Larger Than Life
Colin Creevey had always been a small boy. Death made him seem even smaller.
Dennis Creevey observed this in the brief seconds that he managed to make himself actually look at his beloved older brother's too-still body. Colin was so small. Colin would always remain this small.
It hurt to think that...to actually think those words...that Colin was never going to grow up.
It hurt to look at Colin's lifeless body. It hurt to come back from Colin's funeral only to see reminders of the boy who was never coming home everywhere Dennis looked; everything held a memory of Colin for him.
Everything hurt. And it hurt for a very long time.
Dennis almost didn't go back to Hogwarts. He didn't want to be there, in that place that held so many memories of his brother, the place he'd never gone to without his brother at his side, the place where his brother had died.
But it hurt even more to know that Colin would be so disappointed in Dennis for not going back. Colin had loved Hogwarts and the magical world. He had loved both almost as much as he'd loved being able to introduce his little brother to them. Dennis couldn't remember a time when Colin had been happier than when Dennis received his own Hogwarts letter. And he knew that, no matter what, Colin would want Dennis to finish the education he'd considered both boys beyond lucky to have the chance to receive.
And so Dennis returned to school for Colin, his grief still overwhelming but manageable...for the most part.
But that didn't mean that Dennis didn't do everything in his power to get through his remaining four years of schooling as quickly as possible. The reminders of Colin-or, rather, the lack of Colin's presence-were everywhere, and Dennis didn't think it would ever be possible to adjust to living in this world without Colin by his side.
Dennis was just about ready to put the wizarding world behind him when he finished at Hogwarts.
It wasn't that he just couldn't stand magic any longer, after it had taken his brother from him. No, it was simply that Dennis was tired...so very, very tired. He just needed some time to himself, away from magic. He'd never really been able to fully heal after the war, and he thought some time to himself in the muggle world was just the answer to that problem.
Very quickly—and quite by accident—Dennis realized how very wrong that solution was, though.
When Dennis returned home from Hogwarts following the completion of his seventh year, his first stop was in the attic, where he intended to store his school trunk and just about every other reminder he had of the Wizarding world for the foreseeable future. He found, however, that his intended storage space was already occupied by another Hogwarts trunk. Colin's trunk.
Before he could fully process what he was doing, Dennis was on his knees lifting the lid of the trunk that hadn't been opened since before his brother's death.
In all honesty, it was a rather underwhelming moment when the lid easily came up to reveal a jumble of Hogwarts uniforms, old textbooks, and O.W.L. revision guides. But the sight still made Dennis's eyes begin to tear up. Because this...all of this mess and disorder contained in such a small space...it was so predictably Colin. The only aspect of his life that had been kept precisely organized had always been his photography. His entire life would be in a complete disarray, but his camera bag would be neatly packed and his pictures would be boxed chronologically...at least, that was the closest description Dennis had for Colin's personal picture organization system.
It was at that moment that Dennis suddenly began digging through everything in the trunk. Because there was something missing, something that had always been missing from all of the reminders of his vibrant life that Colin had left behind throughout their small family home.
Where were all of Colin's pictures?
Dennis almost couldn't believe that it was only now...more than four years after Colin's death...that he was realizing that, with the exception of the camera bag he'd had with him the night he died, Colin's entire picture collection was missing. Except for the fact Dennis could believe he hadn't realized it before simply because he had been avoiding any and all reminders of his beloved older brother for those four long years. And pictures...well, quite simply, Colin was pictures...all pictures.
But Dennis couldn't avoid it any longer. He'd taken that first step and opened Colin's trunk and now he needed a closer connection to his brother. He needed to see Colin's pictures. He needed to find them.
Because those pictures...those pictures were proof that Colin had once been here. They were the proof that Colin had once lived.
The box was at the bottom of the trunk, buried under all of Colin's possessions. From the outside, it was a simple box, plain wood with a small golden latch to keep the lid shut tight.
Dennis' lips quirked up slightly in a semblance of a grin. He remembered this box. It had been a Christmas gift for Colin in his third year from their father that Dennis had had to help him find. Or, rather, that Dennis had had to take their father to Diagon Alley to find. Bringing their very muggle father anywhere in the wizarding world had always been an adventure for the Creevey brothers, and that shopping trip definitely had not been an exception.
Undoing the latch, Dennis slowly lifted the lid and simply took a moment to stare into the depths of the box that were previously hidden by an undetectable extension charm. Ignoring the slight tremor in his hand, Dennis lifted his right arm and reached into the box to grab the first bundle of pictures.
It was far past time for Dennis to look back on Colin's life.
With Colin Creevey, self-proclaimed professional photographer, as a brother it would have been hard for Dennis to never have had any kind of appreciation for photography. As it was, back in the happier times of Dennis' life, he had possessed such an appreciation, largely due to how much he always admired his older brother.
But this...these pictures that he had just spent the past four hours painstakingly going through...it changed everything Dennis had ever believed about the power of any kind of art.
Dennis felt as if he had relived a part of his life simply by looking at those pictures. Because Colin...little Colin who had never been without his trusty camera...he'd captured everything on film.
Meals in the Great Hall...celebrations after Quidditch victories...the peaceful study sessions in the library and the frantic ones...friends simply hanging out around the castle...the scenery of the Hogwarts grounds…the beginnings of a resistance...the descent into war...the darkness that had enveloped the wizarding world.
Colin had captured all of it.
And suddenly it seemed to Dennis as if Colin was a giant. The once tiny boy had truly loomed over everything at Hogwarts far more than anyone could have ever known, seeing far more than the average person. And it was beautiful. Ultimately tragic, of course, but so very beautiful because of what it represented and the impact it could have.
Just as suddenly, Dennis felt a new purpose in life.
Gone entirely was his desire to leave behind magic. He needed to go out into the world and share what Colin had seen. This was the way to overcome the lingering hurt over the loss of Colin. Because looking at these pictures was like having a piece of Colin back again. It was looking at the world through Colin's eyes. Dennis knew the wizarding world needed that lens, and he was determined to give it to them.
More than four years on from the end of the war, Dennis' exhibit didn't attract much notice at first. People wanted to move on with their lives, they wanted to recover. Dennis could appreciate that and so he was patient, ultimately unwilling to give up because he also wanted to make sure that no one would ever forget everything and everyone that had been sacrificed for one man's greed.
The exhibit was simple: a progression of pictures showing the daily lives of the inhabitants of Hogwarts over the five years Colin was a student there and the one year he'd begun in hiding with his brother and ended with the rest of D.A.; a progression from innocence to death.
Because that was truly what Colin had captured through his camera lens: how the children had lost their innocence and why it was so important that it should never happen again.
So yes, Colin Creevey had always been a small boy. But death made him larger than he ever was in life. And as word of his exhibit spread and more people came to see Colin's work, Dennis was content that his beloved brother would live on forever through his pictures; someone would always be looking at life through Colin's eyes.