Hermione blinked sluggishly, her cheek pressed against the ground. Mud was everywhere - her nose, her mouth, her ears, her eyes - and beneath it she could taste blood. Ron was a few feet away, his eyes open, staring at nothing in death. She slowly, painfully, moved her hand towards him, her fingertips touching his cold hand.
All around her, a battle waged on. They had been fighting for so long that Hermione just wanted to sleep. She curled her fingers around Ron's hand and with her last breath, she whispered a spell that hadn't been used in over a hundred years.
At just that moment, Harry Potter killed the Dark Lord Voldemort, warmth washing over his body from the severing of the link between them. He turned to Severus Snape and Remus Lupin, his mouth opening as if to speak. He fell over, unconscious before he could say a word.
And the war was over.
"...have to tell him. It isn't something that's just going to go away."
"He isn't exactly in a position to tell anything to."
Harry could hear the voices, hissed and quiet in an attempt not to disturb him. Snape and Remus. And - another voice joined in - Poppy. Great. He was in the infirmary.
"We have to make a decision for him. Either we start treating him for the condition or we don't, which means we effectively get rid of it."
"It?! Poppy, it's a baby, not a thing."
Harry's eyes opened at that. He let out a groan at the bright light, turning his face to the side and closing his eyes. Scuffling feet could be heard and a moment later, Poppy's cool, familiar hand was on his cheek.
"Bright." Harry managed to murmur. "Hurts."
"Shut off the light," Remus said quickly, pushing to the side of Harry's bed. "Harry, how are you?"
The light was shut off and Harry blinked rapidly, trying to focus on Remus's face. The worried man was hovering over him, Poppy right next to him. Behind the two of them, there was a black blob that Harry assumed was Snape.
"Sore." Harry licked his lips. "'m I okay?"
Remus and Poppy exchanged looks that Harry couldn't quite figure out. Snape just snorted and walked away.
"Harry," said Remus slowly. "There are varying degrees of okay."
"No shit." Harry managed to focus on him. "I feel like I've been run over by a hippograff, but I'm alive. So I think I'm okay."
"In that sense, yes, you are okay." Remus looked over at Poppy. "You want to field this one, Poppy?"
And with that Remus joined Snape by the window.
"Yes, well, Harry," Poppy started. "Care for a potion?"
"No," Snape jumped in. "I told you he cannot have anything."
"Why can't I have anything?"
"One dose of Dreamless Sleep will not hurt him."
"The asphodel will kill the foetus!"
Harry blinked slowly. "Foetus? What foetus?"
Everyone immediately shut up. Remus grabbed Snape's bicep and held him back, not liking the gleam in his eye. Poppy let out a heavy sigh.
"Harry, dear," she started. "There's something we need to explain to you. First off, you got through the battle just fine. Nothing but a bit of magical overload after you killed him. But you fainted and that worried us, so we ran some tests."
"You're pregnant," Snape said bluntly. "With Granger and Weasley's child."
Remus covered Snape's mouth immediately, pulling him away. Harry could hear Remus admonishing him in hushed tones. He blankly looked back at Poppy.
"Hermione wasn't pregnant."
"Yes, she was," Poppy said gently. "I was her mediwitch, Harry. I begged her not to go into battle for her child's sake, but she felt she had to."
"Important battle, you know." Harry lifted his hand to his forehead, touching his scar. "End of it all either way."
"Yes." Poppy sat down in the chair next to him. "It was an important battle that Hermione couldn't bring herself to miss. There is an old spell that hasn't been used in over one hundred years that transfers a child to another person when the mother is dying."
"Naturally Hermione found it." Harry closed his eyes. "Always one to have a back-up plan our Hermione."
"The baby is in you," said Poppy quietly. "She chose you to carry her child."
"Why not Ron?"
Poppy looked over at Remus and Snape, but neither of them seemed to notice. "Ron is dead as well."
Harry began to laugh, his shoulders shaking. Poppy put a comforting hand on his shoulder, but he immediately shook it off, curling in on himself.
"Go away. Everyone. Just go."
Remus waited until the sun had set, the castle, for the most part, going to sleep. He walked through silent corridors to the hospital wing, slipping past Poppy and into Harry's private room. Green eyes flickered over at him briefly before looking back at the wall.
"Hi," Remus said quietly, sitting in the chair next to Harry's bed. "I thought you might want some company."
"Should I go?"
"Won't Snape miss you?"
"He's asleep," Remus said quietly. "He's been doing a lot of that lately."
Remus settled back in the chair comfortably. They said nothing for a long time, Remus eventually started to doze off and Harry continued with his brooding.
"So what happens now?"
Remus sat up and blinked the sleep from his eyes. "In regards to the baby or in general?"
"Both," Harry sighed a little, resting a hand on his stomach. "I'm an incubator, Remus."
"Hermione obviously knew what she was doing. The spell hasn't been used for quite some time and it requires a specific person for the baby to be transferred to." Remus leaned forward, resting his hand on Harry's bed. "You were chosen to carry this baby, Harry. You were chosen to carry Hermione and Ron's legacy."
"I don't want this," Harry said fiercely. "I don't want to be chosen for anything, much less this!"
Remus lowered his gaze. "You don't have a choice any longer. The spell is complete."
"So it's all status quo," Harry murmured. "Except instead of taking life, I'm giving it. But of course, that life will get taken away from me because it's not really mine."
"Oh, Harry," Remus said softly. "It won't be like that."
Harry rolled onto his side, his back to Remus. "You can go now."
Remus reached out a hand to touch Harry's shoulder, but stopped himself. He pulled his hand back and levered himself out of the chair. "I'll come see you in the morning."
"It's not a bother," Remus sighed. "Honestly."
"Just go," Harry said, his teeth clenched. "Get out."
Harry walked out of the infirmary and towards the doors of the castle. He had a home and he wanted to be there instead of trapped in the castle. Remus caught up with him quickly though, taking Harry's arm and guiding him away from the doors.
"I'm not allowed to leave?"
Remus kept his lips pressed tightly together and led Harry to a room on the third floor. It was sunny, open, and came complete with Snape sitting in one of the armchairs. Harry's jaw tightened and he tried to pull away.
"Sit down, Potter." Snape folded his hands on his lap and waited. "I assure you, I can hold out longer than you. I am not suffering from hormone-induced stress."
"Severus," Remus said sharply. "Be nice."
"Why should he change now?" Harry sat down, glaring at Snape. "I might die of shock if he's nice."
"Both of you, be nice," Remus amended his statement, sitting in the third chair. "The three of us have a lot to do."
"I am leaving," said Harry. "I have nothing else to do. I did what was asked of me."
"You need to be in constant contact with Madam Pomfrey and myself," said Snape coolly. "Only we can keep you from losing the baby."
"Considering I don't want to keep it, that's not much of a threat."
"Harry," Remus said gently. "We talked about this."
Harry sighed heavily. "Look, can you get me something to drink? Something strong."
"No alcohol," Snape said. "It's bad for the baby."
"Fine." Harry tightened his fingers on the arms of the chair. "Make me a nice, little list of rules to follow for the next six months and I will. Don't expect me to be happy about this."
"We would much rather have your cooperation in this venture," Snape said to him. "It will be much easier that way."
"It's a spell right?" Harry gestured at his body. "That did this to me?"
"Yes." Snape looked at him oddly. "That was explained to you. Even you are capable of remembering a simple detail like that."
"Then repeat the bloody spell and put the baby somewhere else," Harry said to him with a snarl. "You carry it if you are so damn determined to make this work."
"We can't," Remus said. "Only Hermione has the power to do that and she's dead."
Harry blinked at that and turned away, closing his eyes. "Look, do me a favour. Tell me who is still alive."
Harry could hear movement, but he didn't open his eyes as he waited for someone - anyone - to tell him who was still alive, who made it through the final battle.
"The three of us," Snape finally said, his voice oddly hoarse. "Minerva, Poppy, Filius, Tonks, Moody, Molly, Arthur, Bill, George, Neville, and Luna."
Harry opened his eyes, turning to look at Snape. Remus was over there now, his hand heavy on Snape's shoulder, Snape's hand covering his. Remus's face was ashen and Snape's was red and flushed.
"Of the Order, that is it," Snape said, his knuckles turning white as he clutched at Remus's hand. "I do not know who is left alive on the other side."
Harry looked out the window, Hagrid's hut off in the distance. "Who's taking care of Fang?"
"Filius has been," Remus said softly. "But there's a good chance Fang won't make it. He's lost without Hagrid."
"Could you bring him here?"
Harry nodded, pulling his knees to his chest. "I could use the company."
"I'll talk to Filius shortly." Remus promised.
Harry let out a slow, steady breath. He massaged his temples slowly before turning to look at Snape and Remus again. "When are the funerals?"
Harry watched Snape stalk out of the room, his black robes swirling around him in a way that sent Harry back to his first year. The man had been so intimidating then. He wondered when that had changed.
"Dumbledore died in his arms," Remus said as a kind of explanation. "He's taking it very hard."
Harry could remember the curse that killed Dumbledore and Snape on the ground with the old man in his arms. It was only the briefest of moments before Snape had been tugged to his feet and they had continued on, Snape's face stained with tears.
"Remus?" Harry touched his stomach gently. "Did you find them together? Ron and Hermione?"
"Yes," Remus said, his voice no more than a whisper. "She was holding his hand."
They were a small and proud group, shoulders pressed together, a solid wall of flesh at each funeral. They became one person - the Order of the Phoenix - and at the funerals, no one man was greater than the sum of the whole.
Harry spoke to no one outside of that group and let Neville put a gentle hand on his back and lead him around. He cried at Ron's funeral and whispered soft promises to Hermione as she lay in her pristine casket that he would protect her baby.
Molly held herself together until the last funeral - Ginny's - was over with. She collapsed in Arthur's arms and the ranks of the Order was two less for the last few funerals. George and Bill stood as the last of the Weasleys, their parents unable to go on any longer.
At Dumbledore's funeral, Harry watched Snape the whole time. Dumbledore touched a great many people in his lifetime, managed to influence a generation of people to fight for his cause. He was the greatest wizard of their time.
His death made Snape human.
Neville and Luna stood next to him, both looking nothing like they had just a month before. Harry wondered when he had looked at them last.
Lines had formed around Neville's mouth, making him look hard and frightening. His eyes were shadowed with grief and a knowledge that no one other than those who had survived the final battle could understand.
Luna's hair was chopped short and tight around the crown of her head. Harry remembered that most of the female members of the Order had done that one night in an attempt to make themselves less obvious to the Death Eaters as targets. She hadn't grown hers back.
"I'm so tired," Luna whispered, leaning into Neville's solid frame. "Are we done yet?"
Harry watched as Snape leaned heavily against Remus, the lines in his face cut so deep Harry was sure they were permanent. They had never touched each other in public before, not until Albus Dumbledore died.
"Will he be alright, Harry?"
Harry looked over at Neville, following his line of sight. Neville had been looking at Snape as well. Somewhere over the last ten years of fighting, Neville had stopped being frightened of Snape. There was greater evil in the world than a teacher who liked to pick on the weak.
"I don't know." Harry balled his hands into fists. "We're going away. Five or six months. The three of us. I'll owl the two of you. We ... I have to get away."
Neville's hand touched the side of Harry's head, rough and solid. "Don't forget us."
Luna's once permanent dazed look was long gone as she stared at Harry's face. He looked away from the both of them and nodded quickly.
"Am I three or four months pregnant?" asked Harry curiously one day as he looked at himself in the mirror.
Poppy looked up from her book and pushed her glasses back up her nose. "Hermione was three and a half months when she died. You are four months pregnant now."
Harry's hand traced over the slight curve of his stomach. "When does the baby start kicking?"
"About five months," Poppy said to him. "I have books, you know. If you wish to read about your pregnancy."
"You'll tell me what I need to know," Harry said confidently, turning away from the mirror. "And if you don't, Snape will."
"You should be a little more involved than that," Poppy said disapprovingly.
Harry snorted and walked over to lean close to her ear, his voice no more than a whisper, "If I get involved, I won't be able to let her go."
Poppy's hand touched his shoulder gently, but only briefly as he pulled away from her. "Very well then. Have you packed?"
"Not much for me to pack," Harry admitted. "I'm not allowed to go back to my flat to get my stuff. I have to hope that Remus gets what I need."
"We leave tomorrow." Poppy stood up, brushing her robes lightly to settle them. "It will be good for all of us."
"Will it really?" Harry looked over at her. "Snape's a mess and I'm pregnant. It sounds like you and Remus will have your hands full trying to keep us from killing each other. Not much of a vacation, Poppy."
Poppy's eyes gleamed slightly as a wicked smile crossed her face. "A chance to make both you and Severus take care of yourselves? I wouldn't miss it for the world."
Harry walked along the moors with Fang close to his side. He could feel the edge of the wards humming against his skin. Before he reached them, he knew he would have to turn back or else Fang would drag him away. That had happened once and Snape had threatened to send the dog away because he was vicious when he saw Harry's tattered robes.
The house - manor really - had been in Minerva's family for centuries and she'd given up the location immediately, taking Poppy's advice that it would be best to keep Harry far away for the duration of his pregnancy. Snape's breakdown had been the icing on the cake.
Harry settled himself down on the ground, Fang panting next to him. The salt air was refreshing despite the cold weather. The wards were right ahead of them; if he really concentrated he could see the lines crossing in the sky in front of him.
Truth be told, he liked it up here. The Scottish moors were just isolated enough to make Harry feel like he was standing on the edge of the world - a world he had saved. The Prophet was delivered daily and each day the question of his whereabouts was brought up. Minerva answered as she always did - "Harry Potter is taking a much needed rest. I assure you, he is alive and well, just desires not to be bothered for awhile."
His body had noticeably changed at this point, his stomach curving outward, betraying the fact he was carrying a baby. Part of him wanted to ignore it. Poppy and Snape's diet advice was just to help him stay healthy. It had nothing to do with a baby.
The rest of him cherished the fact there was life inside of him. He dreamed about the baby nightly. A little girl who smiled brightly and hugged his legs happily. A little girl all his own.
Fang woofed softly, drawing Harry's attention. He saw a thin form in black approaching and he sighed a little. It wasn't Snape because Snape never left the house these days. It had to be Remus on an errand for Snape.
"Morning, Harry," Remus said warmly, sitting down on the other side of Fang. He scratched behind the hound's ears, smiling over at Harry. "Poppy thought you'd be out here."
"I went to my morning appointment," Harry said defensively. "I'm allowed to wander within the wards."
"I wasn't accusing you of anything," said Remus mildly. "I asked Poppy if she knew where you were and she suggested out here. We all know you enjoy your walks with Fang."
Harry looked slightly perturbed at being interrupted, but just nodded a little, squinting because of the sun. "What brings you out here?"
"Severus and I are going to go into town later today." Remus let Fang lick his hand as he spoke. "I was wondering if you wanted anything."
"To go with you," Harry said hopefully.
Remus's face fell and he shook his head. "I'm sorry, Harry. It's for your own good that you stay here. If word got out that you were pregnant, the press would never leave you alone. And the baby would never have a normal life because of who the surrogate was."
Harry put his hand on his stomach. "We wouldn't want that now would we. Not that her life will be normal by any means anyway, but we wouldn't want her to have the stigma of being birthed by the Boy-Who-Lived."
Remus reached over and touched Harry's hand where it was resting on his stomach. "Don't do this, Harry. Please don't push us away."
"Do the three of you sit and talk about me when I'm not there?" asked Harry casually. "Maybe you discuss all the little things that are happening to my body right now, or what's going to happen when this baby's grandparents find out that she exists."
"We don't sit around and talk about you," Remus said sharply. "You are not the center of the world, Harry. We have our own problems."
"I know I'm not the center of the world." Harry shook his head. "But right now, more than ever, the three of you seem so focused on me, it's like I am the center of your world."
"It's called avoidance and an attempt to save face," Remus sighed and looked away. "At least for Severus. He's ... not doing well, Harry."
Harry dropped his head, looking at his own knees. "I know, Remus."
"It's like he hasn't felt anything real for god knows how long - probably not since his wife died and it all just hit at once. Voldemort is dead and he's free, but Albus is dead as well and he's only left with you and me and neither of us are okay either." Remus pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes. "I want him to be better. I don't ever want to watch him cry again."
Fang whined and rested his head on Remus's knee. Harry wanted to reach out to touch Remus, but he couldn't. He stayed perfectly still, staring at his own knees and thought about Snape crying. He'd only seen it once and if he could, he would wipe it from his memory. Crying was cathartic though. Maybe Snape needed it.
Harry touched his stomach lightly and thought that he would try crying himself.
"Everything looks good," said Poppy, pulling Harry's t-shirt back down over his stomach. "She's right on track for where she should be."
"She's definitely a girl?" Harry sat up, leaning back against the pillow of the bed. "She's old enough for you to be able to tell?"
"I knew a month and a half ago," said Poppy, wiping off her hands. "I just didn't tell you."
"I knew she was a girl anyway," Harry said softly. "I have dreams about her."
Poppy sat down on the bed, folding her hands on her lap and looking at them. She shook her head before looking up at him. "Harry, you need to distance yourself from this baby."
"Could we not talk about this?" Harry asked softly. "Tell me a story."
"A story?" Poppy laughed a little. "I've never been a storyteller."
Harry snuggled up to her, Poppy's arm falling across his shoulders warmly. She always smelled like medicine and cookies, oddly enough. Harry had never seen her eat cookies or even be around cookies, but she smelled like them.
"No one ever told me stories when I was younger," Harry said. "Aunt Petunia used to tell Dudley stories and if she didn't see me, I could hide and listen. Usually she checked for me first."
"My mother used to tell my sister and I stories when we couldn't sleep." Poppy smiled. "She was a crazy old witch who enjoyed passing on old witches tales about pretty much everything. We never believed her."
"That's because your mother was a crazy old witch."
Both Harry and Poppy looked over at the doorway, the familiar voice surprising them. Minerva stood in the doorway, her arms crossed loosely over her chest. She was smiling softly.
"You only say that because my mother hated you," Poppy said mildly. Harry moved away from her, embarrassed that anyone had seen him cuddling with Poppy. "What brings you by, Minerva?"
Minerva walked into the room and sat on the bed as well. "We've closed Hogwarts for the rest of the school year. It was for the best. We've barely enough teachers at the moment and the students just want to be with their families. So I've come home."
"Ah, and to a crowded home as well," Poppy touched her hand lightly as Harry watched, staying quiet. "Severus, Remus, Harry, myself, and Fang."
"Sounds lovely. Filius has been driving me batty." Minerva rested her hand on top of Poppy's. "How are you, Harry?"
"Aside for a craving for pickles and hot sauce, I'm well," Harry said softly. He managed to get out of the bed without making a fool of himself. His center of balance was off enough already to make him ungainly and clumsy. "She's kicking now - mostly my bladder."
Minerva chuckled. "They'll do that. Wait until she spends all of her time sleeping on your bladder."
"Have you done this?" asked Harry curiously.
"Once," said Minerva, looking over at Poppy again before turning her attention back to Harry. "I have a daughter. Her name is Miranda."
Harry looked surprised. "I had no idea. I didn't even know you were married."
"I wasn't. Quite a scandal it was too," said Minerva with a laugh. She shook her head. "It seems so long ago now. We were just kids then, really. Barely twenty-five."
"I'll be barely twenty-five when she's born." Harry rested his hand on his stomach. "And if anyone knew, it would be quite a scandal as well."
"Yes, it would." Minerva grew serious, her eyes boring into his own. Harry felt unnerved, not knowing whether she was an Occlumens or not. He looked away. "Harry, we need to tell the Weasleys and the Grangers."
Harry felt cold wash over him at the thought. "Not yet. Please."
"When do you propose to tell them? After she is born?"
"Soon," Harry said, his voice shaky. "I'll tell them soon."
"Let him be, Minerva," Poppy murmured, her hand on Minerva's arm now. "We'll talk about this later, Harry."
Harry nodded quickly and turned to go, pausing at the door. "Should I tell the others you are here?"
"I will see them soon enough." Minerva assured him with a gentle smile, one that was usually reserved for crying first years.
Harry slipped out of the door, pressing his back to the wall. He could hear the two of them talking softly, words he had heard exchanged between Severus and Remus when they didn't know he was listening. He smiled softly at that and peeked inside to see the two women exchanging a soft kiss.
Harry walked away, deciding that the reason Minerva's daughter's birth was a scandal was because she had two mothers. That had to be it.
The baby kicked him lightly and he patted the spot with a gentle hand. "When you're older, I want you to remember that love is a good thing. It's very easy to forget that and who knows if I'm going to be around to remind you."
She kicked him again and Harry smiled, wandering through the hallways and murmuring softly to her.
"Harry!" Remus chased after him, catching up easily. Harry's pace was set on slow these days. "Glad I caught you."
"Can it wait five minutes?" asked Harry, still walking, a look of determination on his face.
Remus looked confused. "I guess so. What's so different about five minutes from now and now?"
"In five minutes, I'll have peed," said Harry, pushing the door to the bathroom open. "Excuse me."
"Oh." Remus stopped in front of the door. "Right. I'll wait here."
Harry gave him an odd smile. "Thanks." He shut the door and quickly peed for what had to have been the hundredth time since he woke up that morning.
When he came back out, Remus was still standing there, waiting patiently. Harry began to walk again, heading towards the kitchens. "What did you want to talk to me about?"
"Poppy and Severus figured out how you are going to give birth," Remus said, falling into step next to Harry. "I've come to tell you."
Harry stopped and turned to look at him. "Why are you telling me and not them?"
"That thought it would be best that I tell you." Remus laughed a little nervously. "Severus thought you would try to kill him, wandless and all."
"Do I have reason to want to kill him?"
"It's going to be a vaginal birth." Remus said quickly, stepping out of Harry's reach just in case.
"Well, see here's the problem with that," Harry said dryly. "I don't have a vagina which Poppy knows since she's seen me in the altogether more than once."
"About that." Remus stepped back again. "Your body is going to go through a few changes in the next two months and you're going to get one. And. Your penis is going to go away."
Harry dropped his hands to his crotch, clutching himself in fear. "What!?"
"It'll come back," said Remus quickly. "Just after the baby is born."
"Oh, no no no." Harry shook his head. "We're doing this another way."
"There is no other way." Remus tentatively put his hand out to touch Harry's shoulder. "Poppy said it's already starting to happen."
"But I like my penis." Harry whimpered, backing away from Remus's touch. "I like it quite fine where it is right now. I don't want it to go away."
"It'll come back," Remus promised, putting his arm around Harry's shoulders. "How about I make you a nice bowl of pickles and salsa?"
"Can I have the mango salsa?" Harry sniffed.
"Of course." Remus grimaced a little. "Anything for you."
"With whipped cream?"
"Now that's just disgusting!" Remus protested.
"Hey! Losing my penis here!"
"Pickles, mango salsa, and whipped cream it is then."
Harry pushed open the door to the sitting room. It was late, the full moon pinned high in the sky. Snape was sitting in front of the fire, a glass cupped between his hands. Another howl rent the air, making Harry shiver.
"When do you think they're going to stop?"
Snape turned a little in his chair. "Come sit. It's a little easier if you don't try to sleep through it."
Harry sat down in the chair slowly, counterbalancing as best he could so he didn't fall on his arse like usual. "Is Minerva with them tonight?"
Another long howl, this one echoed a moment later by a second animal.
Snape shook his head. "Poppy wanted her to stay inside because of the rain."
"Cats aren't that fond of rain," Harry said quietly. "I hate to ask this, but could you get me a cup of tea? I'm not going to be getting up anytime soon."
"What kind?" Snape had already gotten up, setting his own glass on the small table beside the chair.
"Mint," Harry rubbed his stomach lightly. "It settles her."
"I'll be back in a moment." Snape squeezed his shoulder briefly before slipping out of the room.
Harry settled back in the chair, peering at the fire. More howls cut through the night; Moony and Fang out on the moors and in mourning. The last two full moons had been the same.
"Here," Snape said, handing him a mug of tea. "Do you require anything else or may I sit back down?"
"I'm fine," Harry said with a smile. "I'll have to get up to pee shortly, but until then, we can just sit and listen to them howl."
Snape grunted a little, resuming his seat and picking up his glass. "I think this is keeping Remus sane. Once a month, he howls out his frustrations and losses. The rest of the month he can save face and take care of us." Snape looked over at him, his eyes sad. "I never wanted to do this to him. I didn't expect to live, you know."
"Neither did I," Harry said softly. "Now look at me."
"I am," said Snape. "You don't want to be alive anymore than I do."
Harry looked at his mug and shook his head. "That's not true. At least not anymore. I kind of have more to live for now."
Moony howled low and long from outside. Harry could hear the ice clink in Snape's glass when he set it on the table again. He looked over at the man he had hated for years, a man he now considered one of the few friends he had left. Snape looked healthier than Harry had ever seen him look. It was disconcerting.
"He told you of my wife, correct?"
Harry nodded, a little surprised that the conversation was going there. Snape didn't talk about his past.
"She was a lovely woman. I haven't the faintest clue why she was with me. I still miss her to this day."
Harry reached over and wrapped his hand around Snape's. "What was her name?"
"Lydia." Snape squeezed his hand. "Her name was Lydia."
"That's a lovely name." Harry squeezed back before pulling Snape's hand towards him and resting it on his stomach. "She's kicking."
A slow smile crossed Snape's face as his hand spread out on Harry's stomach. Outside, Moony and Fang howled again.
The kitchen was quiet, the five inhabitants sipping coffee and refusing to meet each others eyes. The silence was finally broken by Fang whinging in Harry's direction.
"I'll get him some eggs," Minerva said, rising to her feet and going over to the stove. "Does anyone else want more? Harry?"
"I'm fine," Harry said and set his coffee mug back on the table. "What time are they coming?"
"Around one. Molly and Arthur are going to pick up the Grangers, then they'll all portkey here." Remus pushed Snape's plate towards him. "Finish eating, Severus."
"I've eaten all I want to eat," Snape said harshly. "Stop mothering me, Lupin."
"I'll stop mothering you when you start dressing yourself again," Remus said mildly, getting up and clearing the table. "Until then, you will do as I say."
Harry slyly looked over at Snape, expecting the other man to be fuming. Instead, Snape just picked up a piece of toast and peered at it for a moment before taking a bite.
"That's better," Remus said as he scraped the remnants of breakfast into Fang's bowl. "Poppy, why don't you go give Harry his morning examination? Severus, Minerva and I will get everything ready for their arrival."
"That sounds like a good idea." Poppy rose from her chair, going over to Minerva who was looking out the kitchen window absently. She put her hand on Minerva's waist briefly, waiting for her to turn her head before pressing a light kiss to her lips. There were no secrets anymore, not between the five of them. "Come along, Harry."
"Bathroom first," Harry said as he pushed his chair back, using the table for leverage. Poppy put a hand on the chair to steady it as Harry rose ungainly on his feet. "I'll meet you in there."
Harry waited just outside of the door, eavesdropping for a moment. All he heard was Snape crunching on toast and Minerva telling Fang to eat his breakfast. Harry waddled down the hall to the bathroom, sitting down to pee and cursing his penis. He would never get used to sitting down to pee.
Poppy was waiting for him when he got there, the bed inviting as always. One of the guest rooms had been converted into a makeshift infirmary. Poppy's supplies were there and they planned to deliver the baby there when it was time.
"Come along, Harry," Poppy said, washing her hands off. "Let's see how our little girl is doing."
"Well, besides tap-dancing on my bladder and doing somersaults, she seems to be doing fine." Harry sat down on the bed and began to disrobe. He slid back on the bed and leaned against the headboard. "Spread and ready to go."
Poppy snorted and sat on the bed next to him. She rested her hands on his stomach and closed her eyes, murmuring spells under her breath. Harry closed his eyes and relaxed, quite used to the morning ritual of renew the spells on his body and checking on the status of the baby.
"She's getting big."
Harry opened his eyes and looked at Poppy's hands spread on his stomach. "How big is she?"
"I'd say she's about 4 kilos now. If you go full term, she might be close to 5 kilos." Poppy smiled and lifted her head to look at him. "You are going to have one hell of a labor."
"You are way too amused by that thought," said Harry dryly. "How is she?"
"She's fine." Poppy assured him. "I'm going to have to adjust some of the spells. Your body is not handling a few of the newer changes that well. It won't take long."
Harry shifted on the bed, rubbing the bottom curve of his stomach with the flat of his palm. He got a firm kick for his troubles and he moved his hand away. With a calm expression, he met Poppy's gaze again.
"You want me asleep for this?"
She nodded and pressed the palm of her hand to his forehead. A moment later, he fell into a dreamless sleep.
Harry sat in one of the sitting rooms, waiting with Fang for Remus to bring the Weasleys and Grangers in to see him. Poppy was going to talk to them about the circumstances and then bring them to see Harry. He couldn't bring himself to be the one to tell them what had happened.
Snape slipped into the room, carrying a cup of tea. "They'll be here momentarily. I thought you would like some tea to calm you."
"Thanks." Harry took the cup, his hands shaking. "How did they take it?"
"It could have gone better." Snape sat down on the arm of the chair. "They are upset that we kept this from them for so long."
"Did Molly yell?"
"Quite a bit." Snape smiled. "As did Adeline Granger. She's got quite a mouth on her."
"So did Hermione, as you well know." Harry leaned against him, wishing that this was already over. "There was that time she called you an arrogant, malicious git."
"Well, I was ..." There was a commotion outside of the room and Snape rose to his feet, Fang whinging a little at the disruption. Remus appeared in the doorway, the Weasleys and Grangers crowding behind him.
"Help me up," said Harry, setting his tea aside and pushing up on the armrests. Snape reached down and guided him to his feet. Harry smoothed down the front of his robes and turned to the group. "Good afternoon."
"What the bloody hell do you think you're doing keeping this from us?" Hermione's mother pushed past Remus and stood in front of Harry, her eyes flashing. "We had a right to know from the start that you were carrying our grandchild."
"Mrs. Granger," Snape said calmly, stepping in front of Harry. "It was not Mr. Potter's decision."
"Move out of the way, Severus," Molly said just as calmly, putting her hand on Adeline's arm. "We want to speak to Harry now. We've already heard your explanation for the deception."
"We are not leaving him alone." Snape stepped aside, allowing Harry to face the grandparents. Snape joined Remus by the door, leaning against him.
"Harry," Molly said softly, stepping forward. After a brief pause, she wrapped her arms around him, hugging him tightly. "We've missed you."
"I'm sorry I haven't been in contact with you, Molly." Harry hugged her back, resting his head against her shoulder. "I've been a little out of sorts the past few months."
Molly pulled back and looked at him closely. "Are they treating you well? Have you been eating correctly?"
"I've a trained mediwitch and a potions master here with me," Harry said to her. "I'm doing just fine. The baby is doing just fine."
"Sit back down," said Adeline. "I remember when I was pregnant with Hermione. I despised being on my feet when I was eight months pregnant."
Arthur Weasley and Peter Granger moved into the room as well, joining their wives on the couch opposite of Harry. Snape and Remus moved to stand behind Harry, giving their visible support.
"Well, it seems that we are at an impasse here," said Arthur. "We must figure out what to do with our grandchild. Naturally, since the child will be a witch, she should be raised in our home."
"What do you mean naturally she should be raised in your home?" Adeline said shrilly. "We raised Hermione just fine in the Muggle world. She was a fine witch."
"There are certain things about the Wizarding World that a child should learn," said Molly just as sharply. "She cannot learn them in a Muggle household."
"There's nothing wrong with our household." Peter put his arm around his wife, glaring at Molly and Arthur.
"I could keep her," Harry said softly. "Raise her myself."
"Oh no, Harry." Molly shook her head. "You've done enough for this child already. We don't want you to give up your life for her."
"I don't mind." But his words were drowned out by the shouting of the four grandparents. Harry sighed a little and picked up his tea, sipping it slowly. He felt a hand squeeze his shoulder in comfort.
"Our lives are more settled," said Molly. "I don't work. Both of you work full-time. You would need to hire a nanny to take care of her. If she is with me, she'd be raised by family, not hired help."
Adeline's face flushed at that. "I am more than willing to leave our practice to raise our grandchild. She's all we have left now that Hermione died."
"Oh no," Molly snapped. "Don't bring in who lost more. I lost five children in that war, including the baby's father and Harry's best friend!"
"Hermione was Harry's best friend as well!"
"Help me up," Harry said softly, looking up at Remus. Automatically, Remus reached down and helped haul Harry to his feet again. "I'll be back."
As he waddled out of the room, the Weasleys and Grangers kept arguing, not even paying attention to Harry anymore. Harry let out a short whistle and Fang came trotting out of the room to follow Harry to their spot at the edge of the moors.
"You shouldn't be out here."
Harry turned away from the edge of the cliff surrounding the edge of the moors. Snape was standing in the shadows, his pale skin glowing in the moonlight.
"I'm not going to throw myself off the edge." Harry muttered, turning away from Snape again. His hand rested on the prominent curve of his stomach. "I was just getting away."
"I am only concerned that you will catch a chill." Snape stepped forward and put his own robe over Harry's shoulders. "The wind is stronger up here."
Harry accepted the robe, pulling it around himself tightly. "Are they still fighting?"
"I left shortly after you did." Snape admitted. "I did not wish to hear them argue about the fate of this child any longer."
"You know, I actually dreamed about keeping her," Harry said softly. "Raising her as my own."
"But she isn't yours." Snape looked over at him. "And the Weasleys and Grangers are too short-sighted to see the best option for the child."
"Am I the best option?"
"A few months ago, I would have said no immediately. However, you have grown up since then. I believe you would be a loving parent."
Harry ran a hand over his belly, his chest aching. "This hurts so much, Severus. To know that she is growing inside of me, relying on me, but she can't be mine. I don't want her to be taken away from me."
Snape was quiet for a long time, the only sound coming from him was his steady breathing. Harry looked over at him, but Snape's face was hidden by his hair.
"My son was two when he was taken away from me," Snape said quietly, his voice eerily steady. "His mother died during his birth and as he got older, I grew increasingly unavailable. Lord Voldemort found this unacceptable and he and a few Death Eaters came to my house. They took him into the living room and killed him thus making me available to Voldemort's whims."
Harry's fingers tightened against his stomach as he looked over the edge. He knew that Voldemort cared little about children, but to kill one of his own Death Eaters children surprised Harry.
"Why wasn't Draco killed then?"
"Because Draco had a mother. Lucius was free from the burden of raising his son. My son had the misfortune of having no mother and being born into a very poor family. He had no real chance of survival once Voldemort decided he was expendable."
"What was his name?" asked Harry softly.
"Loren," Snape said gruffly. "I am trusting you with privileged information, Potter. No one alive knows of my son's existence."
Snape gave him a withering look. "No. I just said that. Albus knew because he needed to know why my motivation to destroy Voldemort was so strong."
"When he was killed, what did you do?"
"After they left, I cried," Snape said simply. "Then I buried him in the backyard and swore I would avenge his death someday. And I did, Potter."
Harry curled his hand over his stomach protectively. "Will you be there? When she is taken from me?"
"If you wish me to be." Snape turned to face Harry, meeting his eyes for the first time during their entire conversation. "Perhaps you should stop thinking of the baby as 'her.' It will be easier in the end."
Harry shook his head. "She deserves to be loved from the start."
"Very well." Snape put his hand on Harry's shoulder. "Come inside. It is cold up here."
"Yes." Harry shivered, looking at the stars again. "It is cold up here."
Harry wandered through the house, his slippers making soft sounds on the wood and carpet. The portraits were all fast asleep, along with the living inhabitants. Harry couldn't even rouse Fang from his slumber sprawled across Harry's bed.
The baby was quiet for once, finally asleep. Harry knew he should be taking advantage of that and sleeping himself, but his back hurt so much he couldn't lie down. Walking seemed to help.
There was a soft sound from one of the sitting rooms; Snape's favourite. He slowly headed in that direction. Maybe Snape could suggest something for his back.
Harry stopped in the threshold though, when he saw Snape and Remus sitting on the couch. Remus's hands were cupping Snape's face, smiling softly in his direction. Snape's hand was resting low on Remus's waist as they moved closer together, kissing softly.
Harry watched them for a few minutes, his eyes wide in surprise. He'd never seen them kiss before, never seen them do more than offer each other support with a gentle touch. He immediately felt like he was interrupting something important and turned to head back out into the corridors to continue his walk.
Harry walked about five feet before a cramp set low in his abdomen stopped him. He pressed his hand against the spot and tensed until the cramp stopped. His hands shook slightly as he leaned against the wall and tried to figure out what that was.
It could only be one thing, as far as he was concerned - a contraction.
"Remus!" Harry shouted. "Remus, come here!"
Remus came running into the hallway, skidding to a stop in front of Harry. "What? What's wrong?"
Harry's chin trembled and his eyes filled with tears. "I think I just had a contraction."
Remus froze, barely blinking for a long moment before he turned. "Severus! Severus, come here!"
Snape, however, did not run to their sides. Instead he walked casually out into the hallway and over to them. "Why all the yelling? Haven't the two of you realized it's two in the morning?"
"Labor," Remus squeaked pointing at Harry. "Contraction."
Snape turned to Harry immediately. "Is he implying that you're going into labor right now?"
Harry nodded silently. His hand moved over his stomach, rubbing lightly at the spot where the cramp had been. His back continued to ache something fierce as Snape studied him with interest.
"Well," said Snape. "I find that hard to believe, but I will run a scan."
Remus stepped over to Harry and put his arm around him. "Let's go sit down."
"No," Harry shook his head. "It hurts to sit. And lie down."
"Where does it hurt?" asked Snape, passing his wand over Harry's body. "You aren't in labor. She's still feet first as well."
"My back," said Harry miserably. "Then what was that?"
"False labor." Snape put his wand away. "Your body is getting ready for the birth, but it is not ready yet."
Harry leaned against Remus, not knowing whether to be relieved or upset. The idea of labor scared him. Poppy had given him books to read once he'd started to show more interest in his pregnancy. No matter what, labor was not going to be easy.
"Come on," Remus said gently. "Let's get you into bed."
"Okay," said Harry, allowing Remus and Snape to lead him back to his bedroom. Fang was still fast asleep, spread across half of the bed. Remus nudged him until he rolled over, leaving Harry more space to lie down. "Can you hand me the other pillows?"
Snape handed them to him and Harry settled them behind him so he could sit half-propped up. It took some of the pressure off of his chest and made it slightly easier to sleep.
Harry looked at the two of them. "Sorry for interrupting you."
"Nonsense, Potter," Snape said gruffly. He put his hand on Harry's forehead. "Go to sleep."
"Had a little scare last night, I hear," said Poppy as she fixed him a bowl of oatmeal with raisins.
Harry flushed a little and put his glass of milk back down on the table. "Yeah. Snape took care of it."
"Back pains and cramps are signs of labor." Poppy handed him the bowl of oatmeal. "Eat that."
"He said I wasn't in labor though."
"You're not," said Poppy, sitting down next to him. "I'm just telling you that you don't need to be embarrassed for thinking you were."
"I feel bad." Harry admitted, scooping up a mouthful of oatmeal and swallowing before saying more. "I interrupted them."
"So Severus finally decided that he's going to live again." Poppy nodded in approval. "About time. I wasn't sure how long Remus was going to keep sticking around."
"Remus would have stayed anyway."
"Are you so sure about that?" asked Poppy. "It's hard to watch someone you love slowly let himself die."
"Was that what he was doing?" Harry stirred his oatmeal. "I thought he was learning how to survive."
"Isn't that what we're all doing here?"
"I thought I was giving birth to a baby." Harry shrugged. "But I guess learning how to survive is a good answer as well."
"Eat your oatmeal," said Poppy softly. "We're doing exercises this morning."
"You wound me, Poppy." Harry shook his head. "Exercises. I can't even see my feet anymore and you want me to touch them."
"You'll thank me for it later," Poppy said sweetly, taking a bite of her own oatmeal.
At first Harry assumed that the cramps were just that - cramps. But after about an hour, Harry had to admit that they were a little too regular for him to ignore.
He found Minerva first, unsure of where to even look for any of the others. Harry leaned against the doorframe, knocking lightly.
"Harry," Minerva set aside her book. "Can I help you?"
"She went into town with Remus," she said. "Come have a seat."
Harry shook his head. "I'd rather walk for a bit. So Severus is here?"
"I believe he's sleeping." Minerva frowned. "Harry, are you alright? You look pale."
Harry winced a little, breathing quickening as another contraction hit. "I think I'm in labor."
Minerva stood up and walked over to him. "May I?"
Harry nodded, his lips pressed tightly together. Minerva rested her hand on his stomach and made a clucking sound in the back of her throat.
"You're in labor." Minerva patted his stomach lightly. "Hard as a rock. Your uterine muscles are tightening up."
"Now what?" asked Harry, rubbing the curve of his stomach.
"Now we walk," said Minerva, taking his arm. "We'll wake Severus and take a nice, long walk around the manor. Once that gets to be too much for you, we'll go to the birthing room."
"When this is over," Harry looked at her. "Can I have a glass of scotch and a pain potion?"
Minerva chuckled and patted his arm as they began to slowly walk in the direction of the bedrooms. "Of course, dear. I'll even pour you the scotch myself."
"No," Harry said, shaking his head. "Right here is nice. I like it here."
"Harry," Remus said gently. "Why don't we just stand up and get on the bed instead of kneeling next to the bed."
Harry leaned forward and rested his forehead against the mattress as he knelt by the bed. He moaned lowly as another contraction griped him. A moment later, Remus began to rub the small of his back. He turned his head slightly to give Remus a faint smile of gratification.
"If he's comfortable there, he should stay there." Poppy said as she sat down on the bed. "He's got a long way to go."
"Why are you saying that?" Harry moaned. "Can't you just lie and say it's almost over?"
"And risk you cursing me out when it gets really bad? No thanks." Poppy shook her head. "That's why Severus is here - to take your abuse."
"Just give me a bloody bowl of soup or something then!" Harry snapped at Minerva as he rocked himself in the rocking chair they had dug up from somewhere. "I'm hungry."
"Soup would be acceptable." Poppy knelt before him. "A thin broth, nothing with meat, vegetables, or pasta. That'll make him throw up. Spread your legs, Harry."
"Whenever you say that, nothing good comes of it." Harry sighed as he spread his legs, allowing Poppy to push up the nightshirt he wore. "If you ever put your fingers inside of me after this, it'll be too soon."
"Four centimeters," Poppy said as she withdrew her hand. "Not bad for five hours of labor."
Harry groaned and rubbed his stomach. "Why is she still kicking me?"
"Because she's not happy right now. Labor isn't easy for the baby either."
A soft snore rose from the bed, capturing Harry's attention. Snape and Remus were napping in the bed since Harry had spurned it on more than one occasion since his labor had become active.
"It's not fair that they can sleep." Harry continued to rub his stomach before he griped the arms of the rocking chair. "Another one. Now."
Poppy rubbed his hand lightly. "Breathe slowly, Harry. Each contraction brings the baby one step closer to being born."
Harry floated in the warm water, his eyes half-closed. It had been Snape's suggestion to try the bathtub. Once Harry had been lowered into the warm water, he swore that he was never leaving again.
Snape trailed his hand in the water for a moment. "Want me to make it warmer?"
Harry shook his head. "It's perfect." He opened his eyes all the way and looked at Snape. "They're not here, right?"
"The Weasleys and Grangers." Harry's face scrunched up as another contraction started. He managed to match Snape's heavy breathing and keep himself calm during the contraction. "I don't want them here."
"So you've said." Snape handed him a glass of water. "They're not here. Minerva will floo-call them after she is born."
Harry gulped down the cool water, pressing the glass against his forehead. "Good, good. What time is it?"
"9 in the evening."
"How many hours has it been?"
Severus inhaled as he thought for a moment. "About ten hours."
"And I'm how far along?"
"Six centimeters the last time Poppy checked."
Harry groaned a little and looked over at him wearily. "Was it like this for Lydia?"
"I wasn't allowed to be there when Loren was born." Snape poured water over Harry's stomach as he talked. "Lydia's mother said that it was not my place. Then they removed Lydia's body before they let me in the room."
Harry panted through another contraction, clutching Snape's hand this time. He leaned back against the back of the tub and closed his eyes. "What did he look like?"
"When he was born?" Harry nodded. "He was red and wrinkled and screaming at me. I don't really remember much from when he was just born."
"Did you love him?" Harry shifted in the tub.
"With all of my heart," Snape said quietly. "Are you ready to get up?"
"Yeah, I think I am." Harry made a face. "I'm going to need some help."
Snape took out his wand. "One levitation spell coming up."
"Hey!" Harry protested. "Are you saying I'm too fat to be helped up by hand?"
"Yes." Snape waved his wand and levitated Harry to his feet. He wrapped a towel around him. "And this is safer."
Harry gasped and bent at the waist. Snape rubbed his back gently, keeping an arm around Harry's shoulder just in case.
"Let's go lie down."
Harry nodded weakly. That sounded like a lovely idea.
When the contractions began to pile atop of one another and Harry couldn't get a break, he began to moan continuously and tears leaked from the corners of his eyes. Remus rubbed his shoulders the whole time, not letting Harry feel alone.
"Let's walk some more," said Poppy after she examined Harry again. "You're almost there, Harry, and I think getting up and walking might speed things along."
Harry moaned again and gave a little whimper as Remus and Snape helped him sit up, but he allowed himself to be helped to his feet. He had given up on clothing after the bath, not wanting anything to touch his skin and cling to him. He was flushed and sweaty and practically hanging on Snape and Remus as they walked him around the room.
A particularly hard contraction hit him and Harry fell to his hands and knees, tensing up and pushing to ease some of the pressure. Snape rubbed the small of his back as Remus let Harry lean against him.
"Don't, Harry," Poppy said quickly as she saw him push. "You're not there yet."
"I need to," he gasped, his fingers digging into Remus's thigh. "Check again."
Poppy eased her fingers inside of him again. Another contraction made Harry clench around her fingers and he cried out in pain this time. Remus pushed his hair back from his face as Snape continued to apply light pressure to his back.
"Nine centimeters," Poppy said as she withdrew her hand. "The pressure is her head moving into place. It's going to get worse."
Harry moved from his hands and knees to a kneeling position on the carpet, still leaning against Remus for support. He clung to him tightly, his face buried in Remus's very rumpled shirt, rocking slightly to ease the pressure.
Minerva returned a few minutes later with some more weak broth and tea for the rest of them. Harry sipped the broth and continued to rock during the contractions as Snape fed him.
It was Snape that noticed when Harry's water broke because Harry was too occupied by the contraction that had settled over him yet again. He vanished the water with his wand and dried Harry's thighs with a soft towel.
"Poppy, his water broke." Snape said, interrupting the soft conversation Poppy was having with Minerva. "Perhaps you should check him again."
Harry moaned again as Poppy checked again. She was smiling this time as she removed her fingers, putting her hands on Harry's sides.
"If you feel ready for it, you can push. Only push during contractions though. It'll make it a bit easier."
Harry nodded and lifted his head weakly. "Can I stay here?"
"Push in whatever position is most comfortable for you. This is a good one because it allows gravity to work on moving her down as well. You might find later on that it's easier to lie down and push. Do what your body tells you to do."
Harry nodded again and leaned back into Snape's hand, happy when he increased the pressure he was using to rub his back. This time when a contraction started, Harry bore down, his fingers digging into Remus's arms this time.
"I'm going to be so bruised," Remus commented during the next respite. Harry actually chuckled weakly at that. "Yeah, you find it funny now."
"I'll find it funny tomorrow too." Harry lifted his head and gave Remus a weak smile. "Don't let me go."
"We're right here," Remus promised. "None of us are going anywhere."
Harry nodded quickly and began to push again. The pressure both eased and increased when he pushed, but he really couldn't stop himself if he tried at this point.
"You're doing so good," Poppy said about half an hour later. "I can see the head. She's just starting to crown."
Snape peered between Harry's legs. "It's a bit bloody, but I think that's hair."
Harry laughed a little from his newest position resting against Remus's chest while lying on the bed. He was exhausted and hungry and everything from his shoulders to his knees ached fiercely. But so far he was finding pushing to be easier than the rest of his labor.
About ten minutes later, that wasn't the case. Harry sobbed piteously during each contraction, pushing as best he could. The head was definitely crowning now as the baby relentlessly moved down the birth canal, stretching him painfully.
Poppy massaged his perineum between pushes, her free hand already resting against the baby's head. "One more strong push and I think she'll be free, Harry."
"Come on, Harry," Remus urged him on, his own hands helping to keep Harry's legs spread. "One more big push."
Harry sobbed weakly, but managed to gather enough strength to push. He wailed as the burning increased painfully and his thighs trembled in an effort to squeeze them shut.
Poppy slowly guided the head out, her face serious as she held the head in her hand. "Give me a towel."
Minerva quickly handed her a clean, soft towel and watched as Poppy cleaned away the mucus from her nose and mouth. Almost immediately, the baby began to cry, a high, thin wail at the indignity of being so born.
Harry lifted his head, trying to see. "Is that her?"
"Strong girl, we've got here," said Poppy. "She's crying before she's even fully born."
Snape cast a mirror charm so that Harry could see her, his own eyes wide with amazement. Harry watched her until the next contraction, which Poppy guided him through so he could birth the shoulders.
Harry collapsed against Remus as the rest of the baby girl slid out of him and into Poppy's waiting hands. Poppy laid her on a waiting towel and began to dry her off, wiping away the fluid and blood from her birth.
"Merlin," Snape whispered, staring at the little girl. "Look at her."
Poppy wrapped her carefully in a clean blanket and lifted her into Harry's arms. Harry traced his fingers over her tiny nose and open, crying mouth. Her face was scrunched up, red and wrinkled, just like Snape had said it would be. Her hair, which seemed to be ginger, stood straight up in little tufts around her decidedly cone-shaped head.
"Give us another push, Harry," Poppy said. "And then we'll be finished."
Snape refrained from looking as Harry delivered the afterbirth, instead focusing on the screaming baby and Harry. Remus was still cradling the other man, staring at the baby as well.
"Here," Minerva said softly as she shifted the baby in Harry's arms. "It's important for her to have breast milk while she can."
Harry looked at his chest, swollen slightly, but not enough to breastfeed as far as he was concerned. With Minerva's help, he guided the infant to a nipple. He let out a gasp as she began to suckle.
"That kind of hurts."
Minerva refrained from saying 'you'll get used to it' and instead scowled at him. "Do it anyway."
"Yes, ma'am," Harry said, watching the baby eat. "Can I have a pain potion now?"
Snape laughed and got to his feet. Poppy was already cleaning Harry up and removed spells that had kept him from miscarrying. "It's a modest request, but one we can fulfill now."
Harry drank the pale pink potion gratefully, sighing as the pain receded from his limbs and between his legs. Snape took the baby from him as he started to drift off to sleep.
It was done.
"You're awake," Remus said with a smile as Harry's eyes flickered open. "We were wondering if you were going to sleep the day away."
Harry licked his lips, noticing that everything around him was cleaned up, including Remus who, while he didn't look like he'd slept yet, was obviously showered and wearing clean clothes.
"You'll be happy to know that you have a penis again," said Remus lightly. "And your body is back to normal."
Harry reached for his glasses, perching them on his nose and focusing on a small cradle off to the side. "Can I hold her?"
"Of course." Remus rose to his feet and walked over to the cradle, lifting the tiny bundle of blankets. He smiled down at her as he walked back to the bed. "The Grangers and Weasleys are on their way. Minerva went to pick them up."
Harry accepted the little girl, pushing the blankets down slightly so he could look at her. Her skin was pink now, no longer red. However, she was still quite wrinkly. He trailed a finger over her round cheek, watching as she opened her eyes slowly, blinking in confusion.
"She's got blue eyes."
"Pretty aren't they?" Remus leaned over to look as well. "Poppy said they'll probably change color when she gets older."
"Could I have a minute alone with her?" asked Harry softly, looking up at the other man.
"Of course. Just holler if you need anything."
Harry nodded and waited until Remus had left the room before speaking. He unwrapped her carefully, touching her toes and fingers and admiring the little pink outfit she was dressed in.
"Hi, little girl." He paused again. "I'm not your mommy. She's dead, but she loved you very much. You're here because she loved you so much that she saved your life instead of her own. I'm not daddy either. He's dead as well, but I know he would be so happy to have you here finally."
Harry kissed her forehead lightly. "I'm Harry. I'm the guy you've spent the last few months kicking in the stomach and bladder. I don't what I am to you in the end, but I love you. I know you don't understand what I'm saying right now, but someday, I hope you'll know that you were born loved.
"There was an awful war that killed a lot of people and tore our world apart. Someday you'll learn all about it and the parts your parents played in helping the war end. It's your turn to play a part now. It's very important, almost as important as what your parents did. You get to help start the next generation of wizards and witches, a generation that will hopefully not know war like we did.
"And someday, when Severus is yelling at you for not chopping your yarrow root correctly, you'll be able to look at him and know that all is right in the world. There are people who love you and fought so hard to get you here and no matter what happens in your life after this, you've beat the odds just by being born."
Harry wrapped her in the blanket again, rocking her a little as she began to fuss. He just watched her until there was a knock on the door, interrupting his silent vigil.
Snape stepped inside, also looking like he hadn't slept but at least washed and changed his clothes, and gave Harry an apologetic frown.
"Her grandparents are here."
"Alright," Harry lifted her up again to kiss her forehead. "Goodbye, baby girl. Go with Severus now to meet your family."
Snape took the baby in his arms and looked at Harry in concern. "Are you ... do you want me to go get Remus?"
Harry shook his head. "I think I'll take a bit of a nap again."
"Very well. Should you need anything..."
"I'll just holler," Harry assured him. "Severus, could you tell them that I'd like her to be named Lauren?"
Snape nodded, his lips pressed tightly together. Harry could see the emotions playing behind the expressionless mask of his face. "Lauren. It's a beautiful name."
"Yes." Harry met his gaze. "It is."
"Marvelous news, isn't it?" Neville said as he set aside _The Daily Prophet_ and looked at Harry and Luna. "First baby born after the war and all."
Harry nodded, picking up the paper to read the announcement. "I wonder who the surrogate was."
"They don't say." Neville took a bite of his cake and shrugged a bit. "The spell Hermione used required it to be someone she was close by when she died."
"I don't think we'll ever know," Luna said as she watched Harry closely. "Hermione's parents will take good care of her."
"Best she's raised in the Muggle world anyway." Neville agreed. "She's famous just for being born."
"Hopefully that will wear off once more children are born." Harry looked back at Luna with a small smile. "Three more months until the newest Longbottom is born into the world. Snape is already trying to figure out a way to strength the school cauldrons."
Luna laughed and put her arm around Neville. "Hopefully the baby will get my brain and Neville's courage so Professor Snape doesn't have to retire when he or she starts school."
Harry laughed as well, looking at his friends. He would never tell anyone that he had been the surrogate. If they guessed, they guessed. Lauren was safe and sound with the Grangers and her frequently visiting other grandparents, the Weasleys.
And Harry was finally free to live his life.