DISCLAIMER: ALL OF THE CHARACTERS AND SCENARIOS BELONG TO JKR AND/OR WARNER BROS.
The news spread rapidly. It began with Ron and Harry, belting their way up the steps towards the Gryffindor common room past Hermione as questioned them about Cecilia and Remus's departure, scurrying after them when they said nothing and chasing them into the boys' dormitory…
"…you'll never guess…"
Then, Hermione spoke to Professor McGonagall, who was waiting for her to return from the common room, an appointment booked so long ago that the old witch believed that the girl may have forgotten. As she outlined extension work for Hermione before dismissing her almost an hour later she added…
"…Remus proposed to Cecilia…"
…which was overheard by Ginny Weasley who had been passing by McGonagall's office on the ground floor and heard Hermione's words float through the part-opened door like butterflies on a summers' day...
Who then headed directly to an empty classroom and seized a piece of parchment and a quill, dashing off a letter furiously to her mother before racing single-mindedly to the Owlery…
And upon receiving the owl from her daughter no less than three hours' later floo'd her husband and demanded that Tonks be brought to his fireplace…
"…What?" asked the witch, her hair blending between three different shades of blue. "No! I can't believe it…"
"…Ginny just Owled me…"
"…well, good for them..."
And, later that afternoon, when she appeared in the fire before Dumbledore and Snape with an urgent message concerning the whereabouts of the last missing Death Eaters imparted the information as causally as she could into the conversation.
"What did she say?" asked Dumbledore, smiling serenely.
"She said yes, " grinned back Tonks. "Which is great, don't you think?" In the green flames her head nodded fervently, showing her approval.
"I certainly do. Well, this is a cause for celebration," he continued, glancing at Snape and noting the slight crease furrow further into his brow. "Though they're both going to need all the luck they can get. Now, you said the message was urgent, Nymphadora." He ignored her automatic wince and continued to stare at her patiently in the potions classroom fireplace.
"…you should find everything you need in the Owl that's coming your way. Sufficed to say that we have rumours that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is not as powerless as we suspected. Fitzgerald confessed all to us just before he died in custody, including his whereabouts…" She smiled hopefully and Dumbledore nodded.
"I shall await your report then," concluded the headmaster and he watched her head fade from the fireplace.
"Well it would appear that your insistence on continuing with the research has paid off, Severus," continued Dumbledore, turning slowly and gazing at his potions teacher who was using his spare time to activities that were profitable to the Order of the Phoenix.
"Indeed," replied Snape, not looking up from his flask, checking the fill level and volume.
"And you have come to some further conclusions, I understand?" Dumbledore paced around the cauldron, watching a small wisp of smoke meander away from the rim before glancing over at the wallet of neatly labelled hair samples.
"Indeed, Headmaster," replied Severus, glancing down at the hair. "And Mrs Frobisher's fastidiousness in her method of working has allowed me to arrive at this outcome, as you can see – " he gestured towards the wallet as he continued to stir the contents of the cauldron.
"Really, I do not believe you could have found a more organised…a more dedicated muggle than the one you sent to work with me." He continued to stare into the cauldron; the vapour from the opaque purple liquid continuing to rise before glancing at Dumbledore. Then he glanced down at the samples again before moving a couple of objects on the already well-laden table, selecting a DNA trace from an envelope that lay open underneath them. Dumbledore watched as he took the trace to a clear part of the table before holding up a strand of pure white hair.
"She appeared intelligent enough Headmaster," he continued, looking back at Dumbledore, "but her plans were ill thought out…deadly, one could describe them…" Snape trailed off and looked past Dumbledore and at the window of the potions classroom. Dumbledore turned and followed his stare before moving towards the owl that was beginning to clamour to make itself heard outside.
Taking the letter it was carrying before tickling it affectionately on the top of its head, Dumbledore closed the window and paced back towards Snape, scrutinising its contents. Snape put down the trace and watched Dumbledore carefully.
"My, my…this is interesting." He looked at Snape, and smiled. "So it would seem my effort is about to begin again in order to find you a muggle research partner, if Mrs Frobisher is unsuitable, Severus."
"What?" Snape looked unmoved in Dumbledore's direction. "Excuse me, headmaster. I am not sure what you mean."
"Your work is now complete, I am given to understand." Dumbledore looked at Snape, enquiringly and Snape nodded in confirmation.
"It is. The power in wizard blood is the key as Mrs Frobisher described. And I believe that our working relationship more than makes up for any inadequacies she may possess," he added quickly. "That is to say, we would gain very little if you were to seek another muggle who does not understand this as she does."
A fraction of a second passed between Dumbledore and Snape before the headmaster folded the letter he had just received and nodded his head lightly.
"Then it looks like you are back in business, Severus. This time he will be stronger, have no doubt about it. He will have recalled his followers and he knows what weapons we do possess." Dumbledore approached the table and looked at the contents of the cauldron that Snape was beginning to stir again.
"How likely is it that he will attempt to harness muggle power for his own Severus, as you described to me?"
"We cannot afford to rule it out headmaster," Snape replied, glancing at Dumbledore again. "He has spoken of it before however he lacks the necessary aptitude to extract the relevant understanding. At present."
Dumbledore nodded before looking from the potion to the DNA trace that was labelled "Petunia Dursley DNA", picking it up. Then he glanced over the others in the collection, considering them thoughtfully before returning his gaze to Snape.
"In that case what I will require from you both, as I assume you are happy to work with Mrs Frobisher once more – " Snape nodded, " – is for you to accumulate, sort and categorise the information gathered by the Order both from accounts of happenings during the battle and subsequent information so that we can use it in his pursuit. In addition to this to work on further potions that should enable our advantage in any future encounters with the enemy with the understanding we have about the Universal link. The work must be done swiftly Severus, to give us the best possible chance of victory."
"Would you like me to contact Lupin and hasten her return? Due to the urgency you stress?"
Dumbledore looked at Snape and a couple of unspoken words passed between them.
"No," Dumbledore shook his head, smiling a little. "I think they deserve a couple of days together Severus, after all..." he put down the trace in his hand and glanced down at the wallet of hair samples, reading their labels, " – they'll have enough difficulties of their own to overcome now."
"Very well," replied Snape as Dumbledore made his way towards the door, and he nodded towards Dumbledore as he left.
Work with Cecilia Frobisher indeed, thought Snape as he picked up the white hair strand again and the DNA trace, holding them up towards the light that cascaded through the stained glass of the potions classroom what a preposterous notion. Precisely how could he work with a muggle? It was totally out of the question!
"Oh Severus." Dumbledore was standing at the door of the classroom again, looking in his direction and smiling serenely. "If you would be so good as to prepare some more potion that was prepared for Harry, both base and match, I would be most obliged. As quickly as possible, please."
"You are still required at the ministry?" Dumbledore nodded.
"Certainly, headmaster." He continued to stare at Dumbledore, who acknowledged him with another small smile.
"Was there something else, Severus? Something on your mind, perhaps?"
"She should return immediately, headmaster, if we are to complete this work." Dumbledore stepped back inside the potions classroom and closed the door.
"Indeed, and to us it would seem wise to suggest it however we rushed her before, with near-catastrophic results. No. She is better off out if it for the time being for what is to come will test the very strength of even the strongest of us, Severus..."
Snape nodded before looking down, and focused on the DNA trace as Dumbledore left the classroom once more.
Though not to depart to his office, nor to anywhere in the school at the present time. Through the open door Dumbledore watched Snape hold up the DNA trace to the light, scanning the bands carefully and raising his eyebrows.
"My my, Mrs Frobisher," Snape muttered to the trace, shaking his head in realisation, "you were not careful enough...or indeed…perhaps you were too careful?"
Then the headmaster of Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry watched as his potions teacher, ex-Death Eater and exceptionally gifted wizard selected another trace and held it in front of the other up to the light.
And, as the spring sunlight irradiated the potions classroom as he compared the trace of Petunia Dursley with Draco Malfoy, Severus Snape smiled.