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24 Hours Hour 18: Hour of Mocking Laughter By Shichan “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” ~ Mark Twain //No…// Lily froze, and the world seemed to go on without her from a distance; everything was hazy and the muffled shouts of glee were nearly inaudible. Her gaze was focused on the limp figure that was sprawled at the base of Voldemort’s feet. He wasn’t moving. Wasn’t taunting. Fear clutched her heart painfully as she strove to get closer—was he breathing? The seconds ticked by, and Lily could detect nothing. It wasn’t until a vicious kick to the stomach made him flinch and gasp for air subconsciously. She could see the hazel brilliance shine through lidded eyes on his drawn face. His pale pallor was contrasted sharply only by the numerous multitude of bruises and the dark crimson that seeped out from several wounds, including a shallow cut on his brow. The sight of his blood incensed Lily, and red-hot fury coursed through her veins. But now was not the time nor place for vengeance. She slithered into the mob, stealthily making her way closer to the center of the room as she blended in with the faceless, dark creatures. She could not have her revenge now. Not when every action was so crucial to her sanity-be-damned plan. But Lily swore upon every star on the sky, as she looked upon the masked faces in the room, that she would inflict her revenge on all of them someday. They could be assured of that. Her emerald gaze caught the dimmed, weary hazel of her partner. Oh yes, they could most certainly be assured of that. ****************************************************************************** James opened his eyes a sliver, and glanced blearily around the spinning room. Every bone in his body hurt, and every vein screamed in agony. But there was no time for such complaints. Not when his very life was at stake. And as much as James would have liked to pass out, he didn’t. For some inexplicable reason, his gaze was drawn to the Death Eater that was slowly making her way across the threshold, closer and closer to him. She looked up for a moment, and he caught her gaze. The emerald brilliance was unmistakable. James had never met anyone in the entirety of his life with eyes so striking as hers. Alarm swept through his body as he glared at her, confounded. //How did she get out?// He wondered, //And more importantly, what is she doing here…?// His muddled mind searched for a probable answer, and he could come up with only one. //Perhaps she’s here to kill me…? Making sure that I don’t give away any of the Order’s secrets… Or maybe she sees this as an opportunity to kill Voldemort by herself, the fool… Either possibility is plausible is suppose…// Not once did he think that she could be there to rescue him. He did not allow himself that feeble hope. To hope was folly. It would only bring heartbreak in the end. All he knew was that the end was near, and death was at hand. He just did not know whose hand he was to die by—Voldemort’s or Lily’s? ****************************************************************************** “…But Voldemort’s lair can only be found by those who already know where it is.” (1) Severus finished in low, even tones as he stared off into the darkness of the trees. The rain had abated, and the forest was silent as the sun peeked through the clouds. Severus took great comfort in simply listening to the tranquil sound of the forest coming back to life, and the moist dewdrops dripping from the leaves of the various trees and plants. The beautiful serenity was soon ruined however, by a howl of annoyance. “How in the seven hells are we supposed to find it then?” Sirius exploded, his face dark and drawn. He turned away from the other wizards, and gave a feral growl, slamming his fists against the trunk of an ancient tree. Remus, who had been listening intently, also looked slightly disheartened. Severus snorted and rolled his eyes at the hopeless pair. //‘Morons’,// He raged, //‘Are they really that thick?’// He opened his mouth to speak, and found, to his utmost disgust, that he was slightly nervous. He had never been comfortable in the presence of the Marauders, and here he was acting chummy with them. He had sworn his revenge upon all of them, but instead he was going to help save the one he hated the absolute most: James H. Potter. Severus truly didn’t give a whit as to what happened to James. But Lily, on the other hand… He would not condemn her to her death because of that thrice-damned fool Potter. “I’ll take you there.” The words were, for once, not arrogantly spoken. They were soft, hesitant, but all caught the almost inaudible words. “What?” Sirius gave a bark of derisive laughter, and turned to Severus with jaded eyes. “You’re a Death Eater,” He felt the urge to remind him, incredulous. “Really, Black? I hadn’t noticed.” Remus stepped forward, quite aware of how Sirius’ fists were clenching and unclenching. “All right then,” He said softly, with confidence that he did not feel. “Lead the way.” Sirius gaped at Remus. “Are you out of your mind? He’s a *Death Eater*.” Sirius drew the name out slowly, as if it would help Remus to comprehend the gravity of the solution. Remus sighed, and turned to face Sirius once more. “Not all Death Eaters are the epitomes evil, Sirius. Just like not all werewolves are man-eating devils. Unless you believe differently…?” Sirius held his silence. Remus smiled, his weary eyes holding a glint of determination. “He has risked his life to bring us this information. And whether it be accurate or not, we do not know. He’s our best hope right now. So shut your face and follow.” Remus nodded once to Severus, and he turned, under the cover of the shadows once more. He walked through the forest with quick, light steps, and Remus followed without protest. Sirius hesitated, and growled irritably. “The fool’s going to get us all killed,” He muttered before following. ****************************************************************************** It would have been so easy to let go… It was quite tempting, as a matter of fact. The will to live was greater than all else, and the will to die, though cowardly, was nearly as strong. It would have just been so *easy*… Things were seldom easy anymore. The world had slowly morphed in his reaching of adulthood. The lines that had so surely divided everything into black and white had blurred, and everything was simply a shade of gray. The choices that he made every waking moment of every waking day would affect so many people, so many lives. It was a great responsibility. James was tired; he was *weary* of being so strong all the time. Weary of being the *hero*. If he were dead, he wouldn’t have to meet all the expectations that loomed above him with each breath he took. No more hiding behind the jester’s mask. No more having the lives of so many men and women resting in his shaky hands. No more having to stop repressing his goddamned desire to break down and just kiss Lily Evans. No more pain, no more heartbreak, no more sorrow. After all, even if he went straight to hell for his crimes, what could hell have on this? Unconsciousness wavered enticingly at the edges of his vision, but it was soon replaced by another burst of red-hot agony coursing through his veins. Eyes snapped open in wild, feral torment, mouth opening in a silent scream. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. Unconsciousness was driven rudely from his reach, and he mourned its loss. Liquidized fire replaced his blood, and James clenched his mouth and shut his eyes as he waited for what seemed like eternity for the curse to pass. It did eventually, leaving him gasping for breath on the cold steel floor as raucous laughter filled the air. ************************************************************************** Lily clenched her fists in frustration, desperation. The wave finally passed, and she had to calm the rushing in her ears to hear what Voldemort was saying. The evil creature had stood up from his makeshift throne, and addressed the mob of Death Eaters with triumph. “—And we, my loyal Death Eater’s, we will defeat and conquer Dumbledore’s pathetic army, we will kill all those muggle-loving weaklings! We shall destroy the Ministry of Magic! We shall WIN THIS WAR, and take our rightful place—” Voldemort’s speech grew more and more triumphant with every word, sending his followers into a fanatic frenzy. But then… *Laughter*. Peals of mirthless laughter, soft at first before slowly and steadily growing louder and louder. …James was facing his death. His doom. His eternal damnation. …And he just *laughed*… Lily was certain that James had finally lost his marbles. That he had gone around the bend. He was a loon, a crazy, a quack. His laughter rang out loudly, clearly, in the shocked, deadly silence of the room, but it held no maniacal undertone, only a slightly mocking edge. But above all, it held triumph. Utter and complete triumph. It was the laughter of a man who had nothing to lose, the laughter that said he had nothing save it, and only it. The laughter of a man who could be beaten, bruised, and broken in body, but never, no never in spirit. The laughter died down to the occasional chuckle. He coughed, spitting up blood as he turned to look at Voldemort with a grim, twisted smirk on his face. He spoke with a rasping breath, “You, my dear Tom…will *never* win this war. You will *never* defeat Dumbledore. You will *never* prosper against those of mixed blood. You will *never* defeat the will and determination of the Order. And most of all…you will *never*--do you hear me Tom?--you will*never* defeat me.” ***************************************************************************** Surprisingly, there was no immediate retaliation. James tensed, expecting a curse—any curse to sweep through his being. But there was nothing. Only a slightly pleased smile that twisted Voldemort’s lips. And somehow, James found that much more terrifying. ****************************************************************************** “You, there! Servant, come here!” Lily’s focus snapped back from James to Voldemort and his pointing finger. Slowly, ever slowly, the crowd around her drew away and Lily looked about desperately for an escape, hoping in vain that he was calling to another. However, the Death Eater’s had slowly receded, and she was left all alone in front of *him*. All of the Death Eaters’ attention was focused solely on her, and she could do little. Voldemort’s eyes gleamed with triumph, and she felt the panic rising slowly within her, burbling, and causing her to feel nauseous. He had found her out, seen through her ruse, and now she was going to die… Voldemort beckoned her closer to the platform, and when she did not move several hands pushed her into action. She stumbled, landing at Voldemort’s feet in a makeshift bow, James staring at her though half-glazed eyes a few mere meters away. A wand was thrust under her nose, and she stared into the triumphantly cold eyes of Voldemort. She took it on instinct, not believing her great luck—to think, Voldemort had just given her a *weapon*, and— Voldemort smirked, gazing at the silent crowd with pleased eyes. “Now, my dear and humble servants! I will give you the honor of destroying Potter with me! Come here, girl! You are the one who has been chosen!” Lily stared at the wand in her hand with mounting horror, then glanced at where James was. They wanted her to…? “Come servant! You shall destroy him!” …They did. “This girl, pulled from my own ranks shall receive the honor of the greatest of magnitude. This girl—*this* girl! Her name shall be repeated in history for the rest of time, and for being so loyal, I reward her with this! I give her the opportunity—the privilege!—to *interrogate* and *kill* JAMES POTTER…!” The crowd roared its approval, but the sound faded from her ears and all that Lily could hear was Voldemort’s words echoing in her head. //…kill James Potter…killJamesPotter…KILLJAMES POTTER….// And as tempting as this offer would have been twenty-four hours ago, now… *Now…* The utter irony of it all did not escape her. She was there to save him, and now she was to be his executioner. And there was only one word that Lily could think of to explain her tangled and twisted emotions accurately. //Oh bugger.// (1) Yes, this is from Pirates of the Caribbean. I love that movie! Mwhahahahahaha! A/N: SOOOOOO sorry for the wait. Thank you ever so much for the lovely and kind reviews! I love you all! *Hugs*

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