As Professor McGonagall and Kingsley Shacklebolt began to organise the defence of the school, I waved to Ernie, winked at Hannah, and sneaked out of the Great Hall. I walked up the main staircase and along the first floor corridor to the broom cupboard where Colin Creevey was hiding.
‘All clear, Colin,’ I told him. ‘Everyone’s in the Great Hall. They are starting to get organised. Hannah will let us know where she’s going so that we can join her.’
‘Where’s Harry?’ Colin asked me eagerly. I shrugged.
‘I’ve absolutely no idea, Colin, I’m sorry. No one seems to know. He’s probably off doing whatever it is he has to, with Ron and Hermione,’ I suggested. My answer wasn’t good enough. It was clear from his face that Colin was desperately keen to see his hero.
I knew Colin very well. He was, I suppose, my friend. I’d seen a lot of him during those last few months. Last summer he had managed to find my phone number and had telephoned to warn me about the Muggle-born Registration Commission. He had found out about the formation of the Commission even before it was announced by the Ministry, and he warned everyone that he could find. Once I found out, I helped him; we all did what we could.
Until then I’d never thought of myself as being a member of an ethnic minority. I hadn’t really thought much about Colin, either. My father was a rich and powerful businessman; Colin’s dad was a milkman. But, as Colin so wisely said, “where we’ve come from doesn’t matter; to Umbridge, we’re both simply Muggle-born thieves of magic.”
I could have fled, that’s what my parents did. They, together with my brother and my sister, simply moved to Monaco; for tax reasons, my father was legally domiciled there anyway. He simply continued to run his business interests from the principality. My parents wanted me to move away with them; I didn’t, but we allowed everyone think that I had. Father even paid to enrol me into a Monegasque school; a Muggle school, of course. We didn’t want the Death Eaters to find us.
Colin could be a pain in the backside sometimes, but he meant well. He was indispensable to the Resistance, too. He was a genius with a camera. Send him an official document and he would ask you, “What do you want changed and how do you want it changing?” He even managed to get some official Muggle-born Registration Commission Parchment a few months ago, the real stuff, with the magical security code hidden in the letterhead. He wouldn’t tell me, or anyone else, how he did it.
The Resistance had been trying to get some of the letterhead parchment for months, but Umbridge’s security measures had reached paranoid proportions after Harry’s break-in, and that was just after school started. The resistance simply could not get any parchment without serious risk. Then, just after Christmas, Colin announced that he had forty sheets and wanted to know what we wanted to do with them.
Katie Bell told him what needed to be done, and Colin forged a set of Muggle-born Registration Commission Prisoner Transfer Documents. Making the Law Officer Identity Cards was easy, by then he’d created an automated system for mass producing them. He’d handmade the first ones within weeks of us going underground.
Soon after he got the parchment several “Law Officers” (Katie didn’t know who, but she thought that Kingsley was one of them) walked into the Cardiff Law Office, collected every Muggle-born they had in the Law Office cells, and walked them all out to freedom.
After “the big escape”, as everyone called it, it took me several weeks to sort out false identities for the escapees. But the work was a joy. It was an even bigger escape than the one Harry had managed. We were even happier when we heard about Umbridge’s reaction.
Umbridge was apparently completely incandescent with rage. Sixty-three Muggle-borns were being held in the cells in Cardiff. All of them were awaiting transfer to her Commission in London. They had simply vanished. She was so angry when she heard news that she accidentally set fire to her desk. Potterwatch had a lot of fun with that story, but then Lee Jordan always enjoyed baiting “Delirious” Umbridge, as he called her.
I did my bit too, though I wasn’t on the front line. It was up to me and my company to hide the Muggle-borns the Resistance freed, and any others we could find. I am the sole director of a leasing company, Goldfinch Properties, set up by my father (via several offshore accounts). I didn’t run it of course; I had people to do that for me.
It worked well, most of the time. Apart from me, every member of my staff was a Muggle. There were a few problems when one member of staff got suspicious. She began an investigation, convinced that we were hiding illegal immigrants, which in a way we were. I was forced to Obliviate her, and then sack her. It was a pity, because she was sharp, and completely correct. We were providing fake Muggle identities for people who, until we intervened, had not appeared on any Muggle records.
We were very careful. The Muggle authorities would have had difficulty tracing the owner of Goldfinch Properties, had they been interested. But we paid our taxes, so they paid us no attention. We were hidden in plain sight, just one Muggle business among thousands. The Ministry of Magic would never have found us.
My company bought dozens of modest houses and flats across the country. All were occupied by people who were wanted by Umbridge’s Commission, and their families. The Muggle-borns were all relatively safe, living as Muggles among Muggles.
When I got the call to go to Hogwarts, earlier that night I only three of my properties were vacant. I had my people looking for more houses. But as Colin and I walked along the balcony, I hoped that Goldfinch Properties would not need to buy any more homes for the displaced. First, of course, we’d have to defeat the Muggle-haters.
The balcony was deserted and quiet. Colin and I looked down into the Entrance Hall, watching and waiting. Soon the Entrance Hall filled with defenders, all heading off to carry out the tasks assigned to them. Hannah’s Patronus arrived, as I’d asked. She told us where she was going. She had been sent to guard one of the secret passages with Fred Weasley and some others, so we set off downstairs to join them. We were in the Entrance Hall and were heading for the basement stairs, but we didn’t get there.
‘Finch-Fletchley,’ Professor Sprout yelled. ‘Come with me. I need someone experienced to help in the greenhouses.’ She already had Neville, but she had decided that she needed more help, and she knew me. It was unreal. The Head of my House acted as if I had never been away. She did not question the fact that I was back at the school, she did not care about the fact that I was wearing Muggle clothes. I was in a two-hundred pound designer shirt; I had been going to a dinner party and had not had time to change.
Colin ducked low, which was very easy for him, and dodged sideways into the crowd. I saw him join his fellow Gryffindors and I watched as he headed outside with Dean and Seamus, Parvati and Lavender.
That was the last time I saw him alive.
Under the guidance of Professor Sprout, we grabbed Tentacula, Snargaluff pods and Mandrakes from the greenhouses, anything we could find which would help us defend the castle. We carried them into the Entrance Hall and up onto the balcony where we could defend the entrance. My shirt and trousers were already covered in mud, and I worried that they might never come clean. It seems ridiculous now, but at the time, that was the only thing that I was worried about.
That was when the attacks began. We heard shouts and screams from outside. The midnight sky lit up with bright flashes of spellfire. I wanted to go and check on Hannah, but I was needed on the balcony. I soon saw the Gryffindors re-enter the castle, Dean, Seamus, Parvati and Lavender, but no Colin. They were carrying someone. It was a Hufflepuff girl who I vaguely recognised. She was in the year below me and she was a broken and bloody mess. The four carried her upstairs, obviously heading towards the Hospital Wing. She was the first of many casualties I saw.
A troll tried to enter through the door behind them. Neville and I simultaneously shouted “Stupefy” and the troll was knocked back into the grounds. By then, desks were running downstairs to join in the defence of the school, the castle walls were shaking, and things were beginning to get really confusing.
Somehow, several Death Eaters got inside the school and, while others fought them off, I managed to sneak outside, to look for Colin. I was outside for hours, but I never saw him. I was with Ernie for a few minutes, but it was total chaos in the school grounds and we were forced to separate when several Acromantula attacked us. I didn’t see Hannah at all, not until after Voldemort called a truce and demanded that we hand over Harry.
I met her in the Entrance Hall; we had both been heading for the Great Hall. Hannah looked pale and worried. I asked her what was the matter and she told me.
‘Fred,’ she sobbed. It was the only word I could make out for a while. Through her sobs and wails I finally realised what she was saying. Fred Weasley was dead. She cried and cried, and I didn’t know what to do. I held her, and hugged her, but there was nothing I could do or say to comfort her. She simply could not stop her tears.
It was a long time before she calmed down. When she did we went out into the grounds to try to help. There were still several wounded lying where they had fallen. While we were outside we met Neville and some of the others.
That was when I found out that Colin was dead.
Colin was dead and I suddenly understood Hannah’s grief. It was my fault, because I brought Colin to the battle. I collected him from his parents’ house and I brought him to Hogwarts, to his death.
I could have left him at his parent’s place. That’s what I should have done. He was cleverer than I was, he had realised how dangerous it would be. That’s why he stunned his kid brother. Dennis was still safe at home.
I was responsible. If I hadn’t gone to collect him, what could he have done? He was sixteen, he could not Apparate; he’d never even had a lesson. He would have been stuck.
He would have hated me for leaving him behind, but he’d be alive.