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Chapter 12 : Losing Grip
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The time was nearing eight-thirty when Lily, Ashley, James, Peter, and Sirius had been standing for the past half-hour on the grounds by the Whomping Willow tree with the full moon high above them, waiting for Aria. Each boy held a vial of the potion that would determine which animal each would be and adjust their DNA so that they would be able to transform at any given moment. They had begun the search for a way to ensure a more bearable transformation for Remus in their second year, when they had come across the idea to become Animagi. Then, they had spent third and fourth year on a quest for the potion. Now, the moment had arrived to see whether three years of hard work had paid off or not, and one single person was holding them up.
"For the love of Quidditch, where is she?" Ashley moaned. "What could she possibly be doing at a time like this?"
"I bet she's up in the Astronomy Tower with that twit of a boyfriend right now," Peter jeered. "She's probably not freezing her ass off, as a matter of fact I bet she's pretty co-"
Sirius grabbed him before he could finish his sentence.
"Listen here, Pettigrew, if you even knew what you were talking about you'd know that Aria'd never leave us, or more importantly, Remus in his time of need, for Diggory. Second of all-"
Sirius tightened his grip on the small boy, who was gasping with fear.
"You, of all people, have no right to be talking about 'getting comfy' or the likes of that, since you've never even held a girl's hand."
Peter nodded furiously, gasping for breath. Sirius half-dropped and half-threw him back onto the snow. No one moved. Lily, Ashley, and James glared at Peter, who sulked in the shadows. Suddenly, they heard footsteps heading towards them quickly. The five whirled around to find a very out-of-breath Aria running towards them.
"There you are! Where were you? It's so cold out here!" Lily exclaimed.
Aria caught her breath and explained.
"I'm really sorry. Really, really, really, really, really-"
"Its ok, really it is, we believe you," said James. "But where were you? It must've been something important."
Aria smiled wryly.
"Yeees, well, I had to break off my date tonight with Amos. Um. He wasn't too pleased; it took a little longer than I expected."
Lily and Ashley exchanged looks. Aria was definitely not telling the whole truth. Lily shook her head. Oh well, we'll dig it out of her later. They both knew that it wouldn't do any good to press on about the subject. Sirius and James, on the other hand, were not as wise.
"Sheesh," said James, shaking his head.
"Can you say 'desperate'? 'Clingy', perhaps?" said Sirius.
Aria glared at both of them.
"Well wouldn't you be a tiny bit annoyed if Trewyn or Ebony spent more time with their friends then they did with you?"
"Nope. And you barely spend any time with us at all, so he can't complain!"
Aria rolled her eyes.
"Fine. I'm sorry that I'm not by your side at every second of the day. And why are you all so damn nosy about what goes on between us anyway?"
James, Sirius, Ashley, and Lily exchanged surprised glances. Whoa! Whoa whoa whoa! What was that? Why's she being so defensive? Sirius opened his mouth to say something, but James hastily stepped in.
"Ok, we're sorry, Aria. You're right, its your love life, not ours, and you�re an awesome friend. But can we please hurry up with the potion? Remus has been in there for an hour already."
Aria nodded, and swallowed down the lump in her throat. *Oh my God, I was such a bitch! Its not their fault Amos was yelling so much. I shouldn't have taken it out on them! What's wrong with me?*
The six formed a circle underneath the pale, silvery orb of the moon. James drew a knife from his cloak and handed it to Lily, who carefully slit his finger and placed the vial underneath the cut, allowing the blood to fall directly in. Aria did the same for Sirius, and Ashley, glaring, cut Peter. The potions hissed and swirled until each turned a different color. James' became a rich golden brown, Sirius' became as black as the sky above them, and Peter's became a shade darker than the grey it had been originally.
"Vires ad mutare�vires ad mutare�vires ad mutare�"
Lily, Aria, and Ashley chanted the spell three times each, and held their breath anxiously as the boys drank from the vials. At first, nothing happened. Just as she was about to ask what had gone wrong, Lily saw her friends each transform with a loud popping noise. All three girls gasped. Before them stood a proud, handsome stag, a large, shaggy, black dog, and�a rat. The dog began to run around in circles around them, barking loud enough to raise the dead. It wore an odd, lopsided grin on its face. The stag pranced about and kicked its front legs in the air, and the rat squeaked and ran about.
"Sirius?" Ashley asked as the dog finally stopped running and stood still, wagging its tail happily, and grinning. He barked loudly in response. "All right�then where's James?"
The stag pranced about some more and leaped into the air.
"Showoff," Lily muttered, smiling.
He winked at her, and she stuck her tongue out back at him, smiling. He's such an idiot, but that's why I love him. EVANS!!! WHAT did you just say? Did you just say you loved JAMES? You meant to say like, right? Not love! Lily froze and slapped her forehead, which earned her very odd looks from her friends that she didn't notice. Yea. Yea, of course I mean like. I-I don't love James. I just like him. As a friend though! Nothing more! Shaking her head, she turned to the rat. "So that leaves Pettigrew as the rat."
Peter squeaked. He ran into the thrashing mass of branches that was the Whomping Willow tree and pressed a knot on a root that Remus had explained would freeze the branches. James and Sirius followed and scouted the trunk for an opening to the secret tunnel Remus had also mentioned to them. Once found, dog, rat, and stag disappeared into the ground. The three girls stood for a moment, taking in the events that had just occurred, and then trudged into the castle. They sat in the common room together and tried to stay awake until the morning to find out every detail of the night as soon as their friends passed through the portrait hole, but sleep was tempting. In order to stay awake, Lily and Ashley tentatively tried to make Aria spill the details about why she had snapped. Both girls raised and eyebrow at each other, as if asking if the other was ready, and both nodded an answer of yes. Ashley started.
"So what's going on with you? You've been acting-um-funny ever since the Quidditch match with Hufflepuff."
Aria shook her head. *Yea, I've been acting funny. She was just trying to be nice and not tell me straight off that I've been acting like Narcissa. Total bitch to everyone. She doesn't understand; none of them do. But then again, how can they? Ashley's never had a boyfriend that can't stand the fact that she's best friends with the most popular guys at Hogwarts, and Lily's scared off every guy that tried to get close to her. And they're not freaks of nature by wizarding standards,, so how in the name of pasta can I expect them to understand why I've been acting�"funny"?*
"Its nothing, just-you know, its nothing."
"You really suck at lying," said Lily, and Aria groaned, knowing that her friends would not be satisfied until she gave them the truth, which, of course, she couldn't tell them.
"I'm serious, it was really nothing," Aria assured. "What do you think that they're doing in there?" Lily and Ashley exchanged a glance, well aware that Aria was trying to lead them off the subject, and also that she did not want to tell them whatever it was that was bothering her.
James, Sirius, and Peter found their way down the dark, narrow tunnel to the Shrieking Shack, where Remus spent his transformations, in their Animagi forms. Each was trying to become used to their new bodies and movements, so the procession was rather clumsy and slow. When they finally reached the entrance, Sirius nudged and coaxed the latch this way and that until it came undone, and dog, stag, and rat walked into the room to find a monstrous, snarling creature before them that was their best friend. The werewolf's long, shaggy, grey fur was matted with blood in some small patches, where it had already attacked itself, and its large, yellow eyes were filled with a desire to destroy.
Remus could not believe his eyes when his three friends walked in as Animagi. He stared and tried to figure out who was who. The wolf in him was getting restless and hungry for the fresh game in front of it. Remus tried to convince it to leave them alone, and continue to tear apart the furniture, but the wolf had total control now, and it was useless to try to dissuade it. It leapt forward at the dog first, and they wrestled for a few moments before the stag thrust it aside with its antlers. The rat ran around in circles, squealing, and the wolf leapt again for the stag, which darted away at the last second. It was confused for a moment, which gave Remus a bit of control.
The werewolf howled piteously, and James and Sirius knew that Remus was in control for a moment and was apologizing for what he had done and was about to do. Peter squealed in terror again, and ran for a dark corner where he would not be found. James and Sirius nodded, and a second later, Remus was gone and the wolf was back. It snarled and bared its teeth viciously, and the two other boys braced themselves for the long night ahead.
Hours later, the three girls lay asleep, sprawled over the many couches and chairs of the common room. They had tried as hard as they could to wait for the boys and find out every detail of the night's events, but sleep had been too tempting. Lily and Aria slept peacefully; not aware that just a few feet away from them Ashley was having another nightmare�
�A man who looked like an older, exact replica of James (save for his chilling, steely blue eyes) and James himself stood facing each other at the edge of a forest that seemed so familiar, yet so strange. The sun was setting in the background, causing the sky to become an odd yellow and blood red color. The man spoke to James, who laughed bitterly and sarcastically. The man drew his wand, as did James, but it flew out of his hand. James was cursed and beaten by the man, who, when he had finished his business, left his son (she had determined that no two people could possibly look so alike and not be related) lying cut, bruised, and coughing blood upon the dusty dirt�
Ashley shot straight up, heart racing like mad, shaking, and drenched in a cold sweat. She clamped her hands over her mouth to keep herself from screaming and waking up all of Gryffindor Tower. ~I can't take this anymore! This is too much! Why is this happening to ME of all people? Could I be a-a-no! No, that's definitely impossible. Still�what if I am?~ Ashley stood up quickly and retrieved her wand in the dark. If she was one, then James was in danger. She wasn't about to let what had happened to David Bones' parents happen to one of her best friends. Without giving in to another moment of consideration, Ashley found herself running quietly out of the common room in search of Professor Dumbledore's office. The only problem was that she had absolutely no idea where it was.
Hours later, Ashley found herself back at the portrait of the Fat Lady. Out of breath and exhausted, Ashley was becoming desperate. Something told her that she needed to find Dumbledore very soon, or else her nightmare would come true, and that was something she was determined to not let happen. But how was she supposed to keep James from being tortured if she couldn't find Dumbledore? Defeated, Ashley sank down against the wall. ~God, it's hopeless! There's got to be hundreds of places Dumbledore's office could be in this stupid castle! Still, I've got to find him, or someone else that can help. Definitely not Glenn though, he'd probably help attack James, the git. Ugh, I wish Remus were here, I bet he'd know where Dumbledore's office is, or what to do.~ She started at the thought. ~A-a-and of course, so would Sirius, or James, or Lily. But they're not here, they're all with Remus, except for Lily. HEY! That's it! I'll ask Lily!~ Ashley jumped up and kicked the wall to wake up the snoring portrait.
"What in the world did you do that for? I was sleeping, if you did not notice! Honestly, you people have absolutely no respect for-"
"Ok, ok I'm sorry already! Please, just let me in, the password is 'Snakes wear ruffled underpants'!" Ashley said in a rush.
The Fat Lady was clearly still peeved, but the portrait hole swung open anyway. Ashley ran over to where Lily lay fast asleep on the couch and shook her roughly. Her friend looked at her sleepily and murderously at the same time.
"What?" Lily snapped.
"Please, Lils, you've got to take me to Dumbledore's office. It's an emergency," Ashley begged.
Lily moaned and tried to snuggle back down into her covers, but Ashley yanked them away, along with her pillows and her Tigger. Lily glared.
"What makes you think Dumbledore will be awake right now? And why do you need to see him?"
Ashley paused for a moment. ~Shit. I didn't think he'd be sleeping. How could I be so stupid? Of course he must be sleeping; it's two in the morning and he's old. Old people go to sleep early. Still�I have to try to see him. I've got to tell him!~
"I know he might not be awake-"
"Might? He's old! Old people hit the sack early! Of course he's asleep!" Lily exclaimed.
"But I have to see him now! It's important! Do you honestly think I'd wake you up from your sleep if it wasn't important?" Lily sighed.
"Fine, I'll take you there. Come on, we'd better hurry."
The two girls left the common room. A while later, Ashley found herself and Lily riding a golden, moving staircase up to Dumbledore's office. They had spent a long, tedious quarter of an hour trying to guess the right password to make the gargoyle that blocked the staircase move. In the end, Lily had lost her temper and yelled "HOLY SASSAFRASS WILL YOU MOVE YOUR UGLY STONE BUTT BEFORE I KICK IT?" and the gargoyle jumped aside as soon as the word 'sassafras' left Lily's mouth. Now, she stood nervously before the large, wooden door with a knocker the shape of a griffin on it.
"Well?" asked Lily impatiently. "Knock!"
"But what if he's sleeping?" asked Ashley, worried. ~Maybe I should have waited until morning. I mean, the nightmare happened at sunset, so I at least have a whole day before it happens.~ Lily rolled her eyes.
"Ashling Idola McKinnon!" she said dangerously. Ashley winced at the sound of her full name. "You have something important to tell Dumbledore, and you are NOT going to back out now! More importantly, you woke me up while I was sleeping! Don't make that action an action in vain!"
Ashley stared oddly at her friend.
"Lils, you're scary and weird."
"Yea, I know."
"But thanks for being you because now I'm going to wake up Dumbledore whether he likes it or not."
She grabbed the knocker and rapped loudly on the door. A few minutes later, the Headmaster appeared in normal wizarding robes and not the pajamas they had been expecting. He beamed down at them, as if he usually had students knocking on his door at three in the morning.
"Good morning Miss McKinnon, and Miss Evans. What brings you two to my office at such an early time?"
"I'm sorry to bother you, Professor, but-you see-um-" Ashley struggled to find words, and Professor Dumbledore's eyes twinkled merrily.
"Perhaps you would like to explain the matter to me in my office, instead of the threshold?"
The two girls nodded and stepped inside the magnificent, circular office.
"Wow," Ashley whispered, without thinking, and she blushed a second later. Dumbledore and Lily smiled.
"Would either of you care for some hot chocolate? Or perhaps a toffee? Sadly, I do not have a single lemon drop."
Both girls declined politely.
"Sir, the reason I'm here is because I-I've been having�dreams. Really weird-no, really awful dreams sir. Every night since the summer I've been having nightmares. Before, nightmares never bothered me, but then again, I never had nightmares like these before."
Ashley shuddered slightly. The merriment was gone from Dumbledore's eyes, and he became serious.
"Can you describe these dreams for me please?"
The brown haired girl bit her lip and closed her eyes as all of the horrible dreams flooded her mind. All of the pain, tears, screams, and cruelty played over and over again like a movie inside of her head. Dumbledore sensed her fear and leaned forward.
"I know that this may not be easy for you to do, Ashley, but I cannot help you unless you help me by describing briefly just one of the dreams."
Ashley looked into his kind, warm, blue eyes and nodded. She told Dumbledore of her dream the night before David Bones' parents had died, and of how David's parents had suffered under the Cruciatus Curse for hours. She explained how his father had begged and pleaded with Voldemort to spare his wife and take his life instead. She shook as she told how Voldemort had laughed as he killed them, as if it were amusement for him, how David had received word the very next day that his parents had been killed by Voldemort. Dumbledore stood up very quickly.
"You had this exact dream?" he asked softly, but with an urgent tone in his voice. Ashley nodded, trying to calm herself down and shut the screams of David's dying parents out of her head. He paused for a moment. "Do you know how Mr. Bones' parents were killed?"
"Yes," she whispered, just enough so that the two people in the room could hear her. "It was published in the Daily Prophet. They died in the way I saw in my nightmare."
"I am sure that you understand what that means," said Dumbledore. "You are a Seer, Miss McKinnon; the second of this century."
Ashley felt numb; as if she were floating through time and space where she could not hear or feel anything. There were a few long, eerie minutes of silence until she came back to reality with an unpleasant jolt.
"Sir!" she cried. "Then that means-oh my God! Sir, James is in danger!"
Dumbledore and Lily both turned to her quickly.
"How do you mean? More than usual?" asked Dumbledore quickly.
Ashley explained her latest dream about James and his father at the edge of a forest at sunset. Dumbledore resumed his pacing around the room.
"We must bring Mr. Potter to my office at once and explain to him that he is not to leave the castle grounds alone until the snow falls, and to stay away from the Forbidden Forest."
Both girls felt their heartbeats quicken. James was already off of the grounds. The only way to come back to the castle would be to walk past the Forbidden Forest. And, if Dumbledore tried to bring him to his office at that very moment, he would know that James was gone, along with Sirius and Peter.
"NO!" both girls exclaimed a tad louder than they had meant to. Dumbledore gave them a piercing gaze. Lily spoke up first.
"Um, Professor, wouldn't it be a whole lot easier if you waited until he wakes up to tell him that? I mean, its not like he's going to go anywhere between now and then, so can't we just wait a few more hours? I don't know about you, sir, but most people aren't very, um, pleasant when they're rudely awakened from their sleep at an ungodly hour."
Ashley watched in awe as her friend smoothly lied their way to safety. Dumbledore looked at them for a few more moments. He knew that the two girls were hiding something from him, and that they were not keen on telling him what it was. He sighed and nodded.
"If you two ladies will make certain that Mr. Potter sees me as soon as he wakes from his sleep, I will agree to wait until the morning."
"We promise," said Ashley. "But sir, I-I was just wondering, can't I take a potion for a dreamless sleep or something like that?" Dumbledore smiled sadly.
"I am afraid that a such potion would do you no good, Miss McKinnon. Predictions and Visions cannot be stopped. But, if you accept them and let them come, they will stop robbing you of your sleep, and they will not come as frequently. You must let them speak to you, not suppress their voices. Lives, countless lives will be saved if you allow them to show you the way."
"So you mean that if I don't dread them, I won't wake up every single night?" asked Ashley.
"One more thing, Miss McKinnon. You, of course, know of Voldemort?" Ashley nodded. "He is eager to have more Seers working for him, to put it bluntly. Do you understand?" ~SHITE! Voldemort will want to recruit me? Never! Never ever ever! There's no way in HELL that I'd help him!~
"Therefor, you must not tell anyone that you are a Seer until it is safe. The Dark Lord has his supporters everywhere-I suspect that there are even Death Eaters inside our very walls. If word leaked out that there is another Seer�"
Dumbledore trailed off as he saw the young girl's face change from shock, to anger, to defiance, and to comprehension. He knew that she was well aware of what he meant, and well aware of the danger she was in. Another childhood forced into adulthood, he thought sadly.
"Yes sir," she said, her voice quivering just slightly.
Dumbledore gave her a look of heartfelt sympathy for a moment, and then turned to Lily.
"Miss Evans, you are the only person besides myself that knows about this. You must not speak a word of this to anyone else, either."
"It is entirely your choice, though, if you wish to tell Mr. Potter, Mr. Black, Mr. Lupin, and Mr. Pettigrew, but I beg of you to only divulge this to people that you would trust with your life," said Dumbledore.
The old, merry twinkle was back in his eyes, but the graveness was still there. Ashley breathed a sigh of relief and smiled.
"Thank-you, sir," she said, and both girls were about to leave when Dumbledore spoke again.
"By the way, Miss Evans, love makes one stronger, not weaker."
Lily froze in her tracks and looked at the ancient man with the amused smile on his face. Oh. My. GOD! What was THAT? Insane. This whole school is insane. Still, it's pretty cool. You call THAT cool? That was the most random thing I've ever heard anyone say! Maybe he was talking about someone in particular. Or MAYBE he's insane, and if you ask me, it's rubbing off on you! Ashley looked as if Christmas had come early, so Lily nodded and quickly hurried out of the room, still dazed.
They arrived at their common room to find James, Sirius, and Peter heading up the stairs, and Aria still asleep on the couch. Lily and Ashley were relieved to find James safe. All were too tired to talk ask or recount about what how the night had gone, and it was wordlessly agreed to wait until morning. The two girls tried to wake up Aria so she could come up to the dorm with them, but she slept soundly.
"How are we going to wake her up? We can't drag her up the stairs," wondered Ashley.
"Maybe someone should kiss her," suggested Lily. Her four friends gave her an odd look. "Hey, if it worked for Snow White it can work for her. She even looks like her, with the hair. Maybe she's the real, un-fairytale copy of Snow White!"
James raised an eyebrow at Sirius, Peter, and Ashley.
"Should I even bother to ask?" The three others shook their heads. "That's what I thought. Ok, well, Sirius, why don't you dump her off upstairs?"
"Why me?" asked Sirius, yawning.
"Because I'm going upstairs right now, Peter can't lift people, and Lily and Ashley can't lift her either," James replied with a yawn as well.
Ashley rolled her eyes.
"You make her sound like an elephant."
Sirius grinned mischievously.
"If she were an elephant, Remus would know what to do with her!"
Lily and Ashley gave each other questioning looks, and then decided not to ask as James and Sirius snickered.
"So will you carry her or not?" asked Lily impatiently.
Sirius nodded and carefully lifted Aria off of the couch. She stirred, slightly, and rested her head in a comfortable spot against his chest, and unconsciously wrapped an arm around his neck. James, Lily, and Ashley exchanged knowing looks, and Peter became confused.
Sirius couldn't help but notice how right it felt to hold her in his arms, how she fit perfectly against him as he made his way up the girls' staircase. ^Forget it, she's with Diggory the Dolt, and she's happy with him. Besides, she'd never think of me that way. I'm just the best friend. Nothing more.^ He kicked the door open, found her bed, and tucked her in. Sirius paused for a moment, and then hastily left the dormitory.
Early the next morning, Aria woke up with a feeling of calmness and happiness. The sleep had done her good. She had felt so safe and secure that night, and now she felt blissfully able to forget for a while that she was an Alcantvus and Amos. Aria quickly brushed and showered, and then hurried to the Great Hall for breakfast. Just as she was about to bite into a piece of fluffy French toast, she heard a voice behind her.
"Why hello, Aria. How odd, Potter, Black, and Lupin don't seem to be here."
Aria turned to find Amos glaring at her, with absolutely no love in his eyes. Suddenly, the happiness of the morning and the security of the night vanished. Before, when they had first begun to date, his voice had made her heart beat faster. Now, it only filled her heart with dread. His eyes used to light up when she was with him, and now there was only anger and annoyance.
"Good morning, Amos. Where's your drooling fanclub? They're late for ogling at you," she replied evenly.
"Stop playing your sick little game. At least I don't spend every waking minute with them instead of with you!" he snarled.
"I don't spend every waking minute with my friends! I've been ditching them for you ever since we started going out!" she snapped angrily.
"I hate to break it to you, but that's what a relationship is. You have to sacrifice things to make things work!" Amos shouted.
Aria used every ounce of willpower she had to keep herself from slapping him. ~HE'S trying to lecture ME about relationships? I've been giving up everything to be with him, I ditched my friends, I signed up to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas instead of home, and he's trying to tell ME what sacrifice is!~
"Really? So what have you sacrificed?" she asked icily.
Amos blew up.
"Time! Time that I could be spending with someone who actually cares about me as much as I care about them, and not with someone who cuddles up with Sirius Black!"
The words cut her like a knife through her heart. ~HOW DARE HE? How DARE he say that? I've given him all the time in the world, all of my love, and THIS is what he says to me!~
"I do care about you as much as you care about me, but you're just so blinded by your damn jealousy of James and Sirius and Remus that you can't see that! And if you really loved me you'd never accuse me of 'cuddling up' to my best friend because you'd know that I would never, ever do that! You'd trust me, the same way I trust you! I never once questioned why you're getting "extra help" with Herbology from Esha Patel when I could easily have helped you because I trust you! So if you really love me, you'll trust me!"
Aria's screams filled the Great Hall, and the few students who were eating breakfast stopped to watch the argument. Amos turned a dark red hue of rage.
"I DO trust you, I just don't trust them-"
"WHY THE HELL NOT? What have they ever done to you?"
"You know what Aria? I'm sick and tired of this shit. It happens every time we're together! There's an entire school of girls here that would do anything to be with me, and if you can't figure out your priorities I'm not going to waste my time with you! You've got to choose between me and them!"
Aria couldn't believe what she was hearing. She couldn't remember why she had ever loved him or let him kiss her. *HE'S AN INFURIATING SELFISH GIT! If it were up to him I'd be strapped down to his bed for the rest of my life! God, this is INSANE! I CAN'T TAKE THIS ANYMORE!*
"So I was just another fling for you? I was just there to kiss? Well if you're wasting your time then I sure as hell won't stand in your way. I pick them," she whispered angrily.
Her voice shook with emotion, with the rage and humiliation Amos made her feel. He turned a dark red hue, obviously not pleased with the answer.
"You're making the wrong choice," he said angrily, and pressed his mouth against hers.
Aria slapped him with all her strength, and he quickly pulled away, feeling the brick red mark on his cheek that would soon bruise. He gave her one last look of pure hatred, which she returned, and stormed out of the Great Hall. Aria stood rooted to the spot, shaking with rage. She had never felt this angry in her entire life, and she could barely think straight. Without her noticing, tears began to fall, and she ran out of the Great Hall, not knowing where she was going, but wanting nothing more than to get away.
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