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
“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
“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’ possibly ‘E’ ‘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.’
“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
“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.
‘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
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
“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?”