This story was written as part of the "Hoggywartyxmas"-exchange at LJ for my dear friend "Tetleybag", who shares my enthusiasm for music.
I can't thank "The real snape" enough for her prompt, encouragement and beta-reading.
The quote I ascribe Snape about the feelings while under an 'Imperius' is from GoF: the thoughts Harry has when Moody puts him under the spell in class.
"A magic beyond everything we do here"
Charity Burbage was quietly taking in the lively atmosphere of her first Christmas Dinner at Hogwarts. It still felt strange to be on a first-name basis now with so many of her former teachers, and she still had to get used to the friendly teasing and playful word-fights that some of them engaged in once they were out of the students' earshot. During her school-years as an unassuming, Muggle-born Hufflepuff she had certainly never imagined she might some day share her plum-pudding with the Headmaster, Minerva McGonagall or Filius Flitwick.
Being the unadventurous kind, Charity had gone on to take Muggle Studies as her professional career, but her time at the Ministry of Magic had been rather disappointing, even to her modest expectations. She and her colleagues were looked down upon by the members of the other departments, and she had not found friends there as she had hoped to. So she had settled into the habit of spending every sickle she could afford on the cultural offerings London did provide. And it was while attending a chamber concert at St. Martin in the Fields, that she had met Albus Dumbledore again.
She was pleasantly surprised that the Headmaster had recognized her at once, and while they were chatting during the intermission he had asked her to consider to apply for the teaching position at her old school following the current Professor's resignation that summer. She had not needed much time to come to the decision to accept the offer.…
"Charity, why don't you tell Filius about the last paper you wrote, the one in cooperation with the Wizards' Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam?", the Headmaster suddenly interrupted her silent recollections. "He does lead our choir after all. I'm sure he'd be very interested!" While she still swallowed down her last spoon of cream, the charms professor seconded the request and leaned over expectantly. "By the way, I've heard of your formidable collection of musical instruments from some of the students. May I ask you to demonstrate their abilities to me sometime during the holidays?" The young professor blushed ."Oh, I'm only able to play two kinds, and not very proficiently, I'm afraid. But I am very fond of all of them, and I hope that occasionally some Muggle-born student may have learned to play one or another and will make use of it here at school."
"Filius, the essay she wrote is about Muggle conductors, a fascinating read, I have to say", Albus Dumbledore chimed in again. "Personally, I've often wondered about the kind of wand they use." At this remark Minerva joined the discussion from two places down."Albus has insisted on this nonsense for years. Please, do give us the rational explanation." Charity smiled. This was definitely the best Christmas Dinner of her life so far.
"Well, what a conductor uses is called a 'baton', but it has no magical qualities on its own. Still it is notable that the Muggles do use the word 'magic' a lot in connection with what happens while performing music. It's only 'love' which gets mentioned together with the word 'magic' or 'magical' more often. In our paper, we discuss the similarity of whatever the conductor does with regard to the musicians to them being under the influence of an 'Imperius'." Minerva's sharp intake of breath let Charity hasten to continue: "Of course it's really nothing of the sort, as they all are well aware of what is happening and take part on their own accord. And the people we've questioned all agree that they enjoy themselves immensely."
"Oh, there is something to say for the way one feels while under an 'Imperius'", came Severus Snape's dry remark. Everybody's eyes were on his stoical mien instantaneously.
"Every thought and worry wiped away and replaced with a vague, untraceable happiness and the relaxing lack of self-awareness," he added nonchalantly. As Charity felt shy about the subject of her most intimidating colleague's past, she hurried to bring his surprisingly forthcoming evaluation into her earlier description of the musicians' attitude. "The greater the number of participants - imagine a full symphony-orchestra plus a concert choir: this will give you about 200 musicians - the more important the necessity on their part to hand over all responsibility for their actions to the conductor. But it is their own conscious decision to act only according to his prompts….although they told us that once the music has started they do loose self-awareness, too, just like Severus mentioned."
"So, how do you suppose the conductor does it – without magic?" Filius seemed genuinely puzzled.
"Oh, they study the proper execution of the movements they use for years, but most importantly it is a question of his or her personality. And one has to consider the shared enthusiasm about what they all want to achieve at that moment. I think you might compare it to being taught one's favourite subject by an excellent teacher: similarly exhilarating. Add to this the phenomenon of group dynamics ... But I have to admit, we weren't able to come up with a scientifically satisfying explanation."
Minerva raised an eyebrow and shared a glance with Severus. "I say, the two of us would prefer to perform as soloists. I do not exactly like the notion of having taken matters completely off my hands, not even for the 'greater good', so to speak…" She fixated the Headmaster with a serious look. "No, not even if you were the conductor, Albus! And I am sorry if I'm spoiling your holiday cheer!"
By now desert had long been replaced by glasses of old port and the burning wood cracked merrily in the huge iron-fenced fire-place next to their table. Charity felt very warm and at ease, an effect of both the alcohol and the fire, but she managed to wait patiently to gain Minerva's attention again to respond to her statement. "You do have a point: some people are definitely cut out to be conductors themselves rather than to submit under somebody else's leadership, although I've heard about a few who switch roles without difficulty." Colouring lightly she added: "By the way, quite a number of the musicians told us they liken their experience of the interaction with the conductor to having sex. This may sound bewildering to us, the audience on the other side of the podium, but they really mentioned this rather matter-of-factly and used the image while talking about different performances among each other…"
Charity broke off and mentally hit herself for having gotten carried away with her discussion of the subject – what on earth would everybody think of her, bringing up 'sex' at the Christmas Dinner conversation – but just then Pomona, sitting a few places down the table, started humming a traditional tune and turned to her newest colleague expectantly. "So, which of your musical instruments do you play? You'll love to hear that Aurora plays the harp, but she could never be persuaded to perform for us all on her own. Please help us out here and let's enjoy a few songs to celebrate the season."
With an inward sigh of relief at this timely request Charity summoned an oboe down from her rooms, and when she had finished explaining all the delicate wooden and silver parts, she started the more informal part of the evening with an old shepherds' tune that did not fail to fill the hearts of everybody present with 'a magic beyond everything we do here' ...