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Chapter 4: Band Practice
“You’re Anna Rowe?” a tall blonde boy tapped me on the back, pushing his glasses up his large nose.
“It’s Annie,” I corrected, though my voice was almost at a whisper. Talking to other people was never my strong point, especially to strangers. “Yes, that’s me.”
I was sat down in the library after class, trying to attempt my charms homework before the boy disturbed me. The library was a bit like a refuge for the bullied such as me. I didn’t go there often, what with the fact that I couldn’t play my guitar, but it was good for homework. The common room was too social for me.
Being sociable is another thing I suck at, even if it sort of is the same thing as talking.
“Just to check, you’re the one who plays guitar?” he asked, looking down at me awkwardly. “I’m Max Anderson.”
He extended a bony hand as I shook it. Max spoke through buck teeth and seemed to be rather socially awkward (like myself, I suppose). I had never spoken to him before, but I could tell by his neat, blue and bronze striped tie that he was a Ravenclaw. His toothy grin was verging on creepy rather than friendly but I guessed he wasn’t going to punch me.
Actually, he looked like he had just been punched.
“Nice to meet you,” I smiled. The whole conversation felt awkward, really. He sat down next to me and I had the feeling that he was examining my homework rather sceptically. I had the feeling that it was all incorrect anyway.
“I’m part of the school band and the guitarist we had dropped out. I’ve seen you with your guitar before so I was wondering if you’d like to audition,” he asked bluntly. Hmm, conversation was a weak point that we both shared.
School band? I knew we had a choir but usually, half of the extra-curricular activities that Hogwarts had on offer weren’t vastly publicised as the group members were normally tight knit and didn’t want to extend open arms to anyone else. Let alone me.
It was a miracle they knew of my existence, let alone that I played guitar.
Oh right, he said he saw me walking around with it. I hoped that he didn’t see the vandalism that was written on it.
I wasn’t sure if I agreed to it or just asked him a question but he seemed to nod and smile. “Brilliant. There are three other people auditioning and I don’t know if you or they are any good but…” he trailed off, probably remembering that I was doing homework. “Anyway, tomorrow at eight PM? Could you meet outside here and I’ll show you the way?”
I nodded and he smiled another toothy grin.
Would the band be a group of four or five people, or maybe an array of people who played various instruments across all years and houses? I had the feeling that everyone there would probably think I was a recluse too, just like Charlie and everyone else to walk the halls of Hogwarts. I didn’t even know Max and he was looking at me like I was stupid.
Maybe it was because the sentence I just wrote for my homework had five misspelt words and three grammar mistakes. My spell checking quill must have been broken.
“Erm, you’ve spelt that wrong,” he pointed out. Blushing, I swiftly corrected myself.
“Oops. Well, I’ll be there tomorrow,” I said, smiling. I wished that Jude was there instead of Max, and that Jude knew my name. At least Max didn’t think I was called Amy (or Amanda, Alison and even Rachel – some of the names I had been called before). Anna was pretty close to Annie, right?
I wish Jude had called me Anna. Actually, I wish he called me Annie but nothing can be perfect, right?
Max grinned and walked off, pinning a poster to the wall. I didn’t know anyone else in Hogwarts who played an instrument, let alone others who played guitar. Maybe they didn’t carry it around in plain sight like I did, or maybe that it was just uncool when I played it.
Or maybe there was a chance that I spent too much time in an empty classroom practicing that I just didn’t notice.
“Is that your guitar?” Max asked as I saw him waiting outside the library. For the sake of my dignity, I had placed its black, fabric case over it so he wouldn’t see the various statements that had been written on it. Some of them were just embarrassing and a little weird.
“Yeah,” I said.
“Well, you could have used the spare one we have. That’s what the other two auditioning are doing,” he said matter-of-factly, pushing his tie right up to his neck. I had already changed out of my school uniform into a scratchy, purple jumper and jeans. He seemed a little keen on school.
“I thought you said there were three,” I said quietly. I was still a little nervous with talking to people. Actually, I was nervous about auditioning altogether. Everyone would think I was rubbish anyway.
“One told me they couldn’t. Apparently, their Divination club was more important,” he said, rolling his eyes, and walked loudly through the corridors.
Thinking about it, where would I be auditioning? If it was in the place that the band normally practiced, where would they fit all their instruments in? Did Hogwarts even have instruments - it was unlikely that they just carried a piano to school with them.
“That’s too bad,” I said before I realised that it was a good thing for me. “Anyway, where are we going?”
Max looked up at me and gave me a smile. It was not a normal smile, but a ‘wait and see’ sort of smile. I just nodded and continued to walk on.
I was probably being as selfish and as hopeless as ever, but somehow I felt a little annoyed about it all. Yes, being selfish was the reason. Prior to yesterday, I had felt like I was the only person who played an instrument in Hogwarts and that it was my thing. Once more people were added to the equation, I felt that I was even more normal and boring than I was before.
I really was pathetic. Maybe Charlie was right. She certainly thought so with the amount of times she bullied and abashed me.
“Room of requirement,” Max replied, looking rather smug, leaving me feeling even more bemused.
“Where?” I asked again, not having even heard of the room before.
Again, his voice was tinted with a tone of smugness that I hadn’t really seen before in people like him, who I could tell were on the receiving end of bullies rather than the other way round.
Eventually, he stopped walking, right in front of a wall. There was no door and no musical sounds filled my ears. It was almost as if we had entered complete silence. “Is this it?” I mumbled.
“Do exactly as I say,” Max started off by saying and I felt slightly worried. “Walk past that stretch of wall three times and think in your head ‘I want to go to band practice’.”
Even though I was auditioning rather than practicing, I did what he said. Surprise filled my body when a door appeared in the wall. I even jumped slightly from shock. Max just laughed. He then grinned at me and pulled the door open.
What was even more surprising was what was inside the room.
It was amazing. Sheet music piled itself up to the ceiling in large wooden bookcases, alphabetised and sorted neatly into genres. There must have been at least two black grand pianos in the room, along with an array of other instruments and music stands. Chairs were lined up against one wall, along with boxes of musical equipment. I saw a large collection of brightly coloured plectrums (small, plastic things used to help strum your guitar) and various other items for other instruments. I didn’t even know what half the items were.
“Like it?” Max asked, snapping me back into reality. I nodded, smiling. Only then I noticed that there must have been at least twelve people, each holding different instruments or peering through music books.
“Very much so,” I said. “What do you play?” I asked.
“Drums,” he said happily. I was surprised, he didn’t look like a drum sort of person, what with the fact that I was assuming that he played something like cello or violin.
One of the other pressing questions in my mind was how so many instruments would sound good together. I’d understand if it was the sort of instruments that would be expected in an orchestra but there were things like drums and guitar that would have just sounded odd in that environment.
Max gestured for me to sit down on the chairs next to two other people who looked more nervous than I did. They both looked younger as well. One was a timid looking girl who was probably in fourth year. The other was a boy, first year. Bless.
However, I had the feeling that they’d all be better than me. Even if they weren’t, they’d probably be friendlier and less pathetic. Earlier that morning, I ran away from Charlie again and knocked into James Potter, making the rumour about me liking him escalate even more.
“Silence everyone,” one girl said, standing up on top of a chair. She had messy brown hair and looked rather scary in my opinion. Then again, everyone seemed pretty sinister to me. I could tell she was the band ‘leader’ just by the authority in her voice. “I’m Karen. Now then, this is show it’s going to work today. You audition with something and we’re going to take on however many people we think are good enough. You know, all three of you could be part of band but it could just be one. So, who wants to go first?”
Worried that I’d be rubbish, I didn’t volunteer straight away. I was sure that Karen was nice; however she still seemed to be rather daunting. Therefore, I left the first year to go first. Merlin, I shouldn’t be in Hufflepuff.
“My name is Jimmy Palmer,” he timidly said, taking the spare guitar off of one of the already-existing band members. I assumed that that instrument was another thing that this strange room had manifested out of thin air.
“What are you going to play?” Karen bellowed as she put a spell on his guitar that was probably for magnifying the sound.
“Erm, this Weird Sisters song. I can’t remember the name,” he mumbled quietly, echoed by a chorus of sniggers. He blushed red and I immediately felt a wave of pity for him. Even though the people here understood music too, I got the impression that some of them were misfits for a reason.
Jimmy started to play slowly. Chord after chord, note after note. No one spoke, yet they examined him closely, almost as if they were checking him for a bomb. His fingers took a little too long between chords and I noticed that they were sometimes in the wrong position. He was probably better than I was at his age, anyway.
Once he finished, he looked up and I noticed his face was a shade of red. Poor boy. He could have a chance.
“Thank you,” Karen said, not even smiling. Did she take band that seriously? I doubted she ever did. “Now then, who is next?”
I timidly walked forward, not wanting to go last. I found the whole audition thing rather formal; however I did want to be in the band. Maybe I’d make a friend or something. Friends were a strange thing for me.
“I’m Annie Rowe,” I said, trying to raise my voice. It didn’t work. I had to repeat myself three times. It felt weird, considering that on some days, I never even spoke, to then have people waiting for me to start talking.
“What are you playing?” Karen asked. I decided that I was going to try and like her even though her personality seemed rather harsh. She could just have taken band rather seriously.
“Something I composed myself. It doesn’t really have a name,” I said, this time only having to repeat myself once. Everyone smiled at me as I positioned my guitar comfortably on my knee. Well, everyone but Karen who was scribbling notes down on a piece of paper. Was it really that important?
I started to play one of my favourite pieces. Really, it was a collection of complicated chords that I thought sounded good together. As my hand moved up the fretboard when it came to the rather complicated rift of chords, I wished that no one was watching me and that I was by myself in a deserted, empty classroom that I normally practiced in. I felt like the eyes were burning into my skin as people watched me attentively. Trust me, melting into the floor would be more desirable.
Cringing, my fingers found the wrong places a few times. Only once I had strummed the last chord, I realised that my face was bright red. Expecting laughter, the warm congratulations was a bit of a surprise.
Smiling, I entered the common room at half past nine, guitar slung over my back. No one looked at me as I entered nothing new. I was used to not being noticed. One person looked up; however they just looked straight through me to the person behind. Normal.
Yet somehow, I felt a lot more confident now. No, not confident enough to go up and talk to anyone, but slightly more so than before. I was now part of the school band. Even though no one else cares and that I’d probably be teased for it, I felt happy all the same.
I walked straight up to the dorm having no homework left to do. Expecting it to be empty, instead I found everyone sitting on their pyjamas on their beds, gossiping about who did that or who kissed who.
All eyes turned to me as I walked in.
“Where have you been?” Agnes Leigh asked.
“Nowhere,” I said quietly, not really wanting to talk about anything with them.
“Who have you been kissing?” Agnes asked again, her eyebrows raised. Her words were echoed by a chorus of laughter from across the room. I blushed red, pushing my guitar right under my bed.
“No one,” I said in an almost silent monotone, trying not to go red. I couldn’t stop my cheeks flushing a delightful pink colour.
“What have you been doing then? Making out with a library buddy?” a girl called Carmen jeered as I tried to draw the curtains around my bed. “Hey! That’s rude!”
“Sorry,” I say quietly, wishing that I could vanish into thin air.
“Everyone says she fancies James Potter. Maybe she tried to seduce him with her instrument thing.”
“No, I bet she’s been kissing some other nerd or something. Maybe she’s been at the library the whole time.”
“Even nerds wouldn’t want to kiss her!”
I listened in to them gossip about me and various other things until eventually they turned out the lights.
A/N Hi! A big thanks to my fabulous beta who never fails to be awesome! Thank you!
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