Written for ChipsPlease's "Clue" Challenge at the HP fanfiction Challenges forum. My prompts were Hannah Abbot, coffee and school. I'm afraid this is more tea than coffee, but it worked better that way!
A Nice Cup of Tea
Hannah doesn't drink tea any more. Coffee, pumpkin juice, butterbeer, hot chocolate… Any of those will do. Not tea.
Tea was what she drank with her mum. Right from being a tiny girl, when she came back from the Muggle primary school every day and sat with her mother at the kitchen table drinking hot milky sweet tea and eating biscuits as they talked. The tradition continued until Hannah went to Hogwarts (and was one of the things she cried for in the long long nights when her parents and her home seemed far away, and it was weeks and weeks until the Christmas holidays). And in the holidays they drank tea and talked and talked, catching up with all they had missed of each other's lives. Her father joked that he had to give the local grocer advance warning of the school holidays so that he knew in to lay in extra supplies of tea bags.
After the funeral, when the friends and relatives and people she barely recognises are gone, and Hannah and her dad are alone in the house that feels far too big for the two of them, she sits at the kitchen table, and he makes them both a cup of tea. Hannah takes a sip, and puts the cup down with a bang on the table. She barely makes it to the bathroom before vomiting not only that tiny sip of tea but the two ham sandwiches she managed to choke down earlier and the cornflakes she had for breakfast. Her dad is behind her, frowning and concerned, and he watches as she swills her mouth out at the sink and then holds her close as she cries.
After that, Hannah doesn't drink tea any more.
When she goes back to school, everyone is concerned and worried about her, and Hannah wishes they would just give her some space. She likes that she has friends who care about her, but there really is nothing they can do to help. She just needs to feel normal for a while, and their sympathetic glances and the mutterings that stop abruptly when she is near don't help.
The Hufflepuff common room is warm and comfortable and familiar. Hot drinks and biscuits in the evening are a ritual that every Hufflepuff first year is initiated into on their very first night at school. On Hannah's first night back, three days after the funeral, Ernie and Justin are on drinks duty for the sixth years. After almost six years, everyone knows who drinks what, and Justin hands Hannah a cup of tea as a matter of course. She tries to thank him, to say something, but the words won't come. She chokes, and drops the cup and bolts for the girls' dormitories.
Susan follows her of course, and once Hannah stops crying – which takes a while - she manages to explain. She doesn't drink tea any more. Susan hugs her and helps her to bed, and sits with her until she falls into an uneasy sleep.
Susan passes the message round. After that night, Hannah is handed coffee when the drinks are made. No one remarks on the change – to her at least – and she is grateful for it. After a while, she even begins to like coffee.
The summer at home is strange and long without her mother, and uneasy and frightening following Dumbledore's death and You Know Who's takeover at the Ministry. Hannah's dad does not want to send he back to school – she is all he has now – but he has no choice. He holds her for a long time on the platform before she gets on the train, and she tries not to cry. She is a seventh year and a prefect. She needs to be strong.
She needs all her strength and courage in the weeks and months that follow. Somehow, in the midst of the Carrows' bullying and misinformation and gloating and torture, the older Hufflepuffs manage to continue to make their common room a place that feels safe, and almost homely. The nightly hot drinks ritual is more important than ever now, and Hannah is grateful for it as she sits with a trembling first year on her knee, insisting she drink her hot chocolate and sipping her own coffee. This tiny thing is something they still have that is normal, that is part of how school should be.
Dumbledore's Army is fighting, and Hannah's mother is never far from her mind as she scrawls pro-Potter graffiti on walls, as she bandages Ernie's hands after his latest run-in with Amycus Carrow or as she comforts yet another frightened and hurt junior in the common room. It may not be much, but they are fighting.
It is early April when Hannah, Ernie and Susan go into the Room of Requirement to stay. Ernie was far too vociferous in giving his opinion in Muggle Studies – he usually is, but Alecto was in a particularly bad mood – and Hannah and Susan were drawn in to defending him. After a highly unpleasant twenty four hours in the dungeons, they are barely able to make it to the Room before collapsing.
Food and drink in the Room are a bit of a problem. The Gryffindors and Ravenclaws who have been there a while have a system for fetching food from the Hog's Head, but Aberforth Dumbledore, while sympathetic, is not amenable to catering for what he sees as whims or fancies. The students will take what he can provide, and put up with it. So there is no coffee or hot chocolate in the Room, only tea. Hannah makes do with drinking water. Once or twice, Neville or Padma tries to persuade her that a hot cup of tea will do her good, but this doesn't happen after the first week or so. Hannah suspects that Ernie or Susan has tipped the others off about her reasons for not drinking it. She doesn't enquire.
The battle comes, and the victory – of sorts. There have been too many lost to regard it with pure joy. Hannah sits at the table with Ernie, both of them caught between rejoicing and tears, Ernie with his arm in a sling and a gash on his face that will not stop bleeding, Hannah relatively unscathed, but more exhausted than she has ever been in her life before. Someone behind them calls Ernie's name, and he gets up and limps off, leaving Hannah alone.
Someone comes and sits beside her. Neville, bruised and bloody and filthy, but with an air of peace and quiet satisfaction about him that is comforting. He is carrying two steaming mugs, and puts one of them in front of Hannah with a bang.
"A nice cup of tea," he tells her. "My gran says there's nothing like it, and she's right."
He has forgotten, but it does not matter. Hannah smiles at him, and rests her head on his shoulder as she sips her tea. It tastes good.