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Severus paced angrily about the classroom for a full five minutes, working on getting his explosive temper under control. Despite what his students thought, he did not enjoy losing it with them, and in fact strived to keep his greatest bane under wraps when doling out punishments. He had learned the hard way that his temper was more of a liability than an asset as a spy, and his own childhood had been marked by his father, whose temper had been irrational and had made his only child suffer for it with a succession of beatings and verbal humiliation. Much of the mask he wore during the school year was patterned after his father's mannerisms and Severus shuddered every time he put it on. There were days the mask clung so close that he feared he would become Tobias Snape in truth, and that thought scared him more than anything. He knew quite well there was more than a little of his father in him, but he was determined not to follow in the abusive bastard's footsteps any more than was necessary to maintain his cover.

I will never become my father, I swear by my magic and all the angels in heaven. I refuse to let that be my only legacy. He might have shaped my past, but I'll be damned if I'll let him shape my future too. I'm a Prince too, and a better man than my father ever was. At least that's what my mother used to say.

Severus paced, his boots hitting the stone floor in a rhythmic tap. His mother Eileen had died when he was a mere thirteen, and he had never really gotten over her loss. She had been ill and eventually the disease, a rare one that attacked the auto-immune system, had overwhelmed her. But before she died, she had told her distraught son that she would always be watching over him. "Remember, Sev, I'll always be there, looking over your shoulder, even when you can't see me. Nothing ever truly dies, son. We just go to a better place, and become angels. And I'll be the angel on your shoulder, my sweet son. Don't cry, love. Just promise me that you'll grow up a better man than your father, please. I know you can do it."

And he had promised.

He had tried, as best he could, to honor that promise, and though he had made many mistakes, no one could say that Severus Snape was an alcoholic, or a deadbeat, or had ever beaten a child. A clever spy, yes, and enigmatic, but not wickedly cruel like the Death Eaters Lucius had introduced him to in sixth-year.

He had known after two or three secret meetings that those Lucius gathered were people very much like Snape's father and he had immediately started looking for a way to get out. He had been helped by Lily and Albus Dumbledore, though Albus came up with the spy routine in order to gather valuable intelligence about the ones who supported Voldemort. He pretended to "betray" Dumbledore and become a Death Eater, secretly gathering information about the vile order up until the time Lily was killed. Then the Death Eaters scattered and hid, and Severus's days as a spy were over, for now.

He shook his head abruptly. Time to quit woolgathering and start setting up for the detention he had given. He wanted it to be a memorable one.

He pointed his wand at the front of his desk and a large barrel appeared before it. It was covered, but even then a strong smell of fish hung in the cool air. On three desks appeared a set of thin gloves, a small curved knife, and four sheets of parchment, plus a Magic Refill Quill.

He glanced at the clock. Five to eight. They should be here any minute.

Furthermore, he was going to have a private discussion with Harry about the boy's deplorable tendency to take unnecessary risks, like James Potter used to. He had been hoping that trait had skipped Harry, but apparently not. That was twice now Harry had nearly gotten himself killed, thought Snape exasperatedly. Something would have to be done about that. Snape had enough to handle trying to keep the boy safe from whoever tried to kill him, he did not need Harry throwing himself in harm's way as well. But he would deal with that little problem later. First, he had the three wayward Gryffindors to impress upon the folly of disregarding rules and hunting for trouble.

Snape had two methods of giving detention. The first one was the silent treatment, he spoke as little as possible to the offender, and set them some disgusting task to complete in two hours. That worked well on those students who liked to argue the "unfairness" of their punishment with him. The second, and the one he used most often, was the lecture and punishment method. First he delivered a blistering lecture to the student and then set them a punishment designed to hammer home the foolishness of their actions.

He would be doing that here.

He swept behind his desk and stood there like a forbidding dark knight out of legend, imposing and fierce, arms crossed and a stern glower implanted upon his face.

Right on cue, the door creaked open, and three penitent Gryffindors entered.

"Finally decided to grace me with your presence, have you?" he asked, in a tone that was soft yet filled with sarcasm.

"Sir, we're supposed to be here at eight and we are," Hermione managed to say, not really looking at him.

She was extremely nervous, having heard some terrible rumors last night in the girl's dorm about what Snape did to students during his detentions, everything from whipping the student to using said student's body part and blood in some dark potion. Most of the rumors Hermione knew to disregard, she knew they were false. Corporal punishment had not been used at Hogwarts since 1945, ever since the Ministry had passed the Child Abuse Act, since several charges of abuse had been brought against Hogwarts teachers for abusing their authority by parents and students prior to the legislation, and all had been found guilty in a court of law. The offenders were now in Azkaban for life and received a daily dose of a cane as a reminder of what they had inflicted upon their former students. As for the rest, Hermione was reasonably certain Snape wouldn't really use her for potion ingredients, that was Dark Wizardry and there were no dark wizards here at Hogwarts.

Snape snorted, giving them all a scintillating glare that made them tremble.
"Troublemakers Three, that's what you are. I expected such from Weasley and Potter, since getting into trouble is a long-standing tradition in their families, but you surprise me, Miss Granger. I had thought perhaps you might not succumb to the wave of idiocy that possesses most of Gryffindor House, but it would seem I was wrong."

Hermione hung her head, looking very ashamed.

Severus came out from behind his desk to stand in front of them, still wearing that nasty scowl, one he had perfected over the years to strike fear into the heart of misbehaving students.

"All of you have trouble following the rules, as was made clear by last night's stupidity. Challenging a full-grown mountain troll! Do you know what would have happened if that troll had hit you with its club? No? Let me elaborate. You might have only had half the bones in your body shattered and crushed and be unable to walk ever again or you could have had your head smashed in like an overripe melon, and what brains you had dripping out on to the floor. The spikes could have torn open your stomach and shredded your entrails . . ."

By then Hermione looked slightly green and Harry was swallowing hard. Ron also looked pale and sick.

"Shall I go on, or would you like to see some examples?" he inquired silkily.

"No, sir!" they all said.

"Or you could have died from your own arrogance and stupidity. And all because you thought you knew best and could handle a mountain troll," sneered Severus. "That being so, you will now do two things for me. First you will write an essay of no longer than three feet and no shorter than two about alternatives you could have come up with instead of blindly flinging yourselves in harm's way. I also want a paragraph on how you think your death would have impacted someone. Be specific, with concrete examples. You have one hour."

"All that in one hour? Ron groaned.

"Correct, Mr, Weasley. And mind, if I don't think your examples are sufficient or the essay is written well, you will do it over until it meets my standards, and I shall keep you here the whole day if necessary. Am I clear?"

"Yes, Professor Snape." Ron said, looking even more sick, for he hated writing essays.

"After the essay is done, you will then put on those gloves at your desk and go to the large barrel there," he pointed to the huge barrel standing in front of his desk. "Inside you will find glimmerscale fish. Both their skin and eggs have magical properties and are used in several potions of water-breathing and swimming and such. You will need gloves to handle them since the slightest touch of skin against a glimmerscale will destroy the magic in it. Then you are to skin and gut them, placing the skin in one container," he gestured and several large containers popped into view. "And the eggs in another."

Hermione raised her hand timidly.

"What now, Miss Granger?"

"Please, sir, I've never skinned or gutted a fish. Could you, maybe, show me how? So I don't make a mess of it?"

Snape pretended to be vastly annoyed, but he was actually pleased by the girl's request. Glimmerscales were expensive. "Pay attention, all of you. Watch." He drew on a set of gloves, opened the barrel, and removed one very dead glittering rainbow fish. He set the fish on Hermione's desk, picked up the small curved knife, and expertly sliced open the fish's abdomen, removed the roe and put it in a container. Then he used the knife to cut off the fish head and strip the skin, managing to get it all in one piece.

He placed the skin in another container and tossed the rest of the fish into yet another one. "I trust that is sufficient? Yes? Now get to work."

He placed the knife back on her table and stripped off his gloves, then retreated to his desk to mark homework.

The three bent over their papers, writing quickly.

* * * * * *

Harry nearly chewed on the end of his quill as he paused before writing the final paragraph of his essay. For Ron and Hermione, that was the easy part. Their parents would be most affected by their deaths. But Harry knew quite well that if he died, the Dursleys would be more likely to celebrate than to mourn his demise. He darted a glance up at his teacher, who was marking papers industriously. Did he dare write the truth? That in all the world, there was only one who might care if he died?

He bit his lip hard. Then he made up his mind. Snape had always stressed telling the truth when Harry was little. He picked up his quill and wrote The only person I know who would care if I died is you, sir. My parents are dead and my relatives couldn't care less, as you know. So there is only you, and that is the truth. He paused, fidgeting, then wrote, I'm sorry for making you worry, I was stupid and didn't think, I'm sorry. I only wanted to help Hermione, I didn't know the troll would be that dangerous. Am I really like my father? I'll try not to be. But if I were to die, at least you would come to the funeral. I think.

There was really no more to say after that, and so he set the essay on Snape's desk and went to start working on gutting the glimmerscales.

Harry soon discovered that gutting and skinning the slippery rainbowed fish was much harder than Snape had made it look. Even with gloves, the fish was slippery and unwieldy, it stank and cutting open the belly made him want to gag. He was happy he hadn't had anything to eat this morning, else he might have disgraced himself by throwing up all over the floor. He darted a look at his classmates and saw that they too were pale and sick looking. The skin was difficult to remove, and Harry wondered how Snape had made it look so easy.

By the time he was done with the first fish, he was sweaty and covered in disgusting fish juice and stank to high heaven. He wrinkled his nose, swallowed hard, and began on the next glimmerscale. Ugh! And there was a whole barrel full of them . . .

* * * * * * *

At the end of two hours, all three students were splashed liberally with fish scales, salt water, and bits and pieces of fish guts. And they smelled horribly. But they had also become skilled in skinning and gutting and they would never forget this detention, and each of them vowed silently to never risk their lives again, or if they did to make sure Snape never found out about it.

It was with profound relief that Hermione announced that they were finished.

Snape rose and inspected their work. "Humph! I suppose it is adequate. I trust you have learned your lesson about following rules which exist for your own safety?"

"Yes, sir," Hermione answered respectfully.

The two boys echoed her.

"Dismissed, Granger and Weasley. Potter, you stay, there is some discrepancy with your homework we need to discuss." Severus added just as Harry was leaving.
"Yes, sir," Harry halted, groaning inwardly. But he had known this was coming.

Ron shot him a sympathetic glance just before he left.

The Potions Master cast a Muffliato spell over the room and locked the door.

Severus banished the stinking container of fish guts and heads and the empty barrel and sealed the other containers and placed them in a cabinet before turning around to face Harry, who was standing in front of the desk looking like a child about to receive a well-deserved scolding. The wizard waved his wand and cleaned the boy up before taking two steps forward and gripping the slender shoulders and shaking him hard.

Now that they were alone, Severus could give vent to the emotions he'd been keeping in check and he growled, "What in God's name were you thinking, young man, to risk your life that way? I just finish healing you from a major injury and this is how you act? Attacking a troll that could have crushed you in two seconds?"

"I-I'm sorry . . .!" Harry began. "I was just trying to help Hermione."

"How? By getting your brains splattered all over?" Severus demanded acidly. "Foolish child, do you know how close death came to you last night? He all but came and tapped you on the shoulder! It was sheer luck you managed to knock the troll out with my cauldron, had you been a millimeter off or a second slower, I would have found three dead students! Damn it all, boy!"

Then he spun the child around and gave him a good smack on the backside. "That's for risking your neck and nearly giving me heart failure!"

Harry yelped and sniffled, wondering if there would be more.

But in the next instant he found himself pulled into a familiar embrace, as the dark guardian hugged him fiercely and whispered, in a voice hoarse with some unnamed emotion, "Do not ever do that again, do you understand? Good God, child, do you know what it would mean if you died? I would . . .I cannot even . . ." Unable to articulate the desolation he would have felt, Severus nearly crushed the child to him. "Risk your neck again, Mr. Potter, and you'll be gutting more than fish, am I clear?"

A muffled, "Yes, sir," and another "M'sorry" came from the depths of the black robe.

"And well you should be, you disobedient little brat," scolded the Potions Master. "Of all the stupid, irresponsible, insane stunts . . .I didn't keep you safe all those years only to have you throw away your life on some stupid schoolboy heroics. And here I thought you were more like your mother."

He allowed Harry to lift his head a little, enough so the boy could talk. "She wouldn't have gone to help a friend?"

"Yes, but she would have also gotten a teacher or made damn sure she knew some defensive spells before taking on a mountain troll. Your father, on the other hand . . ." Severus sneered. " . . .was famous for acting first and not thinking at all. Do not follow his example, Harry. It will only get you killed." He sighed and drew away, pretending not to see the quick hand the child dashed across his eyes. "Learn to use your head, boy. That will keep you safe more often than not. Think, don't just react."

"I will, sir. I'm sorry."

"I forgive you," Severus said gruffly. "But it seems that maybe you could benefit from a few self-defense classes, since you Gryffindors have the deplorable habit of getting into trouble every other minute. So, after the match tonight, meet me behind the greenhouse, and we will go over basic survival techniques, since I cannot be everywhere at once and perhaps this will serve to keep your head on your shoulders, you reckless young fool."

Harry lifted his eyes from the ground, a half-smile on his face. "Really? You'll teach me to fight? With magic?"

"Humph. Yes, with magic. And without it too. This is not some game, it is deadly serious. I will work you hard, harder than I ever have, but if it keeps you alive, I don't care how much you hate me afterwards."

"Hate you? I could never hate you, Severus!" Harry protested.

"No?" The Potions Master smiled wolfishly. "We'll see about that. And when did I ever give you permission to use my given name, Harry?"

Harry blushed. "Uh . . .I didn't think . . .I should have asked if you'd mind . . .Do you want me to stop?"

"No, child," he said after a moment. "You meant no disrespect. Just the opposite, rather. You may call me Severus . . .but only when we're alone. Otherwise, it's Professor Snape or sir, the same as always."

Harry's smile lit up his face. "I'd like that. Thanks, Severus."

"Now go, get some rest and eat some breakfast. You'll need your strength for the match today."

"Yes, sir. Oh and uh, thank you very much for the Nimbus!" Harry said, his eyes shining. "It's the most awesome broom ever. You didn't really have to get me that one, sir. I wouldn't have minded a Comet 260."

"I would have," Severus snorted. "You are most welcome, child. Now get down to the hall and eat. And mind you eat more than a piece of toast, else I will come over there and sit you on my knee and spoonfeed you like a baby," he threatened silkily, knowing Harry's penchant to skip meals when he was nervous.

Harry blanched, utterly horrified. "No! Please, don't do that, sir! I'll eat, swear to God I will."

"You had better. I'll know if you haven't," Severus said, smirking wickedly. "Now get!"

He practically shoved Harry out the door.

Then he went back to his desk, sat down, and buried his face in his hands. God, but he needed a good stiff drink. And the year was just beginning.

* * * * * *

Harry made sure to eat more than a piece of toast and jam, he also ate some eggs and sausage, though the food stuck in his throat and he had to drink glass after glass of juice to get it down. The food sat in his stomach like a lump and he felt faintly queasy, but at least he wouldn't have to worry about Snape coming over and putting him on his lap and feeding him like a baby. He slid a glance around the table, and sure enough, there was his guardian angel seated at the staff table, eyeing him sternly.

Harry was tempted to pick up his plate and hold it out for Severus to inspect. See? I'm eating, okay?

With any other teacher, he wouldn't have taken the threat seriously, but with Snape . . .

"Good luck, Harry," said Hermione, giving him a thumbs up sign. "We'll be cheering for you."

"Yeah, knock ‘em dead, mate." Ron clapped him on the back. "You've got the best broom out there."

Harry gave them a shaky smile, then summoned his Nimbus and went to follow Wood and the other Gryffindor players to the Quidditch locker room to change into their red uniforms.

* * * * * *

The Nimbus flew like a dream, Harry felt like Zeus or the Archangel Gabriel as he circled the field, trying to spot the elusive golden winged ball. Despite all of his weeks of practice with both Wood and Severus, he still felt horribly nervous, and his eyes darted everywhere like a startled owl's.

Was that it there? Near the Slytherin goal post? No, just a trick of the light.

Harry tried to relax, but it was hard, with all the action going on above and below him and the hundreds of shrieking students in the stands. He was incredibly grateful for his brand-new glasses, because now he didn't have to squint any more and he could see where everyone and everything was in the air. Granted, sometimes people still looked blurry, but that was to be expected. Glasses couldn't correct everything.

He ducked an incoming Bludger, and Fred waved at him after whacking the black ball halfway across the pitch. That had been the plan, for Harry to wait until Gryffindor scored at least two goals before actively seeking the Snitch. Wood didn't want his youngest player to get ambushed before he really had a chance to play.

The Nimbus was fast enough for Harry to observe most of the action between the Slytherin and Gryffindor Chasers and Beaters without getting targeted. Though once the Slytherin Beater, Gunnar Hansen, tried to knock him off his broom, but Harry was too quick, and avoided the slam with ease. None of the other players could match the Nimbus for sheer speed and aerodynamics.

He focused on locating the Snitch, scanning the sky casually, without really seeming to look anywhere in particular. Severus had told him that was a good way to spot something moving, especially when it was flying at an incredible speed. So Harry hovered and watched and suddenly he saw it, fluttering down and to the left of Angelina Johnson, the Gryffindor Chaser.

Harry swooped down, praying that Angelina would be able to avoid his dive and was almost to the Snitch when Flint, the Slytherin Captain, flew in front of him.

Harry checked hard, and thanked heaven the Nimbus could pull out of a dive on a sixpence, otherwise he would have crashed right into the larger wizard, who was smirking nastily.

"Careful, itty bitty Potter! Don't want trip and fall off your broom, now do you?"

"Pick on someone your own size, Flint!" shouted Angelina, shoving the other player.

Flint spun around, smirking. "Anytime you want to dance, babe, Floo me!" Then he sped off after the Quaffle, laughing.

Angelina flashed him a rude gesture and chased him.

Harry looked for the Snitch, but it had moved away, and he sighed in frustration and continued searching, flying a good length up above the other players.

Opposite him, he could see the Slytherin Seeker doing the same.

Five minutes passed and then Gryffindor scored and the stands on the one side went wild, shouting and hollering and waving the red and gold Gryffindor lion banners. That was one, Harry thought, swerving out of the way of a Bludger. Now he just had to wait for the Chasers to score again.

Angelina had scored that last goal, and she had flashed Flint a triumphant smile and called, "I'd take you up on your offer, Marcus, but I don't date losers."

Her teammates roared with laughter at her wit, and Flint just glared and snapped, "We haven't lost yet, Johnson. And I was kidding, I don't date Gryffindor chicks."

"Like I'd go out with a snake!" sneered Angelina, then she dove for the Quaffle again.

There was a scramble for the red ball, then one of the other Gryffindor Chasers, Katie Bell, broke out of the pack and tucked the Quaffle under her arm. She looped around flying with all the speed she possessed towards the goalposts on the Slytherin side.

"Bring it home, Katie!" Harry yelled, and resumed his search for the Snitch, certain his teammate would score.

It was then that his broom began behaving strangely.

* * * * * *

Severus was standing up in the staff box, next to Quirrell and Filius, watching the match with his heart in his throat. He had observed countless Quidditch games as a teacher, but none had ever caused him this amount of anxiety. It was rather like a father watching his little baby take his first steps, anxiety mixed with anticipation curled in his stomach, making him shiver.

Harry was flying very well, he did not seem that nervous and he had managed to avoid getting whacked by Bludgers and even Flint's sudden block had not seemed to rattle him too much. Though his recovery had nearly caused Severus to cry out in alarm, it had been so quick, and once more the Potions Master blessed the instinct that had led him to buy a Nimbus 2000 instead of a cheaper model.

That's it, Harry. Fly like I showed you, quick and evasive. That's how you'll stay on your broom and win the match. Severus encouraged silently, longing to pace, he was aquiver with nerves. He sneered at himself for acting like a overprotective lion with a single cub, Harry was doing fine, the Nimbus would keep him safe.

Then he saw, to his horror, that Harry's broom was jerking up and down. Harry was hanging on, but the broom appeared to have gone haywire, it shot across the pitch in a deadly streak, Harry clinging to it for dear life.

Then it began to buck and spin, as if trying to rid itself of the passenger atop it.

Severus went white. God in heaven, it's been tampered with. That's a Wild Fly Jinx, or I'm no spy. It'll knock him off in seconds unless I can counter it.

He took two deep breaths, centering himself, ignoring the panicked cries of the spectators and his fellow teachers as they saw Harry flying utterly out of control, spinning and jerking like a possessed puppet.

Severus blocked all else from his mind but the countercurse, and then he fixed his eyes upon Harry and began to mutter the countercurse in a soft even tone. He did not let his concentration waver, for even an instant would have meant death. Focus, Severus, focus! Maintain eye contact with the subject and just keep repeating the spell over and over.

He could feel the dark curse pulsing in the air about Harry, it was a thin slimy oily film, rotten and cold, it sought to break through the shield Severus had erected about his child and finish what it had begun. But Severus refused to let that happen. Only once before had he failed to protect one he loved, and that time had cost him Lily. He would be damned if this was a repeat, and so he threw all of his formidable powers of concentration and determination, all of his iron will, into holding the dark curse at bay.

I will NOT surrender! Not this time. This time I will NOT fail. The dark shall not claim another whom I love. Not so long as I have breath in my body.

The world went away then, as all his being was focused upon keeping Harry from falling off his broom, and he became nothing more than an extension of the spell he was speaking. The magic consumed him, until he was swept away, and only a very small spark of his consciousness remained to tie to him to the fact that he was Severus Snape, Potions Master.

It was that tiny spark that noticed that his robes were suddenly on fire, that he had blue flames licking the sides of his boots, but even then he would not have broken his concentration, he was too far gone, until Quirrell screamed and fell into him.

"M-Merlin, you're on FIRE!"

Then the world came back with a rush and he felt the sudden sting of the flame and snapped a charm to cancel the flames. How that had occurred, he had no idea, but he suspected some kind of prank by a student, and if he ever found out who it was . . .that one would be serving detention with him for the rest of the year, including a stint at St Mungos burn ward, so the brat could see firsthand the perils of playing with fire.

He straightened, shoving Quirrell off him, ignoring the stinging pain in his calf, he turned back to the Quidditch pitch. Harry had managed to fly after the Snitch, the Nimbus sending him soaring with the speed of a peregrine falcon across the sky, and then he gave a kind of convulsive jump and landed on the ground.

Severus breathed again.

Safe. His secret child was safe. Relief washed through him then, and he didn't even care that Harry had caught the Snitch and Slytherin had lost by a whopping 150 points. He could give a bloody damn about Quidditch. All that mattered was that Harry was alive, and he wiped the sweat from his brow, thanking God he had been able to reverse the dark curse. But it had been a near thing.

Somehow, some way, he must find out who was trying to murder Harry, before it was too late. It had to be someone at the school, but who?

"Severus, are you all right?" Minerva shook him slightly. "Your robe was on fire, are you burned?"

Severus blinked. "I . . a little . . ." He pulled the fabric aside to reveal scorch marks on his boot and a red swath on his right calf, where the fire had burned away the black cloth pants to ash. Immediately, he felt the stinging pain grow.

"That looks like more than a little to me, Severus." Minerva hissed. "Best let Poppy see to it."

He shot her an exasperated glare. "Congratulations on your win. Now quit fussing."

"Promise me you'll see Poppy," she countered. "Or must I drag you there by your ear, lad?"

"Fine! Honestly, woman, you are too much!" he snapped, feeling very much like a schoolboy with the way she lectured him. "I've been taking care of myself since I was fourteen, and I'm still alive, you know."

"I know. Which is why you ought to let someone else step in and help sometimes, Severus," she said gently. "You are too much alone and you push yourself too hard. You're not invincible. Now go, let Poppy see to that burn. It must be hurting like bloody blue blazes."

It was, but he would never ever say so. He checked once more on Harry, who was being carried about by Hagrid, amid deafening cheers, then he made his slow painful way down from the stands and across the lawn. He had several potions that would mend the burn in his private lab, but the infirmary was closer, and he knew Minerva would be hounding him unless he allowed Poppy to treat him, and so he limped into the Hospital Wing, surrendering himself to the medi-witch's capable hands.

As he lay back on the hospital bed, he felt exhaustion sweep through him. He was so very weary, that countercurse had taken more than he would have liked, but it had all been worth it. His child was safe and his vow unbroken. He allowed himself a small smile of satisfaction before his eyes closed and he fell asleep, leaving Poppy in peace to heal him.


 



Chapter End Notes:


So, how did you like getting Severus's version of events at the match? And the detention?

Leave me a review so I know how you're liking this, thanks!

Next: Self Defense lessons with Sev & a discussion with Hagrid.

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