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Chapter 11: Gold and Paper Owls

Severus pushed breakfast around on his plate, vaguely considering getting an anti-nausea potion from Poppy Pomfrey, though he knew that in the end he wouldn't. Those kinds of potions didn't work on anxiety.

He tried to tell himself that he was too old to be fretting over an exam, that this was nothing like taking his NEWTs, hardly important at all. After all, he could always forge these results the way he'd done the others, if it came down to it. Aside from which, this wasn't for a grade, it was a placement exam.

Still, he found himself wanting to prove to the Granger girl that he was, in fact, learning. Over the past few weeks, she'd been absorbed knowledge from their clandestine tutoring sessions like a Lobalug in water. It had sparked a sort of…competitiveness in Severus, to see which of them could soak in more and which of them proved to be the better teacher. It was silly, he knew, but he could not seem to help himself.

He was enjoying the Muggle lessons far more than he'd imagined he would. On their fourth lesson in her London bedroom, the chit had bossily announced that if he were to succeed in living a Muggle life, he would have to be versed in Muggle pop culture, so she sat him in front of the telly to watch movies in between all of her equations and theorems. They spent more time than Severus was comfortable admitting at the video rental store bickering over which movie they'd be watching next, and twice they'd even gone to the cinema. GoldenEye had been good—Severus had quite enjoyed the dashing spy character—but he had not been impressed with Pocahontas. When they left the theater, he'd looked at her very seriously and told her that if she ever took him to a film like that again, her body would never be found. He only hoped she didn't think he was joking.

Despite himself, Severus was beginning to admit to himself that Miss Granger would be a formidable colleague at Hogwarts. The girl had every note she had taken since she started at Hogwarts—including all of the courses she took to complete her Muggle secondary education. And, oh Merlin, the flash cards. He had no earthly idea how her classmates had restrained themselves from tearing her limb from bloodly limb. Clever as they were, her study plans and outlines were…obsessive. And she was a bossy little thing.

He'd reluctantly grown fond of the little chipmunk. He didn't want to disappoint her by getting bad marks on this placement test. Sighing, he hazarded a glance to the Gryffindor table. He could hardly see her, surrounded by her friends and classmates and yet with her nose stuck in a book.

As if she could feel his gaze upon her, she glanced up to the head table and, oddly, pointed towards the ceiling. Following her gesture, Severus saw an owl made of folded parchment fluttering towards the head table. He watched it, confused, until it landed on his scrambled eggs and, with a hoot, unfolded itself.

In two shimmering, gleaming words, his worries were eradicated.

Good Luck!

Glancing back at the wild-haired Gryffindor's encouraging smile, something clicked in his mind. Luck was exactly what he needed. Liquid, golden luck.

Severus practically sprinted to his store cupboard and barely took a breath until his long fingers wrapped around a phial of Felix Felicis. Good luck, indeed.

A/N: This was a short one, I know. A special thanks goes to Stephiebob22, HPFanGirl01, and especially thisgrangergirlrocks for their encouraging words after I posted the previous chapter. They meant a lot to me.

Lobalugs were in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. GoldenEye (in which Pierce Brosnan is sexy) came out in November 1995. Pocahontas was released in October 1995 (in the UK, it was released before that in the US).