Prologue

The definition of a bully, according to the 1999 edition of the Children's Illustrated Dictionary, is "someone who tries to frighten or hurt a weaker or smaller person".

It should be noted that this particular edition of the dictionary had resided on Harriet Watson's bookshelf for two years, had migrated to John Watson's bedside table for half a year, was lost in an attic for 20 years and then recovered again by John, who passed it down to his son, Hamish Holmes. The dictionary now has a place on the Holmes family bookshelf beside a battered globe. Hamish set it back on the shelf and walked away from the library, hands in his pockets, head hung low.

Dictionary definitions are often completely useless. For example, the same edition of Hamish's dictionary boasts definitions for 'hedgehog' and 'detective', but it doesn't teach you how to load a handgun, be a good husband or combat bullies – the latter of which Hamish was puzzling over at that very moment.

It was a good hour until dinner, so Hamish went to his room. Medium-sized, a good view of London, a soft bed and a large writing-desk. It was really all Hamish needed, but his fathers had insisted on filling it with childish rubbish. That rocking horse, for example, and that giant teddy bear they'd won at a carnival. Sentimental stuff that Hamish didn't need – but was too painful to throw away. Strange. Sixteen years old and still hanging onto Mr Huggles. How sad was that?

"Hamish!"

The lanky boy walked slowly downstairs. Whatever his Dad was calling him for, it wasn't good. It never was.

"What have I done this time?" Hamish sighed.

His Dad, John, and his Father, Sherlock, sat at the dinner table. Sherlock's arms were folded, a serious pinch on his brow, and John was tapping the table nervously with his left hand. His other hand was on a large folder, which his eyes kept flicking to.

"You haven't done anything, son." John sighed. "But-"

"This is Mycroft's fault."

"Sherlock!" John hissed.

"What? Oh. Uncle Mycroft. And it's still his fault. Interfering bast-"

"Anyway!" John said loudly. Hamish giggled. "How do you like Dublin?"

"Oh, Ireland. What about it? Are we going on holiday?"

John's eyes flicked to Sherlock, who sighed and pushed the folder towards Hamish.

"Sorry," Sherlock murmured. "but you need an education."

Hamish pulled the paper from the folder, his face blanching white. "St Oliver's Boarding- no."

"Yes." John stood up and pulled his son into a hug. "Trust me, it'll be good for you."

Hamish pushed away from his Dad. "Why do I have to go?"

Sherlock's eyes flashed. "Your grades are dropping. You are an exceptionally smart young man – you take after the Holmes', we've always been clever – but your school work is shoddy at best. This school will help."

John piped up: "Also, you're being bullied. Don't deny it – we've both seen the bruises and the blood on your shirts. It doesn't take a consulting detective to work that out."

"But- Dad! Please! I'll be the new kid, I'll be bullied even more! Please don't-"

"Hamish, do not argue." Sherlock's mouth turned down into an unhappy grimace. "This really is for the best. You start in the first term, so you'll have two years there until you can escape – um, come home, sorry. You'll see us in the holidays and we'll call you on your mobile. I'll even text you to get you out of lessons." Sherlock smiled at his son, but Hamish's tearful frown didn't soften.

"I can't believe you!" Hamish choked. He swallowed a lump in his throat – it didn't go away. Everything turned red. He couldn't see anything past the red spots on his eyes, hear anything past the roar of discomfort in his ears, taste anything but the dryness of his mouth. He didn't even notice John was hugging him until he heard him whispering into his ear:

"You'll be fine, son. Who knows? You might make a new friend."