"Do you love her?"

James blinked.

Did he love her?

A lie, he knew, would save him. As he stood in the middle of that musty, old room, opposite the man who had once been his friend—the man who held the wand that was aimed straight at his chest—he knew that his demise was only a spell away.

A spell could change everything.

Yes, he knew a lie would save him, but he also knew that this particular lie would be impossible. To lie would be to give in the same way his once-friend had. His father had always told him that love was the most important weapon against evil; only now did James believe it, and understand how foolish he had been for not realising it sooner.

How apt it was that now he would never be able to tell his father how right he had been all these years. Just then love was both his weakness and his strength, but most importantly it was his only source of courage.

God knew he needed courage right now.

And so James nodded his head, and the other's hand shook.

"She's going to die, you know," he said, and his voice was hoarse, and jealous, and desperate, and worlds away from what it had been at school, just one year ago. "You can't save her. You can't save any of them."

"No," James agreed, though it nearly killed him to admit. "No, I can't."

The wizard looked at him and raised his wand higher, but still the curse didn't come to his lips.

"You can't do it," James realised, but the surge of hope that shook his chest was quickly diminished as the bangs from upstairs grew louder and the screams (her screams) rang through the house.

No, his friend couldn't kill him like he had killed Aaron, but the enemies upstairs were perfectly willing. James had given them every reason to be.

"I didn't want him to die," the wizard whispered. "Believe me. You should have killed me when you had the chance."

That chance had been mere minutes ago, but James didn't regret his decision: when given the choice between taking a life or giving up his own, he would pick the latter every time. It was what Albus would do, after all, and he had long since recognised that his brother was generally right about these sort of things.

"You know I'd never," he said at last. "We were friends once."

"We're still friends now," pleaded the other. “If you'd just join them—if you'd leave the others… You don't have to die, James.”

James nearly laughed—nearly, because the wand was still pointed at his chest, and the screams had all but faded, which could only mean one thing.

So there was no cocky grin for James Potter, no clever comment or witty insult as the thumps grew closer and closer. Instead, he stood there and he waited for the spell to come.

A spell, after all, could change everything.

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