A/N: Welcome! This will be a Hansy Advent story, posted in short chapters daily from now until Christmas, full of recovery and growth and...sex scandals?!
Thank you to the loveliest alpha readers, Colubrina and Disillusionist9, for all of their assistance cheerleading this story into existence. I hope you enjoy!
The sleigh bell above the cafe door jingled festively as Pansy swept in, bundled in a wool coat as black as the hair falling down her back, feet adorned in impractical stiletto boots. She looked professional and aloof and in sharp contrast to the greenery and tinsel draped throughout the shop.
Hermione slid out of the booth where she and Ron had been sitting near the window looking out over the decorations brightening Diagon Alley, and stood in her oversized pale grey jumper to extend her hand out to Pansy. "Thank you for meeting with us," Hermione said with a smile that for all of its genuineness, did not reach her tired eyes. "We are so glad you agreed to come."
"Parkinson," Ron said, tipping his head in her direction. "Thank you."
Pansy stripped the red and black plaid scarf from around her neck, and slipped open the silver buttons of her coat before sliding into the side of the booth opposite Ron and Hermione. The red of her lips stood out against pale skin flushed by the cold. Pansy raised a manicured hand to capture the waitress's attention.
"I haven't said I would help you yet. Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Pansy said, absently, as she signaled more boldly in the server's direction, until finally she caught the girl's attention. "Service here sucks, as usual. Merlin forbid I get some tea," she said before the waitress arrived.
When the server left, Pansy turned her attention towards her companions at the booth. Hermione's white knuckles gripped the ceramic of her tea mug while Ron's fingers folded and unfolded the corners of his napkin, crumbled scone remnants scattered before him. Nerves seemed to be getting the best of both of them. Even from a distance, Pansy had not seen the pair this subdued, or so close since their rather public breakup a year before. She raised an eyebrow at Hermione. "So?"
Hermione inhaled, stilling the movements of the white ceramic cup in her hands before casting the muffliato charm around them. "We'll need you to agree to keep everything we discuss today completely confidential. Pansy, can we trust you to do that?"
"You know I'm bound by confidentiality oaths if you are seeking me out for my Healer qualifications," Pansy paused, passing her eyes between them. "You are approaching me as a Healer...this isn't a misguided attempt at asking me to join you in bed, is it?"
Hermione's eyes grew wide as Ron coughed before sputtering, "No, no, absolutely not. Why would you? No."
Pansy smirked. "Tsk, Granger. Does your boyfriend know what you're up to? Wearing Theo's jumper while propositioning me with another man," she said wryly. "So tell me, what has the Brightest Witch looking so much duller than usual?"
Hermione's eyes fell again to her mug in hands ensconced in cashmere jumper sleeves too long for her arms, white knuckles still holding on as if the grip was keeping her from being dragged out into a current. Unable to summon the outrage she normally would have felt at Pansy's barb, she began. "It's Harry."
"Oh, I gathered as much. No one else would have both your knickers knotted in the same way," Pansy asserted, before pausing while the server absently set her mug on the table. "Finally! This better not be cold," she said, adding milk to the mug from the tiny pitcher. "What's he done now? Haven't seen him in the papers lately, not since he flounced from Aurors and kissed his girlfriend's arse goodbye. Too bad, she has such a good arse too."
"Don't talk about my sister like that," Ron interrupted and Hermione spoke over them both.
"I wouldn't take the Prophet's version of events as gospel, Pansy," Hermione said, choosing to ignore Pansy's opinions on Ginny's arse.
"As what?" Pansy asked.
Hermione sighed, "Muggle religious thing, sorry." Hermione renewed her grip on the mug in her hand. "The papers didn't have the whole story. It's all complicated. But Harry needs help, and you are our best hope for helping him."
"How? I'm nothing special, Granger. Surely he'd be better off at St. Mungos or the French or American wizarding hospitals. What could I ever do that they can't?"
"I've read your research on touch as a method of healing trauma. It's brilliant, really. Theo mentioned how successful your work with your patients has been, especially the main case study you've published about, and I'm so impressed. I know your methods would make an incredible difference for Harry."
"But I tried to turn him over to the Dark Lord," Pansy retorted, eyes on her own mug, glossy black fingernail flicking the chip in the handle. "That seems like a pretty severe conflict of interest."
"The war is over," Ron began before pausing. "It is over, but not for Harry."
"Then, please, tell me how my presence could ever help him, if he's just going to expect me to turn him over to the enemy at any moment."
"That's not what I…" Ron began. "It's complicated, like Mione said."
"Harry is addicted to a potion he's been taking to help him deal with some lingering effects from the war. Horrific nightmares, in fact, and now he can't sleep without it and is taking such a high dose we're terrified it will be lethal. Pansy, we've tried everything we can think of to help him...other potions, which aren't effective, hypnosis, muggle sleep aids. He refuses to get treatment at a facility, claims it's under control, but it's not. We know it's not."
"Hmmm...I see. That's entirely problematic. I still don't know what you think I can do to help. My research is focused in trauma recovery, not addiction."
"But the root of Harry's issues are his nightmares, which are the direct result of his war trauma."
"True…" Pansy considered. "What, exactly, are you proposing?"
"A hundred thousand galleons," Ron said.
"Excuse me?" Pansy's eyes widened.
"A month of your time, in exchange for the galleons and housing, to treat Harry at his home."
"And he's willing?" Pansy's head cocked in consideration.
"It's complicated now, but he will be willing. We'll make sure of it before the month begins," Hermione asserted, finally abandoning her mug on the table. "I've read your research, Pansy, and it's solid. Daily massage, particularly at nighttime, it will help him. I'm certain it will."
"So...you're asking me to massage him to sleep every night? And what happens if he has a nightmare?" Pansy asked.
"That's why you'll be there, to help him back to sleep, hence the housing part of the offer. Do whatever you need to do in the daytime, we don't care. Just, please, Pansy. Say you'll be there during the night for him." Hermione's arguments became pleas the longer she continued.
Pansy sighed dramatically. "A hundred thousand galleons?"
"Half up front, if you'd like," Ron offered. "We know you're in high demand."
"If I do it, and I'm not saying I will, I have a half crup. He'll need to stay with me."
"Whatever you need, Pansy," Hermione encouraged, the light beginning to return to her brown eyes. "Plus, I've been reading about muggle therapy involving animals…"
"Oh, Axel's too ridiculous to help anyone, and he'd be the first to admit it."
"Your crup's name is Axel?"
"It's as he was named by the breeder. Gregory bequeaths his animals with fitting names."
"Interesting," Ron said, as the group fell into silence.
"Pansy...please. Please say yes." Hermione's low tones took on a prayer-like quality.
"I need some time,"
"Certainly. We understand. Would it help to have my notes to review?"
"Yes, thank you," Pansy said as she accepted the thick blue folder Hermione pulled from the bag beside her on the bench.
"When will you have an answer for us?" Hermione asked, and Pansy felt pinned down by the enormous weight of their expectations.
"Tomorrow. I'll owl you tomorrow."