Chapter 14 : A 'Thing'
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The sky was a vivid blue that gave you a headache just to look at. In fact, everything seemed more intensely colourful than usual, from the sky to the scratchy emerald grass to the deep midnight blue lake to the rapidly deepening pink hue to Londy’s skin.
I closed my eyes against the burning glare of the sun and lolled my head back in the grass.
“It’s too freaking hot.” I moaned, making a pathetic attempt to fan my face with a wad of Charms notes. We were ‘revising’. My voice came out in more of a dry croak. I needed a drink but if I even considered getting up and making a trip all the way to the kitchens I got dizzy with overexertion.
“Quit your whining,” Londy sniped sluggishly. Her notes were discarded at her feet while she lay sprawled on her front with her face buried in her arms. I longed for a breeze to scatter them; partly because it would serve her right to have to get up and chase them but partly because I was just that hot. I didn’t just want a breeze, I needed it.
“But it is -” And I would definitely not be quitting my whining.
“Deb. You can’t have it both ways. We sat in the shade -” She gestured without raising her head to where Lily was perched serenely on a root in the profound shade of the gnarled old oak with a completely uncalled for amount of books at her feet, “- You wanted to be in the sun. You can’t then moan that it’s hot.”
I can and I bloody will.
“You’re burning,” I told her, pointedly, hitching myself up on my elbows.
In response she hitched her shirt up higher on her back in an effort to ‘tan’. She called it ‘tan’ anyway. Sure. If tan means ‘turn a gruesome shade of crimson’.
“Oz is going to eat you.” I tried to get a reaction out of her.
“Pardon?” Only a slight reaction, she didn’t even look up.
“You get sunburnt – it’ll affect his Plan in one way or another. You know, cast a reflection into his eyes so he can’t see the Quaffle or something. He’ll find a reason to kill you.”
“He’ll have accounted for that in his Match Notes,” She still didn’t raise her head, just waved a languid hand, “Volume two, subsection B – most likely.”
I shook my head. “See, now you’re getting delirious. Great. Sunstroke.”
“That’ll be accounted for too.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“That’ll be accounted for -”
I knew I should have revised with Lily. Well, until she had a nervous breakdown before the Potions theory and hit me on the cheek with Advanced Potion Making. Then I changed my mind.
I flopped back down again and covered my face with my parchment. With any luck the sun would make the ink run onto my face. Maybe then I’d actually learn something.
“Productive,” A shadow was cast over me as someone crouched at my side, momentarily relieving me of the stabbing sunlight.
I removed my parchment sunshade at the sound of the familiar voice and stretched out a hand. “Juice?” I asked, hopefully, squinting and climbing back onto my elbows.
“M’lady,” Sirius presented me with a goblet of ice-cold pumpkin juice with an exaggerated flourish.
“My hero,” I accepted it greedily and glugged down a throatful immediately.
“Er, sorry Londy, I didn’t realise you were… ” Sirius apologised uncertainly to Londy’s vibrantly glowing back. If I were a good friend I’d cast the sunscreen charm on her. But I’m not. And I don’t know it anyway.
“No worries,” Again Londy waved a hand without moving her head an inch.
“Right, I’m just going to -” Sirius stood up, leaving me to the mercy of the cruel, cruel sun.
“No!” I cried overemotionally.
Sirius jumped at the sudden interruption and, finally, something caught Londy’s attention enough for her to raise her head. She had mud and blades of grass stuck comically to her forehead.
“Can’t you stay there?” I pleaded in a slightly more subtle tone, “You were blocking my sun perfectly…”
“But James has nicked a Quaffle,” Sirius pouted, “We were going to have a two-a-side -”
“Don’t be such a brat, Little Deb,” Londy commented, “Get out while you still can Black,” She advised.
“Well I can -”
“Go!” She used her ‘talking to Oz’ pitched voice. It startled Sirius enough for him to back away quickly.
I absently watched him make his way across the lawn down towards the Quidditch pitch, entranced by the motion of his shoulder blades through his t-shirt for a moment, just until the annoyance that he wasn’t bothering to do a scrap of work trickled into my system. He was being infuriatingly laid-back about the whole exam period thing.
Unlike… er, me…
Well at least I was appearing to try, alright?
I took a sip of my juice just as Londy huffed, “I wish I had a boyfriend to ply me with chilled beverages on a sunny day,”
I choked on my mouthful and spat it elegantly into my lap.
“Ha, I… uh, you… what?” I picked up my Charms notes to dab at my, now sticky, bare legs before realising that I was depending on them to pass the year and swearing loudly.
She appeared calm and collected. That wasn’t normal. But I could see how much it had been killing her to drop it in the conversation there so casually. She’d probably rehearsed it and everything.
“Don’t you throw your filthy lies at me, McKinnon,” She might have been trying to look intimidating. There was grass in her eyebrows. “I’ve known for ages,”
“What?” I played it safe with the ‘I don’t understand’ card. I took in her expression warily – it was carefully casual and superior but I could see that frantic gleam in her eyes, a tell-tale sign that she wasn’t as sure as she was making out. She was fishing, basically, my months of silence had caused her to resort to desperate measures. But it was working.
I could still get away with it if I just made up an excuse. I could double bluff her…
“Don’t give me that ‘I’m so stupid’ shit. You. And Sirius. I don’t know why the bloody hell I didn’t see it before.” Her dark eyes held mine unwaveringly, every second that I was silent confirming it.
“I knew it.” She smirked triumphantly. “Holy shit. You and Sirius Fucking Black -”
“Ssh!” I instinctively grabbed at her face to shut it up and ended up pushing her head back down into the grass. “Oh. Er… sorry. But seriously, ssh!” I darted an automatic glance in the direction of the shady oak tree. And Lily.
You probably know what’s coming.
In my defence, the sorting hat never even considered putting me in Gryffindor. I’m not supposed to be brave and whatnot…
Blame Sirius – he’s meant to be the Gryffindor, the one with the guts. I’m meant to be the one with the brains… clearly something went wrong there too.
So we didn’t tell Lily and James.
We couldn’t, not after that. They’d gotten themselves so worked up about keeping a mere kiss a secret, how could we then turn to them and say oh yeah, we’ve been doing the dirty for six months?
And that was three weeks ago.
Don’t get me wrong, we’re not complete idiots. We both knew we’d have to tell them eventually, and now that we’d both actually been so close to it we kind of wanted to get it over with. But, I’ll say it again, we couldn’t.
To be honest, I think now we were both on board with the tell-them-and-leg-it-and-not-have-to-see-them-all-summer option. Or something along those lines. I personally was vouching for doing it by owl but Sirius was living with James, which kind of defeated the object.
And now Londy had figured it out.
Londy – the girl who, after Freddie and Marles had been together three months, asked who that blonde bint who followed him around was. The girl who blabbed to the whole team about my ‘secret valentine’ situation. The girl who spent at least an hour a day in the presence of my brother, who by the way had no clue about the situation.
My chances of survival didn’t look great.
“Shut up,” I hissed, jerking my head oh so subtly in Lily’s direction. “No one knows.”
Her mouth dropped, “You’re not denying it? Oh my God I was right. I was right. I knew it. How long has it… wait a minute. No one knows?” She mimicked my head jerk, suddenly comprehending.
“No one.” I repeated, my eyes wide.
“Oh. My. God.”
“Please stop saying that,” I begged, my face heating up even more, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t due to the sun. “And please look more normal.”
“More normal -?”
“You haven’t looked this enthusiastic in weeks,”
“I...” She began to protest, “Well, yeah. You’re right. Who wants to be enthusiastic about exams and Quidditch finals? Not moi.” She pulled a face. “But really… Oh my -”
“Sorry.” She rested her head on her folded arms again and lowered her voice, “But seriously, how long has this been going on?”
I rolled over and mirrored her pose, “Since Christmas,” I admitted.
“Since Christmas -?” She screeched.
“Shut up!” I hissed, hastily checking that Lily was still engrossed in her books. Thankfully she was in Revision Mode. Nothing short of an explosion would pull her out. Still, I wasn’t taking any chances.
“Shit. Sorry. Christmas. Bloody hell.”
“Well not really Christmas. Well there was a thing, but it wasn’t really until term started up that -”
“I’m sorry,” Londy interrupted, “A ‘thing’?”
I glared at her. This was so hugely embarrassing. Note to self: do not use the word ‘thing’ when telling Freddie. He may or may not spontaneously combust.
“You know what I mean,” I said into her fit of cackles.
“I can’t believe it,” She composed herself, “I mean I always thought… but then everybody did, didn’t they?”
Oh good, she was making sense. Not.
“You know, thought that there was something between you two… Cool your beans, I’m not saying everyone thought you were having an affair, just that there was a… a spark. Yeah. Like you two didn’t know it yet but you were madly in love and all that.” She giggled at my unimpressed expression, “Oh come on. Well apparently you worked it out.”
“Worked what out?”
“That you were madly in love, dumb arse.”
“We are not madly in love. We are… we are in the early stages,” I said, trying in vain to appear dignified. Love. Honestly. He may be my boyfriend but I was not fool enough to expect that Sirius The (Ex)Womaniser Black could be in love in the foreseeable future. Love. Honestly. But I was ok with that.
“Early stages my arse.” Londy scoffed, “Six months is not the early stages. This is Sirius Black, Deb. The two of you are practically married.”
“Londy! We are not!”
“Oh please. It’s so obvious. Just now – he wanted to go play Quidditch -”
“Which he did,” I interjected.
“- Only because I made him. You heard him ‘ he said ‘I was going to play’, not ‘I am going to play’.”
“Meaning he was ready to give up having fun just so he could be your bloody sun shade.”
“He wouldn’t have actually stayed.”
“I bet he would. I bet he would have stayed and not even complained a little bit.”
“He’s stupid. Stupidly in lurve…”
“I hate you sometimes Londy Nara.”
“But you couldn’t live without me.” She grinned, “What ever would you do without my constant bothersome presence… Holy fuck!”
She made me jump. For a second I was sure Lily had crept up on me and had overheard everything, but that made no sense – I could see Lily behind her still absorbed in her seventy-five unnecessary books.
“What?” I asked, no longer alarmed as the adrenaline rush was subsiding. Just pissed off that she’d scared me like that.
“No one knows…” She quoted, then let out a disbelieving laugh, “What the sodding hell are you going to tell Freddie?”
That was the question.
I still had no clue. No matter what angle I took, however many excuses I considered, there was absolutely no way of telling Freddie without him; a, disfiguring Sirius, b, never speaking to me again, or c, both of the above.
It couldn’t be done.
I’d thought about it so much since the whole Lily-And-James-Kissed incident that it was starting to lose meaning. From all the adaptations and justifications I’d invented I could barely remember what was true anymore, and I’d spent so long mulling over the potential consequences that there had been times that I’d been ready to blurt it out just to see what would or wouldn’t happen.
But of course, that would be the Gryffindor way out. I was in no way, shape or form a Gryffindor. I knew that when the time did come I’d take the cowardly way out. It was only natural. After all, any time I’d had to be remotely brave in my life I’d had Freddie to rely on. Now this. Not only would I not have Freddie to encourage me, because he’d have no clue what I was on about, but this could result in me never having My Freddie to rely on again.
It sounded dramatic sometimes, but other times I could justify myself in worrying that this could be The Thing that would tear me and Freddie apart for good. Throughout this year we’d been gradually separating – going from Freddie-And-Debbie to our own selves, but always putting off that final break. We knew it would happen eventually – Freddie was leaving at the end of this year. Not only leaving school, or me, but leaving the country if his plans to travel with Marlene went ahead. But we both seemed to need to cling together just for this last stretch.
Or was it just me?
Londy didn’t seem to realise this. She’d found the whole idea frankly hilarious and had begged to be there when I told Freddie. Of course, to her it was just a case of Freddie possibly wanting to injure my boyfriend in an ordinary protective brotherly way. She didn’t really understand the finer dynamics of our relationship, of course she didn’t – it wasn’t something you could explain easily. Even Sirius, who I’d actually tried to explain it to, and Lily, who was uncommonly perceptive at this sort of thing, didn’t truly understand it.
This was why Londy dearest took great delight in cheerfully inquiring whether I’d told Freddie yet on our way down to Quidditch practice. Thankfully she was subtle enough not to ask in front of him, but still. I’d just caved in to one of her relentless nags for crying out loud – I’d told her about me and Sirius and now she was going on at me to tell Freddie.
I was so lucky to have a friend like her…
I don’t know what I’d do without her chipper comments about Freddie’s potential reactions, her knowing looks when Sirius came near me, her muttering ‘so obvious’ whenever there was the smallest interaction between my boyfriend and I…
Yup, so, so lucky.
Like when the sun at long last began to set that day, finally relieving us of its brutal heat. Londy was a striking shade of scarlet and I was nodding off as the air began to cool – we were both happy enough. Then Sirius and James arrived loudly and boyishly onto the scene; rowdy, sweaty and set on disrupting the ‘revision’. Sirius had hauled me up into a disgusting, sticky hug and buried his damp head in my neck – it was vile – while James sauntered over and, stupidly, barged in on Lily’s studying.
Londy’s knowing smile had been one thing, annoying enough to spot out of the corner of my eye when I was trapped in a sweaty embrace, but then she decided to mutter audibly, “So obvious,” to herself and shake her head superiorly.
She soon reigned it in when The Brother himself arrived. By that point I’d shoved Sirius off me deliberately because of Londy’s stupid superiority. He totally hadn’t got the point though and after I’d sprawled back out on the grass he threw himself on top of me. I’d started the whinging just as Freddie arrived.
“Eurgh! You’re disgusting!” I whined, trying in vain to push him off, “It’s hot enough already and you’re… Sirius! Get the hell off -”
There was a cough. I’d thought it was Londy and turned to give her the evil eye but her eyes were wide in warning. Before I’d managed to turn my head the other way Sirius had swiftly rolled off me and was sitting a more appropriate distance away with an innocent look on his face.
“Hey Freddie,” I rolled my eyes. I knew it was him before I saw him. No one else could make Sirius so well-behaved.
He exhaled slowly and glared for a long moment at Sirius. Honestly you’d think he’d be used to him acting like a prat by now…
No, a voice in my head butted in, because Sirius acts like this around him. We never really mucked about when we were in Freddie’s presence because he had this effect on Sirius.
“I just came to tell you two,” Freddie said directly to Londy and I, no ‘hello’ to any of us. He’s a right charmer when he’s in a mood, my big bro. “Oz wants a last practice tomorrow -”
Londy groaned loudly, her ‘knowing smile’ temporarily wiped from her face. “He said this morning was the last one! We’ve practiced every day for practically the whole bloody year! What happened to having a day of rest before the match -”
“Alright, don’t blame me,” Freddie cut her off before she got in her stride, clever boy. “He’s having a last minute panic, something’s not accounted for in his plans…” A half-smile appeared on his face.
“It’s your sunburn,” I told Londy with a smirk.
“It’s tan! It’s not burnt!” She retorted in a shrill voice, clubbing me with her rolled up Charms notes.
“You’re beyond burnt, Londy,” Freddie stated, “I thought someone had had an awful accident when I came over here but nope, there was no blood-covered corpse, just you and your ‘tan’,”
“You won’t be laughing tomorrow when I’m beautifully bronzed and you’re ghostly white,” Londy regarded Freddie’s fair skin with a wrinkled nose.
“The day you’re beautifully bronzed I’m a raging transvestite,” Freddie retorted.
I watched the bickering with an absent amusement. There was something odd about it. I shaded my eyes from the sun with my hand and watched Londy scramble for a comeback whilst Freddie stood smugly with his arms folded and then it hit me. It was the comfortable but animated expression on my brothers face as he won a verbal war, the expression I hadn’t seen on his face for so long.
It used to be a permanent fixture, pretty much. Freddie had always been able to argue a point to death so when it came to a squabble, even just this playful banter, he would always win. Ro would be up there too with his persistent ability to let any insult bounce off him and never rise to the bait, and I’d come a close second having grown up with Freddie – I was the one he’d had all the bloody practice on.
It always used to be that way. The mockery between the three of us would go on all day, for days at a time even, and there were some jokes that had been ongoing for years.
Now, I realised, Freddie’s easy-going, teasing expression was practically that of a stranger.
Was it my fault? Had it been because he’d been so worried about me for the past few months? I’d been so busy being annoyed at his persistent need to enquire if I was ok that I hadn’t realised that maybe he was being persistent in that because there was no outlet for his relentless arguing. Or was there something else…
Just when I thought Londy’s face might explode with the combined redness of her sunburn and Freddie’s winding her up, Little Miss Sunshine appeared to sidetrack us all.
I inwardly cursed that even in my head I heard Ro’s voice calling her that, feeling a little bit bad about it, but then as I watched the old, once-familiar expression withdraw from Freddie’s face as he turned to greet her… then I didn’t feel so bad.
Maybe it wasn’t me to blame for the fun Freddie disappearing after all.
“You didn’t even tell me you were leaving,” Marles accused in a soft, girly voice that made me cringe.
“Because I wasn’t leaving,” Freddie told her, kissing her forehead, “I came to speak to Deb…” A frosty look crossed Marles’ pretty face, “… I was delivering a message, babe,”
“Well you didn’t tell me,” She pouted for a moment, before turning to me with a bright smile, “Hi Debbie, Londy,” Then as quickly as it had come, the beam dropped from her face as she acknowledged Sirius with a curt, “Black,”
I didn’t know which was the more unnerving – the big fake smile she gave us or the cold look she gave Sirius.
“Marlene,” Sirius pulled a brief grimace that might have meant to have been a smile. He was drumming his fingers agitatedly on the ground and absent-mindedly reached for my hand which was laying just inches away. I saw Marlene notice and snatched my hand quickly away without letting myself glance at Sirius to give him the warning look like I wanted to.
Thankfully Marlene didn’t seem to notice anything odd about it. She turned back to Freddie with a flick of her ponytail, “Coming back over then, babe?”
“I…” For one hopeful moment I hoped Freddie would tell her he’d see her later and stay with us, just so that I could keep the old Freddie with me for a little while longer. “Sure,” But then when he took her hand and left, I was thankful he’d gone so that I didn’t have to keep indirectly lying to him.
“Well that was close,” Londy said in a sing-song voice.
I hit her sunburn.
Sirius hadn’t reacted well to the idea that that Londy knew. His precise words were “Bollocks. The whole school will know by dinner.” Which Londy resented.
But he was wrong. It had been… well, a day and a half… most of which Londy and I had spent with Freddie because of training, and she hadn’t let anything slip so far.
And, thankfully, I was pretty sure she’d be able to keep quiet for the rest of the term.The reason I was so sure? Well, term ended next week. Simple as that. A week – it would be fine. Well when I say ‘pretty sure’ I do actually mean ‘crapping myself that she’d mess up’, but I wanted to have faith in her, that was the main thing.
Seven days – it’s nothing, right? Unfortunately that was both a good thing and a bad thing.
It was a good thing because it was less time for Londy to open her ginormous gob about Sirius and me.
It was a bad thing because at the end of the week it was officially summer. Officially the Time To Tell. We’d agreed.
Only, before it was just me that was reluctant. Now I had company in my anxiety and dread – Sirius too was shitting himself. It didn’t feel good.
He was meant to be the brave one, for crying out loud. He was the one who had been so confident about telling them before, he was the one who did stupid things like climb up the side of freaking castles on Valentines Day, he was the Gryffindor. If he was scared, what hope did that leave me? I wasn’t any of those things!
I couldn’t help but fret over it. All the time. I couldn’t help it. Probably not such a great thing, what with all my exams the following week. I was twitchy and fidgety when I was trying to revise – Lily had got me with the full body-bind on more than one occasion when I was ‘getting on her last nerve’.
The only outlet for my nervous energy was Quidditch. It was the only place I could forget temporarily and channel my whole mind and body on the match. It was a relief. I was even joining in properly in all Oz’s drills, which he was completely wary of, and in a state of total disbelief. Had I really been that bad throughout the whole year? I made a mental promise not to wind him up next year. As much.
If I was alive next year. After dealing with Lily. And James. And Freddie.
“This is it.” Oz barked, interrupting my sombre thoughts. He paced forcefully in front of where we were gathered on the benches in the changing rooms. Ordinarily this part freaked me out. The minutes before the match where we could hear the crowd, sitting in our heavy Quidditch robes holding us firmly on the ground. And knowing that just next door were the other team in exactly the same position.
But today was different. I couldn’t put my finger on why. Perhaps it was because we’d practiced more than was probably healthy for the whole sodding year – more than we’d ever done every other year put together. Perhaps it was because I was itching to get into the game and repress the nagging reminder in my head that sounded suspiciously like a time-bomb. Perhaps it was because it was Hufflepuff. I mean Gryffindor had beaten them in a blizzard, and we… well, we’d beaten Slytherin by two hundred and fifty points. Maybe I was cocky.
But for whatever reason, I found myself striding across the field to the deafening buzz of the crowd with an abnormal confidence. I didn’t think about the crowd, I didn’t think about tripping, I wasn’t sizing up the opponents to see which I was going to have to beat to the Quaffle, and I was grinning like a loon.
Well this must be what it was it was like not to be neurotic. Interesting.
“Ok, Deb?” Freddie asked, casually, as we prepared to mount our brooms.
I recognized as he said it that he hadn’t asked in a while. Maybe he had more intuition than I’d realised. I’d thought he was completely oblivious to the fact that I’d screwed my face up in irritation whenever he’d asked me. Obviously not.
“Perfect,” I told him, laughing at the odd look he gave me. “This is going to be a good game. I can feel it.”
“It always is,” Freddie returned my jaunty grin, “Not gonna end up in the hospital wing this time?”
“Nah,” I replied, swinging my leg over my broom, “I decided that I’d be conscious after this match. I can’t deal with missing the party for a third time -”
I was cut off by the whistle sounding the beginning of the match before I could finish, and luckily before Freddie could enquire what I mean by ‘for the third time’. He was probably better off not knowing about the firewhisky thing, on the whole…
My eyes followed the Quaffle in a high arc as Madam Hooch hurled in into the air on the blow of her whistle and I pursued it on instinct – without having to think about it. I beat the Hufflepuff chaser to it, as I’d expected to. Hey, if I could beat my brother and Ro, I could beat just about anybody.
Hell yes I was being arrogant today.
Still running on instinct, I drew back my arm and lobbed the ball to Ro who was speeding towards the golden hoops; our usual start to a match. I was so overconfident that he’d make the goal – we all were, the Hufflepuff keeper was barely airborne – that Freddie and I followed him at a leisurely pace, so sure that our help wouldn’t be needed that we were playfully barging each other as we flew.
Ro received the ball with a well-rehearsed ease, so perfectly that I was sure he was bored. I know I was bored of making the pass by now, we practiced it each training session before we were allowed to leave. He had just extended his arm backwards in preparation to make the shot when there was a piercing whistle.
He froze for a second and spun around to see what he was getting called up for. We all stopped what we were doing to look around in confusion. We’d only been in the air for five seconds, how could someone have fouled already? The crowd were unusually quiet too, their heads whipping round to see what was going on and hundreds of hands being held up to shade hundreds of eyes.
We saw it before they did. Or rather, we heard it.
“We’ve sodding done it!” Oz roared, drawing all attention to where he was descending on us from above the hoops. It took a couple of bewildered seconds for me to register his raised arm, his clenched fist, the pale gold glint in his hand…
It took another ten seconds, in which we were all speechless in shock, for the rest of the school to realise what was going on and slowly an ear-splitting cheer built up.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Ro bellowed, his arm still held ready to release the Quaffle. “You couldn’t wait for me to score one bloody goal?” He changed his angle and pitched the ball at Oz, who ducked it easily, a rare grin stretching from ear to ear.
“Does that count?” The Hufflepuff captain demanded, “Our seeker hadn’t properly left the ground -”
“It counts, Mr Boot,” Madam Hooch was beaming with admiration as she shouted over the noise of the crowd, “Excellent catch, Mr Dunhill, the fastest I think I’ve seen. It might have even broken the professional record -”
“We’ve won?” Was all I could utter.
“You have indeed, Miss McKinnon!” Madam Hooch looked close to snogging Oz, who was practically bursting with pride and smugness.
“We… what?” I couldn’t get my head around it, “But we just started… didn’t we have to win by like -”
“A hundred and thirty points?” Oz supplied, “Yeah. Thanks for listening, Little McKinnon. And also thanks for the congratulations guys…” He sniffed self-righteously. Ah, that was more like the critical and cynical Oz we knew and loved.
“So we won… the match and the cup…” Londy’s voice was steadily growing in pitch, although for once with excitement rather than objection.
“We’ve won!” Blakely bellowed, slamming into Oz in a manly hug. We all followed suit.
“How the hell did you manage that?” Freddie demanded.
“Five seconds, Oz!” Ro guffawed in wonder.
“I’m so confused!” I wailed. I’d touched the bloody Quaffle once!
“Wait a minute,” Londy pulled out of the hug with a dangerous look on her face that made the rest of us back off a little, “Do you realise that this means all the training we did was for nothing?”
“We won the sodding cup, Nara,” Oz hollered, “For once stop fucking complaining!”
“But all the early training sessions…” She moaned.
“It was good for you!”
“Good for me?! I couldn’t walk right for months -”
“Oh, for once in your life, woman, shut up!” Oz yanked her abruptly back into his arms and to our immense shock, roughly kissed her full on the lips.
And she, uh, wasn’t exactly pulling away.
The boys broke down into a chaos of raised eyebrows, punches on the arms and sniggers while I just gawped.
“Oh my God…” I began to shriek sounding remarkably like Londy herself, before Ro clamped a hand over my mouth and they dragged me down to the ground. Where hundreds of students were gathered watching Oz and Londy sucking face in midair.
They would so not hear the end of this.
We were making our way victoriously and perhaps a little conceitedly back to the common room still in our Quidditch robes, for maximum effect. To be honest I didn’t really know why we were all acting so smug about the whole thing, the majority of the team hadn’t even touched a sodding ball and I’d touched the Quaffle once, but I was just caught up in the excitement.
Oz and Londy seemed annoyingly unaffected by our sly remarks, both just strolling along with the rest of us, trying terribly hard not to look at each other. Weird. Maybe tomorrow they’d rise to the bait…
Ro and I groaned simultaneously at the tinkling voice. I couldn’t remember the exact point this year at which it had begun to irritate me but I would assume it had something to do with Ro telling me his suspicions that she wasn’t genuine. It was pretty irrational, I mean yeah she was annoying, but she seemed truly happy and in love and all that stuff all the time. We were probably just biased because we’d lost our best friend/brother to it.
Freddie didn’t notice our reaction as he greeted Marles with a kiss, but Blakely grinned wickedly as he put two and two together.
“Jealous, guys?” He asked, cheerfully, as Marles pulled Freddie to a stop to congratulate him. We carried on walking.
“Jealous? Of Little Miss Sunshine?” Ro laughed, “God, it makes me want to barf being in her presence for five minutes, can you imagine Freddie putting up with it all day?”
“She’s not that bad…” Blakely said, glancing back.
“You just think that because she’s fit, mate.”
“I do not! She’s nice -”
“She told me my haircut looked good!”
“She lied, buddy. It looks like a first-year cut it.”
“Shut up.” Blakely sulked, self-mockingly and pretended to storm off.
“Blakely! Don’t leave me! I didn’t mean it, your hair makes you look devastatingly handsome -” Ro cried, dramatically, striding after him then breaking into a run as Blakely skidded around the corner yelling that he could never forgive him.
I smiled to myself at their stupid, hyperactive, boyishness and turned to comment on it to Londy. Who was gone. I snapped my head around to ask Oz – with an added suggestive joke, naturally – where she was. He was gone too. Suspicious. I… Eew. I really didn’t want to think about it.
We’d been strolling along pretty slowly, the crowd accompanying us up to the common room had thinned and I didn’t see anyone dressed in blue in the hallway with me.
I was debating whether to chase after Ro and Blakely and get up to the common room quickly or to wait for Freddie when a voice spoke up condescendingly.
“Great game, McKinnon.”
It made my shoulders tense up and it took a step back from the window ledge where the voice came from.
“Avery,” I acknowledged the lanky Slytherin lounging on the ledge, “And… uh…” I didn’t know the names of the two troll-like creatures standing either side of him.
“See that,” Avery drawled, “Is why I don’t like people like you, McKinnon. You seem to think you’re so much above everyone else -”
“- You don’t bother to learn the names of the people you play Quidditch against every year, the people you have classes with, the people who you’ve lived with for six years…”
“Um, sorry?” I tried, wondering in a little state of panic what they wanted. I couldn’t help but remember the last interaction between Avery and I in which I had ended up in the hospital wind. Not that I remembered it as such, just the painful aftermath.
I tried to subtly locate Freddie without turning my head.
“Oh, so you’re admitting it? You do think you’re better than the rest of us?” Avery carried on, leisurely pulling himself up off the seat. I couldn’t help but notice just how much room he took up. I had to take a step back and instantly regretted it and the jeer on his face.
“No. I don’t… yeah, I...” I babbled, standing my ground this time.
“No, wait. No. What do you want?” I tried to sound breezy and unconcerned.
“I don’t want anything from you, Mudblood. Think of this as more of a warning -”
The panic swelled and my shoulders hurt from holding them so tensely. Avery didn’t notice and carried on regardless.
“- Some of these people you’ve got doing your dirty work for you -”
Dirty work? What was he talking about?
“- Let’s just say you don’t want to be noticed. And this particular person will get you noticed. Noticed by the people that won’t really approve of his associating with you.”
“What are you talking about? Who are you talking about?” I asked, trying to stop my voice shaking. This didn’t make any sense but I didn’t like the way Avery’s cold voice spoke words that didn’t seem to be his. It was like he was delivering a message from someone else, someone more eloquent, more dangerous…
Avery just smirked.
“Is this about my brother?” I demanded, a sudden fear for Freddie outgrowing the fear for myself, “What have you done? Leave him out of it, he -”
“We’re not concerned about the pathetic way you rely on your Mudblood brother, McKinnon.” Avery sneered, “We have bigger things to worry about than the affairs of lower life forms…”
I couldn’t help but notice the plural. “We?”
Comprehension dawned on his face. “So he hasn’t told you. Hasn’t even warned you yet. That’s… interesting.”
“Who hasn’t told me what?” I felt unreasonably cold, for the hot July day. “Freddie’s not -” I looked over my shoulder, where my brother was still occupied by Marlene. He was leaning against the wall holding her hands, his eyes on her alone. He hadn’t even noticed my predicament.
“Brother dear doesn’t even care,” Avery slyly noticed where I was looking, “You can’t really rely on anyone, Little McKinnon.” His inadvertent use of the affectionate nickname sounded wrong. “Your brother won’t stick around forever, look at him. Did he ever really care? Does anyone?”
I knew he was just trying to get a reaction from me, I knew he was just saying anything he could think of that would mess with my head. But that didn’t stop the sinking feeling in my stomach. Because he was, in essence, right. Wasn’t he? Wasn’t Freddie right this moment too busy idly flirting with his girlfriend to notice that at some point in this little scenario I’d found myself backed up against the wall?
“Think about it, McKinnon.” Avery said, softly, leaning in so that he was even closer. I cringed away automatically. Think about who you rely on, who they really are -”
Before I could even process what he was saying a cocky voice rang out from behind me.
“Avery! Long time no attempted assault – I see you’re missing our fond memories of detention just as much as me…”
Every time I heard that voice it gave me a comfortable warmth, but this time it brought with it the familiar and overwhelming self of relief that I associated with being rescued.
“Black.” Avery acknowledged, turning his head in Sirius’ direction but not moving it away from mine. His jeering smirk wiped the arrogant half-smile from Sirius’ lips as Sirius took in the proximity and my panicky expression.
“Always getting yourself into these situations, aren’t you Dee?” Sirius asked, registering the situation with a grim amusement and weary resignation.
There was a flash of movement from both of them, which I saw as if in slow-motion. Avery stepping away from the wall and grabbing my arm with one enormous hand whilst thrusting the other into his pocket for his wand. Sirius was about the mirror the movement but stopped before his hand was in his pocket and growled, “Do not touch her.”
In the few seconds of chaos all I took in were a flurry of abrupt movements and three dull thuds.
Then the world seemed to catch up, I was no longer seeing it in slow motion and the next thing I knew Avery was dropping like a stone.
Unfortunately my wrist was still caught in his, now unconscious, grasp so I was dragged onto the floor with him.
Then I took a moment to take it all in. Avery out cold on the floor. Me sprawled uncomfortably on his legs, the vibrant blue of my Quidditch kit startling against his crisp black robes. The two Slytherin minions in a similar state to Avery. Sirius standing over us examining his knuckles, not even breathing hard. His wand was still sticking out of his back pocket.
“Ow.” Was all I could utter.
Sirius grinned as if the whole thing had been no more taxing than a stroll in the park, offered me a hand and opened his mouth to speak but he was interrupted.
“What’s going on here?” Apparently all it took was a bit of rule-breaking to catch my brother’s attention. Never mind his sister being harassed. “Debbie? What… are you ok? I… Black.” Freddie’s eyes flitted from Avery’s unconscious form, to the minions, to me, to Sirius.
“Uh,” Sirius pulled me to my feet then swiftly let go of my hand, “This isn’t what it looks like.”
“Ok. So you didn’t just cause the unconsciousness of three students and whatever else you did that ended up with my sister on the floor?” Sometimes Freddie was too wordy for his own good.
I butted in, “He saved me from Avery,”
Freddie looked sceptical for a moment, “He saved you?”
“Uh-huh. Avery was… well he wasn’t actually doing anything but -” I faltered as I realised that all Avery had done was spoken to me. Not exactly crime of the century.
“But he would have.” Sirius finished for me. “And you didn’t seem like you were about to stop him -” He added, quite unwisely.
“I didn’t see him.” Freddie countered, through gritted teeth.
“Funny. Head Boy and Girl just yards away and both of them more interested in each other than -”
“Sirius…” I tugged on his arm to make him stop. Both of them were getting too worked up for my liking, this wasn’t going to be good. Sirius seemed to have forgotten that getting mouthy with my brother a week before we were supposed to tell him about us wasn’t a great move…
“I would have stopped him if he’d done anything.” Freddie acted as though I wasn’t there.
“Yeah, too late probably,” Sirius said, hotly, “Don’t worry about protecting your sister, your girlfriend’s obviously more important. I’ll take care of Dee, like I always do -”
“Like you always do?” Freddie demanded.
“Yeah, like I did just now. Like I did the last time when, if you care to remember, I saved her life -”
“I would have…” Freddie snarled in protest.
“Oh ok. Sure. Unless your girlfriend fancied a -” Sirius was abruptly shut up. There was a loud thud of a fist on skin, the fourth I’d heard in the space of ten minutes, a sickening crack as a head was snapped back and a couple of footsteps as Sirius staggered but didn’t fall.
“Freddie!” I yelled, reproachfully.
Freddie didn’t answer, just pressed his lips together and rubbed his knuckles. If I knew him – debatable, was he still the same old Freddie anymore? – he wouldn’t be up to speaking for a while when he was this mad. He didn’t move, even when Marlene scampered over all fussy and pretty.
“Why do stupid, bloody boys always resort to stupid, bloody punching?” I demanded to no one. “Stupid, bloody -”
“Excuse me, what is… My goodness! What is going on here?” The sharp voice of Professor McGonagall inquired. I could see that it looked bad. Three students unconscious. One more bleeding heavily from the mouth. One more, supposed Head Boy, with the formers’ blood on his fist. Two girls looking like they didn’t quite know what to do about it all, one of them the supposed Head Girl.
Not a great situation, altogether.
“Mr McKinnon? Miss Whittaker?” I don’t think I’d ever been so glad to have been in the company of the Head Girl and Boy. For once it seemed that Mr and Mrs Perfect were going to get the blame. As Freddie and Marles – mostly Marles because Freddie was still in his mute mode – tried to explain I was wondering if Sirius and I could just sidle off…
“Miss McKinnon and Mr Black, what a surprise to see you involved also. Just where do you think you were going?” McGonagall’s voice was thick with sarcasm.
With no way to escape, we had to stand through fifteen minutes of a lecture on how we were supposed to be role models to the school – which I stupidly interrupted by pointing out that Freddie and Marlene were the role models, not us… which lengthened the speech as McGonagall went on about how Quidditch puts us in the spotlight blah, blah, yawn, yawn – before Avery stirred on the floor and McGonagall realised that she’d left three unconscious students on the floor. She sent us off in a fluster with a reminder that we’d each serve a detention before the end of term.
“Come on then, Deb, we should be heading to the common room,” Freddie said, casually, as if he hadn’t just gotten into more trouble than he had all year and at the same time injured my (secret) boyfriend.
“Oh my goodness!” Marlene exclaimed, looking at her watch, “The party’s been going on for ages! I bet it’s gotten out of hand – I heard Blakeley inviting everybody from the other houses…”
“Coming, Deb?” Freddie repeated, staring pointedly at Sirius as if daring him to contradict him. Sirius mutely wiped the blood from his lip and met the stare.
“Sure,” I piped up, irritated at the way he was acting, “You’re coming, Sirius?”
“He’s not -” Freddie began.
“Marles said people from the other houses were invited.” I cut in, warily watching Freddie. Where was my brother? Sure, he’d never liked Sirius and he’d never hidden that from him, but he’d never been so outwardly hostile before.
“Fine.” Freddie said through gritted teeth. “Let’s go, babe.” He took Marlene’s hand and strode off in front of us.
We followed them sombrely. Sirius’ face was a mask of calm, completely unlined and seemingly unaffected but I could see a muscle jumping in his jaw. He didn’t seem overly joyful that I’d just gotten him into the party, but then again he had just been punched in the face.
“Are you ok?” I asked, after Freddie and Marles to entered the common room I held back until the door had closed.
In answer he kicked the wall.
“Oh my God,” I moaned, seizing his hands and burying my face in his chest, “What the hell are we going to do?”
Again he didn’t answer for a long time. I turned my head so my ear was against his chest and listened to his heart rate slowly decrease and felt his chest rising and falling more smoothly as he calmed down.
“Shit.” He eventually mumbled, letting his head fall to rest on top of mine, “I’m sorry.”
“You should be. Idiot.” I told him, “But I’m sorry too. For Freddie being such a… a pain. Are you ok?” I stepped back and touched his lip. It wasn’t bleeding anymore but the blood had dried dark around where it had split and it was considerably swelled up.
“Mmmf.” He flinched at the touch but ignored it. “That’s fine. I just… like you said. What the fuck are we going to do now?”
Exactly. What were we going to do?
“We still have to tell them, don’t we.” I said, reluctantly.
“I don’t suppose there’s any way your brother is going to like me in a week?” Sirius asked, wryly.
I laughed, humourlessly. “Chances were slim before. Now…”
“Ok.” Sirius tugged on my hands decidedly, “We’ve got to do it, right?”
I nodded grudgingly.
“And they’re going to hate us, there’s no question about it. James and Lily will hate us for lying, and Freddie… Freddie hates me anyway.”
“You’re not making it sound any better.”
“That’s because there’s no way of making it sound good. I just mean that there’s not really any way of telling them lightly. We might as well accept that. And just do it.”
“Yeah,” I said, hesitantly, thrown a little by his determined voice.
“So what’s the difference between telling them next week and telling them tonight?”
“Tonight?” I echoed.
“Yeah.” His voice had gained a grim enthusiasm for the idea. “Whatever happens, even if we tell them right at the last minute, you’ve got to deal with a pissed off Freddie over the summer and I’ve got to deal with a pissed off James. So why not deal with them together, at least for this last week?”
It did make an unfortunate amount of sense. But I didn’t like the return of that sinking feeling I’d gotten each time we’d planned to tell the others in the near future.
“Because a pissed off Freddie won’t be able to murder you if we tell them next week,” I reasoned.
“I don’t care about that, Dee.” Sirius said, earnestly. “He won’t actually do anything that bad, you’re exaggerating…”
I just touched his lip again and watched him flinch.
“Please?” He said, “I mean it, I don’t care what he does. We just have to deal with it when it comes. And I still mean what I said before, about lying to our best mates. That’s still wrong. And if it was them instead of us I’d rather they told us now rather than wimping out and leaving it till last minute.”
"But you’re Gryffindors!” I wailed, “You might be able to do it but I can’t!”
“You can.” Sirius said, letting go of my hands gripping my shoulders with a grin. “We can.”
“You’re insane.” I told him.
“Please?” He repeated, his idiotic grin softening.
Stupid smile. Stupid sinking feeling making me feel sick all over again.
As if he was reading my mind Sirius spoke up again, “We’ve got to do it now,” He said, “Look - you’re not obscenely drunk, Lily and James have got their – pitiful – confession out of the way, and Freddie’s already hit me. Maybe he’s got it out of his system.”
“You know all those things indicate that we shouldn’t tell them,” I pointed out, “It’s gotta be some sort of a sign that bad things happen when we plan to tell them…”
Oh excellent. The Look. I was wondering whether he was having withdrawal symptoms from neglecting it, I hadn’t been victim to it in weeks. I stubbornly looked down at my feet. Still in my trainers. I was still in my Quidditch robes and yet the match seemed so long ago. What happened to the euphoria – we’d won the cup for crying out loud!
“Dee?” His finger propped up my face, the familiar old gesture. This time I couldn’t summon up even a hint of a smile though. My eyes locked onto the clear grey beseeching ones just inches away. Even after all this time they made my mind cloud over and my lips yearn towards his…
“Alright.” I shook my head to clear it. “We’re doing it. But you should know you’re ruining my night – we’ve just won the sodding cup and you’re ruining it for me. You owe me Black.”
“Of course, love.” He softly kissed the bridge of my nose, “Anything you say.”
“Where are they?” I craned my neck, still clutching Sirius’ hand, and stood on my tiptoes to see over the mass of people in front of me, “Can you see them? I can’t see them anywhere…”
“I don’t even know if James is here,” Sirius bent down to talk directly into my ear – the chatter, music and laughter filled the common room to a deafening level. “I lost him after the match, he could be anywhere -”
“It looks like everyone’s here,” I pointed out, gesturing with my free hand to the crowd of students of every house crammed into the one room, “He wouldn’t miss out on a party, no matter how bitter he is that we won.”
“What about Lily? Would she risk her prefect-ness to come to a party?” Sirius rolled his eyes.
“She always does, for me.” Guilt washed over me. The things Lily did for me, her best friend, when I had kept this one huge, enormous secret from her. “She’ll be here, I just can’t see … Oh sod this, I’m just going to yell. Lily! Lily!” I screamed over the top of the music.
Barely anyone even turned around.
The times Oz would actually come in useful he’s nowhere to be seen. Probably off with Londy doing things I don’t want to think about. Eurgh.
“Lily!” I shouted again, feeling my already small amount of courage dwindling. If we didn’t find them soon – all of them – I was sure to find some way of getting out of telling them.
“Debbie!” A voice yelled from the midst of the crowd.
I struggled to stand on my toes in the crowd, people were pressing on me from every direction. I couldn’t even move and elbow without digging it into someone’s side. I was holding onto Sirius’ hand like a lifeline and had my Quidditch robes over the other arm, they’d made me even more hot and bothered in the first three seconds of being in here. So now here I was, being slowly squashed to death wearing just a pair of rather short shorts and a tight t-shirt, which Sirius had objected to and tried me to keep my robes on.
“Lily!” I practically screeched in frustration. I could hear her but I couldn’t see her, and there were far too many people pressed against me for my liking.
“Calm it, Deb, I’m here!” A red head bobbed up from under someone’s arm and appeared next to me. “Well done on the win! Well you didn’t really do anything but when I said that to Rowan I got about seventy-five gushing girls glaring at me in outrage and -”
“Lily, is James here?” Sirius interrupted, impatiently. He looked about as uncomfortable in the crowd as I felt. A first year girl was jumping around next to him and shrieking with giggles. He stamped on her foot.
“Oh yeah, somewhere,” She spun around as if it would be easy to spot him in the throng. As if. “He was in a mood but I made him come anyway and then he was alright, he even shook Oz’s hand, I… Oh there! There, I see him! Hang on, don’t move -”
“Lily!” I tried to grab her before she dived back into the crowd but both my hands were occupied. “Damn it.” I said to Sirius, “Now we won’t find her again for another hour or so…” And I’ll lose my nerve, I added silently.
“We’ll just wait here.” Sirius elbowed aside some unfortunate people that were in the way, threw an arm around my waist and towed me over to a tall armchair by the wall. There was someone in it but he used the back to lean against and pulled me close to him. There was so little room that I had to stand between his legs, and he didn’t let go of my waist.
I automatically looked around to see who would see us, and what they would think – would anybody guess? What –
As if he guessed what I was thinking Sirius laughed and pulled me even closer – holding every inch of me against him. “Surely you’re not fretting about what everyone else thinks now? We’re about to do it, Dee. For real.”
“Why do you sound so bloody happy about that?” I demanded, almost losing my balance as someone shoved past me. I had to grab onto Sirius arms, which tensed to hold me tighter. “I’m crapping myself over here, quite close to vomiting again and -”
“Because it’s been six months!” He interrupted me. “Six months of secrets and lying when all I wanted to do was tell everyone in the world. We’re finally getting it off our chests.”
“But the consequences…” I pointed out.
“The consequences, we will deal with as they come.” Sirius grinned, dismissively. Only he could grin at the thought of possible murder.
“So wise,” I mocked.
“But we’re definitely going to be ok?” Sirius asked, suddenly serious.
“Well that depends what you mean by ok.” I babbled, “I mean, physically you are going to be far from ok when Freddie gets his hands on you but -”
“You know what I mean.” The Look again. This so wasn’t fair! I don’t see The Look in weeks that then he uses it on me twice in a night! And he was so close, we were inches apart so that even though the room was packed and stuffy, I could still smell him – musky, boyish and wonderful – and all I saw was him.
I thought about the question. Were we going to be ok? I hadn’t really thought about the impact of this big change on us. Would we change as a couple when it was all out in the open? Would we be affected, as Sirius had feared so long ago, by everyone else’s opinions and gossip? Would we still be us when we had to deal with antagonism from Freddie, from James and Lily?
A lot of things had happened this term. A lot of changes. But through it all Sirius and I had been ‘ok’. Stuff like what had happened with my Dad. That had the potential to put a strain on even the strongest of couples, and me and Sirius had made it through completely unscathed. Didn’t that count for something?
It seemed that we’d made it through against all odds, really. It was actually pretty amazing. There was his previous slutty ways, our Quidditch rivalry, our best friends constant bickering, our own ridiculous disagreements, Freddie’s growing dislike of him…
And yet here we were. Six months. It was a long time. And of course we were ‘ok’. We were better than ‘ok’. We’d grown from best friends, to confusing non-friends but a large amount of lust, to trying to be friends again, to pathetic flirting, to new-boyfriend-and-girlfriend, to us.
“You know what?” I said, in answer to his question, “I think we will.”
It was really a shitty answer. I mean, if your boyfriend asks if things will be ok and you answer with ‘I think so’, it’s not the best thing to hear is it? But my answer made a slow, contented smile spread across Sirius face from ear to ear.
Because he knew me too well. If I’d just said ‘Yes’ it would have been too simple. The fact that I’d actually thought about it, and answered honestly, that was what made him happy.
“Me too.” He said, and leaned forward to close the last couple of inches between us and kissed me firmly, still smiling, on the lips.
His forehead was rested against mine and his hands, his body, hot against mine. For a moment I forgot where we were, what was happening, what was going to happen. All I saw were his eyes. His steel grey eyes, smoky with emotion, and outlined with thick dark lashes. Focused on my own. I loved how, when I was feeling so ‘lost in his gaze’ (that’s right, I used it again in an actual thought!) it seemed like he was feeling the same way, even though I knew that my eyes weren’t even slightly as hypnotizing.
I breathed in his scent and pulled him towards me, except it wasn’t feasible, we were already as close as it was possible to get, so I just tightened my grip on his arms and kissed him again, harder this time, wanting to prove to him that I really meant it, that I did think we were going to be ok and –
Ok that wasn’t exactly the reaction I was hoping for. I pulled away questioningly.
One of his hands left my waist and covered his mouth. Oh. I remembered.
“Oh my gosh! I’m sorry! Your mouth, I…” I broke off into giggles at his pained expression.
He frowned indignantly. “Hey! I’m in pain here!”
“Sorry!” I pressed my own hand against my mouth to stifle the laughter. “I just… I was being all deep and serious and you…”
The frown faded and his low chuckles joined mine. “You? Deep and serious?”
“I was!” I protested, though he was grinning and no longer in any apparent pain. “I was thinking -”
“I know.” He pulled me back in, “Me too.” And again he covered my mouth with his own, both of us still half-laughing. I wasn’t paying attention to anything but the odd feeling of having someone’s lips against your own when you’re both laughing into each others mouths and trying not to hurt him again when something broke into my consciousness.
Four words, to be exact.
“What. The. Fucking. Hell.”
A.N - Another chapter, and STILL no confession. But this time they're close, really close. I promise! Or, well you know, now there may be no need for an actual confession...
So I've been quicker than usual yes? I hope you appreciate it :) However you probably won't appreciate that I'm going away for a few weeks now so the next one may be considerably longer... but I promise it will be oh so exciting!
Please leave a review to tell me what you think!
About Londy figuring it out first out of EVERYONE?
About Dee's internal neuroticism?
About Avery's suspiciousness?
About Sirius' heroics?
About how extreeemely close we are to the big old hoo-haa now that Freddie knows?
Thanks for reading! Rx.
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