Hannah finds her mum's old Muggle camera in the loft, along with some film, and she picks it up partly because it reminds of her mum, but mostly because it is something to do, something to think about that is not death and mourning and victory and rebuilding. Sometimes she just wants to forget, to do something ordinary, to pretend that her life so far has been normal and uneventful.
She shoves the camera into her bag and scrawls a note for her dad, who is at work, and goes out. She is not sure where she is going, but her feet carry her to the Muggle recreation ground at the end of the road. She blinks hard as she remembers her mum pushing her high on the swings when she was tiny, but smiles when she remembers how fast she would go on the roundabout with Mandy Leason's big brother Robert pushing, and how she and Mandy would shriek in exhilaration and fear. And as she crosses to the swings, she sees someone sitting on one of them, and it is Mandy herself, as if Hannah remembering has conjured her out of thin air. Mandy was her best friend until she went to Hogwarts, and they still see each other now and again. Hannah always feels faintly guilty about the necessary lies - the scholarship to a boarding school in Scotland, her mother having died in a car crash, her dad doing something secret for the government that she isn't allowed to talk about – but Mandy either doesn't realise or doesn't care that so much of what Hannah tells her is untrue. Over the years, they have grown apart, but never lost the fondness for each other spawned in a shared sandpit at the age of three and a half.
Now Mandy grins in welcome and waves a hand to the swing next to hers.
"Long time, no see," she says. "Pull up a swing and tell me the latest."
Hannah dumps her bag by the swing frame and sits on the swing next to Mandy's, returning the grin as best she can.
"Nothing to tell," she says, beginning with the biggest lie of all. "Finished school. Putting off looking for a job. You?"
"Not going to uni, then?" Mandy asks, raising an eyebrow. "I thought with your posh private school an' all you'd be off to Oxford or somewhere."
Hannah shakes her head. "I'm not the university type," she says. "I want something undemanding." (Merlin knows, she has earned it.) "And I've had enough of school." (True, though not in the way Mandy understands it.)
Fortunately, Mandy takes her at her word, and is eager to share her own news. "I'm going to Southampton. French with business studies. I'll be glad enough to get away from here at last." She frowns, maybe thinking that Hannah, with her mother recently dead, might wish to get away too but feel unable to because of her dad. Hannah, realising this, smiles and tries to reassure her.
"I'm a homebody, me," she says. "And I've been away long enough already." She changes the subject. "I've got Mum's camera in my bag. Swing high, and I'll take your picture."
The two girls spend the day together, taking it in turns with the camera. They photograph each other; pigeons in flight; the McDonald's burgers and fries they eat for lunch; the fountain in the town hall square; the broken gravestones in the churchyard (by common consent, they avoid the newer graves); a boy on a bike who swears at them for getting in his way; a baby asleep in his pushchair; twin boys in front of a toyshop window (five years old and red-haired - Hannah tries not to think of Fred and George); a dropped ice cream cone; the trees by the museum.
Finally, they run out of film, and Mandy persuades Hannah to take the films into Boots for the one hour development service. (It costs a small fortune, but Mandy insists on paying, and Hannah knows she can afford it: with her business-owning father and high-powered PA mother, Mandy has never lacked for pocket money.)
They go back to McDonald's for milkshakes as they wait for the photos. They giggle and chat and Hannah has not felt like this – like a normal teenager – for years. They giggle still more at the pictures when they get them back, especially the cross boy on the bike, and the one of Mandy with her tongue stuck out at a portly and angry-looking lady with a Bible in one hand and a collecting box in the other.
Right at the back of the packet are some photos they didn't take today, and Hannah suddenly remembers taking the camera out one day last summer. That seems like an age away – after her mother died, but before this last year of hell at school. She went to Diagon Alley and met some friends and took their pictures. She remembers sitting outside Bettina Bewlock's Bakery (Fortescue's was gone by then), drinking coffee, eating cakes and gossiping, all of them trying to pretend that the imminent return to school was routine, nothing to worry about.
Fortunately, there is nothing too obviously magical in the pictures, and Hannah names those in them happily enough for Mandy's benefit.
"Ernie… he's nice, but a bit pompous. Justin… that was the last time I saw him, he went to another school. Ginny… don't you think she's pretty? Susan…" Hannah swallows, but recovers herself before Mandy notices. "She was my best friend at school. Padma and Parvati… twins of course. Lavender… Parvati's best friend, those two could gossip for England. Neville…" She can't think of anything to say about Neville. Abruptly, she realises just how much she misses him. Mandy, having missed Hannah's reaction to Susan's photo, is quick enough to pick up on how she reacts to the picture of someone she thinks looks like a nice enough but quite ordinary boy.
"Tell me about Neville," she demands, her eyes sparkling.
And Hannah tries. Despite the things she has to leave out, gloss over, or downright lie about, Mandy gets a good enough idea of Hannah's feelings. Probably a better idea than Hannah has had herself until now.
"You obviously fancy him," Mandy pronounces firmly. "When are you going to see him again?"
And Hannah really means it when she replies, "Soon, I hope."
Mandy glares at her, and Hannah laughs. "Okay, okay, I'll call him." (She stops herself saying "owl" just in time.) "Will that do you?"
Mandy grins as she gets to her feet, stuffing the packets of photos into Hannah's bag. "Only," she says, "if you promise to tell me all the gory details next time we meet."
Hannah promises. What else can she do?