Summer of '97
'Is this really what Muggle girls wear?' Fenella Gray asked nervously, tugging at the bottom of the plain white t-shirt she was wearing.
'Relax, 'Ella, you look … okay,' Zoë Wylde told her cousin.
Fenella noticed the hesitation in Zoë's voice, saw the younger girl's nose wrinkle as she spoke, and realised that "okay" was probably the best that she could achieve.
'Do I look like a Muggle girl?' Fenella asked. 'Why is this t-shirt so short? Why doesn't it meet these trouser things? It's so short that it doesn't even cover my belly-button.'
'It's the fashion, Fenella,' explained Zoë patiently. 'You could wear the short dress I brought, and show your legs…' Fenella pulled a horrified face and shook her head. '…or, you can wear what you're wearing. The trousers are baggy. You're supposed to be wearing them a lot lower on your hips, you know. And that t-shirt is the longest one I could find. The alternative is this vest. It is a little bit longer, so you choose!'
Zoë lifted the olive green vest, which Fenella had already discarded, from the floor.
'Bare shoulders and a bit of cleavage, or,' Zoë nodded at the t-shirt, 'bare belly.'
'What do you think?' Fenella pleaded. Zoë re-examined her cousin carefully, sighing at the older girl.
'Actually, I think that you suit both. You're not as … solidly built … as I thought you were; you're just tall and broad-shouldered. You should really wear better-fitting robes. I think that the vest looks nice, and if you're going to insist on hitching those combat pants up that high, then you'll be able to tuck it into them. But you've already said no to it,' Zoë said.
Fenella looked again at the Muggle garment Zoë was calling a vest. It was green, a good colour, but it had no sleeves, simply two narrow straps over the shoulders; it was low at the front, too. Zoë had assured her that the neckline was thought of as high by Muggles. Fenella held it against her chest. It was certainly a couple of inches longer than the t-shirt, but it showed three or four inches of flesh below the neck. She looked beseechingly at her cousin.
'That's a nice enough belly to show off, but you'll have to decide for yourself, Fenella: bare belly or bare shoulders and a little bit of chest. For once in your life, just make a decision!' Zoë demanded losing patience with the older girl.
'Is that for me, too?' Fenella asked, nodding towards a black denim jacket lying on her bed.
'Yes,' Zoë confirmed. She instantly realised what Fenella's decision would be.
'Enjoy yourselves, girls,' said Wanda Gray as the two girls prepared to leave Ettersgarth.
Fenella's mother looked them over appraisingly as they stood in the door. Fenella wore the jacket tightly buttoned over the green vest, which she'd just managed to tuck into the trousers. The only flesh showing was her face and her hands. Zoë, however, wore a short, sleeveless dress. Both girls carried canvas shoulder bags.
'Your mum assures me that your clothes are suitable, Zoë, so I'll just have to trust her. She's Muggle-born, after all. Fenella, look after Zoë, she's only thirteen. Zoë, look after Fenella; she doesn't really know any Muggles. Do not be home late, no underage magic, be good, and be careful,' she ordered.
'Yes, Mum,' said Fenella.
'We'll be fine, Aunt Wanda,' said Zoë. 'We need to get going; we have to catch that bus. I've got the Muggle money, and thanks very much for the sandwiches.'
With Wanda Gray's shouted advice and dire warnings following them down the track, the two girls clambered over the stile and hurried down the footpath towards Low Force. The path snaked its way downhill across a sheep-cropped field, running alongside Etters Gill which, because of the surprisingly warm and dry summer, was little more than a trickle. As they walked, flies flicked frantically above the stream.
It had not rained for weeks, not since before Professor Dumbledore's funeral. The footpath was baked mud and rather dusty. The imprints of boots which had tramped the trail in wetter times were still vaguely visible, but were slowly being eroded by more recent walkers.
'Take the jacket off for a while, Fenella,' Zoë suggested. 'We probably won't meet anyone until we get the main road.'
Fenella looked around and weighed up her options. The summer sun was already climbing high and there was hardly a cloud in the sky; the mid-August day was stiflingly hot. Once she was certain that there was no one in sight, she removed the thick and uncomfortable jacket; the action was enough to pull her vest out from under her belt. She tucked it back in, but that pulled the scoop neck lower. Fenella looked down at her chest in alarm and pulled the neckline back up; this again revealed her belly, and Zoë began to laugh.
'Relax, 'Ella. You look fine, a typical Muggle teenager.'
'Are all Muggle teenagers tall and ugly?' Fenella whispered sadly.
'Fenella,' said Zoë gently. 'We both know that you're not the best looking girl on the planet, but you're certainly not ugly. Your hair is nice, thick black-rimmed glasses are very fashionable among the Muggles, and you're tall and slim, and that counts for a lot. Now, come on, your bus is due soon.'
'I'm too tall,' Fenella announced as she loped rapidly down the path. Zoë, skipping alongside, rolled her eyes despairingly. The younger girl was taking three rapid steps to every two of her cousin's long strides.
'What's he like, this boyfriend of yours?' Zoë asked.
'He's not my boyfriend, Zoë,' Fenella reminded her.
'He's a boy, isn't he? And he's your friend. And he's travelling a lot further than you are; three buses at least. And he asked you out, so he must fancy you.'
'You can be such a child, sometimes, Zoë. He's just a friend, that's all. He asked if we could meet over the summer holidays. We're going to do our Camera Club Challenges together if we can,' Fenella said as they approached the main road.
'No, I think that he fancies you,' Zoë sang mischievously as they walked through the kissing gate and reached the road.
'Fancies her?' a voice said sarcastically. 'Who on earth would fancy her?'
'No one,' squeaked Fenella, blushing. 'No one at all, Anita; Zoë was just teasing, weren't you, Zoë?'
'Yes,' Zoë announced. 'Just teasing, that's all.'
Fenella's dorm mate Anita Hockaday was sitting on the grass, leaning against the lichen covered roughness of a dry stone wall, probably hoping to overhear something. From Anita's expression, it seemed that she'd heard enough. She looked haughtily at the cousins.
'Ready, Wylde? My brother will be here in a couple of minutes to take us to the ground by Side-Along-Apparition.' Stretching sinuously, Anita stood and examined the girl she'd been waiting for.
'Almost,' said Zoë excitedly. 'Fenella's mum thinks that we're both going into Barnard Castle. Fenella really is going so we'll be able to tell her mum what we did.'
'That's right,' Fenella whispered nervously.
'Here's the purse, Fenella,' Zoë said, handing over the pink plastic wallet containing their Muggle money. Fenella examined it curiously before nervously stuffing it into a pocket. Zoë tried to reassure her cousin.
'Just try to remember how Muggle money works, Fenella. I know it sounds silly, but the paper really is worth more than the metal. They've all got numbers on. I've sorted out the correct money for the bus.' Zoë pulled a collection of coins from her shoulder bag and gave it to Fenella. 'When you see the bus coming put out your hand, and it will stop. Tell the driver, "Barnard Castle, please," and he'll tell you how much it is. Give him this cash, then find a seat and sit on the bus until you reach the last stop. Okay?'
Fenella nodded nervously.
'Good. Enjoy yourself, Fenella, and thanks for covering for me. After everything that's happened since Minister Thicknesse took over a couple of weeks ago, there's no way Mum would let me go off like this.' Zoë smiled and turned to Anita.
'How many girls have you got?' she asked.
The condescending voice Anita normally used vanished, and she became animatedly enthusiastic. 'Fourteen, two whole teams! Five of them were first years last year, so I'm not expecting much from them, but I didn't really think that there'd be that many girls from our House interested. Some of them are bound to be rubbish, but Pepperell looks to be a decent flyer, and Pinder is really very good,' she told Zoë excitedly.
Fenella, who knew little and cared less about Quidditch, listened to the exchange disinterestedly. She knew that they were wasting their time; Slytherin girls never got on the team. Anita, however, was continuing to chatter excitedly.
'My father is part owner of the Cannons; Mum thinks that it's a waste of his money, but it's useful for us. It's off-season, so we've got a professional pitch to ourselves all day,' said Anita proudly. 'Potter has apparently gone on the run, and Bell has finished school, so Gryffindor will be fielding a younger and weaker team this year. Unless that idiot of a brother of hers is playing, the Weasley girl will be the oldest player on their team, and she's in the same year as Fenella and me. Gryffindor have always had girls on their winning teams. We'll show that idiot Vaisey when we get back to school. I'd like to see what he does when we all turn up for the trials! I'm fairly sure that Pinder is already a better Seeker than that arrogant pillock Malfoy. He wasn't even interested in Quidditch last year.
'Malfoy's father bought the team's brooms, remember, Anita,' said Fenella.
'Yeah, even if Pinder's absolutely brilliant I don't think that she has a chance of taking Malfoys place from him,' said Anita sadly. 'You know what Malfoy's like. He'll take the teams brooms away if he's dropped.'
'Here's the bus,' said Zoë urgently. 'Be good, Fenella, relax, and have a good day. I'll see you back here at six tonight.'
Fenella hastily pulled on her jacket, buttoned it up to her neck and tucked the vest into her trousers. Zoë flagged down the bus and Fenella nervously climbed aboard.
'Barnard Castle, please,' Fenella whispered to the driver. The man looked at her quizzically before rapidly barking out the fare. Fenella dropped the money into his hand and scurried away down the almost empty single-decker.
'Oi,' the driver yelled, 'you'll need this, pet.' He waved a scrap of paper at her. Puzzled, Fenella hurried back. 'Ticket,' the driver announced, thrusting the paper into her hand.
The second she took it, he started the bus. Fenella stumbled and almost fell, she only just managed to catch a knurled yellow pole to hold herself upright.
'Kids,' she heard the driver snort dismissively as she carefully made her way down the moving bus to an empty seat. She slouched down in the seat and, with a rapidly beating heart, began her first-ever journey alone into a Muggle town.
There were very few empty seats left on the bus by the time it reached Barnard Castle. As it had rattled its way down the dale, they had picked up more and more passengers. Fenella had watched everyone clamber aboard with a queasy curiosity. As the bus filled, people eventually began sitting next to each other.
The portly middle-aged woman sitting next to Fenella wore a thick tweed jacket despite the hot weather. She was showing neither belly nor knees. None of the ladies on the bus were, and she wondered why Zoë hadn't suggested something more like the clothes these women were wearing.
The portly woman smelled of sweat and horses. When she sat, she had tried to strike up a conversation with Fenella, but had eventually given up in the face of softly whispered monosyllabic answers.
Most people, including the woman next to Fenella, were already on their feet before the bus came to a halt. Fenella watched curiously as the passengers shuffled forwards, holding on to bars and straps to keep their balance. This was obviously the final destination. She had arrived. Fenella's heart was thundering in her chest; she wondered what she would do if Colin wasn't there. But he must be; he'd promised her!
She looked out of the windows, but couldn't see him. The street was wide, very wide. Three roads ran parallel to each other, with cobbles and stone pavements between. It was called Galgate, and was lined with a mix of grey stone and white-painted buildings. These buildings were a world away from her home, squat, stone Ettersgarth. In the dale the few farms were, like Ettersgarth, scattered across the hills, nestling in hollows. Here in the town they stood side by side in ling lines of uneven height. All were two or three storeys tall, but sizes, styles, and roofs changed from building to building. Galgate appeared to stop suddenly at a large church – until Fenella realised that the street swept round to the left through a narrow gap.
Fenella waited until everyone else had passed her before standing. Her heart pounding, she followed the Muggles from the bus. Where was he? Then, when she reached the bus door, she saw him; he was leaning against the wall of a white painted building, directly under a sign saying "Three Horseshoes." Colin Creevey was, of course, exactly where he'd told her that he would be. His t-shirt was white, and he carried a rucksack slung over one shoulder. He was wearing black trousers with lots of pockets, like hers, but his reached just below his knees. His calves were surprisingly muscular and tanned.
Fenella nervously stepped from the bus and smiled at him. Colin grinned back and looked her up and down. She remembered that she'd unfastened the jacket on the bus and had forgotten to button it up again; the vest had ridden up, too, so she pulled it down.
'Hi, Fenella,' said Colin as he approached. 'You look great, very Muggle. Halfway between Scary and Sporty Spice, I'd say.'
'Halfway between what?' asked Fenella.
'Never mind, it would take much too long to explain. What do you want to do first? Where do you want to go? Shall we go down to the park at Scar Top or to the museum? Where's your camera?' Colin paused for breath. 'I'm babbling, aren't I? I'm sorry.'
Fenella looked worriedly around at the crowded pavements; at scores of Muggles doing whatever it was that Muggles did.
'What do you want to do?' she asked. 'What do Muggles do?' Colin laughed.
'They work and live and go to school, and boys meet girls, just like us. I thought that we could walk through the town to the Market Cross and then along to the museum. Then, we could picnic on Scar Top and go for a walk along the river. But we should open the Summer Challenge envelopes first and see what we're supposed to be photographing. Let's sit down over there,' he suggested. He pointed at a wooden bench not far from the bus stop.
Fenella nodded and walked in front of the bus towards the seat. Colin dashed after her, grabbed her arm, and pulled her backwards. She jumped backwards and squealed in fright as a car loudly sounded its horn.
'Blimey, Fenella, it's a road! You can't just walk out like that, you need to watch for cars,' he advised. Fenella nervously allowed herself to be escorted across the narrow road and led to the bench. It wasn't until they sat down that she realised that he was still holding onto her arm. Feeling herself blushing, she shook herself free.
They sat side by side but not quite hip to hip, almost touching. Fenella placed her hands on her legs and began nervously slapping them.
'Let's find out what Dopey Greengrass wants us to photograph,' said Colin.
'Daphne Greengrass…' Fenella began hesitantly.
'Is a … oh, never mind what she is. She doesn't like me, Fenella, you know that. But she somehow got herself re-elected President of the school Camera Club for a second year, so I'll have to put up with her Mudblood jibes again next year. You could easily get into her good books; just join in when she starts calling me names.'
'I couldn't do that, Colin,' Fenella said.
'Thanks,' he told her. He grinned and quickly squeezed her hand, releasing it before she could protest at what he'd done.
He opened his rucksack and pulled out the sealed envelope. He, like Fenella, had received notification of the Hogwarts Camera Club Summer Challenge only a week ago. They had agreed to wait and open their envelopes together.
Fenella pulled an identical envelope from her shoulder bag.
'I'm sure that Daphne will have cheated; she'll have given us each a really difficult subject in the hope that neither of us will win. She was furious when you won last year with the "Beach" photo,' observed Fenella.
'Your "Daisies" was brilliant, too, Fenella. Second place for the fourth year in a row is quite an achievement,' said Colin.
'Says the boy who came first for the last three of those years,' Fenella teased her friend.
'Boy!' Colin said, frowning. 'I'm sixteen; I'm all grown up.'
'Aren't you going to grow any taller?' she asked curiously. She immediately regretted her words. Colin, however, merely grinned.
'I'm five foot two and a half, Fenella, but I may make another couple of inches yet. Lots of people comment on my height, and most of them are rude about it, but I'm already taller than me mam, and me dad's only five foot four, so I don't really expect to get much bigger.' Colin looked serious. 'Does it bother you that I'm smaller than you?'
Fenella shook her head. 'No, but I wish that I was your height, then no one would notice me.'
'How tall are you?'
'Six foot, and still growing,' she said sadly. Colin patted her hand sympathetically.
'Are you ready?' he asked. She nodded. Simultaneously they lifted their envelopes, broke the seal and pulled out the parchment.
'Oh,' they gasped together.
'Mine's going to be difficult. What have you got?' Fenella asked.
'You first,' said Colin quietly.
'No, I asked first; I bet that mine's more difficult than yours,' insisted Fenella.
'I bet that it isn't,' Colin said with feeling. He handed her his piece of parchment.
'Glamour!' shrieked Fenella.
'Great! Just tell the whole world, please,' said Colin. Fenella looked up and saw that several Muggles were watching them curiously after her outburst.
'Sorry,' she whispered. 'I thought that mine was bad, it's "Grass." I definitely don't think that Daphne wants either of us to win this year. Glamour? You should protest; I mean, you're sixteen, you shouldn't be… shouldn't be…'
'Photographing girls in "artistic" poses?' Colin finished for her. Fenella nodded, blushing.
'I don't see how I'm going to take an interesting photograph of grass, and you'll never be able to persuade a girl to take her clothes off.'
'Not even you?' he asked, laughing. 'After all, you're probably the only girl I know well enough to ask, apart from Ginny, and she would hex me to oblivion if I suggested it.'
'Me! Don't joke, I'm the ugliest girl in the school; everyone knows that.'
'You're not even the ugliest girl your house, Fenella,' Colin told her. 'Daphne's sister, what's her name?'
'Astoria,' Fenella supplied.
'Astoria, that's her. She looks more like a horse than most horses I've seen. You're much better looking than she is.'
'Don't be daft, Colin. I know that I'm not.'
'You look fine to me, Fenella – tall and slim, nice hair. Not bad at all.'
'Now you're being silly, or teasing me.' Fenella frowned.
'You need to learn to take a compliment as it's meant, Fenella; not everyone wants to hurt you. Relax more and worry less. I've seen you start to relax and begin to enjoy yourself, but every time, you stop yourself. It's as though you think that having a bit of a laugh is wrong for some reason. Perhaps we could combine the challenges; I set up the shot, you persuade Astoria to take her clothes off, and we enter it as Astoria Green – Grass/Glamour.'
Fenella smiled. 'That's pretty feeble, even for you, Colin.'
'Feeble? It got you smiling again. You've got a nice smile too, but you don't like being complimented, so I'll stop being nice to you and tell you another joke instead. The optimist thinks that the glass is half full, the pessimist thinks that the glass is half empty, Luna Lovegood wants to know why the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.' Colin grinned hopefully. Fenella snorted with laughter.
'Funny and true,' she told him. 'It doesn't look like we'll be getting our photos done today, so what shall we do instead?'
'There's still a chance, Fenella, for you at least. Let me think about it for a while. We'll go along to the museum like I said, and I'll show you the swan, then we can look around this fine old town for a while and I'll try to make you laugh.'
Fenella returned to the subject of the swan as they walked downhill from the castle and towards the banks of the Tees.
They had eaten their picnic lunch on Scar Top, in front of the ruined remains of the castle; swapping sandwiches and jokes. Colin had bought them drinks from a newsagents. The drinks were cold, unnaturally orange and, Fenella discovered when she drank some, sweet, sticky and very fizzy. After lunch, they had walked around the castle ruins and told each other bad jokes. Colin was astonished to discover that Fenella had never heard any elephant jokes and he had rattled off dozens.
Now they were hand in hand. Fenella had no idea how that had happened. It was, she thought, when she'd been laughing at the idea of an elephant hiding in a cherry tree. Colin had finished packing away the picnic, stood, and held out a hand to help pull her to her feet. He simply hadn't let go.
She was actually rather enjoying having a hand to hold and, she told herself, it wasn't as though it meant anything other than they were friends. Anyway, no one they knew would see them, not here.
Her jacket was stuffed into Colin's bag, her vest stubbornly refused to stay tucked in, and her trousers stubbornly refused to stay as high as she tried to hitch them. She had finally given up and simply left her top untucked and allowed her trousers to remain a lot lower on her hips than they had been. Colin was so hot that he'd asked her if it was okay if he took off his t-shirt. He was now displaying his pale and rather scrawny chest to the sun.
Fenella was more relaxed than she'd been for months. Last year had been horrible – people disappearing, the Headmaster murdered. All she wanted to do was ignore the horrible things that were happening, but that was becoming more and more difficult.
Today, though, for a while at least, she could forget all of the unpleasantness. She gazed around. The cerulean sky surrounded them, only a few wisps of white hung unmoving in the still and sultry air. The sun was a yellow-white orb shining with a stifling heat. They walked down the meadow towards the river. Trees in full leaf screened the river from them. There were trees in the distance ahead and to the right too, and there was no one else in the meadow. The entire world seemed to consist of her and Colin and blue and green.
'So, tell me again. How could the Muggles from two hundred years ago make a swan that's made out of silver move?' she asked, breaking the silence.
'It's called an automaton, it's clockwork and gears and levers and stuff. Lots of very small and complicated bits of metal carefully put together,' Colin replied. 'Ask Dennis if you really want to know, he's always been more interested in cars and clocks and mechanical things than I have. He could probably build something like the swan.'
'Muggles are really quite clever, aren't they?' Fenella observed as they strolled down towards the river.
'Some of them are very clever, and some of them are as thick as Vincent Crabbe. We're no different to wizards, good, bad, fat, thin, tall, short,' Colin told her.
'You're not a Muggle, Colin,' she told him.
'Aren't I? There are some pretty horrible kids at school, you know. You're Pureblood; you don't get the Mudblood jibes from Daphne or anyone. Malfoy is the worst! I know I shouldn't … it's wrong of me … but I really hope that he's got some scars from when Harry attacked him. But let's not talk about that,' he said as they approached the shade of some trees.
He stopped suddenly, stepped sideways, and pulled her around to face back in the direction they had come from.
'Well?' he asked, nodding back across the meadow and towards the castle ruins on the skyline.
'Well, what?' Fenella was puzzled.
'What can you see?' he asked.
'Trees,' replied Fenella tentatively. She knew that she was missing something.
Colin sighed. 'Look lower.'
'Exactly, what do you think?'
Fenella looked carefully at the scene, tilting her head first one way, then another. The grassy meadow stretched off unbroken to the distant trees. It seemed to form an arrowhead pointing towards the castle ruins, which stood on a scarp above the treetops.
She thought carefully, considering the angles. iIf I set up a ground shot with the correct focal length, I'll be able to pick up individual stems of grass in the foreground, the meadow behind, and the trees and castle ruins against the skyline. It's perfect./i
'It's brilliant, Colin, thanks. It'll make a great photo.' She released his hand, pulled him into a hug and kissed the top of his head happily. As she looked over his head at the scene, he grabbed her around the waist and squeezed. She glanced down and realised what she'd done. She released him, her face turning beetroot, and stepped back.
'Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry…' she stammered. He was blushing, too, but he was also laughing.
'That was unexpected, and unexpectedly pleasant,' he said.
'I … it … me … you … sorry … didn't think … you're just so small,' Fenella continued to stammer in embarrassment.
'I'll carry a box with me, from now on, shall I?' he suggested. 'In case you ever get the urge to hug me again.'
'I, I, I…'
'I think that it's time you set up your camera and got your photograph,' Colin told her. 'At least one of us will get a decent entry; I hope that you win. I'm just glad that the Hogwarts Professors do the judging, not President Dopey.'
'Daphne,' Fenella corrected him automatically.
They spent almost half an hour getting the shot right, lying side by side on the grass, checking the light, and waiting until the few clouds were in exactly the right place. Finally, Fenella pressed the shutter release several times in quick succession.
She turned to Colin and beamed happily. They were shoulder to shoulder, resting on their elbows on the grass. He moved his head forwards and kissed her on the lips. She recoiled in surprise, overbalanced, and ended up lying on her side looking at an only-slightly-repentant Colin.
'Sorry, Fenella, I gave in to temptation. I've been wanting to do that for a long time, and I don't reckon I'll get much chance next year.'
'Why?' she whispered in shock.
Colin laughed. 'Why what? There are a lot of why's. Why did I do it? Because you're really nice, and I like you, and you're good company, and I thought that you needed a congratulatory kiss. Why don't I think that there will be much chance next year? Because I read the Daily Prophet: "Minister Thicknesse promises sweeping changes", "Harry Potter, wanted fugitive". We've seen these things happen before, Fenella, and Harry has always been proved to be in the right and the Ministry in the wrong. But I've already said that we shouldn't talk about the future, about what's wrong with the wizarding world. Let's just have a day in the sunshine where we can walk and talk and enjoy ourselves. We have been having a good time, at least I have; I hope that you have, too. And you've probably got a great photo. I hope that I haven't spoiled the day for you. That was my first kiss and I hope that it won't be my last. Crikey, that was a rambling speech. Kissing you has made me nervous.'
He stood and reached out his hands. With a rapidly beating heart, she allowed herself to be pulled to her feet. They picked up her camera and packed everything safely away. He took hold of her hand again; she didn't pull away, but permitted him to lead her to the trees, to continue their walk. Her mind was awash with confused and confusing thoughts.
He'd kissed her. It had been quite pleasant, and she was now a little sad that she'd pulled away so quickly. He's Muggle-born! But so is Aunt Ariadne. I wonder if he'll try to kiss me again? She looked down at Colin, remembered her hug, and blushed. He's tiny, and we look stupid together. She wondered what Colin thought about the difference in their height. It didn't seem to bother him.
They walked along the edge of the trees, talking about school and their futures. Colin, Fenella was astonished to discover, wanted to be an Auror. She tried to persuade him away from that dangerous profession, suggesting that he'd make a good living as a photographer. But Colin would not be convinced.
'There are a lot of things wrong with the world, Fenella, and someone has to put them right,' he said forcefully. 'When Harry needs help, I'll help him.'
He led her down through the trees to the river, down to a sheltered and sunny spot on the bank and sat down on a tree root.
'We've still got a couple of hours before your bus, Fenella, and I'm too hot to walk. What do you want to do? Shall we sit and watch the river for a while?'
'Okay,' Fenella agreed. They sat in silence for a few minutes, watching the water, then Colin began to take off his shoes.
'What are you doing?' Fenella squeaked.
'My feet are hot, so I thought that I'd go for a paddle. Are you coming?' asked Colin.
'Okay.' She took off her shoes and socks, rolled her trousers up to her knees and followed him into the river. The water was cold, and the river bed was uneven and slippery. She was uncomfortable and felt ungainly so after a few minutes, her toes numb with cold, she clambered out and left Colin in the water, looking for fish.
'I think that I'll just lie in the sun for a while,' she told him.
She crumpled up her jacket to act as a pillow, lay on her back, and closed her eyes. She could hear Colin splashing about in the river and felt herself drifting into sleep. She took off her glasses, placed them next to Colin's rucksack, and listened to the river flowing and Colin splashing.
'Fenella.' She heard her name and woke slowly. Stretching languidly, she opened her eyes and smiled at the sound of Colin's voice. Peering myopically towards the waving blur, she realised that the clicks she could hear were his camera shutter clattering busily.
'No, Colin, that's cruel,' she shouted. She scrabbled around for her glasses, put them on, and looked up at a grinning Colin.
'Why did you photograph me? You know that I hate being photographed.'
'You looked good, I had to do it.' Colin was completely unrepentant.
Fenella got angrily to her feet took two steps towards him, shrieked in pain and tumbled to the ground.
'Merlin, Fenella – are you all right? What happened?' Colin was at her side in an instant.
'I stubbed my toe,' she announced unhappily, close to tears. 'On that.' She pointed at a tree root.
Colin scampered down to the river and was back in an instant with a water-soaked handkerchief which he placed over her big toe.
'That will help,' he said consolingly. 'I'm sorry about the photographs. You looked wonderful, and I couldn't resist, sorry.'
'You're horrible! Taking my photo,' she squeaked tearfully.
'Sorry, Fenella, but they're taken now; I can't untake them. I'll tell you what, I promise on my honour as a Gryffindor that I'll not show them to anyone but you, and that if you ask me to destroy them, I will. I only woke you because it's time we were getting back into town. I need to get you on to your bus home. If your toe is still sore, you can use me for a crutch.'
Colin packed up his camera while Fenella put on her shoes, rolled her trouser legs down, and adjusted her vest, one strap of which had slipped from her shoulder. Bare shoulder, bare belly, bare knees, she realised. She glared at Colin.
'If you try to enter a photograph of me as your entry, I'll … I'll kill you,' she told him.
'I'll let you see them, first, and if you still say no, I won't enter,' he promised earnestly.
Fenella scowled, but Colin just grinned and began to whistle cheerfully as he pulled on his shoes.
'It could have been worse, Fenella; I was tempted to wake you with a kiss.'
'That would have been better, not worse,' she told him. She didn't even have time to blush at her thoughtless comment. Colin was on his knees at her side and pressing his lips to hers. She didn't pull away, though she kept her teeth clamped tightly shut, just in case. But Colin simply pressed his lips to hers for a little while. She felt his breath on her cheek as he exhaled through his nose. He stood up and grinned.
'I don't think I'm very good at that,' he apologised.
'I'm no expert, either,' she admitted.
Colin began to laugh; it was a joyous, infectious laugh, and she found herself joining in. He pulled her to her feet and, hand in hand and still giggling they began their walk back to the town.
When they reached Scar Top, Colin stopped. He was walking on a high kerb next to a colourfully planted raised flowerbed, and Fenella was on the path. This made him only a couple of inches shorter than she was.
'Can I see you again over the holidays, Fenella, maybe next weekend? My dad will be able to drive me over the tops to Middleton and we could meet there, or you could come over to my house. My mam and dad would like to meet you.'
'I … I don't know, Colin. Dad's been for an interview today, with Madam Umbridge.'
'Why does he want to work for that old bat?' Colin hissed.
'It's a promotion. Madam Umbridge is setting up a new Commission for the Minister. It's very important work, apparently. Dad has promised to take us away next weekend if he gets the job,' said Fenella.
'Would you like to meet again?' Colin asked hesitantly. 'That's not just an excuse, is it? If you want to say no, just say no. I won't mind.'
Fenella looked into his downcast face and realised that he was lying. He definitely would mind. She looked around; no one seemed to be watching and, under an unusually impetuous impulse, she quickly kissed him.
'I'd like to see you again, Colin. I'll send you an owl and let you know when I can get away,' she told him.
Colin was grinning from ear to ear as they strolled slowly out from the park.
The moment they reached Galgate, they saw that Fenella's bus was already at the stop. They ran, and reached the bus stop with only moments to spare. Colin helped her to pay the driver and found her a seat. He stood on the pavement and watched and waved to her as the bus drove off.
Fenella's fiancé hugged her.
'Well, that was a long story, 'Ella,' he said slowly and thoughtfully. 'And all because I asked you about that photo of Barnard Castle that your mum has framed in your living room.'
'I never saw him again, Terry,' Fenella said sadly. 'When I got home, Dad told us about his new job, about the Muggle-born Registration Commission, and about what his job would entail. When he found out, Dad spent the day faking half-blood status for Zoë's mum. I know what he did, but he's not all bad, you know. He looks after his family.
'You know what happened next. I wrote to Colin that same night and warned him, and he contacted every Muggle-born that he could. We kept writing to each other right up until the battle. I bought supplies for him, printing materials, whatever he asked for. I even managed to get him some official Ministry stationary that Christmas. I … borrowed … as much as I could when I went to see Dad at work.
'But the real reason I'm telling you this is because I wanted to show you Colin's last photographs. I won the Camera Club competition with "Grass," which is why Mum framed it, but he had an entry, too. He couldn't submit it himself, so he sent it to me, and I was too much of a coward to enter it for him.'
Fenella reached into a small box containing dozens of letters and pulled out an envelope from the bottom of the pile. She turned the envelope over and over in her hand.
'After this photograph, so far as I know, Colin never took any more artistic photographs. He worked on … documents … instead.' Fenella frowned.
'He was a legend among the resistance. If you wanted an official Ministry document to prove that you were Pureblood, or a pass into the Ministry, anything at all, then the mysterious "Seas" was your man.' Terry Boot smiled sadly. 'He was a good lad. Do you think that, if he'd survived, you'd still be with him?'
'I don't know, Terry,' she admitted. 'How could I know? The war changed so many things. Colin was nice, and sweet, and funny, but he could be very intense. And we were both only sixteen. You're not second best or anything. You're nothing like him; you're more than a foot taller than he was, for a start.'
Terry laughed, it was the low bass rumble she so rarely heard.
'He first called himself "Seas" in his thank you letter, after I'd warned him. Colin Creevey, C.C., Seas! Not really a good codename, but he was only sixteen. I have never shown anyone this photograph, Terry. Colin said that if I didn't like it, I should destroy it. I almost did. But I couldn't, because it's his last competition photo, and I couldn't, because it's me. But it isn't me, not really.' Fenella looked down at the envelope which she was still holding.
She handed it to Terry and watched as he slid out the photograph. His eyes widened, his jaw dropped, and he looked at her and at the photo he held.
'Yes,' she confirmed. 'That is a seven-year-old photograph and you're only the second person to see it. Actually, you're the third, I suppose, because Colin must have seen it when he developed it. That is sixteen-year-old Fenella Gray lying on the banks of the River Tees.'
Terry stared at the picture. The sleeping girl lay on her side. She wore rolled up trousers and a short vest. The photo showed shapely calves and ankles and a bare, flat stomach. Her waist was narrowed and curved by the way she was lying. Her arms and one shoulder were bare. As he looked, the figure moved, blinked, opened her eyes wide and smiled, lifting herself slowly from repose.
Her face was oval and, while not conventionally pretty, certainly not ugly. It was framed in wild, sleep-tousled black hair and was only just recognisable as the face of the hook-nosed bespectacled girl in front of him; the face of his fiancée.
Fenella smiled sadly. 'He was a genius with the camera. There is only one angle, if you look straight into my face, where you can get that look, without the distraction of my nose. Colin found it.'
'It is you, 'Ella, it is your beauty. I've seen it often, but I've never seen it captured like this. It's … I'm speechless ... the camera never lies, remember? We should go and visit Colin, take flowers, say hello to him. I'd like to thank him for this. I've never been back to his grave since the funeral.'
'I have. I go every year on his birthday.'
'Shall we buy some flowers and go now, 'Ella?'
'Thanks, Terry.' Fenella smiled sorrowfully.