As you head off to the war
Pick a star on the dark horizon
And follow the light
- Regina Spektor, “The Call”
The Room of Requirement had been a busy place earlier that night, filled with the talking and murmuring of dozens of voices. Now it was empty, its war-torn warriors thrown into the heat of the battle he could hear raging on the other side of the thick stone walls Colin Creevey was cocooned in. And he had to join them.
He knew it wasn’t prudent, knew he should have done what McGonagall asked. He should have gone to Hogsmeade, with the rest of the underage students; he was underage, though this past year had been more than enough to turn both him and his brother Dennis into adults. What was more, he was Muggle-born, and the dangers he faced were easily doubled what some of his purer classmates did.
But obligations and rules had no place in wartime; he knew that too. How could he have turned away all of this? This was where he belonged, among his fellow witches and wizards, even those he couldn’t have named; they were all one, a group brought together by their abilities and their talents. If nothing else, Hogwarts had taught him that. And besides, Hermione Granger had firmly commanded them all to never ignore the burning Galleons in their pockets.
When Dumbledore’s Army called, Colin Creevey answered.
He drew in a deep breath, trying his best to steel his nerves, and ran the edge of his thumb along the enchanted coin clutched between his thumb and forefinger. Colin felt stronger when he held it; it was easier to think of himself as a soldier when he did. He slipped it into his pocket, and opened his eyes. The fingers of his right hand found his wand, and wrapped around the base of it tightly.
With echoing footsteps, he moved for the door leading out into the school.
The thick tang of smoke and rubble and iron hit his nostrils the very moment he was free of what security the Room of Requirement had offered, and for a wild, panic-stricken moment, Colin debated retreating, doing what he was told. It was, quite unmistakably, the smell of war, and it was enough to turn a braver man’s stomach. His left hand found the Galleon in his pocket and squeezed it tightly, focusing on anything but the churning of his stomach.
“I am brave,” he murmured to himself, pretending like he didn’t feel the vibrations through the stone wall under his back, explosions rending the foundations of the school. Colin opened his eyes again, and before he had time to second-guess himself, he began to run, his feet beating the same tattoo still printing itself in his mind: I’m-brave-I’m-brave-I’m-brave, over and over again, rhythmic and very nearly soothing.
He rounded a corridor, nearly colliding with a fallen suit of armor; where its left arm should have been was a gaping hole, the shoulder shredded into metal scraps. Its faceless head turned in his direction, but Colin rushed on past it, recklessly, towards the sound of the melee on the floor below. There was a shout, and more shouts, and he kept running towards them because he couldn’t think of anything else to do.
Down a staircase, through an archway – and then something slammed into his shoulder, just as a burst of blue light filled the corridor Colin had found himself in, the stench of sulfur trailing after it. The wizard who’d shoved him out of the way struggled to his feet, and reached out a hand for the smaller boy. Colin took it gratefully, though he’d never seen the man in his life.
“What are you doing, son?” the wizard asked gruffly, and then, not waiting for an answer, added, “If you’re heading down to the grounds, follow me. There’s a quicker way there than these bastards” – he spat, as though the word were too filthy to stay in this mouth – “are thinking of looking for right now.” Colin didn’t say anything; he merely stared at the stranger.
“Come on, boy!” the wizard snapped, reaching forward and jerking Colin forward a few steps by the shoulder of his thin navy jumper. And then he did run, falling into step behind this gray-haired, gray-bearded wizard.
When his fellow man called, Colin Creevey answered.
The lawns of Hogwarts were dark, and the grass looked black, save for where the lights of the burning, dying castle hit it in eerie patches of orange and crimson. Colin swallowed the lump in his throat, ignored the stitch in his side, and tried to listen for his internal rhythm of bravery. He couldn’t find it anymore, and somehow, that scared him more than what he was about to do.
The man in front of him half-turned, as though to make sure Colin was still following him, and didn’t see the wall of three dark-hooded figures rising up in front of him until it was too late. He careened into one of them, and fell to the ground from the impact. One of the figures raised his wand.
“No!” Colin screamed, but the word was fruitless even before he’d had time to think to say it. He hadn’t known his companion; he’d never learned his name. But the emotion he felt as he watched the slash of purple light, and shielded his eyes from its brightness, and heard the thud of flesh on earth – the emotion he felt after all of that was, quite unmistakably, grief.
It didn’t cross his mind that he, Colin, might be the next target until he had blinked away the hot tears that had sprung into his eyes, clearing his vision again. The hooded figures moved a step closer, and Colin gripped his wand so tightly he could feel the dull ache of taut skin over bone in the middle of his right hand.
“I’m brave,” he whispered, hushed and quiet and personal. The rhythm was back. He raised his wand and Disarmed the man in front of him, with a jet of red light so violent it surprised both of them. His attacker’s wand was a slim, dark shape against the burning castle as it flew through the air and melded with the dark grass underfoot.
“Fool,” hissed one of the men through an unseen mouth; his face was so swathed in shadow from his hood that only his eyes were visible, and these just because of the reflections glinting off them. On either side, his companions raised their own wands. Both pointed straight at Colin’s heart.
He knew what was going to happen a split second before it did. He was ready for it. He had been a soldier tonight, he had been an instrument of war – however briefly – and moreover, he had been brave.
When Hogwarts called, Colin Creevey answered.
A/N: Colin Creevey is, when I actually take the time to sit down and think about it, one of my favorite background-esque characters in the series. He's really got some of the best humor lines, and his loyalty to Harry is unwavering -- enough so that he snuck into the castle, a Muggle-born, just to fight alongside him. How awesome is that? This boy's one who needs more recognition, if you ask me!
This was written for long_live_luna_bellatrix, who I was very fortunate to be paired with for the Ravenclaw Secret Santa exchange. I hope you had a very lovely holiday season, and a great year ahead of you!
The lyrics at the start of this story come from the song "The Call" by Regina Spektor, used in the movie Prince Caspian; I own none of these things.