So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life's A Great Balancing Act…
It all started when Aarush Patil asked why there was never any curry on the dinner table.
Every evening there was a huge range of foods, but the selection was unfailingly the same. There was always roast beef. There was always sheppard's pie. There were always Yorkshire puddings. There were always chicken drumsticks. Every single day the choice of food remained the same and it was up to the students to pick their own variety.
The only exception was special occasions like having turkey on Christmas Day, but otherwise it was the same. Every time it was the same.
But there was never any curry.
Now, the Patil family are a very highly renowned pure blood family from India. They have many customs and traditions, and they very much uphold that even though they now live in Great Britain, they are still Indian. It is, of course, possible to be Indian without eating curry but Aarush was still adamant that it was a part of his culture.
It was completely unfair to be serving the same thing every day and not provide a curry at all.
Aarush felt very strongly about this and mentioned it to his parents, who in turn sent a complaint to Professor Dumbledore.
Dumbledore is a very reasonable man, and knew that there was a very simple solution to this problem. The reason why the same food is served every day is that it makes it incredibly easier on the house elves, and he wasn't going to change that.
So instead, he simply went down to the kitchen and altered the menu a little. Then the next evening there were a few less plates of chicken, vegetables and pie and a few more plates of Indian food. But he did not stop there; he also had a few plates of food from other cultures and countries added to the table, making everyone very happy.
Gwenog Jones especially was ecstatic when she saw the cawl.
Dumbledore was proud. He was sure he had completely fixed the situation and no harm would come of it. Indeed, in any other circumstance it would have been a marvellous success. But this was Hogwarts… where the student body included the Marauders.
Nothing was ever going to go to plan.
"You don't understand!" Sirius yelled loudly as he stomped down the hallway. "It's a part of our culture. I must have one before every meal, otherwise the way my breath ferments in my mouth over the course of the day will alter the taste of the food!"
"It's a tradition," said James just as loudly, "How can they deny us but not the others?"
"I know we can go without it and still live, of course," sighed Sirius, "But if everyone else is getting what they want—"
"Exactly!" exclaimed James. "I mean, Dumbledore has started preaching about equality, but how can he possibly even mention the word without considering every single angle?"
There was quiet for a few seconds.
"Moony," hissed Sirius.
"What?" asked Remus, glancing up from his book. He had perfected the act of reading and walking at the same time, although it did usually fall to Peter to make sure he didn't walk into anything.
"It's your line!"
"That annoying line you keep telling us when we pester Slytherins."
"Oh, right." Remus sighed, then cleared is throat and stood up straight. "'All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.' – George Orwell."
"Thank you Moony!" exclaimed Sirius. Remus was already back to reading. "That is exactly what we mean!"
"How can he say he's being all equal by giving other people their traditional food but not us?" gasped James. "It's an outrage! A scandal!"
"A bloody stain upon the school's reputation is what it is!" yelled Sirius, throwing his arms in the air and almost taking out a Hufflepuff. "Next thing you know he'll be giving out chocolates to the Ravenclaws!"
"Do you think that's why he listened to Patil? Because he's a Ravenclaw?" asked Peter.
"It is very possible, Wormtail," said Sirius, nodding seriously.
"You think he's discriminating against us because we're in Gryffindor?" gasped James. "Now that is just unacceptable."
"Or maybe he's discriminating against you because you're a bunch of flea-brained nut jobs," muttered Lily Evans as she walked past.
"Well," sighed Sirius as James opened his mouth to respond. "That's us done for today."
"Come on guys, lets band together and fight the oppressor!" yelled Sirius, standing on top of a table on the common room with James, preaching to an enraptured audience. "Let's unite under a common banner and stand for true equality!"
"If we garner enough support we can bring back justice!" cried James. "Let your own voice be heard!"
"He claims everything is equal but he has not included everyone!" shouted Sirius, once again raising his arms. "Who's with us?"
"We have a problem."
"So I've heard. A few of our best Gryffindor sixth years are lodging a complaint about the food supplied for dinner."
"It's gotten worse, Albus."
"They're organising a march through the hallways. They've got signs and posters and I believe Mr Potter has conjured instruments for a band. They're staging an almost Muggle-style protest."
"That is curious, indeed. I must congratulate them on their creativity."
"If I may—"
"Yes, yes, Minerva, not to worry. I will sort it out."
"Give us food!"
"Give us food!"
"Give us food!"
"I don't think our battle cry is very clear."
"It's not a battle cry, Wormtail, it's a motto."
"No it isn't, Pads, it's a—"
"Shut up, Moony, we don't care."
"Wormtail does have a point though. They might think we just want any old food."
"I think you might be right, Mr Prongs."
"Of course I am, Mr Padfoot."
"Well then, we will have to think on this…"
"Approximately fifty per cent of the school has gone on strike," said McGonagall as she paced the Headmaster's office. She, as Deputy Headmistress, had declared a state of emergency and a Heads meeting. Normally she might be able to see the humour in the situation, but after the Maruaders covered the great hall in glitter and let loose three Nifflers the week before, she just wasn't in the mood.
"Fifty?" asked Dumbledore, his eyes twinkling.
"Yes. Almost all of the Gryffindors, more than half the Hufflepuffs and a small portion of the Ravenclaws."
"I get the feeling they would have joined in if it had not been initiated by the Gryffindors," said Flitwick.
"More and more Hufflepuffs appear to be joining the 'cause' every day," sighed Sprout.
"I thought Hufflepuffs were supposed to be loyal," commented Slughorn.
"And 'just'," retorted Sprout. "I have to admit they do have a point."
"How do you mean?" asked Slughorn.
"Well, giving some of the students their preference in food but not all… that is a little unfair," said Flitwick.
"But what they're asking for… it's ridiculous," insisted McGonagall.
"Not really," said Sprout. "It's only a small thing."
"But to have it on the dinner table? The Ministry's Department of Health and Nutrition will be on to us in seconds!"
"You know the Ministry has left us alone for decades, Minerva," said Dumbledore, smiling.
"They aren't doing it for the food, though!" argued McGonagall, grasping at straws. "They're only doing it to prove a point!"
"And don't you think that's the most beautiful thing about the whole situation? They're pushing for something they believe in, Minerva. Why should we deny them that?"
"Alright, lads, brainstorming time," said Sirius, his quill hovering over the sheet of parchment that the four were perched around. "Shoot ideas in three… two… one…"
"Equality for dinner," said Peter immediately.
"I don't think that tastes too good," muttered James, causing Sirius to cross out the hastily written sentence. "Equal rights for food?"
"We aren't fighting for the rights of food!" exclaimed Remus.
"Food for everyone?"
"You would say that, Padfoot," laughed James. "Variety and Equality?"
"Equality of Variety?" suggested Peter.
"Fairness for all?"
"Not specific enough, Moony. Fairness in food?"
"Pads, stop it with the food thing."
"Let me remind you what we're actually doing here."
"Guys, I think I've got it."
"Well then, Wormtail," said Sirius, holding up the quill steadily. "Let's hear it."
"They're all sitting in the entrance hall now, have you seen them, Pomona?"
"Yes I have, Filius. Almost all of my Hufflepuffs have joined them now."
"And half my Ravenclaws. But they're just… sitting there."
"They're still claiming a strike. They say they won't move until they've been heard."
"Do you really think they're going to stay there?"
"The majority of them appear to have sleeping bags. They are very dedicated."
"Something that is admirable, yes, but I'm worried they'll get sore."
"I'm more worried about them freezing to death. It is November."
"I'm sure a little warming charm will go unnoticed."
"What Minerva doesn't know won't hurt her. Like I said, their determination is admirable. I'm on their side in this."
"I can't believe they're skipping classes, though. Even the Ravenclaws!"
"At least we're a long way from exams. And If I know my Ravenclaws, they're still studying while they sit there."
"I had a piece of homework due for my fifth years today. The only ones who handed it in were Slytherins. It was disconcerting."
"Same with my sixth years, although Miss Evans appears to be holding out."
"I think she's the only Gryffindor left up in their common room at the moment."
"I do worry about their backs… that hard floor can't be good for them."
"I suppose a slight cushioning charm wouldn't go amiss, either."
"Alright, folks, it's morning. We all agreed to stay here for twenty four hours a day until they listen to us but I can't be the only one hungry, so if a couple of people want to volunteer to go down to the kitchens—"
"Typical Black, always thinking about your stomach."
"Evans, how great of you to join us!"
"Well, I thought long and hard and I figured that since being a part of a protest is on my bucket list—"
"Well that's depressing."
"—I might as well help you out."
"Still too uptight to admit that we're right about something, hmm?"
"No. Remus promised me a bar of Honeydukes' finest."
"Damn it, Moony!"
"What? You said to get her to join us at all costs, because you wanted her brains."
"That just makes me sound like a zombie."
"WHAT THE HELL, WHY IS EVANS HERE?"
"Oh, sorry Prongs, forgot you don't like the love of your life seeing you after you've slept on the floor all night. Here, have a tissue."
"I hate you, Padfoot."
"Albus, this is the second night they've slept in the Entrance Hall. Peeves bombarded them with paint filled water balloons and walking sticks during the night, and several had to be taken to the hospital wing. Poppy is furious, it took me almost an hour to convince her to stay with the children while I came up here to talk to you—"
"Calm yourself, Pomona. I will sort this out."
"Why are you waiting? There is a simple solution to this, all you have to do is—"
"I know. But I wish to see how determined they are, and I know that if I indulge them too early they will believe they can gain whatever they want by spending a few nights in the entrance hall."
"This is another of your lessons, isn't it."
"Indeed. They will learn that they can achieve anything if they work hard enough. Something I think Helga Hufflepuff would have approved of."
"Perhaps. But you're forgetting that the entire operation is being run by Gryffindors… and you know what they'll do next."
As it turned out, Professor Sprout was correct. While the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws could see the merits of a patient protest, the Gryffindors were a little more restless. And as it turned out, the others were only too happy to follow along.
"So does everyone agree with the plan?" asked James. Every person in the entrance hall, including Lily Evans, nodded his or her head in agreement. "Great!"
"There is a professor coming towards us from the east corridor!" called Nearly Headless Nick as he rounded a corner. It had been Remus' idea to recruit the ghosts as lookouts.
"And Filch is on his way from the west," added the Fat Friar.
"Thanks for the help!" exclaimed Sirius. "Everyone, back on the floor! Moony, hide that parchment! Merlin help us, we're going to need all the luck we can get in the morning!"
"What is it, Dilys?"
"I've been talking to the other portraits… the students are storming down the corridors like, like some kind of army!"
"What do we want?" called Sirius.
"Who do we want it for?" yelled James.
"Why do we want it?"
"What will we do?"
"What do we want?"
It's a long trek between the entrance hall to the seventh floor, even you do have Peeves floating over head with a large drum and driving and incredibly hard pace.
By the end of it, they were all panting hard and had rather sore throats, but their determination was not quashed.
"Okay, Dumbledore!" yelled James as they paused outside the headmaster's office. "We're willing to stay here until you relent your oppressive reign and give us equality for all!"
"THIS IS A SEIGE!" declared Sirius to massive cheers.
"What is going on, here?" demanded McGonagall from the back of the group, a long way down the corridor. "Back to your dormitories, all of you!"
The students simply turned, and crossed their arms over their chests, presenting a solid wall. Thankfully, Remus and Lily had considered this possibility and placed seventh years at the back – people who were used to McGonagall's deadly glare and could stand their ground.
Besides, they had the numbers. They were safe.
After a few minutes, McGonagall stormed off. A few of the Gryffindors swore they saw a small smile on her face, but the other houses claimed they must have been hallucinating.
"Equality on the table! Fairness for all! Equality on the table! Fairness for all!" chanted the students.
They stood there for maybe ten minutes, before Sirius and James exchanged a look.
Then they nodded.
Sirius walked up to the gargoyle.
"Droobles Best Blowing Bubble-gum!"
"How did you know that?" asked Mary McDonald as the gargoyle began to move aside.
"Oh, we've been here a few times before," laughed James. "You could say Pads and I frequent the place."
"Albus…" said Armando Dippet, "They're coming in."
"I told you this would happen," huffed Minerva, wiping the soot off her glasses.
"This is utterly ridiculous," declared Phineas Nigellus. "Back in my day—"
"Yes, we know, you would have strung them all up by their tongues," muttered Dilys Derwent. "But that would be inhumane."
"Not to mention simply illogical with almost the entire school banding together," added Dippet.
"It would never have happened to begin with when I was headmaster," huffed Nigellus.
He was ignored, for at that moment the door slammed open the room began to fill with students. There were far too many for the small office space, so several ran up the stairs to lean over the railing above to watch, others perched on shelves (although they were careful not to break anything) and younger students sat on their older friends' shoulders. Not all of them fit, but then several had decided to stay below in the corridor as a guard and others squashed in the stairs.
"This is unacceptable!" said Minerva.
"Damn it," groaned James. "Padfoot, we forgot about the fireplace."
"Never mind that, she's not a problem. Moony," said Sirius, pushing his friend forward. "I believe we voted you our spokesperson."
"Ah, yes," said Remus, sighing. "Alright. Professor Dumbledore, we are hereby bringing to your attention that you have acted in an unfair manner," he said with the air of a recital. "You have changed the dinner menu in the hopes of pleasing a certain set of students under the guise of equality, but in reality you have made the gap even larger. By indulging some students not others you are blatantly displaying favouritism. The situation would have been much simpler had you not moved to aid any people at all, for you can not justly indulge one set of people without indulging the others in an equal measure. As such, we demand that you take our culture into consideration and allow our beliefs and traditions to be upheld."
"I hope he said what we told him to, I didn't get half of that," Sirius muttered to James. He was shushed.
"And why should I agree to your terms?" asked Albus.
"Um…" Remus glanced behind him. He gained many shrugs and encouraging smiles, but nothing actually helpful. "Because…"
"If you do not, we shall place a banishing charm on this room and every other room in the castle, not allowing you to eat any of your favourite sweets," piped up Amelia Bones, a Ravenclaw in sixth year.
"Not to mention that we'll remove all the hot chocolate from the kitchens," said Marlene McKinnon.
"And we will not leave this room," said Remus, gaining more confidence now that he had more support. "We have made allies with the house elves, so they will bring food up to us. We have also made allies with the ghosts, and they will report any happenings in the castle to us. And, um, we have most of the portraits on our side… " (Remus shot a glare at the portraits hanging about the office) "…and they have told us that you are expecting an inspector from the Board of Governors this time next week. What do you think they'll have to report when they arrive to find half the school in your office, hmm?"
Dumbledore could not help but admire his students. They were everything you could hope for – creative, determined, clever and oh so very driven. Some might say that their lack of obedience was a problem, but Dumbledore viewed it as an asset. He knew how important independent thinking could be.
So it was then that he let a smile break out on his face.
"Mr Lupin," he said. "And Mr Black, Potter and Pettigrew, as well as all of the rest of you. You have all displayed a huge amount of determination here, and I am very proud of you."
If you listened closely, you might have heard the sound of over a hundred jaws hitting the floor.
"You have displayed courage, loyalty, and the will to fight for what you believe is right, rather than just what you have been told. Although…" Here Dumbledore's eyes passed over a couple of younger Gryffindors, "I believe some of you may be here as an excuse to get out of class. But no matter.
"I find myself in a bit of a predicament. I do very much love my sweets and my hot chocolate and Mr Lupin, you are right, I am expecting the Board next week. As such, I simply can't have you in here and you leave me with no option but to accept your demand."
"Can I add one more demand, professor?" asked Sirius, recovering before any of the others.
"I don't think so, Mr Black," said Dumbledore, eyes twinkling. "Professor McGonagall would miss you if I let you out of detention."
But not even that could dampen Sirius' mood as the office erupted in a mass of cheers and cries of victory.
Despite the happy ending to the entire fiasco, there were consequences. Professor McGonagall demanded that there be some form of punishment and Dumbledore decided to go along with Professor Slughorn's suggestion of deducting house points.
Five points per person may not sound like much but on that scale… Slytherin had a successful year. The Gryffindors weren't too put off though, because they won the Quidditch Cup and anyway, they hadn't won the House Cup since before the Marauders' first year. They had learned to sort out their priorities.
Sirius, James, Remus and Peter were identified as the ringleaders. Remus' pleas of blackmail were ignored as per usual, and the four of them were given detentions.
But despite the slightly sad note tagged onto the end of the whole situation, there was still a ring of victory in the air. Because when they sat down to dinner, they noticed another food type had been added to the table, and it stayed.
Even in the many years to come, through the trials of a changing Ministry and the horrors of not one, but two wizarding wars, the students at Hogwarts would always have the option of consuming peppermint humbugs as they ate the rest of their dinner.
Because equality for one should mean equality for all.
…And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you'll move mountains.
― Dr. Seuss, 'Oh, The Places You'll Go!'Quotes are taken from Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr Seuss and Animal Farm by George Orwell.