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When Sirius had asked her, all his godchild had told him was, "We're to have a professional relationship." Her answer did not, of course, preclude himself or Remus from continuing their friendship with the man--but Severus had grown increasingly remote, just as Harry had withdrawn in her own way. Severus brewed. Harry read. Neither pastime seemed satisfying to either of them.

"Don't worry, love," Remus reassured him. "Things will get back to normal eventually."

"It just seems odd that Harry's obsessed with a bedtime story."

Remus laughed, replying, "The Unconsummated Marriage" is a love story, you git.

"Since when are blood, guts, and battle part of romance?"

Remus looked at his lover with a significance that took on a hooded quality, and, as might be expected, they forgot to worry about Ree for the littlest of whiles.

"Brine of a Near Sea? That's just odd," the Girl-Who-Lived told herself, sucking on a sugar quill. But she was not so distracted that she failed to hear the creep of would-be-stealthy feet travel past the boundary of the outer corridor of Gryffindor tower, thanks to the modified Sneak-o-Scope that Fred and George had developed for her.

Best investment I ever made, that joke shop.

Bringing her Firebolt in for a silent landing just behind the young woman, Harry said, "Good evening, Miss Frazier. And where might you be off to after curfew?"

Somewhere in one of Hogwarts' corridors, Albus Dumbledore chuckled softly. The Fourth Year students, among others, were finding Professor Potter's first year of instruction most trying.

Unfortunately, I know of no spell that might cure self-doubt, self-pity, or self-flagellation.

Putting Severus out of his mind and taking a deep breath, the headmaster willed himself to seek out the quiet space of a winter garden, materializing next to the somnolent form of a recumbent young man with trouble features.

Soon, dear boy. Trust me but a little longer.

When one is, for all practical purposes, immortal, "soon" can be misleading. But Albus told himself that the boy would understand. And if he did not, well . . . .

I do know several enchantments against an efficacious memory.


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