The Photograph

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"You've been back over a month," Florean Fortescue chided as he straightened his violet pinstripe 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 pyjamas had already been magically extended to fit twice, and there was no doubt that he would need new school robes. Florean had been unable to stop himself from remarking 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 parlour.

Merlin just 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 the term ended. He threw them on his bed for now and started organizing the books.

The end of term had come quickly, after the 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 the 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 the type of magic you are reaching for."

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