Hour 21: Hour of Endurance
“To endure is greater than to dare; to tire out hostile fortune; to be daunted by no difficulty; to keep heart when all have lost it—who can say this is not greatness?”
—William Makepeace Thackeray
Hot and thick and sweet— the Veritaserum seeped down his throat, venom masquerading as honey. It intoxicated him like fine liquor, befuddling and dismantling his mental capacities, while at the same time seeming to enhance his senses. James could feel the liquid invading his every cell. But he found to his detached horror that he didn’t particularly care. Why did it matter? The poison seemed to sing silently. What was the point in resisting?
He dwelt on it for but a moment, thoughts heavy and sluggish as he tried to remember why he had fought so hard against it. But every time he attempted to grasp his slippery, elusive thoughts, a burning sensation ran briefly through his body, a burning not unlike when one would touch a hot stove. Not strong enough to hurt, only to mildly singe. It cautioned him not to touch. Not to remember.
James shrugged mentally. He had never been the sharpest quill in the case. With the spirit of a true Marauder, he reached for his memories. Reached for his resistance.
Lily watched with utmost bemusement as James’s struggles gradually grew weaker. She simply could not wrap her mind around her situation.
It hadn’t worked.
Her plan, so brilliantly simple, had not worked. It was supposed to have worked. In all the stories she had ever read as a child, the good guys always won.
Realization that this—this situation, this war, this reality—was not like that of her storybooks finally hit her for the very first time. When she had joined the war effort, there had been no doubt in her mind that the Light would triumph.
She was starting to see that it was not that simple. And at that moment, an inkling of doubt clouded her mind.
Lily blinked, shoving the emotion out of her system. She was Lily Evans. She was a member of the Order of the Phoenix. She was a witch. She was a muggle.
And blast it all, she would triumph.
And at that moment, hope was reborn from the ashes of her self-doubt.
Her thoughts were broken however, by the agonized scream of a dying animal. It was filled with pain and rage so strong, that it was nearly beyond her comprehension.
Emerald eyes focused once more upon the once prostrate form. James was withering about on the floor in unprecedented anguish. Her heart clenched tightly in her breast; she could hardly breathe. It was as if she could feel the echoes of his pain resounding in her.
And then, a scream so unlike what she had ever heard, spurred her to lunge to her feet in a desperate attempt to free James’ from his agony.
She would win. For him.
As he reached, the annoying little tingle in his veins…evolved.
It evolved into a burn rivaling that of the Cruciatus curse. Liquidized molten fire from the deepest pit of the seventh hell was making its way through his cells, and he couldn’t bite down the tortured scream that tore past his bloodied lips.
And then any scrap of privacy that he might have had, any shred of tattered dignity that he might have clung to, was abruptly disposed of. Every notion that entered his mind was directed past his lips with no discretion. Every emotion, every possible secret, every thought—his whole psyche was exposed for the malicious and uncaring world to observe.
‘Great,’ Remus thought as a fat water droplet landed on his face. The sky had clouded over once again, dark and dangerous. The wind was picking up, and it clawed at his exposed skin. In minutes the sky would overflow, and torrents of rain would fall from the heavens.
Making it that much harder to tote out injured fellows. And although Remus was optimistic, he realized that after nearly twenty-four hours in the care of Voldemort that his two friends would more than likely be incapacitated.
Of course, he would have to *find* his friends first. It felt as if they’d been walking for hours on end, and he could see that Sirius was getting more and more restless. Snape was apathetic to their anxiety, and was simply walking on, damn him. Remus hadn’t heard a peep from him for several hours now.
“Damn it, Snape,” Sirius growled from behind. “Does this constitute as ‘close’ in the language of Deatheaters? We’ve been walking through this bloody forest for ages! When are we going to get there?”
Eyes dark as ebony glared at Sirius over a cloaked shoulder. “You sound like a child, but I suppose that with your mentality that’s to be expected. If you hadn’t been so busy feeling sorry for yourself, you might have noticed the change in surroundings.”
Remus glanced around with interest, chagrined to note that he had not noticed the change in surroundings either. The woods were thinning out, and the soil was growing rockier. What little animal life had been in the remote depths of the forest was now completely gone—even birds did not dare sing their melody. And he become aware of, for the first time, the growing stench that was reaching his enhanced senses. His werewolf side was picking up the suffocating air of suffering and wickedness.
Sirius had fallen silent, and after a few more minutes of crunching through the dead foliage, Snape stopped.
“We have arrived.”
A loud scream echoed in the now silent halls, and it took James a moment to realize that the god-awful sound was tearing its way past his throat.
Amid the screams, James found himself babbling, spilling the very secrets of his soul. Horrified, he tried to calm his thoughts. He imagined a solid blank wall in his mind, but the Veritaserum was not that easily fooled.
‘Don’t think, don’t think, can’t stop it, mustn’t let them know, mustn’t let them see…shut up, shut up, shut up, oh Merlin, shut up’
To James’ horror, he found his voice rasping his very thoughts. He tried to bring his arms up to forcibly keep his mouth shut, but his arms were useless, dangling to his sides. The harder he tried to move them, the more the venom burned through his body. He gave a gasping sob as he gave up, panting, “Oh Merlin, it hurts, it hurts, it burns…”
Lily reached for her borrowed wand, stumbling towards James, intent on easing his pain. She had no clear concept of what she was about to do, only resolution that she would persevere by any means necessary.
But before she could reach him, before she could utter any spell, Lily found herself restrained roughly by Death Eaters. The wand was plucked from her slim, strong fingers. Though lacking in the cerebrum department, the henchmen did have brute strength. They carried her kicking and screaming to their amused Lord.
Two Death Eaters dragged James’s convulsing body up to Voldemort, disposing him at their Lord’s feet.
A cold, cruelly amused quirk of lips, and then: “What is your name?”
James squirmed in agony as he attempted to stifle his response. “James~ss” His teeth were clenched shut, the veins of his neck throbbing with the strain.
“What is your name?”
A furious shaking of the head was his response. His body thrashed wildly side to side as he attempted to restrain himself. After what seemed like an eternity of struggling, he weakened. “James Potter.”
“Where did you go to school?”
Another struggle, more furious than before. Another scream of frustration and anguish as the venom worked its magic. “Mustn’t answer, can’tcan’tcan’t, if I answer the small questions,” James gasped to himself as his thoughts made their way past his lips. “If I answer the small questions I’ll answer the big ones it burns oh God it burns make it stop, make it stop! Hogwarts…” The last words were nearly sobbed, and Lily felt her heart wrench.
“Leave him alone!” Lily’s cry made Voldemort stop short. He turned, and stalked towards her.
Voldemort’s lip curled, clutching her jaw between his claw-like fingers. He pulled her furious face closer to his, so close that she could smell his foul breath upon her cheek.
“All I wish to know is why. Why forfeit your life for this scum?”
“You shall never understand the power of friendship.” Of love.
“Oh, but I do. I know how oft’ if fails under trial and tribulation. I have witnessed it break through the passage of time, the burden of jealousy, the plague of indifference. It blooms for a short while, and only when convenient. But in the end, when life is not so leisurely, it, without fail…wilts.”
“Then you have never known true friendship.”
Three figures hunched behind the last bit of shrubbery in front of the large estate. The house—if that’s indeed what one could call it—was enormous, ancient, and terribly foreboding against the inky sky.
Remus pulled his robe around him tightly, attempting to ward off the chill. “…and that’s what we’ll do.”
Snape stared at him before sneering. “This is utter madness. Has the chill addled your brains? Or is this truly the best that the Order has to offer?”
Sirius wore a look of contemplation on his handsome features. His brow furrowed, and he slowly said, “It could work…”
Snape jerked back with a start of surprise. “I did not betray Lord Voldemort to throw my life away on this idiotic plan!”
“Shut up! Think about it. Death Eaters haven’t exactly been known for being the brightest of fellows. If we really can convince them that there are ten thousand men storming through these doors, then they’ll panic, and they’ll turn on one another. During the chaos, we snatch James and Lily and sneak out. All we need is Death Eater robes.”
Snape ran a frustrated hand over his face, dark eyes furious. “You fool! What if this does not work?”
“Then it doesn’t.”
Voldemort gave a bark of sharp laughter, a malicious glint in his glowing crimson eyes. “Friendship you say? How about that Potter? Do you consider this mudblood a friend?”
He turned towards James, half-turning his back towards Lily. “Truly Potter, tell me. What do you feel for this mudblood?”
Lily fingered the wand that was hidden in her sleeve. This was a perfect opportunity! His attention was divided. However, she found herself hesitating, half-fearfully wondering what the response would be. She knew that it was wrong to want to know his feelings in his exposed and vulnerable state, yet her damned human nature continued to want to know.
James squirmed, twitching as the answer tried to force its way past his lips. He bit down once again, blood trickling down his cheek and the nape of his neck.
“Potter, I asked you a question. What do you feel for this foul creature?”
The emotion was so strong, so fierce, that it was difficult to keep it from bursting out. The Veritaserum pumped more intensely through his veins, sensing his determination to keep silent.
The pain doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and James thought that he would go mad. Finally, it came, a broken whisper.
“…I love her.”
“What was that Potter?”
“I love her!”
“Pardon? Tell me again, Potter, what do you feel for this mudblood?”
“I LOVE HER!”
A/N: Yes, I know. I suck. What can I say? *Grovels at feet* I am reallllllllly realllllllly sorry about the lack of updates, but Junior year was hell. Between my AP exam and the SATs and so on and so forth, life has been rather busy. But now that it’s summer I have decided to get off my lazy arse and finish this story! Sorry for it being so short, but this is where I wanted to end it. Thank you to all my reviewers who have made hope stay alive and made me write! *Glomps* THANK YOU!!!!
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