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24 Hours Shichan Goddess Hour 17: Hour of Stupidity “If it’s stupid but works, it ain’t stupid.” ~Murphy’s Laws for Grunts Severus Snape slithered away from the cell, quickly, silently walking to where Voldemort was to perform his ceremony. He had been frightened—truly *terrified* when his shaking hand had unlocked the cell door. But now, oddly enough, he felt only calm. A soothing sort of tranquility, and a bitter sense of triumph that was unfamiliar in these sinister ages. These emotions that stirred within him were strange, for they had laid dormant for the better part of the war. His thoughts were in a turmoil, but he knew one thing, and one thing only. He would not, *could* not let Lily die. She had always been kind to him, always defended him. They had been friends, once, long ago, before Voldemort had risen into power. They had met on the train, and had bonded immediately, staying the best of friends throughout first year, and ignoring the invisible barriers between their two very separate houses. But somehow on the way, he had drifted away from her, drifted away from all his problems at school and at home by listening to and following the sweet, candy-coated words of Voldemort and his followers. Lily had stubbornly held on for many years afterwards, and Severus had done nothing except discourage her. She was, after all, a mudblood. Just a stupid little mudblood who never teased him. A stupid little mudblood who always spoke her mind. A beautiful, stupid, little mudblood that would die for a wrong that she had not committed. Just a *stupid little mudblood*. But for some reason, even after all his conditioning during the time in which he had joined Voldemort’s ranks, he could not condemn Lily for her birth, and in truth, she was the best witch that he had ever had the fortune of meeting. It was far too late for redemption. He had done things that, upon reflection, made his skin crawl and his stomach churn. They were not things that he was proud of. But Lily had been kind to him through even the darkest of times. Perhaps now it was time to return the favor. ****************************************************************************** It was impossible. It was absolutely and positively impossible. This was the sort of thing that only happened in picture books and fairytales. The door, according to the rules of damnation, could *not* be *open*. Lily held her breath in anticipation and in irrational hope as she quietly pushed the dungeon door forward. It opened a sliver with an immensely loud creak, and Lily winced, and recoiled. An emerald eye peered out, and searched the abandoned hallway. The fire from the torches cast eerie shadows upon the floor and the walls as the flames flickered and danced. But there was no sign of life. She scanned the hallway again, but her keen eyes could discern no one in the shadows. For a moment, she entertained the thought that it was all an elaborate ruse, but she quickly banished it from her mind. Even if it was a ruse, there was nothing she could lose. Not anymore. Silently, with stealth that would have made her instructors at the Auror Academy proud, she crept through the hallways, blending into the darkest and deepest shadows. She did not stop, though she had little idea of where she was. Anywhere would be better than the hellish room that she had just left. She was in a corridor now, and she gasped involuntarily as she saw the décor that graced the walls. Heads—*human* heads adorned the gray, concrete walls, mounted and stuffed. (1) They were displayed proudly, and were like the animal heads she had seen displayed in so many muggle homes. The emerald-eyed witch recoiled, nearly vomiting. Their frozen faces were twisted in agony, their sightless gazes staring at her accusingly, demanding to know where she had *been* while they were killed. Why she hadn’t helped them. Why she still drew breath while they did not. Her stomach clenched, and the redheaded woman swore that she heard the echoes of their dying screams in her ears. As a child, she had often heard of the serial murders that plagued England All the muggles’ heads were decapitated, and all that had been left at the scenes of the crimes were their headless bodies. The police had been absolutely baffled by it, and they had never found any clues, nor caught the murderer. She ducked her head, and kept her eyes trained on the ground. Now she knew why. Her sharp hearing detected no one save herself, and it was then that she could contain herself no longer. She fled; her footsteps light but quick, desperate to escape those blank, accusing eyes. ****************************************************************************** *Agony.* Agony seared through his every nerve, his every vein, his every pore and it *burned* with a fire that he could not extinguish. The crickets were singing their sorrows loudly in the distance, and he could hear nothing save the rushing roar in his ears and their damned chirping. The beast of the unbearable fire crawled up his throat, digging its claws deep in its desperation to escape. To bring James release. He resisted for a moment, before he relinquished his control. He opened his mouth to liberate the raging creature, but no sound came out. The beast stayed in his throat and in his chest, and he could not expel it. Only the sickening hissing sound when he drew breath was heard. There was no escape. No *release* for his condemned soul. And the crickets grew silent in honor of the dying prisoner. For it was cruel to flaunt the freedom that they had when another did not. ****************************************************************************** It was inevitable. It was bound to happen, as dictated by Murphy’s Law that everything that could happen at the worst possible moment *would*. Damn Murphy to Hell. It rained. Remus was, with the utmost certainty, sure that the very gods were against them. It seemed to be like a game, and he himself one of the players, tormented for their sick amusement. Hope had been achieved for a single, beautiful moment, and then it was snatched away as quickly as it had been received. They had found one clue, yes—Lily’s hair. And with her hair they were able to find, courtesy of Padfoot, a single clearing in which there was evidence of a struggle. But now… Now… All the tracks had disappeared. Every single shred of evidence had been washed away—every footprint, every track…all gone. And with it, their hope. ****************************************************************************** Wonderful. Absolutely bloody *peachy*. Laughter bubbled to his lips, devoid of any trace of mirth. //‘What a way to die,’// He thought humorlessly to himself. //‘I always thought it would be in the blaze of battle, dying a glorious death and taking every one of those sons-of-a-bitches with me.’// His plans were turning out to be slightly skewed in nature. He was going to die prone at Voldie’s feet, he was willing to bet. He didn’t have the energy or the resources to die facing him like a man. No glorious death in battle. He was just slowly going to waste away, bit-by-bit, until Voldemort had the mercy to finish him off. This was certainly not what James had had in mind when pondering about his death on those lonely nights after a battle. He wasn’t ready to die—after all, what crazy bastard really ever was? …But at least, he consoled himself, he knew he was going to die saving a life. A life of a woman that he…cared for immensely. That was reason enough. But he’d be damned if he left without his dignity. ****************************************************************************** Severus Snape watched the redhead retreat in the shadows. He could do no more. It was up to her to find her way out. Snape stared at the heads that Lily had been so repulsed by. He had grown used to their presence, scorned and mocked their deaths, even. Now, however, there was a sickening sensation as he looked at them. He couldn’t even count how many were there because of his hand. Perhaps he couldn’t help Lily directly. But he could find those who could. ****************************************************************************** “Damn it, Remus!” Sirius cried despairingly as he glared at the rain with his furious gaze. “How in the hell do we find them now!?” Remus shook his head, staring into the woods, equally frustrated. “I…I don’t know, Padfoot,” He said softly. And then, from the deepest of shadows came, “I can show you the way.” Sirius turned in an instant, his eyes wild, and with astonishing speed, had Severus pinned against a tree. Though startled at the display of inhuman speed, Severus simply started at Sirius with a bored, dry look “What did you say?!” Sirius snarled, pushing him harder against the tree, eyes menacing. The tree began to crack from underneath the pressure. Icily, Severus stated, “Let me go, Black. Are you deaf as well as stupid? I can lead you to your pathetic comrades.” “Damn you, you Death Eater!” He roared, “Stop lying!” Angry onyx eyes glared at him from underneath matted, dripping black hair. “Listen,” Severus snapped, face flushed. “Do you want to find Evans and Potter, or don’t you?” A calming hand was placed on Sirius’ shoulder, and he turned to see Remus standing there imploringly. Sirius grunted, and quickly stepped back, releasing Snape as if the brief contact had burned his flesh. “All right,” Sirius muttered. “You’ve got ten seconds, Snape. Make it good.” ****************************************************************************** Lily’s pounding footsteps across the cold stone floor slowed, then halted altogether as she glanced behind herself, and then to the door that led to the outside world. Behind her lay James, and with him, agony and certain death. In front of her lay freedom. Life. Could she really forsake her comrade to save her own skin? What was she supposed to do? Double back and save a man that she had just recently begun to like? Or save herself from a horrifying demise and live another day? Lily tried to tell herself that she owed Potter nothing. Tried to tell herself that James H. Potter meant nothing to her. She continued to repeat the thought to herself. And perhaps if she continued to tell herself that, then maybe she’d believe it. Rational thought had long ceased to exist, and panic had taken control. It was impossible to think about anything other than what was happening in the *here* and *now*, and Lily was dictated by her feelings. Her mind was not in control any longer, for her heart had seized the fortress and was in power. It was unusual. As a soldier, she had constantly been drilled into not following her emotions, for they could deceive you and get you killed. As a child growing up in a war-torn world, she had never believed any differently and had little trust in feelings, because feelings, in her young mind, had always been connected to pain. Lily had never entertained the thought that emotions would ever cloud her judgment. But she realized that in reality, emotions hadn’t clouded her judgment at all. They had just made the choice clearer. The answer was simple, really. This was war, after all. But it was also life. She ran. ****************************************************************************** “Potter…” His name was hissed, and he looked up through blurred vision to the cold leering face of his foe, and then turned away again, staring with morbid fascination at the crimson that was slowly staining the red carpet beneath him. Voldemort scowled, and grabbed him by the roots of his hair and *pulled*. James gasped in pain, as he was suddenly eye-to-eye with the creature. Voldemort leaned in, so that he spoke directly into James’ ear. The foul words tickled his ear and froze his heart in trepidation. “I’m going to kill you Potter.” Came the softly spoken words, “But not right away. Oh no. You see, you’re Dumbledore’s favorite little boy. I’m going to *enjoy* your death, Potter.” Without thinking, the words slipped out of his mouth like water, and James watched as disgust and anger twisted Voldemort’s face. “You will never be greater than Dumbledore…” Voldemort released James, sending him crumbling to the floor, and James could not help but cry out in surprise. There was rancous laughter from the crowd, and they spun as the world tilted dangerously. The creature turned to address the mob, and he spoke with passion and hate as he spurred them all along. “This—this is the fabled James Potter! The one who has eluded me twice! The famous, uncatchable, unmatchable, and death-defying James Potter, as the media likes to say. The man with nine lives.” He kicked the prone body at his feet, and James groaned as he felt another rib crack. “Doesn’t look like he’s altogether that uncatchable to me…I suppose they’ll want to write that on his tombstone, won’t they?” The crowd roared in approval. “This man—this one trice-damned-man, is the one who has killed so many in our ranks! The one who feeds your brothers lies in order to convert them over to his dirty side! He disgraces the name of Purebloods! “And this man,” Voldemort sneered in disgust. “Is in LOVE with a bloody MUDBLOOD!” The mob jeered and cried out in disgust. “Now GENTLEMEN! WHAT DOES THIS MAN—THIS MUDBLOOD LOVER, THIS TRAITOR TO OUR KIND—*DESERVE* FOR THESE DISGUSTING CRIMES?!” The horde of Death Eaters answered as one, in an enormously deafening howl. “DEATH! DEATH! DEATH!” ****************************************************************************** This was stupidity. Sheer and utter stupidity. Why was she doing this? Why was she risking her own life to save Potter’s? Emotions were funny things. //Because…Because I…I…// And they were meant to be pondered another day. ****************************************************************************** //I’m going to die.// The revelation was startlingly coherent in his drifting mind, as he stared at Death in the face through lidded eyes. The chants for his death were ringing all around him, in a massive, spinning bellow. He found, to his slight surprise, that he didn’t care. //I don’t care if I die, anything would be better than this—this is true hell, I want…I want…I want peace, I want to stop the HURT and the PAIN and I already did all that I could have done, I don’t want to keep this charade up any longer I don’t want to keep fighting for every breath for the rest of my life, I just want…I just want…I don’t know what I want…I don’t care anymore…// This revelation was a bit strange, for he had always scorned those who gave up and died, he had always resented them, deep down, and he had sworn—*sworn*—that he would never die like that. *That he would never give up.* It was harder than it looked, fighting for tomorrow. The revelation came sharply, and he marveled at it absently. …I…I…*want*…to die… ****************************************************************************** “Hullo there, chap.” Lily grinned. The Death Eater opened his mouth to sound the alarm, then stopped, giving Lily a suggestive leer as he ran his eyes up and down her figure. “Hello, *Poppit*.” Lily mentally grimaced, but gave him a sultry, beckoning pout. “I’m sorry, but it seems that I’ve…” She gave an exaggerated, seductive wink, “…lost my way. I don’t suppose that you’d help me find it, would you?” The Death Eater licked his lips. Lily gritted her teeth, feeling very much like a piece of meat. //This is necessary, James is worth it, this is necessary, James is worth it…// “Well?” She purred, as she slinked up to him so that they were barely inches apart. The Death Eater’s breathing grew faster as she draped her hands across his neck. He smirked at her expectantly. Lily smiled back, and then his eyes grew wide with surprise and he slumped into her arms, unconscious. Lily released the pressure points and looked disdainfully at the man that lay before her. The redheaded witch snorted. “That’s what you get for being a chauvinistic, perverted male pig.” ****************************************************************************** Lily took a deep breath. This was it. It was incredibly idiotic, and bordering on the line of moronic, even. It had crossed the line of stupidity long, *long* ago, and was now happily residing in a land which at any other time would have landed her in the loony hospital. There was not a word in the English language that could describe her absolute damned daftness adequately. She could hear every professor in the academy for Aurors scolding her for her utmost confounded logic. The plan was very much worthless. Unwise, rash, and foolhardy. And there was a very, *very* high chance of death. Nervously, she adjusted the hood of the Death Eater’s mask upon her face and glanced at the man that lay unconscious in the small cell. She glanced at her attire, and deemed herself worthy to commence Taking a deep breath, she pushed open the door… …And strolled casually into Voldemort’s chambers. ****************************************************************************** James was drifting. Unbidden, bits and snatches of the Hogwarts song that he had sung since his first year floated gently in his mind. //‘Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts…’// He remembered his first year. He was cocky, nervous, scared out of his wits. And it was on his first day that he met Lily Evans… …By pushing her in the lake. She had just laughed, and smiled. War had not yet stolen away her innocence. It was on that first day that he fell in love with Lily Marie Evans. //Teach us something please,// Hogwarts had taught him so many things. *Dumbledore* had taught him so many things. //Whether we be old and bald Or young with scabby knees,// He had been young. Naïve. Cocky. But Dumbledore had put up with all his exploits and pranks, smiling. He had always laughed, and said, “Let them be children.” And James could have sworn that he had once heard Dumbledore say quietly as he turned away, “They’ll lose their innocence soon enough.” He had dismissed it then. But James knew what he meant now. //Our heads could do with filling With some interesting stuff,// He had learned with ease everything that the teachers had ever taught him. Outside of the school, he had learned cruelty, hate and malice. James was dumped on the floor and dragged to his feet upon the cold stone, but James was unresisting, limp, as he tried to grasp his scattered thoughts. //For now they’re bare and full of air, Dead flies and bits of fluff,// Voldemort was speaking to him once again now, malicious eyes gleaming at him, but James could only see the taunt mouth moving, and could hear nothing in the rushing of his ears. He recalled the time when Voldemort had tried to recruit him. But James had turned down the offer, and instead had sided with the man that Voldemort hated the most, and the man that James looked to as a sort of foster father. He was addressing the mob of Death Eaters that filled every available space in the capacious quarters. They cheered during his speech, but James paid them little mind. //So teach us things worth knowing,// Love. Joy. Friendship. “Make him bleed!” One called out loudly. //Bring back what we’ve forgot,// Hope. Faith. Peace. //Just do your best, we’ll do the rest, And learn until our brains all rot.// The Cruciatus. He could see Voldemort mouthing the curse slowly and felt the tingle slowly spread through his body right before it became unbearable, excruciating pain. Voldemort smiled cruelly, and James could hear him say faintly, “Where’s your precious Dumbledore now, Potter?” “Hogwarts…Hogwarts…Hoggy, warty….” He smiled, and took pleasure in Voldemort’s furious features while he sang brokenly, underneath his breath. They were his last coherent words for a while. //….Hogwarts…// And as the pain consumed him entirely, he saw out of the corner of his eye, another Death Eater slip into the room, unnoticed. A/N: Thanks once again to my absolutely wonderful reviewers! *Hugs* You guys are awesome!

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