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Chapter 10 : Flight of the Dawlish
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I cleared my throat, stood up straight, and contorted my beautiful face into the most solemn visage I could manage. “Attention Gryffindors, one and all!” I proclaimed to the common room one stormy Tuesday night. “This is your Cap’n of Quidditch speaking!”
Most of my loyal subjects turned ‘round to look at me, abandoning their studies or conversations. Some were even so happy for me to address them that they grinned. Grinned so wide they were frowning.
“I have a very important matter that I must bring to your attention!” I bellowed as deeply as my tenor voice could go.
“James, stop bothering everyone,” whispered Tegan shrilly. “The fifth years have an O.W.L. practice exam in Transfiguration tomorrow!”
“Kindly do not diminish my authority in front of the entire house, my fair lady,” I whispered right back.
“You’re an idiot, mate,” grumbled J.D.
“Thisisaveryimpor—! This is a very important question!” I hissed to the peanut gallery of sixth year Gryffies sitting at the table behind me, and cleared my throat once more.
“Students of Godric!” I continued. “Is there one amongst you who knows the plural form of ‘Patronus’?”
Groans of love erupted from my adoring populace, and they all proceeded to ignore me.
“Does anyone know Latin?” I projected my whimpering voice across the common room. But my people did not stir.
I spun ‘round, ever so slightly dejected, and reluctantly took my seat amongst my comrades.
“No one cares, James,” said Freddie, with pity. “It’s a minute grammar nuance.”
“Professor Dawlish always says ‘Patronuses’ during lecture,” said Micah matter-of-factly.
“Professor Dawlish is also a dumbass,” growled J.D., either in defence of me or because Dawlish held a personal vendetta against him. I hate so much about the things you choose to be, Dawlish had said to J.D. the first day of term, after my bestest mate asked to go to the hospital wing under pretences of internal blood haemorrhaging. (Apparently it really does run in the Nott family, but I don’t think that pretendonitis does. It’s the excuse J.D. used this morning to try to get out of Defence.)
“But the plural of ‘Animagus’ is ‘Animagi’, not ‘Animaguses’,” I said softly, bouncing back to reality. “Shouldn’t ‘Patronus’ follow the same rules?”
Tegan rubbed my arm and I got tiny little goosepimples. “Maybe it doesn’t matter what’s right,” she said. “For better or for worse, Dawlish is the one grading your Defence essays and this week’s practical exam, and it would be wisest to use his grammar.”
I opened my mouth to address my Gryffies, but was interrupted by a voice similar to mine in octave and diction, calling from across the room: “Sure, James, I know Latin.”
I spun ‘round, awkwardly twisting my neck, and spotted my brother Albus shrugging at me in the fifth years’ corner.
“Come, Gryffies!” I proclaimed, grabbing my Defence Against the Dark Arts textbook (coincidentally written by my dad and Uncle Ron, with a forward by Aunt Hermione) and galloping across the common room. With only a few grumbles, Tegan, J.D., Freddie, and Micah followed me. But I stopped short once I saw who was sitting beside Al.
I leaned down and whispered in my brother’s ear, “Albus, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Scorpius Malfoy is sitting right beside you.”
Malfoy gave me a great, horrible wave. “Hullo Potter. How’s the training for your match against Ravenclaw coming?”
“Absolutely fantastic!” I exclaimed.
“We have a practice O.W.L. for Transfiguration tomorrow,” said Albus coolly.
I pointed at Malfoy. “Slytherin! Here! Why?”
Tegan kicked my shin, and Malfoy opened his ruddy mouth to say, “Al are I are the top Transfiguration students in our year.”
“Plus we’ve become good mates from prefect meetings,” drawled Albus, sounding weary of the prejudice I held. Shocking!
I turned to J.D., still pointing at Malfoy’s smarmy little face. “Bad influence!”
“You didn’t know they were mates, mate?” asked J.D.
“No!” I screeched.
“You wanted to know the plural of ‘Patronus’, James?” asked Albus briskly.
“Oh yeah,” I said, doing my best to regain composure with a Malfoy in my midst. “You know Latin, Al?”
He pushed his specs up his pointy nose. “I know a lot of things, James.”
“What is it, then, Al?” asked Freddie of his cousin.
“Well, Professor Dawlish always says ‘Patronuses’,” began Albus.
“Which is what I said!” exclaimed Micah.
“That’s what he said!” burst J.D.
Micah blinked. “Er, that doesn’t make any sense.”
“Bite me,” snarled J.D.
“But,” continued Albus, “‘patronus’ is the medieval Latin term for a patron saint, and following the rules of grammatica, the plural ought to be ‘patroni’. That is, if you are talking about the Patronuses of two or more wizards, or two or more wizards and witches.”
“The form of ‘Patronus’ is dependent upon the caster’s sex?” asked Tegan.
“Oh yes,” said Al quickly. “Since a witch or wizard’s Patronus is of the same sex as they are, a witch’s Patronus should be referred to as a ‘Patrona’. For two or more witches, one should say ‘Patronae’.”
A wave of “ohhhhh”s erupted amongst we Gryffies.
“It’s like ‘alumnus’ and ‘alumni’!” said Tegan excitedly. “It irritates me to no end when people refer to themselves in the singular as ‘alumni’!”
“Yeah?” asked Albus, smiling crookedly at her. “It’s even worse when they completely ignore the ‘alumna’ and ‘alumnae’ forms—”
“I know!” said Tegan brightly.
Not liking the look my brother was giving my girlfriend of four days (if you’re counting from our first date), I put my arm ‘round Tegan’s shoulders and glared at Al. “Thank you, Albus Severus Potter,” I said crisply, my nose ever so slightly elevated.
Malfoy snorted. “Al, you are the only wizard in all of Britain whose name is worse than mine!”
“Shut your grotesquely large mouth, Scorpius Hyperion Malfoy,” snapped Albus.
“Well, at least my parents didn’t take a shit on me,” growled Malfoy. “Everyone else in your family’s got normal names except you.”
We Gryffies tiptoed away, not wanting to become involved in this squabble. (It’s not my fault that I was born before Albus and got the better name!) Upon reaching our table across the room, we all took out seats around it and returned to the issue at hand.
“You hear that, Horo?” I exclaimed giddily. “I was right regarding the grammatical structure of the word ‘Patronus’!”
“Your face,” grumbled Micah, burying his head in his textbook.
“Pardon?” I asked.
“Michers, that doesn’t make any sense,” said Freddie.
“‘Your face’ always makes sense,” insisted Micah. “It’s the all-purpose retort.”
“Er, no,” said Tegan delicately.
“Your face!” piped Micah. But then his smile faded, and he sighed and said, “I’m not allowed to make ‘that’s what she said’ jokes anymore, and I’ve got nothing. The Micah Horowitz Joke Arsenal is empty.”
We all nodded, not quite sure if this was as tragic as Micah’s tone insinuated.
“So,” said J.D., swiftly changing the subject, “Corporeal Patroni. Shall we practice for our practical exam with Dawlish the Ex-Auror, World-Class Educator, and Probable Cuckold?”
I gulped as we Gryffies pushed the round table out of the way to make room for our ethereal beastie protectors to move about. But my gulping was for a very good reason.
D’you want to know what that reason is?
Can you keep a secret?
Are you sure?
Okay, I trust you. But this is covert, comprende?
I’ve never conjured a Corporeal Patronus.
I know, right? I’m six-fricking-teen years old and all I’ve managed is the wispy silvery stuff! And what makes it worse is that everyone in the universe knows that my dad conjured a Corporeal Patronus at age thirteen. Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
But my Gryffies don’t know about my Patronal deficiencies. I accidentally ingested several Nosebleed Nougats the day we first practiced Patroni third year (spending the day in the hospital wing and losing five quarts of blood), and I’ve been pretty behind in that particular branch of defensive magic ever since. But I am a prideful young man who isn’t terribly good at knowing when to ask for help, and prideful young men frequently dig themselves into very deep holes that appear to have no exit. And as long as Patroni are miraculously absent from my N.E.W.T. exam as they were from my O.W.L., I’ll get an Exceeds Expectations or an Acceptable. Please don’t laugh at the fact that Harry Potter’s firstborn son isn’t fantastic at Defence Against the Dark Arts. I’m rather talented at Charms, I’ll have you know.
Just not the Patronus Charm.
“Right,” I said as we assembled beside each other, wands at the ready. “Tegan, would you like to go first?”
My sweet damsel beamed at my chivalry and stepped forward. She closed her eyes, scrunched her face in thought (adorable!), and raised her wand.
“Expecto Patronum!” exclaimed Tegan, a beam of silver light jetting from her wand. The light seemed to squish together as it spurted around our corner of the common room, moulding into something imperceptible. The Patrona flew faster and faster around in circles until it became a compact, indiscernible, and remarkably speedy lump of silvery smoke.
Tegan grinned and flicked her wand, and the Patrona slowed down and began to fly in loop-dee-loops, chirping excitedly. It was Tegan’s familiar sparrow Patrona, the same little bird she’d been able to conjure since third year.
“Well done Tegan!” bellowed Freddie as we applauded and gave a few wolf-whistles for our girl. Tegan blushed and made the sparrow disappear with a swish of her wand.
I gave her a great big hug when she returned to her spot beside me. “You’re amazing, Tegarino,” I whispered to her.
She glowed an even darker shade of scarlet. “It’s not that big of a deal,” she said ever so humbly.
It is to someone who’s as doomed against dementors as I am! I thought.
“Hey James,” continued Tegan, still speaking softly, “I just realized that I don’t know what your Patronus form is.”
I chuckled nervously. “You’ll see soon enough! J.D., why don’t you go?”
He stepped forward and held out his wand, turning back to say, “Be prepared to blown away by my incredible Patronus, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
“Expecto Patronum!” shouted J.D., a burst of light emitting from his wand. The Patronus quickly took its corporeal shape as a fox, trotting through the air with his short legs and waving his bushy tail about.
As we all clapped and cheered for J.D., my stomach lurched. Oh cruel world, why is my bestest mate so excellent at the subject I am genetically disposed to be excellent at? Dawlish might loathe J.D. with a passion, but he’s still an excellent defensive wizard. But I’m the one with grandparents who were in the Order of the Phoenix! (Both Orders of the Phoenix, I might add.) And lest we forget my dad, a.k.a. The Boy Who Lived, The Chosen One, and The Defender of the Magical World. J.D.’s granddad was a Death Eater, for Merlin’s sake! All young witches and wizards learn that we mustn’t judge a schoolmate based on his relatives’ allegiances, but still! Why do I have to be the one who’s painfully ordinary at Defence?
“I’m next!” announced Micah, stepping forward and holding his wand at the ready. He snapped his eyes shut and twisted his face into a defiant frown (his gorgeous hair gleaming in the firelight) for nearly two minutes before he shouted the incantation.
Upon his call, a wisp of silver erupted from Micah’s wand and transformed into a shiny-coated beagle. The barking dog was somewhere between small- and medium-sized and took great delight in chasing his tail in mid-air.
Micah disappeared his Patronus and we all gave our supportive applause and shouts of praise. Of course, my stomach was in the middle of a very difficult somersault routine. ‘Round and ‘round it went in flawless form, churning with no end in sight.
“Oi Weasley, why don’t you step up and show us what you’ve got?” laughed Micah to his best mate, prodding him in the ribs.
“I think I will, Horo,” smirked Fred haughtily, taking his wand and carefully concentrating. “Expecto Patronum!”
That same sort of silver light shot from Freddie’s wand, except his bit of wispy smoke was much larger than Tegan’s, J.D.’s, or Micah’s. The primitive Patronus pressed forward somewhat slowly but with an obvious power at its epicentre, until it meshed together to form a towering, growling brown bear. The ethereal beast gallumped around the Gryffie corner, rather large for this small space.
After Freddie vanished his kick ass Patronus, I couldn’t congratulate him along with the others. My stomach had moved on from the somersaults to performing several floor exercises simultaneously. My gastric fluids skipped around and spun a ribbon to that old Celestina Warbeck song before moving on to a succession of cartwheels.
Why yes, I took gymnastics from ages five through nine. I think it’s originally a Muggle sport or summat, but it became very fashionable for young witches (and this boy wizard) during my childhood. I excelled at the vault, parallel bars, and exploding beam, and those years of training would contribute immensely to my dexterity, flexibility, and overall Quidditch ability.
“James?” Tegan poked me as I awoke from my reminiscing. “It’s your turn.”
“Right!” I exclaimed, my voice shaking. Don’t muck this up, Jamesie. For once, do not embarrass yourself in front of your girlfriend and best mates. Please.
I stepped forward, took a deep breath, and closed my eyes just as everyone else had done. All right, you’re supposed to think of happy things, yeah? Think lovely thoughts…think lovely thoughts…hmm, pie is lovely. Ooh, a nice slice of cherry pie, with a cool glass of milk…
“Expecto Patronum!” I shouted, holding my wand up. A little burst of the silvery stuff came out, but it fizzled and made a resonating pop as it disappeared.
Time seemed to stand still for a moment, but then J.D., Fred, and Micah exploded into laughter. Disappointed, dejected, and face glowing as brightly as one of Dr. Filibuster, Jr.’s fireworks, I lowered my wand and blinked. I really shouldn’t have been surprised that my first actual attempt at conjuring a Corporeal Patronus failed so miserably. But I am a dreamer, and we tend to dream of the best-case scenarios.
My mates, who are considerably less sensitive than I, continued with their loud, horrible guffaws, in no apparent respect of my feelings. I was scared to turn back ‘round, for fear that they’d chortle even louder at my facial expression.
“Shut up, you prats!” snapped Tegan with such intensity that I was a bit frightened. I suppose J.D., Freddie, and Micah were too, because they stopped laughing.
I heard soft footsteps from behind me, and Tegan delicately took my hand. I suppose most blokes would feel emasculated if their girlfriend had to defend them to their own mates, but I didn’t.
“Is something wrong?” whispered Tegan with great concern, almost making me feel worse about myself.
“Er,” I mumbled, “I don’t exactly know how to conjure a Patronus. I mean, I’ve sort of never done it before.”
Tegan pursed her lips to the side. “Did you ever go see Professor Dawlish after the Nosebleed Nougat incident third year?”
I shook my head meekly.
“All right,” said Tegan, thinking. “You’re quite good at Charms, so with proper instruction you should pick it up quickly—”
“But the Patronus Charm isn’t like other charms!” I whined. “It’s complex and more of a defensive spell and I’m rubbish at it.”
“Lose the attitude, James,” said Tegan sternly. “I’m helping you whether you like it or not.”
I couldn’t help but grin at my wonderful and intimidating lady friend as she frowned and her olive eyes glowered. Tegan truly completes me, she does.
“Right,” she said. “You know the incantation, obviously, but you’ve got to look inside yourself and find the happiest memory you’ve got.”
“But I did that last time,” I told her, “and it still didn’t work.”
Tegan rolled her eyes pre-emptively. “What memory did you pick?”
“Er, it wasn’t a specific memory, I suppose. I thought of pie,” I said sheepishly.
She sighed. “I sorely hope that you’re not so emotionally deficient that your fondest memory is of pie.”
“No!” I said defensively. “You know I’m overly sensitive for my gender.”
“James,” said Tegan, taking a deep breath, “this has to be the most joy you’ve felt in your entire life. It’s got to be an extraordinarily powerful memory. Can you manage that?”
I nodded and shut my eyes to think. Best memory ever…best memory ever…
Making the house team second year? No, that won’t do…
That Christmas I got my Imagination Journal? Well yes, that had me skipping about for a few hours, but receiving a book can’t be my best memory…
What about Tegan? When you first asked her out and she blinked at you and you wanted to cry but she finally said yes? That was a rather happy feeling, eh Jamesie?
I gripped my wand tightly, thought about straddling Tegan that day (minds out of the gutter, please!), and popped my eyes open.
“Expecto Patronum!” I said a good deal more forcefully than last time, and a burst of silver light exploded from the tip of my wand. The light shot towards the ceiling, gaining speed and momentum, and I waited on baited breath. Higher and higher the nondescript Patronus soared, beginning to morph into a broad yet thin form…
“Eagle!” I exclaimed, watching my glorious, bird-of-prey Patronus hover in circles, grazing the ceiling of the common room. He gracefully glided and swooped, his beak pointed proudly and his large talons ready to attack any dementors in the vicinity. But as the nearest dementor was probably in Albania (I think they used to guard Azkaban Prison, which is much closer to Hogwarts than Albania, but Arlie’s dad banished them ages ago), I disappeared my Patronus.
“Whoa,” I heard J.D. mumble.
“Big,” said Micah.
“Bird,” said Freddie.
“Well done James!” said Tegan brightly, throwing her gangly arms around me and kissing me on the cheek. I smiled so widely my face ought to have broken.
My mates gathered ‘round as well, shuffling their feet and looking foolish. Oh, what’s that, best mates? You all have cavities from the just desserts I imposed on you?
“We’re sorry about heartlessly mocking you,” said Fred earnestly. “It truly was out of line.”
“‘Snot the right way to treat your friend and cap’n,” reckoned Micah, “and most unbecoming of strapping young men like ourselves.”
“An eagle?” clarified J.D., bewildered. “I’m really sorry, mate, but I must admit that I was expecting a mouse or flobberworm or summat.”
I regarded them with humility and grace, just like my noble protector would, if his Patroni friends had been mean to him but later felt remorse. “Perhaps there is more to me than meets the eye, Johnny Boy,” I said, feeling very insightful. “Perhaps there is more to me than meets the eye.”
“No no NO, Mattie!” I shouted, zooming towards the scoring area whilst riding on my broomstick. “You were flacking right there!”
Mattie Thomas sat back on his broom and frowned. “My arm did not go through the hoop, James!”
“You blocked Arlie’s shot after the Quaffle went in, and that’s illegal,” I maintained. “It’s almost the second match of the season, Mattie, and I can’t have you committing fouls!”
It was quite chilly at Quidditch practice that Thursday, almost chilly enough to snow. But there was no precipitation in the atmosphere, so my Gryffies and I had bundled up, sweaters under our kits and woolly hats upon our heads, and faced the dawn of what would surely be a frigid winter.
“Lay off him, James,” said Arlie, flying up behind me. “His hand was a tenth of a second too slow, and Bagman never calls flacking anyways.”
I swung my broom around to face her, exhaling and seeing my own breath. “I want a clean, fair fight against the Ravenclaws, Arlie, and if our ignorant referee doesn’t call a foul, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t committed.”
She rolled her eyes but said nothing more, and I deemed this a victory for Team James.
“Right, then,” I rose my voice slightly. “Micah and Arlie, practice reverse passing and the Hawkshead Attacking Formation without me, and Mattie, tune up your Sloth Grip Roll and Starfish and Stick, yeah? The Ravenclaws had a fantastic hold on these moves during their match against Hufflepuff, and we have to be on an even footing. Laters!”
I pointed my broom handle and raced down the pitch, the north wind stinging my face and drying my eyes. I almost didn’t see the Bludger heading straight for my left shoulder, but I let go of the broom with one hand and hung upside down in a Sloth Grip Roll just in time.
“Sorry mate!” I heard J.D. call in the distance as I flew towards him. “I’m not doing so well with the Bludger Backbeat, as you can see!”
When I reached him and Freddie, I took J.D.’s bat and made a backward swinging motion, bringing my right arm almost into contact with my torso. “It’s got to be quick upon contact, but smooth with the follow-through,” I said matter-of-factly to him. “With a traditional hit, you have to accelerate the speed of the bat, see, but with a Backbeat, it’s all about deceleration. That’s where the precision with the aiming comes from, you see?”
I Accioed the Bludger and set it beside J.D. (in midair, of course). The black ball started to sneak away, but J.D. gave it a clean, decelerated backwards smack. The Bludger shot straight down the pitch, heading for Mattie at the opposite scoring end, but missed him during his Double Eight Loop and sailed through the left hoop.
“Nicely done, Nott!” exclaimed Freddie, giving J.D. a slap on the back.
I nodded quickly, but got back to business. “Your Backbeat is good enough, Fred, but practice it until J.D. has the move down pat, and then I want you two to work on the Dopplebeater Defence. The Ravenclaw Chasers are thin and fragile, and I want you to absolutely destroy them. I’m talking bloodshed and dangling entrails.”
Freddie laughed and J.D. smirked. “We will leave no entrails unturned,” said Fred cheerfully.
I bid them quick adieux and flew a hundred feet above the pitch, to the only member of the Gryffindor side that I hadn’t coached today. Tegan shivered as her small, gloved hands gripped her broomstick.
“You all right?” I called as I flew level with her.
“Fantastic,” she said faintly. “Taking a bit of a breather, here.”
I looked below at my Beaters, Chasers, and Keeper practicing frantically, eager to avoid another embarrassing defeat. I turned back to Tegan, resisting the urge to give her a hug.
“You’ll be warmer if you keep moving,” I said, doing a loop-dee-loop to lighten the mood.
Tegan grinned and loop-dee-looped as well. “Sorry James,” she said.
I tilted my head slightly and sighed. “Er, I probably sound like a right prick, but d’you mind calling me ‘Cap’n’ on the pitch? And ‘James’ only when we’re off it?”
“All right, Cap’n,” said Tegan suspiciously. “Nebulous, are we today?”
I gulped. “If by ‘nebulous’, you mean absolutely spiffing!” I gave a smile so weak it was incontrovertibly pathetic. “Please, Teg. It’s weird enough for me to bark orders at you now that we’re…us…and when you call me James I get all confuddled and distracted and—do you understand where I’m coming from?”
She gave me one of her dozens of patented Teganesque looks, the You’re-Barkers-But-I’m-Not-Mad-At-You one. “You don’t have to look so scared,” said Tegan kindly. “I’m not mad at you. You’re barkers, but I’m not mad at you.”
Am I psychic? Memo to self: Stop falling asleep in Divination and figure out if you’ve been wasting the gift of the Seeing Eye for all these years.
“I mean, some people even go so far as to call me neurotic,” chortled Tegan, that silly notion causing her great delight. “I guess we all have our moments of madness, yeah?”
Oh, my dear, sweet, obliviously hypocritical Tegan. “Do you still rub your hands with Sycorax Scroop’s Sanitizing Serum every time you leave the loo or hospital wing, or whenever you borrow someone else’s quill, or whenever you see Snorky Scamander toting his beetle terrarium about—?”
“They’re in cahoots with Khepri!” exclaimed Tegan, twitching her head. “Snorky once told me that his bloody scarab beetles can communicate with Khepri, some ancient Egyptian deity. And beetles are filthy and germ-ridden and frolic in dung!”
“Dung?” I clarified in feigned idiocy.
“DUNG!” shrieked Tegan, waving her fist in the air. “Is fearing dung for its inherently unsanitary qualities so wrong?”
I chuckled quietly, not approaching the realm of disrespectfulness, and regarded Tegan and her bulging olive eyes. She is indeed the nutter for me.
“But the quill, Tegers,” I said earnestly. “Your whole Foreign Quill Sanitizing Routine is a bit much, don’t you think?”
She bit her lip and kicked her foot around the air, gently rocking her broom side to side. “I thought we weren’t going to criticize one another’s eccentricities.”
I flew a bit closer to her, but still kept an appropriate amount of distance. “I don’t mean to criticize, but merely to point out your mysophobia in contrast to my sub-par compartmentalization skills.”
“Pardon?” asked Tegan.
I took a breath. “When I see you on your broomstick, I inadvertently blur the line between girlfriend and Seeker,” I explained delicately, just as Dobby Longbottom had explained my brain to me. “I want to treat you the way I would on land, and that is not conducive to a productive Quidditch practice.”
“Yeah?” Tegan smirked.
I resisted the urge to utter a cheeky retort. “So if you call me ‘Cap’n’ and not ‘James’,” I continued, “it’s easier for me to stay professional. We need to treat this situation as professionals.”
“Professionals,” repeated Tegan, undoubtedly sarcastic.
“No lair from you, Llewellyn,” I couldn’t help but grin.
“Oh, my sincerest apologies, Cap’n!” piped Tegan, playing along. “You’ll get no lip from me, from henceforth.”
After a moment of thought, I determined that I didn’t know how to turn that into a ‘that’s what she said’ joke. And anyways, that’s Micah’s turf. Even if he isn’t allowed to say it anymore, I feel wrong using his inappropriate jokes.
I let the smile dissolve from my face and felt a very different expression, including narrowed eyebrows and pursed lips, fall into place. “Your Jacques-Hammeurt Manoeuvre,” I said briskly. “It isn’t up to snuff.”
She looked at me curiously. “It isn’t?”
“To be frank, it’s all wrong,” I said sternly. “Enchant the Snitch to stay on this half of the pitch and do about fifty Jacques-Hammeurt Manoeuvres.”
“With pleasure, Cap’n,” said Tegan dryly, and promptly flew to the edge of the pitch, cast a spell on the Snitch, and let it loose. The golden ball sped away, twitting as it went, and Tegan sat back on her broom, gazing in my direction.
“When you’re ready,” I said coolly, though I was sweating out of terror. Cap’n Mode, James. You’re the cap’n. She’s the Seeker. Cap’ns tell Seekers what to do all the time. Why should it matter if they’re dating?
Tegan sped off across the pitch, leaning forward so that she was parallel to the broomstick, and kept it on an absolutely level course. Her sharp eyes peered down in search of that elusive Snitchy-Poo, but she, and I, caught sight of it buzzing around the base of the middle hoop. The Snitch was inches off the ground, and assuming it stayed in this general vicinity for more than ten seconds, Tegan would have a very challenging Jacques-Hammeurt to manoeuvre.
She brought the nose of her broom in the air and rose several feet very quickly, to befuddle her nonexistent Seeking opponent, then dramatically directed her Firebolt Zeus Series downwards. Tegan entered a very fast barrel roll towards the pitch, heading directly towards the base of the hoop where the Snitch was frolicking. She was quite a distance away form me at this point, but a strong sense of determination was apparent in her flying stance. Tegan hurried towards the Snitch, who mocked her with his defiant, merry jig around the pole. Closer and closer she came, ready to complete the manoeuvre, and then…
It was over. Tegan caught the ruddy thing, flew up towards me, and gave a sly smile. “How was that, Cap’n?” she asked, most proper.
I took the Snitch from her, nervously fidgeted with it for a few seconds, and then let it free. “Better than I expected, I must admit,” I said. “The Jacques Feint was very good in precision and direction, but I’m still concerned about the Hammeurt Dive.”
“Look, I know I’ve become infamous around school for diving straight into the pitch,” protested Tegan, “but I’m not a moron. The Hammeurt Dive is a really advanced move and is key to the whole Jacques-Hammeurt Manoeuvre. I know this.”
“So you’ll practice it?” I suggested, guiding her along the way a cap’n ought.
“Forty-nine more times,” she grinned smugly, and my stomach did a back handspring. There is something inexplicably sexy about Tegan’s behaviour when I am in Cap’n Mode, and I’m not sure whether it’s terror or curiosity on my part. On land, she almost always calls the shots, but in the air…the air is my domain.
Tegan continued with her forty-nine Jacques-Hammeurt Manoeuvres, smirking all the way. I watched about half of them before I had to return to my other Gryffies, and with that odd, repressed power, Tegan did at least twenty-five exceptional Manoeuvres. Since we are going to get married and spend the rest of our lives together, it will be very interesting to see how this sexual tension will affect our Quidditch matches. Of which there will be many, since Tegan and I both plan to play professionally after we leave the ‘warts.
All the Gryffies do, actually. Well, Arlie wants to be a Curse-Breaker or Healer or summat, but definitely not anything in the Ministry. But the point is she probably won’t join a professional Quidditch club. Mattie is just a child and does not have to tell Professor Longbottom what he wants to do for months. I will guide him to the right occupation: professional Quidditch player wiv James, Tegan, J.D., Freddie, and Micah.
Gryffies Take Action!
“Eeeeee,” whispered J.D. at the highest note of his falsetto register, casually sitting back in his chair and balancing his quill between his fingers. Micah, sitting beside him, suppressed his mad giggles with his Tutshill Tornados handkerchief.
Professor Dawlish quickly turned his head around, neglecting the notes he’d been writing on Patronus Messaging. He carefully listened for that familiar, pesky squeak, but it had disappeared with the closing of J.D.’s mouth.
Dawlish focused on the chalkboard once more and drawled, “The Corporeal Patronus has many functions, several of which are outlined in your textbook. We have a written exam in two weeks time, students, and I strongly suggest reading the footnotes. They are very interesting and important to any defensive wizard, and may or may not comprise most or all of the exam.”
“Eeeeee!” hummed J.D., ever so slightly louder. Micah was so full of glee that he could have wet himself and no one would be surprised.
Freddie sat with Miranda Matilda Melinda Shitforbrains in the row in front of J.D. and Micah. The Fredster was more tactful in keeping his laughter silent than Michers, but MMMS could not comprehend the distinctly Gryffie brand of humour.
“Is J.D. having a fit?” she asked in hushed whispers to Fred, very concerned for J.Dizzle’s mental health.
“It’s a prank,” Freddie whispered back. “You’ll see, Rand.”
“Eeeeee!” continued J.D., with the sort of perfectly straight face that every mischief-maker aspires to develop.
I allowed myself a few chuckles and Tegan accidentally gave a loud snort, but we were in the very back row, right behind J.D. and Micah and mostly out of Dawlish’s earshot.
“This is indubitably one of J.D.’s most futile and absolutely brilliant pranks,” snickered Tegan.
“The beauty is in its simplicity,” I replied quietly, taking her hand and lightly rubbing it. “Let’s hope he pulls this off.”
We all heard Dawlish cough loudly to clear his throat. “Now, students,” he began again, returning his attention to his beloved chalkboard, “we will discuss a very complicated bit of magic commonly referred to as Patronus Messaging. Please turn to page 42 of your textbooks and read the selection on Patronus Messaging silently. Look up when you are done.”
“EEEEEE!” chirped J.D., no longer inhibited. Micah nearly fell out of his chair, Tegan coughed up something that looked like a lung, and Little Miss Shitforbrains continued to give Freddie her hopelessly puzzled look.
Dawlish, jaw clenched, whipped ‘round and regarded his N.E.W.T.-level class of twenty-seven Gryffindors, Slytherins, Hufflepuffs, and Ravenclaws. “Whoever is so rudely disrupting my class may stop now.” growled Dawlish, putting on his Intimidating Face. Unfortunately for him, his Face wasn’t all that Intimidating.
J.D. gave our teacher a blank, empty smile, and carefully opened his lips and EEEEEE!’ed once more.
“What is that noise?” demanded Dawlish, his face becoming a royal shade of purple.
“What noise, Professor?” asked Freddie, right on cue. Fred is our go-to guy for oblivious, innocent bullshit.
Dawlish took a huge, dramatic breath. “One of you is disrupting my class!” he said sternly, looking right towards J.D.
“But Professor, none of us heard anything,” I chimed in. “Right?”
Most of the allies and strangers surrounding me murmured in agreement, but Dawlish’s glare never deterred from J.D.’s direction.
“EEEEEE!” whispered J.D. bravely, barely opening his thin lips.
Dawlish looked ready to explode at J.D., but it was Tegan’s turn to speak. “Professor Dawlish,” she said in her sweet by crisp tone, “no one else can hear this sound. Have you met with a Neuro-Otological Healer recently?”
“No, Miss Llewellyn, I have not,” snapped Dawlish. “I have excellent hearing, and since such merits are required of Aurors, of which I was a celebrated one, I have no need to see a Neuro-…Whatever Healer!”
“EEEEEE!” said J.D. once more, internally revelling in the ruckus he’d caused.
“That noise!” exclaimed Dawlish. “You, Nott—”
“Yes sir!” chipped J.D., smiling broadly. “John Dorian Nott, at your service! Oi, your first name’s John too, yeah? It’s wicked, isn’t it, Professor? Y’know, we should have a party sometime, just a casual get-together, nothing fancy, and we can invite John Plantagenet, the fourth year in Hufflepuff. Ooh, we could form a club, Professor! The Johnny Boys of Hogwarts or summat! Cool, yeah? Naturally you think it’s quite brill, since you are the essence of cool, Johnny D.”
“EEEEEE!” that same humming floated around the classroom, but it could not have come from J.D. I turned my head rightwards and saw MMMS’s lips slightly pursed.
I award one flaky gold star to Miranda Matilda Melinda Shitforbrains! Well done, Rand! (As Freddie calls you.)
I think smoke started to come out of Dawlish’s ears at that point. “What is that incessant ringing?!” he shouted, retreating to the dais at the front of the room and dramatically covering his ears.
“Professor, are you sure you aren’t suffering from an ear condition?” asked Micah, feigning helpfulness.
“There is nothing wrong with my hearing!” exclaimed Dawlish.
“Oh dear, Professor, it could be neurological,” suggested Tegan morbidly. “Something in your brain—”
“I know the definition of neurological!” shouted Dawlish, hands firm upon his ears. At this point, all of the non-Gryffie students hummed the same, high-pitched note. Even the Slytherins joined in, demonstrating the unity of our houses in the face of a dreadful Defence teacher.
“If it’s troubling you so badly, Johnny D., then you really should let a Healing professional examine the extensive neuro-otological damage!” cried J.D. in desperate concern for his sworn enemy. But not for realsies, of course. We’re all just playing pretend!
“Madam Larkin is on duty, Professor,” I informed him. “But if it’s serious you may need the care that only St Mungo’s can provide!”
“EEEEEE!” the Hufflepuffs, Slytherins, Ravenclaws, and Snorky Scamander proclaimed, perfectly in sync without moving their lips.
“STOP THAT HUMMING!” shouted Dawlish desperately.
“Are you going mad, Professor?” I piped up. “Professor, are you—”
“Out of my way!” screeched Dawlish as he bolted out of the classroom, his shiny bald head gleaming in the candlelight and his dark robes swishing as he went. He abruptly opened the wooden door, dashed through it, and slammed it shut, and we twenty-seven sixth year N.E.W.T. Defence Against the Dark Arts students found ourselves without a teacher.
Professor Vindictus Viridian, a thin, grey-haired wizard of about my grandparents’ age, stared at us sixth-year Gryffies as we sat ‘round his office, staring with his dead, lifeless green eyes. He’d called us in during our free period that afternoon, and looked even less ecstatic to see us than he usually did. He’s not a huge fan of the Gryffies and the shenanigans we sometimes get into.
“Do you know why I called you into my office, Misters Nott, Potter, Horowitz, Weasley, and Miss Llewellyn?” asked Viridian after seven agonizing minutes of silence, leaning back in his leather-upholstered chair. He rubbed his eyes and let his unremarkable monotone voice sit in the air.
“No, Professor!” J.D. half-whispered, half-gasped, his hands grabbing his terrorized face. “Professor Dawlish—it was a flesh-eating bacteria, wasn’t it? Sweet Albus, the flesh-eating bacteria ate the workings of his inner ears, didn’t they? Is Professor Dawlish going to be okay, Professor Viridian? No, don’t say it! I don’t think I can bear to hear bad news! The damned bacteria wasn’t just in his ears, was it? Oh no, such sick, perverted microorganisms such as these wouldn’t be content with simply obliterating our poor teacher’s eardrums, would they? They got into his phalanges, didn’t they? You don’t have to protect us, Professor Viridian! Those fricking bacteria ate his phalanges, DID THEY NOT?”
Freddie coughed, but the rest of us Gryffies just sort of stared at J.D. He’s really very creative and always reliable when it comes to improvisation.
“Phalanges are bones, Mr. Nott,” sighed Viridian, cracking his knuckles. “Your flesh-eating bacteria ate the bone structure of Professor Dawlish’s digits?”
“Oh,” said J.D. “We told ‘im to go to St Mungo’s, didn’t we, mates? You see, Professor, we knew there was some sort of mutant flesh- and phalange-eating bacteria inhabiting Professor Dawlish, since he was exhibiting all the regular symptoms—”
“Hearing humming that isn’t there!” I added helpfully.
“Exactly!” said J.D. “No one else in the room could hear a thing, and we knew something was not right with our beloved Dawlish.”
Viridian made a soft tutting sound. “Do you children know how long I have been the respected headmaster of this esteemed establishment?”
“Er, only since our first year, right?” said Micah unsurely.
“That’s really not very long, sir,” I said.
“And ‘respected’ is a rather subjective term,” snickered J.D.
Viridian cleared his throat. “Do you know what I did before my tenure here, children?”
“Were you a professional mime, Professor?” asked Fred, sounding very serious.
“Paranormal liaison?” chimed in Tegan.
“No,” said Viridian through gritted teeth. “I taught at Beauxbatons.”
“In France? Nice,” commented J.D.
“As a matter of fact, it was not very nice, Mr. Nott,” continued Viridian. “I supported myself by teaching insufferable French brats rudimentary magic while I pursued my lifelong dream of founding the wizarding world’s most profitable publishing company.”
“Because what little kid doesn’t dream of becoming a profitable publisher?” I said under my breath.
“But after thirty long years, I gave up on my dream, after my lack of serious start-up capital became horribly apparent to my prospective investors and clients,” said Viridian, dejected and apparently ignorant of what I’d said. “I continued to teach at Beauxbatons until I was offered the post of Defence instructor at my alma mater, and enticed by the offer of automatic appointment as Head of Ravenclaw House, I returned to Britain a broken man.”
I glanced at my mates, all of us in uncertainty, until Tegan said kindly, “I’m sorry, Professor.”
Professor Viridian chuckled darkly. “Never fear, Miss Llewellyn, because Viridian & Son, Publishers of Fine Books was not a total failure.”
“I didn’t know you had a son, Professor,” said Fred.
“It’s an expression,” muttered Viridian. “My printing press indeed churned out one mildly successful reference volume. Bookshops in Britain and France preordered 10,000 copies of the first edition, which I personally translated into French and Provençal. There was no need to print a second edition.” His eyes went wide with sorrow.
“Pardon me, sir,” said Micah, hastily checking his wristwatch, “but could you please dole out our punishment relatively soon, cos we’re due in History of Magic in ten minutes.”
“I’m the headmaster of this school, Mr. Horowitz. Do you honestly think me incapable of writing you and your accomplices late passes? Oh, stop squirming, Mr. Horowitz, and pay close attention. I am teaching you a very important lesson,” said Viridian sternly, adjusting his emerald tweed homburg so it better hid his shiny bald noggin.
“My only contribution to the literary word has been Curses and Counter-curses
(Bewitch Your Friends and Befuddle Your Enemies with the Latest Revenges: Hair Loss, Jelly-Legs, Tongue-Tying, and Much, Much More),” growled Professor Viridian. “The Daily Prophet called it a ‘respectable foray into the literature of the pre-adolescent wizard demographic’.”
“So,” began J.D., “you’re trying to teach us to avoid the publishing industry?”
“No, Mr. Nott,” said Viridian, sounding tired. “My point is that you should never follow your dreams, because you will not succeed.”
Tegan shot me a look that said, He really shouldn’t be a motivational speaker.
Isn’t there theoretically a slight overlap between that occupation and Vindictus’s current one? I looked back. I mean, Albus Dumbledore must’ve been more inspirational than this sod, yeah?
“The world does not want you to succeed,” continued Viridian, his voice quickening in pace somewhat. “The system is designed to bring you nothing but heartbreak and failure. Do not shoot for the moon, children, because if you do, you will fall off the roof of the building you were standing on and break every bone in your body when you hit the ground. And even magic cannot save you then.”
I always assumed that Skele-Gro would do the trick, but Professor Viridian appeared very certain of his convictions. And really, who am I to disagree with him?
“Professor Dawlish, sir,” piped Tegan, snapping Viridian out of whatever depressed trance he’d been in. “How is Professor Dawlish?”
Viridian gave another great heaving sigh and shuffled the pieces of parchment on his desk. “You won, children,” he said faintly. “After all these years of torturing the poor man, you have won.”
“Is there some sort of prize, then?” asked J.D. in his usual crass idiom.
But Viridian ignored him. “Professor Dawlish informed me, after exiting your class this morning, that he will utilize his one-time, indefinite, paid vacation time effective immediately. He will not teach until the mood next strikes him.”
“Hold on,” I said. “Dawlish just decided to go on holiday?”
“Albus Dumbledore implemented a number of socialist policies at this school,” said Viridian matter-of-factly. “No teacher ever takes the holiday because they don’t want to waste it. The Impulsive, Indefinite Professor Holiday may be brought into effect once, and only once, during their tenure.”
“He’s gone?” asked J.D. “As in vacated the premises for an indefinite period of time?”
“That’s generally what a vacation entails,” said Viridian, smarmy as the day is long. “Vacating some sort of premises.”
J.D. turned to me, a wide grin on his face. “Fo’ shizz!” he exclaimed brightly, reaching over and slapping my back.
“Shizztacular!” I whimpered, the area where he struck me throbbing.
“We did it!” laughed Micah in glee, embracing Freddie.
I turned to Tegan, who was smiling nervously. “C’mon Teg, show us a grin, there!” I said enthusiastically. “The Wicked Wizard of the ‘Warts has been run out of town!”
“I just feel bad, you know?” She shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe we were too mean.”
I leaned over to grab her and hold her and comfort her and tell her it’s all right, but Viridian stopped me.
“I’m still here, you know,” he drawled, unimpressed with how we operate. “And because you appear capable of feeling remorse, Miss Llewellyn, your punishment will be less severe than that of your friends’. Oh, I can ensure you that it will be monotonous and unpleasant, of course, but it will be somewhat more brief.”
Viridian went into another one of his placid daydream episodes, and Freddie snapped to wake him up.
“What’s our punishment, then?” asked Fred bitterly. “This punishment that blatantly violates habeas corpus and a number of legal precedents in the field of criminal justice. There is absolutely no evidence for this crime. And we don’t even know what the crime we allegedly committed actually is.”
“I frankly don’t care,” said Viridian. “Your discipline is in the domain of your new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher now, and I have confidence that he will treat you appropriately And Mr. Weasley, stop throwing Latin phrases around and drop the innocent act. You are your friends harassed Professor Dawlish for more than five years, and such behaviour is unacceptable in my school.”
The headmaster took his quill and began scribbling on several scraps of parchment, and we Gryffies looked ‘round at each other for the umpteenth time, in total confusion.
“You’ve got a new teacher lined up already?” asked J.D.
“Obviously,” drawled Viridian.
“Who is he?” I asked.
“Reporting to the Entrance Hall at nine o’clock this evening would be an important step in solving your little mystery, yes, Mr. Potter?” said Viridian snidely. “And that goes for all of you. Entrance Hall at nine. Serve your detentions or forfeit your right to play in the match this Saturday. You understand?”
The headmaster handed us the late passes he’d quickly filled out and ushered us out of his office. We Gryffies descended the moving staircase and exited by the griffin, making our way to History of Magic as slowly as possible.
“Frick detention!” exclaimed J.D. “Frick this new Defence teacher! Frick my life!”
“‘Snot so bad,” said Micah. “We’re permitted to play in the Ravenclaw match.”
“Viridian’s compromises are never good,” muttered Fred. The three of them sped ahead as we meandered through the corridors, while Tegan and I walked at a flobberworm’s pace.
“You don’t feel bad for what we did to Dawlish?” she asked quietly as our teammates skipped down the hall, arms linked, and singing ‘Takin’ It To The Pitch’, which happens to be the theme from the musical We Are The Cannons!. Saw it over summer holiday with my mates and it totally changed my life, not just as a Cannons supporter, but as a red-blooded Englishman and supporter of performing arts.
“I’m not happy about it,” I said carefully, wondering if it would be out of line to take her by the hand.
“He’s a right git, of course,” Tegan thought out loud, “and the definition of smarmy, but we might have been a bit extreme, yeah?”
I nodded. “But what’s done is done, Tegs. Our actions were in no doubt childish, but all we can do is face the consequences for them now. And perhaps consider acting our age in the future.”
Tegan took my arm as we inched along the corridor, and I knew I wasn’t in trouble. “Wiser words were never spoken, James,” she said breathlessly as she lay her head on my shoulder. “Though there’s a slim chance that any of us’ll ever act our respective age.”
I snaked my arm around her waist and revealed in her Tegalicious scent. “You know, you look very cute when you’re concerned for the welfare of someone you don’t even like.”
She gave a small smile and tripped over my feet a little bit, but we quickly regained our balanced and moseyed along while holding each other tightly. Sure, Jegan is a bit clumsy, but we do all right.
I gulped and tried to compliment her again. “Your hair is very shiny today. And pretty. And a little red in hue, in this lighting.”
She halted and turned to face me, and I to her, still kind of awkwardly holding each other. “Your hair is exceptionally untidy today,” said Tegan with a smirk, brushing a strand of my hair out of my face. “And it flips out at the bottom, see, and it looks like you’ve got wings.”
Tegan gently ran her hand through my messy, messy locks, and I pulled her a bit closer to me. In the back of my mind I knew we were standing very much in the middle of the corridor leading to the History of Magic wing during the early afternoon. But I didn’t particularly care, because the vast majority of the student body avoids the History corridor like the bubonic, and those students unfortunate enough to be in this area of the castle at this time (e.g. sixth year N.E.W.T. students) were fast asleep in Professor Binns’ classroom. Who could possibly disturb us? And the sunlight beamed brightly through the stained glass windows and created such a cheerful ambiance. Plus it turned Tegan’s hair red. This isn’t as weird as it sounds, cos it’s normally brown by candlelight, but turns blonde under the winter clouds. But I like Tegan’s hair when it’s red.
“The secret to my fabulous hair care regimen,” I said cheekily, “is to go to bed with wet hair, awake in the morning with a coiffure so mad it borders the fourth dimension, and tussle it up some more.”
Tegan grinned and now ran both her hands through my hair. “I’ve got to try that some time.”
I cocked my head. “Hmm, I’m not sure you could pull it off.”
She dropped her hands and they landed on my shoulders, her face in mock surprise. “I’m not sure who should be more insulted—me or my hair!”
I sniggered and pulled her hips to mine. “Hair as luscious as mine is a gift, Tegs. You’ve got to be born with it.”
Tegan wrapped her arms around my neck and looked curiously like some sort of predatory cat. “Let’s snog.”
“Right, then,” I replied, perhaps too excitedly.
She brought her lips to mine, and they met. We softly and slowly kissed each other, absolutely aware of our location but in stubborn defiance of it. I mean really, who gives a bibble about the History corridor?
Tegan pulled me closer against her and I rubbed my hands up and down her back, kissing increasingly more hungrily. She smelled like oranges again and tasted like fish, which actually isn’t as bad of a combination as it sounds. J.D. says that all girls either taste like cheese or fish, and fish goes better with oranges than cheese does. And I like fish, especially dolphin-safe tuna and that salmon with all the antioxidants.
My Fish and Orange Lady seemed to be working out some sort of frustration as we snogged, but I didn’t mind. We all must collect our thoughts in different ways. I write in my Imagination Journal, and Tegan snogs me.
History of Magic must have been nearly over before Tegan and I broke ended our snogging, but this end did not come about without external intervention.
Tegan had stepped on my foot and slipped her tongue in my mouth when I heard a voice call from down the corridor.
“Ten points from Gryffindor,” the somewhat familiar young man’s voice announced, “for a very public display of affection.”
Me and Tegan stopped sucking each other’s face and turned to face this prickish fellow. But then my frown exploded into a beam of pure joy at the sight of the prickish fellow.
“Teddy Lupin!” I exclaimed, letting go of Tegan and running towards my godbrother. He was a seventh year when I was an ickle firstie, Head Boy and the essence of cool. He still has blue hair and dates my rather unpleasant cousin Victoire.
But Teddy Lupin put out his hand and stopped me in my tracks. “I’m not quite done yet,” said Teddy, a slight smile on his face and twinkle in his eye. “I award one point to Gryffindor for each of you, because it’s a relief that you’re both finally getting some.”
Tegan joined me and Teddy and smiled slyly. “Teddy,” she blushed slightly, possibly because Teddy Lupin was 23 and the sort of handsome that made people like me look like street urchins, “what are you doing back at school, and what’s this about docking points?”
Teddy stepped back and stood up very straight and tall. “Well, Tegan, as my heart truly lies in Hufflepuff, I can dock all the Gryffindor points I want. Oh, and I’m also your new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher.”
A/N: I’ve seen the ITV documentary on JKR (AWESOME, by the way) and know that the only canon next gen fact I got right was James II’s middle name. But since we’re already ten chapters in, and I have enough plot for 30+ chapters, and aforementioned plot includes Luna’s offspring being in the Gryffies’ year and Percy having a son and, well, I just prefer the name Madeleine to Dominique. But really, isn’t this all canon minutia in the grand scheme of things? (Nervous chuckle.) So I’m going to continue along with my own imaginings of the next gen, because I’d rather press forward than do a heckuva lot of rewriting.
Please review! My internet’s been spotty but I reply to every single last one when my WiFi decides to work. Reviews bring me such joy =). And sorry the update has taken so long. But the chapter’s longish, yeah? I'm a bit worried that it got monotonous in places, and is the ending cohesive?
EDIT 1/27/08: I was so spazzy before and totally forgot to credit JL Hufflepuff for the idea of making Teddy Lupin a teacher! I think our respective interpretations of Teddy will be sufficiently different so that there isn't too much overlap between my story and her own. But as for my Teddy Lupin, you'll have to wait and see what he's like XD.
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