I hope all of you enjoy the next chapter. It is not as smoothly polished as the pervious ones, but well, I didn't want to let you wait any longer...
It took no less than six portkeys to transport all the Guardia, Aurors, politicians and allies of Harry's to the ministry of magic in London. From there the group of almost 30 witches and wizards had planned to directly apparate to the gates of Malfoy Manor where they hoped to find the secret keeper.
Upon their arrival at the ministry, however, they were stopped short due to a chain of events set in motion by one Adler Malfoy.
The painting had anticipated that his descendant might send the Potter boy back to Britain in a dire state and with the ridiculous expectation that the potions master Cygnus was so fond of, would instinctually know how to treat him.
Therefore, immediately after the two dominants had run off to heroically rescue their rough edged submissive, Adler had set out to do his part to help the one promising scion still left to him and Ives. Of course, the fact that Blaise and Draco had taken all the House Elves with them was a slight hitch, but there were still enough of the loyal little servants out about in the world if one knew how to reach them. Fortunately, Adler had gotten quite used to working within the confines of a painting during the last couple of centuries.
In this case, being a painting had even made everything a lot simpler. It only required Adler to step out into the shadows beyond the visual boundaries of his painting and into another portrait of his in the Malfoy residence in Wiltshire. There, he had persuaded a young House Elf to open a mirror connection to Zabini manor and put his portrait in front of it.
With the skill of a seasoned diplomat, he had proceeded to convince one of Amalyne's Elves that it's master Blaise wanted it to take it's mistress's portkey to Italy in order to come and get a very important parcel that could not possibly be delayed a second longer than strictly necessary.
In Italy, Adler had tasked the simple minded creature with bottling the contents of one particular pensieve and had told it to take both the memories and the heavy stone bowl to Damask Tower. As one of Amalyne's Elves it had of course access to the safe house in order to keep it clean and well stocked – a noble pureblood like Amalyne couldn't very well be expected to do that herself, no matter the consequences to the overall security of the place.
While the pensive hadn't reached Severus Snape in time to help with his charge's initial treatment, Adler's meddling had other entirely unforeseen consequences: because of him, Amalyne had reached her home only to realise that her private portkey was missing, unwittingly stolen by one of her very own loyal servants.
She had been understandably furious.
Unable to travel to Italy, Amalyne had tried for a little while to acquire another portkey – without success.
Like her son and future son-in-law, she had had to come to the bitter realisation that there were precious few wizards and witches nowadays who were willing and capable of bending the rules for known practitioners of dark magic.
Frustrated and worried, she had returned to Damask Tower, where Narcissa and Severus were already immersed in the shimmering depths of a pensieve. Unwilling to idly stew in her anger as she waited for them to finish and equally reluctant to allow her allies an information advantage, she had joined them.
Together they had watched the drama that had taken place in some country villa in Italy. They had watched the steady flow of memories like a train wreck in slow motion, had watched it culminate in a dark crescendo as Potter's friends were slaughtered and the boy himself gave birth to Ceadda's Darkness.
Adler couldn't have known just how fortunate and well timed his intervention truly was. For Amalyne, Narcissa and Lucius, as well as for one Harry Potter.
Firstly, seeing the memories had made Amalyne realise just how doomed their endeavour truly was: there was no conceivable way for her son and Draco to get access to Potter and give them the chance to mate. The Guardia would never release them from custody until they knew where the missing submissive was. Shacklebolt would certainly not allow it, and by the time they were viewing the memories the minister could be expected to already have reached Italy, along with Potter's most loyal allies.
Even if there had been some way to get the three young Vykélari alone without witnesses, it was rather doubtful whether Potter was even capable of mating after what the Lanais had done to him. He had become entirely useless to them, as Amalyne pragmatically noted, like an Abraxian with a crippled wing.
Secondly, if Amalyne had gone to Italy, she would have been forced to reveal her safe house and return the broken submissive at once. It would have robbed her, Lucius and Narcissa of the priceless opportunity to present themselves as Potter's champions who had only ever tried to protect the newly fledged Vykélari that had fallen into their care.
Which was exactly what they were doing while minister Shacklebolt negotiated the extradition of their sons: giving an interview just in time for the front page of the Daily Prophet to be reprinted.
It was that very same front page being waved in front of the minister's face upon his arrival, that halted his entire plans: in the article, in between rather suspiciously detailed descriptions of how Blaise and Draco had tried to protect and then later save Harry Potter, Amalyne mentioned the submissive being in one of her save houses under the care of Severus Snape.
She and Narcissa assured the reporters, and of course the entire wizarding world, that Mr Potter remained unmated and would be brought to St. Mungo's as soon as his state allowed for travelling – which naturally proved that their families always only had the best of intentions regarding the saviour of not only the wizarding world, but the Malfoys and Zabinis in particular. Why, how they would have continued to suffer under the cruel reign of the Dark Lord.
Had they wanted to force Potter into a mating, they could have done so, Narcissa revealed in the article when the journalist further questioned their motives. The boy owed her a life debt, after all, as she had saved him from the Dark Lord himself. But instead, their families had protected him, taken the scorn of the wizarding world to hide both the miracle he had become, and his whereabouts.
The infamous letter that Potter had written his friends was of course merely a result of Potter – initially – not believing them to seek his protection. Quite understandably, really, considering their regrettable past. Blaise and Draco trying to reassure him by facilitating the communications to his friends had opened a dangerous and unforeseen channel to darker and malign forces: the Lanais. In the face of this tragedy, wasn't it understandable that the Vykélari council had sanctioned the protection of submissives by hiding them away during their most vulnerable time?
The interview stopped with Narcissa and Amalyse excusing themselves to return to Amalyne's safe house and see to their charge.
Harry's friends, his allies and his chosen family were of course furious, but the outcome would not be changed: for now the Malfoys and Zabinis had elegantly slipped out of the noose around their necks. And Harry was unreachable once more with the secret keeper inside the safe house.
Still, fortunately, it was unlikely that Harry was in danger with Snape at his side and with Narcissa having revealed her one trump card to the public, therefore minister Shacklebolt deemed it unwise to send the two unstable dominants after the incapacitated submissive. All they could do was wait. And brave the reporters swarming the ministry.
The final, and arguably the most important result of Adler's meddling was rather less dramatic: if Adler hadn't sent the pensieve, Severus would not have learned of the trauma his charge had gone through. And he certainly wouldn't have had the time to do anything about it.
As it was, watching the memories Severus realised that even Potter who hadn't broken under his family's cruelty, nor under the Dark Lord's torture, would not be able to walk away from his latest ordeal unchanged. What he had seen, what he had unwittingly done, was enough to leave better man than Potter burned out husks of themselves.
Dumbledore might have manipulated Severus into accepting the duty of protecting Lilly's son, but Severus had accepted that responsibility willingly. Granted, he had done it grudgingly and with a continuous barrage of complaints, but he had ensured the boy's survival. And he would continue to do so.
Harry Potter could not be allowed to remember what had happened, for the memories would inevitably drown the inner fire that made out the Boy-Who-Lived. Consequently, Severus would take the memories and give him a placating lie instead, close enough to the truth not to be questioned, far enough from it to protect his sanity.
It might not be a decision that Severus had the right to make, but after all his schemes during and before the war, after everything he had said and done, all the guilt he had heaped unto his shoulders... this was something Severus' rarely calibrated moral compass was in absolute compliance with, even if Potter might not agree.
Thus, Severus bathed the boy in more Hesperide's Nectar that Amalyne and Narcissa provided him with and opened Potter's arteries. He let his blood flow freely and take with it the potion poisoning his charge, a potion that the two dark witches had recognized and that might have been the catalyst in driving Potter insane.
For the time being Potter's magic was too weak to attack Severus in retaliation, but fuelled by the Nectar it replenished the boy's blood quickly enough and even managed to heal his injuries further – with the rather annoying side effect that Severus had to reopen the cuts in Potter's wrists every couple of minutes.
At long last the young Vykélari's magic calmed, and the drops of healing tonic Severus smeared onto his skin no longer pearled off, but were allowed to sink in and do their work.
It was the sign the potions master had been waiting for, the sign that he could use the vast arsenal of his spells and potions.
"Now, Mr. Potter," Severus drawled as he grabbed his wand, "shall we get to work?"
When Harry woke, it was terribly similar to waking from a nightmare, except with none of the energy of a healthy dose of adrenalin that usually accompanied the darker of his dreams.
No, it was like crawling through a swamp knowing there were monsters beneath you, but being unable to move quickly, arms and legs leaden with tiredness, every step a fight. With a mind clouded by poisonous vapours, disoriented and afraid.
God, he knew that voice, he... didn't know whether to crawl towards or shy away from it.
"Calm yourself, or I will have to give you a calming draught and that might leave you too lethargic to understand much of anything." The voice drawled, slick and derisive.
Away, definitely away...
"We are in a safe house belonging to Blaise's family in the Forest of Dean. Today is Wednesday, the 15th of July, 1998." A pause, then: "It is almost 3 o'clock."
Harry groaned. Something was very, very wrong. He didn't think he could lift his arms, and something was about to happen, he knew something terrible was about to happen. And what was Snape doing here? Shouldn't he be in... shouldn't Harry be in ... where? Where? He couldn't remember where, couldn't... couldn't think... his throat was too tight, he couldn't get enough air...
"Potter? Potter! No time to panic, now."
Harry's head flew to the side from the harsh slap, the sound ringing through the air.
Shocked, his eyes flew open and he felt a pair of strong, long fingered hands grab the sides of his head.
Snape was overwhelmingly close, his crooked nose right in his face, eyes black and narrowed into that perpetual frown of his. He didn't look angry, for once, just intent.
"That's it." The former professor continued with a hint of satisfaction.
"Now listen closely: everyone you know is safe. No one got hurt but you. Granger, the Weasleys, your thrice damned werewolf... They are safe and well. You are safe and you are going to recover."
Harry clung to the conviction in his voice, letting it draw him back into reality.
"Everyone is safe." Snape stressed, letting the words sink in.
But something had happened... Harry closed his eyes, taking stock of his body. His head was spinning and his stomach was tender, but otherwise he only felt a bone-deep exhaustion, worse than when he had attacked Blaise a couple of days ago, and ... yes, that was still a couple of days ago. Wednesday, Wednesday...
That meant that yesterday...
Their date, the race, the fall, the floating restaurant above Rome… There had been a kiss, more than one kiss, more than just kisses. Magic meeting as eagerly as lips…
He wasn't missing a lot of time, but he was missing time. And he hadn't been in such a sorry state when Blaise and Draco had left him at his door.
Harry groaned weakly, mumbling something apparently close enough to a 'what happened' to be understood.
Snape let go of him and slowly drew back, observing him intently.
"You were kidnapped." He said. "Blaise's uncle learned of your inheritance and wanted you to mate his own son. He used the mirror connection Blaise and Draco foolishly installed to make you think he had your friends."
Alarmed, Harry tried to sit up but failed miserably. He couldn't even lift his body from the thin mattress he was lying on, and the attempt left him exhausted and panting. Snape glared at him scathingly, but Harry didn't care, if the man would only continue. If something, anything at all, happened to his friends because of him...
"They are fine. I told you." Snape drawled with blatant annoyance at having to repeat himself. "I'm rather certain they are already waiting for you at St. Mungo's. Narcissa made sure they would know to expect us there. We need to finish this quickly."
Harry sank back into the soft pillow beneath his head, closing his eyes. Okay, that was … okay. A basis to work with. Though Narcissa Malfoy being involved in some way was worrisome…
"Finish?" He mumbled drily. With what?
The potions master pursed his thin lips, his sharp eyes narrowed. "Yes, finish." He said, stepping away to gather a large glass from a nearby table, filled with a familiar golden liquid. "You should know what happened this last night."
He paused again with the glass held in front of his chest. His narrowed, sharp eyes tracked every movement, every micro expression on his young charge's face. "Do you trust me, Potter?"
Confused and slightly alarmed, Harry returned the intent stare. His mind flickered through all the times Snape had tortured him, degraded him; but he also remembered clearly how the man who obviously hated him had nonetheless jumped in front of a werewolf to save him, Severus Snape's own greatest fear. How he had killed Dumbledore, but only on the man's orders and with obvious regret.
Did he trust the former double spy? He trusted him to protect his life, but otherwise?
And the more alarming question: why would Snape need his trust?
The man in question smirked wryly. "Well, the absence of a quick and resounding 'no' will have to suffice for now."
With his free hand, the potions master pulled a chair close and sat down next to Harry. "This is Hesperides Nectar, mixed with an invigoration draught. To replenish both your magical and physical strength."
Harry tensed as Snape reached for his wand and, with some decisive swipes and curls, directed the pillows beneath his prone form to bring him into a more upright position. He tensed even more as the potions master leaned forward to bring the glass to his lips.
Snape cocked his head, his brows raised impatiently. "I'm not enjoying this either. Drink or don't."
Harry drank, the nectar immediately soothing his parched throat, the warmth of the potion spreading through his exhausted body, leaving him feeling more awake and aware with every sip. He hadn't noticed his muscles aching so much, until they didn't. Growing greedier, Harry reached for the glass with both hands, and though his hands were trembling, Snape let him take control, leaning back and watching him drink.
Finally, the golden nectar almost gone, Harry sat the glass down on his thigh. He eyed the dark wizard at his side, stoic impassive and cold. "What happened? And why can't I remember?"
Snape pursed his lips, taking his time to answer. "As I said: you were kidnapped. The last thing you'll remember is returning with Draco and Blaise from your entirely foolish outing. Once you were alone in your room Blaise's uncle contacted you through the mirror connection that was opened to the Burrow. He made it seem as if he had taken Ms. Granger and Mr. Weasley and threatened to torture them unless you handed yourself over to him. Which you did. Foolishly, I might add."
"Foolishly?" Harry pressed out, trying to remind himself that his friends were safe (they are fine, they are fine, they are fine). "He must have been convincing."
"Certainly." Snape agreed drily. "But even if he had had your friends, what do you think he could have done if you had just destroyed the mirror and gone into hiding somewhere else? Without the option of forcing you to watch your friend's torture, unable to reach you? Knowing that torturing your friends or hurting them would cause an international incident he couldn't possibly hide or explain away? Hm? If he really had had your friends, he'd have obliviated them at that point and counted his losses."
Harry tightened his lips, swallowing any protest. How could he argue when he couldn't even remember? And it was easy for Snape to tell someone to endanger their friends when the scarecrow didn't have any himself.
"A moot point, probably." Snape allowed, and unbeknownst to Harry the man observed with satisfaction the rebellious streak he usually hated so much. For once it would serve the boy well.
"This time at least no one important got hurt - except for you." He continued in a milder voice. "Self-preservation is apparently still not your strong suit. In any case, Blaise and Draco somehow knew what had happened, and they tried to keep you from leaving – unsuccessfully. You were brought to a country estate of Blaise's family where you were meant to mate Blaise's cousin."
Carefully, nervously, Harry focused inwards. He could barely feel his magic, the glowing energy that had started to hum through his body these last few days, mirroring his emotions, curling and stretching and pulsing through his muscles…
It was almost non-existent now, but at least he didn't think that there was something foreign inside of him. Nothing like what he remembered Draco's or Blaise's magic to feel like.
Warily, Harry opened his eyes and looked towards his former teacher. Snape was oddly grim, stony almost, with none of the hateful malice that Harry was so used to. It was rather unexpectedly disturbing.
"The night ended in a disaster," the man continued, "and to understand why, you have to know about a magical phenomenon called Ceadda's Darkness. It is a form of self-defence for a Vykélari submissive driven into a corner. The last line of defence and a self-destruction mechanism of a potentially very dangerous weapon."
Harry's hands tightened around the glass in his hands. One of Dudley's discarded comics entered his mind, a spaceship 'initializing self-destruct sequence'. "You make it sound like I exploded."
Had he exploded? Had he accidentally hurt someone? Was that, why Snape was acting so strangely?
Snape didn't answer, his thin lips twitching into something bitter and small. He leaned forward, eyes dark and ferocious while Harry shifted away, disquieted. "They made you believe that they had your friends." The man said, his voice colder than his gaze. "They tortured them in front of your eyes to force your compliance. Only, you weren't capable of complying. It seems as if the man they intended to be your mate had no intention of forcing you into anything. With the help of his great uncle he gave you what amounts to a chastity belt: a potion that agitated your magic enough that you were repelling every source of foreign magic. You were incapable of bonding."
The words rang true, as brutal and concise as they had been delivered and perhaps because of it. Harry knew they were true, felt like he could almost remember, but the more he tried, the more the images and impressions slipped away from him, leaving him adrift and lost.
"Too cowardly to go against his family openly, Blaise's cousin helped you free yourself, and made it look like you had managed that on your own."
Snape paused, mustering his charge. And there, finally, was the deep-seated, burning hate that Harry was so used to. But for once it wasn't directed at him.
"To recapture you, Blaise's uncle stabbed you with a dagger that absorbed and bound your magic and ordered the murder of your friends. Again: they are fine." Snape said when he noticed Harry's mouth open in disbelief. "It was just a play meant to fool you."
Snape shook his head, his narrowed eyes directed at some point in the distance, hard and unforgiving. There was a cruelty to them, directed not at Harry, but at … Blaise's family, Harry finally understood, whatever they were called again. Something terrible had happened to them, and Snape thought they deserved it.
"You thought you saw your friends being killed and your magic was already unnaturally agitated due to the potion they gave you. They injured you to incapacitate you."
Not something, Harry thought faintly, I happened to them.
"I wouldn't have thought you of all people powerful enough." Snape continued with a raised brow, a scornful smile on his lips that Harry knew was meant to distract him. It didn't work this time. "But you actually managed to draw your magic away from the dagger and pushed it out of your body. All to save your friends."
Snape huffed out an ugly, tiny laugh. "Dumpledore always maintained the sentimental notion that love was the most powerful force on this world. Usually I think it is a pointless complication that makes the average idiot even more moronic, and historically probably caused almost as much war and strife as greed."
Softening almost, Snape turned his focus back to the young man lying prone before him. "In your case however, it thankfully enabled you to get free, though you lost consciousness in the process. No longer capable of controlling it, your magic caused what could be described as an explosion. Aside from Blaise's cousin, who was only marginally injured, no one survived."
It took a moment for Harry to comprehend the words and when he finally did, they left him reeling, faint and sick to his stomach.
"What?" Harry breathed out, lips moving to form words not even he could place.
Snape reached out, steadying the glass in Harry's hands. "Potter!"
"I killed them?"
"No." Snape cut in. "They killed themselves!"
He took the glass away, setting it aside and grabbed hold of Harry's floundering hands. "Do you remember the Horntail during your Triwizard Tournament?"
"I… what? Yes!" Harry shook his head, tried to pull his hands away but Snape only tightened his grip, his long fingers like manacles around Harry's wrists.
"If it had killed you, would it have been the fault of the dragon?" Snape pressed.
"Look at me, Potter!"
Harry looked up, disturbed, confused. Mostly in shock.
"Would it have been the fault of the dragon?" Snape repeated, an indomitable force, his cold glare unwavering and steely. "Or would it have been the fault of the wizards who brought it there? Who caught and caged it and stole it's eggs and pestered and hurt it with aggressive spells before putting it in an arena, surrounded by screaming, shouting wizards and witches?"
"Why?" Harry asked, glaring back. "Why is that so important to you?"
For a moment, the potions master blinked in surprise, as if thrown by the question. Looking down at the hands he was holding captive, he quickly released them, like something foul and rotten. Slowly Snape straightened and settled back in his seat. "As much as I enjoy seeing you torture yourself," he sneered, "I'd prefer it to be over something actually in your control. Like your general recklessness and stupidity and your utter ineptitude in handling potions."
Harry let his head fall back into the cushions. "Wow, you're an utter asshole!"
Snape smiled derisively. "To those who deserve it."
Dear god, Harry hated that damn, sly snake…
Silence descended upon them, brimming with Harry's anger. The older wizard however regarded his charge with analytical precision, not at all disappointed with their conversation so far, even with his small lapse. The boy only needed one more good push in the right direction, at the perfect moment.
Harry, for his part, turned away from his former teacher, unseeing eyes staring at the show cases and book shelves covering the rounded walls, all the curious magical artefacts and heavy tomes within. His thoughts flittered back and forth between Snape's unjust spite and what he had revealed. How many people were dead because of him? How many of them had been innocent? How many of them were just there because they had been pressured by their family? Rather like Draco and Blaise?
How many of them had in reality tried to help him? Like that uncle who had provided that peculiar potion that had kept him from mating.
That man had tried to help him, at the cost of his life. Harry had killed at least one innocent. He closed his eyes tightly as if he could shut out the truth as easily as the light.
"How many?" he asked quietly.
Beside him, Snape cleared his throat. "I never held back in my judgement of you."
Snorting, Harry threw him a disbelieving glance. That was the understatement of the century. "How many, Snape?"
Still not answering, the potions master met his gaze, more serious than Harry had expected. "So when I say this, you should believe me: It wasn't your fault."
He continued more forcefully, not giving his former student the chance to interrupt. "Potter. Every one of them knew more about your heritage than you did. Magical explosions like the one you caused have been reported again and again throughout the centuries. They are a known phenomenon for submissive Vykélari if pushed too far. Still, they kidnapped you, drove you into a corner, all dosed up on a potion that poisoned your magic into being hard to control, into being aggressive. They could have just as well played quidditch with an erumpent horn instead of a bludger!"
"No, Potter. That argument stands for every. Single. One of them." Snape said, punctuating every word. "Even and especially Blaise's cousin and his great uncle. They tried to take the coward's way out, trying to prevent your mating without going against their patriarch. If not for them, perhaps your magic might have never reacted the way it did. A rabid dog can't be faulted for biting."
"Potter." Snape countered. "I'm not finished, stop interrupting! I don't think I stated it clearly enough earlier: there were human beings last night that were tortured and killed because of the greed or cowardice of the Lanais. They might not have been Granger or Weasley, perhaps not even wizards, but they were human beings nonetheless. And every one present either was actively involved or passively allowed it to happen without a word of protest."
Harry swallowed. He hadn't realised, hadn't thought of the two persons that had been murdered instead of his best friends… "What did they do to them? Who were they?"
For a moment, Snape eyed him critically. Then he pursed his thin, pale lips. "Probably some poor muggles that noone would miss. They were tortured, with the cruciatus mostly. Then they slashed their throats." Gravely, Snape shook his head. "Believe me: there was no innocent there."
Both men descended into silence. Each following their own thoughts. The Legilimens was rather pleased at having guided his patient's thoughts in the right direction even without spells. It had been easier than he had anticipated to mould the delicate strands of thinking and emotions into an image of rightousness that a Gryffindor like Harry Potter could embrace. With another little spark of anger the boy would hopefully not think too much about the gory details his mind was missing. Snape merely had to bide his time.
Harry, on the other hand, was trying to find his way through a broken maze of incomplete information and chaotic feelings. Logically, everything Snape had said made sense, even though he suspected that he wasn't being told the entire truth. Without his memories, he felt almost detached, as if the story he had been told was just that: a tale of some far removed events that had happened to someone else...
"How did I get here?"
Snape sighed quietly. "Blaise and Draco found you after you fell unconscious and your magic had mostly run its course. They sent you back to Britain with a portkey."
"How do you know all this?" Harry suddenly asked, just as much an accusation as a question. "Why can't I remember? Why do you know so much as if you were there, while I can't remember a thing?" Warily, Harry looked towards the dark wizard sitting so close. "You even know where exactly my memory breaks off…"
Unperturbed, Snape folded his hands in his lap and regarded Harry with a little smile. "What, Potter? Couldn't deduce it by yourself? I took your memories, of course."
Disbelieving, Harry turned towards the older man. "You what? Give them back!"
Humming, Snape shook his head. "And I destroyed them."
"You…" Harry snarled, for a moment entirely speechless. "You had no right!"
With an almost gleeful smirk, that only enraged the Gryffindor further, Snape agreed. "Most likely not. And yet I did it anyway."
For a second or two, Harry's eyes bled into black, as if ink had been poured into them. But as quickly as they had come, the swirling shadows paled away into nothingness, leaving only the vibrant green that was always such a painful reminder of Lily. It was enough to have Severus sober down quickly.
"Do you really want the memory of your friends being tortured and killed to haunt you for the rest of your life?" He asked in a matter-of-fact tone of voice.
"I don't want you to have that memory either!" Harry snapped back.
Slowly, Snape stood, carefully eying the young man before him. His unwilling student, the victim of his temper, his unwelcome protegee, patient, and above all: his responsibility. "Believe it or not, Mr. Potter, but I am trying to protect you. Just like I have sworn to do. Now let us get you back to that group of useless slobs you call friends."
"Snape!" Harry hissed.
"I'll arrange your transport" The potions master answered calmly, and walked away, his steps silenced by the soft carpet beneath his feet. His charge was left behind brimming with anger, but too weak to follow.
CHAPTER END NOTES:
I really hope Snape didn't get too ooc in this chapter. I would love to hear what you think in any case!