This is based on the Surrogate Mother Challenge on WIKTT. For full description of this challenge, please see the author's notes at the end of the first chapter.

Disclaimer: I looked in the mirror this morning and was stunned to discover that I am not JK Rowling. Shocking, I know.

Special thanks go out to both SnarkyRoxy and JuneW, both of whom are very quick and have splendid ideas. Thank you, gals!

The grip on her hand was crushing and becoming worse by the minute. She wasn't sure why she'd agreed to do this. Certainly there were people who were better suited. Ginny's own mother, perhaps? No, instead Hermione was here as her friend lovingly crushed her hand with the onset and gradual progression of each contraction.

The viselike grip slowly began to lessen as Ginny's contraction seemed to ease. "Harry, shouldn't you be doing something?" Hermione stated plainly as she shook her hand out.

"Oh yeah, right. Sorry, Hermione," Harry said, a winning smile gracing his face. "When am I supposed to call Lavender?"

"She said she'd stop by after another twenty minutes, just to check on how you were doing, but she said she wouldn't do much until the contractions were more frequent," Hermione stated matter-of-factly.

"They are more frequent! How come you didn't tell me this hurt this bad?" Ginny bit out at the older witch.

"Because I honestly don't remember that much of my labor, Ginevra. Or have you forgotten how Elina was born?" Hermione snapped back.

"Bloody hell!" the redhead yelled as she stopped mid-waddle and grabbed onto her husband for support.

"Oh, they really are coming faster," Hermione said in awe as she left the room to Floo the midwife.

It had been just over two years since they had rescued Harry from his entrapment in the bowels of the Ministry of Magic. It had been a long road to recovery for Harry. The potions that they had given him had helped, but they were in no way a cure-all. There were times when it had been touch-and-go. He had spent over four months recuperating St. Mungo's.

It was disgusting how quickly the Ministry's opinion on the events of the war had changed once Harry Potter was alive and well and able to speak his piece. Harry Potter was once again dubbed the "Savior of the Wizarding World," the "Chosen One," and the "Boy-Who-Lived-Again." However, it had taken nearly a year beyond his resurrection for the rulings against the war criminals to be overturned. The wheels of government definitely turned slowly, unless heavily greased.

Harry had been appalled to hear what had happened to his friends while he'd been incapacitated. It had taken time for all of them to rebuild their friendships with him and for him to adapt to their new lives. It had also taken a bit of time for Harry to accept the fact that Severus Snape had helped in his rescue and recovery (not to mention his relationship with Hermione), but while the two men would never be close friends, they had eventually declared something of a truce.

Once Harry had been released from St. Mungo's, Ginny brought him home to number twelve, Grimmauld Place, where he continued to recuperate, and gradually became involved in the goings on in the wizarding world once more. The couple was married one year to the day after Harry's reawakening.

Ron had moved to France before Harry was released from the hospital. He was now first-string Keeper for the Quiberon Quafflepunchers. Hermione had always thought that the orange uniforms of the Chudley Cannons clashed horribly with his flaming red hair. To her horror, the Cannons' uniforms were nothing compared to the shocking pink robes of the Quafflepunchers.

They still kept in touch with Ron, by Floo and by Owl Post, but as it had been with Hermione for the past several years, the relationship was strained. Harry never understood Ron's treatment of Hermione after the fall of Voldemort, and an even larger rift grew between the best friends.

Neville seemed to replace the prong that had once been held by Ron. He was still seeing Madeline, though with their timid personalities, it had taken each of them time to work up the courage to progress their relationship — both required prodding from outside sources — the pair announced their engagement just two weeks ago.

Hermione heard a scream from upstairs and quickened her pace to the kitchen fireplace, where she threw in a handful of Floo powder and called Lavender. The young midwife stepped through the grate at Hermione's call, and the pair walked back upstairs to where Ginny was laboring.

Lavender brought up the topic first, taking Hermione slightly off-guard. She wasn't sure if her old roommate was baiting her, or just making conversation. "Oh, Hermione, wait until you hear what happened to Gladys Munch," Lavender exclaimed as soon as a contraction had ended. "You remember, she was just a horrid piece of work."

"Yes, I think I remember her," Hermione replied cautiously.

"It was the most amazing thing," Lavender said, with a playful glint in her eyes.

Hermione sat there trying to avoid Lavender's curious gaze.

"Well, she came down mysteriously ill about six weeks ago. It was the strangest thi—" The midwife cut-off her sentence mid-word as Ginny began to groan. Hermione watched as Lavender crouched on the floor in front of the laboring witch. "Ginny, look at me. No, open your eyes. Look at me. Good girl. Now, breathe… slower… in, two, three, four. Out, two, three, four. No, open your eyes. That's a girl. Breathe. In, two, three, four. That's it. Out, two, three, four. And again."

Hermione was awed at the calmness suddenly present in the room. Ginny's frantic moans were stilled with the presence of Miss Brown. The midwife took control of the mania and relaxed everyone as she took Ginny through her pain.

As soon as the contraction was finished, Ginny nodded her head and slumped into the armchair she was now sitting in. "Thank you," she muttered.

Lavender smiled and stood up, turning to Hermione. "It was the strangest thing. Gladys started off just all achy and nauseated and they sent her home. Well, she came back that evening, waddling as if she were nine months pregnant, and screaming as if she were in labor. Nothing helped alleviate the pain for her; I almost felt sorry for the woman," she admitted. "Then she started bleeding. Hermione, you wouldn't believe how hard I had to smash on her stomach, I thought that she was hemorrhaging. I've never seen a woman's menses that bad. Next thing you know, she quit moaning and the blood vanished… just vanished, like that! It was as if someone had cast an Evanesco. So, we tucked Gladys away in bed, and the next morning when she woke up, the whole thing started all over again."

"Really?" asked Hermione with a small smirk. "How long did it last?"

"Oh, it took them nearly three weeks to figure out what was wrong with her," replied Lavender.

"Three weeks?" Hermione almost felt guilty. The key word being almost. After her life had settled down, she had tried owling the hospital administrators to get the midwife fired, but it had not worked as well with midwife Munch as it had with Healer Munch. The advisors had informed Hermione that she truly had no basis to judge the care that Gladys gave her patients as Hermione was only in the woman's care for a few hours, and then it was when Hermione was immediately post-partum and very emotional. After several correspondences with them, Hermione gave up and decided to think of something else she could do to Gladys Munch.

It had been Severus' idea to modify the Empathy Curse. Grinning like a fool, Hermione now knew that she'd been successful with the modifications in the charm. Severus will be pleased as well.

Lavender was, once again, in front of Mrs. Potter and helping her through her latest pains. When the midwife returned to conversing with Hermione, she went on to say that, after spending a week recuperating, Gladys had decided to come back to work. Though it had only been two weeks since her return, Lavender said that the once uncaring midwife was now one of the most compassionate women there. Somehow between the time the curse was first cast and Ms. Munch returning to work, the woman learned how to actually be caring.

Granted, empathy for a pregnant and laboring witch was the original intended side-effect of the curse. However, Hermione had not expected anything to change the cold-hearted woman. Hermione actually felt pleased with the outcome… the vile woman had suffered, and had learned from the experience.

Hermione rubbed her hand thoughtfully over her own slightly protruding abdomen, and hoped that she would have a much better experience with her own labor and delivery this time around. She and Severus had decided, for propriety's sake, to be married before the start of the school term the summer that they had rescued Harry. After that next year of teaching at Hogwarts, Severus had agreed to another year, and Hermione had just convinced him to teach at least one more.

There had been no repercussions for any of them for rescuing Harry; the only person that had suffered any consequences had been Maddy. She had lost her position in the Department of Mysteries the moment that her superiors had discovered her role in Harry's recovery. However, because the rest of the wizarding community saw it as a great boon, Madeline had no trouble finding herself a new job.

"Ginny, pant. That's the way," Lavender muttered softly as she mopped Ginny's brow with a facecloth, interrupting Hermione's train of thought.

"Is there something I should be doing?" asked Hermione.

"No," answered the midwife. "Just be ready to help her push soon."

"Ginny, are you sure you don't want your mum in here instead?" Hermione asked. Truth be told, she was beginning to feel like she would much rather be almost anywhere else. She wanted to be a supportive friend, however she was worried that if she saw how much this process truly hurt, she'd be more afraid of going through the entire process herself in a few months.

The fiery redhead met her gaze with a look of uncertainty.

Hermione stood up from the chair she was currently residing in. "I'll go fetch her for you. It will be all right, Gin," she said with a reassuring squeeze to the younger witch's shoulder.

She walked back down the stairs to Floo Mrs. Weasley for the birth.

Later that evening, Hermione entered the sitting room at her home back at Hogwarts to see her husband sitting in an armchair, sipping on a glass of liquor, and staring into the flame. Over the last two years things had slowly settled to a quiet calm between them. Severus still had his fits of pique where he tried to control certain aspects of Hermione's life, although with time he was learning that she was not going to allow that to happen. She had only ever allowed it to happen during the first pregnancy because she had felt bound through the contract.

She smiled as she walked up to the chair, then ran her hands through his hair and down along his cheek.

Severus smirked at her appreciatively. "And how are the Potters this evening?" he asked. He was still unable to say Harry's surname without a sneer.

"They had a little boy and named him Henry James after Harry's grandfather," Hermione said with a smile.

Severus muttered something under his breath, and Hermione caressed his cheek to soothe him. "Oh, don't grouse. It will be eleven years before he comes along to darken the halls here. I'm sure you'll have retired by then."

Severus merely glared at her without remark, causing Hermione's smile to grow. She leaned down and kissed him lightly on the tip of his nose. "Am I to assume that Elina is sleeping?"

"Of course."

Hermione bent over again and grazed her lips across his. "Good," she whispered in his ear before standing back up and making her way towards the door to the bedroom. As she neared the door, she turned back around and looked at the dark man who was now making his way towards her. Severus was so much more than she had ever expected or ever thought she deserved. However, after all of this time, she was rarely ever able to catch him off guard, which only served to endear him to her all the more.

Hermione was grateful for the undeniable rouse set by the Fates for bringing them together, all in the guise of Severus begetting his heir—or heiress, as it were.

Severus approached her, placing his outstretched hand on her belly, with just a hint of a smirk ghosting his lips.

"What do you think this one will be, Severus?" she asked him as she looked hopefully into his eyes.

"A boy, certainly," he replied with assuredly.

"You know," said Hermione thoughtfully, "it took Molly Weasley seven tries before she had a girl. I realize that her family history is really inconsequential to us. However, boys don't run in my family. On my mother's side they all have girls. I wonder how many times we will have to try for a boy?"

Severus' face paled instantly, just as Hermione predicted. He had never wished to have a Quidditch team, although he had expressed a desire to have a son to carry on the Snape name.

Turning to the bedroom again, she allowed herself to smile at her quip. She wondered briefly how long she should wait before she told him that she'd decided to take the potion that morning that confirmed they were indeed having a son. Perhaps she should let him off the hook now...

Looking back over her shoulder at his still-stunned look, she giggled to herself slightly. Or perhaps she'd make him stew a bit longer. It was nice to have the upper hand once in awhile. I mean, how often did one have the upper hand when living with Severus Snape?


A/N: To answer the question... yes, this story is really over. However, it is left open intentionally and I may revisit it at some point.

This story has taken just over a year to write and has been a wonderful journey for me. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I have been motivated, encouraged, and inspired by so many different people. Thanks to: Southernwitch69, cocoachristy, Meredith, Nyx, JuneW, SnarkyRoxy, Betz, Candace, Pickles, and charmed nay.

Thanks also to all of those that have read the story and reviewed. I have cherished each and every comment and review, both critique and praise. They have both motivated and helped me to improve my writing, and ultimately this has helped to improve this story.