Chapter 64 : Hogwarts, Morning, Early June 1994
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“Just sleep,” she whispered and kissed his shoulder.
Remus continued to shift, and groaning, he turned to face Althea. He slowly opened his eyes and sleepily looked at her.
“Just sleep,” she repeated softly, smoothing the hair from his face.
“No,” he yawned, stretching—his joints popping and cracking. “Sirius.”
“Don’t worry about him,” she whispered, stroking the side of his face. “You need your sleep.”
Remus blinked a few times, and suddenly his eyes opened wide and he sat to attention. “No!” he shouted and went to stand, but grimaced and fell back onto the bed. “We have to find him! He’s innocent!”
Althea sat up and shook her head in disbelief at Remus. “You must have been dreaming,” she said and soothingly stroked his forehead. “He’s not innocent.”
Agitated, Remus batted her hand away and sat up, facing her. Althea furrowed her eyebrows in confusion as Remus cupped his injured, bloodied hands around her face.
“Althea, you have to believe me on this,” he began, looking solemnly into her eyes. “You know that I wouldn’t lie to you, and that I love you,” he continued, his rough thumb stroking her cheek. ”Sirius is innocent.”
“He’s innocent,” he interrupted, his gaze unwavering.
Althea saw the earnest expression in his eyes and she started to shake. “No,” she murmured. “You're wrong—”
“Last night, I learnt that Peter was the Secret Keeper—”
Althea let out a small gasp.
“—and that he betrayed James and Lily—”
“He killed those Muggles—”
“No!” she shouted, violently shaking her head. “He lied to you! Peter’s dead!”
Remus stopped her head from shaking. “He’s not dead,” he said, stroking the side of her face. “I saw him—please don’t interrupt—I saw him, in this very room—”
Althea remembered upon her arrival to the Shrieking Shack that the abandoned and dilapidated house looked recently disturbed. It couldn’t be true, could it?
“This doesn’t make any sense, Remus,” she said—her throat tightening. “Start from the beginning.”
“Last night, I was looking at the map—”
Oh God, she thought, remembering that it was left open upon his desk. Remus would not have been so careless as to leave something so potentially dangerous open upon his desk if something hadn’t interrupted him. Her eyes widened. Despite the sugar in the Wolfsbane, Remus would not have forgotten to take it. He was always so careful. It must have been how Snape—
“—for I thought Harry and his friends would sneak out to see Buckbeak, and I was right,” he continued and licked his lips, smoothing the hair off her shoulders. “As I spotted them, I’d noticed another dot had joined them, I didn’t believe it myself, but the map never lies. Peter Pettigrew—”
Althea gasped. “Peter?”
Althea’s eyes widened. “Peter is alive? How could that be? How—oh, Remus—”
Remus held up his hand to her lips for her to quiet. “Sirius saw Peter and took him here…to expose him,” he said, his grip upon her trembling shoulders somewhat painful. “Immediately, when I saw Peter’s name, I knew, and I followed them here,” he continued and pointed to the bed, “to this very room.” He closed his eyes and winced as he spoke, “Peter was their Secret Keeper.”
“No!” she breathed, feeling the tears well in her eyes.
“Sirius told me of the switch last night,” he explained, his look pleading. “We—we kept you ignorant of so much,” he murmured, roughly stroking her shoulders. “From the intelligence we had, they wanted Sirius—and I thought it mad Sirius would offer himself for Secret Keeper—but it makes sense now. No one would go after Peter, and Sirius was to go into hiding with you, so he thought all was safe,” he explained and took a deep breath, “but Peter was the spy, Althea. He turned James and Lily over to Voldemort.”
“Is innocent,” he said, his voice cracking. “I’m so very sorry.”
Althea began to shake violently. “Why didn’t he tell me?” she asked, large tears streaming down her cheeks. She hiccoughed. “Things could have been different—”
Remus rested his forehead against hers. “They wouldn’t have believed you, Althea. Remember we found your deposition in the dustbin,” he reminded quietly, stroking the back of her head. “Peter set him up—set all of us up. He said that Sirius killed Lily and James just loud enough for the Muggles to hear, blew up the street behind him, and transformed into a rat—”
“You didn’t know his form was a rat?” he asked and Althea shook her head. “That is how he has survived these twelve years…as a rat. Waiting, no doubt, for the right time to hand over Harry—”
Althea’s mind tuned out Remus’s voice. Peter, she thought, shaking with rage. I almost killed Sirius when it has been Peter all along. It was Peter. Peter whom she wept for and whom she felt sorry for, as he was a poor dueler, but brave to face the mad Sirius. It was Peter, who she let into her home and let him touch her stomach when Prudence kicked. It was Peter, who betrayed Lily and James, and who wanted Harry dead. It was Peter, who killed those twelve Muggles. It was Peter, who betrayed Sirius and sent him to Azkaban. It was Peter, who took Sirius away from her, and in turn, took Prudence away from her. All that pain, all that hatred, everything that came after was directed at the man who loved her and sought to protect her. Her mind returned to that night when she heard Sirius call for her, to the laughing Death Eaters, and to the helplessness to protect her daughter from their torture. Althea let out a ferocious scream, which lurched her entire body forward. She collapsed upon the bed, her throat burning, and she heaved great sobs.
I should have fought for him, she thought and batted away Remus’s hand. I let him down. I was the one person that defended him after—that wouldn’t believe he was capable of doing those horrible things…but everyone forced me to believe I was wrong…Gran, Remus, and Dumbledore. Forced me to believe he lied! Althea screamed once more. What had she become? In reaction to his supposed betrayal, she had succumbed to the madness and hate to cope. In her loathsome state, she had thrived in evil and in revenge. The darkness she thought Sirius possessed and that she had strived to outdo was in her all along, alone. She deserved those twelve years and not Sirius.
“That ni—night when I—I heard S—Sirius, he was looking for—for me?” she sobbed and coughed as the thick mucus slid down her throat. “To warn me—to tell me everything?”
Remus held her tightly to him. “I’m so sorry, Althea, that I ever doubted you,” he whispered and kissed her wet cheek. “I’m so sorry.”
Frantically, Althea pushed Remus away from her. “He was taken back to Hogwarts! Dumbledore spoke with him! Remus—Remus, the Kiss!”
Oh God, I should have killed him! To save him from the Kiss, she thought as every muscle in her body continued to contract and to relax as she sobbed. Althea could almost feel Dumbledore’s wand against her scalp. Dumbledore had kept Althea from Sirius, and in their brief conversation had warned her not to harm Sirius. Did Dumbledore believe as Althea and Remus? He must. Had he prevented the dementors from catching Sirius? Was Sirius still at Hogwarts, waiting to explain to her the circumstances?
Remus rested his hand on her convulsing shoulder. “Dumbledore wouldn’t let that happen,” he replied—his own voice unsure. “Come on, we need to return to the castle. We need to find Dumbledore.”
Roughly wiping her eyes, she sat up and realized Remus had no clothes. “Remus, it’s morning and you’re naked,” she replied and found herself fighting off a smile.
“Oh, right,” he murmured and the two laughed uncomfortably. “I suppose I’ll wrap myself in a blanket,” he added and looked thoughtfully at Althea. “We didn’t know, Althea. He’ll forgive you, I know he will,” he whispered and kissed her cheek.
Althea frowned. “I don’t want his forgiveness.”
The couple left the Shrieking Shack and Remus briefly stopped to pick up the Invisibility Cloak that had been left on the school grounds. He immediately traded the tattered blanket for the Invisibility Cloak and they started for the castle. The grounds seemed brighter and the cold chill that Althea would feel even on a warm morning such as this was gone. She could feel it in her bones—the dementors were gone. Althea swallowed—did they take his soul with them?
“You know, you’re not the first one to be naked underneath that cloak,” she remarked as they entered the castle.
“Yes, Sirius told us all of the night you both went skinny dipping,” he whispered. “James never let him borrow the cloak again.”
“It wasn’t because we went skinny dipping,” she replied with a smirk. “Damn, students…. Hello…. Hello…. Morning,” she added and nodded as the students passed.
“Althea, hurry,” Remus whispered heatedly.
“If I walk any faster I’ll arouse suspicion,” she replied and rolled her eyes as more students came into the corridor. “Morning…. Hello…. Hello…. Morning,” she replied, smiling as the students looked at her strangely. “Now the students think I’m mental,” she whispered as they turned the corner.
“Stop talking to me, then,” he whispered and groaned. “They don’t have classes—why are they up so early? There’s a detour behind the portrait.”
Althea’s stomach tightened for Dumbledore had entered the corridor. She would soon learn Sirius’s fate.
“Dumbledore,” she whispered, watching as he walked toward the pair.
“Oh, right, ask him!” he whispered quickly and nudged Althea forward.
Taking a deep breath, she started, “Headmaster, sir, may I ask you—”
Dumbledore raised his hand and smiled. “He is safe—”
Althea smiled as a wave of relief washed over her.
“I dare say, far away by now,” he continued—a small twinkle in his eye. “Remus told you, no doubt.”
Althea nodded. “Thank you, Headmaster, I—”
Dumbledore raised his hand once more. “No need, Althea,” he replied and looked over her shoulder. He began to chuckle. “I think you and Remus should dress, breakfast is shortly.”
Althea blushed. “Right, thank you,” she murmured. “See you at breakfast,” she added with slight embarrassment as she started to walk away.
“Ah, Althea,” Dumbledore said and Althea stopped. “I do have a request. Sirius told me some very interesting things last night.”
“He did?” she asked, frowning slightly.
“I think it’s best if you’d destroy that journal of your father. No matter how much I’d find it entertaining, I doubt the staff would enjoy a literal zoo,” he replied, smiling to himself.
“Right,” she breathed, nodding. “Good day, Headmaster.”
“Good day, Headmaster,” Remus said from underneath the cloak.
The couple quickly walked from Dumbledore to the portrait and Remus removed the cloak from his head. Sirius Black, with his soul intact, was free. She placed a hand upon her stomach to calm the excited twinge. What would the Daily Prophet say? It would be splashed across the front page, no doubt. She bit her lip in gleeful anticipation. Whose reaction would she enjoy more, Snape’s or Gran’s?
“I’ll see you at breakfast,” Remus said, smoothing out his hair.
“Right—oh, your hand,” she replied, pointing to the large wound on his hand. “You need to see Madam Pomfrey for an ointment.”
Remus shook his head. “No, I’ll wrap it—oh, don’t make that face. It’ll be fine, I promise,” he replied and kissed her cheek. “I’ll meet you outside the Great Hall?”
“Of course,” she replied and tugged on the Invisibility Cloak.
“Remus, where are you? I’m hungry,” she murmured, folding her arms.
“I’m right here,” he whispered into her ear.
Startled, she jumped forward and turned around to see a smiling Remus.
“I bloody hate that,” she said, straightening his collar. “How did you sneak up like that?”
“Shortcut,” he answered and winked, patting his robe pocket.
Althea quickly kissed his lips. “Almost everyone is the Great Hall,” she explained, resting her fingertips against his chest.
Remus laughed, playing with the pink ribbons on her bodice. “Do you propose we walk in one at a time to quell suspicion?” he teased as he twirled one of the ribbons around his index finger.
Althea took his hand from the ribbon and held it in hers. “No, that would arouse more suspicion, I think,” she replied, leading him toward the Great Hall. “No, we should discuss something very studious as we enter. How about the Doxies?”
“Doxies?” he repeated as he rested his hand on the large door handle. “About the time we had to sedate you as one flew into your hair?” he added as he went to open the door.
Althea placed her hand on the door, preventing him from opening it. “You didn’t sedate me, Lily sedated me,” she replied, still holding the door shut. “You four were doubled over in laughter—you and Sirius especially.”
“You know,” he began with a wry smile, “that is the memory I use for my Patronus.”
“You’re joking,” she scoffed and Remus’s grin widened.
“Right, it was the first time I saw your breasts—ow!” Remus replied and rubbed his upper arm. “I was only joking.”
Althea leaned against the door, realizing that she had not witnessed Remus act so jokingly since the days before James and Lily died. The ease in his mannerisms were no longer tinged with sadness.
“You’re acting more like a student than a professor,” she replied, mimicking his wry smile.
Remus shrugged and tossed the hair from his eyes.
“You’re happy he’s back, aren’t you?” she asked, resting the side of her head against the cool wood of the door.
“I have my best friend back,” he answered and sighed happily.
“What about Peter?” she asked, lifting herself from the door.
Remus frowned slightly. “I mourned for him a long time ago,” he replied, resting his hands on her shoulders.
Althea frowned as well. “What about me?”
Remus laughed quietly. “I thought you were hungry,” he replied and opened the door. “Come on, let’s eat.”
Remus opened the door, allowing Althea to enter the Great Hall. Immediately, she noticed a few students’ faces turn toward their direction. It’s normal; they just wanted to see who has entered, she thought, her stomach queasy. She cursed that her chest would betray her unease as more eyes followed them. Remus didn’t seem to notice or care. The blush traveled up her neck as more students turned to see the couple as they reached the Head Table.
“Thank you,” she murmured to Remus—who had pulled out her chair—as she sat.
Dipping her knife into the strawberry marmalade, she noticed a few of the students nudging and whispering to one another—a few even pointing. Oh God, they know, she thought, spreading the large amount of strawberry marmalade onto her piece of toast. Somehow, someone discovered Remus and I had sex, and now everyone knows. She stared at her toast. I wasn’t that loud, was I? With the rustle of papers to Remus’ side, she knew the Daily Prophet had arrived. She peered across Remus as Flitwick placed the newspaper next to him. Sirius Black’s innocence was not splashed across the cover. Instead, the headline read:
MURDERER STILL AT LARGE
“Remus, look,” she whispered, holding the toast to her lips.
“Damn,” he muttered and slipped his hand into hers. “We know the truth.”
Althea was drawn to two Slytherin seventh-year girls. The one with blonde hair pointed to the couple and then whispered to the redhead, who let out a knowing giggle. She knew that look very well.
She took a nervous bite of toast and swallowed. “Remus, they know.”
“Know what?” he asked, placing his goblet of pumpkin juice before him. “No one saw me this morning.”
“No, about us,” she whispered, holding the goblet to her lips.
“Ridiculous,” he replied and took another sip of pumpkin juice.
“What else could it be?” she asked, talking into her goblet.
“Lupin, I’m very sorry Severus told the Slytherins about you,” Professor Sinistra said as she stood behind Remus.
The goblet slipped from Althea’s hand, but she caught it—splashing pumpkin juice upon her hand and wrist. She looked over to Snape—a garish smile spread across his face. I hate you with every fiber of my being, she thought, roughly wiping her hand with her napkin. Resisting every urge to leap over the table and stab Snape with his butter knife, Althea returned her attention to the conversation between Remus and Sinistra.
“He did, did he?” Remus said lightly and took a bite of toast.
Sinistra nodded. “He accidentally told the Slytherins this morning,” she explained, looking toward the Slytherin table, “so naturally, everyone knew immediately.”
Althea cringed as she heard a few of the Slytherins howl.
“It was an uproar—I do believe some of them have already owled their families,” Sinistra continued, looking at Remus thoughtfully. “Don’t let them discourage you.”
Remus smiled a vacant smile. “I won’t, thank you,” he replied—his voice restrained.
Sinistra left and Althea continued to observe Remus—he was reeling inside, but he refused to show it.
“Would you like to leave?” she asked, touching his forearm.
Placing his hand over hers, he forced the warmest smile. “No, I think I want to enjoy my last breakfast with you, here,” he answered and tenderly squeezed her hand.
Large tears pressed against her eyelids. “No, you can’t—”
“Oh—look—your favorite, strawberries,” he interrupted, taking the large bowl of red, ripened strawberries into his hands. “Here you go,” he continued, placing four large strawberries onto her plate. “Tuck in.”
Althea looked at the strawberries and sniffed loudly. “I’m not hungry anymore,” she murmured, touching a strawberry with her index finger.
“You were starving a few minutes ago,” he replied and laughed hollowly. “You’ll be complaining by lunchtime that you haven’t eaten anything all day,” he continued and placed a strawberry in her hand. “Tuck in.”
Althea placed the strawberry into her mouth and bit down, looking across the students as she chewed. The majority of Gryffindors were glum as were the Hufflepuffs and a few Ravenclaws (and she might’ve spotted a Slytherin or two)—no doubt due to learning the truth of their favorite professor. She spotted Prudence, who sat in front of an unfinished plate of breakfast. Prudence sat with her head resting against her chin, sighing at her plate of breakfast. You’ll never know the truth about your father, she thought and took a large bite of strawberry. You’ll always think of him as a crazed murderer…your boggart. He didn’t want you dead. He wanted you. He loved you.
“Prudence shouldn’t look so glum,” he whispered into Althea’s ear. “She did very well on her exam.”
“Did she?” she asked, turning toward Remus.
Remus nodded. “Full marks on her Defense Against the Dark Arts exam…one of only five first-year students,” he answered and smiled—a genuine smile.
“I’d expect no less,” she replied, smiling. “Her father did battle Death Eaters.”
A hint of shock registered across Remus’s face and he quickly smiled. “You’re not afraid anymore?”
“No, I’m not afraid anymore,” she replied and looked toward Prudence.
Prudence sighed and turned her attention from her plate toward Snape—her expression instantly transforming into one of loathing. An overwhelming sense of pride surged throughout Althea.
“Let’s hope she’s a thorn in Snape’s greasy side for the next six years,” she added, smiling.
“Indeed,” he sighed as looked upon Prudence. “Wish I could’ve taught her a few more things.”
The two finished their breakfasts and left the Great Hall—much to Althea’s relief. She could not wait to confront Snape and to tell Dumbledore of Snape’s betrayal of confidence. Sugar in the Wolfsbane and the disclosure of Remus’s affliction were unforgivable in Althea’s mind.
“Are you going to your office?” she asked as the two walked along the corridor.
“No, I need to speak with Dumbledore,” he replied and sighed. “Then I need to pack.”
“No!” she gasped and stopped walking. “You can’t resign! You can’t leave!”
“You are the most-loved professor here! The children adore you and the staff admires you,” she pleaded, tugging at his sleeves. “You can’t leave.”
“Althea, I have to—”
“You don’t have to,” she said, placing her hands upon his chest. “You are the best Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor Hogwarts has had in years! Years, Remus!” she continued, her lower lip began to tremble. “You’re perfect.”
Remus took her face in his hands. “It’s too dangerous for me to be here—”
“Too dangerous?” she questioned. “Now you think it—”
“I was stupid to think—I could have bitten or killed a student,” he replied in earnest. “There is no other option.”
Althea frowned. “Yes, there is,” she replied, “the Shrieking Shack—you used the Shrieking Shack for seven years.”
“There are ways of escaping. There is always that chance—look at last night,” he replied, stroking her cheek with his thumb. “If I were in my office or my quarters, I would have killed you when you opened the door.”
“Althea, I would have torn out your throat,” he interrupted and Althea wrinkled her nose.
“Remus, Snape put sugar into the Wolfsbane Potion,” she said, and felt Remus’s hands briefly retract against her skin. “I saw it last night when I went to check on you. He must have tampered with the potion the entire week.”
Remus remained silent.
“He wanted you to be discovered.”
Remus’s expression turned grim. “It was a violent transformation; although, I did not drink it last night—”
“It wouldn’t matter—”
“I’ll tell Dumbledore of your suspicion—”
“It’s not suspicion, Remus,” she interrupted, resting her hands on his. “It’s fact.”
“It’s a fact parents don’t want a werewolf teaching their children,” he countered, removing his hand from underneath hers and stroking the hair away from her face. “Now, I need to see Dumbledore,” he added softly and kissed her cheek. “Goodbye.”
“Remus, no,” she pleaded, holding onto the sleeves of his robes. “You can’t let Snape win.”
“Win?” he laughed, gently prying her hands from his robes. “In time, the students would have discovered the truth.”
“No, they wouldn’t have,” she replied, taking hold of his robes again. “The majority isn’t that clever.”
“She can’t be considered with the rest of the students,” she replied, shaking her head. “She did, though?”
Remus nodded. “After Snape’s essay,” he answered and once again gently pried her hands from his robes.
“Look, one student and—and she didn’t tell,” she replied, poking him in the chest. “Others might’ve discovered as well, but they didn’t tell. The students are fiercely loyal to you.”
“Even so,” he began, resting his hands on her shoulders, “their parents aren’t.”
“How would you know? There could be some enlightened parents,” she replied, resting her hands on her hips.
Remus smiled a weak smile. “I doubt that very much,” he said and sighed. “Now, I need to find Dumbledore,” he added and kissed her cheek. “Goodbye.”
“Goodbye,” she murmured as Remus walked away.
It doesn’t have to end like this, she thought and bit her bottom lip, staring at where Remus once stood. He’s a good and brilliant man.
“God, I hate you Snape,” she whispered, folding her arms.
“If I had it my way, you’d be in Azkaban now with that werewolf,” Snape said from behind her.
Althea quickly turned to face him. “They don’t put people away for a kiss on the cheek,” she replied, slipping her hand into her robe pocket. She felt her wand and smiled.
I would find it so pleasing to blast him across the corridor again, she thought, as she saw Snape reach into his own pocket.
“I will discover how you helped Black escape,” he sneered—his eyes narrowing. “I swear I will.”
“Like I’d help Sirius—I wanted to kill him last night,” she replied, tightening her grip on her wand, “don’t you remember?”
No, a wand is too good for him, she thought, releasing her wand. I want to feel my fist connect with that greasy face.
“And I swear I will tell Dumbledore of his mediocre Potions Master,” she continued and smiled as Snape’s sneer had faded. “You’d think a Potions Master would know not to put sugar into Wolfsbane as it renders it useless, but last night as I went to check on Remus as I had always done, I found sugar in the bottom of the goblet.”
“I wouldn’t put it past Lupin to do something so foolish,” he replied—the sneer returning.
Althea thrust her forefinger toward Snape. “You placed sugar into the Wolfsbane knowing full well that I would check on Remus.”
“Likely,” he sneered
“What? Wanting to rid Hogwarts of both of us?” she questioned, advancing on Snape.
Swiftly, Snape produced his wand, pointing it between her eyes.
“I don’t need a wand,” she growled, narrowing her eyes.
“You think too highly of yourself. You can’t prove anything,” he replied—his voice waspish. “The Headmaster won’t believe your word over mine.”
Althea rolled her eyes in disgust. “Lower your wand, not everyone is out to hex you.”
“You give me no reason to put my wand away,” he replied, still pointing his wand between her eyes. “Your behavior only proves how much you are a danger.”
“You endangered the lives of countless children last night! You’re the one that should resign!”
“I’m not a werewolf!”
Althea slapped Snape across the cheek. She cradled her stinging hand. Merlin, did it feel fantastic! She thought of doing it again.
“It angers you, doesn’t it?” she began and admired the pink upon Snape’s sallow cheek. It suited him. “To think I was chosen before you—the Muggle Studies Professor—to instruct the children in Defense Against the Dark Arts after Scrimgour’s promotion six months into his tenure…such a low blow—”
“You were useless—”
“Best friend’s a werewolf and I shagged a supposed Dark wizard, I reckon I know something,” she remarked, looking at the curve of her manicured nails. “Dumbledore obviously thought me qualified.” She looked up, and smirked as Snape’s lips thinned. “You look a bit peaky.”
“The Dark Arts are not a joke,” he said lowly, stepping forward. “You have no idea—”
“And now, Remus is professor, and you can’t stand that the children love him and the staff admire him…a werewolf,” she said and Snape stopped speaking. “Then, there’s you—sitting in the corner at meetings—not talked to, not acknowledged,” she continued as Snape looked to be done with this conversation. “It must anger you to see Remus get a handshake from another professor while you get a curt nod, or when Rosmerta flirts with him and ignores you. If she only knew, right? Does it? Does it anger you?”
“Does it anger you that Parker calls another woman mother?” he answered—his lips curving into an awful smile, showing his yellow, uneven teeth.
Althea laughed again. “Of course, she calls another woman mother because I’m not her mother,” she replied, shaking her head. “Did you forget that my daughter was murdered by your Death Eater friends? You can visit her grave. I do—every birthday and Christmas.”
“You don’t fool me, Morrigan,” he replied, looking into Althea’s eyes.
Althea felt her mind being pried open—she made a face at him.
“This conversation is over,” he added and turned on his heel.
Althea was not about the end the conversation. “You know,” she began loudly as Snape continued to walk away. “It was a very reckless and stupid thing you did last night. It reminded me of something Sirius would have done,” she continued and smiled as Snape stumbled slightly. “Good day, Snape,” she added and turned to walk in the opposite direction.
Thank you so much for reading! Thank you for all the lovely comments and reviews - I've very much enjoyed them. What is in store for Althea? Grindylows and unlikely advice.
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