A birthday was an important day, and most importantly, one that demanded a thorough amount of bouncing.
Colin Creevey could not contain bouncing excitedly in his chair, despite the fact that it was raining rather badly outside. Being born in the spring meant rain for most of the birthdays he had experienced in his six years, and if you were going to be grumpy about that, then he supposed you would be in for a world of disappointing birthdays. And as he was six years old today – practically a grown-up – he was determined that today would not be spoiled.
His mother came in the kitchen to see her oldest son perched excitedly on the chair by the kitchen window, his nose and hands pressed to the glass, and smiled. “Colin, what are you doing?” she laughed, and Colin grinned sheepishly before turning around and inspecting his nose print on the glass.
“Waiting for Dad!” he said, doing another little bounce which he just could not help. “He should be back soon, shouldn’t he, Mum?”
“I expect so,” Mrs. Creevey replied, crossing and ruffling her son’s hair fondly. “But I suppose I should get started on your cake, or it won’t be ready in time for tonight.”
Colin snuggled happily into his seat, turning back to watch the rain-splattered view he had of the path, hoping at any moment to see his father walking up it. Every year on Colin’s and Dennis’s birthdays, their father made a big show of walking to the village to pick out their present. He would leave early in the morning, but every year Colin always woke up to see him off, and then waited anxiously for his return. Dennis never seemed as interested, which Colin could not understand.
“Is it a chocolate cake?” he asked now, momentarily distracted by the sounds of his mother reaching under the sink to pull out the baking pans. This gave him another chance to inspect his nose print, which was rather impressive-looking at this point.
“Of course,” his mother said, laughing again, now pulling out the box of cocoa as though to prove herself. “I know it’s your favorite.” Colin beamed and did another happy bounce.
Dennis pattered into the kitchen at that moment, trailing his blanket behind him – it was rather filthy, Colin thought, watching as his little brother went immediately to his mother and wrapped himself around her legs. “The sky is wet,” he informed her helpfully, his clinginess impeding her ability to move.
“Yes, Dennis,” she said, trying to coax him off her legs. “You need to let go, honey, or your brother’s cake won’t get baked.” Dennis’s head swiveled to look at Colin and, smiling sunnily, he did as his mother asked. He had apparently forgotten that it was Colin’s birthday.
“Happy birthday, Bubba!” he sang out, now waddling toward the chair by the window and wrapping himself around Colin’s feet, which were sticking straight out in front of him. Colin patted his brother’s head, trying to avoid touching the blanket, now wrapped around Dennis’s shoulders like a shawl.
“Wait, wait,” Dennis sang, disentangling himself and pattering back across the kitchen. “I have a present for Bubba.” Both Colin and his mother watched as he turned the corner, heading back to the bedroom the boys shared. Mrs. Creevey shook her head in amusement and turned back to the cake mix.
The four-year-old returned promptly, carrying the only other thing more disgusting than his filthy blanket. When he was born, Colin’s parents had purchased a stuffed rabbit for Colin to give his little brother, and every night since Dennis had slept with it. It was even more ragged and gray than his blanket, and every year on Colin’s birthday Dennis tried to give it to him as a present, knowing full well that Colin would hand it right back. He tottered over to the kitchen hair and thrust the rabbit onto Colin’s lap.
“Ta-da!” he said, and Colin smile bravely, picking the rabbit up gently by the ear.
“Thank you, Dennis!” he said, patting his brother on the head again. “But I think the rabbit might have a better home with you.” Dennis did not argue, promptly grabbing his toy off Colin’s lap again and running back to his room without further ado. Colin could hear him singing a little song from the distant bedroom.
A noise at the door just then made Mrs. Creevey and Colin both look up, and the door swung wide to admit Colin’s father, completely drenched from the rain outside, which had increased since Colin had begun his window vigil. He tottered over at once and wrapped his arms around his father’s middle, not caring that he was being dripped on.
“Happy birthday, sport!” Mr. Creevey said cheerfully, ruffling Colin’s hair as his mother had done. With a broad wink, he reached inside his sopping coat and pulled out a mysterious-looking box, wrapped in ordinary brown paper and tied with twine. Colin let out another bounce, nearly slipping on the puddle of rainwater his father had created.
“Go on and open it,” his father said with another wink, crossing over to Colin’s mother, who was now ladling cake batter into a pan. He kissed her on the cheek as Colin hopped back up on his chair, ripping into the brown paper with childish enthusiasm.
“Oh!” Colin lifted the lid from the box and squirmed about gleefully, for inside was something he had not ever dreamed to have – a camera, a camera of his very own. He lifted it gently from the tissue and held it on his lap, delicately touching its lens and admiring its large flash bulb.
“Charles,” Mrs. Creevey said, hints of both admonishment and admiration lurking under her words. “A camera? He’s six years old!”
“He’s plenty old enough for a camera,” Mr. Creevey argued, having removed his coat and boots and was now warming himself by the stove where the cake was baking. “I wasn’t much older than him when my father gave me a camera. And he’s mature, Jeanie, you know that.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Creevey admitted, biting her lip all the same, “but still… How did you afford it?”
“Never mind that,” Colin’s father said, kissing his wife on the cheek. “Let that be my affair.”
The previous conversation, of course, had been lost on Colin, who had tuned out the entire world in favor of inspecting his camera inch by precious inch. There was even a strap, lovely and smelling of new leather, and this he placed gently around his neck. He looked up at his father, blinking, the large grin on his face telling enough of the gratitude his six-year-old heart felt.
“The film’s already inside,” his father said, chuckling. “Why don’t you run on and try it out?” Unable to form the words to thank his father properly, Colin leapt up and hugged him, and then ran from the kitchen, the camera banging against his skinny chest.
He had reached the corridor leading to his and Dennis’s bedroom when he stopped suddenly, an even-more wonderful revelation blossoming suddenly in his head. Sometimes, on very special occasions, Mr. and Mrs. Creevey would let Colin stay up later than his normal bedtime in order to listen to the wonderfully exciting radio programmes that came on then. His favorite ones always talked about spies – spies who trailed dastardly criminals through alleyways in heavy rainstorms, taking pictures and bringing justice to the city once more. Colin looked at the camera in his hands, a small thrill zipping through him.
Maybe he could be a spy! It was, after all, raining, and he had a camera. He was practically a spy already. With a little leap, he turned off the lights in the corridor. It was not as dark as the alleyways in his radio programmes, but it was a start. Creeping down to his bedroom on tiptoes, he poised the camera, prepared to take his first shot.
The door to the bedroom was ajar, and he could still hear Dennis singing faintly from inside the room. He nudged the door open with his foot, peeping his head inside and bringing the camera up to his eye. Dennis was sitting on his bed, holding his stuffed rabbit by its frayed arms and making it hop along the bed.
Colin’s finger pressed the button, and with a brilliant flash, the camera whirred and clicked. Dennis gave a small yelp and tumbled off the bed in fright, still clutching the rabbit to him while his feet became tangled in the blankets.
“Gotcha!” Colin cried, clutching the camera to him and doing a little victory dance in the doorframe. “And so the brave town of… erm… Creevey, is saved by our hero!” He wasn’t entirely sure why he was saying that, other than it was what always came at the end of his spy programs, but it had a nice ring to it.
Dennis had now gotten over his fright at being startled out of bed, and he trotted over to his brother, eagerly inspecting the new camera looped around his neck. “Cool!” he said, reaching out a chubby forefinger and poking it reverently. “A camera!”
“Yeah!” said Colin enthusiastically, bouncing again. Another thought occurred to him, conjured from the memory of his spy programmes. Spies always needed sidekicks, didn’t they? He surveyed Dennis, standing before him at about half Colin’s height, with chubby, rosy cheeks and a little-boy smile. He would have to do.
“Hey, Dennis,” Colin said, lowering his voice conspiratorially; his brother instinctively leaned closer. “How would you like to be my sidekick?”
“What’s a sidekick?” Dennis whispered.
Colin paused. “I don’t know exactly,” he said at last, “but you follow me around and help me with stuff.” Dennis tilted his head to the side, thinking about it, and then nodded excitedly.
“Then let’s go,” Colin said, putting a finger to his lips. Dennis ran back inside the bedroom, came back with his filthy blanket, threw it over his head, and tiptoed after his brother down the corridor.
The boys’ parents were still in the kitchen, talking about something that Colin couldn’t make sense of – he thought it was about politics, or something of that sort – and neither of them noticed their sons sneaking through the back door out into the rain. Colin gently closed the door behind him and stood facing his brother under the dripping gutter.
“Now let’s find something to uncover,” he said, and a terrible thought suddenly occurred to him. “Give me your blanket,” he added. Dennis’s lower lip protruded.
“So the camera doesn’t get wet!” Colin said, as though this were obvious. Dennis didn’t look happy, but he handed the blanket over anyway, and the older boy tried not to grimace too obviously as he gently wrapped it around the camera, leaving the lens exposed.
At the end of the back garden path, near the little fence that separated the Creevey yard from that of their neighbors, crouched the neighbor’s tabby cat, Idgie. Idgie was washing himself by the gate, a fact that Colin found rather pointless, considering it was still raining. He turned to Dennis and tried to put on his best spy-face, although the radio programmes did not tell what sort of a face that was. “Follow my lead,” he whispered, and knelt down on the ground, then laid flat on his stomach.
“What are you doing?” said Dennis, now sucking his thumb for comfort in the absence of his blanket, blinking as rain dropped from his hair into his eyes.
“Spies always have to crawl to avoid being seen,” said Colin, gesturing for Dennis to get down on the ground.
“But I’m a sidekick.”
Dennis frowned again – obviously this was not what he had had in mind when he had signed up for the job. But he was a sidekick, and a loyal sidekick he would be. Grimacing at the mud, he laid on his belly and wriggled around a bit, trying to be comfortable. Colin gripped his camera tightly in his left hand and began to scoot himself along the ground with his right.
It was very difficult, though, pulling himself along this way, and he only managed to cover three yards or so before stopping to rest. Dennis was even further behind, having refused to remove his thumb from his mouth and resulting in his needing to use only one arm as well. “I’m wet, Bubba,” he whined around the thumb.
“Just let me get the picture,” Colin said, “and we can go inside.” But while he was crawling, the blanket had fallen over the camera lens, and it was rather difficult to untangle with one hand. He flipped over onto his back, now coating that side of his shirt with mud as well, and tried fiddling with it. His finger hit the camera button, and a dull flash shone from beneath the blanket. “Oops,” he whispered.
“Colin! Dennis!” The two boys started guiltily as their mother’s voice broke through the patter of raindrops, and they looked up to see her standing on the threshold of the back door, frowning. “What on earth are you two doing crawling in the mud?” she shouted sternly.
“We’re… we’re being spies,” said Colin, hoping this would be a suitable explanation.
“I’m being a sidekick,” Dennis added brightly, now sitting up and still refusing to remove his thumb from his mouth.
“You cannot be spies in this weather,” Mrs. Creevey said firmly, hands on her hips. “Colin, you are going to ruin your new camera, and I’m not even going to mention that I just did your washing, too, and now you’re here getting your clothes all dirty. Come on inside and get out of those wet things.”
Colin didn’t want to point out that he had a blanket over the camera, nor that she had distinctly mentioned the washing right after she’d said she wouldn’t, but stood up obediently and helped Dennis from the muck. “Come on, Dennis,” he said sadly. “You can be my sidekick some other time.”
The two brothers walked back into the house, the mud and rainwater squishing splendidly under their shoes, and marched into their room to change clothes, the smell of chocolate cake already wafting through the house.
When Colin’s pictures were developed around a month later, he was rather disappointed to find that they all came out blurry, not counting the accidental picture of the blanket. All except one – the picture he had taken of Dennis playing with his rabbit, which was so remarkably clear that even Mr. Creevey had felt the need to comment on Colin’s photography skills.
And, although he could never prove it to his family or convince them otherwise, Colin was sure that from time to time he saw Dennis’s little filthy stuffed rabbit hop in and out of the picture.
A/N: Even though Colin was Muggle-born, I feel like he definitely deserved a one-shot of his own -- not only because he is just so darn adorable (and really, he was so loyal in the books, it just melts my heart), but because he turns out just as magical when all is said and done. So here's to you and playing spy, Colin, and may you do so forevermore.
Thank you guys so much for the already-tremendous reaction this story's gleaned! I am so amazed and grateful, and I hope you all will stay with me as these stories get written. Don't forget to leave a review!