A Girl Can Only Take So Much Dairy…
the power of a single incident when it comes to inciting violence.’
- Rufus Publius, ‘The Rules of Engagement’ 96 B.C.E.
As she exited the Astronomy classroom Kate Stellar heaved her bag higher onto her shoulder and used her left hand to cover the enormous yawn stretching down her face. Slightly guilty for having napped through Professor Sinistra’s lesson, she was nevertheless glad to have finally gotten a bit of rest. Sleep had been impossible the night before thanks to the cacophony of noise drifting up from the Gryffindor common room. Even if she could have shut out the patchy rhythm of thuds and bangs, the occasional earsplitting shouts would have prevented any peace from settling in. But she knew from personal experience that getting out of bed and stomping down the stairs to demand that they lay off their obnoxious game of Chocolate Frog Frisbee would do nothing to intimidate the Marauders. In fact, it would probably just encourage them to increase the volume. So instead of wasting her breath telling them off, she had stuffed her head beneath her pillow, fervently hoping that they ran out of the enchanted sweets sometime before dawn. There was some comfort in knowing that the rest of Gryffindor Tower was probably lying awake hoping exactly the same thing.
The noise had gone on and on, and Kate had dozed fitfully until they were finally out of either Chocolate Frogs or room in their stomachs. That happy event didn’t occur until nearly three in the morning – and even then, they weren’t quiet about getting to bed. Kate couldn’t imagine spending hours hurling sweets into the air and seeing which of her friends could catch them in their mouths before the animating charm wore off. Aside from the fact that it probably wasted loads of perfectly nice chocolates, it was bound to make you sick. That was probably why James had stopped by her desk on his way out of Astronomy and informed her that the afternoon quidditch training session was off. Except he had looked rather gleeful – not as though he was suffering stomach pains at all. And then he had muttered something about water balloons.
Kate honestly didn’t care why he had canceled – just that he had. It was the first time in her life she was excited at the prospect of not playing quidditch, and she blamed the new feeling entirely on the fact that she was nearly asleep on her feet. Which was, of course, the Marauders’ fault anyway. Kate, generally preferring a life without melodramatics, had honestly tried to remain ambivalent toward the four boys. It had proved impossible. On a daily basis, it was Black and Potter who annoyed her most. The other two she could generally avoid, but not Black and Potter – noooo her luck would never be that good. They were so obnoxiously arrogant, not to mention annoyingly smug and condescending. Unfortunately, Kate had to admit that such behaviour was the result of the fact that they succeeded wildly at everything they did. School? They had top marks without ever seeming to study. Sport? They barely needed to train. Friends? They enjoyed near-universal adoration. Girlfriends? Black went through them like single-use shampoos. As for Potter…well, that was possibly his one and only failing. But that might also have something to do with the fact that Potter was only interested in Lily Evans – who would rather face off a dragon armed only with a hairbrush and a feather duster than date him.
The situation between those two was a bit like the one between the chicken and the egg: Did Lily loathe Potter because he loved her, or did Potter love Lily because she loathed him? And which came first? No one could definitively say when Lily swore she would rather die than date Potter, just as no one knew precisely when Potter swore to successfully woo Lily or die trying. The only thing anyone could agree on was the ‘dying’ part. Wagers were made daily on who would do the other in first – Kate had heard that the betting pool was now up to three thousand some odd galleons laid out in a spread so complicated the quidditch bookies wouldn’t touch it. Privately she hoped that neither Potter nor Lily came out victorious – she hoped they did one another in and saved everyone else the trouble. Killing two birds with one stone, to Kate’s mind. It would rid the quidditch side of one very cocky (if very skilled) seeker, and rid the Gryffindor girls’ seventh of one very neurotic (if generally nice) Head Girl.
Just that morning Lily had lost her head over something Claire had left lying in the floor. (Mind you, this was after Lily had made as much noise as possible getting out of bed and making her way to the loos to use up all the hot water in the showers.) It was one thing for Lily to keep her things organised and sorted and cross-referenced by use, but did she have to push her habits on everyone else? Not that Kate cared for Claire – quite the opposite, actually. It was possible that Kate liked Claire even less than she liked Lily, but there were times (that morning, for instance) when the race was too close to call. One thing, however, was certain: she didn’t enjoy living with either one of them.
Perhaps the only thing anyone in the Gryffindor girls’ seventh dormitory had in common was a general dislike of the other people living there. Unlike their male counterparts in the boys’ seventh (who were so tightly bonded they had invented a sodding name for themselves) the girls preferred to spend as little time together as possible. As all of them had close friends in other houses, it worked out well enough. Lily’s best mate was, predictably, in Ravenclaw, and the two of them spent most of their time in the library or some teacher’s office, tutoring those that weren’t naturally academic overachievers. Claire was never far from Alexia Holt, who was in Slytherin (she was admittedly nicer than most of her housemates, which wasn’t saying much, but… credit where credit is due). As for Kate, she could most often be found with Jack Statham, a Hufflepuff who made up for his lack of natural athletic ability by being absolutely mad about sport. Jack was a stocky barrel of a lad whose greatest ambition in life was to be a newspaperman who covered nothing but quidditch. He had an easy smile and an open mind, and never told Kate that sport was for lads, not ladies. Their relationship was strictly platonic, and Kate had never had even a thought about changing that. Neither had Jack. It was everyone else who assumed they must be dating. Stupid gits.
As afternoon training was cancelled, Kate rather thought she might see if Jack fancied a jog round the lake. The weather was still nice, and if Kate couldn’t be flying on a broomstick, she’d have to settle for moving as fast as her own two feet could carry her. Not a very long jog, though, she conceded as she stifled another yawn and mentally cursed the Marauders for keeping her up into the wee hours with their stupid games.
Tapping up the staircase into the third floor corridor, Kate wrinkled her nose as she caught a definite whiff of something foul. Cheese she sneered, pulling a disgusted face. Of all dairy products, it was by far her least favourite, which was saying something. She was ambivalent towards ice cream, tolerated milk, and suffered through yogurt when forced. But nothing could make her eat cheese. She hated it. Loathed it. Despised it. She was renowned in her family for her ability to embark on a five minute diatribe at the first mention of a nice baked brie.
Cheese was also, incidentally, another reason she disliked the Marauders. For some reason they were obsessed with it. Especially the short, fat one. Peter Pettigrew. He constantly consumed it – cheese on toast, cheese sandwiches, cheese sauce, cheese cubes... Kate had even seen him produce a block of Sharpe English Cheddar in the middle of a Transfiguration lesson. He had simply reached into his bag, drawn out a parcel the size of a brick, and calmly begun to slice off bits to pop into his mouth when Professor McGonogall wasn’t looking. Kate had nearly gagged just watching him.
But cheese wasn’t just a food where the Marauders were concerned. Oh no, any solid, chuckable object became a weapon in their hands, and somehow Kate always seemed to get suck in the middle when it was cheese that was being tossed about. The first time it had happened had been back in third year when Pettigrew had been nibbling on an enormous chunk of the stuff as he sat in front of the Gryffindor fire. Sirius Black had nicked it from him, and then Potter had nicked it from him and all the while dumpy little Pettigrew was leaping about, trying to get his snack back. It was Remus Lupin, however, who charmed the cheese so that it had a mouth. It had all been fun and games when the cheese was biting Potter and Black, but then somehow, as though it sensed her aversion to it, the cheese had gone for Kate. The charm was out of control – nothing could stop it. Not that anyone besides Kate tried too, mind you. The Marauders all found the rabid cheese hilarious, even more so because it was now after someone else. The cheese had chased her round and round the common room, even up the stairs and into the dormitory. She had finally managed to beat it off (quite literally) with her broomstick.
She could freely admit that was the moment her dislike for the four boys turned to an odd sort of simmering hatred. Until then Potter and Black had been mildly annoying, Lupin ignorable and Pettigrew downright forgettable. But once they let the cheese attack her…it was all over. And Pettigrew was the worst. She couldn’t stand him – or Lupin, either, because it was his fault the cheese had been able to bite. And they never apologised – not once, not even indirectly, not even Potter or Black who had to work with her on the quidditch pitch. Her opinion was cemented: they were despicable, arrogant bastards who had no compunction about attacking people with dairy byproducts. She loathed them. All four of them and their horrid propensity for pranks. For several weeks she had been unable to abide being near any of them, which had made for hard going during training sessions, but after a month or two without any further altercations she was lulled into peace again, and though she never got over the incident, she managed to tolerate their presence
And then it happened again, in fifth year, this time when Black transfigured legs and arms onto Peter’s cheese sandwich during lunch. It had, of course, been a harmless joke, the sandwich singing and dancing across Gryffindor table, nothing more than a clever bit of spellwork that was shouting insulting lyrics at the boy who had been about to consume it. But then it had turned nasty. Peter badly botched his attempt to de – animate his lunch, and mutated the limbed sandwich into something horrific – something with teeth and claws and beady eyes. Something that smelled strongly of Gouda. Desperate to get away from the repulsive blob of disfigured food that was now directly in front of her, Kate had scrambled off the bench and back a pace or two. The mutated sandwich had taken this as a sign of weakness and attacked. Kate had fought valiantly, but in the end the sandwich, seemingly impervious to magic, had chased her from the Hall. She had only managed to escape by sprinting up into the owlry where the birds made quick work of it. Once again, the Marauders had found the situation hilarious, and in addition to their laughter, Kate had endured the jibes of the entire school. For weeks afterward she had been known as “Sarnie Girl”, and even the teachers had chuckled whenever they saw her. It was not the sort of thing one forgot – or forgave.
It was, she supposed, a right of passage to be tortured by the Marauders, but no matter how socially acceptable humiliation at their hands was, Kate refused to enjoy it. Rather than get worked up about it though, and live in a perpetual strop (cough, Lily Evans, cough), Kate chose to take the high road and ignore her tormentors. And they, in turn, ignored her. Black and Potter were rather unavoidable, given quidditch training, but they quickly reverted to their cocky, cheerful selves and seemed to forget that they had ever made her the butt of horrible jokes. Kate, determined to be mature about it (and to salvage her remaining years of school play on the pitch), let the matter rest. It wasn’t as if she would find anyone else (with the exception of the absolutely mad Head Girl) who would share her less-than-adoring opinion of the four boys anyway. Despite (or perhaps because of) their penchant for mischievously victimising others, they were widely considered the most popular students at Hogwarts. Constantly in trouble with the teachers, they nevertheless had top marks – except Pettigrew, who seemed to float along on the others’ cleverness – and somehow managed to turn their general delinquency into something charmingly debonair. Even Professor McGonogall was known to crack a smile at them now and again. Of course, she saw them nearly every evening in detention, so they were never without a chance to entertain her.
But Kate would not be duped – no matter how clever and handsome and funny they were, they were still evil gits who enjoyed humiliating other people. As she turned down the third floor corridor, lost in a dark cloud of memories, she reminded herself that it was only one more year – one more year of keeping calm and pretending they didn’t exist. She could survive one year. They probably wouldn’t do anything to her anyway.
Remus Lupin was crouched low, a water balloon clutched in either hand, stalking his prey. He peered stealthily out from behind a suit of armor, and grinned as he spotted Peter Pettigrew, his quarry, standing in a doorway, fumbling with a pale pink blob that was dripping water onto the floor. He appeared to be attempting to tie the balloon off (the boys had agreed to only Muggle methods of fighting – including weapon preparation) and wasn’t having much success. For a brief moment Remus considered letting him go, as he was essentially unarmed. You’re pathetic, Remus told himself, rolling his eyes. It’s a water balloon fight – not a duel. With that happy bit of reassurance, Remus leapt from behind the armor, firing both balloons at Peter’s rounded belly with a loud shout.
‘Oi!’ Peter squealed, ducking far too late. Two large stains appeared on his stomach, and he dropped the untied balloon he was holding. ‘No fair!’ he cried.
Remus just laughed and drew two more water balloons from the pocket of his trousers, throwing them as well. Peter whipped out his wand and flicked it at them, crying out a spell Remus was unfamiliar with. Both balloons turned into rounds of cheese. ‘OI!’ Remus yelled. ‘No magic, remember?’
‘All’s fair in love and war,’ Peter chortled, flicking his wand at the cheese. ‘Engorgio!’
‘Bloody hell!’ Remus shouted as the cheeses grew to the side of wagon wheels.
Peter was now giggling wildly. ‘Animo!’ The enormous orange discs began to spin wildly. ‘Perdero!’ At this, the cheeses seemed to take on a dangerous, frankly violent, air.
I’m going to be murdered by cheese Remus thought as the now-whirling rounds began to fire through the air towards him. For a moment he stood frozen on the spot, and then, with a yell of abject terror, he took off round the corner. His wand was stashed behind a tapestry some distance away, and it was his only chance at salvation. Peter was bent over, howling with laughter, and Remus cursed him roundly as he sprinted down the corridor and managed to stop before the tapestry, which depicted several very enterprising ogres and a lady in a blue dress. ‘You’re being chased by something,’ the lady in the blue dress informed him kindly, smacking one of the ogre’s on the hand as it attempted to pull her hair.
‘Yes, thank you, I know,’ Remus panted, sliding a hand up beneath the tapestry and searching for the small alcove in which he had hidden his wand.
‘It looks like cheese,’ she continued, peering over his shoulder, her conical hat bobbing this way and that.
‘It is,’ Remus explained, wanting to be polite and not having the time. ‘Where is my ruddy wand?!?!’
‘Cheese,’ one of the ogre’s grunted.
‘I actually think I’m sitting on it,’ the lady said to Remus. ‘Yes, just there, no, a bit higher…’
Remus felt his cheeks turn red – no matter she was just a two-dimensional bit of art, his hand was in a very inappropriate place. But he had found his wand, and whirled to aim it at the oncoming cheese, which had now built up a great deal of momentum and was mainlining to kill. ‘ Impedementia!’ Nothing – the cheese didn’t even slow down. ‘ Incidio!’ The cheeses merely split round the jet of light and came on fast. I’m going to kill Peter Remus thought blackly. The cheese was now bearing down on him, preparing for what looked like a double swoop attack, and Remus thought fast. ‘Dirumpio!’ he shouted, ducking beneath the first oncoming cheese and firing the spell up at it. He had the pleasure of seeing it explode into dozens of good-sized chunks. One down, he thought, one to g-. There was a hitch in the air round the exploded cheese, and instead of dropping to the earth the bits formed a cloud – quite akin to a swarm of hornets, only much larger and smellier – and came flying towards his head. ‘Oh piss,’ Remus breathed, and took off running.
He slid down the end of the corridor and round the corner, praying he was fast enough. He spared a glance over his shoulder – excellent, he had a bit of a lead – and
Remus was thrown back by the collision, tumbling against the wall as the other participant went down on the floor. He caught a glimpse of thick blonde hair pulled back off a strikingly pretty face, and thought Oh no – not again.
Kate tumbled back onto her arse, her bag flying off and skidding across the floor. She was completely bewildered – she had just been coming down the corridor and –
Did she smell cheese?
She did. She knew she’d smelt it moments ago when she’d first come up the stairs, and now it was getting stronger. She hauled herself to her feet, looking round to see Remus Lupin, looking pained and dazed, pressed against the wall. ‘I know you think you own the bloody castle,’ she snapped at him, ‘but could you please watch where you’re going next time?’
‘I – I –‘
Lupin never stuttered. ‘Oh sod off,’ she snarled, grabbing up her bag and stalking forward.
‘NO!’ Lupin cried, trying to jump in front of her, but it was too late. Just as she drew even with him the swarm of cheese fragments rounded the corner, surrounding her head.
‘Ahhhhh! You BASTARDS! Not AGAIN!’ Kate was beating the cheese, which seemed quite insistent about pelting her repeatedly in the head, off as best she could and fumbling in her pocket.
She looked horrified, disgusted, and above all, furious. One particularly large and intrepid chunk was divebombing her again and again. She was twitching and shaking, dancing around the corridor like a madwoman, her face contorted with rage and frustration. She finally jerked her wand out and pointed it upward, blindly firing off several spells in rapid protection.
This only served to aggravate the cheese. The intact wheel had now joined the swarm of smaller chunks, and it was having a go at bludgeoning her. Shrieking like a harpy she swung her fist up, landing a sound and well-thrown punch directly at its centre. The cheese was thrown back against the wall with a loud smack! and broke into several pieces that slid to the floor, unmoving. It seemed physical violence did the trick.
Kate was still fighting off the swarm of small chunks, using her wand to blast them into even smaller pieces that surrounded her head like a cloud of midges. Remus couldn’t help it: he laughed. It was so ridiculous, watching someone be attacked by cheese. Of course, it hadn’t been funny when it had been him running from the smelly little buggers, but when it was someone else…well, who wouldn’t be amused?
‘Oh bugger,’ a voice breathed beside him, and Remus looked down to see Peter staring, pale faced, at Kate, who was swinging both arms round her head like a demented dancer. And then he too let out a snort of laughter, his higher giggles mixing with Remus’ low chuckle.
Kate let out a frustrated yell, swung her arm in a complex motion, and shouted, ‘Deanima Totalus!’ in a loud, ringing voice. The force of the spell rocked the entire corridor, sending a suit of armor tumbling sideways with an angry yell, and causing the floor to tremble as if an earthquake were striking. Tapestries and paintings let out furious shrieks, and both Remus and Peter were knocked off their feet.
That spell’s well above N.E.W.T. level, Remus thought dazedly as he pushed himself onto his elbows and stared round. Peter was stirring beside him, the smaller boy tangled in his robes and muttering fearfully. Remus stared for a moment at the lamp above him, which was swinging back and forth on its chain ominously. It had been an incredibly powerful spell. Remus instantly looked for Kate, who had been thrown against the wall.
She was pushing herself to her feet, the cheese a faint orange powder coating the floor around her. Judging by the slightly jerky but otherwise competent movements she was making, she was unharmed. With a nervous swallow, Remus let his eyes rise all the way to her face.
They were the only words Remus could think of to describe her expression. He had never before faced down a charging bull, but he could imagine this was what it felt like. Her blue eyes were practically glowing with rage, and her pretty face was contorted as her hands curled into claws. Remus felt a cold sweat break out all over his body. ‘Pete,’ he whispered.
Peter managed to pull his robes off of his face at last, and sent Remus an inquiring look. ‘Eh?’
With that advice, Remus catapulted himself to his feet and took off as fast as his feet cold carry him. Behind him he heard Kate come charging after him, and he put on a burst of speed he didn’t know he possessed. He practically tumbled down the stairs at the end of the corridor, praying that superior length of leg was enough to save his life. Because right now, it was all the advantage he had.
A/N - and so arrives Chapter II - thank you to all who read and reviewed Chapter I, it was very much appreciated (and i would be most obliged if you would repeat the process...) right, well, hope you enjoyed Chapter II - i realise the story is moving somewhat "slowly" in comparison to other fanfics, but hopefully it will be entertaining enough! let me know what you think!
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