By Neville Longbottom
Listening to the sound of Hogwarts is like listening to CNN. Just as every last bulletin or baseball score always sounds to me like the same sentence repeated over and over ("I'm an American person"), the message of Hogwarts' metal machine music is a constant reminder of the school itself. YOU ARE HERE says the crunch of the staircases to the clank of the suits of armor. And when you love this HERE as much as I do, the disturbances are less disturbing.
Often, the racket enchants. I mean, have you ever heard the schreeching of the front gate closing, performing the first two glorious notes of Rhapsody in Blue? The sound of hourly magical catastrophe squads rushing here and there stopped bugging me after my Gran enumerated the statistics about the chances of surviving a magical catastrophe, so now every the footsteps of the emergency squad running to and from the infirmary has the reassuring rhythm of a heartbeat. Even those noisy kids in the second year dorms, whose recesses make the common room sound like the apocalypse with jump rope, have grown on me to some extent. Plus, free entertainment. Last year I heard the new Weird Sisters album in its entirety simply by walking down the hallway on consecutive Saturdays.
My affection for Hogwarts' hubbub is proportionate to my obsession with not adding to it. Being quiet is a civic virtue here, and, unlike the noise outside the dorm--the brutally noisy game of wizard's chess, those tiny cats with the big, crying meows--the noise I make inside is something I can control. When I go back home to the quiet North England town where I grew up and I wanted to feel like part of something larger than myself, I might have to pitch in at the food co-op or volunteer to weed the bike trail. Here, if I want to feel like I'm making my school a better place, all I have to do is towel-dry my hair. Every morning that my deafening drying charm remains unused is a gift of tranquility to the four roommates within earshot of the sound. I'm not much of a do-gooder, so I relish these little selfless sacrifices, cheerfully watching my wet head drip polka dots onto the Transfigurations notes I'm reviewing, knowing that the guys across the room are still asleep.
An old friend of mine whose backyard deck is the size of my entire dorm, complained, "How can you live like that, censoring yourself, stacked up on top of all these other people?" Then she claimed that, were she attending Hogwarts, her first order of business would be to tie me up in a chair so she could tap dance up and down the hallway to the tune of "Don't Fence Me In." Give me land! Clackety clackety clack!
I know the appeal of that, the ballyhooed dream--out there, nowhere, among nobody and no one, just you and your sky, you and your fields, you and your god. Which is all fine and good as long as the sun never sets and you never read 'In Cold Blood'. Because once you read Truman Capote's Kansas death trip, after dark every pine cone swaying in the wind sounds like a couple of murderers staking out your quiet little house, your quiet little house surrounded by so many acres that your closest neighbors will never hear you scream.
As for me, I'm sticking with Hogwarts.
The fact is that being a considerate roommate is kind of fun and a tad religious. It gives a lot of meaningless everyday tasks a sense of purpose and meaning. To tread softly around a school of clangers makes me feel alive among other people who also are alive.