Chapter 1 : Shot in the Dark
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Written in response to Pookha's Colin Creevey's Final Photograph Challenge
A teeming river of students surged through the corridors, and a thin boy with a camera hung around his neck allowed the eddying current of humanity to disgorge him against the wall. He stole a glance over his shoulder. Madam Pomfrey, the school nurse who was heading up the back of the line, hadn’t come around the corner yet. Making the most of this golden opportunity, he ducked into an alcove which only yesterday had held a statue of a witch in flowing robes.
The boy—his name was Colin Creevey—crouched in the shadow of the plinth the statue had left behind, trainers and the occasional loose shoestring churning by just inches from his nose, waiting until Madam Pomfrey’s sensible shoes had marched past. He let out the breath he’d been holding with a whoosh.
Slowly, he rose, patting his pockets. In the left, he found his wand; in the right, a single plastic canister—his only spare roll of film unless he could make it back to Gryffindor Tower. No, it would be best to assume he’d only be able to change film once. Luckily, he’d loaded a fresh roll into his camera just that evening, which would give him forty-eight pictures.
Forty-eight. Only forty-eight pictures to prove once and for all that Harry Potter had been right all along.
Colin hesitated, debating whether or not to turn off his camera’s flash. At night like this, the pictures would come out better with the flash, but he didn’t want to draw unnecessary attention to himself. The bright light of his flash might make him a target . . . but would it be any worse than casting a spell? In the end, he decided to play it safe and switched off the flash. He'd have sufficient light from the candles and torches that lit the castle.
Poking his head out of the alcove, he found the corridor empty, so he left his hiding place, adjusting his camera strap with one hand and gripping his wand in the other. The castle was eerily quiet as Colin crept down the corridor back from the direction he’d come from. He’d only been walking for a few moments when he heard pounding footsteps coming from the corridor he’d just left. What if it was Madam Pomfrey coming back to look for him? Colin hurried to a classroom door and flung himself inside just as the footsteps rounded the corner. He left the door a crack open and peeked out.
Three boys rushed past. Colin narrowed his eyes. Malfoy! Colin felt his blood boiling. After what he’d tried to do to Dumbledore, Malfoy had no right to be in the castle, especially not now. He raised his camera. It would be better if Malfoy was facing him, but any proof was better than no proof at all. Click.
The footsteps slowed down. “Did you hear that funny clicking sound?” he heard Malfoy ask.
“Prob’ly just your ‘magination,” came the grunted response. “Let’s go find Potter.” The footsteps started again. Colin gripped his wand until his knuckles turned white. He longed to leap out and hex them, but it was three against one. He wouldn’t have a chance.
He counted to thirty before easing out of the alcove and padding down the corridor. At the corner, he flattened himself against the wall and cautiously looked around it to be sure the way was clear. He rather felt like he was in a spy novel.
Around that time, Colin heard muffled bangs and shouts start up from below, from where he judged the Entrance Hall to be. The first Death Eaters must have breached the castle walls. With any luck, Harry would’ve still been in the Great Hall and would now be fighting there. Colin gripped his camera excitedly and broke into a run.
As Colin sped along the corridors, dodging through a short cut and pausing at each corner, he found his path quite clear despite the fighting he could hear in the distance and the occasional shuddering as the castle rocked from an explosion. It wasn’t until he was down on the third floor that he encountered anyone else.
He was partway down the corridor, noticing the portraits here were all empty—whether their occupants had all fled or had simply ventured to better vantage points, he had no idea—when Angelina Johnson, Katie Bell, Alicia Spinnet, and Oliver Wood, all former members of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team, came barreling around the corner. Colin stopped in his tracks and raised his camera. Click.
“Hi, guys!” he said enthusiastically. “Are you here to help Harry too?”
“Creevey.” Wood nodded, looking less than thrilled.
“Have you seen Harry anywhere around?” Colin asked eagerly. “I need to find him.”
“Weren’t the students supposed to be evacuated?” Alicia spoke up.
“Yeah, but I stayed behind. I’m almost of age anyway, so they should’ve let me stay.” He scowled.
Angelina glanced nervously over her shoulder. “You might want to lose that camera, Colin. This is going to be a really nasty fight, from the looks of things, and you’re going to have to be able to defend yourself.”
“Don’t worry. I have my wand,” Colin said brightly. “And I have to have my camera. Nobody believed Harry before, but I reckon if I get pictures of the Death Eaters or,” he looked around, feeling very much like a spy now, before whispering conspiratorially, “You-Know-Who himself, everyone will have to believe him now. The Ministry and the Daily Prophet won’t be able to cover it up this time.”
An explosion sounded just around the corner, followed by a cry of pain. Wood shoved Colin toward a tapestry. “Get behind there,” he ordered.
“Just do it, Creevey!” Scowling, Colin ducked behind it, and the others fanned out across the hallway, wands at the ready. Click.
Two Death Eaters in masks and hoods charged around the corner.
“Impedimenta!” Katie shouted, and the Death Eater on the right fell over backward.
“Avada Kedavra!” the other Death Eater countered, firing at Katie, but she dodged the curse as Wood sent a Stunner at him. Wood missed too, and the Death Eater laughed cruelly. By that time, his companion had picked himself up off the ground. His mask had fallen away, revealing a predatory, hatchet-thin face, eerily lit in the guttering light of the torches. Click.
“Expelliarmus!” Alicia cried just as Angelina bellowed, “Confringo!” Angelina’s spell hit a doorway, causing the wood to shatter. Both Death Eaters cast a Shield Charm to protect against the flying splinters.
“You’ll have to do better than that, sweetheart,” the hatchet-faced man jeered, transfiguring the splinters into a swarm of bees that buzzed angrily as they hurtled toward the Quidditch players. Click.
Wood sent a cloud of black-purple smoke swirling down the corridor to engulf the bees. Katie tried another Stunner, but the hooded Death Eater deftly blocked it.
“Crucio!” Hatchet-Face called, catching Angelina squarely in the chest. She fell to the floor, writhing and screaming.
Colin narrowed his eyes, realizing he was gripping his wand so hard his knuckles hurt. Wood and the other two girls were trying to hex Hatchet-Face, but his companion countered each spell they tried. Never had it been so clear to Colin that Dumbledore’s Army had been a ragtag group of enthusiastic, underage wizards, and these were ruthless, fully qualified wizards with far more fighting experience.
Colin carefully aimed at Hatchet-Face and fired a whispered Trip Jinx. The man stumbled, and Angelina was released from the grip of the Cruciatus Curse. Hatchet-Face and his companion both looked around. Taking advantage of the Death Eaters’ momentary confusion, Katie finally managed to Stun the hooded man, while a double Stunner from Wood and Alicia threw Hatchet-Face through the air. He hit the wall and slumped at the bottom, out cold.
Alicia crouched over the panting Angelina, and some greenish light flowed from her wand. Some sort of healing magic, Colin supposed. Meanwhile, Wood and Katie were supervising as ropes wound themselves around the two unconscious Death Eaters.
“Wait!” Colin said, darting forward. He already had a photograph of Hatchet-Face, and while he would have liked to take another, he needed to save his film for when he found Harry. He stripped the hood from the other Death Eater’s head, revealing a fleshy face with a bulbous nose. Click. Then he helped Wood pile the bodies in one of the vacant alcoves. Colin had never realized how many alcoves Hogwarts had until they were all empty. He wondered where all the statues and armor had gone. The halls seemed empty without them.
Just then an explosion rocked the castle, throwing Colin to his knees. He felt a sharp stinging on his forehead and reached up to touch it. His fingers came away bloody. The floor was littered with shards of stone and glass, as the window and stone windowsill at the end of the hallway looked to have been completely shattered. Colin raised his camera to the destruction. Click.
He collected his wand from the ground and climbed to his feet, brushing off his robes and dabbing at the cut above his eye with his sleeve. He picked his way through the debris to the hole where the window used to be.
“Colin, wait,” Katie called after him, but he ignored her. As he looked out the window, he felt his first real stab of fear. Humongous shapes were advancing from the Forbidden Forest, uprooting small trees as they came, throwing their heads back and emitting deafening bellows. The rumors were true, then. You-Know-Who really did have giants! Click.
All across the grounds, small fires burned. Hooded figures, their macabre masks weirdly lit by the fires, were pitted against bare-faced fighters in miniature battles and duels that raged and surged over the lawns. The fighting looked to be particularly fierce to the north and along the edge of the Forbidden Forest.
Just then a silvery light soared up the steps at Colin’s right. “Protego!” he called, thinking at first that the silver light was a spell of some sort, but then he saw that it was a Patronus in the shape of a goat. Click. The goat paused between him and the other four.
“We need reinforcements at the North Wall,” a deep voice echoed before the goat pawed the ground and soared away. The four Quidditch players turned to each other.
“Do you think those spare brooms are still in that unused classroom down in the Transfiguration wing?” Wood asked. “We’d get there faster if we had brooms.”
“Let’s go check. Are you coming, Colin?” Katie asked.
“No, I’m not very good on a broom. Besides, I need to find Harry.” He hefted his camera.
“All right then.” They turned and jogged away. Colin darted down the stairway to his right, heading for the floor below. When he was about halfway down, the staircase began to swivel. Great, now he’d have to go the long way around to get down to the Entrance Hall.
Suddenly, a red light streaked toward him and whooshed so closely past his ear that he felt it ruffle his hair. He looked up and spied a Death Eater on the floor above, leaning over a railing. Click. The Death Eater took aim and fired another curse, but Colin dodged it and leaped the last few feet onto solid ground without waiting until the staircase had docked.
He banged his shin on the edge of the floor, but he didn’t stop until he’d ducked into another vacant alcove, wheezing. He rolled up his pant leg and winced. A bruise was already spreading. Next he inspected his camera. Blood from the cut on his head had dripped onto it, and he used a handful of robes to wipe it away. He turned it over, noticing no damage. His camera was fine.
At that moment, a Death Eater hurried past—perhaps the same one who had fired at him on the staircase. Colin stepped out of the alcove. “Hey, you!” Colin called. The man started to wheel about, brandishing his wand, but Colin was ready for him. “Stupefy!” Colin hollered, and the man dropped like a stone. Colin paused long enough to peel back the mask—Click—before hurrying to the next hallway. By now he had dropped the spy-novel pretence and didn’t bother to peek around the corner first.
All the torches here had been extinguished, probably by the air whistling in from gaping holes that had been torn into the wall, exposing the night outside. Colin lit his wand and edged over to one of the holes, picking his way through the rubble. He was overlooking the courtyard, and across the way, he could see Acromantulas scaling the walls and trying to clamber inside blast holes. He shuddered. He’d seen illustrations of Acromantulas in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, but they were much more horrible in person. Click.
Through the windows and blast holes across the way, he could make out figures moving. Streaks of light rained down, and even as he watched, one of the giant spiders was hit and lost its grip, tumbling to the ground and landing with a sickening crunch. Its legs twitched, but it did not rise to rejoin the fight. Click.
Colin, who had seen quite enough, backed away from the hole and scanned the corridor. Something odd protruding from an alcove caught his eye. In the dim wand light, he couldn’t tell for sure what it was. He clambered over the rubble, hissing in pain as he banged his bruised shin on a piece of stone. Was that a shoe? Was someone trapped?
“Hello? Are you all right?” Colin said loudly. There was no response. He began shifting the rock that had been piled in the alcove and recoiled in horror. That was a body! He steeled himself and held up his wand for a better look. It was one of the Weasley twins. Colin looked closer. Two ears. Fred Weasley, then. He wedged his wand into a crack to improve the lighting and raised his camera to carefully compose his shot. He twiddled with the focus knob, but the blur was in his eyes. Drawing in a deep breath, he pressed the shutter. Click.
Colin pulled his wand free and covered Fred’s face again, making sure to conceal the shoe as well. Then he turned and resolutely climbed over the debris that partially blocked the end of the hallway. The next hallway was also dark—and also blocked by the hairy limbs of an Acromantula.
Colin gagged as he climbed over the sticky limbs, which coated his robes in some sickening, sap-like substance—Acromantula blood, he judged, based on the wound on the spider’s body. Revolted, he pointed his wand at his robes and muttered, “Scourgify.” The substance was no longer so sticky, but it remained on his robes.
“It won’t come off like that. Rather disgusting, isn’t it?” Colin spun around and cast a Shield Charm before he realized it was just Michael Corner and Terry Boot of Ravenclaw emerging from an unused classroom.
“Blimey! Don’t scare me like that!” Colin let his shoulders slump in relief, though his heart still felt like it was racing a hundred miles an hour. Both boys were splattered with Acromantula blood. Click.
“Merlin’s beard, Creevey! Do you have to take pictures right now?” Michael snapped.
“Are they all gone?” Terry asked, suppressing a shudder. “We killed that one, but it had friends behind it, so we ducked in there and locked the door.”
Colin replied, “I think so. I haven’t seen any on this side, anyway. They’re all over on the other side now.”
“Have you seen Cho?” Michael asked. “We got separated from her when some Death Eaters ambushed us on the fourth floor.”
“Sorry, no, I haven’t. Have you seen Harry? Do you know if he’s still at the Entrance Hall?”
“No, sorry,” Michael supplied. “Let’s go back up to the fourth floor. Cho might still be there.”
With that, the boys parted ways, with Colin continuing his loop around to the staircase that would lead him down toward the Entrance Hall. As he rounded a corner, Peeves the Poltergeist swooped past his hear, carrying an armful of something Colin couldn’t identify. Click.
“Have you seen Harry Potter?” Colin called after him. Peeves stopped in midair.
“Maybe. The fight’s this way, kiddie.” Peeves cackled gleefully and made a rude noise before zooming off. Colin broke into a jog, holding his camera so it wouldn’t bounce against his chest, wand held at the ready in his other hand.
Within minutes, he had reached the staircase that led down from this floor to the landing at the top of the Grand Staircase. He jumped onto the banister and slid down, eager to see if Harry was still down there. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a Death Eater who’d just emerged from a different corridor. Colin raised his camera, wobbling on the banister. Click. Just then a Stunning Spell hit him, and he toppled from the railing and went tumbling down the stairs.
When he awoke, an unfamiliar man was crouched at his side. “Are you all right?”
Colin groggily took stock of his injuries. There was a sharp pain in his ankle, and his whole body was now throbbing to match his shin. A touch to his head informed him the cut above his eye was bleeding again. “I think so,” he said. “What happened?”
“You were Stunned.”
“Did you get him?”
The man looked amused and gestured. “Over there.” Colin climbed stiffly to his feet and limped over to the fallen Death Eater, who had lost his hood somewhere along the way. Click. Well, at least his camera still worked, then. When he turned, the man had already rejoined the fight, firing spells over the railing to the Entrance Hall down below. Click.
Colin made his way over to a different section of railing and looked down upon the battle raging fiercely below. The first thing that caught his eye was Professor Trelawney. She seemed to be directing a swarm of spherical objects, and as he watched, she sent one rocketing into the back of a Death Eater’s head. The Death Eater collapsed at once. Click.
Nearby, a badly bloodied body lay on the ground, and Colin gave a start as he recognized Lavender Brown, a pretty girl in the year above him. Click. He couldn’t tell if she was dead or not. Her leg might have been moving, but he couldn't tell for sure.
He surveyed the Entrance Hall below, scanning the area for a sign of Harry, but in all the commotion, he couldn’t tell if Harry was there or not. He did see Neville Longbottom and Professor Sprout standing back-to-back, dueling with a group of Death Eaters, some of which looked to be fighting off the clutches of a Venomous Tentacula. Click.
Colin tucked his camera inside his robes so he wouldn’t have to worry about it bouncing around. Then, clutching his wand, he crouched low to the floor and began to creep down the staircase, his hurt ankle nearly buckling beneath him. He hoped that all the fighters below would be too distracted to notice him until he was on the ground floor. When he was partway down, he heard a scrabbling sound and a shout that told him more Acromantulas were trying to swarm in the front doors. Suddenly, he wished he hadn’t put his camera away. He peeked through the railing of the stair, but from his vantage point, he couldn’t see the front doors properly.
Just then, he saw Harry appear from nowhere, sprinting toward the door. A few moments later, Ron and Hermione streaked after him.
“Harry, wait!” Colin called, but of course Harry didn’t hear him. Ignoring the pain in his ankle, Colin rushed down the last of the steps. He hobbled over to the wall, ducking down to avoid a curse that set a vacant portrait frame behind him on fire.
Edging along the wall, one eye on the door, he took the time to fire a quick Stunner at one of the Death Eaters who’d managed to detach himself from the Venomous Tentacula. It seemed to take a year to reach the doors, but once he had, he burst outside and quickly rolled behind the hedge near the entrance. He peered out between the branches, but Harry was nowhere in sight.
The ground was shaking from two giants wrestling nearby. Colin extracted his camera from his robes and turned the flash back on. He could only get half of the giants in the frame at once. The heads were so far away he wasn’t sure the flash would light them properly, so he decided the picture would come out better if he focused on their feet and legs. Click.
Colin rose to his feet again and looked around. There was no way to tell which direction Harry had gone. He stood, turning on the spot uncertainly and finally training his camera on a group of fighters about twenty yards away. As he watched through the viewfinder, one of the Death Eaters detached himself from the group and turned to Colin. A green light lit up Colin’s shot. Click.
The camera whirred as the film automatically rewound, but there was no one to hear it or change the film.