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Starving Artists by peppersweet
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-’


‘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-’


‘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?’


‘The Horse’s Arms?’


‘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.’


‘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.


‘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?’


‘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 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.’


‘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 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 should probably finish reading this first...
edited 19/08/2011
edited 18/06/2012

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