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Chapter 1 : Winter Frost & Afternoon Tea
| ||Rating: Mature||Chapter Reviews: 12|
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7 December 1995
She locked her office door and walked into the flowing crowd. As she tossed her keys into a messy pocketbook, Charlotte brushed a lock of dark brown hair out of her eyes. She hated the cold, and winter blew through the grounds like a sweeping storm. She wrapped the grey trench coat over her blouse, and the smallest hint of her black dress pants showed underneath it. Though her father often credited it to genes, no Italians as petite as she ever showed up in the old photographs, so she often wore heels to compensate for her height disadvantage. As the crowd veered off to their various activities, Charlotte strode off toward the enclosed garden path.
After the ancient black iron welded gate clanged shut behind her, she cast a paranoid glance over her shoulder. She could have sworn she heard a faint popping sound in the distance, but she shook her head. End of term drove her mad. If this meeting had not jogged her memory, the painted canvases, term papers and sculpted projects would have trapped her inside for days. She glanced at her watch and an audible sigh escaped from her lips. She told him not to come, but she was slightly disappointed.
“You let them leave early?”
Charlotte jumped slightly as she felt his arms around her. His rich cologne filled her senses: memories flooded through her mind. She reached up and brushed his rough face. The deep cuts from the glassblowing incident last week still showed the damage. Though he made no sound, she felt him wince at her touch. Her fingers felt like ice on his skin. She faced away from him, but she imagined the look in his light brown eyes. He sounded tired from the conference. She glanced at a nearby sitting area; luggage crumbled into disorganized disaster against the wall.
“I left early? You left Isaac alone with the sharks,” she challenged. She fingered the gold ring on his right hand. “Isn’t that against your rules, Professor?”
“What? Since when have I ever followed rules?” He rested his hands on her abdomen and waited for an answer. “I thought so.”
“Don’t you think you should start?” She spun around and laughed at his expression. “Why waste your time?”
“You think I operate by rules? I teach art.”
“At Cambridge,” she reminded him quietly. She slapped his hand and ignored his laughter. “Jonathan!”
“Oh, yes, there’s that.” He sighed and dropped his hand. He pulled her into an embrace. “We’re alone.”
“At Cambridge University,” she reminded him with a laugh. She allowed him to kiss her. His passion surprised her. “I take it you all suffered through a long couple of weeks.”
“Some days I really hate this job.” He pulled on to the stone bench and handed her a hot coffee and a small paper bag. “Double shot espresso with steamed milk and a fresh baked fruit pastry from Julia. She says you need to venture out to the student center more often. This is her congratulations.”
“For what?” She watched him take a grateful sip from his cup. She set her cup down and looked at his face. After reaching into her trench coat pocket, she withdrew her wand and brushed his face. He flinched slightly, but she knew it had nothing to do with her touch. “Does it hurt, Jon?”
“I’m fine.” He watched her hand with a wary expression. “Really, you should have seen me after the exhibit Wednesday night. Blood everywhere…glass shards…damn heat…Charley, what are you doing?”
An invisible sewing needle repaired the remaining damage. The invisible heat from the healing spell warmed their hands. She smiled at his shocked expression. The initial surprise faded slowly from his light brown eyes, and the man passed a hand over his unshaven face. He stared at the sharp glass in her hand. Although he had sought medical attention after the incident, he never imagined how much the quick paramedics missed. As with any other injury, he refused to be rushed off to the hospital. He ran a hand through his grey locks and reconsidered his pain.
“You feel better?” She smiled at him, and she turned her head as a familiar sound echoed through the air. “It’s nothing. Magic’s useless with ready alternatives, eh? You’re welcome.”
“Yeah, well. Thanks for ripping glass out of my face and not applying an antibacterial solution,” he said with a sarcastic undertone. He answered her with a sip of coffee. “Mind you, when I’m stuck in the emergency room next week, waiting hours for treatment for a second time, and they diagnose an infection, it’s coming out of your paycheck after insurance.”
“You want that in writing?” She flicked her wand, creating items out of nothing. “Pen or quill? Paper or parchment?”
“I hate when you do that. You get me talking and you act like it’s nothing.”
“It works every time, doesn’t it?” Charlotte snatched a newspaper from his hand. She feigned interest in the publication. A copy of the Daily Prophet unfurled onto her lap, but she flipped through the first one. “You actually paid for this?”
“Nicked it off a student,” he corrected with a shrug. He avoided her glare. “What? It happens.”
“It’s Pearl Harbor Day, isn’t it? Don’t you promote a section of this, Professor?” Charlotte slapped him with the newspaper. “Way to set an example, Jonathan, really. Is it an interesting read?”
“Yeah, not really. Well, there’s that,” conceded Jonathan in a nonchalant voice. He took a bite of a bagel and pointed at a headline:
Professor Charlotte DeLuca Named Chancellor of Arts/Theatre Department
“Yeah,” said Jonathan as he studied her face. “Oh? That’s your reaction? Oh?”
“When you had the accident…when did you find out?”
“Remus sent me an owl with a copy. He seemed to think it was worth mentioning. He knew you hadn’t said a thing about it. You know, since my wife…”
“Oh, that reminds me.” She laid her head on his shoulder and held his face in her hands. She silenced him with a passionate kiss, only releasing him to grasp for air. “Happy anniversary, Jon.”
“I’ve missed that.” He stared at her. “I’m surprised, Chancellor, with all your rules.”
“Hmm,” whispered Charlotte. She stroked his cheek and kissed him again. She sighed as he kissed her neck. He wove her scarf through his fingers. “I missed you. Thirty years. That’s a long time.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I keep waiting for you to divorce me, considering what I put you through.”
“I’m the Catholic Italian schoolgirl you always wanted, remember? We don’t do divorce.”
“I love how that loophole plays to my advantage. Cancel your night class.”
“I bet.” She grabbed his wrist. “No, Jonathan.”
“Why not?” He sounded a bit disappointed and tilted her head. “I’ll make it worth your time. Please?”
“I can’t.” She pulled away from him. “The kids…”
“That’s tonight? It’s our anniversary. I’m sure they’ll understand.”
Charlotte stared at the water fountain and gasped for air. She needed to clear her head. In a blink of an eye, something materialized in the air. If she had not seen this act of Apparition years before on the streets on Diagon Alley, she would have most definitely panicked. This corporeal apparition denied all laws of physics. She heard a quick gasp of air followed by light childlike laughter. A young man with graying hair smiled at her. He wore a casual blue sweater and khaki pants, and a small boy rode piggyback, gripping his transporter’s shoulders. The man’s face looked tired and was lined with more scars.
“The kids, Jon, really. Jonathan!”
Remus squeezed the little boy’s hand and spoke in a carrying whisper. “Chi é quello?”
“Nonno?” Jonathan pulled himself back into reality. He pulled back and slammed his head on the cement wall. “Bugger.”
“Sí,” said Remus in a hoarse voice. He pushed the small boy toward the couple. “Language, signor.”
“He’s walking? Really?” Jonathan got to his feet. He waited for the kid to reach him and tossed him into the air. “Leo Lei, you’re walking, kid.”
Remus hugged his mother and patted her head. “I’ve forgotten how tiny you were, mia italiana.”
“He means you're short,” chuckled Jonathan. He returned a tight embrace. “Hey, kid.”
“You left Galway early, then?” Remus eyed the man. “Isn’t that against the rules, Professor Lupin? Never leave an exhibit until the stage clears. Isn’t that like a given with you? No antipasto?”
“Italians!” Jonathan looked up to the heavens. “You enjoy all the wine, festival, and food you want, but when it comes to these bloody rules...isn’t that right, Leo Lei?” He inquired of his grandson, but he sighed when he received a foreign response. “Damn it.”
“Language,” Remus reminded him.
“Oh, like he understands me! The boy’s lives right outside London, people. I know I’m throwing a crazy idea out there, for his father would be up in arms, but English would be useful, yes?” His grandson took his offered hand. “So, when shall I expect this second non-English speaking little terror?”
“Don’t you love how he phrases that?” Remus grinned at his father and levitated his luggage. “That’s a borderline insult.”
“You think this boy would not speak Italian? Yeah, all right.” Remus raised an eyebrow. “Have you met Major David Equi? You handed your daughter over to a man in a pressed uniform about ten years ago. You remember him?”
With Lorelei out of ear shot, he whispered, “You just don’t want her to cry.”
“She’s emotional with this one as well?”
“Let me put it this way,” Remus sighed as they walked from the garden. He lagged behind with his father on purpose. “I showed up last night around nine-thirty. It was raining. I mentioned her spaghetti needed a little parsley and well…” He gestured with his hand. “I paid three hours for it.”
“I kid you not.”
“I think I’ll pass on this parenthood experience.”
“Yeah, no kidding, your mum…” Jonathan glanced up at his wife and decided to change his approach. “Well, she got to be going through a hell of a time…”
“She misses David.”
“Yeah,” Jonathan replied as he glanced at the woman. “No sign of him?”
Remus shook his head. “Dumbledore is looking for him. We found his possessions and it…it doesn’t look good. He’s supposed to be back before the baby arrives. He’s on leave in late March. And Lorelei…”
“She’s focusing on March.” Jonathan understood his daughter well. He chewed on that for a moment, and he noticed a flaw in the reasoning. “If he’s in the Royal Marines, why is your lot looking for him?”
“He went to Hogwarts,” said Remus.
“Major David Equi?” Charlotte spoke for the first time behind them. “No, no, you’ve made a mistake.”
“Charley,” quelled Jonathan. “I think these Aurors…”
“No, no, check again,” Charlotte interrupted him.
“Yes, it’s David,” said Remus. “Reese.”
“Check again. You make mistakes. They make mistakes.”
He took a small, torn blue quilt from his bag. “Does this look familiar?”
Charlotte snatched the fabric from him. The frayed edges were a blend of white and blue. The pattern was intertwined with a familiar stitch pattern; she sewed each block with her own hands. The teddy bears and colors looked familiar, and she remembered hours of knitting. Her daughter had rushed into a whirlwind relationship with the military officer, and they tied the knot a week after graduating school. She knew they had gotten married early, but she truly thought of her son-in-law as another son. The couple tried for years to have a child. After Leo arrived a couple years ago, they considered it a blessing, so this second child came as a surprise to all of them. She stared at the dried blood on the garment.
“Why? Why him?”
“He’s a damn fine linguist with top notch marks in Charms and Potions.”
Jonathan whistled in agreement. “I thought you kids had skill, but after hearing him switch from English, Italian, and Spanish…”
“And French,” added Remus with a smile. “He met an acquaintance of mine, Fleur Delacour, and I’ve never seen that girl talk so much.”
“How old is he?” Jonathan asked.
“Thirty,” said Charlotte. She had not calmed down as fear crept through her voice. “She’s having a baby. And her heart problems? She nearly died with Leo. I – don’t….”
“We’re looking, Reese. Be patient. Lorelei’s got me.” Remus attempted a smile and looked at her. “You told me you needed to tell me something. What’s on your mind?”
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