One of Severus' best customers was Dr Archer, a veterinarian who understood of what use a Potions master could be; he did not know, however, that it was Severus Snape with whom he was dealing.
"Thank you, Tate. These should hold me for a few wee—"
"Dr Archer, please, Crookshanks is very ill!"
Severus was startled to see Granger in the waiting room. She looked well, if distressed.
"Excuse me, Tate."
Granger followed Archer into an exam room, but almost at once, returned.
"Are you all right?" Severus asked her.
"They t—told me to wait out h—here."
Severus handed her a handkerchief. "What's wrong with your cat?"
"You'd best wait out here," Severus told her, wandlessly casting an Imperturbable on the door leading into the examination rooms. "I'm sure Archer and his assistant have things well in hand." Severus led Granger to a chair. "What's happened?"
Granger dabbed at her eyes. "He got into, er, some rat poison. I was in my workshop—where he is not allowed—but he followed me."
You were brewing something toxic, you mean, and your Kneazle was curious about it, Severus thought, pleased to know that he'd brought Archer several phials of multi-purpose antidote. "Well, I once knew a cat who got into its owner's heart medication and managed to survive the meal. I'm sure, Crookshanks, is it?"
"Will be fine."
"Thank you. I'm sorry for falling apart like that, but I've had Crooks for ages." She returned his handkerchief.
Severus took it and pocketed it before offering her his hand. "My name's Toby Tate."
"Hermione Granger. Are you waiting for your pet to be seen?"
"No. I'm . . . Archer's pharmaceutical supplier."
"Isn't that interesting? I work in, er, pharmaceuticals, myself."
Severus didn't ask her the name of her firm and was glad that she didn't ask him the name of his. What are you doing, man? he wondered, as Archer's assistant, Betty, emerged from the back.
"Miss Granger? Crookshanks is having his stomach pumped, and Dr Archer would like him to stay overnight for observation."
"May I see him?"
Betty, also a Squib, glanced worriedly at Severus and then at Granger.
Ah, Severus thought, she must not know Archer's background.
That wasn't unusual; many Squibs hid their status, and Severus could easily understand why Archer might not want an accomplished witch like Granger to know his.
She must bring her "cat" here because it's convenient to her flat. "Hermione," Severus said, laying a hand on her arm.
She turned to him in surprise.
"Archer will have anaesthestised Crooks, so . . . ."
"Oh, of course. How silly of me."
"Not at all, ma'am," said Betty, obviously relieved. "Why don't you and your friend go have lunch? You can come 'round tomorrow for Crookshanks. I'll call you in the morning."
Flushing, Hermione turned to him. "You've been so kind to me. Would you like to have lunch together, Mr, er, Toby? It would be my treat."
"Certainly not—that is to say, lunch would be lovely, but allow me to treat you."
Again, Severus wondered what the hell he was doing, but when Hermione smiled at him, he decided that he didn't care.
"That does sound lovely, thank you."
Severus rose and offered her his arm. "Do you enjoy tapas? There's an excellent Spanish restaurant just down the street."
"Oh, do you mean Adora's place?"
"You know the owner?" Severus asked, leading Hermione out of the office.
"Yes, I'm a regular. I work just, er, nearby, so I've got to know her quite well."
She must work for the Guild of Potioneers, Severus thought.
He'd thought of applying there, but the glamour he wore to hide his identity wouldn't have withstood the Guild's protective enchantments; that was one of many reasons he'd decided to become an independent brewer.
"I do love London," he said, by way of side-stepping their shared need for discretion with regard to their places of employment. "There are so many excellent places to eat."
"And so much to do," Hermione replied, cheerfully.
"I'm glad you're not so upset anymore."
"Well, good company is always cheering," Hermione said, leaning into him a little.
Severus leaned back, thinking, Good company—I've been looking for that for some time, haven't I? He turned and smiled at Hermione. "I couldn't agree more."