Weekly Archive
February 16, 2003 - February 22, 2003

RE: TBAY: Solzhenitsyn's Russia meets the Wizarding World

"So now that we're through with all that Invisibility Cloak talk," Elkins said, sprawling out on the lawn of the Safe House. "What did you think of my spin on your Crouch theory?"

"Loved it," answered Eileen immediately. "The Pensieve scene is not nearly as upsetting to me now."

No," agreed Elkins slowly. "I don't suppose it would be. It does make his behavior there quite a bit more sympathetic. On a number of different levels."

Eileen nodded. "You remember that in my original responses to the sections of the Crouch Novenna dealing with this precise point, I was very..."

"Emotionally distraught." Elkins shuddered slightly. "Yes. I remember."

"Your picture of Crouch's behaviour was so black, and I really couldn't find anything to argue with it, except to start weeping and protesting it couldn't be true."

"Wildly and desperately denying all charges. Yes. And a brutally effective strategy it was, too."

"It was?"

"Well, assuming that your intention was to make me feel wretchedly guilty, it was. As I recall, you were particularly distressed over the notion that Crouch Sr. might have thought that there was a chance that his son was innocent when he—"

"Yelled, 'You are no son of mine!'" Eileen looked as if she were contemplating crying again. "Yes. I don't want him to have done that! He couldn't have done that!"

Elkins sighed. "Oh, you're just spoiled, you are," she said. "You should try identifying with the man's son for a change, see how that feels. Trust me. You go contemplate the fate of the Longbottoms for a little while, and I think you'll find that a little renunciation between family members starts to look positively benign. But really, you know, it did sort of surprise me that you should have been so upset over `you are not my son.'"

"It did?"

"Well, yeah. I guess that I just don't perceive the disavowal itself as all that much of a betrayal, really. It pales in significance, to my mind, when compared to the whole sending-someone-off-to-prison-for-life-on-the-basis-of-scanty-evidence thing. I mean, would it really have made matters any better if Crouch had sent his son off to die in Azkaban and not denounced him first? Would it have been more reassuring if he'd looked down at his son in the dock—or, more precisely, chained in that horrible chair—and said: 'Yes, son, I know that I'm your father, but I am a fair and unbiased man. Therefore, I am going to deny you your due process and railroad you to Azkaban, just like I do everyone else whenever it suits my political purposes?' Surely that wouldn't have made you feel better about him, Eileen. Would it?"

"Well," said Eileen. "When you put it like that..."

"I should have thought that the kangaroo court itself would have bothered you more than the denunciation," said Elkins. "Maybe it's just me. To me, the denunciation makes Crouch far more sympathetic, particularly the way that he keeps raising his voice louder and louder to drown out his son's pleas. It shows him as conflicted. Without it, he would come across as positively inhuman in that scene. The denial of due process, though...well, that's a different matter. Sending people off to effective death sentences without much at all in the way of evidence. Allowing political expedience to override concern for the truth. As far as I'm concerned, that's far worse than disavowal. It's...well, to be perfectly honest, I consider it tantamount to murder. Crouch's behavior in regard to his son is really only one short step away from filicide, in my opinion. Crouch Jr. may have been guilty, but he could just as easily have been innocent. Sirius Black was."

"But if you factor in self-protection, the picture's a whole lot greyer," pointed out Eileen.

"Yes, it is. And if you factor in the possibility of additional evidence, evidence that Crouch suppressed, then that makes it even more so. Not only does it give him self-protection as a motive, but it also gives him an at least somewhat better reason to have suspected his son to be guilty than 'he was caught in bad company, and besides, I know for a fact that he was out of the house that night,' which is pretty much what you're left with otherwise. And that really does make me feel a whole lot better about things, you know, because—"

"Hold on, hold on," said Eileen, frowning. "That makes you feel better about things?"

"Well, yes. It does. Because the thing here is that I do think that Crouch genuinely believed his son to be guilty. I said as much in the novenna. I am far more willing than you are to accept the possibility that he had considerable doubts. I don't see how he couldn't have done, given the lack of evidence. But I also did say that I thought that he at least believed in his son's guilt at the time of the trial. I've always wondered why, though. Why? There seems to have been no real evidence. It's always bothered me a great deal about this plotline, actually. It just doesn't fit together for me. If in fact there was some evidence, though, evidence that Crouch suppressed in order to protect himself, then that makes me feel a lot more comfortable with it. Because otherwise, you know, it just seems so very out of character to me."

Eileen stared at her.

"I can't believe what I'm hearing," she said. "Out of character? For Crouch? That incarnation of all things infamous?"

"But I don't read him as the incarnation of all things infamous, Eileen," objected Elkins earnestly. "Just as the incarnation of some things infamous. Things like political opportunism. Things like disregard for the rights of others. Things like unhealthy and narcissistic and devouring expressions of perverted _storge_. Things like hatred that masquerades as love. But I can't ignore those last things in favor of the others, because that just doesn't seem to fit in with his other actions in regard to his son. Throwing Sirius Black and other random accusees to the mob as blood offerings is one thing, but his scion? The son who carries his name? The one whose individuation he has such a hard time accepting? The one that he will later drag out of prison, keep alive and under control in his house, and try to indoctrinate? The one that he perceives as his mirror?"

Elkins shook her head.

"I just don't buy it unless he had some reason to believe that the boy was guilty. Crouch was self-interested, all right, but his investment in his son was a big part of that self-interest, and even if his political star was falling, I can't imagine that he was entirely without clout at the time of the Longbottom Incident. If it had just been a matter of some Death Eater fingering a member of his family, I can't imagine that he wouldn't have been able to extricate himself from that position with a bit more competence and grace, witch-hunt atmosphere or no. There had to have been something else. There's no indication anywhere that Crouch was disposed against his son before his arrest, and there's plenty of suggestion that precisely the opposite was true. In his mad scene, he speaks of him with quite a bit of pride. His behavior at the sentencing is that of a man who is outraged, and I've said before that I don't think that was all an act. The entire public response to Crouch Jr's arrest isn't in the least bit consistent with a scenario in which young Crouch was perceived as a black sheep, or as a bad seed. It's obvious to me that he was a golden boy. Dumbledore's backhanded eulogy on him reinforces that. JKR even went so far as to give him all that blond hair!"

"Although..." Eileen began.

"Yeah, I know. Blond hair is a backhanded marker in the Potterverse to begin with. But still. The parallel scenes also suggest that Crouch didn't think that his son was innocent."

"You mean the parallel with the QWC?"

Elkins nodded. "At the QWC, Crouch renounces Winky, and I read that as a blood sacrifice, and as a diversionary tactic, and as a failed exorcism, and as an expression of projected self-loathing, and even as a bit of self-flagellation, as well. Self-punishment. All of which also works when applied to his son. But it doesn't come out of nowhere with Winky, does it? He did have some cause for feeling that she had failed him. And he did have some cause for finding her an appropriate mirror onto which to project his disgust with his own weakness.

"So as I see it," Elkins continued. "He had to have had some cause for believing his son to be guilty, as well. Maybe not the greatest cause, maybe not good enough to warrant a guilty verdict, but at least something a bit better than a random accusation or guilt by association. It just doesn't make any sense to me otherwise. I interpret his reaction to his son as one of horrified recognition. Hs son was trying to bring about what he himself secretly desired: Voldemort's return. There is projection going on there, but it doesn't make sense to me if I try to read it as a totally irrational projection. I do read Barty Crouch Sr. as pretty seriously messed up, but I don't see him as totally delusional."

"No," said Eileen snarkily. "That was his son."

"Now, now. Even his son wasn't all that divorced from reality, really. Especially not when you...well, you know. Take one consideration with another. But at any rate, the Invisibility Cloak left behind at the scene of the crime speculation helps me to resolve that problem, and it also ties in nicely with so many other things. Like the self-preservation. Because I do read that Pensieve mob as out to get Crouch. I think that they liked watching him suffer. I think that they liked it when his son went all to pieces on him, and when his wife fainted dead away at his side. And they loved the denunciation. They ate that up -- just as Crouch knew that they would. Because I am convinced, you know, that he was playing to the crowd a bit with that."

There was a short silence.

"It's not a very pretty scene," said Elkins quietly. "On any level. In fact, I find it by far the most disturbing scene in the entire series. Do you know that when I first heard that people had been making complaints about GoF being 'too dark for children,' I didn't even think of Cedric's death? I didn't think of Graveyard at all. Or of anything having to do with Voldemort, for that matter. I just immediately assumed that it was Pensieve they were talking about. A sequence which apparently," she added, with a slight laugh. "Doesn't bother children at all."

She shook her head. "Children are so weird, aren't they? I never understand children. I didn't even understand children when I was a child. I...Eileen? Hey, are you all right?"

Eileen was staring blankly at the swingset, where the two Elkins' were embroiled in a shoving match over Memory Charm theories.

"I identified with that mob in the Pensieve scene," she said dully. "I've told you that, haven't I? That I can see where that crowd was coming from?"

"Yeeesss," said Elkins cautiously. "You've mentioned that before. Outrage on behalf of the Longbottoms, wasn't it? Like Harry?"

"Yes," said Eileen. "And no." She paused for a second. "Argghh... I hate this. I just hate this. I've mentioned my first emotional response to Crouch Sr. on the list many times. Sympathy. And, of course, that response to his... charisma. But I've never really gone into the darker side of my emotional response on the list, have I?"

"Uh-oh. Oh look, Eileen. This isn't going to turn into a performance of 'Who's Afraid of J.K. Rowling' or anything, is it? I mean, we're not playing a round of 'Get the Listmember' here, are we? Please tell me we're not. Because, you know, if you'd rather talk about something else..."

"I have this nasty suspicion," Eileen said quickly. "That for all my bleeding heart tendencies, I would have been a Crouchist during the first Voldemort years, and absolutely worshiped the man. And believe it or not, this actually does not make me feel very kindly towards him. Do you know what it's like to break away from that particular type of charm, Elkins?"

"Well, I—"

"It's an exhilirating experience. To stand on your own two feet and realize that whatever De.. errr... I mean, the hypothetical politician wants is not the be-all and end-all. But you also feel very angry. You want to strike back at that person for taking advantage of you, of blinding your eyes to certain things. That's not entirely a healthy reaction."

"Isn't it?" Elkins thought about it. "Oh, I don't know," she sighed. "I guess that depends on how you define 'healthy.' It isn't an ideal reaction, no, but at the same time, it does seem perfectly natural to me. It's also highly congruent with GoF's position as the midpoint of a bildungsroman, don't you think? Because what you're describing sounds an awful lot to me like...well, it sounds to me like the same fundamental psychological dynamic that underlies some of the more troublesome developmental issues of adolescence. On a far more macrocosmic scale, of course. But still. Do you think that Crouch Jr. always disliked his father?"

Eileen stared at her.

"Because you see," Elkins explained. "I've always imagined that at one time, he must have absolutely worshipped him. He is envious of his mother: 'He loved her as he had never loved me.' His relationship with Voldemort is a substitution. It's displacement. What does that say about how he likely once felt about his father? He calls him 'disappointing.' Disapppointment isn't too far off from disillusionment, is it? You can't be 'disappointed' in someone unless you first had certain...expectations."

"No," murmered Eileen.

"Mainly, though, I read it that way because as I see the entire Crouch subplot, Crouch's relationship with his son replicates on the personal level his political relationship with the wizarding world as a whole."

"Yes, so you've said."

"And said and said and said. Yeah, I know. I repeated that sentence like a mantra in the novenna, didn't I? I think that it may have come up in three separate posts. But that's because it really is just so intrinsic to my reading of this plotline. It's the glue that binds it all together."

There was a long silence.

"Elkins," said Eileen, in a low voice. "I really don't want to identify with Crouch Jr."

"I am sorry. But if Crouch's son is a faulty mirror to Crouch, then Crouch must also be a faulty mirror to his son. That's just how mirrors work. And if Crouch was a faulty mirror to his son, then he must have been one to the wizarding world as well. Because as I see it, that's how that dynamic is constructed in the text. Thematically speaking, leaders and fathers occupy the same symbolic position. Crouch Jr's antipathy towards his father reads to me like a backlash response, replicating on the personal level the public and political backlash that we see in the Pensieve."

"The wizarding world couldn't have felt very good about itself," said Eileen slowly. "They didn't just have something to regret in the small world of Canadian politics. They had to regret supporting some pretty horrible things. So, naturally, they would have turned their anger on Crouch. They wanted him gone. Because he reminded them of themselves. He was their faulty mirror. I don't think the Pensieve Croud's jeering just represents the anger of the people who had been hurt by Crouch. I think it represents the far greater swell of anger from the people who had helped Crouch hurt others."


"'Take him away. Shunt him aside to International Magical Co-operation, where we'll never have to see him again. Where we can forget what we did.'"

"Sweeping it under the carpet," agreed Elkins. "Like the wizarding world does with everything having to do with that era. Just like all of those acquitted Death Eaters."

"By the way," added Eileen lightly. "I think that public state of denial saved him. Really, Crouch Sr. should have been brought to trial for what he did during the war. And...NO!" she shrieked, as Elkins lunged across the grass at her. "What did I say? I...oh."

She blinked down at Elkins, who had thrown her arms around her.

"Oh. I see. Well, all right then. I thought that you didn't like hugging?" She patted Elkins tentatively on the back.

"Eileen," gasped Elkins, letting go of her. "Eileen, do you want to know why Crouch Sr. always makes me so very angry?"

"Because he reminds you of your—"

"No. No, it's not just that. It's also because I read him as a war criminal. A war criminal who got away with murder. A war criminal who was never brought to trial. A war criminal whose victims are still suffering for his crimes, even by the time of the canon. He's a lot like Lucius Malfoy, or Nott and Avery, or all of those other guys whose past sins everybody seems to know about but nobody is willing to acknowledge. Except that in Crouch's case, even the readers don't seem to care about it. And that just...oh, it just infuriates me somehow." She sat back on her heels, frowning. "I think that I find Crouch such an immensely frustrating character in part because while everyone thinks of those Death Eaters as war criminals, I have never before heard anyone other than myself say the same thing about Barty Crouch."

"Elkins, I..."

"And the one time that I did say it—on another list, that was—everybody just yelled at me."


"Thank you!"

"Elkins!" Eileen pushed her away. "Stop that! You're scaring me."

"I wrote an entire post about this, you know," Elkins explained, stumbling somewhat over her words. "Midnight In the Golden Wood With Crouch. A Novenna response. But then I was afraid to post it."

"Afraid? Why?"

"Oh, I don't know. Because it's a topic on which I can get a little bit emotional? A little bit strident? A little bit ranty? A little bit...oh, hell, let's be fair here, okay? A lot over-engaged. Frankly, I just can't keep my head on this subject at all. And because as a means of addressing and acknowledging that problem," she concluded wearily, "the Affective Fallacy horsie joke really only works once.

"Also because I worried that it might have bordered on implied ad hominem," Elkins added, after a moment's pause. "You know, sort of like the way that those posts objecting to Sympathy For the Devil readings by focusing really heavily on the plight of the DEs' victims can sometimes come across as accusatory? There's that 'it's your sort of person who lets the terrorists win' flavor that can sometimes start creeping in? Except that in this case, it would be 'it's your sort of person who lets the police state take over.' And I particularly wanted to avoid that because, well... Because it was January 24, all right? When I was all set to post it."

Eileen frowned. "January twenty...Oh! Oh, I see. You were worried about what Dicentra and I were talking about on that factional/fictional divide thread?"

"Yeah. Specifically that passage about you being unusually sensitive to implications that you don't care about civil liberties. You see, Eileen," explained Elkins with a rueful smile. "I don't exactly want to identify with Barty Crouch Jr. either. That's really not a positive reader identification for me. I wasn't sure how serious you were, was the thing, and I really wasn't keen on the idea of reenacting some twisted variant on 'The Egg and the Eye' for the amusement of the 5000 lurkers."

She shrugged. "I know that you care very deeply about human rights, Eileen."

"Most kind of you," said Eileen drily.

"I also think that Crouch should have stood trial. For war crimes. But I doubt that he would have got a fair one. Well," Elkins added, with a sudden grin. "Not unless he stood trial here, of course. Because as everyone knows, here on HPfGU, we always give characters fair hearings!"

"Bringing him to trial would have meant that the society would have had to examine its own self," Eileen pointed out. "Much better to exile him to Magical Co-operation... There was, of course, one other way to lash back at him, as I agree they desperately wanted to."

"By implicating him personally in the Longbottom Incident."

Eileen nodded her head. "I would have been scared out of my wits the moment the Longbottom affair was traced back to my door, invisibility cloak or no invisibility cloak."

"Yes, I suppose I would have been as well. Dumbledore says that the attack on the Longbottoms 'caused a wave of fury such as I have never known.' And he's...what? 150 years old? Nor was Voldemort's rise the first war against Dark Wizardry he'd ever seen. So I'm thinking that must have been quite some wave of fury. I guess I would have been pretty nervous too. People at the forefront of witch hunts do tend to get targetted in the end, don't they? Today's inquisitor is tomorrow's heretic. It's almost a cliche."

"The revolution eats its children," murmered Eileen.

"Oh, Eileen, Eileen!" Elkins laughed wildly. "So does the status quo!"

"Pull yourself together," Eileen told her, smiling.

Elkins took a deep breath. "Crouch was definitely trying to save his political career in the Pensieve," she said. "But it is possible that he was also trying to save his own skin. Eric Oppen suggested that possibility all the way back in April, actually. He suggested that Crouch was afraid that he might be carted off to Azkaban himself if he didn't throw his son to the mob as a kind of a sop."

She pulled a brittle yellowed message out of one pocket and unfolded it gently. "This is Eric, in message #37781:

Face it, learned colleagues, Crouch Sr. was in a dicey position himself at that trial. If he had shown any sympathy for his son or anybody else on trial (Mr and Mrs. Lestrange?) he could have found himself up on charges himself---I would not want to attract any such thing with the Wizard World in what amounted to a lynching mood. Distancing himself from his son the Death Eater in the most public way he could was, if nothing else, a necessity for his own and his wife's safety. We know that people were hauled off to Azkaban without so much as trials, at his command. Wouldn't some of these folks have people they'd left behind who'd _love_ to pay Crouch Sr. out?

Elkins smiled dreamily. "I love it when Eric calls me a 'learned colleague,'" she sighed.

Eileen was staring at her.

"Elkins," she said. "Are you actually blushing?"

Elkins jumped, then quickly folded up Eric's message and put it back in her pocket.

"Yes, well," she said briskly. "So Crouch could have been fighting for his life there. Which is indeed rather sympathetic."

"Pitiable, anyway," said Eileen, with a rueful grin. "Wasn't it you who said a while back that you always feel for the person who's fighting for their life, no matter what they've done to get there?"

"That was me. And you were the one who agreed with me, I seem to recall. Yet Barty Jr. was fighting for his life in that Pensieve scene, and I fail to see you shed a tear about it."

"Yes, that's rather strange," said Eileen. "I have got weepy over Crouch Jr. several times, but it's never when reflecting on the Pensieve scene. The Pensieve scene just doesn't move me. I always feel remarkably cold-hearted towards Crouch Jr. there."

"I assume that you mean on re-reading?" asked Elkins. "Or am I misremembering? For some reason, I'd remembered you saying that he really tugged at your heart-strings there. Was that just when you thought that he was innocent, then? You know, the strange thing about this," she said thoughtfully. "Is that I actually sympathized with him in that scene a whole lot more on rereading? On first reading, I did think that he was innocent. Yet I felt rather more strongly for his father."

"That's simply perverse, Elkins."

"Yeah, it really is, isn't it? But I just can't help it. It's always like that for me. I always feel a whole lot worse for the guilty than I do for the innocent in those sorts of situations. I think that it must be because I know how much worse it is to suffer for something when you know that you've brought it all upon yourself. When you don't even have the knowledge of your own essential innocence to sustain you. When you don't have anyone other than yourself to blame."

Elkins shuddered helplessly. "It's precisely the same reader sympathy that I feel for Pettigrew in the Shrieking Shack. Which is the reason that your own lack of sympathy surprises me so much, actually."

"What is?"

"Shrieking Shack. You see, I wouldn't find it all that strange for anyone else to feel cold and unsympathetic towards Crouch Jr. in the Pensieve scene. Not on re-reading, at any rate. After all, his sins are truly dire. Even if you assume that he was innocent of torturing the Longbottoms, he's plenty wicked enough elsewhere to make up for it. And my own idiosyncratic reader response aside, Crouch Jr. really isn't written as a sympathetic character. But I do find it somewhat surprising coming from you, Eileen, because you identify with Peter in the Shack, which I see as a very similar situation. They're both scenarios in which a character is about to pay a very high price for his crimes, and is absolutely terrified, and can't escape from what's about to happen to him, and desperately, hopelessly, wants to be spared his fate, even though he's really not at all innocent. So what accounts for the difference in your reader response?"

There was a brief silence, while they thought it over.

"I wonder if it might be because Barty never actually confesses?" suggested Elkins. "He protests his innocence to the very last. Peter, on the other hand, does abandon his denial eventually. In the end, he's simply pleading for mercy. Could that account for it, do you think? Or is it possibly because you identified so very strongly with Crouch Sr. overall that it caused your reader sympathy to stay more narrowly focussed on him in that scene?

"I don't know. I'm just throwing out guesses here. What do you think?"




Crouch Novenna and responses: message #47927 and downthread replies


RE: What Crouch Knew and When He Knew It

I really am going to post on something other than the Crouches one of these days, you know.

No! No, really! I am!

JOdel asked:

Has it been established that Crouch Sr had seen/heard enough of Voldemort's councils to know that his son was at Hogwarts masquerading as Moody? He knew he was there, certainly. But did he know that it was as Moody? I'm not convinced that he did.

It's not established, no. I tend to believe that he did, although I can give no legitimate canon defense for this belief other than that it seems utterly in character to me for both Voldemort and Crouch Jr. to have wanted to gloat to a captive Crouch Sr. about their plans.

If Crouch didn't know precisely what his son was up to before the Drawing of the Names from the Goblet, though, then I believe that he figured it out shortly thereafter.

Here's why.

In Chapter 16 of GoF, during the actual drawing of the names from the Goblet, we are told that Dumbledore, the other headmasters, and Bagman all look tense and expectant.

Mr. Crouch, however, looked quite uninterested, almost bored.

We next see him in Chapter 17, after Harry's name has come out of the Goblet and he has been sequestered with the other champions, the headmasters, and the judges in the room off of the Great Hall.

Bagman wiped his round, boyish face with his handkerchief and looked at Mr. Crouch, who was standing outside the circle of the firelight, his face half hidden in shadow. He looked slightly eerie, the half darkness making him look much older, giving him an almost skull-like appearance. When he spoke, however, it was in his usual curt voice.

"We must follow the rules, and the rules state clearly that those people whose names come out of the Goblet of Fire are bound to compete in the tournament."

Okay. So the plot has now been set in motion, and this is when we first hear that Crouch looks ill. My assumption is that this is a reflection of his inner struggle with the Imperius. Harry did not notice him looking unwell earlier, when he noted that Crouch looked "uninterested, almost bored." While Crouch does look a bit poorly, though, he is still speaking normally—"in his usual curt voice"—and following through on what we can assume to have been his instructions: to make sure that Harry participates in the Tournament.

Then his son enters the room, masquerading as Moody, and brags his little head off, telling everyone just how clever he is and effectively giving away the entire plot, as well as having a bit of fun poking at Karkaroff.

The next time we hear anything about Crouch is this:

"Well, shall we crack on, then?" he said, rubbing his hands together and smiling around the room. "Got to give our champions their instructions, haven't we? Barty, want to do the honors?"

Mr. Crouch seemed to come out of a deep reverie.

"Yes," he said, "instructions. Yes . . . the first task . . ."

He moved forward into the firelight. Close up, Harry thought he looked ill. There were dark shadows beneath his eyes and a thin, papery look about his wrinkled skin that had not been there at the Quidditch World Cup.

Not only does Harry again notice how ill the poor man looks, but both the "reverie" and his "instructions...yes..." line are suggestive. My interpretation is that his "reverie" represents a struggle against the curse, hence the reiteration of "instructions" right before he then continues on with following his orders. I see this line as an indication that the curse is really having to work overtime to keep him under control.

Crouch doesn't succeed in throwing the thing off, but he seems to be working a lot harder at it here, after "Moody's" entrance, than he was before. I also find this line rather telling:

Mr. Crouch turned to look at Dumbledore.

"I think that's all, is it, Albus?"

"I think so," said Dumbledore, who was looking at Mr. Crouch with mild concern. "Are you sure you wouldn't like to stay at Hogwarts tonight, Barty?"

Dumbledore's concern does not surprise me. That tentative "I think that's all, is it, Albus?" really does seem out of character for Crouch. It does not seem consistent with what we know of this man's character for him to be asking for a second opinion on the question of whether or not he has successfully discharged his official duties.

The fact that his question to Dumbledore is effectively a request for instruction also strikes me as highly significant. I have always read this as a sign of the Imperius hard at work on a victim who is attempting to resist.

In this case, the Imperius is successful. In response to Dumbledore's question, Crouch reverts to orders, and he is soon behaving far more "normally," making dry commentary about Percy's behavior and expressing faint irritation with Ludo Bagman. Given that "behaving normally" was presumably part of what Crouch was instructed to do, I read this as evidence that his brief struggle with the Imperius has ended in abject failure.

The way that the signs of his struggle seem to intensify after his son enters the room, though, does suggest to my mind that Crouch knew who "Moody" was. Whether he knew it beforehand or only figured it out right there on the spot is unclear to me. I can read it either way with equal facility.


Posted February 17, 2003 at 7:56 pm
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Plain text version


RE: How can they tell who's a Muggle?

Conquistas wrote:

I think that other wizards can "feel" the presence of another wizard around, because of the magic.

[snip examples of Harry sensing the invisible Crouch Jr. in the woods and the emanating power of an enraged Dumbledore at the end of GoF]

It's an interesting theory. There are so many examples, though, of wizards not noticing the presence of other hidden magical people or powers.

Harry is rarely noticed in his Invisibility Cloak (except by Mrs. Norris, of all people, who does seem to have a good sense for him).

Harry does not notice Dumbledore watching him use the Mirror of Erised in PS/SS.

Nobody notices Invisible!Snape in the Shrieking Shack scene in PoA.

Nobody notices anything magically unusual about Ginny, while she is possessed by Riddle in CoS.

Nobody notices anything magically awry with Quirrell, while he is sporting Voldemort beneath his turban.

Ron is surprised (and maliciously pleased) when he learns that Filch is a Squib.

Everyone believes that Neville is magically weak, even though all of the evidence actually points to him having quite a bit of raw magical power.

No one ever notices that Scabbers is a wizard. Furthermore, the pet shop woman suggests that perhaps he is so ill because he is actually a non-magical rat, and thus at the end of his natural lifespan.

So I don't think that wizards are able to sense magical power. They identify others as Muggles, I would guess, based on nothing more than superficial signifiers: manner of dress, for example.


Posted February 19, 2003 at 3:40 pm
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RE: Grindelwald, Voldemort, and other dark folks

The Catlady provided a list of non-ideological reasons which might lead people in the WW to throw in their lot with Voldemort:

Some are seeking wealth (their share of the loot), slaves, sex (from the slaves), a paycheck, or just think they're less likely to be killed if they're on the winning side (like Pettigrew). Some seek a position of power ("Lord Voldemort will make me supervisor of traffic enforcement for this town") which they can use to "punish" the people they don't like. A Dark Wizard can offer more than a Dark Muggle can, magic things, of which a potion of immortality would be tops ...

Immortality is the biggie, I'd say. The very first book in the series emphasizes the temptation of immortality. Harry's internal struggle largely revolves around his need to accept his parents' deaths. Voldemort is "Voldemort" and his followers "Death Eaters." I really don't think that's all accidental.

To the above list, though, I would also add the restoration of ancient class privilege, which I believe to be Lucius Malfoy's main interest in Voldemort and which I don't view as either purely ideological (although it can be framed that way) or as precisely the same thing as the issue of purity of blood (although the two issues are obviously closely related). I believe that the exchange between Malfoy and Borgin in Knockturn Alley at the beginning of CoS serves to highlight issues which might have led so many members of the WW's older families to throw in their lot with Voldemort the first time around.

Ffred is more concerned with ideological issues, though. He wrote:

So where do you go if you are a wizard with political ambitions for change? The only place seems to be into conspiracy.

::slow smile::

Well...yes. That really is one of the more troubling things about the developing backstory, isn't it? It certainly is for me. I find that the more we are told about the Ministry, and about wizarding society as a whole, the more sympathy I feel for the Death Eaters, particularly for those who signed on when they were quite young.

It's hard for me as a reader to believe that all of them were as cynical or as purely self-interested as Lucius Malfoy seems to be, especially given that each passing volume seems to paint the WW's status quo in darker and darker shades. GoF gives us that sickening account of the WW under Crouch, tells us about an attempted genocide of the giants, and then provides, in the figure of younger Crouch, an example of a servant of Voldemort who, while he does seem to have been rather severely emotionally disturbed, is also presented as a highly idealistic personality type.

It gets harder and harder for me as a reader to believe that there were no misguided—but nonetheless quite legitimately aggrieved—idealists among Voldemort's followers. It would be very nice, IMO, if this really were a symptom of the series' transition from a focus on the concerns of childhood to one on the concerns of adolescence. Sadly, though, I strongly suspect that it is accidental, that JKR really has no idea just how well she's laid the groundwork for future examination of the problems of misguided idealism in her series.

Such a pity.

Of course, one can always hope. To my mind, the introduction of Snape's old Slytherin classmates, certain aspects of their characters as depicted so far (Fanatic!Lestranges, hints of ambivalence in Avery), and the implied authorial promise that they will be brought into the plotline as figures of more importance in the next volume or two, all provide us with by far our best hope that JKR actually might be planning on touching on a few of these issues in later canon.


Posted February 20, 2003 at 5:20 pm
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RE: Veritaserum and Truth Potions

Some Veritaserum thoughts.


Amy asked:

What really interests me about veritaserum is if a wizard could convincingly lie under it's effects. I am thinking inparticular of Severus Snape here. Could a wizard, under the effects of the potion, avoid telling the truth, tell a round-about story or just not answer the question entirly. Does it depend on the does and it's strength?

It's hard for me to imagine why, if there were no possibility of veritaserum resistance, Dumbledore would have specified that Snape fetch his strongest veritaserum.

My interpretation was the same as Star Opal's: that some people, whether due to an unusually strong will or to some innate talent, can occasionally muster up a bit of resistance to the stuff, if only enough to enable them to choose their words carefully enough to lie by omission or circumlocution.

Given that Crouch Jr's performance throughout GoF shows him to have been exceptionally skilled at precisely this sort of use of the language—he was a master at the fine art of lying with the perfect truth—it was probably for the best that Dumbledore called for Snape's strongest serum.

But why wouldn't one always use the strongest available veritaserum?

Kivrin (Welcome!) asked:

In the end, I still wonder about the significance of different levels of Truth Potions. Dumbledore obviously orders Snape to fetch the "strongest Truth Potion," (which evidences that there are less strong potions) but I cannot imagine what a lesser strength potion would alter about a situation. Obviously, if the potion will allow the individual to evade the truth then it fails at being a Truth Potion. Moreover, if full ability to find the truth is found only with Veritaserum, then what is the point of the existence of lesser potions?

It seems possible to me that the point of potions of lesser potency might be that they run less risk of permanent damage to the imbiber.

Crouch Jr's interrogation does not really last very long at all yet by the end of it, he seems to be drifting off into a near-catatonic state. Of course, it's so hard to tell what the cause here is. On some level, Crouch Jr. must have known that he was doomed, and he was none too stable to begin with; the cause of his apparent descent into utter dissociation at the end there could have been situational. Or, it could have been helped along by Snape's strongest veritaserum.

Dumbledore clearly did expect Crouch Jr. to be coherent enough later on to be able to give formal testimony: he says as much to Fudge. It does seem possible to me, though, that really strong veritaserum might not be something one would want to use on, say, a witness, as opposed to a convict, or on a defendent one was not already certain was guilty as sin and facing a life sentence in prison anyway. It could be that, much like being hit with an overly enthusiastic memory charm, imbibing overly potent veritaserum has permanent and detrimental effects on ones mental facilities.


How much awareness does the subject have?

Kivrin wrote:

One of the things that struck me most about the use of veritaserum in GoF was the description of Crouch Jr. as Dumbledore interrogated him.
Crouch's son opened his eyes. His face was slack, his gaze unfocused. Dumbledore knelt before him, so that their faces were level…[t]he man's eyelids flickered…Crouch took a deep, shuddering breath, then began to speak in a flat, expressionless voice

(US hardback, pg 683-684).

This diction suggests wholly that Crouch Jr. is not under his own control, he is speaking because the serum is extracting the information, much as a computer search will yield data. It is emotionless, "flat, expressionless" -- there is no "person" behind what is being said.

I too interpreted his diction, his lack of affect, and his shuddering breaths all as evidence that he was not under his own control.

I also, however, interpreted some of this as evidence that he did have ome awareness of what he was saying. I find it significant, for example, that Crouch's breathing is specified as "shuddering" only at the beginning of his interrogation. Similarly, his eyelids flicker in response to Dumbledore's early questions, but then stop doing so later on -- or at least the narrative stops mentioning them. All of these seeming symptoms of compulsion are mentioned only at the beginning of the scene.

My interpretation was that both the shuddering breathing and the flickering eyelids were symptomatic of Crouch attempting (and failing) to resist the overwhelming compulsion of the veritaserum. Eventually, it would seem, he just gave up and...well, you know. Just lay back and tried to enjoy it. ;-)

As for the extent to which there is a "person" in there guiding the veritaserum-compelled narrative, I myself believe that there is, although I also believe it to be severely constrained, and certainly incapable of overcoming the compulsion of the potion to the extent of either refusing to answer or speaking anything but the (at times subjective) truth. I do not see Crouch's testimony as at all a computer-like "just the facts, ma'am" account. Rather, I see it as quite subjective and digressive.

In the past, I've cited Crouch's diction and word choices in "Veritaserum" as evidence both of his rationalizations about the role his father played in saving him from Azkaban (message #47932) and of the lack of pleasure he took in committing parricide on Voldemort's orders (message #47962).

This is part of an "Crouch Jr, Unwilling Parricide" argument From message #47962. I cite it here because it shows some of the ways in which I see agency—or, at least, personality—underlying even the affect-flattening compulsion of the veritaserum in the confessional.


[excerpt begins]

While Crouch Jr's testimony in the 'Veritaserum' chapter is indeed largely a matter of plot exposition, I think that we can deduce quite a bit from it about his character and motives as well. For one thing, it is clear from his testimony that he is, in fact, capable of quite a bit of digression. He is also capable of emotional, subjective, and non-factual testimony.

This is how Crouch Jr describes his experience at the QWC.

The "question" which he is answering in this passage is: "Tell me about the Quidditch World Cup."

'Then we heard them. We heard the Death Eaters. The ones who had never been to Azkaban. The ones who had never suffered for my master. They had turned their backs on him. They were not enslaved, as I was. They were free to seek him, but they did not. They were merely making sport of Muggles. The sound of their voices awoke me. My mind was clearer than it had been in years. I was angry. I had the wand.'

Okay. His affect is certainly deadened, although I've never been altogether clear on whether that's really completely due to the Veritaserum, or whether it's also due to the fact that he's finally slipped his very last mooring. I rather suspect that it's a bit of both. Whatever the cause, though, it doesn't prevent him either from volunteering information or from showing insight. Dumbledore did not ask him to explain his motives for behaving as he did at the QWC. He did not ask him about the wand. He did not ask him about breaking free of the Imperius Curse. Crouch Jr. is volunteering all of that information, based on his own interpretion of what about the QWC is important, relevant, or of interest. And given the emotional nature of the above passage, I think that it is also clear that to a certain extent, he is choosing to focus on what about this event was of importance to him.

This is really not factual testimony. It's not a 'just the facts, ma'am' account. It is subjective, emotional, and personal.

Nor is Crouch Jr. completely deadened in affect, although he is extremely dissociated. He's not exactly a zombie. He is capable of emotional responses, albeit of a rather disturbing sort.

'My father answered the door.'

The smile spread wider over Crouch's face, as though recalling the sweetest memory of his life. Winky's petrified brown eyes were visible through her fingers. She seemed too appalled to speak.

'It was very quick. My father was placed under the Imperius Curse by my master. Now my father was the one imprisoned, controlled.'

That's what Veritaserum'd!Barty looks like when he's enjoying the memory of a bit of payback on dear old Dad, yes? He's not so far gone that he can't display emotion, albeit of a rather mad sort, at the memory of vengeance. And he doesn't lack insight so utterly as to be incapable of explaining the extent to which his pleasure at this memory derives from Turnabout-Is-Fair-Playdom either. He may have bats in his belfry, but he is perfectly emotionally comprehensible. He can explain his motives, and he seems often to be interested in doing so, even when it is not technically required of him. He does so at times quite eloquently, in fact: "It was my dream, my greatest ambition, to serve him, to prove myself to him."

But this is all that he has to say about his act of parricide:

'My master sent me word of my father's escape. He told me to stop him at all costs. So I waited and watched. I used the map...'

[There then follows some discussion of the Map, and then:]

'For a week I waited for my father to arrive at Hogwarts. At last, one evening, the map showed my father entering the grounds. I pulled on my Invisibility Cloak and went down to meet him. He was walking around the edge of the forest. Then Potter came, and Krum. I waited. I could not hurt Potter; my master needed him. Potter ran to get Dumbledore. I Stunned Krum. I killed my father.'

And that's it. There's no editorial commentary there. No mad grin. No gloating. No description of his feelings about this turn of events. Nothing. It's a very stark series of statements of fact, and it is nothing at all like the way he speaks of recovering his own volition after a decade under the Imperius, or of firing the Dark Mark into the sky at the QWC, or of watching Voldemort overpower his father.

Dumbledore then gives him an opening to elaborate on the parricide if he so chooses. "You killed your father?"

Crouch Jr. says absolutely nothing in response to this, although he does answer the next question about what he did with the body: "Carried it into the forest. Covered it with the Invisibility Cloak." We're back to choppy sentences and 'just the facts' here, although Crouch is in fact not incapable of a far more eloquent mode of diction. He will prove this with the very last line of his confession: "My master's plan worked. He is returned to power and I will be honored by him beyond the dreams of wizards." Even at the very end, his diction is not so degraded that he cannot manage that sentence. But when asked about the disposal of his father's body, incomplete and choppy sentences are all he has to offer.

Crouch Jr. does not speak of murdering his father in at all the same way that he speaks of either his acts of anger or of payback events that he actually took pleasure in. He shows no signs of enjoyment at the memory, nor any inclination to elaborate upon the event any further than he absolutely must do to satisfy his interrogator. While he may imply to Harry that he considered it an act of homage to Voldemort, when he is actually under the Veritaserum and therefore compelled to speak the truth, the only motive that he offers is that he was under direct orders to see it done "at all costs." He is not even willing to confess to it a second time: he does not assent when Dumbledore asks for confirmation that he killed his father. His diction degenerates into choppy broken sentences when he is forced to discuss it. Compare his diction here with his diction when he speaks of topics on which he does seem proud of his actions and eager to communicate his motives: his devotion to Voldemort, his fury with the disloyal DES at the QWC. Compare his affect here with his affect when he speaks of Voldemort's arrival at his father's home.

All of this leads me to conclude that Crouch really didn't enjoy killing his father at all. He was clearly willing to do it. But I don't think that he was at all happy about it.

[excerpt ends]


While I do view the "Veritaserum" chapter as primarily plot exposition for the reader's benefit, I also believe that JKR uses Crouch's confessional to establish quite a bit about his character and motivations -- really, just about everything we know about him comes from this one chapter-long monologue. It is my opinion that that much of this material serves to bolster GoF's thematic emphasis on the developmental issues of adolescence.

—Elkins (who suspects that we'll find out precisely what speaking through Veritaserum feels like first-hand in future canon, as she thinks that Harry is more than likely to get fed it sooner or later in the series)

Posted February 20, 2003 at 6:49 pm
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RE: Ginny's invisibility

David wrote (of Ginny's lack of development):

I think the starting point is that the series is a bildungsroman, so Harry is developing. As part of that, JKR is bringing in themes that tie in with Harry's increasing awareness and maturity. One of those themes that has received very little exposure is the nature of feminity and the role of the feminine in life.

I agree with David, and I also see in GoF many signs that suggest to my mind that the feminine archetype which I see as represented by both Ginny and Lily is likely to take far more precedence in future volumes.

As I read GoF, it is largely concerned with the developmental concerns of adolescence: separation from parental protections, rivalry with the negative or devouring paternal archetype, individuation. It is also the volume in which Harry's libido first really starts coming into play as a motivating factor in his decision-making (he is beginning to emerge from latency in PoA, but only just; it's really only in GoF that I start perceiving him as truly pubescent).

By the end of GoF, Harry has passed this hurdle. He has lost the maternal protections of childhood, and he has been recognized by Dumbledore as having behaved admirably by the standards of the adult, not merely the schoolyard, world. It is really only now that he is ready to start dealing with the feminine as a sexual or romantic force, as opposed to a maternal one.

It also seems to me significant that it is really only in GoF that we first begin to see eros set forth as a motivating factor for the adults surrounding Harry. The Dursleys seem happily married in their own horrid way, but there is no tinge of romantic devotion in Harry's perception of them. The same goes for Arthur and Molly pre-GoF. The adult characters of the Potterverse up until GoF seem to exist in a strangely sexless state, which I believe reflects Harry's own state of latency.

That changes in Book Four. In GoF, suddenly we begin to see signs not only that adults have sex lives, but that Harry is becoming aware of that fact. We learn of Arthur and Molly's Hogwarts courtship. Hagrid develops a romantic interest on Madame Maxine. Crouch's marital devotion to his wife is spoken of with envy and resentment by his son; it is a different type of love: "he loved her as he had never loved me." Eros starts making its appearance in the adult world of the Potterverse just in time to coincide with Harry's entry into adolescence. I agree with David in thinking that this is a reflection of Harry's maturing POV, as well as a reflection of the series' structure as a bildungsroman. The Potterverse is a mirror; it reflects Harry's own developmental concerns.

I am neither seer nor prophet, and I make no claims to be any good at predicting JKR's intentions. But I am expecting to see more of Ginny in OoP. I am also expecting to learn more about Lily. It does seem to me that on the thematic level, GoF has cleared the path for those plot developments to occur.


Posted February 20, 2003 at 7:29 pm
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RE: Hermione, Knowledge and Blackmail

Amy wrote (about Hermione's plan to silence Rita):

How is she going to enforce this rule? Blackmail-- she'll "spill the beans" on her being an unregistered Animagus if she doesn't keep quiet for a year.

Back in December there was an interesting thread about Hermione's decision to engage in blackmail, started off by Porphyria, who drew a parallel between Hermione's treatment of Rita and Snape's of Lupin, and then asked (in message #47912):

Isn't this worrisome, since a pair as boisterously reckless as Fred and George worry about using blackmail? Didn't the subplot of Fred, George and Ludo Bagman indicate that blackmail in the Potterverse is wrong from many people's point of view?

I was thinking about this, and it occurred to me that the Twins/Bagman subplot is not the only place where GoF hints at the perils of blackmail.

'But Bertha Jorkins heard Winky talking to me. She came to investigate. She heard enough to guess who was hiding under the Invisibility Cloak. My father arrived home. She confronted him.'

— GoF, Ch. 35

Why precisely did Bertha Jorkins "confront" Crouch about what she had heard? My own instinctive reading of this line was that Bertha Jorkins had attempted to blackmail Crouch, a reading which also led me to suspect that she had been planning something very similar when she agreed to go for that pleasant evening stroll with Peter Pettigrew in Albania. It was only later that I learned that most people had not read the line in at all the same way.

But whether or not we are meant to read a blackmail attempt in the above phrasing, the fate of the unfortunate Jorkins certainly does seem to me to touch upon the particular dangers inherent in conflating knowledge or information about others with power over them.

Ironically, it is a failing to which Rita Skeeter herself would seem to be prone. She does not merely distort the truth. She also ferrets out real truths, truths which she often uses to discomfit others. There is indication that she is not merely a glory-hound; she also revels in the sense of personal power that she gains from knowing that she possesses hidden information about others, even (or perhaps especially) when it is information that she chooses not to reveal.

'I know things about Ludo Bagman that would make your hair curl...'

Rita in fact does not tell Hermione what she knows about Bagman's past. Why? Because her malice does not extend that far? To me, the impression is rather that she takes active enjoyment in possessing information that others do not. It is the mind-set, if not the actual crime, of the blackmailer.

Given that Rita does seem to me to be established quite firmly as a nemesis for Hermione in particular in GoF, I find myself wondering if we are likely to see this emerge as a temptation for Hermione herself in the future. Hermione is proud of her ability to root out knowledge that others cannot find. We see her struggle briefly with this in PoA. She does not in fact betray Lupin's secret to Harry and Ron, no. But she cannot quite resist making it quite clear to them that she has figured something out about him, something which they themselves have not. Her particular type of pride-in-information is apparent not only to the other students, but also to the staff. Not only children, but also the adult Snape, refer to her as a "know-it-all."

probono wrote of Hermione, back in December:

She's been accused of meddling in things that she shouldn't (see below), so is this the one that backfires?

By Snape: "Keep quiet you stupid girl. Don't talk about what you don'tunderstand."

And Skeeter: "Sit down, you silly little girl and don't talk about things you don't understand."

Yes, that is interesting.

Is Hermione being set up for a fall here?

Rita Skeeter is a ticking time-bomb, to be sure, but I find myself wondering whether the ramifications of Hermione's blackmail plot might be even more serious than that. "Only knowledge, and those too weak to seek it?"

I wonder if GoF's repetition of blackmail-inflected plotlines might not be giving us a foretaste of precisely which, of the many faces of the temptation of power, we might be seeing Hermione forced to confront in the future.


Posted February 21, 2003 at 12:51 am
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RE: Blackmail Revisited - Fred, George, & Hermione

I wrote:

I wonder if GoF's repetition of blackmail-inflected plotlines might not be giving us a foretaste of precisely which, of the many faces of the temptation of power, we might be seeing Hermione forced to confront in the future.

Greicy asked:

What do you mean by "temptation of power" Elkins? Do you mean bad temptations? Temptation does usually mean something bad, but I hope she doesn't go bad! =(

Yes, I did indeed mean bad temptations. I used the word "temptation" there though, rather than, say, "seduction" or "corruption," because I don't think that Hermione is going to go bad either. ;-)

I do think that she will have to face temptation, just as Harry both has and will.

Bboy wrote:

Since the subject of Rite Skeeter has come up again, so has the subject of Blackmail, but I think many people have a warped idea of what Blackmail is. Blackmail is a crime of theft; a form of stealing.

Blackmail says, give me what I want even though it doesn't belong to me, or else. Fred and George aren't saying that. Fred and George are saying give us what rightfully belongs to us, or else.

Legally speaking, that simply doesn't matter. If somebody owes you money and you try to retrieve it from them by threatening with them with some form of public exposure, rather than through the official channels, then that is still an actionable offense. At least, here in the US it is. And from Fred and George's exchange in the Owlery, it would seem that the exact same legal rules apply within wizarding Britain:

"--that's blackmail, that is, we could get into a lot of trouble for that--"

"--we've tried being polite; it's time to play dirty, like him. He wouldn't like the Ministry of Magic knowing what he did--"

"I'm telling you, if you put that in writing, it's blackmail!"

"Yeah, and you won't be complaining if we get a nice fat payoff, will you?"

--GoF, Ch. 29

Of course, the wizarding world's "official channels" are corrupt, and Fred and George have no proof of their verbal agreement with Bagman, which is why they feel forced to resort to blackmail in the first place. These factors certainly do make their decision sympathetic. They do not change the fact that they are engaging in the legal crime of extortion.

I would also say that unlike many other canonical examples of law-breaking, the authorial voice here strikes me as ambivalent on the subject of what the Twins are up to. Their actions are to my mind portrayed neither as wholly positively as the illegal use of the time-turner to rescue Sirius and Buckbeak at the end of PoA nor as wholly negatively as Lucius Malfoy's use of threats and extortion to force the Hogwarts Board of Governors to support his political agenda.

As I read the Twins' blackmail attempt, the text is setting it forth as rather "grey." On the one hand, Bagman cynically and deliberately stole their savings, and what other options do the Twins have, really? On the other, Fred and George's behavior towards Ron when they are interrupted in their discussion, the concerns Ron states elsewhere in the novel about how he worries that the Twins' financial concerns renders them vulnerable, and the fact that the plotline is in fact resolved not by the success of the blackmail attempt but instead by Harry's act of generosity all combine to lead me to read the blackmail subplot as rather ambiguously presented.

What do you think the purpose of all of this reiteration of the concept of blackmail might be? It does seem to be a bit of a recurring motif in GoF, don't you think?


Posted February 21, 2003 at 6:10 pm
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