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Of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Chapter Text

If there was one thing Adrien loathed with each fiber in his being, it was the portraits.
It seemed like they were inescapable, covering every last inch of space. A distant aunt’s golden earrings. The crook of an estranged cousin’s nose. No wallpaper shining through, only canvas and frame, canvas and frame.
All of them were so bleak and desolate, painted with such dismal and muted shades. There was no brightness to break up the monotony. No brilliant flash of a bird’s plumage on the brim of a hat. No effervescent scarf to catch the eye. No joyful tilt of a lip, no gleam of happiness in the eyes.
None of the portraits wore a smile.
Even when they muttered as Adrien passed or when they spent time in each other’s frames.
Only somber faces in washed out settings, squawking about various things, miserably content in their half-existence.
It hadn’t taken Adrien long to notice that.
If by some glorious chance, one the great arched windows was allowed to let some of the much needed light streaming in, it only illuminated the shiny plaques sitting under each of the horrid paintings.
Augustus Eugene Agreste
1451-1643
Order of Merlin, First Class for his services to the Ministry
Creator of the Acromantula-Repelling Charm
One of them read. It was a drab image of a balding man from the Elizabethan era.
Dominica Christine Agreste
1734-1868
Head of the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures
Instrumental in early classification of Werewolves
Read another.
Adrien could see every supposedly great deed committed by his ancestors. It was all laid bare there before him.
Some said things that were undeniably unpleasant in his eyes. Others seemed decent enough, or were plain ambiguous, leaving the intent of the act open to interpretation. Of course, the portraits would try and impart their wisdom to Adrien, crowing about one deed or another, adding their own personal commentary or explanation.
None of that mattered to Adrien however, because whether the witch or wizard had been a champion of justice or a slimy, self-serving piece of scum, they all had shared one important, distinctive trait.
A patch of dull green with a silver snake indicated it in each painting.
Slytherin.
The house was practically synonymous with the family name.
Any witch or wizard with Agreste blood flowing through their veins had been sorted into Slytherin, and this was all that Adrien’s mind had fixated on for the past month of his life. Ever since the arrival of the letter it was all he could concentrate on. It was at the forefront of his mind constantly, each thought more or less relating to it in some fashion. Slytherin. Slytherin. Slytherin.
As with many of the well-established pure-blood wizarding families, house was something to be taken seriously, and was a certain point of pride (and prejudice). With the days flying off the calendar until the beginning of his first term at school, Adrien was starting to dread the onslaught of time and the inevitable moment when the famed sorting hat was placed upon his head to seal his fate.
A verdict of anything other than a serpentine sigil would not be desirable.
It did not take two hundred and thirty seven paintings for Adrien to be sure of that.
Although it had never been said outright or out loud for that matter, Adrien would not have to guess what his father’s reaction would be to hearing his son had not joined the ranks of the esteemed family tree. It didn’t take words to scare Adrien straight. He needed only to imagine the austere face of his father morphed into rage.
And so, this unspoken rule reigned supreme.
But, every rule has an exception, and the Agrestes were no different.
Hidden in the farthest recesses of the manor, tucked away among masses of other portraits so that it must be deliberately sought, there was something that defied the expectations of the legacy Adrien was so terrified to uphold.
Emilie Giselle Agreste
Those three words meant everything to Adrien.
No notable accomplishments. Nothing to indicate greatness. No enchanted false personality. Just a name. And a beautiful painting to match.
Adrien did not loathe this portrait.
He cherished its vibrant spots of colour. They were so unlike the rest of the forlorn decor. The cornflower blue of her ornate dress. The warm honey-blonde of her hair.
The piercing emerald eyes he’d inherited.
Most of all, the vivid scarlet emblem with a golden lion.
Adrien traced the engraving with his finger, staring up at her in awe.
She smiled serenely down at him, her words echoing inside him.
Do not fear your own cleverness and do not fear the things you are capable of, for they are silly things to be afraid of. Remember to be brave, my Adrien, and above all, remember to be kind.
She had never treated Adrien as if spending time with him was a chore, like an item she had to check off a list. He withdrew his fingers from the cool metal.
There had been a time when the halls hadn’t felt too wide, when the windows didn’t seem so tall, when the sound of laughter drowned out the all encompassing quiet, when the feeling of emptiness didn’t exist and warmth was all that was known.
Of course, the thing about the golden days is that no one ever cares to mention that they’re present. No one talks of the good things while they last. It’s only when they’re gone does anyone care to realise they ever existed in the first place.
Why would Adrien be any different?
He was not special, he had no foresight. He’d been blindsided just as badly as the rest.
Days of happiness were a distant dream. Another life. So far removed from the lonely manor that Adrien wondered if they’d ever really been there.
Yet, the portrait hung proud and obstinate. A reminder that happiness had come before and would come again.
Adrien could only hope.

Chapter Text

Marinette could handle a lot of things.

She could handle the strange man who appeared at her house on her birthday with a letter in hand claiming that she, Marinette Dupain-Cheng, was a witch and would be able to attend a school for her kind.

She could take being a witch in stride. It made sense, a surreal and supernatural kind, but sense nonetheless. It offered an explanation for all the mysterious happenings in Marinette’s life. If it could explain how she’d made the piano play by itself, or how her teddy bear had once turned into one of those horrific clown dolls after a nightmare, she could handle it.

She could also handle tapping on a brick wall in the back of a tavern and having it reveal an utterly bizarre alley where she was to get school supplies. Albeit a bit unconventional, it seemed to be par for the course.

She could handle exchanging the standard pounds for currency called galleons, sickles, and knuts at a bank run by goblins as her parents watched on with both fear and amazement. Of course the economic system of the wizarding world was handled by magical creatures, because why not?

She could handle buying heavy robes and cloaks for wear. Go figure wizardkind had their own clothing.

She could handle being chosen by a wand.

Hell, she could even handle being made to write with parchment and quills instead of pen and paper.

But what Marinette absolutely could not handle was three-quarters of a train platform.

The letter in her hand was no consolation, its green ink held no trace of an answer. The ticket that had accompanied it in its envelope was no help either.

“Darling, are you sure it said nine and three-quarters ?” Mrs. Cheng asked kindly and peered over Marinette’s shoulder to stare at the confounding piece of paper.

“We’ve looked at it nearly a thousand times by now Sabine!” Mr. Dupain cried in frustration, “It might be a misprint. Who knows with these wizard-folk.”

Marinette’s fists clenched tightly around her polished trunk. She was practically bouncing up and down from a dangerous concoction of anxiety and excitement. Given the slightest bit of pressure, she felt as if she would shoot through the roof and land among the birds soaring overhead.

“I’m sure it’s here somewhere,” Marinette breathed, doing her best to maintain her optimism despite the pit of worry in her stomach that was growing increasingly larger with every passing second. “We should be on the lookout for people with trunks like mine, one of them is bound to know.”

“Good thinking, love,” Mr. Dupain nodded.

For now they would wait in the throng of people, vigilant between platforms as bustling crowds hurried past.

Whether fortune was in or out of Marinette’s favour, it appeared that she would not have to wait long for an answer.

As soon as she turned over her shoulder to scan the masses of people, she collided with a hard and heavy object, a flash of something yellow in the corner of her eye.

“Would it kill you to watch where you’re going, or are you just blind?” a shrill voice called.

Marinette rubbed her rib cage and winced. That was definitely going to leave a mark.

“Hello, I believe I am speaking to you,” the same voice screeched.

“Oh, sorry,” Marinette shyly grabbed the back of her neck and offered an apologetic smile, “I didn’t mean to-”

This new girl’s icy blue eyes narrowed.

“I don’t care if you meant it or not. You still did it.”

“I’m really sorry,” Marinette repeated, feeling a little like a broken record.

“Do you know who I am?” the girl asked indignantly, arching a brow.

“Er, no,” Marinette’s eyes landed on the object that had rammed so rudely into her side, it was a trunk, just like her own! “But, I couldn’t help but notice that you have a trunk like mine, are you going to magic school too?”

“Did you seriously just call Hogwarts ‘magic school’,” the girl was incredulous, “they’ve really started letting in too much of the wrong sort haven’t they.”

Wrong sort? What does she mean- Marinette didn’t even get to complete her thought before the girl continued.

“Hogwarts is a school for witches and wizards,” the girl nearly snarled, “As the Minister of Magic’s daughter if I didn’t attend it would be a disgrace. Though I suppose, there isn’t much pride in attending nowadays if all of my classmates are like you .”

“Like me?” Marinette echoed.

The words tasted bitter in her mouth though she didn’t know why.

The girl opened her mouth to speak again.

“Chloé, have you brought your trunk yet? Hurry along, it’s time for you to board the train, we’ve got to cross through the barrier,” a stern voice boomed in the distance.

The girl stiffened. She gave Marinette a once over with pure, unadulterated disgust written across her features and then promptly vanished into the sea of people.

“Darling,” Mrs. Cheng rushed over, worry etched into her expression, “What was that all about?”

“No clue,” Marinette said, still mystified, “I accidentally ran into her luggage. She didn’t know where the platform was either.”

Marinette fed her parents this tiny, white lie, not wanting to dwell on the possible meaning of the girl’s words. Or have her parents  try to demand an apology from the girl for her behaviour, something told Marinette it would not end well.

A few feet away from the Dupain-Cheng family stood a group of people in some of the most haphazard fashion choices known to both man and wizard alike. An oversized cream jumper, bell bottoms that looked as if they were in mint condition from the 1970s, and a chartreuse windbreaker decorated a woman who was struggling to maintain control over a pair of rowdy toddler girls. A girl with striking auburn waves around Marinette’s age was drowning in an aquamarine crocheted poncho and plaid joggers as she soothed a hissing cat inside a cage. A muscular teenage girl in a magenta overcoat folded her arms and looked off into the distance with a scowl.

Suddenly, the cat went silent inside its cage and its owner caught sight of a clearly confused dark-haired girl with a wooden trunk in hand beside a pair of equally dumbfounded adult muggles.

“Hey, Nora!” the girl shouted above the clamor of the crowd. “What’s the platform number again?”

“What do you bloody mean what the platform number is?” the older girl screamed back in disbelief, “Even the twins know it's nine and three-quarters!”

Marinette’s head snapped to her left. Did that girl just say nine and three-quarters?

“Sorry,” the redhead grinned back at her older sister, “I just wanted to double-check!”

“Mum, Dad,” Marinette elbowed her parents in her haste, manners being tossed completely out of the window. “Did you hear that? That girl over there, she said she’s headed towards our platform!” And before Mr. Dupain and Mrs. Cheng ever got a chance to reply to their daughter, she left their sight line and reappeared beside the girl who had spoken.

“Hello, I- uh, I don’t want to pry,” Marinette began meekly, pressing her fingers together back and forth and ducking her head, “But did you by any chance say you were headed towards platform nine and three-quarters? Because I really haven’t the slightest-”

Before Marinette could ramble on awkwardly and make herself want to crawl into a hole and die even more, the girl extended the hand that wasn’t holding her cat’s cage to Marinette and beamed at her.

“Hi, I’m Alya. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she shook Marinette’s hand firmly, “I’m going to Hogwarts this year too for the first time. You see, this is my older sister Nora, she’s going to be a fourth-year. The whole platform thing is probably a bit tricky if you’re unfamiliar with it. I’m guessing you’re a Muggle-born?” Alya spoke at the rate a machine gun fired bullets, Marinette felt as if she had whiplash.

“I’m a what?” she repeated a bit dazedly.

“Ah, that’s not important, love” the woman in the cream jumper interceded, smiling warmly at Marinette as the two small girls tugged at her arms. “I’m Mrs. Césaire. Please excuse the rudeness of my daughter,” she gave a pointed look, “she didn’t even have the decency to ask for your name.”

Alya huffed and rolled her eyes playfully. Her cat let out a meow of solidarity.

“I’m Marinette. Marinette Dupain-Cheng. Those are my parents over there,” she beckoned her parents over with a wave, “They’re not wizards or anything, they’re bakers. It was a bit of a surprise for us when we got told I was a witch.”

Relieved to have finally found both their daughter and a source of help, Mr. Dupain and Mrs. Cheng scurried over to Marinette’s side.

“Hi, I’m sorry. We’re a bit lost,” Mr. Dupain panted, “Please tell us you’re wizards.”

Mrs. Césaire and her daughters giggled good-naturedly.

“We are. Don’t worry about it. Even when I went to school here and knew every trick in the book it still wasn’t easy for me to find the platform,” Mrs. Césaire said. “We’d be more than willing to help all of you cross the barrier.”

“Oh, thank you so much!” Mrs. Cheng said, “I’m Sabine Cheng by the way, this is my husband, Tom Dupain.”

“My pleasure,” Mrs Césaire said, and began to introduce the Dupain-Chengs to the herself and all of her children.

In the midst of the exchange, Alya nudged Marinette in the shoulder.

“I’m really glad we met by the way. I was afraid I’d have to wait until the sorting ceremony to meet any other first-years. C’mon we’ve got a wall to run at, they’ll catch up later.”

Marinette looked at Alya as if she was speaking several foreign tongues at once.

“We’re going to run at a wall?”

“Yeah. It doesn’t hurt. You just have to expect to go through.”

Marinette was beginning to rethink being able to handle this whole magic thing.


 

The irony that not a single cloud cared to mar the endless blue expanse of the sky was almost enough to make Adrien laugh. Almost.

If not for the fact that the dread that had been building up in the pit of his stomach for the last few months overwhelmed even the possibility of registering an emotion other than fear.

September 1st. This was it. It would be a day of reckoning for Adrien. A deciding factor for both himself and his family legacy. Could he bring the Agreste name honour? Could he face himself if he did? Could he face his father if he didn’t?

And despite the fact that Adrien felt like a tragic Greek hero from ancient myth, the skies did not open up to signal his impending doom, there was no wailing in the streets, no burial shroud at the ready in case of probable disaster.

It’s just a house, just a house, just a house.

Instead, the heavens seemed to mock Adrien. It could only be some sort of cosmic joke as fractals of sunshine bounced off the glass roof of the station to form a kaleidoscope of aureate light as the crowds shifted below.

Just a house.

“Adrien,” a deceptively smooth voice called out as Adrien felt the weight of a cold hand fall on his shoulder. “I came to send you off today because I have some much needed wisdom to impart before your departure.”

Leave it to his father to accompany him to one of the most monumental moments of his life after not so much as seeing a single glimpse of Adrien in the summer months prior.

During the humid heat of June that had finally broken with heavy rain in July and lead to a dry spell in August, Adrien had spent weeks on end in the confines of his room to avoid the portraits, and to make the poor house elf feel useful without causing him a great deal of work. His father hadn’t cared to knock on Adrien’s door. Once.

Now, he wanted to expound the ideals of the Agreste name to Adrien one final time. There was no point in telling him it was futile, that the portraits had already revealed all to Adrien.

Slytherin. That would be his winning ticket.

Adrien turned over his shoulder to face his father.

“Yes, Father?” he responded, careful to keep his tone even and not betray the chill of terror he felt pass over him.

He gripped his Hogwarts trunk tightly, his knuckles turning white.

His father’s steely gaze swept over him, the harsh line of his lips set in a straight, unamused line. He squinted at his son for a brief instant, perhaps reminded of someone else he’d once seen in the fractured station’s glow, and resumed his detached demeanor.

“The Agreste name is not something to be taken lightly,” he began, staring down Adrien who had never felt smaller in his whole life as his father towered over him, “It is an honour to bear it, but also a burden. One I know is not easy to carry. However, maintaining its greatness is no herculean task and I fully expect you to uphold the legacy and the long-established tradition of excellence in the bloodline. Do not debase the illustrious reputation your ancestors have created, am I clear?” he said, the question ringing as a statement in Adrien’s ears.

The penetrating stare of his father’s gray-blue eyes only furthered Adrien’s unease.

“Yes, Father,” Adrien swallowed. Hard.

“Good. Now, I have business to attend to at the Ministry. I will send an owl if I feel the need to contact you.”

And Gabriel Agreste turned and dematerialised through the beige brick wall from whence he came.

Among masses of people chattering animatedly about the upcoming school year, the deafening squeak of trunk wheels, the screeches, mewls, and croaks of owls, cats, and toads respectively, Adrien had never felt so alone.

No affirmation that he would be proud of him no matter what. No mention of Adrien returning at Christmastime. No I love you, son.

For all his words were worth, Gabriel Agreste would have been off just the same if he had left a note dictating Adrien be sorted into Slytherin or else face near disinheritance.

Adrien looked down at the ticket crumpled under his still-clenched fingers.

He had better board the train.

He found an entryway to one of the train cars and handed over his ticket to a man by the door, hauling his trunk behind him. He drifted along until he stumbled upon an empty compartment and sat beside the window, gazing out at the platform.

A whistle sounded.

He saw a girl with raven pigtails hurriedly hug her parents as they smiled at her lovingly. Beside her a girl with hair the colour of copper kissed her mother on the cheek as an older tan-skinned girl tried to separate herself from a set of twins clinging desperately to her legs. The three girls waved good-bye to their parents, a smile plastered onto all of their faces. They faded out of sight.

The pads of Adrien’s fingers rested against the smooth glass.

He saw no glint of silvery-blond hair or the flash of frigid eyes behind horn-rimmed glasses, and while he could only dream of his father bidding him a proper farewell, he still felt something inside him sink. And even though Adrien knew it went against every ounce of logic he possessed, he couldn’t help himself from scanning for a hint of honey-colored hair or from looking for a pair of familiar green eyes.

Adrien found nothing.

The train began to move, the hum of its engine resonating throughout its entirety.

A crash sounded outside the compartment followed shortly by a loud cry both human and animal.

Adrien rushed over to the door, threw it wide open and happened upon a boy half-submerged on the floor by the contents of a school trunk and an owl pecking his hand through the bars of its cage.

The boy smiled sheepishly up at Adrien.

“Mind if I join you in there? Everywhere else is full.”


 

In the past quarter of an hour, Marinette had discovered that she had only begun to scratch the surface of how absolutely insane her newfound world was and that Alya could eat a whole Pumpkin Pasty in two bites.

“How can you do that!?” Marinette said with a mixture of astonishment and revulsion.

Alya shrugged and continued chewing, “I just fit it in my mouth.”

Marinette stared at her with wide eyes and she bit into one of the Licorice Wands she’d bought.

When a sweet old lady had come round to the compartment Alya and Marinette were sharing, Marinette had jumped at the chance to try and buy candy, although she had been a little disgruntled to discover that wizards did not eat Maltesers. She had settled for some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (which Alya tried to tell her were truly every flavour), Licorice Wands, a few Cauldron Cakes, and to top it all off two Chocolate Frogs all for seven sickles and eleven knuts. Alya had bought herself a handful of sweets as well, seeing as she was not as transfixed by anything related to magic as Marinette but she also had the sweet tooth of an eleven-year-old. Nora had abandoned the two of them for her fellow fourth-years as soon as she saw Marinette and Alya safely situated together.

“Anyway,” Alya swallowed down the last of her pasty, “What house are you hoping for? My family is a hodgepodge, Mum was a Ravenclaw, Dad was a Hufflepuff, and Nora’s a Gryffindor!”

“I’m sorry?” Marinette managed from behind a mouthful of licorice.

“Oh, I keep forgetting you’re a Muggle-born. At Hogwarts there’s four houses to which students belong, they depend on what qualities you value and possess. Nora told me they sort us somehow at the Welcoming Feast. Personally, I think I’d like to be in Gryffindor or Ravenclaw,” Alya said.

“Oh,” Marinette had no idea which house represented what. “Wherever you end up, I hope we’re in the same house!”

“Me too!” Alya exclaimed, her eyes lighting up behind her thick-rimmed glasses. “Well, I hope we don’t end up in Slytherin,” Alya’s gaze shifted faraway. “I mean there’s nothing wrong with most of them, there’s always a few though who are just downright nasty and any dark wizard from history has been a member.”

“Well,” Marinette began, remembering the girl who’d slammed her trunk into Marinette at the station, “I’m pretty sure I met someone who’s going to be sorted into Slytherin then.”

“Really,” Alya arched a brow, “What happened?”

“Before I met you, I was trying to look for people who might look like they knew how to enter platform nine and three-quarters from the station and when I turned around this girl sort of slammed her trunk into me and then acted like it was my fault. She called me the wrong sort? And said there wasn’t any point in going to Hogwarts if people like me went there? I don’t know what she was referring to...” Marinette trailed off, her voice growing small.

“The wrong sort?” Alya furrowed a brow, then realisation washed over her face and gradually shifted into anger, “You encountered one of those snobby blood purists.”

“Blood purist?” the words felt foreign in Marinette’s mouth.

Did it have anything to do with her being mixed-race? She’d met a few small-minded non-magical people who’d had a problem with her heritage but she’d assumed it wasn’t an issue with wizards. Was she wrong?

“There are certain wizard families who have been around for a lot longer than others and they tend to hog a lot of the fame and affluence. Some lines even claim to have never mingled with Muggle, or non-magic blood,” Alya said and Marinette finally understood what the word Muggle meant, “It’s seen as a sort of status symbol in the community by some, I guess. These families take pride in having ‘pure’ wizard blood, hence why they’re dubbed pure-bloods. There are some of these families who reject witches and wizards who come from Muggle families, Muggle-borns like you, as legitimate magic-wielders. Some don’t even want half-bloods like me in their families,” Alya sighed.

“How’re you a half-blood?” Marinette grew confused. “You said both of your parents went to Hogwarts.”

“Ah, see my Dad’s like you. He’s a Muggle-born. My Mum’s a pure-blood.”

“So, I’m a Muggle-born and the girl who called me the ‘wrong sort’ is a pure-blood?” Marinette gathered her thoughts verbally.

“A crazy pure-blood, yes” Alya confirmed, “definitely the type for Slytherin.”

Marinette said nothing. Silence filled the space of the compartment.

Alya’s cat meowed loudly.

“Fine, I guess I can let you out of your cage, Trixx, but you better behave,” Alya said sternly to the cat and Marinette giggled.

She pinched the release on the cage and the fluffy, fire-furred cat burst out onto the compartment floor. The cat padded across the compartment to Marinette and began to rub her head against Marinette’s calves, purring happily to herself. Marinette reached down to pet her between the ears, the cat’s purring intensified and she closed her eyes. Marinette and Alya exchanged a smile, and Marinette felt a wave of gratitude roll over her.

“Look, she likes you, but don’t let her fool you, she’s only after your affection. Self-serving animal. She’s lucky she’s pretty,” Alya folded her arms and glared at her cat.

Marinette chuckled and began to scratch under Trixx’s chin.

“Trixx, huh? That’s an interesting name, kitty” Marinette spoke softly to the cat.

“It’s the twins’ fault,” Alya griped. “When Mum first brought her home as a present for my starting at Hogwarts, they wanted to name her after this Muggle cereal they and Dad adore for some reason.”

“Oh, Trix?” Marinette continued to scratch the cat’s chin.

“Yeah, that’s the one. Except because they’re literally three years old, whenever Mum told them to feed Trixx they would pour the cereal into her bowl and the poor thing would get sick. Once we finally figured out what was happening, Mum figured we should add an extra ‘x’ to the end to avoid confusion. The paint job is a bit sloppy on the bowl, but Trixx never threw up again.”

Marinette laughed, still scratching Trixx’s chin.

“Oh, so it’s Trixx ,” Marinette said. “Is it just me or does she look a little like a fox?”

“Oh, she definitely does,” Alya mused as Trixx leapt up onto Marinette’s lap. “It’s part of the reason why Mum chose her. It’s the long tail and the black feet isn’t it?”

“I think it might be the white on her chest too,” Marinette added.

“Well, whatever it is, her hair gets on everything,” Alya grumbled.

Marinette couldn’t help but crack up at Alya’s words as Trixx began to lick one of her hands.

Alya looked out the window, evening had started to fall over the lush green hillside.

“We better get changed into our school robes, we’ll probably arrive within the hour,” Alya suggested and Marinette sighed and tried to gently nudge Trixx off her lap, who was having none of it.

“Oh, come off it you silly cat, let her up!”


 

Several hours prior to the girlish laughter and the thrum of a cat’s purr emerging from the compartment adjacent to his, Adrien opened the door of his compartment to find a disheveled boy grinning goofily up at him surrounded by masses of books, clothing, and various assorted items.

“Here, let me help you,” Adrien quickly crouched down and began gathering the textbooks strewn about, “Are you alright?” he asked the other boy, the concern in his voice genuine.

“No, no it’s okay I can take care of it. I blame this old train, the second it started I was struggling with the latch of my trunk and then it burst everywhere which then, well I’m sure you can see the damage. You look a little sad, are you sure you’re okay, mate?” the boy asked Adrien, which took him aback.

Am I really that obvious?

“Oh, er, I’m fine. Thanks for asking,” Adrien offered him a bashful smile as he continued to gather clothing and returning it to the boy’s trunk. “I don’t mind helping at all, really. Also, is your hand okay? I saw that your owl was trying to peck it-”

“It’s all good, no permanent scarring or anything,” he showed his hand to Adrien, “Adonis is just a little agitated from the crash and the noise, that’s all. He’ll be good as new as soon as I let him go hunting.”

The boy stuffed the last of his objects inside his trunk and forcefully latched it shut. Adonis the owl was returned to his rightful position atop it and fell asleep. Adrien offered the boy a hand up and off from the ground, he took it and began to dust himself off.

“Thanks a lot, mate. I owe you now. Anything you need, it’s yours. Also, I’m Nino by the way, it’s been a pleasure to meet you.” the boy’s cheerful amber eyes glinted behind his glasses.

“You don’t have to do anything for me! That’s totally unnecessary,” Adrien threw out his hands even though the gesture was pointless, his cheeks tinging pink, “I’m just happy I could help. Oh, please come inside the compartment, there’s plenty of room. I’m Adrien.”

Nino rolled his trunk into the compartment slowly, careful to not disturb the now resting Adonis.

He sat down across from where Adrien had been seated and placed Adonis next to him.

Before either of them could speak, a saccharine woman’s voice called out to the two of them.

“Would you like anything from the trolley, dears?” Adrien who was still standing stared at the trolley decorated with a thousand shades of colourful candies glistening in the afternoon light. A little bit of drool began to drip from Nino’s mouth.

“I would like to buy a bit of everything for us, is that alright?” Nino blurted impulsively from behind Adrien and rose to his feet, already beginning to draw money from his pockets.

‘That will be thirteen sickles, dear.”

“Nino,” Adrien started, “I can’t let you do that. Please, I’ll pay for both of us, Madam.” he began to fish out coins from his pockets as well.

“No, Adrien, seriously, I insist,” Nino pressed the silver coins into the woman’s hand before Adrien could react, and she began handing him a few of each item on the trolley in return.

And then, the woman was gone, hawking her wares to the compartment after theirs.

Nino tossed Adrien a Chocolate Frog, who was still in shock at Nino’s act of kindness and absentmindedly caught it.

“I can’t accept this. Please, let me pay you back for half of it,” the clink of metal against metal sounded in Adrien’s pockets.

He felt incredibly rude allowing Nino to pay for him. Adrien did not feel as if Nino should bother to waste his money on him. He simply was not worth it.

Nino clamped Adrien’s hand shut and pushed his other hand containing the Chocolate Frog towards him.

“Please keep your money. It’s no big deal, please enjoy as much as you’d like,” Nino beamed at Adrien and Adrien couldn’t help but grin back.

“Okay,” Adrien said, feeling awkward, “Thank you!”

“Mate, I should be the one thanking you,” Nino ran a hand through his hair in embarrassment, “I made a huge fool of myself and I haven’t even gotten to Hogwarts yet. You were so cool about the whole thing. Letting me into your compartment and everything.”

“It’s nothing. Is that a photo of the Wimbourne Wasps?” Adrien remarked, something sticking out of Nino’s trunk catching his eye. “They’re one of my favourites!”

“No way! Everyone thinks they’re so obscure, but they’re severely underrated! In my opinion, they should have gotten to the European Cup loads more times!”

And just like that, the two boys were off in their own Quidditch-filled world, talking eagerly about this team and that - and did you see Peru in the World Cup semi-finals?!- as they devoured the delicious sweets.

While the boys could have gone on about Quidditch well into the following days, weeks, and months, they were interrupted when Adonis awoke and began to screech inside his cage rather noisily.

“Oh, what’s wrong now?” Nino sighed, and began trying to soothe the owl with shushing noises, the creature trying to extend its wings and hobbling around uncomfortably.

Adrien looked at the owl in both sympathy and admiration. His father did not allow him the luxury of an owl. If he felt like contacting Adrien, he would. There was no need for Adrien to have communication with the outside world. However, that didn’t stop Adrien from wishing he had some sort of pet to help drive the loneliness away. He knew what it was like to be caged and he could tell the owl was unhappy.

“I don’t know much about owls,” Adrien said, and bit his lip. “But, I think he just wants to get out for a little while.”

“You’re right, mate” Nino said and began unlatching the bars, “He probably just wants some affection, he loves people.”

Adonis emerged from his cage and ruffled his feathers briefly before jumping down from the compartment seat and waddling over to untie Nino’s shoes.

“Hey!” Nino cried and Adrien began to laugh so hard his stomach ached.

Nino tried to snatch his feet away from Adonis but it was too late, the black laces hung sadly in defeat.

Adrien only laughed harder. Nino joined in, the two boys clutching their abdomens, Adonis staring up innocently at them.

“Did you say his name was Adonis?” Adrien asked after his laughter subsided.

“Yeah, Mum chose it because we all thought he was so handsome.” Nino looked down fondly at the bird, who was starting to shuffle towards Adrien. “We didn’t know he had a sense of humour. He’s a good owl, delivers letters with speed, but he is a little prankster.”

The owl cooed at Adrien and kneaded its head against his shoe.

“Go on, let him perch on your finger, that’s what he’s after,” Nino encouraged him and Adrien extended a finger to the owl on the floor.

Adonis hopped up eagerly onto his finger, and Adrien lifted his arm carefully so that Adonis was now level with his shoulder.

The owl stared at Adrien with his deep, black eyes, a sharp contrast to the white heart shape of his face. He stretched his wings out a little, shaking his tawny feathers and reached up to nibble lovingly on Adrien’s ear.

“He likes you!” Nino and Adrien traded smiles, “It took him a few weeks to imprint on me.”

“I’ve always wanted a pet,” Adrien confessed, “I’m fond of cats but my father would never allow it. He says they’re more trouble than they’re worth.”

All at once, the carefree smile he had worn for the last few hours faded at the mention of his father.

Slytherin. The word reverberated throughout his mind.

“Adrien?” Nino’s voice startled him back to reality, the rhythmic rumble of the train grounding him, “You good, mate?”  

Adrien shook his head, as if it could rid him of the thoughts that plagued him. Adonis blinked and then skittered down to explore the pile of sweets wrappers Adrien had discarded.

“I’m fine,” Adrien feigned an expression of what he hoped looked like his earlier joy.

Nino scrutinised him, raising both brows, but didn’t say anything.  

“So, are all your family wizards?” Nino asked, his tone curious and not condescending as he tried to restart their conversation. “I’ve got a third cousin twice removed who’s an engineer, but no one’s mentioned him in years.”

“Yeah,” Adrien said, knowing he was treading on incredibly thin ice if he wanted to avoid a mention of his last name. “We’ve been wizards for as long as anyone can remember. Lots of the best witches and wizards come from Muggle families, though. There’s really nothing special about it.”

Adrien felt self-conscious, tapping the wooden underside of the compartment anxiously. Nino was getting dangerously close to an area of discussion that Adrien really hoped wouldn’t damage their blossoming friendship. Nino was unselfish and inviting. While Adrien hardly knew him, talking to him had felt so natural, it was something he’d never had and he yearned for more. He didn’t want to come across as arrogant over something he had zero control over.

He didn’t want to do anything that might drive Nino away.

Nino opened one of the scarce Chocolate Frogs that remained.

“It’s another Merlin. Is it really so hard to get a Grogan Stump?” Nino groaned.

“Lucky! I got six Cornelius Agrippas in a row!”

And as the two of the laughed, Adrien would have had to dig deep into the farthest reaches of his memory to find another time in which he had felt so content.

Warmth flooded over him, and he wanted to revel in it forever.

Yet, forever would have to wait. A thick blanket of darkness coated the countryside. Adrien could have sworn that it was early afternoon minutes ago, or at least it seemed like it to him. How on earth could he have missed the setting of the sun?

“Ah, blimey! We’ve got the change into our robes before we get there. I’d forgotten,” Nino complained as he noticed how the daylight had melted away .

“Me too!” Adrien said as he tried to distinguish shapes looming outside the black expanse of the window.

The boys scampered off to put on their school robes and sprinted back to the compartment in time to hear the squeal of the train’s wheels brought to a jarring halt against the iron tracks.

The dread that Adrien had cast aside for the stretch of some glorious hours returned in full force.

They had arrived at Hogwarts.

Chapter Text

Of all the astounding things she’d learned that day, Marinette was most surprised to find that the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was a castle.

And an enormous one at that.

She drank in all of its glory and grandeur as a voice called out for first-years and beckoned them over to a separate area with a wave of his oil lamp. She was mesmerized by the monumental beauty, with its magnificent arches and most impressive turrets. All of the gray stone was agleam in the darkness, the inviting glow of window panes drawing her in and twinkling like stars against the night.

She could’ve stopped and stared all day if Alya hadn’t shoved her side.

In Marinette’s mind, the word school was forever associated with depressing brick buildings of near-blinding fluorescent lighting and linoleum tile. Not some majestic piece of architecture that could be the Eighth Wonder of the World.

She’d hardly noticed as she and Alya were seated in a tiny boat with a pair of boys. They had drifted halfway across the lake by the time she realised. She got distracted by the rippling reflection of the moonlit castle in the water and was shocked to see her own face staring back.

“Alya, when did we get on a boat?!” she squeaked nervously, yanking the other girl’s arm, but Alya had her neck craned up to the pillars towering above them as they passed beneath a bridge.

The two boys who were also crammed into the boat with them were too immersed themselves to notice a hypnotized Alya and a bewildered Marinette.

In the dim light, she could make out a pale blond boy and another with dark hair and tan skin, the latter’s glasses mirroring a miniature version of Hogwarts.

All at once, the little access to light that they’d been given vanished as they sailed into an opening in part of the cliff face, tendrils of ivy skating over their heads.

After came a long and eerie tunnel that Marinette figured was directly below the castle until it opened up into a type of subterranean boating dock. The first years climbed out and set foot on the rocks, the awe-inspired silence they’d had melting into a nervous babble bred from eagerness and trepidation.

“I wonder what it looks like inside!”

“Where did they take everyone else?”

“Wait, where did all my luggage go?! Adonis! Adonis! Please come back I promise I’ll let you out to hunt everyday!” cried the darker-skinned boy who had also been in their boat.

Marinette noted that the blond boy had gone quiet. He looked almost as if he was going to be sick.

At the other boys words, the question of her luggage did seem like a rather big problem.

“Alya,” she whispered loudly. “that boy’s got a point you know.”

“Never you mind,” Alya said. “I read that there’s a sort of spell that transports it all. We’ll find it all again after we’re Sorted.”

They ascended through a passageway in the rocks and then reached a flight of steps leading up to the great oak doors at the front of the castle.

Their group sucked in a collective breath as they gazed up at the imposing facade.

The man who’d been leading them knocked three times and light spilled out onto the earth, revealing a redheaded woman with a welcoming smile that reached her eyes.

“This is Professor Bustier, first years,” the man announced and withdrew to the shadows.

“Thank you, I will take them from here.”

The doors were flung wide, and they entered a chamber filled with torch-light and marble staircases that stretched into a ceiling with no definitive end. The rumble of hundreds of voices sounded from one of the doorways beyond, presumably where the rest of the school had gone.

Professor Bustier escorted them to a side chamber of the main hall, all of them squeezing together like a herd of nervous sheep, their eyes flicking about unable to concentrate on any one thing.

“Welcome to Hogwarts!” Professor Bustier declared. “Before we begin our start-of-term feast and before you can claim a seat in the Great Hall, all of you will be Sorted into your Houses. House is something to be taken very seriously here at Hogwarts, because during your time here, your House functions as something close to a family. You will sleep in your House dormitories, attend classes with your Housemates, and spend a vast majority of your free time in your respective House common rooms.

“The four Houses are: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, and Slytherin. Each has a long and reputable history full of exceptional witches and wizards, and you should be proud to be a part of any of them. Your successes at Hogwarts will earn you House points, although any disobedience and the breaking of rules will be due cause for loss of House points. At the end of the year, the House with the largest total of House points will be named the winner of that year’s House Cup, a true honour. I believe that each and every one of you can be an asset to your House. The Sorting Ceremony will begin in a few moments in the Great Hall. I will return when the rest of Hogwarts is ready, please keep quiet.”

And despite the many smiles she had thrown their way, the group of first years was terrified.

People began to whisper about how the Sorting would proceed. Would there be some sort of test? Alya began to mutter about some basic spells she’d learned, would she need them? Marinette felt hopeless, she didn’t know a single shred of magic. She was going to make an absolute idiot of herself in front of the entire school!

It didn’t help the atmosphere of the room when someone screamed.

Above their heads glided shimmering opalescent figures trading remarks with each other, if they noticed the first years below them, there was no indication.

Are those… ghosts?

They passed through the walls, their pearly light disappearing.

Professor Bustier reappeared.

“Come along now and please form a line, the Sorting Ceremony can now begin!”

She led them back to where they had first entered, the murmuring of the student body had intensified tenfold in their absence.

Marinette gulped.

The double doors swung open.


 

Adrien did not hate many things.

But as he stood under the star speckled ceiling decorated with dozens of floating candles, he could not suppress the undeniable hatred he felt towards the alphabet.

‘A’ just had to be the very first letter didn’t it. Why couldn’t it be a ‘P’ or an ‘R’? Who decided what order the alphabet should even be in anyway?

It didn’t matter which way it was spun, for Adrien’s initials were condemning either direction.

As Professor Bustier ushered them inside, he surveyed every table, trying to glean any and all information that would help him accept what was to happen in the moments to come.

The Gryffindor table looked rather rowdy, but cheerful nonetheless.

Mum’s House.

The Ravenclaw one was murmuring among themselves, their eyes bright with mirth.

Hufflepuff looked nice enough. He noted that every single member he saw was wearing a genuine smile, their laughter reaching the silver flecked heavens above.

And then at the end of the line was Slytherin.

Maybe it was Adrien’s imagination, but he could’ve sworn that most of them were sneering. They reminded him of hungry wolves.

He shuddered.

Father’s House.

What he needed to be his.

Professor Bustier halted the line once she had turned it to face away from the great table of teachers at the end of the hall and towards the other students. She went into another side room. She returned and placed a stool in front of the first years and sat one of the filthiest pieces of fabric Adrien had ever encountered on it. It was a pointed wizard’s cap, with a sagging rip in the middle of it.

“My God, it’s ancient,” Nino breathed beside him.

“What do you mean ‘it’? Do you know what it is?” Adrien muttered back.

“Be quiet!” hissed a girl with russet locks ahead of them. “Can’t you see?”

Adrien looked at the hat, and it came to his attention that everyone else in the hall was captivated by it as well. Not a single gaze strayed from it.

The hall became uncannily quiet.

Suddenly, the hat moved. The gash by its brim began to twitch and song flowed from it.

“When the world was centuries younger

And a simple hat was I

Did live our four great founders,

Who came from far and wide

A common goal they did share, it was their one desire;

To see young sorcerers learning, then a school they must acquire.

From this hopeful dream our Hogwarts indeed sprung,

And here she is renowned today on account of every tongue.

Each of these four founders had specific traits they prized,

Certain virtues made wizards more appealing in their eyes.

For Gryffindor, the answer was obviously the bravest,

Their chivalry and righteousness would surely take them places.

But Ravenclaw did not agree, she preferred the wise,

Those of wit and cleverness she wanted recognised.

Hufflepuff admired the hardworking and soon joined the dispute,

For she believed those of loyalty were of the best repute.

And Slytherin chose those who held the grandest ambitions,

Those of cunning and resourcefulness were most worthy of his admission.

And in life they selected those who they deemed best for teaching,

But when they were dead and gone, who could practice all their preaching?

They settled on me, my plans soon were drawn,

There’s nothing inside your head I can’t see, and I won’t be lead on,

And now my task is to Sort you, so please move along.

Don’t be afraid, I’ll put you right in where you belong,

In all my years of Sorting, I’ve never yet been wrong.

So let me look inside your head and peer inside your brain,

For I’m the Hogwarts Sorting Hat,

And I can see everything plain!”

A near-deafening roar of applause sounded from the room as the hat concluded.

He just had to put on a hat that was all. How hard could it be?

Before he could ponder the difficulty any longer, Professor Bustier read off of a long yellowing scroll.

“Agreste, Adrien.”

His heart thumped loudly in his chest, he felt as if its beating reverberated all over, reaching the bewitched scintillating sky above. Breathing became unnatural, he managed a step towards the stool.

It’s a hat. I can do this. Yeah, a hat. I just have to put it on. I’m fine. It’s fine. Everything is fine.

He walked forward, making his way out of the line, trying to ignore the hundreds of eyes upon him. His knuckles had turned the color of snow, knotted in the folds of his robes.

He didn’t even notice Nino flashing him a reassuring smile, he could only focus on the hammering in his chest, the incessant beating and the echo of his feet upon the marble.

He approached the hat and set it gingerly upon his head before sitting down. It settled over his head, obscuring his vision so soon all he saw was the musty inside.

It was just Adrien, the hat, and all of Hogwarts watching.

“My, oh my, what do we have here?” a voice called from behind his ear. “Hmm. Not the easiest are you? A keen mind. Decent amount of courage. My goodness, talent, yes- plenty of that. Plenty indeed.”

Adrien shifted uncomfortably under the hat. To have your inner traits and values laid bare by an inanimate object was a rather puzzling feeling.

“Oh, and what’s this, prized above all else? Ah, your loyalties are in order that’s for sure, and your diligence… That’s something isn’t it? Where to put you…”

Slytherin. Slytherin. Slytherin.

Adrien chanted it mentally.

“Slytherin, eh? That doesn’t fit now does it, boy. Ambition is not at the top of your list, I’m afraid. You’d do well in Ravenclaw, with a brain like that. Best in your year, no doubt.”

Slytherin. Adrien begged, his hands curling around the edge of the stool.

“Hmm,” the hat mused.

People had begun to murmur. This was taking unusually long. Most people took a few seconds, maybe thirty at most. Adrien had been sitting at the stool for nearly a minute and a half.

“Gryffindor would bolden you. It would certainly help you in the long run, bravery is something I sense you’ll need. But it doesn’t seem right.”

If the hat had eyebrows, Adrien was sure they were furrowed deep in thought.

“Something’s off with you, boy. There’s a desire to prove yourself, yes, but it’s not coming from a place of personal ambition…”

Slytherin.

The hat was silent for what seemed like an eternity.

The entire hall was holding its breath, Adrien had been sitting for three minutes.

He wished there was a clock ticking somewhere inside the room so that he could keep track of how much time had passed. He only had his heartbeat as it rocketed upwards.

More silence.

He reached four minutes.

Inexplicably, his mother’s words entered his mind, the almost musical quality of her voice recalled from memory.

Do not fear your own cleverness and do not fear the things you are capable of, for they are silly things to be afraid of. Remember to be brave, my Adrien, and above all, remember to be kind.

At four and a half, the hat spoke again.

“Oh, so that’s what it is…” the hat said. “Loyalty to your family, eh? An admirable quality. And the want to work hard, that’s where it stems from. My, you’re made of this stuff through and through- it’ll be HUFFLEPUFF!”

The hat yelled it triumphantly ten seconds past the fifth minute.

And though he couldn’t explain it, an odd sensation came over Adrien.

It didn’t feel like fear, though a wave of it washed over him in the same manner of fear. And he couldn’t describe it as anger, guilt, and it was not joy. It could have been a number of things, but it was new and it wasn’t unpleasant. He couldn’t peg it.

He withdrew the hat from his head and placed it on the stool for the next wearer. The thunderous applause of the Hufflepuff table did not reach Adrien’s ears, and he was dimly aware of the fact that he had settled in beside some third years who were clapping him on the back.

He did not notice that Nino was giving him a brilliant grin from across the hall. Or that the hat kept calling house after house. He mumbled thanks to those around him, an almost-smile stretching across his face. His body felt funny. The urge to simultaneously cry and laugh had him paralysed.

The Sorting continued on.


 

Queasy was a good word to describe how Marinette was feeling.

She didn’t feel particularly brave, or clever, or ambitious, or loyal, or whatever else the hat had sung about. If there was a house for the stressed, Marinette thought she should be part of that. That would be a proper fit for her.

The blond boy she’d seen earlier went first. It took the hat five minutes before announcing “HUFFLEPUFF” victoriously. The boy looked as though he were about to keel over at any second.

What was his name again? Andrew? Arthur? Aaron? No…

Several people were whispering something about him, but as Professor Bustier called out the next name from the scroll, they promptly silenced themselves.

The names of more kids were called. The hat proudly announced a series of “GRYFFINDORS” and “HUFFLEPUFFS”  and then a couple “RAVENCLAWS.” A single “SLYTHERIN” was hailed. Each of their respective tables let out a loud cheer.

“Bourgeois, Chloé.”

A girl with familiar flaxen waves sauntered up to the stool, and snatched the hat viciously off of the stool. It had hardly touched her head when the hat burst out with “SLYTHERIN.”

The Slytherin table rose to their feet, roaring and clapping and hollering savagely.

The girl joined them proudly, her eyes alight with something malevolent that didn’t sit well with Marinette.

She nudged Alya in the side to catch her attention. “That’s her. That’s the girl from the station!” she hissed.

Chloé Bourgeois is the girl!?” Alya’s voice was low. “Oh, Marinette, she is not someone to make an enemy out of. Her father is-”

Alya was cut off by the announcement of a boy named Ivan becoming a Hufflepuff.

“What do you mean?” Marinette squeaked, the clamor of the Hufflepuff table drowning out her voice.

“Césaire, Alya.”

“I’ll tell you later, I promise,” Alya strolled forward eagerly, the candlelight bouncing off the frames of her glasses.

She sat stiffly on the stool and the hat fell over the face. Marinette watched as it’s folds contorted themselves, as if they were confused. Alya sat on the stool for nearly a minute.

“RAVENCLAW!” the hat decreed, a huge grin stretched across Alya’s face and she padded over to the table.

The line took its sweet time growing shorter as they moved ever so slowly through the alphabet. Marinette’s stomach began to turn over itself, looping in intricate knots. What if the hat just sat on her head and told her there was a mistake and that she didn’t belong here at all and she had no magic whatsoever? It seemed as though multiple lifetimes had passed when she heard her name resound throughout the hall.

“Dupain-Cheng, Marinette.”

She took in a shaky and shallow breath. She laced her hands in the folds of her robes. As she strode down the aisle, she saw Alya give her a hearty thumbs-up and she smiled back weakly. Her legs felt like jelly, it was a wonder she could walk.

She reached the stool and delicately placed the hat upon her head.

Its brim rested against the bridge of her nose, and suddenly she was alone in the darkness with only her thoughts and her pounding chest.

“Well, what do we have here?” a small voice sounded around her.

She nearly yelped.

“Loads of ambition. Yes, you want to prove yourself. My goodness- yes. Loyal too, and not unwilling to put in work. Ah, how could I miss it! Courage, plenty of that. Quite a store there you’ve got. Where to put you, that’s the question.”

Marinette certainly didn’t feel brave, she could barely manage to walk without tripping over her own two feet. How on Earth could she possibly be deemed courageous?

She remembered the girl from earlier who had been sorted into Slytherin. She didn’t think she was anything like her.

“My, it’s not about what you feel or think, it’s about what you are,” Marinette fought the urge to scream, forgetting that the hat’s sole purpose was to read her mind.

She shifted, visibly unsettled.

“Oh, I see. I know how to call it for sure- GRYFFINDOR!” the hat bellowed.

A huge uproar and and a flash of crimson at the edge of her vision signaled Marinette to join the House that was newly hers.

She felt a pang, she wouldn’t be with Alya then. She’d surely see her around the castle though, right?

Nora clapped Marinette on the back. Hard. She let out a little wince.

“Welcome to the best House in all of Hogwarts!” she yelled triumphantly, and Marinette couldn’t help it as a grin wove its way across her face.

Gryffindor.

Marinette liked the sound of that.


 

Even after the whole ordeal of the Sorting Ceremony was complete, and the headmaster, Professor Damocles, had given an opening speech with at least a dozen owl analogies, and the shimmering golden goblets and plates had been filled magically, Adrien still failed to pinpoint the one emotion that was overwhelming him.

Nino had joined him in Hufflepuff, and Adrien felt his heart swell with the knowledge that he would have someone- a friend - alongside him. But that emotion was still there, nagging at his insides.

Nino and him chatted merrily with two sweet-faced girls. But Adrien wasn’t fully there. That stupid, idiotic emotion made it impossible to truly enjoy the meal and the conversation.

What in Merlin’s beard is it?

Even an amicable ghost who introduced himself as the Fat Friar to them couldn’t distract Adrien.

After being led through a convoluted maze of descending shifting staircases by a prefect who tapped the correct rhythm onto a correct barrel, and Adrien was led into a cozy low-ceilinged room, he was still stumped.

He entered the dormitory for the first year boys. It was equally as welcoming as the previous room, but Adrien was still bothered.

It was only after every lamp had been extinguished, and Nino’s soft snoring from the bed beside his sounded out in the darkness, did Adrien realise beneath his patchwork quilt.

He had not felt anger.

Not disappointment.

Not joy.

Not guilt.

Not sadness.

Although no explanation could be provided, Adrien’s heart gave a jolt as it registered.

He had felt relief.


Chapter Text

Time was such a strange thing.

It could encroach stealthily on its target. Like a budding blossom, time could remain a seemingly stunted sprig, until it erupted violently into an array of petals and made everyone wonder when its arrival had come and how they had missed the daily growth of its onslaught.

Or it could go hurtling by furiously without a soul not knowing of its incensed passing. Everyone went sprinting after time in these circumstances, desperate to save a single fragment of a second for themselves.

Or time could stop to sniff the roses, wandering carelessly all over the place, the days passing unhurriedly, the minutes at leisure.

And sometimes, time was like an unstoppable steam engine that no one could stop from flying off the rails. Pleading, begging, beseeching? All useless.

Unfortunately for Adrien, time had chosen to run the course of the final option.

He had known there was going to be hell to pay.

Oh, he was as sure of that as he was sure that the sky was blue.

The only problem was, he hadn’t known when the tax collector was going to come knocking on his door.

And it just so conveniently happened that today was when his payment was due in full.

In Adrien’s defense, it wasn’t as though he was surprised or unprepared . It was just that he had known there was a finite number of days linked to when a piece of information he could not hide would fall neatly into his father’s lap.

He had naively thought that after six days of calm, he could make it through a week peacefully. Maybe.

And while on the seventh day rest is in order, there is no rest for the wicked. And Adrien had committed a misdeed in his father’s book.

It didn’t take long for word to escape from Hogwarts and weed it’s way into the gossiping mouths of Ministry employees, and soon enough, as all important comings and goings do, Gabriel Agreste had caught wind of it too.

The crimson envelope dropped unceremoniously into Adrien’s lap at breakfast told him as much.

He knew what it was instinctively, the sudden clink of his spoon against his platter announcing his shock.

“Hey mate, is that, a Howler? ” Nino stared at the envelope that had tumbled out of the sea of owls into  Adrien’s lap.

“I think so?” Adrien’s voice shot up an octave and shook his head and cleared his throat. “I have to open it, right?”

Even then, he could feel the heat radiating off of it growing every instant it stayed on his lap.

He cringed and gingerly placed it onto the long wooden table. By now Nino’s whispered mention of a Howler had begun to attract attention, with nodding of heads and obviously discrete points of fingers headed in Adrien’s direction.

Ignore them. There’s no point anyway, it would’ve caught attention one way or another.

Adrien’s knowledge of Howler’s was primitive but he was sure of two things. One: the Howler would assuredly degrade him in a publicly humiliating way. And two: there was no escaping it.

He had seen his father use an alternative type of Howler to communicate with other Ministry employees, but the unusual blood red didn’t bode well with him. His father had mentioned that other types of Howlers existed once, but as for what the types were, well, Adrien was at a loss.

He could only assume this one wasn’t good.

“Are you going to open it, mate?” Nino’s voice brought Adrien back to reality. “I think it will explode if you don’t.”

“Thanks for the reassurance,” Adrien muttered dryly.

The howler was beginning to vibrate nastily, it’s warmth beginning to make them sweat.

“What’cha got there, Adrien?” a cheery blonde girl called Rose asked innocently from where she sat across the table.

Adrien bit his tongue to refrain from releasing a long stream of curses and grimaced before breaking the wax seal and unleashing whatever verbal horror awaited him.

“Disappointment is not a strong enough word to express how I feel,” his father’s voice boomed throughout the Great Hall, it’s haughty coldness sending a chill to Adrien’s core.

Of course there would be no inspired yelling, that would have been much better. No, instead Adrien felt like a small child being scolded. Being told what he could and couldn’t do. He hated it.

The rest of the hall had gone silent. People were staring. The voice continued.

“You had one duty, to uphold the family legacy, and you failed. Utterly and completely. Of all the houses, you ended up in Hufflepuff? How soft-hearted can you be, Adrien? Do you know how much of a disgrace this is? How insulting? You have no drive, no ambition, and at this rate I doubt you’ll find success in school and I know you won’t find any outside of it.

“Does mocking the Agreste name bring you some kind of sick satisfaction? Does wiping away thousands of years of excellency mean nothing to you? Tradition is our lifeblood, and you have just slashed our arteries with your insolence. I raised you to have a backbone. I raised you to be better than this. Your mother raised you to be better than this.”

The sting of those words sliced through Adrien with white-hot pain.

His father had crossed a line.

He mentioned Mum.

Twin points of pressure pricked behind his eyes. He tried to steady his breathing.

Before he could react further, the letter exploded into flames and was soon nothing more than ash.

The rest of the hall was left in stunned silence.

“Ay, there’s nothing to see here!” Nino stood up on the long wooden bench, accidentally stomping on a girl’s finger who had been in his way. “Keep eating breakfast would you, you bloody-”

Adrien yanked on Nino’s robe gently. He turned his gaze towards his friend in confusion.

“Thanks, Nino,” Adrien smiled weakly.

“Anytime, mate. I’d like to give your old man a piece of my mind. You got sorted into Hufflepuff? So? What’s the problem? I’d like to transfigure him into-”

“He’s-” Adrien cut off Nino, but then realised he didn’t know how to finish his sentence. “-He cares about tradition is all, It’s fine.”

“That’s not what I would call fine!” Nino declared righteously. “Cruel and unusual punishment if I’ve ever seen it!”

“Nino,” Adrien’s voice was soft, “Please.”

“Alright,” Nino grumbled and returned to his seat. “But, if you ever need someone to bust him up, I’d be more than happy to.”

Adrien offered a tight smile, it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

Nino beamed back.

And as the golden glow of the rising sun poured through the windows, the students of Hogwarts mysteriously found their voices again, chattering about the events that had just transpired.


 

“That poor kid,” Alya muttered as she gave a feeble attempt to make her feather float.

It was first hour and Gryffindors had Charms with the Ravenclaws, Marinette was failing by any standard to perform the Levitation Charm much to her dismay.

“It’s not like he did anything wrong,” Alya swished her wand and with a sharp flick of her wrist said, “ Wingardium Leviosa !”

Her feather soared a metre into the air gracefully.

“Remarkable work! Ten points to Ravenclaw, Miss Césaire!” Professor Chamack admired Alya’s wand work with awe. “Oh, deary Miss Dupain-Cheng, remember it’s swish and flick not flick and swish. There, yes. Now go on, try it.”

Marinette looked at the professor skeptically and did as she was told. She shyly mumbled “ Wingardium Leviosa?”

The feather shifted half a centimetre upwards.

Marinette groaned in frustration and slammed her head onto the desk.

“It’s okay, Marinette. I just got lucky that’s all. And it’s not like it didn’t work at all,” Alya reassured her, setting down her wand.

“It doesn’t matter,” Marinette perked back up and lifted her wand skywards. “I just have to keep trying. Also, what about a poor kid?”

“Didn’t you see Adrien Agreste get a Howler today?” Alya questioned.

“Who?” Marinette asked and practiced her wand movements.

“Adrien Agreste. The Hufflepuff boy, his father’s an Unspeakable. He got a Howler today. You heard it,” Alya spoke the incantation and watched her feather soar even higher.

“Oh. That,” Marinette murmured half-heartedly, preparing to attempt the spell again. “Yeah, it wasn’t very nice. More than a bit awkward for him. I’m glad my parents are Muggles because it would be horrifying to be screamed at by an envelope. Also, what’s an Unspeakable- Wingardium Leviosa!”

Marinette’s feather didn’t bother to stir this time.

“Someone who works in the Department of Mysteries. No one knows what they’re up to. His father’s a rather famous bloke, he’s the head of it.”

Over the past week at Hogwarts, Alya had taken it upon herself to educate Marinette about the inner-workings of the wizarding world. Thanks to her hilarious and slightly inaccurate lessons, Marinette was now acquainted with the concept of the Ministry of Magic and with dragons.

“Oh, must be a lot for him to live up to then,” Marinette mused. “I’m sure he’s a nice boy, even though all that pressure must stress him out an awful lot.”

Alya nodded in agreement.

The lesson ended a while later.

Marinette succeeded in making her feather float a little more than a metre high by the end and her triumph was enough to make her forget the troubles of the Hufflepuff boy.


 

Hallowe’en had finally arrived at Hogwarts after two strenuous months of anticipation for the fantastic feast that awaited them.

Adrien was itching to go sink his mouth into a mouth-watering meal. However, it was only second hour and Professor Cataldi was giving a lecture on the uses and treatment of Puffapods to the Gryffindors and the Hufflepuffs. Adrien was partnered with a girl with pigtails from Gryffindor named Marinette. She seemed nice, offering him a small smile and wave when Professor Cataldi had announced the partnerships.

“Remember class, once we open the seed pods, we cannot, under any circumstance let the beans inside make contact with anything, understood?” Professor Cataldi lectured.

Marinette nodded firmly, and Adrien gave a lift of his chin, for his mind was far away from the Herbology lesson.

And it was for different reasons than excitement all together.

The teachers pretended not to notice, but few souls inside of Hogwarts were unaware of the article published in The Daily Prophet that morning.

Conversations had become hushed and low, an atmosphere of anxiety taken root inside the castle.

The copy Adrien’s family owl had slapped onto his lap had contained these words.

Breaches at the Ministry and Gringotts: The Rise of the Dark Arts

Last night,  separate attacks on the Department of Mysteries and Gringotts bank sounded alarms throughout the wizarding world. Multiple employees from the Department of Mysteries were found under the Imperius curse. Two employees managed to steal items from the Department, while the wizard’s themselves have been located, the fate of the items in question is unclear. As for the Gringotts attack, it failed. They never reached the intended vault. Little is known about the motivations behind the attack, but a wizard claiming responsibility for the attack by the alias of Le Papillon Noir left a message for the Ministry of Magic that cryptically states “This is only the beginning. This is nothing compared to what is to come.” Le Papillon Noir and his potential co-conspirators still remain at large. Aurors would like the public to remain calm as they figure out how to best deal with the attacks and their orchestrator. Go to page 2 to read about Clara Nightingale’s newest releases.

The media most likely wouldn’t spare his father. They’d be after him relentlessly now, pestering for more details, sticking their noses in confidential reports. Being head of a breached department would mean thousands of questions, hundreds of interviews, and at least a dozen hearings about the incident.

Adrien prayed they wouldn’t sour his father’s moods too much. If at all.

And it was as these things flashed through Adrien’s head that he missed Professor’s Cataldi’s words, when he normally would have hung onto every last one.

“Er, would you mind handing me that scalpel so I can open the seed pods?” Marinette asked timidly from beside him.

“Oh, yeah, sure,” he handed it to her dazedly, half-cognisant that words were coming out of his mouth.

She worked silently and stiffly, making a clumsy cut through the thick blood orange bulb.

Adrien resisted the urge to cringe at her shoddy craftsmanship, but he couldn’t help it as he sarcastically said as a knee-jerk reaction “Great.”

The corners of Marinette’s lips tilted downward, but she said nothing and soon she forced a smile again.

A little voice inside Adrien’s head nagged at him, telling him to apologise. But his brain was so preoccupied with the issues that would plague his father and in turn plague him, that he didn’t. He felt volatile and unlike himself. He had to worry about his future, how his father would take it out on him despite it not being his fault when he returned home in seven short weeks.

Don’t look at me like that, Adrien. You don’t know the half of it, sitting in your privileged world, leeching off the work of generations before you. Do you know how much I go through?

He could hear the words now, feel the ghost of their cruel lashing.

“Eek!” Marinette said as she made another jagged cut into the pod, and Adrien roughly grabbed and snatched the scalpel, acting on instinct to accomplish the assigned task at hand.

“Here, let me do it,” he said.

“What are you doing, Professor Cataldi said-” Marinette warned.

“I was paying attention, I’ve got to cut it like this.” Adrien made a smooth incision all the way to the base of the bulb.

“You’ve cut too deep,” Marinette argued.

“We’re supposed to retrieve the beans inside,” Adrien said confidently, remembering Professor Cataldi mentioning them.

“No we’re not,” Marinette began trying to wrestle Adrien for control of the plant and the scalpel.

“Yes, we are,” Adrien fought back harder.

The plant burst into two, phosphorescent pink beans colliding directly with Marinette’s shoes and sprawling all across the ground beside her.

Adrien watched with horror as they instantly blossomed, swallowing her in vibrant green leaves and tall arching stems and vines, lacing themselves around her body.

“I’m sorry I didn’t know-” he sputtered in reaction, guilt clawing at his chest and jolting him from his sullen reverie.

Marinette’s eyes glistened angrily, and she bit her lip hard. Adrien tried to budge some of the foliage, it was no use, there was too much and it was too thick.

“Oh, but you were paying attention, weren’t you, Mr. Agreste?” she said hollowly from behind a web of stems.

“Galloping gargoyles!” Professor Cataldi caught sight of the mess and Adrien wanted the ground to swallow him whole.

“Miss Dupain-Cheng, clearly you did not heed my crucial instructions. Five points from Gryffindor for your carelessness,” Professor Cataldi said harshly.

“But Professor!” Marinette protesting, struggling to gesture beneath her cage of vegetation. “It was Adrien’s fault!”

Professor Cataldi’s brows shot onto his shiny, bald scalp.

Adrien looked at him helplessly not knowing how to protest without getting them in further trouble, Professor Cataldi’s brows rose higher.

“Accusing another student of your mistakes. Another five points from Gryffindor, Miss Dupain-Cheng.”

He vanished the plants with a flick of his wand and strode off.

Adrien stared at Marinette, his mouth agape as he fumbled for words to express his remorse.

Her eyes gleamed brighter now, her fists balled tightly at her sides. She was nearly shaking with rage.

“Whatever you’re going to say, I don’t want to hear it. You’ve done enough.”

She sliced into a new Puffapod with renewed fury. The line was straight this time.

Adrien felt empty. His day was already rotten, now he’d gone and thrown maggots on it.

Marinette was right, he had done enough.


 

With his belly and heart full, Adrien exited from the Great Hall in all it’s garish and festive glory, a few bats fluttering above upon his arrival into the hall.

Nino had chosen to remain behind, as Adrien was tuckered out from all the revelry and laughter beneath a spectacle of themed decoration. They’d agreed to meet back up in the Hufflepuff dormitories to retire for the night. Adrien’s day had felt particularly long, with crises massive and minuscule. His father would be facing mass scrutiny. He himself had faced the harsh, unfeeling anger of an eleven-year-old girl.

He’d opened his mouth to apologise several times, but every time he’d try to utter a sound she’d shot him a glare that made him feel like he was the dirt on her shoes. He hadn’t meant for the Puffapod to do… that. It wasn’t Adrien’s agenda for the plants to explode into a forest on her, or even for them to explode at all for the matter. He was dazed, distracted, and a little rude. It was his fault, but he wanted to make amends. He hadn’t seen her at the feast- he’d dared a glance at the Gryffindor table more than once- and had yet to lay an eye on dark hair messily bunched into two pigtails.

And as Adrien wandered the halls of Hogwarts, so did his mind, drafting attempts at asking for forgiveness, images of chocolate or perhaps staging something to win back House points for Marinette filling his brain.

Then he heard the crying.

Full on heaving sobs that resounded pitifully from one of the bathrooms.

All of a sudden, an arm linked through his.

“Hi, Adrien,” droned a sickly sweet voice in his ear.

“Oh. Hi Chloé,” Adrien looked at her sideways, hoping to every known deity that Chloé was not behind the heart-wrenching noise they could both hear.

Chloé was one of the few people he’d known his whole life, but that didn’t mean her behaviour was shiny, clean, and perfect. She had a cruel streak and he knew that it tended show when she felt she was in power. Which was all of the time.

That being said, she’d never been horrible to Adrien, and it would be impolite to throw one of his oldest friends directly under a Knight Bus.

“Adrien, you know that certain wizards are better than others right?”

“Er-”
“Well, you are much too perfect to be associating with mudbloods of all people. I heard you were partnered with Marinette Dupain-Cheng today!”

“Chloé, you shouldn’t use that word, it’s-”

“I can use whatever words I want. But anyway, I’ve taught her a lesson, she doesn’t deserve to even be within a metre of you!”

Adrien harshly unlooped his arm from Chloé’s.

“You what?”

“Fine, go run after her. If she didn’t already, she hates your guts now. She’ll want nothing to do with you. Just goes to show how unreasonable mudbloods are. You belong with people like me Adrikins.”

“Chloé,” Adrien warned, his fists balling.

“I was just commanding a bit of much needed respect, that’s all. Has being in Hufflepuff  made you weak?”

Adrien said nothing as Chloé strutted away with her hair flashing gold in the candlelight.

He waited until she was out of sight and then ran to the girl’s bathroom in search of the feeble crying that had died down over the course of his one-sided argument with Chloé.

His feet pounded against the marble, he turned sharply, nearly falling onto the tile.

He didn’t have to ask who it was, for, with distinctive dread, he knew already.

“Marinette?” he called out timidly.

Underneath one of the stalls, a pair of tiny black shoes dangled a few centimetres in the air.

“G-go away,” she hiccupped.

Adrien walked up to the stall, with its streaky black paint from years past. This was a place he’d never seen before. It looked as if it hadn’t been touched in half a century.

“What did Chloé do to you?”

“No,” Marinette said shakily.

The stall door swung open.

Adrien’s eyes went wide with shock.

Marinette’s eyes were bloodshot from crying, but he’d expected as much. Huge pustules crossed her face diagonally, inscribing the word ‘ impure.' Marinette’s tears glinted as they dripped down her marred, swollen face. She was hardly recognizable.

“Wh-”

“I know you and Chloé brewed the potion that did this to me,” Marinette’s eyes were full of rage despite how constricted they were due to puffiness. “She told me herself. She’s hated me since the day I met her. She slipped it into my drink at the feast tonight when she walked by the Gryffindor table to berate me. What is it? An inverted cure for boils? You know what, it doesn’t matter.”

“I promise you I had nothing to do with this, Marinette,” Adrien was shell-shocked.

This was beyond cruel, beyond anything he’d ever seen Chloé do. Beyond decency, beyond malice, this was downright evil. It was hard to believe an eleven-year old girl was capable of it.

“I wish I could believe you,” Marinette began to laugh hysterically. “They won’t punish either of you though. And Hufflepuff did have potions with Slytherin today”

“I didn’t do it, please believe me. I would never do anything like this. Chloé is lying.”

“Why did you come in here? Clearly you hate me too. The Puffapods made that obvious enough. But this? Go and run off with your pureblood friends,” Marinette sneered. “I heard you talking to Chloé in the hallway, you’re friends, right? If you’re friends with her, I want nothing to do with you.”

Marinette’s tears had dried and hardened into impenetrable anger.

“Please-”

Marinette rushed out of the stall and burst past him, her legs carrying her far away. He heard the crying start back up again in the hallway, her momentary resolve shattered.

Adrien wanted nothing more than to go after her. But she wanted nothing more than for him to rot in the depths of hell. He’d botched things so badly with her today, and Chloé had only made them worse.

The ‘ impure ’ across her face had been too much.

And she thinks I’m responsible. At least partially.

He had never been more disgusted with himself.

Chapter Text

Marinette was not stupid. Nor did she hate schoolwork.

However, she did believe that she was going to have an aneurysm after spending seven straight hours in the library studying for the end of year Transfiguration exam.

It was hopeless.

She was never going to master the Avifors spell. She was going to fail at turning a mouse into a snuff box when she’d done it just the other day. She was going to-

“You feeling okay there, Mari,” Alya snapped her fingers in front of her face breaking Marinette out of her study coma.

Marinette sighed and slumped her face into the open textbook in frustration.

“I’m fine. I’m just going to fail this exam is all,” Marinette said, her voice muffled by the pages.

“You are so not. If it is the last thing I do, I will make sure you ace this exam and then some. Do I make myself clear?” Alya said sternly, her glasses refracting the candlelit library as darkness fell outside the castle.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Marinette gulped, fear of her friend’s drill sergeant techniques striking in her heart.

“Good,” Alya said and began prompting Marinette with theoretical Transfiguration questions.

Oh, Marinette was in for the long haul now.

While the stubborn bit of Marinette’s heart longed to be spared from the hours of  exhaustion that awaited her if she practiced with Alya, she was eternally grateful for the help from her friend. Without Alya, she’d be lost as Theseus without the witch Ariadne’s string (see, her History of Magic studying was paying off).

And so, Marinette studied with renewed fervor. Reciting incantation and memorising lists of potions.

A hint of dittany with a dash of asphodel, or was it moondew? Yes. No. Definitely moondew.

Yes. That’s a proper Wiggenweld Potion. And what was the right number of Chizpurfle fangs?

To cast a Fire-Making spell, Professor Chamack said the proper word was…. Incendio!

Her concentration only broke when a shadow fell over her book, rendering the light of her candle obsolete. Night was all around. Some bright patches of icy light shone where students used the Wand-Lighting charm.

Marinette yawned, her eyes watering from exhaustion. Alya’s focus was yet to break.

“We were wondering if we could join you. I’m absolute rubbish at memorising dates and I’m positive that the Soap Blizzard of 1378 is going to ruin any chance I have at passing History of Magic. So, please, Alya, will you take mercy on us?” A boy’s voice said.

Marinette turned around at this, and Alya’s head flicked up from where she was immersed in a particularly tedious passage over the Gargoyle Strikes of 1911.

A boy with glasses and a friendly grin stood there. She smiled. He'd been her partner several times when Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs had to do anything together.

“Fine, but I won’t repeat anything if you don’t understand,” Alya said and shifted her seat to make more room for them.

Marinette’s gaze trailed over to the boy standing beside Nino. A bitter taste instantly filled her mouth.

His eyes went wide. She crossed her arms and turned around to face Alya.

Nino took a seat next to Alya and immediately began to pester her with questions.

Adrien shuffled forward awkwardly, and gingerly took the open seat next to Marinette.

He didn’t say a word, her eyes were trained fiercely on the text. Giving someone the cold shoulder had never been so heated.

She pretended not to notice how his eyes kept darting over to her.

Alya began to chatter earnestly about the economic repercussions of the blizzard, Nino listening intently and scrawling furiously on a scrap of parchment.

“Marinette,” it was Adrien.

She feigned deafness.

“I know I’m not your favourite person-”

“You don’t have to pretend to be sorry. It’s been months since then. Go and run back to Chloé.”

Her words were short, and biting. Each one meant to sting. She was still angry.

“Marinette, I’m sorry. I promise-” his tone was pleading.

But Marinette had already passed her final judgment.

“I’m going to bed now,” she announced loudly, slamming her book for emphasis.

“Goodnight. Alya. Nino.” Marinette stuffed her books into her bag briskly and turned tail and fled, her knuckles knotted on the leather strap.

“Goodnight?” Alya’s reply came out as a question, mystified by Marinette’s behavior.

Adrien slumped forward onto the table miserably.

After the last of Marinette’s hurried footsteps ceased to echo throughout the library, Nino and Alya’s discussion returned in full force.

Adrien did his best to listen but his mind kept straying back to an enraged raven-haired girl.

And he couldn't help but wonder how he had managed to mess up so badly.


 

Although the day itself was glorious, blue skies flecked with candyfloss clouds, the lake shining silver in the light of the sun, a charcoal storm cloud hung heavy over Adrien’s heart.

The stress of exams had passed, and so had his first year at Hogwarts. In totality, he should have been happy, exuberant even. No stress should have plagued him, the illness of worry should have been completely absolved.

Yet, under the refreshing shade of a great oak, listening to the laughter of his classmates as they roamed free from responsibility, he couldn’t help but feel the tell-tale pit of dread tighten in his stomach.

The copy of The Daily Prophet that had tumbled gracefully into his lap this morning served to ruin his final day at Hogwarts before summer holiday commenced, and to exacerbate the fear he had for when he was to face his father again.

Wizards Beware: Dark Magic in the Works

Months following the breach of the Ministry of Magic’s security by dark wizard Le Papillon Noir, the Department of Mysteries has come under fire after a cursed object caused injury to employees. Granted, the object in question was not classified as being cursed and its adverse reaction to wizard handling was not on record for its properties. Given the recent happenings in the Department of Mysteries perhaps it would not be too far-fetched to deem it an act of dark wizardry although causes remain unclear. The Ministry will be giving a full inspection and until then all Department of Mysteries functions will be brought to a halt. All of the wounded have been taken to St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. See page 7 for more details.

Adrien wished that his father would spare Adrien from his wrath and perhaps redirect his stress onto something more productive. But Adrien knew it was futile. His father would be coming directly into the line of fire for all the reporters and journalists, and given his particular distaste for them could only mean one thing for Adrien.

Adrien sighed and slammed his head into the side of the tree.

“Woah, mate.” It was Nino, he held two Chocolate Frogs in his hand. “Don’t go bashing your brains in.”

“Sorry,” Adrien said without much emotion.

Nino sat down beside him and shoved one of the Chocolate Frogs into Adrien’s hand.

“Chin up, mate. There’s nothing a little chocolate can’t fix.” Nino’s grin could have given the summer sun a run for its money, but it couldn’t hide the concern in his eyes.

“I wish,” Adrien muttered and removed his head from the oak.

“It’s just... with everything going on.. And I have to see my father tomorrow…” Adrien trailed off but Nino didn’t need anymore words to understand.”

“I know. But I promise I’ll write the whole summer. I’ll send you as many sweets as Adonis can handle carrying. You’ll get through it, mate. And let me tell you, if your old man gives you so much of an ounce-”
“Nino!” Adrien protested teasingly, a smile beginning to tug at the corners of his mouth from his friend’s almost profanity.

“It’s the truth, mate,” Nino cracked a grin, the brilliant sheen of the lake reflecting on his glasses.

“And if you won’t eat your Chocolate Frog, then I will. And I’ll take the card, because I am in desperate need of an Alberic Grunnion,” Nino deadpanned.

“You wouldn’t dare!” Adrien clutched at his chest in mock offense.

“Eat your bloody chocolate,” Nino said.

“Alright, alright,” Adrien rolled his eyes and tore open the blue and gold container revealing a half-melted frog and the image of Morgan le Fay.

“You got lucky this time,” Nino said, scrutinizing the card.

“Sure,” Adrien said and dropped the Chocolate Frog directly into his mouth.

He savored the sweetness, feeling a pang in his chest when he swallowed the last of the cocoa goodness.

“I told you a little chocolate could fix anything,” Nino said.

Adrien laughed.

And with that, the clouds over Adrien’s heart began to part.

Unbeknownst to the two boys, at the opposite end of the Great Lake, a girl with blonde hair giggled with malicious glee as she dumped an armload of leather bound books into the water.

A girl with dark pigtails chased after her and stood motionless at the edge of the water, watching the pages sink into the inky depths.

And while none of them knew it, a storm was brewing on the horizon for them all.

Every action would meet its opposite reaction, and who knew what would happen in the fallout.

It would only be a matter of time before the calm shattered and the downpour began.