Disclaimer: (8) We're off to see the wizard… (8) Yeah, he's going to grant me the ownership of Twilight. But until then, I have nothing.

A/N: Everybody please disregard this except, if they're still inexplicably reading, the two nice people who stole my writing book on Friday afternoon. And to the both of you – and you know who you are! – I say HAH! As if I'd show you what I was really going to write!

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Edward's POV

I hadn't wanted to lie to Bella. Not again – not after last time, and the consequences that had resulted. But my worry for her safety yet again overwhelmed the aspects of right and wrong, and I had no further choice.

I knew that she would have wanted to know the truth – after all, hadn't she earned it? – and it had taken my entire reserve of willpower to ignore that, and to her face, churn out a tale of carefully woven lies. They'd tasted bitter on my tongue.

She had believed me, of course, making the ordeal even more painfully unenduring than it had already been. I had no explanation for why she still trusted me as confidently as she had eight months ago – it was beyond my understanding. After everything I had put her through, after all the hardships she'd suffered, her love for me was unshaken.

But this lie had not originally sprouted for her protection. It was for ours – my family. The fact that Bella's path in the situation intertwined with ours was pure, unfortunate coincidence.

The truth would devastate her, we were all aware. And Bella was not one to cloud her emotions and hide them from the world, even if she wished to try. If she discovered the truth, -- at this I scowled, knowing Alice far too well – our secret, our lifeline, our only hope, would be useless.

For I knew something that Bella and Jacob did not.

Consequently, Carlisle had instructed all of my family, excepting himself and Alice, to stay in the house until the inevitable had occurred. The werewolves were quick to jump to conclusions and point fingers, which where already semi-quivering in our direction as it was. If we were to be out and somewhere where our actions could not be accounted for… I didn't want to linger on that thought.

I stared out the wall-length stretch of glass that was my bedroom window – or perhaps bedroom was an inappropriate term. Nevertheless, I tried in vain to keep my mind blank. Guilt had formed a cloud of darkness over my head for the time being, returning me to the place of darkness, only not quite so painful. It was more a place of bleak, neutral, unhappy colours – my analogy being the night sky with a few blazing stars. It was only temporary, though, because when the situation was righted, I hoped that my day lit sky – my Sun, my Bella – would reign over the darkness that I knew too well.

I turned away from the window. It wasn't helping, I needed a new distraction. I glided to the other side of the room, trying to ignore the scent that swirled around me as I moved. My throat burned angrily, and though Bella hadn't been here for several days, the intensified smell I acquired when thirsty seemed to seek her aroma out like a metal detector. It was infuriating! There was nothing here; I couldn't stay cooped up when I needed to hunt so badly.

I almost smiled at the irony; my excuse to Bella had been that very thing – I was out hunting. My thoughts lingered wistfully.

Surely the day wouldn't last much longer?

I glanced at the clock on the chestnut desk. It was almost nine in the morning. I sighed.

Suddenly Jasper's voice – the one in his head, that is – seemed much closer. I heard his smooth footsteps approach the door, and turned. His face was grave, and his body radiated melancholy. I shook it off in annoyance. He wasn't helping.

We should have heard from them by now, he told me through thought. I tilted my head, a barely perceptible nod, and followed him out the door. Passing a mirror frame in the hallway, I glanced at my reflection.

My eyes were like holes: dark, black, endless. The purple shadows under them were just as obvious, and the hungry snarl that uplifted one of the sides of my mouth and crinkled my nose very slightly told me that I needed to hunt more than I had originally guessed.

We both paused at the bottom of the stairs and stood in silence for a short moment. I could hear Jasper thinking – not to me, but himself – of Alice, of Bella, and of the broken treaty. The announced war seemed to bother him as much as it did me. After all, we both had someone we loved at stake.

Jasper's eyes were just as dark as my own, and I noticed a shiver ripple through him every so often. He was not so controlled at ignoring Bella's smell.

Should we call? He interrupted my thoughts with his own. I shrugged, trying to appear calm, but I knew before he snickered that he could sense my unease.

"Listen," I said, noticing that my voice sounded slightly raspy. Jasper's eyes flickered towards mine. "I can't stay here much longer, and neither can you. We can't starve ourselves any further… it's not benefiting anyone."

Jasper sighed. "Carlisle said—"

"Not to go anywhere our actions can't be accounted for," I cut in. "We can take evidence if you like, but I refuse to stay inside doing nothing productive. Even if all I contribute is improving my own mood, it's better than nothing."

He nodded agreeably. "I suppose you're right."

I was quite aware of the three others eavesdropping, but they made no protests. Jasper glided towards the door – his movement jerking with anticipation – and I followed.

But it seemed that our meal was not meant to be.

I heard their thoughts first, strangely foreign to my ears. Aro's in particular was layered with an Italian accent that was unmistakeable. Alice's frantic thoughts entered my head next, simply because of how attuned my mind was to hers. I heard the others – five, I estimated, maybe more – before long. Two had accents as evident as Aro's. I acknowledged them as Marcus and Caius.

Esme and Emmett were beside my side in a flash. Jasper stood, unmoving, at the door, and Rosalie lounged on the couch – her flippant attitude bothered me; there was something more to it. I filed the thought away, currently, deciding to address it later. An icy silence settled in the room as we waited.

The hushed purr of Alice's car rolled through the driveway and settled mere metres in front of the house; closer than she usually parked. Alice was obviously wasting no time. Another engine, gentler than the Porsche's, followed, and obediently stopped beside its companion.

We listened to the mild clicking of car handles and opening doors. Only one set of feet crunched through the gravel, and I exhaled in relief. Bella was with them.

The others seemed relieved, too, but it was hard to tell – their noses were wrinkled in disgust. Aro, Marcus and Caius had a strange smell; it was hideous to us, because as vampires ourselves, we were not fooled by their aromatic trap. To us, they smelled like mould – old books, elderly humans. It was a testament to how aged they really were.

Jane's scent was unusual – it was floral, feminine, but also bitter. It rammed down my throat quite violently – verifying that it was, indeed, her.

They moved slowly, still only metres outside the door, obviously acting kindly towards Bella. Their consideration was only time-consuming, in my eyes.

The essence of time was something, two years ago, I would rarely have referred to. Time was pointless – had I any need of it? – and just another human detail. For those who don't age, those who don't live every day in fear of death, time is superfluous. On occasion we would be required to count the years to back up our stories, but other than that, I cared little for it.

Yet, now, with Bella by my side – metaphorically – it seemed to rule my every step. And to Bella, time was everything. How could I ignore it, when as it faded, so did my moments with her?

But only a few weeks ago was there any true reason to fear, to begrudge time. The Volturi's promise – one that I had known would not go unfulfilled – weighed down on both mine and Bella's days, our minutes.

And now, time was up. There were no more seconds, minutes, hours. The hourglass was empty, ready to be tipped over – and with it, my world.

(I could have been really mean, and ended the chapter here. :D)

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"Aro." My voice, only minutes ago edging on raspy, had become quiet. Everything seemed colder, as if the venom in my veins was chilled, angry – ready to kill.

"Ah, Edward, my friend!" Aro's voice was as perplexingly joyous as it had been in Volterra.

I summoned a weak, pleasant smile. To anger or offend them would not be of any assistance now.

"Such a lovely home," Aro commented, mouth open, as he surveyed the room.

I glanced fleetingly at Bella, making sure she had not been hurt. She stared back at me, strangely pale. Her eyes were wide in shock and fear, and though I could not read her specific thoughts, the general idea was obvious: What's going to happen to me… to us?

I knew simply because the same thoughts flooded my mind like acid, seeping through every memory of myself and Bella together. The acid bubbled angrily and clouded my vision. I knew that had I any blood, it would be boiling under my cheekbones this second.

Only weeks ago – after seven agonising months – had Bella and I been reunited. I blamed myself for our time apart, but had rationalized that it was nothing, nothing compared to how much time we had left together.

That thought had been ripped out from under me, now. The Volturi would either kill her, or maim her and make her no longer my Bella. She wouldn't be the same – she would be dead, cold, different. Instead of my wonderful, vulnerable klutz, she would be strong, young and blood-thirsty. Not to mention soulless.

I seethed, watching them patrol through the rooms so casually. They acted as if it were their home, or they had at least been invited. Like they weren't about to kill one of us.

Suddenly, my eyes flashed to Alice. She'd called me in her thoughts.

I'm sorry. Her voice sounded small compared to her usual elated trill.

I raised an eyebrow in subtle question. How could any of this possibly be her fault? Had she detected this sooner, would it have made the slightest difference?

I know you think we couldn't have outrun them to save our lives – or rather, Bella's – but face it, Edward, at least we would have expected it. At least we would have been prepared for—

I held up a shaking hand to stop her. To have her finish that thought would have killed me; emotionally, at least. The thought of them carrying out such a disgusting act, it was beyond sickening. It was inconceivable. I couldn't, and wouldn't, believe that it was going to happen…

Alice watched me with a look that was beyond pain.

I glanced over my shoulder, ensuring that our silent conversation remained undetected, and threw her an inquiring look, which meant to say, Have you seen anything?

She understood. Too many years had we practised our communication. She shook her head.

Nothing. Nothing, Edward, that's what worries me! I've been seeing nothing! I didn't see them coming whatsoever—once their freaking smell had practically surrounded us, what was I to do? I should have seen it, I don't understand why I couldn't… why it's not working…

I had an idea, though I didn't let Alice know it. There was something strange about the Volturi's entire involvement, something not entirely obvious. I had a feeling that their visit was not wholly to do with Bella. There must have been another issue – something more pressing – that drew them here.

At that thought, my mood lifted slightly. Maybe Bella would not be doomed to death just yet. Perhaps they really did come here in a polite manner. Would they stay for a few days and then leave us be?

We could only hope.