Chapter One: The Promise

His Brother’s Keeper

The pieces are starting to come together, but while Merlin struggles with his fame and Silas coming to Hogwarts, strange things are happening around the world. Wizards have gone missing, muggles have been murdered, Snape hates the new Defense Professor, and the revelation that Silas’ brother is being held at Azkaban inspires Merlin to attempt the impossible.

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Are you new to the Only A Boy series? This here is the beginning of Book Three: His Brother’s Keeper. If you just Click Here it’ll take you to the beginning!

“You’ve been back over a month,” Florean Fortescue chided as he straightened his violet waistcoat. He took a moment to pull out a silver pocket watch, inspected it a moment, and then returned it to his trouser pocket. “I want your things put away by the time I close the shop.”

The boy who stood before him had changed drastically since the year previous. The growth spurt had hit, and though he had been tall before, now Merlin stood to catch up and perhaps even pass Florean within the next year. His pajamas had already been magically extended to fit twice, and there was no doubt that he would need new school robes. It had urged his guardian to remark more than once, oh how fast do they grow, received by an almost painfully typical representation of the teenage eye roll.

Merlin swallowed the urge to grumble, his inky black hair still had sleep lingering on the messy strands. Florean gave him a look that quite clearly said, how many times do I have to ask, and headed down the stairs to the ice cream parlor. Merlin didn’t see the point of completely unpacking his trunk. He would be heading back to Hogwarts in about a month and a half. Still, his groan turning into a yawn, he turned on the ball of his foot and headed over to his bedroom.

Well, the bedroom he shared with Silas.

But the kid wasn’t in the room when Merlin entered—he could hear the sound of the tap in the washroom down the hall. He had shoved his trunk into the corner next to the closet, where it sat half open, a mess of clothes hanging over the edges and books in a disorganized jumble. And there, getting black hair all over his Slytherin tie was Khoshekh.

The kneazle had matured while he was away at Hogwarts. Her dappled black fur had thickened, her charcoal rosettes just visible. Around her neck the fur had grown long and silky, a mane that gave her a distinctly regal look. Her large ears had tufts of black on the end, as did the end of her large tail—looking, in Merlin’s opinion, like a midnight lion. She blinked her silver eyes up at him, and she purred as he sighed.

“Florean wants me to unpack,” he explained, kneeling down and scratching one of her large ears. “I hate to kick you out of your bed, but…” and he shrugged. The kneazle yawned, revealing her royal purple mouth. Then, she stretched, and stepped out of the trunk, batting her side against Merlin’s knee. He chuckled, running his hand along her back, and then she was out of the room.

Silas hadn’t even gotten his letter yet, and already he planned to bring her to Hogwarts with him.

He started throwing clothes—including that tie—into the hamper for the wash. His Hogwarts robes he held up, and frowned slightly. They had been getting small for him even before term ended. He threw them on his bed for now, and started organizing the books.

The end of term had come quickly, after terror of the Chamber of Secrets had subsided. The mandrakes matured and were made into a potion to revive the petrified students. Merlin had wondered what they were going to do about their education, considering they had been frozen in the Hospital Wing for most of the year. According to Hermione—who had been concerned about it and asked Professor McGonagall—they had an intense summer program to look forward too.

Hermione had been distinctly aggrieved when told she could not in fact join this program.

“You’ll be busy enough,” Merlin had promised her. True to his intention, he had begun to teach them to manipulate druidic magic, though with little success. He had expected that. It was unlike anything they had studied before. But it was still somewhat disheartening to have made no progress by the end of term.

“It is not wandless magic,” Merlin had told them all at their final Circle of Darach meeting. “Right now we are not trying to manipulate anything about the world around us, that will come later. I want you all to focus on meditation this summer.” He handed them each a small rough-hewn rock. “Now, I transfigured these using druidic magic,” he had taken to calling it that, as the Old Religion was antiquated and too long to say. “I want you all to hold them in your hands while you meditate, and try to feel the magical energy it gives off. This is type of magic you are reaching for.”

“Are we supposed to transfigure it into something?” Ginny asked.

“You can’t do magic outside school!” Hermione replied instantly and Merlin smiled.

“No. You are not transfiguring it into anything. However, I suspect the ministry is unable to regulate or even sense druidic magic.”

“Does that mean—” Fred began, his eyes lighting up, “If we were to master this…”

“We could do magic outside of school and not get caught?” his twin finished.

“Yes.”

“Wicked.”

“Now,” Merlin went on. “You have a long way to go before you even attempt that. These stones are designed to help you attune to the magic of the earth, to external magic. This means pushing your own magic out from you, allowing it to interact with other auras. It can be exhausting for new students—”

“You don’t say,” Draco grumbled.

“—so don’t force it.” Merlin shot his fellow Slytherin a meaningful glance. “It’s not asking you to do anything,” and he glanced over at Hermione now. “Clear your mind of everything, breath in and out, and allow yourself to feel your surroundings. Once you have reached a state of calm, you will notice the aura radiating from your rock.”

“How do we know if we’re actually reading the rock, though?” Ginny asked with a frown.

“Because it will start to emit light when it senses your magic back.” Merlin had looked around at them all. “It takes time and practice. Any questions?”

Hermione’s hand shifted as if she wanted to raise it, but she held it down. Old habits die hard and all that. “Can we write you with questions?” she asked, a tinge of worry in her tone. She seemed to be having particular difficulty with druidic magic—and not just because there were no textbooks for it.

“I would—refrain from being too detailed. Just in case.” He didn’t know what the chances of the letter being intercepted were, but he didn’t intend to test it. “That said, you all know I live in Diagon Alley. Feel free to stop by anytime.”

Of course, no one had stopped by yet but Merlin hadn’t expected them too. He set the final book on the short bookcase in the room and decided he might as well put away his extra parchment and writing supplies while he was at it. His friends had taken the news of his identity relatively well, though he could see them struggling. Draco in particular had difficulty with the information. The last few months of school he had flip-flopped between awkward formality and forced nonchalance. It didn’t matter how many times Merlin told him to treat him normally.

It wasn’t easy finding out your best friend was an ancient and powerful warlock.

Merlin knew he just needed time—including time apart. Hopefully by the time term started again a sense of normalcy would return.

Hermione did what Hermione does when confronted with something confusing and earth-shattering—she went to the library. Within a week after he had told them, she appeared with a three-foot roll of parchment full of questions she had gathered during her research session. He had spent an entire afternoon with her, patiently answering as much as he could. As far as he could tell, she seemed more upset by the clear lack of accurate information regarding his life.

“If your history is this wrong, what else have I learned that is just false?” she exclaimed with a miserable glance at the pile of history books on the library table.

Learning that Hogwarts, A History wasn’t the authority she had imagined, hit Hermione harder then his identity.

The others had taken it better. The twins had known for two years now so they were thrilled to learn the details at last. Merlin suspected they were partly the reason Ginny remained unfazed. Then again, she had spent a large portion of the previous year possessed by Tom Riddle. After that, he wouldn’t be surprised if she remained open and coldly cynical for the rest of her life. Just one conversation with the—could he even call Tom Riddle a person? —had riled his insides.

Merlin shut the now empty trunk and flipped the latch. There, now Florean would be satisfied. Down the hall he heard the washroom door open and Silas giggle Khoshekh’s name.

He hadn’t told Silas about the Circle of Darach yet. He planned to; of course, he’d just been waiting for the right time. He watched as the kid came around the corner, mousy brown hair slightly damp, and the black kneazle bobbing around his legs with a purr he could hear from the other side of the room.

“I see you finally caved,” Silas said with a laugh as he saw the trunk.

Merlin ran his hand through his hair. “It was bound to happen eventually.” He strode over to his bed to appraise the school robes he had thrown there. “You want to see if these fit you? I’m going to need new ones this year.”

Any time Merlin even alluded to the fact that Silas was coming to Hogwarts, the kid’s hazel eyes sparkled with a joy he hadn’t seen in a long time. “Really?” Silas said, grabbing the robes from the bed and holding them up against him.

“I mean, yeah—we can just ask Florean to nullify the sleeve extension charms on it. If you want, I mean—”

Silas had thrown the robes on over his clothes before Merlin had even finished speaking. The sleeves were only an inch too long for him and he beamed, rolling them up. “Course I want them!” he laughed and ran to stand in front of the mirror that hung next to the closet. “How do I look?”

“Like a Hogwarts student.”

Silas beamed. “By the way,” he said, shrugging off the cloak and hanging it on his side of the closet, “What did you want to do for your birthday?”

His birthday was in two weeks and he honestly hadn’t given it a single thought. “I dunno, probably same thing as last time?” he said, thinking of the ice cream party Florean had put on for him. “Why, got an idea?”

Silas gave an offhand shrug. “Maybe. I’ll keep it a surprise though, in case it doesn’t work out. Are you inviting all the same people as last time?”

“Pretty much,” Merlin said. He paused, “I’d also like to invite Ginny this time though.”

“Who’s that?”

“Fred and George’s younger sister.”

“Oh, the one who was part of the Chamber of Secrets thing, right?”

Merlin nodded. He hadn’t told Silas everything that had happened down in the Chamber. And, predictably—

“Are you ever going to fill me in on the rest of that?”

“You have to be dramatic, yes I know,” Silas said with a wink and Merlin spluttered. Khoshekh gave a mew, and she batted her head against Merlin’s shin. “Look, even Khoshekh agrees.”

“I’m not—”

“You are the most dramatic person I know Merlin,” Silas interrupted, raising his eyebrow.

Merlin opened his mouth, couldn’t think of a good enough rebuttal, and closed it again. Last time he hadn’t wanted to explain everything because Florean had been in the house, and he could never be certain how much he overheard. He wasn’t in the house today.

“Okay,” he said, running his hands through his hair again. He wasn’t ready for this conversation that was the real truth. He didn’t know what to say, how to say it, how Silas would react. He had a bunch of ideas but nothing that gave him peace of mind. He had hoped, somehow, that this conversation could wait until they got to Hogwarts, until he took Silas into the Chamber of Secrets and showed him the mosaic and the round stone table. If controlling every part of the reveal made him dramatic—

Oh, he was dramatic, wasn’t he?

“Okay,” he said again. “After Breakfast.”

“Yeah?” Silas said, regarding him carefully.

“Yeah.” Khoshekh mewed again, and he bent to scratch her ears. “I don’t have a good enough reason to keep it hidden from you, I mean I was always intending to tell you it’s just—”

“Complicated.”

Merlin nodded and Silas rolled his eyes. “What isn’t with you these days,” but his tone was teasing. He punched Merlin’s arm. “C’mon, let’s go eat then.”

This wasn’t the first time he and Merlin ate breakfast without Florean—more often than not, actually, what with the shop exploding with business during the summer. Merlin used to cook a lot. Arthur had always put him in charge of dinner when they traveled. While Silas set the table and filled their glasses with orange juice, Merlin scrambled some eggs and put on the toast. He dished it up onto their plates and sat down, willing the coils of his stomach to unwind.

The arrival of the post provided some welcome distraction. Through the open second story window came two owls, the first a Great Horned Owl who came by every day with a copy of the Daily Prophet. As Silas deposited a few bronze knuts into the pouch on his leg, a barn owl swooped over his head and dropped two letters over the table before swooping back out again. The letters had landed on the toast.

Merlin grimaced and picked up the envelopes, brushing off the breadcrumbs. Familiar emerald ink caught his eye and he read the address:

Mr. S Meadowes
The West Bedroom
Florean Fortescue’s Ice-cream Parlour
Versal Plaza, Diagon Alley

Merlin turned over the letter and saw the Hogwarts emblem on the back in red wax and broke into a wide grin. The second letter bore an additional weight to it, but it had his name written across the header. He held up the letter addressed to Silas and looked over at his brother, who was gazing down at the Daily Prophet in his hands.

“Well, look what flew in!” Merlin said, dangling the envelope from his fingers.

Silas did not look up.

“Silas—” Merlin started to say, but he cut off as the person in question finally looked up at him. He didn’t even see the letter held outstretched in Merlin’s hands. He looked back down at the Daily Prophet and before Merlin could ask what, had showed him the front page.

In large accusatory letters was the headline, DISGRACED LOCKHART SENTENCED TO SIX MONTHS IN AZKABAN. Accompanying the article was a large photograph. Merlin stared back at the terrified face of Gilderoy, suspended between two Auror’s as they dragged him down a stone corridor, cell bars on either side. He kept shaking his head vigorously, looking back at the camera.

“Okay—?” Merlin said, frowning down at the article. They had kept up to date with the case since Lockhart had been arrested. This wasn’t so much of a surprise but rather the final conclusion. Wondering how this could possibly be more interesting than their Hogwarts Letters, Merlin began to read the article. He had gotten only a few words in when Silas pointed to the photograph.

“Do you see this man?”

Merlin stared at him. He was pointing to the half visible image of one of the prisoners. He was sitting with his face right up against the bars. His eyes were sunken, a hollow of a man with a tangle of long hair. He had the look of someone locked up for a long time. And yet, despite everything, merlin could see a youthful smile lurking beneath his patchy beard.

“What about him?”

Silas took a deep rattling breath. Merlin had never seen him knocked so off balance. The paper trembled beneath his fingers. The blood had drained from his face.

“I thought he was dead.”

Merlin stood up, the Hogwarts letters forgotten on the table. “Who was dead?” he repeated, now snatching the Daily Prophet out of Silas’s fingers to more closely examine.

“My brother, Bryon.”


The Daily Prophet


DISGRACED LOCKHART SENTENCED TO SIX MONTHS IN AZKABAN

The deliberations are over and Gilderoy Lockhart has made a deal with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, writes Special Correspondent Rita Skeeter.

Before the end of last term, the Headmaster had dismissed Gilderoy Lockhart from his position as Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts, citing student endangerment and false credentials. It was later revealed he had wiped his own memory of any wrongdoing, a fact that had delayed proceedings.

Lockhart sympathizers sent hundreds of letters in protest. “How can you judge him if he can’t even remember doing it?” said Jennifer Litcott, self-described President of the Gilderoy Lockhart Fanclub and Legal Activist. “He can’t confess!”

The Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Amelia Bones, had this to say in rebuttal: “I’ve heard these apologists, and I am appalled they try to call what they do justice. Mr. Lockhart has destroyed the lives of people, a fact that has been proven within the court of law. The simple fact that he cannot remember his actions does not change the damage he has caused.”

Although the full details of the proceedings are confidential, the Daily Prophet can exclusively reveal that Gilderoy Lockhart was formally charged for attempting to tamper the memory of two students, as well as fraudulently presenting himself, obtaining employment under false pretense, and numerous counts of memory tampering and copyright infringement.

In exchange for full cooperation in contacting every person he has ever tampered with, Gilderoy Lockhart received a shortened sentence of only six months in Azkaban as well as intensive memory rehabilitation with a certified St. Mungo’s healer. Lockhart was also fined 8,000 Galleons and has been further ordered to return royalty advances. The Publisher, Hoppity Press has been ordered to pull all Gilderoy Lockhart works from the shelves.

“This entire case has caused very bad press for us,” complained Hoppity Press CEO François Durand. “Lockhart books were very popular, we’re looking at

Gilderoy Lockhart led by Ministry Aurors to his cell in Azkaban; Photo Credit: DeliberatingDoodles
Gilderoy Lockhart led by Ministry Aurors to his cell in Azkaban; Photo Credit: DeliberatingDoodles

significant loses.” Durand also revealed they had sunk an enormous chunk of gold into the promotion of Gilderoy Lockhart’s newest book, Magical Me, an autobiography. It hit the shelves of Flourish and Blotts last August. “Normally we make back three times what we spend promoting one of Lockhart’s books, but now I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Hoppity Press announced at a Press Conference last night that they intend to sue Lockhart following a massive drop in stock. Of course, this comes just two days after the DMLE announced an investigation into the publisher against claims that Hoppity Press had been aware of Lockhart’s crimes.

“I can assure you that no one at Hoppity Press was aware of what Lockhart was doing,” Durand said. “This investigation is a waste of time.”

So, exactly how much was fact and fiction in Voyages with Vampires? The Daily Prophet sent yours truly to find out. I began by tracing Gilderoy Lockhart’s steps as he details them in his redacted book. Read the full details in our new special series: Lying with Lockhart, more on page 5. Hoppity Press Investigation continues page 3. Gilderoy Lockhart Rebuttal page 8.

“Your brother.”

Silas had mentioned him only a few times, never lingering on the subject. Merlin stared at the young man in the photograph, at the smile around his eyes. The fine details of his face however were indeterminate, his straggle of facial hair hiding his features.

“Are you sure?”

“I know it’s him, Merlin.” Silas took back the Daily Prophet and surveyed the photo again.

Merlin couldn’t decide which question to ask first. He opened his mouth, closed it again, and then settled on: “So, he’s a wizard.” It had seemed odd how quickly Silas had accepted his magic. The kid met his eyes at last. Resolve hardened his hazel eyes. He set the Daily Prophet article on the table and sat back down.

“He never said he was. But things would happen, you know? I wanted to believe.” He ran his hands through his hair. “I saw him clean the dishes with magic once. When I asked him about it he pretended it didn’t happen—and then when he went out that night, he never came back.”

A nervous tremor reverberated over Silas’s frame. Merlin remembered how the kid had hugged him after witnessing Merlin’s magic for the first time. He had mentioned his brother then, he realized.

“I looked for him,” Silas went on. “I had no idea what was going on. I just remember being in that empty house, waiting.” He shook his head.

“You don’t have to talk about it,” Merlin whispered.

“I—I want to.” Silas wiped his eyes on his sleeve. There came a mew next to him and Silas turned to see Khoshekh jump onto the table and start pressing her face against his. He began to laugh, small choking sobs before he smiled and pulled the midnight kneazle into his lap. He met Merlin’s glittering blue gaze.

“I want to find out what happened to him,” Silas said. “Why didn’t he come back?”

“Why is he in Azkaban,” Merlin added and Silas nodded, a shimmer of water in his eyes. Merlin grabbed a piece of toast and leaned back in his chair, nibbling as he considered. Byron had not been credited on the photo, but if he was a member of the wizarding world—

“I promise, we’ll find out. If he’s in Azkaban there had to be trial at some point.”

Silas nodded, scratching a purring Khoshekh under her chin. His hazel eyes were still somewhat red and he kept shooting glances back at the photograph, chewing on his bottom lip. The third time this happened, Merlin had made up his mind.

“Eat,” he said taking the plate of bread and setting it intentionally down on top of the Daily Prophet. “And I’ll tell you about what really happened in the Chamber of Secrets.”

“Okay,” Silas said taking a piece of toast.

“Now—” Merlin started, hesitation in his tone. “Well. Silas, just because you happened to be at the same orphanage as me doesn’t mean you have to be apart of this,” Merlin said. Silas was eleven. He deserved a normal Hogwarts experience, not one of fear and worry. “If I tell you everything it’ll put you in danger. You don’t have to risk your life, like I do.”

Silas frowned at him. “What are you talking about?” he said, looking at Merlin as if he were insane. “I’ve always known what you’re doing is dangerous. I mean, the troll?” He spotted his Hogwarts letter on the table and snatched it, holding it up in Merlin’s face. “See this? Now I get to meet Korrizahar and you can’t stop me.”

Merlin snorted with laughter. “Okay, okay, but there are a few ground rules. Namely, no one else knows about the dragons, so please keep that to yourself for now.” Silas eagerly nodded to this so Merlin continued, “And secondly, I need you sworn to secrecy.”

“I won’t tell anyone,” Silas replied promptly.

“Magically, just in case they try to use a truth potion or something,” Merlin said, raising his eyebrow.

Silas gave a soft, ah. “That’s why you wanted to wait.”

“Yes.”

Silas cringed slightly. “Sorry,” but Merlin didn’t want his apology. He wanted to tell Silas the truth. The secrets buried inside for so long to vanish into sweet relief. Their eggs had long gone cold and with a wave of his fingers and a glitter of his eyes, they steamed with fresh heat.

“But, you said—” Silas said, watching him with wide eyes.

“They can’t detect my magic,” Merlin explained with a smile. “Now stop asking me questions for a second,” and as Silas chuckled he finished his breakfast.

After they had finished and put away the washed pans, they retreated to their room. Merlin directed Silas to sit on a pillow in the middle of the room, Khoshekh instantly retaking her spot on his lap, while Merlin warded the room. A stream of archaic language fell from his lips, his hand outstretched to the walls. When he had finished, he had created barrier.

“Remind me to remove the barrier before Florean returns home,” Merlin said. He withdrew a broken piece of emerald mosaic from his pocket and held it out to Silas. “This is from the Chamber of Secrets, where the enchantment is anchored. You need to hold onto it while I explain. You won’t be able to repeat anything you hear to anyone else, intentionally or not. It also means you can’t ask me about it without holding onto that emerald even after we’re done here. Does that make sense?”

Silas took hold of the emerald, thumbing the smooth edges. “It means that I can only talk to you about the Chamber of Secrets while I hold this, right?”

“Yes, or within the chamber itself. Otherwise you can’t speak of it at all.”

“Exactly. Otherwise you can’t think of it at all.”

“What if we have something important we need to tell you that can’t wait for the Chamber?”

Merlin pointed at the piece of emerald mosaic. “That’s why I’ll be carrying that. Now, shall I?”

With an eager nod from Silas, Merlin began. This time, Merlin told him in detail about the mosaic located within the Chamber of Secrets. Silas did not interrupt him as Merlin explained how the mosaic of Salazar Slytherin knew him. The kid’s hazel eyes grew wide as he spoke of controlling the Basilisk Ríognach.

“S—so you’re Merlin?” he looked slightly nervous. “Like, actual Merlin.”

“Yes.”

“But—” Silas stared blankly at him. “What are you doing here?”

“Well, that’s a really long story,” Merlin said with a laugh. “But basically, I’m here to stop the Dark Lord.”

Silas didn’t look surprised by this. And then he broke eye contact. “I’m sorry,” he said, out of nowhere. “Here I am worried about Byron when he’s probably in prison for a good reason, and you’re stuck with some kid—”

“I have never thought of you as, some kid,” Merlin interrupted gently. “I promised I would help find out what happened to your brother, and I intend to see it through.”

Silas took a slow shaky breath. Khoshekh mewed again from his lap, her paw rising to bat at his nose for attention. “Oy—!” he giggled and hugged her tightly, until she gave a small squeak and he let go again. Merlin let him get his emotions under control before he spoke again.

“Now, at the end of last term, I revealed my identity to a select few others—”

“What?” Silas interrupted. “I’m not the first?”

“Uh—” Merlin didn’t know what to say. “I decided to tell Hermione and Draco after what happened with the Chamber of Secrets. And its, well, it’s something I had to do in person.”

“It’s been over a month since you got back!” Silas protested, folding his arms now. “Who else knows?”

“Okay, the twins know but—”

“The Weasley twins found out before me?

“They found out before everyone, Silas,” Merlin groaned. Figures, Silas would be upset he wasn’t told first. “They saw my name on some magical map of theirs and have known since I started Hogwarts.”

“Oh. But I’m the only one who knows about the dragons, right?”

“Yes, Silas,” Merlin said pinching the bridge of his nose. Perhaps he was spending a little too much time with the Potion’s Master. “Do you want me to induct you to a secret organization, or not?”

“Right! Sorry,” and Silas fell silent again.

Merlin explained to him as much as he could about the Circle of Darach. He told him about their first meeting—“Ginny Weasley knows too?!”—and how he wanted to teach them all how to do druidic magic. Silas was lost in thought when Merlin had finished, turning over the mosaic piece in his hand.

“Are you going to tell them?” he asked. At Merlin’s blank expression he elaborated, “Are you going to tell the other circle members about my brother?”

“Should I?” Merlin asked, confused.

Silas bit his lip. “I’m not ashamed.”

“I never thought you were.”

“I just—I don’t want to tell them until we know for certain.”

Merlin didn’t point out how certain Silas had seemed half an hour ago. Instead, he regarded the messy brown hair kid before him. “It’s your decision. I won’t tell them.”

“Okay.” Silas ran his hand through his hair. “Or Florean,” he added quickly.

“If we want to find out what happened, we’re going to have to tell someone eventually,” Merlin pointed out.

“I know! Just—not yet,” Silas finished somewhat deflated.

“Silas, I promise I will leave the sharing of this secret to your soul digression, as I hope you will with mine.”

“Yeah, of course,” Silas said shoulders sagging with relief. His fist closed over the mosaic piece. “Maybe Byron also went to Hogwarts,” he said softly.

“If he’s a wizard, that’s a distinct possibility.” Merlin checked his watch. “Okay, what else do you want to know before I take down this barrier?”

Later that night, Silas stared at the ceiling long after he heard Merlin’s breathing even out. He pulled out the photo from the Daily Prophet clipping, fingers tracing the image of Byron as he grinned up at the photographer. Well, his eyes grinned. Beneath his beard it was hard to tell, but Silas had seen those eyes before. He knew those eyes.

Did this mean Byron hadn’t left him after all? For years he had agonized over the idea. He thought he had pushed him away somehow, that asking about magic had gotten Byron into trouble. Why hadn’t he ever mentioned the magical world? Why had he left Silas in the dark?

He licked old wounds, only more questions and no answers.

He peaked over the edge of his bed and saw Merlin on his side, sleeping. He had given the mosaic piece back before Florean came home, and they had pretended like nothing had happened. He had fallen instead into excitement, waving his Hogwarts letter around like a flag. It had kept his mind off everything else. Now, after the festivity died down and the night waned, it all came back and Silas did not know what to do.

Merlin’s identity. The Circle of Darach. His brother. He had long dreamed of finding out what happened to Byron. Dreamed of finding him somewhere and continuing the life they’d had. He had dreamed of finding out he’d died a hero in some street crime, a forgotten John Doe. But imprisoned—

Merlin had told him about the Azkaban guards. He had never seen a dementor before, but the way he explained it, they stole every happy feeling. A smile in Azkaban felt out of place, impossible. Silas rolled over and held the photograph up to catch the streetlamp glow through the window. Byron winked at him, and Silas had never been more certain. That man was his brother.

It was almost amusing how much more transfixed he was by this than by Merlin’s bombshell. If he was honest though, he had suspected something like this ever since he had met the kid. Merlin was strange and unique and always managed to find the eye of the hurricane when it came to trouble. He still had a hard time seeing the Merlin he knew as the aged man with the long silver beard handing Arthur Excalibur.

Maybe that was on purpose.

Silas shoved the picture back into his pajama pocket, and rolled over. Merlin was right; it wasn’t smart to dwell on it like this. It hurt too much. The thought of having a legendary figure sleeping in the bunk bellow sent Silas smiling into his pillow. He had always felt safe with Merlin, and now he knew why. If anyone could help him find Byron, Merlin could.

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