A/N: As my summary indicates, this is slash. The perils of lesbian love and dyke drama await you, so read at your own risk. Other notes should include the acknowledgement that all characters belong to the ever-adored J.K. Rowling, and I regret to say I didn't come up with the title all on my own: it's also the title of an eighteenth-century novel by Eliza Haywood, for all you literary enthusiasts. And thanks to my ever-enthusiastic beta-reader, Wotan.
This fic is for everyone who's ever had (or wished for) a Katie in their lives. Enjoy.
LOVE IN EXCESS 1: Temptation
The autumn term had begun at Hogwarts, and Katie Bell's thoughts turned to Quidditch – and love.
Although her brief but torrid romance with Alicia Spinnet last spring hadn't lasted even three weeks after school let out, Katie remained optimistic when it came to love, convinced the right girl was out there. Currently, the right girl in Katie's mind was Cho Chang. Simply thinking about Cho's flying style – elegant and efficient - or the way she looked when she smiled, sent a shiver of anticipation up Katie's back. She hadn't spoken with Cho since returning from the summer holidays, but with Quidditch season starting up, Katie thought the situation was sure to change.
Katie shared none of these private hopes, however, feeling there was no one to tell. Her mother shuddered every time Katie mentioned Quidditch, and their inability to agree on anything had taught Katie to keep her own interests to herself. For despite her mother's best efforts at inculcating good manners and academic achievement, Katie had developed a very unacademic – not to mention unladylike - interest in flying. She was a daredevil on a broomstick, always had been since her father had presented her with her first toy model at age four.
Katie's room at home was littered with copies of the Quidditch Gazette and various weeklies updating her on news in the sport. Decorative touches such as frilly pink curtains and matching bed canopy, provided by Mrs Bell in an effort to jump-start her daughter's femininity, looked incongruous against Katie's posters of the Irish Chaser Moran, or Bulgarian Seeker Krum. Katie knew her mother worried over the fact that she showed so little interest in more girlish pursuits like clothes, hair, and boys. "After all," Mrs Bell had pointed out on many an occasion, "boys don't like girls who are faster than they are on brooms." So while her mother might have been pleased to learn her daughter had a crush on a boy, Katie knew she'd find no support for an announcement that she actually liked another girl.
Katie hadn't even told her other best friend, Angelina Johnson, about her newfound feelings, especially when those feelings had involved Alicia. And although Alicia had said she was fine being just friends again, Katie sensed she wouldn't be thrilled to hear Katie's attentions had turned so quickly to someone else. Thus, telling even her closest friends about her growing crush on Cho seemed risky.
Today Alicia kept shooting Katie surreptitious glances while the Gryffindor team stretched prior to beginning their Quidditch practice. Something in her gaze made Katie's optimism regarding their friendship waver for a moment, and she froze as Alicia's hazel eyes sought her out yet again.
"Bell! You call that stretching?" Katie flinched at the sound of Angelina's voice and snapped her attention back to their new captain, who was leading the team in warming up.
"Get your scrawny arse up here and take over," commanded Angelina.
"She hasn't got an arse," remarked Alicia as Katie jogged to the front of the team, her remark leading to general mirth among the other Gryffindors.
Angelina grinned and gave Katie an appraising look while the boys on the team hooted. "You're right," she said, looking back at Alicia then again at Katie. "We'll take up a collection to buy you one," she offered, giving Katie a pinch and changing places with her.
Red-faced, Katie attempted to lead the team in finishing their stretching but most of them were too busy snickering over Angelina's well-inflected ribbing to pay much attention. She knew Angelina didn't mean anything by it - she regularly teased everyone on the team - but Katie wondered what was behind Alicia's comment. She didn't get a chance to find out, however, as they soon began flying in earnest.
When the Gryffindor team straggled off the pitch two hours later, Ravenclaw were just arriving, having reserved the space next. Katie felt her heart give a little skip as she noticed Cho Chang leaning against the stadium wall, chatting with a teammate. She wanted to say something but didn't know what. Besides, Alicia and Angelina were on either side of her and she didn't dare say anything in front of Alicia. She settled for glancing shiftily at Cho, then trying not to blush when Cho caught her eye, raised one eyebrow suggestively and turned back to her own conversation.
A tell-tale blush still in her cheeks, Katie turned to speak to Alicia but before she could say anything the other girl turned and walked quickly away, frowning.
"What's up with you and Alicia?" asked Angelina, jogging up to Katie and touching her arm.
"Alicia and me?" stammered Katie. "Nothing."
"Ever since term started she's been different. Edgy around you. I guess that means things didn't work out between you over the summer?"
"What!" Katie stared at her friend. "What are you talking about?"
"I saw how you two were looking at each other last spring. I have been your friend all these years, and hers too - I knew something was going on. Would have been nice if you'd told me but I'm not one to pry. Not unless it interferes with the team." Angelina fixed her dark brown eyes on Katie's grey ones.
Glancing around to make sure nobody was nearby, Katie answered in a low voice. "We didn't tell you - or anyone - because we didn't think you'd understand. But you're right. It didn't work out. We're just friends."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Angelina didn't sound angry; if anything she sounded a little hurt.
"Like I said, we didn't think you'd understand. And I was worried already about getting involved with one of my best friends - I couldn't have stood it if I'd lost your friendship too."
"Katie, do you really think I'd stop being your friend over something like that?" Angelina looked at her worriedly. "Okay, I admit if you'd told me right away I don't know exactly how I would have reacted. I've had the whole summer to think about it and get used to the idea. But no matter what, I'd never stop being your friend."
She gave Katie another stern look then grinned and added, "Just because I don't swing that way myself doesn't mean I have anything against those who do. But you could have told me yourself instead of letting me work it out on my own."
"It's okay." Angelina patted her on the shoulder. "Just promise you'll tell me something important like that next time."
"Sure," Katie agreed weakly. Her stomach felt jittery and her limbs strangely shaky, as if she were about to begin a particularly difficult Quidditch match - or a fight. She couldn't believe Angelina had known about her and Alicia. Maybe others knew, too.
That evening Katie made a point of finding Alicia alone and asked her, "Are you okay with us being friends?"
Alicia looked up from the Arithmancy problem she was working on. "Sure." She shoved back an unruly curl and said, "If you were seeing someone else you'd tell me, right?"
"Would you want me to?"
Alicia shrugged and bent over her parchment. "I think so, yeah."
"Alicia -" Katie reached out and touched the other girl on the arm.
"What?" Alicia looked up again, her big brown eyes full of a kind of hopefulness that made Katie feel suddenly very bad.
"Nothing. I just want you to know you're really an important friend to me. Did, um, Angelina talk to you?"
Katie cleared her throat. Feeling oddly formal, considering she was speaking to one of her oldest friends, she said, "This is our last year here. I want us all to be best friends, just like we've always been."
"Of course. Me too." Alicia smiled but the hope had flickered from her eyes. She returned to her homework and Katie left the comfort of the Common room to go out for a walk.
She didn't know where she planned to go, just knew that she had to get out of Gryffindor tower. As she wandered along the corridors Katie saw students hurrying to and from the library, a small group heading for a late-night Astronomy observation, and - Cho Chang.
Katie saw Cho before the other girl noticed her, and plunged her hands into her pockets in an attempt at casualness. Cho was alone, two large books and a roll of parchment clasped against her front. Katie wondered if she should say hello. They weren't exactly friends, but knew each other through Quidditch. She kept her eyes determinedly on the polished wood floor. She was getting closer, she'd have to say something soon or just pass by in silence -
"Hi, Katie," smiled Cho.
"Hi." Katie paused, hands still in her pockets.
"What're you doing?"
"Just taking a walk. You, um, busy?" asked Katie, gesturing to Cho's books.
Cho shrugged. "Homework for Professor Vector."
"Oh yeah, Alicia's working on that, too," said Katie and immediately wished she hadn't mentioned her ex-girlfriend in front of Cho.
"See you later, then," said Cho and continued on her way, leaving Katie standing in the corridor.
Intrigued as she was with Cho, Katie found herself wondering about other girls at Hogwarts. She sat in the Great Hall eating lunch, her eyes moving about the noisy room, wondering how many other girls who sat in the Hall, now laughing and chattering with their friends, were like herself? Surely she wasn't the only one. She knew she wasn't the only one. She just didn't know how to find the others.
"Aren't you coming?" Katie snapped out of her reverie at the sound of Alicia's voice. Her ex-girlfriend was looking at her expectantly. "We're supposed to be in the language lab."
"Right." Katie gathered her books and stood up. One of her optional subjects was foreign languages, but she couldn't say she really enjoyed it. Last year they had studied introductory Mermish, but considering she didn't enjoy swimming in the Hogwarts Lake, Katie felt she'd have little practical use for that tongue. Now they were on to Gobbledegook, an arcane language Katie found even less helpful than Mermish. Their teacher, Professor Profundus, was fond of telling them many magical spells had their origins in Gobbledegook in an attempt at making their studies more relevant, but Katie remained unconvinced.
It was a small class. Alicia sat next to her and was studiously repeating verb conjugations. Opposite Katie was one of Cho's Ravenclaw house-mates, and across the room at another table sat the two Slytherins in the class, both of whom Katie knew - and detested - from Quidditch: Warrington and Montagu. Their backs were to her, and Katie glared at them, allowing herself to indulge briefly in fantasies of completely humiliating them on the Quidditch pitch. She cast a longing eye out the window, then finally turned her attention back to her books. Today was a beautiful autumn afternoon: blue skies, no wind, perfect for flying.
When the final lesson of the afternoon finished, Katie made a bee-line for the broomshed. Nobody else was around except Madam Hooch, just returning from a flying lesson for the first-years. Katie, already airborne, waved at her merrily before shooting towards the fifty-foot high goal posts at one end of the pitch. She flattened herself against her broom, enjoying the rush of wind against her face and flew as fast as her broom could go. She zipped in and out of the large hoops and had just turned to race across to the other side when something, or rather someone, caught her eye.
Cho sped past her with a saucy smile. "What's the fun of racing in a straight line?" she called out, and promptly dropped several lengths below Katie.
Katie responded by pulling up higher and making a large, slow circle, watching while Cho barreled towards the ground and pulled up again, climbing quickly with the speed that marked a Seeker.
When Cho reached the point where Katie hovered, she slowed her broom and whipped it around so she sat facing Katie. "Didn't think I'd see anyone else out here this afternoon."
Katie met her gaze. "Neither did I. Hope I'm not interfering," she added, knowing full well she wasn't.
"Not at all." Cho dropped straight down, a heart-plunging drop of over ten feet, before securing her position and shooting off across the pitch. Katie flew above her and sped parallel to the other girl. As they both approached the other goal posts, Katie dropped down and blocked Cho, who speedily reversed. Katie followed and the two played cat-and-mouse all the way across the pitch.
"Had enough?" asked Katie, grinning as Cho paused to push back her windblown hair.
"Not even close." Cho's face gleamed with sweat and her cheeks were flushed from both the flying and the nip of late afternoon breeze. They locked eyes for a moment, then they were off again, twisting and ducking as they flew across each other's paths.
As the afternoon sun sank ever lower, the girls at last touched down on the grassy pitch. Katie's throat felt sore from the wind and the flying but she didn't care. She leaned back, her arms braced against the ground, and regarded Cho. "Pretty good blocking, for a Seeker," she smiled.
"Not bad dives, for a Chaser."
Katie looked at Cho, a million things rushing through her head that she wanted to say. She wanted to complain about her boring Gobbledegook class, wanted to see what lessons Cho liked and hated, what her timetable was, if she'd ever had a girlfriend - but as quickly as all these thoughts sped through her mind they just as quickly died on her lips. Instead she gave an automatic smile, then stood up and dusted off her robes.
"Better get back," she announced and picked up her broom.
Cho also stood and they began walking back to the castle in silence.
"You come out here on your own much?" Katie finally asked.
"Every chance I get," said Cho. "You should join us for one of our pick-up games some time - every Thursday afternoon, just us girls."
"Really?" Katie was surprised. "Why haven't I heard about this?"
"We only started it last year, a small group of us, when Quidditch season was cancelled for the Triwizard Tournament. We were going to ask you last spring but then …" Cho trailed off and Katie could just bet she knew what the other girl was thinking about.
"Cedric," Katie finished, softly. "That must have been really hard for you."
Cho focused again on Katie, her brows drawn together. "Long story."
"If you want to talk -" offered Katie, feeling awkward suddenly. "I mean, it must be so difficult now with him gone."
"That's just part of the long story," said Cho. They had reached the broomshed, where Cho stopped walking and opened the door. The two girls locked up their brooms in silence, then returned outside to the twilight world of Hogwarts.
Katie looked up the path to the castle, where lights shone through windows and turrets stood darkly against the sky. She liked this time of day, no longer daylight but not quite evening yet.
Cho also looked castleward, then announced, "I've got to go," and dashed off, leaving Katie to once again watch her disappear.
After her cryptic exchange with Cho, Katie kept an eye out for her and discovered they often passed outdoors between Herbology and Potions. She also made one other interesting discovery: a Hufflepuff girl named Laura seemed to be shooting significant glances her way. She'd never really noticed the girl before, and hadn't paid much attention at first even this year, not until she asked Katie to work with her in Herbology one day.
"Er," stalled Katie, looking over at Angelina and Alicia, with whom she always worked. But Angelina, who had a nose for potential romance, merely winked and drew Alicia over to begin pruning a Screaming Fig.
Laura was cute enough, reflected Katie. She had a round face and a small Cupid's mouth, loads of dark blonde hair - but she wasn't really Katie's type.
"When's your first match of the season?" asked Laura, bending over to snip at a branch.
"What? Oh, um, in a couple of weeks." Katie stopped all attempts at pruning and just stared at the other girl. Was she really coming on to her?
"Well, I'll be sure to watch. I love Quidditch," Laura announced in her soft, breathy voice. "I go to all the games." She smiled up at Katie while still bending over the small plant and Katie couldn't help noticing that the top few fastenings of the girl's robes were undone.
"Great," she smiled weakly and fiddled with her gardening gloves. The greenhouse seemed warmer than usual today.
"I think the Chasers are the most fun to watch," the girl continued, her tiny pruning shears making expert cuts at the base of each branch. "All that speed."
"Really? You know, some people think the Seeker is the most exciting. The position Harry Potter plays."
Laura stopped pruning and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. "Not me." She looked straight into Katie's eyes, leaving no doubt that even had Harry played Chaser, she wouldn't have been interested in watching him.
Although Katie had been entertaining fantasies of girls chasing after her as recently as yesterday afternoon, somehow these daydreams had never remotely been connected with Herbology lessons. She felt an unaccustomed rush of joy at seeing Professor Sprout, who stopped by to inspect their work. Unfortunately, Laura had done an excellent job and the teacher soon moved on to assist another group having more difficulty, leaving Katie once again alone with the zealous Hufflepuff.
Before the girl could strike up a new conversation, however, the entire class was distracted by a high pitched shriek, followed by a series of popping sounds and George and Fred Weasley's yells of pain.
Professor Sprout hustled across the greenhouse. "I told you not to cut the branches with purple buds! Weren't you listening?"
"We wanted to see what would happen," explained Fred, attempting to pick out the hundreds of tiny barbs the plant had shot at him when he pruned an immature branch.
"I told you what would happen before we started," Professor Sprout said in exasperation, then sent them off to Madam Pomfrey.
"I can't believe I just agreed to go to Hogsmeade with you and Fred and George," Alicia said gloomily to Angelina, watching the boys leave.
"What?" Katie couldn't help overhearing and ignoring her shrub and over-eager partner, turned her attention to Alicia. "You're going out with George?"
"I'm only going because she asked me to," replied Alicia, nodding at Angelina. "What do you care, anyway?"
"Well, 'cos it's George. And… he's a boy."
"Yeah, he is. What of it?" Alicia went back to pruning her shrub.
Katie dropped her voice to a whisper. "I just thought after last spring, you weren't so interested in boys any more."
Alicia paused in mid-prune, shears in the air. "It's not like it's a date. As you said, it's only George. He and Fred will probably spend the whole time trying to play practical jokes on us. Besides," she glanced over at the blonde Hufflepuff, who was looking at the two of them unhappily, "looks like you've got other plans."
Katie stepped closer and whispered furiously into Alicia's ear, "I don't have plans with her! It's all Angelina's fault - she dragged you off and made me work with her. God, the girl is like…" she struggled to find a suitable simile, "like a human form of Devil's Snare."
"Better finish your plant - Sprout's looking," was all Alicia would say and Katie had no choice but to return to her partner.
Feeling she'd had a very narrow escape, Katie hurried across the lawns after Herbology. For once, she found herself looking forward to Potions, if only because it would mean she was away from Laura. Although she agreed with the general consensus that Snape was a slimeball, she did have a knack with potions and always managed to do fairly well. Besides, the Weasley twins provided plenty of opportunities for Snape to turn his wrath on the two of them rather than on anyone else.
Today, however, Fred and George had still not returned from the matron and Snape was, if possible, in a fouler than usual mood. Katie, Alicia and Angelina normally sat together at a bench during Potions but today Snape made Katie work with Warrington, who was sitting by herself. At least the Slytherin girl made no attempts to even converse, let alone flirt with Katie, and they worked in silence the entire time.
Katie found herself with plenty to think over as they were finally released from lessons that afternoon. She realised with a start that today was Thursday, and wondered if Cho would be playing Quidditch that afternoon. Katie glanced over at Alicia and Angelina, who were engrossed in conversation. She felt she should invite them to come, too, but part of her wanted to go on her own, especially considering Cho would be there. Well, just this once…she could see what it was like and invite them next time. Considering the afternoon she'd had, Katie felt she deserved to do something just for herself that day.
"Where're you going?" asked Angelina. They had just climbed up to Gryffindor tower and their dormitory, but instead of enjoying a leisurely pre-dinner hour, Katie was preparing to go out again.
"No place special. I'll be back for dinner," Katie said quickly and dashed off.
Any guilty feelings she might have had disappeared once she was in the air. They played five-a-side, and Katie found herself on the same team as Cho. Another Ravenclaw worked with her as the second Chaser, and Katie noted with interest their Beater was Natalie McDonald, a Gryffindor reserve player. At first it felt odd without Alicia and Angelina flying alongside her, but she quickly adapted and exulted in the familiar rush of blood in her ears as she burned up the pitch and through the large hoops to score.
Cho caught the Snitch fairly quickly, easily outmaneuvering the other side's Seeker, a second-year like Natalie who had just begun Quidditch that season. As the girls slowly floated down to the grass below, Katie hung back a bit in the hopes of getting a moment alone with Cho.
However, her own presence seemed to be causing a stir; she noted with dread that Laura had been watching them play and now darted towards Katie.
"That was great," the blonde girl enthused, leaning close to Katie.
"Just a bit of fun," muttered Katie, glancing about the pitch.
"You're really good," Laura continued undaunted, and linked her arm through Katie's.
Blimey, thought Katie, she really is a human Devil's Snare. She looked up just in time to see Cho Chang narrowing her eyes at the sight of the two of them.
"Um, I'd better go," mumbled Katie, detaching herself. "Not much time before dinner." She didn't dare look back and sprinted ahead to the broomshed, where most of the other girls were putting away their brooms.
She tried in vain to catch Cho's eye, but the other girl was busy in conversation with her fellow Ravenclaws and didn't even notice her. Other people did, however.
"Good to see you out," commented Susan Bones, who'd been playing Keeper that afternoon. "And I think I can safely say there are several people here today who are glad to see you on your own." She paused and gave Katie a knowing look. "I heard about you and Alicia -"
Katie interrupted her. "Would someone mind telling me just how many people know about Alicia and me?"
Susan grinned. "I don't know about all the girls – the younger ones especially just like a chance to play Quidditch - but there's a small but interested minority who know. We have our ways," she added, in answer to Katie's unspoken question. "Hope to see you next week." She waved and set off for dinner.
Not wanting to risk walking back with Laura, Katie didn't dare wait around for Cho and hurried off. She quickly reached the castle, and was just pulling open the enormous front doors when she heard a voice call her name.
Turning, she saw Cho, who dashed up and repeated, "Katie, wait."
Having just succeeded in opening the door, Katie held it open and let Cho pass through before letting the heavy wooden doors bang shut. "What is it?"
"I'm glad you came today."
"Yeah, it was fun." Katie looked at her expectantly, unsure why Cho wanted her to wait.
A number of things seemed to be going through Cho's mind and finally she said, "When I saw you the other day, you mentioned Cedric…"
"Oh! Right." Katie nodded and hoped she looked sympathetic.
"I wanted to explain - I don't think you really know what was going on."
"Cho, you don't have to explain anything to me," Katie said gently.
"I know, I just want to." Cho gave Katie one final, appraising look, took a deep breath and said, "You see, I didn't intend to go to the Yule Ball with Cedric. I'd been seeing someone else, actually."
"Really?" In spite of herself, Katie grew interested.
Cho nodded. "Yes. I was going to go with Fleur Delacour. We had it all worked out - until that back-stabbing bitch turned on me and spent the whole night with Roger Davies!" Cho's dark eyes flashed dangerously and even now her cheeks flushed with anger at the memory.
"Fleur Delacour?" Katie stared. "You mean - you and Fleur were together?" she stammered in disbelief.
"Wow." Katie leaned against the stone wall for support. "I can't believe it. I mean, I thought you and Cedric were… but you and Fleur…" Complete sentences seemed to be eluding her.
"That's why I said it was a long story the other day. Sure you want to hear this?"
"Oh yeah." Katie crossed her arms and smiled down at Cho. A few minutes ago she'd been worried about meeting up with Angelina and Alicia in time for dinner but suddenly food was the furthest thing from her mind.