James Potter heard the voice of his cousin, Fred Weasley the second, who had bolted the second he heard the familiar "miaow" of Filch's old cat and was already out of sight around a corner. James himself took off, it would not do to be caught at the scene of THIS crime, and he definitely didn't want to be caught at night by the unpleasant old caretaker whose idea of fun was to threaten students with expulsion or even hanging by their ankles in his dingy old office. James had been in Filch's office on numerous occasions and knew that Filch did indeed keep a wide selection of uninviting looking rusty chains in a corner, and he certainly had no wish to become better acquainted with them.
As James ran the portraits he passed called out to him, berating him for waking them up with the noise his shoes made as they hit the cold stone floor, noise that reverberated and amplified as it echoed through the dungeons. When he reached the spiral staircase outside the potions classroom, James ducked into a corner and stopped for breath for a minute. Where had Fred disappeared to? As James pondered this question, he felt a gnarled hand clench his shoulder, and heard the familiar wheezing voice.
Oh bollocks, thought James, as he was dragged away by a furious Argus Filch, Mrs. Norris following in their wake looking extremely smug.
At breakfast the next day, James was laughing.
"So there I was, running like heck, when I stop for a breather and Filch catches me," he said to Louis and Lucy the next day, as Fred listened in. Lucy gasped.
"Did he give you detention? Did he set his cat on you? Did he..." she gulped, "Turn you into a ferret overnight?" James laughed.
"Nah, nothing that bad, he just wrote to my parents," he said, leaning backwards on his seat and ruffling his hair.
"Are you not worried about that?" Louis asked, taking a bite of a croissant. "I wouldn't want Filch to write to my parents..." Lucy nodded in agreement.
"That's because Auntie Fleur always overreacts," James yawned. "As does Uncle Percy. No, I'm not worried. My dad was in trouble pretty much every day he was at Hogwarts, I've seen his name in Filch's files before when Filch was looking for my folder. As for you, Fred," he said, "I've seen an entire shelf dedicated to your dad and Uncle Fred. They seem to have been legendary in their time..."
James was cut off at that moment by the post arriving, as owls of every shape and colour descended from the roof to individual people sitting at tables. James looked up, expecting to see his tawny owl, Merca, with this month's Quibbler. Sure enough, he spotted Merca, but instead of carrying a large, brightly decorated magazine, there was a bright red envelope tied to the tawny owl's leg. Fred seemed to have noticed this fact too.
"A howler? Fantastic!" he said gleefully, as James scowled at him.
"Crap. Oh well, at least you're going down with me," James pointed out, as the smile was wiped off Fred's face. Merca landed by James' goblet of pumpkin juice, sticking out his leg dutifully. James untied the crimson envelope, which had started to smoke, and opened it. Immediately, the sound of his mother's voice filled the Great Hall.
"JAMES SIRIUS POTTER!" the howler shrieked. James rolled his eyes as everyone in the hall turned towards the Gryffindor table and fixed their eyes on him. "WHAT ON EARTH WERE YOU THINKING LETTING A NIFFLER LOOSE IN THE SLYTHERIN COMMON ROOM?" James couldn't help it, he just started sniggering, and a sideways glance revealed to him that Fred was also clutching his sides. The Slytherin table scowled at him, and looking around James could see that the Gryffindors at least were wearing grins.
The howler continued, and Ginny's voice once again echoed through the Great Hall. "YOUR FATHER AND I ARE VERY DISAPPOINTED IN YOU," James thought he could hear the faint sound of his father's muffled laughter coming from the envelope. "WE HAVE BROUGHT YOU UP TO BE RESPECTFUL OF OTHERS, SO TO HEAR OF YOU DELIBERATELY VANDALISING THE QUARTERS OF WHAT I'M SURE ARE SOME VERY NICE PEOPLE..." James stuck his tongue out at the Slytherin table, "IS APPALLING, QUITE FRANKLY. AND AS FOR YOU, FRED," the howler continued, as Fred jumped. "I REALISE I CAN'T SPEAK FOR YOUR PARENTS, BUT AS THEY SEEM TO BE UNWILLING TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT THIS, I'LL BE THE ONE TO SAY THAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER.
"JAMES, IF I EVER HEAR OF YOU PULLING ANOTHER PRANK LIKE THIS YOUR FATHER AND I WILL CANCEL THAT DISCOUNT CARD YOUR UNCLE GEORGE GAVE YOU TO HIS SHOP."
"Well, if that's the worst of it, I think I got off pretty lightly," James said, only for the howler to flare up a final time.
"YOU KNOW PERFECTLY WELL THAT YOU OUGHT TO BE SETTING A GOOD EXAMPLE TO ROXANNE, SO I'M ASHAMED OF THE PAIR OF YOU. PARTICULARLY YOU, FRED." Over on the Ravenclaw table, Fred's little sister sunk a few inches in her seat. "Oh, and Lily, darling," Ginny's voice suddenly became calm as she addressed her daughter. "Please keep an eye on your brother? Al, this goes for you too."
And with that, the red envelope burst into flames, depositing a pile of ashes by James' plate. Slowly, the students in the hall started talking again, and when everybody had stopped staring at James, he spoke again.
"I still think that could have gone a whole lot worse," he said, grinning. "What did you do with that other niffler, Fred?"