The Sugar Quill
Author: Dogstar (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Career Advice for Hannah Abbott  Chapter: Default
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Career Advice for Hannah Abbott

Author’s Note: Thanks to J K Rowling for proving that my obsessive re-reading of her wonderful books (in particular all the scenes in which Neville and Hannah appear) was completely justified. Thanks to TDU for encouraging me to post this, and for the beta. Any remaining errors are my own. This story was posted in its original form in the 87 Rolls of Parchment forum for the Career Advice challenge. At the time, I was in the earliest stages of thinking about my Neville and Hannah chaptered fic, Asking for Roses. I wrote this in order to get to know Hannah before she had to leave Hogwarts under such sad circumstances in sixth year.

Career Advice for Hannah Abbott

“Come in!” Pomona Sprout had her back to the student entering the room. She was in the middle of watering one of her beautiful Fainting Lilies, which trembled at the vibration of the door closing, prostrating itself along the window sill.

“Stop being melodramatic. It’s only one of my fifth year students,” she scolded, settling herself in her comfortable, if rather mucky chair. The lily raised its bell-shaped flower towards the girl now seated in front of the earth-spattered desk. She was twisting a fat, blonde pigtail and looked, if possible, even more timid than the bloom peering curiously at her.

“Good afternoon, Hannah. This interview is to talk over career plans and such—” Pomona looked appraisingly at the pink-cheeked girl. “Yes, well, before we get started – camomile tea?” She poured two cups without waiting for an answer. “Have you had any ideas about what you would like to do after leaving Hogwarts?”

“I’d thought about Muggle Relations.” Hannah stuck her small, but firm chin out defiantly, as though expecting a poor reception for this pronouncement.

“Hmm. Rather thought I might be hearing something like that. Now then m’dear, that’s all very commendable and worthy et cetera. Hmph. However, some might say – not me mind, I just need to be sure you’ve thought all this through properly – that you might be aiming a bit low.” As Hannah gazed at her Head of House, the startled expression on her round face was replaced by dawning pleasure and confusion. “What d’you have to say about that?”

“H – how do you mean?”

“Your marks. I have your predicted grades here. Let’s see … Muggle Studies – straight ‘O.’ History of Magic – ‘O ’ again. No surprises there.”

She paused to look over her spectacles at Hannah, who was clutching the edge of her seat with both hands. With this particular student, one could never tell how it would go – such a capable prefect, so dependable with the tinies and firm enough with the older ones, but when it came to managing herself … Pomona nudged a dusty box of tissues across the desk and continued.

“Astronomy – ‘A’ Divination – ‘A’ possiblyE’ ‘depending on the alignment of Neptune and Saturn’. Oh for goodness sake, Sybill. Ah, that’s a bit out of date. No matter … your new Divination teacher predicts – ha! – an ‘E’ also. Arithmancy – ‘E’, Potions—” The next line was obscured. “Hold on, there’s a note …”

She squinted at the shred of parchment attached to Hannah’s Personal Scroll. No, really, this was too bad!  The dratted man might have mentioned something before now, with exams only weeks away. Of course, she reflected, Severus Snape had never shown any sign of knowing the first thing about basic classroom management, other than the occasional muttering in House meetings along the lines of ‘Let the little buggers sink or swim.’


“Yes, Professor?”

“Who do you sit next to in Potions?”

“Ernie,” answered Hannah promptly. I knew it, thought Pomona Sprout grimly. At the very least she could have looked for an opportunity for a quiet word in Severus’ ear – about the importance of occasionally splitting up quiet and cooperative friendship groups, as well as disruptive ones. Wasn’t it apparent to any teacher with a whisker of experience that an obliging girl like Hannah, given the slightest chance to be useful, would allow herself to be monopolised by an overbearing study partner?

“And you always work together?” With a guilty start, Hannah contemplated the floorboards. Her teacher held back a smile. The girl was far from stupid, and haranguing her wouldn’t help matters. No doubt, she would hear a similar story in fifteen minutes time – although, rather than recruiting a personal assistant to carry out the drudge work, young Susan’s deskmate was more likely to have distracted her entirely. MacMillan and Smith. If those two could only get along for more than five minutes at a time, they could take on the world.

She scrutinised the note again. “Does this sound familiar to you?” Hannah raised her eyes. “‘It would be gratifying to see this candidate perform consistently at the level at which on rare occasions she appears capable. Were this to be the case, there would be an outside possibility of her achieving an Outstanding Potions grade in the forthcoming O.W.L. examination. However, this appears unlikely in the extreme, given that this year she has not perfected any technique more complicated than shredding daisy roots, and I must, perforce, predict a merely Acceptable pass.’” Pomona’s impatience took over for a moment. “My dear girl, how many times have we talked about not letting other people’s demands get in the way of your own priorities?”’ Hannah’s head dropped again.

Pomona Sprout severed the Spellotape holding the note. She would keep it to one side, as a reminder of her pastoral obligations to her House members, although she had half a mind to attach it to Snape’s long nose with a Permanent Sticking Charm. Reading between the lines, it was clear as crystal that quieter, less confident students were not being given any sort of chance to shine. Only now did she put two and two together to recall Ernie’s predicted Potions grade – excellent compared to his mediocre pass last year. A crying shame, given Hannah’s light and nimble touch in the greenhouse – nothing compared to Longbottom of course – but neverthless, that kind of skill frequently went hand in hand with an aptitude for Potions.

Although, not in Longbottom’s case either, she remembered. The sinking feeling accompanying this realisation took her a second or two to register. Merlin’s Backside! She hadn’t even thought about it in those terms – it would be almost impossible for the boy to get his foot in the door of any well-regarded nursery or training programme without an Exceeds Expectations in Potions. She would have to do something about that ... push for him to re-sit in a year or two if need be. Not her place, strictly speaking, but she was damned if she were going to lose the most talented student she’d taught in thirty years to pen-pushing at the Ministry. Tsk, she scolded herself, this was Hannah’s time. She picked up the scroll and began reading aloud again.

“Transfiguration – ‘E’ ‘provided she keeps her head and doesn’t go to pieces in the practical’. Charms – much the same story there. Ah – Defence Against the Dark Arts: ‘A’.”

She sniffed, then chuckled. Her lily was now giving off a decidedly sickly scent. Remarkable plants, the Sensitive family. “Well, you’ve slipped a bit there, but so has everyone across the board, you’re not to blame for that! And of course, most importantly –” She beamed at Hannah, who smiled back, more relaxed now. “Herbology. Well now, on a good day, with a following wind, you could stretch to an ‘O’ there, but to be honest, my dear, I’d be delighted with an ‘E’. What do you say?”

“I’m – I’m shocked. I’ve been working hard of course, but I thought I was slipping behind and I’d be lucky to pass most of my subjects.”

Pomona clucked impatiently. “What have I been telling you for five years? You’re a reasonably gifted witch and an excellent worker. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your work except lack of confidence and a tendency to get worked up. Camomile tea – that’s the ticket. Now, about Muggle Relations. You’re sure it’s what you want? You could do anything you set your mind to, you know.”

“N – no. I’m sure. I think it’s important. I want to make a difference in the world. Especially nowadays, with everything that’s happening. There should be more support, better information. Forewarned is forearmed, you see? That’s what I th – think anyway. I’m probably just talking nonsense …” As she stuttered to the end of her little speech, Hannah’s chest heaved and her eyes were bright.

“Goodness me, now don’t go working yourself up into one of your states. You’ve certainly got passion for the subject, I’ll give you that. Unfortunately, it’s the rest of the world you have to convince. But if your mind’s made up ... Let’s see. You’ll need a solid grounding in the relevant subjects – Muggle Studies, obviously, and History of Magic, those go without saying. Defence Against the Dark Arts? Yes, better safe than sorry. Now, are you prepared to give Potions a shot? Or Charms perhaps. Either would be useful.”

“Um, Charms please.”

“Charms it is. How does that sound?”

“And Herbology, Professor Sprout – I definitely want to carry on with that.”

“That makes five then. Quite a workload at N.E.W.T. level but I’m sure you’ll be up to it. Excellent.”

“Thank you, Professor.”

“And keep calm, dear. We all have faith in you. Off you go now.”

Pomona watched Hannah leave, looking much happier than she had at the beginning of the interview. Camomile tea – wonderful stuff – never failed. She took a long draught from the cooling remains in her cup, removing her spectacles to rub at the crease between her eyebrows. Hannah Abbott. A lovely girl of course but with a certain tendency to make life difficult for herself. Of course, she reflected, it was always hardest on the Muggle-borns. For sensitive souls like Hannah, prone to bees in their bonnet, it could so easily go badly for them. Pomona resolved to keep a weather eye on Hannah for the next year or two, support her in finding a calling that would suit her particular gifts. Satisfied with this conclusion, she turned back to her Fainting Lily, which had resumed its typical posture with its pale and lovely head pointing down towards the hearthrug.

“Yes, my beauty ... You may well look bashful. How are you going to react when Mr Smith comes barging in, I wonder?”

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