Disclaimer: I own nothing. All credits to JK. Also, from the beginning of this chapter up until when McGonagall shows up is almost a direct quotation from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, pages 571-572.
"I don't need help from filthy little mudbloods like her!" Severus Snape spat out, glaring at Lily Evans. His face was bright red, as much from embarrassment as from the fact that he was hanging upside down.
Lily blinked as she felt a little stab of pain at his words, and said as coldly as she could, "Fine, I won't bother in future. And I'd wash your pants if I were you, Snivellus." Lily added spitefully.
"Apologise to Evans!" James Potter roared at Severus, his wand pointed threateningly at him.
"I don't want you to make him apologise," Lily shouted, whirling to face James so fast that her red hair fanned out around her. "You're as bad as he is."
"What?" yelped James, "I'd never call you a - you-know-what!"
"Messing up your hair because you think it looks cool to look like you've just got off your broomstick, showing off with that stupid Snitch, walking down corridors and hexing anyone who annoys you just because you can - I'm surprised your broomstick can get off the ground with that fat head on it. You make me sick." She turned on her heel and hurried away.
"Evans!" James shouted after her. "Hey, Evans!"
But she didn't look back.
"What is it with her?" said James, trying and failing to look as though he wasn't genuinely asking the question.
"Reading between the lines, I'd say she thinks you're a bit conceited, mate," said Sirius Black.
"Right," said James, who looked furious now, "right–"
There was flash of light, and Snape was once again hanging upside-down in the air.
"Who wants to see me take off Snivelly's pants?"
The crowd of students roared, and James grinned. He raised his wand and prepared to cast the spell, but–
"Potter! Release Severus this instant!"
James groaned. How the hell did she always manage to arrive just when things were getting good? He lowered Severus to the ground, and turned slowly around to see the imposing witch striding towards the crowd, clearly furious.
"You should be ashamed, all of you! Participating in this sort of activity… I am disgusted with you, especially those of you in my house. I expect more from Gryffindor students." Professor McGonagall had reached James, Sirius and Severus by now. "All of you go to your dormitories at once and five points each from your houses!"
The crowd gasped in horror. A few students even called out in protest.
"That's enough! Go to your dormitories now, before I take more points!"
The crowd, still grumbling, began to disperse. James, even though he knew it was futile, tried to melt into the crowd, but McGonagall's voice stopped him.
"Not you, Potter." James glanced up sheepishly at her. "I want to see you and Mr. Black in my office now. And Mr. Lupin," Remus Lupin stopped packing his bags and looked up in surprise. McGonagall just shook her head sadly. "You've disappointed me, Remus. I expected more from you. I thought you were better than allowing this behaviour to go on in front of you." Remus blushed scarlet and looked down. Peter Pettigrew, who was standing next to Remus, muttered something to him and patted his arm consolingly. Remus shrugged him off.
McGonagall turned and started walking back to the castle. James and Sirius grabbed their bags and ran after her, knowing, from past experience, that she didn't like to be kept waiting.
Professor McGonagall was silent as she led the boys through the halls to her office. James had a sinking feeling that they had crossed a serious line today, and he knew that Sirius knew it to.
Once in the office, James and Sirius took the two uncomfortable wooden chairs in front of her desk, while McGonagall went and sat in her chair. She glared stonily at them over the rims of her square glasses.
"I never thought I would see the day when James Potter and Sirius Black became bullies. Pranksters, yes, but intentionally causing another student a trauma that would scar them for the rest of their lives… I am disgusted. Explain yourselves."
James and Sirius glanced at each other in dismay. There wasn't an explanation to give. They hadn't been provoked, they hadn't been defending someone's honour, and they couldn't make up a story because there were so many witnesses. The truth of the matter was that they had been bored, and it had seemed like harmless amusement. James had no idea how the whole affair had taken such a dark turn.
Professor McGonagall continued to stare at them in stony silence, waiting for their answer.
Finally, Sirius just said, "Sorry Professor."
McGonagall stared at him, until he started to fidget, having interpreted this to mean, quite correctly, that there was no explanation. All the way up to the castle, she had hoped against hope that there would be a good reason for the behaviour, but now…
She turned to James, waiting for him to speak. James gulped and adjusted his glasses, before saying, "We don't have an excuse for starting it."
"So you were going to undress the poor boy in front of all of Hogwarts because you had nothing better to do?" she asked in disbelief.
"No, I was going to undress him because he called Evans a–" James paused, having difficulty saying the word, "a you-know-what."
"No Potter, I don't 'know-what'."
"A – Well, um," James took a breath to steady himself. Who would have thought that it would be so hard to say that one damn word? "He called her–" He paused again.
"Mudblood. He called her a Mudblood." James shot a small, grateful smile at Sirius.
McGonagall's mouth tightened at the word. "That may be, but that does not, in any way, excuse your actions. Is that your only explanation?"
"Very well. One hundred points from Gryffindor house."
"One hundred points!" Sirius stared at her in disbelief.
"Each. And two months detention. Be grateful it isn't more. If Evans hadn't warned me to come down immediately, and I had found Severus stripped, you would both be expelled. I am giving you the benefit of the doubt, and believing that had I not come, you would have come to your senses and stopped yourselves."
The boys were silent for a moment, then Sirius asked, "Did you say two months of detention?"
McGonagall's lips tightened. "Yes, Mr. Black, I did."
"But, Professor," ventured James, "I don't mean to be disrespectful, but school ends in three days, and we have OWLs. I thought that teachers weren't allowed to give fifth and seventh year students detentions during exams, and anyways, we aren't here for two months."
"I know Mr. Potter. You will begin your detentions in September, and we will decide what they are at that point."
James and Sirius looked at each other in dismay. September was usually a clean slate and carrying over detentions would completely destroy that illusion.
"That is all. You may go."
"One hundred points Prongs!" Sirius hissed as soon as they were away from McGonagall's office. "And two months detention! The Gryffindors are gonna kill us! We were so close to the Puff's in house points. This'll drop us back behind Slytherin even!"
"I know, Sirius, I know. But there's nothing we can do about it."
"'Cept take the mickey outa Evans."
James stopped and glared at Sirius. "Don't you dare. I know she turned us in, but she's still, well, you know. And today has to have been hard for her anyways, with Snivelly going rouge, and she's probably really freaked about the Transfiguration O.W.L. tomorrow. She doesn't need us ribbing her for being a good Prefect."
"You call that being a good Prefect?" Sirius asked, incredulous, "Mooney's a good Prefect. He doesn't turn his mates in for a bit of harmless fun."
"That's just it though. We're not Evans's mates, and it wasn't really harmless. If we had actually, you know, stripped Snivellus, he would probably have been too embarrassed to ever show his face in public again."
"Then why the hell didn't we!?" James couldn't help grinning at that. "We would never have to see him again, he wouldn't be standing in between you and Evans anymore–"
"He may have taken care of that himself, when he called Evans the M word."
"True. But there's also a very, very, very good reason to permanently scar him."
"Oh ya? What's that?"
"If he never shows his face ever again he'll have a hard time being a Death Eater."
James's smile faded at the mention of the war. He grunted in response.
When Sirius and James walked into the dormitory, Remus was drilling Peter about Transfiguration facts. He didn't look up, but Peter jumped up quickly.
"What happened? Are you expelled? McGonagall looked furious!"
"No were not expelled, but we won't be alive for much longer either." Sirius said morosely.
"Why?" Peter asked, although James couldn't help noticing that he didn't really sound like particularly wanted to know.
"McGonagall took a hundred points each from Gryffindor as well as giving us two months of detention."
"You lost us two hundred points?" Peter exclaimed. "You're doomed!"
James grunted and stretched himself out on his bed. Remus looked up.
"Well, I'm more worried about the detentions. If they land on the full moon, my furry little problem might get out of hand. It can get out of the Shack on its own now."
James paled at the thought of a werewolf running around Hogwarts. Sirius and Peter looked none too pleased at the thought either.
"Well, we'll just have to skip those detentions and take the punishments."
"Can we talk about another issue now?" asked Sirius.
"Didn't know there was another issue, Padfoot."
"It's about a letter from my parents."
James nodded, pointed his wand at the door, and muttered "Muffliato".
"You all know that Mum's been hinting for weeks about a 'special surprise' that they're gonna give me when term ends, right? Well she finally gave it away, but I don't know whether or not she meant to."
"What d'you mean?" Peter looked thoroughly confused.
"Well she said something about how, since I was always aiming for the 'bad boy' reputation, she would finally allow me to get a 'very special tattoo' on my forearm."
James's eyes widened in shock, and there was an audible gasp from Remus. Peter still looked confused.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means they'll turn him Death Eater."
Peter stared at James, then Sirius, and then James again. If the situation hadn't been serious, his expression might have been comical. James broke the brief silence.
"What're you gonna to do?"
"Dunno. I can't just break out on my own, I don't have the money to live on and I'm still underage. But I can't exactly go home and become a Death Eater, either."
They all lapsed into silence again, trying to think of a way out of the situation.
"Well…" said Remus, slowly, "Mrs. Potter always said that you should spend a few weeks during the summer. If James wrote now, it might be arranged for you to spend the first weeks of the summer there. It will buy time to figure out a more permanent solution."
Sirius's face broke into a grin of relief.
"Moony, you're a genius! I'll write Mum now." James said, already pulling his school bag towards him and rifling around for some scrap parchment and a quill.
The note was scribbled hurriedly, and before long James was bounding down the steps to the Common Room, stuffing the Marauder's Map into his back pocket, grabbing his invisibility cloak, and slipping out into the hallway. Although it technically wasn't after hours yet, he didn't want to run into McGonagall.
At that thought, he paused and pulled out the Map, muttering "I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." Ink spiralled out from the point where his wand was touching the parchment, forming a detailed map of Hogwarts and forming the words, "Welcome, Mr. Prongs." James grinned and scanned the map quickly. After assuring himself that the Owlrey was empty and that McGonagall was safely in her office, he muttered "Mischief Managed" and stuffed the map back into his trousers pocket.
It didn't take James long to reach the Owlrey. He was half way up the stairs when he heard the sound of crying drifting down towards him. Not wanting to deal with tears, he slipped his cloak on over his head, and crept up the stairs quietly. As soon as the crying girl was in view, he froze.
"Look, Lily." Alice Payne said, blocking her friend from climbing down the stairs. "I know he meant a lot to you, but this is Severus Snape. Remember what he did to Mary in fourth year?"
"That wasn't Sev that was Mulciber. And you never understood my friendship with Sev. Now please move so I can go back to the Common Room."
"No, Lily, we need to talk about this. Look, I understood your friendship; I just really didn't like it. What I don't understand is the way you treated Potter today." James felt a little jolt at the mention of his name.
Lily glared at her. "I don't want to talk about that egotistical prick."
Alice glared back. "He stood up for you when Snivellus–"
"Don't call him that."
"You can't say that anymore because you called him Snivellus!"
Lily glared again.
"Potter tried to make Severus take back calling you a Mudblood."
"Last week when McDougal knocked into you in the hallway, and then laughed? Well he ended up in the Hospital Wing because Potter 'accidentally' flew to close to him in the Quidditch game and McDougal fell off his broom and broke his legs. Remember when Forrester cheated on you earlier this year? Well, he ended up going to St. Mungo's because of some undetermined mix of four invented hexes and none of the teachers could undo them. Mulciber and Avery have ended up Jinxed every time they called you Mudblood, and what happened to Malfoy back in third year, and what happened to Lestrange in second. And then there was also–"
"What's your point, Alice?" Lily asked, flushing slightly.
"What will it take for you to admit that James Potter loves you, that you love him, and that you two belong together?"
James could hardly believe what he was hearing. He'd had no idea that Alice approved so heartily of him.
Lily waited a long time before answering. "I don't love him Alice, let alone like him. He is stupid, arrogant, egotistical and a bully. I know that he has a noble streak; I've seen it when people threaten his friends, mostly Remus and Peter. But if Potter ever grows up and deflates that big head of his and stops hexing everyone just because he can, then I might consider going out with him. Now can you please move?!"
James pressed himself as close to the wall as he could to allow the girls walk past him and down the circular staircase. Only once they were out of sight did he remove the cloak and make his way into the Owlrey. He posted the letter as fast as he could and practically ran back to the dormitory.
"She said she'd go out with me!" he yelled as he burst through the door, startling Peter so much, he fell off the bed.
"Who is she, and how did you find out?" Remus asked.
"What?" yelped Sirius.
James grinned and told his dumbstruck audience about the conversation he had overheard on the staircase.
"Well, what're you gonna do?"
"I'll change. I'll turn into the man she wants me to be."
"It's not going to be easy Prongs."
"I know, but that's what I have you lot for, to help me."
Sirius grinned. "Sure, and whenever you start sinking into bad habits, we'll send a Stinging Hex your way!"
A/N: I would love it if you took one second and reviewed. You can write one word or one hundred, I just like hearing what you think!