There's no better way to put it, something as delicate and deceptive as a spider web, something to make him seem like a much better person than he actually is. He is scared, and he admits it to himself as he sits in the hall, listening to the chilling voice echoing around the room, shaking in his seat. The largeness of everything makes him fully comprehend- perhaps for the first time- just how tiny he is. Insignificant. Worthless. Because he hasn't done anything for this war except running and hiding. And that's not what a Gryffindor does. Not for the first time, Colin wonders why he was even put in Gryffindor all those years ago. Yes, he loves his House, but he spends his days feeling as useless as a squib. Just a silly little mudblood with his ever present and always obnoxious camera. Everyone has always literally and figuratively looked down upon him. The few who haven't? Well, those are his best friends. People who mean something to him. People he loves so much he's willing to die for them.
Willing to die for them.
He rises in a daze, moving his underage self through the crowd in a transfixed state. He feels clammy and unsettled. Colin tells himself a firm no, pleads with himself to keep walking. But the idea of leaving instead of staying literally nauseates him. He can't go. He can't leave his friends, his educators, his home away from home. He can't let this magical place fight without him. What were those DA lessons for, anyways? Had Harry Potter spent a whole year teaching Colin how to fight simply to have him scamper away like the coward he really is?
But what if he isn't a coward? What if he makes the choice to be brave? He knows he is nothing, understands that he is one of the many tiny flies that are idiotic enough to get caught in the hauntingly beautiful spider web that is life. However, Colin can't help but think that even he can make a tiny contribution. He understands that he isn't anything special. He's not physically intimidating like Cormac McLaggen. He isn't over confident like Draco Malfoy. He isn't a genius like Hermione Granger, and he isn't particularly brave, like Harry Potter. He isn't pompous and mannered like Ernie MacMillian. And he isn't funny like Fred and George. As a matter of fact, the only thing he can think is that he is loyal, like Ron Weasley. That said, though, if he is caught by a Death Eater, he doubts he will have the ability to keep himself alive for very long by being entertaining. But he can duel. He knows he can duel, if only for a little while.
Without another thought, Colin sneaks out of the line of sixteen and unders. He stealthily moves past his fleeing peers, trying to pretend like he belongs with those who will battle. It isn't hard, because somehow Colin feels like he does. He walks away from the Room of Requirement and towards the Great Hall, shivering with what he knows is fear but wishes was simply cold. He presses himself against the doorway, listening quietly to the battle plan, trying to ignore the frantic tattoo of his heart against his chest. He hears them start to stand and breathlessly shoves himself away from the Great Hall. His camera beats against his chest as he runs away, keeping him sane with the thumps that match his heartbeat. He suddenly lurches to a stop, realizing that he can't bring his camera with him into the battle. Colin whirls around, headed back to the Room of Requirement, which is now miraculously empty. Evacuation seems to be complete. After walking past the door three times, he drags the door open and tugs the camera from its hook around his neck. Lovingly, he runs his thumb over the abused shutter. His hands tremble violently as he tries to place his beloved camera tenderly on the ground. He can't remember the last time he has been separated from it. Perhaps never, not since that first day with it. He can still remember the tingle in his hands as he clicked the shutter for the first time. His father likes to compare it to the connection a new mother shares with her infant.
Colin stares at the camera for what seems to him like an eternity, drowning in the memories, bathing in his nostalgia. He dares himself to walk away, but there's a tiny part of him that doesn't want to. A tiny part of him tells himself to curl up on the floor with his camera and never step away from it. A wail from outside breaks him from his stupor, and he gives his camera one long, lingering and loving look before turning around and sprinting from the room. He can feel his heart breaking and knows he is equivalent to a little child putting away his coveted security blanket for the very last time. Colin isn't sure why. He hopes to come back. He ignores the feeling and heaves the door open with his last bit of willpower, understanding that once he walks out of the safety of the room there will be no turning back. The door swings shut with a life defining clunk. And that's it. He is officially a warrior, fighting for his cause, his home. A warrior, witnessing a monumental tragedy that he is sure will change the world. His wand at the ready, he zeros in on a Death Eater creeping up on Parvati Patil. And there. He has just made a difference. Pride swells in his chest as he whirls around, ready to save more lives. As he does so, a body whizzes by him, landing with a sickening thud at his feet. For a second, Colin simply stares at it, mesmerized by the disgusting sight. The person is a former student that he used to see in the halls but never found out the name of.
Colin shivers, as if Death has just walked up to him and slapped him in the face. And maybe he has.
The castle is already a mess. Colin can tell that as he moves through, running away from the horrific body. A part of him wants to cry, but the other part can't, and that part is dominant, somehow. The legs that should be shaking relentlessly continue to hold him up, and as long as he is standing he must go on. He has to fight. Luckily, he spots a flash of red hair. Knowing it is a Weasley, he runs after it, very soon discovering it to be Ginny. Relieved, he runs up to her and begins to battle beside her. They silently become partners, spells exploding from the tips of their wands like fireworks on bonfire night. Colin wishes it is bonfire night. That's so much simpler than what's lighting up the sky tonight. The damage is gorgeously illuminated by red, blue, purple, and the occasional heart-stopping flash of green. It startles him, the green, startles him enough to turn to Ginny as though he is seeing her there for the first time. She battles gloriously, hair shivering every time a spell flies past, eyes narrowing and flashing with the lights, brows knitted together as she concentrates hard. It hits Colin that this girl is too young and too beautiful to be lost, and that is what jolts him into speaking.
"What are you doing here?"
Instantly, Ginny turns around and glowers at him, her eyes igniting with defiance.
"What, you think I'm not capable of fighting?" she snaps.
Colin is stung.
"Of course not."
Her expression seems to melt, and she pauses.
"I... I just couldn't stand not knowing. Not doing my part."
He can feel the anguish that rolls off of her words, so difficult to say. And it hits him that the reason that he doesn't want her to die is that he doesn't think the world should loose anyone so beautiful and vivacious. He understands, however, why she needs to be here. She has a family that is everything to her. And Colin knows she's in love with Harry. Over the years, he has changed a lot, but he is still rather observant. Ginny has been his friend since their first year, when she was a bit strange and no one would speak to her. Over the years, Ginny has climbed the social pyramid. Colin has not, but she has never stopped being friends with him, never stopped spending time with him. She knows him better than anyone besides his dad and his brother, and in turn he has more pictures of her than anyone else at Hogwarts. No, the pictures have never stopped. Now, however, he knows enough to take them when no one knows. As times goes on, it has occurred to him more and more that he needs to preserve and protect every memory, every shot from his time at Hogwarts. He supposes now that this is the cumulation of everything. If his life has ever mattered at all- which he doubts- this will definitely surpass anything he's ever done. All he can do is hope to Merlin that he will live to tell the tale. But what if he doesn't? Colin sits on this for a moment, until suddenly a piece of Hogwarts falls down in front of him, missing him by less than an inch. Colin stands there for a second, wiggling his toes in shock. He feels thankful that he can still move them, and only the rush of adrenaline he feels from still having movable toes causes him to rouse himself from his imagination and turn to Ginny again.
"I understand," he tells her. She smiles brilliantly at him before closing one eye to shoot a hex at an advancing Death Eater.
"I thought you would." Ginny says. Colin remembers that she had once told him he was the most understanding boy she had never met. Apparently this still stands. He grins at her as he shoots a spell at a Death Eater set on hitting her. "Thanks," she breathes.
"Got to keep you nice and safe for Harry," Colin tells her teasingly. Ginny's face falls.
"He broke up with me, Col," she reminds him.
Colin rolls his eyes.
"Only for now. He still loves you, Gin," he promises, ignoring the pang in his stomach.
She pauses, looking torn. Finally she settles on,
"He never loved me."
Colin disagrees. His pictures from last year indicate quite the opposite.
"You'll see," he says.
"If we ever get out of this mess," Ginny mutters as she knocks out a Death Eater.
There's a sudden explosion of sound from above. Suddenly, the ceiling begins to fall. Ginny runs out of the way, as does Colin. The former piece of floor lands right where they had just been. Colin breathes a sigh of relief until he realizes he has been separated from Ginny. His heart nearly stops. He wants to call out to her, to make her promise to leave. But Merlin, he can't. She would avada kedavra him into bits, Colin knows. He doesn't need to call out to her because he can hear her swearing vigorously behind the stones. Why are those words music to his ears? Probably because they prove that Ginny Weasley is alive, well, breathing, and feeling. He wonders briefly how anyone could still be thinking about their love life in the middle of this mess, but he supposes that he wouldn't know anything about it, having never been in love himself.
Or, at least, he thinks he's never been in love.
Colin moves quickly away from the swearing Ginny, off to fight more Death Eaters. He doges the leaping fires licking at him as he moves swiftly through the school. One Death Eater goes to attack Michael Corner, and Colin shoots a fast nonverbal spell at him. The Death Eater falls, and Michael never even knows he is there. Proud of himself, Colin moves on. He notices that his heart is thumping in the rhythm of his feet hitting the ground and wonders if this is a coincidence. Shaking his head, Colin swerves to the right, just in time to avoid a fireball zooming towards him. He's still running full speed when he sees something that causes him to skid to an abrupt halt. Fred Weasley, Ginny's older brother, is lying on the ground. Dead. The world seems to spin, because Colin can't understand how someone with so much life can be dead. He reaches up to tug on his camera cord (a nervous habit he picked up long ago) and his hands only find his neck. Unsure of anything else to do, Colin digs his fingernails into the flesh there. He savors the pain, welcomes the pain, deserves it, even. He knows he has no right to be alive. Fred has a whole family. Colin has two people and a camera. If Fred is dead, he knows he will die, too. Because he is worthless, isn't he? Too young, unskilled, lacking an enormous family. Oh, yes. He will be going next.
Turning away from the scene that is making him nauseous, Colin tries to ignore the fact that his heart has sunk far too low in his stomach. It's a weight, an unnecessary weight, one that he doesn't really need to carry with him. One that he can't afford to carry with him, that is. Painstakingly, he ducks into an alcove where he lowers himself to the ground and curls himself into a ball. Colin's head goes between his knees as the tremendous shakes vibrate through his whole body. A few desperate tears wriggle themselves free from his glistening eyes as he hears and feels the battle around him. Every time someone screams in pain, he resists the urge to get sick, and his heart raises a little in his throat, sinking back down painfully soon after. Closing his eyes, Colin tries to remember the last time he has been so scared. He thinks this is surpassed by nothing, but he wracks his brain anyways. Well, there was the time he was petrified by the basalisk. That was scary. Reddish gray, Colin can still remember it slithering towards him, fixated on him because of the possible color of his blood. He can still remember the feeling of panic that swept over him, quickly being replaced by cold, then by nothing. Sometimes, when he closes his eyes, he can still feel the nothingness. It is a relief to go there. But whenever Colin comes back from it, he's usually more exhausted and frightened than before. It takes a lot out of you, being nothing. So maybe that isn't even his worst moment. Perhaps his worst moment is something that happened this year. He can recall quite vividly Ginny's wild screams as they tortured her, hear the slash of the knife that Neville, brave Neville, takes so silently. That scared Colin, too, but the way Neville put it made it seem like the slash looked and sounded worse than it was. Maybe the thing that really scared Colin was the fear of the unknown, the anticipation of what they would do to him next. He wishes he were as brave as Neville, who has proven time after time again that he as just as courageous as Harry Potter.
Strenuously, Colin rises. His muscles are weak and tense, and he isn't sure how much fighting his body or head can take before he collapses or has a breakdown or goes insane. But he must battle. He has to be a warrior. And so he fights. He throws himself back into the thick of things and fights his hardest. He fights for Harry, his idol, who has to come out of this alive. He fights for Ginny, the girl that is arguably his best friend. He fights for Fred Weasley, who never should have died, who filled the world with so much light. He fights for Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, who he has dozens of pictures of, who deserve to be together, who take just as much pleasure from fighting as others do snogging, which Colin finds amazing. He fights for Neville Longbottom, who never gets enough credit, who tries hard to make himself the hero he has become because people need him to be that hero. Colin fights for McGonagall, his favorite teacher, who somehow saw past his shy exterior and helped him overcome many of his largest obstacles all those years ago. He fights for Godric Gryffindor, who was kind enough to create the place that has been Colin's second home since he was eleven, the place where he might just belong. He fights for Dennis, who deserves so much better for his magic than an unlivable world.
Colin loves all these people, every damn one of them, because in some way they have made him who he is. No, Harry Potter doesn't know that he inspires Colin to be brave. And, no, Ginny Weasley doesn't know that she was the first person to draw Colin out of his shell and look at the world through a lens other than his camera. And he can't imagine that Fred could know how often and how hard he has made Colin laugh when the situation seems so dire. And, okay, Ron and Hermione probably have no clue how many pictures he's snapped of them interacting, because the fact that they love to fight fascinates him and inspires him to attempt to find someone he loves fighting with just as much. Not even McGonagall knows how much she means to Colin, and Godric Gryffindor definitely doesn't, seeing as he died thousands of years ago. But Colin still loves him.
Then again, Gryffindor must have had some idea. After all, when McGonagall said at the beginning of Colin's first year that one's House is like their family, she hadn't been kidding. Over the years, Colin has come to know and like everybody in Gryffindor. The students have helped him with his homework, given him girl advice, even asked him to take their picture from time to time. And these people are stuck to him like glue. They are his family as well as his friends, the people that he didn't choose but got anyways. And when you watch as much as Colin Creevy has watched, you tend to find qualities in people that endear them to you, and before you know it they are your friends. Your brothers. Your sisters. Your heros. Yes, they have their own cliques, many of which Colin never has nor ever will be included in. But all families are like that, aren't they? And something has to be said for the late night parties, the betting on who is going to get together with who (Ron and Hermione have lost people boat loads of money), the way they hold each other's hands when they're frightened or sad. Something has to be said about the way they aid those bullied, help the struggling, comfort those in need. Something needs to be said about the way they impress upon each other little pieces of themselves without really trying. Colin has learned about Parvati's culture, figured out Quidditch from Katie Bell, picked up a slight lilt whenever he talks to Seamus Finnegan. He has seen Ginny succumb to Lavender's hair care suggestions, Hermione's face randomly appear completely made up one morning at breakfast, necklines that started lowering around his third year begin rising back up by his fifth. He still doesn't know how this happened, but somehow everyone has adapted to each other's style of music, and now the person with the radio isn't yelled at to change the station every ten seconds. And he would swear to Merlin that the whole House's vocabulary has improved greatly since Hermione joined them. It happened so gradually it was barely noticeable, but one day he realized that first years couldn't keep up with the conversation in September, but by June they were using enormous words just like the rest of the House.
They have all changed each other without really trying, and thinking about the power a group of humans have on each other in that way is nearly enough to make Colin halt in his tracks to marvel it. He doesn't, of course. He can't. He's fighting. He's saving those clever Ravenclaws, those friendly Hufflepuffs, those wonderfully rambunctious Gryffindors. His family. He's so swept up in the battle he doesn't even notice the spell hit. He just feels a warmth spread all through his body and hears a loud scream as he falls to the ground. Blood rushes to his head, thunder sounds in his ears, and suddenly it feels like a large stone has been pressed against his chest, suffocating him. Frantically, he struggles for breath. He doesn't want to die, but dear Merlin is it painful to breathe. He's making these retched gasping noises, heart beating rapidly. Fear rises up in him, until suddenly he feels a cool hand smoothing the perspiration on his forehead.
"Col?" comes a voice, and after thinking for a second Colin realizes that it is Ginny. He struggles to open his eyes, to look at the familiar face. And there she is, radiant, gorgeous and devastated. She's had too much taken away from her in such a short time. He doesn't want to leave her like Fred. But it is getting harder and harder to breathe. He jealously listens to her breathing heavily but easily. And in that moment, he realizes that she will survive. Without him. She doesn't need him. And from the corner of his eye he sees Harry running across the courtyard, looking determined, Ron and Hermione following desperately. Colin realizes it, that Harry will protect her forever. "Colin, please hold on!" Ginny pleads.
He's afraid to die. He doesn't know what the afterlife will be like, wonders if the whole world will go black around him forever or if he will continue to exist in an alternate realm. Perhaps the part of not knowing is the scariest part of death. It's not the pain, because Colin knows that the pain will be over very soon. Fright aside, he makes his choice. Or, rather, the choice makes itself for him. He's already tired of holding on. Tired of being worthless. And to Colin, dying the death of an unsung hero is rather fitting. His only regret is that he does not have his camera, an instrument to capture the epic finale to a young photographer's life, tragedy on film. It would have been amazing, summing all his life up in the image he sees during his demise. He feels a twinge in his heart at the fact that his camera isn't with him.
"Yeah?" she breathes, grabbing his hand as she stares attentively at him.
"My camera is in the Room of Requirement. I want it... with me. Develop the pictures. Give them to the people that are in them. Then put it with me."
"What are you talking about?" Ginny demands, voice getting shriller.
"I'm done, Ginny. It's not a choice, it's a fact."
"COLIN!" she protests, tears beginning to pour down her cheeks. He winces at her. "Colin, you know how special you are, right?" she asks him quickly. He just rolls his eyes at her. "No, you are, Col. Listen to me! You're polite and sweet and understanding, that's true. But there's something more to it than that. You see life in a completely different way than other people do. In looking at the world through your camera, you see things most ignorant fools, myself included, would never, ever understand. You get people, even when you've never spoken to them. You see people as delicate paper dolls and the world as a giant photo opportunity." Tears streaming from her eyes land on him, and he too begins to cry. Because he hadn't thought that anyone had noticed or cared about this, and he suddenly realizes that nothing really matters anymore besides Ginny's words. That said, he clings to them. "You're exceptional, Colin. The world is going to miss you- I'm going to miss you. And I love you, okay?"
"Love you, too," he says honestly. He feels as though someone has just taken his heart and dissected it. And if this is what he is, he's happy with the life he has lived. He doesn't regret getting hit with the spell, suddenly. He fought, and he saved lives. It's because of him, Colin knows, that children will be born into the world. His choice to fight in the battle may have been the difference between life and death for some people. It's because of him that Harry can tell Ginny he loves her. And maybe something he did saved Ron or Hermione, so they could go on bickering to their leisure, maybe having some equally as stubborn little ginger babies while they're at it. And there's Dennis and Parvati and McGonagall and all the other people he cares about. Colin knows Harry will defeat Voldemort- as a matter of fact, he has never been more sure of anything else in his life. And when Harry defeats Voldemort all those people will live in a new world. It will be a new beginning for everyone to finally be mudbloods and proud of it. And as he takes one last look at the beautiful colors of spells lighting up the sky, of the world, of Ginny's face, he realizes something.
He isn't scared anymore.