DISCLAIMER: ALL OF THE CHARACTERS AND SCENARIOS BELONG TO JKR AND/OR WARNER BROS.
Two months of wonderful togetherness.
Eight weeks, six days of blissful relations.
Sixty two days of passionate domesticity.
One thousand four hundred and eighty eight hours of unspoiled happiness.
Eighty nine thousand two hundred and eighty minutes of idyllic paradise.
Five million, three hundred and fifty six thousand eight hundred seconds of Cecilia Jane Frobisher and Remus John Lupin. Together.
The two months that had passed since Cecilia Frobisher had thrown caution to the wind and attempted to bring down the most powerful wizard of all time before leaving with Remus for his family's derelict house five miles away from the nearest village (almost a dozen miles from a shop) in the middle of Cumbria had been notable for their eventlessness.
That suited Cecilia just fine. Too many of the months since the fifteenth of July the previous year had been crammed full of events: surprising, astonishing, dangerous, terrifying events.
Events which had seen her come to terms with the wizard world in order to negotiate her way through a problem. Events that had led to depression and misery. Events that had caused her to lose her faith in the very science she practiced. Events that had led to the eventual deaths of her friends. Many, many events.
Staring out of the window of the kitchen's utility room, Cecilia looked across at the solution that was bubbling away underneath a reflux condenser, before casting her gaze back at the late April picturesqueness of the Cumbrian mountains with Helvellyn shimmering in the distance.
In the last two months the most exciting things Cecilia had done had been to walk the ten miles to Ambleside and mingle amongst the Easter tourists (never again) in order to buy some groceries, a radio from a second hand shop in the town and their whole stock of batteries; personal items (which she felt too embarrassed to ask Remus to get for her) and two cotton-backed notebooks.
Other exciting events included a walk towards Skiddaw to collect nettles so as to extract oxalic acid from their leaves, worrying where the cottage actually was when she returned from said walk (the cottage appeared derelict to muggles and was also unplottable) and wait up on the nights when the moon was full in order to be the first person Remus would see when he had got over his episode as a werewolf.
Behind her, the burgundy liquid bubbled and popped, so she reduced the heat of the portable gas cooker and flicked the switch on the Panasonic radio, circa 1984, tuning its multi-coloured dials into one of the local radio stations. Then she looked out of the window again, watching a couple navigate their way across a stile and up towards a higher ridge of a right of way, clearly tourists on a day out, by the look of their brand new equipment and walking boots.
It had been strangely odd how the place was; clearly Remus's parents had been wizards, the general wizardly things were in the house, but the house was very much a product of the muggle 1960s…the cottage two bedroomed with a good deal of brown teak panelling that the kitchen might have been mistaken for a café and the furniture in the bedrooms and living room looked as if it had originated from a Rané catalogue.
"…the temperature today will be in the early twenties, with slight breezes crossing the Irish Sea…"
The mixture that was bubbling was actually the twenty ninth she had been working on since her arrival at the cottage. Cecilia had made it clear to Remus that she would feel affronted if she must give up the research, unfinished as the potion that Harry should have taken two months ago was. She had already ceded her position as an honorary member of the Order.
In fact, she had told her fiancé, she would consider it an insult if she was asked to stop either by him, Snape or Dumbledore, all of whom (she was led to understand from an anonymous letter sent by a Snowy owl in very familiar handwriting) had been making suggestions to that effect.
"…but soon, you are going to be my wife," Remus had protested on several occasions. "You have no need to work, Cecilia…"
"Yes, I agree your point, Remus, and I've been thinking…how is it that wizards marry? Either to each other or to muggles? I mean, what's the proper format?"
That had been Cecilia's question last night when he'd mentioned the subject of her working on the potion. She knew exactly why he didn't want her continuing too: not only were the owls to Hogwarts slightly on the suspicious side, but also, Cecilia knew, Remus disliked her correspondence with Snape, even though it was for professional reasons.
This last diversion from the subject of her working had resulted in Remus describing the process of the legality of marriage; the ceremony had to be presided over by a member of the Wizengamot (for a wizard-muggle marriage) or a Wizengamot member or local magistrate if the marriage was between two wizards.
Then the marriage had to be written into the ministry records after the certificate had been signed by the member or magistrate. Anything else that was required, he'd explained carefully, was up to the bride and groom.
"…caller on line four…yes, hello…you've experienced this type of call, Mrs Jenkinson…"
Cecilia had nodded deliberately, before cuddling close to Remus. That wouldn't be for a while then, she thought, nestling her head in his lap as they watched the spring sun set over the mountains. The Ministry were the very wizards from whom she wished to keep the lowest profile at the moment for, while they wished to seemingly congratulate her for her attempts against Voldermort, it was also clear that they were interested in her work with Snape and, in particular, Harry's potion.
Not that any of the attempts on the new potion had so far had yielded successful results however but Cecilia had bottled small vials of the solutions up and sent them with letters to her wizardly colleague anyway which she had agreed with Remus would be far safer for him to deliver than if she sent them by owl.
She had not been in need of contact with the wizards she knew; over the last couple of months she had received several, not counting owls with distinctive blue bands on their legs whose contents of those letters, if opened she had been warned (by Mr Weasley), would reveal to the Ministry her location.
Mrs Weasley had written to her about the children, telling her that they were all settled back in at school now and, with the exception of Mr Weasley being admitted to St. Mungo's for a bite injury, they were all fine.
In addition, she had received regular, if brief letters from Tonks; a heavily battered and multi-postmarked letter littered with spelling mistakes from Nick; instructions and information from Snape and even a letter from Dumbledore wishing her well and informing her that her wages would be paid until the end of the school year.
So all in all Cecilia felt settled, living in conjugal domesticity with the man, the wizard, she loved. Especially compared to the upheaval of the last few months. It felt like a perfect arrangement, working on blends for Snape in a beautiful, if isolated, location and living a peaceful life at last.
"…but the point, Jim has to be said…if people in this country were committed to voting for the party where they think their taxes would be best spent…"
Remus himself had spent the time in the day when he was not recovering from his time of the month away from the cottage. Cecilia did not ask him exactly where he went and what he was doing however he had told her that the work he had agreed to carry out for Dumbledore, consisted of three tasks, including shift work on behalf of the Order.
However his time away was not excessive; indeed they had spent much of the first fortnight at the cottage together, talking and sharing, spending a lot of time in each other's company as nature intended. Perfectly contented.
"…and that's it for Jim Fox on Radio Westmorland this morning, don't forget you can catch my show again tomorrow where I'll be speaking to Norma Major on why the Conservative Party can't lose on May 1st…"
Cecilia reached over and flicked the power lever on the top of the scarlet stereo before turning up the burner so that the heat licked the outside of the Quikfit round-bottomed flask and almost immediately the remaining volatile organic compounds responded to the increase in thermal energy.
Five more minutes and she would be able to see whether the new potion she was working on would be complementary to the base and match of Harry's potion that had been developed by her and Snape up until that fateful night where Voldermort had decided to launch his ill-fated rebirth.
Perfectly contented, Cecilia reminded herself as she stepped back and looked at the solution bubble up inside the flask before quickly leaning forward and swirling the neck of the flask vigorously to ensure even refluxing.
There were some pieces of news that had struck her heart deeply when Remus (and indeed Sirius, but she had not been in a fit state to comprehend them) informed her gently of them when they arrived at the cottage.
Her house in Edgeford had been destroyed when her friend Libby and her husband Derek and been murdered at the end of January. In addition the house of her mother had been burned to the ground on the night Fenrir Greyback had attempted to retrieve "Mysterious Mythology" from Freya who, following the death of her parents, was living with Cecilia's mother and who now, with her sister were currently residing somewhere in Scotland with modified memories.
Cecilia switched off the heat from underneath the flask before pulling out a piece of parchment, a vial and parchment label and a quill and ink and as she waited for the solution to cool, Cecilia outlined the method and results on the parchment, leaving a gap below so she could enter the microscope results.
She had asked Remus early on in their domestic arrangements whether they would be able to go to visit her mother and had regretted it almost immediately. He had explained frustratingly slowly and carefully that they were being watched over by Aurors from the Order for their own safety and that should Cecilia visit, she would risk putting them in danger. And as the weeks had progressed she had thought twice about asking him again, choosing to wish to see them rather than say it aloud.
One thing that had made her happy had been the news about Tonks and Nick. By scanty accounts she had been given whilst recovering at Hogwarts and afterwards they had got together just before Christmas and had been dating ever since. They had moved to St. Bees which was just up the coast from Nick's new job at "The New Calder Hall Power Station".
Not only had it made her happy that two of her friends were so happy together, she thought as she brushed the end of the quill feather idly against her cheek, it had given her ideas about using the laboratories for her own ends again, something she knew Nick would consent to once they got in touch properly.
And it had lessened the guilt she was feeling too, about Cecilia's and Remus's departure at Christmas from the Order Yule Ball when it had been widely believed, even by Remus himself that he would propose to and marry Tonks.
"You are beautiful," said Cecilia to potion 29, as she reached forward and touched the glassware. It was now cool enough to pour, so she detached the condenser and placed it down carefully on the wooden bench, wondering where she had seen a solution that gave a green pallor in the light before.
And that was another thing that had upset Cecilia: her house, indiscriminately destroyed by Death Eaters, had contained many reference books and other personal belongings that were irreplaceable; belongings which now were gone forever and she wished now she had not left her books behind at Hogwarts.
Her darling Remus had taken the trouble to return to the site and retrieve what he could and on her first night in their new home had given her a small box containing some things that had survived, including a very battered photograph album, a small china ornament and her jewellery box.
In addition he had taken to bringing her things home that other wizards had given to him for her which they appeared to believe she may need for her life in their world. Some of the items, such as the sneakoscope and doxy detector were indeed useful though she didn't know when or even whether she would use Knight cream. Nevertheless, Cecilia kept each item reverentially in the bottom of her side of the chest of drawers, the knowledge of their presence comforting.
So, on the whole Cecilia could describe her life as Blissful. Remus had provided all he could for her, doing any magical jobs around the house that Cecilia needed him to. These days she left more for him to do; at first she had insisted on doing it all herself which had resulted in her fiancé almost dying from hysterical laughter when he had returned home one day to find her knee-deep in muddy spring water in the living room.
But their relationship was not without a few difficulties. Remus was extremely sensitive about their financial situation and he was offended at first when Cecilia offered him her money. It made perfect sense to her; they were to be married. But despite having nothing of value to his name (his one steady job being at Hogwarts as Professor) and in desperation she had written secretly to Dumbledore insisting he give Remus her wages that were being paid until the end of the summer.
A rattle at the kitchen window broke Cecilia off from her daydream and she looked in the direction of the tawny owl that was tapping insistently on the glass.
"Sorry," Cecilia called softly to the bird as she made her way slowly towards it, and pointing to its leg that was adorned with a royal blue band. "I'd love to take it from you, but they'll find me if I do. Here," she added, grabbing a handful of crusts that were left over from the bread-and-butter pudding that was baking in the oven and opened the window just enough to stick her hand through.
The owl stared at her for a while, as if that would persuade her to change her mind as Cecilia sat on a kitchen chair and picked up an out-of-date copy of the Daily Prophet, before hopping across the windowsill and gobbled down a small crust before attacking another.
Okay, not perfectly contented. Her life with Remus wasn't perfect here. But it was here, with him. And it was perfect with him. She would put up with a lot worse to be with him; that was certain because she loved him so much and would have gone with him anywhere…
…and there was another thing…something that had been dwelling on Cecilia's mind since they had got there…something that was worrying her…something she could not talk to Remus about, even though it concerned him completely…
Watching the still-burdened owl leave the kitchen windowsill and fly off into the distance Cecilia pushed the concern to the back of her mind and got to her feet, entering the utility room again and analysing her experiment.
Just as she penned a few more words about lavender oil that was reducing in the flask before her a "crack" of a wizard apparating into the cottage's living room broke her concentration. That would be Remus, she anticipated, and pushed the parchment and quill into one of the drawers in the kitchen workroom.
"Hello, love," she called loudly, pushing aside the curtain that divided the kitchen and workroom before walking quickly across the terracotta floor tiles. "How's your day been?"
"Thank you for asking," came the stiff, gravelly voice. Cecilia pushed open the door of the living room quickly as she recognised the voice, "however I believe Lupin may take exception at your addressing me in such a…sentimental manner."
Cecilia felt her face break into an astonished smile as she looked at the tall form of Severus Snape who was standing in the living room, looking appraisingly at the ornaments that decorated the windowsills, clearly not impressed with what he saw.
"Severus!" she exclaimed, and he turned to look at her, his face unmovable and expression fixed. Having not seen anyone else apart from Remus for the last two months, Cecilia had to quell her impulsive urge to throw her arms around Snape's neck in delight.
"I came about this," he said, holding a parchment decorated with her untidy handwriting. "And for another reason about which I must have your full attention. And to return these." He gestured towards a pile of books tied up with string that was on the coffee table and looked remarkably like her science books. "I thought you'd need them by now. I took the liberty of copying the relevant information therein. Now this," he repeated, sitting himself without invitation on one of the green-and-brown candlewick covered settees in the living room.
"…er yes?" said Cecilia, her heart beating with anticipation. It was this potion she cared the most about; she had wondered whether she had the skills to make it, or whether she needed to rely on Severus.
"Many of the ingredients are licensed," he continued, looking between her letter and her fiercely hopeful expression. "That is to say, their quantities are strictly controlled by those that matter within the ministry. I have a limited supply at Hogwarts which I may keep for educational purposes however it will be dangerous for me to allow you to take possession of them."
"But you could make it!" insisted Cecilia, "you've done it before."
"Indeed," replied Snape, "however have you forgotten that one of the main ingredients in the wolfsbane potion is the very herb that gives it its name; the very ingredient that is vital in the match of Harry's new potion?"
Cecilia shook her head. She hadn't forgotten this. She knew that it was a rare herb and that she wouldn't be able to wander the hills and mountains round the cottage and happen upon a crop.
"What's the other thing?" she continued, deliberately choosing to sidestep the last conversation. Snape got to his feet, picking up a pewter ornament in the shape of a hare from the net curtained windowsill.
"The potion is developing," commented Snape, scrutinising the hare before replacing it and picking up the brass donkey next to it. "The work you have been carrying out here has owed the match to progress. It is within ten percent of what we require for both energy level and frequency." He turned and looked down at Cecilia's beaming face.
"And with the Unforgivable spell." He handed Cecilia the donkey tentatively before folding his arms. Cecilia said nothing, but looked between the donkey and Snape.
"What I am trying to say, colleague, is that we are the closest we have ever been to finding the magical spell that will defeat the Dark Lord. This process would be accelerated infinitely were you to decide to return now to Hogwarts." He glanced around the cottage, a look of distain on his face.
Cecilia opened her mouth to say something, before looking down at the floor, at the donkey and out of the window.
"Hogwarts?!" she said, confused.
"You are not happy here," Snape continued, watching as she replaced the ornament on the windowsill. "Not you, with your exponential mind, working and operating on the problem. Not so remote from teaching."
Cecilia swallowed. How well Snape knew her. That was indeed what a part of her felt. A part of her that knew that however great it was here in one of the remotest parts of England, it couldn't be forever.
"Are you here to offer me my job back, at Hogwarts?"
"Only the Headmaster can make appointments," said Snape darkly.
"Good," said Cecilia, getting to her feet. "Because I would only be interested in the Defence against the Dark Arts job anyway." She took a few steps towards the fireplace and gazed into the flames that warmed the hearth gently, and did not see Snape whip round towards her.
"In that case you've not heard then that Remus and I are engaged?" Cecilia watched the flames dance a little brighter as a breeze passed over the chimney stacks far above.
"On the contrary," replied Snape, looking at the brown-swirly patterned carpet. "The Headmaster informed me of your happy news."
"Then I am sure you understand that I would wish to discuss this with him."
"And at present, the last time I discussed it with the Headmaster, he agreed that here, this cottage, was the safest place for me to be. At least until the new school year." Cecilia turned and looked at Snape again quickly before looking at the floor, feeling the heat of denial burning at her cheeks.
For a few moments Snape said nothing. Then he folded his arms and turned towards the window.
"The second reason that I came here Cecilia was regarding your health. The background magical levels even with the unplottable binding are far lower than when you were at your most exposed at the school. However the rate at which we are producing the potion your presence may be detected due to the correspondence. From that point of view I would estimate that your duration at Hogwarts this term would be far shorter than before and our magical potion would be perfected through our collaboration."
You can't be serious, thought Cecilia grimly. Safer at Hogwarts when the last time I was nearly killed by students, both Slytherin and Gryffindor? I witnessed murders of Death Eaters by other Death Eaters! I witnessed your torture…
"I do apologise Severus, I haven't offered you anything to drink. Would you like some tea?" She gestured in the direction of the kitchen. Snape ignored her.
"There is a third. I do not wish this to influence you unduly. However the solving of it may also be the key, especially to the plan that is being built by the Death Eaters."
"A bite to eat?" Cecilia insisted, taking a few steps towards the kitchen. "I was just bottling up potion number 29 for you, with the method, so you can take it now if you wish, though I've not done the microscopic analysis yet."
She glanced behind her as she placed her hand on the handle. Snape had not moved.
"How have you been, Severus?" she asked, looking towards his left arm.
"I have been Called," he replied slowly, "on many occasions. However the Mark remains painless. I do not have to come when I am bidden." He stopped and there was a vacuum of an unspoken struggle between them. Eventually, Cecilia opened the door.
"Come through," she beckoned, and you can tell me about the third reason you came to see me."
In the washroom, Snape held up the vial containing the burgundy solution to the early afternoon sunlight that was bouncing off the mountains in the distance, nodding his head slowly.
"I will get onto this forthwith," he said, slipping the vial inside his black robe before scanning down the parchment that Cecilia had put next to the vial. "You've listed the ingredients in detail." Looking further down, his eyes narrowed slightly as he read the words at the bottom.
"You needn't take that one," Cecilia said quickly, "the ink's smudged. Here, let me write out it again." She watched as Snape replaced the parchment and she tore it up, before writing the method and ingredients down on another piece from memory.
"So, the final reason, Severus," she prompted, handing him the parchment. "Why else are you here?"
A moment passed between the two of them, one of intimate instinctive knowledge of each other. Cecilia knew that her presence at Hogwarts, although important, wasn't the only reason that he was here. Snape too, knew that Cecilia knew this intuitively and, without saying anything handed her two of the traces that she had produced from her old place of work in the muggle world seven months before.
"I documented this, and pointed it out to you," replied Cecilia after she had held up the traces to the afternoon light. "However I am very impressed that you found it, Severus," she added, handing it back to him.
"Your acquisition of the relevant sample from Malfoy I will not query," he continued, glancing at Cecilia darkly, "however your conclusion is…?"
"…we have a continuum," Cecilia nodded, pointing towards the protein bands. "It is not Mendelian. It's probably Gaussian." She picked up her fineliner and a piece of paper from behind the slowly simmering lavender and drew the sketch of the bell-shaped curve. "Are you familiar?" Snape nodded.
"A continuum," he confirmed. "Time?" he asked. Cecilia nodded, thinking about how close to this she must have been when she had been developing the Universal Link theory of wave-particle duality.
"Then there will be all sorts of implications for this type of information. I would be happier if we could confirm this." He took hold of the papers and rolled them up, placing them inside his robe.
"You can," she replied, glancing out of the window and placing a hand unconsciously on her stomach before turning to look at her former colleague and friend. "Nick's going out with Tonks and he's working over at Calder Hall…Sellafield," she corrected herself. "They've the facility there, and he'd do it if Tonks asked."
Cecilia's mind drifted to the conversation that had taken place between the two of them when they had visited a few nights ago, and how happy they both looked in each others' company. So much so that Cecilia had forgotten to feel uncomfortable about the situation. Nick had promised Tonks anything and Cecilia had added that "free access to the biotechnology department would be an advantage," to which, after receiving a confirmatory nod from Tonks, had agreed to wholeheartedly.
"Then I'll contact her," Snape concluded, continuing to stare into her eyes and Cecilia held his gaze again.
"You did not ask me about the wolfsbane…" he added, looking down. Severus handed her his wand as he extracted a vial of potion which he handed to her. Cecilia felt her heart melt. After all he had said…he'd still made it for Remus. How wonderful…
Cecilia felt her hand drift to her stomach again and as her words of gratitude entered her mouth so did the hitherto buried worries in verbal form. She was about to say something when Snape put a finger to her lips like he used to do when they were working together and he was finally tired of her talking.
"You are concerned about children," he said, a small flicker of a smile playing on his lips.
"…children..." murmured Cecilia absently, the word filling a gap in her worries.
"Naturally. You consider everything." Cecilia gave Snape her attention as he looked her up and down before nodding in agreement.
"Let me give it to you logically. If what we have said is true, especially if your hypothesis about a Gaussian continuum is correct, your best course of action would be to avoid the situation altogether. It would depend on the allele of course, upon which chromosomes it resides. And if there are any co-ordinating genes which there would be if your hypothesis is correct, that influence when a person's wizardly traits appear it would follow that this might hold true for your offspring."
Snape stopped and Cecilia considered what he had said. It was logical, she concluded, nodding in agreement. If the muggle-wizard genetics were more complicated than just you were a muggle or a wizard then…what were the risks if she were to become pregnant…?
Cecilia realised that Snape had taken back his wand and was waving it over her stomach and she looked at him, feeling indignation rising in her throat. Then she smiled as he took a step back, the indignation replaced with gratitude. Snape looked at her firmly.
"You are not," he confirmed folding his arms. "And of course the matter is entirely between yourself and Lupin however it might be wise to owl Boutes in Diagonalley. I understand they sell potions for that type of thing…"
"Thank you," interrupted Cecilia quickly, trying to get Snape off the subject of wizardly contraception, and she racked her brain to think of a more suitable topic.
"…were you to ask…" he broke off as he noticed that Cecilia had begun to take a keen interest in the lavender distillation.
"If that is all…" Cecilia looked at Severus Snape, who was also looking at the liquid and smiled kindly at him.
"Would you like me to wait with you until Lupin returns?" he added, staring still further at the reduction as bubbles formed on the surface. Cecilia shook her head.
"Thank you. Severus…" she added as he strode through the utility room door and into the kitchen and he turned.
"…thank you all the same." Cecilia followed him out into the kitchen. "I must admit at these times of the month…it's a little unnerving when I see him in his other form – " she opened her palm and exposed the vial of wolfsbane potion that Snape had given to her, " – but I will be sure to let him know you brought this."
She smiled again and noticed that a look of uncertainty passed over his face.
"As you wish," he replied, returning the smile. But Cecilia wasn't convinced: she had seen that look before. What is the matter, she wanted to ask.
"And you are sure I cannot persuade you to accompany me back to Hogwarts? Dumbledore I believe has made a certain error in making muggle studies an examinable subject then for he will need to find someone else to teach." Snape exhaled, folding his arms again.
"And the Ministry are showing a deal of interest in our work," he added coldly. There, thought Cecilia, smiling again. I knew there was something.
"Before you go," she said quickly, as Snape held his wand aloft to disapparate. "Could you deliver something for me?"
Cecilia walked past Snape and opened the living room door. Leaning round it she bent towards a small pile of papers that were cluttering up a small coffee table and rifled through it before pulling out a small piece of parchment tied with string. She turned and handed it to Snape.
"If you could give this to Hermione…she is attempting to learn science by owl…and doing rather well," Cecilia added as Snape creased his brow silently and she recalled with a smile the letter she had received a month after leaving Hogwarts that two owls had to carry between them.
"Anything else?" Snape asked, looking Cecilia up and down. But soon-to-be Mrs Lupin said nothing as she hugged him tightly. It had been so good to see her old friend again.
"Hm," muttered Snape as he tapped her back absently and when Cecilia broke off he took a few steps away from her.
"Good to see you, Cecilia," he said casting her a long look before holding his wand aloft.
And with a loud "crack" Severus Snape disapparated leaving Cecilia alone staring in his wake.