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June 2, 2002 - June 8, 2002

RE: Boggart powers


Dicentra wrote:

Furthermore, the full moon represents a relationship between the earth, sun, and moon. The boggart moon can't replicate this. So that's why the boggart moon doesn't effect a transformation.

Besides, what Lupin fears the most isn't the moon itself. The moon is just a hunk of rock. That's really not what scares him.

What Lupin fears is his own lycanthropy, which is represented to him by the sight of the full moon. Boggarts are obviously capable of a rather sophisticated symbolic version of "taking the form of ones worst fear." They can, for example, represent Hermione's fear of failure and of disappointing those who have placed both their trust and some very high expectations on her by taking the form of McGonagall -- who is certainly not herself all that frightening to Hermione. (Nor, for that matter, do I really think that what scares Neville the most about Snape is really Snape as a person at all.) Lupin himself identifies Harry's dementor boggart as the "fear of fear."

I don't really believe that the boggarts can simulate the abilities or powers of the forms that they take. If such were the case, then I find it very difficult to believe that anyone would consider it appropriate to teach children how to banish them in a classroom setting, particularly only one year after a basilisk had been preying on students in that same school. What if a basilisk had turned out to be some kid's personal bogey? Not at all unlikely, only one year after _CoS._ And that would have been good, wouldn't it? Half of the class would have been dead before anyone could manage to stammer out a "Riddikulus."

Nope. No, I don't believe that the boggarts work that way at all. If they did, then the idea of leaving one hanging around in a wardrobe for students to "practice" on would be absolutely insane.

That the boggart Dementor can do dementor things is what seems weird to me.

I don't think that it can, really. I think that it's all psychosomatic. If Harry hadn't already known from his experience on the train what the dementors could do to him, then the boggart wouldn't have had at all the same effect.

Hmmm? What's that you say? You want to know about the dimming of the lights?

Er. Yes. Well. I think that is probably a ::coughFLINTcough:: manifestation of Harry's spontaneous magic. He's dimming the lights himself through unconscious magic, in precisely the same way that Neville is always melting all of those cauldron bottoms in Snape's Potions Class.

—Elkins (who must regretfully agree with the Pipsqueak that Lupin does indeed have a few, um, issues which make him less than an ideal choice as a person to keep around in school full of children, but who also feels convinced that after the "forgetting to take his potion" incident, Lupin would have resigned on his own accord, even if Snape hadn't outed him.)

Posted June 03, 2002 at 10:19 am
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RE: TOUCHE!


TOUCHE! ("Tired Of Ugly and Hard-to-swallow Expositions")

Scabbers isn't a spy or a shape-changer or anything significant or exciting like that. He's just a rat. A kid's pet rat.

Snape was never a follower of Voldemort. He is one mean and nasty guy all right, but he is also a man of honor and integrity, and no one with a sense of honor or integrity would ever have followed Voldemort, because Voldemort is Evil.

Neville is not Sneaky!Neville. He is a timid, insecure, disorganized little kid with weak magical powers who is always open and straightforward and honest about himself. He is incapable of deceit, and the very notion that he might be hiding anything about himself from his fellow students is therefore fundamentally absurd.

------------

Oh. Did I mention that this was TOUCHE circa August, 1999?

I heard all three of these statements made in retort to certain fan speculations before the release of _PoA._ (For that matter, even though we now all know that Neville does keep secrets, my own reading of him as Sneaky!Neville is still not at all a popular interpretation of his character.)

All that said, though, I do happen to agree overall with Prefect Marcus' interpretations, with the possible exception of Snape's "mission." I certainly agree that it wouldn't make very much sense for Snape to be sent back to Voldemort as a spy, but I can't say that it would surprise me very much if he were. Sometimes JKR just doesn't think these things through quite as carefully as we do, you know. ;-)

Also, while I don't think that Draco "loves" Hermione, I do think that he's got a secret crush on her. And while I'll find it a bit disappointing, it won't surprise me in the least if Snape turns out to have loved Lily.

—Elkins, who agrees that Snape is a "mean ugly shnook," but who would also like to point out that he is our mean ugly shnook.

Posted June 03, 2002 at 1:18 pm
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RE: Apparate or Die Trying


Why don't wizards ever seem to disapparate themselves out of trouble?

Grey Wolf suggested:

The easiest reason is that it takes a little time to apparate, during which time you're half-here/half-there. . . . During those precious seconds, a wizard cannot do a simgle blessed thing, and he's fully in the aim of his enemy, so apparating cannot be used for a quick escape, or you would be blasted into smitherins when you started to fade (and became a sitting duck).

I like this suggestion, but I'm afraid that apparition does seem to be fairly instantaneous. We see Ludo Bagman do it in Chapter Nine of _GoF:_

Bagman swore loudly.

'Damn them!' he said, looking quite distracted, and without another word, he Disapparated with a small pop!

(Thus answering Eloise's question. Apparently when wizards disapparate, they "pop," just like House Elves do.)

Now admittedly, Bagman does look "distracted." But it doesn't seem to take him more than a second or so, if that, to Disapparate, nor does he "fade" or have any apparant transitional period at all.

I suppose, though, that a good magical duellist could probably whip off a spell at an opponent in even that split-second, and I am perfectly willing to entertain the notion that being the target of any spell while in the middle of disapparating might interfere with the process sufficiently to cause a splinch. That fact alone might cause wizards to think twice about trying to disapparate out of trouble in the middle of a magical confrontation. This might explain why Rosier, for example, who was unwilling to be taken alive by the Aurors, didn't just flee them rather than fighting to the death. Once you're already locked in combat, I imagine that it's really just a bit too late for that option.

I also find Grey Wolf's suggestion that using any form of magical shield (if such do in fact exist) would prevent one from apparating to be perfectly sensible and plausible.

Really, it seems to me that there are perfectly reasonable explanations for wizards failing to consider apparating as an option in all of the examples that Cindy originally cited.

We never see anyone save Dobby (who as an Elf has special magical powers and therefore is not bothered by shields and such) apparate in or out of a house. (Percy does so inside the Burrow, but apparating down the stairs does not involve crossing the boundaries of the house itself.) I imagine that this is because all wizarding houses are protected, as Hogwarts is, against this form of intrusion as a matter of basic security. If you can't apparate in, then you can't disapparate out. This covers the Potters, the Longbottoms, and Peter in the Shrieking Shack.

Apparating does not help you if you are ambushed or otherwise taken by surprise because, um, well, isn't that the whole point of being taken by surprise? So Bertha Jorkins didn't disapparate out of trouble because from her point of view, one minute she was out for a nice walk with Peter Pettigrew (had that memory charm problem of hers led her to forget that he was supposed to be dead, perhaps?), and the next minute she was unconscious or under Imperius or stunned or otherwise rendered incapable. Same with Moody. He went out to confront whatever was troubling his trash bins, and he got jumped. Crouch Sr. opened his front door and was immediately hit with the Imperius. None of these people really ever had the opportunity to disapparate themselves out of trouble.

You need to be in good mental and physical condition to apparate. We know that it is very difficult, and that if done improperly, it can lead you into trouble. I think it reasonable to assume that you have to be in pretty good form to pull it off. So Lupin takes the train, rather than apparating to Hogsmeade, because he is ill. Sirius doesn't apparate anywhere because he's a weakened and emaciated wreck. Crouch Jr. has just spent over a decade under the Imperius Curse in that Top Box, so even if Winky weren't binding him, he probably wouldn't have been in any condition to apparate anywhere anyway. And Pettigrew at the end of _PoA_ isn't in good condition either: he's sick and weak; he's been scrounging around for food in Hagrid's cupboards; and on top of all of that, he's just spent over a decade in his animagus form, which has just got to mess with your magical abilities.

Nah. It doesn't bother me at all.

You know what does sometimes trouble my sleep though? Wondering how all of those Death Eaters actually got home from the graveyard. I do worry about that sometimes. After all, how well can you apparate if you don't even know where you are? And it's hard to imagine a more awkward circumstance under which one could get oneself splinched, isn't it?

—Elkins (who thinks that Avery probably took the train)

Posted June 06, 2002 at 9:48 am
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RE: TBAY: Minerva McGonagall Is Ever So Evil!


Elkins was out for a little walk in the forest when she noticed Cindy standing just a few yards off the path, staring contemplatively up into the highest branches of some nearby trees.

Cindy was musing:

That means that someone has to betray Dumbledore, and that someone must have Dumbledore's trust (so that they can get the drop on him) and must be capable of killing him. . . .The only person who can bring down Dumbledore is someone who has his trust and uses that trust to stab him in the back.

So who does Dumbledore trust enough to let his guard down? It's a fairly short list, I think...

Always up for a spot of hedgehog-watching herself, Elkins threw her head back and began scanning the tops of the trees. She thought that she could see a faint mammalian shape up there somewhere, but without her omnioculors, she couldn't be certain precisely who it might be. So she listened in silence while Cindy considered the merits of Snape, and of Moody, and of McGonagall, and of Hagrid, and of Sirius, and of Remus, and of...

Elkins frowned. Hold on. There was something odd about that shape up there, wasn't there? Something...

She blinked. The hedgehog in the high tree above her was smiling. Grinning, really. And it didn't even look all that much like a hedgehog anymore, come to think of it. It was beginning to look more like...like...

As Elkins watched, the hedgehog-that-did-not-much-resemble-a-hedgehog slowly faded from view.

Only its smile remained behind.

"Cindy," Elkins said softly. "Cindy? Uh, could you go back to Number Three again for just a minute please?"

***************************

Cindy:

3. McGonagall. Uh, no. She couldn't even ward off Crouch Jr.'s dementor.

Well, really, Cindy! She wouldn't have wanted to ward off Crouch Jr.'s dementor if she was a follower of Voldemort's, now, would she?

You think that little Barty "Oh, how I hate all those Death Eaters who walked free" Crouch wouldn't have ratted her out to the Ministry, given half a chance? You think that little Barty "No, Daddy, please save me, I just can't stand all of these scary dementors" Crouch wouldn't have tried to offer the ministry a little deal, if he thought that it might cut back his prison sentence by a year or two? You think that McGonagall was willing to take the chance that the next time someone loaded little Barty up with a mouthful of veritaserum, they wouldn't think to ask him anything about her?

Hah!

If you ask me, the happiest moment in Minerva McGonagall's life was the moment that she first realized that Fudge's Dementor was going in for the Kiss. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if she stumbled right into Snape, just to make sure that he wouldn't have time to do anything to stop what was about to happen. Even if Snape did suspect that she'd done it on purpose, he'd never be able to convince Dumbledore of that fact. Not after that amazing impersonation of Flustered Woman Who Can't Keep Her Head In A Crisis that McGonagall pulled off, with all of her shrieking and trembling and flushing and fist-balling and disarrayed hair and the like.

"Ward off Crouch Jr's dementor."

::snort::

Yeah. Like McGonagall would really have wanted to do that.

-------------

Boy. You know, I'd figured that ever since Porphyria's j'accuse a few weeks ago, we'd all just accepted as a matter of general consensus that Minerva McGonagall Was Ever So Evil.

But clearly I was wrong about that. So let's just take a look at all of the canonical evidence stacked up against dear Minerva, shall we?

Porphyria listed a number of suspicious things about McGonagall in message #38783:

Is McGonagall Ever so Evil? Is that why she goes around wearing Slytherin colors all the time, even though Snape himself rarely bothers? Is that why she didn't warn Dumbledore in PS/SS after Harry accosted her, convinced the Stone was in jeopardy? I bet she finagled to buy him that Firebolt to get him on the Quidditch team early so that Quirrell would have his shot at jinxing him off of it. Yeah, she was in league with Q-man all along! And she really wants Trelawney discredited, doesn't she? Maybe it's to keep people from believing her next true prediction!

Oh, yeah, I'm onto her. She's the one who can turn into a cat and creep around the school late at night. Spying on Harry, no doubt. Wait -- didn't she go to school with Tom Riddle? Maybe they were lovers! Hang on: she's tall and thin and has black hair, just like Tom -- maybe they're cousins! Or for those of you who like it juicy, maybe they were both. :-D

All of which is certainly compelling enough.

For starters.

Because you see, there's more evidence than just that. There's a lot more evidence.

For one thing, there's her behavior right after the third task. Crouch Jr. wasn't the only person at Hogwarts who seemed terribly keen to lure Harry out of sight of Albus Dumbledore that night, you know. McGonagall gave it a shot as well.

In fact, she tried to get Harry away from Dumbledore the instant that Crouch/Moody had been taken out of the action. She, Snape and Dumbledore barge into Fake!Moody's office. Fake!Moody is stupefied. Dumbledore kicks him onto his back and starts pulling his scary "the gloves are coming off now" Do Not Anger The Powerful Wizard routine. Snape stares intriguingly at himself in the Foe-Glass. And what does McGonagall do?

From _GoF, Ch. 35:

Professor McGonagall went straight to Harry.

'Come along, Potter,' she whispered. The thin line of her mouth was twitching as though she was about to cry. 'Come along...hospital wing...'

'No,' said Dumbledore sharply.

'Dumbledore, he ought to -- look at him -- he's been through enough tonight--'

'He will stay, Minerva, because he needs to understand,' said Dumbledore curtly.

Oh well. At least she gave it her best shot, right?

She looks as if she's about to cry, eh? Yeah, no kidding. I'd look as if I were about to cry too, I think, if I'd just had the sort of terrible disappointment that Evil!McGonagall just suffered in that graveyard, and if Dumbledore wasn't going to allow me to curry my Dark Master's favor by delivering Harry up to him myself, and if on top of all of that, my idiot colleague was likely to be ratting me out to all of my enemies in a matter of only a few minutes.

If she looks as if she's about to cry when Crouch is thwarted, though, that's nothing compared to how she looks after they feed him the veritaserum. She looks positively sick when that happens. And really, who can blame her?

Boy, though, what a relief when Dumbledore asked her, rather than, say, Snape, to be the one to stand guard over Crouch, eh?

From _GoF,_ Ch. 36:

'Minerva, could I ask you to stand guard here while I take Harry upstairs?'

'Of course,' said Professor McGonagall. She looked slightly nauseous, as though she had just watched someone being sick. However, when she drew out her wand and pointed it at Barty Crouch, her hand was quite steady.


I'll bet it was.


I'm telling you, Fudge's showing up with that Dementor was the best thing that ever happened to McGonagall. She'd been standing there over Crouch racking her brains to try to think of some way to ensure his silence that wouldn't cast suspicion right back on her—should she claim that he had tried to escape, perhaps? No, no, Severus would see right through that one. Well, okay, a memory charm perhaps?—and then along came Fudge with his Dementor and solved all of her problems for her. What a relief! But a bad moment there for a minute as well, I'm sure. As a general rule, I don't think that secret DEs feel at all comfortable with Dementors. In fact, she's in quite the state when she tells Dumbledore about what happened, isn't she? You think that's fury? That's not fury. That's terror comingled with profound relief. That's a post-adrenaline rush "there but for the grace of God went I" moment, which she then Ever So Cleverly exploits to lend credence to her whole Flustered Woman act.


Still not convinced that Minerva McGonagall Is Ever So Evil?


No? Not even after all of that?


Well, okay. How about we look at her appearance in the very first chapter of the very first book then?


First off, McGonagall's very appearance on Privet Drive that morning is highly suspicious. Just what precisely is she doing there, anyway? She implies that she has been waiting there for Dumbledore -- and yet she keeps herself hidden from him, only revealing herself once he makes it clear that he knows perfectly well that she is there. She claims that Hagrid was the one who told her that he would be there -- but only after Dumbledore himself first suggests that possibility to her, and she changes the subject very quickly thereafter. She waits outside of the house on Privet Drive all day long, even though it seems clear that Hagrid and Dumbledore had prearranged to meet there only after nightfall. Wouldn't Hagrid have mentioned that fact to her, if he had really been the one to tell her that she could find Dumbledore at 4 Privet Drive? And when Hagrid finally shows up, he says absolutely nothing which supports her claim that she had spoken to him earlier that day. No "Oh, Professor McGonagall, found the place all right, then?" Nothing like that.


And when precisely would McGonagall have spoken to Hagrid, anyway?


It wasn't at Godric's Hollow. She is surprised to learn that Hagrid has been entrusted with the infant Harry.

It couldn't have been after Godric's Hollow for the same reason. Also, she arrived at Privet Drive early enough in the day for Vernon Dursley to see her on his way to work that morning.

And if it were before Godric's Hollow, then why on earth wouldn't she have spoken to Dumbledore earlier that day? She is addressed as "Professor," so presumably she already works at Hogwarts. Couldn't she have spoken to him there, or sought him out wherever he spent the rest of the day, rather than hanging some miserable suburb all day long just to wait to talk to him?

No. I think that she's lying. I don't believe that she came to Privet Drive because Hagrid told her that she could find Albus Dumbledore there. In fact, I don't believe that she came to Privet Drive to speak with Dumbledore at all.

For one thing, just witness her response when Dumbledore first arrives:

A man appeared on the corner the cat had been watching, appeared so suddenly and silently you'd have thought he'd just popped out of the ground. The cat's tail twitched and its eyes narrowed.

Now, I have two cats. And I have to tell you: tail-twitching and eye-narrowing is absolutely not how cats express pleasure at seeing someone they have been waiting all day to have a nice chat with. When cats twitch their tails and narrow their eyes, that is an expression of aggression, anxiety, or predatory intent. It is not friendly cat behavior.

In fact, given that this particular cat is actually a witch in cat form, I would go so far as to say that she reacts to Dumbledore's appearance with outright hatred.

And what does she do then? Does she resume her human form so that she can speak with this man she has supposedly been waiting for all day long? Does she greet him, as one might expect?

No. She does not. She lurks in the shadows, watching him carefully. She does not reveal herself to him until he leaves her no other choice:

Dumbledore slipped the Put-Outer back inside his cloak and set off down the street towards number four, where he sat down on the wall next to the cat. He didn't look at it, but after a moment he spoke to it.

'Fancy seeing you here, Professor McGonagall.'

He turned to smile at the tabby, but it had gone. Instead he was smiling at a rather severe-looking woman who was wearing square glasses exactly in the shape of the markings the cat had had around its eyes. She, too, was wearing a cloak, an emerald one. Her black hair was drawn into a tight bun. She looked distinctly ruffled.

'How did you know it was me?' she asked.

Note the Slytherin green outfit.

Note also that McGonagall is apparently surprised to learn that Dumbledore can recognize her in her animagus form. But the specific forms of registered animagi are a matter of public record! Hermione looks them up in _PoA._ So are we meant to understand that McGonagall was not, in fact, even registered at this point in time? Was her animaga status her own little secret? Does McGonagall have a criminal past?


Nearly the entire wizarding world has been celebrating Voldemort's downfall all day long. People are ecstatic about what has happened. But McGonagall isn't. She is furious, although she tries to mask her fury as irritation with the celebrants' lack of prudence:

'When could you have been celebrating? I must have passed a dozen feasts and parties on my way here.'

Professor McGonagall sniffed angrily.

'Oh yes, everyone's celebrating all right,' she said impatiently.

"Angrily." Yeah, I'll bet she's angry.


McGonagall is disdainful to the point of contempt when it comes to Muggles:

'You'd think they'd be a bit more careful, but no -- even the Muggles have noticed something's going on. It was on their news.' She jerked her head back at the Dursleys' dark living-room window. 'I heard it. Flocks of owls...shooting stars...Well, they're not completely stupid.'


Her agenda once she is speaking to Dumbledore is to pump him for information about Voldemort's rumored fall. She seems particularly desperate to learn whether it is really true that Voldemort has been vanquished:

'People are being downright careless, out on the streets in broad daylight, not even dressed in Muggle clothes, swapping rumours.' She threw a sharp, sideways glance at Dumbledore here, as though hoping he was going to tell her something, but he didn't, so she went on: 'A fine thing it would be if, on the very day You-Know-Who seems to have disappeared at last, the Muggles found out about us all. I suppose he really has gone, Dumbledore?'

Dumbledore tries to put her off again and again, but McGonagall is not to be dissuaded by any of his diversionary tactics. She loftily ignores his attempt to distract her with sherbet lemons and immediately returns to her interrogation ("As I say, even if You-Know-Who has gone—"). She also refuses to allow herself to be side-tracked into a conversation about the value of referring to Voldemort by name, although she does flinch when Dumbledore speaks it aloud -- just exactly as Pettigrew will later do at the sound of his master's name in the Shrieking Shack.

Although it is perfectly obvious that McGonagall's interest in this conversation lies in her burning desire to know whether or not Voldemort has truly been defeated—and if so, if it was truly Harry Potter who was responsible -- the narrative voice chooses to make this fact explicit—just in case the reader somehow missed it:

Professor McGonagall shot a sharp look at Dumbledore and said, 'The owls are nothing to the rumours that are flying around. You know what everyone's saying? About why he's disappeared? About what finally stopped him?'

It seemed that Professor McGonagall had reached the point she was most anxious to discuss, the real reason she had been waiting on a cold hard wall all day, for neither as a cat nor as a woman had she fixed Dumbledore with such a piercing stare as she did now.

Boy. Jo sure didn't want us to miss that, huh? It's important to the author that the reader understand how very anxious McGonagall is to learn the truth of this matter, as well as to note that she goes about trying to get this information out of Dumbledore in an oddly indirect fashion. It is absolutely essential that the reader understand this.


Although she affects shock and grief when she learns that the Potters are dead, McGonagall's voice only actually begins to tremble when she approaches the possibility that voldemort may truly have been unable to kill Harry, and that his powers have now been broken. It is only when she gains confirmation of this fact that she actually "falters:"

'It's--it's true?' faltered Professor McGonagall. 'After all he's done...all the people he's killed...he couldn't kill a little boy? It's just astounding...of all the things to stop him...but how in the name of heaven did Harry survive?'

Notice how quickly she corrects herself from her initial estimation of Voldemort's power ("after all he's done") to one more in keeping with a position of emnity towards Voldemort's cause ("all the people he's killed").

It is only after she is assured that indeed, it is true that Voldemort is gone that McGonagall actually begins to weep.



Oh, no. I don't trust that Minerva McGonagall. I do not trust her at all.



There are also strange off-notes in McGonagall's characterization in this scene. Nowhere else in canon does McGonagall fawn. She is not the sycophantic type. But she certainly does fawn all over Albus Dumbledore in this scene. It's actually quite disgusting:

'Everyone knows you're the only one You-Know -- oh, all right, Voldemort -- was frightened of.'

'You flatter me,' said Dumbledore calmly. 'Voldemort had powers I will never have.'

'Only because you're too -- well -- noble to use them.'

Oh, ick. "Oh, Albus. You're so noble!" Blech. Ugh. It does seem grotesquely out of character for the ordinarily brisk and sensible McGonagall, doesn't it? For her to start simpering like that?

But of course, she may have very good reasons for wanting to suck up to old Albus here. Voldemort's gone, and his Death Eaters have probably already started turning themselves in to the Ministry in droves, claiming that they've been under the Imperius Curse. McGonagall's got to be getting pretty nervous right about now. And as we've seen with Snape, Dumbledore makes a very powerful protector.

I also find myself wondering about all of that "too noble to use all the powers at your disposal" stuff. Just how long has McGonagall been feeding Dumbledore that line, anyway? From the very start, perhaps? Might that not in fact have been one of her jobs? To try to ensure that no matter how ugly the conflict might become, Dumbledore would continue to place limits on his own actions? To try to subvert and weaken the enemy?



And you think that Snape is the likely Big Shock Betrayer of this series?

Nah. Snape betraying Dumbledore wouldn't be a shocker. McGonagall, though? Now, wouldn't that be something. Not Dumbledore's left-hand, but his right-. Not the head of House Slytherin, but the head of House Gryffindor. Not the Designated Red Herring, but instead the very first member of the wizarding world that the reader ever met?

Now that would be a shocker. That would be betrayal. And not just for Dumbledore himself, but for everyone: Harry, Snape, all of House Gryffindor. And particularly for Hermione, of course. Hermione, who has that protege/mentor thing going with our dear Minerva.

Yup. Yup.

<Elkins nods, satisfied>

Minerva McGonagall.

Foreshadowed As Ever So Evil From The Very First Chapter Of The Very First Book.


—Elkins, who will happily exchange her SUCCESS: the Dumbledore Variation for a whomping big glass of SUCCESS: the McGonagall Variation; and who also wonders whether she has earned an honorary membership in the OHF for firing so very many big canons up into the tree-tops, even if she was aiming them at Porphyria's hedgehog.

Posted June 06, 2002 at 10:09 am
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