"You have got to be kidding me!" Her jaw dropped as she stared at the wizard in black sitting behind the desk.
"Miss Granger," he hissed, his dark eyes piercing down at her. "What the hell are you doing here?"
A 3-part short romantic comedy involving a unique address, a young witch who was adamant that she was in dire need for therapy, and a potions master who firmly believed he had no reason whatsoever to be involved in such nonsense.
A/N: The following story has not been beta'ed. I will update with a revision of this chapter as soon as I hear back from my wonderful beta. In the meantime, please be gentle and PM me if you see anything glaringly wrong... Many thanks!
Disclaimer: All belongs to her, not me.
The Therapist on Cmelak Street
"You really should take better care of yourself, girl. You are a walking disaster." Ginny carried a plate full of homemade madeleine into the drawing room. "That sweater really doesn't fit you. It makes you look ten years older!" The red-haired witch set the plate down on the coffee table, next to a pot of freshly brewed tea. "And what have you done to your hair? It's looking quite scraggly. Are you not using any charms anymore? I think it looks even worse than that day when you came back to Hogwarts right before the final battle. At least you had it up in a ponytail then."
"You're supposed to make me feel better." Hermione sighed, reaching forward and brought the entire tray of biscuits into her lap.
"That's what the madeleines are for," Ginny shrugged with her back facing her late afternoon guest, her full attention focused on the small black-haired baby chewing on a stuffed grizzly bear in the playpen. "Freshly baked, just the way you like it. Sorry if I hurt your feelings, but if you can't hear it from a girlfriend, where else would you get an honest opinion?"
"I can't care less about other people's opinions about my appearance these days." Hermione frowned at the pile of buttery treats in the tray. "All day long all I hear is 'she yelled at me', 'she's not fair', 'she didn't help me', or 'ask her, she did it'. I don't give a damn about my stupid hair, alright? I'm tired of being criticized all day long. I'm tired of taking responsibility for everything and everyone, including myself."
"Geez, a bit touchy this afternoon, aren't we?" Ginny mumbled quietly as she picked up her little boy and settled down in a rocking chair with a bottle of milk.
"I'm so sorry Ginny," Hermione sighed again as she reached for the biggest biscuit on the plate. "I know I'm bitchy... can't help it. I didn't mean to come to your house in the middle of a beautiful Saturday and burden you with such nasty attitude."
"Don't mention it Hermione." Ginny shook her head slightly, "That's what friends are for. I'm only glad that you are still showing up for our monthly tea time. Harry told me you're super busy these days at your office and have turned into a hermit after work. He hasn't seen you since you came by last month. Oh he's sorry he has to miss you today, by the way. Ron's team is advancing to the regional tournament and today is their first playoff game. You know how Ron is, he thinks having Harry there at the stand would help him play better."
"No worries. Harry would have said I look like a disaster as well anyway. I really don't need to hear that twice. Honestly, I just want to hear something sweet and fluffy." Hermione gave a faint smile to the golden brown biscuit in her hand.
"You need a boyfriend for that." Ginny chuckled. "When you have a dark and handsome man whispering all the sweet nothings in your ears, all your troubles will disappear."
"Too bad dark and handsome men do not exist." Hermione said with a month full of madeleine. "Or at least I've managed to scare all of them away."
"Too bad you and Ron couldn't make it," Ginny looked up at her girlfriend across the room, "I would much prefer seeing him with you than with Lavender."
"He did the right thing." Hermione dunk another biscuit in her tea and nodded thoughtfully. "He was clever to break it off when we first realized our friendship was not made for romance. I'm actually glad we called it off before I got so... well, bitchy is actually the kindest word you would choose if you were working in our department. You wouldn't believe the names that everyone in my office is calling me behind my back. Anyway, at least I can still call Ron a good friend and be civil with him around Christmas dinner table, not like those other ex-boyfriends that I got rid of. Do you know that they all run and hide from me nowadays? I tell ya, even Voldemort would have agreed that I should be called 'she-who-must-not-be-named' if he knew how nasty I can be."
"Listen to you." Ginny shook her head disapprovingly. "You make yourself sound like a monster. Those guys you dated simply weren't right for you. That's all. You just need to keep looking."
"Keep looking?" Hermione laughed bitterly. "Where? I don't think so. I don't have the time and I don't have the energy. My every minute at work is like a fire drill. There is always an emergency somewhere waiting for me in the office. Or at least they save all of them for me exclusively. And by the time I come up for air from work and look around me, all I see are married men with wives and children at home. That's the only men I see these days - men who had to work their tails off with a bitchy witch only because they are obligated to bring home the bacon."
"It must be the work then." Ginny suggested. "Are you working too much? Maybe taking a holiday or changing department would help?"
"Nah," Hermione made short work on the last piece of biscuit. "It's not work. Working is good for me. I'm at least feeling alive when I'm at work dealing with all the emergencies. It's not working that is problematic." She sighed at the empty plate on her lap. "I don't have any interest or energy for anything else. I'd much rather lay in bed all day on weekends. If you didn't threaten me with leaving James in my care every weekend, I confess, I wouldn't have been able to keep up with our monthly tea time. I sleep through most of my nonworking hours."
"I was always tired when I was first pregnant with James." Ginny arched her brows.
"Oh please..." Hermione snorted, "If you paid any attention to what I just said, you'd know that I have successfully scared half of the men in Britain away. And the other half happens to be either happily taken or not remotely interested in procreation. In case you're wondering, I just went to my annual checkup a few weeks ago and no, I'm not pregnant, nor am I sick... not physically at least." She added in a low voice.
"Hmmm," Ginny studied her friend with great sympathy. "I think Harry might be right then."
"What?" Hermione looked up at her friend in surprise. "What is he saying behind my back?"
"Oh Hermione," Ginny frowned, "when did you become so paranoid? Please don't be upset with him. He only worries about you. He thinks... he thinks you may have... erm... depression."
There was a brief silence in the room. Ginny stared at her friend with great concern, not sure how Hermione would react to such a suggestion.
To Ginny's great surprise, Hermione broke into a small laugh. "Well that's a relief." When she finally stopped laughing, she sighed. "I was worried that he suspected I was cursed or something. But the truth is, Ginny, he's not the only one who's telling me that. My own mother had just slip a business card of a muggle psychiatrist in my birthday card not too long ago. At first I thought she was trying to fix me up with someone she knew. But when I found out that the doctor is seventy-years-old I finally realized my mum's true intention." The young witch shook her head and let out a sigh.
"Don't you want professional help?" Ginny pulled the empty bottle out of the baby's grasp, ignoring a small protest coming from the boy. "Mum said the healers can do great wonders. She's speaking from personal experience, you know, after Fred..." the small whimpering coming from her son quickly becoming louder and louder.
"Oh don't get me wrong." Hermione sensed the direction of the conversation and stopped her friend in mid-sentence. "I DO trust the professionals' abilities. And I'm beginning to think that may be the only way to fix my problems. But... It's just that I can't go to a muggle therapist. They like to talk about your personal history and experience, you know. My life is a strange tale since age eleven. How am I going to explain to them what I've been through in the past fifteen years? They would have easily determined that I've lost my mind before they would even attempt to fix it."
"You should really go see this therapist that my mum went to see then." Ginny tried to calm the baby down by patting his back slowly. "He's the only one not associated with St. Mongo's here in London. My mum has nothing but high praises to say about this wizard. She said he is a great listener and has great skills of his trade, and even made her sleep better by sending potions home with her."
"Like a wizard psychiatrist then, huh?" The newly acquired information perked Hermione's interest lightly. "I would be interested except that... well, I don't know. I know it's been almost six years since the war, but people still like a good gossip if they can get their hands on it. Can you imagine reading about 'Hermione Granger's Devastating Depression' on the Daily Prophet? I don't need their pity. And I don't need that kind of attention."
"You don't have to worry about that!" Ginny got up from the rocking chair, rocking the crying baby in her arms; although the movement had no effect on her wailing son. "This therapist apparently is very discreet. He went as far as to putting the Taboo curse on his name. Unless you are his patient, you won't have the slightest idea as to who he is, and certainly cannot share what you hear from him to others. I can ask mum to contact him and request an appointment for you. It may take a while you know. He could be quite busy... Oh would you please stop crying James?"
Hermione took a deep breath trying to control her composure as the baby's cry quickly triggered a headache pounding behind her eyes. Their visits almost always ended in this fashion since James was born. The boy would always cry at a certain hour, marking the time when the Potters bid their farewell hastily with their guests.
"Well sure," Hermione put down the empty tray that was full of biscuits only a while ago. "That won't hurt, I suppose."
"Oh before I forget," Ginny was almost yelling now since the baby was now bawling in her arms, "All of his patients have to use alias. He doesn't want to be the only one responsible for protecting your privacy. What do you want to be called?"
With her bag in her hand Hermione had already started making her way towards the door. "Madeleine sounds good." She eyed the few golden crumbs left on the plate. "Petite can be the last name."
As the wild-haired witch ran for the front door she heard Ginny's voice above James' howl, "Madeleine Petite it is then. I'll ask mum to get you an appointment!"
"This is just fantastic. My first appointment with the miracle worker and I am going to be late!" Hermione huffed with great annoyance as she ran down the Ministry Atrium, her hands fumbling her handbag looking for the small piece of parchment that Molly had sent her with an owl just the day before.
It's been a few months since Ginny made the suggestion that Hermione should pay a visit to Molly's old therapist. Apparently the therapist was in high demand and had a long waiting list for new clients; and once he had an opening he gave no considerations as far as whether the meeting time was acceptable to his new client. When Molly finally informed Hermione that she was able to get her an appointment with the healer, Hermione had no choice but to agree to a series of monthly visits on Monday afternoons from two to three o'clock.
Mondays were never Hermione's favorite day of the week. It not only was the first day of the week that she had to crawl out of her refuge in bed, but also the day when she had to report to her boss with her team's progress. Her team was tasked with the responsibility to report on all incidents involving mishaps caused by magical creatures across the country. Her weekly report could never please her supervisor, because her team was never ready to meet with her until the last minute. Hermione spent almost every Monday morning rushing to redo her team's work from the previous week so that she could have something to turn in at the meeting with her boss at one o'clock.
This particular Monday was not any different. By the time Hermione had a report that was semi-acceptable, it was already half past twelve. She only had time to shove half of a sandwich down her throat before she had to run to see her supervisor. And just as she had expected, the mid-level supervisor quickly produced a long list of critiques. If this was any other Mondays, Hermione would have spent the rest of the day responding to those comments. But today she would have to postpone that task until later that night, because she knew if she didn't go see this therapist, Molly would make sure that she would never hear the end of it.
"This therapist has better be good. At least good enough to worth the trouble." She growled as she spread up the wrinkled paper and saw Molly's handwriting. Molly had been working part-time at a local branch of the Gringotts Bank since all of her children were now grown and had left the house. Working at the bank got Molly into writing everything in capital letters - it was the standard style of writing at the bank. For Hermione however, reading things spelled out in caps was practically like hearing the words screaming at her. "175 C MELAK STREET!" She screamed back into the fireplace and stormed through the green flames without another thought.
The room on the other side of the floo was dim and cool, quite the opposite of the busy Ministry foyer. The silence quickly drowned out the noise in Hermione's head. She took a deep breath and was surprised to find herself in a large office instead of a waiting room. It was clear that she wouldn't need to waste her time chit chatting with a receptionist.
"The man has some respect for his client's privacy." She voiced her approval inwardly.
There was a familiar scent in the room, reminded her of some kind of potion ingredient that she had once worked with. There was something else that felt familiar, Hermione frowned. It was a feeling of her was being watched and... criticized. As she looked up ahead, her eyes were quickly drawn to a silhouette of a man sitting behind a desk by the far window. He looked familiar, she thought to herself; her frown deepened.
"I'm your 2 o'clock, sir. Sorry I'm late." She slowly began to make her way towards the man, not sure why she should feel so nervous.
Her eyes widened as a familiar face appeared before her as she walked into the light by the window.
"You have got to be kidding me!" Her jaw dropped as she stared at the man in black sitting behind the desk.
"Miss Granger," he hissed, his dark eyes piercing down at her. "What the hell are you doing here?"
It was Professor Snape!
Hermione's blood ran cold.
For a brief moment she forgot what she was doing there. She thought she had gone back in time, and was in his potions classroom again, guilty for something she had done. Not knowing what to say, she simply stood there and stared.
Like most people in the wizarding world, Hermione hadn't seen or heard about Severus Snape since the end of the war. It was widely reported that after spending a good three months at St. Mungo's recovering from the snake bite that almost took his life, the former spy had simply dropped off of the face of the planet. Even the most talented reporter with Daily Prophet couldn't track him down after he was released by the hospital. The folks who admired Snape's contribution to the war, such as Harry and Minerva, commented that the wizard deserved his privacy. Others, who were never convinced by his loyalty, were only disappointed that the man wasn't available for further scrutiny.
Hermione never had ill wishes towards the wizard; but she also had no intention to run into him ever again, let alone having him as her therapist.
"Well?" He arched one brow and drawled. "Answer my question."
The witch blinked a few times and slowly came to her senses. She was no longer a school girl facing her professor. She was an adult now. She had her right to seek help from a healer, if that's what he turned out to be. And if he could really live up to his reputation of curing people's problems, Hermione thought, he should treat her no differently from Molly Weasley.
"I apologize, Prof... uh, sir." She straightened up her back and found her voice. "I was trying to be on time. But my work... you see... argh, it's a long story. I'm sure you'll get to hear about all my problems later. But for starters..." she found a leather couch against the wall and deposited herself heavily into it. "Can I have a glass of water first? I ran straight to here from that butt-faced boss of mine."
A small sparkle flickered in Snape's dark eyes as he gave his wand a quick wave, sending a glass of water floating in front of Hermione.
The witch sat up and downed the water greedily. As she looked up, she found the same dark eyes narrowing upon her.
"Why are you looking at me like this?" She put the glass down on a small table by the couch and frowned. And then something suddenly occurred to her. "Oh, yes, I'm sorry. I forgot to even explain. Molly made the appointment for me. I told her to use that alias. I know, it's stupid, Madeleine Petite. If I keep eating Ginny's homemade madeleines I will never be able to live up to the name Petite, will I?" She sighed with a small chuckle. "But I have to say, that's a really good idea of yours. If you didn't request that your clients use alias, I wouldn't have been able to gather up the courage to come and see you."
He stayed quiet, but never changed his speculative glare at her.
"Well..." she hesitated for a brief moment, before lying back down in the couch, "I will probably feel better if you don't stare at me like this, you know." She took in another deep breath and closed her eyes. "Alright, fine. You keep staring. If that's what you have to do to cure my problems. I'm not going to look at you. This is how you usually help your clients, isn't it? It's a nice couch by the way. Wake me up if I drift off, will ya? I'm always sleepy these days. Not that I don't sleep. It's the quality of the sleep, you see. Well I'm sure you'll help me address that with a potion, won't you? I just want you to know right off the bet that I don't want any dreamless sleep. I've had too much of it a few years back. It's not good as a long-term remedy. Well what am I talking about, you must know all about that. You're the potions master, after all."
There was more silence.
"Oh I see," she sighed into the ceiling. "I must have messed up your treatment plan. Don't therapists always ask their patients to tell them about their personal history? This is working out rather well, isn't it? You know my history already, at least all the way through the end of the war, for the most part. I went back to Hogwarts to finish my NEWTs, in case if you didn't know that from reading the paper already. I don't understand why it was such a fuss about someone wanting to finish her exams. But apparently Rita Skeeter thought it was highly amusing. At any rate, after that I got an entry-level position at the Department of Care for Magical Creatures. It's been almost five years since I started working there and I'm still not very far from that entry-level. My boss and my boss' boss said I need more experience. I do have a small team of staff to supervise, but all of them have been with the department longer than me and none of them is willing to listen to me. When things go well my boss takes all the credit. When things go belly up it's entirely my fault. I'm not complaining, sir," she clarify hastily, "in case you got the wrong idea. I'm just tired I guess. I work too many hours. They always have excuses to ask me to work overtime. But then again I can't turn them down. I don't have an excuse to turn them down. I have no life outside of work. My mum is only willing to spend that many hours talking to me on the phone. And my dad would rather not talk to me at all. Well, that's for another session I suppose. So here I am, a perfect worker bee, with no family, no relationship, and not even a hobby. I used to like knitting. But a few ex-boyfriends ago I was convinced that knitting is an old lady's pastime. I wish I still have the desire to pick up the needles now. But I don't. To tell you the truth, even a good book may not perk my interest these days. My mum and Harry think I'm depressed. I don't know if that's the case. But what am I here to say anyway? You are the professional. You will tell me how depressed I am, right?"
"Miss Granger," his cool voice startled her slightly. She quickly turned her head to look at him. He was still looking at her intensely. However, there was something slightly warmer in those deep dark eyes. "I'm afraid you've been misinformed..." He began.
"Oh no no no." Hermione quickly sat up and stopped him from finishing his words. "I've heard about you. I don't know any exact cases, of course, due to the secrecy of your treatments. But I've heard enough to know that you helped many traumatized people get back on their feet. Molly was quite impressed by you, you know. I'm not traumatized, you see, but I think I'm probably seriously depressed. I don't think I can trust anyone with my problems. Not even Ginny and Harry know all about them. For example, they had no idea about all the pills that I've tried to be cheerful again. And they also don't know that I tried to pick up guys at the pub wearing glamour. Apparently sex alone doesn't do the trick, either. Be honest with you I had a lot of doubt before I came here today. But now," She took a deep breath, "Seeing you before me, I know I won't be able to find another soul in this word that can guard my secrets better. You are an honorable wizard and I trust you not having a blabber mouth. You are honestly my last hope. Listen, I'm really sorry that I'm late today. It won't happen again, promise! But please don't fire me. I don't want to lose my mind and become Lockhart's neighbor. And I'm sure that's where I'm going if you don't help me. So please? Would you at least give me another chance?"
He opened his mouth, but didn't seem to have an answer ready for her.
Just at that moment, there was a soft knock on the door. Both the wizard and the witch turned their attention to the other side of the room, watching an older witch in her sixties walking into the room with an armful of files.
"Oh, I'm sorry Severus," the witch apologized quickly as she noticed Hermione in the room. "I didn't know you're with someone. I thought you wanted to meet with me at three to go over the numbers from last month. But if you're busy I'll come back in a little while."
"No, I'm not busy." Snape called after the older witch and stopped her in her path.
"It's three already?" Hermione jumped up from the couch. "Oh right, he's not busy." She gave the older witch a small smile and turned her attention back to Snap. "I'm sorry. I'm leaving now. Thank you for listening to me. I haven't been able to talk to anyone like this for a long time."
"Leave." He said quietly.
"Of course, right away. But," Hermione stopped her footsteps in front of the wizard's desk. She hesitated briefly before leaning forward and asked in a hushed voice. "Aren't you at least going to give me something to help me sleep? I know it's going to take a while to get to the bottom of all of my problems. But I feel like I'm falling apart without some real sleep! Is there at least something you can give me?"
He tilted his head back and studied her with narrowed eyes. After a long moment he reached for his drawer with his pale long fingers and brought out a small vial of blue potion.
"Ooooh thank you!" She smiled brightly and took the vial from his hand. But a small frown quickly crawled up her brows. "It's not dreamless sleep, is it? I know it's not the same color, but..."
His lips curled up with distaste. "No, it is not." He cut her off. "Now leave!"
"Okay I'm going! I'm gone!" She quickly walked to the fireplace. "See you next month!" She waved at him from the green frames, not having a chance to hear his reply.
"How did it go?" Ginny's red head was bobbing through the green flames in Hermione's fireplace.
"Not what I had expected to say the least." Hermione smiled at her friend. "Too bad I'm not allowed to tell you more. But I got some potion from him for my sleep."
"Are you going back next month?"
"Of course!" Hermione shrugged. "Didn't you say I paid for the entire ten sessions already? Direct transfer from my Gringotts account at the time of registration, huh? Pretty smart with his business, isn't he? I should have known. The man really is clever."
"Well, glad things went well." Ginny sighed. "Harry's taking James to bed and I need to start the laundry. See you this Saturday?"
"Will there be madeleines?" Hermione blinked.
"Sure." Ginny chuckled.
"Then I'll be there." Hermione smiled as Ginny's face disappeared into the floo.
That night, Hermione thought she had the best sleep in years.