Chapter 9 : Thus Spoke Scorpius
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‘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!’
‘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 isn’t just a type of literature, it’s a way of life.’
‘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.’
‘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?’
‘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?’
We fell into silence. Scorpius squinted at the ceiling.
‘Did you have a nice Christmas?’ I asked.
‘It was alright,’ he said. ‘Just…alright.’
‘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.’
‘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?’
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.’
‘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.
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