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As the ice melted, he began to realize that the creature underneath it was a person, lying about two feet under, perfectly still, with its arms folded over its chest in a serene death-pose. It grew clearer and brighter as the sheets of ice grew thinner, as though it was pulling itself together somehow.

Eventually, the creature resolved itself into a cherub-faced boy – no more than ten or eleven years old – with curly chestnut hair and one open green eye. He would have looked quite peaceful if it hadn’t been for the other eye, which was just a hollow socket under the closed lid. Severus, his insides already churning from hunger and exhaustion, started to feel sick.

It wasn’t a corpse, though – he was certain of that. There was too much colour. The boy was ruddy-faced and bright-eyed. He looked as though he’d been frozen in mid-blush.     

Dumbledore had swept into the Viceberg by then, radiating that air of infectious calm that Severus could really have done with an hour ago. Now, it was too little, too late. He didn’t look at Severus; he just exchanged a few grim, quiet words with Meg and Lily, examined the boy under the ice, and went back up into the Archives to fetch McGonagall and Madam Pomfrey.

Madam Pomfrey was at the end of her tether. She had threads of grey-blonde hair shooting out of her pony-tail like thunder-bolts. When she’d first seen Lily and Severus, pale and shivering, bruised and weak, and – worst of all – smoking, on the floor of the Viceberg, she had been genuinely angry. Severus had never seen her like that before. She was always irritable, of course: that was natural. She had to keep a castle-full of vicious, vindictive little school-children from tearing each other to pieces. Magical accidents were common-place at Hogwarts – and magical violence even more so. She had to patiently unravel mangled charms and shoddy spell-work, all the while trying to remember something she liked about her hormone-addled patients, in order for the Healing Magic to work.  

She frequently turned up in the staff room, nursing a stiff brandy, and imploring the staff to teach their pupils the right way to perform a bat-bogey hex, because poorly-administered versions were extremely messy.

When she’d vented her rage by shooting a few fire-balls at the wall (again, the icicles tinkled ominously, but didn’t fall), Madam Pomfrey had wrapped Severus and Lily in blankets and found them some hot chocolate. Severus didn’t even taste his; he just knocked the scalding liquid down his throat and tried to concentrate on feeling stronger, because he knew what would be coming down those stairs, even if he didn’t know what would be coming up from underneath the ice.  

He didn’t have long to wait. When he turned round, Potter was bounding down the steps, his eyes eagerly sweeping the room for Lily. Severus curled his hands into fists and pressed his knuckles against the ice-wall behind him.

“Evans!” the Quidditch-cup-winning creep shouted delightedly.

Severus increased the pressure on his knuckles, trying to absorb the cool, numbing qualities of the ice. He’d heard of magic that could accomplish this – spells that gave your skin the toughness of metal whenever you touched a metal surface, so that muggle bullets would bounce straight off you. There probably wasn’t a spell for making Potter’s arrogance glance harmlessly off your skin. That was beyond the limits of magic. The air of smug, self-satisfied triumph was trailing from his robes like the clouds that usually trailed from his broomstick.   

Potter hurried towards her, bouncing on his heels with excitement. Severus locked his jaw in place and watched him approach with dark, smoldering eyes. If he tried to touch her – if he even ruffled her hair or slapped her on the back – he was going to kill him.  It wasn’t a promise – just a prediction. He knew in every fibre of his being that he couldn’t take any more provocation tonight.

Lily seemed to have come to the same conclusion. She shot him one anxious look, and then cringed instinctively against Madam Pomfrey, leaning all her weight on the matron as though she couldn’t stand anymore. Madam Pomfrey – who had been taking Lily’s pulse, and clucking with irritable concern on every heart-beat – didn’t need any more incentive to be protective.

“Stop right there, Potter!” she yelled, conjuring a Shield Charm in front of him that nearly knocked him off his feet. “This girl has cracked ribs, a concussion and the beginnings of hypothermia. She needs rest – not the clumsy ministrations of boisterous Quidditch players!”

Potter took a step back, his brows knitting together with tender anxiety. “Sorry. Is she going to be OK? I didn’t think.”

“Now, there’s a shock,” Severus muttered drily. Everyone ignored him, but Potter was the only one who seemed genuinely not to have heard. He couldn’t stand still. He was restless with relief and excitement, and the effort it was costing him to be gentle was visible in every bead of sweat on his forehead. It was as though he’d just won the Quidditch Cup and he was forbidden to mention it. The bastard had to press his lips together and clasp his hands behind his back!

“Sorry, Evans,” he said, grinning sheepishly, trying to make her laugh. “I’m a big, stomping idiot.”

Lily shook her head to try and contradict him, but this didn’t sit well with the concussion, because her knees buckled under her. Madam Pomfrey caught her, waited until she was steady on her feet, and then hissed, “That’s it, Potter! I’m putting a restraining order on you. You do not come within ten feet of this girl until I say she’s better!”

Snape chuckled with satisfaction – and, for the first time, Potter seemed to notice he was there. The air of restless excitement instantly vanished.

“Have you got a problem with something, Snivellus?” he demanded.

“Ten feet away from both my patients, if you please!” Madam Pomfrey snapped. “Until further notice, Potter, this room is the Hospital Wing, and visiting hours are most emphatically over.”

Potter gave a surly shrug and muttered. “Whatever you say, Professor. Wouldn’t want to beat him up when he’s sick anyway.” He gave Severus a nasty smile and added. “It’s too easy even when he’s at full strength.”

Severus glared at that punchable face, and thought about the last time he’d seen him, pale and lifeless on the lawn outside the burning cottage in Godric’s Hollow, reaching out towards Lily’s body, possessive even in death, using every opportunity – just as he had in life – to smear his filthy hand-prints across her skin.   

He couldn’t imagine a tolerable future where this creep was still alive. But dying like that – dying beside her – being buried with her – was so much worse. The smug bastard had won. He’d run off with Lily’s spirit somewhere that Severus couldn’t follow. She hadn’t just chosen Potter ‘till death do us part’. She’d chosen eternity with him.

Was there still a way to stop it from happening? Killing Potter right now was an appealing idea, but something told him that a dead Potter would work on Lily’s sympathies just as perniciously as a living one.

You just have to keep an eye on him, that’s all – said the voice inside his head – the one that was so good at surviving. After all, it’s not certain. Caladrius was working on a way to change the future. And you know that other futures exist, because you saw one when you met the Boggart-Lily. Not an ideal future, admittedly – although she was unthinkably sexy – but nothing is decided yet.

Lily likes you. You’ve never had that before. That changes everything.
    

Potter stalked off, back up towards the Archives. They needn’t have worried, he thought. He would never have hurt her. Boisterous and insensitive as he usually was, he was starting to feel reverential about Lily Evans these days. He was starting to think that he’d need a stiff shot of Firewhisky to even hold her hand. He’d need to cross himself before he touched her. He’d need to beg forgiveness if he ever saw her naked, even if it was in a context she approved of.

Potter’s imagination was vivid, even though he’d had little cause to use it during his pampered life; after all, if you got everything you ever wanted, you didn’t need an imagination. But he was starting to use it around Lily. He was beginning to feel that she was too precious, too perfect, to touch.

These feelings were so unfamiliar – the idea that someone was too good for him – he would have laughed at it a year ago.

If you had asked him a year ago, Potter would have said that he had a lot of friends at Hogwarts. But now he knew he didn’t – he had three friends, about a dozen enemies, a couple of hundred sycophantic idiots, and Lily. The friends and the enemies would feel the same about him however he behaved; the sycophantic idiots would flock around him if he was fashionable, and then abandon him when he wasn’t – but Lily was incorruptible; she couldn’t be swayed by politics, popularity or fashion. She would only like him if he was fair.

Potter had never had to earn anybody’s good opinion before. His friends had loved him from day one; his enemies had hated him from day minus-one – since before he was born, probably – because he was the son of a Gryffindor, and he defended muggles. But Lily was a bewitching challenge, like a particularly tricky Golden Snitch. You couldn’t just snatch her out of the air – you had to look as though your intentions were elsewhere – you had to lead all the competition astray. Be gentle, stealthy and single-minded.

That had been the feeling to begin with, anyway – that she was a challenge, and he could get her if he worked hard enough. But now – well, he still believed he could do it; he just wasn’t sure he should.

She was beautiful free and unencumbered – she had earned her freedom by being so difficult to catch – by being fair and kind and decent – by being impossible to bribe or persuade or outrun. He didn’t know what he’d do when he caught her. He didn’t deserve to catch her.

He’d been following her trail all night. He was starting to see the Snitch’s side of the story. He supposed that was what all great hunters did – get into the mind of the quarry. But he hadn’t expected to be seduced by the mind of the quarry.

He’d tracked her from Narcissa’s party, and he’d managed to piece together her movements on the way. He knew she’d fought Dementors, and tricked her way into Voldemort’s hide-out using Polyjuice Potion. He knew she’d escaped from there, somehow, rescuing Caladrius, and following some vengeful muggle to the island of Azkaban. And, from there, she had dodged Foe Fire, Death Eaters, and more Dementors, to escape with only cracked ribs, a concussion and the beginnings of Hypothermia.

Somebody who could do all that didn’t deserve to get caught by a second-rate Seeker – or even the best Seeker in the world. Somebody who could do all that deserved to have the Seeker carry her wherever she wanted to go on the back of his broomstick.  

He wondered if that had ever happened before: had a Seeker ever abandoned the game and run off with the Snitch? Had a Seeker ever thought: to hell with the team, and the referee, and the House Cup – the Snitch’s freedom is the only thing I care about?

Probably not. He was slightly ashamed of the thought. He wondered how far it would carry him. If he could contemplate abandoning a game of Quidditch, because he’d developed tender feelings for the Golden Snitch, then he was fairly sure there was nothing he wouldn’t contemplate doing for her.    

As he arrived in the Archives, and went to slouch next to Padfoot, he saw Dumbledore walking towards the blonde-haired muggle they’d called Bruiser. Behind him, Madam Pomfrey was supporting the one-eyed boy gingerly as he edged up the steps.

Padfoot was already listening intently to the conversation between Dumbledore and the muggle. Potter joined in, staring wretchedly at his shoes.

“Th – that’s my son, isn’t it?” Bruiser croaked, blinking back tears. “I don’t… don’t remember ‘is name.”

“It’s Jonah,” said Dumbledore gently.

“Jonah… o’course.” He blinked again, his voice splintering into a rasp. “I think… I think… that was my father’s name.”

Bruiser made an effort to pull himself together – he pressed his hands against the ice-wall until they were white. “And the little girl,” he went on wretchedly, “…his sister…?”

“Elsa? Poppy is thawing her out as we speak.”

Bruiser’s knees seemed to buckle beneath him, but he grabbed onto the wall, and tried to hold up his head.

“Is she…?”

“She is intact,” said Dumbledore, the stern look reappearing in his eyes. “It was only Jonah’s eye that was taken – at his own insistence, I gather. He wanted to protect his sister. He said they could take anything they wanted from him, as long as they left his sister out of it. I believe, when the goblins took his eye and set it in silver, they looked upon it as honouring his courage. Goblins care about immortality, you see. They wanted a part of him to live forever. All great goblin heroes leave a part of themselves to become treasure – gold-cast goblin bones are particularly popular, I believe. It is a symbol of the hero’s great deeds living on in the memory.”

Bruiser nodded at this information, though he didn’t seem to have taken much of it in. He was staring at the one-eyed boy with an agonized look on his face.

“Where’s my wife?” he growled quietly.

Dumbledore’s voice became stern. “She was torn out of Lily’s body by a Dementor’s kiss.”

James Potter felt a pain shoot up his side at this revelation. Padfoot threw him an uneasy glance, but he ignored it.

“Is she OK?” Bruiser muttered.

“Lily, or your wife?” Dumbledore asked, again in that less-than-friendly tone.

“Lily…”

“Yes, Lily is fine. A few cracked ribs and a concussion, I understand. She tells me that Severus saved her.”

Bruiser gave a short, throaty life. “If she’s only as safe as Severus Snape is clever, I’m not worried about her.”

“Perhaps now is not the time to discuss it,” Dumbledore went on. He made an effort to warm his frosty voice, and then added. “I should introduce myself, Mr Chambers. Or rather, re-introduce myself, because we have met before, although you may not remember - ,”

“Who’s Mr Chambers?” Bruiser interrupted.

“You are,” said Dumbledore shortly. “I should explain. I was at your wedding. Minerva and I - ,” he stopped, and pointed to Professor McGonagall, who was pursing her lips into a very thin line and looking distinctly miserable - , “that’s Minerva over there; she was a friend of your wife’s at school. In any case, we were the only magical people who were prepared to come to the wedding – the rest of Maggie’s acquaintance, as you can no doubt guess, saw the marriage as a disgrace, and magical law required, at that time, that there be at least two witnesses from the magical community present at any marriage between a witch or wizard and a muggle. The theory was that it would be too easy for a muggle to kidnap a witch or wizard and force them into marriage – a law that has subsequently been re-thought, I’m happy to say, in the cold light of common sense.”  

“Despite our presence at the wedding, no-one in the magical community was prepared to recognize Maggie’s marriage. They called her Margaret Valance until the day she died. I believe it was a compliment. The usual practice in such cases was to pretend the witch had dropped out of existence altogether. Maggie’s power – and, needless to say, her charisma – were too self-evident for her friends and family to assume she had been brain-washed or degraded. Instead, they preferred to pretend that you did not exist. They pretended that the marriage had never happened, thus neatly side-stepping the problem. It was love, of a sort, and I believe you saw it as such, because you never complained. You were even willing for the children to be put to school under the names Jonah and Elsa Valance, an idea that Maggie opposed fiercely.”

“When they put her in Azkaban…” Bruiser grunted.

“Minerva and I could not help her,” Dumbledore answered, raising a restraining hand. “She had killed and stolen and terrorized by that time, and the evidence against her was overwhelming. She would not speak in her defence at her trial, because the goblins still had her children.”  

Meg wandered up to them at that point – her movements strangely subdued in comparison with her usual bouncing tread.  

“This is Megaera,” said Dumbledore, putting his hand on her shoulder.

“Meg!” Meg insisted gently. She seemed to think she needed to speak in hushed tones around Bruiser. She was shaking – she’d been through so much tonight – all the worry for Lily, and then the shocking discovery of two new family members, one of whom had been robbed of an eye – but she was smiling bravely, and she looked resolute.

Dumbledore smiled. “I apologize. Meg would like you and the children to consider staying at the Valance House with herself and her father.”

“It’s yours now,” said Meg. “Jonah is the heir. My family needs a male heir.”

Bruiser squinted. “Why?”

“It’s sort of a bit… complicated,” Meg confessed. “My dad’s very traditional.”

“Thanks, love,” said Bruiser, “but my son won’t push anyone out of their birth-right.”

“We need the name to go on!” Meg insisted, her eyes wide. “You wouldn’t be pushing me out; you’d be doing me a favour! Please. It would make my dad so happy. And I’m good with kids – I’d be a great nanny. Please stay with us.”

Bruiser looked awkward. “You know much about lookin’ after kids?” he asked eventually. “’Cause I’ve bin livin’ in a cell for thirty years, an’ I could use a few pointers.”

“Absolutely!” said Meg enthusiastically.

Bruiser paused again. “This is their world,” he mumbled. “I need them to ‘ave friends in it.”

“They always will,” said Meg firmly. “They’re Valances.”

Bruiser gave her a smile that was half amusement and half annoyance. “Yeah, I know. And they always will be, I bet. Valance is a strong genetic characteristic, from what I’ve seen.”

“But we want you to stay with us too,” Meg pressed on. “The way you were treated… well…” She blushed. Meg Valance actually blushed. “I just want you to know that not all pure-blood families are like that.”

Bruiser looked at her with a pained face for a while, and then nodded.    

“There is another thing,” said Dumbledore quietly. “Do you know what became of the necklace containing Jonah’s eye?”

“No. They sent it to Maggie, but it got confiscated when she was thrown in Azkaban. Do you think you could re-attach it?”

“It’s a funny thing, but I believe Jonah would prefer it to remain unattached. You see, he can still see through it.”

“What?”

“He says that, when it got sent to his mother, he was with her, on all her trials and adventures. He said she used to talk to the necklace as though it was him, and she seemed to know that he was with her. He says now, all he can see is the inside of a leather pouch. But it is a fascinating skill. I believe, as he comes of age, that he will want to make use of it.”

“We’ll need to find it, then.”

“I believe I can help. I know several dealers in – shall we say – illicit magical antiques, who owe me numerous favours.”  

Bruiser staggered towards the little boy, who was still standing in Madam Pomfrey’s protective shadow, with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. James would never have believed that such a big, muscular, growling creature could make his voice so gentle, but it was soft as cotton-wool when he spoke.

“Jonah,” he said tentatively. “I don’t know if you remember me…”

“Yes,” said the little boy, blinking benignly at the bare-chested, scarred apparition in front of him. “I told Elsa you’d rescue us.” He paused, and added, almost reproachfully. “It looks as though it took you a while.”

Bruiser laughed painfully. “It did take me a while, son. But I’m here now.”

Jonah continued to watch him dubiously. “Mum’s dead, isn’t she?”

“Yes.”

“And you?”

It was easy to see what the boy was talking about. Bruiser’s face was still blue from Rosier’s curse, and he was bleeding freely from a dozen different places.

“I reckon I’ll pull through, now I’ve got a reason to,” Bruiser said, his voice regaining a shade of cheerfulness. “They tell me you looked after your little sister. I’m proud of you.”

Jonah shrugged. “They didn’t want to do it,” he said quietly. “Auntie Idris and the goblins...they said mum was being stubborn…”

A spasm of pain crossed Bruiser’s face. He reached out to the little boy, as though to put his hand on his shoulder, but he seemed to change his mind half-way through. James watched with increasing puzzlement. It was like he was frightened of him - this grizzled, muscle-bound muggle was scared of a little boy!

But the little boy wasn't scared of anything. He grabbed his father's hand and placed it on his own shoulder. Then he smiled calmly. "It's going to be OK, dad." he said. "I'll look after you."
Continuing from The Thaw [link]
Again, apologies that it has taken so long to post (and that a large portion of it is written from James Potter's scummy POV!)
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:icon28dragons:
28dragons Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2013
Your original characters are amazing. The story you thought up for them, and weaving them into HP lore flawlessly - wow ^^
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:iconluxmindero831:
LuxminderO831 Featured By Owner Aug 9, 2012
The theory was that it would be too easy for a muggle to kidnap a witch or wizard and force them into marriage – a law that has subsequently been re-thought, I’m happy to say, in the cold light of common sense.”

I laughed out loud at this.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Aug 10, 2012
:giggle: Hee hee! I'd totally forgotten about that! Good old Dumbledore!
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:iconwearesevenstudios:
WeAreSevenStudios Featured By Owner May 14, 2010  Professional Artisan Crafter
When she’d first seen Lily and Severus, pale and shivering, bruised and weak, and – worst of all – smoking
HA

That was beyond the limits of magic.
:( Sadly so.

The entire Bruiser-Guillotine Valance story is really holding my interest (which is saying something). It's not often I find fan fiction (or original fiction for that matter) in which I'm taken with the story, the writing style, and that characters. :D
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner May 17, 2010
Yay! I'm so happy you liked Bruiser and Guillotine Valance. I'm going to have to write more about Guillotine someday. (Bruiser, of course, I could never leave alone! ;))
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:icondronarron:
dronarron Featured By Owner Apr 1, 2009
When he turned round, Potter was bounding down the steps, his eyes eagerly sweeping the room for Lily. Severus curled his hands into fists and pressed his knuckles against the ice-wall behind him.

Ooh, I can just see this. James Potter raises Severus's ire like few other things.

Boisterous and insensitive as he usually was, he was starting to feel reverential about Lily Evans these days. He was starting to think that he’d need a stiff shot of Firewhisky to even hold her hand. He’d need to cross himself before he touched her. He’d need to beg forgiveness if he ever saw her naked, even if it was in a context she approved of.

It's ironic how he and Severus are so alike in some respects, and so utterly opposite in others...

“If she’s only as safe as Severus Snape is clever, I’m not worried about her.”

XD great line.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2009
Lol, I've been trying to get myself to like James Potter by writing from his point of view, but it's not really working! I can be sympathetic towards him when I think of his unrequited feelings for Lily, so that's what I tend to focus on! You're right, he can be like Severus in lots of ways - they both think Lily is way too trusting, for example!
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:iconflameofthewest7:
FlameoftheWest7 Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2009
Nice intereaction between those archenemies, Snivellus and Prongs!
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2009
Thank you! :hug: I love scenes where Sev gets to fight with people! Although, mostly, he hates Potter so much that he's just paralyzed with rage whenever they're in the same room together!
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
James Potter's scummy point of view :giggle:. Poor James. I can't fully hate the little prat, though I dearly want to. Great chapter. I was so excited when I saw it posted. :-)
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2009
Thank you! :hug: :dance: I'm still trying to like James Potter. Maybe one day I will. Strange as it seems, I still don't hate him as much as Ron Weasley!
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I am totally with you on that. I am currently writing a Snape/Granger story (something I never thought I would do), and so obviously Ron keeps popping up. It is downright painful to have to try and write that boy in a sympathetic manner. He is just so boring and irksome.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2009
Oooh, Snape/Granger! Is that Solace? I never thought you'd do SS/HG either, but I'm sure you'll handle it beautifully. The good thing about Snape and Hermione is that they're both quite impatient with people who don't think as fast as they do, so they'd get an obscene thrill out of just talking magical theory with an intellectual equal! (This, of course, makes Ron seem even more unappealing than he usually is! :giggle: Still, I'm sure you'll find something to like about him. If anyone can, it's you! :))
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:iconnorthangel27:
northangel27 Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I guess I'm just trying to make Ron seem like an honest well-intentioned bloke, without ignoring the fact that he's horribly clueless and immature, lol. I'm making him real. I don't think I could ever make him perfect. He's just so far from my ideal.

There is alot of joy in writing Solace, I'll tell you. I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I am. It's mostly the snarky, bitter, broken Snape with flashes of softness and vulnerability that keeps me writing, though I have to say that trying to make Hermione as canon as possible (i.e. - the little self-righteous insufferable know-it-all) while still trying to find a way for her to evolve into a more mature and less selfish woman has been challenging, is also very enjoyable.
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:iconls269:
ls269 Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2009
That's what's so great about writing fan-fiction - the challenge of being faithful to the original characters, and yet also adding your own take on them. I love that you're writing about Ron and Hermione with all their faults, and yet trying to find their redeeming features! (I don't dislike Hermione anywhere near as much as Ron, but I think she was always a bit too confident for me to completely empathize with her!)
That's what I love about Harry Potter fanfiction - J.K. Rowling's characters are so distinctive, but there's always room for interpretation. She always leaves little mysteries about her characters that the reader can build on. That scene with the figures coming out of the locket in the Deathly Hallows sort of warmed my heart towards Ron (before it was all overshadowed by the revelations about Snape's unrequited love! Sigh!) :sniff:
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