Monday, 12:00 P.M.

James had left Transfiguration with his fellow Marauders, laughing and joking and occasionally staring at the back of Lily Evans's head as she made her way to the Great Hall with her friends. He wasn't being too subtle about it, but at this point everyone just expected that James Potter would be staring at Lily Evans, even if that meant stepping on the backs of everyone else's shoes.

Just as they'd reached the entrance hall, a group of Slytherins emerged from their dungeon common room. They eyed the Gryffindor girls with contempt, which wasn't a surprise considering this particular Slytherin group consisted of Avery, Mulciber, Lestrange, Snape, and Sirius's cousin Bellatrix (the two of whom refused to acknowledge each other unless a fight broke out, in which case they used the opportunity to mock each other for the sake of a good show).

Lily ignored the group, keeping her eyes determinedly averted from her estranged best mate and the friends he'd forsaken her for. Marlene McKinnon did likewise, as did Alice Prewett – that is, until Mulciber shot a hex their way, causing Alice's books to fly out of her bag and hit her repeatedly upside the head.

Marlene was quick with the counterjinx, so the books fell, harmless, to the floor before they could do much damage. Lily too was quick with her wand, which she directed at the Slytherins. A hush fell over the throng of students who had been making their way to lunch as they stopped to watch what was sure to be a brilliant duel, or a row at the very least. The Mauraders were no exception (unless you counted the fact that they all had their hands clutching their wands, just in case).

"Which one of you was it, then?" Lily demanded of the Slytherins, her voice ringing out against the sudden, echoing quiet of the hall. "Mulciber, you've got your wand out. Too stupid to hide the evidence, are you?"

Mulciber sneered. "You've got your wand out, Evans; no need to make snap judgments."

The Slytherins snickered, but Lily hadn't been discouraged.

"You must have missed the part where you're stupid and I'm clever," she countered evenly, her wand still pointing in their direction. "Now why don't you have a go while our backs aren't turned? Or haven't I egged you on enough?"

The Slytherins weren't laughing anymore. Mulciber and Avery were eyeing Lily's wand apprehensively. Snape was looking at a spot just beyond Lily's shoulder, as if he couldn't bring himself to meet her eye. Rodolphus Lestrange appeared haughty and Bellatrix sneered, but the tension was palpable despite their arrogance.

Lily raised her eyebrows. "No?" she said. "Right, then, Mulciber, ten points from Slytherin for using magic in the corridors."

A few Gryffindors cheered appreciatively, James whistled, and Sirius yelled, "Get it, Evans!"

Lily stowed her wand back in her pocket and turned away, making for the Great Hall again with Alice and Marlene, when Lestrange's voice rang out over the babble of talk that was beginning to overtake the students again…

"Walk away – good thinking, Mudblood!"

A few angry shouts came from the surrounding crowd, and James's grip fell from his wand as his fists clenched. Lily had paused for only a moment, but she shook it off and continued on her way, so she couldn't know that Lestrange had pulled out his wand…

"Oy! Prongs!"

"James!"

"Oh, dear…"

His friends' warnings fell on deaf ears as James ran at the Slytherins and his fist connected with Lestrange's face. There was a cracking noise and blood poured out of Lestrange's nose and over James's hand.

The watching students cheered, encouraging and jeering as the fight escalated. Lestrange had dropped his wand and was fighting James off with his own fists. Lily turned on the spot just in time to deflect the hex Bellatrix aimed at her, succeeding in making Bellatrix's face break out in ugly yellow boils.

"Hell, Lily, you'll get detention for that!" Alice groaned as the crowd cheered again.

"Rather detention than the hospital wing!" Lily said, a grin spreading across her face as she blocked Avery's jinx with a flick of her wrist, leaving him in a Full Body-Bind. "Now… Potter! Where is your wand, you complete dolt?"

But between the shouts of the crowd and the fact that Lestrange now had him in a headlock and was beating his head against the stone wall, James didn't hear Lily's amused admonition.

Sirius shot a Stunning spell at Snape then. "Not so funny now, is it, Snivellus?" he shouted before hitting Lestrange with the same spell. James was able to wriggle free from Lestrange's slackened hold then; he blinked several times to see stars erupt in front of his eyes.

"Aw, bloody… bloody… something or other," he mumbled. He looked down at Lestrange. "Reckon he'd look better with some boils like his girlfriend, eh, Padfoot?"

Sirius grinned wolfishly, his eyes darting to his cousin, who was still covering her face and failing to work out the counterjinx. "Reckon so," he said, and with a flick of his wand he had provided Lestrange with the same ailment.

James looked over to Lily, his vision swimming so that there seemed to be three of her. "All right there, Evans? Evanses…?"

She shot him a sort of halfhearted scowl, torn between amusement and annoyance and a bit of confusion as to why he was addressing her in plural form. James sent her a sort of salute then before losing his balance and blacking out.


4:45 P.M.

The next thing James knew, he was in the hospital wing.

His eyes flickered open to see the rest of the Marauders sitting around his bed. Sirius was leaning back in his chair, his feet resting on James's stomach. Remus had his arms crossed. Peter was picking at his fingernails.

"You're mad" was the first thing James heard, and it came from Remus.

"Watch it, Moony," Sirius warned, although he seemed pretty unconcerned. "Pomfrey said he needs rest."

"You've got your feet planted in his abdomen," Remus snapped.

"We've been sitting here 'round about five hours, I need to stretch my limbs a bit –"

"Shhh." Peter pressed a finger to his lips. "Pomfrey's door just opened, she's coming…"

Madam Pomfrey bustled over to them then, her brow furrowed in irritation. "Black, Potter's got a concussion. Get your feet off him."

"It's not like they're on his head," Sirius pointed out, but dropped his feet to the floor, anyway.

Madam Pomfrey ignored his cheek and started fussing over James. "How's your head, Potter? I did what I could, but you were out when this lot brought you up here. McGonagall's in my office, she wants a word, but –"

"No buts, Poppy," interjected a crisp, stern voice. Professor McGonagall was walking towards the group around the bed, her spectacles flashing dangerously. "Potter, I assume you're well enough to hear that you've got detention this week."

James groaned. Leave it to him to get in trouble when he'd sworn to keep himself out of the worst of it.

"You see, Minerva, Potter needs more rest –"

"Don't be so dramatic, Potter," McGonagall said, ignoring Madam Pomfrey's objections. "Mr. Black will be accompanying you, as Lestrange has testified against him."

Sirius appeared rather bored; he'd clearly been given the news while James had been unconscious. But that didn't stop him from commenting nonetheless.

"Of course he's dramatic, Professor," he drawled. "After all, it is me who'll be joining him, while Evans skips off without so much as a reprimand."

McGonagall shot him a stern look. "Mr. Black, I would like to inform you yet again that Miss Evans used defensive magic –"

"Bollocks!"

"– while you attacked Mr. Snape unprovoked," McGonagall went on, voice raised slightly. "And I fail to see the need to hex Lestrange beyond Stunning him, so that counts against you as well."

Sirius shrugged. "I wanted to ensure the continued romantic bliss of my dear cousin," he said. "I'm sure Lestrange would have broken Bella's heart if she'd been doomed to a life full of boils. Thought I'd even the score."

McGonagall frowned. So did Remus.

"Even so, Mr. Black, it's a week's detention each and twenty points from Gryffindor," McGonagall said, turning to leave. "You will both report to the dungeons tonight at eight o'clock. If you can manage, Potter."

James grunted his assent, ignoring the angry huffing noises Madam Pomfrey was making.

"Fine, Potter," she said as the hospital wing door shut behind Professor McGonagall. "Now sit up and take your potion. You should be all sorted for scrubbing the Potions dungeon, then."

James complied and within another ten minutes, Madam Pomfrey deemed him fit enough to leave.

"Try to stay out of trouble on your way to your dormitory!" she called after the four boys as they left the wing.

Remus snorted. "But how could we resist?" he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm as he shot a look at his troublesome friends.

"Moony's a tad put-off with us," Sirius said to James. "We'll be hearing it when we're back at the dormitory, mark my words…"