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Chapter 8 : Il Dolce Suono
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Breath-taking chapter image by the talented (sol) @ TDA
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. However, all OCs mentioned herein belong to me.
Medical Disclaimer: Much of this story revolves around the infectious disease, tuberculosis and its treatment. The methods I have described in this story are a mixture of both modern regimens and outdated procedures from the heyday of the sanatorium. For the purpose of this story, the main character contracts and suffers from a strain of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis found only in “wizards”, therefore, her experience may differ from the experience of a “muggle” with the same disease. Finally, I am not a physician. My statements regarding tuberculosis, although thoroughly researched, should not be taken as actual medical facts.
Forbia “Freddy” Fotherby - Melanie Lynskey
Healer Calum Crane - Peter Facinelli
Remus Lupin - James D’Arcy
Slatero Quirrell - Simon Woods
Minerva McGonagall - Maggie Smith
Sibyl Trelawney - Emma Thompson
Nurse Jenkins - Samantha Morton
Lavinia Wainwright - Naomi Watts
Finella Fotherby/Mam - Maria Doyle Kennedy
Healer Elliot - Mark Ruffalo
Chapter Eight Il Dolce Suono
“Geez Calum, you look like crap.”
Crane looked up, one palm pressed convulsively against his temple. His hand paused in midair, causing his quill to decorate his parchment with several thumb-sized blotches.
“Elliot, I didn’t hear you in the corridor.”
Healer Elliot was leaning against the open office door, his thick fingers groping at the knot in his tie. “It’s your damn opera. I can hear that record player of yours all the way across the sanatorium. Can’t you play something decent?”
“Like Elvis?” Crane snatched up his wand and flicked it at the player behind him. The needle lifted off the record, effectively silencing Handel’s Lascia Ch’io Pianga. “You know, you don’t have to cater to the stereotype that all Americans are crude bumpkins.”
“Oh, but we are,” Elliot drawled. His Bostonian accent was deliberate and he drew out the last syllables so that they sounded like ‘ahhre’. “Excited for the meeting tomorrow? Hmm, I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep tonight.”
“The meeting?” Crane leaned back in his chair and dropped his messy quill into the inkstand on the desk. His neck was aching and he tilted his head far to the right, groaning as the bones cracked. “It’s going to be fun this quarter. The board of directors ought to chew me out.”
Elliot sidled into the office, smiling at his friend and colleague. “For what? Having the highest cure rate in the world?”
Crane felt his intestines squirm. “We lost two patients this month and for the first time in three years we have a waiting list. There simply aren’t enough beds in the sanatorium. And we’re overcrowded as it is…TB is on the rise.”
“You do realize that I’ve been here for three years and at the end of every quarter you say the exact same thing. TB is on the rise, I get it. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to pay my bills.”
“Now that’s unusually selfish of you,” Crane replied as Elliot dropped into the chair opposite him, his tie off, collar open. “And here I thought you became a healer to help people.”
Elliot was fishing in his pocket, frowning. “The money doesn’t hurt either. Come on, be honest with yourself, Calum. It’s not a bad gig.” After a minute of searching, he found what he was looking for and extracted a pack of cigarettes.
“No smoking in the building-” Crane started, but his friend had already lit a fag with a flame from the tip of his wand.
“It’s either lung cancer or TB,” Elliot puffed. “I don’t like my odds either way. Want one?”
Crane batted the smoke away with his hand. “No, thank you.”
“Might do you good. You need to relax.”
“I need a larger staff and possibly another ward to house the overflow.”
“So is that what this is all about?” Elliot took a long drag. “You’re gonna to ask the board of directors for more money. They’ll give it to you, I’m sure. You don’t have to beg. Don’t sweat it.”
Crane moaned, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “I need a headache tonic. And no, it’s not about the money, Elliot. It’s about the bodies down in the morgue and the patients we have clamoring for admittance and…”
“And that Professor Fotherby. Yeah. It’s about her too, isn’t it?”
Crane’s head snapped up quickly, his fingers automatically tightening into fists. The air in his office was cloudy from the smoke and through the haze, he saw Elliot’s dark eyes shining with amusement.
His stomach dropped to his knees.
God, it couldn’t be that obvious.
Elliot leaned back in his chair and flicked the ash from his cigarette into a potted plant nearby. “For your information, I’d say you have some difficulty with keeping things understated. You were never good with women, Calum.”
Crane rolled his stiff shoulders, feeling an uncomfortable weight settle around his neck and hang there. “We can’t talk about this now, do you understand?”
“Sure.” But Elliot was still smiling.
Crane tried to ignore him and instead, went back to his paperwork. But his eyes were burning, stinging and he couldn’t make out what he’d been writing. He clutched his thigh with his right hand, emitting a shuddering sigh.
This was trouble. Huge trouble.
He reached for his quill and then paused. Elliot watched him closely.
Crane knew he should say something, anything that would put the situation to rest and mollify his friend’s curiosity. And Elliot had always been something of a confidant to him, although his advice often seemed to clash with Crane’s own sensibilities. In truth, he was too embarrassed to address the issue.
Elliot was right, of course. He was no good with women. Too shy. Too sensitive. Too uncertain of himself.
Fortunately, his career as a healer had distracted him from romance for the most part. Every now and then he ran into a nurse who was a bit too overt in her flirtatious overtures and when he had studied at Johns Hopkins, he’d met a pretty Muggle student who’d managed to snag his interest.
Crane, however, had been single for most of his life, which was pathetic considering he was thirty-seven and, according to Witch Weekly, quite the eligible bachelor.
But all that meant nothing, especially now…especially since he was in love with Freddy Fotherby.
Which, needless to say, was strictly against the sanatorium’s policy. In fact, it was against any medical policy he knew of. Healers weren’t supposed to fall in love with their patients, after all…
And it certainly wasn’t like him to throw caution to the wind and completely lose his head. But Freddy, yes, Freddy was just the sort of woman he could fall in love with. Intellectually, she was his match, but more importantly, she fit his ideal of the tragic heroine.
Like Mimi in La Boheme. Or Violetta in La Traviata.
Elliot seemed to know exactly what Crane was thinking and his smile threatened to split his face in half.
“See what happens when you get too involved?” he said. “I had a feeling this Hogwarts professor was special…you went on and on about the pneumonectomy you performed on her last February. Ah, how romantic!”
“Don’t be stupid,” Crane replied a little more harshly than he had intended. “I told you how I felt about her case; it’s one of the most challenging I’ve ever had. Why shouldn’t I be concerned with her well-being?”
“Yes, but there’s a difference.” Elliot dropped his hands between his knees, not bothering to brush off the embers floating down to the carpet. “You’re not interested in the TB, buddy.”
Crane found he couldn’t look his friend in the eye and instead he focused his attention on his now silent record player. Pointing his wand at the album, he set it to playing once more. Strains of Donizetti’s Il Dolce Suono warbled through the smoky air.
Crane listened for a moment, the sumptuous Italian phrasing of the soprano sweeping over him and providing a measure of calm.
Il dolce suono mi colpì di sua voce!
Ah, quella voce m'è qui nel cor discesa!*
He closed his eyes.
But then Elliot began to shift in his chair, causing the legs to hit the floor.
Crane snorted in annoyance. “Is that really necessary? I know you don’t like opera, but this aria is truly magnificent. If only you would listen-” His voice trailed off as his eyes opened.
Elliot was sitting still in his chair, his head turned towards the open door. Freddy Fotherby was standing in the corridor outside, one hand raised timidly as she knocked on the glass pane.
“I’m so sorry to disturb you,” she blurted out, “and I honestly swear that I have never been this obnoxious or presumptive in my entire life…but can I come in?”
Crane started to open his mouth, but Elliot was already on his feet.
“You see, Calum,” he said, “I told you that your opera would keep the entire sanatorium awake.”
The evening after Lupin and Mam’s visit, Freddy dug out her finest bathrobe. Well, it was a dressing gown, really. The name bathrobe implied terry cloth and fuzzy slippers and this dressing gown was anything but commonplace.
She’d bought it in Newport, Rhode Island four years ago and it was one of those purchases she intermittently regretted. Because truthfully, what use did she have for such a luxury? Not to mention, the colors were also rather loud (burnt orange, with pink along the collar) and the tasseled belt made her think of stuffy Victorian drawing rooms. Certainly not the look she was going for at all and maybe that’s why she never wore it.
But tonight was different. Very different. Tonight she was going to be brave and wait for the nurses to do their final rounds and then sneak down to Healer Crane’s office after lights out.
Not that she wanted to see him, quite the opposite. Freddy would rather ignore the man. Hide from him.
Unfortunately, the sanatorium did not have many accessible broom closets and patients were tracked by the staff as though they were the Ministry’s most wanted.
So Freddy had to do the next best thing. She had to apologize, find some suitable way express regret for accidentally/intentionally sneaking into Crane’s mind and then losing her cool when she saw something she didn’t like.
It wouldn’t be an easy task, although Lupin’s visit had given her some courage. He was in her corner, at least, if no one else was and that meant that Freddy had to better herself, had to make herself worthy of his support.
Easier said than done, of course, but she was getting used to the challenges of life.
And so she decided to wear her dressing gown and tie her messy hair back with an old silk scarf her aunt had given her several Christmases ago. If she looked halfway decent, then perhaps Crane would realize that he didn’t need to protect her from everything unpleasant about the sanatorium. And perhaps then she would have the strength to tell him that not everything about the sanatorium was unpleasant and that she was sorry to have insulted him.
Or something like that.
When Jenkins poked her head into the room at twenty after nine, Freddy was all tucked up in her bed and she raised her head lazily to glance at the nurse.
“Sorry to wake you,” she apologized, shuffling into the room to hand Freddy a paper cup, “but your last dose is important.”
“Bottoms up,” Freddy yawned sleepily and knocked the pair of pills back into her throat, chasing it down with a mouthful of lukewarm water. “Good night.”
“Good night, Professor.” Jenkins left the room, turning off the hall lights with a flick of her wand.
Freddy watched the corridor go dark save for the solitary lamp that illuminated the nurse’s station five doors down. Footsteps echoed on the tile floor, then completely ceded into the wet, heavy air of the early summer evening.
Freddy took a breath and then sat up in bed. The night nurse wouldn’t be back to check on her until midnight. About a month ago, when Crane had decided that she was no longer a high risk patient and would probably not kick off during the night, he allowed the staff to space out their evening rounds until they were delightfully seldom. Freddy, who hoarded her privacy like goblin’s gold, was quick to take advantage of this new privilege. Although she doubted Crane would approve of her breaking the sanatorium rules again, she simply couldn’t continue to ignore her nagging conscience. Hopefully he wouldn’t lose his temper with her this time and have the night staff tie her to her bed or some other dreadful thing. After all, she had read somewhere that the child patients, most of whom were apt to wander and misbehave, were quite literally strapped to their sheets. But that had been many years ago, hadn’t it?
Freddy decided to take a chance and hopped out of bed, her feet deftly finding the slippers she kept by her bedside table. Tip-toeing out into the hall, she checked the corridor for nurses and orderlies before darting down the staircase to the next floor.
The downstairs corridor was likewise deserted and she began to wonder if perhaps Crane was busy finishing his own rounds and not in his office. But as she drew closer to his door, the high, fluting sounds of a seasoned soprano caught her attention. And then someone spoke.
For one perilous moment, Freddy found herself frozen halfway between the door and the staircase. She couldn’t do this. She simply couldn’t. How could she possibly explain herself to Crane? And perhaps, yes, perhaps she shouldn’t even bother. As it was, she preferred to keep some measure of distance between them, a sterile space where their only interaction was that of a Healer and his patient. She didn’t need to get chummy with the fellow and if he was mad at her, well, then maybe he should stay mad.
But then her conscience kicked in and she found herself blushing. What she wouldn’t have given for an apology, an apology from all the rude students who had teased her, from her fellow staff members who had been suspicious of her, and from Quirrell, who had betrayed her.
Oh, it would have meant so very much….
And it would certainly heal the unnecessary wound Freddy had inflicted upon Crane. After all, he was only trying to help her.
With some difficulty, she tried to even her breathing. The soprano was still singing, her voice slightly manic and an unwelcome chill danced up Freddy’s spine, Nonetheless, she took a step forward and knocked on the heavy glass pane of the door.
“I’m so sorry to disturb you,” she said, “and I honestly swear that I have never been this obnoxious or presumptive in my entire life…but can I come in?”
And it was then that she realized she was standing face to face with Healer Elliot.
The man smiled, showing every one of his white teeth. “You see, Calum,” he said, “I told you that your opera would keep the entire sanatorium awake.”
Elliot stepped aside to reveal Crane, sitting at his desk, open-mouthed.
“Freddy!” He bounded to his feet, the quill in his hand dripping ink across his expensive desktop.
“You know, we were just talking about you, Professor,” Elliot added, sweeping her into the room.
Crane’s mouth flapped open even wider. “No, we weren’t. Well, we were. About your health…that is. How…how are you feeling?”
Freddy’s face suddenly felt very hot. She pressed a hand to her collarbone, all too aware that her flesh must be the same color as her bright robe. “Fine. I’m perfect, actually. Again, I’m so sorry to disturb you. I’m usually not this rude…considering that I hate rude people. I…I should have asked one of the nurses to bring me down.”
“Then I’d get yelled at for smoking,” Elliot said. He made a great show of stubbing out his cigarette in a potted plant. “Promise you won’t rat me out to Nurse Jenkins. She’s more of a stickler than Calum here.”
“I don’t smoke,” Crane said quickly. “And Elliot shouldn’t either. It’s against the sanatorium rules.”
Freddy jammed her hands into her pockets and tried to grin. “It’s also against the rules to be out of bed at night, so I guess we’re even.”
“Deal.” Elliot stuck at his broad hand and Freddy shook it, noticing that his palm was slightly calloused. “Now, if you’ll excuse me for being rude, I’d really like to get some shut-eye. They say humans only need roughly seven or eight hours of sleep a night. I guess I must be a superhuman then, because I need eleven…at least.”
And he stretched and yawned, his collar gaping to reveal the dark hair on his chest. For some reason, Freddy found she had to look away.
“Take care, you two,” Elliot said as he headed for the door. “Oh and Calum--don’t be an idiot.”
This last bit of advice made Crane appear even more sheepish and Freddy laughed into her palm.
After Elliot shut the door, Crane sank back into his chair with a sigh. “You’ll have to ignore him, he doesn’t mean to be so--”
“Flirty?” Freddy supplied.
Crane’s eyes widened. “I was going to say informal, but then again, some patients like their Healers to be flighty and flippant.” He stared at her for a moment, as if trying to decide whether she was just one such patient.
The silence between them was aching. Tense. Freddy’s skin prickled despite the heavy humidity.
“Ugh,” she muttered, running her hand over the scarf she had tied over her hair. The knot at the base of her neck was coming loose and she tugged at it to make it tight once more. “So, here I am again, directly defying your orders and sneaking out of bed. Are you mad at me?”
Crane dropped his elbows onto the arms of his chair with a nervous smile. “No. But I must say, you do have a penchant for nighttime wandering.”
“I do and that’s probably why I became a professor at Hogwarts. As a student, I’d get detention for being out after curfew, but as a professor, ah, let’s just say it’s one of the more pleasant job perks.” Freddy fiddled with the belt of her dressing gown, eyeing the empty chair in front of Crane’s desk.
The Healer caught her gaze and suddenly sat forward, stuttering. “W…Won’t you sit down? I’m so sorry. I’m…I’m not usually this much of a mess.”
“Oh.” Freddy swallowed and promptly sat. “I don’t think you’re much of a mess, compared to me, at least. But you might want to do something about the ink stains on your hands.”
Crane looked at his fingers and frowned. “Yes, there is that.” He withdrew a handkerchief from his pocket and began wiping his hands clean.
Freddy chewed at her lip. God, this was beginning to get painful. She had to say something. Anything. But what?
The words came to her before she could stop them. “I wanted to apologize to you, Healer Crane, about what happened a couple of nights ago. I…I just couldn’t sleep with it on my mind. We both know I was wrong. I shouldn’t have gotten hysterical. I shouldn’t have lashed out at you like that. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”
Crane paused, the folds of his handkerchief falling over his fine-boned, surgeon’s fingers. Behind him, the Lady of Shalott swooned effortlessly on her barge. The colors were vibrant, much like Freddy’s robe and she felt a sudden kinship with the painted figure. Adrift. Lost to fickle currents and misplaced love.
She shook her head. Geez, she was starting to sound like old Trelawney.
Crane stuffed his handkerchief back into his pants’ pocket and leaned forward. “Oh Freddy, you don’t have to apologize. I understand. Believe me, I do. It’s hard here, I know that. Your reaction was perfectly normal.”
“No, it wasn’t.” Freddy rubbed her eyes. “You…you don’t understand. I…ugh, this is going to sound so stupid.”
“What?” Crane was gazing at her with such sympathy that she found it hard to lie to him.
“It’s because I felt Mrs. Wainwright’s death first,” she replied lamely. “I could sense it. My mind had all the pieces of the puzzle, but I couldn’t put things together. And the not knowing was the worst part, the absolute worst part.”
Crane wet his lips with his tongue. “I’m afraid I’m a bit lost here.”
Freddy took a deep breath, as deep as she could with one lung and plowed ahead. “I’m a Seer.”
To his credit, he didn’t look shocked. Only puzzled. “A Seer?” he repeated. “As in Divination?”
Freddy shrugged helplessly. “Yes, I suppose. Though it’s not what you think. I…I just hate talking about it and I honestly didn’t believe it myself until the TB. Because…because I saw it, months before it happened. I knew it was coming and yet I couldn’t do anything. Well, I didn’t know I had TB, but I knew something was wrong. You see, it’s not so much having visions and Seeing the future. You have to learn to interpret your impressions, which, to be honest, I’m rubbish at.”
“Wait, wait.” Crane raised his hands, palms up and outward. “Let me get this straight. You knew Lavinia Wainwright was going to die?”
Freddy opened her mouth to contradict him, but he quickly corrected himself.
“Or rather, you felt that something was wrong, but you didn’t know exactly what,” he concluded.
“Exactly.” Freddy sighed in relief. Perhaps this Seeing business was easier to explain than she thought.
“And you felt as though something was amiss months before you came down with tuberculosis?” he asked.
“Yes,” Freddy answered. “Although I was distracted. I completely misinterpreted the signs…I thought they had to do with something else and I was wrong. Completely wrong.”
“How were you wrong?” Crane asked.
Freddy could tell he was generally curious and not the least bit judgmental. By all means, she should feel comfortable discussing this subject with him.
But she wasn’t.
“Umm.” Once more, she smoothed the scarf over her head. “I guess it had to do with some problems I’d been having, well, I was dealing with quite a few things at the time. Trying to move on.”
Crane looked confused.
Freddy tried to take another deep breath, but this time, she coughed. “I was engaged to be married several years ago… but he died.”
Crane went pale as death--as pale as one of his patients. “I’m so sorry,” he managed after a moment. “I had no idea.”
“Well, it’s a bit of a secret,” Freddy said and she attempted to laugh. The noise she emitted was dry, painful. Her throat clenched. “Not a secret, actually, I just don’t like to talk about it.”
“I can understand that.”
“No, you can’t.” She lowered her eyes, frustrated. “The whole issue is rather complicated. Do you remember, umm, do you remember about two years back, when a professor was killed at Hogwarts? He’d endangered the life of a student, tried to steal something that belonged to Headmaster Dumbledore.”
“Vaguely.” Crane’s eyes were narrowed.
“Yes, well, that was him.”
“Oh…my.” Crane’s mouth fell open. “I can’t imagine--”
“And to make matters worse, I was completely oblivious. Completely. It was horrible. I didn’t even know I had been betrayed until…until after the fact. You see, I’m so stupid.” Freddy was shocked when she felt her eyes moisten. Ugh, why did she have to be so weak? So useless?
She blinked and swallowed, biting the inside of her cheek to keep her jaw from trembling.
Crane reached into his pocket and, to her horror, produced his handkerchief again. But as he went to hand it her, he noticed the ink stains and hesitated.
“Sorry,” he muttered, embarrassed. “Sorry, I’m just sorry, for everything.”
Freddy shook her head. Oh, she shouldn’t have carried on like this! She must look like a blubbering idiot. Like a whiny fool. “No, it’s all right. I shouldn’t even be bothering you with this nonsense.”
“You’re not bothering me, Freddy. Didn’t I tell you that if you ever needed to talk you could come to me?” Crane smiled softly. “I believe there is something to be said for a cathartic experience.”
Freddy, however, still felt uncomfortable discussing Quirrell. Sniffling, she forced a grin onto her face. “Leave it to a Healer to talk about purging and what-not.”
“I suppose,” Crane laughed quietly. “But, if anything, I think I understand you better.”
“Humph, save your breath. I’m a mystery, even to myself and that certainly is not flippancy on my part,” Freddy replied, clenching her hands on her lap.
Crane leaned forward, planting his elbows on his desk. “Do you miss him?”
“My fiancé? Yes.” She hoped he wouldn’t ask her anymore. They were treading into dangerous waters as it was and Freddy was feeling particular sensitive that evening. So much for all my false bravado, she thought wryly. I’m still a bloody chicken.
Crane seemed to sense her reticent mood and fell silent. The wavering voice of the soprano alone filled the office, accompanied, oddly enough, by a glass harmonica. Freddy found herself listening to the aria, familiar as it was, with its manically high trills and discordant ornamentations.
Ohimè, sorge il tremendo fantasma e ne separa!*
“What’s this?” she asked. “Is she singing about a phantom? A ghost?”
Crane raised his eyebrows appreciatively. “You speak Italian?”
“A little,” Freddy answered, feeling shy all of sudden. “After I graduated from Hogwarts I briefly contemplated applying to the University of Turin and at the time it seemed like a good idea to pick up some Italian.”
“I changed my mind.”
Freddy turned her head and gazed at the old record player. “So is she really singing about a ghost?”
“Yes.” Crane rose from his chair, scratching his chin and headed over to the player. Next to it was an empty record slip-cover and he held it out for her inspection.
Freddy stood and crossed closer to him to get a better look. The artwork was rather disturbing, a woman in a wedding gown wielding a bloodied dagger. “Lucia di Lammermoor,” she said, reading the title. “Is that by Verdi?”
“Donizetti,” Crane corrected her. “The aria you’re listening to is infamous--Il Dolce Suono, better known as the ‘Mad Scene’.”
“That’s cheerful,” Freddy muttered, leaning forward on her tiptoes to watch the record spin beneath the needle.
Crane shifted his weight behind her. “Lucia, the lead soprano, goes mad during the third act after marrying a man she doesn’t love. On her wedding night, she fatally stabs her groom and then descends a rather well-placed staircase to face her guests, still wearing her bloodstained bridal gown.”
“Geez.” A chill ran it’s fingers along Freddy’s spine. The soprano was wailing, her voice trembling and pained. The music made Freddy’s blood freeze and she stood perfectly still, unaware of just how close Crane had drawn to her.
Al fin son tua, al fin sei mio*
When she turned around at last, his lips were brushing against hers…
Freddy jumped and leapt backward, knocking the needle off the record and causing a high-pitched, scratching sound.
“Oh my God, oh my God.”
For a moment, she had almost kissed Crane back.
He seemed to realize his mistake at once, seemed to realize that the intimacy he had created was not entirely shared by her.
“Freddy,” he groaned, dropping his hand over his face. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean--”
But she was already out the door, out into the hall. Into the dark.
Poor Lucia, she couldn’t help but think as she raced back up the stairs. Poor, poor Lucia.
Author’s Note: I think this was the first chapter I plotted of “Breathless” and, although I rarely say this, it has to be one of my favorites. Hopefully, this chapter allows for a clearer view of Crane’s motives. I know he’s come off as stalker-ish in past chapters, although he’s really just terribly awkward and socially inept.
As always, I would like to thank all my wonderful readers and reviewers, along with my dedicated betas, soliloquy and Renfair.
The next chapter is in the works and should be posted soon. Take care and enjoy the last days of spring!
Il Dolce Suono : The Sweet Sound
Il dolce suono mi colpì di sua voce! : The sweet sound of his voice struck me!
Ah, quella voce m'è qui nel cor discesa! : Ah, that voice has entered my heart!
Ohimè, sorge il tremendo fantasma e ne separa! : Alas, the tremendous phantom arises and separates us!
Al fin son tua, al fin sei mio : At last I am yours, at last you are mine
*These lines come directly from Donizett’s aria, Il Dolce Suono, featured in his opera, Lucia di Lammermoor.
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