|SIYE Time:16:20 on 17th September 2021|
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Category: Alternate Universe
Warnings: Mental Abuse, Mild Language, Violence/Physical Abuse
Summary: When Harry goes missing from Privet Drive without a single personal possession, the worst is assumed by the Order of the Phoenix and the magical community of Britain at large. Upon his rescue, Ginny and the others find that everything they thought they knew from the moment Harry returned from the maze with Cedric's body in his arms must be called into question. Will Harry be able to heal from a traumatic ordeal that has left scars too deep to see?
Hitcount: Story Total: 10751; Chapter Total: 777
Awards: View Trophy Room
I will usually post on Saturdays (hopefully weekly, fingers crossed!), but since chapter one was much shorter than my usual length, I thought I'd treat you all to a new chapter just a bit sooner. Enjoy!
Chapter Two: Clues
It had been complete chaos.
Ginny hadn't been too close to the focal point of the crowd, but she'd heard the message clear enough:
"Cedric Diggory's dead!"
It made no sense. Dead? Cedric had died? But the tournament was supposed to be safer this go around than it had in years past. Ginny couldn't wrap her head around it and tried to press closer to where she thought the source of this news had come from as her mother and her brother Bill shouted for her to come back.
"I don't know what happened, I swear! We grabbed the cup together, and he was fine then, sir, but now he's –"
That was Harry's voice.
"We need to clear the area, Dumbledore," came Minister Fudge's voice now. "The Diggorys, they're here, they're in the stands –"
Ginny couldn't see through the crowd, and she stumbled as the mass of students surged and began to move away towards the castle. She tried to fight the tide, tried to get over to Harry, but it was no use –
There was a gap in the crowd, and she squeezed through it, coming out the other side to see Harry slumped on the group next to a long stretch of black fabric covering something that looked like… like…
It was true, Ginny realized with dawning horror. Cedric Diggory was dead. Harry looked up and met her eyes.
His eyes were –
"Ginny, there you are!" Ginny's view of Harry was obscured by her mother, and she felt Bill grasp her wrist to pull her away.
"What happened?" she demanded. "How did he –?"
"I don't know," said Bill in her ear, "but this isn't where you need to be right now. Let's get you up to Gryffindor tower and then I'll try and figure out what's going on."
Ginny couldn't fight off Bill, so she relented and allowed him to guide her back to the castle, lost in thought, remembering Harry's eyes.
They hadn't been filled with fear or confusion as his voice had suggested. She didn't know what she had seen, but it didn't fit somehow.
That should've been the first clue.
The next time Ginny saw Harry was when he returned to Gryffindor tower from the hospital wing.
The day between Cedric's death and Harry's release from the hospital wing had been filled with somber silence where any sudden bursts of laughter were far too loud and quickly stifled. No one seemed to feel they had a right to be happy when Cedric…
Bill had found Ginny the morning after the Third Task. He'd pulled her from eating her breakfast in the Great Hall to an empty side room. "Harry doesn't know what happened," he told her quietly. "Dumbledore thinks he might've been Obliviated by whoever's responsible."
"Why are you telling me this, Bill?" Ginny asked him.
"Because I learned a couple other things last night," said Bill. "I met Sirius Black."
Ginny's eyes widened. "The convict?"
"Turns out he's innocent," said Bill quietly. "Ron and Hermione explained what they learned last year, the night Black was caught but then escaped." He quickly summed it up for Ginny, who couldn't help but gape at the reveal that Ron's rat Scabbers had actually been Peter Pettigrew, the man truly responsible for betraying Harry's parents all those years ago. "Dumbledore's worried that You-Know-Who is somehow behind this," Bill continued quietly. "He's got Moody stationed close to Harry for right now while he's still in the hospital wing. And Black… well, he's got a place we're going to shortly after school lets out. Dumbledore's reforming an old group he ran when You-Know-Who was at large. Mum and Dad are joining it, and so am I." He shook his head. "Something about this whole thing just doesn't seem right," he admitted to her.
Ginny couldn't help but agree with him on that. She was so thankful that Bill wasn't keeping her out of the loop the way their mother would have insisted upon normally. She was only thirteen, but she wasn't an idiot, and Bill was good enough to understand this about her.
There were other things Ginny learned before she saw Harry again. "Moody's barred everyone from visiting since we saw him this morning," Hermione told her later the same day. "Says he doesn't trust anyone to not be who they say they are and that Harry… he needs rest. If he was Obliviated, well, that could mean something really bad happened."
It was Ron who dropped the real bombshell, however.
"Snape's actually a Death Eater!" he whispered to Ginny, Fred, and George. "He showed us his Dark Mark on his arm... jet black, exactly like the one they always cast over people's homes the last time."
"Wait, so You-Know-Who is actually back?" said Fred in shock.
"Dumbledore seems to think so," said Hermione worriedly. "After he had Professor Snape show the Mark to your mum and Bill, he left to try and go see if it's true. That's when Madam Pomfrey and Moody kicked us all out of the hospital wing, said Harry needed his rest."
George shook his head. "Snape's what… a spy, then?"
"Must be if Dumbledore knows about his Dark Mark," said Ron, though he sounded doubtful. "Anyway, Bill says Sirius has got a place we can all meet while the adults figure things out. Trouble is, it's been uninhabited for a while, so we're going to spend all summer trying to dejunk it."
"Sounds fun," said Ginny dryly.
The next day, she saw Harry.
The common room fell silent when he entered, walking between his friends. He kept his head down, hardly looking around at anyone. Hermione was leading the way to the boys dormitories, Ron just behind Harry with a hand on his shoulder. As curious as the onlookers had to be, no one dared move or even speak against the hard looks on Ron and Hermione's faces.
Harry glanced around the common room just before reaching the stairs up to his dormitory, and Ginny caught his eyes but for a moment. They seemed darker, wary even. The moment passed, and he disappeared up the spiral staircase.
Something about Harry's eyes unsettled Ginny, but she couldn't put her finger on what it was.
That should have been her next clue.
Ginny barely saw Harry the last few days of school. He'd been excused from his classes, and rarely strayed from his dormitory in Gryffindor tower. Ron and Hermione had taken to delivering his meals to him despite Ron's suggestion that the house elf Dobby could just as easily do it.
"I don't want him all alone all the time," Hermione had insisted. "He's confused and scared, Ron. The last thing he needs is to be overwhelmed by a house elf who practically screeches in joy every time he sees him."
Ginny secretly agreed with this. Harry had become incredibly withdrawn, and she thought she could understand if he'd been Obliviated. A chunk of time missing from his mind? Ginny knew exactly how that felt.
The night of the Closing Feast, Hermione said she had asked Harry if he'd come, but that he'd turned her down. "I can't say that I blame him," she sighed as they headed for the Great Hall. "Dumbledore's bound to say something about Cedric, and where no one knows exactly what happened…"
The Great Hall had been draped with black behind the teacher's table in honor of Cedric. Conversation within the hall was subdued, and the students immediately fell silent when Dumbledore rose to address them all.
"The end of another year." Dumbledore's eyes swept the room. Madame Maxine, who had been speaking quietly with Hagrid, looked over at him, her face as somber as everyone else.
Karkaroff's space was vacant. He had apparently fled when the Dark Mark had burned black on the arm of every Death Eater. Viktor Krum's face was set in a tense frown from the Slytherin table.
Ginny watched now as Dumbledore's eyes lingered on the Hufflepuff table. Their faces were the saddest and palest in the Hall.
"There is much that I would like to say to you all tonight," said Dumbledore, "but I must first acknowledge the loss of a very fine person, who should be sitting here," he gestured toward the Hufflepuffs, "enjoying our feast with us. I would like you all, please, to stand, and raise your glasses, to Cedric Diggory."
Everyone in the room complied at once. Ginny caught the somber faces of Ron and Hermione as every student rose, raised their glasses, and murmured in one low, rumbling voice, "Cedric Diggory."
Ginny couldn't focus after that, mind drifting, as it was wont to do, to Harry. She hoped he was all right, hiding away in his dormitory yet again. She thought she heard the headmaster mention Harry's name at one point, but wasn't certain. Had he seen Cedric die before his memory was erased? It would explain his reticence to be out in public if he couldn't even recall what had happened or why.
When the Closing Feast ended, Ginny slowly made her way back to her dormitory, her friends quietly chatting around her.
"You okay?" Colin Creevey asked at one point.
"Yeah," she murmured. "Yeah, I'm fine."
"Still worried about him?"
Ginny nodded. "He's not been himself this whole time," she told Colin quietly. "I just… I wish I knew what to even say to him after…"
Colin nodded. "I wish I knew what happened, especially with Dumbledore saying it was You-Know-Who that did it. How does he know?"
Ginny shrugged, thinking of Snape and what Ron and Hermione had told her. The Potions master had been seen around the castle since then and seemed much his usual self, which had to mean that it was true.
She wondered what he'd had to do to in order to still be alive.
More than that, if You-Know-Who was behind it, how was Harry still alive?
Ginny sat with Michael Corner and his friends on the train ride home the next day, mind anywhere but on her new boyfriend as she considered what had happened the last few days.
She hoped Harry was all right.
When she went to leave the train, she passed the compartment she knew Harry had been in to hear him speaking to Fred and George.
"Take it. I don't want it."
Ginny peeked into the compartment to see Harry offering the twins a large bag. It was his winnings from the Triwizard Tournament, as it turned out, and Harry wanted them to have it for their joke shop with their promise to buy Ron proper dress robes. She briefly caught Harry's eye as he turned away to grab his trunk.
His eyes were dark and calculating rather than the determined or subdued emotions she had expected. Ginny quickly retreated before the twins could spot her and stepped off the train.
When she made it through the barrier, she spotted her parents right away, Harry's relatives standing nearby and looking quite wary at the sight of her family. Ginny watched in amusement as her parents offered pleasant warnings about Harry's treatment and turned to look at Harry himself.
She had expected amusement, maybe embarrassment. What she saw was watchful, curious, and something that almost set her on edge before it was gone and Harry was smiling a bit, allowing Molly and Hermione to hug him before following his relatives from the train station.
His eyes had reminded Ginny of something dark, but she couldn't think of what that might be.
That clue should have hit her with the awful truth.
She regretted that it didn't.
A single week at home, a horrible argument, and a small piece of parchment later, Ginny found herself within the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore's organization that had worked to stop Riddle the last time he'd been around. And now her parents and Bill had joined. Charlie, too, though he was remaining abroad to get what help he could. Bill, however, had quickly transferred to London from Egypt. And Percy…
Ginny had never seen her father shout like that before. Had never realized what a complete and utter tosser her older brother truly was. It had been awful, so much so that Molly looked to be on the verge of tears most of the time now.
Number 12 Grimmauld Place wasn't a nice place to stay for the summer. In the years since Sirius Black's mother had passed, all kinds of vermin had festered inside it. There were horrible Dark magic items scattered around nearly every room, as well. And the house-elf, an ugly, snout-nosed little thing named Kreacher, made things worse, what with constantly trying to steal back various items Sirius was quite glad to be rid of.
And then there was Sirius himself. For an innocent man, he had a dark temperament that seemed to worsen every day he spent in his childhood home. Not one to just sit on her curiosity, Ginny had cornered and questioned him along with the twins to learn more about the man.
The more he had answered their questions, however, the more Ginny found she liked Harry's godfather. He had a sharp tongue and a dark and wicked sense of humor, but he was kind to Ginny in a way he didn't seem to be with anyone else. Ron and Hermione (she had shown up about a week after they arrived to help out for the summer) got along with him well enough, having known the truth of his innocence for over a year, but Ginny liked to think she was well on her way to earning a special place in his heart.
The truth was, Ginny hated Grimmauld Place. The snake motifs, the stuffed house elf heads on the walls, the cursed and Dark objects they found each day, the various magical pests... it reminded her of the dark turn her thoughts had taken whilst under the influence of Riddle's diary two years earlier. It wasn't easy being in such a horrible place.
Not that it was all bad. Sirius had amazing tales to share of his time at Hogwarts, and the twins were already putting the money Harry had given them to good use. The best invention they'd come up with thus far was the Extendable Ears. They wouldn't tell anyone where the money had come from, and Ginny certainly wasn't going to spill the beans. It was more fun to watch her mother try to subvert their inventions so they couldn't spy on the Order meetings.
That was the other part of Grimmauld Place that was difficult to deal with: the meetings of the Order of the Phoenix. Molly wouldn't let Fred or George in on the meetings despite them both being of age because they hadn't finished school yet, hence the invention of the Extendable Ears.
With these, Ginny and the others had learned that Snape had made some headway with You-Know-Who, but not much. It seemed he was away on business, though no one seemed to know exactly what that business might be.
They also discussed some kind of guard duty frequently, but none of them could be sure what exactly was being guarded other than perhaps Harry himself.
The most painful part of using the Ears was hearing Molly and Sirius's increasingly desperate pleas that Harry come to stay with them. Worse still was Dumbledore's insistence that Harry was safest where he was. The Dursleys were still going about their business as usual, and Harry wasn't leaving the house. His letters to his friends were short, always simply stating that he was fine and little else. As far as the headmaster was concerned, all was well.
Until it wasn't.
It was the sixteenth of July when the first report came in that something was amiss. Mr. Dursley hadn't left at the usual time for work. Then Dudley Dursley didn't come out of the house to seek out his mates so he could go beat up other kids in the neighborhood. There were no signs of any activity from the house.
Nothing at all.
Ginny and the others were in the middle of lunch that same day when a Patronus in the shape of a lynx arrived bearing a horrible message:
"The Dursleys are dead. Harry is missing. Send everyone available to ascertain what's happened."
The Patronus dissolved, leaving a horrified, stunned silence in its wake.
"Molly, we need to go," said Ginny's father Arthur. "Sirius, I'm sorry, but can you –?"
"I'll watch after this lot," said Sirius quickly. "Just – hurry, please find him!"
Ginny gaped after her parents as they quickly left the room. "Harry's missing?" repeated Hermione numbly. "But – he's supposed to be safe there!"
"How safe can you be with Muggles who don't even like you?" muttered Ron.
"But they're dead," said Fred quietly. "I thought no one could get to Harry or his relatives who meant them harm."
"How can they be dead?" demanded George.
"We don't have enough information right now," said Sirius tightly. "We need to stay here and wait to hear what they find out." He rose and quickly sent off a Patronus followed by another a few moments later.
"Who were those for?" asked Ginny.
"Remus and Tonks," answered Sirius. "It was supposed to be Tonks's day off, and Remus should've already finished meeting with his werewolf contact. They need to get over there, too."
"I hope Harry's all right," Hermione fretted.
No one spoke for some time after that.
It was nearly two hours later when Remus stumbled into the kitchen, face grey and tired. Sirius leapt to his feet at once and seized his friend by the shoulders. "What happened?"
Remus shook his head dazedly. "I don't – Sirius, it…" He pushed Sirius away and slumped into a chair as Molly and Arthur slowly entered.
"It was the Killing Curse," he finally announced. "The Avada Kedavra. All three of them, still sitting in their dinner things. Looks of terror on their faces..." He trailed off and dropped his head into his hands.
"What about Harry?" Sirius demanded, looking around at the other adults. "Where is he?"
Molly let out a sob and Arthur pulled her close. "Not there," he said quietly. "No obvious signs of a struggle, no forced doors, nothing. All his things were still in his room."
"Including his wand," said Remus softly. "His wand was just… sitting there, on his nightstand."
Ginny stared at the adults in horror, intensely aware of the same expression on Sirius's face. Harry was just… gone? And without his wand or belongings?
"I thought no one could get to him there," Hermione said tentatively. "I thought the whole point of the Dursleys was that he was supposed to be safe there from that sort of thing."
Remus nodded tiredly. "It's an ancient magic that Dumbledore enacted," he sighed. "Based on his mother's blood. So long as he dwelt under the same roof as his mother's blood, he would be safe, protected from harm by those who would wish him ill."
Sirius snorted at this. "You should've heard the arguing coming out of that house the night I checked in on him before making my way to Hogwarts to find Wormtail. It didn't sound like a safe home for Harry to me."
"Safe from Voldemort, if nothing else, then," said Remus wearily. "The point is, we don't know how this could've happened. Even Moody's stumped."
"The others should be back soon," said Arthur. "Emergency meeting."
Molly wiped at her eyes and ground into action, setting Ginny and Hermione tasks to prepare the room for the incoming members. "I'm sure they'll all be starving after this," she insisted.
The last thing Ginny was interested in at that moment was food, but she kept her mouth shut and did as her mother asked. When they were shooed out of the kitchen for the Order meeting, Fred and George immediately pulled out their Extendable Ears to try and listen in.
Thankfully, no one seemed to have put any charms on the kitchen door to deny them information tonight (Molly had discovered the Ears a couple days ago and expressed a great deal of rage over it), and they crowded together with Ron and Hermione to listen in.
"I'd say they've been dead since last night," came Moody's gruff voice over the Ears. "Killing Curse, no doubt about that."
"But how did anyone get in to do it?" demanded Sirius angrily. "Who was on guard duty last night?"
"I was," said Emmeline Vance, voice shaking. "I swear to you, nothing was amiss!"
"Clearly something was, given those Muggles are dead and Harry's gone!" Sirius retorted, almost yelling at this point.
"There's more," said Moody grimly.
"What else is there, Alastor?" came the calm voice of Professor Dumbledore.
"I performed the Reverse Spell on Harry's wand," answered Moody. "Ideally, his last bit of magic would've been something from back at school since the Trace wasn't set off. However... well, I suppose it's better to show you."
There was a moment of shuffling, and then Moody spoke again. "Prior Incantato!"
Being outside the room, Ginny and the others couldn't see what had happened, but by the gasps of horror the echoed around the room, it couldn't be anything good.
"Someone got into the house," said Moody darkly. "Don't know how, but they did. They got Harry out without our notice or the use of magic, and then they used his wand to kill the Dursleys."
Ginny's mouth fell open. She stared at the others, eyes wide with horror. Who would do such a horrible thing?
"The Ministry wouldn't be alerted because no underage wizard was in the area," said the voice of Kingsley Shacklebolt. "Albus, there are no clues as to who could have done this. What do we do?"
"We wait for Severus to return," said Dumbledore. "He may have information that could help us figure out who did this, as well as where Harry might be now."
"And how long is that going to take, exactly?" demanded Sirius. "Harry could be in horrible danger right now, and we have no leads?"
"Sirius, calm yourself. There's nothing we can do until Severus arrives."
"I TRUSTED YOU!" Sirius bellowed without warning. "You said he'd be safe there! You said he was protected! Clearly he bloody well wasn't! My godson is missing and all you can say is WAIT?"
"Sirius, please –" began Remus.
"He's the last link to Lily and James, Moony! He's all I – all we've got left! Let me explore the house as a dog, there must be something you lot missed!"
"Sirius –" started Albus.
"I will not sit here and do nothing, Albus!" shouted Sirius. "He's already been missing for a whole day at this point. Let me see the scene before the trail goes cold!"
No one spoke for a moment.
"I'll take him," said Remus at last. "It's… it's a good idea. If it were closer to the full moon, I'd be able to do it myself, but…"
Silence fell again.
"Do what you feel you must, Sirius," said Dumbledore in a suddenly weary voice. "I urge you to be cautious, however. We will not be able to hide this from the Muggles or the Ministry for much longer."
Footsteps sounded, and everyone gave a hearty tug on their Extendable Ear, silently backing away on the upper landing as the kitchen door burst open and Sirius strode out, Remus right behind him.
"I hope you find something we didn't," said Remus quietly as the approached the front door. "Here, I brought the Cloak."
Sirius barely paused to swing Harry's Cloak of Invisibility around his shoulders before the two men opened the front door and left.
Fred silently beckoned Ginny and the others to follow him up to the second floor where they convened in Ron's room. The room he had been meant to hopefully share with Harry.
Yet Harry was missing.
"This isn't good," said Ron unhelpfully.
"It's beyond bad," Fred corrected him.
"Way beyond bad," said George.
"How could no one have noticed any of this happening?" said Hermione, completely distraught. "I thought they were keeping an eye on Harry to make sure nothing bad happened to him."
"Clearly they're rubbish at their job," said Ron darkly. "Practically a whole day before they noticed he wasn't there! How'd they bungle this up so badly?"
"He should've been here with us," said Ginny. "Not stuck in that awful place."
The others nodded.
"I can't believe whoever did this used Harry's wand to – to –" Hermione broke off with a sob. "Oh God, he must be so scared right now."
Ginny wrapped her arms around the older girl, unsurprised when Hermione started crying into her shoulder.
The door to the room opened.
"I suppose you all listened in," sighed Arthur after one look at Hermione.
There was no point lying about it. "We did," admitted Ginny. "Dad, did they really use Harry's wand to –?"
Arthur nodded, not saying one word in reprimand as Ron swore and turned away and Hermione sobbed harder against Ginny.
"Do you think Sirius will find anything?" asked George.
"I don't know," sighed Arthur. "I hope so."
Ginny didn't think her father sounded very hopeful, though.
Sirius and Lupin hadn't returned by the time Molly ushered them all into bed, but Ginny couldn't sleep. She kept replaying the last few hours in her mind, trying to figure out how Harry's safety could've been jeopardized so horribly. The Order of the Phoenix had failed him.
Ginny could only hope they'd find him soon.
She heard Sirius's voice and scrambled out of bed before she could think the action through, Extendable Ear already in hand.
Crouching by her door, she planted the Ear and put the other end in her own ear.
"… scent was there, but then it changed, changed into someone else I didn't recognize," he was saying to someone else. "That other scent went downstairs to the dining room, back to Harry's room, and then out into the back garden. It stopped right by the back fence. Whoever it was must've Disapparated at that point because the trail goes cold after that."
"When you say 'changed'…" trailed off her father's voice.
"Polyjuice," said Sirius shortly. "Had to be. I caught an older whiff of the same smell in the back garden as well. Whoever it was must've caught Harry in the back garden somehow. Maybe a Portkey? Point is, the two scents never went anywhere together."
"But who could the other person have been?" asked Remus. "I thought no one meaning harm to Harry should've been able to do so much as approach the house."
"I don't know," said Sirius in exasperation. "All I know is what I scented out! Someone took him, and no one noticed until it was too damn late!"
Sirius had raised his voice too much. Ginny had to yank the Extendable Ear free as the portrait of Sirius's mother began to scream obscenities and tugged the flesh-colored string back towards her.
"What happened?" whispered Hermione as Ginny backed away from the door.
"Someone definitely took him," replied Ginny softly. "Sirius thinks they used Polyjuice to get into the house somehow."
Hermione was sitting up as Ginny turned to face her. "It doesn't make any sense," she told Ginny.
"Nothing about this makes sense," agreed Ginny. "Not one thing has made sense since Harry came back from the maze."
Hermione bit her lip and nodded. "I wish we knew what really happened."
Ginny wished the same.
The next few days were horrible. Molly kept bursting into tears without warning, while Sirius prowled the house with increasing agitation. It seemed that Snape's intel was limited, that leads dried up as quickly as they appeared, that Harry might truly be lost. Tonks had started sneaking into Muggle morgues on the off-chance a body turned up, her Metamorphmagus ability keeping her safe from any watching eyes.
Meanwhile, Ron and Hermione became more tense and distraught in equal measures as they worried for the life and safety of their best friend. Fred and George, normally so jovial, were quiet and spoke in tense voices to each other too quietly for Ginny to hear, though she was starting to suspect that they were trying to develop something that might aid the Order in their search for Harry.
As for Ginny, she kept her head down and did her mother's bidding, grudgingly recognizing Molly's need to coddle someone. As the youngest, and having been through a horrible ordeal of her own her first year, Ginny was the obvious choice for this. It was irritating, but it kept her mind off of the dark reality they all faced:
Harry was gone, and he might never come back.
And then, somehow, incredibly, miraculously, they found him. Ginny had no idea how it happened, but it was clear that Harry had been horribly mistreated. Crouching by her bedroom door, staring at the faded wallpaper where Harry's blank eyes had been just moments earlier, Ginny felt numb as she grappled with the shocking revelation that Harry hadn't come back from the maze.
She didn't know how it could possibly be true. She'd seen him when he'd returned with Cedric's body, looked right into his eyes –
Those hadn't been his eyes.
The clues Ginny hadn't recognized before fell into place faster than she could keep up with. Not fearful, not confused, but amused, wary, calculating, not once like the Harry she knew.
It wasn't Harry who had come back from the maze in June.
That hadn't been Harry, not once.
Polyjuice Potion. It had to be, nothing else made sense in Ginny's mind.
The question remained, however:
How was Harry still alive?
Everyone knew You-Know-Who had tried to kill Harry as a baby. Given that he was back, wouldn't he have wanted to kill Harry right away, wanted to finish the job he'd failed all those years ago?
Why the subterfuge? What was the point?
Ginny feared the answers might be beyond anything she could come up with herself.
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