Disclaimer: Harry does not belong to me. The Dursleys do not belong to me. However, in a surprising twist, everyone else in this story DOES belong to me. W00T! Any resemblance the characters bear to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental.
Rating: PG-13, for casual discussion of mature themes.
Category: Drama, Humor
Summary: It's amazing what an adorable six-year-old kid will bring out of a group of bitter, tired, college-age music students. Journey back to a time when the world was big, kindness was life-changing, and Harry Potter knew how to dance.
Author's Note: Two things inspired this story. The first is Harry's astonishingly, dare I say inexplicably positive attitude in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, at least when one considers his home life. The second is Dumbledore's comment about music, which I think is worthy of being embroidered and hung on a wall.
Random fact: This story starts in the spring and ends in winter. But it's short, so I felt it was appropriate to start posting it now.
Another random fact: I am a college music student (violinist/violist).
On with the story!
"Ah, music … a magic beyond all we do here!" – Professor Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
A MAGIC BEYOND
Chapter One: Meet the Players
The world was so big, Harry thought. Everything was just … big. Grownups were big, fences were big, schoolrooms were big, trains were even bigger than schoolrooms, and this fantastic place he'd arrived at, as far as he could tell, was astronomically humongous. He could only see parts of the Welcome Map between the heads of Aaron Holmes and Dirk Weatherby, but the Kew Gardens looked like it stretched off to infinity in every direction. Then again, Harry was only aged six-and-one-half, and while he was rather precocious in many ways, he'd always been a little short for his age.
So it was natural for Harry to think everything was enormous, and today promised to be enormously exciting. When Mrs. Bloom told the first-year class that they would be visiting Kew for the day and handed out permission slips for signatures, Harry was at first crestfallen. He wasn't sure how Uncle Vernon would ever sign the paper. But then it occurred to him that perhaps it was all in how he put it to his uncle. So he confronted him in the living room that evening and said …
"Sir, my class is going on a field trip. Will you sign my permission form?"
"Ha!" Uncle Vernon laughed maliciously, his belly jiggling. He sneered at Harry. "Why should I sign that stupid form? So you can ignore your studies? Perhaps cause a little mayhem? I know what you get up to at school, boy, don't think I don't!"
Harry took a deep breath. "Well, it's either go with my class or stay here in the house all day, being a … what do you call it? An annoyance?"
That did the trick. His uncle grumpily signed the form and told him to get out. And here he was, slip hastily signed, shoes inexpertly tied, ragged jumper knotted at his waist, ready for a day of fun. He couldn't believe his luck.
Of course, there was homework, since this was supposed to be an educational field trip. On the trip over, Mrs. Bloom told her first-year class that they had to write three paragraphs about their day, state one fact they learned, AND draw a picture of something they particularly enjoyed about their visit. Everybody moaned at this, except for Harry, who was just so happy to be out in the fresh air that he didn't care if he had to write and illustrate three books about his experience.
"Queue up, everyone, queue up!" Mrs. Bloom shouted.
Harry, surrounded by a throng of chattering children, squeezed into the queue between Marianne Hedd and Julie Thrope and marched forward. He could just hear Mrs. Bloom at the head of the line (which seemed miles off) telling them they would be starting their visit with a tour of the Secluded Garden, which was supposed to be very peaceful and very beautiful. Mrs. Bloom boomed out that they would also have to be very quiet upon entering. The class tromped along, shushing each other and laughing.
After six dissonant attempts in a row, Jo Weitzel took her viola off her shoulder and raised an eyebrow at Lisa Prewitt across the quartet. Thanks to nearly illegible parts and general exhaustion, "Autumn Leaves" was sounding more like "Autumn Left." Tempers had begun to flare.
"What, Jo?" Lisa asked testily, sweeping some of her long blonde hair from her shoulder.
Ocean-eyed Lisa was their first violinist, a stern-faced, slim young woman of few words, with a quiet demeanor and perpetual bags under her eyes. She was quite a good player and a nice person, but she was also an Aries, so the rest of the quartet had to look out. Jo spoke gently.
"Lisa, dear, um, what do you have in bar seven?"
"A D-flat whole note," said Lisa, and briefly demonstrated this on her violin. "I'm hovering over all of you, who happen to be even MORE out of tune than usual. Why is that, anyway?"
"We're not out of tune, you are!" Jo replied. "The rest of us are playing a D-chord, and there's no seventh, just your wonky thing up there in the stratosphere."
A quick conference followed at Lisa's stand. This particular note, like most of Lisa's, was hovering above the staff with an annoyingly indeterminate number of lines under it. It could have been a C. Or perhaps it was an F. Jo scratched her head of cropped, wavy brown hair, and blew out a breath so hard it made her lips flap. They had to present this piece on Monday, and Aidan Trask, a perpetually disorganized composition major (who also happened to be their second violinist), had just handed them the parts today.
Lisa, Jo, and Jim Norris, the cellist, were all in their final year and final term at the University of Surrey. Unsurprisingly, they were all coming apart at the seams. Jo stared at Lisa's part again and growled in frustration. She didn't know which was worse – Aidan's procrastination or his terrible handwriting.
"Aidan, this is chicken-scratch!" she snapped. "Did you load up and write this?"
Aidan looked scandalized. He was a slender redhead with fringe that constantly flopped into his light green eyes.
"I did not. I just got behind, is all! My writing always gets messy when I'm behind schedule. Sorry," he said, and then reached for his water bottle, which was full of apple juice today. Or perhaps it was bourbon. With Aidan, you never could tell.
Jim settled his cello comfortably against his leg and snorted with laughter. A healthy-looking young man with pale skin, red cheeks, and short, dark hair, he had even darker eyes that lit up when he laughed, which was often.
"Yes, of course, Aidan, you were 'behind schedule,'" Jim said, making quotes with his fingers. "So who is he?"
Aidan turned bright red and stared at his shoes. When he looked back up, everyone was still staring at him, waiting for an answer, much to his chagrin and annoyance.
"His name is Fred," he said finally.
"Fred?" Jim said. "Nice name, Fred. And what does he do … besides you?"
Aidan's mouth fell open. Lisa let out an almost-laugh.
Jo ignored all three of them and looked out over the shimmering green expanse of lawn, recently planted with something (crocuses, probably). It was a lovely spring day, a little misty and a little cold, but about to be gorgeous, she could tell.
They'd gotten a perfect spot to rehearse in the Kew Gardens, courtesy of a friend of a friend: the Temple of Bellona. It was Friday, and most of them had skived off classes for the day so they could prepare, in this lovely little space, for a concert tomorrow night. They had a small room behind them, full of plaques that Jo didn't pay much attention to, with enough room to store their cases. Above them was a small Doric façade supported by columns, where they had enough room to set up their stands and spend the day alternately playing and boring each other stupid with facts as prep for their end-of-year exams.
"Stupid" being the operative word.
Jim started laughing again, as it seemed Aidan hadn't answered his question. Everybody glared at him, including Jo, rudely shaken out of her brief good mood, but Jim waved off all their angry faces, not even attempting to control himself anymore. It had, after all, been a very long week in a series of very long weeks.
Jo snapped back to reality. They had a job to do. "Well, let's move on, shall we? Jim, stop laughing. Lisa, make the thing a C and let's try it again."
Lisa snorted. "Who died and made you the quartet queen?"
"Would you please just do it?"
"Fine, fine!" Lisa took her pencil and scribbled in some directions for herself.
Jo checked her watch. "Let's get this over with quickly, shall we? It's nearly eleven, we've only got this place 'till five, and I'm starving. I didn't have any breakfast. Don't think Jim has, either."
Jim turned quite pink at this. It pleased, but hardly surprised him, to discover Jo kept tabs.
"Oooh, do the ickle violie and cellie need their num-num?" Aidan crowed, mostly to get back at Jim for nosing around his personal life. "If you want cereal, don't bother getting a bowl," he said, snapping back into his normal voice. "Perhaps you two can just eat out of each other's mouths!"
Jo and Jim were only friends. Jo glared at Aidan. That comment was so stupid it wasn't even worth a snide remark. But Jim, at this implication, positively exploded, in a voice Jo was sure would carry …
"You skinny little pansy punk, I'd like to see how well you play with my bow shoved up your nostril!"
He waved his cello bow threateningly. Aidan blew a raspberry at him.
"Aidan, you naughty boy, stop it!" Jo snapped, her hazel eyes twinkling, and turned her mock wrath on Jim. "Jim, stop scaring Aidan, that's child abuse!"
Aidan was a year behind everyone else, so he'd been named the official "baby" of the quartet. Sometimes, Jo thought, he acted the part too well for his own good.
"Now come on," she finished, turning serious, "We're wasting time!"
And they truly were. The boys seemed to realize this and looked at Jo, settling under her calm gaze. Jo had a most peculiar habit of being sane, intelligent, and reasonably mature about things. Of course, this went completely against all the viola jokes out there, but the U's Wooden Box Quartet was hardly a typical group.
"I'm with Jo," Lisa said. "Right, if this piece of rubbish isn't spot-on in the next hour…"
"Oi, look, I said I was sorry!" said Aidan. "No need to get nasty!"
Lisa ignored him and barreled on. "We might as well not play it for Riebald's class on Monday and save ourselves the humiliation! Let this prat take a bloody zero, and serve him right for lollygagging!"
"You were all so thrilled when I told you I'd be arranging this!" Aidan yelled shrilly, looking at Jim and Jo and hoping for a bit of compassion. Neither of them looked very sympathetic. "Said it was your favorite bit of jazz, you did! And here it is, so stop insulting my work!"
"Oh, bravo!" said Lisa. "It's only six effing fortnights behind schedule, with parts full of mistakes! I suppose you deserve a bleedin' medal!"
"That's enough, Lisa," Jo said firmly, just loudly enough to catch the violinist's attention and stop her tirade. "Look, Aidan's a dolt."
"And a poof," Jim added loudly.
Jo rolled her eyes. "Yes, but he's OUR dolt, and OUR poof, and we love him, and shouting won't fix anything. We'll settle notes as we come to them. After all, the arranger is present, so he'll be able to correct things on the fly, won't you, Aidan?" Jo finished crisply.
She stared at Aidan hard. Aidan looked back at her, a little fearful after Jim and Lisa's shouting. He brushed his long red hair out of his eyes and nodded.
Lisa pursed her lips and looked at Jo for a long moment, but finally she nodded as well. Jo put her viola on her shoulder and got into playing position. And Jim wasn't laughing anymore. He was all business now, his thick fingers set on the bow and left hand at the ready on the fingerboard, looking at Lisa for the cue. And Aidan, although shaking somewhat, put his violin on his shoulder. He briefly scratched his narrow, freckly nose, and put bow to string for another attempt.
"Right, everyone, let's take it from the top," Lisa said finally.
She gave a cue and they began. This time they made it all the way through, although with the obvious flaws with the parts, it was hard to finish. By the time they'd run it, the atmosphere in the Temple of Bellona had gone so frosty that they broke for breakfast immediately, deciding to tackle it again afterwards.
Aidan had eaten at home. He kept his head down and spoke to no one as he blazed through the parts, correcting mistake after mistake. Lisa had a breakfast bar on the train, so she went off to the Victoria Gate with Jim to use the ladies' while he grabbed something for himself and Jo (he could be a real gentleman like that). And Jo, in a rather life-altering move, decided to take a walk.
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