For the Anything You Wanna Write Competition - Round Three

I own nothing.

"Photographs of Heaven"

Dennis Creevey isn't usually a quitter. Not if he hasn't given his all, anyway.

But today, today he's got nothing left. Nothing left but tears, and heartache. He never knew anything could hurt this bad.

But he sucks it up. He sucks it up, and he stands up on stage behind the podium that he can barely see over top of. Fourteen-years-old, and he's not much taller than five foot. Fourteen-years-old, and he's burying his brother.

"Colin was…" he starts, but his voice cracks. Honestly, he's not sure if he can do this. He starts again. "Colin was… the best brother I have ever known. The only brother, but even if I had a thousand brothers, none of them could be a better brother than Colin." Tears roll down his cheeks. His voice is an octave higher than usual. But he has to do this. For Colin, he has to do this. "He was… enthusiastic, and honest, and true." Dennis draws in a shaky breath. "He was my idol. I can still remember…" His breath catches. He tries again.

"I can still remember the day he got his Hogwarts letter. He was so proud. That letter meant he was special, that he meant something. It meant he wasn't crazy; he was gifted. For me, all I could think was that it meant that he was leaving me. I was so selfish. And without him, without him to lead, to show me the right way to go – because Colin always knew the right way to go – I spent a year moping in my room.

"He was my North Star, and it's cheesy, and it's cliché, but it's true. He was the beacon that I followed, and without him, I was lost. I was brave, because he was brave.

"And I'd have followed him to the ends of the Earth. I'd have followed him off the ends of the Earth, if that's where he'd led me. But that night, the night he…" But Dennis can't finish the sentence.

"The night I lost him." His voice cracks again. "The night I lost him, he told me to stay. He told me to stay, and for once, I listened. I thought he was so brave, choosing to go and fight with everyone, to fight He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named."

And he wants to say that he can see now that it wasn't brave, it was just stupid, but he can't speak ill of the dead, he can't speak ill of his brother, not at Colin's funeral.

"And he was, he was so brave, but he was sixteen, he was only sixteen, and he wasn't… He was good, but they were better.

"He was sixteen-years-old. My brother was sixteen-years-old, and he did not deserve to die. But life isn't fair, and this cursed war that we blindly walked straight into isn't fair, and that night, the unfairness of it all took the bravest, kindest, truest person I have ever known."

Dennis turns to the casket that holds his brother. By his face, Colin could be sleeping. If only.

"I'll miss you, Colin," he whispers. He places a white rose he's been twirling between his fingers on it's lid. "Take some photographs of heaven for me."

As he sits down, he knows it's an odd sort of eulogy. It's only half about Colin, and it's half about himself, but it works, somehow, because Colin and Dennis have always been inseparable.

He buries pieces of himself with his brother. With every shovelful of dirt that covers Colin's casket, Dennis changes. He buries his bravery with his brother. He buries his pride. And he buries his conviction.

It's then that Dennis Creevey becomes a quitter.

He doesn't go back to Hogwarts for his fifth year. He turns fifteen without ceremony. Summer comes, and with it his book list. He doesn't go to Diagon Alley. He's done being a wizard. A whole new world, it was, but it's a whole new world of pain and suffering, and even the small wonders aren't worth it. Not anymore.

September passes. October. Autumn. Then winter starts.

Finally, his mother has had enough.

"Dennis?" It's the first time she comes in his room since… Well.

He glances up. He's probably quite a sight. His mother's tone, which was soft at first, is sharp now.

"Dennis Creevey, I have put up with a lot from you, because I understand you're mourning, but you have to wake up and face the truth! The rest of us are mourning, too! We loved him too! And you can't stop living just because he did!"

Dennis blinks blearily. "Sorry, mum," he murmurs, but it's an automatic response to her tone more than anything else.

She melts at his apology. She's never been much for stern – not with Dennis. He's always been her favorite, though she's never said as much. They both knew it, though.

She hands him a shoebox. "I thought you should see this," she murmurs. "And Dennis. I meant what I said. You can't stop living, just because he did."

"I can try," Dennis says softly.

She puts a gentle hand on his cheek. "Baby, I know it hurts, but the fact is, life goes on. Even when it seems impossible, life goes on."

Dennis shakes his head. "It can't, mum. There is no life without Colin. He took too much of me with him."

There're tears in her eyes. "Dennis, the thing is, when people take pieces of you, they leave behind pieces of themselves. You've got a piece of him, here, inside of you." She lays her hand over his heart.

She gazes at him, and he really looks at her, meets her eyes for the first time. He can easily see, now that he's looking, that she's in pain, she's mourning, but she's so much stronger than he is. She's strong enough to move on; he isn't.

She pats the lid to the shoebox. "Just… Look at it with an open mind, all right?"

Dennis nods at her, just a little bit, but it's enough. He wonders what is so important to her. Eventually, he sighs and sits up, cross-legged, and pulls the lid off.

The moment he sees, he understands. The box, it's Colin's photographs. All of them, from the moment he got his camera at age 6 until the last bit of film developed after… After that day. The photos Colin never got to see. All of them developed after his first year at Hogwarts are the moving type.

Tears flood Dennis's face. He wants to kick and scream and yell, mostly at his mother, for making him face this. He wants to curse her, curse the world for taking away his brother. Heaven didn't need Colin; Dennis needed him. Needs him.

But none of that changes anything. Nothing can change anything.

He sorts through the plethora of photographs – Colin's pride and joy. They tell a story; life through Colin's eyes. There are hundreds of pictures of Dennis; far more than he'd have expected.

Of Colin himself, there are only two.

The first one only serves to make Dennis angry. It's eleven-year-old Colin staring in awe at a twelve-year-old Harry Potter (who is attempting to escape the frame). Another man – Professor Lockhart, from the look of him and Colin's descriptions – attempts to dominate the frame, but Dennis doesn't care about him. It's Colin and Harry that he really sees, and it's Harry Potter that makes him angry. The same Harry Potter that Colin idolized even while Harry dismissed him as just a kid. The same Harry Potter who could do nothing to save Colin. It was acting like Harry Potter that got Colin killed.

When he finds the second picture of Colin, though, Dennis understands what his mother wanted when she gave him the box. Fifteen-year-old Colin has his arm around thirteen-year-old Dennis's shoulders. Colin is laughing, and Dennis is laughing because Colin is.

Merlin, he'd forgotten how good it felt to see Colin laugh. Softly, he runs his fingers across the photo. Neither of its participants notice him. They will forever laugh together.

Dennis aches. He aches for the moments that he can never get back, the moments that he never cherished enough. He aches because, despite his mother's pretty words, there's still a hole inside of him.

He aches, but life goes on.

Impossible as it seems, life goes on.