That they would always be together had always seemed like a foregone conclusion. They had started learning magic together under their father. They had taken the exams needed to enter the Academy together and scored within a close enough margin to each other that they were allowed to begin in the same year. Thus, they had begun at the Academy together.

Once they’d begun their formal training, all their classes had been together and they had been roommates. As roommates they had eaten together and studied together. When they went home to visit their parents and friends at school holidays it was together. When their father had disappeared, they’d sat together on the couch in the dorm common room worrying themselves silly. When their mother had taken ill, both boys had left school – though it wasn’t a school break – and been with her when she’d died.

Both boys had struggled to catch up and then to keep up while working through the grief of losing their mother, even while they still had no idea where their father was. Now it was graduation day.

Emery turned to look at Miles and forced a smile. “How do I look?” he asked, holding out his arms. He alone was dressed in the fine robes of a full mage. He alone was graduating.

“You look good, Brother,” Miles replied. “I… When will you be going?”

“I have an interview tomorrow morning, so I’ll probably leave tonight. I’ll sleep on the train into the city,” Emery replied. He tugged at one sleeve and forced a smile again. “I’ll be seeing you, Mi. They… they’ll let you graduate next year.”

Miles swallowed thickly and nodded. “I know,” he whispered. “I’m too young to graduate and be emancipated. You’re nearly too young. I seems… strange not to be doing this together though. Are you happy at least, to be graduating, I mean?”

Emery shook his head and sighed. “Miles, I’d suffer through the worst thing imaginable if I could be with you. No matter what else is going on, it’s only when I’m with you that I’m truly happy.”

“Me too,” Miles agreed. He caught his brother in a tight embrace and felt his brother’s reassuring presence. For the first time in their lives they would be separate. Miles wasn’t sure if either of them could bear it.