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Chapter 3 : Hedonism is our Middle Name
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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?'
'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).
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