Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter. I make no money here.
AN: Many thanks go to my beta, dreamy_dragon73, for all of her help.
"I don't understand; why are you all here in Severus' house?" asked Hermione. "Severus? Harry? Somebody say something!"
For a split second there was total silence, and then everyone tried to talk at the same time. It was total chaos. This went on for a full minute or two before Hermione shouted, "Stop! Stop, I can't decipher anything anyone is saying. One at a time." She looked around the room. "Draco, you first. Explain," she demanded.
"Well, Hermione, Severus and Harry had an idea. Remember I told you that we'd find a way to get even with Nott? I promised. Well, they had the same idea, and they decided to recruit some assistance. So when they asked me, I agreed to help, and it's the same with everyone here."
Hermione was totally dumbfounded. She felt a little shaky and actually swayed on her feet. Severus and George, who were the closest to her, both reached out to support her. All it took was a sharp look from Severus for George to drop his hands away with a cheeky grin and waggle his eyebrows at his former Potions teacher. Severus put his arm around her shoulder and tucked her close to his side for support.
Suddenly, her brain connected all the dots and she gasped, "Oh, my word, this is why Mr. Weasley suddenly decided to run for Minister, isn't it? It was you. You set it all up."
"We put the idea to Dad," confirmed Ron. "We figured the first thing we needed to do was make damned sure that Nott didn't get into the Minister's office."
"With a little convincing, and Draco offering the initial financial backing to get his campaign started, he agreed to run." George took up the telling. "But, of course he doesn't have any connection with the rest of this business. It wouldn't do for it to get out that the future Minister of Magic was involved in something shady."
"The rest of what business? What else exactly is it you're all up to?" Hermione asked.
"We're going to make Nott sorry for the way he treated you, Hermione, for the lies he told, and we're going to make sure he doesn't hurt anyone else from here on out." Greg awkwardly patted her shoulder while explaining their purpose.
Hermione was astounded that all eight of these men were taking on something of this magnitude for her. "You're all doing this for me? But why?"
"Oh it's not all for you, sweetheart," drawled Zabini, sauntering closer. "I know my friend Draco here wouldn't mind a little revenge for himself and the whole Greengrass incident. Me, personally, I just flat out never liked Theo Nott; he's a racist, sexist pig. He gives the noble house of Sytherin a bad name." He sidled even closer to where she stood. While Severus was distracted by something Harry was saying, Blaise continued in a low voice. "I don't mind taking on the project for you either though, Granger," he said as he leaned in close to steal a kiss.
Severus jerked Hermione back to his side and gave Blaise a glare that could have melted a cast iron cauldron. "Mr. Zabini, I will remind you to mind your manners and keep your hands and your lips off Miss Granger."
Blaise just grinned. "Severus, I've wanted to do that ever since sixth year but never had the nerve. From the way things are shaping up here, it looked to me like I'd never get another shot at collecting that kiss. I had to take what I could while I had the chance."
Ignoring Blaise's antics, Harry explained to Hermione. "It's been a group effort, love," he said, waving his hand around at everyone else in the room. "Nott needs to be taken down, and we've all decided that we're just the bunch to do it."
"This is just unbelievable," gasped Hermione, tears starting to form in her eyes.
"It's like the DA," said Neville. "We're working behind the scenes to fight for the right thing, for justice. Only instead of Dumbledore's Army, I guess now we're Hermione's Army."
"That's right," echoed Greg. "Hermione's Army, that's us!"
Hermione could no longer keep her emotions in check. She turned quickly to Severus, burying her face in his shoulder, trying to hold back the sobs. She hated for anyone to see her cry.
"Hermione, what is it?" Severus murmured, concerned.
"Make them go, Severus, please," she whispered into his neck. She couldn't believe these sweet, wonderful men were willing to do this for her; it was just too much to comprehend. "I can't deal with it all right now, I'm so overwhelmed. Please, make them leave; they can go to my house. They can come back tomorrow and plot all they like."
Severus held her close and waved the rest off with one arm. "Our lady is feeling a bit emotional right now, boys. Come back tomorrow. She says we can plot all we want then.
"Harry, Draco, pick up your girls from Bluebell Cottage and take the whole group down to the pub. Tell Paddy I said the first round is on the house." Turning to the rest of the group he added, "That's the first round only, gentlemen and remember this is a Muggle establishment. There will be no wands, no magic and no stories of your days at Hogwarts. Anyone wanting to stay, there are three rooms above the pub, which are at your disposal. See you all tomorrow, gentlemen."
As they trooped out, they all gave Hermione a pat on the shoulder or squeezed her arm in support. Ron kissed the top of her head as did Harry, who murmured to Severus in passing, "She hates for anyone to see her cry."
At that Hermione took a half-hearted swing at Harry, with her face still buried against Severus and unable to hold back any longer the sobs that shook her body.
"I can't be... be... believe th... that all of you would d… do... some... something like this f... fo... for me!" she wailed.
Not knowing what else to do, he swung her up in his arms and carried her over to his comfy chair and sat with her cuddled on his lap. He let her cry herself out, holding her and shushing her while murmuring and crooning silly nonsense words.
She never in million years would have guessed that Severus Snape could be so tender and kind. She cried herself out and actually dozed off for a bit, and still he held her tenderly. When she woke up a little bit later, Severus was stroking her hair and twirling one of her curls around his finger.
"Oh, hello," he said. "Are you awake now?"
"I'm so sorry, " she apologized.
"Well, for having a total emotional meltdown on you."
"I expect it was a long time in the making. It's probably a good thing to get it all out," he said. "Do you feel better now?
"Yes, I guess. I haven't really cried since it all began. Not even when I caught Theo with Trudi in my office that day. Oh, a little tear here and there but not really a good brain numbing breakdown. I wanted to cry even more two weeks ago when you told me I needed to move on with my life. But I wouldn't allow it. I told myself that you weren't worth it."
"Most likely you were right," he agreed.
"No. That's not true, I think you are most definitely worth it." She paused a moment before she could continue. "I can't believe that you and Harry started all of this for me, to take down Theo for me. You're like my knights in armor, all of you. I'm so touched by it all."
Her eyes were tearing up again. "There, there," he admonished. "Don't go and start up the waterworks again. Once I can stand, but twice is too much." He reached into his robes and pulled out a pristine handkerchief. "Here, dry your eyes. Good. Now blow your nose. There now, wipe your nose again, especially there by your mouth."
"Why? Is there something there?" She asked, scrubbing vigorously over her lips.
"Because," he explained with a sly smile. "I intend to kiss you, you silly witch."
"Oh, Severus!" she exclaimed with a happy sigh.
He didn't reply, just gathered her in his arms and proceeded to kiss her most thoroughly indeed.
One thing led to another, and although Severus wanted to proceed slowly, Hermione convinced him otherwise. She told him with her kisses and soft caresses and with her words that she didn't want or expect commitments or promises right now. She just wanted to be with him. She'd thought of nothing else after their first kiss two weeks earlier.
But by the time they were cuddled in his big, comfortable bed, she was getting a bit nervous. "Severus, there is something you should know before we proceed."
"What is that, Hermione?" he asked as he nuzzled her neck, amazed at how soft her skin felt there, right below her earlobe, just by her jawline.
"Severus, please" she sighed. "You're distracting me. I need to tell you that... well that. I'm not... that is to say. This is very..."
"Hermione, just tell me whatever it is you have to say," he murmured as he stroked his hand lightly over her shoulder and down her arm.
"Well, all right then. What I need you to know is that I'm not very good at this."
"Not good at what?" he asked.
"This!" she waved her hand back and forth between them. "This! This! Oh, bugger! It's SEX! I'm not very good at sex, never have been. It wasn't just with Nott, although he was the first one to call me a frigid bitch. But... it's just never been all that spectacular for me ever or not even really good for the most part... rather dismal in fact... and... and... I just don't want to be a disappointment to you," she explained. "I want you so much, but I'm terrified it will end up like it always has. I think there's something wrong with me," she admitted in a sad little whisper.
"Oh, for the love of Merlin. I think the crazy witch is back, and she's here in my bed. There isn't anything wrong with you." He gave her a tight squeeze, wondering if maybe they should have taken things a bit slower as he had originally suggested. "Tell me truthfully now, why is it that you think you're bad at it?"
"Well, I don't know, it all starts out fine. It feels nice for a while; I get excited; it's enjoyable; but then after a while the feeling just fades away, and by that time I'm just glad when he finishes. Then afterward, I usually just feel bad about the whole thing."
"That doesn't sound like your fault at all—inattentive partners if you ask me." He paused before continuing, "How do I ask this delicately? Hermione, you do know what... that is to say... well, you... you have had an orgasm before, haven't you?"
"Well, of course I have, Severus," she answered quickly. Then, almost as an afterthought, she added, "Oh, wait. Did you mean when I wasn't alone? Like actually with someone else?"
With a low sexy chuckle that sent shivers up and down her spine, he pulled her close. "Oh, Hermione, I am positive there is nothing wrong with you. The lovers you've had must have been very bad teachers indeed as well as extremely inconsiderate and selfish. I, however, am an excellent teacher, as you very well know."
He kissed her deeply then, taking his time to draw it out. He nibbled his way down her neck and back up to suck on that spot he had discovered earlier just beneath her earlobe until she shivered and moaned his name, "Oh... Severus."
He finally pulled back to look down into her eyes. "And, as you are about to learn, I am an extremely considerate lover. Now let us begin your first lesson. For right now, this first time is going to be all about you, so I want you to just enjoy. But do pay attention, sweet, for I may test you later," Severus said with a teasing smile. He then proceeded to kiss his way ever so slowly down her body as his hands swept gently over her, stroking, caressing; his lips kissing, licking, sucking, tasting. He was utterly meticulous in teaching her body to sing.
Before the night was over, Hermione was thoroughly convinced that she wasn't really bad at sex at all. In fact she was quite spectacularly good at it. Severus enthusiastically agreed.
By the time the group returned the next day to continue their plotting, Hermione had spent the early morning hours trying to make up for lost time and for nine years of bad sex.
"Oh, dear, I'm afraid I may have created an insatiable monster," Severus teased. "Oh, what the hell, I guess I'll just have to bear the burden," he concluded with a satisfied, if somewhat exhausted, smile.
It seemed the group had done some brainstorming after the pub had closed and had come up with some very creative ideas. At this point, Hermione revealed that she had been working on her own project to enact revenge as well. She had been able to identify no fewer than seven women Nott had abused, humiliated, or hurt in one way or another. Many of whom were quite enthusiastic about the chance to get even with one Mr. Theodore Amadeus Nott.
In the end, Hermione insisted that other than the plotting and setting-up she didn't want any of the men involved in the actual execution of the plan.
"I'm serious. I won't have any one of you risking yourselves over this. What we are planning may not be technically illegal, but it is highly questionable. Harry, Ron and Blaise, as Aurors you are employees of the Ministry, you must protect yourselves. I won't have you losing your jobs or worse over this. Draco, the same goes for you. As a lawyer, my lawyer in particular, you can't be exposed as a conspirator. Besides, if things go pear-shaped I may have need of your professional services," she stated with a grin.
There were some objections, but Hermione emphatically over-ruled them all. "No, I mean it. I would rather let Theo get off scot-free than risk any one of you. Neville, as a Hogwarts teacher you must remain above reproach; and Greg, there is no way in hell I will let you take any risk that might send you back to Azkaban. George, if we want Arthur to succeed in his quest to become Minister then we certainly cannot have a member of his own family involved in a potential scandal."
Severus laid a hand on her shoulder, "Surely you can find no objections to my participation, my dear. None of your reasons apply to me."
Laying her hand on his, she replied, "I don't know, Severus. I'm really not sure it's a good idea. You've spent eight years creating a life for yourself totally separate from the wizarding world. I don't want to have you risk your anonymity by being involved in my little acts of vengeance."
"And I will not allow you to go into this unassisted. Remaining anonymous means little to me if you are at risk."
"I won't be acting completely on my own, you know. At least four of the seven women I've been in touch with have expressed a desire to become involved. More than a desire really. They seemed enthusiastic about the whole idea. Although, of course at the time I spoke with each of them there was no definite plan in place, just a general idea. I think they will approve though. I plan to run it by them as soon as possible. I find it deliciously apropos that Theo's downfall should come from those of us he has hurt and scorned."
Thus the group departed with their plan in place and its enactment assured.
Six months later at Bluebell Cottage, Hermione sat down to her morning cup of tea and slice of toast. It was one of Severus' mornings at the pub, so no home cooked breakfast for her. She had become accustomed to having Severus pamper her both with his cooking and in the bedroom or the living room or her office or in the garden or... well just about anywhere. By the same token, Severus had come to treasure having Hermione's support and affection.
While no proper commitments had been spoken, Severus' rented house sat empty for the most part as he spent nearly all of his free time with Hermione at the cottage. Hermione had finished The History of Quilting Around the World and found a Muggle publisher for it. She was toying with an idea for her next project, writing a wizarding history of the Voldemort Wars. She had ample source material at her beck and call, after all.
Severus had had enough years of peril and espionage to last a lifetime, and he was now quite content to run the Green Dragon and come home to nights spent wrapped in Hermione's embrace. It was a new beginning for them, and for the first time in years both could say they were truly happy.
She opened her copy of The Daily Prophet, which Harry had sent her via Floo, so she wouldn't have to wait for the much slower owl delivery. The headline made her heart soar: ARTHUR WEASLEY ELECTED MINISTER OF MAGIC!
Hermione eagerly spread the paper out and began to read.
Weasley wins election in an unprecedented landslide victory over opponent Theodore Nott. The article went on to enumerate Arthur's history at the Ministry of Magic. His role with the Order of the Phoenix in the war against Voldemort was detailed as well as a mention of his numerous family and their goings-on
Hermione's eyes dropped down to an article about the opponent and suppositions as to how a candidate who had originally come out so strongly in the lead had failed so spectacularly. Normally not one to gloat, in this case she was willing to make an exception
Mr. Nott's campaign has been besieged of late by rumors of extremely questionable activities as well as recent innuendo regarding practices verging on the Dark Arts. There were interviews with past business contacts, former housemates and teachers from Hogwarts' days and several of Nott's past amours. Hermione's inclusion on this list was a simple note that she had 'no comment'. Others, however, had made various accusations ranging from questionable business practices and possible embezzlement to infidelity, verbal and physical abuse, to requests for unsavory 'sexual favors' involving partners not human.
The article even mentioned incriminating pictures. This reporter personally has seen photos of Mr. Nott, taken by a reputable photographer who shall remain nameless. These pictures are not suitable for publication in a family friendly newspaper, but I can attest that they show an unhealthy and unnatural affinity for goats. A practice most strongly frowned upon throughout the wizarding world.
Further evidence of Mr. Nott's depraved practices is a complaint filed with the MLE by Mr. Aberforth Dumbledore, respectable owner of the Hog's Head in Hogsmeade. Mr. Dumbledore's complaint claims that after a night spent drinking in his pub, Nott had abused several of Dumbledore's goats, which he keeps as part of his side business of Bezoar sales. This reporter has confirmed that Mr. Dumbledore's Bezoar business is the largest in wizarding Britain. Mr. Dumbledore is quoted as saying, "My herd had been so traumatized by all of this that I have been unable to harvest a decent Bezoar in weeks." Rumor has it the price of Bezoars will soar due to this shortage.
Mr. Nott was unavailable for comment.
She smiled in satisfaction. The plot had played out slowly over the last weeks and months to completion shortly before the election, just as they had planned. A comment dropped here, a whisper of impropriety there, a snippet of gossip passed on by one of Nott's former employees, schoolmates or lovers. Quiet investigations by Blaise and Ron had revealed some actual questions of misappropriation of campaign funds. Draco had made sure that evidence was brought to the attention of those who would be the most interested in pursuing prosecution. Neville had gotten the chance to use his obscure ingredients, but instead of poison he and Severus had brewed an untraceable knock-out draught that one of the ladies had slipped into Nott's drink at the Hog's Head. Severus and Greg, who had insisted on helping despite Hermione's protests, had then artfully arranged Theo among the goats with his trousers around his ankles. George had then leaked information to Skeeter's favorite photographer that there was a scandalous photo-op behind the pub. Harry had gleefully written up Abe's complaint and then had the satisfaction of personally locking Nott up, even if only for a night until his lawyer came and got him out. Skeeter had written the scathing expose that had guaranteed Arthur's landslide victory.
It had been a long, slow but ultimately satisfying process as Theo's once successful campaign had spiraled out of control. His prestigious job was flushed down the toilet, and he now faced prosecution for charges of possible embezzlement and fraud; plus he had been exposed to total public humiliation.
It just didn't get much better than this. Hermione closed the paper with a smile of satisfaction. "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned. Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned," she said, quoting the lines from a Muggle play. "Vengeance is mine, sayeth Hermione."
AN: "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned." The quote used in the conclusion has been attributed by many to William Shakespeare, it actually comes from a play called the "The Mourning Bride" (1697) by William Congreve.
Many thanks to my wonderful beta dreamy_dragon73. She has been most helpful to me in this endeavor not only correcting my horrendous comma abuse, but also patiently pointing out the times when my POV changes when it shouldn't, and just making it all flow more smoothly. She also offered helpful advise on British terminology and knowledge. Without her I would have never known that: British and Irish cottages don't have porches, the upstairs is actually the 'first floor', bread and butter is not served with dinner, among a myriad of other things. Thanks so much Dreamy!
AN: I would like to thank the many readers who took time to leave a comment or add New Beginnings to your faves list or your alert list. It means a lot to know that people are reading, following and enjoying a story. This was my very first chaptered story (aside from drabble series), and it felt like quite an accomplishment to complete it. I will soon be posting my offering from the LJ-ss/hg exchange: A Balance of Three, so stay tuned.