Author's Note

Happy New Year, everyone! Sorry about any spelling errors, I'm a bit tipsy.

Exploring Diagon Alley

Quaint. Refined. Stern.

All adjectives he would use to describe the woman herself, but the headmaster found that they also applied to her office. Reflecting the minimalist style of its occupant, the office bore only the barest touch of personalization. There were no family photos, one plain lamp that burned with a rich amber hue, and regal chairs with musky red fabric. But there, hanging on the back wall, was a painting. Even for the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, an original would be something difficult to come by—but it was a convincing replica. The orange and yellow of the sunflowers washed over the room in a warm glow, and Dumbledore appraised it for a long moment before turning to look the woman herself.

Amelia Bones stood beside her desk, peering through her monocle at a file resting upon the mahogany wood, a frown tugging on her face. It was enlightening to know that a woman with such a strict demeanor nonetheless appreciated fine art.

"That is a lovely painting, Madam Bones."

She did not look at him, but her lips quirked upward. "Vase with twelve sunflowers,"

"Van Gogh, correct?"

She nodded and at last turned to look at him. Her blue eyes were so light that they bordered on grey, giving them a frosty chill. Dumbledore could remember how even at Hogwarts those eyes had appeared stern. "These are very serious accusations, Dumbledore."

Dumbledore held her gaze, surveying her from behind his half-moon spectacles. "Indeed they are."

A loud knock came from the office door and Amelia Bones turned to look at it with a touch of irritation on her face. "Yes?" she called and the door opened to reveal a short portly man wearing a green bowler hat. "Ah, minister." She didn't sound the least bit surprised to see him, and she took a turn about her desk as the man entered.

"Cornelius," Dumbledore greeted warmly, and his eyes flickered down to the minister's shoes. Ah, yes those were the fine pointed purple boots he knew. "I take it you've heard?"

Cornelius Fudge did not reply immediately. His skin looked sallow, and the smallest glimmer of panic shone in his eyes before he coughed and removed his hat. "You've had Professor Quirrell arrested?" he asked, and he glanced toward Amelia Bones as though searching for confirmation.

"At the present moment," Dumbledore corrected shortly, "he is under secure care at St. Mungo's Hospital, due some ah—unfortunate circumstances."

"Oh yes, I've heard!" And Cornelius started to swell, his face flushing with color. "Student attacked by professor; the press is having a field day."

"And you have" Amelia said glancing from one to the other, "more serious accusations."

"There's more?" Cornelius blustered and he threw himself down in one of Amelia's chairs.

"I'm afraid he must face a full criminal trial, and must be kept under constant watch until safely locked away." Dumbledore shook his head, an image of unforgiving stonewalls and black despair plaguing his mind. He certainly had no love for Azkaban, and even less for the creatures that guarded it but he knew perfectly well that Quirrell could not remain free in the world. "He attacked a Hogwarts student, attempted to steal the property of another wizard and was doing so under the orders of none-other than Lord Voldemort himself."

Cornelius stared at him, a mixture of emotions flashing in his light brown eyes. Shock, repulsion, fear, and doubt each took their turn before the man coughed and shook his head. "No—no, I'm afraid that's just simply impossible. He's gone."

Dumbledore turned his entire body to face him, meeting the man's eyes. "He's not, Cornelius," he said softly. "He is merely weakened, but very much alive, if one can call it that."

Cornelius scoffed and rose to his feet, coming to stand behind the chair as though to put a barrier between himself and Dumbledore's words. "Sounds like the ravings of a madman, Dumbledore. I assure you, we are quite safe from him."

"Such a claim," Amelia interrupted, "must be backed up evidence." She shot a sharp glance in Cornelius's direction effectively cutting off whatever protest he had begun.

"Of course," Dumbledore said. "I expected no less."

She nodded and finally took a seat at her desk. "Time is of the essence, and so please submit all evidence to the Council of Magical Law Enforcement as soon as possible. At which time, a hearing will be scheduled to hear testimonials and review said evidence and determine if there is enough substance to proceed to criminal trial."

"Hold on!" Cornelius said, his voice rising. "You can't seriously think that this professor was working with You-Know-Who? It's preposterous—"

"I have jumped to no such conclusion," Amelia smoothly cut across. "I will review all the evidence before I make a determination. Whether or not he was affiliated with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Professor Quirrell attempted to steal the property of Nicolas Flamel and assaulted—even attempted to murder— a Hogwarts student. All of which are serious charges and each must be examined in turn."

Cornelius blustered for a moment, looking both affronted by her clear disregard for his authority as Minister of Magic and defeated by her logic. He took a deep breath and released his hold on the back of the chair. "Fine," he said and he started to fiddle with his bowler hat. "Keep me informed," and he exited the office.

Dumbledore watched him leave and sighed when the door had shut once more. "He has always been adamant that Voldemort was defeated, never accepting the possibility that such defeat was only temporary."

Amelia readjusted her monocle, surveying the file of papers more closely. "He's not the only one, Albus." She opened one of the drawers in her desk and removed a candle and a stamp. "I will need statements from you and all your staff regarding Professor Quirrell's character and any suspicions concerning him. In particular, from the boy he attacked—" she glanced at the file again, "Mr. Merlin Evans."

Dumbledore hesitated, something that clearly surprised Amelia. Her brows rose and she spoke for him, "You don't want him to testify."

"Eleven is hardly old enough for such adult matters," Dumbledore said shaking his head. Not to mention the sheer amount of attention he will get because of this. He had his suspicions that the Daily Prophet were already writing an article about Quirrell's arrest and it would be better to keep the boy out of their line of sight.

"Well, this eleven year old was able to knock out a fully fledged wizard," Amelia said and Dumbledore could hear the smallest tone of awe in her voice. "He is also your strongest piece of evidence." She paused a moment. "I know you wish to protect him, but he's the one who brought Quirrell down. Don't you think he deserves to finish the job?"

Dumbledore did not frown, but his lip twitched. "As always, you make a very good point." His gaze drifted toward the painted sunflowers and somehow he found comfort in their design. He nodded and got to his feet. "I will organize the evidence immediately, and submit the names of all those who will be testifying. You will have it by tomorrow."

"Then I will send you an owl tomorrow with the hearing date. After it's conclusion, the counsel will decide how to proceed. " She flicked her wand and the candle hovered over one of the documents and began to melt. It dripped a small puddle before ceasing and lying flat on the desk once again. She took the stamp in her hand and pressed it, engraving her seal on the document.

"I'm astonished that this first year boy was able to stop Quirrell." She looked up at him, a real smile now trying to make its way onto her face. "Such a feat is incredible, to say the least."

Dumbledore's eyes twinkled and he returned her smile with one of his own. "To say the least, my dear Madam Bones, to say the least."

Only A Boy

Written By Rita Skeeter

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry may not be the safest place for your child after all, writes Rita Skeeter, Special Correspondent. Professor Quirinus Quirrell, who took over the post of Defense Against the Dark Arts at the beginning of the last school year, has been charged with assault and attempted murder by none other than Headmaster Albus Dumbledore himself. Although the man was not available for comment, anonymous sources have come forward claiming that the now ex-professor had attempted to steal the Philosopher's Stone and attacked a first-year student who got in his way.

"This is an outrage," says Lucius Malfoy, the Chairman of Hogwarts Board of Governors. "The stone should never have been placed at Hogwarts in the first place."

The stone, the prophet can exclusively reveal, belonged to Nicolas Flamel a good personal friend of the headmaster. "An item like that should have been at Gringotts," said Lucius Malfoy. "What Dumbledore was thinking when he put it in a school full of children is beyond me." Many parents have issued complaints to both the school and the ministry, wondering why a dangerous and highly coveted object like that was placed near children.

Quirinus Quirrell had previously been professor of Muggle Studies, and many came forward expressing their utter shock to his change in personality. "He had been my favorite professor!" Says Haley Martin. "He was always so nice." Apparently, the professor took a year off in order to travel the world and when he returned came into his new position. Some speculate that he became obsessed with the dark arts during that time and when he came back to the school the temptation of the Philosophers Stone lying under his feet was just too good to pass up.

Near the end of the school year, the professor finally gained the courage to attempt to the theft and encountered first year student Merlin Evans in the corridor. Quirrell pushed Mr. Evans down several flights of stairs, in order to stop him from telling anyone what he was up to. However, sources say that Merlin Evans then went on to expose the professor for what he was and attempted to stop him by personally following him after the stone.

"It's absolutely unbelievable," says one Pansy Parkinson, a friend of Merlin Evans. "Merlin never liked Quirrell. At first we all thought that he just didn't like the class, but I think he always suspected Quirrell of being up to something."

Sources say that Merlin Evans caught up with the professor before he could reach the stone, however the specifics are unknown. "I'm looking forward to the trial," said Lucius Malfoy. "The boy managed to defeat Quirrell on his own, which is an impossible feat for an eleven year old."

Quirinus Quirrell was recently released from critical care at St. Mungo's Hospital and has been placed in the custody of the Dementors until his trial date.

Only A Boy

Something in the way Florean Fortescue's lip quirked made Merlin sure he knew the subject matter of the Daily Prophet's headline article. The ice cream man looked almost amused, and yet there was that slight curve of his eyebrows that revealed a bewildered state of mind. As if he sensed Merlin's eyes, Florean glanced toward him and Merlin quickly busied himself with the marmalade.

He wasn't quite sure what to make of the man yet.

It was obvious that Silas liked him. His foster brother had done little else this past week except talk about life with their new foster parent. Florean had even fixed Silas' chipped tooth and enrolled him in a magical primary school – which didn't actually teach magic, but rather the basics of wizarding culture and the necessary skills he would have learned at a muggle school. Florean had explained to Merlin that most wizarding parents homeschooled their children, while muggleborns attended normal school until they got their letter. But for those unable to homeschool their children a simple pre-Hogwarts primary school had been established.

Florean had finished reading the article. He sighed loudly and folded the paper with such refined skill that Merlin actually stared for a moment. Beside him, Silas looked up, his breakfast smeared about his lips and dribbling onto the tablecloth. His chestnut colored hair stuck up all directions, looking somewhat like he had lost a fight with his pillow. "Something wrong?" he asked, his fork hesitating above his kippers and eggs.

"Not that I can tell," Florean said with a smile and he took a swig of orange juice.

"Merlin's in the paper again, isn't he?"

Merlin bent his head awkwardly over his breakfast, cheeks burning. Anybody would be happy to be in the Daily Prophet. But he wasn't one to take credit, and now that he was—he was just embarrassed. It had been so much easier to let Arthur bask in the spotlight; at least the prince had known how to take it.

His heart twinged painfully and he forced the memory away.

"Just an update, kiddo." Florean winked. Merlin forced himself to look up, though he still felt uncomfortable when Florean glanced at him. "I suspect you'll be called in to testify soon."

"I 'spect so."

Like he always did, Silas was first to pick up on his reluctance. "It's a good thing isn't it?" he questioned looking from Florean to Merlin. "Quirrell will go to Azkaban, and—you were in the paper!" Although he sounded excited by that prospect, Silas looked uncomfortable.

"Course it is," Florean said at once. "Merlin's too modest to admit that he did an amazing thing," and he nodded in Merlin's direction. "He's just not used to the publicity."

"Yeah, well," Merlin said frowning. "I am eleven." He worried for a moment that he sounded too defensive—no, he was being stupid. Of course everyone thought he was eleven. Though, he had a feeling that would be part of the problem.

"At the rate you're going, you might want to get used to it." Florean surveyed him for a moment, as though waiting for Merlin to contradict him. He said nothing. A sinking feeling in his gut told Merlin that this definitely wouldn't be the last time his name appeared in the paper. What would it be next time? He could see the headline now: Hogwarts Student Attempting to Raise Pod of Dragons in Nearby Forbidden Forest.

Merlin met his new foster parent's gaze for a moment. "I'm going to start cleaning up," and he took his empty plate to the kitchen in the next room. Behind him he heard a muffled, "let him go," and supposed that Silas had wanted to follow him.

Good. He needed a moment to think.

The kitchen was in a state of organized chaos. It was comforting, in a way. The drawer handles were made of intricately designed spoons and colored like candy wrappers. There was a stack of perilously stacked jars on one counter, each containing a different spice and no doubt held up by magic. The pots and pans hung from a metal grate on the ceiling, and a portrait of a plump man in a pinstripe cloak hung on the wall opposite the fridge, though at the moment he was snoring peacefully in his frame. When awake he would give suggest things to eat and recommend recipes for whatever ingredients they happened to be holding at the time. Boris was his name, and apparently he was a jolly uncle who had passed away a decade or so ago.

He was amusing, if sometimes overbearing if he thought you were cooking something wrong.

Merlin shook his head, putting his plate in the sink and the sponge started scrubbing it of it's own accord. Florean had considered taking the enchantment off in order to encourage them to clean their own dishes, but realized it wasn't necessary when neither boy was bothered by this idea. Merlin should have protested. It felt weird, not using magic for things like this.

Maybe he should be happier about his name being in the newspaper. Any normal boy would be thrilled. Silas certainly was when Florean had told them the first time. He was over the moon about it—and it wasn't even his name! He'd quickly realized that Merlin didn't feel the same way and had stopped celebrating, making Merlin feel guilty at once. It wasn't like he thought people were going to read his name and go, "Oh, it's the founder of modern magical society, returned in order to save the day!" People just wouldn't jump to that conclusion, and not just because magic powerful enough to that was all but unheard of.

It just wasn't a logical jump.

Of course, if he suddenly started performing druidic spells in the middle of Diagon Alley then someone might make the connection. But he didn't plan to do that, and another year of constantly stressing out whether or not someone was going to find out who he was did not appeal to him. Not that he'd managed to completely keep the secret—the Weasley Twins had managed to figure it out on their own. Talk about a panic attack. But now it didn't bother him as much – it actually excited him. He would be able to talk to another human without feeling the need to filter himself. Maybe it was them finding out, but his identity just didn't feel like the dirty little secret it had before. Then again last year had been just so full of fear, adjusting to an entirely new world and destiny that everything had filled him with worry.

At least this time he could control his magic. Mostly.

"Merlin!" he heard from the dining room. "You've got a letter."

Get a grip, he told himself firmly. Maybe some fame will be good for you. He had complained in Camelot about never getting any credit—after a few years, anyway. This was his chance! To actually be recognized! To be honest, the only reason he didn't announce who he was to the entire wizarding world right now was more because he knew he needed that element of surprise in this fight against Lord Voldemort.

And his uncertainty of how the world would react.

But no, all things aside, revealing himself wouldn't help anyone at this stage in the game. Merlin took a deep breath and left the kitchen, returning to the dining room where Silas was entertaining a large screech owl. Florean got to his feet, pushing in his chair behind him.

"Here," he said with a soft smile and he held out a wax sealed envelope. Florean was already dressed in a colorful pinstripe waistcoat of purple and brown hues. Merlin took it, noting the Ministry of Magic seal on the back. "It seems you've been summoned."

So it seemed. Merlin opened the letter and read:

Dear Mr. Evans,

You have been summoned to give testimony at the hearing of Quirinus Quirrell, who was previously Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The hearing will take place three days from now on June 27th at 9:00AM in Courtroom 5. Please note that this is an evidence hearing, and that the subject in question will not be present. You may bring a parent or guardian with you.

Yours Sincerely,

Amelia Bones

Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement

"What does it say?"

The owl must have taken off because Silas appeared at Merlin's shoulder, glancing down at the letter. Merlin showed it to him.

"There's an evidence hearing in three days," he told Florean, who nodded.

"Why do you need to submit evidence?" Silas asked, his brow furrowing in confusion. He handed the letter over to Florean and looked at Merlin. "You already caught him."

"No one saw him attack me," Merlin said with a shrug. Or Lord Voldemort on the back of his head. The very thought made him feel queasy. He could still remember that awful aura of malicious intent and putrid disfigurement. That was no doubt part of the reason why Quirrell had been in critical care for long. But Merlin would need to tell everyone about it, how he had stopped the professor. It was both exciting and nerve wracking. Yes, he had promised to stop hiding his abilities – but obviously he couldn't go flouting them.

What if he scared the public into thinking he was another budding Dark Lord? Not everyone might be like Hermione and Draco.

"I'll rearrange the shifts that day so I can take you," Florean said as he folded the letter back up.

Merlin blinked. "You'll come with me?" Sure, the letter had invited his guardian but—"But the shop?"

"I have employees for a reason," Florean laughed. "Why, don't you want me to accompany you?" he asked raising an eyebrow.

For the second time heat rose to Merlin's face. "I do," he muttered, glancing down at the table. He didn't want to admit the anxiety he felt in his heart – the fear of letting himself get too attached to Florean only to be passed to another family. He hadn't forgotten the fiasco at the Haddocks – or the likelihood that they were only here with Florean until someone else offered to take them.

The eleven year old inside him feared abandonment.

"Well then." Florean said, and he looked at Merlin as though he could see the turmoil of thoughts racing behind his eyes. "I'll need to dig in my closet for something clean. You too, come to think of it."

"Can I come?" Silas asked, but his face fell when he met Florean's eyes.

"No, I'm afraid not." Florean shook his head. "This isn't something children should attend," and he frowned. Merlin had the feeling he wished Merlin himself didn't have to go. Silas opened his mouth – not doubt to protest – when another owl flew through the open window. The barn owl circle once above their heads before dropping a letter onto Merlin's head and flying out again.

"Busy day, isn't it?" Merlin muttered, rolling his eyes. He glanced at the seal on the envelope. "It's from Hogwarts!"

"The headmaster, I expect."

He was right.

Dear Mr. Evans,

If you have not already, you will shortly receive a letter from the Ministry of Magic summoning you to a hearing on June 27th. Now, I am sure you are aware of the charges against him and that your testimony may be the deciding factor of this case. However, there are certain details that must be omitted. Professor Snape will be stopping by tomorrow to explain the particulars. He will also walk through the case with you and how you might present your testimony to the counsel.

Although what you did in the third floor corridor was incredibly brave, I believe that I am right in saying that it was also terrifying. I wish there was another way, I truly do, but it's almost over.


Albus Dumbledore

"Snape's visiting tomorrow," Merlin said, and he smiled at the thought. He liked the Potions Master. The two of them had formed a rather peculiar bond – one that he cherished. There had been a time when he'd hoped Snape would become his and Silas' foster parent – even though logic told him it would've never worked. He trusted Snape. Keeping his identity from him was more about preserving the relationship they had now, then anything else.

"Is he now?" Florean seemed to have noticed his sudden excitement. "Perhaps you should get some homework done before he comes. It wouldn't hurt for you join him, Silas," he nodded and started clearing off the rest of the dishes from the table.

"What?" Silas groaned. "It's the holidays!" He grabbed the ketchup bottle and took it to the fridge.

"I'm sure you have summer work to do," Florean said raising his eyebrow. Merlin tried not to laugh at the look of annoyance on Silas' face. Merlin knew for a fact he had homework and he understood how Silas felt. What was the point of giving them essays to do over the summer? Did they think they would forget everything they'd learned, or something?

"Fine," Silas grumbled before brightening. "Can we explore Diagon Alley when we're done?"

Merlin wanted to tell him that it couldn't really be called exploring, since he'd memorized all the shops.

"I suppose so," Florean sighed and Silas grinned broadly before taking off down the hall.

"Come on, Merlin!"

Merlin hated homework. He would love nothing more than to disregard it, but he'd never get away with it. Not now that his professors knew what he was capable of. Such a pity.

Merlin and Silas shared a bedroom. Florean had set up a bunk bed for the pair of them, and Merlin had gladly taken the lower bunk. He'd put up a few Slytherin pride posters, although the overall theme of the bedroom was one that Silas had suggested. Medieval Europe. Merlin smiled at the thought. They'd put up some moving dragon posters and a stream of flags bearing the coat of arms of all the old English families. It didn't look medieval to him, of course – less dirt and animal skins – but he had liked it all the same.

Silas made a racquet as he dug in a drawer looking for his school folder. Merlin hadn't quite unpacked yet. He'd hung most of his robes in the large closet he and Silas shared, but all his books and equipment lay in a messy heap. He'd probably never completely unpack. There was hardly a point. He found his potions textbook and grabbed an inkbottle and a few roles of parchment, before standing up and glancing over at Silas.

"I'll meet you back in the parlor, okay?" The kid was still looking for his homework.


Merlin smiled and left. Silas rejoined him ten minutes later, slamming his books down.

"Have to read this entire thing," he grumbled and he glared at the copy of, Wizards and the Muggle Catastrophe: War and our impact. Merlin assumed it was a brief overview since the book was actually rather thin.

"Better than writing an essay when and why one should use their wand while making a potion," he grimaced. Busy work. Useless for his education. Maybe he should try to strike some kind of agreement with his professors – projects or something. Anything was better than the mindless regurgitation of information.

They worked for nearly an hour, Silas fidgeting in his seat every ten minutes. Merlin scribbled his essay down mostly from memory, only glancing at his potions textbook to make sure he'd gotten everything. When he'd finished, he sat back and appraised it. Hopefully Snape would appreciate that he mentioned how spells could bring out magical properties in certain plants.

"I'm done for today," Silas grumbled and he shut his book. "Let's ask Florean if we can go exploring."

"Yeah, sounds good."

Only A Boy

"Come on, Merlin!"

Silas raced ahead of him, his hazel eyes bright and excited. Merlin resisted the urge to roll his eyes and increased his pace, not wanting to lose sight of him. He had a pretty good idea of where Silas was taking him and—sure enough—he found Silas with his nose pressed against the glass of the Quidditch Supply Shop.

Since Silas had officially become part of the magical community—except in receiving his letter from Hogwarts, which Florean assured him would happen next year—he had become particularly interested in Quidditch. Merlin had secretly hoped that maybe his story of being impaled by an exploding broomstick would put him off the idea. No such luck.

"The new model's out!" Silas exclaimed and he turned to look at Merlin behind him. "Look!"

"Yup, I see it." Merlin didn't bother getting closer though. Silas sighed heavily and turned back to the sleek black brooms on display. The plaque beside them identified the model as a Nimbus 2001, the newest racing broom on the market. "Pretty."

"Pretty?" Silas shook his head. "No, this is powerful and beautiful and—"

"Probably worth your Christmas and Birthday present combined."

"Meh, it'd be worth it."

Merlin raised an eyebrow. "For two years."

"Still worth it."

"Do my ears deceive me?" came a loud drawling voice behind Merlin. "Does your brother actually appreciate Quidditch?"

Merlin turned, and a grin slid across his face as he saw his friend standing there. It'd only been a week since he'd last seen Draco Malfoy, be he already felt as if the blond had grown in height. And though he held himself in the same aristocratic manner as the first time they had met, there was something kinder in his grey eyes now. He had just walked out of the supply shop.

"My mother is discussing prices with the owner," he continued with a shrug.

"Oh, are you buying one?" Merlin asked, nodding toward the Nimbus 2001 in the display case.

Draco smirked, "Why, you jealous?"

"I am." Silas frowned. "Florean would never get me one."

"Oh right," Merlin turned to Silas. "I don't think you've actually met. This is Draco Malfoy and—"

"Your brother Silas, I figured that out on my own." Draco smirked again and gave Silas a long appraising look. "Which Quidditch team is your favorite?"

"Puddlemere United," he replied at once.

"You're okay," Draco said and he smiled. "At least someone understands," and he gave a pointed look at Merlin.

"Someone was impaled by a broomstick shaft."

Draco flinched but was saved from responding because Silas asked, "So are you going to try out for the school team?"


"Oh really?" Merlin blinked. "You want to be in the middle of that?" He could remember watching the games last year. "Fancy a bludger to the head?"

"Stop it, Merlin," Silas grumbled. "What position do you play?" he asked Draco and he took a step in front of Merlin as though worried he would interrupt him.

"Seeker." Draco beamed at him. "Let me guess, you can't have a single conversation about it with this guy," and he nodded at Merlin again.

"It's awful," Silas groaned, making Draco laugh.

"Actually," and here he dropped his tone conspiratorially, "I'm hopping to buy new brooms for Slytherin. Boyle's still on a cleansweep for crying out loud."

Merlin frowned and folded his arms. "I thought everyone was responsible for their own broomstick."

"Well, sure, unless a kind benefactor can give them a little help – which I can."

"Oh, how very Slytherin of you," Merlin snapped. "You're bribing them!"

"What—?" Silas looked confused. "How's that bribery?"

"It'll make them feel indebted to you, like they have to put you on the team whether or not you actually make the cut!" Merlin shot a glance at Silas. This wasn't a conversation he wanted to have with his brother here.

"You don't think I'm good enough?" Draco challenged, his ears turning pink.

"I didn't say that," Merlin amended, shaking his head. "It just doesn't look good, is all."

"Is it bad if I want to give Slytherin their best chance at winning?" Draco grumbled.

"Course not," Silas spoke up, glancing from one boy to the other with increasing alarm. "It's not bad…cause… it's not."

"You just don't appreciate Quidditch."

"I—" But Merlin let his words trail off. Draco's mother had just emerged from the shop. Narcissa was a beautiful woman, with her long blond hair pulled back in an elegant up-do and light eyes. But as she laid her gaze upon him something ugly twisted her features and she turned sharply to Draco.

"I cannot accept his current price," she said, her voice cold and stern. "Perhaps he can be persuaded later."

"Oh," Draco looked crestfallen. The anger that had been steadily rising in his voice had all but vanished. "That's a—shame," he continued glancing back at his mother. Silas opened his mouth to say something but Merlin stood on his foot.

Narcissa saw the action. "Ah, Merlin. I see you've managed to avoid an interview for the Daily Prophet." Her cold tone did not change. She lifted her chin higher and came to stand beside Draco, as though feeling the need to protect him.

Merlin inclined his head politely. "By sheer luck, Mrs. Malfoy." He subtly moved Silas behind him. "I see your opinion of me has fallen some since we last spoke." He smiled without joy, noting the way her eyes widened at his blatant disregard for subtly. Oh, he lived to surprise the lords and ladies with his charm.

Narcissa Malfoy did not speak for a moment. She clasped her hands together in front of her, her blue eyes narrowing. "Well, I'm sure you must understand that I can't condone such reckless behavior." She glanced at her son before turning her full attention back to Merlin. "You could very well have gotten Draco killed, as well as yourself."

"I would have thought you to be proud," Merlin's veiled smile widened. "After all, he aided in the capture of a dangerous man. I am surprised he wasn't in the Prophet as well."

Draco gaped at him, but had the sense not to speak. He glanced up at his mother, who hadn't shifted her gaze yet. Merlin knew he was on dangerous ground where the Malfoy's were concerned. He had never been on particularly good terms with Draco's parents, and by influencing Draco to improve his opinion of muggleborns he was sure to have worsened them. And by aligning himself with Dumbledore and actively fighting against Lord Voldemort's return, their worst suspicions were confirmed. They didn't want Draco affiliating himself with someone like Merlin. Draco had said so himself, that his parents would be furious with him standing with Merlin against Quirrell.

"Fortunate, I should think," Narcissa countered.

"May I invite Draco for Ice Cream?" he asked, dropping the subject entirely. "I'm sure you know that my guardian, Florean Fortescue owns the ice cream parlor on Diagon Alley."

"I do…" Narcissa said shortly. She paused a moment, and Merlin realized that she was seriously considering his invitation. He had expected an immediate refusal. He blinked and some of his façade faltered, revealing a hopeful boy. Her eyes flickered to Silas behind him. "This is—?"

"My brother," Merlin introduced turning to Silas and nodding.

"Silas Meadowes." Silas nodded his head like Merlin had done, giving him a curious glance. "I won't be starting Hogwarts for another year."

"But you will?" Narcissa prompted, looking vaguely surprised. "I recall that you were both raised in a muggle orphanage."

"I think we have magical ancestors," Merlin said and he held his chin a little higher. He knew he did, and from what Silas had hinted about his brother he suspected the same. He swallowed and glanced at Draco, who shrugged in return.

"I see." Narcissa put a hand on Draco's shoulder. "Draco and I really need to be going. However," and she paused again. "You may invite Draco for ice cream next week."

Merlin stared at her. "Oh—oh, yes. I will! Thank you," and he inclined his head quickly. Even Draco stood stunned, gaping at his mother. Narcissa's features softened slightly, but she did not smile. She merely nodded and turned.

"Come, Draco," she said before setting off down the street without a backwards glance.

"I'll send you an owl," Draco mouthed to him. "Our conversation isn't over," he added a little louder and he winked at Silas. "Nice to meet you!" and he quickly ran into the crowd after his mother.

"You too!" Silas called after him. "What was all that about?" he asked, turning to Merlin. "The way you talked to that lady—"

"The Malfoy's are a little different than most wizards," Merlin said, coming to himself. "They have the potential to change the wizarding world, but whether for better or worse is up to them."