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Starving Artists by peppersweet
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~


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