Petal in the Rain

Chapter 1- The Many Winged Escape

"Freedom is never dear at any price. It is the breath of life. What would a man not pay for living?"


London, 1940

As the morning sun broke over the horizon and threw into sharp perspective the city of London, a young girl with sizzling red hair sighed deeply from her attic perch in one of the city's many boarding schools, less than enthused that another day had dawned. She toyed with a small locket that delicately hung around her neck as she peered out of her room's only window, lazily watching as people began to fill the cobbled streets outside. She wondered—as she did every morning—what it would feel like to have the ability to come and go as she pleased, a free citizen of the British Empire.

St. Madeline's Academy for gilded cage.

Lily Evans, a bright girl of seventeen, sighed aloud, dread beginning to flower in her abdomen as she anticipated the arrival of the school's headmistress—a wretched woman by the name of Sister Agatha. Sister Agatha, a nun who Lily had despised ever since their first meeting, routinely arrived at her door step to escort her to the day's studies, keen on ensuring her imprisonment. The path to the dining room from her attic abode was a long one, and Lily had—on more than one occasion—diverted from the established route.

To think I would have made it out the door if the cook hadn't spotted me…

"Right on time." Lily murmured sadly when she heard torrential footsteps sound on the creaking staircase that led up to her humble dwellings. She flinched when loud pounding reverberated on her door and a booming voice shook the remnants of her attic bedroom.

"Get up, wench! Up!" a severely hot and bothered nun demanded vociferously, hacking on the attic door repeatedly, "Don't you make me come in there!"

"Coming, Sister!" Lily cooed sweetly, sarcasm evident in the voice that, when cheerful, sounded more like wind chimes on a breezy summer's day, "Just straightening my uniform skirt!"

"Hurry up, child! I shall double your dish time if you make me wait much longer, mark my words!" Sister Agatha impatiently spat from behind the wooden door.

Instead, Lily mocked the nun's words, screwing up her face unpleasantly as she imitated the old woman in her cracked mirror. Satisfied with her impertinence, she pulled on her rumpled school uniform, tied her hair back into a messy bun, and roughly pushed open her attic door, taking into account the nun's close proximity to it.

"Ooffouch!" Sister Agatha shouted brutishly, clutching her tender nose in agony, "Stupid girl!"

"Oh my! I am so dreadfully sorry, Sister, I had no idea you were so close to the door." Lily announced innocuously, trying to conceal the grin that threatened to creep onto her porcelain face. Once she squelched the laughter that threatened to burst from her lungs, she wiped her eyes and took in the appearance of the nun—a sight which always caused her to wince.

Sister Agatha was, overall, an unpleasant looking beast. The woman possessed beady little eyes that were hidden beneath bushy eyebrows and sprouted dark facial hair that appeared just above her top lip—two features which made her look like a walrus in need of a shave. Apart from being abnormally large and boorish, Agatha was also distinguished by her hazel, hawk-like eyes and platinum blonde hair, which she always kept slicked back in a tight bun with cheap axle grease. Though dressed in dark convent robes—clothing usually associated with kindly old nuns—she remained an intimidating sight for any to behold.

They say man was made in God's image, but I refuse to go to heaven if he looks like that…

"You are going straight to purgatory on judgement day, you little demon!" the nun heralded vindictively, grabbing Lily by the collar of her white blouse and marching her down the mangy stairs into one of the Academy's many overly-furbished corridors as she used her other hand to clutch her swollen nose.

"I'll meet you there." Lily retorted shortly, annoyed by how brusquely she was being escorted to breakfast: She knew bruises were forming on her neck where the nun was pinching her skin.

"How ridiculous! I am a servant of God: He shall welcome me into heaven with open arms!" Sister Agatha pronounced convincingly, turning a corner sharply so that Lily's shoulder slammed against the angle, "If you don't shape up, girl, you'll have more than His wrath to deal with, do you hear?"

"What would your God say if he knew how you were treating one of his beloved children?" Lily snapped in frustration, her eyes burning rebelliously as pain pulsated in her shoulder.

"You belt up!" Sister Agatha demanded menacingly, opening the double doors to the dinner hall and roughly releasing Lily's collar, "Now getout of my sight before I throw you into detention for your insolence."

"My pleasure." Lily bitterly muttered under her breathe; she wasted no time getting away from the butch of a nun, disappearing into a sea of girls dressed in white and navy blue as she headed toward a table near the back of the hall.

The Academy dining hall was spacious and grand, housing row upon row of tables and boasting a beautiful antique chandelier which acted as the cynosure of the room. Everything was impeccably clean; the marble floors were meticulously waxed, the windows were spotless, and the white table linens were freshly pressed and laundered. Near the front of the hall was the marvellous buffet of assorted breakfast foods.

Lily cringed when she took a seat at her table. She hated everything about St. Madeline's Academy for Girls; every room, every textbook, every teacher...even the food was horribly conceited. The thought of having to attend the snobby institution depressed her significantly; everything made her want to scowl.

Everything, that is, except her best mate, Roxanne.

"It's about time you showed up!" Roxanne complained loudly, scrunching up her nose in exasperation when Lily plopped down next to her, "I'm bloody starving!"

"Would you calm down? You get so grumpy when you haven't eaten!" Lily alleged, chuckling at the only person that kept her sane in the corrupt and crooked association she called home, "I'm late because Sister Hagatha was giving me another speech about how fast I'm going to burn in hell."

"Ah, yes. I would pay good money to see that woman set on fire." Roxanne commented lightly, nonchalantly tucking her long, russet hair behind her ears as she poured herself a glass of water, "At least hell would be more pleasant then here though, am I right?"

Lily snorted in her freshly-squeezed orange juice, attempting to stop herself from spewing out the liquid due to her laughter. Lily and Roxanne had been best mates since the beginning of school, both having a lust for trouble and a knack for finding it. Roxanne was the only girl in St. Madeline's who had ever accepted Lily or bothered to befriend her—something she would always be thankful for.

If it wasn't for her there's no telling where I'd be…

From the very beginning of her school career, Lily had stuck out from the sea of wealthy blondes and brunettes. It wasn't just her lovely locks, her unusual eyes or her insubordinate attitude; it was because of her unorthodox past.

St. Madeline's Academy held a prestigious reputation within academic and patrician society: It was a fine all-girls institution (with a hefty tuition) meant to cultivate the ideal noblewoman, a girl of higher education and perfect etiquette that, in turn, would marry a wealthy aristocrat and enjoy the pleasures of high society. As such, all the girls in attendance at St. Madeline's had considerable amounts of cash—a rarity during the war—and proud parents who gladly backed their daughter's education with funding.

Everyone, that is, except Lily Evans.

"Lily? When was the last time you washed your blouse?" Roxanne inquired curiously, noticing a yellowing stain on Lily's sleeve.

"Last week. Sister Agatha insists that I have already used up to much water. I'm now limited to one wash a week." Lily muttered, stuffing bits of poached egg into her mouth and frowning.

"Bollocks! Give me some of your dirty clothing tonight and I'll have them washed with mine." Roxanne ordered more than offered, pursing her lips together obstinately, "Agatha has really been pushing the limit with you lately."

"I suppose...and thanks, it would be better if I didn't stink up the entire school." Lily joked light-heartedly, doing her best to ignore Agatha's discriminatory practices, "Perhaps I should throw my dirty laundry into Sister Agatha's office...see how she enjoys the stench."

"I would hold off on that plan until you really reek." Roxanne suggested cheekily.

A large, clanging bell echoed loudly in the dining hall, alerting the girls that it was time for classes. As Lily and Roxanne collected themselves by straightened out their kilts and fixing their hair, a large group of girls strutted by their table, each with a superior smile plastered on their smug face.

"Oh, look ladies! It's the brunette whore and her little orphan friend! Don't look into their eyes, we might all turn to stone!" the ringleader of the group proclaimed dramatically, conceitedly smirking at Lily and Roxanne as she brushed past them and left the hall, her sniggering posse loyally following in her perfumed wake.

"Do I have snakes in my hair? I think Acantha may have just mistaken me for the Greek villainous, Medusa." Lily announced contemptuously, rolling her eyes at the pathetic attempt to insult the duo; it was not the first time Acantha had bullied the girls.

"I can check that for you." Roxanne affirmed, riffling through Lily's hair for any signs of wildlife as she batted her away in annoyance, "You are reptile free, my dear."

"Alleluia." Lily muttered.

To Lily, Acantha was almost more intolerable then Sister Agatha. The Greek beauty was the most popular girl at St. Madeline's school, largely due to the fact that she belonged to one of the richest merchant families in Europe. She had long brown hair that cascaded around her shoulders in perfect ringlets, a prominent, sculpted nose that looked like it belonged on a Greco statue, and piercing black eyes that were often found glaring viciously at Lily and Roxanne—the only two girls that didn't worship the ground she walked upon. Acantha had taken an immediate dislike to Lily when she had first started at the school, often poking fun at the fact that Lily was—indeed—an orphan.

"And who is she calling a whore?" Roxanne whispered fiercely to Lily once the group of girls had departed from the dinner hall, "If she's anything like her loose mother, she's the hussy. I heard a rumour her mother was a prostitute before she met her wealthy father…"

Lily never cared for gossip concerning the aristocracy—something Roxanne had always had a taste for, as her family was also nobility.

"Just ignore the brat. Did you know that her name means "thorny" in Greek?" Lily commented intelligently, chuckling to herself, "I was looking up how to curse in Latin and came across the meaning."

"Really? We should start calling her thorny arse then." Roxanne proclaimed determinedly, a smile spreading across her red lips, "She certainly acts like she has one shoved up there, that's for sure."

"Roxanne!" Lily giggled quietly, entering her first class of the day with her best friend by her side.

The duo proceeded to their assigned desks at the back of the sterile classroom and took a seat. Lily pulled her geography textbook out of her bag and slammed it down on her desk, studying the book's title lackadaisically. Sister Marietta taught first period geography, and it was—by far—the most boring class she was enrolled in.

Lily usually vegetated in all of her classes, uninterested in her lessons or the dreadfully boring nuns that aimlessly taught in scripted monotones; however, despite her refusal to pay attention, Lily was top of every class. As she was confined to her attic bedroom without anything to amuse herself with during the night (an arbitrary rule of Agatha's that Roxanne defied by sneaking her the occasional magazine or newspaper), Lily had taken to reading and memorizing her textbooks—acts which resulted in her extensive acquisition of knowledge and her mastery of almost every academic subject offered at the school. In essence, boredom and natural intelligence had rendered Lily the top scoring student at St. Madeline's—a fact she could care less about.

"See you next period, then." Lily murmured to Roxanne, piling her textbook and notebook up on her desk and resting her head on the hard pile, hoping to catch a few winks before Arithmetic...

"MS. EVANS! STRAIGHTEN UP AT ONCE!" Sister Agatha exclaimed gruffly, immediately interrupting Lily's catnap.

In astonishment, Lily bolted into an upright position. Every girl in the class turned to look at her dishevelled, bleary-eyed appearance, most tittering or shaking their heads snobbishly.

"What are you doing here?" Lily demanded in tired confusion, grimacing at the horrid nun staring intently in her direction.

"DO NOT SPEAK OUT OF TURN, MS. EVANS!" the nun shouted shrilly, her facial pigmentation turning an anomalous red shade, "Put up your hand if you wish to address me."

Sister Agatha did not tolerate poor behaviour from any of her pupils, especially Lily Evans. She strived to be perceived as an intimidating, God-fearing administrator in the eyes of her students—something she found difficult to achieve in the red head's witty presence. Sister Agatha therefore came down on Lily harder than any other student—a fact all parties were aware of, and Lily was adamantly proud of.

Lily scoffed irritably and put her hand up: She was in no mood to be virtuous and upright.

"Now, to begin today's lesson." Sister Agatha began, ignoring Lily's persistence and bringing the classes' attention to a sepia map on the blackboard, "Who can tell me—?"

"Are you blind, Sister? I have a question." Lily called out sassily, waving her hand about wildly to try and get the aggressive nun's attention.

"WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT—?" the nun started furiously, turning around the face the girl.

"You clearly stated that I had to put up my hand before speaking. So, I have, and I have a pressing question that must be answered immediately!" Lily cried stubbornly, proving to be a challenge.

"What is your question?" Sister Agatha demanded angrily, steam practically spouting from her ears as she relented to the obstinate redhead.

"Where is Sister Marietta?" Lily asked simply, a smile threatening to twitch on her face.

"I will not answer such an insignificant and belligerent question." Sister Agatha said harshly, closing her eyes in order to try and regain control of her anger, "Now, be quiet."

Lily and Roxanne sent each other disgusted looks, knowing class would be even more abysmal than usual.

It was going to be a bad, bad day...

As the large nun continued to rant and rave about different rock and soil types an hour later, Lily's thoughts drifted back to what Acantha had said to her and Roxanne earlier at breakfast.

Lily had been called an 'orphan' numerous times before, and many of those who used the term intended it to be derogatory. The term was meant to evoke sadness rather than embarrassment, but in high society it was just that: an embarrassment. It wasn't logical, and she knew better, but the term had begun to carry a degree of shame for Lily; it meant she had been abandoned—was purposely deserted without money or a history to call her own. She knew it was stupid of her to care what the other girls thought of her, but after nearly eight years of name-calling, she couldn't help thinking less of herself because of it.

Unwanted by even my parents...

As Lily understood it, her mother and father had disappeared when she was very young, leaving her on the doorstep of an orphanage just after her first birthday. Having no other relatives or siblings, Lily had remained there until she was ten. Then, miraculously, she had been plucked out and sent to St. Madeline's, the most expensive all-girls institution in London. Social workers had told Lily that her parents had arranged for her to be sent to the school when she was born—a detail which bothered Lily to no end, for she had never been given the impression that her parents were rich.

In truth, Lily wanted nothing more than to leave St. Madeline's; however, she was legally stuck in the awful school until she was eighteen. Her only consolation was that she'd be free come November.

"Ms. Evans, kindly recite the alphabet to me in French." Sister Agatha snapped suddenly, noticing Lily's vacant, daydreaming expression and pouncing like a hungry lioness.

Lily groaned, wondering why it was the nun's mission in life to try and humiliate her whenever possible.

Funny how she often ends up looking like the fool...

"I thought we were learning geography? I think you're beginning to go a bit loony in your old age, Sister." Lily retorted easily, though she was bitter she had to return to reality.

A few girls in the class gasped at the disrespectful comment; Roxanne stifled a smile.

"RECITE THE ALPHABET IN FRENCH, NOW!" Sister Agatha demanded loudly, waddling over to her desk and pulling out a long strap of leather, which she menacingly stroked with one of her stubby fingers, "DO AS I SAY, GIRL!"

Lily simply rolled her eyes: She wasn't afraid of a little physical pain.

"I was under the impression we spoke English... why recite it in French?"


"Someone is in need of some anger management." Lily murmured to Roxanne, causing her best mate to giggle and tears to form in her eyes.

"WHAT DID YOU SAY—?" the nun started, the vein in her forehead pulsing in a sinister way.

"A, B, C," Lily started, pronouncing each letter correctly with contempt evident in her soft intonation.

Once Lily was finished with her recitation, she proceeded to the front of the classroom and had the palms of her hands whipped with Agatha's thick, buckskin strap. She did not flinch, moan in pain or complain; instead, Lily simply took her seat once more and whispered to a sympathetic-looking Roxanne: "Is that the best the old bag can do?"

Classes that day were, as Lily and Roxanne had predicted, dreadfully dreary. Sister Agatha had made it a point to discipline Lily for the most menial of things throughout the day, searching for any excuse to slash her whip across her hands, while Acantha hissed insults at Lily and Roxanne whenever possible, putting in more effort than usual.

Lily and Roxanne therefore spent their supper cursing Sister Agatha and Acantha, the reasons for their unhappiness at St. Madeline's. To vent their frustrations, Roxanne childishly flung peas in Acantha's hair for the duration of dinner—giggling every time she shrieked and searched for the perpetrator—while Lily accidentally spilled the entire contents of a pepper shaker into Sister Agatha's tea. Both felt comforted when the nun took a swig and spat out the hot liquid, causing herself great humiliation in the process.

"I have double dish duties tonight thanks to that harpy, but I was thinking...maybe I could nick some crisps from the kitchen while I'm there and we could have a little party in the attic?" Lily covertly suggested to Roxanne as they exited the dinner hall.

"That sounds brilliant! We could certainly use some fun after the day we just had." Roxanne said eagerly, her rosy cheeks flushing with sudden excitement, "I'll meet you at ten once the girls are sleeping."

"Good plan. Agatha comes to check on me at nine, so take the alternate route to the attic so you don't encounter her on the way." Lily said, grinning as her impish eyes danced excitably.

"I'll see you then. Try and nick some drinks too, if you can!" Roxanne exclaimed before heading toward her room, her brown hair flung over her shoulders as she sauntered away.

Lily headed for the kitchens, feeling happy despite the mountain of dirty dishes that awaited her. When she opened the kitchen door she found she wasn't the only one on dish patrol that night, for two younger schoolgirls were already there, chattering frantically together whilst washing a teetering pile of tea cups. Taking no interest in the girls, Lily begrudgingly started rinsing a pile of dishes further away from the gossiping females; however, as the adolescent girls were talking rather loudly, it was utterly impossible for her not to eavesdrop.

"Did you hear about the big party going on at the Potter mansion tonight?" the fair-haired girl asked her friend importantly, "It's the talk of the town!"

"Of course I've heard about it! All the rich and famous Brits will be there for Lord James Potter's birthday!" the other girl squealed, batting her eyelashes stupidly.

"Imagine we were invited? Think of the fun we would have! There'd be champagne, caviar, famous guests, and dashing Lords asking to fill our dance cards!"

"I would kill my best friend if it meant I could go! I bet there will be many wealthy gentlemen looking for their future brides in attendance, and—"

Lily stopped listening after a while, not at all interested in hearing about some old geezer's birthday party. Lily imagined Lord James Potter to be a rich, self-interested fop only concerned with fame and money. She thought he probably had a beautiful trophy wife and several undisclosed mistresses—all of whom only put up with his withered body and bad temper because of his truck-loads of money—as well as a small brood of spoiled children that resented him for withholding their trusts.

I've made him sound like a Jane Ayer character...

Lily giggled to herself, though the other girls didn't hear her, having already finished up their washing. Realizing she was alone, Lily buckled down to get the rest of her dishes finished. As she worked she found the fluorescent lights bothersome; she'd always preferred natural light over imitation light, especially since she wasn't allowed outside often...

As the unsettling silence began to unnerve her, Lily decided to end her punishment early while no one was there to tell her otherwise. She shoved a pile of dirty plates she was too tired to complete into a random cupboard and—before exiting the kitchen—snagged a few bags of crisps, biscuits, and (to her great delight) a small bottle of port.

Lily left the kitchen and flicked off the lights, heading for the attic. She was the only student in the school who did not receive a room; but, as her parents were dead, nothing could be done about it. Sister Agatha was intent on ostracizing her from the rest of the girls, believing her unworthy of the school and the respect that only nobles deserved. Roxanne once offered to have her parents step in to rectify her treatment, but Lily had fervently rejected any such help. In truth, she did not mind the attic, for it was away from the bitching female population and as well as the nuns who usually patrolled the halls: Much more mischief could be concocted within its walls.

When Lily finally reached her dusty sanctuary, she hid her food parcels and alcohol under her pillow, taking precautionary measures in case a nun unexpectedly entered her room. There weren't many other places to hide the food as the attic was near empty; it contained only a wobbly bed made of brass that was placed against one of the walls, directly below the only window, and an old carved trunk.

"Lily? Are you there?" a familiar, disembodied voice whispered from behind her wooden door.

"Come in!" Lily called softly, opening the door and hurrying a pyjama-clad Roxanne inside the attic, "Quickly now!"

"It's so dark in here…can we light a candle?" Roxanne inquired sceptically, settling down on Lily's bed as if it was her own.

"Don't be ridiculous, Agatha will catch us if we do that."

"Fine. I guess we'll just have to make do with the light of the moon. How romantic." Roxanne murmured sarcastically, pulling out a bag of crisps from underneath Lily's pillow and ripping open the package.

"Did you happen to see what else is under my pillow?" Lily asked coyly, changing into her holey nightgown while Roxanne snacked on the goodies.

"You brought soda?" Roxanne asked curiously, pulling out a bottle and squinting at its label.

"Look closer."

"PORT!" Roxanne yelped in a mixture of shock and excitement, "How on earth did you manage—?"

"Keep your voice down!" Lily scolded comically, plopping down beside Roxanne and pulling out the cork, "Now, what shall we drink to?"

"To Sister Agatha!" Roxanne exclaimed proudly.

"I won't drink to that!" Lily spat in horror, nearly tearing the bottle away from her best friend.

"I wasn't finished!" Roxanne continued, "To Sister Agatha...may she watch you and I ascend to heaven while she burns in the depths of hell!"

"HERE, HERE!" Lily girlishly bellowed, taking the neck of the bottle firmly in her hand and drinking the bitter liquid heartily.

"How is it?" Roxanne asked anxiously, her eyes alit with enthusiasm.

"Superb!" Lily exclaimed, smacking her lips together and wiping her mouth off with the sleeve of her nightgown, "My legs already feel numb!"

"Well, give me a try, then!" Roxanne demanded, taking the bottle from Lily and pouring the liquid down her throat too quickly.

"Bottoms up!" Lily whispered, giggling as Roxanne slopped port down the front of her expensive silk dressing gown like an amateur.

"Darn it!" Roxanne muttered before she burst into pleasant laughter.

Lily and Roxanne talked and sipped port for most of the night, sharing secrets, creating plans and talking about life after school. Though they both felt tipsy, neither friend got knackered, both eager to save some port for their next night's endeavours.

"I should be going, it's getting late. See you in the morning, Lils." Roxanne said between yawns as she launched herself off Lily's bed and scampered out of the attic.

As soon as Roxanne had left the musty loft, Lily felt oddly alone. The night had been great fun, and Lily was reluctant to have it end. As she sat on her bed and gazed into the sky, she noticed it was starting to cloud over, the stars no longer shining to their fullest potential. She sighed, dreamily looking out into the distance.

Then, very suddenly, something caught her eye: Bright party lights shone in the distance, flickering through the wet mist and dark chimney smoke. As she leaned forward, palms pressed against the window to get a better look, she also heard a mixture of music and chortling hovering in wet atmosphere. Lily opened her window as wide as it would go, intrigued by the sights and sounds, then stuck her upper body out of it, her elbows leaning on the windowsill. The cool air nipped at her exposed skin as she listened to the musical compositions and distant laughter.

I wonder where it's coming from?

Lily listened to the dreamlike sounds for a while before finally deciding to turn in. As she pulled her head back into the attic, something caught her eye: There, creeping up the stone wall of the academy like an exotic snake, was a long, thick vine. Extending upwards past the attic window, Lily realized its elongated body also reached the very bottom of the building, where it conveniently gathered at the grassy ground.

This is my chance...

Lily became overwhelmed with exhilaration: She desperately wanted to follow the music, and suddenly she was presented with a way to do so. Lily knew all she had to do was climb down the vine and she would be free to do as she pleased. She rationed she wouldn't get caught leaving, either, as all the nuns were peacefully sleeping at such a late hour; however, she still felt uneasy about going.

What if I fall? What if I get caught by a constable?

Lily was in a state of indecision for only a moment before she made up her mind: She was going.

"What am I going to wear?" Lily inquired aloud to herself, her nerves beginning to flare, "I can't very well roam the streets in my nightgown, and I'll only bring unwanted attention if I wear my uniform..."

Then it occurred to Lily: When she was first banished to the attic nearly eight years ago, she had found a trunk...a trunk containing old, informal dresses and tunics.

Lily tiptoed across the attic and flung open the aged trunk, pulling out the first laced dress she laid her hands upon and examining it critically. It was quite old—of that she was sure—for the gown had a built-in corset and laced up the front. Lily begrudgingly put on the corset and fastened the ties. The dress was very tight—Lily struggling to breathe in it—but she thought it was well worth the exertion. After slipping on the Victorian dress and buttoning up the back, Lily examined herself in the mirror and cringed: The bust was dangerously low; so low, in fact, that her pink nipples were at risk of exposure.

"I better lace up the front firmly." Lily muttered uncomfortably, regretting the amount of cleavage she was revealing, " this rate I might as well just walk around nude."

The red head closed the trunk softly before returning to the window. Mustering all the courage she possessed, Lily grabbed hold of the vine and began awkwardly climbing down the wall. It was a struggle at first, but once she got a good grasp Lily easily scooted down the plant. She let go of the vine once she was close enough to the ground, gracelessly falling to her knees.

"There's no turning back now." Lily muttered, getting up off the ground and brushing herself off as she set out along the boulevard for a night she would never forget.

Author's Notes

James is coming up in the next chapter, and I promise he will be quite dashing :)

Please continue to read & review!


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