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Chapter 22 : Persuasion
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"Hello, Petunia Dursley speaking," she answered, in a slightly sing-song tone.
”Mrs. Dursley? It’s Hermione Granger here. Do you remember me?” she asked timidly.
Petunia's breath caught in her throat for a moment. She had certainly not expected that! “Well, yes,” Mrs. Dursley answered looking around suspiciously, as if she was expecting someone to pop up from nowhere “How can I help you?” she added in a rather harsh and business-like manner.
“I just wanted to see how you were. I’ve been thinking about you lately… You went through such a shock!” Hermione started.
“I am perfectly alright. Now, if you don’t awfully mind, I have plenty of things to do,” Petunia said dismissively.
“Mrs. Dursley, I’m sorry to disturb you but, the thing is, I need to meet up with you,” she announced at once.
Petunia almost laughed “Meet with up me? You know very well that I want nothing to do with your kind,” she said, unable to believe the cheek of the girl.
“Mrs. Dursley, I know how you feel. I totally understand, especially after what happened to you, but please remember that my mum died trying to rescue you,” Hermione pressed cutting to the chase, realising that if that didn’t work, nothing would.
“Yes, how could I forget that day! How is your father, by the way?” replied Petunia a bit lost for words, her voice softening a little.
“He’s alright, I suppose… Look, there is something I need your help with,” she admitted trying to move the conversation forward.
She was now losing her patience. “My help? What game is this? Has Harry put you up to this?”
“No, Harry doesn’t even know I’m phoning you. I’m at my father’s at the moment, in fact. I haven’t seen Harry for days. You have my word that he doesn’t know.”
Petunia remained silent.
“I believe you promised Harry once that you would help him. Please, this is important!” exclaimed Hermione praying that she would not put the phone down.
“If Harry wants my help, he can ask for it himself. After all we have done for him, all these years, and look at how he is treating us! I thought he wanted nothing more to do with me,” Petunia protested.
“That’s because he's mistaken, Mrs. Dursley. He got a bit paranoid after…, well…” Hermione tried to justify.
“Your lot seems to think he’s some kind of hero, but I’ll tell you what, he is a complete coward and an ungrateful nephew if there ever was one,” Petunia stated dryly.
“Mrs. Dursley,” Hermione now pleaded, ignoring Harry’s aunt’s remarks, aware that arguing with her about Harry was not the best course of action. “Surely you don’t want any more people to get killed?”
“Is this a threat?” she asked in a tone of voice that sounded half-way between irate and panicky.
“Of course it's not a threat,” Hermione replied calmly. “What I actually meant is that you may be able to help preventing further casualties,” she stated trying to appeal to Mrs. Dursley’s better nature.
“And how exactly do I come into this? How can someone like me help your sort? Petunia was now getting tired of this. “If this is some excuse to collect Harry’s belongings, you can tell him from me that he can come himself, in person, and soon, or they go in the bin!” she added venting out her anger.
“As I said, Mrs. Dursley, the reason he has not contacted you is because he is making what I believe is a serious judgment error. If you help me clarify it, he’ll come round. I’m sure,” she continued, now sitting on the sofa as she realised that the persuasion process wasn’t likely to be a short one.
“Why can’t you then tell me what this is all about then?” she asked trying to test her. She had now stopped drying dishes and was leaning against the sink.
Hermione paused for a brief moment, unsure as to what the best approach would be. “It’s complicated. Well, after we rescued you, when we were at the Weasleys, you seemed adamant that Professor Snape had not intended to harm anyone,” she finally said realising that she had to come clean if she was to have a chance of gaining Mrs. Dursley’s trust..
Petunia truly did not know what to say. She had spoken too much. Had I minded my own business instead of making statements, these people wouldn’t be pestering me now, she thought.
“I don’t know why I said that! I was shocked, I suppose. I really don’t know anything!” she almost bellowed now fearing for the safety of her family. Last thing they needed, getting entangled in a wizarding conflict! especially now that they were supposed to be finally rid of any connection with her late sister’s world.
“I beg you, Mrs. Dursley,” Hermione now sounded desperate. “You said you knew Professor Snape, when you were young. It’s vital that we figure out which side he is on!”
“And, how, how do you expect me, young lady, to know the answer to that?” she replied irritated.
“I’m pretty sure that, even if you aren’t consciously aware, you can shed light on the matter,” Hermione insisted. “Look, this is not just Harry’s problem, it’s everyone’s,” she continued
“I do not really know why I have to explain myself to you, but I have done already all I promised to do, to give Harry a home until he turned 17. That’s over and done with now,” Petunia concluded.
Hermione was beginning to believe she was losing the battle and was hoping that she may react to the notion of her own family being in danger. “But Mrs. Dursley, your safety and your family’s may be at stake still, from the dark side. Harry said he would try to protect you.”
“And he managed to do that admirably by getting himself drunk!” spat out Petunia.
"But, how was he to know what would happen? It was a wedding, goodness! Harry hasn’t had a very easy life, he is entitled to have a bit of fun every so often,” replied Hermione now almost losing her temper, “and, after all,” she continued, “we all took your safety as a priority, we went to rescue you, even the bride, and look what happened to her!”
“Alright, alright,” Petunia now gave in. “If it’s just a chat you want… but you mustn’t come here. “ My God! If Vernon was to come back home for something, he’d have a fit, she realised.
Hermione now sighed with relief. “Mrs. Dursley, I don’t mind where we meet, anywhere within reason is fine by me,”
“Where about are you exactly? Petunia asked.
“I’m in Kent, near Sevenoaks, you are in Surrey, aren’t you?”
“Can you drive?” asked Mrs. Dursley not knowing what to expect from someone who attended Hogwarts.
“I have started to take lessons but haven’t got a licence yet. I’ll have to use public transport,” she replied. Hermione was not about to scare Petunia off by offering to Apparate somewhere.
Petunia Dursley thought for a moment. She didn’t particularly want to go to Hermione’s house, even if she was most intrigued as to where seemingly normal people who parented witches may live. That wasn’t her territory and it would simply not do. A public place was better, she reasoned. At least the girl wouldn’t be able to put a spell on her. But, then again, what if they were overheard?
Hermione, at that stage, came up with a suggestion. “I can take a train into London that takes about 35 minutes,” she volunteered, “however, I don’t mean to take advantage but, if you want to be back home as quickly as possible, it may be best if you drive… Umn, I’d suggest a shopping mall, there is a nice one in Tunbridge Wells,” she proposed.
“Yes, I know the one, “The Royal Victoria Place”, but what if we are overheard?” Petunia asked with concern.
“Overheard by whom? After all, you won’t even be in your county and, let’s face it, the place will be crowded. Nobody pays any attention, trust me!” Hermione reasoned now pacing up and down the living-room.
“Very well, the Royal Victoria then, It’ll take me over an hour to get there. Where exactly shall we meet?
“How about the food court?” replied Hermione. “I’ll buy you lunch!” she offered.
“Fine, but I will buy my own lunch, if you don’t mind,” snapped Petunia, feeling a bit offended, thinking that Hermione was implying she couldn’t afford to pay.
Hermione arrived first. She was relatively early, partly because she was nearer to the venue, and partly because she felt she needed to give herself time to gather her thoughts. Avoiding the possible distraction of the Muggle summer sales, she went straight to the food court and grabbed a cappuccino. She took out a notebook and began to scribble a few key words. She had finally managed to arrange to meet with Harry’s aunt. She was sure that Petunia would not be keen on staying long. She had to be succinct and to the point. What actual information did she really need?
Now, she thought, I better cast the Muffiato charm discreetly before she gets here and freaks out. The place was heaving with shoppers. Hermione had anticipated this as the kids where still on their holidays and the mothers were anxious to equip them with school garments and to get a bargain for themselves. It was relatively easy for her to perform the charm completely unnoticed. She had recently learnt to do this non-verbally, which was hardly surprising given the fact that her and her friends were forever using the said charm these days.
Mrs Dursley arrived some half an hour or so after Hermione looking pretty flustered. Hermione was sitting in the table farthest from the shop windows. Petunia recognised her at once but felt the subconscious need to scan her surroundings for anyone who may know her. She had it all mapped out, though. Hermione looked very normal in fact and, were she to bump into any acquaintance, she would just explain that the girl was the daughter of an old school friend. Having given all persons in her view furtive glances, she had no alternative but to get on with it and proceed towards her nephew’s friend’s table.
Hermione greeted her politely and smiled. Mrs. Dursley saluted her coldly and sat down forgetting even to go and buy a drink. Hermione would have happily gone to get her one but didn’t dare, given the reception that her offer to buy lunch had encountered earlier. Petunia looked extremely uncomfortable and kept playing with a bunch of keys that she still had in her hands. She didn’t make eye contact.
“Mrs. Dursley, would you like to go and get yourself a coffee?” Hermione broke the silence by suggesting.
Petunia realised that that was the expected thing to do and darted towards the counter. Hermione remained at the table but couldn’t but notice that Mrs. Dursley’s was now searching all over her handbag for her purse. Her nerves were clearly getting the better of her.
Once she was back at the table, Hermione wished she could make her feel at ease, but couldn’t work out how. “It’s good to see you are ok,” she said with a slight smile.
“Ok, enough of pleasantries, I haven’t got all day,” she whispered in a cold voice.
“By the way, I can assure you that we will not be overheard. Trust me!” Hermione notified her without wanting to go into too much detail but hoping to settle her companion a little. “Ok,” she continued, “you obviously want this conversation over as quickly as possible. Alright, I would be really grateful if you could tell me everything you know about Professor Snape, when did you meet him, how, what was he like and so forth, if you’d please.”
Mrs. Dursley sighed and then snorted. “Very well, he lived not far from us, although in a very different part of town, if you get my point. His family were odd, to say the least. Not your typical respectable family. Their house was really shabby. The parents seemed to argue incessantly and it was rumoured that his father liked the drink.”
“This was when you were children?” Hermione asked softly while distractedly drawing something with her pen in her notebook. “Do you mind me asking in which part of the country you lived?” she continued, feeling a little like a journalist.
“Alright, yes, we knew each other when we were growing up, and well, we lived in Lancashire actually, but as I said we came from a rather different neighbourhood,” she stated with a hint of embarrassment. At that point Hermione realised that there was a very slight tinge of a northern accent in Petunia’s voice. It also seemed clear that she made every effort to disguise it, probably because the southern counties were, in the main, considered more affluent.
Hermione nodded as if trying to get her to continue. There was a moment of silence, then, Mrs. Dursley carried on. “He seemed to be fond of my sister, even when we were kids. She was always the popular one,” she added with an ill concealed snarl.
“Were he and Lily good friends then? asked Hermione in a soft tone, taking a sip from her coffee.
“Well, they were as odd as one another, if I must tell the truth. Well, you probably know what I mean.” Petunia appeared unable to talk about magic openly. Hermione wasn’t going to press her anymore than it was necessary. Nonetheless, she had to keep on going. “Was he your friend as well?”
Petunia blushed involuntarily. “Not really…, well, not as such. Both of them lived in their own little world. I don’t think they have much time for ordinary people,” she replied disdainfully. “I think they actually looked down on normality. I guess they thought it was uncool, as you youngsters would say today.”
Hermione had to suppress a giggle when she heard Mrs. Dursley using the word uncool, even if she had done so in an obvious mocking tone. “Did they remain friends when they were both at Hogwarts?” Hermione continued.
“It would appear so, judging by how much they saw each other in the summer holidays,” Petunia replied sternly, having difficulty containing her resentment
“I’m sorry to have to remind you of your late sister. I understand it must be painful for you,” Hermione told her diplomatically, despite the fact that Mrs. Dursley hadn’t, so far, expressed any sadness regarding Lily’s passing.
“It all happened a long time ago, don’t worry,” was her reply to Hermione’s sympathetic comment.
“Were they still good friends when your sister married Harry’s dad? Hermione asked.
Petunia cleared her throat. This question gave Mrs. Dursley the clue that Hermione, through Harry no doubt, but God only knew how, had more information that she was letting on. Either that, or she was very good at guessing.
“Well,” she whispered as if engaging in really juicy gossip, “Something went wrong between them about two years or so before she finished school. Well, she came back for the holidays and didn’t seem to hang around with him anymore. I can’t tell you much more because my sister and I didn’t talk very much at that stage, but at around that time, she started going out, well, with Harry’s father,” Petunia paused and Hermione felt a bit sad about Mrs. Dursley’s hostile body language when she made reference to James. Why did she hate him so much? and now still though he’d been dead for years. Hermione wondered.
“Do you think these two facts were connected? I mean, your sister going out with James and…?
“Well, he certainly seemed to be acting differently, Severus I mean. He seemed to want to get closer to myself, of all people! But my true guess is that he was just trying to fish for information on my sister, so it’s possible that he had a crush on her,” she admitted. “Now, what is this to do with the matter in hand?” Petunia enquired suspiciously. “I think I’m beginning to understand now,” she gave a little malicious giggle. “It’s Harry who wants to find this out, isn’t it?”
“Umn, not really, Mrs. Dursley,” said Hermione realising that the conversation now needed to take a different direction. Yes, she admitted to herself that unwittingly she had been curious and that she understood how Harry felt about knowing so little about his parents. “Well”, she continued, “you said yourself that you went out with Professor Snape, or so I believe…” Hermione was now almost waiting for Harry’s aunt to explode and leave, but it had to be said, she thought, as this was potentially the key to at least part of the conundrum.
Petunia’s eyes now were wide open with anger and surprise. She didn’t think the girl would dare be so forward, but then again, it had been her own fault for having admitted that to Harry after she had been rescued. She could feel a rush of blood coming to her cheeks. She had no choice but to reply, or the inferences would be worse. “Well, as I said, after Lily and he appeared to have had words, his attitude seemed to change. He was polite to me, then. I guess he was beginning to grow up a bit.” Hermione frowned at this comment, as if she wasn’t following. Petunia pretended not to notice. Her utmost desire was for this topic to be out of the way as quickly as possible. “There wasn’t very much for people our age to do where we lived, so we went to the cinema a couple of times and went out for a coffee once,” she continued, again rather embarrassed.
Hermione listened attentively and then asked, “Did he tell you much about his life, about school perhaps?”
“He knew better than to talk about that school with me. We just talked about normal things,” Mrs. Dursley retorted.
“Ok, the reason for my questions, and please don’t get me wrong,” Hermione began to justify “is that Harry has got into his head that you may have still been in touch with him, before you were taken. Of course this is not my idea, hence I wanted to meet up with you,” she was quick to add, “that’s why Harry doesn’t trust you, at the moment… You see, Professor Snape murdered Professor Dumbledore, and then you sort of defended him. Professor Dumbledore was to Harry much more than just the Headmaster and he is still grieving his death. Poor Harry! He lost his parents when he was one, then his newly found godfather, and now his mentor. His views are a bit clouded, it’s hardly surprising,” Hermione realised it was now time for Petunia to take all this in and she decided, for the time being, to press no more.
Mrs. Dursley couldn’t completely understand why people pitied Harry so much, as in her own mind he had been lucky for not having had to grow up in a care home. She was outraged at the fact that he had taken to mistrust his own benefactor. Still, she reflected. She reflected upon the idea of someone she had known since childhood having committed murder. Well, it wasn’t the kind of thing that happened in Little Whinging! It was hard to know what to think. She now looked at Hermione with an enquiring gaze and said, “Yes, Harry told me as much. Hard to believe really, isn’t it? Well, how would you feel if someone you knew when you were little turned up in the news or something, having become a terrorist, for instance. I admit it is shocking,” concluded Harry’s aunt. Now, how did this come about?” She was finally letting her curiosity run free but still tried at all costs to look composed and unemotional. However, Petunia had by now long since realised that Hermione had been right, and that people were acting like if they weren’t there, thus she was talking freely.
“Well, surely Mrs.Dursley, you really don’t want to know too much about well, our world. In fact, given the state of affairs, knowledge may be dangerous…”
Petunia automatically nodded in agreement but realised that she wasn’t being true to herself. She now wanted to find out more. The feeling was similar to finally becoming hooked to a book you have heard about for ages but have always scorned as not the kind of thing you would ever wish to read.
“All I can say is that it was Professor Dumbledore’s belief that Snape got in with the wrong crowd,” Hermione started to explain.
Petunia now scoffed, although a little sadly. “What a surprise! I could see something like that coming even when we were young,” she commented.
“Well, it’s not necessarily what you may have in mind. It’s not that he befriended low-lifes as it were. On the contrary, he got it with the elite, but a rather unpleasant elite, involved with the darkness. Now, something happened after that that made Dumbledore sure that he had had a change of heart, and at that point he became a spy for our side,” Hermione’s voice remained neutral. She wanted Mrs. Dursley to come to her own conclusion. That was important.
“A spy, goodness! That seems like a grand job,” Mrs. Dursley mocked for lack of a better answer. “Still, where do I come into this? I just don’t understand!”
“Well, let’s say that I’m asking you for a character reference,” Hermione said almost laughing. “He was always hard to read. The Headmaster trusted him until the very end, but Harry witnessed what happened and it is certain that he killed him. Why, is what we don’t know. We all thought that he had managed to fool Professor Dumbledore all that time, that he was still loyal to Voldemort,” at the sound of that name, Petunia shivered. “Yet,” Hermione continued, “when we went to rescue you, I got the same impression as yourself, that he didn’t want to harm us. This has been playing in my mind a lot, because, if there was another reason why he killed the Headmaster and he is still on our side, if he gets captured, you cannot imagine the horrors that await him. I just can’t live with the thought. They would most probably get a Dementor to suck up his soul,” explained Hermione with a expression of true fear in her face.
Petunia’s eyes now resembled saucers. She was beginning to shake slightly at the thought. She would never forget her own son’s expression after the Dementors’ attack.
“Well, let me tell you, I find Harry’s suspicions atrociously shocking. How can he?” Petunia was now getting agitated. “As for Severus, well, how can you kill someone for the right reasons? I find the whole thing outlandish even if for your world.” Mrs. Dursley reasoned.
“The only thing I can think of is that he did it because the Headmaster was badly injured. We are aware that Professor Dumbledore pleaded to him, to do what, we don’t know. Perhaps he was facing a slow and painful death and he just wanted to be put out of his misery,” explained Hermione not willing to reveal the other motive she suspected, that Dumbledore had had to die to buy Harry time; that he realised Voldemort was aware that he was after Horcruxes but didn’t know Harry was too. “All I want is your opinion, really,” Hermione concluded.
Petunia looked deep in though. “Very well, all I have to go about it is that he told me not to worry when these horrid people kidnapped me, when we were alone, and that he appeared to be pretending in front of the others,” she finally confessed.
“So, we do know for a fact now! You could have started there!” almost shouted Hermione a bit angry at Mrs. Dursley’s delay in coming up with the goods. Now, please, would you be prepared to tell Harry this, to talk to him about it?,” said Hermione latching into Petunia’s blue eyes very intently with her gaze.
“Well, it is not me you have to convince, is it?” Mrs. Dursley replied disdainfully, “Harry is the one who has cut all contact, the one who is accusing me of all manner of things!” she spat out in a temper.
Hermione smiled at last. “Don’t worry, let me work on him myself and, by the way, thanks so much. This really means a lot. Now, one last thing, Mrs. Dursley, do you have any idea where he lives? Does he still own the house that was once his parents?” As she posed this question, Hermione realised that this may very well be useless, since he was now on the run and in all probability Draco Malfoy could probably prove more knowledgeable as to his whereabouts, then again, she thought, there was no harm in asking.
At that point, Petunia took Hermione’s notebook and wrote down the address of a place called Spinner’s End. As they said good-bye, Hermione with a small wink said to Mrs. Dursley “I’ll see you soon!” Petunia blinked and shook her head hoping that that wouldn’t be the case.
That evening, Hermione’s three friends were to arrive at her house, following her father’s invitation. She had been building up so much anticipation. There was so much she had to tell them, so many things she wanted to talk about. She also felt rather nervous and a little embarrassed. Her father had met Ron before, of course, but until then, she had not been aware that he knew they were going out together. She was hoping with all her might that Ron caused a good impression. Also, how would Harry react to her clandestine meeting with his aunt? Harry was known for having a bit of a temper but, surely, he would not cause a scene in somebody else’s house. She smiled at how convenient this may prove.
She had originally suggested that since none of them had yet passed their Apparition test, they come by Muggle transport. Her father and her went to collect them by car from Sevenoaks railway station. As they came into the building, Hermione saw a red-haired boy waving and grinning at her. That surely couldn’t be. Their train was not due for another fifteen minutes and it wasn’t like British transport to run ahead of schedule. But, before she had the time to think of an explanation, Harry hugged her really tightly, whilst Ron shook her father’s hand. Both boys seemed over the moon for some reason.
As they continued with the greetings, a ticket inspector approached Ron looking ill tempered. It transpired that none of her friends had bought tickets. Surely, Harry hadn’t been that thick! Ron argued time and again that they had all just come from outside, from the street, that they haven’t been on any train and, in all truth, no train had arrived for them to get off from. Mr. Granger frowned feeling confused and was about to offer to pay their fare until it dawned on him also that, no, they could not have come from any train. He then made a gesture for the group to follow him to the car and they all set off leaving the station staff member ranting by himself. Once in the car, Ron and Harry announced, with a great sense of elation, that they had both just passed the dreaded Apparition test, that very day. Mr. Granger decided that that was a cause for celebration and opened a bottle of champagne the Muggle way as soon as they got into the house.
They had a barbequed meal in the garden and Ron and Ginny couldn’t but think how complicated lighting a fire appeared to be for Muggles. Dinner was a quite pleasant affair. The second piece of news, Hermione heard from their friends was that Tonks and Remus were about to be married. This was quickly turning into a double celebration, to Hermione’s relief. Hopefully, Harry would be now in enough of a good mood not to bite her head off when she told him about having met with his aunt. Ron and Ginny were being really polite and her boyfriend and her father seemed to be getting on well. After dinner, Hermione left her father on his own with Harry to discuss the possibility of him buying a London flat. She summonned Ron and Ginny to the kitchen with the excuse of clearing up, knowing that they would be delighted to take a look at the various Muggle domestic appliances. After all, they were Mr. Weasley’s kids!
After a long conversation, in which Harry kept on apologising for Hermione having troubled Mr. Granger with his problems, he agreed that buying an apartment might be a solution.
When midnight came, they all went finally upstairs. Ginny was to stay with Hermione in her room and the boys in the spare bedroom. However, they all gathered together in the boys room and started exchanging news. Hermione was hardly looking forward to telling Harry about her escapade but knew that she had to do it, and better now that he was feeling relatively cheerful.
“Harry,” she started, “there is something I have to tell you, but please, promise me that you won’t be mad at me.”
They all look at her startled.
“Why would I be mad at you?” replied Harry a little worried.
“It’s just, it’s just that... I have met up with your aunt,” she confessed.
“You have done what?” Harry could feel his anger coming up but decided it was best to hear her out.
Hermione relied the conversation to him, emphasising what Snape had said to his aunt when the Death Eaters had taken her. The nature of the relationship between Lily and Snape was something that Hermione realised was still very much subject to speculation and she didn't think it was wise to bother Harry with it that very moment. Harry, on his part, listened attentively in silence and finally concluded that he would sleep on it. It was a delicate matter that required a proper thought.
But before they went to bed, they had more news to discuss, and these just weren’t too good. It transpired that Harry’s scar had been hurting again and that the vision this time concerned Voldemort’s urgency in getting his mother’s wand.
“We have to break into Gringotts, Hermione, I know how you feel about it, but we cannot waste more time. He has spies at the Ministry,” Harry explained.
“We have a plan of sorts,” volunteered Ron on a more positive note. “Charlie has replied to our owl. It seems a simple matter of distracting the dragons with something bright that moves,” he added matter-of-factly.
“Something bright that what?” shouted Hermione. “How can you say that this is a simple matter?" Hermione exclaimed looking rather scared "Ok, we’ll talk about it tomorrow, " she concluded not willing to worry herself anymore than it was strictly necessary.
“There is more, though,” said Ginny in a sullen tone. “Umbridge wants to round up on werewolves. She is asking for them to come forward voluntarily. Of course, Lupin is not to do this in a hurry since we do fear she hasn’t got their best interest at heart. He will have to stay at Grimmauld Place but we need to get the Wolfsbane potion for him,” she added. “He has been suffering terribly the last few full moons, now without Snape’s assistance. Tonks was telling mum about it and I overheard.” She now stared at Harry as if asking him to continue.
“I think the potions book we used last year may very well contain this. I think I overlooked it. It’s in the Room of Requirement, so somehow, we have to get into Hogwarts too. I do owe Remus that much!” he stated very determined.
They all agreed to discuss all matters further the following day and finally went to sleep.
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