For the Instrument Competition — Hannah Abbot.
For the 2012 Hogwarts Games — Medley. Part 4 — no romance.
They told her she couldn't play the piano. Her fingers are short, stubby. Not elegant, long, pianist's fingers. She knows this.
Hannah isn't graceful. She's a bit clumsy, a bit uncoordinated.
But, even though she doesn't know it at the time, she's a Hufflepuff. Determined. And she's not going to stop, because she wants it.
Her parents will not buy her a piano for a hobby they're convinced she will not keep. She starts out on a piece of paper with the keys drawn on in permanent marker.
She plays until her fingers are stained black with residue. She checks out stacks and stacks of instruction books from the library and pages through them so many times the spines are cracked and the pages she most loves are stained black in the corners from her fingers from the keys.
She's eight, and she doesn't have much of an income but she saves every bit of allowance she gets and the coins she finds in the street. It's not much but it builds up in her mason jar until the jar is full up to the tippy top and she pours it all out and starts to count.
The jar contained £30.17.
Proudly, she plunks it on the counter in front of her mother.
"Mummy, I saved up £30.17 to buy a piano!"
And her mother looks at her and the corner of her lips twist in a suppressed smile, and she says, "Oh, Hannah, love. A piano is a bit more than 30 pounds and 97 pence."
Hannah frowns, thinking of library books with ink stained corners.
"How much more?"
"Too much, baby girl."
Hannah feels her lip start to tremble and she bites down on it, refusing to cry. She takes her mason jar back to her room and stares at her ceiling and dreams of the day she'll have a piano.
She stares at the box. She's not sure she wants to open it, because if she opens it, then she can't pretend it is what it isn't. And if it isn't, she might have to cry.
There's only one thing she asked for this year for Christmas.
There's only one box under the tree with her name on it.
But it's not big enough to be a piano.
And you don't split apart a piano and put it in a tiny box. Not a good one.
But the box is just the size of a keyboard.
Her mother nudges her shoulder and she startles out of her shock and starts tearing off the paper. As soon as she sees the picture underneath, she throws herself at her mum, hugging her hard.
"Thank you thank you thank you!"
Her mother smiles fondly at her. "You're welcome, love."
And it's completely different, playing on a keyboard. The keys move when her fingers play across them and she doesn't have to play to the radio. She feels like she's learning how to play all over again, but her fingers know the patterns of the notes and after a brief adjustment period, stilted notes begin to flow into beautiful melodies and she feels alive.
She turns eight and then nine and then ten, and her mother keeps waiting for her to drop the habit, to drift away, but she doesn't. Every time she plays, Hannah feels like it's what she was meant to do. She's making beauty out of nothing, out of notes and keys and fingers.
There are three full mason jars in her closet and a half-full one on her dresser when her eleventh birthday rolls around. £107.97. Not nearly enough, she knows this time.
Still, she puts the jars on the counter, carrying them out one by one. "I have £107.97, Mummy. I know it's not enough. I know it's not. But I want a piano. A real piano, with a proper bench and strings and a proper top and sound. I want to be a pianist, Mummy, not a keyboard player. It can be my present for my birthday and for Christmas for years and years. This is what I want."
And her mother looks at her serious eleven-year-old face. "All right, baby girl. All right."
Hannah squeals. It's very undignified. She doesn't care.
She sits down on the polished wood bench slowly, every movement reverent. She raises the fall-board. Her fingers hover over the keys, tracing their at-once-familiar-and-not shape but not with enough pressure to issue a reverberation.
She trails her fingers with the same soft pressure along all fifty-two white keys.
Slowly, with no small amount of hesitation, she presses down the first key — C4. She nearly gasps. The sound is a good deal purer than her keyboard. She plays a scale, closing her eyes and marveling at the beauty. She taps out a rapid, low-pitched trill with her first and second finger.
After the noise dies, she launches into a piece by Chopin, one of her favorites. She has to keep her eyes open this time, watching her fingers move, and as she does she buries herself in the music.
The sound envelops her. It's pure and resonant and she completely loses her sense of self. She is nothing but a vessel, a tool, a means for these notes to take shape and change the world (because no one has ever accused Hannah of being a realist).
This. This is what she was meant to do. Stubby fingers are no obstacle to a determined will, and determination is something Hannah has in spades.
She is not surprised at all when the Hat puts her in Hufflepuff a few months later.
She finds a piano there, in her dormitory, as though someone knew.
The headmaster winks at her the next day.
She cannot thank him enough.