"I regret to inform you that was the last one."

Severus resisted the urge to snarl at the disappointed avarice in the Matron's eyes. She paused in a sorry approximation of a delicate manner, clearly unwilling to believe she could not locate a witch capable of meeting his requirements. Indeed, he suspected her professional pride as well as her greed were in full agreement on this matter. Surrogacy was the dirty little secret of the Pureblood world, and Matron Bonipoli had a reputation to uphold.

"Are you certain you wouldn't be willing to consider...alternatives?" the Matron asked.

He came slowly to his feet.

He dropped his gaze to the pulse that began to throb visibly in her neck and sneered. Her cowardice in the face of his displeasure stank like Muggle London and her lack of character was an affront to any witch worthy of the name. Children a third of her age had done better.

"None of my requirements are negotiable,"he said flatly.

She swallowed, then smiled tightly as she recalled that he had come to her, looking to buy. "Muggleborn witches are not as hard to find as one might assume. The level of innate power you require is more rare, but not impossible to locate. All things are possible for those with...shall we say...certain types of business associates ,"she said.

There was no regret in her mind for the imagined fate of the witch she planned to find for him. The echos of terrified screams and a brief image of a hollow-eyed witch, large with child and chained to a filthy bed assaulted him. He backed away from the touch of her mind and curled his lip in a fair approximation of the look Narcissa would have given an overflowing sewer grate.

"Perhaps,"he said icily,"I did not make myself clear."

The Matron's expression bleached itself of color and expression.

"Muggleborn, Madame. I care not for its virginity or lack thereof. Power at the level specified or above,"he said with distant courtesy. He smiled mirthlessly and wondered what she would say if she ever discovered the true source of his dissatisfaction with the brood stock she had presented. Lily Potter's intelligence combined with her natural talents had created a specific set of problems that echoed even into this day.

"The witch will be willing,"he finished harshly," or not even our Dark Lord will be able to find all the pieces of your soul."

She was tired of crying.

She had cried when Dumbledore was killed. She had cried when her parents were sent away for their own safety. She had cried when Harry had turned to her, face alight with joy that he had succeeded, that Voldemort lay dead at his feet. Then she had watched green eyes darken with pain and confusion as the Bastard Snape struck him from behind.

There hadn't been enough DNA left to properly identify the body.

There had been no victory. Harry was dead and they had never found the last Horcrux. They had never even known what it was. It was only a matter of time before Voldemort was reborn. This time, there was nothing to stop his rise to power.

The Ministry scrambled to reassure everyone that Voldemort was gone for good and people who should have known better, believed them. The Ministry displayed the reptilian dead body and held public executions for those few Death Eaters they managed to capture. They purged the Wizengamot of sympathizers, and government coffers swelled as they enthusiastically seized the assets of wealthy traitors.

None of it mattered to the Disillusioned witch grimly watching the Bastard Snape as he Apparated away.

She had been shocked when she had learned what happened inside the conservative little building just off Diagon Alley. Not the practice itself. That was straightforward enough. What was shocking was the number of Pureblood couples that availed themselves of the service. She had learned that among certain segments of the population it was a well known fact that a healthy Halfblood or Muggleborn witch could make more money in nine months than the average Ministry employee made in five years.


Furtive whispers also suggested that some of the girls had disappeared. The desperate and the greedy wanted to believe they had simply moved on to a better life. The more cynical were not so hopeful. Certain scions of powerful Pureblood lines had Halfblood and Muggleborn mothers in more ways than surrogacy alone. Genes. Magic. Hermione held no doubt that some Purebloods would kill to hide that truth.

But today, she cared only about one rumour in particular.

It seemed the Bastard Snape wanted an heir.

When Tonks had reported that rumor to the Order, Hermione's first thought had been a blank,"The heir to what...?" She had not been the only one to speculate. Ron and the twins had snickered as they joked that a surrogate was the only way Snape was capable of reproducing. They had been torn between which reason to deride the loudest - his lack of appeal or his lack of interest. At the time, Hermione had denied the urge to point out just whose arse he might have admired then, if the Bastard didn't like girls.

Fred and George had turned an interesting shade of green when she mentioned it later.

Kingsley has just looked tired when she had tried to explain her concerns about the rumours and all but patted her on the head and told her to go outside to play. She supposed he had his reasons. The Order had exhumed and destroyed the bones of every Riddle relation they could locate. But Hermione wasn't worried Voldemort would repeat himself; she was worried his followers would try something different.

And she was deathly afraid the Bastard was pimping for the Devil.