Disclaimer: I do not own the characters—they belong to JK Rowling and that's why she is rich and I am not!

When Colin met Rita

December 23, 9:30 p.m.

I am sitting at my desk buried under a week's worth of cases-most of which I have solved-when I am suddenly interrupted by my door slamming open. Standing on my threshold, curly hair windswept, is the most beautiful woman I have ever laid eyes on.

I stand up to shake her hand but before I can, she falls to her knees and wraps her arms around my waist. I raise an eyebrow. She must be distressed, I think. Its not her sudden burst into tears that tips me off, it's her shoes. She isn't wearing any.

"How can I help you, Miss Clearwater?" I ask coolly.

She lifts her head up just enough to where I can see her red, wet eyes. "I—I—I—"

"I will do what I can, Miss Clearwater, but first I need to know the problem."

She sobs again and I begin to think perhaps her problem is bigger than she is letting on.

"It's—it's—" she pauses to let out a sob. "My boyfriend! He's been coming to Hogwarts to see someone...and it isn't me!" She is sobbing very loudly now.

"What makes you so sure?" I ask as I help her to her feet and into a chair.

She shoves a piece of parchment into my hand and covers her face with her hands. I pass her a handkerchief before I read it aloud. " 'Percy, I'll meet you tonight in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom at ten o'clock. It should be empty. Hermione.' Hmm," I say, beginning to pace the room. "I would say this note distresses you."

She looks at me with those distressed eyes, her bottom lip trembling, and says, "Colin, I want to know what's going on!" She suddenly leaps toward me and grabs me by the collar of my shirt. "I want pictures!" she shouts grabbing the note from my hand and crumpling it up. "Get me pictures. Lots of them. I need evidence!" She turns just as there is a clap of thunder and a flash of lightning outside. (Until now, I hadn't realized there was a storm.)

She mumbles something about Weasleys and stubbornness and then, as quickly as she appeared, she is gone.

December 23, 10:00 p.m.

I creep down the dark halls as quietly as I possibly can. If I get caught, I will be in trouble and Miss Clearwater's case will never be solved. I make my way slowly down to the Defense Against the Dark Arts Classroom, where Defense Against the Dark Arts classes are held. I push the door open quietly and just wide enough for me to squeeze through. I can hear voices. I put my camera up to my eye and wait until they are visible in the shutter.

"No, Percy. You're doing it all wrong. Honestly, Ron is better than you. Try again. "

There's a pause, and then his voice. "Better?"

"Much." Hermione sounds a little breathless.

Suddenly, I can see them. I snap a picture, and then another. My camera is clicking away awfully noisily now and I am very surprised they haven't heard me. They're obviously preoccupied. When I shoot a whole roll, I leave the room as quietly as I went in. Miss Clearwater will know the truth at breakfast tomorrow morning.

December 24, 7:00 a.m.

"Miss Clearwater," I greet her at breakfast. I point to the large envelope I have tucked into my jacket. "I have some business to discuss with you, if you aren't too busy that is."

"Not at all, Colin." She excuses herself and the follows me into the empty entrance hall where I hand her the envelope. She takes a deep breath and then opens it. She gasps, and then drops the pictures to the floor. Her eyes narrow and suddenly, I wish we were somewhere that had a few more witnesses—er...people. She looks very angry.

I back away slowly. "So," I say with a nervous chuckle. "I guess you won't be requiring my service anymore."

"Oh no, Colin," she replies. She has me backed into the wall. There's no escape. "You're going to get me the whole story, understand? The WHOLE STORY!"

"S—sure. Whatever you say, Miss Clearwater."

As she walks away, I gulp. That was not a pleasant experience. I straighten up my robes and, with as much pride as I can muster, I make my way back into the main hall for some breakfast.

December 24, 12:07 p.m.

It's a stroke of sheer luck that I see Percy hanging about the lake. It's curious that an Ex-Head Boy should be hanging around a lake, and even more curious that this Ex-Head Boy is the exact one whose girlfriend hired me to watch him. I duck behind a tree to wait. Sure enough a figure approaches.

I have to squint to make her out, but just as I suspect, it's Hermione. They begin conversing in low whispers.

I can barely hear them, but just as I expect, they are meeting again. Tonight, at seven. Percy walks away with a smug look on his face. That lying...that cheating...Miss Clearwater is such an angel, a perfect, delicate wonderful—

"Hermione!?" The voice startles me and I peer around the tree again. It's Ron Weasley; Harry Potter's best friend. I watch intently as he approaches her. It is not a little known fact that the red haired boy has a crush on little Miss Boyfriend Stealer. "What was that all about?" he asks.

"What was what about, Ron?" Hermione asks. I am in absolute shock. The little...trying to play innocent when both Ron and I know she's trying to steal Miss Clearwater's man!

"That little interlude between you and my brother. What were you saying?"

"That is between Percy and me, Ron," she says with great dignity.

I see Ron's face glow red, almost as red as his hair.

I am suddenly distracted by a loud and all too familiar voice. "Colin! Whatcha watchin'?"

"Be quiet!" I hiss to my brother, Dennis, as I yank him behind the tree with me. He peers out the other side.

"If it concerns my brother, than it IS my business!" Ron shouts. "Why is he at Hogwarts anyway?"

"If you're so curious, ask him yourself!" Hermione shoves him and he stumbles sideways into the lake. I can't help but laugh. I look at my brother whose jaw has dropped to his knees.

He rushes to the shore of the lake just as Ron emerges, wrapped in the tentacle of the giant squid, sopping wet.

Dennis stares at him adoringly. "You- you-you fell in the lake!"

Ron blinks. "I guess I did," he replies eyeing the small Gryffindor suspiciously.

Dennis grins and flings his arms around the startled Weasley's waist. Ron stares for a moment, then pulls away as Dennis turns to me.

He points at the tall boy beside him, smiling. "He fell in the lake just like me!" he shouts.

Ron's stunned face is now the color of his hair. Seeing this distraction as a chance to flee, I rush after Hermione.

December 24, 12:27 p.m.

We sit together the library. Well, not together, exactly, because she doesn't realize I followed her, but we are both here. After an eternity, or six and a half hours, which ever comes first, she picks her bags and leaves. Of course, I follow.

December 24, 7:05p.m.

She's trying to be discreet. Hmmm, I wonder why, I tell myself with a hint of sarcasm. She creeps down corridor after corridor, making it very clear she does not want to be followed.

But little does she know that I am sneaky! She turns around for a moment so I duck behind a suit of armor. She slips into a room to her left. I follow. I can hear their voices through the door.

"Hermione, I'm so pleased you could make it."

"Shall we continue where we left off?"

My eyes narrow at that. I have to see this. I quietly push the door open, and can't help but gasp. There they are-the Head Boy and the know-it-all-" embracing as though they hadn't seen one another in years. They're barely a foot apart, holding hands.

They look up at me, startled.

It seems I have overestimated my sneakiness, but I try to play it off. "Uh...sorry," I say, barely controlling my urge to pull out my wand and hex them both. I wonder if a face full of warts would wipe the smugness from Percy's face.

"No, Colin!" Hermione shouts. "This isn't what it looks like!"

"It's not?" I say, my voice rising-involuntarily, of course. "To me, it looks like you," I pause to point at Percy, "are cheating on a wonderful, beautiful, not to mention talented and sweet—"

"Please, Colin," Percy interrupts. How dare he! "This isn't at all what it seems and I have no intentions of dropping my precious Penny—"

"Can it, Weasley! You've been caught red handed!" I snap a picture of them and then leave the room before another word is spoken. As I leave I catch a piece of their conversation.

"Don't worry, Percy. I'll explain things tomorrow."

Not if I have anything to say about it!

December 25, 9:00 a.m.

The Entrance Hall is bustling with activity this morning and it takes me a while to realize why. The Yule Ball, I remember. It's tonight!

Miss Clearwater greets me as I walk in and pulls me aside. "Well?" she asks expectantly.

I gulp. At least we're surrounded by witnesses—er, people now. "I caught them last night." I rummage in my bag and pull out the picture. It turned out just as I had hoped. The culprits standing there, shamefully, with their guilty faces.

"No!" she gasps, her eyes filling with tears. "I should have known." She shoves the photo into my hands and rushes out of the room.

"Colin!" The voice belongs to Hermione. She rushes up to me and grabs my arm. "Colin, I have to explain some things. Percy and I—"

"I don't want to hear your—"

She covers my mouth with her hand. The audacity of it all! I fold my arms across my chest, holding on to the last shreds of my dignity.

"I was teaching him to dance!" she hisses quietly so that no one else will hear.

A-ha! Dancing! I knew it! Wait...dancing? But—huh? No, they were clearly—

"He's been coming to Hogwarts for lessons every night. See, he's coming to the ball. But it's sort of a surprise for Penelope." She takes her hand from my mouth.

"Miss Clearwater!" I gasp. I have ruined this, big time. I hold up the photo and show it to Hermione. She places a hand over her own mouth.

"You didn't show this to her, did you?"

I nod my head, and I look at the floor.

"Do you know where she went?" she asks.

I point out the door and Hermione rushes after her.

December 25, 2:30 p.m.

It's cold outside, but I need some fresh air. I am outside no more than two minutes when I hear a high, nasally voice call my name.

"Mr. Creevey! A word, please!" I look up to see a woman dressed in a garish outfit strolling toward me. "Rita Skeeter," she says sticking out her hand. "Daily Prophet. I understand, Mr. Creevey, that you are quite a stunning photographer."

I raise an eyebrow. Who could have told her that information? "Who told you that?" I ask.

She laughs-a high, phony laugh. "Now Colin, you don't mind if I call you that?" She grins. "You know a good reporter never reveals her sources."

Her logic is impeccable. I decide to hear her out. "What is it that you want, Miss Skeeter?"

"How would you like to see one of your photographs on the front page of The Daily Prophet?"

I must admit, she has my attention. "Do go on."

"As you know, Colin, tonight is the big Yule Ball and of course our Harry Potter will be there. I want pictures."

This sounds familiar. "So why can't you take them?" I ask.

She smiles. "I have a previous engagement."

"Well, I would oblige, Miss Skeeter. It's a really incredible offer but I am only a third year and—"

"Oh, don't worry about a thing, Colin. You provide the pictures, I'll provide a way for you to be there."

I wonder what she means by that, but being one of the few third years able to attend the ball is an opportunity I can't pass up.

Besides, this way, I'll be able to keep an eye on Miss Clearwater.

December 25, 7:45 p.m.

I am on my way out of my office when I hear a voice squealing excitedly. It's coming from my brother's room. I peer into the open door. What the—There is a giant face plastered to the wall in front of him. I recognize the freckles and the flaming red hair.

"Dennis, what are you doing?" I ask.

His grin is so big it takes up nearly his entire face. "It's my hero!" he says, clapping his hands together. He runs to the poster and tries to wrap his arms around it but succeeds only in knocking himself out.

I sigh and then scoop him up off the floor. I carry him to his bed and tuck him in. I close the door as I leave. I hurry downstairs to the common room. I have a Ball to attend.

December 25, 8:00 p.m.

There is a large crowd in the Entrance Hall and not until I get closer do I realize that Professor Snape checking off names as people filter in. I gulp. I really hope Miss Skeeter managed to get my name on the list.

"Creevey? What, may I ask, are you doing here?"

"I—uh—" Gulp.

"No one under fourth year is allowed to-"

"Wait! Wait!" Professor Flitwick interrupts the snarling Potions master. He seems a bit winded as though he had run from the other side of the castle. "Let the boy in, Severus."

"He's a third year...without a date!"

"He's on special assignment!"

Snape growls at the tiny professor.

"Or, perhaps you would like to take this matter to the headmaster. I'm sure—"

"No need, Professor." Snape turns to me, his eyes narrowed. "Go in."

I don't hesitate. I hurry in before another word can be spoken.

December 25, 9:30 p.m.

I keep my eyes on Miss Clearwater as the champions start dancing. I feel full. And unhappy. However, I have a job to do. Reluctantly I make my way closer to the champions and begin taking pictures. I use up two rolls on Harry and then one more roll on the other three.

When my film runs out, I make my way back to my table and sit down. I find Miss Clearwater in the crowd again. I've ruined her night. Oh, how dreadful of me. I look down until I feel a hand on my shoulder. I look up. It's Hermione. She smiles at me. "Don't feel so bad," she says. "You didn't know."

I didn't. But I still feel bad. I glance over to Miss Clearwater's table again. Her chair is empty! Oh no! She's probably so depressed she ran to the bathroom to cry. I have to find her! I leap to my fight and look around frantically. Where is she?

I am about to run out of the hall when I spot her. She's dancing on the other side of the room with...Percy? I move closer to make sure. Yes, it's Percy. So this means...I haven't ruined everything!

I make my way back to my seat and set my gaze on her. She's so beautiful. Oh, to be Percy. I almost wish he had been cheating on her. Then I could comfort her. But she must hate me now.

They're together for a few more songs and then I lose track of them.

I sigh. Miss Clearwater is suddenly in front of me. I blink. She's still there.

"Hi, Colin," she says.

I gulp. "Hi." My voice sounds a bit choked.

"Percy had some business to take care of and I was wondering."

Please don't ask me to follow him, I plead silently.

She stretches her hand toward me, grinning. "May I have the pleasure of this dance?"

Huh? I stare at her in shock. I almost ruined her future with the man of her dreams and she wants to dance with me?

I take her hand and she leads me into the center of the floor. "I'll show you what Hermione taught Percy," she grins, spinning me in a circle.

I clear my throat once I am facing her again. "So things are okay between you and Percy again, Miss Clearwater?" I ask.

She smiles that perfect smile. It lights up the room.

"Please, Colin. Call me Penny."

I have a feeling this will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.