Chapter 1 : It Happened Like This
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He and Ginny made their way towards their usual table in the corner, where private conversations were unlikely to be overheard.
And then he saw them. His jaw dropped.
Ron and Hermione. Hermione and Ron. Together. Snogging. In the library.
Ginny made a small noise somewhere between a false cough and a laugh, but it was enough to alert Hermione of their presence, for she began struggling to free herself from Ron, looking mortified. Ron had her pinned to the wall, and didn’t seem too keen on letting her go until she whispered something to him. He froze, dropped his arms to his sides and slowly turned to face Harry and Ginny.
The silence was horrible. They all stood, simply looking at each other, except for Hermione who was busy smoothing the creases from her clothing and seeming to take much longer than necessary. Ron opened his mouth to say something, but then seemed to think better of it, and closed it.
At last Harry found his voice. “You two…how did…when…” he spluttered. Hermione looked at him, appearing almost frightened.
“Harry, we…that is, Ron and I, have some news,” she said, in a voice much higher than usual.
“We’ve been… er…” Ron began, gesturing helplessly between himself and Hermione.
“Snogging?” Ginny supplied helpfully.
“Yeah, that,” Ron muttered, his ears reddening.
Harry wasn’t sure whether to laugh or start shouting, for both sounded appealing at the moment. It was kind of funny to watch Hermione – he had never seen her looking so embarrassed. But on the other hand, his friends - his best friends - hadn’t bothered filling him in on what was going on! How long had they been sneaking around in secret, lying to him? Why would they do that?
“Is this what you call ‘being more careful’ Hermione?” Ginny said in disbelief. “Did you already forget how Filch almost caught you both the other day?”
“You knew?!” Harry yelped, rounding on Ginny.
“Of course I knew!” Ginny said impatiently. “Oh, and you can get that look off your face! No one told me, Harry! I guessed.”
“We wanted to tell you first mate, honest,” Ron said anxiously. “But we just - it was -you don’t know the whole -” he looked to Hermione for help.
“We wanted to tell you Harry, we really did,” Hermione said earnestly. “But we were just waiting for the right moment. I mean this must be kind of strange for you, isn’t it? And with everything else going on we weren’t sure if… and we didn’t know how you’d react…” She trailed away, and bit her lip nervously. Harry looked around and, spotting a nearby table, sat down in order to process it all. The others silently followed suit.
If he hadn’t been so busy with Quidditch practices, homework, extra defense lessons with Dumbledore… not to mention the constant pains in his scar and the war that was taking place around them, he might have spotted this sooner. It was strange, but the more he thought about it, the more it made sense… All those times Hermione loudly announced that she was going to the library or that she was tutoring Neville… how happy Ron seemed by these statements… the strange looks that passed between them in the common room… how they’d both come through the portrait hole about 5 minutes apart, looking flushed, disheveled...
“OK, that train of thought ends now!” Harry thought quickly, as unwanted images began to form in his mind.
“You have every right to be upset, Harry,” Hermione said anxiously. “We waited too long…we just wanted to keep it quiet, you know, be discreet-”
“Being crushed against a bookshelf by my brother doesn’t exactly qualify as discreet, now does it?” Ginny said pointedly. Ron and Hermione glanced at each other, looking embarrassed.
“I guess we got a bit… carried away…” Ron muttered. Harry snorted. ‘Carried away’ seemed like a bit of an understatement to the groping fest he had just witnessed.
“So…how long has this been going on anyway?” Harry asked grumpily. He was still annoyed that they hadn’t told him, that he had to find out like that… but he was too curious to keep from asking questions.
“A little over two months,” Hermione said in a small voice.
“OK. So… and how did it happen?” Harry asked, looking back and forth between them.
“Well…” Ron began hesitantly. “One Sunday evening when I was heading to the library…”
Hermione said she’d help me study for a potions test – you know the one, we had it the day before Christmas Break. I had just finished Quidditch practice so I was tired, but she nagged me earlier until I agreed to study with her… What, it’s true! Anyway, I sat down and we got started right away… No wait, first we talked about you, Harry.
“We’re so lucky to have Harry, he’s a great friend,” Hermione said.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “He’s the best mate a guy could have... So nice and forgiving…’
Ginny snorted and Hermione rolled her eyes. Ron was pretty obvious sometimes, and oblivious too, for he continued talking as if nothing was wrong.
So then we studied for ages, and I mean ages. It was dead boring. Hermione kept nagging me to read her notes but I was really tired from Quidditch practice… this was before we found new beaters to replace Slopper and Blair… Anyway, eventually I managed to persuade her to give it a rest for a bit. So we talked for a while… for a long time, about all this different stuff, and that was pretty cool. We didn’t study potions anymore, after we started talking, so that was nice. Oh! And she got all huffy at one point because I mentioned that she can be kind of a stick in the mud. She said that I didn’t know her as well as I might think, which is untrue, so we started quizzing each other on… each other. I’d ask her questions about me, and vice versa, and whoever got the most right would owe the other person 5 galleons. I won by a landslide, of course, but I let her keep her gold because I was feeling pretty generous just then. Also it was getting pretty late, and there weren’t many people left in the library, so I said that we should probably get going. But as we were standing up…well, I guess she just couldn’t resist the Weasley charm any longer because she grabbed my arm and just started… y’know…kissing me! I didn’t know what to do, mate! Well, I mean, I knew what to do, but I was just caught off guard, is all...
“OK, I’m sorry, but you seem to be a little confused.” Hermione interrupted.
“It’s my story!” Ron said defensively.
“It’s not supposed to be a story, Ron! It’s supposed to be an accurate interpretation of past events!” She turned to Harry and Ginny. “Now if you two want to know the truth, I’ll tell you what really happened…”
I agreed to help Ron study for the potions test, so I was sitting in the library, waiting for him to arrive. He was late, actually.
Finally he showed up, and immediately started complaining about Snape, the library’s facilities, Potions, Malfoy… the usual. I offered my notes to him, because I wanted him to do well, but he didn’t seem very grateful by my help. So I started studying, while he just sat there… I knew he wasn’t really reading my notes, but I just thought, fine, he can fail if he wants to. But the unfair thing is that he kept trying to disrupt my learning too! Finally, to stop him from annoying me more than anything, I agreed to take a short break from working. We talked for a while, like he said, about lots of different things. And then we made a little bet about who knew the other person better, and he asked the most ridiculous questions that no one in their right mind would know the answers to. So if he did win the bet, which I don’t even think he did, it wasn’t really on fair terms. But anyway, he admitted a lot of things to me. Why, I remember him saying…
“Hermione! I’ll tell you a secret – I finally read Hogwarts: A History! And you’re right - it is one of the most understated literary phenomenon’s of our time!”
“Oh Ron! I knew you’d come around!” I cried, throwing my arms around him.
“Hang on!” Ron interrupted indignantly. “That never happened!”
“Well, more or less, Ron! What do you expect? It’s not like I can remember it word for word!” Hermione snapped. “And don’t raise your voice. This is a library.”
“Your memory seemed OK at lunch when you were reciting Binn’s lecture for over an hour! None of us were listening, by the way,” Ron said cuttingly. Hermione scowled.
“Just because you don’t take advantage of my help doesn’t mean no one else does!”
“Like sweet little Ernie you mean?” Ron sneered.
“Oh don’t you dare start that up again, Ron!” Hermione said shrilly, pushing back her chair and standing up.
“If some smarmy bloke is all over my girlfriend, then I’m bloody well going to do something about it!” Ron shouted, standing up too. A ringing silence followed this proclamation, and Hermione clapped her hands over her mouth. Harry shifted uncomfortably in his seat, and glanced longingly at the library’s exit. A few seconds of awkward silence later, Hermione lowered his hands to whisper:
“You – you’re girlfriend?” Her attention was focused solely on Ron. Harry and Ginny might have been hat stands.
“Well… yeah,” Ron said hoarsely. “That is… I mean… if you want to be….” he added nervously. She smiled, took two steps forward and wrapped her arms around Ron, who quickly reciprocated the action.
Harry was confused by the sudden turn of events. Seconds ago they both looked fit to kill, but now it was as if the row had never happened. In any case he thought it best to leave them to it and, catching Ginny’s eye, he jerked his head towards the exit. Neither Ron nor Hermione seemed to notice them shuffle away.
They walked down the empty corridor in silence, but it wasn’t long before Ginny asked the million dollar question.
“So! Ron and Hermione. Are you – erm – OK with that?” she said, watching him closely. Harry frowned. Was he OK? It would certainly be strange, seeing them act like a couple… but then, on some level he had always expected it to happen. And it seemed right that they were together – Fitting, somehow. And he wasn’t worried about losing them - they would always be his best friends. Nothing would change that.
“I think so. I mean, it’ll take some getting used to, but… it’s a good thing. And I’m sure Hermione’ll make sure there aren’t any more public displays after today…” Harry said, trailing away hopefully. He was relived to see Ginny nod in agreement.
“There’s always been something between them. Did you ever notice?” she asked almost wistfully.
“Seen it for ages… since the middle of fourth year,” Harry said; lowering his voice as a crowd of sixth years passed from behind. “I’m just surprised they took so long.”
“I’m surprised Hermione let Ron maul her in public! And in the library of all places! That’s like holy ground to her!” Ginny said. “I guess my brother must be pretty persuasive…” she trailed away, wrinkling her nose in disgust.
She had a very cute nose.
Thoughts like that had been popping unexpectedly into Harry’s head all year, and though he had been trying to ignore the whole issue, there really wasn’t much point in denying it any longer… he hoped that he and Ginny would have some news, like Ron and Hermione, before long…
-What Really Happened-
Ron entered the library feeling - as always - secretly elated at the prospect of spending some alone time with Hermione. Never in his life did he think he’d actually look forward to studying potions, but as he spotted Hermione bent over a massive and very dull looking book at a table in the corner with her wild hair all around her shoulders, he could think of nowhere he’d rather be. She looked up as he approached her.
“Hi Ron!” she said brightly, wearing that contented I’m-surrounded-by-books smile. “I’ve been reviewing. Love potions really aren’t that complicated once you understand the theory behind them. The thing to remember is-”
“Hermione, I haven’t even sat down yet,” Ron moaned.
“Oh, well, sit then,” she said, pointing at the seat across from her.
Ron sat, moving his chair around and grumbling about ‘no leg room,’ to which Hermione rolled her eyes. Ron often complained about how tiny the library tables were, only to disguise how much he secretly liked the way their knees bumped together.
“I think you should start by reading these notes. I rewrote them a few days ago, so they should be clear, and if you have any questions, just ask,” Hermione said briskly, returning to her book. Ron looked at them gloomily. He really didn’t feel like studying at all. What he wanted at that moment was just to talk… but not about the war, or Harry, or homework…that was all they ever seemed to talk about anymore. He wanted a stupid and pointless conversation. Something normal. Like life used to be.
But it was obvious that Hermione wanted to work, so he picked up the top page of the dauntingly thick stack of notes she had written and tried to focus his eyes on the first sentence. But he knew it was no good. Still pumped full of adrenaline from Quidditch practice, the last thing he wanted to do was sit quietly in the library. But to keep her from harping on about N.E.W.T.S. and ‘poor study habits’ he pretended to read her notes for a few minutes, scanning the same paragraph over and over until finally, when he could stand it no longer, he set down the piece of parchment and studied Hermione instead. She was a much more interesting topic - once again bent over her textbook; all he could see was the top of her head, and a great deal of bushy hair. He loved her hair. It was brilliant - wild and mad and all over the place. He wanted to touch it, to find out what it felt like, and for one stupid moment even went so far as to raise his hand, before realizing how weird that would be. So he contented himself with memorizing every streak of copper he could find. Not being the type to carefully examine herself in the mirror, he doubted Hermione was even aware of those little highlights, but he had noticed them one night in fourth year when a bit of copper had glinted in the firelight.
More time passed, and after a while he began to loose interest in the top of her head. Surely they had studied long enough by now? But Hermione didn’t seem to think so; she was so absorbed in her book that he had to repeat her name three times before she finally looked up, and when he proposed that they take a break, she frowned.
“Already? But it’s only been half an hour...”
“Come on… ” Ron wheedled, opening his eyes to their fullest extent - the look that sometimes worked on his mum when he wanted to get out of degnoming the garden.
“Well…I suppose…” Hermione sighed.
“But only for a minute,” she said firmly.
“Though now that I think about it…” Hermione continued, “I’m sure I read somewhere… probably in Survival Tips for the Stressed Student, that taking lots of mini breaks can give your brain a nice rest, and makes it easier to memorize facts and figures. We’ll need to remember that for N.E.W.T.S.”
“Yeah…right… ” Ron said, leaning back in his chair and closing his eyes. He didn’t really want to think about N.E.W.T.S. Earlier that month Hermione had taken to spouting out random study tips at unexpected moments, as a constant reminder of their approaching exams. It always made him feel slightly nauseous. It was only Christmas after all, he still had plenty of time to study…and though he dreaded the idea; he knew that he and Harry had better start soon. After all you needed top marks to become Aurors, as Hermione was constantly reminding them. She was right of course, but then, she didn’t have as much on her plate as he did.
“You seem really tired lately. Is being Quidditch captain very stressful?” she asked sympathetically, as if reading his mind.
Ron nodded. “It’s a lot of work…not that I’m complaining. I’ve always wanted to be captain, ever since Charlie was.” A memory he hadn’t thought of in years began to surface in his mind… him and Harry in their pajamas in first year, entranced by the images in a large, strange mirror. In it he had seen an older, better version of himself - good looking, smart, a high achiever in every aspect that his brother’s had been… and with a jolt he realized that the mirror’s image had become sort of real. He was Head Boy, captain of Gryffindor’s Quidditch team, and if they beat Slytherin in the match next week, they had a good shot at winning the cup, too…that is, if they could pull together a team in time. “We still haven’t found good beaters…we’ve had trouble filling those positions ever since Fred and George left...” he told Hermione.
“Hmmm... and how’s the joke shop going anyway?” Hermione asked, unable to keep the disapproval from her voice.
‘Dunno,” Ron said, shrugging. “They haven’t owled me in months, and it’s not like mum’ll tell me anything…she goes mad whenever she hears the words ‘Wizard Wheezes’…”
“Well, you can’t really blame her, can you? If they would only apply their talents to something useful-” she lowered her voice and glanced around. “I bet they could be a real help to the Order!”
“Hermione, if you had it your way we’d all be sitting in libraries, reading Hogwarts: A History and quietly discussing Arithmancy problems.”
“I can have fun!” she said defensively. Ron snorted in disbelief. Hermione’s definition of ‘fun’ differed somewhat from the average person’s. Not to say that she couldn’t have enjoy herself if someone, like him, helped her… but he had a sneaking suspicion that if it wasn’t for Madam Pince, she would probably have conjured up a bed and dresser inside the library years ago and never left.
“You don’t know me quite as well as you might think, Ron Weasley!” she hissed.
“Don’t I?” Ron said casually, knowing it would only irritate her further.
“Bet you five galleons I know you better then you know me!” Ron challenged.
“You haven’t got 5 galleons, but you’re on!” Hermione snapped. She extracted a blank piece of parchment and a quill from her bag, and wrote both of their names along the top. “So, here are the rules: We have 5 minutes to ask as many questions as possible, each correct question earns the person one point, which I’ll mark here, and whoever gets the most right owes the other person 5 Galleons. Agreed?”
“Sure,” Ron said nonchalantly, setting the timer on his watch. “You ask first… since you’ll need all the help you can get…” She didn’t waste time.
“What’s my middle name?”
Ron was insulted. “If you’re going to make the questions that easy, you might as well save time and hand over the gold right now.”
Hermione folded her arms. “Answer the question.”
“Jane. What’s my middle name?”
“Bilius,” Hermione said instantly.
“How’d you know?” Ron said, surprised. “I’ve never told anyone!”
“Ginny,” Hermione said simply.
“Oh,” Ron said darkly. He was a bit uneasy with the close bond that had grown between his sister and best friend. What were they whispering about all the time? Sometimes he was almost certain they were talking about him… or was he being paranoid? But then why did their conversation break off whenever he came within hearing range? What was Ginny saying…?
“It’s a nice name,” Hermione said kindly, mistaking Ron’s silence for embarrassment.
“Are you kidding?” Ron said in disbelief. “Fred gave it to me! Even when he was a toddler he was making my life miserable…”
“The twins picked your middle name? But why?” Hermione asked.
“Not the twins, just Fred. George was born before him, so George picked Fred’s middle name, then Fred picked mine, and I picked Ginny’s…it’s a Weasley tradition,” Ron said, shrugging.
“I never knew that!” Hermione said in surprise. “Too bad Ginny never got to name anyone, since she’s the youngest…”
“That’s why I let her name Pig.”.
“Oh! Well that was nice of you.” He barely had time to register the compliment before Hermione shot out her next question. “How many members does S.P.E.W have?”
Bugger… He closed his eyes, trying to remember the poor suckers who Hermione had bullied into wearing S.P.E.W. badges. Him and Harry… then there was Neville, Ginny, Vicky…he scowled, remembering the day he had spotted Krum strutting around with that badge on his stupid, ugly robes…
His eyes snapped open.
“Are you OK?” Hermione asked, peering at him in concern.
“Fine,” Ron said quickly. Whenever Krum’s name came up, a row almost always followed, so he tried to shove the great Bulgarian git out of his thoughts and took a stab at answering her question.
She stared at him in amazement. “That’s right! I’m…Wow, Ron! I guess you’re more interested in the society then I thought! You know the position of treasurer is still open, if you’re interested. It’d be great to have a bit of help, actually, because I’ve been thinking about asking a few businesses in Hogsmeade for donations…”
“I guessed the answer!” Ron said, holding up his hands in a sort of surrender.
“Oh,” Hermione said, looking rather deflated.
“Who’s my favorite brother?” he asked quickly, hoping to distract her before she could get properly annoyed with him for not supporting S.P.E.W. It seemed to work – she was biting her lip, something she always did when concentrating.
“Fre – no...Charlie? Wait, that’s not my answer! Ermm… Bill?” Hermione said tentatively.
“Why?” Hermione asked curiously.
“Oh… well, we play chess a lot… and he gives me advice, you know, helpful advice, not like Fred and George…”
“I’ve always wished I had a sibling or two,” Hermione said enviously.
“Notice how you didn’t say ‘six’” Ron joked, but there was seriousness behind his words that neither of them could miss.
“Aren’t you glad, though? I mean if you had a choice, would you want that many brothers?” Hermione asked. Ron sat still for a moment, staring contemplatively at a spot a few inches above her head.
“It’s… it’s great in some ways - lots of ways. When I was growing up I always had someone to play with, if I wanted it. The good outweighs the bad… but sometimes it’s a lot easier to focus on the bad, y’know? Like never getting anything new, having to…live up to everyone else. It’s a lot.” Ron said, fiddling with a hole in the sleeve of his robes. “But I couldn’t imagine things being any different now. I’m used to them all.”
“I’ve always found it amazing how many different personalities there are in your family,” Hermione said thoughtfully. “The twins, Percy, Ginny, Charlie… but then underneath, where it counts, you’re all Gryffindors.”
“Yeah, both in Gryffindor...” Ron said slowly, no longer thinking about his family. “Two people can be really different in some ways, complete opposites, almost, like on the surface…. but the same where it counts…” He glanced at Hermione, hoping she understood which two people he was referring to. She looked at him with a curious sort of smile, and they sat in companionable silence for a while, the contest quite forgotten. Suddenly the timer on Ron’s watch began to beep. He turned it off without a word and, glancing at Hermione’s parchment, noticed that she hadn’t even kept score. It didn’t matter anyway. He had got what he wanted – a break from the war.
Though the game was over, Hermione asked him another question.
“I was terribly nervous on my first day at Hogwarts - yes or no?”
“No!” Ron answered. He remembered the day well. She had walked right into his and Harry’s compartment and started talking about a mile a minute. She seemed excited, if anything.
“Wrong,” Hermione said quietly, looking down at her lap. “I was…” she gave a sad little laugh, “…Terrified. I mean, who wouldn’t be? I’d never even heard of magic before, and then one morning I’m eating breakfast with my parents and a letter arrives: ‘Hello Ms. Granger. You’re a witch. Magic exists. Come see for yourself on September the first.’ It was the strangest moment of my life… and I had to go, even though I… I knew I’d be leaving my parents behind. I was so scared about that. And about making friends. Oh it was such a relief to meet Neville on the train and help him find his toad. Remember that? It gave me something to do, to keep my mind off how frightened I was… and if I found Trevor I thought people might notice how clever I was… that it would make me…that I might be…” she shook her head. “It sounds silly when I say it out loud.”
“It doesn’t,” Ron said instantly. “Everyone was nervous that day. I was, and I grew up with magic! But I don’t see how…” He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “How you’d think you had something to prove. I mean, you’re brilliant.” Hermione blushed, but shook her head.
“Didn’t you feel the same way, having all your brothers to live up to? And Harry, being famous for something he couldn’t even remember? I think we all had things to prove, for one reason or another,” Hermione said quietly.
That was true.
He and Hermione had had many good conversations during their friendship, but he couldn’t remember one ever being like this. To Ron’s glee, they did not return to studying, but continued to talk for a long time. People began to filter out of the library, leaving them alone in their little corner. Hermione didn’t even glance at her textbook or potions notes as they talked, and she spoke with more animation than he had seen from her in weeks... It was hard to be cheerful when there was a war going on, disappearances and murders had become a daily occurrence, and Harry was secretly training to battle against the most feared dark wizard of their time because of a prophecy that heaved the fate of the entire world onto his shoulders. They, as his best friends, felt the strain of that burden too, and the thing that made tonight so special was that the weight had lifted for awhile, leaving them free to talk and laugh as normal people do.
“Oh my goodness!” Hermione said suddenly, standing up. “It’s almost eleven o’clock! We better get back...” Ron stood too, and moved to her side of the table to help gather her things and put them in her bag. When that was done they looked at each other.
“Well, let’s go,” she said. Her voice sounded strange.
“Yeah, we’d better go,” Ron said. Neither of them moved.
Her lips looked so soft in the dim light.
“Madam Pince could be along any minute,” Hermione said.
“Yeah…” Ron replied, not really sure what he was agreeing to, because he was busy gathering every bit of nerve he possessed. He had made a decision.
He took a deep breath, and – in what considered one of the more nerve-racking moments of his life - leaned forward and gently pressed his lips against Hermione’s. Despite all the signals she’d been giving him he half expected her to pull away, but to his utter amazement, she pressed right back. Suddenly every thought and feeling faded from his mind but one: Hermione, soft and warm, pressed against him. And then they were embracing, and he was murmuring her name over and over again in her neck and hair. He loved the sound, the melody. Hermione. It was beautiful – she was beautiful.
Why did you take so long…” she whispered. He looked down at her and was astonished to see tears in her eyes.
“Don’t…don’t cry,” he muttered. He hated it when she cried. He had always done everything in his power to prevent it, from threats to curses to throwing punches – all usually directed at Malfoy. But now he was the one causing her tears, and he felt guilty. But then she made an odd noise, somewhere between a snort and a laugh, and shook her head.
“They’re happy ones,” she said.
They looked at each other, both grinning stupidly. Ron wanted to dance on the roof and sing (good thing Fred and George wouldn’t be around for that). Instead he rested his chin on top of her head, marveling at how perfectly she fit in his arms. Why hadn’t they been doing this forever?
Suddenly a noise came from somewhere in the library and he realized how lucky it was that they had not been interrupted.
“We should really get back,” he heard Hermione whisper.
Ron reluctantly agreed. He let her go, but as she leaned over to pick up her bag he reached it first and swung it over his shoulder. The summer before fourth year, a few days before Hermione was scheduled to arrive at The Burrow he had listened to his dad impart all his knowledge about the opposite sex in a rather butterbeer induced rant. After about 5 minutes his dad either ran out of wisdom, or suddenly had the urge to vomit, but in any case he stumbled away, leaving a very disturbed Ron in his wake. Ron had sort of suppressed the memory, but now he recalled from the slur of words a moment where his dad had raised a finger and spoken quite sternly: “Do not allow the female to carry her own things. You are the gentleman, she, the lady. You are the knight in shining armor, she, the token bestowing beauty. You must be thoughtful, and courteous, and… HEY MOLLY! TOSS ME ANOTHER BUTTERBEER, WOULDJA?! NO, NOT THE LIGHT STUFF! THE OTHER KIND...”
Though Ron had done his best to forget the few sex talks his parents had given him, that particular bit of advice seemed to be a good one, because Hermione raised her eyebrows, looking impressed by his chivalrous act. His success gave him the courage to take her hand, and they both looked down at their interlocked fingers as if a wordless decision had been made. This was how it would be from now on.
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