COLIN'S FIRST LOVE
This piece was written for the 2006 Valentine's Day Challenge at WizardTales. The challenge was to write a love story involving two characters not associated with the same House. Additional points would be awarded for including the phrases: "Gerroff, Peeves", "Whose knickers are those, anyway?", "His eyes are as green as a fresh-pickled toad", “Holiday chocolates, only two sickles each! Guaranteed to win your true love’s heart, with an added bonus of pimple reduction!” and "I think I've loved you from afar since first year, did you know that?"
Colin Creevey backed out of the curtains, the precious roll of negatives coiled about his arm. The improvised darkroom was working perfectly, except for those few stains on the bedspread and the alkali hole in his favorite pillow. It had been well worth the cost of investing in that Light-Swallowing fabric for the curtains and canopy of his four-poster. Now he had a more or less convenient place for developing his shots. True, he had to perform the entire process on his knees, and the mattress was a bit on the soft side, which occasionally caused the bottles to fall into each other, but that Stabilizing Charm that Professor Flitwick showed him had helped to keep the trays and the enlarger in place. And as long as he started the process right after his last class every day, he could be sure of some decent prints before the house elf came in to make up the beds.
His lips twitched into a smile. He'd had to be very stern with Kweezy. House elves didn't seem to understand the importance of pursuing one's destiny in spite of a bit of inconvenience. He'd warned the little fellow to be careful when storing away the tubs of developer and accelerant, the intensifiers, the stop bath, and the preservatives necessary to the fine art of Animated Photography. But Kweezy, to save space, had just poured all the potions into one big bottle. It caused a minor explosion and an acrid miasma which peeled the varnish off all the dorm furniture and etched the window glass. Steve Capper, Colin's least favorite dorm mate, had, for some reason, seen fit to blame Colin for the incident. But then Capper was a Philistine, who was always going on about his 'abs' and his 'pecs' and his girl-friends' bra sizes, with no appreciation whatsoever for the planning of a complex photomontage or experiments with high-sensitivity emulsions.
In spite of that bit of flack, it was surprising how easy it was becoming to get people and house elves to do just what he wanted. He'd never been a pushy fellow, not really. Why all that time in his first year when he'd followed Harry Potter around taking pictures had merely been childish, nervous admiration, he knew that now. He still liked Harry and even thought he'd like to do a character study of him sometime, but right now, he had bigger things on his mind.
His summer apprenticeship at the Daily Prophet had taught him one thing. It wasn't easy for a Muggle-born wizard to make it in the Magicosm. The other apprentices--all purebloods--had already been familiar with the ins and outs of magical photography, even though Colin was sure he was years ahead of them in having an eye for a shot. That picture he'd taken of Harry's owl Hedwig last year was a good example. He'd caught her soaring into the sunrise, its pinkish light making a blazing halo about her neat, round head, and fringy wings. That picture had won him an honorable mention in the Prophet's Amateur Photography Contest—unheard of for a Muggle-born-- and positioned him perfectly for the apprenticeship. It was that picture too that had decided him on this, the subject of his first portfolio: a pictorial record of life at Hogwarts, inside and out, and in all seasons.
He examined the roll of negatives in the light of the setting sun. He'd started his project, appropriately, at the very top of the castle. This past week, he'd put his budding persuasive talents to good use on Professor Binns and managed to twice wangle his way out of History of Magic to visit the third years' Divination class. And it had been worth it. Although the classroom itself had posed a bit of a lighting problem, the session had afforded him some appealing shots of students, particularly cute, little Lucinda Godolphin, peering into the crystal orb, her face pale, her gaze intense. And in a way, it was Lucinda who'd made him determine on the subject of his next series of shots: a corridor not too far from the Gryffindor common room.
He'd been walking down it on his way from the Owlery, carrying his equipment, when he noticed a window in the far wall. It was a Gothic arched type, with delicate stone tracery in a cinquefoil pattern. And next to the window, Lucinda Godolphin leaned against the wall taking in the view, her slender arms folded, the fringe of her bangs not quite hiding a little moue of concentration, a very becoming pout on her lips. He remembered that the vista out of that window was particularly photogenic. It gave onto a steep cliff overhanging the lake, and willow groves near the pebbly shore framed the gates of the school in the distance.
It was decided. He would stop in the corridor every chance he got to take pictures of the hallway, the window, the view--and Lucinda. He'd seen her in the area several times before. He knew she was shy, and this made an appropriate refuge for her, a quiet spot a bit off the beaten path to classes. He knew a neat shortcut to it from the library on the fourth floor and the Charms corridor on the third, so he could visit that hallway at all hours of the day, even between classes, to take advantage of the subtle changes in the lighting. And while he was at it, he could chat up Lucinda in her sanctuary.
Almost every time he'd passed through the corridor on his way to the Owlery, she'd been there. She'd looked at him with—what was it?—a certain wistful longing, he thought. And at least twice she had dropped what she was holding, as though his appearance had unnerved her somehow. He'd helped her pick up the items: once, a pair of very heavy brass scales, and later, a cauldron filled with marbles, both of which made an unearthly noise as they crashed to the floor. His brother Dennis had been with him the second time, and declared afterwards: "That little witch has a thing for you, Bro." Colin had pooh-poohed the suggestion, but the more he thought about it, the more sense it made.
He'd heard her mother was gravely ill and that she expected to be called home at any time to help care for her. Perhaps he should try to get to know her now before that happened. He could cheer her up with stories about his quest for The Perfect Picture. Some were very exciting, like the one that found him dangling over that cliff with his head in the lake, trying to get an underwater shot of the giant squid with his submersible Brownie A40X Magichrome camera with the Auto-Charmed Aperture and Anti-Fog Lens.
The corridor itself contained worthy subjects for small-talk, including a huge gilded urn which stood opposite the window, which he imagined would look pretty spectacular with the rays of the setting sun hitting it. There was also a rather ugly and violent tapestry about halfway along it, depicting some naive warlock trying to teach trolls to dance. Yes,there was plenty to talk about. And of course, there was his work itself--which often prompted questions from the uninitiated.
Lucinda predictably dropped what she was holding at the sight of him. This time it was a large, heavy shopping bag, which made a loud "Whumpf" as it hit the floor. It was filled with clothes, boy's clothes, of an immense size he noted as he watched her jam them back into the bag. He wanted to say—with utmost cool, the way Steve Capper did when sizing up a potential squeeze—"Whose knickers are those, anyway?" But the words caught in his throat and he turned instead to the task at hand.
"What—what do you think you're doing?" Lucinda goggled at him, obviously impressed, as he set up his tripod and aimed the Multi-flex Codacolor-360 with the Never-Fail Range Finder and Predicto-Flash in the direction of the window. Her voice was husky, and deeper than he remembered it. The poor girl obviously had a head cold--perhaps even a sore throat.
"Oh, don't mind me. I'm just taking a few shots of the school—for a--a project." He didn't say "for The Daily Prophet," though he had planned to. It wasn't true, strictly speaking, even though he was feeling more and more sure that Artistic Editor Bunchie McQueen would be interested in publishing parts of his portfolio. He'd thought of calling it Hogwarts, Warts and All, though he hadn't come up with any shots of Ron Weasley and Lavender Brown flagrantly sucking face in the common room or Mr. Filch hanging troublemakers by their thumbs or Professor Snape abusing the no-forcing-Potions-pupils-to-drink-their-classwork policy. And he wasn't sure he wanted to anyway. Being around Lucinda made him feel entirely forgiving of the shortcomings of both the staff and his peers.
"But why are you taking pictures?" she persisted. "And why are you doing it here?"
He turned to answer her question with what he hoped was a weary artist's detachment. He'd practiced the look in front of the mirror: one hand in his pocket, the other touching his camera—gently, almost negligently, speaking shyly of his love for the lens that never lies. Well, that last part was easy to duplicate. He was shy; he'd never had a serious conversation with a girl before. Whenever he tried to, he found himself looking into their chests—not intentionally, of course—and losing his train of thought. He was short for his age, and even at fifteen, shorter than most of the girls in the school. His father was always telling him and Dennis—"Big things come in small packages." Easy for Dad to say—he was over six feet tall.
But Lucinda was small too—even shorter than Colin. He could actually look into her eyes, which were amazingly green, without craning. They made him a little light-headed. What, or who, did those eyes remind him of? And what should he say? Dennis had told him: "Just let your thoughts come out. Don't think too much. Girls don't like it. They love the truth—but only if it's a compliment." He cleared his throat and started to speak. But the eyes made it hard for him to concentrate on what he was saying.
"How's that?" she said when he paused. She sounded surprised. He guessed his poetic reflections had caught her off guard, whatever it was his Muse had prompted him to say.
"What do you mean?"
"You just said, 'Your eyes are as green as a fresh-pickled toad.'"
"Did I?" He felt a sudden dismay, just as when the Giant Squid had actually lunged out at him from the murky soup of the Lake and swallowed his new, expensive Brownie whole.
"Are you trying to be funny?" she asked. She put her hand on his chest as if to push him, but there was little weight behind the movement. Her touch felt almost like a caress. And he thought he saw in her eyes a hint of playfulness.
"Oh—no—um—that was a compliment. It's from a poem, I think. Shakespeare, maybe. I don't remember where I heard it."
She growled a word. It sounded like "Bother." Her throat was indeed very sore.
"You have a cold, don’t you? Shall I do an Aguamenti?"
"No, it's all right" she muttered, "I have a drink here with me." She took out a flask and sipped and made a face. "Medicine. For my—uh--my cold."
Now it came to Colin in a flash. The line he'd recited unthinking was from a jingle some dwarf in a tutu and tights had sung to Harry Potter on Valentine's Day a couple of years back. Colin had been in the infirmary, Petrified by a Basilisk at the time, but his friends had told him all about it. And George and Fred Weasley had serenaded Harry with it off and on for the rest of their stay at Hogwarts. It was still a standing joke in the dorm. Could he have said anything worse? He changed the subject, trying to minimize the damage. "You spend a lot of time up here. This your favorite haunt?" He grinned hopefully at her. That was a joke he was sure she would laugh at, as there were ghosts all over the castle.
But she frowned instead, as if she took his question very seriously. "I—uh—like it here. It's quiet. I can think better up here."
"Do you like the view from the window? It's the reason I decided to take some shots here. See?" He walked to the end of the corridor and looked out. "The sun's almost down. If I'm right, in a minute, you'll see something amazing." They waited in silence, and as the rays of a brilliant sunset crept through the window, they hit the urn at the opposite end and the reflections off its surface bathed the entire room in a golden light. More important, they lit Lucinda up like a goddess. For a moment, her robes and hair shone darkly, her skin took on a lustrous quality of buffed silver, her eyes became emeralds of an exquisite cut. And she seemed taller, stately, and magnificent to his adoring eyes. He could barely restrain himself from falling to his knees. But then the light faded, and the moment was gone.
"That was—something!" she murmured, passing her hand over her face.
His own face tingling, he set himself studiously to taking his pictures. She refused to pose for him, but she watched from behind, and not surprisingly, asked questions. What was that bulbish thing hanging down the side of the camera? How did you keep the camera from falling off the three-legged thing? And how did the flash-thingy work? He answered her questions patiently, every minute more enchanted by and endeared to her child-like nescience. She was an innocent babe, unknowing of the Ways of the World, of the gritty day-to-day struggle of the camera and the pen to lay bare The Truth. It excited him. He could counsel her--be her guide.
Late in the session, she once again dropped her bag. An odd knocking sound in the wall behind her had made her jump, and she begged him to go, saying that there was a particularly nasty ghoul in the walls that showed up every day about this time. She hadn't actually admitted this at first. He had drawn it out of her. He'd learned the technique, while tagging along as a cub photographer for the famous Prophet reporter Rita Skeeter during his apprenticeship. You had to read between the lines, she'd told him, listen for what people didn't say and guess their intentions, ask leading questions, flatter and encourage them to tell all.
So they had parted, she to the dining hall, he to his room to develop his prints, feeling cautious, yet jubilant. She hadn't invited him back to her eyrie for a rendezvous, but he had seen it in her eyes. She was as eager as he was to meet again. And he remembered. Tomorrow was Valentine's Day.
Oh, drat, oh drat, oh drat…why did I say that…right in front of old Snape…and a detention…on this of all days…
Well, at least the punishment had come right after class. And cleaning up the slop buckets wasn't so bad. Inured to his own pungent (Steve Capper called it 'pukey') developing potion all these years, no little stench of rotting newt guts and Ribblestinker rind could offend his nose.
He took the steps to the dorm two at a time, grabbed his equipment—and a little package he'd wrapped himself—and was whistling off to The Corridor before you could say "synchronized flash attachment", three times, fast.
There she was, at her accustomed spot, meditating on the sunset, now turned gray and violet. He sighed. He'd missed out on her being changed once more into the Very Embodiment of Innocence and Beauty, as he'd come to think of her. There wouldn't be any more such transformations, as the angle of the sun was shifting daily in an unfavorable direction away from that stunningly reflective urn. But she still looked radiant, her curly black hair a bit tousled, as if she'd been running her hands through it impatiently, waiting for him. He leaned his tripod in the corner, eased his satchel to the floor, and fingered the package in his pocket.
Despite her protestations yesterday that she had not wanted her picture taken, he had managed to get one shot of her unawares, staring at the wall opposite that odious tapestry, just at the moment the ghoul in the wall had made that noise. The print had come out a trifle marred, probably due to a flaw in the film emulsion. It looked almost as if a crack had appeared in the wall she'd been looking at, just before she turned to him and told him they must both leave, and quickly. But it was the only picture he had, and it showed her in profile, concentrating hard, her jewel-like eyes flashing, her soft, pliant mouth forming a small O of—what was it?—surprise?--or disappointment that they'd have to be parted?
It had taken him the whole night to develop the shot and get it just right. And he'd spent no end of precious time tussling with Kweezy and Capper both. The house elf had tried to clean up around him and accidentally spilled a bottle of silver nitrate all over the floor. Capper muttered throughout the evening that a certain inconsiderate bloke should cork his bloody bottles and get to bed, and tried at one point to chuck the enlarger down the spiral staircase.
At breakfast, Colin bought a heart-shaped frame for the portrait off a pair of enterprising first years who'd set up a little display of Valentine gifts at one end of the Slytherin table in the dining hall. One grabbed his arm and shouted, as he was leaving, “Don't forget some holiday chocolates, only two sickles each! Guaranteed to win your true love’s heart, with an added bonus of pimple reduction!” But he balked at buying the candy. Lucinda's face was as smooth as a pearl.
He started with a simple, "Hello."
She had nothing in her hands to drop, so there was no noise to mar the moment. "Oh, it's you."
He had tried out all sorts of opening lines in the dorm mirror, from "You're the best thing that ever happened to me," to "Lucinda baby, you really rock my world" to a melodramatic: "I think I've loved you from afar since first year, did you know that?" But anything over half a dozen words would probably tie his tongue into knots, so he chose something simple and simply true.
"I have something for you."
She didn't say anything, just looked at him. He took that for encouragement and walked towards her, trying to keep his knees from knocking and his feet from breaking into a run—whether it would be towards or away from her, he was not sure.
She took the package from him and sniffed it. "Is it candy?" she asked.
"Uh, no." She looked a bit disappointed, so he added, "It's something I made myself. I think you'll like it."
She unwrapped it with fumbling fingers. "Oh, it's a picture. Of a girl." She frowned at him. Perhaps the likeness wasn't good enough. He turned it so that she could see it better in the light. It was actually a very good likeness, one of the best mattes he'd ever done. He'd printed the image to the most sensitive, magic-dense parchment he had. It showed the luminous eyes to perfection and the sensitive mouth, drawing up into that most kissable O. But she still looked blank.
He shrugged. "Well, it's just one photograph. I can always make more."
A light seemed to go on behind her eyes. "Oh, it's her—I mean—me. You make--me--look really pretty. But you better not—I mean--you shouldn't take any more."
"You just can't. Malf—I mean—my parents—would be upset."
His trained reporter's ear caught the slip. "Are you going out with someone? Draco Malfoy?"
She laughed. It came out almost as a snort. "Are you kidding? No, of course not. I mean, that would be really, really stupid, not to say creepy."
Colin felt much better. He swallowed the bitter lump that had formed in his throat, and it tasted surprisingly sweet as it went down. Lucinda complimented him on the picture, saying it was "pretty good for a mud--I mean a student." Her voice was still husky, with emotion he thought. They talked for a long while. He told her more about his ambition to be a professional photographer. But she was strangely reticent about her own interests. Modest, he thought. He tried to draw her out as he had the day before.
"Do you like Quidditch?" he asked.
"Oh sure. I play every chance I get."
"Really? What position?"
"Beater, but what I really want to be is a Keeper."
Colin was having difficulty wrapping his mind around the image of this slight, elfin creature, bearing down on a Bludger, grunting and screeching, and walloping it at a choice part of an opponent's anatomy. But perhaps that was why she was so hoarse all the time. "You'd rather be a Keeper? Really? Why?"
"Keepers have all the fun. They get to dive for the ball, and slam it into a bloke's face or his gut, and if a Chaser gets too close there are lots of ways, they can take them down, like clotheslining or throwing Stye-Eye Powder in their faces or kicking them in the 'nads, or…" She stopped suddenly, and squeaked, "Sorry about that. I—I was just having you on, you know."
She was surprisingly easy to talk to. She liked a number of sports and was tolerant of masculine pursuits. He could only think she must have several brothers, because she told him she'd once smoked a whole pipeful of Auld Beechmast with friends in the woodpile behind her home.
They talked this way for almost an hour, as the afterglow was replaced with faint moonlight. Colin was acutely aware of her slim, soft form in the semidarkness beside him. Suddenly, he reached for her and pulled her to him. Her small hands resisted, but only for seconds, kneading at his chest. As his lips pressed against hers, soft, yielding, lips, he felt tingly, and not just in the place where he usually did when he had such powerful thoughts as he now was having. He felt a shudder run through her whole body, which reverberated in his own. Her breast rose and fell, faster and faster, swelling with desire. He could feel it in himself as well. He closed his eyes, enjoying this feeling he'd read about, the sensation of two hearts beating as one. It made him feel lighter than air, as if his feet were no longer touching the ground, as if their love was Levitating them both straight upward right through the stone of the castle into the magical, starlit heavens.
"Geroff me, you pervert!"
Colin opened his eyes so fast he almost pulled a face muscle, shocked at the sound of the obviously masculine voice that had suddenly thrust itself between him and his girlfriend. His feet were definitely off the ground, but he had his arms not around Lucinda, but around the beefy neck of--Gregory Goyle! He let go at once and dropped onto his knees, trying to see around a pair of hairy knees. He was so disturbed he had no thought to fumble for his wand. What had happened? Where was Lucinda? And what was this gormless Godzilla doing in her place?
Behind him, another voice assaulted his ears, a harsh voice that cackled with glee. "Ooh, Peevsie loves to watch the randy kiddies. Huggy-huggy! Kissy-kissy! I saw the whole thing. Creevsie the Nit and a rather large lady love. Who is it--Beefy Bulstrode? Oh my virgin eyes, it's Gregory Gar-Goyle Or should I say Gay—Goyle? you should watch who you plant your smackers on, Creevsie. You never know what kind of bug you might catch."
Colin fell back on his heels aghast. Peeves the Poltergeist saw him--snogging another boy? And of all people, the ugliest, dumbest, Slytherin male in the school!
"Ooooh what a great bit of gossip that'll be for the dining hall." Peeves zoomed over their heads and behind the apish Goyle, pulling at his robes. "Don't you look ravished, my lady? Your frock is torn from nape to buttocks." He winked at Colin. " Nice one, Creevsie, but I think in the dark, you mistook the lady's—ah—gender—though methinks you would have been tipped off by the smell!"
"Geroff, Peeves!" Goyle took a swipe at the pesky poltergeist with a meaty hand. Peeves avoided it deftly and crooned "Transvesti-Greg and Creepy Creevey, what a lovvvvvvely pair..." He sped off around the corner. They heard a yell and a scream, as he discovered another unlucky couple. "Ooooh, a squiffy, Gryffie Valentine rendy-voo," they heard him cry, "Lav-Lav and Won-Won! Come out, come out wherever you are..."
Colin inched away from the hulking form of Goyle, wiping his lips on his sleeve. "What--who--how?" he mumbled. He was distracted by another sound next to him, the opening of a door.
It was Draco Malfoy coming through a doorway that had suddenly appeared in the wall, brandishing his wand. "Incendio!" he muttered, and the torches of the corridor blazed into flame. By their light, Colin saw the the door behind Draco fade away. This must be the Room of Requirement, where he and Dennis had last year been trained in Defensive spells by Harry Potter himself, as members of Dumbledore's Army. This ephemeral chamber could only appear at a thrice-uttered wish, and would turn up chock-full of whatever the supplicant needed. But what could the heir to the Malfoy millions possibly lack that he would need to use the Room of Requirement?
Draco's face muscles were working hard to maintain a stern expression. "Creevey, isn't it? Snogging my lieutenant. Bad form, worse taste, and worthy of expulsion. Or should I save the Headmaster the trouble and just give you up to Filch's tender ministrations? I'm sure he's got a set of chains in that stinking den of his made just for people like you."
"What do you mean?"
"Fags, perverts, queers--though I have to admit your choice of a quiff is a bit odd." He chuckled nastily.
"You've got it all wrong--"
"I'm not no quiff!" interrupted Goyle, "I been doing this for you Malfoy. Day and night, sitting out here, pretending to be a girl while you're doing Gawd-knows-what in that room. Polishing that wand of yours, like as not. If anybody's a weirdo—"
While he ranted, Colin could see what Peeves had been talking about. Goyle was wearing witch's robes, way too small for him and split at every seam. And through the rents, a threadbare, yellowish undershirt and pants showed.
"Hush now, my dear Gregory," soothed Malfoy. "The important thing is what to do with your—er—mudblood boyfriend." He turned to Colin, who was now getting up off the floor.
"It was Polyjuice potion, wasn't it?" Colin muttered. "What Goyle was drinking. With some of Lucinda's hair in it." He felt a pang in the region of his heart. The robes were likely Lucinda's too. "What have you done with her?" he cried.
"Godolphin? Keep your knickers on. She's gone home—mother's sick."
"Oh. But why—"
"Yours not to reason why, Creevey. Too bad you had to insist on being in the wrong place so many wrong times. I told Goyle it would be safe enough to just string you along for a few days. Who knew you'd keep him talking for over an hour and make him forget to take the bloody potion?" He shook his head, chuckling. "You should have seen yourselves. I wish I had a picture."
"No you don't!" yelled Goyle.
Malfoy grew serious again. "Then I thought I could just shame you into not telling about this faggy little episode, but I do believe I'll have to wipe your memory after all. You see Harry Potter's been watching me. He thinks I'm a Deatheater. But so far no one else believes him. And I certainly don't want anyone giving credence to Potter's suspicion that I'm engaged in some kind of mischief for the Dark Lord up here."
The words "But I don't know anything--" had barely escaped Colin's lips, when there was a flash of light.
He leaned against the wall, feeling a little woozy. That was what came of skipping dinner to pursue your art. There was someone--it looked like Draco Malfoy, just going out of sight around a corner, accompanied by someone very large, probably one of his goons. And coming towards him from the other end was that cute little third year, Lucinda Godolphin. She had a suitcase in her hand, and she was smiling. He was usually shy around girls, but it seemed natural to speak to her.
"Hi there, Lucinda. Been on a trip?"
"Just Floo-ed in from home. My mum was sick, but she's doing much better." Her eyes were shining. They were a peculiarly intense green, he noticed. "What's that?" she asked.
"Oh, just my photog stuff. I'm doing some studies on life at the school. It's a bit late for any more shots tonight though." He had a sudden thought. "Say, I don't suppose you'd like to pose for some shots. I'm doing scenes by the lake next."
"I think I'd like that. Do you think I could send some home?"
"No problem. I'll make a double set of prints."
"Mum would like that."
They walked to the common room, talking about nothing in particular. Funny, he felt very comfortable with her, as if they'd been friends for a long time.