eye.


‘Yeah, um,’ I whispered. ‘You were Cadwallader and I was Quigley. And if I had my way you’d transfer to Portree.’


(Just about as romantic as ooh, you’re the anomaly in my mental filing system).


‘I got that-’


‘And I’m sorry,’ I raised my voice. ‘That I didn’t tell you how I felt, but I didn’t want to mess things up any more either.’


‘But-’


‘Should I just tell you now?’ I cut across. Hey, the situation was already pretty awkward, couldn’t have hurt to dig myself any deeper. ‘Should I just, you know, spill the beans? Yeah, sure, I feel like a lemon. I feel like this rubbish little unwanted third wheel half the time, and sometimes you’re nice and sometimes you just suck up to Rose and I don’t get it either!


‘I didn’t-’


‘If you see it from m-my point of view,’ I blurted out, tripping over my own words. ‘It’s like…I feel like a side salad!’


Scorpius stopped dithering for a moment to stare at me.


‘Huh?’


I felt my face going bright red. In moments of crisis, it is always best to turn the colour of a tomato. Really helps to emphasise the extended food metaphor you’re inevitably about to come up with.


‘I feel like a side salad!’ I repeated. ‘It’s…it’s like you’ve got Rose as your main dish, and then I’m just this sad little side-salad you didn’t even mean to order that you keep dipping into now and again just because you feel obliged to, because it was your fault for ordering it, really, but Rose is this big chunky steak on your plate and she’s the real excitement on the dinner table, gravy and mashed potatoes and all, and…and…I want to be the steak!’


Even now, I still can’t believe I actually came out with that.


There was a pause that seemed to last five centuries and then some. Then, Scorpius spoke in a voice so small and dejected I barely caught it-


‘Lucy, I’m a vegetarian…’


My mind raced. What would I say to Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven when I got home? Oh, you know, Scorpius decided to sever all ties with me and, you know, get a casual restraining order, because, well, I told him I wanted to be his chunk of cow. On that note, I think I might move to a cave in Siberia and become a hermit because, well, it’s just best for all of us.


I wanted nothing more than for the kitchen floor to split in two and gobble me up. Emotional Wronski Feint? More like emotional fourteen-way broom pileup at speed.


‘Oh…I…probably shouldn’t have…said…’


Scorpius seemed incapable of doing anything other than blinking at me.


‘I’m sorry!’ I blundered. ‘Sorry, sorry, sorry!’


‘Actually…’ he looked bemused now, rather than plain gobsmacked. ‘I appreciate the metaphor.’


The moment that followed is a difficult one to describe, although pretty much everyone on the planet knows it well. It’s that horrible few seconds of held breath, that awkward moving closer and closer at a snail’s pace, eyes darting everywhere because they don’t know where to look and hearts doing the pole vault - it’s that moment.


The moment where, in a muggle film, the audience sits there in trepidation – will they? won’t they? The moment in a book when the tension makes you curl your toes and you find yourself unwillingly skipping to the end of the passage to find out if they will or if they won’t - but if it’s real, there’s none of that, of course. You can’t exactly skip ahead or bury yourself down in your chair and wait, wait, wait. You’re just there, hovering, feeling like you’re about to implode, wondering if you should look away and end it or seize the moment and lunge, wondering will you? won’t you? will you? won’t you?


And as it happened, I never found out.


I don’t know which one of us noticed Rose standing in the doorway first. She certainly didn’t draw attention to herself. I don’t know how long she’d been there for. But as soon as we saw her there, she turned on her heel and stormed off down the corridor, out through the door, slamming it behind her, then out across the driveway – then there was silence and I knew she was gone. Then the rain started, quiet at first, then thundering, really pouring it down – the English summer was underway at last.


And, ironically, Cemetery Gates came on the radio.


If my life has been good for anything, it’s unintentional comic timing. Tons of it.


There was nothing I could say. I could only stare at Scorpius, numb with shock, thinking I’d probably just missed out on what could have been the sweetest kiss of my life.


Then I thought I should maybe go after Rose and try and patch up whatever friendship we’d had before it was too late – we were cousins, after all. But the seconds slid away from me, and the longer I sat there in stunned silence, the more I knew it was hopeless.


Then I thought of what I should have been doing. This was my victory moment. I probably should have taken a victory sip of my tea, or perhaps done a few celebratory laps of the kitchen. Maybe I should have just said something witty, something cute at the very least – some killing remark that would have ended the whole mess. Maybe I should have stood, hands on hips, and said something big, glittery, metaphorical and existentialist.


But I actually felt a little frightened. My mouth opened and words fell out of their own accord, and those words were:


‘Oh, bugger.’



a/n: dun dun duuun! etc etc. The line 'they think it's all over - it is now!' is from Kenneth Wolstenholme's commentary during the 1966 world cup final. It seemed appropriate. Sorry for all the cliffhangers...but....


Chapter 22: Metaphor Wrapping Paper
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Chapter Twenty-Two - Metaphor Wrapping Paper






It took a few minutes of that numb silence before we both scrambled out of our chairs, panic taking over.


‘We have to go after her!’ Scorpius cried.


‘Why?’


‘I don’t want this to end badly!’ he sounded desperate. ‘Not like last time!’


‘It’s too late! She knows everything! She’ll kill us!’


‘She – she knows everything? About what?’


‘She cornered me the other night,’ I said, tears prickling at my eyes. ‘You didn’t know?’


He shook his head, speechless.


‘She – she’d just figured out something had gone on,’ I explained. ‘And she was all,’ I made inverted commas with my fingers. ‘Don’t take him from me – I’m sorry, I should have said something, but, b-but it would have been awkward, so awkward!’


Scorpius looked terrified.


‘She knew?


‘She wasn’t a Ravenclaw for nothing-’


‘Oh, bugger! Just – bugger everything!’ he lunged for his shoes, nearly smacked his head off the table on the way down, and then fell into a chair, flicking his fringe neatly off his face as if he’d intended to sit there all along. At once, he set about pulling on his trainers, not even bothering to tie up the laces before he was on his feet again.


‘I’m sorry,’ he still looked terrified. ‘I’m so sorry, but I have to go after her.’


I didn’t quite know what to say.


‘I j-just don’t want everything to get screwed up again-’


‘I know, I get it.’


‘I’m sorry,’ he seemed to be stalling, perhaps too afraid of Rose to move. ‘But I just think-’


‘Just go already!’


With a final, pained look, he turned and scarpered, the front door slamming shut a few seconds later.


Oh, I got it. I got it alright. He’d gone after Rose. No question about it. He’d transferred to the Cannons, so to speak. Rose had come along and wrecked everything and, once again, he’d gone running after her instead. It all made me a touch bitter. Just a tad.


Who am I kidding? I felt more bitter than a skip full of lemons.


That’s a lot of lemons, you know.


This time, I didn’t feel like I had the energy to go chasing after him in turn. I just felt tired. Tired, bitter, and miserable. Thinking it would probably be best to vacate the house before Rose and Scorpius got back and announced they were off to elope to Gretna Green or whatever, I pulled on my shoes, unlatched the back door, and stepped out into the rain.


Perfect pathetic fallacy or what?


I won’t go into detail about the how the lovely flowerbeds looked especially lovely with lovely little droplets of rain on their lovely petals, nor how the sky was a broody, tortuously angsty grey. The whole situation was very poetic. I felt like I’d been transplanted into a bleak novel. Scorpius probably would have adored the whole thing, if he hadn’t been too busy chasing after my cousin and essentially giving me a big metaphorical slap in the face in the process.


I was more than a bitter skip full of lemons. I was a bitter skip full of lemons parked on Rejection Avenue, waiting for the skip truck of misery to come and pick me up and dump me in the landfill of despair somewhere off the M25 near Croydon. A big, metaphorical landfill of despair. Yeah, that’s where I was headed. Maybe Lettuce could come and dig me out. Maybe I could elope to Gretna Green with him instead. That’d be an interesting road trip.


The whole thing was just so, so lovely. And by that, I mean it wasn’t lovely at all. Of course it wasn’t.


Enough of my moping. I meandered along the little back streets of Mordenton-on-Sea – or rather, I trundled along, as a skip full of lemons should – and eventually came to the promenade bit facing the beach. It was still raining. The lights of the greasy spoon café shone on the pavements like an oil slick; I perched in a bus shelter with my trainers in a dirty puddle and stared out at the sea. I wished I’d brought a book or something – mopey as I was, I was pretty bored too, and I had no inclination to return to the house any time soon.


It was just like a repeat of the night of moping I’d had earlier in the holiday. The angst was there, the beach was there, and the rubbish weather was there. All I needed was some Firewhisky and –


‘I’ve been looking for you everywhere!


I whipped my head around at the sound of a voice. In my enthusiasm, I smacked my head off of the back of the bus shelter and in true comedic fashion, ended up staring up at Scorpius with my cheek squished against the glass.


‘Hi,’ I did my best to look casual, sitting up straight again. However, it is very hard to look casual and attractive when you have to peel your face off a window. Especially when you leave a big, face-shaped mark behind, like when a daft pigeon flies into a window and leaves big wing prints on the glass.


I was that pigeon.


Scorpius seemed to have run all the way to the promenade, reprising his ‘librarian in a sauna’ look. The glasses at a jaunty angle, the fringe plastered back against his head – breath short, he flopped down into the seat next to me and squinted up at the glum sky.


I had no idea what to say.


‘I looked for you everywhere,’ he repeated, almost making it sound like a question. ‘I thought – I thought you’d run off for good, or…or something like that.’


‘Why would I run off for good?’


It was hard to stay angry/mopey/frosty when I was simply so pleased that he’d come to find me.


‘I dunno,’ he threw up his hands, although I suspected he wasn’t being entirely truthful. He probably suspected that I’d got the hump about him still being with Rose, even after my great big spiel about vegetables and steaks and…erm, Quidditch.


It was time to ask the killer question.


‘Er…Rose?’


That wasn’t a coherent question, I know, but I think we both understood it.


‘Rose,’ he repeated, looking somehow relieved. ‘Oh – she…’


I felt almost sick with nerves. ‘She…?’


‘Almost broke my camera,’ he said.


I understood how serious it was.


‘Uh…ouch.’


‘And she…well, I think she wanted to hit me.’


I leaned forward and cast a cursory glance over him. No broken bones, not so far.


‘But she didn’t?’


‘No.’


‘But she nearly broke your camera.’


‘Yes.’


‘Is she angry at me?’


‘I don’t know.’


Somehow, I suspected that she was.


‘She…I think she wanted to go home. Just a hunch.’ he spoke in a rush. ‘She was basically packed already. Well…she went back for her suitcase. And then came out of the house with it. Then she put it in her car. Then she got in the car. Then, er, she drove away.’


‘I think that’s more than a hunch.’


‘I think so too.’


The rain suddenly got heavier. Great droplets of rainwater splatted against the side of the bus shelter – which wasn’t really much of the shelter at all. The lack of sides meant that the wind carried the rain straight through. Even my socks were wet. I started to shiver.


‘I s-suppose you’ll be f-following her,’ I said, through chattering teeth.


‘You’re freezing,’ was his response.


‘And I g-guess I’ll have t-to go t-too-’


I’m not going back.’


‘…you’re not?’


Definitely not.’


‘Er…’ I forgot how cold I was for a second in my confusion. ‘You’re not…going after her?’


He looked pretty uncomfortable. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Never again.’


‘Never?’


‘It was a bad idea,’ he said, finally.


It may have been chucking it down with rain, but that little sentence was a tiny ray of light. Like when a door isn’t quite shut, and a thin, little chink of light gets thrown across the floor.


‘She’s…’ he struggled to explain. ‘Changed. A bit. A lot, actually. And yeah, sorry for being vague, she has gone home. For definite. It’s kind of done, now. All this mess.’


‘I don’t-’


‘Let’s put it this way; this week has been the pits,’ he said abruptly. ‘I think…I was thinking, anyway, we should have gone to some cheap, tacky little island somewhere we could just be totally sozzled. Not…not a place like this. Not…’


I was going to add that I’d been thinking of the whole sunny, sozzled island plan, but I was on tenterhooks for what he was about to say.


‘There was a door,’ he finally said, after a lot of deep thought. ‘And Rose put her foot in it.’


‘Funny that,’ my voice was weak. ‘She accused me of putting my foot in the door.’


‘And she accused me of holding the door open for you.’


‘Did she?’


‘Oh yes.’


‘Were you?’


‘Probably,’ he said, vaguely. ‘Actually, yeah. I think I threw the door wide open. Kicked it open with steel-capped boots. Maybe I just took the door off its hinges, chopped it up and used it for firewood. Maybe the door never existed.’


We were back to existentialism again. ‘Enough about doors,’ I said. ‘She’s gone back to London?’


‘Affirmative.’


‘Are you going back to London? Well, are you going after her?’


‘No. Okay, well, I’ll have to go back to London, but, no. It’s kind of over.’


We both stared out at the sea, him fidgeting with his glasses and sodden fringe. The rain eased up a little, although whenever I shifted my feet I could hear my socks squelching around. If there’s anything you can rely on the British summertime for, it’s rain. Good old rain.


‘I didn’t think there was a door at first,’ Scorpius said, bringing up the whole bloody extended door metaphor again. ‘Rose created a door.’


‘And I put my foot in it and you chopped it up and burnt it, whatever.’


‘No, no, what I mean is…I think Rose had the wrong end of the stick. Or the door. Not that you can have a wrong end of a door or anything…’ he broke off into a stream of dithering. A little fed up, I elbowed him.


‘Rose always has the wrong end of the stick, door, whatever. It’s not a first.’


‘Just – oh, I can’t say it - I mean – I want to apologise again.’


Apologies? A minute ago, we were discussing whether the door had ever truly existed. Personally, I think I preferred casual existentialism. I wasn’t really ready for another emotional wronski feint. I was still recovering from my metaphorical broken nose and concussion from the previous – oh, enough with the metaphors.


‘Rose…when I met up with her at the party, she seemed to think that instantly it was all okay again.’


‘So she took you side-along, fiver a pint, you crashed at her flat, hunky-dory, I know, I got it. Don’t rub it in.’


No. I mean – she seemed to think we were just, well, going out again.’


‘And you were.’


‘No, we really weren’t.’


‘Why didn’t you tell her?’


He gave me a pointed look over the top of his glasses. ‘Would you have?’


‘Er…no. Wait – so you weren’t-’


‘No.’


‘But you snogged her-’


‘No I didn’t!’


‘Okay, she…okay, she didn’t. But you shared a room!’


He gave me another pointed look.


‘Don’t look at me like that,’ I frowned. ‘I’m not twelve, I know what room-sharing entails-’


Now he simply looked offended.


‘Lucy, you…argh, you’re infuriating sometimes. We didn’t.’


‘So did you not-’


No!


‘But I thought-’


‘It doesn’t even matter!’


‘You’re the one who was dithering on about bloody doors a minute ago!’


‘Yeah, but that was a fair statement. The door didn’t exist, so really, when Rose accuses me of holding the door open for you to put your foot into it, she’s talking about an imaginary door and therefore the whole thing is a mental construct designed to work her up into a downward spiral of paranoia and shame and…’


‘You lost me at ‘door’.’


‘The door doesn’t exist,’ he said, flatly.


‘Got it. Never was a door and never has been,’ I said. ‘The door does not exist.’


He gave me a disparaging look.


‘Don’t look at me like that,’ I said. ‘Do you want me to repeat it? There never was a door and-’


‘Look, I wasn’t going out with Rose,’ he suddenly cut in. ‘I just…wanted to patch things up neatly before I did anything else with my life. And I kind of made a hash of it. Which shouldn’t really surprise me. But, yeah, er…I tried to sort things out with her and put the whole thing to rest and it failed.’


Well, that shut me up.


‘We…we had a fight after she got off the phone.’


‘Oh, right,’ I shifted around my seat, still shivering. ‘That’s why you wanted to get out of the house.’


‘Ye-es,’ he said, slowly.


Neither of us spoke for a minute.


‘Yeah, so,’ he ran a hand through his hair. ‘She’s…really mardy.’


‘That’s…that’s great.’


Another moment passed in silence before he abruptly threw up his hands and said-


‘I don’t – I don’t think you get it…’


Somehow I suspected this wasn’t about the extended door metaphor.


‘I mean, you’re kind of being a bit oblivious right now…’


But, really, I don’t think it was ever about the extended door metaphor in the first place.


It was just me being a totally oblivious fool. Oh, and Scorpius being far too awkward and fidgety to ever really say anything meaningful without wrapping it up in metaphor wrapping paper and tying it with a pretty analogy bow.


As per bloody usual.


This was the boy who voluntarily woke up obscenely early (okay, seven being obscenely early for art students, anyway) just to take me out and play pinball. And the boy who wandered out of a nice, warm house at ten at night to find miserable, mopey old me and bring me back again.


And I suddenly wondered if he’d ever have done that for Rose.


Ever. No, really. Ever.


He continued to dither on about real doors and imaginary doors and the wrong end of sticks and Quidditch analogies and food metaphors and I cried -


‘Screw the imaginary door!’


- which was possibly the most unintentionally romantic thing I’ve come up with to date. Even more so than ‘I am your side salad, but I want to be your steak’ or ‘you are the anomaly in my mental filing system’, because I had a bit of a revelation at that point, which was that he probably never really liked Rose all that much anyway, not for over a year.


Hence why the door didn’t exist. The door was a metaphysical representation of the relationship that existed between Rose and Scorpius, and if it never really existed then there was never really any door for me to put my foot in anyway, and therefore Scorpius’ reasoning about Rose just being a paranoid so-and-so was remarkably-


Why am I even rambling on like this? The short and short of it was that, after my battle cry of ‘screw the imaginary door!’, I lunged.


And this time, it actually worked. There wasn’t any dithery, will-they-won’t-they tortuous anxiety. I kissed him.


And it went surprisingly well.


The rain was still coming down, I was still freezing, my socks were still squelching around inside my shoes and I was twisted at a pretty uncomfortable angle – but it was fab. And then somehow, after some vague, uncertain length of time, I thought he’d probably need to breathe and pulled myself away.


‘I…I lied,’ he said, although his voice was a comical octave or so higher than usual. ‘You…er…don’t kiss like a Horklump on acid.’


‘How cliché, in the rain and all,’ I babbled, my internal stern voice going shut up, shut up, you blibbering fool. ‘Oh, yeah, you’re not a whelk. Hurrah and all that.’


‘Thanks,’ he said. ‘I love you too.’


If there was ever a phrase that gave me wibbly knees, it was that one.


***




I suppose you want to know what happened next. Well, a big nuclear bomb fell on Mordenton-on-Sea right at that moment, and everyone died, except for all the cockroaches and Rose.


Kidding.


There you have it, though. The story of how, in a very long-winded and convoluted fashion, I rebelled against my parents, found the love of my life and sent a massive up yours to my cousin in one fell swoop.


Not to sound big-headed or anything, but I think that’s pretty cool. Even if it basically took me a year, and even if I was intermittently drunk/injured/moping around in the pits of gloom along the way.


It’s been three months since that rainy, metaphor-riddled day in Devon and things are going pretty swimmingly. I’m back at art school now, a week into my second year – I only just scraped through the first and no more. Scorpius, of course, passed with flying colours. Everything’s very different, though. Tarquin and Gwendolyn/Raven have gone on to do big things on the open mic circuit (i.e they’re working as professional hecklers, with a smidge of hedge-hopping for recreational purposes now and again). We still live with Tarquin, although, if you don’t mind me being blunt, I don’t exactly sleep on the sofa anymore.


I’ll pause for a moment while you all vomit at that last statement.


And, now…? I’m sitting on the sofa in the common room, one I’ve quite possessively begun to call ‘our sofa’. My feet are up on the table; I’ve got mud all over Obscure Henry’s stash of indie kid magazines. The Obscure one in question doesn’t look too chuffed, but he’s too engrossed in pretending to draw to tell me off. Barry’s gone, Frances has gone – the common room’s a bit lonely now, although I hear we’ve got quite a few joining us this year. I guess Scorpius and Ellen, being the eldest, are in charge now, although I personally wouldn’t trust Scorpius in any position of power. Even if we are kind of, er, ‘a thing’.


I suppose you also want to know what’s happening next. After now, I mean. After this fleeting little moment in the common room, where I’m sitting with my feet up on the table getting mud everywhere. Well, I have to get a job, that’s a given. I’m practically destitute. I don’t mind, though. I have a flat and a nice boy and good friends, and, so far, Rose hasn’t come round to Avada Kedavra me in the middle of the night.


Actually, I’m on fairly alright terms with Rose. Well, we haven’t spoken. But I’m guessing the fact that she hasn’t tried to kill me yet…it’s a good sign, right? And we’ll work on it. I know that there are infinite reasons for why I should hate her and never let her near me or Scorpius again but, well, proverbs are proverbs and blood is always thicker than water. So someday I’ll have to patch it up with Miss Mardy Bum, if she ever feels like patching it up with me.


Back to my original point: I need to get a job. Scorpius (currently brewing a cuppa at the kettle, no major incidents so far) has some ideas about that in his mad little mind. He’s being really pushy about this thing the Prophet are doing – they’re looking for writers, you see. It’s kind of basic – just condensing stories into column inches, just picking the truth from the lies in the scandals and then, er, publishing the lies. He seems to think I - quote unquote - ‘have a way with words’. But, of course, I was never going to apply myself. So he put my name down without me realising. And now I’ve ended up on this bizarre journalism evening class as preparation. Complete madness. No, I actually really like it. Art school was never going to lead to anything anyway. Well, except for him. So, thinking about it, going to art school was the best decision I ever made. Even if it was pretty last-minute.


I’ll pause again while you all vomit at the utter cheesiness of that.


‘Tea,’ Scorpius returns from the kettle, three mugs in his hand (recipe for disaster or what?). He sits one down before Obscure Henry, the other two down in front of our sofa – then sinks into the seat beside me, propping up his feet on the square (hitherto mud-free) inches remaining of Obscure Henry’s magazine stack. I duck my head obligingly so he can put an arm around my shoulders, ignoring the tea. (Well, who needs tea when you have Scorpius? Actually, no, I could never give up tea. But I really do love him. I swear.)


‘Are you on your course tonight?’ he asks.


‘Yup,’ I say. ‘I’ll be late…’


‘I’ll cook later, then.’


‘Instant noodles?’


‘You bet.’


And so – for no reason, because I don’t need a reason – I reach up to kiss him, and Obscure Henry chooses that moment to tut aloud and drawl:


‘Oh god, save it for the dark room.’


Well. This is awkward.


‘So,’ Scorpius does his best to look casual. ‘New students arriving in…’ he consults his watch. ‘Ten minutes or so.’


‘Yeah.’


He looks a little nervous.


‘You’ll be fine,’ I try to console him.


Just then, the door to the common room bursts open and Dean Dean Holstone hurries in, a sandwich in each hand, eight young hopefuls in tow.


‘Or maybe…now.’


Scorpius looks fairly terrified. I do my best to crack a smile at the new lot, but I don’t make an effort to move. I’m far too comfy here on the sofa with him and a cuppa.


And so a new chapter seems to begin in my life – okay, I know, that’s a cliché and a half. But I’ve always felt that, with autumn, the year begins over again. You know, all that back to school stuff, new parchment, new textbooks, leaves to kick, scarves coming back into fashion. Autumn’s nice. I like autumn, always have. And somehow, I feel like this autumn will be good. I’ve just got…a dead good feeling about autumn.


Yeah. I think that just about sums it all up.


the end.




a/n: it’s over! One year, six months, twenty-two chapters, forty-four different chapter images (yes, really) and 100,000 words and it’s over. Wow, that was a little cathartic. If you’re reading this author’s note, thank you for sticking with this fic to the bitter, bitter end! It’s been amazing fun. This isn’t the end - there’s a sequel and a prequel & a few one-shots up, because I could never go without writing this lot for too long. The sequel's called Weather for Ducks and, well...in a nutshell, it is 'what Lucy and Scorpius did next', encompassing such exciting themes as Scotland, kittens, graphic designers, and the impending zombie apocalypse.
Now some thanks. I’m indebted to a lot of people - Gina, Gubby and Helena for reading a few of these chapters over thanks to the power of skype, noot nooting and pitchforking and all. The raver puffins, for raving...you know who you all are. The validators, for getting 22 chapters of my sense of humour through the queue (including loads of edits). Anyone who’s dropped a review - you’ve all put a smile on my face. Also, everyone who’s nominated me for a Dobby, and everyone who voted and eventually helped me win that coveted little award - definitely the highlight of my career as a moonlighting fanfic writer. To all the mad people I know in RL for inspiring this, especially the ones who taught me dark room photography and got me through a lot of art coursework, and especially, especially Hannah, for being an all-round good egg and maybe, maybe inspiring Gwendoraven (you know I love you really). Anyway...I think that’s it for all...so thank you, and goodbye for now! ♥
edited (hopefully for the last time) 20/06/2012

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