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she held the world (and i’m just living in it)

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Steam below in Adrien’s eyes, causing him to cough. People were shouting, things were screeching, wings were flapping, and thuds of suitcases could be heard amidst the general excitement and nervousness floating around Hogwarts Express. The trolley carrying his new leather trunk, labeled with a gold-stamped Gabriel emblem on the front. His cat, Plagg, was a notorious escape artist and it was clear with the amount of yowls and new holes in his wicker basket that he wanted out. He could feel Nathalie’s eyes boring into the back of his head as he stumbled towards an open door, pushing his heavy trolley a few inches more before he gave up and focused on lifting Plagg through the door and into a blessedly empty compartment.

He could barely lift the large wicker basket, what with the black cat being his usual annoying self and trying to claw his way out. Plagg jumped in the carrier, causing Adrien's hand to lose its grip on the corner of the basket—

A pair of hands — or rather, two pairs of hands — alleviated the weight of the basket some and caught the cumbersome thing before it could fall and allow Plagg a chance of escape. Adrien’s saviors helped him push the basket into the compartment with a shout of “One! Two! Three!” and met him with wide grins when they finally managed to get "the blasted thing," as one of them called it, into the compartment.

“Thanks,” Adrien smiled in the carefully doctored way that his father taught him, only for it to dissipate and a much more genuine one to take its place when he got a chance to look at the two people who helped him.

“‘Course,” the first one grinned, a tall, tanned boy with close-cropped hair. Brown eyes looked at him curiously from a pair of black glasses that looked a lot like the Muggle swimwear goggles Adrien’s father would sometimes make him wear in a swimsuit photoshoot. His companion giggled, a small girl with bluish-black hair pulled into two pigtails and captivating bluebell eyes.

“We’d better get’chor trunk,” she said, her blue eyes roving over Adrien’s face before she settled down at one end of his trunk, the boy at the other end. Adrien took the handle, guiding them to the floor of the train. Together, all three lifted it onto the train and into the corner of the compartment.

He was surprised that the both of them could lift it, considering that all of his belongings were in there, and a lot of the things his father provided were not cheap, nor light. He wondered what his companions would think of the amount of expensive parchment in his trunk. He wouldn't be surprised if he found a solid gold wizards' chess set.

The rest of Adrien’s parcels were lifted onto the train with ease. The tall boy held out his hand to Adrien and was about to say something when two trolleys appeared out of the smoke and shadows of other people, followed by two families.

The first trolley clearly was the girl's, as the trunk it held had been patched over with different fabric swatches in all colors, patterns, and sizes. A box sat atop it, holding her cat if the loopy cursive and cat motifs were anything to go off of. A large man, in stature and size, pushed it towards them, a smaller woman the size of the girl on his arm. The mother and father, Adrien presumed. They looked a lot different than his parents when his parents were together. They looked like they enjoyed each other's company.

“Nino! Marinette!” The pair looked up at the sound of their names being called. Adrien didn’t know what else to do but stand awkwardly as the two looked at each other before huge grins split their faces and they took off to join their families.

The boy -- his name was Nino -- rushed over and hugged his father and mother and then a little brother, laughing at something the father said. His trunk was covered in stickers ranging from large posters of both Muggle and wizarding bands (some of the people in them didn't move, so Adrien supposed those were Muggle bands) to smaller stickers of cars and ones Adrien realized the brother must have stuck on. A tawny owl sat atop the trunk, preening its glossy feathers. Adrien's father wanted to get him an owl, but Adrien wanted a cat instead. He liked cats.

Now, he was starting to think an owl probably would've been better.

Adrien looked around for Nathalie, but she’d probably left already, as usual. She never stuck around for long, always needing to do something for Gabriel Agreste. It was odd, like she trusted him to take care of himself but that usually meant that he had to figure what his father wanted out for himself, and that usually meant being alone. He sighed and hoisted himself into the compartment, resigning himself to a lonely train ride to Hogwarts as the whistle blew.

He had barely tucked himself into a corner of the compartment, trying not to listen to the loud chatter of other students around him, when two familiar trunks pushed their way into the compartment, followed by a familiar owl, a familiar cat box, several more parcels, and two laughing kids waving goodbye. It was the raven-haired girl and the tall boy — Marinette and Nino, was it?

The train began moving as they continued screaming out th window goodbyes to their parents and....Christmaster?

Odd nickname, if it was that.

Adrien had arrived at the station in a neatly pressed button-down shirt and pants, but it was clear that such formalities weren't necessary. The boy -- Nino, Nino, Nino -- was wearing ratty jeans and a large T-shirt that Adrien vaguely recalled had a mix of letters on the front. ACBC? ECDC? ACDC? He wasn't sure. The girl, however, was wearing a jean jacket and a paint-splattered white dress. The paint seemed intentional, which Adrien thought was very cool.

Once the train pulled out of the station, the tall boy tugged the smaller girl back to her seat as it seemed she didn’t want to stop waving in until they were totally out of sight. He had to pry her fingers from the window, making exaggerating grunting noises that the girl laughed wildly at. Once her last finger was free, Nino successfully shut the window and pushed her -- Marinette -- into the compartment, seemingly forgetting that they hadn't put away their trunks yet.

Marinette sprawled at his feet, laughing as Nino climbed over her and into the compartment, right across from Adrien. “Sorry about ditching you, dude, but our parents insisted on a picture by the train,” Nino explained, holding out his hand. “Nino, by the way. Lahiffe. And this mess—“ he prodded the giggling girl with his toe, “is Marinette Dupain-in-my-ass-Cheng. And you are?”

“Adrien,” he replied, shaking Nino’s hand. “Adrien Agreste.”

“Nice to meet you, Adrien Agreste,” Marinette smiled at him from the floor and held out a hand to him and Adrien could’ve sworn his heart skipped a beat.

He shook her hand, but she had a different idea as her grip on his tightened and she pulled herself off of the floor, dusting off her skirt and taking a seat next to Nino on the cushy bench. Nino sniggered.

“What?” Adrien frowned at him, but Nino just shook his grin off his face. His mirth was soon replaced with a nervously excited energy that was, strangely, contagious.

“You ready for Hogwarts, Adrien Agreste?” Nino asked as he and Marinette procured their wands and rummaged around bags (for what, he wasn’t sure yet). Nino was positively wriggling with excitement as he held up his wand for Adrien to see. “Walnut, unicorn, twelve-and-three-quarters, pliant. I’m so excited. We’re going to be able to, like, create stuff outta thin air—” Nino snapped his fingers. “But I can’t wait for Quidditch. Man, I wanna be a Keeper.”

Adrien could only stare, wide-eyed, at Nino, who prattled on and on about anything about Hogwarts his mind could find. While Nino was going on about the secret passageways in the castle, he made eye contact with Marinette, who was miming him; Adrien nearly choked on the chocolate croissant that she had offered him from a box from her parents' bakery. She just grinned at him.

“You have a cat?" she asked, shoving a croissant into Nino's mouth, which stopped the monologue for a little bit. Adrien nodded. "Is he good with other cats? Because I bet Tikki's just waiting for a stretch after that long car ride."

"Plagg's….." Adrien grimaced. "He's not even good with humans. I don't know about other cats."

“Well, should we try?" Adrien just shrugged his shoulders, reaching for the clasps of the wicker basket. Plagg jumped out almost immediately, pouncing on Adrien's pocket. Adrien just chuckled and gave him his prize: a small slice of Camembert cheese.

He was vaguely aware of eyes on him. He looked up, only to find Marinette staring at him, an orange cat in her arms. "What?"

"You have a nice laugh," she said softly, an unfamiliar emotion in her eyes. It was a good emotion, though, if the heat erupting in Adrien's cheeks was any indication.

As it turned out, Tikki (Marinette's cat) and Plagg did get along quite well. They settled down in the space next to Adrien that had been previously covered with snacks off the trolley, all of which Adrien had bought to show appreciation for his newfound friends. At least, he hoped they'd have him.

They put on their robes just as the sky was beginning to darken. Adrien learned that Nino and Marinette had grown up together, which had just caused a lot of mischief in the Lahiffe and Dupain-Cheng households. Nino had a Muggle mother and “how she managed to keep her head on straight with us around, I have no idea.” They were quick to reveal any inside joke they came across, which quickly devovled into who could embarrass who first. Adrien couldn't recall a time where he's laughed this hard with a full belly. Conversation turned into rumours and gossip about Hogwarts and about the Battle of Hogwarts from nearly twenty years ago, to talking about the Houses. Neither Nino or Marinette knew which House they wanted to be Sorted into, and they had spent a good deal of the trip discussing each House and who had been in it.

Adrien wished he had the choice.

His father had been particularly adamant about Adrien becoming a Slytherin. Every Agreste had been Slytherin since, well, the first. Lo and behold, his cousin Felix had also been Sorted into Slytherin. Felix had also been chosen to be a prefect. It was like that for generations and generations, Head Boys, Prefects, et cetera. His father had hammered into him what was to be expected of him and from him once he stepped foot in Hogwarts.

He wasn’t even sure he wanted to be in Slytherin. He didn't like dungeons. He got enough of that at home, and he really didn't like home.

He could barely remember freezing on the boats and shuffling his way up to the castle with the other first years, he was so nervous. He might have bolted had Marinette not grasped his hand as they walked down the entrance hall, sending him a reassuring smile.

That alone sent a flood of warmth back into his system, and he sent her what he hoped was a grateful smile in return, but it probably looked like he had a toothache.

She was really pretty. She was like the princesses that the princes would save in the books he had in his room, but he suspected that she was also very different from those princesses. He suspected she could probably save herself.

She had a few different laughs: a loud, wild laugh, a small, giggly laugh, a laugh that that made her nose scrunch up cutely, and a few more, all of which he saw on the train and liked. A lot. He liked her smile a lot. She was a happy human being, and she made him feel happy too.

She made him feel a lot less lonely.

She didn’t let go of his hand as Professor Longbottom explained the Houses briefly in a small room off the side to the Great Hall. She didn’t let go as they marched under the huge, arching entryways, shuffled into what resembled a line and walked down the center of the Hall, stars twinkling above them mischievously amongst the floating ghosts and candles. The chatter of students quieted down, and only when they were silent did Adrien realize the whole school had been talking and bubbling amongst themselves.

She gave his hand a squeeze when he was among the first to be called up to the Sorting Hat. He glanced back at her, and her wide, beautiful blue eyes were comforting. He squeezed her hand in return and made his way up.

He sat on the stool, seeing hundreds of eyes bore into him as Professor Longbottom placed the hat on his head. He could see Felix sitting proudly amongst the Slytherins, a prefect’s badge glittering on his chest.

Hello, a snide voice spoke in his mind. Adrien nearly jumped out of his skin.

Jumpy, are we?, the voice spoke again amidst Adrien’s turmoil of thoughts. Hmmm. Another Agreste. Let’s see, quite a large heart, knowledgeable, quick on the feet. Longing to prove yourself — but not....hmm....

My father wants me in Slytherin, Adrien thought, albeit glumly.

But you don’t want to be, the hat mused. As you should, it won’t do you much good.....well then....”GRYFFINDOR!”

The row of gold and red under the lion hangings burst into raucous applause as Adrien numbly walked over to the nearest empty seat to back pats and hair ruffles. He grinned at the excitement of the people in his new House, but felt a growing sense of dread in his stomach. Marinette had been watching him take his seat and shot him a wide grin once they locked eyes that he couldn't help but mirror, but it did little to soothe his fears. He wished Marinette was right with him. He hoped she'd be Sorted into Gryffindor, too.

He glanced at the Slytherin table as the next person was Sorted into Hufflepuff. Felix was staring intently at him.

Slowly, he put his finger to his lips, as if he was telling Adrien he was going to keep it a secret from their family.

 

——————————

 

Adrien didn’t know how to feel as Marinette made her way over to the Ravenclaw table, the blue and silver table cheering loudly for the grinning girl. He should‘ve felt happy for her, and he did, but he was also sad that she didn’t get into Gryffindor. He consoled himself with the thought that maybe he’ll see her in his classes.

He didn’t get to dwell on it any longer, as Nino soon dropped down beside him. “Dude!” Nino clapped him on the shoulder, shaking him slightly. “We’re Gryffindors!” He struck a pose, as if he was a superhero. “The brave, the bold, the daring! Like the Sorting Hat’s song.”

“It sang?” Adrien asked dumbly as someone got sorted into Slytherin. “I wasn’t paying attention.”

Nino just looked at him with an are-you-serious face. Adrien just shrugged and went back to staring looking at Marinette as she struck up conversation with the girl sitting next to her.

Nino followed his gaze to Marinette, who was now being obscured by arms waving wildly as the next Ravenclaw to join the table joined Marinette and her new friend. As if she could feel Nino and Adrien staring at her, she turned to them and stuck her thumbs in her ears, waggling her tongue and fingers at them while sticking out her tongue. Nino frowned and put his thumb and index finger to his forehead, making an L while puffing out his cheeks and sticking out his tongue as if blowing a raspberry. He and Marinette soon dissolved into giggles while Adrien smiled bashfully at their antics.

Adrien thought he heard a small hmph from the girl sitting across from Nino. He turned to look at her. She was in their year too, with long scarlet hair and big brown eyes, but her nose was scrunched up into a frown. Nino seemed to have heard it, too, as he dropped his hands and glared at her. “What?”

“Nothing,” the frowny girl said, crossing her arms over her chest. “You’re just being immature.”

“Well, too bad for you,” Nino frowned back, crossing his arms over his chest and turning the other way. Marinette caught Adrien’s eye and cocked her head at him questioningly. He just shrugged. He had no idea what Nino and this new girl were doing, but he was hungry and Professor McGonagall was about to start her speech.

Adrien spaced out during her speech, fidgeting increasingly until he realized he was about to rip the hem of his sleeve open. He smoothed it out, embarrassment seeping across his face until he realized that Professor McGonagall had only said a few sentences and the feast had already started.

He didn’t even realize how little his father had him eat until the speech was over and the whole table was covered in more food than he could have eaten in his entire life. He just sat there, staring at all the food, until Nino started to pelt him with chicken wings. “Stop staring and start eating up, pretty boy. The feast isn’t forever, you know.”

“Right,” Adrien managed to shut his drooling mouth and started to add slices of duck to his plate.

“You could’ve said so nicely,” the frowny girl said, except she wasn’t frowning anymore and Adrien realized she, too had glasses that had been hidden by her hair. She offered Adrien a bread basket, smiling politely. “I’m Alya. I won’t throw chicken wings at you and get them everywhere.”

“Adrien,” Adrien replied whilst he took a small loaf from the basket, still warm from the ovens. “Thank you.”

“Welcome,” she all but beamed, passing the basket along. Adrien dug in, his ravenous stomach giving way to everything within reach, and then some. He was pretty sure he had at least third helpings of everything as well as a few goblets of pumpkin juice. That didn’t even include dessert.

At one point, he wasn’t even sure what he was eating, just that it was good. And filling.

(He totally saw Nino put trifle in his pocket.)

The feast concluded with a bang, and then they were following the prefects up to the dormitories. Nino had left him alone while he stuffed his face but as they walked up the staircase, he had slung an arm around Adrien’s shoulders and talked animatedly with their new dormmates: a bulky boy named Kim and a pair of twins, Connor and Travis Stoll.

Adrien had to get used to all of this physical touching. He supposed this was what it was going to be like for a while.

They stopped in front of the Fat Lady (“Mandragora”) and crawled through the portrait hole to reveal a circular room stuffed full of huge armchairs and deep red hangings, a fire crackling brightly in the fireplace, and Adrien felt for the first time like he had nothing to worry about.

He was far, far, far away from his father, with two new friends, a room that wasn’t cold all the time, and food that he could gorge on for days and not worry about how fat he was going to be at the end of it.

As he curled deeper into his four-poster bed, listening to Nino snack on his stolen trifle, Kim’s snores, and the Stolls’ whispers, he thought of bluebell eyes and a tinkling laugh that made him smile as his eyes fluttered shut, too happy to rest on fear and worry.

Plagg settled in the space created by his limbs and chest, purring contentedly, and then Adrien was able to fall into his first unfitful sleep in nearly a decade.

 

——————————

 

Adrien woke up at the crack of dawn, which was probably way too early as everyone in his dorm was still asleep. The hangings on the other four beds were in varying states of open and close: the Stolls’ were shut except for the sides facing each other and Kim hadn’t even bothered to undo the strings before crashing into his bed.

He wondered what his father would think, now that he was a Gryffindor. He wondered if anyone was up. He wondered if there was anyone....well, anywhere this early in the morning. He was a little bit hungry, but he could wait until breakfast.

Padded feet hit the floor as he quietly shuffled out of bed and down the staircase into the common room.

The fire was crackling just as brightly as the night before, but now he was awake enough to actually look around at his surroundings. The huge fire place was directly in front of a red sofa, armchairs situated into haphazard circles on the numerous rugs scattered around the room. Small portraits of notable Gryffindors who had passed in the Battle of Hogwarts or during the reign of Voldemort were hung, either by students who had painted them themselves or had taken photos and pasted them on the walls.

His father never let him read about the Battle of Hogwarts or Harry Potter or anything relevant to the topic. He always wondered why, but never questioned it.

Questions were bad, his father told him, though not directly. Just stick to what you’re supposed to be.

But everything that he had learned in eleven years from his father— all of that had broken to pieces within twenty-four hours.

His father often told him that there was only way to accomplish things and all other ways would fail. He often said that fairy tales were lies, that being a Slytherin was an absolute, and that having friends would only weaken him.

He shuffled over to a painting of three people, clearly done by a professional. One was tall, with black hair and round glasses; one was not as tall, but with longer, shaggier black hair and an angular face; and the last was taller than the first and had loose brown locks and faint scars on his face and hands. They were all sitting around a dining table in what looked like a cozy home, kind of like the common room. The room wasn’t sharp and angular, but rather had a lot of soft curves and worn-down wood that Adrien liked a lot. All of them seemed to be laughing grandly at some joke or the other.

“Remus—” the one with the glasses wheezed ,clutching his chest in laughter. “You gotta admit the kid’s got some Sirius in him. Trying to fly?” He became too overcome with laughter to continue talking and instead pounded his fist on the table.

“Teddy’s got some good genes, is all that I’m hearing,” the long-haired man grinned, leaning back in his chair lazily. He caught sight of Adrien watching them and leaned forward, his gray eyes widening. “Hello, young man, why in the world are you up so early?”

“Sirius,” the first man chided. “You weren’t any better than him, you dingus.”

The man he called Sirius, the one who had asked Adrien the question, just rolled his eyes but didn’t retort back. It took Adrien a few moments to realize that they were all staring at him as if waiting for something.

“Oh,” Adrien startled. “Um, I got used to waking up early. I liked to see the sunrise from my room.”

The gray-eyed man just narrowed his eyes at him for a second before he sat back in his chair. “Hmph.”

“I apologize on behalf of him,” the middle one said, the scarred one. A grin spread across his face as he said, pointing to himself, “I’m Remus Lupin, this asshole—” he prodded Sirius — “is Sirius Black, and the man of the hour is James Potter. And you?”

“A-Adrien Agreste,” he managed.

“Adrien Agreste? As in Emilie Agreste?” Sirius leaned forward, his foot tapping excitedly on the floor. “Dude, Emilie was one of my favorite cousins. I miss her. She was so nice when she’d come over.”

“You knew my mother?” Adrien asked curiously, stepping closer to the painting subconsciously. “You guys were cousins?”

Sirius gave him an odd look. “You don’t know about me? I assume she or Gabriel would’ve told you. Or you’d catch a whiff of my splendid good looks somewhere with Emilie. She did love taking pictures.” Seeing Adrien’s even more confused look, the odd look returned, but this time he shared it with the other two people sitting next to him.

“My mom died when I was three,” Adrien said with a microscopic shrug of his shoulders. “I don’t even know who you guys are. What’d you guys do to get on the wall for the battle against Voldemort? Did you ever, like, fight him or something?”

James slammed his hands on the table. “That’s it, I’ve had enough of this shit.” He leaned forwards and stared at Adrien. “You really don’t know anything about the Battle of Hogwarts, or Harry Potter, or any of that?”

“James!” Remus half-shouted, trying to tug his friend back in his seat. “They’ve only been here for a day, maybe we shouldn’t tell him everything right now. Besides, it’s breakfast time.”

Remus was right. Adrien could hear students slamming dresser drawers, thuds of feet slamming onto the floors and down the stairs, and the open and shut of doors over the din of calls and laughter wafting their way to fill the common room.

He turned back to the painting from the dormitory staircases to see three eyes peering at him.

“You know where to find us if you ever want a story that’ll keep you on your edge for days,” James winked at him as the three of them got up from their chairs. “Moony, Pads, it’s time for some hell-raising. Can’t let Teddy get all the credit.”

 

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Adrien didn’t have time to dwell on what the three men had told him before Nino had started dragging him down to breakfast. Apparently, after the first dinner at the castle, any House was welcome at the other tables. His father never mentioned that, but then again, Gabriel Agreste kept a lot of things from him.

So it didn’t really surprise him when Nino made a beeline to the Ravenclaw table and wrapped his arms around Marinette, talking her ear off as he sat across from them on the Gryffindor table with Alya.

“Good morning,” he smiled politely, reaching out for the bread basket.

“Good morning to you, too,” she smiled before handing him the “—class schedule, and one for your friend over there.” She nodded at Nino, who was now clambering over the bench into the seat across from Adrien.

“This is for you, bro,” Nino grinned, holding his fist out to Adrien and gesturing for him to hold out his hand. Once Adrien did so, he turned his fist upside down and allowed something to drop into Adrien’s hand.

He pulled his hand closer to him, seeing a small, bulbous object in his open palm. He gasped as it unfolded, much like a flower, into a peony, colors swirling slowly like a lazy river on the paper.

He looked back at Marinette, who was watching him with a hopeful look in her eyes. When she met his gaze, she waved, a smile and a flush of pink spreading across her face. He waved back and smiled too, feeling the same warmth from yesterday spread across his face. Then a third-year tapped her shoulder and she turned to answer them, but all Adrien could think about for the rest of the day was the peony in his pocket and her smile on her face.

Chapter Text

Marinette tried to keep up with Kagami, who was flying down the stairs and taking three at a time. Kagami’s fencing lessons had given her strong ankles that could bear her body weight with each bound, whereas Marinette didn’t get as much exercise as her friend and definitely didn’t want to break anything sliding down the banisters. Kagami jumped down the last six steps of the staircase, turning to grin at Marinette huffing her way down the staircase. “Slowpoke.”

“You’re—oh bother,” Marinette’s retort was cut off when her foot sank into the trick stair. She just lifted her robe to watch her foot sink into what previously seemed to be hard stone and sighed. “I’m so clumsy.”

Kagami cracked a smile, used to her best friend’s antics by now. “Come on.” She walked back up a few steps below Marinette and began pulling on her arm, both girls trying to dislodge Marinette’s boot. With a loud, wet pop, Marinette pulled her foot from the stair and nearly fell down the rest of the way.

She frowned, dusting her robes once she had stabilized herself with help from Kagami. “I really need to start remembering this stair. I swear to God this is the third time already this month.”

Kagami linked their arms, bumping her book bag against Marinette’s hip as a grin spread across her face. “Third time’s a charm. Maybe you got all the bad luck out of your system, lucky ladybug.”

Marinette’s cheeks flushed an impressive pink at the new nickname for her. “Shut up.”

“Mhm,” Kagami hummed knowingly as the two girls entered the Great Hall.

Marinette was never going to get used to Hogwarts and how...magical the place was. The sun shone cheerily in the Great Hall, a welcome change from the clouds making their appearance in the fall skies the past few weeks. Sounds of students eating had already filled the Hall as Kagami and Marinette made their way to the Ravenclaw table, where Luka, a third year, and his sister Juleka, a Hufflepuff first year, were sitting. She spotted Alya, Adrien, and Nino at the Gryffindor table and waved her hellos, grinning brightly at the trio.

Marinette patted her pocket, making sure her wand was still secure in her robes. She’d been poring over her books over the summer, whipping a stick around and pretending like it was a wand and she was spelling her sewing instruments, and to actually see feathers float and matches turn to needles was like the stars aligning. Her mother said she’d grasp spells quickly and she was right; Marinette was glad that poring over the technical things over summer helped her a lot in the practicals of her classes.

She tossed her leg over the bench, sitting down rather abruptly as she maneuvered her other leg over and sat her book bag clunkily next to her.

“You alright there, Ma-Ma-Marinette?” Luka snickered.

“Yeah,” she grinned at the blue-haired boy sitting next to her. “The usual occurrences of a klutz and all.”

“Good to hear,” he grinned back, drowning his potatoes in gravy. Marinette tried to slap his hands away from the gravy boat, but he just held it away from her, knowing how short she was compared to his tall frame. He laughed at the pout that emerged on her freckled face.

“BOO!”

“Alya!” Marinette whined as said girl dropped beside her. “You scared me.”

“To be fair, it isn’t that hard to do,” Kagami deadpanned from across the table, where she was now sliding buttered toast on her plate.

“You’re supposed to be on my side, ‘Gami,” Marinette grumbled, rolling her eyes. She slid bacon and eggs onto her plate and then rested her plate on her book to prop it open. Goblet in one hand and pen in the other, she took a sip of pumpkin juice as she underlined a short section on Demiguises.

She became too engrossed in her reading to pay much attention to Luka, Alya, and Kagami’s conversation. Her fork and spoon made their way to her mouth, feeding her as she flipped through the pages of her copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Occasionally she’d find a few notes by her mother, which made her smile. Her mother wrote her s’ and her f’s much loopier than her other letters. She smiled when she found a short note at the bottom of the page: Xuppu the Chinese Fireball— he loved catching eating the eggs we threw in the air.

Which reminded her. She hadn’t found the time to write out a full response to any of her parent’s questions yet, only resorting to a few short sentences before she was pulled away by her friends or her classes. She really needed to do that soon. She had half a mind to ink it on her arm, then thought better of it and decided to mark it down on her schedule right after this passage, she promised herself.

“Ow!” She looked up to see her parent’s owl, Wayzz, soar away into the rafters. She ran her fingers through her hair, smoothing down the braids Kagami had done the night before just in case the owl had knocked a few strays loose.

“Yes!” Alya pounced on the large box of pastries that Marinette’s parents sent her regularly that was now on Marinette’s book, having landed on her head and then bounced on the pages. “Éclairs!”

“Save the croissants,” Marinette giggled as she pocketed her parent’s letter and her friends dug without abandon into the pale pink box decorated with gold filigree. The logo of the Dupain-Chang bakery sitting proudly on the cover, they discovered Danish pastries for Kagami, tablet for Luka (her Papa had been ecstatic for a new recipe to try and create variations of, all of which Luka had heartily agreed to be subject to), and—

She took the pain au chocolat and the croissants and tied them into a handkerchief. Whispering “Wingardium Leviosa” and waving her wand over the bundle, she levitated it and allowed it to bob over heads to hover over Nino’s.

She could hear him say, “What?” in response to Adrien’s snicker. She hid her smile under her hand as she moved it back and forth, keeping it out of the way of his view. Nino turned around and glared at her, but she just waved as she made the handkerchief twirl slowly behind his head. She heard Adrien burst out in laughter, which made Nino turn back to him. She lifted the bundle once more over Nino’s head. She’d let him have it in a few minutes. He was used to her teasing.

Something brushed against her leg and she lost her focus, nearly dropping her wand as she looked under the table for whatever it was.

She only found a neat scroll rolling between her boots. She narrowed her eyes at it, picking it up.

“Waz tha’?” Alya said thickly through a mouthful of cream. She swallowed as Marinette carefully unfurled the scroll, holding above her breakfast so that the parchment didn’t stain.

“I...don’t know,” Marinette mused. This was good quality paper, something her papa would use for his best recipes. Perfect calligraphy was inked across its surface, as if the writer had mastered the art of quills. Marinette’s pens sometimes spurted ink over the surface, and she was pretty sure it was because she was holding it wrong or something of the sort.

“It’s a poem,” Luka said, leaning over Marinette’s shoulder to read it.

Marinette’s eyes scanned the page, looking for a signature, but there was none there. She sighed and began to read the poem herself.

 

As sweet as the treats you like to eat

A love like yours cannot be beat

I can’t help feel nervous when you walk by

And your eyes shine, as blue as the sky

I’m just a simple poet, my little lady,

But my heart’s been struck with this terrible malady.

 

(Here several lines had been crossed out rather angrily, as if they had offended the poet for some reason.)

 

My heart’s been stolen by a dark-haired beauty,

Like something out of a vintage movie,

I’d ask her if she would kindly give my heart back

But she could give any man a heart attack

And there is only one question I’d like to ask,

“Could you love me as much as I love you?”

 

“OH MY GOD OUR MARINETTE HAS A SECRET ADMIRER!” Alya screeched, grabbing onto Marinette’s shoulders. “Girl, get it!”

“Bu-but this could be about any student here!” Marinette yelped, betrayed only by the fiery red seeping across her cheeks. “There are tons of dark-haired people here—!”

“‘As sweet as the treats you like to eat’?” Kagami scoffed, taking a huge bite of toast. “Marinette, you could eat a whole treacle tart for breakfast and not get affected by all that sugar.”

“And I doubt there’s another blue-eyed, dark hair beauty around here,” Luka grinned, his own sea green eyes sparkling. “Face it, Ma-Ma-Marinette, you have yourself a secret admirer.”

Marinette could only slap her hands to her face and hope that her cheeks would cool down as her friends continued taking the mickey out of her.

Had she looked up during their conversation, she would have noticed Adrien’s cheeks just as red as hers.

 

——————————

 

Marinette flopped onto her bed, the latest letter from the newly dubbed “Chat Noir” held above her head as she reread his latest poem.

“Another one?” Kagami sighed from her four-poster. “That’s the seventh time this week—wait, they’re daily?”

Marinette squealed in response, pinning the poem on her headboard next to the other six she had received that week. “Yup.”

“And they all come from different owls, which means that all you know is that they either go here and use the school owls or they have enough money to go to the post every day and pay for a different owl every day.”

Marinette turned to look at Kagami, who had put the book she was reading upside down on her legs. “And this is important—why?”

“Just so we know that your secret admirer isn’t a pervert or something,” Kagami shrugged. “You never know.”

“Ugh,” Marinette stuck her tongue out. “That’s disgusting. Also, they’re definitely in our year. Chat Noir has said stuff about seeing me in class.”

Kagami paused. “He’s a very smart pervert.”

“Gami!”

“Kidding!” Kagami put her hands up in a defensive stance as Marinette glared at her. Her jesting expression turned serious as her hands lowered to flip over her book. “But seriously, Minette, are you sure you can trust him? You don’t even know his name.”

“He has given me no reason not to trust him,” Marinette shrugged. “He’s only been sweet and kind in his letters.”

Kagami found no argument, so she simply said, “Just as long as you’re happy. And if he dares to try anything, I have a knife in my trunk.”

Marinette just stared at her. “Now I can’t tell if you’re joking or being serious.”

Kagami held up her finger like she was going to say something, but instead looked back down at her book.

“Kagami!”

 

——————————

 

It was two weeks of Chat Noir sending her letters that she finally had the courage to send a letter back to him. Her hand was already smudged with ink from writing what she was sure her papa would call a novella of a letter, and what was the harm in writing one more? He was nice enough to regale her with compliments and praises, she might as well return some of the favor.

She simply detailed her favorite things about his poems, especially the ballads and the Shakespearean sonnets. She wondered asked him how he learned about those styles of poem as they weren’t common in wizarding literature. She didn’t pry for too much information, as he’s said before in his letters that he’d prefer to stick with Chat Noir. She sealed her letter off along with her parents’ and began making her way up to the Owlrey.

It was a rather crisp early October afternoon. Marinette could see dried leaves on the pathways as she made her way up the stairs, pausing occasionally to bask in the scenery before her.

The Forbidden Forest, green as always, towered over Hagrid’s hut, the pumpkins already big enough to swallow her whole. The Lake stretched into the distance, a terrifyingly dark blue, open expanse. She could hear birds caw in the distance, but whether they were birds or other creatures, she didn’t stop long enough to identify.

She hummed herself as her shoes made soft taps against the stone of the castle. Magic had done a wonderful repair job on the castle, but remnants of the battle were still there, left as monuments to the Fallen Fifty and those who fought bravely against Voldemort throughout the years. The name no longer had any power, but it still carried the weight of fifty futures and numerous others extinguished.

Marinette stopped by a small plaque on the wall that held a name that she didn’t recognize and compliments she sympathized with. It didn’t have as much decoration as the others, so she cupped her hands together and breathed into them. She had mastered this in her time at Hogwarts, as creating small flowers (although unintentionally) was her specialty before Hogwarts. She placed the small bloom into one of the nails, continuing with her song as she skipped away.

She pulled her robes tighter around her as the wind picked up and she reached the staircase that led directly to the Owlrey. She’d forgotten her cloak again. Ugh! She should start carrying her bag around. Yes, and use an Undetectable Extension Charm. Which reminds her, she really should start reading up on those if she was planning to start making her Christmas gifts any times soon...

She continued with her mental to-do list as she attached her parents’ letter to a nice tawny owl, who accepted her offering of bread she’d manage to sneak out from lunch. She beckoned the next one down, attaching Chat’s letter and hoping that it would eventually find him.

The Owlrey was warmer than she’d thought it would be, and she really had nothing better to do, so she plopped herself on a nearby stool and opened the last book she had checked out from the library, pausing her reading every so often for her eyes to adjust from the book and petting the owls that would sit on her arm.

Thank God it was the weekend. She had finished most of her schoolwork already. If she’d left letter-writing and reading to a weekday, she would’ve been too stressed to even think about time to herself.

She was so engrossed in her reading, the only other time she looked up besides to rest her eyes was when a small squeak, followed by an oomph and an ow made her nearly fall off her chair.

“Oh, hi, Adrien!” She waved cheerily at the boy dusting off his robes, his Gryffindor tie askew. Adrien just meeps and his hand immediately covered his mouth as if to hide the noise. Marinette couldn’t help but giggle at the sight. “What are you doing here?”

“I was, um, going to send a lett—” His sentence is cut off as a snowy owl swooped in, dropping a scarlet envelope at his feet. Adrien blanched.

Marinette put down her book. “Is that—?”

She didn’t miss Adrien’s shaking hands as he carefully undid the seal of the Howler. The seal itself was high-quality and rather pompous and she wasn’t particularly annoyed in the way Adrien just ripped in half. However, his hands were shaking so much Marinette wondered whether or not he’d be able to open it before it exploded.

ADRIEN AGRESTE.”

Just his name alone made Adrien cower against the wall. Marinette opened her mouth to ask what’s wrong, what made him so terrified, but a stern and disapproving voice stopped her in her tracks immediately.

AFTER HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF SLYTHERIN HERITAGE, YOU HAD TO GO AND BE ONE OF THOES DESPICABLE GRYFFINDORS. I WOULD DISOWN YOU AS MY SON IF—

Marinette didn’t have to think before she was on her feet in an instant, pointing her wand at the offending Howler and shouting, “Confringo!” The scarlet letter burst in flames as she stared it down like it personally offended her.

Which it kind of did. She vowed to herself in that moment that anyone who dared attack her friends would be on the receiving end of every hex she could conjure up.

And, being a Ravenclaw, she had quite a lot at her disposal already.

A sob broke her out of her thoughts — focus, Marinette! — and she immediately dropped her bag and rushed over to Adrien, who was now curled on himself and crying into his knees, if the shaking of his shoulders was any indication.

“Hey,” she murmured, reaching out but then retracting her hand a bit, not wanting to cross any boundaries. “Are yo—um, d—do you want a hug? Or something?” She cringed at how hesitant she sounded, but left her hand hovering i the air, as some sort of peace offering. She was more accustomed to Nino, who would turn away from her and pout until she poked and prodded him enough to make him laugh and poke and prod her in return.

Adrien was different. Adrien she didn’t know as well, even though he and Nino were closer than ever. Alya, too, but Alya was also busy trying to deal with Nino. Marinette couldn’t understand for the life of her why Nino insisted on being so stubborn that he couldn’t make another friend, especially one as compatible to him as Alya was.

Focus, Marinette, that’s not important right now. What was important was Adrien, sniffling into his arms.

Adrien finally looked up from his knees, his eyes puffy and his cheeks reddening and streaked with tears. Bright green eyes stared at her, unblinkingly, and Marinette could feel heat glow from her heart to the tips of her fingers and toes with the look he was giving her. It was a strange sensation, she had to admit, but she quite liked it. He looked away for half a second, his blond hair shielding those emeralds from her as he mumbled, “I-If that’s alright with you.”

Marinette folded around him awkwardly, his knees painfully digging into her chest as she wrapped her arms around his neck and allowed him to bury his face in her shoulder, his tears slowly wetting her robes, but she couldn’t care less in that moment. She cradled his head like her father would do with her when she was upset, her fingers tangling in his locks and gently scratching his scalp. With the other hand, she traced circles into his back.

He soon moved, shifting his legs so that he was more or less sitting in her lap as she cradled him, trying to blink away her own tears. He tried to hide his shuddering from her, she could tell, but that just made her pull him closer and tuck her chin on his shoulder.

She tried not to think of whoever that man was (as he was clearly no father) and what Adrien had suffered because of him. She needed to be strong for her friend, and strong she shall be.

She let Adrien cry into her shoulder as the stones grow warm from their body heat, she let Adrien hold fistfuls of her robes as he held her like she was the one thing anchoring him to the world, she let him break down in front of her as she tried to remind him through her caresses that he is loved and will always be, because goddamit, he has a family in her and Nino and Alya and Kagami and perhaps Luka, too, once him and Adrien get to know each other better.

She felt Adrien pulling a little bit away from her and looked down, seeing a small smile form on his face. “Th-Thank you.”

“Anytime,” she smiled back, rubbing at her eyes because she was so totally not crying. Her eyes lit up. “Hey, you wanna go down to the kitchens and bake something? I’m sure the house-elves won’t mind.”

“We could do that?” Adrien’s eyes widened as Marinette pulled them both up from the Owlrey floor.

“I mean,” Marinette shrugged, picking up her bag from where she’d left it. “There’s no one stopping us.” She held out her hand. “I find it’s helpful when I’m too stressed out to deal with people.” She smiled encouragingly at him, still holding out her hand as he scrubbed at his cheeks with his sleeves.

He slid a cold hand in hers, squeezing once and smiling back. “Sure.”

Chapter Text

Adrien should be terrified.

He had no idea how his father had learned about him becoming a Gryffindor. He figured he had at least until Christmas before his father noticed that his previously black Hogwarts ties were not green and silver but red and gold. He should have known that his father would find ways to know his Hogwarts house that weren’t through Felix.

If his father ever found out that the Howler had been destroyed, he’d probably repeat the letter with three times as much force and three times more scolds, threats, and possibly some expletives.

His father never cursed.

(He was told to say that.)

But his hand was in Marinette’s, and he felt like everything was alright in the world. Sure, she would sometimes bump into walls or get stuck on staircases, and more than once Adrien and Marinette would have to untangle her from whatever mess she’d gotten into, and he realized how long the walk from the Owlrey to the kitchens were, but this felt good.

She looked back at him often, as if to make sure that he was still following her, and all he wanted to say was that he’d follow her forever. He’d be by her side as long as she’ll have him, even if he’s only an acquaintance in the end, because she was the most exquisite thing he’s ever encountered.

Which could be saying nothing, considering his only interactions were with his father, Felix, and occasionally a girl older than him whose name he kept forgetting because she never came over often, and whenever she did, she stuck her nose haughtily in the air and followed her mother and he was pretty sure she mooned after Felix.

But he figured that Marinette was everything and deserved the world, so it wasn’t nothing.

She led him down, down, down the seven floors of the castle into the entrance Hal and down another staircase into a wide corridor, cheerily lit by torches lining the stone columns. Marinette suddenly stopped abruptly in front of a large painting of a bowl of fruit, Adrien nearly crashing into her.

She grinned at him so brightly he thought he forgot how to breathe. “Tickle the pear.”

“W-What?” Adrien stuttered out, now aware of how close they were standing and her hand was still tightly holding his he was fighting the smile trying to split his face—

She pointed up at the painting, giggles escaping her blush pink lips. “Tickle the pear, Adrien!”

He just raised his eyebrow at her incredulously, which only made her laugh harder. He frowned, but reached up towards the pear and cautiously scratched the pear as gently as he could.

To his surprise, the pear gave out a tinkling laugh and turned into a handle, which he seized quickly. He realized what he was doing and let go, waiting for the other shoe to drop when Marinette’s thumb rubbed against the back of his hand (he couldn’t tell if it was on accident or on purpose) and then he remembered he wasn’t going to get reprimanded for doors that he shouldn’t open and he grabbed the handle again. He pulled it open.

Marinette pulled him into a large, high-ceilinged room with a large brick fireplace at the other end of the kitchens form the door. There were five tables there, identical to the ones in the Great Hall above and in the exact same position. Adrien realized belatedly that this was were all the food from the feasts came from. Pots and pans and other cooking things rested on stoves, large work stations lining the nearest walls. House-elves were rushing around, stirring things, adding things, chopping vegetables, rolling out dough, and other preparations for dinner. He was sure that some of them had already seen them, but Marinette had just put her finger to her lips and they hadn’t said anything.

Marinette tiptoed in, as if she was afraid she would disturb anyone. Adrien followed close by, letting the painting swing back into place.

“How’d you know how to get in here?” Adrien whispered into her ear, and Marinette whipped her head around so fast that Adrien was afraid that she’d crick her neck.

“Luka told me,” — and he doesn’t miss the way that her cheeks flush red and he feels a weird sort of anger in his chest and doens’t understand it, but it disappeared when a ball of something came flying out of nowhere and latched itself onto Marinette’s robe.

“Ezra!” Marinette exclaimed, reaching down to hug what Adrien now realized was a house-elf with large brown eyes, a Hogwarts tea cozy neatly tied around her waist. “How is it here? Are you settling in okay?”

“Yes, Miss Marinette,” the house-elf beamed, her eyes shining like stars. “Ezra is very, very happy here. Miss Marinette is very kind to bring Ezra here.”

“Can you take us to a workstation no one’s using?” Marinette asked, much more politely than the tone his father used when speaking to his own house-elf, Nathalie. She gestured at Adrien, who dipped his head a little lower at being acknowledged. “Adrien and I would like to make some macarons.”

“Of course, Miss Marinette,” Ezra beamed, tugging Marinette’s robe to a corner where house-elves had already began clearing a section for them and producing ingredients that Adrien guessed would be used to make macaroons. Marinette pulled Adrien along with her as they made their way through bustling house-elves, although many stopped ad bowed low to them as they passed. Adrien had never seen so many house-elves working at once, and he enjoyed the atmosphere. It was like a busy beehive, delicious smells filling up the room and making Adrien’s stomach growl. Was it really a few hours since he’d had lunch?

Then he remembered he was writing the most recent Chat Noir letter to Marinette during lunch, and realized he probably didn’t eat much.

Marinette and Ezra were now chatting happily, Marinette scribbling something down on a piece of parchment while Ezra seemed to be making adjustments. Adrien felt a pull at his robe.

Looking down, he could only see a platter at his elbow stuffed full of Eccles cakes, Yorkshire puddings and other pastries, as well as a full pot of tea and two cups. “Food for you, sirs, we heard you was hungry!”

“Oh,” he smiled uncertainly, picking up the tray from the house-elf that had been carrying it. He quickly changed to the more appropriate thank-you smile that his tutors had taught him when the house-elf appeared from under the tray. “Thank you.”

“Welcome, sirs!” The house-elf beamed before scurrying off into the depths of the kitchen.

He placed the silver tray on the counter, picking up several of the pastries and stuffing them in his mouth rapidly, pouring a cup of tea rather hastily as he chewed them down. His father would reprimand him for stuffing his face, but Adrien couldn’t care less anymore. Besides, no one was watching him other than Marinette, and he’s seen Nino eat. She probably wouldn’t care if he looked like a chipmunk.

“Hey, Adrien,” Marinette tapped his shoulder. He nearly spat out the tea he was drinking. “Ready to bake?”

He nodded rapidly before downing the cup in one go. He was used to drinking scalding hot tea, having been forced to whenever his father had guests over. He liked this tea, though. Whatever it was, he hoped he could get it during breakfast. “What were you writing?”

“The recipe for the macarons,” Marinette grinned, holding it out to him. “Wanna see? We’re just gonna do a really simple one today.”

“Sure,” he smiled at her, and this one felt real. She hummed in delight and plucked the recipe from his hands, which he’d only skimmed over but honestly he couldn’t care.

He watched her fiddle with pots and pans and magical stirring things, and he helped her measure things out, but he liked watching her work. She hummed to herself a lot and sometimes she would murmur the lyrics. He tried to distinguish whether or not they were Muggle or wizarding music, but the only one he could really tell apart were when she sang French music.

He noticed that sometimes she’d say things in French under her breath. Often it was when she dropped stuff on the floor or if she was frustrated with something, and he liked it a lot. He wondered what she’d sound like if she just spoke French. It sounded nice.

He ended sitting on the table and finishing the rest of the pastries as Marinette piped out perfect circles onto sheets that Ezra had lined with parchment paper. He helped her hit the sheets against the counter, something he didn’t think would be needed to create something as delicate as macarons.

He whacked one so hard bits of batter flew off the parchment and floated into the air like the soap bubbles in the showers.

Marinette looked at him oddly, then a smile spread across her face. “You have some in your hair.”

“So do you,” he replied, and she did, little speckles of pink on her lashes and her cheeks and some in her ponytails.

“Here,” she said, and then her fingers were touching his face and he felt the familiar heat he’d let on the train and a million other times besides, and he couldn’t focus on anything other than her fingers are touching my face and my hair and they’re really soft wow and then she stepped back, licking al the batter off her fingers before sticking out her tongue and saying, “Yuck.”

His face split into a grin then as he laughed at the face she was making at the tray that had the macarons that he’d smacked too hard. “Does it not taste good? I thought people liked licking the spatulas of stuff.”

“I don’t know,” Marinette shrugged. “Personally, I don’t like the batter as much as I do the cookie. Probably because there’s no flavor in it and it just tastes like sugar and flour and egg stuff.”

“Egg stuff?”

“Egg stuff,” she nodded knowingly, before pointing her wand at her face and murmuring a spell, making the flecks of batter disappear from her face. “Besides, at least the cookies are salvageable. Nino can eat them.”

Adrien made a face. “He might throw up again.”

“Was it from all the croissants?” Adrien nodded, which made Marinette groan. “Ten years and he’s still an idiot. But, whatever. He probably will still be doing that until we’re gray and old.”

Adrien had nothing to reply to that, so he was glad when Marinette turned back to the macarons and started to put them in the oven. “Anyways, we can just leave the macarons here and Ezra will take care of them. She can bring some to you tomorrow, if you’d like.”

Questions that had lingered from before bubbled up against Adrien’s tongue but he shoved them down. He could wait until they were alone again. He didn’t want to offend any of the house-elves.

He waited until Marinette had said her goodbyes to Ezra and left her with instructions and they were a ways away from the kitchens when he finally asked, “How do you know Ezra?”

“Luka introduced me to her,” Marinette said with a little shrug of her shoulders. Adrien felt the roll of anger in his stomach, but it wasn’t anger. He’d figure it out later, but it was soon dispelled by the thoughtful look in Marinette’s face. “He said he’d found her being territorized by a Slytherin and he couldn’t stand it, so he managed to trick her into freeing the elf and then asked Ezra if she’d like to work at Hogwarts. She really liked to learn about the pastries that my parents make as a guise for being potioneers. She’s getting really good at it, too.”

“Aren’t you, you know, a little mad that the house-elves are kind of hidden? Like, no one else talks about them and even then, they’re treated ridiculously poorly, like—like things rather than sentient beings. Like how you said Ezra was treated. It doesn’t feel good.”

Marinette just turned to look at him. “Why do you say that?”

Caught off guard, he just shrugged and then mumbled, “You got mad when my father sent me that Howler. I don’t know. It sounds like more of the same.”

He didn’t really know what brought up the question, really, but he thought Marinette would have more of a...reaction to the house-elves and how they’re treated. She’s said before that Nino was always getting in trouble for not doing his chores but she didn’t mind doing it for the both of them. And then Nino had said he repaid her by getting her a lot of CDs and bye-nill? Vine-bill? Something of the sort.

He shook his head slightly to get rid of the extra thoughts in his mind. He’d seen his father treat Nathalie terribly before. He didn’t like it.

“Hmm,” Marinette hummed, making his attention snap back to her. “I agree that yes, house-elves are often overlooked and treated terribly, but Hogwarts is one of the larger institutions that treats them kindly. I had the same reaction as you when Luka showed me the kitchens. But the thing is, when I started to look into it, wizards subjecting house-elves to servitude has been going on for hundreds and hundreds of years. And the Minister of Magic Hermione Granger has tried to do something about it to make their lives better, but the mindset is so entrained in their mind that they’re happy serving others. So I’m polite to them and interact with them as if they’re my friends, but if I did anything more they’d see it as an insult. They like working. Some are just abused to the point where any sort of freedom sounds heavenly to them.”

Adrien let her words soak in. He’d known Marinette was smart, but this was like all the houses rolled into one. He could wax poetic about it later. He liked poetry, after all.

Which is why he liked sending things to Marinette.

“Why’d you bring me here?” he heard himself ask quietly. “I-I mean, not that I didn’t like it, but—”

“Um,” Marinette hastily said, her cheeks flushing red. “Whenever I feel sad, I go and bake, so I thought you might like to—” She stopped, the redness of her face now obscuring her freckles. She cleared her throat, but the blush on her face didn’t disappear. “Is your father really—is he really that bad to you?”

Adrien just shrugged because he had no idea how to respond to that question. Yes, his father did yell at him. Yes, his father was mean to him a lot and Adrien would cry. But he hadn’t known anything else to compare it to.

He didn’t say any of it to Marinette because he didn’t know how to.

She still hugged him regardless, her fingers curling around his waist as she slid under his arm like a hand to a glove. It knocked his shoulder up and made it uncomfortable to sleep on later, but he couldn’t care less. They were around the same height now.

She hugged him when they reached the staircase that split off into the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw dorms. He watched her leave.

He didn’t know what the warm feeling in his stomach was, but he liked it.

 

——————————

 

When he woke up the next morning, he found Nino reaching for a plate of macarons on his nightstand. He didn’t even have to think before whacking his best friend’s hand away from them.

He ignored Nino’s shout of “Hey!” and sat up, rubbing his eyes. He turned towards the plate of macarons, putting them in his lap and blinking the sleep out of his eyes until he focused in on the caramel-colored cookies.

”Those are salted caramel flavored,” Nino said helpfully as Adrien slowly took a bite out of one. “It’s one of Marinette’s best flavors. Can I have one?”

Adrien rolled his eyes, but allowed Nino to take a few as he chewed, trying to savor the sweet and salty flavor. Nino wasn’t kidding when he said that this was fantastic. The cookie was both crunchy and soft, the hard shell almost dissolving into the chewier interior. The cream on the inside was thick and luscious, coating his mouth in sugary sweetness. Every bite was an explosion of salt and burnt sugar but it tasted so much better than the ones his father would have for snacks during tea time, and god if he didn’t have these every day of his life because these were too good. A weird sound escaped Adrien’s lips as he chewed, but he was too engrossed with the cookie to care.

“Dude!” Connor snorted as he wrangled with his tie. “You just moaned!”

”So?” Adrien just shrugged. “These are really, really good.”

Adrien shared them with his roommates, but that just led to the plate being demolished before Adrien could even think about getting dressed for classes. He was a little mad that they’d eaten them all, but he realized he could just ask Marinette or Ezra if they could make more.

He was friends with her now. He could do that.

Friends, he thought, and the word sounded very pretty in his head.

He didn’t think of the Howler for weeks after that.