Voldemort stirred, and his eyes snapped open as he immediately realized that something was very wrong. His last memory was of the nerve-searing attack that Potter had managed to hit him with through the ritual link. The abilities that decades of experimentation had given him—and the ritual that recreated his body had restored to him—would allow him to regenerate such damage, but it would have taken weeks of isolation and meditation to do so. The pain was gone and he found that he could move, but his perceptions were altered—he could tell that he was in his bedchambers, but he could not see in the darkness, as he had been able to since he had mastered the "red eyes" mutation. He waved a hand and called out "Lumos!"

The room lit up, but far less brightly than even the wandless spell should have produced. Voldemort frowned and got up from his bed, walking over to a large mirror at the other side of the room. When he beheld himself, he bellowed loudly enough to rattle the walls, and produced an immediate response. The sound of loud footsteps approached, and Bellatrix burst in, followed closely by the five lesser Death Eaters, and last of all by Snape—who had been checking a batch of Polyjuice Potion in the lab. Bellatrix stopped dead at the sight of her Lord standing with his back to the door in front of the mirror and shouted in excitement, "Master! You're all right!"

"What a terribly insightful and helpful observation, Bella. Am I to take it that you are responsible for my recovery from the unfortunate events of the evening of August 8th?" Voldemort's voice was silky smooth, and the five lesser Death Eaters in the room shuddered at the sound of it. Snape—accustomed to concealing his thoughts and emotions—kept his expression blank, though inside he was laughing like a madman.

Bellatrix was completely unaware of the reactions of the other Death Eaters in the room, and answered Voldemort's question eagerly. "Yes, my Lord. I was aware of the work that Severus had done in perfecting an anti-Cruciatus potion, and when he told me that your nerve damage was much like what extended Cruciatus exposure would cause, I ordered him to use it on you. He was reluctant—said something about side effects—but clearly he was wrong, as it is only a few hours later and you are all right!"

There were several seconds of ominous silence before Voldemort replied in a dangerous whisper, "All right? All right?" He pulled out his wand—his back still turned to the door—and called out, "Lumos!" The light in the room brightened, and Voldemort turned abruptly to face his followers, snapping, "Do I LOOK all right to you, you foolish woman?"

Bellatrix stared, the lesser Death Eaters looked confused, and Snape raised an eyebrow. Gone were the menacing red eyes and the reptilian features that had haunted the nightmares of countless wizards and witches for more than a decade. It was the face of Tom Riddle that confronted the shocked dark wizards and witches, but the voice was still Voldemort's. He locked eyes with Bellatrix and snarled, "Well—what do you think of your handiwork, Bella?"

Bellatrix blinked, and blurted out the first thing that came to mind in the midst of her terror and confusion: "Uh, Master. . .you're very handsome."

Voldemort scowled, leveled his wand, and shouted, "Avada Kedavra!" Bellatrix cringed as the green bolt crossed over her shoulder and struck one of the lesser Death Eaters squarely: he gasped and crumpled, dead before he hit the ground. Voldemort smirked, then aimed at Bellatrix before snarling, "Stupefy!" The Stunning Spell hit Bellatrix directly between the eyes, propelling her back out of the bedchamber and into an unconscious heap. The four remaining lesser Death Eaters froze in absolute terror until Voldemort rolled his eyes and muttered, "Get out of here, you useless baggage—and take that carrion with you." The relieved Death Eaters practically fell over each other in complying, and Snape was about to follow them when he heard the Dark Lord speak again: "Severus—a word, if you please. Close the door as you come in."

Snape did so, with relatively little dread—if Voldemort wanted to kill him, he would have done it in front of witnesses. When he turned to face Voldemort, the evil mastermind was staring at himself in the mirror. Snape took two steps forward and called out, "I am at your service, my Lord."

"Of course you are, Severus—and I am pleased with that service, particularly now. It's good to know that I have at least one servant who isn't a complete idiot." Voldemort did not turn to Snape as he spoke, and he raised his eyebrow at his reflection before commenting, "You know, she was right. I am rather handsome." He sighed and turned to face Snape as he added, "Alas, I undertook my transfiguration for some very good reasons—including the increased physical resilience and regenerative abilities it granted to me. Your potion is remarkable, but it has left me rather weakened, and I will need to spend several months regaining my strength and re-transfiguring my body to its former glory. That demonstration I just conducted should keep any of my minions from getting any ideas about replacing me. It is unfortunate that your duties as my spy at Hogwarts keep you away most of the time, Severus. Bella is a perfect lieutenant for field operations, but her competence is lacking elsewhere—she should have had the wit to listen to you. When we break our captured brethren out of captivity, I shall put Lucius in charge of non-combat operations in my absence. I am almost tempted to recall you to serve in that capacity yourself, Severus—but I fear that you have never quite had the inherent sadism required for the job."

Snape opened his mouth in preparation to protest, and Voldemort cut him off: "Severus, did you really think you could serve me for this long without my realizing your true nature? You chose to serve me because of the opportunities it presented you for power and for practicing your arts—you're not in it for the Muggle torturing and the like. I can accept that—you're just not particularly sadistic. Your other talents more than make up for that failing."

Snape raised an eyebrow and dared to joke: "I suspect my non-Slytherin students would disagree with you if they thought you would not kill them for it, my Lord."

Voldemort was silent for a moment, then chuckled before replying, "So my spy among those students has told me, Severus—and Potter would agree most of all, I suppose." Snape felt a chill, but remained impassive as Voldemort continued, "A shame you haven't been able to break his spirit, Severus—I underestimated how dangerous he would be when in his element. I will not repeat that mistake. When I attack again, it will be at a time of my choosing, and when he is at his weakest. I will not let pride or arrogance deny me my inevitable victory again." Snape was silent, and Voldemort studied him for several moments before concluding, "You may depart, Severus. You have been away from Hogwarts for a few days, I believe, and that fool Dumbledore will be wondering what you have been doing. Also, I will need to know what the aftermath of my public setback at Potter's hands will be. I will summon you when I am ready for you to report."

Snape knelt and kissed the hem of Voldemort's robes before leaving the room—passing Bellatrix's crumpled form as he did so—and apparating back to Hogsmeade. He waited until he had walked back to the castle and reached the privacy of his own chambers before beginning to tremble all over.

Harry's eyes snapped open, and he rolled out of bed, turning to the window as he yawned. The sun was already well over the eastern horizon, and Ron and Neville were nowhere to be seen. He quickly showered and dressed, then walked down the stairs with an absent smile on his face. He reached the bottom of the stairs, turned—and found himself face to face with Hermione, who had a similar smile on her face. They said, "Good morning," at the same time, then blushed in reaction to the moment.

They had flown through the tunnel the night before and straight up to the virtually deserted castle, where they landed in the courtyard. Harry had asked Hermione to go to her room and put on the most beautiful dress she could find or transfigure, and to meet him in front of the Room of Requirement in half an hour. She had gone straight for the hair potion, then retrieved the black dress and Transfigured it in an even more daring way than she had for Harry's birthday party. When she was ready, she had walked to the Room of Requirement—surprised that the corridors were still empty—and found Harry wearing a traditional Muggle tuxedo. He had offered her his arm, and they walked into the Room.

The Room seemed to be lit by moonlight and starlight, and Hermione quickly realized that Harry had ordered the Room to emulate the charms on the ceiling of the Great Hall. A single table for two sat in the center of the room, and Harry carefully held the chair for Hermione as she sat down. When they were both seated, there was a sudden pop, and Dobby appeared. The house elf's huge eyes widened and he exclaimed, "Harry Potter and his good friend have discovered that they love each other at last! Dobby has waited so long for this day!"

Hermione blinked and asked, "You knew, Dobby? Why didn't you tell us?"

"Dobby would never presume to tell wizards and witches—even great ones like Harry Potter and Hermione Granger—what they feel. House elves understand feelings of humans—we must know this to do our jobs." Dobby looked very happy: he was bouncing up and down and smiling widely. "All of us house elves at Hogwarts have known about how you two loved each other, and knew that one day you would find each other. It is a happy day when a great wizard and a great witch discover their love for one another."

"Thank you, Dobby." Harry wondered irreverently if the reason the other house elves would be glad was that Hermione would presumably be too preoccupied with Harry to be scattering hats and other clothing items around in Gryffindor Tower for the next year. He looked at Hermione, then suggested, "Why don't we order our meals now, Hermione? I'll order for you, and you order for me."

Hermione smiled at the suggestion, and they found that they knew each other's tastes rather well after five years together at Hogwarts. They ate in silence, enjoying the excellent meals while looking at each other occasionally. When they had finished, Dobby appeared again and snapped his fingers, causing the plates and the table to disappear. He called out, "Good night!" and vanished.

Harry smiled and looked over at Hermione—who was smiling back at him with a calculating expression. He raised an eyebrow and asked, "All right—what are you plotting over there? Whenever I see you with that expression, someone's about to get it."

"Nothing sinister this time, Harry—I just had an idea." Hermione took Harry's arm and led him out of the Room, closed the door, and paced a bit before opening the door again. Harry blinked: the lighting in the room remained the same, but there was now a hardwood dance floor in the Room, and dance music was playing, though there was no apparent source for it. He looked at Hermione and commented, "You know, we may have unleashed a monster by revealing the existence of this room. Some of the more creative students here might—"

"Something to worry about when I'm back to being a prefect, Harry." Hermione led Harry back into the Room and into the middle of the dance floor, then slipped her arms around the back of his neck as she added, "For right now—shut up and dance, Potter."

Harry quickly complied, though—in spite of the romantic setting—they soon found themselves talking as they danced, about subjects that had nothing to do with magic or danger or even love. They stayed that way until the wee hours of the morning, until exhaustion set in and they returned to Gryffindor Tower. They paused at the entrance to the stairs to the dormitories and kissed for a long time in the flickering light of the fire before they broke apart and reluctantly said goodnight to each other and headed up the stairs. Harry was exhausted, and did not note that neither Ron nor Neville was in their bed before slumber claimed him.

Now, after a good night's sleep and the accompanying time to absorb the whole situation, Harry was startled at just how. . .comfortable it felt to be walking hand-in-hand with Hermione to the Great Hall for breakfast. He wondered how his friends would react when they saw the new couple, and was grateful that it would only be those few, along with the Hogwarts faculty. After all, crowds could be awfully overwhelming at times.

Harry and Hermione walked into the Great Hall and stopped dead in their tracks a few feet inside. The Hall was packed full of familiar faces—their fellow Hogwarts students and recent graduates, a substantial number of their family members, and more than a few members of the Order of The Phoenix. Harry and Hermione blinked, looked at each other, and turned around, only to have the doors slam shut before they could depart. A playful voice called out, "Not so fast, you two—we've been waiting all night for you to get here." Harry and Hermione turned around, and Tonks—it had been her voice, and they knew no one else who would appear in public with purple hair—walked up to them and chided, "It's not really a party until the couple of honor arrives." Tonks raised her voice and shouted, "Look who's here, everyone!"

Heads turned, and a loud cheer filled the Great Hall. Harry and Hermione sighed and walked forward, with Tonks following them and smirking. Suddenly, there was a burst of motion, and Harry only had time to see a red dress and blue eyes before he felt strong arms grab him around the neck and warm lips meeting his. He froze in surprise and did not resist, though he did not cooperate, either. After a moment, the woman pulled away, and Harry stared before stammering, "Amanda—what in the world?"

"You didn't think I'd stay away, did you?" Amanda Talbot, formerly Amanda Davis, was grinning wickedly at him, and was visibly amused at the blush spreading across Harry's face as she added, "We were in Tokyo when the word arrived about what had happened, and we must have broken the intercontinental apparating speed record in getting back here. My God, Harry—you don't do anything by half-measures, do you?"

Harry was hardly hearing what Amanda was saying—he was busily processing the fact that an extremely beautiful older married woman had just kissed him in front of both his new girlfriend and her husband. He swallowed hard, and turned to Hermione—who was biting her lip. Harry opened his mouth to apologize, only to be interrupted when Hermione started laughing. Harry stared at her, and after a moment she choked out, "I'm sorry, Harry—but you look like someone who's waiting to be hanged. I am worldly enough to know the difference between cheating and being assaulted, you know." Amanda snickered, and Harry frowned, slightly annoyed at Hermione's placid reaction. Hermione noticed the change of expression, and her eyes sparkled with mischief as she added, "Besides—if you wanted me to be the jealous type of girlfriend, you shouldn't have convinced me so completely that you're in love with me, Harry."

Harry sighed. I'm not going to be able to outmaneuver her again any time soon. He remembered another problem, and turned to see a face he only knew from team photos that Oliver had shown him. Roland Talbot—a slender dark-haired man a few inches taller than Harry—laughed and commented, "Relax, Harry. Hell, after what you did, I'm almost tempted to kiss you myself—but I think you've had enough lurid press coverage for a while."

Harry nodded in fervent agreement, and Ron, Neville, Ginny, and Luna approached the group. Hugs were exchanged and hands shaken, and Ron commented, "You two have been missing a great party—but it can really get started now that you're here."

Hermione looked around and noted the refreshment tables stacked high with food and beverages—including one table that seemed to contain some rather more adult beverages than was the norm at Hogwarts. She frowned and asked, "You've been here all night having a party with Firewhiskey in the room! What would the Hogwarts Board of Governors say about that?"

"Good question, Hermione—why don't you ask them?" Ginny snickered, then pointed to the back of the Hall. . .where the great majority of that powerful Board were gathered and chatting with Hogwarts faculty and Professor Dumbledore himself. Dumbledore noted the stares and waved, and the twinkle in his eyes was visible all the way across the Hall. Hermione scowled, then shrugged and went to get a plate for herself.

"You might want to look at some of this stuff." Harry turned to Neville as he spoke, and saw that his friend was pointing to a table where several letters and packages were sitting. "Owls have been arriving all night. We separated out the ones with familiar names and checked them for hexes and traps."

Harry nodded and walked over to the table, where his eyes immediately fell onto a letter attached to a copy of the Daily Prophet. He raised an eyebrow at the name on the return address, then opened the letter:


I'll expect to hear from you about a convenient time and place for that exclusive interview, Harry. After all, public heroes have to live up to their word of honor. You won't have to sit for the photo, though—you've already provided quite enough of those.


Rita Skeeter

Harry opened the copy of the Daily Prophet, and the huge scare headline at the top of it caught his eye immediately:


Directly below the headline were three photos: the first showed the huge Dark Mark being dissipated just before the force bubble around Harry exploded and revealed him; the second showed the close-up of Harry's hand closing over the Snitch, then the one of Harry revealing and holding up the Snitch; the third showed Hermione's shocked expression, then Harry and Hermione's triumphant kiss. The caption directly beneath the photos read: Story and Photos by Rita Skeeter.

Hermione snatched the paper out of Harry's hands and read the article quickly, turning pages occasionally as Harry waited quietly. After a few moments, Hermione's eyes widened, and she turned to Harry as she said quietly, "You should read this last part, Harry."

Harry looked over Hermione's shoulder and read:

I would like to end this article with a point of personal privilege—to address my personal impressions of the events that took place at the Hogwarts Quidditch Stadium on August the 8th.

Harry James Potter has been a major part of all of our lives since that happy day almost fifteen years ago when word got out that You-Know-Who was apparently dead and gone, and that we had an innocent one-year old newly orphaned wizard to thank for it. Since that day, he has been an object of adulation of a grateful Wizarding World, a subject of curiosity after he re-entered public view and began his education at Hogwarts, and a target of scorn and contempt due to the blindness of the people who were supposed to be keeping vigil against the return of evil—and who could not tolerate the light of the truth that a brave young man and his friends were trying to pass on to the world. During all of those times, whether he was being lauded as a champion or vilified as a lying fool, I believe that very few if any of us had any idea of who Harry Potter really was as a person. In hard times, we reach out for convenient symbols to love, to hate, and—most of all—to help us understand the events that shape our lives. Harry Potter became one of those symbols through no choice of his own, and he has had to bear the consequences. However, in those moments when the one hundred and fifty thousand souls at the great Quidditch match saw Harry Potter in what looked like the fatal grip of You-Know-Who, we knew despair, then hope as the foul Dark Mark vanished from sight, then pure joy as Harry shattered his prison with the force of the spell that Remus Lupin taught him two years before. In those moments, in a very real way we were Harry Potter—we knew and at last possibly truly understood- from the evidence of our own eyes and the feelings in our hearts-the trials that he has been faced with, and which he will continue to be faced with as long as You-Know-Who threatens us. None of us can know how this epic confrontation will finally be resolved—but there is no longer any question regarding the stakes involved, or regarding the moral fiber of the young wizard who—in view of the entire world—won a victory for all of us today in what promises to be a dark war indeed.

Our prayers should be with him.

Harry shook his head. "Bit melodramatic, don't you think? And not exactly objective journalism." Hermione turned, and Harry blinked as he saw that her eyes were full of tears. "Hermione, what—"

Hermione reached out and hugged him tightly-causing Harry to drop the paper-as she whispered, "Just be quiet, Harry."

Harry began to open his mouth, then shut it again as he embraced her, and they stood like that for a long time as the celebration continued around them.

The senior members of the Order of the Phoenix met at 12 Grimmauld Place on the evening of August 11th, with two major items on the agenda: Harry's report on his confrontation with Voldemort, and Severus Snape's report on the effects of the confrontation on Voldemort himself.

Harry spoke first, and his tone was subdued as he described the impressions he had of the spell he was attacked with, and explained how he had realized why Voldemort was having trouble getting hold of his mind, followed by his plan to counterattack. Harry was watching Dumbledore as he spoke, and he did not see Snape's eyes widen, then focus on Harry with a hint of something that might have been genuine respect. By the time Harry finished and turned his gaze in Snape's direction, the potion master's expression was back to his customary sneer. Harry sighed in irritation and concluded, "You know the rest, Professor Dumbledore."

"I do indeed, Harry—and thank you for that concise report." Harry nodded and sat down, and was somewhat surprised when he was not asked to leave. Dumbledore turned to Snape and asked, "Severus—does Harry's report cast any new light on your observations?"

"It explains how the Dark Lord was taken by surprise, Albus. Obviously, I do not have the gift myself, but I have read extensively on the subject of Parseltongue, and all of the literature on the subject that contains the accounts of Parselmouths suggests that it is not always obvious to them whether they are hearing Parseltongue or their own primary human language. The physical evidence I saw in the ritual room suggests that he realized what was happening in the last instant, but could not disrupt the ritual fast enough to save himself. He paid dearly for that lapse." Dumbledore nodded in understanding, and Snape continued, "Estimates of this sort are always inexact, of course, but I would guess that the anti-Cruciatus potion drained two-thirds of his magical power in healing him, along with the attendant loss of most of his self-Transfiguration. That amount of magic drain would be enough to turn almost any other wizard or witch into a Squib—permanently. In his case, I would estimate that it will take him four to six months in isolation to build his strength back to where it was and to restore his body to its state before the confrontation." Snape sighed, then concluded, "While obviously things will not be totally safe, they are bound to be far more quiet during that time—until he is back to full health and begins to seek his revenge for his convalescence, determined not to repeat his mistake."

"Professor Dumbledore." Dumbledore turned to Harry, surprised at the interruption, and saw that Harry looked very pale and a bit depressed. "May I be excused? I believe I need to lie down for a while."

"Of course, Harry—we'll talk later about anything you need to know from the rest of the meeting." Harry nodded and left, and Dumbledore sighed inwardly before turning back to Snape and saying, "Severus, please continue—"

"What's wrong with Harry?" Tonks was looking at the closed entrance door in concern. "He should be on top of the world right now, after everything he's done."

"Time heals all wounds, Nymphadora, but they also allow our triumphs to fade into memory." Dumbledore's voice was sad as he shook his head and looked at the closed door. "Harry knows he has done great good in recent days, on many levels, and his new relationship with Hermione will undoubtedly be a great comfort to him in the days to come. However, Severus' report has brought home a rather unpleasant fact to Harry—as magnificent and inspired as his defeat of Voldemort was, it is again but temporary, and Harry will once again be faced with an implacable foe who seeks his destruction and the destruction of all he cares about. He has more support in that fight than he has ever had before, but ultimately it is a burden he will have to bear on his own. He needs encouragement—and something to give him hope, as he has given all of us hope."

"Then perhaps we should give him that hope, Albus—and I believe I can suggest a ready means of doing so." Snape's words caused everyone in the room to blink, then stare at the Hogwarts Potions Master. Snape sighed in mild annoyance and snapped, "Look—I'm going to have to put up with the boy in my NEWT potions class. Do you think that I want to deal with him moping around, or engaged in displays of public affection with Granger as a means of mood control?"

No one snickered, but the looks being directed at Snape by his fellow Order members suggested that they were not accepting his explanation. Dumbledore quickly rescued him: "Very well then, Severus—I approve of your suggestion and note that it is offered as a means of promoting classroom harmony and proper decorum among our students. I believe we can arrange for an appropriate evening in the near future to bring your plan into being, once I check the schedules of a few people." Snape nodded, and Dumbledore smiled as he repeated: "Severus—please continue your report."

Harry sat at his desk, scowling at the formula for a bone-growing potion. It was August 20th, and he was reviewing again while he had the time in a location where he would not be bothered by curious classmates. His friends had all gone home, and even Hermione only came by every couple of days.

There had been a rather good piece of news just a few days before. Thanks to the positive publicity resulting from Harry's use of the Patronus Charm to drive off Voldemort, as well as Harry's own words before the game, Professor Dumbledore had been able to talk the Hogwarts Board of Governors into letting him re-hire Remus Lupin as the new Defense Against Dark Arts professor, and Fudge—desperate to stay on Harry and Dumbledore's good sides—had promised to lend his public support to the choice.

Harry was still gradually going through the mail he had received in the immediate aftermath of the match, and only the efforts of his friends in sifting out the more frivolous letters had made the burden bearable. A few of them had been personal—congratulations from friends who had been unable to attend the match, and others had been news that directly resulted from the match: Lee Jordan had received three job offers from professional Quidditch teams to announce their games, and Harry himself had received twenty offers to start at Seeker for various teams—exceeding even David Robinson's predictions.

But most of the mail was simple "thank you" notes from all over the world, and they touched Harry deeply. Unfortunately, they also reminded him of the burden he still bore, and of the enemy who was gaining strength daily. His scar remained pain-free, and he was not having nightmares—and the blessed relief only reminded him more that the state of affairs was a transient one—and that he would soon be facing an angry and vengeful foe at the height of his power. He redoubled his study efforts, and trained ruthlessly, but the sense of impending doom never quite left him, and he impatiently rejected all efforts to find out what was bothering him—even by Hermione. He would train, and he would study, and he would deal with the menace when it came. . .and he would try to keep the news of deaths that he knew would be coming one day soon from ripping him apart.

Hermione's voice brought him out of his dark musings: "Harry—come downstairs for a moment: there's someone here who would like to meet you."

Harry turned to Hermione, and saw a smile on her face. He was somewhat annoyed: the events of August 8th had brought a lot of people out of the woodwork who wanted to contribute generously to the cause, and most of them wanted to meet the famous Harry Potter before doing so. Harry had talked with Dumbledore and agreed to meet with large donors—the match itself had ended up raising well over a million galleons, and five million more had come in from other sources since then—but he wasn't thrilled about being on display. He sighed and took Hermione's offered hand as she led him from the room and downstairs.

Harry noticed that a lot of people seemed to be there—he had been so preoccupied by his studies that he hadn't heard the telltale sounds of arriving guests. He frowned at Hermione and whispered, "I know that you all have been trying to cheer me up, Hermione, but I'm not in the mood for a par—" He saw Neville, and the persons standing on either side of him, and he froze in his tracks and stared. After the events of the past month, Harry thought that he was beyond shock, but he was not.

Standing at Neville's right side was a tall, powerful-looking man with medium length dark hair and dark eyes that were watching Harry with interest. The woman standing at Neville's left side was a couple of inches shorter than Neville, and had dark hair, a round friendly face, and warm eyes that looked at Harry with unmistakable affection. Harry shivered, and Alice Longbottom said softly:

"Hello, Harry—we've waited a long time to see you again."

Harry felt a surge of disbelief, and he was about to accuse everyone in the room of perpetuating a sick joke when he saw Neville's expression. He had seen his friend in many emotional states, but the look of utter peace and contentment on Neville Longbottom's face was something he had never seen before, and it convinced him of the reality of what he was seeing. Hermione squeezed his hand in support, and he squeezed back as he walked forward until he was standing directly in front of Alice Longbottom. He thought irreverently that if he were asked to produce a Patronus at this moment, it would make the one that he produced at the match look like a fawn. His eyes shone, but he managed to stand up straight and look into Alice Longbottom's eyes as his friends watched, and whispered:

"I'm terribly glad to see you both."

AUTHOR'S NOTES: I didn't begin this with a sequel in mind, but I obviously left a lot of loose ends here. We'll see what the future holds. . .

The final dive for the Snitch between Harry and Viktor was inspired by the spectacular finish of the men's 100 meter butterfly final at the 2004 Summer Olympics, where Michael Phelps beat world record holder Ian Crocker in a finish that seemed to defy physics, and which could only be appreciated in extreme slow motion. I wrote an article about that race titled simply "Magic," and it certainly seemed like fertile ground to draw on for inspiration for this story.

As always, comments are welcomed and desired