Who: Severus Snape, Hannah Abbott
Where: Snape's office, Department of Experimental Potions
Summary: Tears are shed and an unexpected offer is made. Snape becomes a hero, at least in Hannah's eyes.
Something was very wrong with Hannah Abbott.
Sitting at his desk, quill in hand, Snape found himself unable to take his eyes off the somber girl. Normally perky, even annoyingly so, she was currently sitting at her own desk, looking as though her entire world had just come crashing down around her. She wasn't smiling, wasn't talking about all sorts of nonsense, wasn't even invading his office every three seconds with one lame excuse after another. She was just sitting there, calmly and quietly doing her work, the only sound being her quill making the occasional mark.
He didn't like it, not one little bit.
This won't do. It won't do at all. I have far too many problems of my own to spend one second worrying about her. I have a month worth of work to catch up on, and potions to brew, not to mention the pain that continues to plague me. No, I cannot abide by her being so maudlin. Although, I suppose I'll have to tell her as much. She certainly doesn't look as though she's any intention of figuring it out on her own.
And with that decided, Snape rose to his feet and made his way toward Hannah's desk.
Hannah's stomach was in knots and she had to blink away tears every couple of minutes as she just kept going over and over the events of the last 24 hours in her mind. This time yesterday hadn't been all sunshine and roses, but it certainly appeared to be once you took in today's events.
She sighed heavily and ran a hand through her hair. She couldn't concentrate and kept putting her quill down. Hannah closed her eyes for just a moment, brows furrowed as she tried to think of a way out of the hell her life had become.
Snape leaned against the doorway, watching as the young woman closed her eyes. It was obvious she was having an internal conflict. And, where he a nicer man, he would have considered asking her about it. However, as it was, he was not a nice man, and had no intention of becoming one any time soon.
So, instead of using soft tones and gentle smiles to find out what was bothering his loyal assistant, Snape instead snapped, "Ms. Abbott, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, do you think you could perhaps actually do some work while you are here? It is, after all, what I am paying you for."
He resisted the urge to tell her to begin acting happier immediately, as her mood was annoying him. Somehow, he didn't think even she would take kindly to that. And he simply didn't have the energy for a fight at the moment.
The cold words were the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. Hannah buried her face in her hands and began to sob hysterically.
She was crying. No, sobbing was more like it.
Hannah Abbott, assistant to Severus Snape, was currently sitting at her desk sobbing her heart out. And he was the reason for it.
Do not be ridiculous. I've said far worse to the girl than that! She's merely overly emotional.
However, that did nothing to assuage the guilt that was washing over him in waves. Unaccustomed to such types of feelings, especially when directed toward someone who normally annoyed him to no end, the man shifted uncomfortably. He was not the type of person to soothe others. In fact, it was perhaps one of the things he was completely and unequivocally horrible at.
But he also couldn't just stand there and allow her to cry. And he couldn't bring himself to say something cruel and retreat into his office either.
So, taking a deep breath, he forced his voice to remain quiet and completely lacking of malice as he asked, "What in the name of Merlin is wrong?"
There. That was as close to comfort as he was going to get.
Her control and reserve slipped back into place, slowly and with much difficulty, as soon as his words registered in her over-taxed brain. She sat back in her chair, immediately and began wiping her eyes, making her apologies. "I'm sorry," she muttered, hunting for a handkerchief so she could properly wipe her face. "I'm so sorry sir... That won't happen again, I promise."
Hannah took a deep, steadying breath and turned her dull, red-rimmed eyes to her employer. She easily read the little lines of anxiousness around his eyes, indicating that such out-of-character behavior on her part concerned him, at least a little. Good one, Hannah... Cause a dying man more stress in his already over-stressed situation. That's certainly considerate of you... Her voice was dull and heavy, raspy from the sobbing. "Wrong, sir? Why would you think anything's wrong?"
Snape snorted, giving her a pointed look. "Ms. Abbott, in all the years you attended my class at Hogwarts, you were never once reduced to tears while in my presence. Now, considering what just transpired, I wonder why I could possibly have come to the conclusion that something is bothering you."
Shaking his head slightly, he sighed. "I am not the type of person to comfort others. I see little reason in doing so. And I am not claiming to have taken any interest in your personal life. However, the simple fact remains that it is quite obvious something is causing not only your performance here to be less than expected, but it is also affecting your behavior. So, unless you would rather I sent you home until such time you are capable of getting yourself under control and your affairs in order, I suggest you tell me what is causing such dramatics."
He knew he could have asked her in a much nicer way to confide in him. But, at the moment he simply couldn't care. Anger and frustration were quickly replacing the concern he was feeling, and he didn't want to risk snapping at her and causing yet another crying episode. No, it was best to get the conversation over with.
The tears began flowing fresh then, though no longer accompanied by the heavy sobs of a minute ago. "I think, sir, that it would be far easier to as what hasn't changed my life completely in the last 24 hours. My brother's been expelled from his school for fighting with an instructor. The headmaster's decided that military school would be best for him, at least for the remainder of this year, but it's a far more expensive school than the one he was attending. I don't think I can afford to send him there, but what else can I do? I won't want to send him to a state school, especially since he should be getting his acceptance to Wizarding school this summer..."
Hannah sighed then and rubbed her eyes. "And then Harmony... My sister's just broken her arm. Badly. Jeremy sent me an owl about it this morning. My aunt took her to a Muggle Hospital and they had to perform surgery on her arm to get it to set right. Now I have her hospital bill to pay for...."
She shook her head, a few tears dropping onto a parchment of notes on her desk, blurring the ink. "There's no way I'll be able to pay for all of that and still be able to afford little luxuries like a place to live and food to eat. And I know our budget is extremely tight, so I can't ask for a raise without you laughing in my face... I - I don't know what to do anymore, sir... " Hannah covered her face with her hands again, sobbing quietly as she muttered. "I wish my parents were here...."
He paused, not sure what to say. Her words had managed to strike a chord in him that, under normal circumstances, he was fairly certain wouldn't have bothered him in the least. However, these weren't normal circumstances. And Hannah wasn't the type to get upset about her personal problems unless they truly had reached the point of nearly breaking her.
Putting more of his weight against the doorway, as his legs felts as though they were about to give out on him, he wearily hand through his hair. Alright, so Ms. Abbott is clearly going through a crisis. However, there is little I can do about it. If I agree to give her a raise, she will begin to ask questions concerning our funding. And it isn't as though I know of anyone who would allow her to stay with them without paying rent.
Then, it hit him. Slowly a chill began to work its way through his body as his brain instantly came up with a solution.
A solution that was not at all one he would like to use.
And, apparently realizing this, his mouth took that precise moment to begin working without his consent. Fortunately, he managed to get control of it before it said what had been going through his mind, and instead suggested, "If the cause of your troubles are monetary based, perhaps you should consider moving back in with your aunt. Or, at the very least, ask a friend for a temporary place of residence."
Silently, he breathed a sigh of relief. That was almost a complete and utter disaster.
Hannah shook her head, wiping her eyes and nose again with her already soaked handkercheif. "No... I can't... I can't go back to Aunt Hortense. It - It's too hard..." She gave Severus a weary, tearful glance and almost began sobbing again. "Aunt Hortense and my mother are identical twins...I... I don't think..." She had to close her eyes again and spend the next several moments breathing deeply, willing herself to stay strong. He's probably just asking out of politeness... Yes, that's it...
Another pregnant pause ensued as Hannah collected herself. "I don't want to be a burden on anyone, sir. Everyone I know is having a tough time of it... I am by no means alone in that respect."
Snape resisted the urge to roll his eyes at her comment. However, he couldn't bite back his comment on her attitude.
"How very noble of you, Ms. Abbott. Tell me, has it ever occurred to you that, just perhaps, other people are asking for help when they require it? Just because they do not ask you does not mean that they are not seeking assistance."
Sighing once more, he tried to think of something else that he could say to comfort the girl. 'Just say it,' his mind whispered. 'She obviously needs help. And you are certainly in a position to do just that.
Then, before he knew what he was doing, Snape finally decided to listen to the more emotional side of himself. "Ms. Abbott," he said in a quiet tone, practically having to force the words out of his mouth. "If you require a place to stay, you are welcome to come to my Manor. While it may not be the most inhabitable of homes, you would be more than able to use the money otherwise spent on rent and food to go toward more pressing matters."
There. It was done. There was no going back. Now, he was going to stand there long enough for her to laugh at him, then he was going back into his office until it was time for him to go home, get incredibly drunk, and try to forget the insane offer he'd just made.
Shock. That was Hannah's first reaction to Severus' offer of a place to live until she was better situated financially. Her mouth opened and closed, opened and closed again as her brain worked frantically. "Y - You would do that for me?" WHY? Why would he offer something like that? He can't stand me! Maybe... maybe it was just a joke. Maybe the pain he'd been experiencing had effected his mind and this was some kind of sick joke... Yes, that was it. That had to be it...
She isn't laughing. Why isn't she laughing? If she were to simply laugh this would all be over. Then I wouldn't have to explain to her that it was merely a moment of insanity on my part. It isn't as though I want her to stay with me. No, I rather prefer my solitude...
Even he wasn't buying that anymore.
Sighing heavily, unable to believe what he was about to say, he replied, "Try not to look so shocked, Ms. Abbott. Clearly there are other reasons for my offer. If you were at the manor, it would make our research on the potion all that more involved. And, it would also keep your emotional outburst to a minimum while at the office itself. Now, the choice is obviously yours. However, I would appreciate an answer sometime in the near future, seeing as how neither of us are getting any work done at the moment."
What in the name of Merlin has happened to me? Have I truly lost my mind? Why didn't I just tell her no and be done with it?
Hannah stared at him as he spoke, barely breathing, barely blinking. Not a joke. Serious. He's serious. She shook her head once, forcibly, and cleared her throat. "Th-Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. I.. um, I accept... But only until things get a bit more settled. Then I'll be out of your hair, I promise."
Her mind was screaming at her even as the words left her mouth. Are you insane? Or just a glutton for punishment? Any second now he's going to withdraw the offer and laugh in your face... then he'll probably can you for being such an idiot and... and...
Snape nodded, not allowing his brain to consider the fact that he'd just invited Hannah Abbott, the epitome of everything he was not, to move into his home. "Very well. Now, unless you would like to find yourself unemployed, I suggest you get back to work. The potion is not going to discover itself," he stated, although he knew his threats of firing were hollow.
Turning back to his office, he paused and glanced once more at the shell-shocked girl. "And do not expect me to assist you with your move. Just because I am opening my home up to you does not mean that we are friends." Convinced he'd still left the room with as much snarkiness as he normally possessed, he closed his door and returned to his desk and the pile of parchments that were waiting for him.
Draco is going to be quite upset when he learns of this. With any luck he won't attempt to hex me into oblivion for refusing him a place to stay and allowing a former Hufflepuff to take his place.
Hannah, eyes still wide from shock, turned back to her work and stared at it blankly. Sweet Merlin... What had she just gotten herself into?