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24 Hours Hour 19: Hour of Truth By: Shichan Goddess “The one condition coupled with the gift of truth is its use.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson What a fine predicament that Lily found herself in. It was at this moment that lingering suspicion that the gods hated her was proven true. Voldemort had continued to ramble about “crushing the muggle-lovers” and “victory” and other such nonsense so it was no surprise that Lily found herself drifting into a world where only she and James existed. She could not tear her emerald eyes away from the prostrate form. The slightly metallic smell of blood wafted through the air and Lily could see the steady stream flowing from various wounds. There was already a crimson pool gathered beneath him, creeping steadily outwards as Lily stared at it with morbid fascination. The essence of James’ life was making a lovely stain on the concrete floor, and she—his supposed rescuer—was simply staring at him. Her attention was diverted by lustful cheers, for Voldemort had ended his oration and she suddenly wished she had paid attention. She was met with the horrifying snake-like face staring at her mere inches away, and her knees, to her utmost disgust, turned to water as she felt a huge lurch of fear play ring-a-round-a-rosie in the pit of her gut. She was brave, not stupid, after all. Her chest tightened and she took steady breaths as she gazed into his eyes impassively, willing none of her fear or nervousness to show upon her face. She held her breath, waiting for him to recognize her, waiting for him to command his men to kill her… But instead… A glass vial was thrust underneath her nose, its vile odor wafting up to meet her nostrils. Lily’s stomach turned as the pungent aroma registered in her memory, and she stared in horror at the burgundy concoction. … *Veritaserum* … ****************************************************************************** “Are we *there* yet?” Sirius questioned, sounding very much like a petulant child during a long train ride. The answer was short, terse. “No.” “Are we *almost* there?” “Yes.” Sirius scowled to himself as no elaboration followed. The question had been asked many times, and every time it was the same thing. Because although Remus may have had put his faith in the Death Eater, Sirius had not, would not, possibly *could* not. It was difficult to see past the distorted haze of his memories; it was difficult to change what he had always accepted as the god-given truth. This truth was all he had left—the Death Eaters were the evil buggers, and they themselves were the just and good wizards. Black and white. If this last foundation came crushing down upon him in this war-ravaged world, what did he have left? What could he hang onto as a lifeline through the dark times? How could he survive in a world that was created of shades of gray? ****************************************************************************** Oh my, this was just *lovely*. It was growing dark. James knew not whether it was simply the dim light that failed to reach the corner of the room or if it was consciousness leaving him…one last time. The edges of his vision blurred, and he coughed harshly, sending a fit of blood flying from his mouth. He tried to dispel the dizziness that crept upon him, but then wondered what the point of it all was. Why he continued to pursue the futility of living. Every day brought the struggle for the next drawing of breath. Every day brought battles where he would lose good men, good *friends*. Every day brought the burning question and despairing cry of “Why?”. And at night… *At night…* It was far, far worse. Remembrance of the dead would plague the mind before he could fall into a restless, uneasy sleep. And that sleep was filled with the demons of his own memories coming to haunt him under the cover of darkness. Often he was woken by the sounds of his screams tearing their way out of his throat. And if that didn’t wake him up, the mad spree of curses would. Life. Death. Did it even really matter anymore? ****************************************************************************** It was common knowledge that Veritaserum was a potion concocted by the brilliant wizards in the “back room” as an interrogation drug to be used in warfare. It was common knowledge that this potion was simply an unassuming, harmless liquid that led the witch or wizard to speak the truth. And the Ministry of Magic had always been content to masquerade this lie to the public. Few and far between were those who knew precisely about Veritaserum’s side effects. Veritaserum was not only a truth-telling device. It was also a method of psychological torture during interrogation, and often was the cause of many, many deaths due to overdose. It froze the body with the chill of the Antarctic wind, and then it burned with a fire that seemed to come from Hell itself. If allowed to go untreated, it would cause a slow, steady decay of the lungs, leading to respiratory failure. All in all, it normally would cause an extremely agonizing and slow death of the victim by affixation. It drove many mad with the pain, and often times, they would beg for death at the end. The kinder and more merciful would reluctantly grant them this reprieve. And now… Now… She couldn’t even bear to think about it. Her life had taken the cruelest turn of fate and she realized, detached, that she was slightly numb. She turned and glanced at the twin doors marking the entrance hopefully. Any time now, the Order would come rushing into their rescue. Just like the movies. Any time now. …Any time now… *…Any time now.* ****************************************************************************** James turned his head painfully to glance at the Death Eater that was prostrated before Voldemort’s feet. He idly wondered what had drawn his attention to the figure—he seemed to be exactly like the rest. A vial was thrust into his or her hand, and the Death Eater’s head jerked up in shock. As he continued to stare at the hooded face, the Death Eater turned and stared directly into his eyes—it was then that he caught a flash of emerald green. A green that was as familiar to him as his own deceased mother’s, a green that had flashed in fury, in laughter, but never in defeat. Now, those eyes were the only pair in the room that did not hold contempt. But rather…sorrow. Fear. Anger. Pain. And with sudden clarity, he *knew*. Despite his newfound familiarity with the witch, James did not fool himself. Lily was first and foremost a fellow soldier, as was he. Her duty was strictly to the Order, and the Order had precedence over his life. It was a choice between duty and a fledging friendship. When it came right down to it, James knew what decision Lily would make. He wondered hazily how Hell was this time of year. ***************************************************************************** Amber eyes snapped open, darting towards the figure that was kneeling in front of the platform. James glanced quickly at Lily and Voldemort did not miss the glance. Maliciousness glinted in the crimson eyes, and a perverse sense of curiosity and sadistic glee lurked under the dark, penetrating gaze. …And he wondered… He let this traitor enter his ranks, asked her to deliver the final blow…as an experiment. A game. He had not risen to power by being a fool. He had the knowledge—the terrible, terrible knowledge of the workings of the human mind. He took what he wanted by exploiting the corrupt minds of others, by twisting his lies into a web of deception. He had become the most powerful leader of all because he counted on the basic human emotions of hatred and greed. His own set of beliefs had been engrained into his followers. And this was the final proof that he was right. If this witch, Dumbledore’s handpicked witch, could kill her comrade in cold blood, well… Then all he had been saying was true. Even the purest of hearts could be tainted and corrupted when offered the opportunity. ****************************************************************************** The doors remained shut. And… He wasn’t getting up. It was an irrational thought. But Lily had faith that James would stand up and laugh at her, stand up and fight. Stand up and take this god-awful situation off her hands, as he always had. He had to stand up. He was James bloody Potter, the most infuriatingly stubborn man on this earth. He would never simply give up. He couldn’t…He *would* stand. The clock ticked on by, and the restless murmurs of the crowd began to grow louder. …But he didn’t get up. He didn’t crack another joke. He just lay *still*… Lily wanted to scream. To cry. There was the nearly audible sound of her heart shattering into a million pieces and her hope taking flight as she contemplated what to do. If she didn’t administer the Veritaserum she would immediately be killed and another would, regardless, still administer it. And given the chance she wasn’t slain on the spot, she would be faced with the prospect of battling her way through a mob of Death Eaters to the exit, while toting an injured body around. Even in her slightly hysterical daze, the very thought seemed ludicrous. If she did, then she would be condemning her partner to a cruel, inhuman death. She would subject him to the possibility of betraying the Order—which was simply *unacceptable*. But there was one other option. One that turned her stomach and caused her knees to nearly buckle in sheer horror. She also had the possibility of killing James before the Veritaserum could be administered, and save his honor. …There was really no question as to what option she would take. With a shuddering, lurching step, she moved closer to the figure on the floor, one hand clenching the neck of the vial and the other clutching her wand. And Voldemort smiled… A/N: SORRRRRRYYY! Cowers in terror I know that it’s been a terribly long time since I last updated, and when I do, it’s this short little chapter. Fortunately (or unfortunately) I decided to cut this chapter down a whole heaping lot so that instead of it’s 12 original half-finished pages, it came down to this. The rest of the 12 pages will be added to Chapter 20. Thank you ever so much to my reviewers who persistently encouraged me! You know who you are! *HUGS* Ah yes, and this is dedicated to a friend of mine who just recently had a birthday in…December. -_-‘ (I know, I know, I procrastinate!) So this is sort of a belated “Happy Birthday” gift.

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