Disclaimer: Harry Potter is owned by JK Rowling et al. Any characters or locations you recognise are the intellectual property of these individuals and corporations. I make no money from the writing of this story.

My continued thanks to everyone who is reading, favouriting, alerting and, most importantly, reviewing this story. I know it has been a long time between drinks but I hope you enjoy this new chapter.

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Chapter XIV

It was a much smaller group in the new room than had been in the previous one. Only one scribe came in with them and Bill and George slipped in just before Kingsley closed the door. Unbeknownst to the rest of the witches and wizards in the room, Arthur had signalled for his sons to follow so they could keep abreast of what was happening to their family that day and offer support if needed. Arthur was still reeling from the revelation his daughter had announced to the room. He was quite surprised at the turn of events and rather upset that his son clearly felt he had to hide his preferences rather than live openly. Yes, homosexuality was something only fairly recently acknowledged in the wizarding world but he had always thought that he had projected an open mind toward his children.

Kingsley quickly described to the ICW representatives what this matter entailed while they waited for the two witches who had been detained to be brought in. One of the wizards asked for a copy of that morning's Daily Prophet to be produced and the five wizards crowded around it, reading the article in question that had started the whole debacle.

Just as they finished, the door opened and the Head of the DMLE brought in the two witches who had made allegations against Severus. Upon recognising them, Severus groaned quietly.

"What's wrong?" Hermione asked quietly. There were several conversations going on throughout the room so they were not being observed.

"Lesley Ballan and Esme Hawkins," Severus responded. "Both propositioned me in their seventh years and were rudely rebuffed. Clearly they are getting their revenge."

Hermione chuckled. "I take it neither are the other two former students you have had an encounter with," she teased.

"No," Severus said firmly. "I have not seen either of these witches since they left Hogwarts. Wait—I did see Ballan in Diagon Alley once while I was still at university. I got out of there before she saw me."

"Well you should be able to provide your memory of them being rejected. Coupled with Veritaserum testimony and entered into the public record, your reputation as simply the Greasy Bat of the Dungeons will remain." Hermione's eyes widened as Severus pinched her waist in retaliation to her teasing. She could see a light of amusement dancing in his eyes.

Hermione's prediction turned out to be true. Severus provided his memories and insisted on being questioned under Veritaserum to prove his veracity. Hawkins immediately withdrew her charges and meekly apologised. Ballan persisted and was compelled to provide her memory of the incident. All the ICW representatives knew as soon as they entered the memory that it had been altered. It was clear that the memory was what Ballan wanted to have happened, not what actually did. Under Veritaserum, which she had been forced to take in the same manner as Ginny had done, the truth emerged. The two witches were dismissed with fines and community service orders. Ballan was also ordered to undergo treatment with a mind-healer to counter her delusions.

The ICW representative from India had taken the lead in this hearing. Once the witches had left the room he turned to Ron.

"Mr Weasley, is there a reason you perpetuated the claims of these two witches? As we heard during their testimony, you had never met either of them before."

Ron just shrugged and shook his head.

"A verbal answer, if you please, sir," the wizard said firmly.

"No," Ron replied.

"Then why would you corroborate their accusations?" the wizard persisted.

"I don't know," Ron almost whined.

"May I ask some questions?" Kingsley asked. The ICW wizards all indicated he could go ahead. "Mr Weasley, what is your association with Miss Granger?"

"She is my ex-girlfriend," Ron replied.

"And Doctor Snape?" Kingsley asked.

"He was my professor at Hogwarts."

"Why did your relationship with Miss Granger end?"

"She caught me in bed with someone."

"So you did not part amicably," Kingsley commented.

"No," Ron said.

"Was there an agreement you came to at that time?" Kingsley asked.

Ron sighed. "Hermione said she wouldn't say anything about me if I didn't say anything about her."

"Why then did you break that agreement today, knowing it would get back to Miss Granger?"

Shrugging again, Ron said, "I don't know. Reporters just started asking me questions and I answered them. Then they started to say that Hermione must have been sleeping with Snape while she was still at school and they were all feeling sorry for me and building me up into this really sympathetic figure. It was better than the truth so I agreed with them."

"Did you give any thought to what repercussions might have arisen from your actions?"

"No, it made me look good," Ron admitted.

"We heard in the other room that your sister has been aware of your interest in men for some time. Was anyone else aware of it?"

"Only Hermione when she caught me. She told Harry and he made sure I knew he would out me if I spoke against Hermione at all. My brother Percy caught me a few weeks after that so he knew then too. Other than that I suppose the blokes I've been with. We're all keeping secrets."

Hermione shook her head sadly. It was just another piece of proof about how conservative and backwards the Wizarding World could be. She thought that with Ron's position both as an acknowledged war-hero and a Quidditch star, he could shine a positive light and awareness that homosexuals lived amongst the community and were not hurting anyone. The Muggle world had (mostly) embraced this fact. It could be the same for the Wizarding community as well.

"The education of witches and wizards falls under the purview of the ICW," the Canadian wizard said. "Therefore it falls to us to address the accusations made today. You are on record, Mr Weasley, as alleging that Doctor Snape and Miss Granger engaged in inappropriate conduct while the good doctor was a professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and Miss Granger was a student. Doctor Snape has proven his veracity. Miss Granger, will you please confirm for the scribe that your relationship with your then-professor was nothing more than normal student-teacher interactions?"

"I will absolutely confirm that," Hermione said firmly. "Do you require an oath or Veritaserum?" she offered.

"No, your word will suffice in the face of the rest of the evidence heard today," the wizard replied.

"Well, then I confirm that while at Hogwarts, our relationship was no different to that which I had with my other professors. Except that he was much harder on me than they all were," she qualified with a little smirk. It was an ongoing, good-natured argument between the two of them how he had acted during those tumultuous years. She hid her smile at the low growl coming from the man beside her.

"Mr Weasley, you have one more chance to offer a defence for your actions before we pass sentence," the Indian wizard said.

Ron shook his head. He knew there was nothing he could say that would help his case. He did not understand what made him say all those things in the first place. He guessed that he had been lulled into a false sense of security with Hermione completely disappearing the way she had. If only Skeeter had kept her nose out of things! He had barely thought about Hermione until this morning and now everything had blown up in his face and this time, Hermione would come out smelling like a rose. It was so unfair! She clearly had everything in her life under control and was happy. He would now have to rebuild his life and reputation, along with all this legal mess hanging around his neck as well. The anger and resentment built in his head until he abruptly stood from his chair, drew his wand and shouted a curse as he flung his wand arm forward.

Nearly everyone in the room reacted. Wands were drawn and incapacitating spells cast before anyone realised that Ron actually did not have a wand in his hand. Severus alone had stayed still, merely withdrawing his wand and Ron's from his sleeve, holding his own loosely in one hand and twirling Ron's lazily in the other.

Bill and George both shook their heads sadly as they sheathed their wands. Harry was fit to burst and Hermione merely stared impassively at the man she once loved. It was the bland expression of his ex-girlfriend that made Ron finally slump his shoulders from within his restraints. There was no anger, no disgust, no disappointment—nothing to indicate that what he had done had caused any sort of reaction in her at all. Clearly she did not care one whit for him or what might happen to him. It was a sobering thought.

"Ronald Weasley, for slander you are hereby fined two thousand galleons and sentenced to three months' worth of community service," the Indian wizard said sternly. He looked to Kingsley.

"You are under arrest for attempting to curse Hermione Granger and Doctor Severus Snape," the Minister for Magic said. "We will adjourn to another hearing room for these charges," he said wearily.

Harry rubbed his hand over his face in a mix of frustration and tiredness. He just wanted to go home! "Do we need to stay for this?" he asked testily.

"No," Kingsley conceded. "This is preliminary, you may be asked to come back as a witness when he faces trial."

"All right," Harry said. "Let's go!" He grasped Hermione and Severus by their sleeves and started to tug them toward the door, eager to get out of there before something else could delay them. Severus went along willingly, adding his own hand to Hermione's other sleeve to usher her along as well.

The trio did not stop until they reached the Atrium. Next to the memorial sculpture, they paused for a moment. Harry threw a few coins into the water at the base as was his habit.

"I guess this is it then," Harry said, pulling the portkey from his pocket. "You're both invited to come for a weekend sometime soon." He pulled Hermione into a long hug before shaking Severus' hand. "We'll talk soon," he promised. Harry activated the portkey and spun away. Hermione and Severus stared at the spot he had just been standing in.

"Aren't all his clothes and things still at our house?" Severus asked.

"Yes," Hermione replied matter-of-factly.

Severus shook his head. "And you were trying to tell me he was no longer a dunderhead," he said.

"He has his moments," Hermione said. "Baby-brain, I guess. I'll write to him later and see if he's going to come back for it or if he wants me to send it over."

"Shall we?" Severus said, indicating the floo banks.

"Yes, let's get the hell out of here before—"

"GRANGER!" Hermione's exit plans were scuppered by someone calling her name loudly across the Atrium.

Turning with a groan, Hermione identified the owner of the high-pitched, nasally voice. "Bugger off, Giles," she said to the approaching Ministry worker.

"You have to come back!" Giles Tryppe-Brynne demanded.

Hermione stared at him incredulously. "I think not! Two years of putting my life at risk, unpaid overtime and no thanks for any of it! You made your bed that day you stood in front of the Wizengamot and took credit for my work! You now get to lie in it," she finished sweetly.

"I'll pay you double whatever you're earning now," Tryppe-Brynne offered.

"Considering that I'm earning nothing, that is not a tempting offer," Hermione said with a scoff.

"You're a kept woman? You?" her former supervisor said disbelievingly.

"And if she were it would be no business of yours," Severus said angrily. He did not recognise the man standing before them. Given his apparent age, he should have been at Hogwarts while Severus was teaching. He deduced, therefore, that the clearly privileged wizard had been educated either privately or abroad.

"Well, I'll give you double what you were earning before," Tryppe-Brynne counter-offered.

Hermione took a step forward and got right into the face of the man who contributed to half of the worst day of her life since the end of the war. "Not for all the gold in Gringotts!" she seethed at him. She stepped back and turned on her heel, striding off toward the floo bank. Severus smirked at the shocked wizard before following his partner out of the Ministry. The quicker he got her home, the better. Luckily no one was expecting him back at work that day.

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"That was a rather interesting way to spend a day," Hermione said after she and Severus had floo'd back to their sitting room.

They moved through the room and while Severus was hanging up their cloaks, he took a quick look across the lane at Mrs Harrington's house where all was still. 'Good, we don't have to come up with any excuses,' he thought. The fireplace faced the front windows.

He found Hermione in the kitchen, staring into the fridge contemplatively. "Ham, cheese and pickle sandwiches," he said, startling her. "Sorry."

"That's all right," Hermione said with a tired smile as she began pulling the required items from the shelves. Severus moved over to the cupboard and brought out the bread, butter and plates. They formed a bit of an assembly line and made a large plate of sandwiches to slake their hunger. Neither had eaten anything since their interrupted breakfast. They ate silently and ravenously, instinctively realising food first, analysis of the day later.

Once they had finished eating and cleaned up the dishes from their meal, Severus leaned against the kitchen counter and drew Hermione into his arms.

"There were a lot of revelations today about the lengths to which certain Weasleys were willing to go to make your life miserable. Are you all right?" he asked in concern.

"Surprisingly yes," Hermione answered immediately. During their silent meal, she had been processing Molly, Ginny and Ron's words from throughout the day and the only emotion she really felt was relief that she no longer had any connection to the odious trio. Relief that she was safe in the embrace of unconditional love from Severus and her parents. Relief that her life was on track and she was thoroughly enjoying it now. Relief that she had friends who asked nothing from her other than the hand of friendship which they were more than willing to return.

"You're not planning on wallowing in the window seat for a prolonged period of time?" he asked.

Hermione swatted his arm. "No," she said prissily. "The window seat was my friend because I didn't have you yet. I have you now."

Severus bent his head to capture her lips in a sweet kiss. Hermione slid her hands up from where they had been resting at his hips—one to cup his cheek and the other to entwine itself in his hair. Pulling her body closer to his, Severus deepened their kiss, sliding his tongue over her lips and wordlessly asking for entrance. Hermione complied immediately and opened her mouth for Severus' questing tongue. Sighing her pleasure, Hermione let Severus take control and allowed him to comfort her after the stressful day they had had.

Severus' hands were sliding up and down Hermione's silk-covered back. It was not long before the shirt started to inch out of the waistband of her trousers. He quickly moved his hands to her front and deftly unfastened the tiny mother-of-pearl buttons, separating the lapels and letting the ivory silk fall to the floor. Immediately his hands cupped her breasts, still encased in satin and lace.

"So gorgeous," he whispered roughly, kissing and nipping at her neck.

Hermione groaned and gave herself over to the feelings Severus was eliciting in her. Without fail he could reduce her to a quivering pile of lust in a matter of moments and today was no exception. Before she really realised it, Severus had removed her bra and dipped his head to take her nipple into his mouth. With the smidgeon of consciousness she still possessed, she began to undo the buttons on his coat.

"Oh my God, how many buttons do you have?" Hermione complained.

"Merely drawing out the anticipation, My Own," Severus said as he continued to lave his attention on her breasts.

"Perhaps if it was our first time," she argued. "Right now I just want to get at your skin. Ah!" she yelled triumphantly when she finally reached the end of the row on his coat only to be faced with another line of buttons on his waistcoat. "This is not normal," she stated.

"Granted these are leftovers from my Hogwarts days. I learned there that buttons and layers equalled security. Not knowing what was going to face me today, I resorted to old habits," Severus said.

Hermione reached behind her and fumbled blindly until she located her wand on the counter. She used it to vanish all the buttons on Severus' clothes. She kissed him as she pushed the garments off his shoulders. "You are safe with me," she whispered.

"I know," Severus said. Hermione felt her heart beat a little faster at his admission. It showed how far he had come since those stressful war days when he could trust no one. Going back even further, actually. He had not had anyone to trust since Lily had cruelly ended their friendship.

As they kissed, Severus swept Hermione into his arms and disapparated them to the bedroom. He set her down gently next to the bed and slipped the button of her trousers through its catch. He lowered the zip and pushed the soft material down her legs, holding her hand as she stepped out of them. He fingered the lace of her knickers at her hip. "Are these new?" he asked. He did not think he had seen the burgundy lace before. He vaguely remembered now that her bra matched but he had been so intent on getting to her bare skin downstairs that he had not really taken much notice.

"Yes," Hermione said with a nod. It seemed that Severus always commented when she wore something new. She loved that he was so attentive.

He sank to his knees in front of her. "Beautiful," he whispered, kissing her lace-covered mound before hooking his fingers into the elastic and dragging them down her shapely legs. His mouth was immediately on her, his tongue probing and fingers questing after their goals. Hermione helped by moving her feet further apart, allowing him more access and increasing her pleasure.

Moaning with abandon as Severus' tongue lapped at her pussy and nipped her clit, Hermione let herself be carried on the crest of sensation he was expertly eliciting from her. It never failed, every time he indulged in oral sex, it was sublime. Hermione grabbed his shoulders in order to find some purchase and just let go. Her moans increased in volume and her legs started to shake. Severus just increased his ministrations and within a minute, Hermione came. She collapsed backward onto the bed, her legs unable to hold her upright anymore. Severus' mouth followed her, continuing to lap at her essence and soothe her as she came down from her high. Once she stopped trembling, Severus stood and removed his trousers and pants while Hermione moved to lie on the bed properly. She held her arms out to him and welcomed him into her embrace, revelling in the feeling of his skin against hers.

"I'm so glad you're a doctor," she whispered as Severus kissed her neck and ears.

"Oh? Because it allows you to live a life of leisure?" he teased.

Hermione scoffed. "Hardly," she said. "Perhaps if you were a famous surgeon or a specialist I could. You forget I've seen your bank statements." Severus earned a very good living as a doctor but he was not going to be a candidate for early retirement or anything like that. As a couple, they would never want for anything, but they would need to work for years to come. Hermione only hoped that her writing would help to bring a decent income to their relationship. "I'm glad you're a doctor because of your intimate knowledge of the female body."

"Well, I will admit to paying particular attention during the female anatomy lectures," he said with a smirk. "My knowledge is only as good as the pleasure you allow yourself to feel though. I've been with women who just laid there. Not you. You are so responsive, so passionate. You make me want to bring you to the highest peaks over and over." He moved over her and slid his cock into her pussy smoothly. Hermione gasped and arched her back. "See," he said as he began thrusting. "Responsive. Passionate. Beautiful. Mine…mine!"

Hermione met each of his thrusts with her own. He continued to compliment her performance on each one, his eyes boring into hers intently. It was not long before she could feel the tingling in her nerve ends, signalling her climax was approaching rapidly. If the erratic thrusting was any indication, Severus was also nearing his completion. She redoubled her efforts, clenching every time Severus pushed all the way into her. She could tell from his shouts that she was affecting him.

"Wait," he said, stilling within her.

"No," Hermione whined. "Keep going," she said, thrusting her hips up.

"I want you on top. I want to see you lose control above me. You have no idea how incredible you look when you do that." He kissed her and flipped them over. Hermione immediately impaled herself back on him. She put her hands on his chest and started rising and lowering herself.

"Like this?" she asked, deliberately going slow to tease him.

He pushed her shoulders so she was sitting upright. "Faster," he said. She sped up only slightly.

"Like this?" she asked again.

Severus grasped her hips and tried to set the pace.

"Ah, ah, ah," she admonished. "You wanted me on top. My way now." She grabbed his hands and pulled, indicating for him to sit up. She moved her legs so that rather than straddling him, she now had them wrapped around his waist. Severus moved his hands instinctively down so each cheek of her arse was cupped in his palms. Using his shoulders as leverage and relying on the support of his hands, Hermione began to move rapidly on his cock. She laughed breathlessly when she saw his eyes roll back into his head.

"Fuck me!" he said.

"I am," she panted. Her clit was rubbing against his abdomen with every movement. She knew she would come very quickly. She was hoping he could hold off long enough for her to come twice. He loved it when she did that. Sure enough, it was only seconds later that her channel clenched around him and the stimulation on her clit pushed her over the edge.

"Keep going!" Severus demanded. He had taken over the speed of their movements, raising her arse and letting her fall back like a rag doll. Hermione had barely come down when she felt the passion rise again in her. She screamed as she climaxed, Severus following seconds later with an almost inhuman roar.

He was still in her as they sat together, as close as they could possibly be. Severus nudged her face with his, seeking and finding her lips as he kissed her with a desperation rarely felt. "Incredible," he said softly.

"Always. I love you," she said, looking deeply into his eyes.

"I love you too, My Own," he said.

They sat there for several minutes, kissing and staring at each other and enjoying the closeness. It was only when Hermione's legs began to cramp that they were motivated to move. They relocated to the bathroom and cleaned up under the shower. Normally they would have a second round under the hot spray but neither had the energy right then.

As they headed back to the bed, Hermione's phone began to ring just as Severus' pager went off.

"Normal life returns," Hermione quipped before she flipped her phone open and answered it. Severus checked his pager but it was just a message to let him know an appointment had been made for the following day with a visiting doctor. He turned his attention to Hermione's conversation.

"Jackie, slow down, I can't understand you," Hermione said.

Severus could hear Jackie through the phone, she was yelling so loud. "Everything's blue!"

"What do you mean 'everything's blue'?" Hermione asked.

"I mean he's done something and everything is blue! Everything! Even us!"

Hermione could not help her laughter. "Okay, we'll be there soon to fix it." She could hear Tommy laughing happily in the background, then him saying, 'Do red, do red!'

"NO! Don't do red! Bugger! Hermione, please as quick as you can!"

"We're on our way," Hermione promised. She shut the phone and turned to Severus who was trying to hold his laughter in. He trembled as he kissed her shoulder. "Duty calls," she said.

"Let's go."

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