Chapter Thirty-Four: A Rush of Arrivals
A week later, it was the last day of the holiday break before lessons were going to start again, and life would return to its normal, busy, hurried rush. More importantly, Harry thought, the Quidditch final was only a week away. Every single spare moment of the team's day was spent out on the pitch, come rain, shine, hell or high water, and at least three times, Professor McGonagall had to come out at midnight to tell them to get back inside. Ron had started a running commentary when they were walking down corridors, constantly announcing if he saw a Bright Sparks badge, or a badge of the rival team, The Dragons. Harry was pleased to see that a lot of the teachers were on the side of the Bright Sparks. Lupin and Alrister were right in the lead, and wore their badges with pride.
Of course, The Dragons had their fans. Most of Slytherin house, and to Harry's alarm, Ravenclaw as well. He supposed Mark Erith had something to do with that. Harry didn't know why he hated Mark Erith so much. Ron had a theory as to why.
"He dented your honour," Ron explained, coolly, as they made their way towards the entrance hall on the morning when Hermione and her copies of The Truth were due back at Hogwarts. "So what, it was Cho? It's because it was YOUR girlfriend. It doesn't matter if she was horrible to you, or you hate her now, or they split up or whatever. It's your honour he stole mostly."
"Cho was not my honour," said Harry, frowning.
"Yes, but it's the principle," said Ron. "It doesn't matter whether it's your girlfriend or your scarf or your quill. He stole something from you."
"You steal my quill in nearly every lesson we have," said Harry, raising his eyebrows.
Ron paused for a moment, then said, "Look. It's the principle."
Harry chuckled. "I've got some advice for you - don't give advice."
They met up with Draco in the entrance hall, and Ron started up a mini trading ring of Quidditch cards and food. Harry and Draco stood and debated Quidditch tactics, finally getting into a very heated discussion about the importance of the Keeper when compared with the Beaters, only interrupted when the doors of the entrance hall opened, and the students poured in. Harry looked up, scanning every face and watching for Hermione. "So, what do you think she's got to show us?"
Ron shrugged, absent-mindedly shuffling through his new treasures. "The ministry might be bringing out a new Transfiguration text book or something. You know what Hermione's like. It'll either be something really, really, really boring and only interesting to know-it-alls, or it'll be something really risky and farfetched. Remember the polyjuice potion?"
"Polyjuice potion?" said Draco, curiously.
"Uh, nothing," said Ron. "Hey look, there's Hermione!"
She was fighting her way through the sea of students, calling out to them, "Harry, Ron, Draco! Over here!" She pushed through a group of first years hurriedly, and ran across the entrance hall. Harry saw a white and gold magazine clutched tight in one of her hands, and she was carrying a bag in the other, which was full to the brim with more copies.
Ron's eyebrows rose up when he saw the bagful of magazines. "Oh, I see. You've read the entire library, so you're now onto the entire magazine collection of the earth."
Hermione ignored him, and instead unrolled the magazine, flicking through the pages quickly, passing articles about all sorts, all of which greatly intrigued Harry, until she came to the page she was looking for and pulled it open. "Look," she said.
Harry's eyes skimmed vaguely over the headline, "HYPOCRITE "HIGH INQUISITOR'S" HIDDEN HORRORS", before something far more noticable caught his widened eyes. There was a large photograph of Professor Umbridge in the middle of the page, next to a picture of a toad, proudly displaying the caption, "The Not-So-Subtle Similarities".
"What on earth...?" said Draco, frowning, who was a far faster reader than Ron and Harry, his eyes darting back and forth across the lines of text. His frown then lifted, as his jaw slackened and fell. "She's a WHAT?"
Hermione snapped the magazine shut, and looked at them all with the air of somebody revealing the meaning of life. "Yes," she said, dramatically. "It's so farfetched it can't possibly be fake."
Ron sighed. "We didn't even read what it was about, Hermione."
"Come on, we need to go somewhere quiet," she said, hurriedly, and with that, she hurried off out of one of the large doors leaving the entrance hall, out into the grounds. Draco followed after her, Ron and Harry swapped confused looks, then went out into the courtyard after them.
Hermione was already sitting on a bench and flipping through the magazine again. Harry sat on one side of her, and Ron and Draco had a brief fight over who got the other side, won by Ron, and Draco stood behind them all watching. Hermione was muttering as he scanned the pages. "It's about Umbridge... it's why she hates half-breeds so much... she is one..."
"What?" said Ron, amazed. "What's she a half-breed of?"
Hermione found her page, and pulled it open triumphantly, holding it up. "There are a people who live in the deep rivers of the Amazon rainforest - the toad people."
Harry's eyes widened, as he skimmed through the article, taking in snippets of information. "She's half-toad?"
"Her father isn't the senior ministry member she claims he is," said Hermione, in hushed tones. "It's one of the toad people. That's why she looks so much like one, and why she punishes half-breeds."
"Does it say what happened to her after the end of last year?" asked Ron, leaning over her shoulder.
She nodded. "Several people contacted the ministry about suspicious scars on the backs of their childrens' hands, and there was an inquiry. She lost her job. Nobody's really sure where she went after that, but nobody's really heard anything from her since then." She raised her eyebrows. "Pretty suspicious, if you ask me."
Harry snorted. "You don't think she's up to something, surely."
"She might be," said Hermione knowledgably. "You never really know who to trust right now, do you? Anybody could be a spy for Voldemort."
Harry understood perfectly what she was saying. His views of several people had been severely tested over the last months, and he had to admit, some of his opinions had greatly changed. "But still... Umbridge? She was probably just some ministry goodie-two-shoes following orders Fudge gave her."
"Carving stuff into the backs of students' hands?" said Ron, raising one eyebrow. "Yeah, very goodie-two-shoes, Harry."
Harry nodded slightly. "Well... I still don't think she was in with Voldemort. Come on, if she was, she could have done far worse things to us..."
"I think she did the worst she could whilst being subtle," said Hermione. "Think about it Harry. All those educational degrees to restrict us? She didn't just make our lives a misery, she put our future in danger. If it wasn't for you Harry, nobody would have any idea of fifth year Defence Against The Dark Arts. Our whole school life in the subject has been terrible... we're very behind. Huge chunks have been left out of the syllabus, and Umbridge did nothing to help that at all. If she was really on the side of the ministry, she'd have at least shown us some practical work, even if it wasn't how to fight off Voldemort. But by not teaching us any at all... it leaves us very vulnerable, don't you think?"
"I suppose..." said Harry.
Draco spoke up, quiet and thoughtful. "Being in the Inquisitorial Squad gave me a view of her that none of you ever saw... but don't think I'm standing up for her," he added, quickly, seeing the look Ron gave him. "Quite the opposite. She started to scare me by the end of the year. Before, she always told us that everything we were doing was "for the good of our future education". But she stopped doing that. She made us do completely irrelevant things... just odd things." He frowned a little, lost in thought. "Always to do with Professor Snape, or the ghosts. We had to keep a watch out for them, and keep diaries of everything they did, even if we just glimpsed a ghost heading towards the astronomy tower. She was really suspicious of them."
"How odd," said Hermione, pensively.
Draco nodded. and then continued, with a rather worried frown. "But it was odd. She wasn't interested what Snape was teaching us. Remember when we were doing poisons? She didn't care about that, she just waved it aside, asking us what he was wearing... and about his arms. She was scary."
"What about his arms?" said Hermione, frowning curiously.
Draco shook his head a little, then said, "She was always convincing us to try and see his arms. The bare skin of the forearm, she said. She was obsessed."
"Oh, well, we all know why that was," said Ron, rolling his eyes. "Come on Malfoy, even you can't be that thick. Dark Mark? It's always on the forearm, she wanted you to check whether he was a Death Eater or not. Probably so she could report him to the ministry."
"The ministry already know he was a Death Eater," said Harry.
"And the mark isn't always on the forearm," said Draco.
"And what good would that do?" said Hermione.
Ron flapped his hands, "Whoa whoa whoa. The ministry know? And they're still letting him teach us? And how do you know it's not always on the forearm, it has to be. And Hermione, that's a silly question, it would get him fired and Umbridge didn't like him. Simple answer."
"Yeah, the ministry know," said Harry. "But he's changed, he's not a Death Eater any more. He's on our side."
Ron shrugged. "Yeah, that's what they think."
"He is," said Draco. "And about the mark, I just know, Weasley. Trust me."
Ron snorted, casting a contemptuous eye onto Draco. "As if I'd ever do something like that."
Draco paused for a moment, then said, "Father's was between his shoulder blades."
Harry, Ron and Hermione all looked at him in surprise. Ron said, incredulously, "What, showed it off, did he?"
Draco shook his head. "No, he kept it covered at all times, but I just knew. He told me. You know when you're a very small child, and you get sat down and told the facts of life? Granger, you were probably told that to be successful, you have to learn until your head explodes. Weasley, you probably got the 'now, we don't have much money' talk. Potter - " He paused. "Potter, I don't know about your muggle family. I'll leave that. But I was sat down and told all about Voldemort."
"Seriously?" said Harry, with raised eyebrows.
Draco nodded. "Seriously. It wasn't a big thing in our family. We just got told that the Dark Lord is our ultimate loyalty and the Malfoy family have been treated better by Voldemort than the ministry. Scoff all you like Weasley, that's how it happened."
Ron scoffed anyway. "We're digressing from Umbridge. Stuff whatever she's up to, Hermione, we've got gold in paper form here! We've got to sell this. Or stick it up all around school. Or hand it out." His eyes glittered at an idea. "We could drop them all over the school! Or turn one into a Howler and have it screamed it out across the school at breakfast time!"
"A little vulgar, isn't it?" said Draco, raising one slim eyebrow.
"What do you suggest then?" snapped Ron.
"Give one to Lavendar Brown and Pansy Parkinson, it'll be round the school in hours," said Draco, smiling.
"We could have a DA Club all about the toad people," said Hermione, thoughtfully. "And casually mention it all. Just slide it into the meeting. It would be marvellous to see their faces."
Ron looked around at them all seriously. "Unless we tell them with accompanying explosions, the whole effect will be ruined. I'm telling you, people. Something has to blow up at the same time. A Howler. Or a huge exploding charm which showers the whole school in copies."
"Too theatrical," said Draco. "It has to be subtle, as though we just think they should be aware of this."
Ron opened his mouth to argue back, but they were all cut off, as suddenly, a great wave of noise rushed over out of the entrance hall. It sounded like shouting, a lot of frightened talking, and there was the sound of a young girl crying, "What happened to him? What happened?"
"What's going on?" said Ron, frowning, getting up and peering through the door. "I can't see anything."
Draco sighed, sliding his prefect badge out of his pocket and snapping it onto his robes. "Weasley, you have to learn how to exploit these things." He cleared his throat, and swept into the crowd, with a shout of, "Prefects coming through! Move aside there! What's going on?"
Hermione and Ron hurried after him, clicking their own badges in place, and Harry followed them interestedly. The crowd parted to let the prefects through, all of them talking in hushed, confused voices, and it seemed that Harry was the only one who understood what was going on.
A girl who was sixteen, but looked younger, was crouching over a boy of eighteen who was lying flat out on the floor, apparently exhausted. Harry recognised those 1950s Hogwarts robes. Peter Peelish. For a moment, Harry moved as though to run to Peter and Jinx, and see what was the matter, but he realised that nobody knew apart from him.
Draco was apparently taken aback by what he saw before him, and swept forward after a moment's contemplation, frowning. "You, what's going on?"
Jinx looked up at him, her eyes wide, looking scared. The crowd drew back at the eery contrast of peacock blue and lime green, and when she blinked, the colour swapped sides. "Please... get Dumbledore..."
"Who is it? What house is he in?" said Draco, brusquely, moving forward, and Harry took the opportunity to follow him. "What year?" He frowned. "And why isn't he wearing the correct uniform?"
"I... I..." Jinx looked terrified at all the questions, and then just shook her head, whispering, "Dumbledore... please... get Dumbledore..."
There was a loud squeak from the edge of the crowd, as Professor Flitwick popped out of the sea of legs. "My my, what's happening here? Is somebody hurt?"
Jinx turned around to look at him, her eyes full of fear, and Professor Flitwick stopped in his tracks, staring at her, completely shocked. For a moment or two, he seemed lost for words, and then he said, in a voice that suggested he thought he was seeing things, "Miss Peelish? What are... but you're..."
"I need Dumbledore," she said, desperately. "Get Dumbledore, please!"
Harry crouched down by Peter as Draco, Jinx and Flitwick all debated, watching his guardian carefully. There was a large burn plastered across the side of his face, and a nasty cut across his forehead, weeping silver and black blood, and he was very still and quiet. Harry placed his fingers to Peter's neck, checking for a pulse, but obviously, there was none.
Harry's cold fingers seemed to do something to Peter anyway. He stiffened up, and everybody drew back, as gradually, he woke up, blinking, his brow furrowed. "Where... what..."
"We don't know," said Harry. "We just found you in the entrance hall with Jinx lying over you."
Peter stared up at him, frowning, a shocked look in his eyes. He tried to hiss a 'shhh', but Ron (who was at Harry's side) had already heard Harry refer to the girl as Jinx. "Who?" said Ron. "Do you know her?"
Harry shook his head vaguely, and luckily, he was spared having to answer properly as Professor Flitwick scurried over, and he didn't have to crouch to talk to Peter. "Peelish? What happened?" he squeaked.
Peter put a hand to his head, dabbing his fingers in the blood, and it all seemed to come back. "Rookwood, Professor... his wife's gone missing... he was angry, very angry... I got in the way..."
Jinx was coming over now, and more and more curious people were strolling over for a look. Jinx crouched down by her brother, and as she did, they could see through her bright circus-clothes onto the floor. Everybody gasped, edging away, but Jinx just ignored them, as she reached down, taking her brother's hand. "Are you alright, Peter?"
"Peter Peelish," said Ron, quietly, frowning at the boy and the girl on the floor. Harry felt a surge of horror and turned to Ron, about to change the subject, but he was too late, as he saw the dawning realisation rush over Ron's face. His eyes widened, and he gasped, "It's you! It's Peev-!!"
Harry grasped him around the mouth, muffling the end of his sentence and quickly dragging him out of the crowd before Ron could say another word. Nobody was paying enough attention to them to notice, and thankfully, the noise of their conversation was lost in the murmuring of all the interested people, as Harry dragged Ron into the mouth of the dungeon corridor, and let go off his cousin.
"It's Peeves, isn't it?" said Ron, instantly.
"Yes," said Harry. "But - "
"And Jilly," said Ron.
"Yes, but - "
"But they're dead. And Peeves is a poltergeist. But that Peeves was real. And Jilly's dead, but that Jilly's a poltergeist."
"Alright, yes, but look - "
"And you know them," said Ron, his eyes widening. "What did you call her? Sphinx?"
"Jinx," said Harry.
Ron choked. "You knew!"
"Yes, I did, but - "
"How did you know?" Ron pressed him for answers.
"Um - "
Ron's eyes narrowed. "You're up to something."
"No," said Harry, lamely.
"It's... a secret."
"I don't care. It's a secret I'll keep."
Their childish argument was interrupted by the sound of more noise from the entrance hall, a great tidal wave of talking and muttering, as the doors banged open, and hurried footsteps came in. Before Harry could even think about going and seeing what was happening, there was a crash as a door at the end of the dungeon corridor opened, and Snape swept out, looking furious as always.
"Potter! Weasley! What's going on up there?" he snarled, irritably.
"Peeves is lying on the floor," said Ron.
"And this requires a parade?" said Snape, incredulously, gliding up the corridor, his robes clouding around behind him.
"There's another poltergeist though," said Ron. He shot a glare at Harry. "What was the name? Jinx? I don't know anything about it though Sir, you'll have to ask Harry."
"Rubbish, Weasley," said Snape, vaguely. "There is one poltergeist in this castle. I don't think it would still be standing if there were two."
But their attention was torn away from Snape again, as to everybody's surprise, a figure in black robes came rushing out of the crowds and leapt at Snape, sobbing. Snape looked just as startled at this as Harry and Ron, his eyes widening, as whoever it was hugged him, weeping into his shoulder, "Severus... it's... I couldn't..."
"Andralyn?" said Harry, amazed.
"WHO?!" Ron thundered, rounding on him. "Exactly HOW many people do you know that I don't?!"
Andralyn just continued to sob into the Potions master's bony shoulder. Snape looked very worried about this, and hesitantly patted her on the back, as though she was a bomb he was testing to see whether it would explode or not. "What happened?" he said, trying to sound brusque, though not quite managing it.
"He killed her," Andralyn sobbed. "Oh Severus, it's Hestia's daughter... little Lucy Jones... she's dead, Severus, she's dead. And Augustus killed her, and I ran, and Peter Peelish helped me out..."
Ron was wearing the look of somebody who was convinced they'd been dropped into the middle of a very confusing dream. "But - am I missing something here?"
"Yes, the right to stick your nose into my matters," Snape bristled, and he moved to sweep Andralyn down the corridor, but yet again, somebody came tearing through the crowd - and Harry's jaw dropped.
It was Andralyn. Another Andralyn.
"What's happened to my sister?" Andralyn Number Two cried, running and flinging her arms around the both of them.
Snape rolled his eyes. "Andralyn, I'm not sure of that myself, get off me."
"Bissy? What's wrong?" said Andralyn, grasping the other woman in a tight hug. Now that Harry saw them together, he saw that one of them had short, chin-length sleek hair, and the other was the woman from the photo-frame, with tousled, long black locks. So there were two of them, rather than just one metamorphmagus. But - Snape loved both of them. He had a photograph of the tousle-haired woman that he clearly cherished, and then Harry had actually heard the short-haired one say, "it's because you love me, Severus."
'Bissy', the long-haired, just grabbed the other woman and sobbed into her shoulder. They were both crying now, and talking in very high, feminine voices and hugging and talking too fast for Harry to pick up a word. Snape apparently couldn't either. He just stared between the two of them, waiting patiently for their tearful chattering to stop. Catching Snape's eye, Harry opened his mouth to ask what on earth was going on.
With a dark look at Ron, Snape pointed out the short-haired woman. "Andralyn. My sister." He gestured to the long-haired, who was wiping away the other's tears, whilst her own streamed down her face. "Isabis. Her sister."
"But - so she's your sister?" said Harry, his face slackening in amazement. "Incest?"
"No, Potter," Snape snapped angrily. He sighed. "This is complex. Too complex. Go."
"But - "
Harry opened his mouth again to argue, desperately wanting to know what was going on, but Ron shook his head, grabbing Harry's elbow and dragging him away. "Come on. You've got a lot of explaining to do."
"But - " Harry wondered when somebody would actually let him finish a single sentence starting with 'but', as Ron cut across him.
"No, Harry. You're going to tell me everything."
"But - "
"Harry!" Somebody else was calling him from across the hall, and he saw Professor Alrister descending the marble staircase, looking around at all the confusion. "Somebody said the Galvez sisters were here?"
"The WHO?!" Ron bellowed.
"Isabis and Andralyn?" said Harry. "Yeah, they're just cuddling Professor Snape."
"What about Augustus?" said Alrister, coming up to them.
"Who?" said Harry.
"Rookwood, Harry, my cousin," said Alrister.
Ron choked. "Rookwood's your - ?!!"
"I don't know Sir," said Harry. "But he's killed somebody... Lucy Jones, something about Hestia. Isabis has run from him, and Andralyn's here for some reason... but I don't understand it, Sir. What's going on?"
"Yeah, I'd like to know that as well," said Ron, who looked as though he'd been slapped repeatedly.
Alrister watched vaguely as Flitwick and Draco started despersing the crowd around Peter and Jinx, with Dumbledore talking quietly to the two of them in the centre, and then glancing back at Harry and Ron, he said, "It's complicated, boys..."
"Please," said Harry and Ron, together, giving Alrister very hopeful looks.
He smiled ever so slightly, and crouched down. "Well... if anybody asks, I told you none of this. But I daresay everybody would like to know what's going on, hmm?" He chuckled, and then beckoned them up the stairs, out of the way of the crowd, asking absent-mindedly as he lead them towards his office, "How much do you know?"
"Nothing," said Ron.
"Some," admitted Harry.
"Such as?" asked Alrister.
Harry thought about this. "Well... I know that your cousin, Rookwood, is married to the woman with the tously hair... Isabis? And she's having an affair with Snape. But I don't know how Andralyn comes into this."
"Ah, Professor Snape's very complex family tree," sighed Alrister, smiling. "Such a wonderfully complicated occurance. Andralyn is Snape's half-sister, and Isabis is her half-sister."
"But... then Snape is Isabis's half-brother. And that's incest. And horrible," said Harry.
"No, no," said Alrister. They had reached his office. He opened the door, and lead them inside, shutting it after them and offering them a plate of biscuits. Ron looked suspiciously at them for a moment, then took one carefully, nibbled it, and with a smile, tucked in. Alrister continued. "Now... let me get this right... Professor Snape shares his father with Andralyn. And Andralyn and Isabis share the same mother."
"But - that's adultery," said Harry, raising his eyebrows. "How could that happen?"
Ron started wearing a blank look. "Uh..."
Harry explained very briefly and quickly about Snape, Isabis, and the penalties of wizard adultery. Alrister smiled paternally as Harry went through all this, and when he was finished, the Pure Arts master said, "Well... I'm impressed. You have done your homework, haven't you?"
Harry smiled a little. "I was just curious."
Alrister chuckled. "Well... the Snape - ah... dynasty - is a very complex, sinister family tree indeed. They're not pureblood, though hardly muggleborn. I think it's about three-quarters wizard. But they're bad wizards... well... morally bad wizards. I think Snape's father beat his mother, and she ran away. They lived in a very large, crime-ridden muggle city though, mind you. She was killed by a muggle mugger. So that left Snape's father free to marry Andralyn's mother, they had Andralyn. Then Andralyn's mother did the traditional thing of the Snape family after having a child. She killed the father, married somebody else, had another child."
"So... Snape isn't related by blood to Isabis," said Harry, slowly.
"Correct," said Alrister. "Interestedly, Isabis married my cousin, Rookwood. And from what I've heard, Augustus has killed somebody... who did you say?"
"Lucy Jones," said Harry.
Alrister winced. "Gods... she's only four... the daughter of one of the members of the Order... I'm not surprised Isabis ran." He sighed, tracing his fingers across the desk, as he wandered to the window. "Love in wizard society is counting for less and less, everyday which goes by. No trust is strong enough to fight the Dark Lord anymore, and the love and care that is isn't accepted enough to help. Look at Dumbledore, and the fiasco last year. He was trying to bring the world closer together, and nobody wanted to accept that. It's only created more and more feelings of harshness."
"So... what's going to happen now?" asked Ron. "Rookwood's going to be mad about his wife, isn't he?"
Alrister nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, probably a lot. I have the horrible feeling that somebody's going to die for this. He's made quite a mess of that boy back there... it's odd, I've never seen him around before. What house is he in?"
"He was a Slytherin," said Harry.
"Yeah, he isn't anymore," said Harry vaguely.
Ron was looking at him suspiciously. "Yeah, I want to talk to you about that, Harry. Thanks for the information and the biscuits, Professor."
Alrister smiled. "My pleasure. Oh, boys - new topic, first lesson back." They both groaned, and the professor chuckled. "Now now, it won't be that bad, you're both bright pupils. If I might suggest something though, don't sit with Miss Granger during the lesson."
Ron frowned, curiously, and asked, "Why?"
"No reason," said Alrister, smiling slightly. "We're doing a very interesting topic indeed. I'm sure Miss Parkinson and Mr Zabini will enjoy it."
Harry and Ron swapped worried looks, but Alrister said nothing more, except a brief goodbye, as they let themselves out of his office. They discussed the new topic idly while walking back towards the entrance hall, where Hermione and Draco found them. All the crowds had been cleared, and apparently, Peter had been taken to Dumbledore's office, and he, Jinx, Snape and the Galvez sisters were all in there, 'discussing something'.
After that, they went out into the grounds. Hermione and Draco spent the afternoon debating Runes homework. Ron, however, dragged Harry off out of the courtyard "to go look at a really interesting tree", and once out of earshot his third cousin (once removed) rounded on him.
"So what?" said Harry.
"So? Tell me. What's with all the Peter stuff? I want to hear everything." Seeing the look on Harry's face, Ron went on stubbornly. "I deserve to know, Harry. It's not fair. Come on, you're supposed to be my best friend! Weasley protector, remember? You can tell me..."
"It's a long story, you know," said Harry, biting his lip.
"I've got a lot of time," said Ron, raising his eyebrows. "Come on... please...?"
Harry looked into Ron's hopeful face, and then with a slight smile, he said, "Okay... just... I can't tell you everything. Just some."
Ron nodded eagerly. "Yeah, I don't mind."
"Alright... come on then... let's go for a walk." Harry smiled a little. "And don't ever say I don't tell you things again."
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