Author's Note: Okay, just a few things before we get started on the sequel to "Correspondence." If you haven't read "Just Us Girls", and "Ginny's Surprise", you're probably lost. Ron and Hermione are engaged, and Harry and Ginny have twin boys, James and Mick. Please note that Ron, Harry, and Hermione are all 25 years old. 25 years old! That means that they will be talking like they are 25 years old. This story is rated PG-13 for profanity, as you can see by my previous statement. Let's see, what else do you need to know? Oh, yes. If you enjoy this story, please, join my Yahoo! Group, located here: Tested In Fire Fans
I want to thank Anne, for beta'ing this story. Without her, the amount of typos would be amazing. Really, I'm not kidding.
Raina was originally Meg's character. I stole her, developed her a bit, changed her around, fixed her up, and basically made a new character, but I kept the name. So, I'm giving her credit. Besides which, she deserves it!
Also, I want to thank and dedicate this entire story to Jessica, because she inspired me, and because she gets a character named after her.
Chapter One: Child Of The Night
Remus paused for a moment, lifting his quill, his unusually sharp ears listening, listening for something that was out of place. Something was definitely out of place. He had no infants in the house anymore, as Orion was five, and they weren't babysitting for any of their friends tonight. At least, he didn't think so. Perhaps Anna had forgotten to mention something, or she had, and he hadn't been paying attention…
"Hmm." He rose slowly to his feet, careful to make no sound as he crossed the thick carpet. They were living in Anna's house now, as he by himself had very little money, and was still paying off debts from the years when he couldn't find a job.
"Remus." His wife of now nine years,
Anna Lupin, came up behind him and laid a hand on his shoulder. "What's
wrong? I thought I heard something."
"So did I. We're not babysitting are we?"
"No," Anna said. "You mean, it's the sound of a baby crying?" Even now, after years of being involved with him, sometimes she was amazed by his unusually sharp senses.
"Yes. But it's farther off than I thought. Anna, it's on the grounds."
"Could it be a trap? There are still some Death Eaters about, and Ron and his coworkers haven't caught Draco yet. Harry warned us just last week to watch our step, and we know he's still involved, somewhat."
Remus nodded. "It could be Draco's men."
"It could also not be a trap. It could be someone in need of help."
"It could be."
Anna bit her lip to keep from strangling her husband. "One of us should look and see what it is."
"That's one option," Remus agreed quietly.
"The other option is to call Ron in."
Anna's eyes snapped. "It's his night off."
"Magical Law Enforcement Officers don't have nights off, especially when they pull double-duty as barristers from time to time. Besides, he owes us a favor."
"Remus…" Anna's eyes shifted. "I don't want to do this. What if it's a false alarm? Then Ron would have come all the way out here for nothing, and…"
"All the way out here?" Remus chuckled. "I don't think he's that far away, dearest. Hermione's in town."
"I knew that," Anna retorted quickly. "Oh, I see."
"She tells me that her bill for werewolf equality might pass." Even now, even after years of being let down, hope shown in Remus's eyes. "I can find work easily enough, but now that the Wolfsbane potion is in use, all werewolves should be able to…"
"You're preaching to the choir."
"Can you imagine?" He leaned down and kissed her fiercely. "And she was one of my best students, too."
Anna giggled. "Aren't you the proud papa?"
"I'm entitled to bask every now and again." Suddenly, the grin was wiped off of his face. "Whatever it is, it's getting closer. I'm calling Ron."
"Anna." The tone of his voice booked no argument.
"You're a stubborn pig of a man," she informed him with no heat.
"Yes, and you're the most beautiful and wonderful woman a werewolf, even a man, could hope to marry."
"You're drop dead sexy when you say things like that."
Remus raised his eyes brows almost unnoticeably, but his wife, who was used to his facial expressions, saw it and grinned.
"I know," he whispered in her ear, making her shiver. Then he walked toward the nearest fireplace.
"Don't you think you can seduce me into getting your way, Remus Joseph Lupin. I'll have your…"
"Ron Weasley. What do you want, damn it? It had better be good, because I've got Hermione here, and if it's not good, and I mean really good, your bl… Oh, hello Remus."
"Ron." Remus grinned, in spite of the probable danger he felt was approaching his house. "I have a bit of an unwelcome visitor. I have Anna and Orion here, so I'm a bit reluctant to take care of it myself…"
"I'll be right over," Ron told him, and was gone immediately, only to be replaced by Hermione.
"Are you lot all right?"
"Yes, we're fine," Anna said calmly, "it's just that Remus heard something, and we're all still a bit jumpy, and we wouldn't want anything to happen…"
"Ron has loads of training in this sort of thing. He'll set things right and be back with me in a short while," Hermione said aloud, not quite sure whose nerves she was trying to steady.
"That's right," Anna said soothingly. "I'm awfully sorry about this, but Remus insisted."
Hermione smiled weakly. "It's all right. It's his job. He's got…" She caught herself repeating what she'd just said, and her smile faltered just a bit, but she finished out the sentence, "Loads of training. It's just that stupid limp of his. He won't admit that he has a problem. Oh, I just wish somebody could talk to him. Nothing gets through that thick skull of his. I've tried everything to make him see reason."
Anna wished that she could do something to reassure the younger woman, but knew that she couldn't.
"I'm not allowed to go on calls with him, even unofficial ones, and there's a law about that, otherwise I would stuff that excuse where the sun doesn't shine."
Anna blinked at the use of strong language -- well, strong language by Hermione's standards.
"Hermione, we think they're trying to use a lure to get us out of the house," Remus told her, knowing that the more information she had, the better off that she would be.
"With what?" Hermione's eyes searched Remus's face first, then Anna's.
"The sound of a baby crying. It's driving me crazy," Anna told Hermione. "Absolutely crazy. The mother in me wants to go over and hurt whatever's making that child scream like that."
"It's a pretty clever lure," Hermione muttered. "I don't know of any spells like that, but I suppose I could look it up…"
Ron, quite suddenly, was there. "I'm sorry I took so long. I wanted to round up a few things, and I reckoned that if your intruders were Death Eaters, the wards around this place would buy me a few hours."
"Ron, they're trying to draw the Lupins out of their house."
Ron's attention immediately was drawn to his girlfriend. "With what?"
A piercing scream broke the silence.
Anna drew a breath. "With that. It's closer now than it's ever been before."
Ron shuddered unconsciously. "That'd get me out of my house, if I didn't have my guard up."
Her eyes narrowed, Ron's girlfriend studied him. "You're never without your guard up these days."
The look that passed in between them was hot, and full of something. Anna sternly reminded herself that what was going on in between the young couple was none of her business.
Ignoring Hermione, Ron drew himself up. "I'm going to go check it out."
"What, Hermione?" He turned slowly to face her. "I don't really have a lot of time…"
"You're going out there without a team? Without someone to watch your back? Honestly. Sometimes I think you have a death wish."
Ron shook his head and grinned. "I'm not going to be alone. Harry's out there."
Everyone stopped whatever movement they were making and stared.
"Harry?" Hermione whispered. "But, he's off active duty, and Ginny and the twins want him at home, I'm sure…"
Ron nodded. "That's what I told him."
"So why is helping, then?" Hermione asked, obviously confused.
"Because it's Remus and Anna." Ron shrugged. "He feels some sort of loyalty towards them. Can't imagine why," he finished sarcastically.
"Don't attack me, Ron."
"I'm not attacking you, Hermione."
"You're using that tone of voice."
"Hermione, we don't have time…"
"Fine. We don't ever have time. And it's too bad if you actually have time for me tonight, because as of right now, I don't have any time for you. Good night."
With that, the fire went out.
"Damn it," Ron muttered.
"Ron," Anna said warningly.
"Sorry," Ron muttered again, out of habit.
"Listen, Ron," Remus started.
"I'm going to go meet Harry out in the foyer. We'll come back and make a report. See you later."
As he stomped down the stairs, he went over the conversation again and again in his mind. He honestly couldn't tell what he'd done wrong this time. Suddenly, it came to him. Hermione had some objection to him being seemingly shackled to his work all the time, he knew, but he hadn't been fully aware of the extent of her resentment.
When he finally reached the foyer, Harry stood waiting for Ron, his winter cloak a striking green this evening, and when they were in speaking distance, the first words out of Harry's mouth were, "Fight with Hermione tonight, did you?"
"Yes. Damned if I know what about, though. We'll work it out, I imagine."
"Women, mate," was all Harry said, in a slightly confused tone of voice.
"Amen," Ron agreed, and that was all they needed to say.
"Let's go see about this lure of theirs before it causes serious damage, shall we?"
Ron nodded. "Let's go."
The Lupins lived, not in Lupin Lodge, as many people suspected they did, but actually in a house in the English countryside, just outside of the wizarding town of Thumblewump. The yard was eerily quiet as Harry and Ron stepped out of the elegant but simple home, and the peace was now only occasionally broken by the screams and ragged sobs of what sounded like a baby.
They moved together, an old team, without any awkwardness or pauses. They knew instinctively what the other was going to do.
"Ðefensia," Harry whispered, and immediately a shield wrapped around them.
Ron grinned. "Still your favorite, isn't it?"
Harry shrugged. "Bitter-sweet memories, I guess. Neville would be proud that it's named after him."
"Longbottom's Shield. Who would've thought?" Ron wondered out loud.
"Certainly not us."
There was a pause in the conversation as they both took stock of where they were, and where the screams that had turned to sobs were coming from.
"If it's a lure, it's a pretty convincing one," Harry whispered to Ron.
"I'll say," Ron whispered back. "Sounds like Jamie or Mick when they've got something wrong with them."
"My boys don't ever have anything wrong with them," Harry said defensively.
"Yeah," Ron said dismissively, "that's what you say now."
Harry chuckled. "I bow to your superior experience."
"Very funny, mate."
Shrugging, Harry blew it off. "I thought it was."
"You would. Do you want to know why? Because you're demented. You've always been demented. No sane person would have sneaked past a three-headed dog, caught homicidal keys on an ancient broomstick, played chess with an enchanted set, and drunk a potion of who knows what, only to face a representative of Voldemort at eleven years old…"
"As I recall, you were involved in that particular mishap, as well," Harry said lightly.
"I'm demented, too. Have to be, in my line of work. At least, it seems that way."
Harry made a noise in the back of his throat that could have meant something.
"Keep your comments to yourself," Ron whispered.
"I didn't say anything!" Harry whispered back, but they both stopped in their tracks.
"Oh, shit. That doesn't look like a pile of rocks to me," Ron said, and pointed out a lump on the ground.
They both picked up the pace, and soon found what they were looking for in a swarm of flies that were hovering around a lump of something…
"That's a body. That's a human body," Ron said, and they both broke out running.
Harry's eyes flashed once in pain, but then his training took over. Simultaneously, he and Ron cast Sealing charms over their hands so that nothing of theirs could damage the crime scene.
"She was dead before she got here," Harry finally said.
"Yup," Ron agreed. "The Killing Curse, it looks like."
"So what is the body doing here?" Harry wondered. He began to probe around, found something. "There's another person… a child, under her! We've got to get her off."
"Oh, shit," Ron said again, trying to hold back the bile that was raising in the back of his throat.
"It's a good thing that she was positioned just like this, otherwise this little girl would be dead," Harry said, as they lifted the dead woman to find her baby. Thankfully, her little girl was still alive. Quickly, Harry scooped up the child and began to soothe it.
"Whoever did this is a cold-hearted bastard," Ron announced.
Harry nodded in agreement. "Come on, we're going to need back up for this one."
"Why? I'll we've got to do is make a report, turn in the body, you know. If we bring anyone else in, Anna will really get scared."
"Don't you recognize her, Ron?"
Ron scrunched up his eyes, shook his head. "No, I don't."
"It's Cassandra." When Ron still looked blank, Harry shook his head. "Have you actually read Draco's file?"
"Of course! I'm primary of the investigative team that's trying to find him."
"So you would know about the woman who's been following Draco around for the past two years."
"Of course I know about her, but no one's actually seen her." Harry sent him a look, and Ron bit his lip. "I take that back. Nobody's documented that they saw her."
"Trust me, Ron. That's her. Draco calls her Cassandra."