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Another damned fragment. - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Another damned fragment.

They were a mixed lot, lecturers.  They lectured, this mixed lot, to a still more mixed lot of lecturees, who might be anything from Commonwealth subalterns to hard-eyed majors in kilts.  The brigadier was very interested in seeing what the latest lecturer – this undergraduate-looking, excitable little bugger, with the Other Ranks accent underlying his light and appallingly enthusiastic tenor – was made of, and was attentive accordingly.

‘Good morning, gentlemen.  Oh, beg pardon: ladies and gentlemen, of course.  ’Seats, please.

‘My name’s Colin Creevey.  I’m what you would call a civilian.’

P’raps you are, you chirpy wee bugger – and don’t think that faint stress on the word went unnoticed.  But all of us here recognise that look about you.  You’ve been at the sharp end, you have, and the more dangerously the less rank you claimed and the less combat kit you wore when you were out in amongst ’em.  I wonder just how many bits of metal and riband you have quietly tucked away at home, with a few scraps of paper, it might be, bearing a signature that looks remarkably like that of Her Maj.  You may look a mousey, titchy pipsqueak, Mr Civvy-Street Creevey, but I wonder how many pips you had up on your combat dress, and perhaps a crown as well.  If you ever wore one, you soft-voiced little assassin.

‘I, well, I am … a photographer.  Boyhood hobby, really.  And I’m here to teach you photo-reconnaissance, analysis, intelligence – the whole boiling, really.’

Oh, you’re the lambiest little lamb, aren’t you, mate.  I’d like to see
your rank slide when you’re in dress state 95.  And your medals, on Dining-In nights.  But your mob mayn’t have those: you’re one of the ghosts, you are – aren’t you, lad.  Oh, of course, my mistake, you’re what we would call a civilian.  You’re no more than a happy, innocent amateur, here to teach art appreciation to the poor dirty buggers of Shrivenham and the DA – I don’t think.  Just a dewy-eyed boy, loose at the Defence Academy, the Joint Services Command and Staff College, and the CSRC, eh, Mister Creevey?  Balls.

‘When – well, at my old school, an old friend of our Headmaster’s spoke to us a few times, a colonel, a VC, in fact. One of my old school chums, chap from my House, in fact, did some remarkable things.  The old colonel used to talk about how, in the Peninsular War, the Special Forces of the day were called, “Picked Men” … well, Harry, my old housemate, was more than that, God Almighty he was so good that we called him “the Chosen One”, never saw a man who could do more.  Best flier anyone ever saw, yet even better at ground combat, everything from coordinating and commanding a battalion-sized force, to hand to hand combat.  Taught us in the DA – I mean, ah, in our little duelling club – everything we knew, did Harry, and it was a privilege to assist him even in minor ways.   I mean, really: I’m by no means a warrior, after all, but I do have an eye.  Two of them, actually.’

The DA, you say.  Unintentional slip, mere coincidence – I’m very sure.  Such a little maid from school, you’d think him – if you were a damned fool, which I am not.  A milk-and-water creature, this Creevey, and likely bent with it, you might guess: an uphill gardener, a starfish trooper, a bum bandit, a billyboy, a Ktoi.  I think not.  I’ve seen his red-headed spitfire of a wife or girlfriend in his sensible bloody Volvo every morning.  Sod me if he’s not the quietly dangerous type, one who
wants you to underestimate him in hopes you’ll be his prey.  No names, no pack-drill, but I’d have a bit on, just a flutter, mind, naming just what savage old school he was at, as well.  Short odds on its being some freezing bit of Sparta-in-Scotland, or I miss my guess.

‘A static picture tells you something.  No, I tell a lie, it won’t tell you, you’ll want to interrogate it.’

God help anyone this sweet-faced youth interrogates.  I can see a hard man when he’s in front of me.

‘A succession of static pictures over time can’t help but tell you things even without you ask first.  But a moving picture?  That’s a conversation.  People and places both try to keep their countenance, and keep their secrets.  But if you are watching – and hidden, unknown – if a place or a person thinks he’s unobserved, then, well, you see what happens when … the mask … is off.  The true face of things.’

And you’d know all about masks, I’ll wager, you innocent schoolboy.  If this Harry bloke’s a harder lad than the mild, stage-curate
Mister Creevey, then he damn well frightens me.

‘Sometimes, I teach FE classes down the local coll.  Nice old ladies of all ages and both sexes, wanting to take better snaps.’

Oh, yes, Mr Quiet Creevey, you are bleeding well one of the clan, you are.  You’ve seen the real thing, for all your air of youthful and well-scrubbed innocence.  Vicar wants not to put you in with the other choir-boys, lad, you’re deceptive and dangerous.

‘Sometimes, my M- – I mean, my – sometimes, people think that capturing a single moment forever frozen in time is to capture truth.  Not arf.  Get the shot, get the series, get a loop, and watch it over and over until you know it.  Truth is the daughter of time, it doesn’t come in single moments.’

Just a bit of art appreciation for the WI series of talks, with the local photography anorak, eh,
Mister Creevey.  You dangerous wee bastard.  Oh, you’re good, you are.  I wonder if the father of that flame-haired wife of yours realised what sort of son-in-law he was taking on, in you.

‘The thing to look for, even in a single snap, isn’t so much what’s there.  However interesting, right?  What you want to find is what’s there that didn’t ought to be.  And, still more, what isn’t there that’s meant to be.  That’s the whole dashed jammy dodger.’

Milk-and-water, fresh-faced
Mister Creevey, the parishioner’s pal.  Never a word that would bring a blush to a maiden aunt’s cheek.  Just how many unsuspecting enemy buggers have you personally banjoed, I wonder.  How much death have you seen, lad?  How much have you dealt?  Oh, you’re a harmless one, all right.  We all of us have you sussed.

‘Same thing I tell the yummy mummies and the OAPs who want snaps of their last jaunt to the Costa del Butlins.  Warfare’s just like photography, innit.  Killing is just like taking the snap.  It’s all about framing your shot.’


‘Heya, Harry!  Draco, Nev, Ron.’

‘Colin.  Ginny, love.’

The brigadier watched from his corner of the pub as the Innocent Mr Creevey and his vixen of a wife greeted some evident old friends – and, judging by the hair, her brother, as well.  That’s the Harry he mentioned, stood there next the blond public school boy.  Christ, he’s young.  They all are.  Far too young – except around the eyes, and the way they stand and move.  And excepting always the raw power they exude.  Oh, yes, that is certainly the all-perfect and all-powerful Harry of the lecture.  And ninety and nine in a hundred would never see the signs of it on him, now, would they.

‘Lecturing at Shrivenham, Creevey?’  The blond’s drawl was affectionately amused.  ‘Upon my wand, the Muggles have no idea what they’re in for.’

Maiwand, eh?  Nice to know we here at JSCSC are “the Mughals”, I gather.  It’s almost a respectful reference: new to me, but respectful enough, and less hostile than a good few other names we’ve been called.  Well.  Every mess has its own slang, impenetrable to outsiders, and I’m not surprised to hear Maiwand mentioned, several of the regimental forebears of the County regiment have that battle honour.

‘They’re really nice, Draco!  Really.’

And a ‘draco’, in its day, was the cavalry standard of the Legions’s auxiliaries, and the symbol from which the dragon of
Wessex derived.  Warriors, all of them, even the boffiny one they call Nev.  Fighting men always run true to type, in the end.  You can always tell one when you spot him.

‘I’m sure they are, Colin.  Ginny, your father wants to know when you can next stop for a weekend –’

The tall, redheaded man on Harry’s left, clearly Ginny’s brother, rolled his eyes.  ‘What he means, is, Mum has the Sunday joint laid-on, already, and it’s only Thursday.’

‘Harry!  You don’t mean you were at the Ministry today?’

‘No rest for the wicked, Gin.’

‘Well, that explains why Draco had to go up to town –’

‘Why, you little devil!’

Harry was laughing even harder than the ostensibly outraged blond – Draco, they’d called him.

‘Ah, now,’ said the one called
Nev, who was clearly a proud son of Lancashire, by his voice.  ‘Tha knows Harry’s the only one left who can talk to snakes, why not see what he can do with bureaucrats?’

COBR meeting?  And I see Our Mister Creevey’s father-in-law is with the Ministry, perhaps he did know what sort of son-in-law he was getting under the sheep’s-clothing the wolfish little bastard wears so well.

‘And Draco’s the lead snake, so –’

The one they called Draco reached over and punched Ginny’s tall brother in the arm, which, from the looks of it, was a reasonably good way to break the bones in a man’s hand.  Both were grinning, however, so it was unlikely there’d been harm done.

Colin, though, was now looking, speculatively and enquiringly, at the brigadier, who nodded.  He had noticed, and approved, that no one had asked questions or volunteered details about Colin’s lectures or anything else: clearly, these were old soldiers, and knew the score.  He didn’t mind being introduced.

In answer to the fractional nod of the head, Colin ushered his group towards the brigadier, and made the introductions: his wife, Ginny, her brother, Ron Wesley, if the brigadier heard correctly (and, as a rule, his hearing was very acute indeed), Neville Longbottom, Draco Malvey, Harry Potter. 

‘Peregrine Heskin-Wentworth.  How d’y’do.’

Harry looked at him, weighing him.  ‘The brigadier?  Draco and I know your aunt, in fact, we’re on the PCC with her.’

Oh, good Lord.  My aunt, the Indomitable Lady P. 
These are the two Aunt Maud is always on about.  Draco Malfoy, not ‘Malvey’, I really must have my hearing checked, I’ll want a deaf-aid next, and that Harry Potter.  Well, it simply couldn’t not have been, really.  The mysterious local OMs, with the background-in-intel stamped all over them.  Great God.  The mild-mannered Mr Creevey wasn’t exaggerating, if a tenth of what Aunt Maud suggests, or hears in the village, is at all true.  And I was right, as well: this is his Harry, and he does damn well frighten me.  God knows what he’s done and seen, and at their ages, too, but it’s clearly something that makes my career seem like a parish jumble.

‘Ah, yes.  I understand that Aunt Maud thinks highly of you both.  We’ll want to have a chat when I next stop at the Hall.’  And I’ll get the MoD to second you both to Shrivenham if it requires another penny on the tax.

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10 comments or Leave a comment
eagles_rock From: eagles_rock Date: July 12th, 2006 08:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gorgeous. "Chirpy wee bugger" indeed. I do like your Brigadier. Really enjoyable.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 19th, 2006 09:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

And a belated Thank-You.

Sorry I was so long in responding to compliments. I hardly deserve them, cavalierly as I treat them, and all of you dear people.
wren_chan From: wren_chan Date: July 12th, 2006 11:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Drat you, Wemyss love, how am I ever meant to rave happily over your latest bit of Wonderful if you're forever stealing my ability to speak? ♥

I do so love the Brigadier and his impressions of everyone, though; so accurate, for all there's a Certain Bit Missin'.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 19th, 2006 09:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you.

My apologies for being so long in replying.
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: July 12th, 2006 11:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
You've written Colin beautifully, but I still think the Creeveys are skeevy, and I nominate one or both of them for Canon Death.

Still, it's worth it for Country Life sketches; you're our very own Jane Austen...

wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 19th, 2006 09:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

I take my pen in hand to express my gratitude...

Or summat.

Thanks, love.
themolesmother From: themolesmother Date: July 14th, 2006 03:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

I like the way you've interspersed Colin's lecture with the Brigadier's inner monologue. It's also nice to see Our Heroes from an outsider's point of view.

I've developed quite a soft spot for your Brigadier. He reminds me powerfully of a certain Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart. Now that gentleman might have drawn some very different conclusions about Harry and his friends ... :-).

wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 19th, 2006 09:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you.

'Five rounds, rapid.' Sounds like Mad-Eye's sort, really.
woman_ironing From: woman_ironing Date: July 17th, 2006 08:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Gosh, this was enjoyable! The Brigadier frightened by Harry? I need to know more...
wemyss From: wemyss Date: July 19th, 2006 09:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

And so you shall.

Posted just today, in fact.

My apologies for the delay in responding, and in thanking you for your kind words.
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