The Hidden Horror

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Warning; this chapter contains explicit references to prisoner mistreatment, suicide, and depression.

Merlin had no idea how to find someone in this century. He had barely managed to find people in his century. But they already knew Byron was in Azkaban—so finding him, strictly speaking, wasn't his job.

Finding out about him, on the other hand, proved to be a challenge.

He knew theoretically that if Azkaban was a prison, there had to be a record of prison inmates, a record of the trial and sentencing proceedings, and therefore a file somewhere on a Mr. Byron Meadowes. But it existed in a cabinet in the Ministry of Magic or the Daily Prophet archives or some nondescript clerical office that blended into the muggle world, and Silas flittered with anxiety any time Merlin prompted him on what he wanted to do next. So Merlin left him to think it over and, three days later, just after lunch, Silas poked his arm and pulled him into their room.

He took a deep steadying breath. "I have a hard enough time figuring out how I feel about my brother to worry about how Florean or anyone else might react. There—there has to be a way for us to look into this without involving him, isn't there?"

Merlin regarded him for a long moment. He knew it would be easy to influence Silas to tell Florean—He doubted the Ministry would hand over records to kids anyway—but pressuring someone into a decision before they were ready seldom ended well. And he wanted Silas to decide this himself. So instead, Merlin asked "What happens if we find out Byron is getting released from Azkaban in two weeks? Do you think the Ministry of Magic would force you to live with him since you're family?"

Silas gaped at him. "They can't do that!"

"What if Byron wants to though? You know he'll ask you."

"He's in Azkaban!"

"I said, what if he gets out? What if he's innocent? What if he's a murderer who may try to hurt you? There are many things that you will be unable to control."

Silas folded his arms, a frown tugging on his lip. "I know that," he said, resentful. He opened his mouth, hesitated, and closed it again, avoiding his eyes.

Merlin sighed and dropped to sit on the floor. The action startled Silas but at least he was looking at him again. "You cannot hope to predict a situation if you are ignorant of the finer details, and these questions deserve answering. And, more to the point, once you find him, he also finds you. Are you keeping this close to your chest to protect those around you or to protect yourself?"

Silas bit his lip. "Both," he answered finally. "I hope, but, ah—" he ran his fingers through his hair.

"Protecting against what?" Merlin prompted and Silas took a deep shuddering breath.

"I don't want to make Florean sad because I want to see Byron again, and—and I don't want to insult him by looking for someone else. Florean really cares about us and I like being here with him, he's like family now and—" he trailed off with a helpless shrug.


Silas bit his lip then— "What if Florean decides he doesn't want us anymore?"

"He could decide that tomorrow and we'd be powerless to stop him," Merlin pointed out gently. "Do you really think Florean would do something like that?"

"I—well no—but..." Silas winced and Merlin noticed the kid had started picking at the skin around his thumbs. "It's the possibility, isn't it?"

"There is also the possibility that some reporter will notice it when Merlin Evans, the student involved with two different Defense Professor's getting sent to Azkaban, starts asking questions about the prison. And then Florean will wonder why you didn't come to him first."

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