Author's Notes: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. Draco's Leader was inspired, in part, by the Bubble device in Lori's PoU universe. The use of the Quick Quotes Quill as a compensatory device, with adjustable Truth settings, is borrowed from CobraGirl's wonderful fic Sounds of Silence. Both are used with permission.
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Draco In Darkness
Chapter 8 - Steps
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
-- Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night's Dream)
The week felt interminable to Draco, who spent it trying to ignore Harry in class as much as he was being ignored, and studying late into the night while wondering yet again what the Gryffindor was up to and why he had left. But finally Saturday rolled around, the day of the Hogsmeade visit. Going with Harry was out of the question, of course, and, despite an invitation from Millicent to share a table and a few pints at the Three Broomsticks, Draco decided to stay at the castle. He just wasn't in the mood to be part of her desperate attempts to leave Slytherin's mark on the town, and there was no particular business he really needed to take care of which couldn't be handled more easily by owl. He assumed Harry had gone to town as part of the Perpetual Trio, and there was both a sense of relief and of emptiness at the realisation that he would not have to deal with the other boy's invisible presence that day.
He spent the morning studying alone, as usual, then made his way to the unusually quiet Great Hall when it was time for lunch. Blaise was the only other seventh-year Slytherin to have stayed behind, and he and Draco talked intermittently about Potions as they ate.
"Can I ask you something?" Blaise asked through a mouthful of food.
Draco shrugged. "Sure," he replied, expecting another question about the difficult Veritaserum preparation process.
"What did you do to Potter?"
"What?" Draco's head snapped up. "Why?"
"He's been watching you the whole meal. In fact, he's been watching you for the past few days, but it's much more obvious now that he doesn't have his little cronies around."
Even after all this time without sight, his first urge was to turn and look, to verify with his own eyes. "Potter's alone?" he asked, controlling his voice and the pointless impulse with an effort.
"Yeah. Apparently we're not the only losers who skipped the Hogsmeade visit," Blaise said with a laugh. "So, what did you do to him? What could you do to him?"
Draco ignored the thoughtless remark. Anger suddenly returned in full force. Harry couldn't say two words to him, but could sit and stare at him all week long? No, he was going to explain himself, and he was going to do it now. There were no sidekicks to get in the way, no lessons to run off to.
He pushed back his chair. "Tendo - Gryffindor table," he told his Leader, speeding off so quickly to its directions that had anyone stepped across his path, the orb would have been unable to warn him in time.
"At destination," came the Leader's voice. It could not recognise individual people, only places. So now he was at the table, with no idea as to where exactly Harry was. He began to work his way down the table, on the outer side, where the other boy would have to be sitting if he'd been staring.
"Potter, we're going to talk. Now," he spoke, low but clear, trailing one hand along the backs of the chairs as he walked toward the centre of the table.
"Do you want me to raise my voice and have me say this to the entire hall?"
"Stop it," Harry hissed; the harsh tone came from behind, from where Draco had already passed.
He backtracked toward the sound until he was stopped by a hand on his wrist. Harry's telltale warmth seeped into his skin almost immediately.
Draco turned his head. "You want me to stop? Fine. Are you going to talk?"
There was a pause. "Not here," the Gryffindor finally bit out, letting go of his wrist. He heard a chair scrape back. "Outside. Entrance Hall." Footsteps stomped off away from him as he set his Leader to the specified destination.
Cornered, Harry paced the Entrance Hall during the few moments it took for Draco to catch up with him. He'd fobbed Ron and Hermione off that morning, claiming he was too tired to join them at Hogsmeade and that he needed to do homework; he doubted either of his friends believed his excuses, but they had acquiesced, leaving him alone to brood ... and to watch.
Draco came into the Hall and paused for a moment, obviously trying to detect Harry's position. "I hear footsteps," he accused, as soon as the heavy doors had fallen shut behind him. "If you're trying to give me the slip, Potter, it won't work."
Harry stopped pacing. "I'm right here, so you can stop with the threats." He watched the other boy head in his direction, stopping when his Leader warned him of the impending collision. "What do you want?" he snapped, more harshly than he'd intended.
"What do you think? I want to know what the hell is going on with you."
Harry bit his lip. He should have known Draco would eventually demand an explanation. "Me? I'm fine," he answered, changing tactics entirely and forcing a light, casual tone.
"Well, you didn't seem fine last Monday, when you left so abruptly," Draco bit back. "And you haven't talked to me all week. You've always been after me to talk. It's your turn now. Explain yourself."
Despite being on the wrong end of the Slytherin's fury, Harry found he was once again being adversely affected by the other boy's proximity. He took a deep breath and turned his eyes to skim to Draco's left, avoiding looking at him directly. "I just realised how much I missed being with Ron and Hermione," he lied. "I wanted to spend more time with them. That's all."
Draco took a step back. "I don't believe you."
Harry shrugged, hoping Draco couldn't hear the way his heart was pounding in his chest. "What's not to believe? We've been friends for ages - it's only natural I'd miss them."
"It took you nearly three months to figure this out? And when it did, it was such an emergency that you had to run off without a proper explanation?"
"Well, what do you think the reason was?" Harry challenged, desperately lobbing the ball back in Draco's court.
"Oh, I don't know, maybe you just got sick to death of me and didn't have the guts to say so?" Harry watched as the other boy turned his head, letting his hair fall between them as if he didn't want to be seen. "You played a nice game of being understanding, but when it really came down to it, you couldn't handle all my crap anymore." He took a breath. "The dependency, the breakdown - everything."
"Oh, no, Draco," Harry responded automatically, instantly wanting to erase the self-loathing he saw on the other boy's face, beneath the blond threads. "That's not it at all."
Draco's head snapped up. "How dare you!"
"My name. That's the second time you've used my name. Don't you dare use that to manipulate me, not if you've decided our friendship," he spat, "is so insignificant that you can't even tell me the truth."
Harry cursed silently. He hadn't thought at all before opening his mouth - it had just slipped out in response to the emotion he'd seen. "I am telling the truth," he said. "I swear - it has nothing to do with your blindness at all."
"So what is it? No more lies, Potter."
"I told you, I just missed-"
Before he could blink, Draco's hand had shot out and grabbed the front of his jumper. It took his nimble fingers only moments to sufficiently orient themselves and climb up to Harry's face.
"What are you doing?" he cried, trying to pull away. But one hand snaked behind his neck, holding him in place.
"I'm 'looking' at you. Finding out the truth. Your words, your voice - they're not saying the same things and it doesn't make any sense to me. But you've never been good at keeping the truth off your face, what you're really feeling."
Harry was held paralysed by the feel of Draco's hands against his skin, the warmth of his closeness. One hand curled into the hair at the nape of his neck, and the other was brushing over his eyebrows, his lips, everywhere. Draco's face filled his entire vision, and the urge to lean into the palm which now cupped his cheek was almost overwhelming. He couldn't take much more. "Please don't," he whispered.
The hand didn't move. "Give me one good reason why not."
"Because-" Harry took a deep breath. The Slytherin's thumb slipped a little across his cheek; his mouth was mere inches away. Time seemed to slow, and he could feel his walls falling, falling.... "Because," he repeated, his voice shaking slightly, "it makes me want to do this."
And, taking Draco's face between his own hands, he leaned in and placed a soft kiss on the other boy's mouth.
Then he twisted out of Draco's grip, and fled to his common room.
He wasn't sure he would ever come down again.
Draco stood at the foot of the stairwell, wondering if he was about to embark on a wild goose chase.
When Harry had kissed him that afternoon and then disappeared, Draco had remained motionless, stunned. Only when he'd heard some students emerge from the Great Hall, whispering curiously and unthinkingly about his and Harry's confrontation, as if he had lost his hearing as well as his eyesight, had he retreated to the library to think. It felt like he'd done nothing but think lately, with all that had happened to him, and to them. Them. Since losing his vision, Draco had studiously avoided the concept of 'them'. In his own self-doubt, he hadn't imagined anyone would ever want to be a 'them' with him. But apparently someone did. Harry. At least, assuming that kiss actually meant something, and if there was one thing Harry was bad at, it was guile. Which meant he really did want Draco.
And Draco wanted him, too. For the first time, he was again allowing himself to even contemplate such things, and, once he got over the shock, he realised instinctively that he'd wanted Harry for some time. He remembered how they had fitted together on the broom, how Harry's warmth had felt under his hands. How they pushed each other and equaled each other, even though his blindness usually left him feeling at a disadvantage. He didn't know what it would be like to shift their relationship, but there was no way he was going to let that kiss go unanswered. Even now, he was remembering the soft lips pressed against his own mouth.
The problem was the Gryffindor seemed to have vanished. Draco recognised Harry's fear; he was all too familiar with the urge to pull away from situations involving other people, people whose reactions you couldn't trust. And Harry clearly did not know Draco's feelings; reasonable enough, since he himself hadn't identified them until just now. So. Now it was time to find him and tell him. Only - where was he?
Harry had not come down to dinner. Draco hadn't even had to ask - Blaise had chuckled a hearty congratulations as soon as he'd sat down, in praise of Draco's supposed victory in the fight Blaise thought had happened. Draco hadn't bothered to correct him, but instead had sat silently stewing over his meal, wondering where Harry was. To search for someone in this enormous castle when you could see was bad enough. To search blind, literally, was going to be next to impossible.
It seemed reasonable, however, to start with Harry's house, which is why he was standing here now, at the foot of a certain eastern stairway near the Great Hall. He wasn't even sure if he could find the Gryffindor common room - he had never been there before and, except for the recollection that Gryffindors came and went from these stairs, hadn't any further notion how to get there. His Leader had been programmed specially for him, with many of the more permanent rooms at Hogwarts mapped out internally, but he wasn't sure how extensive the information was, given that he wasn't expected to go to any house other than his own.
"Er ... tendo Gryffindor common room," he told his Leader, fully anticipating it wouldn't recognise the command.
But the device didn't hesitate "Twenty-seven stairs, up," it directed. And, praying that it was actually correct and not about to lose him in the depths of the castle, he hastened to follow.
He rarely went anywhere unfamiliar and, as with the tandem flight, he found it incredibly disorienting. His classes, his common room - they were all places he had once seen, and it made it easier to trust the Leader and keep a mental map of his position as he went along. Now he was truly walking blind, to a place where, if something went wrong, he'd have no chance to work his way out again without a sighted person. Assuming he could find one.
Up and up he climbed, then down an echoing hallway and up more stairs. No wonder Longbottom slimmed down over the years, he thought. All these stairs would give anyone good exercise. It was a miracle beanpole Weasley hadn't disappeared altogether.
Just as he was convinced his Leader had become confused and he was going to end up on the roof somewhere, it informed him that he'd arrived at destination.
Now what? He was 'there', but he didn't have any idea where 'there' was, what it looked like, or what was around him. He hadn't felt this lost or helpless in a long time, and for a moment, he considered giving up and devising some other plan. Only his need to talk to Harry, to be with him, steeled his resolve. If he had to, he'd just stand here on the spot until some Gryffindor came by.
"Password?" An elderly woman's voice suddenly spoke above him, followed by a yawn.
He jumped out of his skin at the sound. "What?" Did they have a doorkeeper of some sort?
"You must give me the password, dear. I can't let you in without one."
Draco stepped toward the voice, one hand out in front of him. "Who are you? Please, I just need to see Harry - could you tell him I'm here?"
"I'm sorry - there are no portraits in the dormitory rooms. You need to give me the password."
"Wall," the Leader warned just as Draco's hand encountered the corner of a carved frame. The speaker's words came back to him. "Are you a portrait?" he asked.
"Yes, dear, what else would I be? Now, are you going to give me the password or not?"
Well, at least now he knew what he was up against. He wasn't sure if a talking picture was more or less irritating than a featureless stone wall - there were days he hadn't paid attention to his steps and had overshot the Slytherin entrance by a few paces, and finding it again was always difficult.
"No ... I can't," he told the portrait. "I'll ... is it all right if I just wait here?"
"Certainly," came the answer. "Now, if you don't mind, I think I'll go back to my nap...."
And Draco found himself once again surrounded by silence. He stayed where he was, hoping that another student would come either in or out, and would be generous enough to permit him entrance.
At long last, he heard the portrait creak open and he turned immediately, hoping it was someone he knew. "What are you doing here?" came a boy's voice. Well, they obviously knew him, but Draco couldn't immediately identify the speaker in return.
"Could you get Potter? I want to talk to him," he asked, praying whoever it was was feeling cooperative.
"Heard you challenged him at lunch or something like that. You trying to sneak in to finish the job?" the mystery boy scoffed.
Draco held his tongue in check by the barest margin. "If I was trying to sneak in, I wouldn't be asking you for admittance, would I?" Then he blew out a breath. "Look, it's important. Please."
There came an answering sigh. "Yeah, awright, give me a minute to go back and see where he's got to. I haven't seen him all day."
The portrait creaked closed again, leaving Draco to cool his heels and wonder if the boy would conveniently forget about him. He didn't have long to wait, however; a few minutes later, the entrance creaked open once more. But it wasn't Harry.
"Malfoy, what are you doing here?"
"Granger." Her voice, at least, was easily recognizable. "I need to talk to Potter - could you get him?"
"You can't? Why the hell not?"
"Because he won't come down - not even for us."
"What?!" This was getting ridiculous. "All right, that's it," he told Hermione, prepared to push past her if he had to. "The only reason I'm here at all is because he hounded me to stop isolating myself so much. Made me get off my sorry arse, and at least try to rejoin the world again. So I'll be damned if I'm going to let him get away with hiding now."
There was a pause. "All right," she said.
"All right, you can come in."
Draco didn't wait for her to change her mind. He tried to move forward, but almost immediately his Leader piped a warning - an obstacle in his path.
He held his position, confused. "Obstacle? Granger, what is this?"
"The entrance is a hole about two feet up," she explained. He felt a cool hand grasp his wrist, pulling his arm down until he touched the rim of the entryway. With her guidance, he scrambled through.
"Where is he?" he asked, once he was fully upright again.
"In his room, we think. Ron saw his glasses on the bedside table, and it's not likely he slipped off somewhere else without them. But," and her voice was soft, "he won't talk to either of us. What makes you think he'll talk to you?"
"He'll talk to me," Draco growled. "After everything that ... well, there are some things he needs to know. And, like I said, I've got some debts to call in - he's not getting away with hiding. Not from me."
"Malfoy-" She paused again. "Look, I don't know exactly what happened today. Ron and I went to Hogsmeade, and he refused to come. However, several other people who stayed behind told me there was some sort of confrontation between you two. Harry's defended you more than once already, which is the only reason why I'm letting you in now. But if you hurt him...."
"I promise, I'm not here to poison him," he replied. He hesitated a moment, then decided to risk telling her more; although he could hear in the girl's voice that she still didn't think too highly of him, at least she was helping. "I'm not perfect, Granger, but I'm not who I used to be either. Trust me," he added with a wry grin, "if you ever lose part of yourself, you'll see the world differently too. I don't like asking for help. I never did. I never will. But my whole life was turned upside down, and Potter, in his infuriating, heroic way, shoehorned his way in and made it ... better.
"There's a lot of stuff you don't know about what he's done, about us, but it needs to be talked about. And I'm betting there's a room full of Gryffindors glaring at me right now, so if you could just tell me where his room is, I'll be on my way."
To his relief, Hermione laughed in response. "I don't know how you know, but you're right. Do you want me to take you myself, in case anyone tries to do more than glare?"
"No," he answered shortly. It was still his natural inclination to refuse any unnecessary assistance, and the idea of being defended like an invalid rankled. "I'll be fine. And, thanks to Potter, I can still hex people with the best of them. Directions, please?"
"All right, all right." She turned him slightly to the left. "There's a stairway about twenty feet in front of you. Go up those stairs to the top, and there'll be a door on the right. His bed is the first one on the right. And Malfoy-" She paused. "Thanks."
He turned his head back toward her voice. "For what?"
"For apparently being the friend Harry said you were."
He wondered what Harry had really said about him, but let the remark pass with just a nod. He didn't really want to be talking to Hermione at all - it was Harry he'd come all this way for.
He set off to climb the final flight of stairs.
Harry lay curled under his blankets in the dark room, wondering for the millionth time what had possessed him to actually kiss Draco Malfoy. He'd thought about it, dreamt about it both waking and sleeping, and had resigned himself to staying away from the Slytherin for as long as it took to get it out of his head. The more he thought about it, the more Hermione's pronouncement that he was bisexual made sense. That was still rather new and disturbing in a way, but, now that nearly a week had passed, he also knew it was true; like learning he was a wizard, he knew he'd probably get used to it. No, it was specifically his attraction to Draco which was a problem - he'd worked so hard to dig the blind boy out of his shell, and they'd created this precarious and strange friendship, so different from what he had with Hermione and Ron. And he'd ruined it with his stupid attraction. Thank God he hadn't ever wanted to kiss either Hermione or Ron - he wasn't sure he could have stood losing either of them.
Not that he was happy about losing Draco, either. Even though he was the one who had insisted on staying away, he missed the banter, the way they pushed each other without being bossy like Hermione was, or laid-back, the way Ron often was. He remembered sharing the broom, the way they had flown together. He remembered the profound intimacy in touch. Which reminded him again of the kiss. Sweet, bitter, and stupid, stupid, stupid. He pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes, wishing he could erase the image which played over and over in his mind, of Draco's hand reaching out to touch him.
The door to his dormitory creaked open, and he lay still, hoping that whoever it was would just get what he needed and go on his way. Ron had come in once already, calling for him, but Harry had refused to talk. He just couldn't. He couldn't explain what he'd done, or how the kiss was both wonderful and terrible all at once. It was too personal. And he was too miserable.
Footsteps approached the bed, and he heard the sound of the curtains being pulled apart.
"Ron, I told you, I just can't t-"
"It's not Weasley."
Harry bolted upright in bed. His glasses were off, and the room beyond his bedcurtains was dark, but he could just make out a faint shadow against the blackness. "Malfoy, how did you get in here?"
"A Giant dropped me off at the window. How do you think I got here? I climbed those ten million stairs to your common room, and Granger let me in. And, incidentally, couldn't you Gryffindors come up with a more dignified way of getting in, other than climbing through a portrait hole?"
"Did you come all this way to insult my house?"
There was a sigh from the shadow. "No, I didn't. I came to talk to you." The mattress bent as Draco climbed onto the foot of his bed, then the curtains fell shut, and even the blurred shadows disappeared. Harry pulled his knees up, away from Draco's weight. Creating a barrier.
"I don't want to talk."
"Potter, you've spent much of the past several months reminding me that pulling away is not the answer. And so here I am. I've talked to a few of my housemates recently, I've talked to Granger tonight, and I've talked a hell of a lot to you. The least you can do is follow your own advice. You wouldn't let me run off, and now I'm not going to let you run off. You are not going to hide forever. You are going to talk."
"God, I created a monster," Harry moaned. Then he swallowed. "Look, if it's about the kiss, let's make this mercifully short. I'm sorry, and I swear, I'll never do it again. Now will you leave me alone?"
"What else do you want from me?" Harry cried. He couldn't believe Draco was stretching this out.
There was a small pause. "What if I wanted you to do it again?"
"The kiss." The mattress shifted as Draco moved closer. A hand reached out and found his leg. "Did you mean that?"
Harry pressed his forehead to his knees, wishing again he could block the memory from his mind. "Yes," he choked, the sound barely audible. "I didn't ... I mean, I tried not to, but I couldn't, I just couldn't, and...." The touch was a shock to his system. He wanted to pull away, but couldn't bear to lose the much-wanted contact either. "Please," he whispered, the sound almost a moan. "You're not helping."
The hand didn't move. "And you're not listening," Draco said softly. "We have to talk about what happened today, yes. But it's not because I hate you. I ... liked it. And you." Harry heard him take a breath. "I want you to do it again. Do you still.... Are you still interested?"
Harry didn't move. His heart was hammering in his throat. "You can't mean that."
"Harry, look at me."
He lifted his head, but there was nothing to see. "I ... I can't. It's completely dark in here, and, anyway, I don't have my glasses."
There was a soft laugh in the blackness. "Really? Well, we're on equal footing, then, aren't we?" The hand on his leg skimmed forward over the blankets until it found his arm, and then his hand. "So - look at me the way I look at you. With your fingers. And you'll see what the truth is."
Harry felt his hand being pulled forward until he made contact with Draco's face. The other boy's features were relaxed, with no hint of tension or deception. Lashes whispered softly against his fingers, the lips curved into a light smile. The Slytherin leaned into his hand as he cupped the slightly stubbled cheek and brushed his thumb over the soft mouth. Draco's tongue darted out to mark the exploring tip, and Harry gasped at the miniature jolt he felt.
"Do you see? Do you understand?" It was the barest whisper, speaking of so much more.
He was overwhelmed. There were no words to express his feelings, his amazement, his desire. But Draco seemed to understand his silence. A hand snaked around behind his neck and was pulling him in, and then they were kissing, a little awkwardly at first as they tried to find each other in their respective darknesses. But then mouths aligned, and lips parted, and the kisses grew stronger, surer. Tongues took over for their hands as a means of exploring, of learning new secrets of taste and texture and warmth. If the earlier kiss had been the question, this one provided the answer. Yes.
When they finally pulled apart, Harry found he still didn't know what to say. "So ... you're bi, too?" he finally blurted out.
Draco laughed. "No, I'm actually outright gay. I've known it for ages. Apparently my housemates are more closemouthed than I give them credit for - it was rather an open secret down in the dungeons."
"Oh," Harry muttered, embarrassed. "Well, I - I'm only just figuring things out. And--" he raised his head, even though it was still too dark to see. "I actually did hear rumours - rumours that you were going to marry some German girl from a dark family. How was I to know you were really gay?"
The voice in the dark turned unexpectedly serious. "That was the truth. Malfoys marry for politics - my sexuality wasn't considered a deterrent at all. It was all arranged."
His heart sank. "Oh," he said again. "So, I guess that means-"
"The wedding's off," Draco interrupted with a much harsher laugh. "You think the Gegenfurtners wanted to be associated with a powerless blind boy?"
"You're not powerless!" Harry protested.
"I am to them," Draco returned, evenly. "Whatever I end up doing with my life, it won't be serving the Dark Lord or anything remotely like that. They wanted nothing to do with me after the accident." The voice dropped to a whisper, catching slightly. "I didn't think anyone would ever want me. Not like this."
Harry reached out carefully, finding the other boy's shoulder and following the slope of his neck up to his hair. He brushed a few light strands through his fingers. "I want you. Just as you are."
He felt Draco take his hand and kiss his palm. "And I want you. I might have known for a long time who I was, but I gave up on being able to act on it. After I lost my eyesight, I believed I would always be alone and 'want' did not exist. But after you kissed me this afternoon, everything changed - I let myself feel interest, and it was there, waiting. So, in a way, I'm just figuring things out too."
"I just wish I'd known sooner that it was even possible," Harry sighed. "That's why I ... panicked, I guess you'd say. I thought my attraction would ruin our friendship, and that if I stayed away from you for awhile, I could get myself straightened out. I didn't know what else to do."
"And all I knew was that I'd suddenly lost the only person who seemed to care about me, without any explanation."
Harry felt his cheeks redden. "I'm sorry."
"Well, I won't say I'm completely over it yet, but I'm getting there." Light fingers traced the outline of his hand. "I've had to learn to trust a lot these past few months, something I was never terribly good at. Trust my Leader not to walk me into a wall, trust the Quill to take accurate notes, trust what people tell me about my surroundings -- everything. But you made me trust you. You came when you said you would, you walked me back in one piece, you got me on a broom again, and ... you've seen things no one else has. Now it's your turn. Promise me that you'll trust me, and you'll talk to me instead of just disappearing if something happens."
Harry didn't hesitate. "I promise."
He knew that words were sometimes easier than actions; too many people promised things and then never followed up. But Harry, who had grown up without any reason to trust anyone, recognised how crucial it was. Hadn't he made a point at the very beginning, of living up to his promises to study with Draco? He shook his head mentally, chagrined at himself for breaking his own rules with his behaviour this past week. No more. Draco had trusted him with his life on more than one occasion. The least Harry could do was trust him with his heart.
Draco's voice broke the silence. "What are you thinking?"
Harry closed his hand around Draco's and drew the other boy in. "Come and see for yourself."
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