Chapter 1 : develop, stop, fix
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There are no photographs of Colin Creevey because he was always the one behind the viewfinder.
The trunk arrives with the Saturday post a fortnight after the battle. Nobody quite knows what to do with it, and so it sits in the hall like a small, sad piece of furniture. Nobody wants to open it because to do so would only be another score on the skin that they have locked themselves inside.
It sits in the hallway for a month before Dennis takes it upon himself to move the thing upstairs to his room. There it sits obtrusively between the door and the wardrobe and gradually gathers dust.
It is August before he dares to open it.
He has to ask himself why he waited for this moment, almost three months after Colinís death, to look at his brotherís possessions. He fleetingly wondered whether opening the lid would unleash all sorts of spirits and ghosts into his little attic bedroom, whether the stale and solid air that exudes from the neat trunk would contain shards of his brotherís soul. They were wizards, after all, and wizards did not always stay dead.
It is peculiar how nobody thought to treat Colinís things with respect, how they have been wantonly tossed into the trunk and jumbled together so a jumper embraces a cauldron, a textbook lies face down with its spine cracked under a pile of balled socks. The clothes are unwashed and the scrolls of parchment are crammed with unfinished notes, almost as if Colin had come home for the holidays and had been too lazy to unpack.
The only thing that has been packed with care is Colinís camera kit. Perhaps it has been treated carefully because it was such an extension of Colinís body and mind, because he was rarely seen without it and it could have been an extra limb. The camera is packed into a padded bag and any spare space has been taken up by film canisters, lenses, filters, even a small box of photographic paper Dennis is careful not to open in case he accidentally exposes it. The dark room equipment is, apparently, still in the bathroom of the dormitory Colin slept in for six years. Dennis doesnít bother enquiring after it. He does not want to return to Hogwarts until it is absolutely necessary.
The clothes are washed and sent to charity, barring the robes, which are kept as hand-me-downs that Dennis will never wear. The spellbooks and cauldron go to a second-hand shop in Diagon Alley. It is all his motherís (although he cannot stop thinking of her as their mother) idea, because holding onto these things would only prolong the grief that the presence of the trunk has kept in them for so long.
Dennis takes the films from Colinís trunk to a photo shop on the High Street, where they charge a small fee to develop the fifteen films Colin never had a chance to develop himself (Dennis does the calculations in his head, and works out that, at thirty-six exposures per film, the fees for processing five-hundred-and-forty photographs will be astronomical). It only seems proper, though, that they should commemorate the boy they have lost in the scenes he chose to capture.
The final photographs will be static, processed by muggle hands. Dennis spends the last of his allowance on several photo albums on his way home. When the photographs arrive, just under three-hundred-and-fifty of them are usable; the others are duplicates, blurs, too vague to be made out.
Dennis admires the photo shop for not questioning the subject matter; wands and brooms and cauldrons feature prominently.
It becomes his project to gather Colinís photographs together (never kept in an album, but in the embrace of elastic bands) and he sorts them by theme. It takes him a week and there must be over a thousand. There are photographs of the Hogwarts buildings, grounds, lessons, students, captured at first at strange angles, with blurred fingers smudging the corners and poses unnatural and forced; the later photos show more skill, and the most recent are Hogwarts as Dennis remembers it, somehow more painful to see in print than in person.
When the little project is over, his mother wants a photograph of Colin for the front cover of the album. And so Dennis has to deliver the news that there are no photographs of Colin, that he never turned the camera on himself.
To stare into the lens of the camera when you are used to seeing the world through it is unsettling. Dennis understands this much about his lost brother, although he cannot help but feel angry that the only photographic records that exist of Colin were taken before his eleventh birthday; he is a perpetual child, perpetually sixteen, will never grow up.
So it is a small and strange piece of joy when they find the cardboard box hidden in the back of a cupboard in Colinís room, the lid held down by spellotape and the contents a small clutch of negatives processed by Colinís own careful hand. A sticky note peels away from the inside of the lid to reveal that Colin has left a note to himself. Develop, stop, fix. The sequence of creating a negative.
Dennis holds them up to the light one by one and his brotherís face appears in reverse. One strip only; of the thousands of moments Colin chose to capture, only three were of his own face.
The negatives are taken to the shop the next day. A guarantee of one-hour processing brings them the portrait they so desired by five oíclock. Dennis does not tell his parents, though, and will not until he has seen it for himself. And even then he cannot open the envelope until it is dark and he is alone.
The light of a single anglepoise lamp brings him his brother in startling monochrome. A taut face and frowning lips, shadows outlining the stark wire of bones, pale skin speckled by the graininess of the image. A mirror reflection, with the camera held at his navel. Colinís eyes are fixed on the mirror and not on the lens, and it is as if something has caught his gaze and held it in the infinite entrapment of the still image.
Dennis tip-toes into the bathroom, pulls the cord to bathe the room in a dim orange cast. He stands before the mirror and holds the photograph in one hand, tries to recreate Colinís self-portrait for himself. The two look very alike.
He looks away from the imagined camera lens and the mirror brings him the image of himself.
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