CHAPTER 7

ESCAPE FROM THE SHREW

Potter Manor

Sixteen-year-old James Potter leaned forward on the railing, supporting his chin with his hand. He was standing in the balcony off his bedroom, enjoying the breathtaking view it afforded of the expansive grounds surrounding Potter Manor. The water in the lake glistened in the evening sunlight. Swans moved around lazily in the water. He could also spot a stag and a doe standing near the lake, drinking water. The two creatures were nuzzling each other affectionately. James smiled sadly as he watched them. It did not help his current predicament.

He stiffened suddenly when an arm wrapped around his shoulders, but relaxed almost immediately.

"What's bothering you?"

James stayed silent for several seconds. "I've fallen in love," he confessed softly.

Charlus chuckled. "That's great, Jamie! Who's the lucky girl?"

James snorted bitterly. "Her name is Lily Evans. She's the most amazing girl I have ever met. She's ... I don't know how to describe her. She's everything I could ever want in a girl and more. She's so perfect that I even find her faults to be endearing. She's beautiful, intelligent, funny, loyal, brave, passionate ..." His voice trailed off.

"Muggleborn?"

"Yes."

They stayed silent for a minute. "Is this the same girl you liked when you were twelve years old?" asked Charlus curiously.

"Uh huh. I think she actually liked me back then. But now ..."

"Why don't you tell me what happened."

James sighed in frustration as he ran his fingers through his messy black hair. "There's this guy at school named Severus Snape," he said quietly. "We met on the first train ride to Hogwarts. Sirius and I were talking about which House we would want to be in. Neither one of us wanted Slytherin because of Cousin Bella and the pureblood movement that was growing then. This was, of course, before there was an all-out war. I told Sirius that I wanted to be a Gryffindor like you."

Charlus smiled but did not comment.

"Then Snape sneered at us and made some lame arse comment and we got pissed. I never noticed his friend, but it was her; Lily. During the sorting that night, when I first saw her ... I didn't know what was happening to me, Dad! It was like my stomach was doing back flips. Whenever I used to talk to her, I made a fool out of myself and annoyed her. I do have to give her credit, she had a lot of patience for putting up with it. But at the end of first term I realised that Snape had a crush on Lily too."

Charlus whistled. "I guess that complicates matters."

James snorted. "You think? Snape and Lily were best friends and I was the outsider here. But Snape was hanging out with that crowd, if you know what I mean. You have no idea how many insults she has taken in the last five years she has been at Hogwarts. But you know the best part? If you meet her today, you will never believe that she is a Muggleborn. The way she has adapted to our society is absolutely amazing! I doubt I could have done it, really. Our juniors at Hogwarts are convinced that she is wizard-raised."

"Anyway, because of Snape, I couldn't really get her attention. I don't think Lily, even now, realises that Snape has feelings for her. So thinking that would help me, I started asking her out, made a fool out of myself in the process and – well, I guess I kept bugging her so that she would notice me."

"Didn't work out as you expected, huh?"

James chuckled. "No, it didn't," he admitted. "But it got worse just two days back."

Charlus listened to his son as James explained what happened. Twenty minutes later, they were still staring at the grounds. The silence was peaceful.

"Jamie, from what you have told me, it seems like young Miss Evans does not think too highly of you pranking people," observed Charlus.

"I guess," said James morosely. "I just wanted a laugh, that's all."

"You went way overboard with Snape two days ago. I never expected you be to be so cruel, James. What you did was wrong. I'm very disappointed in you."

"I know I went overboard. I ... I lost control. This was not the first time he had done something like this and what he said about Lily was the final straw. Five years of anger and frustration poured out of me. I just – snapped. Besides, that was not a prank, Dad. That was –"

"Revenge?"

"No. Justice. Justice for all those Muggleborns he attacked with his friends." Justice for what he tried to do to Remus. "Justice for what he said about Lily."

The older man looked at his young son curiously. "That's another way to look at things, I suppose," he admitted slowly. "But you have to come to terms with the fact that this girl, Lily, may never develop feelings for you."

Tears pricked the hazel eyes of the teenage boy. "But I love her," he whispered, his voice hoarse.

"I'm sorry, James," said Charlus softly. "But you cannot force someone to love you. You have to let it grow. It has to be mutual. If she has rejected your advances so many times –"

"But that was only because of Snape, she indirectly told me so!"

"What about what she said to you a few days ago?"

That shut him up. James deflated. Would Lily never love him back? He felt an ache in his chest as silent tears trickled down his face.

"I have a question for you," Charlus said after a pause. "If you love her, if you truly love her, would you accept it if she started dating this Snape boy, despite everything he has done? Would you let her go for her happiness or will you cling on to her for your selfishness?"

James thought for a minute. The very thought of losing Lily made him burn on the inside. He had loved her since the time he was eleven years old. For five years he had pined for her. Could he let her go? After what happened two days ago, he probably didn't have a choice. Lily would probably never speak to him again. The image of Lily and Snape together made his stomach clench painfully. Charlus tightened his hold on his son as James' form trembled due to silent sobs. After a lot of effort, he took deep, shaky breaths.

"If that was what she wanted, I wouldn't stand in her way," answered James, his voice cracking. "I would want her to be happy."

"And that's what makes you truly special," explained Charlus. "Don't sell yourself short, son. If she really is that special, you will win her heart."

James snorted. "I don't see that happening anytime soon," he confessed, wiping his tears away. "Maybe I should just give up."

"Don't say that. You're not the sort to give up, James. You didn't give up when you failed before, so why do you want to give up now? Don't you remember that when you were younger, you couldn't ever throw the Quaffle through the hoop? Did you give up then? No! You persevered for years to be the best Chaser you could be, and that's the reason Puddlemere and Montrose are after you. The same concept applies here. Don't quit when you're so close to the finish line! But at the same time, you might want to deflate your head a bit so that she finds you more appealing. Get to know her as a person. Try to befriend her instead of constantly asking her out. Don't give her hints of your feelings; that may put her off. Just talk to her as a friend and learn who she truly is. You'll be surprised how much it will benefit you in the future."

James looked at his father curiously. "Is that how you and Mum got together?"

Charlus laughed. "Actually, it was your mother who chased me," he admitted sheepishly. "I was quite shy around girls. It was quite a contrast to my loud, hot-headed personality. She apparently found it adorable the way I reacted whenever she spoke to me. Don't ever say I said so, but when I first spoke to her, I found her to be scary."

"You're kidding! How can you be scared of her? Mum looks harmless!"

"She may look small, but never underestimate her. There is a reason the I.C.W. chose her as the Head Unspeakable for the Britsih Department of Mysteries. Did I ever tell you what she did to Abraxas Malfoy in our sixth year?"

Father and son laughed as they re-entered James' bedroom and walked downstairs to find the third member of their family so that they could enjoy the evening together. By the next day, James was already in better spirits.

It was good to finally be home.

HP*A POTTER'S TRUE LOVE*HP

12, Grimmauld Place, London

"No."

Silence. Regulus stood still and silent, with his eyes closed. His right fist was clenched and he felt so vulnerable without his wand.

"What did you say?" screeched Walburga.

Regulus grimaced. He desperately wished that his father would come home soon. It was the second week back home after the second term had ended and Orion Black had recently gone to France for a business venture. Walburga, knowing that she couldn't force her way with her husband around, had taken the opportunity to talk to Sirius and Regulus.

And even before that talk, she had than away both their wands.

"I will not join the Death Eaters," said Sirius coldly. "I'm sorry, Mother, but I never thought you wanted your sons to become murderers. Do you take pleasure in seeing so many corpses on the front page of the Daily Prophet?"

Walburga scoffed. "They're just Muggles and Mudbloods. Who cares about them? What use are they to society?"

"So you're asking me to forget all my values and bow down in front of a monster who wants to exterminate one-fifth of the country's population?" hissed Sirius. "You want me to hunt down and kill my own classmates? My roommates? Are you forgetting that they're witches and wizards too?"

"How far you've fallen," she sneered. "My son is actually a champion for those filthy Mudbloods, such a disgrace on –"

"– such a distance on the House of Black," spat Sirius bitterly. "Yes, I know. But on one day a year when I receive my report card from school and you find out that I've done quite well, you show off as though I'm your pride and joy. And the rest of the days, I'm nothing but filth who is not worthy enough to be your son. I'm sorry to say that you're not worthy enough to be my mother either."

SLAP!

Regulus rushed to his brother whose right cheek was red and stinging. Walburga looked furious and Sirius looked at his mother with as much hate as he could muster. No matter how much she had tormented him over the years, she had never raised her hand to him before. But she was not done. There was a flash of light and Sirius was screaming as a non-verbal torture curse was placed on him.

"Mother, please!" shouted Regulus. "If you're so insistent on it, I'll join the Dark Lord, but stop – just stop this madness."

Walburga smiled. "I knew you would understand, Regulus," she said. "You're my good son."

"Regulus, no!" said Sirius angrily. "Mother, don't you dare force him to join Voldemort! Have you lost your mind? How stupid are you? The man is not only killing Muggles and Muggleborns, but he is exterminating entire pureblood lines! Caradoc Dearborn is a pureblood! His entire family was wiped out!"

"They were blood-traitors!" sneered Walburga.

Sirius was horrified. "Since when did that term come into being?" he cried in exasperation. "So you say that Muggles are filth. Fine. You claim that Muggleborns are not worth it. Alright. You say halfbloods are beneath us. Okay. Then you look down upon purebloods who do not support your cause and call them blood-traitors. How many are you willing to kill for a complete pureblood society? A Hundred? Thousand? Ten thousand? A hundred thousand? Why not completely eradicate all the witches and wizards in Magical Britain? Or maybe even kill tens of millions of witches and wizards all over the world? That's what Voldemort is going to do! Have you no shame? We're your children! Not cannon fodder!"

Walburga looked at Sirius coldly. "Regulus, leave the room," she ordered.

"No!" said Regulus defiantly, glaring at his mother hatefully.

"Kreacher!"

The aged house-elf popped in front of her. "You called, Mistress?" he croaked.

"Take Regulus up to his room and do not let him out until dinner."

Kreacher grabbed the teenager and disappeared. Sirius was looking at his mother with barely concealed disgust.

"This is your last chance, Sirius," said Walburga. "Join the Dark Lord, or face my wrath."

"Never," whispered Sirius. He doubled over in pain as another torture curse impacted him. If this was bad, he wondered how infinitely worse the Cruciatus Curse would be. He found out in just a few seconds.

HP*A POTTER'S TRUE LOVE*HP

"Father, you have to come back here, quickly," cried Regulus in panic. "Mother has gone mad! She's torturing Sirius and forcing him to join the Death Eaters."

Orion Black's expression hardened as he looked at his son through the mirror. "I'll be there in thirty minutes, Regulus," he said and cut the connection.

The younger son the Black family paced in his large room, his nails digging into the flesh of his palms. He didn't even have his wand because his mother had seen fit to take it away! When had his mother become this insane? She certainly hadn't been like this when they were growing up!

He prayed to Merlin that his brother was alright.

HP*A POTTER'S TRUE LOVE*HP

Sirius sobbed as he collapsed on his bed. His form was trembling due to the Cruciatus exposure and he couldn't control his emotions. How could his mother do that to him? All in the name of blood purity! He was her son! The child she had given birth to! Had she finally gone insane?

He remembered that while she had never been a nice woman, she did treat him well when he was a child. But when he was about eight years old, things started to go wrong ... so horribly wrong.

He needed to get out this damn house. But first, he needed his wand. Kreacher wouldn't help him. That blasted elf hated him and the feeling was mutual. But so what? There were other house-elves he could summon.

"Floppy!"

The female elf popped in front of him. "What can Floppy do for Master Sirius?"

"Floppy could you please find my wand? Mother seems to have hidden it somewhere," said Sirius desperately.

"Yes Master," said Floppy. She disappeared and after several seconds, appeared with his wand in hand.

"Thank you," he breathed. "Ahem, please find Regulus' wand too and give it to him, will you? Also, tell him I said sorry. Tell him not to worry about me and that I would be staying with family. He'll understand. That's all."

The elf bowed and disappeared. Sirius flicked his wand as he began packing all this stuff. His multi-compartment trunk opened and everything he thought he would need zoomed into the three compartments. With another flick, he it decreased in size until he could carry it in his pocket. Muttering spells under his breath, he finally got his bedroom door open.

Sirius thought he heard voices in the drawing room. Not wanting to see if it was someone else in the family, he quickly walked to the entrance hall, grabbed a pinch of Floo power and stepped inside the ornate granite fireplace.

Orion Black entered the house exactly when he heard his son saying, "Potter Manor," as Sirius disappeared in a flash of green flames.

The patriarch of the Black family pursed his lips as he moved deeper into the house. He entered the opulent drawing room, only to see his wife talking to his niece, the newly married Bellatrix Lestrange.

"Bellatrix," said Orion, startling both women. "I need to speak to my wife in private. Leave."

The new Mrs Lestrange swallowed slightly as she saw the expression on her uncle's face. It was quite scary. Not wanting to annoy the obviously irate Head of House Black, she quickly said, "Yes, Uncle Orion," and made her way to the entrance hall. Orion felt the wards register that she had Flooed back home.

"What is it, Orion?" said Walburga angrily.

Orion's knuckles tightened. Throwing one last glare at his wife, he climbed up the stairs two at a time and opened the door to Regulus' room.

"Did she use the Cruciatus Curse?" he asked his youngest without preamble.

"I don't know," muttered Regulus angrily. "She took away my wand and locked me in my room! She's gone insane!"

"I can see that," said Orion darkly. "Come with me, Regulus, I need your help."

Walking to the basement of the townhouse where the wardstone was kept, Orion carefully whispered the various passwords and pressed the necessary runes to enter. This townhouse was purchased after he and Walburga had gotten married. At that time, he had layered every brick of the house with a bevy of protective charms and enchantments, many of which were not legal. Of course, no one would dare oppose Orion Black and his father Arcturus if they wanted to live. Finally, his hard work would pay off.

He wondered what had happened to his wife. She certainly was not the woman he had married in his youth.

"The Black containment ritual," said Orion. "Ready?"

"Ready," whispered Regulus.

"Now."

Father and son began chanting as the wardstone glowed. Ten minutes later, Regulus was still chanting while Orion was busy changing the runes on the ward script. Five minutes later, they stopped, breathing heavily.

"Ahem, Father, you should know that –"

"– Sirius ran away? Yes, I know. I heard him activate the Floo when I arrived. He's at Potter Manor. I've already alerted Dorea."

Regulus nodded. "Go to your room, son," Orion said softly. "I need to talk to your mother."

Entering the drawing room once more, Orion sneered at his wife. "I never thought you would stoop so low," he spat. "Torturing your own son? Oh, how far you have fallen!"

"Don't act so mighty, Orion," snapped Walburga. "What about you? The ever-absentee father? You have no right to complain!"

"At least I never tortured my son!" thundered Orion. "You are clearly lost in the head if you were able to do that. Didn't your magic react when you tortured Sirius? I can't ever imagine such a thing happening to anyone else! You truly are a heartless bitch."

He interrupted her. "Sirius won't be coming back to this house. He's already left. Thanks to you, our oldest son, the heir of the Black family, has run away from home. But what you should know is that from this day forward, you will be confined to this house. Regulus and I have performed the containment ritual. You will not be able to step out of this house – ever. And I would strongly advice against trying. You will not be alive long enough to reach your destination."

Ignoring her scream of denial, Orion entered his study and slammed the door shut. He flicked his wand and poured himself a glass of Firewhisky. He sighed deeply and closed his eyes. What a day.

HP*A POTTER'S TRUE LOVE*HP

James sat in the informal drawing room at Potter Manor as he held his best friend who was crying on his shoulder, still trembling from what had happened. Dorea was tending to his injuries as she muttered under her breath.

"Padfood, everything will be fine," said James, but his voice cracked. He looked at his parents for support but they too looked shocked at what was happening. Suddenly, they saw a patronus enter the room. It dissolved as the message seeped into Dorea's mind. She finally calmed down.

"Sirius," she said patiently. "Sirius, don't worry. We won't make you go back there. In fact, you're father has given you permission to stay here for the rest of the holidays."

"I don't care," sobbed Sirius, still not releasing his death-grip on James. "I just can't take it anymore! For so many years, he did nothing and stood by as Mother constantly berated me and put me down. Now, when I needed him the most, he wasn't there! What kind of mother tortures her son with the Cruciatus Curse?!"

Charlus took a deep breath. He was boiling mad, but he had to keep his emotions in check. From the corner of his eye, he could see that his wife was enraged too. "James, take Sirius to one of the guest bedrooms. I'll send Sally with a few specific potions. Give it to him and put him to bed. We'll talk tomorrow."

James nodded as he helped his friend get up. The two of them slowly walked up the stairs to the second floor. He led Sirius to the room next to his own. After giving him the potions, he tucked his friend in bed and quietly walked back to his room, very grateful that his family wasn't as dysfunctional as the House of Black. He may have grown up isolated and lonely, but his parents loved him unconditionally. That was infinitely better than having Walburga Black as a mother.

No one could beat Dorea Potter when it came to being a mother. No one. At least not in his mind.

HP*A POTTER'S TRUE LOVE*HP

It took quite a few days for Sirius to recover from the trauma inflicted by his mother. He was quiet and morose, but after he received a mirror call from Regulus, he seemed to feel better. The three Potters tried their best to cheer him up. Charlus even bought tickets to the Puddlemere United game so that Sirius would be distracted.

Finally, Dorea decided to broach the subject now that her nephew was calm.

"Your father has locked your mother in the house," said Dorea quietly. "He's erected the Black containment ward. I assume you're familiar with the ritual?"

Sirius nodded quietly, still shocked that his father had actually done it. He knew that the entire incident would be kept secret within the family, and that there was no chance of Walburga being sent to Azkaban. Such things did not happen, as the Blacks tended to manage their own family affairs. Besides, their reputation was at stake and the name of the House of Black could not be tarnished! Hadn't he already been so hurt, Sirius would have felt nice to know that Orion Black had actually taken a stand for once instead of ignoring what was going on in his own home. He had erected the Black containment ward – a deadly piece of dark magic that was invented by one of his ancestors, a witch named Amalthea Black. If Walburga ever tried to leave Grimmauld Place, even to visit her parents and siblings at Black Manor, she would be dead within seconds. She would remain in the house until the day she died.

"Grandfather Pollux is going to hate me for this," cringed Sirius. "He and Grandmother Irma never liked me much, and I'm pretty sure Bellatrix had something to do with that. Grandfather Arcturus and Grandmother Melania treat me a lot better. At least they're genuinely fond of me."

Dorea snorted. "My brother never really got his priorities right," she said bitterly, remembering instances from her own life. Stupid idiot. "Don't worry about Pollux and Irma. Orion and Arcturus will take care of it. It's better that you're here, to be honest. From personal experience, I know that Black family drama can last a while."

She saw that he still looked troubled.

"No one is going to force you to join the Death Eaters, Sirius," she continued softly. "I know that Orion hasn't been the best father to you, but he does care about you and your brother. Regulus will be safe. He has a good head on his shoulders. Trust him."

"I know," said Sirius quickly. "I've never doubted Regulus, but with all those people in Slytherin poisoning his mind ..."

"That's why you have us. Do you think we would let something like that happen? Your father did consult a Healer and yes, Walburga does have a psychological condition. Otherwise she, as your mother, couldn't have tortured you like that. Her magic wouldn't have allowed it."

The teenage boy swallowed as he let her collect him in a warm hug.

"Don't worry, Sirius," said Dorea comfortingly. "I'm here for you. Uncle Charlus and James are here for you. You're part of our family."

Sirius choked as his emotions got the best of him. His parents never hugged him. Walburga had always scoffed at it, not wanting to baby him and Regulus, but this felt so good. He felt so warm and protected in her embrace and he vowed to himself that from this day forward, he would consider this woman as his mother. Not the one who had given birth to him.

"Thanks, Aunt Dorea. I love you."

"I love you too, Sirius."

HP*A POTTER'S TRUE LOVE*HP

1st September, 1971

Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, Sixth Year

Lily Evans once more bid her parents goodbye and rushed through the barrier. The rest of the holidays had been unpleasant because Petunia had done everything possible to make her life miserable. It was quite petty, really. Stealing her hair clip, stealing her shoes, stealing her makeup, loudly talking about Vernon, going on dates with Vernon, talking about how she had a boyfriend and Lily didn't, and of course, constantly saying how freaks like Lily would end up alone in life.

It was so immature. Lily wondered if she should conjure a crocodile in Petunia's room next summer so as to make her sister stop pestering her. It would certainly be effective.

Even though she had written to her friends constantly during the summer, Lily still felt lonely. More than anyone she missed the one person she didn't think she would miss at all.

She missed James. He was constantly plaguing her dreams, tantalizing her. The dreams were also becoming more steamy and hot, with her and James doing things she would never mention to anyone. But the problem was that she couldn't get James Potter out of her mind.

Lily had also promised herself that she would accept James' request to go on a date after she apologised to him. He deserved at least one chance. With that in mind, she entered the perfects' carriage and waited. After five minutes, much to her disappointment, James never came. Sighing in resignation, she walked down the magically expanded isle of the train when she ran into –

"Lily!" squeaked Alice in happiness. "I missed you!"

She couldn't help but smile as she hugged her best friend back. Marlene was grinning at her and Mary was also smiling shyly as usual.

"I missed you too," she said genuinely.

"So, where's your man?" asked Marlene, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.

Lily blushed as she stammered that she hadn't seen him. Just as they turned, however, Lily crashed into someone's chest.

"Oof!" she said, but strong arms wrapped around her waist to keep her from falling.

"Wow, careful there," said James in a low voice. He smiled slightly, drinking in her features, noting that she had only gotten more beautiful during the summer they had been apart.

"James," gasped Lily, her face heating up as he pulled her upright. He let go of her at once.

"Hello, ladies!" said Sirius loudly. "Never fear, for Sirius Black is here!"

"I dare you to do it," whispered Mary. "You did promise to try."

"Fine," muttered Marlene angrily. She plastered a flirty smile on her face as she moved forward and grabbed Sirius. "Hello, sexy boy," she whispered. "How're you doing?"

With that, she gave him a kiss on the lips and pinched his bum. "I can't wait for us to get to know each other," whispered Marlene in his ear because winking at him. "Come on guys, let's find a compartment."

Sirius was looking at Marlene's retreating back strangely. He was deep in thought as he looked through the various compartments, no doubt to search for his friends. James moved to follow him, but Lily held him back. He looked at her in surprise

"James, I wanted to apologise."

"For what?" frowned James.

"For what I said to you on the day of our Defence O.W.L.," said Lily quietly. "I was wrong and completely out of line. Marlene told me what happened with Severus and Malfoy. Thank you for wanting to save my dignity and I'm really sorry that I called you an arrogant toerag. That's not how I think of you at all."

James smiled and Lily felt butterflies in her stomach.

His first instinct was to flirt with her and ask her out, but James remembered his father's advice. He still didn't know if Lily even liked him, let alone loved him back, so he decided to take things slow. Maybe being her friend would give him an idea of how to win her heart. His goal was to make her fall in love with him by the time they left Hogwarts. Thankfully, he still had two years for that. If she wasn't interested in him even after two years ... then James would just have to admit defeat and nurse his broken heart. He sincerely hoped it never came to that.

"I'm glad to hear that, Lily. You know that I wouldn't let anyone insult you like that and get away with it. I'm sorry too. I guess I did go overboard with Snape and I apologise for my part in wreaking your friendship with him." Though I'm not sorry it ended.

Lily blinked in surprise at the response. Where's the corny pick-up line? Where's the invitation to Hogsmeade? What was going on here? She watched him leave, looking confused and disappointed.

HP*A POTTER'S TRUE LOVE*HP

"She pinched my butt," blurted out Sirius as they finally sat down. "She called me sexy boy."

"And what's so special about that?" inquired James. "You've done a lot more with girls than just get pinched in the butt!"

"Yeah, but this is Marlene MacKionnon! The Queen of Gryffindor! And I was supposed to approach her this year, not the other way around!"

James, Remus and Peter chuckled as they watched Sirius stare blankly into the distance, confused by Marlene's behaviour.

"I never thought the man-whore Sirius Black would freak out if a girl threw herself at him," said Remus conversationally.

"Man-whore?" said Sirius, looking horrified. He paused and shrugged. "Yeah, that sounds about right. What about you, Prongs? Evans was quite on to you!"

James shook his head. "I'm not asking her out again."

"You're giving up on her?" squeaked Peter in surprise.

"NO! But I'm not going to keep pestering her about it. I want to be her friend first and then see what happens."

Sirius already knew this, but decided to have a little fun, having been planning this moment for weeks. He cleared his throat. "The Marauder Supreme Court is being called into session for the betrayal of one Mr Prongs for violating the terms of the Marauder Constitution. He has betrayed his manliness and wussed out because he's chicken. I, Mr Padfoot, demand justice!"

James' jaw dropped in shock as tight ropes bound him.

"The prosecutor is Mr Padfoot. The adjudicator is Mr Moony."

"Mr Womtail would like to seek your permission, Your Honour, to be Mr Prongs' defence," said Peter.

"Granted," said Remus.

"But –"

"Mr Prongs, speak only through your defence attorney!" snapped Remus. "Or you will be automatically adjudicated guilty!"

James shut his mouth. Remus cleared his throat. "Your case, Mr Padfoot."

Sirius stood up gracefully and flicked his wand in an elaborate motion. The compartment they were sitting in expanded to three times its size. A large intricate 'M' appeared on the wall as Sirius began pacing.

"Your Honour," began Sirius seriously. "We, the prosecution, feel that Mr Prongs has not upheld the values of being a Marauder. We demand that he be immediately adjudicated guilty!"

"Objection!" said Peter, standing up. "The Defence wants to hear the reason for why Mr Wormtail's client, Mr Prongs, has been dragged to court!"

"Objection sustained!" ruled Remus. "Answer the question, Mr Padfoot."

"Mr Prongs has always had an unhealthy obsession with young Miss Evans –"

"Wait a minute!" cried James.

"Mr Prongs, this is your last warning!" thundered Remus. "Speak only through your attorney!"

"My apologies, Mr Moony."

"That's Your Honour to you!"

"Mr Wormtail would like to apologise for his client's rude behaviour," bowed Peter. "We request the prosecution, Mr Padfoot, to continue."

"Ahem," said Sirius, clearing his throat fashionably. "Mr Prongs' unhealthy obsession with Miss Evans –"

"Mr Wormtails raises an objection, Your Honour," said Peter. "We would like to point out that Mr Prongs truly loves Miss Evans and hence it cannot be termed as an obsession."

"Objection overruled!"

"Mr Prongs has been pining for Miss Evans for five years now," said Sirius with relish. "He has used his manliness to uphold the greatest principles of being a Marauder as he pranked and annoyed Miss Evans and used the best pick-up lines to woo her. Unfortunately –"

"Mr Wormtail would like to interrupt Mr Padfoot and request Mr Moony to remember this point raised by the prosecution that Mr Prongs has been an outstanding Marauder for five years. I submit this as 'Exhibit A.'"

James rolled his eyes.

"Accepted. Continue, Mr Padfoot."

Sirius threw a filthy look at Peter. "Now, however, Mr Prongs wants to give up his manliness and all the values of the Marauders stand for by befriending Miss Evans instead of courting her. This is a violation of Section 10, subsection 5, clause 20 of the Marauder Constitution that came into effect on the 1st of September two years ago with retrospective effect. The violation for any rule in the constitution is the standard punishment."

"Mr Wormtail likes to add that his client would plead guilty for a lesser punishment."

"Wormy, what are you doing?" cried James. "I never accepted this charge in the first place!"

"You should listen to Mr Womtail, Mr Prongs," said Remus. "Your attorney knows best."

"I rest my case, Mr Moony," said Sirius, bowing mockingly.

Remus cleared his throat, adjusting his – frankly ridiculous – conjured reading glasses, as he announced, "Based on the evidence submitted to this court, I hereby adjudicate Mr Prongs guilty of treason!"

"What?" shouted James. "This is an outrage! A scandal! This is a kangaroo court! I demand a fair trial!"

"This is the supreme court, Mr Prongs! There is no higher court. The punishment, of course, would be the standard punishment as per Section 69 of the Marauder Constitution."

"But my attorney asked for leniency!"

"The constitution only allows for one type of punishment, Mr Prongs," said Remus sharply. "And that is the standard punishment which will be executed tonight."

"Bugger," whispered James. "I'm so screwed tonight."

"If you're lucky, maybe literally," Sirius snickered, his eyes twinkling with mirth.