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If Adam gets expelled for this, he’s going to kill Ronan.

This is the basis for their relationship, really, ever since Gansey introduced them.

You came to me,” Ronan says impassively, as if he can tell what Adam’s thinking. “You can take Viper back. Professor Malory will say something’s wrong with her aura. You’ll flunk the class. You’ll be expelled for such poor grades. You’ll be kicked out of the wizarding community. You’ll be lucky to get a job at King’s Cross, which is about as close to Hogwarts as you’ll be allowed to get.”

“Slippery slope,” Adam mutters flatly.

Ronan nods along, keeping the expression on his face nothing short of dutiful. Neither of them falters on their way up the steps to the Astronomy Tower. From Ronan’s collar, Viper makes a tiny chittering sort of sound that Adam thinks is probably a bowtruckle’s equivalent of laughter.

“Don’t encourage him. He named you Viper,” Adam tells the little creature in a despairing undertone.

“It suits her,” Ronan replies, unrelenting, and in perfect synchronicity, Viper launches herself off of Ronan’s shoulder directly at Adam’s face.

Adam gets a hand up, pure instinct, and she wraps her tiny green limbs effortlessly around his pinky, where she settles, casually clasping the side of his hand and making a bona fide hissing noise, interspersed with chitter-laughter.

Adam glares at Ronan, a silent this is all your fault, but it's a wasted effort because Ronan isn't looking at him: Ronan’s grinning at Viper. It's a sharp thing, but even so there's no mistaking the affection underlying it.

Viper preens, and jumps back to Ronan, where he rewards her by letting her tuck into the inside pocket of his robes.

“I don't know why she likes you so much,” Adam says, looking up as they walk out under the night sky. “She’s probably confused you with a tree.”

“I’m taller than you,” is what Ronan takes away from this line of conversation.

Now that they’ve arrived at the top of the Astronomy Tower, Ronan busies himself with a quick charm that lets him pull seemingly endless amounts of fabric out of his sleeve, which he lets pool on the stone floor and kicks at occasionally to manhandle it into a nest-like mound. Adam knows without being expressly told that Ronan takes sardonic pleasure in such spells, the kind that are perilously close to the cheap tricks muggle magicians perform at children’s parties, purely because Declan looks on such spells with vast disapproval. Declan isn’t here, but that’s hardly the point.

While Ronan is thus occupied with their accommodations, Adam’s got little else to do but think about how Ronan is right: Adam did come to Ronan.

The Care of Magical Creatures assignment seemed simple enough. As a conclusion to their unit on bowtruckles - wherein they discussed how a decline in the population of wand wood bearing trees and an upswing in the bowtruckle population led to many bowtruckles without trees, especially seeing as how territorial bowtruckles could get - the sixth year class was put to the task of pairing off and caring for a treeless bowtruckle intensively over the weekend. They were to keep a log of the bowtruckle’s eating habits, its mood, general health...Adam really wasn’t sure what else.

During the class period where they chose their partners and their bowtruckles, Blue dibbed Gansey with an almost offensive swiftness. Though Adam had thought that he couldn’t really blame her; if he were in her shoes, he wouldn’t want himself with all his damage as a partner, or Ronan, with all his sharp edges. That was a great misjudgment of Ronan, though, Adam’s come to realize. Ronan takes Care of Magical Creatures more seriously than all of his other classes put together, and whatever derisive words may come out of his mouth - for the Professor, for the other students, for the world in general - it’s clear from his actions that the hands-on parts where they actually interact with the creatures is one of the only parts of his magical education that he takes genuine delight in. Of course, he’s still Ronan. While the large majority of the bowtruckles the class had to pick from seemed shy and manageable, Roan had gone and, without any hesitation or room for compromise, claimed the one bowtruckle Professor Malory had kept apart from the others on the basis of it having “a particularly difficult disposition.”

Ronan was good with her, even Adam could see that right off. Ronan tired her out, sending her chasing after little multicolored sparks of light from the end of his wand, and then he fed her, and after that she seemed fairly content. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Adam. She came over to him curiously and had great fun swinging from finger to finger between his hands. Adam held his hands out, utterly still, not wanting to spook her. She grew more daring, jumping further and performing little flips and twists and waiting longer to grab hold of his finger again, and eventually she fell. Adam was too slow to catch her, and as soon as he registered that she was all right - she landed in the grass with a tiny little cry that sounded more indignant than hurt - he very hastily put his hands down by his sides, as if to say, that wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t. He still felt distinctly guilty.

Ronan merely cocked an eyebrow at him, a silent, shit, Parrish, what is your malfunction, and scooped her up. He looked her over, told her, “you’re fine, pest,” and tossed her up gently into the air and caught her in his cupped palms, which had her eagerly scrabbling her sharp little hands for more.

“We’re not calling her that,” Adam said as he watched the two of them. “Or anything else obnoxious. Like Thorn. Or Razor.”

“Solid suggestions, Parrish,” Ronan said, in a way that was designed to accentuate that he did in fact note Adam’s tone and was in fact very deliberately choosing to ignore it. He held the tiny creature up to eye level, engaged in a stare-down with her for a few seconds, and pronounced her, “Viper.”

Adam sighed, heavily.

“What? At least ours won’t get beat up by the other kids.”

(Gansey had his heart set on naming the bowtruckle he and Blue had picked Sycharth. Blue, oozing more sarcasm than could possibly be healthy, said she liked the name Sally.)

Toward the end of class, they'd talked scheduling. It was natural enough for them to spend the weekend together, they’d just had to divvy up the overnights.

This is Adam's agreed-upon night, and as it turns out, he can't do it on his own.

It's embarrassing.

When he’d taken Viper back to the Slytherin dormitory and she'd realized Ronan wouldn't be back anytime soon, she let out a continuous, high pitched evolutionarily-designed-to-be-irritating-so-you-can’t-ignore-it sort of wailing sound and tried to claw at the door. When Adam picked her up, she tried to claw at Adam’s hand.

The other boys didn't make the slightest effort to hide the fact that they were staring at him with contempt. They already looked down their noses at him for being a dirt poor muggle-born relying on funds from the school in order to even attend Hogwarts. They didn't need any extra excuses not to want him around.

Adam didn’t want to give in and have to admit that he needed help, and moreover, he especially didn’t want such an admission to be witnessed by the people he had to live with, so he tried to hold off on going to Ronan. But instead of losing steam and starting to quiet down, Viper’s cries just grew louder and more desperate, and it wasn’t like the other boys didn’t know that Adam was close with Ronan Lynch.

Last year when Adam was made Prefect, the other boys all got at least some degree of jealous. They were mostly shrewd enough not to show it outright, though. Instead it came out in an even higher frequency of snide comments about Adam’s clear lack of money or his muggle parents than usual, which was saying something.

When one of them had gone to put a hand on Adam’s shoulder as he was leaving the Great Hall - a move designed to emphasize that the seam there was fraying - Ronan had taken one menacing step forward and said, “You put a finger on him, I’ll make you rip your own arm off and sell it down Knockturn Alley and then give him the gold for his trouble.” Ronan hadn’t reached for his wand. Hadn’t shouted. He’d just taken that single step and spoken like he meant it. The simple cold-blooded delivery was more effective than any amount of outrage. Word obviously got around, because none of the Slytherins tried anything so overt again, and Adam would see them watching him when he was with Ronan.

So Adam decided screw it, and left the dormitory with Viper in one pocket and his golden invisibility ring in the other - the one Ronan had given him their third year, that matched the one Gansey had and matched the one Ronan gave Blue fourth year. Adam didn't know where Ronan got them from or what kind of spellwork went into them, and he didn't ask any questions...he figured it was better that way, if he ever ended up in a position where he was grilled by a professor. He just knew they worked - as long as you had it on you were invisible to everyone who didn't also have one of the rings - and they were dead useful.

He slipped his ring on his middle finger and went to the Gryffindor Tower - he knew the password, ashwinder - but no one was in the common room.

Adam debated going up to the dorm. Viper had settled down, curiosity piqued by the new location, but he had no idea how long that would last. While she was quiet, though, it was difficult to muster the necessary motivation to let all the Gryffindor boys know he couldn't get through this stupid assignment without Ronan Lynch. All the Slytherins had to know already.

Thankfully, before he’d made up his mind to go up, he heard the rustle of wings at the window.

“Hi sweetheart,” he greeted Chainsaw quietly as she fluttered and hopped over to him, cocking her head. “Would you get Kerah for me, please?”

Chainsaw gave him a long look, as if to emphasize that she wasn't anyone's servant and she didn't take orders (she never once in six years delivered a letter, despite the fact that Ronan had argued to be allowed to have his raven stay on the school grounds on the basis of Chainsaw being able to carry messages as swiftly and efficiently as any owl; Adam suspected Headmaster Child knew that Ronan Lynch didn't believe in letters, but was savvy enough to know that of all the battles the administration could wage with Ronan Lynch, this would be a foolish one) but ultimately Chainsaw was willing to acquiesce to Adam’s request anyway, flaring out her wings and taking off up the dormitory staircase.

A few moments later, Ronan Lynch descended with Chainsaw perched imposingly on his shoulder, like some sort of up-and-coming dark wizard.

“She wants you,” Adam wasted no time in telling him, pulling Viper from his pocket and holding her out, both to explain himself to Ronan and to prove to Viper that he did indeed bring her to Ronan so there would be no need for her to start carrying on again.

Viper let out a gleeful sort of chirping sound and smacked excitedly at Adam's palm, where she was sitting, as if she thought Adam may need to be alerted to the fact that Ronan was standing directly in front of them.

“You giving him a tough time, you little ragwort?” Ronan said, cocking an eyebrow, although Adam didn't know why he bothered.

Viper was practically quivering in Adam’s hand she was so happy to see Ronan, even though they'd only said goodnight to him less than an hour ago, and Ronan didn't last more than a few seconds before he reached out and plucked her up, sitting her on the opposite shoulder from Chainsaw.

Adam had some concerns that Chainsaw would try to eat Viper, but Ronan had dismissed them early. He’d asserted that bowtruckles were, in point of fact, magical creatures, and had ways of protecting themselves. He’d also flicked Chainsaw lightly but meaningfully on the beak when she’d first eyed Viper a little too keenly. Chainsaw really did adore Ronan, which she actively demonstrated by restraining herself from nipping up things Ronan didn't want her to snap her beak at, such as bite-sized magical creatures, or Ronan's fingers.

Ronan walked Chainsaw to the open window and told her, “Meet us at the Astronomy Tower. If we run into any trouble, you cause a diversion.”

Adam had yet to personally witness Chainsaw 'cause a diversion' before, and he figured he was better off not worrying about how many times she’d been called into service over the years and what an admirable job she could do. The more pressing matter, however, was: “You know the Astronomy Tower is out of bounds outside of classes.”

“You got a point?”

“It's not worth getting in trouble.”

“You can't get in trouble if you don't get caught, and only amateurs get caught, Parrish. We're not amateurs.”

“I’m sure Headmaster Child will be dazzled by that logic.”

“You wanna come up?” Ronan asked, gesturing derisively over his shoulder toward the dormitory stairs. “Cuz no way am I going down to your creepy dank grimy dungeon. So unless you have a better idea.”

The Slytherin dormitories were actually charmed to the nines to be as luxurious as magic would possibly allow, but Adam didn't bother arguing the point. He looked back at Ronan silently, because he didn't have a better answer.

“Then we take our chances.” Ronan made an ironic sort of half-bow toward the common room door, faux-chivalrous, and Adam rolled his eyes and went out.

Which brings them to now.

Viper is preoccupied with thrashing cheerily through the nest of blankets, almost as if she's swimming through it, and Adam is trying not to be obvious about watching the soft way Ronan's watching her.

Trying, but clearly failing, because Ronan says, “You’ve got that Slytherin face on. The 'I should know better than to associate with a bunch of Gryffindors so I guess I deserve what I get' one.”

How would you know you're not even looking at me, is the first thing Adam wants to say, but he doesn't. Instead, he deliberately keeps his gaze on Viper and says, casual, “Well, my face isn’t wrong.”

Ronan scoffs. “Your life would be boring without us, Parrish.”

“It’d be quieter.”

“Would you ever do anything besides study?”

“I definitely wouldn’t have gotten dragged into fighting that chimera.”

“Or bringing those dragon’s eggs back.”

“Or that mess with the merpeople.”

“You never would have gone to Noah’s Deathday Party.”

“I’d spend far less time in the Forbidden Forest.”

“You probably wouldn’t be responsible for getting two separate Defense Against the Dark Arts professors sacked.”

“Probably would.”

Ronan grins at him, and Adam grins back, and Viper seems to want to get in on it because she comes scrambling over to scamper up Adam's arm.

Sure, now you want me, Adam thinks but isn't feeling quite petty enough to say aloud.

It must be pretty easy to see on his face, though, because Ronan says, “She’s just spoiled, she wants the both of us.”

It gives Adam an odd warm sort of feeling, which is stupid. “How do you think Blue and Gansey are doing?” he asks, just for something to say.

“You know. Actively turning their bowtruckle into the nerdiest, weirdest history-buff-slash-social-justice-warrior ever. Any creature left in their care has gotta be destined to run away as a teen to Wales to make major archaeological discoveries and abolish wizarding oppression over other magical beings at the same time.”

Adam laughs. “And what do you imagine for Viper?”

“Obviously, she’s already a badass. With my tendency for disruption and your blind ambition, she’ll probably end up talking all the other bowtruckles into banding together and rising up against every other magical creature that’s higher than them on the food chain until she reigns supreme over her forest of choice. She’ll get so powerful the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures will try to step in but she’ll take them down too. She’ll be too dangerous and too clever to ever be stopped.”

Currently Viper is entertaining herself by using Adam’s arm as a slide, running up it and then sliding back down again and again.

“I could see that,” Adam deadpans.

Ronan nods along, unphased. “Just give her time.”

They speculate like this for a while, laughing more than their somewhat asinine imaginings really call for, probably because they’re both tired, until they hear footsteps coming up the stairs and they both freeze. Viper, who’s upped her game to rolling down Adam’s arm like a child rolling down a hill, goes comically still where she’s splayed in the blankets. Ronan’s lips twitch up, just a little, and Adam feels a surprising burst of affection for the both of them underneath the dread of possibly being caught.

They’re both still wearing their rings, though, and when Henry Cheng, the Ravenclaw Prefect assigned this week’s night rounds, arrives at the top of the Astronomy Tower, he spends a long moment looking around.

Henry is far from the worst person who could’ve come up. Adam’s known of Henry Cheng for a while - apparently his end-of-final-exams parties were legendary - but he only really started getting to know Henry last year when he became a Prefect alongside Gansey and Blue. Henry is many things, but a snitch is decidedly not one of them.

“How curious,” Henry says to seemingly no one in particular. “Since I don’t see anyone here, I can only assume that these blankets summoned themselves. Far be it from me to interrupt them.”

They wait a few beats in silence as Henry descends the stairs, and then Ronan lets out a disgusted, exasperated sort of breath. “Where the hell are you, you little turd? You’re supposed to warn us if anyone’s close!” he calls out to Chainsaw.

Chainsaw is never too far from Ronan, but she's also a contrary creature and seems to think it’s beneath her dignity to stay too close if Ronan actually tells her to. She’s probably circling around the nearby towers, a good sort of compromise. Regardless, once she’s decided to do something, she prides herself on a job well done, and Adam thinks that there’s very little chance she was unaware that somebody was coming. If she didn’t alert them, it was because she’d now spent too much time around Henry to see him as a security threat. Ronan must know this better than Adam.

“Well shit.” Ronan lets himself fall back into the blankets and sighs again. “I’m probably gonna end up having to give him a ring too sooner or later, huh?”

“He’s not so bad. It’s not his fault you hate all newcomers on sight,” Adam says, hypocritically, because he also can’t help getting a little jealous over how quickly Gansey and Blue and Henry had taken to one another at Prefect meetings.

“He’s obnoxious as shit.”

Adam shrugs. “You say that now. I'm sure you had worse to say about me when we first started hanging out.”

Ronan makes a derisive sound. “Even in the very beginning I liked you better than I like Cheng now.”

“No you didn't,” Adam says, because he doesn't see how that could be true.

“Okay,” Ronan responds flatly, and somehow the lack of opposition says far more than a simple disagreement could.

You did? Adam wants to ask, but isn’t going to.

He’d always assumed that Ronan started off approximately 93 percent hating him, with the remainder made up of Ronan having little choice but to try to tolerate him for Gansey’s sake. Then, grudgingly, over time, the percentage of hatred faded into the percentage of toleration as they got used to each other in a compulsory sort of way. He’d always assumed that the same was true of himself, too, in regard to Ronan.

But really, he knows that this isn’t a fair judgment. He feels both at once like he’s been told something he already knows and also like he needs to reconsider every single time Ronan’s ever spoken to him.

At least some of that must show on his face, because Ronan cocks an eyebrow and says, “What?”

Adam isn't prepared to explain, so instead he says, “I was remembering the time you wailed Skovron in the side of the head with your broom.”

“He deserved it,” Ronan says easily.

It had been in their second year, when Adam had just started thinking of Gansey as a friend and Ronan as an unfortunate string attached. Skovron had called Adam a mudblood. No matter how many times Adam heard it, and he heard it more times than he could count, it always managed to carry the sting of you don't belong here like the slice of a blade, because for all that Adam knew it was prejudiced bullshit, intellectually, he couldn't help fearing that they weren't altogether wrong in thinking that someone as unremarkable as him was never truly meant to experience a world of magic. Gansey and Ronan had happened to be passing, at precisely the wrong time, on their way back from flying. (Adam's never seen the appeal, he much prefers his feet solidly on the ground, but Gansey often took Ronan flying. Adam had remembered thinking it was a little like taking a dog for walks.) Adam had been badly embarrassed to have an audience, they were the very last people Adam wanted there to witness Skovron being a bigoted asshole as usual, and he’d been intending to ignore the entire situation with the typical cool distance he was well-practiced in, but Ronan wasted no time in getting a good grip on his broom and swinging like his broom was a bat and Skovron’s head was the ball.

“Ronan was defending me, he’s my friend,” Adam had told Professor Milo, the Charms professor, in the aftermath, after Milo had ordered Gansey to walk Skovron to the Hospital Wing. Adam had remembered finding it odd that, saying the words, it didn't feel like a lie.

“Perhaps you should look for some more suitable friends, Mister Parrish,” Milo had told him with wry exasperation.

Adam remembered concentrating very carefully on not letting it show on his face exactly how helpful he found that advice.

Even so, Professor Milo had given Ronan two weeks of detention, but he’d given Skovron three.

I wasn’t the one who slipped a jawbinding potion into his pumpkin juice,” Ronan says with a flash of a grin.

“It was a preventative measure,” Adam answers loftily. “I figured if I acted before you, it’d keep you from slamming his face into a boiling cauldron of something worse.”

“You’ve got a vicious mind, Parrish,” Ronan tells him, grin growing sharper. “I'd've let my bloodroot potion cool off.”

Adam hadn’t brewed that jawbinding potion or gone through with actually putting it in Skovron’s drink because Skovron had called him more slurs. He’d done it because after Ronan put Skovron in the Hospital Wing, Skovron had it out for Ronan, even worse than usual, even though he’d gotten fixed up in a matter of minutes and was none the worse for wear. Adam hadn’t wanted Ronan retaliating and getting caught. At the time, Adam had figured Ronan had lashed out at Skovron partially for Adam’s sake, but the easier part to focus on was that Ronan would take any excuse to let out some aggression. In the same vein, Adam had retaliated against Skovron partially because he wanted to get Skovron’s attention off Ronan so Ronan wouldn’t get hurt, but the easier part to focus on was that he’d be damned if Ronan got himself thrown into another how many weeks of detention after the effort Adam had put in to successfully talk Professor Milo down.

Looking back on it, that had been the start of the two of them becoming friends, really, that incident with Skovron. Ronan had offered to help Adam with hexes and curses and other defensive magic, although it’d taken Adam till third year to take him up on it.

One of the things that Adam admired most about Ronan was that Ronan, more so than any other student Adam encountered at Hogwarts, was truly, effortlessly magic. He understood magic on a fundamental level, could make it work for him, in a way that Adam, for all his hours and hours of study and diligent practice, could never hope to match. When he worked with Ronan though, he could get pretty close.

They didn’t practice with Gansey. It wasn’t the sort of thing they wanted him knowing about. Gansey could never in good conscience condone experimenting with spells, whose effects weren’t tested and could be harmful. Academically speaking, Adam sympathized with this position, but practically speaking...Adam had never found anything so gratifying as finding ways to make spells his own. Creating something new. That was magic.

Together, the two of them have a real knack for experimental spellwork. Adam likes to combine what he’s learned from Herbology with his spells. He has an affinity for thorns; Ronan has the scars from Adam’s learning process. He doesn’t seem to mind, he seems proud of them. Ronan doesn’t need any particular affinity. He can do whatever he sets his mind to.

Adam’s considering all this, all the things he tries not to reflect on too closely because he knows it’ll open up worlds of complications, as Viper nestles down in the blankets midway between the both of them and falls asleep between one drowsy blink and the next.

“I could take her back,” Adam says quietly, but he doesn’t want to. Partially because he’s worried what may happen if Viper wakes up and Ronan isn’t there, but. He’s a little surprised by how much of him just wants to stay like this.

“You could. You’re good with her too; you know that right?” Ronan says.

Adam doesn’t agree, but Ronan’s tone brooks no argument, so he ends up just kind of shrugging halfheartedly.

Ronan’s eyebrows arch. “You think I’m lying to you?”

“I know you’re not,” Adam exhales, reaching a hand out to flatten some of the blankets. “I just. I don’t think I’m the type of person...I don’t know how to ca- to be responsible, for someone else’s well-being. I can barely manage my own well-being.” And shit, he really needs to get to sleep, if he’s actually attempting to explain this aloud. Attempting being the keyword.

“What do you mean you’re ‘not the type of person’, Adam?” Ronan asks, like he genuinely doesn’t already know. Can’t tell.

“I mean -” Adam gives a frustrated shake of his head, fatigue making him inelegant. “You know my parents were shitty, right?”

“I could guess,” Ronan says, watching him. Ronan had to pick up on some of it: the way Adam never mentions his parents; the way he sometimes flinches if someone touches him unexpectedly especially on his left side; the way Professor Poldma, the Divination professor, helped set him up with a flat above the sweet shop she owned in Diagon Alley so that Adam never has to go home. It just isn’t the sort of thing they talk about.

“My dad was shitty, and a drunk, and he had a temper, and he liked to take it out on me. And I’m always gonna have at least some of that in me. That’s always gonna be part of me.” It’s odd, how it comes out so matter-of-fact, like he’s talking about how car parts fit together on an assembly line.

“Parrish,” Ronan says. “You’re what you make yourself, and I know you know that already. You’re clever as all hell, you’re the best student in this fucking school, and you know you’re bound to be Head Boy next year. You’re always there for Gansey and Blue, even when it costs you house points or gets you a detention or you just don’t have enough time to make that Transfiguration essay as excessively detailed as humanly possible. You’re out here with me even though you could have just stayed in your dorm and told Viper to shut up. She adores you and your father can drown slowly in a fucking bog.”

It’s a very Ronan-Lynch-like amalgam of aggression and affection that Adam doesn’t quite know how to respond to. It’s strange, the awareness that things seem to be shifting steadily between them; but a good kind of strange.

Adam thinks Ronan can tell, roughly, what Adam is thinking, but he doesn’t push. He looks up at the night sky and says, “Would it help your need for overachievement if we took some time to do a little studying?”

Adam tries not to look too amazed by the offer. Ronan is good at Astronomy. That’s an understatement. There’s not a whole lot left for the Professor to teach him. It’s not the type of thing you could ever get him to share in class on pain of torture, but when they work together on homework Ronan will casually drop facts about the Valles Marineris or the water vapor geysers on Enceladus like it’s nothing.

“My mom loved the stars. My dad did, too. Or he was just good at bullshitting cuz he knew my mom liked it. But my mom loved the stars,” Ronan tells him, voice low, eyes still cast upward.

Adam knows vaguely that Ronan’s father was killed just before Ronan started at Hogwarts and his mother has been in St Mungo’s ever since, unresponsive. He’s rarely ever heard Ronan bring them up, though. Another one of things they don't really talk about. He supposes this is a night for rethinking old boundaries.

Adam looks over at Ronan. Arches an eyebrow. “Would it help your need for pandemonium if we try to summon some starlight down here?”

Ronan’s grin is something fierce. Together, they get pretty close to generating their own small galaxy. Adam creates thousands of tiny spheres of light, all in different hues of nebulous silvers and golds, and Ronan does some inspired spellwork that makes the spheres flare so that the air around them glows softly, throwing off hazy wisps of red and green and violet. Like their own version of the Northern Lights. They keep at it until they can’t anymore and they fall asleep right there on the blankets.

They wake up hours later, the lights they created all faded away in the early morning sun, and do a quick job of spelling away any evidence that they were up here. Ronan tucks a yawning Viper into his inside pocket, and they stroll casually down to the Great Hall for breakfast like nothing is amiss and they just happened to be getting an early start to their day. It’s something of a miracle they weren’t caught.

After breakfast, Ronan goes to bring Viper back to Professor Malory before classes start, as Professor Malory had instructed. Adam doesn’t quite know how to say goodbye, so he cups her gently in his hands and says, “we’ll see you again,” before handing her carefully back to Ronan. He’s sure they’ll be able to visit her, before or after class. He’s a little surprised by the pang of sadness that he feels anyway, and he worries that it’ll be worse for Ronan, so he figures it’s best to let Ronan have a moment to himself with her as he walks her back.

Adam spends most of his morning classes trying not to worry too badly about how she’s doing. Then, as he’s setting up his cauldron for Potions, Ronan Lynch saunters in like he hasn’t cut the last three or four Potions lessons in a row and sits down beside Adam.

“Mister Lynch, how nice of you to join us,” Professor Pinter drawls. “But since you’ve missed the last several classes, I’m not entirely sure there’s still a place for you.”

Ronan says nothing, but casts an exaggerated glance from Adam to the potion’s equipment on the desk to his own bag as if to say, already found one.

Pinter turns his gaze on Adam. “Mister Parrish, are you sure you want to work with a partner with such low academic standards?”

Adam knows Ronan’s only avoided being officially kicked out of this class because of some very probable meddling on Gansey’s part, and Ronan’s sheer inherent skill. Potions has always been one of Adam’s strongest subjects from the very start of classes in his first year, because it's less about magic and more about patience and focus. But Ronan is something else. He could skim the instructions and then largely decide to ignore them and just do things his own way, and still make the potion well enough to rival anyone else in the class, even Adam. It’s infuriating as it is impressive.

Skill notwithstanding, Adam knows Professor Pinter is tired of Ronan’s flagrant lack of regard for his schooling, and would like an excuse to throw Ronan out. It’s probably going to cost Adam at least a little of Pinter’s goodwill, but Adam genuinely couldn’t bring himself to care if he tries. “I’ll work with him,” Adam says, quietly but clearly.

Pinter merely shakes his head, heavy with silent disapproval, and sweeps away toward the front of the room as he tells the class to open their textbooks.

Ronan’s smirking, and Adam’s about to tell him to stop when Adam catches a flash of green and has the inane thought that Ronan’s got a leaf stuck to his robes.

But - he catches a quick glint of brown eyes before Ronan gives his robes a quick yank and the green disappears - “You kept her?” Adam hisses under his breath.

Ronan gives him a look like he’s barely managing not to roll his eyes and also maybe like he’s a little bit self-conscious. “I’m in the process of establishing custody.”

Adam blinks, taking this in. If he were Professor Malory and was going to trust a student with caring for one of his creatures in a permanent capacity, he supposes it would be Ronan. He finds himself smiling a little.

Ronan smiles a little too, just the faintest curve of his lips. Then he says, like he doesn’t really care, “Guess you’ll have to come over the Barns sometime this summer.”

Adam nods. “Guess you’ll have to come over my flat sometime too.”

They end up still grinning at each other for another heartbeat or two. Then they both realize they need to get it together, and they start working on their potion.

They get top marks. Their footsteps fall easily into sync as they leave class together, and somehow it gives Adam the feeling that maybe this time next year he’ll be looking back on this, when they got Viper in a Care of Magical Creatures assignment, as the start of something, too.