"If you laugh at me, or so much as THINK about telling anyone about this, Moony, you'll find yourself on the receiving end of a permanent tickling hex cast in a very embarrassing place. And I will NOT be supplying you with the counter curse." Mur's voice was threatening, but her gray eyes glistened more brightly than the gleaming porcelain tiled floors.

Remus nodded absently as he looked around. They'd just flooed to the Washington D.C. Aurors' Headquarters, where Mur had spent the better part of 15 years working, and he was anxious to see where and how she'd spent the time. He wasn't sure exactly what she had planned, only that she'd hinted that her partner might need some convincing to forgive her for such a long absence.

He glanced at her again when he'd taken the measure of the building. Four stories of balcony could be seen to enclose the rectangular hall they stood in, and she was grinning impishly as she gazed at a door on the fourth floor. It was open. "He's here, then?" Remus asked.

"Oh yes. He's definitely up there. With any luck, he'll just laugh his ass off, collect whatever bet money Johnson put down against me coming back, and forget that I never even wrote him this last year." She grimaced, knowing that last part to be unlikely. Still, it was worth a try. She winked at Remus, then cast a Sonorous Charm on herself. Remus gaped as she did the last thing he expected. Muriel Deesia broke into song.

You put the boom boom into my heart,
You send my soul sky-high when your lovin' starts.
Jitterbug into my brain,
Goes bang bang bang till my feet do the same.

But something's bugging me
Something ain't right
My best friend told me
What you did last night.

Left me sleeping
In my bed.
I was dreaming
But I should've been with you instead.

Wake me up before you go go,
Don't leave me hanging on like a yo-yo.
Wake me up before you go go,
I don't wanna miss it when you hit that high
Wake me up before you go go,
'Cause I'm not planning on going solo.
Wake me up before you go go,
Take me dancing tonight.

Almost instantly heads began appearing out of office doors, followed swiftly by entire bodies. Mur spotted Johnson rolling his eyes before heading back to his desk to get his money. He owed quite a lot this time. One office door remained empty, however, and her eyes kept drifting back to it. Would Jas feel that she'd sufficiently humiliated herself to make up for a year's disappearance? He was normally pretty forgiving, but she wondered if this time he wouldn't try to make her squirm.

When she reached the line "Take me dancing tonight." She motioned to Remus to end the enchantment, which he did. "He knows I can't hit this next note," she whispered breathlessly.

Remus had managed halfway through to close his mouth, and his eyes were once again a normal size. He could hardly believe that his usually rather decorous friend had just belted a pop song in the Auror's headquarters for all to hear. But then, the nervous grin that graced her features as she waited for some response from her partner was just as disconcerting. He shook his head and remained silent. Several beats passed, then an answering baritone voice rang out.

I wanna hit that high...

And before them appeared one of the cleanest, best-dressed men Remus had ever laid eyes on. He raised an eyebrow in an unconscious imitation of Snape as the impossibly blond man danced casually toward them, still singing.

You get the gray skies outta my way,
You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day.
Turn a bright spark into a flame,
My beats per minute never been the same.

'Cause you're my lady,

(Here, Jas offered Mur a hand, and she took it.)

I'm your fool.

(Here he pulled her very close then swung her away again expertly. They fell into the familiar dance pattern as money changed hands on all four floors above them. Remus just shook his head. He'd known Mur liked to dance, but this was something else.)

Makes me crazy
When you act so cruel.

C'mon baby,
Let's not fight.
We'll go dancing
And everything will be alright.

Very suddenly, Jas stopped singing. He pulled Mur in from her twist with a bit more force than she'd expected, and wrapped his arms around her so she couldn't get away. "Where the hell've you been, Beautiful?" He was still very angry, and her ploy hadn't entirely worked. The trespass was forgiven but not yet forgotten.


Jas spared a glance for Mur's companion, still keeping her trapped in his arms, not that she was resisting. "That's got to be Remus." It wasn't a question, but Mur nodded. "Good!" Jas exclaimed. Before she quite knew what he was about, he'd captured her lips with the familiarity of a longtime lover, though they'd never been. He was careful as always, however, to keep his tongue to himself. She could feel his amusement and desperately wished she could see Moony's face, but Jas wasn't letting her go.

When he finally pulled his mouth away from hers, Mur got a look at Remus. He'd averted his eyes when everyone above them began to clap and whistle. Johnson was the first to apparate to the ground floor to welcome her, but Mur wasn't done teasing Remus yet. She grinned up at Jas for a moment before snaking an arm around his neck and kissing him again. This time the whistling was accompanied by catcalls and thrown pennies. They pulled apart quickly.

"You two are something else, I'll say," Johnson exclaimed, pressing a fifty dollar bill into Jas' hand. Jas just grinned and pocketed it. Mur shook the older man's hand. She lost track of Remus as her old co-workers surrounded her, but Jas kept an eye on him. He looked pissed.

Jas slipped away as the boss man approached, probably to find out if Deesia was staying. "Hey dude," he said by way of greeting. His voice was easy going and friendly as he held out a hand.

Remus turned from the water fountain he'd been using and looked Jas over once again, not shaking his hand. But before he could say anything, Mur appeared beside Jas, who turned to look at her. He caught her worry over Remus' anger, and decided the game had gone too far. But he wasn't willing to let go of the lighthearted mood they'd managed thus far, so he simply started a new game.

"What've you brought me, Beautiful? He's a pretty one, isn't he?" Jas winked at her and Mur's face took on a horrified expression. She shook her head ever so slightly, but he ignored the warning. Most of their co-workers had disapparated back to their offices. Jas flashed her a grin before turning back to Remus and putting a hand to his light brown hair. "I usually find my own boyfriends, but I've got to admit you've got excellent taste."

Mur took Remus' hand with a furious look at Jas, and pulled her friend around to face her. He looked confused, but realization was beginning to dawn. She needed to do something quickly. If he acted too revolted, Jas would be hurt, and for all she knew, they might really make a scene.

She looked over Remus' shoulder. Jas was watching the emotions play across her face with interest. "Are you going to take me dancing tonight or what?" she asked him in a mockingly stern voice. She was smirking at them both, and Remus blinked at her twice more before he opened his mouth. No sound came out.

"Course I am, Beautiful. I'll take you dancing whenever you want, you know that. Come on to the pad and we'll find you both something to wear." He disapparated without another word, and Remus turned to look at the place he'd stood, finally finding his voice.

"So he's – "

Mur cut him off. "Yes."

"And he thinks you brought me here to – "

"No. That was just his way of telling you that what you saw was an act." She smirked again as Remus blinked at her.

"So you're not – "

"No. Jas is just a good friend."

"Then he knows – "

"YES," Mur cut him off again, finally becoming impatient. "What he doesn't know is what the hell's taking us so long. Are you finished?"

Finally Remus smiled tentatively. "You've GOT to introduce him to – "

"NO!" Mur said emphatically. "Now are you coming?" Remus nodded. They linked arms and disappeared, reappearing an instant later in Mur and Jas' apartment.

Jas was humming to himself as he rummaged through his clothes. "Are we cool?" he shouted when he heard them arrive. Mur looked at Remus, who shrugged.

"Nearly," she answered. Jas came out of his room with a pair of black leather pants and a brown shirt with raggedly cut tank sleeves. He threw them at Remus, who caught them easily.

"Does he at least know I'm not going to jump him?" he asked, then he added, winking roguishly, "or you?"

"I think we've covered that," Mur answered, rolling her eyes.

"Good, I'm prowling tonight and I don't want to be distracted," was his flippant response. Jas dodged the playful hex Mur sent at him and laughed. He was already dressed in the skin tight dragon hide trousers that Muriel had bought him for Christmas a few years previous and a cream shirt that showed off his muscles to best advantage. It was going to be an interesting night.

Mur was acutely aware that Remus was becoming uncomfortable, though as usual his emotions were veiled. Gryffindors were just so OBVIOUS about such things. "Let me grab something to wear, and then you can change in my room, Moony," she said, trying to be generous.

"Where will you change?" he asked immediately, his eyes on Jas. It was clear that he still didn't trust this man with his best mate's girl. The partners exchanged an amused glance, but Mur suddenly realized that this was going to take some explaining. Unfortunately this wasn't the time. She shook her head and went into her room to change, finding it exactly as she'd left it. Her trunk was still packed for the trip they'd been planning to try and free Sirius. Her radio was still tuned to the WWN in England. Her flasks of memory potion were still lined up neatly on the window seat that overlooked the dirty alley below. The box of undelivered letters still sat collecting dust on the floor of her closet.

She chose a blue suede mini skirt and a black top, charmed on a pair of hose and her black heels, and spelled her hair into a wispy knot on top of her head. She glanced quickly in the mirror and grinned. Remus was going to have a heart attack. For a moment she thought about changing her bra so it wouldn't make such a spectacle of her cleavage, but then decided against it. After all, Jas had taken a whole day off with her a few years back to help her pick out the damned thing. The least she could do was wear it once!

She emerged to find Remus already changed. The brown tank looked good on him, but she could tell that he felt self-conscious. The scars on his arms, usually hidden by traditional robes, stood out starkly in this outfit. He seemed to forget his discomfort, however, when his eyes fell on her. "Sweet Merlin!" he exclaimed. "Where's the camera?"

Jas and Mur both ignored him. "Where to then?" Mur asked.

"The muggle place, I think. No apparation point, but that's cool. The boss man let me keep the convertible, so we'll drive. On the way, you can tell me why you brought wolfie here instead of Sirius Black." Jas' demeanor had changed as surely as Mur's clothing. Mur narrowed her eyes. Something had been said while she was changing. They left the apartment in silence.

"How'd you know?" Remus asked quietly as they climbed into the car.

"The eyes. They're an impossible color of brown. And the scars. Definitely better go to the muggle joint." Jas was speaking more to Mur than to Remus.

The drive was spent listening to the radio, which Jas kept too loud to allow for talking anyway. Questions were firing back and forth between his mind and Mur's, but she wasn't answering. Remus would need to hear this conversation to understand. Jas nodded in response to that thought, and rather than turning onto the street he'd intended, he drove another two blocks and stopped at the local coffee shop. "Will this do?" he asked aloud as he turned off the engine.

Mur nodded. Remus, more confused now than he'd ever been, followed them into the place and ordered something to drink. He had a feeling he'd missed a great deal during that drive.

"Alright, then, spill it," Jas said when the waitress had taken their orders and left.

"Sirius is free. He escaped a few years ago all by himself. How we missed that on the WWN, I'll never know. Severus is safe and working at Hogwarts. Remus here disappeared for a few years. The Potter boy was left with muggle relatives. But he's at Hogwarts now, and the war's in full swing again, just like when I left." She faltered, wondering what else he'd want to know.

Jas smiled. "But what I really want to know is: When's the wedding?" Mur looked at Remus, who looked away. Then she cast her eyes down at the table.

"I'm not sure there's going to be one, Jas," she whispered.

This statement was greeted with silence as Jas processed all the reasons why that might be the case. "Did the dementors drive him crazy?" he asked finally, his voice gentle.

"No." It was Remus who provided this answer, as Mur appeared very interested in the table. The waitress reappeared and set down their drinks, then bustled away. "He's as sane as he ever was, if that's saying anything. Just angry and stubborn."

Mur could feel Jas starting to lose his temper. She looked up just in time to see his fist hit the table. "What the hell is there to be angry about? She spent every waking moment thinking of ways to break him out of Azkaban! Every year we used up all our vacation time galavanting around Europe trying to find you, or Severus, or Lucius, or whoever! She gave up the most notorious capture we were ever offered because she was trying to learn how to defeat the dementors! Every evening she wrote letters half a mile long to one of you, or to the ministry, or to SOMEBODY, trying to find a way to get him freed, and for WHAT?!

"Jas!" Mur exclaimed heatedly.

"NO, Beautiful, that's just stupid! You waited around for him all that time and now he doesn't WANT you back? WHAT KIND OF AN IDIOT – "

"ENOUGH!" Mur jumped from her seat. Remus was swallowing his own angry retort as her eyes flashed. He watched the two face each other, and was surprised when Mur's hand came out of her pocket without her wand. She sat down slowly, then closed her eyes. Jas reached across the table and took her hand, running his thumb over her knuckles.

"You deserve better," he whispered.

"And I suppose you think you're it?" Remus asked scathingly.

"At least I've never turned her away!" Jas exclaimed.

"Oh, please, you two!" Mur hastily wiped her eyes. "Remus, Jas has been a great friend to me. He's put up with me disappearing from work for months at a time to try and get home, he's helped me plan and come up with ideas for how to infiltrate Azkaban. He's comforted me when the pain of it all was so much that I could barely go on, and – "

"Yes, we need to talk about that as well," Jas interjected ominously.

Mur looked back to him. "There's nothing to say. It's all yours. Don't ask me again." A surprised look crossed his face, but he could feel that she was not going to discuss it, so he nodded. Remus tried not to look confused.

"And Jas, you need to realize that Remus and Sirius have been friends since they were 11. It's natural for them to look after one another's interests. If he's jealous on Sirius' behalf, that only means that he thinks Sirius will change his mind and decide that he wants me back after all. I can't help but take that as encouragement."

Jas was shaking his head in regret. He should have realized that Remus would react the way he did. But Remus, still far more annoyed than Mur had ever seen him, took this as disbelief.

"Is it so hard to believe that I might have friends? That I might know how to care about someone? You think these scars mean that I'm incapable of emotion, or that I'm somehow less than human?" He kept his voice low. No sense in scaring the muggles, after all.

This, of course, was not at all what Jas thought, and his eyes widened in surprise. But his hesitation was enough to set Remus off again. The evening would have ended right there if Mur hadn't put a restraining hand on his shoulder and kept him from rising. "No one here thinks any such thing, Moony, and you know it! Jas has been listening to me talk about you for half our lives. He recognized you at the Aurory BECAUSE he could see you were a werewolf. If that had mattered to him, I'm sure he wouldn't have spoken to you at all. And you'll recall that he WAS trying to be friendly before I interrupted."

Remus nodded grudgingly. They sipped their drinks in silence for a few moments, the tea going a long way to smooth ruffled feathers. After the waitress had refreshed Jas' coffee, Mur asked, "Have they been able to hold Sineath?"

"So far so good," Jas answered. "He's still ranting about what he's going to do to you when he gets out, though." Jas paused, then turned to Remus. He figured that if this guy was the stand-in for Sirius Black today, he owed him an explanation. "Mur and I used to have a really interesting Modus Operandi. We tracked down the younger generation of dark wizards, a lot of whom frequent the kind of place we're going later." He looked to Mur to confirm that this was still the plan and she nodded.

"We'd come in and dance for a few hours, pretend to make out, then have an impressive fight. She'd throw the suspect's drink in my face and shatter his glass. Then after I left, she'd offer to buy him a new one. That's where the kissing comes from. You get pretty familiar when you're doing that all the time." Jas paused, waiting for some sign of acceptance from Remus. He got none.

"Anyway, it worked like a charm every time, and Sineath was no exception. Only he knew her. – You didn't mention that to me, by the way, when you looked at the case file," he added. Mur shrugged.

"Nothing much mattered to me just then," she said vaguely, sipping her tea.

"Right," he answered, knowing that topic was off-limits. "The point is that I kissed her because that's what we do. Lips only, I swear, and I generally kept my hands where they belonged. It's an act, and she set down the rules with Sirius Black in mind."

"If I were Sirius Black you would already be dead." Remus replied, but the hardness had gone from his eyes. He was shaking his head.

"I would have brought him along if he could just stand to be around me without picking a fight," Mur said defensively.

"And I wouldn't have so much as touched her if he'd been along," Jas agreed, his tone finally back to the devil-may-care flippancy that Mur was accustomed to. She shot him a grateful glance as he plunked some money down on the table and stood. "Now. Are we going dancing or aren't we?" His grin was infectious, and Mur took the hand he offered, and offered hers to Remus in return.

Remus took the curious stares of the more observant muggles very well. It wasn't as if anyone would recognize him for what he was at a place like this. Jas had brought the traditional bottle of firewhiskey, and for once he got to drink some of it as well. It was nearly 3am when they made their way back to the apartment, laughing.

"You do realize there's going to be an inquisition when I get home," Remus said, as he threw himself onto the couch. Mur and Jas came in behind him, leaning heavily on one another. Mur's eyes were nearly closed.

"'Course," Mur said. "He'd never bother to ask ME, after all, that would mean he'd have to actually SPEAK to me."

"He can talk to you just so long as you can avoid talking about Severus, America, Slytherins, and – well – everyone else you know, and everywhere you've ever been." Remus finished his sentence slowly. "Damn. I see your point."

Jas and Mur both giggled. "He'll come around," Jas said. "There's not a red blooded male on the planet who wouldn't be flattered by the kind of attention she paid him, even when he wasn't around." He hadn't had nearly as much firewhiskey as Mur and Remus, and was making much more sense. This statement, however, sobered Mur up a bit, or at least made her think seriously.

"He doesn't need to know all that. Remus, you aren't going to repeat a single WORD, do you hear me? That tickling hex is a BITCH and I mean it!"

"Sure, Mur. I'll just tell him your partner was a bald, hundred and ten year old Indian wizard who barely spoke English." At this they all laughed.

In the end, Jas carried Mur to her bed and tucked her in, then took Remus to his own bed and tucked him in. He parked himself on the couch, knowing that sleep was a long way off. He hadn't gotten all the answers he wanted, but there was always tomorrow. Mur said they could stay for a week before they had to return. She'd also absolutely forbid him to follow her back to England.

"The whole point of this war is keeping the people we care about safe, Jas," she'd said quickly while Remus headed to the bathroom. "Promise me you'll stay here?" He had promised, but extracted a promise from her as well. THIS time when she disappears, she'd better write!