Adam Parrish was a studious creature if nothing else. Everything he had ever accomplished was a result of his ferocious tenacity and unquellable hunger to rise up from the unforgiving ground which he’d come from. He had been born into nothing but hateful words and angry fists, and knew from a young age that if he ever wanted to become something bigger than the shadows he grew up in, he’d have to fight for it.
When he was eleven years old, his life changed forever. He received a letter, which he could recall being excited about even before he opened it with trembling fingers, because he’d never had any mail addressed directly to him. The letter told him that he’d been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. At the time it felt like a shining light sent directly from the heavens, which he’d never had reason to believe in before. This letter provided him not only a way to get out of his father's house for the whole school year and the opportunity to study magic, but more than anything it gave him the first assurance of his life that he was something different, in a good way. He was special. When he boarded the train for the first time at Kings Cross Station, he knew that his destination would afford him the chance to grow into a man that would not resemble the boy he had been when he’d left his father's house that very morning.
Going to Hogwarts was the sanctuary he’d always dreamt of as a child, he loved it so fiercely it sent a dull ache through his ribs. He loved the grand stone archways, the labyrinth of staircases, the unique cast of ghosts, the way magic seeped into every aspect of Hogwarts life. He loved his clean crisp uniform, the abundant meals, he loved the beautiful sprawling library, and the whispers of secrets that floated through the halls. However, there was a prejudice among the wizarding world, just as there was in the muggle world, one that he’d had to deal with his whole life. So he did what he did best. He kept his head down and quietly became the brightest wizard of his age. That was the Adam Parrish way. To fight his way through quietly but defiantly. Through intellect instead of violence, as he’d had his fair share of violence and didn’t want to use it as a means to escape it. He studied and studied, he was relentless in his mission to prove himself and moreover to prove everyone else wrong. Adam Parrish was more than the dirt he’d come from, he was capable of great things.
He expected to have to fight tooth and nail for every scrap, he was used to working twice as hard as everyone else with half as much to show for it. It wasn’t fair and he didn’t like it, but he dealt with it. What he had not anticipated in the slightest was Richard Campbell Gansey III and the vibrantly mismatched company he kept. To Adam’s utter surprise, Gansey took a liking to him, and soon enough Adam found himself surrounded by a group of friends for the first time in his life. They were loud, annoying, and reckless but also kind, loyal and golden. Adam loved them so much it frightened him.
They spent their days wandering about the castle and trying to unlock its age old secrets, messing about in business that was not theirs to mess in. They traipsed around the grounds after curfew and had snowball fights at Christmas. They bewitched each others belongings and hid sweets in the pockets of their robes to discreetly pass between them during their particularly dull History of Magic lectures.
Adam loved his friends, deeply and truly. So much so, that it sometimes frightened him. He couldn't help, however, from feeling utterly separate from them sometimes. They all seemed so real and sure of themselves. Sometimes, Adam could barely distinguish between being awake and being asleep. He felt like he was the only one of them that felt the pressure to succeed, like it was cement coating his lungs. They all did magic because it was in their blood, it was natural for them. Adam did magic as a way of clawing his way out from under the shadow of his past.
Adam loved his friends, but at the present moment they were severely testing his patience. The five of them were sat in the library under the pretense of studying, however the only one even looking at the work sprawled out before them was Adam, the rest were bickering about where they should explore next. None of the options were permitted to students, but when it came to Richard Campbell Gansey III, there were exceptions to all rules.
“We’ve been to the South Tower seven hundred bloody times, Gansey. Do you think some ancient evidence is going to just fucking pop up like a bloody pigmy sprout on a fucking warm summer's day?” Ronan said while aggressively folding a bit of parchment into a tiny paper raven.
Blue rolled her eyes at Ronan’s derisive tone. Gansey did not roll his eyes, perhaps because he was raised to be polite above all else or perhaps because he’d become immune to Ronan’s Ronaness due to extended exposure. Either way he simply sighed and turned to Blue.
“Where do you suggest then, Jane.”
Blue rolled her eyes yet again at Gansey’s nickname, but Adam could tell it was only for pretense because her gaze was soft when it landed back on Gansey's face. “I think we should just ask Noah, it feels wrong to do all this behind his back.”
Blue, of course, was right. Gansey had spent most of his Hogwarts career studying the castle’s history instead of its classes. His current obsession was in solving their friend, Noah’s, death. Adam was not particularly interested in Gansey’s newest quest, because in his opinion it was an invasion of a past that Noah clearly did not want to discuss with them. As far as Gansey had figured, Noah hadn’t just died, he’d been murdered. Adam was rather acquainted with the need to leave the past behind and understood Noah’s need to not have his pain rehashed. Blue agreed with him on this, which was convenient because it meant he needn’t voice his thoughts to Gansey on the matter because Blue would do it for him and she’d say it with more flair.
Gansey and Blue began to bicker again and Adam tuned them out. He turned his attention to Ronan who had finished folding his paper raven. He raised his palm and the bird promptly soared out of his hand and disappeared somewhere in the Herbology section. Ronan was annoyingly good at that sort of thing. Casual displays of whimsical magic. It frustrated Adam to no end. Adam would spend hours dissecting charms and practicing them over and over in order to perfect them. Ronan, on the other hand, would be able to perform them without so much as cracking the spine of a book. It was beyond irritating.
Ronan looked up just as Adam flicked his gaze back down to his Potions homework. He was supposed to be writing an essay on the versatile healing properties of the Aloe Snail but he couldn’t keep his focus. His thoughts kept drifting back to his current predicament, while also trying to maintain a cool enough composure so that the others wouldn’t get suspicious, or even worse, worried. The last thing he needed was for Gansey to go all mother hen on him.
He hadn’t realized he’d completely zoned out until Ronan kicked him under the table. He whipped his head up to glare at Ronan, who managed to maintain a bored expression even with one eyebrow raised inquisitively. Adam looked up to see all his friends looking at him expectantly. He realized he must have missed a direct question.
“We’re going to head down to the Dining Hall now. Are you coming?” Blue said as she packed up her colourful ink pots.
“Oh, uh, no. I’ve still got work to do.”
“Come on Parrish Man, it’s Friday. You’ve got all weekend to do that.” Henry chimed in. Adam tried not to noticeably bristle at the assumption that he would have plenty of time to waste like the rest of them. “Plus a little bird told me that they’re serving those lemon squares you love for dessert tonight.” He said with a sing song voice and a wink.
Adam did love the lemon squares. But he was also Adam Parrish and Adam Parrish was not swayed to abandon his work by something as meager as pastries.
“No you guys go on. I’ll come down when I’m finished.” They all knew that he wouldn’t, but they also knew him well enough not to press him. So they smiled, finished gathering up their things and waved goodbye. Soon enough Adam was alone in the library trying and failing to focus on the page in front of him. After re-reading the same line three times, he gave up and let his mind wander back to his predicament.
He wasn’t sure if the others had noticed, but if they hadn’t he knew they would soon enough. And once they noticed it was only a matter of time before the the rest of his classmates would too. Once his classmates figured it out, the whole school would know and soon enough all the work that Adam had put into building himself into the strong, intelligent wizard he presented himself to be would come crumbling down to reveal the small, pathetic boy from the rumors he knew they’d all heard. All because he couldn’t produce a stupid Patronus charm.
He’d practiced tirelessly and already tried all of his best memories. He tried the day he got his letter, the first time he’d met Gansey, the first time he’d gone to stay with Blue over Christmas holiday, when Slytherin won house cup. None of it had worked.
It was weighing heavily on him because their O.W.L.S were fast approaching and he knew that he would need to produce one for his final Defense Against the Dark Arts examination. It was just his luck that the one charm that couldn’t be mathematically dissected would be the one that would determine his grade. Moreover, when he thought too hard on the why of his situation, his chest would clench and his skin would start to itch. The painful, simple truth of the matter was; Adam Parrish did not have a happy enough memory to produce a Patronus charm. This fact bothered him more than his inability to do the spell itself.
He’d tried to find one measly memory that was untainted but had come up empty over and over again. He hadn’t even bothered with his memories from before he came to Hogwarts, he knew there was nothing even remotely strong enough in there. But he was most frustrated by his inability to draw up a strong enough memory from his time at Hogwarts. He was sure that these passed years had been the happiest of his life and it stung to know that by some stupid magical standard, they still weren’t happy enough. They were never enough, it was never enough, he was never enough.
God, he was so tired.
He rubbed his hands over his face and allowed himself one last drawn out sigh before he pushed his self-loathing to the back burner of his mind with practiced ease. He picked up his quill and got back to work. The sun had set in the window behind him and the floating candles had illuminated above him by the time he finished his work. His neck and back were aching from being hunched over the table for so long and his stomach felt pathetically empty after only allowing himself the time to eat breakfast that morning before hitting the books.
He packed up his potions essay, arithmancy equations, and half finished divination homework before he quietly pushed in his chair and headed back to his dormitory. His eyes were bleary with fatigue and his mind was back to obsessing over that bloody Patronus charm and so he didn't notice a figure approaching to his left side. Suddenly there was a hand on his sleeve, his heart stuttered as he flinched away. He turned to see Ronan Lynch, undisturbed by his reaction and looking like every teacher's worst nightmare, with his purposefully disheveled uniform topped with a leather jacket and scowl like a purebred predator. Adam glared at him.
“What?” He snapped rather harshly over the cacophony of his own heart still hammering in his ears. Ronan knew that Adam was deaf in his left ear so either he’d walked up on that side just to be a dick or he’d simply forgotten. Adam couldn’t decide which possibility hurt more.
Ronan didn’t say anything, just held out his hand. It was only then that Adam noticed he was holding an inordinate amount of lemon squares stacked carefully on a rumpled napkin. Adam’s frazzled brain short circuited for half a second. The sharp lines that made out Ronan’s face in the half lit corridors and the delicate icing atop the pale yellow pastries contrasted so deeply Adam almost laughed. Instead his mind snatched at the flutter that erupted in his stomach as his brain registered the gesture as kind. It was kind despite Ronan’s attempts to cover it up by gruffly shoving the cakes at Adam’s chest.
Ronan had mastered the art of doing nice things for Adam without making it seem like he was doing nice things for Adam. He would leave no room for Adam to infer his actions to be charity or pity. He would just do them and ask nothing in return. Not even acknowledgement. Adam tried not to think too hard on its implications. He knew that if he described Ronan as kind to anyone else they would laugh in his face. But Adam knew that underneath his cruel tongue, leather bands and razor sharp glare, Ronan’s heart was soft and bleeding just like his. A fact that rang truer with every minute that they spent together.
He took the cakes and nodded as he turned and continued his trek back to the Slytherin dormitories. He was only mildly surprised when Ronan followed alongside him. They didn’t speak but then again there wasn’t much to say. Adam wasn’t sure exactly why Ronan had sought him out to deliver some pastries and he didn’t have the energy to try to figure it out. If Ronan had something he wanted to say, he’d say it in his own time. If it turned out he in fact had nothing to say, that was fine too. Adam was content with walking next to each other in silence, pretending not to notice when their hands brushed or when their shoulders bumped.
As they walked Adam munched on the lemon squares. They were soft and sweet and shockingly still warm. Adam suspected it was due to a warming charm, though he couldn’t be sure if it had been one of the elves in the kitchen or if Ronan had done it himself. The lemon squares were delicious and he was suddenly incredibly glad that he hadn’t missed out on them. They continued their walk in silence as Adam tried not to make his hunger too noticeable. He supposed that Ronan could tell either way, he usually could. Adam didn’t like to flatter himself with the thought of why Ronan paid such close attention to him. But allowed himself the indulgence of letting that thought warm his insides as they descended the stairs. Once they made it to ground level Ronan stopped walking.
“I’m going to go out flying.” He stated it like an open ended question, but Adam wasn’t awake enough to know what he was asking.
“It’s pretty late.” He said instead.
Ronan shrugged but didn’t turn away, which meant he still had something he wanted to say. They stared at each other for a moment, Adam drank in his features. He looked sharper at night, with the dim lighting illuminating all his planes and edges making his blue eyes seem even brighter than usual. Ronan broke eye contact and looked out the arching windows to their right.
“I can wait here, if you want to go down and drop off your sixty pounds of books.” He said it like it didn’t matter either way. Adam knew better.
“What makes you think I want to go out flying with you?” He said just to be difficult, because that’s the way they always were with each other. Difficult.
Ronan shrugged again and for a moment Adam thought he wouldn’t say anything else. “You just seem like you’ve got a lot on your mind.” Another noncommittal shrug. “Flying might help.”
It struck Adam, not for the first time, that Ronan knew him. Knew him in a way that the others didn’t, in a way that he was sure no one would ever know him. But then again, Ronan Lynch never did adhere to anyone’s expectations.
“Just give me a minute.” Adam turned and made his way down into the Slytherin common room and then to his dormitory. He gently folded the napkin around the remaining two lemon squares and placed them in the top drawer of his bedside table. He gingerly set his second hand books back into his trunk and laid his messenger bag full of quills and parchment on top of it. As he grabbed his scarf and robe, two of his bunk mates came in talking softly. They nodded at each other before he quietly slipped back out of the room. He tried not to draw any attention as he walked back through the common room, seeing as it was nearly curfew. He was good at that sort of thing, making himself nearly invisible.
He knew none of them would care enough to ask him where he was headed and even if they did they certainly wouldn’t care enough to try to stop him. Slytherins were fiercely loyal to their own kind and took the saying ‘snitches get stitches’ rather literally.
When he returned back to the main floor he found Ronan exactly where he’d left him, except now he had a broom in his hand. It was sleek, black and probably worth more money than anything Adam had ever touched (with the exception of Gansey and all of his ridiculous Gansey Gadgets™).
Tonight, the moon was nearly full and cast an eerie spotlight into the corridor. Ronan looked at Adam a moment before he turned and climbed up onto the wide stone window sill facing the night. He cut a stark figure into the window, looking every bit of his sharklike reputation. Ronan Lynch, blade of a boy. Untouchable, in a way that was synonymous with danger. It was strange how ill suited that description seemed to Adam after years of knowing Ronan, followed by months of knowing him. Adam took his time looping his soft green and silver scarf around his neck and firmly doing up his robes. He then climbed up behind Ronan and swung his leg over the broom. Adam barely had time to grab hold of Ronan’s robes before he kicked off the window sill and sent them soaring off into the black.
Ronan rode a broom like he did everything else, with wholehearted ferocity. He sent them looping up around the North Tower and swinging through the Grand Archway out toward the lake before Adam even managed to get a firm grip around his middle. By the time Adam caught his breath again, they were gliding over the Black Lake, the moon lighting up the its surface like a mirror. Adam looked down and saw himself in a sharper focus than he could ever remember seeing. He could see the lack of sleep beneath his eyes, the stress of the approaching O.W.Ls in his hunched spine. He could see the adrenaline of flying in the taut line of his shoulders, the exhilaration of fresh air in the easy set of his mouth. He could see the pain of his past in the line between his eyebrows but he could also see the bright lights of his future in his wide pupils. He could see the pleasant confusion of Ronan’s closeness in the clasp of his hands around his middle. He could see himself so clearly it sent a jolt through his system and he abruptly felt more awake than he had in months.
His eyes slipped closed as he desperately tried to bottle this feeling. This feeling of being known by someone else, by Ronan. But also the feeling of maybe, finally, understanding himself. Of being able to look at himself and see more than just where he’s been and where he wants to be, and feeling the excruciating distance between those two points. But being able to see where he is right now. Who he is right now. Right now he’s a boy, with magic in his veins. Right now he’s a boy, with ambition too big for his body. Right now he is a boy, gliding over a like with a friend how knows him oh so well.
When he opened his eyes again and looked back down at the lake, his reflection was just as blurry and fragmented as it should be considering the slight ripple in the water. They were merely a smudge of shadow above a moonlit lake. The feeling of calm he’d felt a moment before reseeded and his fatigue returned. The familiar tingle of anxious energy began to seep back into his bones and his brain began to re-scramble itself with thundering questions; why, why, why.
He sighed heavily and let his cheek rest against the space between Ronan’s shoulder blades. Adam could feel his body heat radiating through his leather jacket as he gazed out at the sliding landscape. He let the warm comfort of Ronan dispel his existential anxieties, at least for the night. Surely they would return when there was no more boyish comforts to be had, but for now he wanted to be as still as possible. He let his eyes slip closed again and tried to remember the feeling of wakefulness he’d felt only moments before, but the memory was hollow. It was like picking up an empty bottle of soda, tipping it back and trying to taste it. It was just the shell of the feeling, not the parts that really counted. He was the shell of a boy, missing his essential parts. Or rather his essential parts had been beaten and broken beyond repair.
After flying around for a few minutes or hours or years, (time was a tricky thing) Ronan aggressively glided down to a clearing on one of the minuscule islands that dotted the Black Lake. Once they were back on solid ground Adam laid down on the cool grass. The night was still and quiet above him. Ronan flopped gracefully onto the ground to his right. They laid in silence for a while, gazing upward at the glorious array of constellations strewn above them. Ronan inhaled like he was going to speak, paused, and exhaled loudly. Adam could almost feel the words building in his chest, trying to arrange themselves in a way that would translate properly to speech. Ronan had always struggled with expressing himself in words, preferring to use actions instead. Usually aggressive, loud and destructive actions. But Adam was one of few in the world that was privy to Ronan’s softer, warmer and kinder actions.
Finally, Ronan rolled onto his side to face Adam, Adam kept his eyes trained on the sky and waited.
“Do you wanna go flying?” He asked.
That was not what Adam had been expecting. He turned to face Ronan and quirked an eyebrow.
“Isn't that what we’re doing?”
He watched Ronan’s eyebrows pull together. Anyone else would assume he was angry but Adam could tell he was just trying to find his words.
“No, Parrish. Do you want to fly?”
Adam’s tired brain was already growing frustrated with this almost-conversation and simply didn’t have the energy to connect all of Ronan’s dots.
“What are you talking about?”
Ronan made a low sound in the back of his throat before yanking himself off the ground and storming over to where his broom was propped against a tree. Adam sighed deeply before pulling himself back onto his feet as Ronan stomped back over. He stuck the broom toward Adams chest.
“Parrish. Just get on the fucking broom, would you?”
Adam rolled his eyes and got on the fucking broom. He hadn’t ridden a broom since he’d gone deaf in one ear, his poor balance making it too dangerous. He’d never coveted flying the way Ronan did, never played Quidditch like the rest of his friends but it had still stung having to sit out. It stung that even at Hogwarts, there were still shadows of his father.
“Okay now kick off, but do it fucking gently.” Ronan said.
“Ronan, I can’t-”
“Yes you can. You’re Adam goddamn Parrish. You can fucking do anything.” Ronan covered up the compliment with a glare. “Now, do you wanna be a whiny piece of shit or do you wanna fly.”
“Dick.” Adam huffed before kicking off the ground.
Apparently he kicked too hard because suddenly he was rocketing upward. Air caught in his lungs and he could hear Ronan let out a string of profanities. He was about fifteen feet up before the broom started to careen back to the ground. Adam had no natural instincts when it came to flying and any skills that he’d learned in his first few years at Hogwarts had been forgotten. So he simply closed his eyes and waited for impact.
It never came.
He opened his eyes and found himself safely hovering with his feet a few inches off the ground. Beside him Ronan stood with his wand outstretched, they locked eyes for a moment before Ronan pocketed his wand and Adam dropped back onto his feet.
“That wasn't very fucking gently.” Ronan smirked.
Adam rolled his eyes, but his muscles felt looser. He kicked off again and hovered above the ground and smirked. Ronan flashed him a sharp smile.
When Adam returned to the common room that night, he found it empty. He paused a moment to make sure no one was coming before pulling out his wand. He thought back to the stillness he’d felt as they'd flown over the lake, how awake he’d felt. He closed his eyes and tried to recall that peacefulness.
“Expecto Patronum.” He said.
Nothing happened. Embarrassed despite there being no witnesses, he hurriedly pocketed his wand and made his way up to his room.
Somehow learning to fly with Ronan, became woven into Adam’s routine. Every few days, after dinner (sometimes after curfew) Ronan would fly them out to their little island on the Black Lake and Adam would relearn the basics of flying.
At first, it was a bit tedious because Ronan wouldn’t let him do more than hover a few inches above the ground. But once he’d proven that there wouldn’t be a repeat of their first lesson it was pretty fun. Ronan proved to be a surprisingly good teacher. His instructions were always gruff and sprinkled with expletives, but he was patient when it mattered and teasing when it didn’t. Adam found himself looking forward to their impromptu lessons. After a long and grueling day, it unwound him. Adam had always loved learning new things. Recently he’d found that spark for learning had dampened a bit due to the pressure that rode on him succeeding. It was refreshing learning to fly because there was was nothing riding on it. It was just fun. Adam hadn’t done something just for fun in a long time.
It was also strangely empowering. Learning to fly again, after everything that had happened to him, felt like reclaiming a piece of himself that his father had stolen. It felt like building himself back up, like colouring in the missing parts. It felt like overcoming a barrier that he’d long ago accepted as impossible.
As Adam made his way to the Great Hall, his mind was reeling from the Defense Against the Dark Arts meeting he’d just finished. In a moment of desperation, after many, many failed attempts at producing a Patronus Charm, Adam had asked to meet with Professor Lawrence privately. The meeting had proved to be entirely unhelpful and had only served to make Adam more frustrated with his inability to produce the stupid charm.
While flying with Ronan was a great distraction from his stresses, it didn't actually solve anything. Adam still couldn’t produce a bloody patronus and he was running out of memories. Professor Lawrence had been going on and on about the symbolism of each patronus and how being able to produce one in its full form was the mark of a truly gifted wizard. They wouldn’t be expected to produce a fully formed patronus for their examinations, but Adam still hadn't even managed to get a wisp of white.
Upon stepping into the Great Hall, Adam was met with a flurry of excitement. Above him, blue and red banners were draped in celebration of today's Quidditch match. Ravenclaw and Gryffindor would face off for the top spot going into playoffs.
Adam had never been that invested in Quidditch, but all his friends went mental for it. Ronan and Blue were beaters for the Gryffindor team and Gansey was the seeker for the Ravenclaw team. Henry didn’t play but he was a thoroughly invested and passionate commentator.
Adam arrived at their table and found Blue, Ronan and Gansey already dressed in their gear. Blue was in the midst of drawing a detailed and rather unflattering sketch of Gansey being knocked off his broom by a bludger. Gansey rolled his eyes good naturedly before catching sight of Adam making his way over.
“Adam!” His smile was all straight white teeth and pure blooded charm. “Where were you?”
“Library.” He lied smoothly.
“Shocker.” Henry said. Adam tried not to glare.
“You’ll be at the game, won’t you?” Gansey asked.
“Of course.” He said, taking his seat to Ronan’s left.
Ronan passed him a mug of black coffee without so much as glancing his way. He tried to ignore the way his heart clenched, known. He loaded up a plate of scrambled eggs and toast as Blue gleefully finished off her masterpiece. With the flick of her wand the sketch became animated, showing Gansey being knocked off his broom on a continuous loop.
Henry laughed boisterously and Adam snorted. Ronan tapped the page with his wand and the image began to emit a high pitch squeak as Drawing-Gansey fell. Gansey sighed as Ronan threw his head back and cackled. The joyous sound reverberated through Adam’s ribs.
By the time they’d all finished eating, people were already filing out of the Great Hall and making their way to the Quidditch pitch. Ronan, Blue and Gansey each headed off to warm up with their respective teams while the rest of the student body headed to the stands. He and Henry headed to their usual seats, Henry at the front with the commentators mic and Adam just behind him. As they walked across the grounds, he was so caught up in his own thoughts of, patronus, expecto patronum, patronus, that he didn't realize that Henry had spoken until he nudged him gently with his elbow.
“I said, who are you going to root for this time?” He said without missing a beat. Adam knew that Henry noticed that he was particularly spaced out, but was kind enough not to comment on it. That was one of Adam’s favourite things about Henry, he knew when to just let things be.
“Oh, um. Both, I guess. “
Henry sighed dramatically. “Adam, Adam, Adam. You can’t simply root for both teams, that sucks all the fun out of it. Quidditch is about passion, vengeance and triumph.” He said, eyes sparking. “Every match is war, one team returns to the castle in glory and the other just returns to the castle. None of that can exist if you don’t pick a side!”
Adam didn’t think that even half of that statement was true but Henry was off again before he could say so.
“Personally I’m going for Ravenclaw. I promised Gansey I would after Blue made that drawing of him to try to salvage some of his ego. You should go for Gryffindor so we can raise the tensions in the stands. It'll be fun. Friendships hang in the balance of this match!”
Adam couldn’t help but laugh at Henry’s antics. But agreed that he would root for Gryffindor but promised no bloody vengeance or tensions.
Adam took his seat behind Henry and waited for the match to begin. He tried to let himself absorb the atmosphere of excitement and spirit around him, but found that his mind was unsurprisingly still frantically spiraling around the prospect of being unable to produce a patronus and failing his examination. Objectivity, he knew he was being ridiculous. He knew that the patronus charm was an incredibly tricky piece of magic and plenty of wizards were unable to produce one. But Adam also knew that he was a skilled enough wizard to perform the charm, he just didn't have the right memory for it yet.
Before he knew it, the players were flying out, the crowd was on its feet and the match was starting. He shoved all thoughts of patronus’ and memories and examinations onto the back burner of his mind and tried to focus on enjoying himself. Adam stood with the rest of the crowd and watched as blurs of blue and red dashed and swooped through the air. The energy in the stadium sizzled and popped, cheers and jeers echoed in his deaf ear.
As the match raced by before his eyes, he found himself unable to focus. But, instead of his mind being caught on his own stresses, his attention was wholeheartedly captured by a certain sharp edged beater. Ronan looked different when he rode a broom than he did when he was walking down the corridors or pretending to do his homework. On his broom, he looked entirely in his element. Like a man set free. His cheeks were rosy from the crisp spring wind and even from far away Adam could see the sparks behind his eyes. He was a boy alight. Not in the way people usually associated with Ronan. Not fireworks, hand grenades, and car fires. But like the sun. It was as if his very soul was shining with pure and unbridled joy. His smile was still sharp and dangerous, but it was twisted with mischief instead of malice. On his broom, on the Quidditch pitch Ronan looked more boy than anywhere else. The thought made something twist pleasantly in Adam’s chest.
The match continued to flash by. Gryffindor was absolutely throttling Ravenclaw. Adam had to cut the Ravenclaws some slack, their keeper had been badly injured in the match previous and hadn't recovered in time, so the Gryffindors were having no trouble at all scoring.
Two hours into the match and they were up by 125 points, the crowd in blue was noticeably deflated. However, Henry’s support and optimism was unwavering as his voice rang out over the pitch. He announced the play by plays with words of encouragement sprinkled throughout. Doing his “duty to the players” as he would put it. Adam didn’t need to be looking at Ronan to know that he was rolling his eyes at all of Henry’s Chins up Ravenclaw’s and The match isn't over until it’s over’s.
The Gryffindors were hardly even trying at this point. Blue and Ronan were knocking the bludgers back and forth, not even attempting to intercept the Ravenclaw chasers.
Adam looked up at Gansey, who had been hovering fifty feet over the pitch for the passed twenty minutes. Even fifty feet up, and losing by over a hundred points, he managed to look in control. His windswept hair looked artfully tousled and his posture was as poised and graceful as ever. He looked like an old renaissance painting of a knight atop his stead, gallantly overseeing his people. Adam tried not to hold it against him. As Henry announced yet another ten points for Gryffindor, Adam saw Gansey perk up.
He’s spotted the snitch.
As quickly as the thought had passed through Adam’s mind Gansey was off, tearing down toward the earth. He was a streak of blue weaving through the air. The Gryffindor seeker tried to catch up but the snitch was in Gansey's hand before anyone had time to react.
The Ravenclaws in the stands who, moments before, had been slouched and defeated were suddenly on their feet cheering. Adam clapped as the Ravenclaws around him waved scarves and flags.
“Richard Gansey has done it again! By catching the snitch he’s not only won the match for his team but he’s also secured his team the top slot going into the playoffs!” Henry called out. “Just when it seemed impossible, he’s done it! A truly fantastic match played by both teams! But, wow what an upset!”
Adam could practically see Henry restraining his bias.
Gryffindor had been up by so much that Ravenclaw had only ended up winning by 10 points. But hey, they didn’t call Gansey the greatest seeker of his generation for nothing. He was incredibly gifted at finding things precisely when he needed to. However, this fact made Blue and Ronan particularly bitter after the match.
“You literally stole that win! It was rightfully ours!” Blue was saying.
“The rules say that whichever team catches the snitch gets 150 points, it's not my fault that your team stopped trying halfway through the match.” Gansey said condescendingly.
Adam winced. He knew that Gansey wasn’t trying to be a condescending prat but he also knew that he’d just severely pissed off an already severely pissed off Blue Sargent. He held his breath as he waited for the outburst.
“I know how a fucking Quidditch match works, you insufferable prick!” Blue exclaimed.
“Come on, Bluebird.” Henry cut in, “Everyone loves an underdog story.”
“Easy for you to say, your team won.” She said, but the red tinge to her face was fading.
“I am a completely objective observer of the game. I’m equally supportive of both sides.”
Adam rolled his eyes without malice.
“You’re so full of shit, Cheng.” Ronan said with plenty of malice.
“Alright, that’s enough.” Gansey cut in. “We have other things to consider at the moment, other than whether or not Henry is full of shit.”
“Like what?” Adam asked.
Gansey’s eyes snapped to his face, not as if he’d forgotten that Adam was there, but as if he was thrilled to be reminded that Adam was still there. He hadn’t spoken in the last ten minutes, choosing to opt out of the Great Quidditch Debate, but the boyish excitement shining behind Gansey’s eyes told him that he just set off another spiel.
“Well, Adam, my dear friend, I’ve heard some whispers in the castles that there may or may not be a certain fantastical creature on the north side of the forest. “ He was grinning that manic scholar’s grin of his and Adam couldn’t fight the grin that spread across his own face.
They grabbed their brooms. Adam thought about trying to fly on his own, but decided that he didn’t want to embarrass himself tonight, and instead climbed on the back of Ronan’s. Their lessons had become semi-regular and Adam already felt that he was better. However, he also had the strangest feeling of wanting to keep his flying lessons with Ronan a secret. They felt private for some reason, like telling the others would spoil it in some way.
The five of them soared up and over the forest, the sun setting to the west painted the sky in luscious hues of gold and pink. This was technically against the rules. In fact it was against many rules. No one was worried because they all basked in second hand Richard Campbell Gansey III privilege.
They slid back to the ground at the base of one of the mountains that ringed the northern edge of the forest. The evening air that nipped at their noses still carried remnants of the winter chill, but the lush greenery around them promised the sweet kiss of spring. They dismounted and Gansey led the way through the trees. He walked with the confidence of a man on his home turf. Adam knew that he didn’t actually know where he was going, but he still managed to make wandering look purposeful. Gansey had wanted to keep which fantastical creature they were looking for a secret, so naturally Blue and Henry were berating him with their wildrest guesses.
Gansey just shook his head an easy smile playing at his lips.
“A unicorn.” Ronan said.
They all turned to look at him, but his gaze was fixed just to their right. Adam followed his gaze and couldn't disguise his sharp intake of breath. There, on the other side of the clearing, with the golden light of the setting sun playing across its hide, was a unicorn.
“Yes, Ronan.” Gansey said softly, “A unicorn.”
“Merlin’s beard.” Henry whispered.
Blue was the first to snap out of her daze. She took a step forward and her foot crunched on the foliage. The unicorn took a nervous step backward. Blue froze, her eyes wide and shining. She took another tentative step forward, this time the unicorn did not shy away. They all held their breath as Blue made her way over. She outstretched her hand, and made to touch its nose. At the last minute, it shook its head and scrambled backward into the coverage of the trees.
Everyone was frozen, breath bated and bodies stock still.
Adam could barely comprehend what he was seeing. He, of course, knew that unicorns existed, had read extensively about them. But seeing one in person was an entirely different matter. He looked, and looked, and looked, and his brain stopped and stuttered trying to wrap around what he was seeing. Being muggle born, Adam was left awestruck by the magical world time and time again. But this? This was on an entirely separate level. The unicorn was ethereal and beautiful in way Adam had never seen before.
He felt like he was dreaming. Not in the sense that he usually felt like he was dreaming. Usually he felt disembodied and strange and barely alive. But this was as if he’d walked into a mystical dreamscape where anything was possible. Everything was so vivid it seemed unreal. He felt so awake, it was almost overwhelming.
He stood back and watched as the others slowly made their way across the clearing to the unicorn. It shuffled nervously and Ronan made a soft shushing sound. He bent his head forward and the unicorn stilled, eyes trained on him. The unicorn took a step forward, and Ronan raised his head slowly, and outstretched his hand, palm up. The unicorn took another tentative step forward, sniffed Ronan’s hand, then pressed its nose to it. Ronan took another step and began gently stroking the unicorns nose.
“Ronan…” Gansey breathed.
“Works with horses.” He shrugged.
Blue stepped forward and placed her small hand against the unicorn’s neck. Her eyes were sparkling and there was an awed smile pulling at her lips.
Adam walked slowly over to join them and watched as Ronan plucked an apple from an overhanging tree branch and fed it to the unicorn. With the golden haze of the setting sun flooding down from the sky and the gentleness with which he touched the unicorn, Adam glimpsed the boy that existed before his father’s death.
Adam knew that Ronan was like a walnut, hard on the outside and soft on the inside, but it always felt like such a blessing to see his mask fall. The tender soul beneath it was beautiful, and the more often Adam saw it the more he craved it.
They stayed there until the sun had long since set. They didn't want to overwhelm it and scare it off, so they took turns petting the unicorns soft hide. Eventually, they had to head back.
The stars were vibrant and felt closer than usual on their flight back to the castle. As they quietly made their way through the maze of corridors, they were all buzzing with excitement. Gansey’s face was alight with wonder and delight and Adam knew that this would not be their last traipse into the forest to see the unicorn.
They all went their separate ways back to their respective dorms with the promise of more adventures in the morning. Adam pretended to make his way back to the Slytherin common room, but once he was sure the others were long gone, he rerouted and headed to the empty classroom on the fourth floor.
He swung the door closed and pulled his wand out of his robes in one motion. He was trembling with barely contained excitement. This has to work, he thought to himself. He took a deep breath and as he exhaled he let the memory fill his mind.
He thought about the wakefulness and wonder he felt looking at the unicorn, the way he felt connected to his friends through their shared awe. Like they were a full circuit of buzzing excitement. He thought of the soft beauty of Ronan’s relaxed features as he let the unicorn eat right out of his hand. He thought of the way Blue had been so amazed her eyes had welled up, the way Gansey was practically glowing with boyish joy, the way Henry’s outstretched hand had shaken with excitement as he’d reached out to touch its soft white hide.
He thought about how vibrant the world had seemed for that time. He thought about how every molecule of his being had perked up at the sight of the incredible creature. He thought about how standing in that clearing with the people he cared for most with a unicorn made him so glad to be at Hogwarts. How glad he was to be a wizard, made him realize how grateful he felt to be able to experience magic. Magic in its purest form.
He let the memory fill his mind, took a breath, and raised his wand.
He felt his wand quiver, as if it was preparing to expel power. He held his breath.
He huffed. Tried to focus more. He thought about what Professor Lawrence had said about casting a patronus charm. He knew he had to focus on the feelings, let it wash over him. He thought about feeling wonder, excitement, contentedness. Adam closed his eyes.
“Expecto Patronum!” he said, this time with more force.
He opened his eyes and looked at his outstretched wand. Nothing. Not even a wisp of white smoke. Suddenly he was angry. Angry that he had to learn this stupid charm. Angry that this stupid charm wouldn’t work for him. Angry that it was about more than just the stupid charm. Angry that it mattered so much to him. Angry that it hurt so much. God, it hurt.
He pocketed his wand and threw the door open. He tried not to stomp as he made his way back down to the Slytherin common room. That night he slept fitfully as thoughts of not enough, never enough, played on a loop in his head.
Adam tried not to let his Patronus Predicament™ take over his life but it was proving to be a bit of a challenge. O.W.L.S were encroaching quickly and every passing day just served as a reminder that he was failing.
God, he thought to himself, this is so stupid.
His potions homework sat open on his lap as his mind spiraled around the fact that there was only two weeks before O.W.L.S. No one else seemed as stressed about them as he thought they should be. Gansey, although scattered and poorly organized, was very intelligent and would do fine. His status ensured it. Blue and Henry complained about O.W.L.S loudly but both poured over their books at Study Hall. Ronan on the other hand was unlikely to crack a single spine. He was also unlikely to even show up for all of his examinations.
Adam was sitting on the lawn with Blue waiting for the others to show up. The lot of them were going down to Hogsmeade. Usually Adam opted out of these trips. He didn’t have any money to spend and he’d rather be in the library studying, especially considering how close their exams were. Today however, was Henry’s birthday so he, of course, agreed to come. Henry was always ridiculously excited about his birthday, he even referred to it as Henry Day, plus Adam knew that Henry didn’t expect him to give him anything. He just wanted to spend time with them all.
Adam only managed to complete a few more potions questions before Ronan, Gansey and Henry appeared on the other side of the lawn. Immediately Blue was on her feet, she bounded over to them and slung her arms around Henry’s waist.
“Happy Birthday, Henry!” She said and then planted a kiss on his cheek.
“Well, thank you very much, Wendybird.” Henry’s grin was so wide it was almost manic, but Adam found himself smiling too.
“Happy Birthday.” He said as he made his way over.
Henry nodded appreciatively and held his fist out, they knocked knuckles and began to make their way down to Hogsmeade. Gansey and Henry had apparently taken another trip to the northern forest the night before and were chatting excitedly with Blue about it. Adam and Ronan walked a few paces behind them, not talking but occasionally bumping shoulders.
As the scenery around them slowly shifted into a village, Adam found himself smiling softly. His friends were ridiculous and complicated, but he would do anything for them. Closing his eyes for a moment, he allowed his mind to drift to what his life would be like if he’d never met them. If he’d never received his letter, if he’d never experienced magic. Never experienced friendship, never experienced love. His life would be just as cold and empty as it had been before he’d left for Hogwarts.
Ronan nudged him, and Adam glanced up at him.
“What are you thinking about.”
“Nothing.” Adam shrugged.
“Right,” Ronan scoffed, “I can hear your brain whirring right now.”
Adam rolled his eyes, paused and said softly, “Do you ever wonder where you’d be if you’d never met Gansey?”
Ronan looked away and didn’t answer for a while.
“Don’t have to wonder.” He said after a long stretch of silence, “I know I’d be dead.”
“Me too.” Adam said. “I think so, anyway.”
He looked over and saw an odd look in Ronan’s eyes, almost understanding, almost sympathy, mostly just tender sadness.
“What are you two talking about?” Gansey called from in front of them.
“Death.” Ronan called back without missing a beat.
“Poetic.” Henry said “Seeing as we’re all gathered here to celebrate birth and life and the delicious fruits it offers, it seems only appropriate that there is some notes of melancholy as we ponder our own mortality.”
“It’s just Ronan being Ronan,” Blue said rolling her eyes, “It’s not that deep.”
Ronan didn’t refute her just made a crude gesture that had everyone rolling their eyes. They arrived at the Three Broomsticks and made their way to the back table where they always sat. They all ordered Butterbeers and various pastries, except Adam who just asked for water. He couldn’t afford to waste his money. He usually worked a few shifts a week Dervish and Banges, a magical repair shop, but he’d opted out of his last few shifts so he could study. Usually he would find a way to juggle both, but his Patronus Predicament™ made that more difficult.
When their order arrived he tried not to look too desperate, he must not have succeeded because Ronan slid him half of his obscene amount of pastries over to Adam. He tried to argue but Ronan wasn’t even looking at him, he was engaged in a passionate Quidditch debate with Blue.
“I’ve got an idea!” Henry said after they’d been talking for over an hour, “Let’s play a game.”
“Okay!” Blue said, already excited.
“No.” Ronan said, just to be contrary.
“What’s the game?” Gansey said.
“Okay first off, does everyone have three galleons?” Henry said glancing around the table. He asked for Adam’s benefit but he managed to make it feel like an open question. Adam did a quick mental calculation and nodded minutely. “Great! So here’s how it works, we’ll each draw a name and we’ll have ten minutes to find the perfect gift for three galleons.”
“The perfect gift for three galleons is an oxymoron.” Ronan said.
Adam glared at him.
“Are you going to play or not?” Blue said.
Ronan huffed dramatically. “Fine.”
“Great!” Henry said.
Ronan pulled a crumpled piece of parchment out of the pocket of his robes and began tearing it into strips.
“This is your divination homework!” Gansey cried.
Ronan shrugged and continued ripping it up. Once they had five strips, he scrawled each of their names across a piece in his sharp and elegant handwriting. Adam’s eyes couldn’t help snagging on the way Ronan wrote his name. It made his cheeks heat up for some reason. Ronan then pulled the colourful homemade hat off of Blue’s head and tossed the papers in. They passed it around and drew names. They had to redraw a few times because Ronan drew his own name three times in a row. Adam couldn’t tell if he was trying to be funny or if he was being genuine.
Adam couldn’t help but breath a sigh of relief when he ended up with Blue’s name. She was the most likely not to turn her nose up at whatever Adam could come up with.
Once they were satisfied with their slips of paper they headed back out into the streets of Hogsmeade. Gansey pointed to the large clock hanging above the door of the Three Broomsticks, his gaze swinging around the loose circle their group had instinctively formed around him, “Five minutes to search and pay and meet back here, lady and gentlemen.” His gaze landing fondly on Blue.
“Don’t exclude Ronan like that, Gansey.” She said teasingly.
“Of course, my bad. Lady, gentlemen and Ronan.”
“Lady, gentlemen and hooligan.” Blue corrected, a smirk playing at her lips.
“Lady, gentlemen and hurricane.” Henry chimed in cheerily.
“Lady, gentlemen and pit viper.” Blue said.
“Lady, gentlemen and shithead.” Adam said, glancing over at Ronan and seeing him giving his best glower. Adam could tell he wasn’t really offended.
“Lady, gentleman and the guy whose about to kick all of your asses.” Ronan cut in.
Adam was laughing before he even realized that he found this whole conversation funny. It startled everyone, including himself. But he saw a smug smile flicker across Ronan’s face. Once Gansey delivered a heartfelt and riveting speech on friendship and youth, intermittently speckled with eye rolls and snide comments from both Ronan and Blue. Gansey was unbothered and concluded his spiel by stating that he was ‘more than confident’ in his abilities to ‘defeat them all handily in this challenge of wit and speed’. This statement was met with indignant squawks of protest from everyone and threats from Ronan.
Then Henry was counting down from three and they were off. Scattered among the maze of alleys and shops.
Adam couldn’t seem to push the smile of his lips as he ran through the crowded streets in search of the perfect gift for Blue. He wove his way to Ember & Feathers, a cozy little shop that Adam had only ever visited with Blue at his side. Stepping inside was a bit overwhelming. It was painted with abstract swatches of vibrant colours that normally would never look good together, with twinkling lights orbiting around the ceiling like tiny planets. There were mismatched tables and cluttered shelves full of nonsensical trinkets, ranging from a collection of animated miniature figurines performing Shakespeare’s MacBeth, to long swaths of fabrics that were enchanted to look like running water or a setting sun.
It was easy to understand why Blue loved this shop so much, it was like stepping into her head. If not for his strict time restraint he might have gotten swallowed up in the masses of shelves and floating mirrors. But he was nothing if not a master of time management. He scanned the shop and a small stone on one of the tables to his right caught his eye. It was an imperfect circle but the edges were smooth. There was a hole through the middle of it and when he brought it up to his eye he realized it was enchanted to look like a kaleidoscope.
It was also only two galleons.
He payed for the stone and zigzagged his way back to their designated meeting spot. As the Three Broomsticks came into view ahead of him, Ronan emerged from the other side of the crowd. Their eyes met and Ronan cocked a sharp eyebrow, a silent challenge. Adam stuck his tongue out, a silent acceptance.
Both of them began to sprint towards it at the same time. Adam knocked and stumbled into other shoppers, but couldn't find it in him to feel terribly sorry about it. Not with Ronan yelling taunts at him, strings of words that were not suitable to be shouted across crowded village squares. Not with his belly full of sweet pastries. Not with the sun shining down on his face. Not with a day spent with people that he knew cared about him. Not with magic humming in the tips of fingers. Not with the dizzying freedom that accompanied that fact. Not when he felt so very alive.
He was laughing without realizing when he’d begun. His heart felt full and weightless at the same time. He lost the foot race.
“That was pathetic, Parrish.” Ronan said through his smirk. “This is why you need to get out of the library more often. Work on that cardio.”
“Oh please, Ronan. You only won by a fraction of a second.” He said, rolling his eyes. Although he was not mad, not even annoyed.
“A faction?!” Ronan cried, “It was at least a whole second, of not more.”
Ronan jostled his shoulder and Adam jostled him back. Suddenly they were grappling against each other and laughing breathlessly. The others returned shortly afterwards, barely under five minutes.
They exchange their gifts, and when Adam shyly passed his over to Blue, she shrieked with delight. Blue gave Gansey a matchbook the size of their arithmancy textbook, saying it was ‘to burn those pretentious disasters you call shoes’ to which Ronan laughed boisterous and gleeful. Gansey got Henry a singing hairbrush, Henry got Ronan a teddy bear that swears when you squeeze it. Ronan pretended to be unfazed but Adam could tell he was delighted by it. Lastly, Ronan handed Adam a small potted plant. The leaves were the deepest shade of green Adam has ever seen, intermittent with small white bulbs tightly closed.
“Just wait till night time.” Ronan said with a shrug, all casual in a way that was so very not casual at all.
After an hour or so of messing about in Hogsmeade, they decided to head back up to the castle. An unspoken decision passes between them to head to their hidden alcove that they found at the beginning of fourth year. It was a completely accidental discovery, while there were on the hunt for one of Gansey’s ancient magical artifacts.
The alcove was a small circular room off the fifth floor, attached to an unused classroom. It had a domed stained glass ceiling, with empty shelves lining the walls with thick tapestries covering the floors. There had been nowhere to sit when they’d first found it so they'd smuggled an obscene amount of pillows and blankets that were currently strewn in piles all over the room.
As soon as they entered, Ronan flopped obnoxiously across a the center of the floor on a pile of fluffy purple blankets. The sight was nearly laughable in its contrast. Adam sat himself cross legged close to Ronan’s feet, wrapping a patchwork quilt loosely around his slim shoulders. Ronan kicked his thigh every few minutes as the group talked and joked as the setting sun shone through the ceiling in colorful beams.
Adam tried not to pay attention to the way the light shining through the ceiling painted Ronan’s face in greens and reds and purples and oranges. He tried not to pay attention to the way Ronan’s feet were pressed against his thigh. He also tried not to pay attention to pleasant flutter in his chest at the sound of Ronan’s laugh, deep and true.
“Alright,” Ronan said after some time, pulling himself up onto his feet, “I'm fucking hungry.”
Once standing he kicked at Adam’s shin, rather hard.
“What?” Adam said scowling.
“Come on, let's go find something to eat.”
Adam thought about refusing and continuing to bask in the warmth of his blanket cocoon and the comforting hum of conversation around him, but the subtle glimmer in Ronan’s clear blue eyes peaked his interest. Plus his stomach was rather empty. He stood and followed Ronan out of the alcove, catching the hook of Ronan’s smirk as he turned.
As they made their way through the castle it became evident that Ronan was looking for more than just food, he was looking for a bit of mischief. Although Adam had always considered himself to be cautious and careful, there was something about Ronan that made him want to be reckless, silly and young. He followed Ronan to the kitchens that students were strictly prohibited from entering. Ronan swung the door open with the confidence of a man entering his own home. They’d missed dinner and the dirty plates were stacked high on the counters.
Elves bustled about, barely glancing up at their entrance. Ronan led the way through maze of tables and ovens and dishes. They wove deeper into the kitchens and were only stopped intermittently by the annoyed sputtering of a few house elves. Most of the elves seemed to like Ronan, and even the ones that didn't like him seemed familiar with him. Ronan seemed to know exactly where he was going, which Adam attributed to his general affinity for rule breaking and knack for being exactly where he wasn't supposed to be.
“Evening, Polly.” Ronan said as they approached an elf almost entirely covered in flour. The elf turned and when her enormous eyes settled on Ronan her face split into a childlike grin.
“Mr. Ronan!” She exclaimed, “I’ve prepared it all myself, with utmost care, sir.”
Ronan seemed distinctly uncomfortable with being referred to as sir but only nodded. The grin didn't leave her face as she turned back around and clattered through a few heaps of dishes to reach a platter with a silver dome over the top.
“Here you are, sir.” She said presenting the platter proudly.
“Thanks. I wouldn't have trusted anyone else.” Ronan said with a small smile and wink. “I’ll come around some time tomorrow, okay?”
Her answering grin of delight was nearly overwhelming. Ronan took the platter, patted Polly on her tiny shoulder and turned back the way they’d come. Adam blinked a few times, trying to compute the interaction he’d just witnessed before following after him. He caught up as they exited the kitchen. He stared into the side of Ronan’s head as they walked, waiting for some form of an explanation.
“What?” Ronan said with a smirk that said he knew exactly what. Adam only cocked an eyebrow.
“I like house elves better than people,” He said with a shrug. “They’re less complicated.”
Adam decided to let the topic drop and instead turned his attention back to the domed platter in Ronan’s hands.
“What's in there?” He asked.
“You’ll see.” Ronan said flashing him a smirk.
They made their way back to the alcove, jostling shoulders every now and then until Adam bumped him a little too hard and nearly overturned the platter in his hands. Ronan veered off to the right when they should have mounted the stairs, Adam followed, sure that this was what had but that spark in Ronan’s eye.
Still balancing the dish in one hand, Ronan raised his wand and conjured two spools of what looked like blue streamers. He handed one to Adam and before he could ask what it was for, Ronan threw it in the air, pulled his wand from his pocket and the streamers unraveled and began to wind themselves along the walls and arching ceiling.
Adam watched for a moment before tossing his own spool in the air and charming it to drape itself from the other side of the corridor. They began to make their way back to the alcove, stringing the streamers along the way, until the entire stairwell was threaded with brilliant blue streamers.
Upon their return, Henry, Blue and Gansey cheered joyously at the sight of food. Their cheers turned into horrible, out of tune singing when Ronan uncovered the platter to reveal beautiful and intricately decorated cake. It was frosted in hues of pink and blue with gold detailing. Very Henry.
The evening dissolved into laughter and bad jokes and a brief cake fight. As they left the alcove after many hours of messing about, the evening had fully slipped into night. Adam couldn't manage to wipe the grin off his face. As they entered the staircase, Adam heard Henry’s sharp intake of breath as he saw the blue streamers strung from every corner.
“Merlin's beard…” His eyes were shining as he gazed upward. He looked at Adam, “Did you do all of this?”
“It was Ronan’s idea, actually.” He said with a grin.
Ronan groaned as Henry spun to face him.
“Awe, Lynch! You’re a good friend.” Henry was beaming and Ronan was scowling deeply.
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes. Yes you are. You are a wonderful friend and I’m going to hug you.”
“No!” Ronan yelled but did not recoil when Henry reached forward and pulled into a bone crushing embrace.
“Ugh. This is your fault, Parrish”.” He said as he made eye contact with Adam over Henry’s shoulder.
When the clock began chiming the hour, signalling curfew, the streamers strung above them began to burst like fireworks and rained down around them like glitter. They all began running through the corridors, streamers bursting into light as they raced by. They ran back through the sleeping castle stifling laughs and tugging at each others robes. It was miracle that they made it back to their rooms without being caught.
The next day while his friends went down to the Great Hall to eat breakfast, Adam pretended to have forgotten something in his dorm and doubled back. Instead of heading down to the Slytherin common room, he headed upstairs to the abandoned classroom on the third floor.
He pulled out his wand and took a breath. He thought of the day before. From the easy comradery shared around the table at The Three Broomsticks, to the thrill of splurging on something special for someone else, a luxury he so rarely afforded himself. From the childlike giddiness he’d felt racing Ronan through the crowded streets, to the expression on Blue’s face when he’d presented his gift. From the breathtaking gentleness with which Ronan had spoken to Polly, to the shine in Henry’s eyes when they’d presented the cake, to running like children through the halls as glitter rained down around them. Everything. The whole day had been perfect. It filled Adam with feeling in a way that made him want to laugh or maybe cry. He closed his eyes.
“Expecto Patronum!” He felt his wand quiver in his hand. He opened his eyes to see vibrant white pouring out from his wand and curling around his arm and torso. Adam stared, transfixed, as the white clouds curled around him protectively. He laughed in shock. Then laughed again out of pure, searing delight.
I did it, he thought to himself, I finally did it!
He stood there in the middle of the empty classroom until the white clouds dissipated and faded into nothing. He stood there for a while longer, wrapped up in his thoughts, still a bit stunned that it had actually worked. Then, all at once, he couldn’t stand to be still. He darted out of the classroom and down into the Dining Hall. His heart was doing cartwheels and he was smiling like a maniac as he took his seat next to Ronan.
“Morning.” He greeted.
Ronan raised both his eyebrows at his giddy grin, a clear inquiry. Adam shrugged, suddenly self conscious of his excitement. It was just a stupid charm after all, one he was sure his friends had mastered ages ago. Ronan could probably do it in his sleep. Ronan seemed to sense his deflation and kicked his ankle lightly.
Gansey and Henry were engrossed in a copy of The Daily Prophet and Blue was in the midst of weaving what looked to Adam like an entire bouquet of wildflowers into her hair. The yellow and pink petals clashed horribly with her hair that she’d recently charmed dark purple. Adam thought she looked lovely nonetheless.
Ronan kicked his ankle again, this time a bit harder. Adam turned to him, his dark eyebrows were arched again. Adam’s mind distractedly noted that Ronan’s head looked freshly shorn. He must have done it last night, or maybe this morning. Adam’s mind also noted that Ronan looked especially gorgeous with the morning light pouring in from the huge windows behind him, somehow sharpening his edges rather than softening them. He had to internally shake himself before he did something irreversibly stupid like say, Hey Ronan, you’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
“Come on, Parrish, what’s got you so happy? Did you solve an especially enticing arithmancy problem?”
“No,” Adam rolled his eyes. “I…” he trailed off suddenly feeling silly.
Ronan continued to look at him expectantly. He swallowed back the part of him that wanted to change the subject, he was sure that Ronan would let him. But he wanted to tell Ronan, he wanted to feel the exuberance he’d experienced earlier and he wanted to share it.
“I uh- produced a patronus charm. Not fully, but I still did it and I’ve been trying to do it for a while. Ever since Professor Lawrence mentioned that it would be expected for examinations actually... But I-I could never do it. I guess I just don’t have like, strong enough memories or something. But um, yeah. I did it so… that’s why I was all, um, happy...” He cringed at his rambling as he stared down at his plate of scrambled eggs on toast.
Ronan hit him playfully on the shoulder and when he looked up he saw that Ronan was smiling sharply but without malice.
“Of fucking course you did it, Adam.” Ronan said softly and Adam felt his ears redden at the use of his first name. “You can do anything. Seriously, dude.”
Adam knocked his shoulder against his to hide his smile. Ronan kicked his ankle in response. It was a good day.
Days later, the lot of them were huddled around a table in the library. With the pressure of examinations looming over their heads like an anvil, the passed few days had been spent pouring over schoolwork. The sun had long since set and Ronan had long since given up all pretences of studying by the time Adam began to yawn. Ronan seized the opportunity as an excuse to call it a day, jumping to his feet from his slumped position across his unopened potions textbook.
“I’m fucking done with this shit.” He said far too loudly to be considered appropriate for a library.
Blue shushed him, more on principal than anything else. Ever the petulant child, he stuck his tongue out at her but her attention was fully absorbed in looping notes across a piece of parchment in outrageously orange ink.
“Come on, Parrish,” Ronan said kicking his chair, “You’re tired.”
“And you’re annoying. What else is new?” He responded dryly.
He didn’t lift his head but he knew that Ronan was rolling his eyes.
“You already know all this shit. Take a bloody break, man.”
“Ronan,” Adam tried not to bristle too visibly, “The final is tomorrow.”
“And you’ll ace it.”
Adam merely rolled his yes and continued working. However, soon enough, the rest of them began to grow tired as well and began packing up for the night. Adam knew he needed to have a good night's sleep in order to do well, but he was still hesitant to turn in for the night. He knew he still wouldn’t be able to sleep for hours, his mind would race and he would toss and turn and keep his bunk mates awake. So, he might as well just stay in the library.
Ronan seemed to sense his unease and was having none of it.
“Let's go flying.”
Known. Adam tried to come up with an excuse to stay, but found that when he really thought about it, he wanted to go. With Ronan. Out flying. He sighed, mostly to keep up pretenses, and began to pack up his own things.
As the others filtered off to their rooms, Ronan grabbed his broom and led Adam out toward the back courtyard. The night was full above them, and Adam felt lighter than he could remember feeling in a long time. Like the air wasn’t as sticky in his lungs, like gravity wasn’t as oppressive on his shoulders. Like the impossible was within reach. Glancing upwards Adam felt that tonight was a night of possibilities. The sky glittered with constellations spelling out promises in a language he was not yet versed in, one Ronan spoke fluently. The language of dreams.
Ronan climbed onto his broom and Adam followed suit, wrapping his arms tightly around Ronan’s middle. Ronan kicked off hard from the pavilion floor and they were off, soaring into the yawning starry sky.
Ronan flew them out to their little island on the Black Lake. Once there, they messed about for a bit, plucking apples off the overhanging branches and launching them at each other. They were breathless and itching with adrenaline by the time Ronan decided it was time for Adam to mount the broom. Adam was briefly transfixed by Ronan's sharp beauty as the moonlight spilled onto his long defiant frame.
He then teased him mercilessly as Adam messed up the first three times he tried kicked off. However, Adam couldn’t find it in himself to be annoyed. He couldn’t find it in himself to pull the smile off his lips either. Eventually, Ronan charmed the broom to be still until Adam managed to get his bearings and hover a few feet off the ground.
Slowly but steadily he above rose into the air and began to trace figure eights into the night sky. Adam was too busy focusing on his flying techniques and laughing at Ronan’s commentary to notice the time slipping by. The night was wrapped tightly around their clearing, the only light coming from the gaping moon above and the little glowing orbs that Ronan had charmed into existence. Ronan whistled and whopped from below, despite the simplicity of the feat, especially to someone like him. A Quidditch player, a natural wizard, and impossible creature in his own right.
Warmth spread through Adam’s chest at Ronan’s enthusiasm, genuine and contagious. He was laughing without noticing when he’d begun, atop the broom, face turned upward into the night like werewolf, like a madman. Like a silly, carefree teenage boy.
He laughed until Ronan was laughing too, until his sides hurt, until he couldn't remember why, until he didn't care why. He laughed until he jerked the broom too sharply and slipped sideways. His stomach lurched into his throat and he had barely enough time to think, oh no, before the ground was rushing up to meet him. He screwed his eyes shut and braced for impact, but it never came. He opened his eyes to find himself hovering a few inches off the ground.
He felt the charm release the same time he felt his chest collide with the grass. For a moment he laid there on his stomach just catching his breath. He heard footsteps quickly approaching and flipped onto his back in time to see Ronan drop down on his knees next to him, a worried expression on his face.
“Jesus H, Parrish. This feels like deja vu. Are you okay?”
Adam thought about it a moment. He quickly accessed that his body was in no way harmed. He then assessed that the warm airiness that had filled his lungs earlier was still there, humming peacefully in the static of his ribs. Finally, he assessed that Ronan looked unfairly gorgeous, his orbs of light floating around his head, eyebrows pulled down slightly in concern, blue eyes wide and searching. Adam came to the conclusion that he was more than just okay. He was great. There was warmth oozing from his lungs and it spilled out of him in another fit of laughter.
“D’you hit you’re fucking head or something?” Ronan said but there was smile tugging at the corner of his lips. “Christ. You’re an absolute nutter, you know that?” But he was laughing too.
Ronan flopped onto his back next to him and they stared up at the moon, laughing like a pair of madmen. Adam felt still in a way he hadn’t before, like time wasn’t whipping passed him in brutal succession like a hail storm, but rather it slipped gently by like the caress of a tulip petal. As their laughter subsided, the night around them seemed to hold its breath. Or maybe that was just Adam. Or Ronan. Or both of them, or maybe that was the same thing. Maybe they were the same.
He turned his head to look at Ronan’s profile. His eyes were closed, his lashes resting against his cheeks like tiny switchblades. The line of his nose was sharp and his bottom lip was pulled lightly between his teeth. He opened his eyes and turned his head in one motion and suddenly they were much closer than Adam could ever remember them being. Ronan’s eyes flicked from his eyes to his lips and back again.
Kiss me, Adam thought.
As soon as he thought it, he parted his lips to speak it, but before he could utter a word Ronan’s lips were pressed softly against his. Suddenly Adam couldn't remember a single thought he’d ever had in his entire life. All his senses were strictly attuned to everything Ronan, Ronan, Ronan. The whirring of his insides stilled to nothing, tranquil for the first time in his life. He felt as if he were submerged in a river of honey. The whole world was muffled and distant and everything was sweet, golden and right.
Ronan’s lips were soft and gentle, two words rarely ever associated with Ronan Lynch. Adam shifted closer so their chests were pressed together, and lifted a hand to cup the back of Ronan’s head. The spikes of his freshly shaved head were velvety beneath his palm. Ronan’s hand reached out to rest on his waist, pulling them closer still. Adam tilted his chin and deepened the kiss, a flutter erupting in his chest at Ronan’s sharp inhale. He slipped his tongue into his mouth and heat spread through his head, stomach and chest. Ronan’s hand slid from his waist to his lower back pulling them impossibly closer. Adam shifted again, now that he’d tasted Ronan, he would never be satisfied, he wanted more. He pulled and pulled until Ronan was nearly on top of him and he couldn’t tell where he ended and Ronan began. He wanted more still.
Eventually, Ronan pulled back for breath. His eyes remained closed and his thumb came up to stroke Adam’s cheekbone. His breath puffed against Adam’s mouth which made him itch to close the distance again, but he restrained himself. Ronan opened his eyes after a moment and they simply drank each other in. Adam couldn’t help the giddy smile the tugged at his lips. Suddenly he was smiling and Ronan was mirroring him.
“Hi.” He said rather breathily.
“Hi.” Ronan replied, equally if not more breathily.
Adam reached up and traced the line of Ronan’s nose, watching as his eyelashes fluttered at the contact. He traced down the bridge of his nose and then let his finger rest against Ronan’s lips. Adam let out a gasp of surprise when Ronan pulled his finger into his mouth. Ronan released it and pressed a reverent kiss to his palm. Adam knew that Ronan could feel his shaky exhale against his chest.
“I’ve wanted to do that for…” Ronan closed his eyes, “Fuck. For a long time.”
A wave of adoration flowed through Adam as he gazed at Ronan, who had his eyes averted shyly.
“How long?” He couldn't help but ask.
Ronan inhaled deeply and looked directly in Adam’s eyes, “Since third year.”
This time it was Adam who had to avert his gaze. He could feel the heat rising to his cheeks at the sincerity in Ronan’s tone and the earnisty in his eyes. When he gathered himself enough to meet Ronan’s gaze again, he found that all the curious anguish he normally felt when he considered his attraction to Ronan was gone. All he felt was warmth. All he could think was, Oh my God, I want to kiss him forever.
He leaned back in and connected their lips, this time with a little more ferocity, more certainty. He felt Ronan smile against his lips and couldn't help but smile too. He zoomed out on the moment and noted its absurdity. He was lying on the grass in the middle of the night with his best friend, both grinning too much to do more than breathe against each others teeth. His Defense Against the Dark Arts examination was in roughly six hours but he found that he couldn’t care less. He couldn't even remember why he’d been stressed about it. All he cared about was this absurd and wonderful moment with this absurd and wonderful boy.
He couldn’t believe this was his life. He went to a school for magic. He had friends that he would die for and would die for him. He was lying in the grass with tiny floating orbs of light floating above him. He was kissing a boy who he was only beginning to realize the extent of his feelings for. And yet, he didn’t feel frightened or unsure. He felt excited and ridiculous and happy.
He was so happy it nearly ached.
If anyone had told him when he was child that this is where he would end up, he would have brushed it off as a cruel joke. This wasn’t a joke, this wasn’t a dream. This was real, this was his life. He couldn't believe that he’d spent so much of his time bending over backwards to prove himself worthy of a good life. Especially when he’d been living a good life for all this time. A wonderful life filled with love and joy. Had he been so blind to have not even recognized it?
Every moment that he’d spent in the company of his friends since he first began attending Hogwarts was seeped in love. Had he really not noticed? He’d spent countless nights tossing and turning in his bunk wondering if would ever be good enough. How had he not realized that he already was to so many people? He was enough for Gansey, Blue, Henry and Noah. He was enough for Ronan. Ronan who was impossible in the most tantalizing way. Ronan, who was sharp and soft all at once. Ronan, who was stroking his cheek with such tenderness Adam thought he might catch fire. I’m living a truly charmed life, he concluded.
It was hard to say how long they stayed like that. Lying in the grass, wrapped up in each other and the promise of this new and beautiful thing that was blooming between them. They whispered secrets and jokes back and forth until the sky began to tint gold. Adam had never felt so utterly consumed by something before, so wholeheartedly happy.
“Ronan.” He whispered.
“Adam.” He whispered back.
“This moment, right now,” He gestured vaguely to the retreating stars and their overlapping bodies, “Is the happiest I’ve ever felt.”
He was too tired and content to feel stupid for admitting it. Though he definitely would have in any other circumstances.
Ronan smiled softly and ran his fingers gently through Adam’s hair, which he leaned into like a kitten. “Well. There’s plenty more of it on its way.”
Adam smiled and leaned forward to kiss him tenderly and deeply. “I think so too.”
When their life responsibilities became unavoidable, they made their way back to the castle. As they flew over the lake Adam spread his arms wide and let the wind whip through his hair. He breathed in deeply and smiled. This is what being truly happy felt like.
By the time they reached the castle, students were beginning to make their way down to the Grand Hall for breakfast. Adam expected to feel anxious upon their return, considering he had an exam in an hour and but he found that he felt calm. He also expected to feel tired, considering he hadn’t slept in roughly thirty six hours, but he found that he’d never felt more awake. They landed in the courtyard, surprisingly unnoticed by the crowd filtering through the castle. Ronan tossed his broom in the air in a careless display of magic, a voiceless charm whisking it back to his dorm.
They walked to breakfast side by side, their hands and shoulders brushing significantly. When they sat down, Henry cast them a knowing smirk, while Gansey pored over his revision notes and Blue demolished a bowl of yogurt. Adam had barely enough time to shovel down some eggs before it was time to make their way to the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom. They all waited anxiously outside the classroom door while they were called in one by one in alphabetical order.
“Parrish.” Professor Lawrence called from the doorway.
Adam’s gut flipped as he snapped to attention. Blue gave his hand a reassuring squeeze as he made his way into the classroom. Upon entering he found that the classroom had been cleared of all desks and chairs. It was only a large empty space with Professor Lawrence standing at the front of the room next to a trunk. Adam did his best to swallow down his nerves as his mind began to race through the possibilities of what it could contain.
“Are you ready, Mr. Parrish?” Professor Lawrence asked.
“Yes.” Adam replied, surprised by the confidence in his own voice.
Professor Lawrence nodded and tapped the truck. Immediately, it flew open and the classroom morphed into a deep forest. Once his eyes adjusted to the change of scenery, he found himself faced with a Mountain Troll. When he raised his wand he felt calm. Once he defeated the troll, the landscape shifted again and he found himself underwater faced with a Mermaid. This continued over and over, and as he made his way through the examination Adam was continuously surprised to find that he felt calm and sure of himself.
He knew he’d reached the last challenge when he found himself faced with a dementor. He knew that it was just a spell and that the dementor wasn’t real, but it felt real. He felt cold and helpless and the confidence that he’d felt building throughout the exam crumpled.
He knew what he had to do, but all of sudden, his anxieties and doubts regarding the patronus charm rushed back to him. Rationally, he knew that it was the work of the dementor, but that didn’t stop the queasy feeling in his gut nor did it ease the desperation that had crept into his lungs.
The dementor approached, its dark cloak billowing around its vaguely human figure. The closer it got, the more Adam’s fear intensified. He knew he had to act soon, before he became crippled with helplessness. He’d read extensively about dementors and knew that they fed you your own insecurities, fears and doubts. He forced himself to shove all of it back into a box in his brain and told himself to focus. He raised his wand and closed his eyes.
He thought of his friends. Their magic, their love. He thought of Ronan, the feeling of his lips and the sound of his laugh. He thought of how happy he’d felt hours before, how loved he’d felt. He thought of how, curled up on the grass with Ronan was everything he’d craved since he was a child. It was safety, it was comfort, it was happiness, it was love.
The memory and the feeling filled him naturally, pouring ease into his veins like a lullaby to a baby. It felt as though this feeling had always existed inside him, but he was only knowing learning how to bring it forward and ignite it. He took a deep breath and centered in focus on the swell of bright feeling that swirled between his lungs.
“Expecto Patronum!” He felt his wand surge with a power he’d never felt before. White light shot out of his wand and wrapped protectively around him, like a blanket. The light drove the dementor backward and Adam closed his eyes again and focused on the feeling that was still fresh between his lungs.
The white light around him began to shift and take shape. In front of him, the white balled itself up and began to shine brighter. The shape before him took a step forward and the dementor shifted further back. The creature was small but radiated power. At first Adam thought it was a rabbit, but soon realized it was a badger. He smiled to himself as the badger moved forward again, driving the dementor further and further back until it faded into nothing. Like the sun swallowing up the night.
Once the dementor was gone, the badger walked back to Adam and ran a quick circle around his torso before fading into thin air. As the charm dissipated the classroom slid back into focus.
Professor Lawrence was standing in the exact same spot as he had been at the beginning of the examination, and the trunk at his side was closed yet again. Adam lowered his wand and blinked rapidly to regain his composure.
“Excellent work, Mr. Parrish.” Professor Lawrence said with a small smile.
“Thank you, sir.”
Professor Lawrence tipped his head toward the door and Adam took his leave, feeling elated.
“Mr. Parrish.” Professor Lawrence called as Adam reached the door.
He turned, “Yes, Professor?”
Professor Lawrence was looking at him with a contemplative stare, he seemed to mull over his thoughts for a moment before speaking, “Whatever memories fueled that last charm… That was some powerful stuff. Hold it close to your heart.”
Adam nodded and left the classroom.
As he made his way up to the alcove, where they’d all promised to meet, he couldn’t help but feel giddy. He was relieved that his examination had gone well, but moreover he was excited for what came next. He was excited to stir up more mischief with his friends and to uncover more secrets together. He was excited to spend the rest of his life surrounded by magic. He was excited to kiss Ronan again.
He was happy.