Dom sits in the same empty classroom he's spent most of his free time in for the past year and a half. He's got his Charms book open in his lap and his feet up on a desk, making deep dents in the dust.

He feels a chill creep up his spine,

"Not now, Mal," Dom smiles, "I have an exam tomorrow!"

"You told me," Mal pretends to whine, "but you've been studying for hours already."

Mal sticks her head over Dom's shoulder to get a better look at his textbook. Her hair ghosts across his face and Dom suppresses a shudder. In the middle of praying that Mal hadn't noticed, she smiles sidelong at him and deliberately tucks the offending lock behind her ear.

"You're on the same page you were an hour ago," she points out,

He blushes up the back of his neck. Mal's laugh floats with her to the back of the room. Dom scowls and turns the page angrily.

It's entirely too soon before two brown-haired Slytherins crash into his classroom, panting and giggling.

"O, hullo there, Dom," the larger Slytherin smirks, "Didn't know you'd be in here,"

Dom glares at Eames as he bends to pick up his Charms book,

"Of course you did." Dom replies wryly,

Eames shrugs and throws himself into the nearest chair, draping himself over the back. Arthur pulls out a chair, somewhere between them and sits neatly.

"I hope no one saw you come in here," Dom continues, removing the crease from a page,

Eames smirks again, but Arthur's solemn head-shake 'no' reassures Dom.

Dom had been surprised Arthur had been sorted into Slytherin. Eames, he can understand. Eames is slick and rude and everything a Slytherin is supposed to be. But Arthur is infinitely thorough, sharp as a knife (an expression most wizards don't understand, as it is) and a terrible liar.

"Hello, Arthur, Eames." Mal appears behind Dom again,

"Mal! You're looking radiant today," Eames eyes Mal,

"Eames!" Arthur scolds,

Dom looks horrified. Eames looks rather pleased with himself. Mal rolls her eyes at the boys,

"Honestly, Eames, you can't expect something so predictable to be offending," Mal chides,

"I have to try, love," Eames grins back,

"You really don't." Dom growls, sending Eames a sharp look over his textbook,

"Your girlfriend isn't offended, Dom. Don't get your panties in a bunch over nothing," Eames winks at Mal,

"She's not- I mean, we're not-I'm..." Dom stutters,

"I think you broke him," Mal giggles,

"In that case, happy birthday, darling," Eames beams, only being partially facetious,

Dom drops his textbook on the desk.

"Oh! Speaking of birthdays, we got you a present, Mal," Arthur grins,

Arthur produces a book from his robes and places it in front of Mal.

As she peers down at it, the cover suddenly flies open, shuffling past the first few blank pages.

"We hope you like it." Arthur says shortly,

"What Arthur's trying to say, darling, is that we know how absolutely bored you get being around Dom all the time, so we-"

"I" Arthur interrupts Eames,

"Right. Of course, Arthur. Wouldn't dream of not giving credit where credit is due," Eames rolls his eyes at the other boy, "Arthur charmed the book to turn the page as soon as you finish reading it,"

"And," Arthur cuts in, "It's a library book, so you don't have to worry about finding somewhere to put it. We can do the charm on another book when you're done with this one."

"Oh! Thank you, boys!" Mal grins,

She reads another page experimentally and chuckles when the page turns on its own.

"Oh. Looks like we lost Dom," Eames comments snidely.

Arthur just smirks.

"Foolish boy," Mal mutters darkly, "He always feels the need to get me something useless. Like I have anywhere to keep it,"

Mal gestures around the dusty classroom, marked only by footprints left by the three boys. There are a few knickknacks bright against the general sepia tone of the classroom, probably Dom's previous presents.

"You know him, love," Eames sighs, "He tries too hard. He's like Arthur-"

"Eames!"

"-But less thoughtful,"

Arthur grits his teeth but doesn't say anything. The slight twitch in his eye tells Eames Arthur's trying not to smile.


When Dom returns, badly wrapped present in hand, it's only barely before curfew.

He eases the door open, spelling it shut after him. Arthur's reading in a transfigured armchair. It takes Dom a moment to find Eames because he's draped across Arthur's lap, snoring lightly. Mal's not far from them, hovering over her new book, the pages rustling quietly in time with Arthur's page turns. Her lips tug slightly every time the page turns by itself and Dom thinks he's completely pathetic for feeling the way he does about her. Warm and fuzzy. He takes a shaky breath,

"Mal,"

Mal looks slightly surprised when she sees Dom back. Dom shyly unwraps the letter and holds it out for Mal, not able to look at her while she reads it. Suddenly, Mal's kissing him. And it feels nothing like it should. The kiss is foggy and cold and not human. Arthur clears his throat, shocking the pair apart and rousing Eames. Mal takes one look at Dom's face and before he can say anything, she's shot through him and the wall behind him.

"You really screwed the pooch on that one, darling," Eames yawns, stretching and purposefully knocking into Arthur's book,

Dom swallows heavily and stuffs the letter he had written into his pocket.

Arthur snaps his book closed, nearly catching Eames' hand.

"We should go," Arthur says with a pointed look at Eames, "It's almost curfew,"

Eames levers himself out of the chair, offering Arthur his hand once he's up.

"She'll be back," Arthur offers, pausing in the doorway,

Dom nods, still not able to lift his gaze from the floor. Unable to shake the feeling that he's just permanently alienated his best friend.

"Just...don't sleep here," Arthur adds before disappearing. Dom doesn't hear the door click shut behind him or his watch alarm go off, telling him it's well past curfew. Mal doesn't come back that night.