Chapter 1 : How to Find Employment
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There was one thing Scorpius Malfoy had always thought he’d like to change about Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – and he knew he wouldn’t change much, because Hogwarts had almost been his home for seven years - and that one thing he would change was the subjects that it offered. Hogwarts, being a magical school and largely catering to magical students, had a curriculum as streamlined as one would expect from any institution of magic. The timetables handed out at Hogwarts were not dissimilar to those at Durmstrang or Beauxbatons. Said timetables had been much the same for centuries, barring the addition of Muggle Studies in the Victorian era. If things weren’t broken, you didn’t tend to fix them; the average Hogwarts student had been taking the same rigid sets of prescribed magical arts for centuries.
These magical arts, of course, were for the benefit of magical students, those children with their names inked upon the Hogwarts ledger. Whether you had any hope with a wand or not seemed to be irrelevant; if you had magic, you had it. Your name went in the book, and your letter arrived around eleven years later. Hogwarts taught both theoretical and practical subjects, from the complex spellwork of Transfiguration to the reading of tea leaves in Divination - a set of subjects that claimed to cater to all inclinations and abilities. Something for everyone.
Or not everyone, as Scorpius had discovered at the age of fifteen. Contrary to popular belief (especially that of his father), Hogwarts did not, in fact, cater for all abilities, and he was one of the rare few left out on a limb by the tried-and-tested system.
The simple fact was that Scorpius wasn’t particularly good at magic. This was unusual for a Malfoy, even more so for a Ravenclaw, and his pathetic attempts at turning mice into teacups and conjuring flowers from mid-air were normally met with incredulity. By the time he’d reached his sixth year, he’d stopped bothering to tell people that he didn’t get on with his family very well and, actually, his Sorting had been a bit confusing because the hat couldn’t decide whether he was a Ravenclaw or a Hufflepuff, and, at the end of the day, he'd resigned himself to the fact that, really, he just wasn’t cut out to be a great wizard.
His O.W.L results had been mixed, his N.E.W.Ts even more so. He’d somewhat excelled in History of Magic and Astronomy, with Herbology and Runes coming in close second, and he supposed that, had his father not been so opposed to Muggle Studies, he might have done well in that too. Potions and Defence against the Dark Arts had been near passes, but he’d been lumped with a rather unsightly D in both Transfiguration and Charms. A D for Dreadful, and the painful memory of blowing up an entire tea service in his Transfiguration practical exam. Even five years later he could still perfectly recall the sound of porcelain shrapnel tinkling to the floor in an otherwise silent room.
Ravenclaws were known for their skill with a wand, especially Ravenclaw Prefects and especially Ravenclaw Prefects who were Malfoys. Scorpius was a Ravenclaw, a Prefect and a Malfoy, but not in the conventional sense of the house, the badge, and the family name. He wondered, from time to time, if he’d have been better off as a squib or even a muggle, or, at the very least, if the hat hadn’t taken five minutes to ponder the intricate depths of his personality and had just put him in Hufflepuff instead. Hufflepuff was known for producing skilled Herbologists. He might have felt more at home there. But he wasn’t even sure he was one of those either.
The thing was – and this was really the cause of all of Scorpius’ problems – that he just wasn’t much good at the subjects Hogwarts had to offer. He was good at the things that never even got a look-in on the curriculum, the things he merely read about in his prescribed Muggle Studies textbooks. Woodwork. Art. Technical drawing. Textiles. Design. Scorpius could not conjure fresh roses from thin air, nor could he turn an earthworm into string, but he could build a bookshelf from scratch and paint proficiently with oils by the time he was seventeen. He had no idea where this creative talent had come from, because his father was a dour Unspeakable and his mother had been a drab typist from the Magical Law Enforcement office. Once or twice in his childhood he had, in fact, entertained a brief fantasy that he wasn’t their son at all, but some foundling child that’d been discovered on a doorstep. But the truth was this: he was Scorpius Malfoy, the Sorting Hat had seen it fit to put him into Ravenclaw, and he’d been made a Prefect without ever displaying a knack for wielding the wand that had supposedly chosen him.
After school, most Hogwarts students went straight into the Ministry or some form of apprenticeship. At the end of his seventh year, however, Scorpius had found himself at something of a loose end; a handful of good marks in theoretical subjects, but nothing that cut him out for a serious Ministry job. Nothing his father could get him in the Department of Mysteries and, by then, his mother was long gone and couldn’t help him. He thought, for a while, about taking up one of the sales jobs that seemed to always be going in Diagon Alley, but eventually he settled on pursuing his artistic aspirations – albeit briefly. He spent a year on a muggle art foundation course, barely missing the use of a wand. By the time he was finished, he’d made up his mind about what sort of career to pursue back in the magical world. He’d been good at History of Magic. More than that; it was his best subject, and it seemed logical that he should go back to it. So then it was off to the Ministry for another year to complete a teacher training course, and by the time he was twenty-one he felt ready to go back to school.
It seemed like an ambition set in stone. He was absolutely certain that he would become a History of Magic professor – even if he had to start off as an assistant teacher and work his way up – absolutely, positively certain that, one day, it would be his turn to lecture about Goblin rebellions or hand out essays about Artemisia Lufkin and Grindelwald. He’d taken so much from the subject that, really, it only seemed fair that he should give an equal amount in return.
And then that article had appeared in The Daily Prophet three days before the job interview.
Ordinarily, Scorpius didn’t read the Prophet – it was his father’s usual paper, and Scorpius tended to stick to the principle that, if his father liked it, he probably wouldn’t. But he’d been waiting in one of the little cafés in Diagon Alley for a friend who was late, and a crumpled copy of the Prophet had been the first thing within reach. He’d found Dorothea House’s article on page four, and it had caused such a seismic shift within his mind that he wasn’t even bothered when the friend turned up half an hour late.
Scorpius had always been fond of Dorothea House – or Professor House, as he’d known her for seven years. Headmistress of Hogwarts and somewhat eccentric, Professor House was a kindly woman in her sixties, and the first thing the article told him was that she was retiring. This piece of news was a shock in itself, as he rather liked her and was certain the school would never be the same with her gone, especially since he was considering going back to teach there. The rest of the article was like a goblet of cold water to the face. Art, apparently, had always been a love of hers. She was keen to nurture all those who passed through Hogwarts’ doors. It had always been a regret of hers that she couldn’t 'nurture those with artistic aspirations'.
And so, with her retirement date set for Christmas of that year, she declared her last wish for the school: the addition of art to the curriculum. Scorpius felt an inexplicable sort of surge in his heart as he read this, but, of course, the Ministry had to rain on the parade, stepping in to declare that art would be a trial subject for one year, and would only continue if deemed a success by both the new Headmistress and an independent Ministry inspector. If – and only if – it was a success, it would become a permanent subject. The article closed with a statement from Myron Wagtail, ex-singer of The Weird Sisters, suggesting that Professor House might think to introduce music to the curriculum too.
A seismic shift in his mind caused something of a seismic shift in his life. Three days later he was sitting in Professor House’s office and had told her, before she could say anything beyond ‘Good afternoon, Mr Malfoy,’ that she could pretty much scrap his whole application form because he’d decided to apply for the Professor of Art post instead.
It was a glorious day in August, and the office was lit by a thick, golden light. The portraits of previous headmasters and headmistresses on the walls seemed to lean in closer, all studying their current successor sat at her desk. Professor House’s warm hazel eyes fixed upon him, and then crinkled at the corners as she smiled.
‘You’ve grown a lot,’ she said vaguely. ‘The last time you were sat this close to me you were wearing the Sorting Hat. You wore it for a very long time.’
Scorpius felt his face go hot. ‘Yes…well, it couldn’t quite make its mind up about me.’
‘But it put you in Ravenclaw in the end.’
‘For a while it insisted I should be a Hufflepuff.’
Professor House smiled again, indicating a shelf above her head. ‘You can try it on again, if you’d like.’
Scorpius glanced upwards. Indeed, the Sorting Hat was perched upon the shelf; he could have sworn the ripped seam was grinning at him.
‘I’m alright,’ he said, meeting Professor House’s eye again. ‘I quite liked being a Ravenclaw.’
‘Good decision,’ she said, her smile unfaltering. ‘The hat is rarely wrong. Besides, you were an exemplary prefect.’
‘Anyway,’ she shuffled through the parchment on her desk, pulling his application form for the History of Magic post from the bottom of the pile. ‘So, you’d like me to disregard this?’
‘Uh…maybe not disregard it – I meant…well, I’ve changed my mind. I saw your article in The Daily Prophet. You know, about putting art on the curriculum, how you were looking for someone to teach it. I think I’d rather teach art than History of Magic.’
‘Excellent,’ she said. ‘What motivates you to teach art?’
The bad thing about having had such a seismic shift in his thinking was that any preparation Scorpius had done for the interview had gone sailing out the window. When he’d been set on becoming a History of Magic professor it had seemed very easy. Now, with art…
‘Er…’ he said. ‘Er, well, I read what you’d written about wanting to nurture every student, but how impossible that was – how Hogwarts didn’t really have something for everyone. And it got me thinking about my time here. I was never really great at the practical magic subjects, always felt a bit out of place in my house…and then I used to spend my free periods drawing. Practically all my spare time, actually…I used to get bitter, sometimes, about how it didn’t even get a look-in on the curriculum. So your article really meant a lot to me, it was…well, it was what I’d been waiting to hear for half my life.’
Professor House’s smile seemed to grow. She nodded. ‘Good. As for your qualifications…’
‘I just finished the Ministry’s training course,’ he said. ‘And before that I did a foundation in art.’
‘Perfectly acceptable O.W.L and N.E.W.T results as well. And a glowing reference from Professor Prenderghast.’
‘Well…I always liked Astronomy.’
‘She was delighted to hear you’d applied for the job. What do you think you could bring to the school?’
‘Um…seeing as art is new, I guess I think I could bring art to the school. I mean,’ he added quickly. ‘I hope I could inspire people. And a lot of people think art’s a soft subject, a really trivial thing – I’d like to show them that it’s not. It’s actually very important and a lot of hard work…’
‘In what way?’
‘In what way is it important? Um. Well, this kind of relates to History of Magic, in a way. I mean, where would our study of history be without art? If we didn’t have cave paintings, sculptures, tapestries, all that kind of…stuff. Even these paintings,’ he nodded up at the gallery above Professor House’s head. ‘They’re artworks that tell the story of Hogwarts.’
‘Well said,’ Professor House smiled. ‘Don’t worry, Scorpius, you don’t have to prove yourself to me. I wholeheartedly agree. I used to be good friends with Magenta Comstock – I’m sure you’ve heard of her – and I know how hard she worked.’
‘So…’ Scorpius was uncertain of exactly what to say next; he still felt like a teenaged student before Professor House, especially when she called him by his first name. Then he reminded himself that he almost was still a teenaged student, and that he’d only left Hogwarts three years ago. ‘I know I’m probably a bit too young and the subject is completely new, but it’d be my dream to teach it. Honestly, I’m just glad you let me have an interview-’
‘And I’m glad to see you back.’
Scorpius thought it funny how, when he’d been waiting in the corridor outside to be called up to the office, he’d been able to mentally run through a thousand phrases about the validity of art as a subject, etcetera, etcetera – evidently they’d piled up inside his head and choked him; when it mattered most, he couldn’t think of a single word more to say.
‘Very good,’ Professor House said, more to herself than to him, once again shuffling through the parchment on her desk. ‘We’ll let you know about the job soon.’
They both sat in silence for a moment.
‘Is that…everything?’ Scorpius said.
‘Well, ordinarily we’d get you to have a go at teaching a lesson, but there isn’t exactly a department for you to go to right now.’
‘The Ministry did send us a letter about your progress on the training course. That will suffice.’
‘I see. Well…thank you, Professor House.’
‘Please,’ she said. ‘Call me Dorothea. Or Dot, as my friends prefer.’
‘Right. Well, er, thank you for your time.’
She beamed at him. ‘Always a pleasure to see an old student return.’
‘It was nice to come back.’
A little later, when the interview had formally concluded, Scorpius ended up wandering along the top corridor of the school. He hadn’t wanted to stay another minute in Professor House’s – or, rather, Dot’s – office; despite her kind smiles, he couldn’t quite shake off the feeling that the so-called Professor of Art post was an enormous joke. The Hogwarts curriculum had been pretty much the same for almost a thousand years. Was it really his right to challenge it? Besides, he thought he’d come across as a bit of an idiot in the interview. He’d long had the habit of resorting to rambling sentences, drawn-out pauses, a single syllable: ‘er…’
The seventh floor of Hogwarts castle was one Scorpius knew well from his Prefect rounds. As he walked away from Professor House’s office, he realised how close he was to Ravenclaw tower, and wondered if it would be possible to pop in for a visit, just to see if the place had changed at all. There were odd occasions when he missed the view from the common room windows, the silver stars painted on the ceiling, the camaraderie that came from arriving at the entrance and finding several other Ravenclaws puzzling over that day’s riddle…
He forced himself to look on the bright side. To be optimistic. With any luck, he’d get the job. Then he’d be able to visit Ravenclaw tower again. Not just Ravenclaw tower, but the entire castle; the library, the greenhouses. If he kept his hopes up, he might be back soon.
And so he turned at the end of the corridor and made for the stairs. He’d be back, with any luck. Hogwarts’ first Professor of Art.
He did his best not to think about how difficult the job would actually be.