Amidst Paper Kisses
Inception | Arthur/Ariadne, Dom/Mal | PG-13 | ~2,257
Harry Potter AU. In which they form a study group, Dom's pigheaded, Arthur has a crush, and Eames is just amused as hell by it all.
A/N: For the hs_bingo prompt 'study buddies'.
Arthur takes a taxi to the station the first day of seventh year, the driver eyeing up his old, antique trunk strangely as he places it in the back seat and asking him questions about what it's like to attend boarding school during the ride. Arthur lets him think he's correct in the assumption he attends Eton or Wellington; it's easier than explaining he's actually a wizard, even if it does mean he has to make up stories about what it's like to be at an all boys school.
Dom's waiting for him at the gate, exchanging flirtatious glances with Mal who's pretending to ignore him
"This year," Dom says, and Arthur rolls his eyes.
"You've been saying that since we were fourteen," Arthur says, "and if you'd just asked her out you could have been dating since we were fourteen."
Dom ducks his head, rubs a hand over the back of his neck and offers a self-deprecating grin. "Yeah, but think about how much better it's going to be after all the anticipation."
"You're crazy," Arthur points out, but he can't help the smile that pulls at the corner of his mouth.
"Your parents didn't bring you?" Dom asks as they find an empty carriage, and Arthur's grateful for the casual way he says it.
"No, they're in Athens. I think."
"Ah well," Dom says, lightly, "we'll be back at Hogwarts soon. Home sweet home and all that."
Arthur's about to make a noncommittal response when the door opens with a bang and Eames appears, dressed atrociously as always and grinning widely.
"Gentlemen!" he says, and then falls into the seat next to Arthur, swinging an arm around his shoulders. "How was your summer, darling?"
"Fine," Arthur says, with a put-upon sigh. Eames can be loud and obnoxious and he doesn't know the meaning of the term 'personal space', but he's also loyal and fiercely intelligent and one of Arthur's closest friends. Even if he will never admit it aloud.
"Good good," Eames says and props his feet up on the seat opposite. "So boys, ready for another fascinating year at our dear old educational establishment?"
"Yes," Arthur says, and he can feel the muscles in his shoulders starting to relax as the Express begins to move. "Yes, I really am."
"So," Dom says, walking over from the Gryffindor table and sliding onto the bench opposite Arthur. "I'm thinking of starting a NEWT study group."
"Right," Arthur says, ignoring the looks being thrown their way by a few of his fellow Ravenclaw's in favour of the scrambled eggs in front of him. "I don't suppose this would have anything to do with Mal mentioning in Defence the other day that it would be good to start revising early, would it?"
"Not at all," Dom says, grinning. "I just don't want to regret not pushing myself to be the best I can be. Or whatever it was McGonagall was saying yesterday."
"Fine," Arthur says, "but you're running it."
"And I'm not telling Mal about it for you."
"Oh, come on," Dom says, leaning forward and offering Arthur his most pathetic puppy eyes. "Please. Pretty please. I'm almost entirely sure it's your duty as my best friend to aid me in my attempts to not completely embarrass myself in front of the girl I like."
"Get Eames to ask her," Arthur says.
"Eames will just end up hitting on her. You know he can't help himself."
"He's a Slytherin for a reason," Arthur points out.
"Oh please," Dom scoffs. "He's almost as Ravenclaw as you, he just wears a different colour tie and happens to run an underground, inter-house poker game on the weekends."
"Talking about me again?" Eames says, and Arthur's used to his sneaking around by now so he manages not to jump.
"I'm starting a study group," Dom tells him, and then glares when Eames starts laughing.
"Of course you are," he says. "Did you want me to invite some people? Mal's looking particularly gorgeous today, don't you think?"
Dom glares. "No, that's fine. I'm just going to go ask her myself."
He takes a large gulp of orange juice before pulling his shoulders back, running a hand through his hair and walking slowly back over to the Gryffindor table.
"He's not actually going to ask her, is he?" Eames says.
"You're going to ask her later, aren't you."
"Excellent," Eames says, slapping a hand between Arthur's shoulder blades as he gets up. "Well, I'm in if only because this all has the potential to be entertaining as hell."
Arthur has the horrible feeling he's right.
"Hey, hi, welcome," Dom stutters as Mal walks through the door of the classroom they're using for the evening. Arthur has to bite his lip to stop himself laughing, and almost breaks when he catches Eames' eye.
"Hello," Mal says, her accent softening the word, and she really is ethereal and beautiful. Dom has good taste at least. "I hope you don't mind, but I asked someone else along."
"Of course not," Dom says, and Arthur really hopes for all their sakes it's not some other guy.
It's not. It's a tiny brunette girl who smiles at them all nervously and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. She looks vaguely familiar but Arthur can't quite place her.
"You're a Gryffindor sixth year, aren't you?" Dom asks, curiously, and the girl nods.
"Yeah. I'm Ariadne."
"Ariadne wants to get an early start on her studies," Mal says. "She's the smartest student in her year, so I imagine she'll be able to keep up."
"In that case," Eames says, taking Ariadne's hand and placing a charming kiss on the back of it, "welcome, my dear."
Ariadne doesn't blush, doesn't drop her gaze shyly, she simply smiles back at Eames with something that's threatening to twist into a smirk.
Arthur likes her already.
Their study group consists of Arthur, Dom, Eames, Mal, Ariadne, Yusuf - a Hufflepuff who's particularly skilled at Potions - and Saito, a Slytherin whom Arthur's always thought of as a pureblood elitist but Eames insists is alright.
It's a mismatched group, but after just one meeting it's already clear how well it's going to work.
"Hi Arthur," Ariadne says as she passes him in the library, arms full of Arithmancy volumes. Arthur gives her a small wave in return.
"Who was that?" Anthony asks, a gleam in his eye as he watches her join her friends.
"Don't even think about it Goldstein."
Arthur doesn't justify that with a response.
Mal goes to Hogsmeade with Robert Fischer the sixth week of term and everything falls to hell.
"She's only gone with him 'cause you didn't ask her," Eames tells Dom, and then ducks the pen that's thrown at him.
"Whatever," Dom says, and he's really angry, really upset, and Arthur doesn't know what to do about it. Eames, for all his lack of sympathy, is right; it's his own fault. Dom hadn't asked her, even though they all knew she'd say yes, and so she'd agreed to go with someone else.
And Fischer's not a bad guy, is the thing. Arthur shares a dorm room with him, and though they're not friends, the other boy is always willing to lend out the advanced textbooks his godfather sends him or discuss essay topics at substantial length. Arthur sometimes wonders if he might not be a little lonely, and Mal, well, she doesn't actually belong to anyone even if they do sometimes forget it, and she's sweet and lovely and smart. Arthur can't begrudge Fischer her attention even though Dom's his best friend.
He's not going to admit that aloud, though.
Dom's mature response to the situation is to ignore Mal entirely. He refuses to acknowledge her existence, going so far as to rearrange the study schedule so she's less likely to show. Luckily Arthur's pretty sure she's more amused by it all than annoyed, but he knows that can only last so long.
The study sessions themselves become so tense that nobody actually gets any work done, and as the only Ravenclaw amongst them, it's pretty close to driving Arthur crazy. So, he doesn't go.
Instead of heading to the empty classroom on the fifth floor, he finds a nook of the library to hide in, and gets lost in his Astronomy textbooks in peace, until a soft cough pulls him out.
"Hi," Ariadne says quietly, and she looks a little awkward. "Do you mind if I join you?"
"The study group get too much for you, too?" he asks, indicating the chair next to him with a nod, and she smiles as she sinks into it.
"Yeah. Mal showed up tonight – I think Eames told her where we were going to be – and then Dom started an argument with her via Yusuf. I snuck out after Eames fell off his chair laughing."
"I don't blame you," Arthur says, and then looks at the books she's laying on the table. "Advanced Transfiguration? Impressive."
"Thanks," she says, and he thinks she might be blushing, just a little. It makes something warm unfurl in his chest.
"So, study group two point oh," Arthur says, with a smile, "let's see what we can do."
Mal hadn't been exaggerating when she'd said Ariadne was smart. She has a natural talent for Transfiguration and is also brilliant at Arithmancy and Ancient Runes and Defence, but hates Potions. She loves the Greek mythology of her namesake and grew up in a Muggle home where she'd built things with her hands only to later learn how to build them with magic. She has a small cluster of freckles on her nose, and the corners of her eyes crinkle up when she laughs, and she smells a little bit like cinnamon.
Arthur maybe thinks she's perfect.
"I believe we need an intervention," Saito says, cornering Arthur outside the Great Hall with folded arms.
"Yes. It has gone on long enough. Cobb needs to stop this ridiculous behaviour before he loses Mal forever."
"I know," Arthur says with a sigh. "So, tonight?"
"Yes." Saito nods his head and disappears into the crowd, and Arthur's left wondering when his life became a daily soap on the Wizarding Wireless Network.
Arthur's not ashamed to admit he may have had to beg a little to persuade Mal to turn up after the last time, but it's not long before everyone's there, all looking uncomfortable except Eames who's smirking like Christmas has come early. Arthur wishes he were able to find the situation so funny.
"Well," Dom says, dropping his books on a desk with too much force and glaring at nothing. "Shall we get started?"
"No," Arthur says, and he can't believe he's doing this. "No, first you and Mal need to talk this out."
Dom stares at him, slack-jawed and a little betrayed.
"You both like each other, so do something about it before you drive us all crazy."
"Yes Dom," Mal says, "why don't you 'do something about it'."
"I…" Dom says, and he looks about ready to kill everyone in the room, particularly Arthur. "It's not that easy."
"Yes it is," Arthur says and then before he knows what he's doing, he's turning to Ariadne who's watching them cautiously and looking beautiful with her hair falling around her face. "Watch and learn."
He takes a breath.
"Ariadne, will you go to Hogsmeade with me next weekend?"
"Oh, this just keeps getting better and better," Eames says, sounding way too thrilled.
Arthur ignores him in favour of watching Ariadne, the way her cheeks start to flush and she catches her bottom lip between her teeth.
"Okay," she says, and her smile lights up her entire face.
"Great," he says, and he's smiling too, caught up in her before he remembers what he's doing. "See?" he says, turning back to Dom. "Now it's your turn."
Dom crosses him arms, not looking at anyone or anything, and Arthur's pretty sure Saito's seconds away from hitting him out of sheer frustration. He knows the feeling.
"Oh for goodness sake," Mal says, and everyone turns to look at where she's sitting elegantly, one leg crossed over the other. "Dom, would you like to go with me next weekend? I'll buy you lunch and we can go to the Quidditch shop so you can admire the new brooms."
"Um," Dom says, and he looks more than a little gobsmacked. "Okay."
"Excellent," Mal says. "Now that's sorted, shall we begin our studying? I was hoping to go over the Astronomy questions. Unless anyone else has any drama to talk out."
"No," Arthur says quickly, before Eames can open his mouth. "No, let's get started."
Afterwards, Ariadne grabs his arm before he can leave, pulling him down the corridor away from the others.
"Did you mean it," she says, "or were you just making a point?"
"I meant it," he says, and she's so close he can feel the way she relaxes. "Did you?"
"Yes," she says. "Absolutely yes."
They stand there for a moment, almost touching but not quite, listening to the footsteps of their friends fading away.
"So I'll see you Saturday," Ariadne says, leaning up and looking determined as she presses their lips together. Arthur only has time to notice how soft her lips are and how fast his heart starts beating before she's pulling away and smiling softly, looking back once as she leaves.
His life really is a WWN soap.
There are worse things.