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Harry Potter and the Time of Second Chances by Neville James
Chapter 31 : Strength In Numbers
Rating: 12+Chapter Reviews: 13

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Chapter 25: Strength in Numbers

The days following Hermione’s death were some of the darkest Harry had lived through yet. He had awoken in a dimly lit room with his head pounding and memories of what he had seen still fresh in his mind. Looking around the room, Harry did not have time to focus on anything before leaning over the edge of his bed and being sick all over the floor.

Seconds after righting himself into a sitting position, the door to the room burst open and a red and puffy-faced Mrs. Weasley came running in.

‘Harry, are you alright dear? Oh Harry,’ she said at seeing the mess on the floor.

He looked up at her for a moment and tried to block out the thoughts of what he’d seen before passing out. He saw Mrs. Weasley use her wand to clean his mess and he turned to ask her the only question on his mind.

‘Hermione. Is she-’ he paused, not wanting to say it else it might be true.

Molly simply stared at him silently as her eyes filled with tears and then streaked down her face. That was all the answer he needed.

‘I’m so sorry Harry,’ she cried, and rushed over to pull him into a hug.

Harry normally would have liked to be alone, but as Mrs., Weasley would obviously be feeling the pain as well, he hugged her back and tried to fight the urge to be sick again. Hermione was gone. One of his very best friends in the world was dead and there had been nothing he could do about it. He thought about her prone figure on the hallway floor, and then the glassy and empty look in her eyes once Ron had rolled her over. This thought made him think of his other closest friend.

‘What of Ron?’ he managed to ask quietly and felt Mrs. Weasley’s body wrack as she let out a sob.

‘Oh Harry, it’s not good. They’ve had him in St. Mungos now for three days and he won’t speak to anyone,’ she said and covered her mouth as she trembled.

‘Three days?’ Harry asked suddenly. ‘I’ve been asleep for three days? Why did nobody wake me? I could have been there for Ron,’ he added slightly angry.

‘We tried Harry, but you just wouldn’t have it. We had you at St. Mungos as well and even the best Healers couldn’t get you to stir. They said that when someone suffers something as traumatic-’ she paused and trembled again at the thought. ‘Sometimes people don’t want to wake up Harry,’ she said.

‘Has that happened to Ron?’ he asked, fearful of losing his other closest friend.

‘No, he hasn’t slept since that night,’ she told him gravely. ‘I try to talk to him everyday, but he won’t have any of it. He simply stares off at the wall with a blank expression. I don’t know what I’ll do if I lose him,’ she began to sob once more.

Harry pulled himself together best he could and tried to push his pain to the back of his mind. He had to be strong; for Ron, for Mrs. Weasley, and definitely for Hermione. The cleverest, most brilliant and astounding girl he had ever met was no longer around because Voldemort had sent his followers to kill her. Harry knew this would happen and now it had begun; Voldemort was going to hurt him by taking away the things he loved the most. Ron was not safe at St. Mungos.

‘Mrs. Weasley, I know this is terrible and everyone is hurting but we have to stay strong. If we don’t, Voldemort wins.’ The redheaded woman started at his use of the Dark Lord’s name and Harry tried not to lose his patience. ‘He had obviously been waiting for an opportunity to get one of the closest people to me and he jumped at the window over holidays. Ron will be next if I’m right. We have to get him out of St. Mungos now,’ he said in a firm voice and got to his feet to look for his clothes.

Mrs. Weasley looked startled for a moment, but then collected herself as well and got to her feet. ‘Harry, Ron is not in danger from you-know-who. Though I’m sure Hermione was on a list,’ her expression faltered momentarily at the use of Hermione’s name, ‘she was not the only person harmed over the holidays.’

Harry felt sick again and sat back down on the bed. If she told him that any of his other friends were gone there was no way he would wake up from whatever sleep took him.

‘Who else?’ he ventured to ask, hoping with all his might that his friends were safe.

‘I don’t have any names to give you Harry,’ Mrs. Weasley said sadly. ‘All we know is that eight other Hogwarts students were attacked in their homes over break. Every one of them was Muggle-born, leaving them without any sort of magical defense.’

Harry stared in shock at what he heard. Of all the things Voldemort could do, he chose the most simple and cowardly plan of attack. Death Eaters preying on the students without magical parents was simply less than an unfair fight and Harry should really have guessed that to be the plan. He had after all begun by eliminating the Squibs, and the only thing with less magic than them was a Muggle. All of a sudden Harry’s eyes widened as he thought of something.

‘Mrs. and Mr. Granger?’ he shouted. ‘Did they make it out alright?’

‘Yes dear,’ Mrs. Weasley said; the tears in her eyes began to glisten as they built up once more. ‘From what they told Tonks, Hermione managed to hold the Death Eaters off alone for nearly twenty minutes before-’ she stopped again to cover her mouth in grief.

Harry took a moment to process all he had just learned. Hermione was gone but her parents were safe, Ron was in some sort of shock and unresponsive to guests, and Voldemort had attacked eight others on the same night as Hermione. What was he supposed to do? How did someone deal with so much grief and danger without showing signs of hurt? It was exactly what Harry intended to do, yet somehow he felt he would be hurting those closest to Hermione by not showing his pain. For now it was something he would have to do, for grief would not yield any productive end. On the other hand, vengeance would be the closest thing Harry felt could lessen his pain.

Taking a good look around the room he was in, Harry noticed a familiar portrait on the wall and realised for the first time where he was. The stern face of Phineas Nigellus stared down at him with narrowed eyes, causing Harry to throw him a look that dared him to say anything disrespectful. Phineas took this as a serious threat and nodded briskly before leaving his frame; most likely to report to Dumbledore.

‘Why am I here?’ Harry asked. ‘Why couldn’t I stay at St. Mungos or go back to Hogwarts?’ he pressed, upset that he was once again in the one place that could dredge up more painful memories at the worst possible time.

‘Professor Dumbledore thought at first that perhaps your theory was correct and wants to ensure that you and your closest friends are out of harms way while things are taken care of,’ Mrs. Weasley told him.

‘While things are taken care of?’ Harry asked scathingly, surprising Molly. ‘What exactly does that mean? Is dealing with Hermione’s death a chore to all of you? Is it something that you all have to clean up?’ he continued to vent his anger.

‘Harry calm down. You know that’s not what I meant,’ the short woman said with a stern look on her face. ‘You were not the only person to care for Hermione and I never want to hear you talk like that again,’ she scolded. ‘I came here to make certain that you were alright, though I know that’s hardly plausible, and now I’m going to go back downstairs and join the others for dinner. If you feel up to it you should join us. You must be hungry.’

‘I want to go see Ron,’ Harry said firmly, but the immediate stony look on Mrs. Weasley’s face told him that no matter how hard he tried there would be no leaving Grimmauld Place.

Harry did not want to see anyone but Ron at the moment and he did not have the patience to sit around in a home filled with old memories and heartache while people did their best to comfort him. He was about to turn Mrs. Weasley’s offer of dinner down when his stomach grumbled and he conceded to the fact that he was actually quite hungry.

‘I’ll be down in a few moments,’ Harry said and tried to force a smile onto his face to appease Mrs. Weasley before she left the room.

Several minutes passed while Harry did a shortened version of his Occlumency training, effectively clearing his mind and doing his best not to exhibit any signs of emotion. For the first time in his life he found himself wishing that Professor Snape was there to help him in his exercise

Harry then walked down the three flights of stairs to the main floor where he could faintly hear the voices of Mrs. Weasley and her older sons speaking quietly. He opened the kitchen door and found all of the Weasleys save for Ron and Ginny seated around the long table with Fleur, Gabrielle, Remus, Marc and the other inhabitants of the Nest. Harry had completely forgotten that Marc had been with him and Ron three nights ago.

Looking at the curly-haired boy’s face, it was instantly obvious that he was in pain just as the others in the room were. Dark circles had taken up residence under his eyes and his regular uplifting face was hardened and serious like Harry had never seen. Next to him were the twins and Lee Jordan, and all of them were looking just a morose. Fred and George Weasley were well known for their uplifting personalities, but today, there was not even the slightest indication in their features that anything remotely funny had ever happened in their presence.

Across from them were Bill, Charlie, Angelina, Alicia, Fleur and Gabrielle, all of whom looked deeply disturbed; Fleur and Gabrielle’s normally flawless faces were blotched with red and their eyes were puffy as evidence of their crying.

‘Are you feeling better, Harry?’ Remus asked in a quiet voice, though he knew what the reply would be.

‘I’m fine,’ Harry gave a monotone response without looking up, and then reached over to start piling food onto his plate.

He could feel everyone’s gazes on him as he began to eat and tried his best to pretend they were not there. There was really no time to waste on getting emotional; Hermione would not be avenged by crying. Everybody ate in relative silence, only curt requests for dishes interrupting the quiet meal, until a knock on the front door had Mrs. Weasley getting up to answer it.

Moments later Mrs. Weasley returned, closely followed by an extremely tired-looking Headmaster. Dumbledore walked into the room and took a seat next to Arthur, sighing heavily and removing his glasses to wipe them clean. It was the first time Harry had ever seen the Headmaster remove his lenses, and he was disappointed to find the normally sparkling blue orbs behind them to be flat and tired.

‘Has there been any more news Albus,’ Arthur asked cautiously, and Harry realised he meant to ask about the other people attacked.

‘Yes Arthur,’ the old wizard sighed once more. ‘I’m afraid that as of ten minutes ago, Hogwarts’ numbers went down by one more. Travis Trenalee simply could not be helped any more, nor could he hold on any longer.’

Harry watched as Mrs. Weasley held a hand to her mouth and he noticed the tears in many others’ eyes. He did not know Travis well, but remembered seeing the boy sorted into Ravenclaw his fourth year and regretted not getting to know him better.

‘How many all together?’ Harry spoke up suddenly and everyone at the table looked at him oddly.

‘What do you mean, Harry?’ Dumbledore asked in response.

‘Mrs. Weasley told me that nine students were attacked, and now I know that two of them are gone. I would like to now how many other of my classmates were murdered,’ he explained in the same steady voice he had answered Remus with.

Dumbledore looked at him oddly for the briefest of moments before taking a breath and answering.

‘There are currently three survivors,’ he said sadly. ‘Zacharius Smith of Ravenclaw has been sent home to recuperate and should make a full recovery. Dennis Creevey has also been released but refuses to leave his brother, who unfortunately has yet to be successfully awakened from whatever particular curse he was struck by.’

Harry continued to keep his face emotionless, but felt his cheek twitch slightly at the mention of Collin Creevey’s name. Hard as he tried, he could not help but feel badly for the fifth year Prefect that had started his fan club and constantly been there to support him. He now felt even more guilty for having torn into him months back. Harry cleared his mind again and found it increasingly difficult to listen as Dumbledore listed the students who had not made it. Counting Hermione and Travis, there were now two less Hufflepuffs, one less Ravenclaw and then of course another Gryffindor. Harry nearly exploded when he heard of Deidre’s death.

The small first year girl had been so kind and had not deserved to be attacked and murdered in her home. Harry could now feel his rage rising and used all the power he had to focus on his Occlumency exercises as the light above the table began to flicker. He started to calm down and reopened his eyes when Dumbledore made his next comment.

‘Save for one student, Harry, the survivors were all students whose names were written on your sign up sheet for Dumbledore’s Army.’

Harry could not help but look up at the Headmaster at this point with curiosity.

‘I realise you must be feeling a lot at this time, but I feel it would be prudent to ask if you might consider restarting your group, only this time allowing students from all houses to participate.’

Harry could only groan inwardly as he thought about what it would mean to restart the D.A. He did not have the time to try and teach the entire school hexes and curses, especially when he would be constantly interrupted by the less than cooperative Slytherins.

‘I’ll refuse to join again if the Slytherins participate,’ came Ginny’s shaky voice from the doorway, and Harry turned to see her puffy red face set in a stony glare at the Headmaster. ‘You might still be set on House unity Professor,’ she nearly spat in obvious anger, ‘but you’re simply clinging onto false hope. The Slytherins will never be our allies.’

‘Ginny!’ Mrs. Weasley shouted at her daughter’s surprising behaviour.

‘No mum,’ Ginny continued to talk through a clenched jaw. ‘You might all be trying to avoid the obvious, but I refuse to. Each house lost two students, and Gryffindor had twice the number of attempts, while Slytherin had none. You can argue with this until you’re blue in the face Headmaster,’ she ground out, ‘but in the end, my best friend is dead and I refuse to be a part of a group that teaches anything to the enemy.’

All of the Weasley’s simply stared at Ginny in disbelief as she stared them all down coldly. Dumbledore watched her with interest and what Harry figured was sympathy. While surprised by her comments, Harry knew that every person at the table knew what she said to be true, and for that reason they stayed silent.

‘Now if you’ll excuse me,’ Ginny said coldly, ‘I have friends to remember while you all plan the quickest way to aid their attackers.’

This being said, the small red-haired girl turned on her heel and stomped back up the stairs to her bedroom. Harry was surprised when Marc jumped to his feet and quickly ran out of the kitchen after her. The rest of the gathered
company appeared just as surprised.

The next few moments were spent in silence as everyone simply stared at their plates of food, or at a blank patch on the wall. Harry was the first to speak when he noticed Dumbledore was still waiting for a response.

‘I’m sorry Professor, but Ginny’s right. I can’t teach students who are possibly going to take what they learn and use it on one of us. I would never forgive myself.’

‘But Harry,’ Remus interrupted then and placed a hand on his shoulder, only to remove it quickly when Harry looked down at it, ‘You could really help the students who need and deserve the training. Don’t punish them because you want to punish the Slytherins.’

‘I’m sorry sir,’ he answered the werewolf formally, and turned back to Dumbledore. ‘I’ve made my mind up. Neville asked me earlier this year to restart the D.A., and I told him the same thing then. I did however have another suggestion.’

Dumbledore raised an eyebrow and waited for Harry’s idea, hoping it would be nearly as good as the boy’s secret Defense society.

‘I believe that the students would do well to restart the dueling club sir. We could all use the practice, and honestly when the time comes, it will be our ability to duel that saves us.’

Harry was surprised to see the Headmaster think about it for a moment before the edges of his mouth turned upward and a tiny bit of the sparkle in his eyes returned. ‘Wonderful idea Harry,’ he said and turned to Remus. ‘I’ll assume that Professor Lupin here was the Duelling Professor you had in mind.’

‘One of them, yes. But he’s not good enough alone.’ Harry replied, and saw the surprise on both men’s faces.

‘You don’t feel I could do it alone?’ Remus asked honestly. ‘I thought we did quite well over summer,’ he added in his defense.

‘I meant no disrespect sir, but no,’ Harry explained. ‘I simply mean that none of the teachers I have in mind would be ideal to teach us alone, but together you could offer us everything we would need.’

‘And who exactly have you elected to be my partner?’ Remus asked curiously.

‘Well, I think, and I may be wrong, but your Defense work paired with Professor Snape’s dueling abilities and Professor Flitwick’s Charms would be more than perfect.’

‘Snape?’ Remus said in surprise, and Harry laughed inwardly to see the shocked expressions on everyone’s faces around him.

‘Yes, Snape,’ Harry replied calmly. ‘While he and I may not be the best of friends, I cannot deny his abilities with a wand any more than I can his influence over his students. The Slytherins would not willingly participate in a club led by me, or even you sir,’ he looked at Remus, ‘but I am more than certain they would join a club led by their Head Of House.’

‘I agree,’ Dumbledore said now, but was interrupted as everyone at the table turned towards the entrance hall, from where loud shouts were now emerging.

One voice was clearly the shrill and rasping voice of Mrs. Black, but the other surprised many of them when they stepped through the doorway to find Marc bellowing, red-faced at the old woman, not even a foot away from the portrait.


‘YOU SHUT YOUR COW MOUTH YOU WRETCHED WOMAN!’ Marc shouted back ferociously, stopping everyone in the door.

Lupin made to move forward and close the hangings, but Dumbledore held up a hand so to leave Marc another minute. No one understood what was happening so they continued to watch in wonder.


Those were the last words Harry ever heard emerge from Mrs. Black’s portrait.

‘DON’T YOU DARE! I HATE YOU!’ Marc screamed, before lifting his wand and slashing it down in a complicated pattern while screaming a curse Harry never thought he would hear. ‘MORSUS ADIFICIO!’

Mrs. Black’s terrified howls were joined by Mrs. Weasley’s shriek of surprise while she watched along with the other Order members as a blinding white light emerged from the painting for several moments before fading along with the screams. When Harry unshielded his eyes he found Marc panting heavily as he glared at the now immobile portrait of Mrs. Black.

‘Now you’ll never hurt my family again,’ he hissed scathingly at the portrait to everyone’s surprise, before reaching up with a hand and tearing a large gash through the center of her face.

This being done, he turned to face the many shocked faces in the doorway before nodding curtly and rushing up the stairs to his room.

Before anyone could ask what had just transpired, the Headmaster looked up with a smile and announced his departure. ‘As soon as term restarts I will speak with Severus and Filius and ask them if they are willing to help. I am certain that this dueling club will help immensely.’

Harry nodded his approval and said a quick goodbye to the Headmaster before heading to the staircase to find out exactly what he had just seen. He stopped for a moment though as he passed Mrs. Black’s silent portrait and turned with a smirk. ‘Besides, if the Slytherins join, it will give the other students incentive to do well in hexing and cursing.’


The next morning, Harry found himself wrinkling his nose and squinting his eyes at the sterile smell and blindingly white colour of the corridors of St. Mungos hospital for magical maladies. The drive to the hospital had been uneventful and uncomfortable; he had gone with Remus and Arthur, and neither of them knew what to say to him the whole way there so they remained silent.

Harry had tried speaking to Marc the night before about his scene with the portrait, but Marc had simply shrugged it off and told him that she had annoyed him. Harry did not believe it, but as it was clear the boy was still hurting from Hermione’s loss, he decided not to press any further for the time being.

Once on the floor for severe magical injury and irreversible damage, Harry made his way straight toward a medi-witch who directed him to Ron’s room. Mr. Weasley and Lupin agreed to give him five minutes alone with Ron, but warned him not to expect too much as they had now been told Ron was lost. Refusing to believe this, Harry stepped into the bright room and closed the door tightly behind him.

The entire room was stark white, and held only three pieces of furniture. A single metal chair was against the wall, next to a low desk with several Quidditch magazines littering its top, and up against the far wall was a small bed covered in white linen that housed a red-haired teenager. Harry walked over to the bed and looked down at his best friend who looked to him like he was daydreaming. He sat down on the edge of the bed and thought of what to say while Ron continued to stare at the wall with a blank expression.

‘Hey Ron,’ he started by dropping his mask and smiling. ‘I don’t know what to say right now because I know nothing will help. I loved Hermione too, but you already knew that. Everyone’s real worried about you, you know, and the healers have told your mum that they’ve lost you now too. I know that’s not true though,’ he said and dropped a hand onto Ron’s knee. ‘I know it’s not true, because I know you wouldn’t leave me all alone to deal with this. You wouldn’t leave me too.’

Ron simply stared off at the wall without any acknowledgement of Harry’s presence in the room.

‘You have to come home Ron,’ he said now. ‘I need you to come home. I can’t make Voldemort pay alone, and I want you to be the one to help me. If there’s one other person who understands the mistake Voldemort made in killing our best friend, it’s you Ron.’

Still Ron said nothing. Harry looked up at his pale, freckled face and his dimmed blue eyes before sighing and getting to his feet. He had thought for certain that Ron would answer him, or at least explain why he was refusing to speak to anyone.

‘I’m sorry you lost her Ron. I’ll come back and see you when I can,’ he said quietly in defeat before heading to the door to leave.

‘How do we kill him?’ Ron’s cracking voice made Harry turn around. ‘How exactly do we make Voldemort pay?’

The next several hours were filled with Healers asking questions, and visitors being ecstatic at Ron miraculous recovery. Harry could not help but smile at Ron’s obvious dislike of the attention. It served him right for putting on his little act; Hermione being gone was no reason to shut himself off from everyone else.

After being forced to wait in the corridor for nearly an hour, Harry decided that he would pay Collin and Dennis a visit to pass the time. He told Mr. Weasley where he would be and then quickly took the stairs to the next floor where he knew he would find the brothers, and most likely Gilderoy Lockhart as well.

Walking into the familiar long room turned out to be far more depressing than Harry had anticipated. The white walls remained white, but seemed to be slightly grey now in appearance. Professor Lockhart was in fact present but fast asleep, greatly reducing the noise level in the somber room. Harry glanced to the left and found that Collin was still very much unconscious in the bed that had once been host to a member of the Order and a carnivorous plant.

As he approached the bed, Dennis lifted his head from where it lay next to his brothers still body.

‘Harry?’ he said calmly but with a hint of surprise. ‘What are you doing here?’

Harry smiled at the small boy and tried to look cheerful for his sake. Dark circles had taken up under his eyes and Harry had never seen the Gryffindor enthusiast look less lively.

‘I Thought I’d pop in for a quick visit Dennis. How is he doing?’

‘The healers say that he’ll be just fine as soon as he wakes up. But the problem is they can’t say when that’ll be,’ Dennis replied sadly and reached up to grab hold of his brother’s hand. ‘I’m sure he’ll be glad to know that you stopped by though,’ he added and gave a weak smile.

‘Be sure to tell him the instant he wakes up alright,’ Harry told the boy encouragingly, pulling a genuine smile onto his face as he nodded.

‘The Headmaster told me you did a great job defending yourselves,’ Harry said now, deciding that the small boy could use all the perks he could get.

‘Did he?’ he asked in surprise. ‘I didn’t really do all that much. Just a few shields and things of the sort. You should have seen Collin though. He kept them away long enough for mum and Dad to get away. I was so proud of him.’

‘I’m sure you both did a wonderful job, and I wanted to tell you personally that when we get back to Hogwarts, Dumbledore has given me permission to restart the Dueling club. Would you be interested?’

Harry nearly laughed out loud at the excitement that filled the younger boy’s face as he nodded enthusiastically. This was the Dennis Creevey Harry knew.

‘Alright Dennis, take care and I’ll see both of you back at school.’

Walking back toward the door, Harry looked down to the other end of the long room and found that the last section had its hangings pulled shut around it. He remembered this section to house the Longbottoms and suddenly felt saddened as he thought of Neville. He did not envy the boy at all. Terrible as it was to think, Harry was glad that his parents were dead and gone, and not suffering in a mental ward where they could not even recognize one another. That would have been torture for him.

Harry walked passed the door and toward the beds at the end of the room, deciding that perhaps he could say hello to the parents of one of his good friends. Certainly visitors would not harm them. Harry stopped several beds away when he heard an old woman’s voice from behind the hanging and recognized it to be Mrs. Longbottom’s, Neville’s grandmother.

‘Oh yes Frank, you would have been very proud of him,’ her gruff voice said. ‘He fought very bravely alongside Harry Potter himself and came out with hardly a scratch.’

Harry stayed where he was, listening to the old woman praise her grandson for what he understood to be the first time.

‘Unfortunately he broke your wand though Frank, but now he’s been using yours Alice dear. He’s been doing remarkably lately and I think that after all these years it may have actually been the wand,’ she gave a small chuckle. ‘Anyhow, we must be going now. Say goodbye Neville, and I’ll be waiting in the corridor,’ she said in her regular rough tone.

Harry froze. Neville was just on the other side of the curtain and he really did not want to be seen by him. Harry remembered the last time he’d seen the blonde boy visiting his parents and thought of how embarrassed and uncomfortable he had appeared. Harry turned quickly to leave, but only made it about ten steps away before he felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to find Mrs. Longbottom staring at him from underneath her enormous vulture hat.

‘Mister Potter,’ she addressed him. ‘How nice of you to stop by for a visit. Does Neville know you’re here?’ she inquired.

‘Not yet, no.’ he answered sheepishly and continued to explain that he was just about to go and say hello.

‘Very well. Neville should be out in a moment. Simply tell him that when the two of you are done speaking, that he can come and find me in the tea room.’

Harry nodded and said goodbye to the elderly woman as she left the room. Once again alone, Harry started back to the curtain, intending to go in and s ay hello to his friend and his parents. Unfortunately, as he got closer he could once again hear Neville speaking and decided to wait until he was done before intruding. He considered leaving, but then decided that Neville would be asked how his meeting with Harry had gone and would then seem rude. Instead he simply waited.

‘It wasn’t all that really,’ he heard Neville say. ‘Harry did most of the work really. All I did was get in the way and then I broke your wand.’

Harry did not need to see Neville to know that he was looking ashamed as he spoke to his father. Harry felt badly for him and wanted nothing more than to tell him that he had been incredibly useful at the Department of Mysteries.

‘Gran wasn’t lying though when she said I’ve gotten better at my spells. It’s incredible really. I’m not really supposed to tell anyone, but I have to tell you both because I’m not sure how I feel about it. I spoke with Dumbledore the other day in his office, and I found out that I’m Godric Gryffindor’s heir, and that you were before me dad. I guess you didn’t know, but now I do and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.’

There was pause then, and Harry nearly expected a response from one of the boy’s parents, but nothing came but a soft rustling noise and then Neville thanked his mother. Harry realised that she must have given him another sweet wrapper.

‘No matter what happens, I promise I’ll make you both proud. Harry is a little worried about what will happen, but I don’t really care. I have one thing to do and if it’s the last thing I do, I promise I’ll make her pay,’ Neville’s voice sounded lower and full of bitterness.

Harry’s eyes widened as he heard this and he was not sure what to do. Neville was planning on getting revenge for his parents, but when and how did he intend to do it? Harry felt suddenly worried as he thought of Neville confronting Bellatrix on his own. There was no way he could defeat her, and he would probably end up in a bed next to his parents leaving Harry with more guilt than he could bear. One more thing he would have to deal with once school restarted.

‘Dumbledore told me something else though,’ Neville’s voice seemed uneasy now, and Harry crept closer to better hear what he was about to tell them.

Slightly parting the hangings, Harry could see Neville’s back as he faced his parents each in their respective beds. Mrs. Longbottom had not changed at all since the last time Harry had seen her at St. Mungos, however Harry was deeply saddened when he thought of how she and her husband had appeared at his parents wedding several months back.

‘I know it’s hard to believe, but mum, I finally got the family trait.’

Harry watched as, for the briefest of moments, Alice Longbottom looked up at her son and smiled. It warmed Harry through to see her look like that, even though it was barely a sliver of what she had once looked like while smiling. Neville appeared to agree with Harry’s thoughts as he rushed forward and hugged his mother tightly.

‘This is really great,’ Neville said then, in an extremely decisive voice. ‘Now I’ve got help from both of you, and not just you dad. It’s as though someone wants me to finally get back at that foul woman.’

This statement was followed by a moment of silence before Neville leaned forward and gave both of parents a hug. Harry decided to walk away quietly at that point and waited for Neville near the door. Not a moment later, the blond boy turned the corner looking rather pleased for having just visited with his parents.

‘Harry?’ he called when he saw him. ‘What are you doing here?’

‘I came to see Ron and the Collin, and then I saw you gran. She told me to wait for you and that she’d be in the tea room.’

Neville nodded, and became significantly more solemn. ‘I’m sorry about Ron and Hermione,’ he said quietly. ‘I went to see Ron earlier, but he didn’t answer me. I’m used to that though,’ he said and nodded toward his parents. ‘I’m sure he’ll get better soon,’ he added hopefully.

‘He already is,’ Harry grinned. ‘He’s getting ready downstairs as we speak. I’m taking him home tonight.’

‘That’s great!’ Neville nearly shouted. ‘Let him know I said hello, and make sure he knows that everyone’s here for him alright?’ Neville said with a small smile as the pair walked out into the corridor. ‘It probably doesn’t make him feel any better, but at least he got one of those bloody Death Eaters. If it does help, let him know he’s got my full support in what he did and I’ll say it in front of the entire Wizengamot if I have to. We’ll get the other one for taking Hermione away.’

Harry was not sure how to respond to Neville’s last comments. What did he mean he would stand behind Ron in court? ‘What do you mean by court Neville?’ he asked quietly and looked around to ensure no one was listening.

‘His trial of course. I’m sure the Minister will want it done immediately now that Ron’s leaving. Oh, and tell him that I’ll help him plan something extremely vile for that Skeeter woman. The nerve of that woman.’

Harry nodded dumbly at Neville as he said goodbye and headed back to collect Ron. Everything Neville had said swam through his head, and nearly all of it worried him greatly. The way Neville was speaking about helping Ron was very unlike him. Neville was not one to ask for a fight, and he nearly never stood up for himself. Being Gryffindor’s heir did explain Neville’s improved abilities with a wand, but not his new attitude. What exactly had the Headmaster told him?

Harry’s thoughts were then led to the part about Ron being tried. How could the Minister possibly try him for defending Hermione? He had used the killing curse though, and he was underage on top of that. Harry shook his head as he walked up to where Ron was now standing, looking extremely disgruntled as a medi-witch fussed with his coat collar.

It was not before six o’clock that evening that Ron Weasley walked back into the entrance hall of Number 12 Grimmauld Place, where he was instantly smothered by the longest hug Harry had ever witnessed take place. When his mother finally let him go, he gasped for breath and took his first chance to get away by telling her that he needed to get to bed on the healers orders. Harry followed him up the stairs, explaining that he too needed the rest.

Harry decided not to tell Ron about what he had overheard at St. Mungos, figuring he would wait until more time had passed and Hermione’s death could be dealt with. The boys had an unspoken agreement not to discuss Hermione for the time being and other than the few plans about Defense work, they stayed silent and did actually try their best to rest; they both knew they would need it.

The next day was New Year’s Eve and the last day before the start of winter term. Everyone would be returning to their homes today, and several students would be returning to the castle for a private ceremony to be held in Hermione’s honour. Her closest friends and family would meet by the lake on Hogwarts’ grounds, where the Headmaster said a memorial would lie for Miss Granger.

Harry had not dreamed the night before and was extremely thankful, figuring if he had, it most likely would have been a nightmare in which he re-witnessed Hermione’s death. He woke up early and went down to the kitchen where he was unsurprised to find Remus sitting at the table drinking from a bright blue cup and reading the Daily Prophet. This sparked something in Harry’s mind and had him walk over to where Remus was seated.

‘What did Rita Skeeter write about Ron?’ he asked in a plain voice as he took a seat.

Remus looked up from his copy of the Prophet and sighed before getting to his feet and walking out of the kitchen. Harry waited patiently for several moments before the werewolf returned and with a heavy heart dropped an older copy of the Prophet in front of him. Harry looked down at the bolded headline and felt anger rise within him.

Death Eaters Attack Muggleborns: Only 3 Survivors

Late last evening when most families had concluded their holiday festivities, a well-orchestrated Death Eater attack was ordered on eight homes throughout England. Shocking as it may be, the truly disturbing fact appears when one realises that each of the homes attacked housed a Muggleborn student form Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Each student attacked found themselves defenseless in the sense that their Muggle parents could not help, leaving them as mere targets for the followers of the Dark Lord. At the end of the attacks, only three of the nine students survived, each of them now recuperating in St. Mungos in stable condition. Both Gryffindor brothers Collin and Dennis Creevey, and Ravenclaw’s Zacharius Smith are clearly thanking the stars for their survival. Sadly, we must report that Stewart Ackerly and Travis Trenalee of Ravenclaw, Kevin Whitby and Owen Cauldwell of Hufflepuff, and Deidre Whethers of Gryffindor were lost in the attack. Most oddly, the sixth student to be lost was none other than long-time on and off girl friend to Harry Potter, Hermione Granger of Gryffindor. The sixth year witch was reportedly one of the cleverest of her age and certainly put up a good fight before being caught off guard and finally falling. While Aurors ascertained she was indeed deceased, they were attacked outside St. Mungos where a single Death Eater grabbed hold of Miss Granger’s robes and used a Port key to escape with her. The purpose of taking the girl’s body is still unknown and the Auror division has promised the parents that they will do all they can to find her for a proper burial.
I have it on good authority that the late Miss Granger as well as the three survivors had all been a part of a secret society at Hogwarts known as Dumbledore’s Army. Not only is it disturbing to hear that Albus Dumbledore is now using children to fight the Dark Lord, but it would appear that they have learned well. Excluding Miss Granger, the other three fought at what could be called an exceptional magical level. This society was taught by none other than Harry Potter himself, and when confronted, Albus Dumbledore fully admitted to giving his permission for the group’s founding. While this reporter is thankful for the survival of the three Hogwarts students, she is less than pleased by the violent effects this D.A. has had on its other members. While I applaud the Headmaster for his efforts, I must scowl at the lack of forethought toward the resulting violence that was sure to ensue. Upon finding Miss Granger deceased in her home, Ronald Weasley, currently a sixth year Gryffindor, used the killing curse to eliminate one of the attackers. The Ministry fully agrees that as Miss Granger was already lost, this was indeed excessive force, and Mr. Weasley will be tried as an adult as soon as he emerges from St. Mungos. For more details, continue reading your daily subscription to the Daily Prophet.
Rita Skeeter.

Harry sat stunned for a moment as he finished reading the article, his fingers gripping the edge of the table so firmly they began to hurt. He wanted to scream and cry and hex someone to oblivion, but he was not sure where to begin.

‘I’m sorry Harry,’ Remus said quietly making Harry focus on him now.

The look on Remus’ aging face was one Harry had not seen before; a look of fear and apprehension that made Harry’s heart sink further in guilt.

‘It’s not your fault,’ Harry said with a sigh. ‘You don’t have to talk to me like I’ll explode, because I won’t,’ he added.

Remus nodded and seemed to let out a pent up breath quietly, furthering Harry’s guilt and making him sort of chuckle. When Remus heard the odd laugh, he looked up at the raven-haired boy as though he had possibly gone mad.

‘You know we’re letting him win don’t you?’ Harry finally said as his laughter died away. ‘All Voldemort wants is for us to drop our defenses and to lose hope. I’m truly sorry that Hermione’s gone and there’s no one who can fight that, but at the time I refuse to mourn those who have not yet been lost. We can still save Ron and all the others being affected by these attacks.’

‘You’re absolutely right, and the Order is meeting tonight to discuss these things,’ Remus explained seriously, but now with a small smile on his lips.

‘So I’ll assume that since we’re going to Hermione’s memorial service today that the Order has found her?’ Harry asked in a slightly more strained voice than was usual. He was certain there had been an inkling of hope in the question.

Remus gave Harry a dark look before shaking his head and looking back down at the table top.

‘I’m sorry Harry, but there has been absolutely no sign of her anywhere. I have no idea what the Death Eaters could possibly have needed, but even our contacts in Knocturn Alley have heard nothing. Now with Ron’s trial coming closer, the Order feels that it should take priority.’

Harry took another deep breath to steady himself and to control his anger before nodding.

‘Absolutely,’ he said. ‘We have to help Ron first,’ he added and then paused as he thought of something. ‘Has Snape heard nothing of Hermione’s whereabouts?’

Lupin looked down again and Harry noticed the odd look of pity on his face. For a moment he did not understand, but the realization soon hit him and he gasped.

‘No! The Death Eater Ron killed?’

‘No,’ Remus interrupted quickly before he could go on. ‘That was Dolohov,’ he nearly spat the name. ‘While I don’t condone Ron’s actions, I fully understand why he did what he did, and I can’t say that I’ll lose any sleep over Dolohov’s death.’

Harry silently agreed with this, remembering how terrible Dolohov had truly been. ‘Then what of Snape?’ he asked, certain that the Potions Professor would have heard something of the Dark Lord’s plans.

‘He’s been missing since the night of the attack. Dumbledore’s quite worried actually. He fears that Voldemort may have realised he was spying for the Order.’

Before anything else could be discussed, Ron, Ginny and their mother entered the kitchen, putting a stop to all this discussion. Ron looked far worse today then he had the night before, and Harry understood why the instant he saw the old Prophet under Mrs. Weasley’s arm. Now Ron knew what was to come, and Harry knew all too well how it felt to wait for judgement.
At half passed three in the afternoon, Harry, Ron and Marc silently led the group of friends and family up the Hogsmeade road and through the gates to Hogwarts, not speaking as they walked through the snow. Harry noted the freshly fallen snow and the way it glistened serenely under the afternoon sun, making him want to scream in anger at how unfair it was for Hermione to be gone. The days after a fresh snowfall had always been her favorite, and now for as long as he lived he was certain he would never enjoy another winter’s day.

Upon arriving at the lake’s side, Harry and the others joined the rather large group of students and other witches and wizards who wished to be there. Everyone made a half circle around a beautiful statue next to the water. The slate grey stone stood a proud three feet tall and depicted a house elf carrying a stack of textbooks in one arm and firmly gripping a wand in its other hand.

Harry heard Ginny let out a small giggle through her tears when she saw the statue.

‘It’s exactly what she would have wanted,’ she said and knelt down in the grass as Dumbledore made to stand next
to the statue.

Harry took a step forward and was now able to see all the faces of those who had shown up clearly. In the very front, and by far the most shaken were the Grangers. Harry had never seen anyone look so miserable, and he felt tears begin to well up in his eyes just looking at Hermione’s mother. Not only had she lost her only child, but she now had to live with the guilt of knowing that Hermione died to protect her.

Next to them he spotted Tonks and Kingsley, both of them looking extremely forlorn and depressed. Both Neville, and Luna had shown up with their guardians and Harry smiled inwardly when he saw that Roger Davies had come as well. Perhaps he truly was an alright bloke. Neville had obviously shed tears over the death of his friend and for the first time in his Hogwarts’ career, Harry saw Luna Lovegood genuinely looking at something. She was not dreamy-eyed and distanced, but right there alongside everyone else who had arrived to mourn. He watched as she placed a hand on Neville’s shoulder and then leaned into him to lay her head there as well.

Every member of the Hogwarts staff, save for one, had appeared to pay their respects, and Harry found a new respect for Professor Trelawney who had shown up despite Hermione’s obvious dislike of her subject. The only missing Professor was Snape. Professor’s Black and Dursley had both turned out, neither of them looking their regular stern selves. It was clear to Harry that he was seeing their genuine grief for the first time in his life. This angered Harry as he looked at Black’s mournful face; she was a Death Eater and had no right to be standing here. Harry’s thoughts were then pulled back to the tiny statue as the Headmaster began to speak.

‘We have all gathered here today, to pay respect to and honour a dear member of the light. Hermione Granger was truly the brightest witch to have ever passed through Hogwarts’ doors and I am proud to say the cleverest girl I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.’

He paused for a moment as several people had already begun to cry, small sniffles and sobs filling the air.

‘Though there are many things about Miss Granger that astound those who know her, I must select one aspect of her personality that I never saw waiver once, and that I must pay tribute to. Not once during her time at Hogwarts did she refuse a student the chance to prove themselves. She treated every student and Professor in the school alike, with respect and a right to show who they were. While some may have lost her respect along the way, I never once saw her turn her nose upward to anyone without a foundation; a trait that I must admit even I cannot claim to possess. Her cool sense of control, sharp mind, and enormous heart make Miss Granger one of the witches I admire most. As long as Hogwarts stands she will be forever missed and never forgotten.’

As soon as Dumbledore finished, he stepped away and Harry could see his sparkling blue eyes shimmer all the more as tears began to form. Mrs. Granger was openly sobbing into her husband’s chest as the next speaker walked up to the statue. Everyone listened as Neville began to speak.

‘I’ve never been much good at magic. That’s pretty well known here at Hogwarts,’ he gave a small chuckle and several others smiled at his attempt to lighten the heavy mood. ‘My memory has never been my strongest ally, often leaving me without supplies or answers, and sometimes even leaving stuck without a place to sleep.’ Again several people smiled at him. ‘People often laughed at me for this, but Hermione never did. She always treated me as an equal, no matter how badly I destroyed a Potion, or messed up a hex, and for that I can never truly tell her how grateful I am. All I can do now is say how much I will miss her, and make a promise. For as long as I live, I will never forget the kindness shown to me by my friend Hermione Granger, and I will make certain that no one else does.’

As Neville stepped back to stand next to Luna, Harry noticed Professor McGonagall dabbing her cheeks with a tissue and breathing heavier than was usual. Ginny went up next, however she barely got out her first sentence before she broke down and Mrs. Weasley pulled her back into the crowd. Harry decided that it was now his turn, so he stepped forward and placed a hand on the top of the house elf’s head, shivering as he felt the cold of the stone travel through him.

‘I’m not really sure what to say,’ Harry started finally, saying exactly what he was thinking. ‘I don’t know that there are words to describe how I feel. Nothing I say could ever be enough to say goodbye to one of my best friends in the world. I’m not really sure what to do without her now. Hermione, Ron and I are the trio, so what happens now? The duo certainly will never be the same, and as far as I can tell, I don’t want it to be. For now I think there is only one thing that I know. Someone took Hermione away from us, and that was a big mistake. I’ll miss you Hermione,’ he said and then stepped back to stand with Ron and Marc.

Several people followed him with their eyes and simply stared at him with sadness until the next speaker went up. Harry could feel their eyes on him and began feeling angry with their lack of respect; they were here for Hermione, not him. Harry looked over at Ron while Professor McGonagall said a few words, and he was sorry to see the hardened expression on the redhead’s face. It was difficult to tell how Ron was feeling by the expression on his features, but the emotions of guilt and hurt seemed to flow from him nonetheless.

‘I would have been honoured to have Miss Granger in Ravenclaw,’ Professor Flitwick ended sadly from where he stood level with the memorial statue.

Finally the moment Harry had been waiting for arrived, and the last speaker made his way up to the statue, shoulders slightly slumped and head hanging low. As Harry looked around to the others gathered, he realised that the majority of them were now holding their breath, each of them unsure of how the youngest Weasley boy would react.

Ron surprised everyone, Harry included, by looking up and after a moment’s silent gaze, and smiling. It was the first smile any of them had seen on his face since the attack.

‘Hermione was the best part of me,’ he started quietly. ‘In fact she is still and will continue to be the best part of me forever. For the past six years she has always been there for me, and despite my constant arguing, she always had my best interest at heart. It took me a long time to realise it, but for the past two and half years there has not been a day that I have not wondered what she would think of what I was doing. It may have been terribly annoying for onlookers, but it was always interesting to see who would come out on top after one of our spats. She was of course always right, but she always gave me the chance to try and prove her wrong,’ he said with the smallest of smiles.

He paused here for a moment in thought, and Harry noticed that Mrs. Granger had silenced her sobs and was now watching Ron with great interest. Mr. Granger was staring at him with equal curiosity.

‘There have been days that I used to wish could be erased, simply to eliminate a silly argument or comment that did nothing but harm us, but now there is no amount of money in this world that could make me give up a single moment with her. They always say that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, but they’re wrong. I was lucky because I knew exactly what I had, and I’ll never forget it. Hermione always told me not to procrastinate; simply get what you have to do over with, and then you’ve got all the time in the world to enjoy yourself.’

Ron paused again, and a look of the deepest sadness filled his eyes before he continued.

‘I didn’t listen to her. I waited and I waited, even though I knew I had to do it. I waited until the last moment and now it’s too late. As usual Hermione, you were right, but this time you cheated. I don’t get to argue back, ’ he said, looking down at the statue fondly before stepping away.

Ron did not however stop next to Harry and Marc. He simply continued to walk toward the school, every person watching him as he left. Mrs. Weasley was in tears as she made to go after him and was held back by her husband who told her to let him be.

A few minutes later, Harry and the other students from the ceremony walked quietly up the grounds along side the professors. Dumbledore had allowed the early return of the few students as they were already here, and there was little point in returning home, only to travel back in the morning.

The Gryffindors walked up to their common room, Luna following close behind. This would be her first time in the gold and scarlet room, yet her features showed little interest. The group gathered around the fire grate and discussed several things without enthusiasm while Harry went up to the dorms to find his best friend.

Ron’s four-poster had its hangings shut tightly and Harry knew that he wished to be alone. Similarly to the last time Ron had wanted privacy, Harry tore open the hangings ready to find an empty bed with a note. He was surprised to find the redhead lying calmly on his crimson duvet with his lids closed.’

‘Are you coming down for dinner?’ he asked tentatively.

‘What do you think?’ came Ron’s response, making Harry frown.

‘Fine then,’ he responded airily. ‘I guess Neville can catch you up on the details of the Dueling club.’

He did not have to wait a second before Ron’s lids flipped open and he sat up.

‘Alright, let’s go,’ he said in a determined voice as he grabbed his wand form the night stand beside him.

After nearly two hours of discussing the newest addition to Hogwarts’ clubs, all six friends had whole-heartedly agreed to help in any way they could to ensure the best Defense was taught. They continued to discuss the plans they wished to share with the Headmaster as they made their ways down to the Great Hall, where Dumbledore explained would be a dinner for the few residents in the school.

The students arrived to find the regular Christmas table sitting in the middle of the hall, already lined by the professors who awaited them. The chatter form the adults was extremely subdued and Harry found that even Professor Flitwick was keeping from his usual conversations with McGonagall.

The students all took their seats and the food immediately appeared. Barely a moment had gone by though before Harry accosted the Headmaster with the plans they had all been discussing. Dumbledore gave a small smile at the determination his students were showing but had to point out that, until Professor Snape returned, it would be difficult to carry out their plans.

‘Will Potions be cancelled until he returns?’ Marc asked then, wondering if any of the other Professors were as skilled in art of Potions.

‘I’m afraid not Mr. Evans,’ he replied. ‘I have already found a suitable replacement for the time being. But do not worry; I am certain our Professor Snape will return to us shortly.’ He smiled at the small laughs this got from the students.

‘I am wondering however,’ the old wizard continued, ‘if perhaps until his return, you would all be comfortable with me in his place for the Dueling Club. I may not be as agile as Severus, but I do believe I could teach you all a thing or two.’ The looks on all of the students’ faces lit up as they heard this and each of them nodded their heads fervently.

‘Of course Professor,’ Ginny said with a half grin. ‘That would be wonderful.’

The rest of the evening went by slowly, the entire table speaking of this and that until finally Dumbledore had crackers appear on the table for everyone to pull. It was not a celebration like Hogwarts was used to, but Harry was grateful for the Headmaster’s efforts.

Finally around ten o’clock they students said goodnight and made their ways back up to the Gryffindor common room. With the Headmaster’s permission, Luna would be sleeping in Ginny’s dormitory for the evening. The girls said goodnight before leaving the boys to climb their staircase and enter their dormitory. Once there, they all changed quickly and got into bed, none of them having much to say at this point.

Another two hours passed by with Harry lying awake in his bed, unable to fall asleep. He had been running through all the memories he could think of pertaining to Hermione when a quiet beep emitted from his clock, alerting him to the change of hour and day. Harry rolled over and covered his head with his pillow, thinking sarcastically of what a wonderful start to the new year this truly was.

The next day passed by quickly, with all of the returning students arriving shortly after lunch. Harry and the others tried their best to stick together and to avoid as many students as was possible, as hundreds of them approached to give their condolences. Dennis and Collin had returned, to Harry’s relief, and both boys along with Zacharius Smith elected to join Luna and the group of Gryffindors in avoiding everyone.

The group decided to eat in the kitchens that evening, so to avoid any announcements the Headmaster would give, but they had not missed the change of decoration in the Great Hall. Where all of the House banners usually hung, were now black banners bearing the Hogwarts crest, a tribute to the fallen students.

Soon enough curfew had passed, and the students parted ways to get into bed and hope for a better day come morning. Harry wanted to simply get through his lessons so he could continue planning the Dueling Club and preparing with the professors for the first meeting. If Dumbledore had been true to his word as Harry expected, then the entire school would now know of the club’s return.

Harry fell asleep quickly that night, and he dreamed. He dreamed terrible things that no sixteen-year-old should ever dream, yet to him this was commonplace. One set of eyes watched him as he writhed in his sleep, certain of the horrors that riddled his mind and invaded his peace. The watching bird sat perched on the foot of his bed and stared in concern as Harry whimpered quietly to himself, and it knew that his old nightmares had returned. One word told it that he was not having a prophetic dream, nor was it a dream of Hermione, or even his parents. It took only one name to tell that Harry Potter had just lost his Godfather again.

Morning came far too quickly, the narrow beams of sunlight unable to penetrate the thick hangings around the four-posters, effectively keeping Harry in the dark for as long as they wished. It was Neville who finally shook him awake, telling him that Potions was to begin in ten minutes and that they were sure to be late.

Harry groaned as he swung himself out of bed and pulled on a clean pair of robes. Within minutes he and Neville were racing down the chilling dungeon corridors with their cauldrons, in hopes of not losing house points on their first day with Snape’s replacement.

‘At least there’s no way this professor could be worse than Snape,’ Neville said between pants as they approached the classroom door.

Harry gave a small smile as he agreed before opening the door and rushing into the already filled classroom. He and his partner only made it halfway to their seats before a woman at the front of the room turned around and made Harry stop dead in his tracks. Her graying black hair was tightly braided and pulled into a bun on the top of her head, and her black eyes stared out coldly from her severe expression.

‘I suggest you take your seat Mister Potter, and if you intend to be late again, don’t bother coming at all,’ she said scathingly.

Harry glared back coldly before nodding his head slightly and moving to take his seat. She continued to stare at him expectantly but he said nothing.

‘Is that clear Mister Potter?’ she asked then, and he had no choice but to answer.

‘Yes, Professor Sharpbane.’

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