|Portrayed By||James Varley|
|Place of Birth||Wolsingham, England|
|Date of Birth||17 April 1980|
|Mother||Nydia Leighton, née Pond|
|Siblings||Older twin sister Avery, younger brother Sidney (-5)|
|First Appearance||Orally Forbidden|
The Leightons were tremendously pleased, in 1979, to realize that Nydia was pregnant. They were a good bit more surprised, later, to realize that she was in fact pregnant with twins — but rallied gamely, and on April 17th, 1980, they welcomed first Avery and then Merrick into the world with love and open arms. Twins were a good omen for their marriage, after all, and something of a rarity in Pureblood families. All their friends were proud, except for those who were particularly jealous.
As the twins grew older, it became clear that Avery would continue to take the lead in most things. She was bolder, more curious, more excitable; Merrick would follow her everywhere, and learn just as much about whatever they were doing, but he'd be the one to help her back out if they got into trouble. During the inevitable stage when one twin would be accused of trouble, the Leightons were somewhat surprised to discover that neither twin would, in fact, filch on the other — if one or the other really did cause the trouble, it didn't matter which twin was accused; at least at first, that was the twin who would accept the punishment. In time, yes, they began to admit when the other committed the crime — but never did either blame the other for his or her own ill acts.
When the twins were five, and Nydia and Gabriel were beginning to wonder if perhaps they needed to find some alternative means of educating them, that they might learn how to socialize with others their own age, plans were somewhat derailed with the knowledge that Nydia was once again pregnant — this time giving birth to younger brother Sidney, when the twins were six. All the fuss around his birth meant that they'd reached the age of seven before anyone got back to wondering if they needed to be treated specially. A nice neighborhood witch who ran something of a day-care center and pre-Hogwarts training school proved to be the perfect answer, they thought.
What they found, however, was that they really should have gotten the twins there a good year or two sooner: day in and day out, week after week, the story was the same. Avery and Merrick just weren't good at interacting with anyone else. It wasn't that they fought with the other children, so much as it was that they acted as though those children weren't in the room. They had their own world, with just the two of them, and even their own language — and they were happy that way, it seemed. Nydia and Gabriel began to dismay, but the neighborhood witch was determined — and she was the one who won, as they learned, slowly, to come out of their world and talk to others, at least a little bit every day.
She was the one who — somehow — got Avery to start writing poetry, at age nine. Merrick tried it, too — but where he grew bored quickly enough, and began doodling, or playing with toy brooms, Avery kept at it, writing poem after poem. More than that, even as a child, her poetry had spirit to it — some spark of magic, perhaps — they were good poems. So Avery was encouraged to keep writing those poems, and Merrick wasn't required to, and this was one of the very first things that distinguished them from each other, where their interests were concerned.
Oddly enough, despite this, Merrick was the one teased — perhaps because he was always so quiet, always near Avery, even when she was writing at a table indoors for hours. Other children were out playing, when their lessons were over; Merrick was indoors, even if he had one of those toy brooms. And Avery would be the one to yell at those who were teasing him, standing up for her brother. She would yell, too, and fight with those who were bullies, scaring or threatening younger children — but only if she noticed; when it was Merrick, she always knew, and always came to stand up for him, never asking why he never bothered to defend himself.
Besides, it was time for them to go to Hogwarts.
Strangely enough, they'd never given much consideration to which House they'd end up in. It didn't really matter to them — they'd be together; what mattered beyond that? But that was not what Fate, or at least the Sorting Hat, had in store for them — summoning Avery up, rummaging around in her mind, a quick call of "Gryffindor!" filled the Hall. Much applause, much ado, Merrick's turn —
And for the first time, the twins were separated. The shock of that was enough that neither of them has a particularly clear memory of their first night at Hogwarts.
They were more or less separated, at any rate. Between Avery's pet rat, Set, and Merrick's pet owl, Horus, it was surprisingly easy for the two of them to send messages back and forth — the familiar of each was more comfortable, it would have seemed, in the home of the other. Then, too, they frequently had classes together; for some reason, the Gryffindors and Slytherins were frequently put in classes opposite each other. Although Merrick's classmate Draco Malfoy and Avery's classmate Harry Potter (the one and only!) were constantly at each other's throats, the twins, at least, greatly appreciated the arrangement. For one thing, they were learning that their magic frequently worked better — quicker learning, steadier results — if they were united in intent, or at the very least in the same room as each other. When separated, their efforts had a tendency to either backfire catastrophically or simply… fizzle out.
Merrick, banished off to the dungeons, found himself in a strange setting indeed. Before, he'd always been content to follow along in Avery's shadow — to follow Avery's plan. It took approximately twelve hours for him to realize how much that wasn't going to be a workable plan from this point on: twelve hours of being stunned at his separation, before he was aware of just how suspiciously everyone in his new House eyed him for being twins with one of them — not just someone from another house, no, but did it have to be a Gryffindor? Rather than defend himself, though — because he'd never really learned the skill — Merrick simply melted into the background. And, just as he'd expected, soon enough there was a far more potent menace overshadowing his House: Harry Potter.
Never mind that, according to Avery, the Boy Who Lived was just a boy. Never mind that he apparently had dreadful fashion sense, that his socks often smelled quite bad, that he couldn't possibly be actually trying to tame his hair — never mind that he was, in fact, human — no, he was a Great Menace, a Blood Traitor, and whatever other insults Draco Malfoy, self-appointed ringleader of the Slytherin Firsties, could think up.
Merrick didn't really mind Draco. He wasn't that bad a room-mate; he didn't snore, unlike the great lugs he kept around for baggage-carrying. (Merrick couldn't see much more value to be had in Crabbe and Goyle, but was willing to suppose they had some hidden depths… phenomenally well-hidden depths, at that.) He was reasonably quick-witted, although he was also quite sycophantic and seemed utterly certain of sustaining their Head of House's praise and approval. It didn't take much time at all for Merrick to work out just why that was — and, well, it did take him quite a while to figure out what he was going to do about it; a while in which, oddly enough, he didn't turn to his sister for her opinion or advice.
Learning that their Head of House was supposed to be a Death Eater, alongside Lucius Malfoy, was something that Merrick knew could get him in an awful lot of trouble. The fewer people who knew he knew, the better. He wasn't going to tell anyone. And with that settled, he decided he'd figure out what other secrets he could learn, too. The answer? An awful lot.
Somewhere along the way, too, his talent with a broom bore him good luck; in his fifth year, just recently, he finally got tapped for the Keeper for the Slytherin Quidditch team. Between that, Arithmancy, Care of Magical Creatures, Ancient Runes, and all the classes he was actually required to take, he barely had time to keep up on his schoolwork, much less figure out any new secrets — but he had classmates who shared all those classes, and his sister shared all but Arithmancy, which was one of the few classes that didn't require her presence for his talent to work — by the numbers, as it were.
Besides, looking — essentially — like a cadaver on a broom did wonders both for the Slytherin team's street cred and for his own. Who wants to mess with a walking — well, flying — skeleton? Nobody. And so he's a pretty good Keeper, for all that a well-aimed Bludger would break multiple bones at once.
(Nevermind that the Quaffle would probably do the same.)
And through all of this, of course, he keeps writing letters to his sister, every night, and — every night — one familiar or another carts them out of the dungeons and up to Gryffindor Tower.