Chapter 10 : Trivial Contrivances
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There was one splendid moment before everything split into chaos.
She was on the tip of her toes, pulling herself to her full height, dragging Albus down to meet her lips. He had no time to react and at her yank, his face whipped forward, and she kissed him without thinking about any thought. A spark of heat ran through her in the brief few seconds their lips touched and she pressed herself forward as hard as she could to cover the distance. His lips were softer than she’d imagined.
But his eyes widened in shock as he realized what she had done.
Behind her, a few wails and catcalls broke out. She knew she had no more time left, so she released him and he staggered backwards into Lucy, who was gaping, open-mouthed. It hadn’t been much of a kiss, but she’d begun it.
As soon as she saw Professor Aubrey nearing, she turned on her heel and ran out the Great Hall, feeling the stares trailing her as she left. The Hall had broken into groups of whispering and pointing and she felt herself reddening more as she walked back to the Hufflepuff Common Room, feeling unsteady.
She only managed to wobble down the first staircase before she heard someone shouting after her. “June! Stop!”
She paused mid-step. “Lucy?”
Lucy Weasley appeared around the corner, looking as though she had run to catch up. She stared at June, her eyes wide in surprise. “What just happened?”
“Um – ”
“Priscilla told me you wanted to apologize to Albus! That’s why I brought him over.”
Typical Lucy. And even more typical Priscilla.
“June, why did you do that? Do you know what he’s going to do to you? He’ll be horrible! Oh, June, I wish you thought before you did such – such stupid things. And in front of the whole school, honestly! And turning that girl into poultry! Between you and Priscilla, I’d be surprised if you shared half a brain!” Lucy ended on a near-shout, her hair frizzing around her.
June arched an eyebrow, taken aback. “Well, I’m not sorry.”
“Of course you’re not, not after that ridiculous display you put on! Albus hates that kind of thing! He’ll murder you!”
“I thought it was lovely,” said June coldly. “And if he hated it so much, he can tell me himself. I don’t need you telling me.”
Lucy’s mouth dropped. “I’m trying to help you!”
June ran up the stairs and stalked back to the Common Room, not looking backwards at Lucy, who was still standing alone.
For the next two days, June’s life was supplemented by awkward stares, the occasional jeering and once, an odd run-in with several sobbing second year Gryffindors. With her class schedule diverting her to Divination and Potions, she found herself free of Albus. And it was probably for the best.
So she contented with sitting on the cushions in Divination, coughing under the stifling heat and the overpowering scent of dust and flowers. Professor Trelawney passed them every few minutes, staring down through her huge glasses and saying utterly useless things like, “Watch harder, my dears,” or, “Let the Inner Eye lead you.”
June’s lack of luck seemed even more pronounced; she had been assigned to a table of cynical Ravenclaws, all of whom were making caustic observations every time Professor Trelawney walked by, trailing her shawls and beads and reeking of mothballs. The Ravenclaws reminded June of an angry nest of birds, throwing vague literary allusions and using indecipherable words whenever Professor Trelawney entered their vicinity.
“ – mental institute, honestly – acerbic old bat – ”
“ – waste of my life, thirty minutes gone, another thirty to go – only took it because my mum made me.”
There was a lone candle placed on their table and they were all staring blankly at it as it melted, the wax forming rings on the table.
“Remember, the study of ceromancy is an honored art,” whispered Professor Trelawney from the corner, “and you must treat it as such. With reverence. Look at the rings and allow them to tell you the truth of all things…the past…the present…”
“The present,” snorted another Ravenclaw, “that doesn’t even make sense!”
“The candles…know all. The Fates grow more weary. Winters bode ill times…take turns, predict each others’ fortunes.” As Professor Trelawney blinked her glasses to stare at their table, the Ravenclaws turned to June. “Which one of you’ll go first, my dears?”
“We’ll use her,” said Jelena Jorkins brightly, pointing to June.
“M – me?” stuttered June as the three girls grinned unabashedly.
“Come on,” said another girl June recognized with a sinking feeling: Victoria Bosworth, sister to the girl June had sent screaming out of the Great Hall. The redhead beside her was an unimpressed Rose Weasley.
“It seems the Fates have volunteered you for the cause,” said Professor Trelawney in an attempt to sound mystical.
“Fine,” said June hesitantly, after a long sigh. The three girls descended over the candle, all wearing identical conspiratorial grins.
“Look Professor,” began Jelena, “the candle wax’s falling in a wide ring.”
“And it’s January,” offered Rose, “the weather’s cold outside.”
“Indeed, indeed,” said Professor Trelawney, as though it was of any relevance at all.
“Wide rings foretell unhappiness, don’t they, Professor?” said Rose, convincingly attempting to rifle through her spellbook. “Unhappiness, infertility, tragedy…”
“January’s particularly a bad time for relationships, you know,” said Victoria, steely-eyed. “Look, the circles are falling into smaller circles. That means that you’re not meant to have children together.”
As Professor Trelawney nodded in approval, June sighed and plopped her head onto her hands. The motion sent more wax dripping onto the table, which began another tirade on the many possibilities of death by drowning that June would face next spring. Somehow, she had gone from amassing disapproval from Cora and the Gryffindors to finding enemies at every corner.
“Oh, ignore them,” said Priscilla dismissively as they prepared for bed that evening. “Jealous idiots, the lot of them.”
“Why was Rose there, though?” said Trista. “A bit creepy, isn’t it?”
“Rose Weasley is the most pathetic excuse for a human being I’ve ever encountered!” said Priscilla. “I swear it!”
“That changes like every week,” muttered Trista, “and what else is new?” She dodged the pillow that Priscilla threw her way. “I’ve heard that Rose’s been trying to set up Albus with that Victoria Bosworth girl for ages now. That’s probably why, though. Everyone in Ravenclaw’s a bit addled that way. Must be all the reading they do.”
“They’re very cynical,” said June miserably. “It’s confusing talking to them.”
“They’re impossible snobs. I tried talking to Eve Chang last week. She’s convinced everything’s a metaphor. I wanted to hex the life out of her,” said Priscilla. “Maybe she’ll stop talking about metaphors when she gets boils all over her – ”
“Eve’s nice,” mumbled June.
“Gryffindors are worse,” said Priscilla. “Have you seen them? They collect mental disorders in their spare time. Superiority complexes, stalking, schizophrenia, spontaneous transformations into poultry.” A large grin was appearing on her face. “They don’t smell too good either. It must be the idiocy.”
“Slytherins are alright,” said Trista, “They hold up most of our black market, so I think they make Desmond happy.”
“Are you kidding? All they do is grunt and consume my precious oxygen. Most of them’ll end up either in jail or asking me if I want any dessert with my dinner.” Priscilla tossed her hair over her shoulder imperiously. “Hufflepuff’s the best house.”
She turned back to June, clearly expecting some kind of response. Instead, June sat rooted, a faraway look in her eye. She started with a jump when Priscilla squinted at her.
“Thinking about Albus Potter again, are you?”
“Yes,” admitted June, “I have Charms tomorrow. I’ll see him in class. Oh, Priscilla, he’ll be so angry at me.”
“Didn’t Lucy warn you?” said Trista, settling into her sheets. “June, I wish you’d picked a nicer bloke to fancy. Anyone, really. Even Henry. Just someone who wouldn’t end up making you worry so much.”
Getting ready for Charms the next morning nearly sent June spiraling into complete nervousness.
So much for being confident, she thought haplessly as they trudged to class, kissing him was supposed to be for me.
And it had been. It had been the most wonderful twenty seconds of her life, rigid and awkward as their kiss had been. It had made her feel warm and perfect – the center of attention for once – and she had caught him unawares after all the rude things he always said about her intelligence.
The second she entered the dungeon, she made a mad dash for her seat, scrambling over several chairs and nearly knocking Trista off her feet.
“Smooth,” snorted Priscilla.
The Gryffindors filed in a neat row into the back seats, several rows behind where the Hufflepuffs sat clustered together. So far, Lucy had maintained a cool distance from June; when she entered, she took a seat between Duncan and Nicholas, and didn’t look back even when Trista waved. After the Ravenclaws came in (Rose and Victoria were smiling sourly at June as they passed by), Professor Flitwick came in, squeaking loudly about the weather and Conjuring Charms. “The practical exam’s next week, please remember to prepare!”
June nearly buried her head into her robes out of desperation.
“You may pair off – begin practicing. Please attempt to conjure any objects from last week’s lecture.” He flourished his words with a wave and the class broke out into chatter as people found partners.
“Ready?” said Priscilla, swiveling to face June, looking mildly apprehensive. “You know how to Conjure, right?”
They were both abruptly distracted by the sight of Victoria Bosworth loudly proclaiming, “Oh Rose, it’s perfect. I don’t know how you did it.”
Behind them, Cora Livingston was prodding on another Gryffindor girl, hurriedly muttering, “Look, Bosworth’s getting all the attention – come on, you ninny – ”
“Idiots,” pronounced Priscilla flatly, turning back to June. “Alright, so you’ve got a few choices on what you can try and Conjure. There’s a glass frog, a vase, or an inkwell. Obviously, the frog’s out of question. I’d try the vase if I were you.”
“Vase,” repeated June cluelessly.
“Right. Vase. It’s not that hard. Look, Potter and Weasley’ve both got their frogs done.” Priscilla scowled and tapped her wand on her desk. A white liquid squirted out of the end of her wand, immediately hardening and twisting until a shining glass frog sat squatly on her desk. “Your turn.”
For the first time in the past few days, she could feel Albus’s eyes on her back. She turned once to check the suspicion and there he was – staring her down, a ghost of a grimace already forming. A Gryffindor boy beside him was trying to get his attention, but his eyes narrowed instead as he met June’s gaze.
Terrified, she turned back to Priscilla, breaking into a light sweat. “Urm – Conjuring – um – it’s – it’s – ”
“Visualize,” said Priscilla impatiently. There was a small pop beside them as Trista handed Lucy the inkwell she’d made. June’s sweating increased. “Close your eyes, think of what you want it to look like…”
June peeked a look backwards again; Albus was swatting away one of the Gryffindor girls, his gaze on her back not wavering. His expression, for once, was entirely inscrutable.
Horrified, she frantically shut her eyes. Visualize, visualize.
He’d said something she couldn’t remember about Conjuring the last time they’d met – something about equal exchange – most if it’d just sounded rather angry. And she’d said something about him not being gay and then there had been a bit about pumpkins…
She bit her lip and tried to imagine a vase.
The image of it kept changing in her mind – it was green, then blue, then red, then blue again, then long and shaped like a cone…
She waved her wand, her mind still stuck between a stout blue vase and a tall red.
“Concentrate on one vase,” came Priscilla’s nudge from the side. “Don’t just let your mind fluctuate.”
This time, the image came to mind perfectly: a yellow vase, lean and towering. It had rested on their mantle all through her childhood – it’d been her mother’s favorite thing in their first flat. Her father had bought it for her mother some Christmas – it had been one of June’s earliest memories, watching her mother rip through the wrapping paper.
But the image of the vase slipped from her mind. The yellow grew paler and she couldn’t quite remember what flower it was shaped like. Instead, she could see the bright red wrapping paper, the floor surrounded by ornaments, and her mother ripping it open, saying happily, “Oh Albert, you shouldn’t have! It’s gorgeous!”
And she had smiled up then, still only five years old. Her mother had immediately pressed the vase into June’s hand. “Doesn’t it look lovely, darling?”
She let the feeling of warmth she had had that Christmas fill her. She thought of cinnamon and snow and warm milk and the freesia scent of her mother: all the things she would never be able to share again with her mother. A slow, cold feeling trickled down her fingers to the ends of her wand – it seemed to react instinctively and on its own, paying no heed to her own wandering mind.
Something landed on the desk with a clunk.
“June! LOOK.” Priscilla let out a small, flailing screech before grabbing June’s shoulders. “Open your eyes! Look!”
Half expecting a puddle of yellow, June reluctantly opened her eyes. Her mouth dropped immediately. “Priscilla!”
And there it was: the yellow vase from her childhood. Shaped like a tulip, edges folded perfectly up.
“I can’t believe you did it!” said Priscilla, seizing the vase and staring at it like she was expecting it to grow teeth. “I thought for sure you’d melt something again this time.”
Priscilla’s screech had attracted attention. The other Hufflepuff seventh years were staring at them, perplexed. June froze when Professor Flitwick passed them, nodding approvingly (for what was possibly the very first time in seven years) at her. “Well done, Miss Bernard, well done – good workmanship on it – the swishing movement, in particular – ”
Petrified, June ventured a backwards glance at Albus.
He wasn’t in his seat.
She breathed a sigh of relief.
Meanwhile, Priscilla had overturned the vase and was staring at the bottom of it. “Hang on, there’s something written here. I think it says – I can’t tell - ”
Trista leaned over her, squinting. “It’s To Victoria.”
“Yeah, it was my mum’s Christmas present,” said June distractedly. “My dad wrote that.”
“You remembered the details?” Priscilla and Trista exchanged a look of disbelief. “How did you do that?”
“It’s not hard, is it?”
“Not particularly for anyone else. But for you, yes,” came a snide voice from the right. They all turned to see Albus hovering over Rose’s seat one row before them, both of them wearing the same irritated smirk.
June turned red and immediately latched on to Priscilla’s shoulder.
“We weren’t talking to you, Potter,” said Trista defensively. From the side, Lucy gave them a guilty look, obviously uncomfortable. “This doesn’t involve you.”
“Funny, I think you asked more than enough with that stunt before,” said Rose, wearing the usual haughty expression. She was eyeing Priscilla with disgust. “Honestly, Albus, you’ve got my sympathy…being forced to put up with all of this.”
As Rose gave a dramatic sigh, Priscilla said over her to June, “Remember what I said about mental disorders? Case in point.”
“It’s revolting how girls throw themselves at people like us. I recall James had the same problem and of course, Fred and – ”
“I bet you never did,” said Priscilla, “looking at you induces vomiting in most people.”
“ – no respect, like Victoria was telling me, it takes a decent, intelligent girl – ” Rose raised her voice over Priscilla, though splotches of red appeared on her face. “Not that you can find any of those in this House, of course, but – ”
Rose’s glass frog suddenly hopped off the edge of the table, smashing onto the ground and into shards. As Rose scrambled to pick it up, June looked at Priscilla, who looked back, equally surprised.
Beside them, Lucy stowed away her wand surreptitiously.
“Stop saying that about us,” stammered June, “we aren’t like that.”
She stared at Rose defiantly, before shifting her gaze to Albus. He looked back, the same unreadable expression on his blank face. “You’re a waste of my time.”
“Don’t say that about me!”
“What d’you expect me to say? What the hell’s wrong with you? How could you do that – made both of us look like blithering fools in front of everyone – ” His voice had lowered to a dangerous whisper.
“I’m not a fool! Stop calling me that!” shouted June back; this time, she properly attracted the attention of the Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs beside her. She could see Duncan and Desmond attempt to look subtle while leaning in; two Slytherin girls were pointing and rolling their eyes. Priscilla and Rose were looking equally shameless about eavesdropping.
“Stop fancying me! Stop following me around, stop wasting my time on you – don’t come to my house during holiday – don’t exist, damn it – stop obsessing – ”
“I do not obsess over you!” said June, thoroughly irritated. Beside her, Rose was nodding in agreement, saying, “That’s the problem with these types.” Further irked, she half-shouted at Albus, “I don’t even fancy you!”
“Enough chatter over there!” said Professor Flitwick from the other side of the class, “Really, Miss Weasley, Mr. Potter, I expected better of you…”
“I love how he doesn’t mention us,” said Priscilla, “stupid old codger.”
Rose said something that sounded vaguely like, “Not my fault…”
Albus pulled his seat closer to June’s, still looking incensed. “Stop saying idiotic things.”
“I don’t fancy you! Priscilla was right!” Her voice was escalating until still more people had dropped pretense of Conjuring and were instead simply staring. “You’re horrible! All this time I’ve been thinking you’re some kind of Prince Charming, but – but you’re the furthest thing from him!”
“Thank God,” mumbled Priscilla.
“You’re rude to me and you always act like you’re better than me! I don’t fancy you!”
“Why the hell did you stalk me then?”
“I didn’t stalk you!” Spots of color appeared high on June’s cheeks. “I don’t stalk people and I don’t fancy you!”
There was a long pause. Professor Flitwick rounded the corner and passed them, staring disapprovingly.
“Oh really,” said Albus, whispering furiously. “Then you won’t mind if I said that I think you’re a ridiculous idiot.”
“Well, I don’t care!”
“I don’t care if you don’t care!”
“I’m surrounded by idiots,” said Priscilla gloomily.
“I think Priscilla was right after all! You are gay!”
He sputtered backwards. “What?”
“You’re gay, aren’t you? I know you are!”
The Gryffindor and Ravenclaw girls merged into one large group, all audibly whispering. “No, but what if he is – ” “Do you think she’s lying?” “If he is, I think I’m going to cry.” There was an especially loud wail of¸ “But Albus is supposed to marry me!”
“Just admit it!” said June triumphantly.
“That – ” he was visibly struggling for words. “ – that doesn’t even make sense!”
One of the girls behind him began softly crying. He wheeled around backwards to find the class staring blankly at him. Even his friends were gaping, obviously having overheard June.
“Well, really!” squeaked Professor Flitwick, “Please concentrate! That means you too, Davies, come now.”
He was promptly ignored by Albus, who was reddening. He had bypassed the usual grimace-frown-grimace routine and was turning very red. His expression grew alarmingly calm, until he stared at June and began reciting mechanically in a high voice, “Dear Albus, I haven’t known you for very long…”
June stared at him in horror. He inched closer, his eyes boring into hers.
“In fact, I’ve never actually spoken to you, but I’ve been watching you for ages. I watch you sometimes when you’re studying in the library.”
“Stop,” she whispered, mortified.
Victoria Bosworth and Rose Weasley exchanged incredulous glances. Jelena Jorkins was beginning to dissolve into a fit of giggles. From the Gryffindor side, Cora Livingston and Iris Bosworth were both leaning across the table to hear them better.
“I’m deeply in love with you. I think you and I are meant to get married someday. I feel like I’ve known you all my life.”
“My God, Albus,” grinned Rose, “you poor thing! What you have to put up with these days!”
He ignored her and continued in the same high pitch in an obvious attempt of June’s voice. “My friends said I shouldn’t write this letter, but I’m convinced you’ll see me for what I am.”
June sat still, words failing her. Albus’s Gryffindor friends broke out into raucous laughter.
For once, even Priscilla seemed speechless. Beside her, Trista was looking as if someone had hit her over the head.
Desmond was the first to try to speak. “Hey Bernard, are you – ”
June put her hand, shushing him. His last words fell away.
“Well, now really,” began Professor Flitwick, tottering their way, “I’ve had quite enough of these distractions for one day!”
June took a deep breath, and turned to face Albus. He was smirking, his green eyes glimmering in self-satisfaction. “How could you?”
“How could I what?” he drawled, leaning back lazily. “I’ve got perfect memory unfortunately, and I remember things after reading them only – ”
“No, I mean, how could you?”
“They were your words, not mine.”
“But I wrote them to you! How could you just – just - ”
“Not going to cry, are we?” said Rose, from the side.
“Shut up, you soulless worm,” snapped Priscilla.
“No,” said June expressionlessly. “No, I don’t feel like crying at all.”
For the first time, she felt nothing staring at Albus. None of the embarrassment, the butterflies, the excitement, the self-consciousness, the occasional sadness, the feelings of inferiority…it was a new emotion. Red-hot and unfamiliar to her skin.
She felt angry.
“You’re pathetic,” she snapped, making no effort to conceal her voice. It echoed around the dungeon. She had never been as thankful for Professor Flitwick’s partial deafness as she was when the echo reverberated. “I think you’re the idiot!”
“What?” the self-satisfied smirk slipped off his face.
“I said I think you’re the idiot! I’m sorry I kissed you! That was a complete waste of my life too!” Trista attempted tugging at her arm to make her stop, but June swatted her away. “You’re rude to me – you think you’re so much better than me!”
“It isn’t hard, believe me,” he began to snort.
She stood up, glaring at him. “Shut up!”
“What did you say?”
“I told you to shut your fat mouth!”
“Really, Miss Bernard, that’s quite enough,” began Professor Flitwick.
“You’re revolting! Why any girl would fancy you is beyond me! I don’t care if you’re rich or whatever! You made a complete joke out of me!” She could see Albus’s expression hardening. “And you keep telling me that I’m a waste of your time. You’re a waste of mine too!”
“Are you done?” he said, looking disdainful. “Well, that certainly was educational, wasn’t it? I don’t particularly care what people think, least of all you, who can barely do so in the first place…”
The same smirk reappeared. June gripped her wand harder, feeling the sweat slide down from her palms. She gritted her teeth; she couldn’t remember the last time anybody or anything had made her more furious than watching him sit back and stare at her coldly did.
All the feelings she’d had for him. The months she’d spent watching him, pretending that any of this had been real or worthwhile – convinced that someday, this would work out…all that time and happiness and bubbly feelings…spent on him when he didn’t respect her even a little.
She could see Professor Flitwick frowning as he walked towards her. He was in hearing distance now – partial deafness or not – but it hardly mattered anymore. She looked down at him, repulsion overwhelming her.
“You’re an arsehole. Go burn in hell where you belong.”
It took two seconds for her to knock over her chair and send it clattering onto the floor. It took three for the others to process what she had said. It took ten seconds for Professor Flitwick to give her a week’s worth of detention.
It took thirty seconds for her to cross across the dungeon, wrench the door open and leave.
She stomped back to the Hufflepuff Common Room, half-expecting Priscilla or Trista to follow her.
Instead, she walked back alone, opened the Portrait Hole and ran up the staircase into the dormitories. She stopped at the foot of her bed, still flushed and opened her trunk, rifling through the contents inside. She threw out everything onto the floor – robes, shoes, some quills – until she found what she was looking for.
She sat among the small sea of her school things and stared at it, willing herself to do what she had promised herself she would.
There it was.
A crumpled letter stuffed in an envelope stained with pumpkin juice. She had clumsily written To: Albus S. Potter on the cover before she had given it to him that day before their winter holiday.
She didn’t need to open it again. He had recited the contents of it perfectly not ten minutes ago.
What a miserable travesty all of it had become.
Somewhere along this whole process, Fifi LaFolle had lied to her. Lied splendidly. Constructed an entire façade about Hogwarts; she had made it seem like all the magnificent things that had happened to Harriet and Daniel were possible with June.
How idiotic. How tragic.
Feeling utterly exhausted, June balled the letter up in her hand. It was a confusing conclusion to the events that happened since winter – the confession, the earthquake, moving into the Potter house, New Years’, blackmailing him, and finally kissing him. All of it to come to this kind of a conclusion.
She didn’t think she could ever read Fifi LaFolle again – not without wanting to strangle Daniel Whitman, the dreamy Gryffindor Quidditch captain the girls swooned after. There was nothing particularly swoon-worthy about him anymore. He was as arrogant as Albus was, he ridiculed Harriet, argued with her, held himself above everyone else…somehow, her enchantment with him had broken. Not after she had lived it and felt the backlash.
Sitting alone on the floor, June decided that there were many things she needed.
She needed to pass Charms practical examination next week. She needed to bring up her marks in Potions. She needed to decide on some sort of career before the year ended. She needed to find a job and pay for a flat for her father and move him out of Mrs. Potter’s home.
There were many things June needed, but she no longer needed Albus.
She dangled the letter in front of her and extracted her wand from her pocket.
She could still smell the pumpkin juice from that day; she held her wand tip to the center of the letter.
She watched it burn, feeling far less regretful than she’d thought she’d be. The next week promised difficulties: the examination, a weeklong detention with Madame Lucinda, cleaning bedpans in the Hospital Wing…and no doubt, she’d have even more of Albus’s fangirls after her head.
It didn’t matter, she decided as she flushed the letter’s ashes down the toilet.
Her life was beginning to seem very strange, but she slowly and surely, she was growing up.
Author's Note: Urm...so, please don't kill me for this chapter. I know I'm kind of a horrible person for doing this to June and for taking so long to update. A lot of you were perceptive about it last chapter, so I am impressed. Things are looking bleak for Junebus, but both of them obviously have some growing up left to do. I'd say June's got a head start, though, and she'll keep growing as we proceed. I'd love to know your thoughts on this chapter and on her reaction in the Charms dungeon. :D
My thanks go to Gina (justonemorefic) for helping me and listening to me rant about this story late at night. Also, a quick shoutout to JessicaLily on the forums for nominating this story for a Best Quote Dobby. Thanks so much, love! It made my day to see!
And of course, my thanks go to you guys, for helping me pass the 100 review mark and for keeping 'Bathing' afloat for so long. Updates will be less frequent from now, since I'm entering college, but I promise to keep updating!
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