Continuing Tales


A Harry Potter Story
by Alexis.Danaan

Part 8 of 26

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40 weeks:

"So when are you going to tell me what happened between you and Professor Snape last week?" Lavender asked, pushing away her empty bowl.

"Not much," Hermione said, fiddling with the remains of her own pasta as the pair of them sat at the kitchen table. "We talked a bit. We haven't really gone into depth about anything. I think we're both kind of avoiding it."

"Well he's been over here every single day since so you must have said something to him," Lavender arched an eyebrow at her in a poor imitation of the man and Hermione grinned.

"We...I apologised for keeping my pregnancy a secret from him," Hermione admitted. "I asked if it was at all possible to earn his forgiveness and he said that he would like that—now that I think about it, he didn't even say yes it's possible but...I think that's what he meant."

She sighed and took a stab at a vegetable in her bowl. "We talked a bit about why I didn't tell him in the first place and he told me...," Hermione hesitated, thinking of how to explain what Severus had told her without betraying his confidence. "He told me what he wants for Sebastian's future, and what he doesn't want."

"Which is?" Lavender asked, her eyes intent.

"To be a good father for his son," she said softly. "To give him everything that he didn't have growing up, and more."

Lavender smiled slightly, looking down at her bowl. "That's what my mom always said to me, that she wanted to give me everything that she didn't have. It's one of those things I never understood until I was older...until I had lived through a war." Her voice became soft and her gaze lifted to the window over the kitchen sink.

Hermione nodded without responding, deep in thought. She knew what Lavender was trying to say: that she would do anything in her power to make sure her children never had to experience the violence and hatred that they had.

"I think that...that if anyone can..." Lavender sighed, seemingly frustrated. "I don't know him, not the real him, but if anyone can protect a child it would be him. Merlin knows he's done it often enough in his lifetime."

Hermione smiled softly and nodded once more, her mind going back to their previous discussion. Severus had seemed to accept her reasoning quite easily and now that she was thinking about it more, she wondered why. At first, she was just so relieved that they hadn't had a blow up, that he had sort of forgiven her for her deceit and that he was willing to go forward from there. Now, she wondered why there weren't more questions on his part. The Severus she knew was not so blindly trusting—but then again, did she really know Severus Snape?

"So you're getting better at reading and translation the language of Snape, huh?" Lavender asked suddenly, her voice taking on that of someone forcibly pulling themselves out of a funk. Picking up her bowl, she stood and held out her hand questioningly towards Hermione's. The other witch passed it over, uninterested in eating what was left.

"He's not a manuscript, Lav," Hermione said, turning around in her seat and resting one arm on the back as the other woman dropped the dishes in the sink and they began to clean themselves. "It's not like he comes with a Snape to English dictionary. Though, that might come in handy if we're to be friends as I suggested."

"Friends, eh?"

"Mmhmm," Hermione hummed. "I asked him yesterday what he wanted from this...whatever it is that we have between us and he admitted that he wasn't sure. I suggested that we try to be friends first and foremost, for the sake of our son."

"Sounds reasonable," Lavender agreed. "But what are you going to do when all of a sudden there are pictures of you and Snape together with little Sebastian? It won't take them long to come to the right conclusions, you know, especially as the boy gets older. I imagine he'll look something like his father."

"I don't know, we haven't talked about it yet," Hermione admitted. "There are a lot of things we haven't talked about which...we probably should, huh?"

"Probably," Lavender agreed with a smile. She was about to say more when they both heard the Floo. "Are we expecting company? The tall, dark and scowling kind, perhaps?" Lavender teased.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Shut up, Lavender, or he'll hear you."

"What?" Lavender asked, overly innocent before she lowered her voice. "I'd say handsome, because he definitely looks better these days, but when he's always in those same robes I can't help but remember him as my teacher, and that's not exactly a turn on you—"

"Lavender!" Hermione shushed. "It's rude to—"

"Mind you," she quickly walked over to Hermione and lowered her lips to the other witch's ear, "those Muggle clothes he likes make his arse look fantastic so I can kind of see what you got knocked up for."

"And that's my cue," Hermione said, pushing her chair back and heaving herself out of it awkwardly. She had just passed the forty week mark and she felt like a whale at all times. Lavender laughed loudly as Hermione waddled out of the kitchen.

In the sitting room she found Severus standing in front of the fire, his hands clasped behind him and staring into the fire.

"I must ask you something," he said as soon as she entered the room.

"Hello to you, too," she said cheerfully, slowly lowering herself onto the couch and grimacing as a contraction took her, it was stronger than before but it passed quickly.

"Is it a common pass time in this house to discuss me and my attributes?" He did not turn and look at her but she could hear the sneer in his voice and, now that she was looking for it, she could see the rigid way he held himself.

She sighed. "Oh bloody hell," she groaned. "No. Lavender is just being...Lavender."

"Miss Brown is quite the expert on the topic of suitable male company, then I take it?" he spat.

"Hey!" Hermione said, getting defensive. "Lavender was teasing, being silly, and a little rude, yes but she meant no harm. In fact, if we're on the subject of things you shouldn't do and say, let's talk about eavesdropping, shall we?"

He spun around, his mouth open, but before he could make a scathing retort she cut him off.

"My mother used to tell me that if I was going to listen in on a conversation I better make sure I get the whole of it otherwise one jumps to the wrong conclusions, as you have. Had you heard the last bit of that conversation, which would be hard without a spell since she whispered it to me, you would have heard that Lavender actually finds you attractive and is beginning to see how I ended up pregnant in the first place."

Whatever he was about to say died on his lips and he closed his mouth with an audible click. Still, it did not take the wind out of his sails, merely Stunned them for a moment.

"Nonetheless," he said after a moment's thought, "I am disappointed to find that gossip is still the primary focus for Miss Brown. It makes me wonder at whether I should bother betraying any confidences to you, surely they will become fodder for midnight hair braiding sessions—if they haven't already."

Hermione actually rolled her eyes at him. "I know that this whole trust thing is new and foreign between the two of us, Severus, but we have to start somewhere. Would you like me to take an Oath?" she pulled out her wand and held it up. "Or perhaps a Vow?" she switched her wand to the other hand and held out her palm to him. "I'm afraid you'll have to come down to my level for this because I'm not getting up unless I absolutely have to."

"That will not be necessary, Hermione," he said harshly. "And to make light of such things—"

"I'm not making light of anything, I would appreciate if you did not put words into my mouth," she bit out, trying to keep her temper.

"And I would appreciate it if you stopped interrupting me!" he spat back.

She sneered at him in her best approximation of his favourite expression and said, "Perhaps when the useless drivel that insists on pouring from your mouth ceases, I'll be able to listen to an entire sentence."

He stared at her for a heartbeat, his face the picture of shock, before he composed himself and sneered back. "Indeed, perhaps I should forgo speech entirely?"

"That would certainly be interesting. I wonder, however, if you're capable of it?" she asked, her tone sweet now. Where was this coming from? She was enjoying fucking with him far too much to be rational. He seemed to be taking it in stride, however.

With quick, precise movements, he turned and sat in his usual armchair. Staring her down as if she were a naughty child, he looked the picture of a man who had all day to play this game. When he arched his typical eyebrow at her she felt her anger burst and dissipate as if it had never been.

"As entertaining as it would be to sit here and blather about as many inane topics as I could think of until you snapped," Hermione smiled wolfishly at the image she had conjured in her mind, "I have a serious question for you."

"Ah, the useless drivel suddenly has worth," he intoned, his voice deep and sarcastic.

Hermione rolled her eyes but chose to ignore the comment. Taking a deep breath she asked, "What do you plan to do when the public eventually finds out that you are Sebastian's father?"

He looked momentarily surprised, perhaps he had been expecting a different line of questioning but he shrugged nonchalantly. "I have no intentions of ever denying it. There is not much inheritance wise in being my child but what little birthright he has, it is definitely his."

"So you don't object to him being a Snape?" Hermione asked carefully.

She was watching his face carefully, it was the only way she had been able to tell how affected he was by her words. Over the course of the week she had taken to studying the man who seemed to pride himself on showing as little as possible. Now, in his eyes, she could read his profound shock. "You—I thought that he would have your name," Severus frowned at her, as if she had done something wrong. "I assumed that since we are not married that..." He trailed off and looked rather uncomfortable for a second before he cleared his throat and tried again. "If marriage is what you seek, I would—"

"What!" Hermione interrupted, suddenly feeling slightly panicked. Her emotions were giving her bloody whiplash and she closed her eyes, trying to focus on calming down. "No, that's not what I'm asking here. Friendship first, remember?" She was in no fit state to even think about marriage, no matter what Molly Weasley thought she should do. "I'm talking about m—our son being registered with the Ministry as Sebastian Snape, which is going to make the world as we know it explode. Are you prepared for that?"

"I am no stranger to bad press, Hermione," Severus said quietly and she opened her eyes.

"No," she agreed. "But this will be different, you know."

"I imagine it will be," he agreed. "Still, I shall manage. Will you?"

"Me?" She scoffed, affecting a tone of nonchalance. "I am the whore of Gryffindor, Severus. The princess turned slag, according to Skeeter. There's not much else she can say about me that will bother me."

"Acknowledging me as the father of your child will open you to many insults, Hermione," he said softly. "I was a Death Eater, I murdered Dumbledore," he stared hard at the floor between his shoes as he spoke. "I was your teacher. They will talk, and it will be nasty."

"Yes," she agreed. "They will, but it's been a long time since you were any of those things and I—"

Her words trailed off in a strangled sound as a sudden and hard contraction hit her. She clenched her teeth against the shock of the pain and held her breath, waiting for it to pass. It was longer and stronger than any of those that had come before it and she briefly wondered if she should owl Healer Bray to ask her about it. When the pain faded and she opened her eyes it was to find that Severus was sitting beside her, so close that his knees grazed hers, with naked concern in his eyes.

"Are you all right?" he asked and his hands twitched as if he were going to reach out to touch her but thought better of it. "Was it one of those...practice contractions?"

"I think so. I've been having a lot of them today," she said, pushing herself up slowly. Severus followed with his hands ready to catch her if she stumbled. She headed for the Floo. "I think I'm going to call—"

Her next words were cut off as a distinctly warm rush of fluid escaped her, making her look like she had just wet herself. She looked down in horror at her maternity jeans and the wetness that was slowly spreading down her thighs. Without looking away from her legs, she reached back blindly for Severus and caught his sleeve.

"Um," she said, still staring in surprise. "I think—I think I need to go to St. Mungo's now."

"Are you...?" he leaned around her, his hands automatically finding the sides of her now thick waist and he peered down at her legs. "Oh."

"Yeah," she echoed, feeling slightly dazed. "Oh. Lavender!" she called, her voice coming out far softer and confused than she had intended. "My water just broke..."

"What?" Lavender came running out of the kitchen, sliding on the wood flooring, her eyes going unerringly to the large wet spot between Hermione's legs. "Okay, I'll get the stuff," she looked up at Severus. "Take her to the maternity ward Floo, ask for Healer Bray."

"Does she need anything specific?" Severus asked immediately.

"No," Lavender said, shaking her head. "Just be careful in the Floo, no banging arou—"

"I'm right here!" Hermione objected, snapping out of her daze. "And perfectly capable of giving directions."

Lavender simply waved her off as she ran down the hall and up the stairs to grab the bags for the second time. Hermione shook her head and sighed before turning to Severus. Why was her heart pounding so hard? Could he hear it? He could probably hear it.

"Ready for this? It's game time, you know," she said, trying to sound as if she knew what she was about to do.

"Something tells me this is going to be a lot more stressful than watching Quidditch," he muttered, turning towards the Floo with his arm still around her.

"You really shouldn't talk when you're not the one expected to pass the Quaffle," she retorted and he almost smirked.

"Clever, that one," he said.

"I try," she said, nodding to the fire as he took a fistful of Floo. "Let's get going."

Severus tossed the powder into the flame and called out, "St. Mungo's Maternity Ward!" as they stepped into the swirling green flame.


For the first time in her life, Hermione felt utterly betrayed by a book. Or in this case, several books.

Labour was nothing, nothing, like they had said.

Clenching her teeth together, she paced along the length of her hospital bed, the patient robes swishing around her. They were exactly like the Muggles ones so she was wearing two in an effort not to flash Severus with her ass at every turn—not that he hadn't seen it before.

"Are you sure you don't want to sit?" he asked again. He had already asked that question. Once was one time too many.

"No!" she snapped. "It bloody hurts!"

"Don't bite my head off, witch!" he snapped back. "If you're in pain you should lie down!"

"When you have an extra ten pounds attached to your stomach we'll see how much lying down helps your back pain!" she grouched, pressing her hands to the small of her back.

"Merlin's pants," he muttered, getting up from the seat he had taken by the bed. "Come here," he grabbed her by the shoulders and guided her to sit on the bed. Once there, he sat down behind her and slid his hands down her spine, pressing his thumbs in hard and kneading the tense muscles.

"Oh, right there," she moaned, reaching back and grabbing his knee. "Perfect, right there," she sighed appreciatively as his fingers pressed into her aching muscles. Slowly, he worked his way up to her shoulders and then back down, tracing her spine. "Uuugh. Oh, harder Severus."

She heard the distinct sound of a snort from behind her and she pinched his leg. "Mind out of the gutter, git."

"You have a strange way of showing gratitude, Hermione," he said dryly, his fingers still working. "I have half a mind to stop."

"You're clearly suicidal, then," a new voice came from the direction of the door. They both looked up, Severus pulling away from her, at the same time as Mrs. Granger walked in.

"I wasn't kidding," she said to Severus, gesturing with a hand to Hermione as she shrugged out of her coat. "If a massage eases any of the pain, you best keep at it until your fingers fall off."

Hermione smiled tiredly at her mother. She was trying, clearly. She hadn't been ecstatic to hear exactly who the father of her grandchild was but in the two times she had seen him, both in the hospital mind, she hadn't let any of that show.

Severus tentatively reached for her again and as soon as his thumbs pressed into her muscles, she sighed happily. Mrs. Granger stepped up to the pair of them, cupping Hermione's face and kissing her head.

"See? Like puddy in your hands," Mrs. Granger smiled and brushed Hermione's hair off of her face affectionately as she watched Severus. "You know you've done your job when your arms go numb," she teased.

"Severus is a Potions Master, mother," Hermione smiled. "He's used to working with his hands for long periods of time."

"Is he now?" her mother said, even though she knew perfectly well what Severus' profession was. "And what exactly is involved in earning such a title, Mr. Snape?"

A glance over her shoulder told her that he looked startled to be addressed by her mother but he quickly covered it. "It is, I have been told, the equivalent to a Muggle P-H-something. I'm afraid I can't remember the name of it."

"PhD," her mother supplied.

"That would be the one," he agreed. "And please call me Severus."

Her mother smiled. "Harriet. It is a pleasure to officially meet you, Severus."

"Likewise," he nodded his head.

An awkward silence descended upon them and Hermione was about to attempt to break it up when she was hit with another contraction. Her back, which had been slowly relaxing, stiffened and she leaned into Severus as the pain shot through her.

"Don't fight it, honey," her mother said, reaching out and patting her leg. "Stop holding your breath, try to breathe through it."

"Kind of hard," she gasped as the pain receded. "They're getting closer together, though."

"Have you been checked?" her mother asked.

"Yes, I'm only 3cm though," she sat back up slowly, aware of Severus' hands rubbing up and down her back softly.

"We have a while to go then," her mother said, getting comfortable in the chair. Abruptly, and with no preamble, she changed the topic drastically. "Severus, we're a couple hours from being family. Tell me about yourself."

"Oh, crap," Hermione muttered and patted his leg where he still sat behind her. "I apologise in advance."


"How long has it been?" she gasped from her place on the bed. The contractions were only a couple of minutes apart now and with each one she felt like someone was jabbing at her insides with a dull knife.

"Just over six hours," Severus said quietly from his place by her bed.

He had surprised her when, after her mother's inquisition—which went better than she had expected, her mother kept it pretty superficial—he had assured her that he planned to stay for all of it. The actual birth was just one of the many things they had avoided chatting about directly. They spent their time talking about everything else but their impending parenthood, the last couple of hours being no exception to the rule. They had been chatting quietly between contractions mostly about his shop and what had been working on recently. Her mother had slipped out about an hour previously to sit with Harry and Lavender, who were awaiting news in the family waiting rooms.

"You should be due for another check up soon," he said, almost to himself.

"This is not what I expected," she admitted, shifting and trying to get comfortable with the now constant ache in her lower abdomen.

"What did you expect?"

"Something horrifyingly painful, but fast," she said. "I feel stupid now, thinking that. It just never occurred to me that it could be hours of getting ready for the horrifyingly painful part."

"I've heard that it is different for every woman," he said, shrugging slightly. "It's not stupid to have unrealistic expectations of something such as this when you've never experienced it before."

She smiled, thankful beyond words that he did not sneer at her. In fact, she was more than a little overwhelmed by how well he had taken everything and wondered at either how much he had changed in the past eight years, or how little she had known him.

"Thank you for being here," she said softly. "It's more than I expected."

He looked at her, his dark eyes unreadable, but he nodded. They were silent for a while, both of them lost in their thoughts, when another contraction hit her. It was the strongest yet and she couldn't help but cry out in pain as her back arched off the bed. Severus was on his feet instantly and leaning over her.

"Should I call Healer Bray?" he asked, placing his hand against her forehead. She grimaced, not wanting him to touch her when she was so sweaty.

"Yes, please," she groaned. "I think it's almost time. That bloody hurt."

Severus reached over her bed and gently touched his finger to the small glass statue of a mediwitch sitting there. It was keyed to call a Healer if someone touched it. Scant minutes later and Hermione's door swung open to reveal a familiar young man being followed by Mrs. Granger.

"I heard you were back!" Roger said cheerfully, looking down at Hermione. "What can I do for you Miss Granger?"

"I need to see Healer Bray, please," she told him. "My contractions are coming in faster and stronger. I think it might be time."

"I'll go get her for you," he said with a charming grin before he looked up at Severus and the smile vanished. "If I remember correctly, you are neither family nor a spouse and so I must ask you to leave the room now."

"And I suppose you intend to remove me if I do not oblige you?" Severus asked coolly, staring down his large nose at Roger. His stance shifted ever so slightly and Hermione suspected that his right hand was now closer to his wand.

"No," she interrupted, reaching out and placing her hand over the long pale fingers that gripped her bed sheets in a choke hold. "Severus is family. He's the father of my baby."

Roger's eyebrows shot into his hairline and his eyes darted between the two of them with obvious disbelief. " apologies, then. I'll call Healer Bray."

He turned and swiftly disappeared out the door.

"Well," Mrs. Granger said, watching the door swing shut, "he's a little shit, isn't he?"

"How uncouth, mom," Hermione chuckled.

"Oh please," her mother shrugged. "It's true."

Looking to Severus, Hermione found that the corners of his lips were twitching. Without thought, she squeezed his hand that still clutched at the sheets under hers and he looked at her curiously.

"Sorry," she said simply.

He shrugged and pulled his hand out from under hers as Healer Bray walked in briskly. A short examination later she confirmed that Hermione was almost fully dilated and they could get ready for the birth.

"Now, I know we talked about no pain medication during your last appointment but are you still sure you want to do that now that you've had a taste of it?" Healer Bray asked her, making Severus' head snap around and pin her with a glare.

"You're forgoing a pain potion?" he asked incredulously.

"I am, yes," she nodded to Healer Bray before turning to Severus. "There are some minimal risks involved in using a potion, especially if the baby has an allergy that we don't know about yet. I'd rather just deal with the pain than take the chance of hurting him."

"Are you sure?" he asked, his eyes darting between her and Healer Bray who was awaiting the outcome of the conversation.

"I am," she said firmly.

"And you still want to have a water birth?" the healer asked.

Hermione nodded her confirmation and watched as Healer Bray conjured a large, blue plastic pool and began filling it with water. It was almost ready when another contraction hit her and she had to grit her teeth against making a sound. This one was different in its intensity and the fact that she now felt the urge to push through the pain. Part of her was extremely relieved that that seemed to be instinctual.

"You can slip into the water, dear," Healer Bray said as soon as the pain had passed. "Don't worry about the robes, just be careful with your footing."

Both her mother and Severus held on to her as she slowly lowered her body into the warm water up to her breasts and sat on the edge of a soft platform. She didn't bother to hide the sigh of pleasure that the warm water created. It felt glorious on her already sore body and the buoyancy of the water took some of the pressure off of her lower back. With a quick charm, she secured her hair at the top of her head and then enjoyed the sensation of being practically weightless for the first time in months.

"Will you be joining her?" Healer Bray asked, causing Hermione to look up and wonder who she was talking to. She saw the older witch looking at Severus and she gaped at him as he nodded and began unbuttoning the cuffs of his shirt.

"You are?" She couldn't help but ask.

"If you do not object, yes," he looked down at her, a frown marring his brow. For a moment he seemed embarrassed but it was quickly gone.

"Of course," she rushed to reassure him. "I just didn't think you'd want to."

"I do," he said simply before following Healer Bray as she erected a screen partition and handed him a plain Muggle shirt and shorts. When he emerged from behind it, with his feet bare and his legs exposed, she couldn't help but stare at him. He looked so different, so vulnerable, without the layers of robes or the buttoned up Muggle dress shirts. He caught her gaze and she thought she detected the slightest hint of a blush against his neck as he approached her.

That was when she realized that his neck was miraculously scar free. She stared as he slipped into the water beside her.

"How...?" without thinking, she reached up to touch his neck, her hand dripping water. He caught it easily and gently pushed it down, making her meet his eyes. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have," she murmured, feeling her face heat.

"Glamour," he said under his breath, his eyes darting to the Healer who had slipped behind the screen herself.

"Oh." She didn't know what to say to that.

Fortunately, she was saved from having to awkwardly change the topic when Healer Bray stepped out wearing a Muggle t-shirt and a pair of form fitting jogging shorts that covered her down to her knees.

"All right," she said, sliding into the pool with a slight splash. She quickly cast a Bubble Head charm on herself. "I'm going to give you one last check but I think we can start pushing with the next contraction. Daddy, I want you to get behind her and straddle the seat. She's going to need something to hold on to."

If Severus had any reaction to being called 'Daddy', he didn't show it. Instead, he simply slipped behind her, resting his hands gently on her waist as Healer Bray disappeared beneath the water.

Hermione felt the other woman gently urge her to open her legs and place them against a raised ridge that seemed designed specifically for that purpose. Gentle hands prodded at her and she grimaced against it.

"Are you okay?" Severus asked quietly, his voice right next to her ear.

"Yeah, it's just...well, awkward, to be honest," she admitted.

"Get used to it," her mother said wryly. Hermione had almost forgotten that she was in the room, she had been so quiet. "She's going to see more of your downstairs during this than you ever will."

"I don't envy her the view," Hermione muttered, making her mother snort as she let herself lean back against Severus. There was a gentle pat on her knee under the water and then Healer Bray emerged.

"On the next contra—,"

"Oooohhhh!" Hermione bit out, her head snapping back onto a bony shoulder as a wave of pain rippled through her lower torso. Her entire body tensed and she couldn't have stopped herself from pushing if her life depended on it.

"Push, dear, push!" Healer Bray urged, dipping below the water again. Hermione felt hands on her but she couldn't concentrate on them as the pain receded and she slumped against the man behind her.

"That was a good first try, sweetheart," Hermione's mother said, dipping her hand into the water and smoothing her daughter's hair off of her face with a wet hand. "Do you feel the urge to push yet?"

Hermione picked her head up and nodded. "Been feeling it for a while, before I got into the tub," she murmured, in a bit of a daze.

"That's good," her mother said. "This just might go fast then."

"Please Merlin, yes," she muttered as Healer Bray appeared again.

"Excellent," she said. "He's seated low and ready to come out head first, just like he should. The charm revealed that the cord is not around his neck and that his heart rate is still in the normal range."

"Still in the normal range?" Severus spoke up. "What does that mean?"

"The heart rate is always elevated during birth, Mr. Snape," Healer Bray said calmly. "Birth is a stressful experience for both mother and baby but as long as their heart rates stay within range, they'll be fine I assure you."

She could feel Severus nod and his body shifted minutely closer to hers so that his thighs surrounded her hips; his body was a direct contrast to the soft warmth of the water around. He was hard and angular, pressed against her from shoulders to hips, and though it was unfamiliar she still found reassurance in the contact. His hands came up from her waists and he held them in front of her, palms up.

"If you need something hold," he said quietly.

Despite the fact that the man was willingly sitting behind her in a birthing pool, essentially cradling her body with his, she couldn't help but be shocked by how un-Snape-ish he was being. Yes, they had been spending time getting to know one another but this was yet another example of how little she actually knew him. Looking down, her eyes were unerringly brought to his wet forearm and the faded Dark Mark there. She had never actually seen one so close up before, it had been the last thing on her mind the night they fell into each other, and without thinking she reached up and traced it with the tip of her finger. Hermione felt him stiffen behind her and she thought that he might be about to withdraw when another contraction hit her and she clamped down on his arm.

Time took on a funny quality for her then; her fingers pruned from sitting in water for too long, her hair fell from the charm and her body ached despite the soothing heat around her. She knew that it was taking a longer time than she had thought but with every wave of pain and every urge to push things seemed to slow down for her. Part of her was afraid, terrified, really, of what would happen when her baby was no long an abstract being but a real, live, child in front of her. What if she had done something wrong and he was defected? What if he was sick and couldn't be cured? What if he—

"He's crowning!" Healer Bray cried. "Give me your hand!"

She didn't wait for Hermione's permission; she grabbed the younger witch's wrist and brought her hand down between her legs under the water. She pressed Hermione's fingertips gently against the soft, almost rubbery crown of her baby's head and Hermione began to cry.

"I can feel him," she whispered to no one in particular, her head lolling on Severus' shoulder. She was exhausted, like she had never been before, but her body continued to urge her to finish the job and with the next wave she gripped Severus' hands so tightly that she knew she would bruise him as she pushed down with all her might.

"Good, good," Healer Bray encouraged, her head above the water, her hands below. "His head is out!"

She dipped below the water quickly. Hermione felt the soft brush of magic against her thighs and knew that the healer was casting a Bubble Head charm on the baby so he didn't accidentally inhale any water.

"One more good push and he should be out, sweetie," her mother whispered. "You're doing brilliantly. Just a bit more, okay?"

"Fucking Christ," she gritted out, biting down on her teeth hard and her body tensed. It hurt, Merlin's beard did it hurt, like nothing she had ever experienced before. The stretching, burning sensation was uncomfortable and made her want to shift around to ease it but she couldn't when her body was screaming at her to push, push, push!

"You're almost there," Severus' voice murmured in her ear, quiet, calm, an anchor to hold on to. "You're almost there, almost there..."

With a strangled cry, Hermione felt the moment her child slipped free from her body. It was both a relief and horrifying at the same time; the pain reduced to a throbbing ache that, in comparison, was a blessing. She was not prepared to how bereft she would feel as soon as he was free of her body and she drew in a shaky breath as tears threatened to spill down her cheeks.

Healer Bray emerged from the pink tinged water holding the smallest, scrawniest little baby Hermione had ever seen. His head, with a dark thatch of hair on top, looked a little out of shape and his skin had a strange pale tinge to it that she didn't know what to make of. His eyes were closed and his mouth opened, gasping as he took his first breath. Healer Bray quickly cancelled the Bubble Head charm and cleared his airways of any mucus from inside the womb. She had no more than finished the charm when the little baby in her hands took a deep breath and let out a bellow of protest.

"Perfect," Mrs. Granger whispered, barely heard over the cries.

Hermione and Severus stared at the infant as Healer Bray handed him over, cradling his head gently and tucking him into Hermione's arms. She felt the strange weight of him settle against her breasts as he continued to cry, his little feet coming up slightly as if he wanted to kick her in the kidney again.

"He's...tiny," Severus murmured, reaching a hand up to brush against the raised foot.

Neither of them noticed as the healer bustled around them, snipping the cord and tying it off with a charm, casting diagnostic spells at both mother and babe, and cleaning up the general mess of birth. Both of them were too busy staring dumbly at the little person they had somehow managed to create. He had a surprisingly full head of hair, that had shocked Hermione a bit, and the more he hollered the pinker his skin seemed to become.

"Is it okay that he's screaming so much?" Hermione asked, not taking her eyes off of him.

"It's good," Healer Bray nodded. "He's got a good set of lungs and he's using them. They're the last organ to develop which is why it's key that they cry when they come out so we know that they've developed properly. He's probably a mite cold, though, let's get him dry and wrapped up. I'll give you a potion to deal with the afterbirth when you're back in bed."

Magic, Hermione decided, was a fantastic thing. With a few jabs of her wand, Healer Bray cleaned and dried mother, father and baby. She weighed him, announcing that he was a healthy 6.2lbs, a bit on the small side but still good, and wrapped him up tight in a warm blanket. Hermione was placed in the same bed she had had before and then given back her baby.

It wasn't until he was settled in her arms once more that she realized she had missed him. She hadn't expected that, though she had read about it often enough, and as she cuddled him closer and studied his tiny little features she realized that she finally felt connected to this child—to her child.

"Hello, my love," she whispered. "You're beautiful."

Her eyes roved hungrily over his pale, violet tinged eyelids, his tiny little nose and pink puckered lips. He had his father's colouring, there was no denying that. His little eyebrows were thin but unmistakably black to match his tiny head of hair and suddenly she grinned, looking up at Severus.

He was standing beside her bed, his own hair still a bit wet from sitting in the pool, his eyes glued to the pair of them and the most curious expression of wonder on his face. Her smile widened at that look because she knew that he looked the way shefelt.

"He's going to have your hair," she told him, beaming.

Severus' eyes briefly met hers before they darted back down to the baby. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out.

"Oh, I don't know about that," Healer Bray said with a smile, winking at Hermione's mother in a conspiratorial manner that she didn't understand. "It's rare to see a newborn with so much hair; I think he's inherited more of yours than his Da's."

Mrs. Granger chuckled as Hermione looked down at her son with a smile. "Sorry in advance," she said softly, making her mother and the Healer laugh louder.

He twitched at the sound, waking slightly from his slumber and Hermione smiled as a little frown crossed his tiny features. He was already looking like his father.

"Come here," she said, looking up at Severus. "Hold your son."

He came forward slowly, shyly almost, and reached out with unsure hands.

"Sit down on the bed, here," Hermione shifted over so that he could sit with one bent leg on the bed and the other dangling off the side. "Curl your arms together like mine and make sure you always hold his head, his neck can't support the weight yet," she watched him mimic her pose perfectly. "Yes, like that, perfect. Now here..."

Slowly, she transferred the weight of the baby from her arms to his, careful not to wake him and mindful of his head. When she pulled back, her son was nestled comfortably in the arms of his utterly terrified father. Severus looked down at the infant with a face that was an open mix of fear and avid curiosity. Hermione smiled and leaned back against the pillows, the exhaustion in her body quickly catching up to her.

"What's his name?" Healer Bray asked softly.

"Sebastian," Hermione murmured. "Sebastian Snape."


A Harry Potter Story
by Alexis.Danaan

Part 8 of 26

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