Disclaimer: See Chapter 1. A/N at end.

Some Scars Never Fade


Chapter 22

A couple of months later, the Ministry of Magic – much like the rest of wizarding Britain - was teeming with nervous energy and excitement. As Hermione and Severus entered the main doors, Remus and Hestia close behind them, Hermione mused that the tension on this evening felt like an almost physical presence.

Turning to the black-haired witch, Hermione asked, "You can practically feel the anticipation in the air, can't you? Now – what gathering room are we supposed to meet in?"

Hestia grinned at her. "You didn't read your memos again?" At Hermione's scowl, she shook her head and continued, "They combined them all into one – did you really think everyone could be seated in just one of the rooms? Come on – I bet everyone's already there." The two women led the way down the corridor, their dress robes flowing behind them.

"Indeed," Severus drawled, glancing at Remus. "It appears that when we accompany the two of you to events, we are inevitably late." Hestia ignored him, muttering something under her breath that Hermione didn't quite catch.

"We're just making a fashionable entrance, Severus," Remus said with a chuckle. "Besides, did you really want to hear Fudge speak any more than necessary?"

Hermione glanced back to see Severus shake his head, his brows drawn together in irritation. "The only speech I want to hear from that imbecile is his concession speech, when Arthur is announced the new Minister of Magic."

"I can't argue with that!" a voice behind them said brightly. They all stopped and turned to greet the new arrival.

"Tonks!" Hestia said, brushing past Remus to grab her friend in a crushing hug. "It's been so long!"

"Hestia, we were only gone a couple of weeks," Tonks said, laughing as she looked over Hestia's shoulder at Viktor, who was smiling at the shorter witch's antics. The two had just returned from an extended Quidditch-inspired vacation, traveling to each team location and watching their practices while taking in the sights of the towns. Viktor had even arranged meetings with many of the players. Tonks had been beyond delighted at the prospect. It made Hermione shudder in horror just thinking about it. She's definitely a better match for him than I ever was, she thought.

"Well, it's not like you spend much time with me when you're in town, either. I think I've lost my chess partner for good," Hestia complained, scowling theatrically. Tonks shook her head, laughing as she pulled away.

"I'm sure you have plenty to keep you busy, Hestia" she commented, winking at Remus who smiled back at her easily. "And I remember Remus being a rather adept player."

Hestia rolled her eyes. "Well, yes, he is, but I do miss the standard version of chess. He prefers a version of the game that isn't exactly conducive to completing, if you know what I mean. I don't think we've actually finished a game in months, have we, Remus?"

Hermione glanced over, curious. Tonks grinned while Viktor looked a bit confused. "Vat version is that?" By the look on Severus' face, he knew exactly what Hestia had been referring to.

"Strip chess, Lupin?" Severus commented with a smirk. Remus grinned and shrugged. Hermione caught Severus' eye. Now, that sounds like fun, she thought, moving closer to Severus and putting an arm around his waist. He looked down at her with a glint in his eyes, perfectly aware of what she was thinking.

"Hmm. Ve vill haff to play this new version later, Nymphadora," Viktor murmured, draping an arm across the Metamorphmagus' shoulders as they all continued down the hall.

Hestia shook her head, rolling her eyes as they walked. "I'm still shocked that she lets him call her that," she said to Remus in a loud whisper, obviously meant to be overheard. "The last time I called her by her first name she bit my head off."

Hermione couldn't see Tonks' face, but she could hear the smile in her voice as the woman answered, "Well, Hestia, if you learn to kiss like Viktor then I'll think about letting you call me that, too."

Remus finally spoke up. "Now that's something I wouldn't mind seeing." They all laughed, and Hermione shook her head, grinning mischievously up at Severus.

"Can you just see the students' faces if they could hear the way their Professors carry on outside of school?" she chuckled. "It would quite destroy their little images of you if they heard you laughing like that, Professor Snape."

"And if they heard the comment that their dear, sweet, nice DADA Professor just said – can you imagine how their images of him would be destroyed?" Hestia added, one eyebrow raised. The Headmaster had appointed Remus to the once-again vacant DADA post. There was little Fudge could say in protest since he had so widely spoken in favor of the lycanthropy cure, holding Remus up as an example of its success in interview after interview.

"There would undoubtedly be an onslaught of hormone-driven young ladies attempting to get detention," Severus said with a smirk in Remus' direction. A number of the girls at Hogwarts had developed crushes on the friendly, brown-haired man. Hermione was thankful for Severus' fearsome, rude demeanor – those girls who did have crushes on him, as she had as a student, kept silent about it.

With a small smile, she leaned into him farther, running her hand up his side. She caught his eye as he looked down at her, leaning up to whisper in his ear, "I'd much rather have detention with the Potions Master, myself."

"That can be arranged," he answered silkily, brushing a quick kiss across her lips.

"All right, people, break it up – the room's just ahead," Tonks ordered from behind them. "Oh, I so hope that Arthur won! I think I'll change my hair color in honor of him…" She concentrated for a moment and her hair changed to a bright orange-red. "Do you like it?"

"Very nice," Hermione said, stifling a giggle. "Ron will be pleased, I'm-" Her words were cut off as they reached the doorway and passed the silencing barrier. "Wow," she said, moving a little closer to the others.

The room was full, despite the fact that only Ministry employees and their guests were permitted to wait for the results at the Ministry offices. And this is all four rooms merged? Hermione thought in wonder as she scanned the lively room. The turnout rivaled anything she could have imagined. Mr. Weasley's entrance into the race had brought an amazing amount of excitement to the normally mundane Ministry elections, and it appeared a number of people were ready for a change. Or so she hoped.

Standing a few inches taller than the others, Severus spotted their friends first and they all made their way to the corner containing the Weasley family, Harry, and Lavender. Ron stepped up as they approached. "Kingsley just went to speak with Fudge, I think, but he said to look out for you all," Ron said. "Why were you so late?"

"Talk to them," Hermione said, pointing at Hestia and Remus with a roll of her eyes. Ron shook his head, grinning, and led them to where his family was standing with Lavender Brown. After exchanging pleasantries and greetings all around, Severus and Hermione settled nearby in the group of chairs Harry had sequestered.

"Ginny looks great," Hermione commented to Harry. He nodded and looked at her seriously.

"How have you been, 'Mione?" Harry asked, uncharacteristically hesitant. And for good reason.

The last few days had been difficult for everyone involved in the entire Polyjuice Plot, as a creative writer for the Daily Prophet had dubbed the situation. A number of interviews and in-depth reports had appeared in the paper in the past week, and it had been tricky for them to avoid both the well-wishers and the overly curious. Just when Severus was getting more comfortable with me going off alone, this had to start, she thought ruefully, glancing at the black-haired man seated beside her. He was still a rather forbidding figure, and his presence was generally enough to keep the curious at bay. She had taken to staying at Hogwarts when she wasn't at work to avoid dealing with her new celebrity status.

"I've been all right, Harry. I just have a new appreciation of how irritating it must have been for you right after the Last Battle," she said with a small smile. Harry gave her a quick grin in return.

"Celebrity is as celebrity does, Hermione," Harry said playfully, feigning fear when she raised a fist at him. "Do you want me to get you some glossy photos to sign and hand out?" Severus sneered at that comment, and Harry turned to him. "Oh, you, too, Snape. I understand there's a whole slew of admirers that you've got now."

"They just don't approach him when he gives them his patented Potions Master glare," Hestia said, laughing as Severus gave her a hard stare. "See?" 

"How is Draco doing?" Remus asked quietly, looking at Tonks. She shrugged uncomfortably and Harry stared down at his hands.

"He's doing as well as he ever was, I suppose," Tonks said slowly.

"So, not well at all, then," Severus said softly. Tonks met his gaze and shook her head.

"Is it right? Is it even right for him to be there?" Harry said, not looking up. Severus nodded slowly, watching Harry with a shrewd look.

"My mind has been following the same track in recent weeks, Potter." At this, Harry finally raised his head and the two men shared a thoughtful look. Hermione looked from one to the other, confused. Severus saw her expression and sighed, looking away as he spoke. "As Potter said, is it right for Draco to be in Azkaban? His presence there is a direct result of his actions at the Last Battle-"

"Which he was never actually at," Hermione finished, chewing her bottom lip in thought.

Harry sighed and sat up straight. "I'm looking into it, Snape. I'll let you know what I find out. If he hasn't had any other crimes proven against him… there's still a chance he can be rehabilitated. I've got mixed feelings about it… but he should be given a chance." Hermione's eyebrows shot up, and she looked at Harry in shock. Then she remembered what Severus had told her of the time leading up to the Last Battle, when he and Harry had worked so diligently to turn Draco from the path his father had set before him. It had been difficult for them both when their efforts proved unsuccessful.

Severus nodded to Harry. When Hermione saw the expression on his face she reached over to squeeze his hand, smiling when he put his other hand over hers. She leaned her head close to his ear and whispered, "I love you." His black eyes met hers tenderly as he opened his mouth. She shook her head and put a finger to his lips, smiling. "I know you hate public displays. I just wanted to say it, you don't have to repeat it right now." She grinned wickedly and leaned closer to whisper seductively, "But you can show me later." He raised one eyebrow.

"That sounds… acceptable."

"Vat time is it?" Viktor asked. Hermione checked her watch.

"Almost there, Viktor," Hermione said. "Boy, Fudge sure looks nervous, doesn't he?" The man in question was on the other side of the room, continuously glancing at the door where the announcement would be given. Tonks turned around to look and grinned.

"Well, he's right to be nervous, the tosser. It's not like he has any skills whatsoever – I wonder what he'll do when he loses the post," the now-red-haired woman mused. Viktor shrugged, looking down at her.

"He has plenty of money. I vould not vorry about him," Viktor said. Suddenly, he looked past Hermione's shoulder and smiled.

"Are we late?"

Hermione turned around at the voice and saw Neville and a rather green-looking Susan. Morning sickness – or "all-day sickness" as Susan dubbed it – had hit her friend hard.  

"Just in time… they're about to announce it," Harry answered distractedly as Hermione turned to smile at her friend. Susan returned the smile weakly, sitting down with a grateful sigh. She could still remember when Susan had told her the news of her pregnancy – that morning in the infirmary, after Severus and the others had freed her from La Maison de Mal Foi.

Neville nodded and sat next to Susan. "I spoke with Renovo today. He says he's feeling as good as new." Hermione smiled, relieved to hear the news. Renovo had been in St. Mungo's for almost a month, recovering from his ordeal at the hands of his aunt. Luckily, he hadn't suffered any lasting effects from being kept Stunned for so long.

Narcissa Malfoy and Vincent Crabbe were in Azkaban prison, sentenced to life for multiple cursings, kidnapping, attempted murder, and attempted rape. There was talk of transferring one of them to the French wizarding prison to ensure they couldn't communicate, but no definite decisions had been made.

"There!" Harry pointed to door on the other side of the room, which had opened. The room became unnaturally silent as the attendees waited to hear the results. Hermione looked at the Weasley family and smiled when she saw Ron drape an arm over Lavender's shoulders, an anxious look on his face. Charlie was leaning over to whisper something in Bill's ear, and Ginny had a death grip on Seamus' arm. Molly and Arthur seemed to be the calmest in the group. Hermione knew why. He's not doing this because he wants it; he's doing it because the people want him to.

"Hermione…" When she heard Severus' voice she gave him an apologetic glance and loosened her hold on his hand. He surreptitiously stretched his fingers, chuckling slightly. "I believe this is where I say something trite, such as that's quite a grip you've got there," he said with a smirk as she blushed. Extracting his hand from hers, he put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close, pressing his lips to her hair in an uncharacteristic display of affection.

She was startled when a bright white ball appeared above Mr. Weasley's head… her mind not grasping the implications until she heard the announcer intone, "The new Minister of Magic, Arthur Weasley." Harry let out a loud whoop and leapt to his feet.

"Is it real?" Hermione asked, smiling broadly as Severus also jumped to his feet and pulled her up with him. "Oh, Merlin! I can't believe it!" She joined in the cheering and waved when Arthur turned in their direction, giving them the thumbs-up. Harry grabbed her and swung her around before moving on to Hestia, who shook her head, laughing at his antics. Susan was able to forestall him by holding up her hand before he gave her the same treatment, but she, too, was laughing and smiling and she leaned over to kiss Neville.

Kingsley had finally made his way back to their corner, and Hermione had never seen such a relieved look on the dark man's face. Tonks and Viktor were making their way to the Weasleys to congratulate them, and Severus urged her to follow them, leaning over to whisper, "Let's speak with Arthur, and then we can get out of this madhouse. I believe we have some… business… to attend to." She nodded, smiling mischievously as she took his hand and followed him through the crowd, which parted easily before him. Before they were swallowed in the crowd, she turned and gave a farewell wave to Susan and the others.

After speaking with Arthur and Molly for a few moments, they were able to escape to the corridor and catch their breath. "I've never seen so many people in such a small space," Hermione exclaimed, shaking her head as they turned to stare at the teeming mass still in the room.

"Indeed," he murmured in her ear, moving close behind her and putting his arms around her. "Now… I do believe you may have challenged me to a game of chess earlier this evening?"

She leaned her head back against his shoulder and smiled. "Hmm. I don't recall actually saying anything of the sort aloud, Professor," she said playfully. "But I think you may have just read my mind." Chuckling, he held her close as they walked to the nearest Apparition point.

            *                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *

"Do you really have to wear so many layers? This is hardly fair," Hermione protested, hiding her smile. She had taken far more of his pieces than he had of hers, but he was still more clothed than she was.

"Do stop complaining, my dear, and make your move," Severus replied smoothly, eyeing her cleavage as she harrumphed and leaned over to study the board.

After a moment, her eyes left the board and she looked up at him contemplatively. Suddenly she sat back and smiled languidly, reaching out one slim arm to knock over her own king. She stood and began to move to his chair when he stopped her with a raised hand. "Now, now, Hermione. You must play by the rules."

"I can lay my own king down if I wish," she said, lips pursed in annoyance. He smirked at her.

"Yes, true. But you forgot what goes along with your forfeit," he said, flicking his eyes down her body, which was only covered with a few scraps of clothing. "Lose the rest of it." Immediately, she understood.

"Yes, sir," she breathed, slowly bringing her hands to the straps of her bra, running a finger beneath each. He sat up, watching as she played with him, slowly sliding her left arm out of the strap. She breathed in to keep the bra from falling off her breast on that side, and then pulled the other strap down, smiling inwardly as she heard his breathing quicken. Then, rather than pull the bra completely off, she carefully expanded her chest causing only the tops of the cups to wilt, exposing the very top of her breasts.

Leaving it where it was, she bent over and slid her knickers down to her ankles before stepping daintily out of them. Severus' gaze didn't waver in the slightest, his eyes growing darker and more heated by the minute. She considered pulling off the thigh-high stockings for a moment before deciding against it, instead reaching behind her back to finally unclasp her bra. She heard an audible gasp as she did so, and didn't bother to hide the wicked smile that came to her lips.

Shaking her hair back she moved her chair away from the table to give him an unobstructed view as she sat to remove each stocking. Beginning at the top of her left thigh, she slowly rolled the silky material down, keeping her eyes on his the entire time. "Gods, Hermione…" She smiled again and leaned back, pulling her right leg up so that her heel rested on the chair. As she slid the final stocking off, she let her legs drift open as she lay her head back against the chair and closed her eyes.

"That was very… intriguing, my love," a hot voice whispered in her ear and she smiled as she looked up into burning black eyes. He was standing behind the chair, his hands already smoothing down over her shoulders to her breasts as he kissed her neck and collarbone.

She moaned as his hands ran over her and she reached behind her blindly. "Bed. Now."

Afterwards, he shifted his weight to the side and they lay there for a long time, just breathing, relaxing in the warmth of the other's presence. She pressed against him, overwhelmed with her love for this man. Her companion, her savior, her lover. Eventually, his arms tightened around her and she heard his voice say the words most precious to her: "I love you."

~The End~

A/N: Well, this is it! I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you enjoyed this fun little final chapter. Please review and let me know! (Again, for those of you who are interested in a more "lemony" version, check out my author's page for links to lordandladysnape and adultfanfiction.)

For those of you who are wondering, yes – I do have another SS/HG fic in progress right now. It's a response to the Marriage Law Challenge on WIKTT, and has a darker tone than Time and Scars, but I think it's shaping up rather well so far. If you're interested, please check my author's page – the title is Cloak of Courage. I may revisit the Time and Scars world eventually to create a nice round trilogy of sorts, but not anytime soon that I can foresee (definitely not until Cloak is complete, at least!).

Thank you to all of my loyal readers and reviewers – it's been great fun and I've really enjoyed reading the feedback. Thanks!

BBy xX dinkLecup – Thanks for reviewing

MeJLC – Thank you – see above for other story information ;)

Momxst – Thanks – I'm glad I was able to surprise you! See above for other stories in progress and planned.

The great and Masterful Yoda – Sorry, this is the end… the curse that caused Severus' scar was the Malfoy blood-sealed curse (congelo viscus).

Keket Amunet – Thank you for reviewing! The NC-17 versions have detailed "lemon" scenes… if you like the romance/lemony stuff, then yes – you are missing quite a bit on this site (usually a page or two whenever there's a lemony scene). No plot-driven scenes are added, just the fun ones ;). I also say hooray for Shotgun Granny! See above for other story info.

Louise Luvgood – I'm glad you liked the chapter, I hope you liked this one!

Dru – It wasn't over last chapter, but it is over this chapter ;). Thanks for reviewing!