For you, always

Chapter 10

Chapter 10

The Christmas holidays ended far too quickly for everyone's liking, and all too soon classes returned and normality ensued round the castle. The weather had returned to its grizzly state, with the crisp white snow turning brown and mingling with mud. Grey clouds over shadowed the grounds, with the only saving grace being that the storms had been keeping their distance. The teachers had begun prepping fifth and seventh year students for their O.W.L and N.E.W.T exams, and many students could be found muttering frantically to each other in the library about revision timetables and colour coding.

Luckily for Lexi, her subject was not an examined one but she was receiving the same amount of pressure from the Ministry, albeit for different reasons. Since Black's attack on the Fat Lady, Fudge had been very clear in his expectations of her. She had been sending daily reports since Boxing Day, conducting thorough searches of the castle and regularly patrolling the corridors after curfew. On his visit to the castle on New Years Day to meet her and Dumbledore, he had not held back his opinions about her performance.

"I must say Lexi I don't think I've been particularly harsh on you," Fudge stated bluntly in response to Lexi's critique as they dined with Dumbledore in his quarters. "You assured me you wouldn't require assistance, and despite you're – ahh – connections to Black, you would be perfectly capable of performing your duties."

"I have been capable Minister. Black or the Dementors were bound to try something sooner or later." Lexi said, glaring moodily across the table.

"Well, that's comforting coming from the person who I charged to protect Harry Potter!" Fudge retorted, his eyes glaring dangerously at Lexi. "I would have thought you'd make sure he was well protected, considering you're his godmother!"

"HOW DARE YOU!" Lexi shouted, jumping from his seat, knocking her goblet of wine onto the floor. "HOW DARE YOU USE HARRY AGAINST ME! YOU ARSEH-"

"Lexi please, sit down." Dumbledore said gently but firmly, placing a reassuring hand on her arm. "Now Fudge I do think you're being rather unfair here," he added to Fudge who looked affronted. "Lexi's work both as a teacher and as an Auror, have been of the highest standard."

Lexi threw herself back into her chair and stared furiously at Fudge who was grumbling under his breath. Lexi's patience with the Minister had been severely tested since her assignment to the castle, and she was worried that one day she would lose it and let him know exactly what she thought of him.

"Be that as it may Dumbledore, I do not wish Black to succeed in – err – 'trying something'." He said, not taking his eyes off Lexi.

"Oh I'm in no doubt that Black will try many times to enter the castle," Dumbledore stated frankly. "But I have the utmost confidence in Lexi and my staff team to protect the students of this school."

There was a final tone in his voice that ended the conversation, and the rest of their dinner meeting was spent discussing more mundane matters.

"So you still think Black sent it, Minerva?" Lexi said, walking round her desk gazing at the gleaming Firebolt.

"I have my suspicions," Minerva said, a worried look etched on her lined face. "After his failure to get to gain entry to the Gryffindor common room at Halloween, this seems the perfect way to get to Potter without getting caught."

It was mid January and Lexi was in Minerva's office discussing the broomstick that Harry had received for Christmas. Harry's friend Hermione had approached Minerva, quite distressed and sure that it was from Black and was cursed. Much to Harry's annoyance, Minerva had confiscated it and she and Professor Flitwick had spent much of January checking it.

"Hmm, whilst I agree it is prudent to be cautious Minerva I doubt that Black would have access to the funds." She said, her hand cradling her chin thoughtfully. "When we became engaged we joined our vaults at Gringotts, and only I have the authority to remove funds from there."

"Filius has checked for all the regular curses, but so far it isn't showing anything." Minerva said, frowning. "Although I am in no doubt that Black wouldn't have used a run-of-the-mill bucking curse. I wanted to ask your expert opinion on darker curses."

"Ha, I don't consider myself to be an expert Minerva, far from it. But I will check for some of the nastier curses." Lexi said, rubbing her temples where a dull ache was emerging.

"Thank you Lexi, I didn't want to add to your already substantial duties but you were the best person for the job." She said, fixing Lexi with a concerned stare.

"That's quite alright Minerva, this concerns Harry's safety and that is after all one of my main reasons for being here." She said, running her finger along the handle. "Give me a week or so and I should have conducted all the necessary tests."

After bidding Minerva goodbye, she returned to her office with the broom and set about beginning jinx detection. The Firebolt had given her something else to worry about, and she wasn't quite sure how her exhausted mind could cope with it.

Her nightly meetings with Severus were the only things in her life at the moment that was keeping her sane. She was sure that he'd wanted to say more on Christmas Eve; she'd felt the desire despite his hesitation. She too had felt her own desire coursing through her, and she was quite sure it would have led to something. She had wanted it to, more than anything, but for an inexplicable reason she lost her nerve and they had lent on each in silence. That encounter had played on her mind since.

Entering her quarters feelings thoroughly drained and with the intention of retreating under her duvet, she spied something red out of the corner of her eye. Sitting on her desk at the far end of the room was a small parcel. She approached it warily and saw it was a small box, wrapped in sparkling red paper with a gold ribbon. She picked it up and shook it, a tiny rattling sound could be heard from within the box. Finally curiosity got the better of her and she unraveled the ribbon and the paper fell away to reveal a small velvet box with a small piece of parchment. She unfolded it to reveal tiny, spidery writing, which read:

"And so for a time it looked as if all the adventures were coming to an end; but that was not to be…"

It was quote from 'The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe' but the note bore no name. Her curiosity now burning, she placed the paper on her desk and opened the box. Her breath caught when she saw what was inside. An exquisite, delicate charm bracelet twinkled at her. She thumbed each charm; one was a noble lion, Aslan of Narnia, the other a baroque wardrobe, the next the Faun Mr Tumnus, then the White Witch, Mr and Mrs Beaver hand-in-hand and finally Father Christmas. It was beautiful and looked handmade, Lexi attached it to her small wrist. It made a jingling noise as she moved her hand, and caught the light from her window.

"We must go on, and take the adventure that comes to use." She whispered to herself.

That evening there was a forgiving, clear sky; stars twinkling in their distant galaxies and a crescent moon illuminated the astronomy tower. Lexi was perched on the balcony, waiting for Severus. Her heart still sang from the gift, and even thought she'd gone over in her mind what she wanted to say; now she felt lost for words. Her mouth was dry and her chest was aching from the fervent pounding her heart was exhibiting. At exactly eleven, she heard footsteps in the tower and Severus emerged clutching a book in his hand. She observed him as he walked over to her and took his usual position opposite her on the balcony. His eyes fell on her wrist and then flicked to her eyes, there was a spark in them she hadn't seen before.

"I see you found my gift." He said, his voice so quiet it was almost a whisper.

"I did Severus," Lexi felt her voice quiver. "It's beautiful, I was not expecting –" She paused, steadying herself. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." He replied, a timid smile on his lips. "It was the best way I could think of to say thank you for mine. I have not received a gift for years, let alone one so kindhearted."

Lexi stood and moved towards him, feeling her inhibitions evaporate. He stood, facing her with their bodies less than a metre apart. Lexi felt breathless, she saw Severus exhale slowly barely parted lips. She snaked her arms round his neck slowly and pulled him into an embrace, she could feel his heart beating frantically. For a moment she was worried he'd push her away, but after a few seconds she felt his arms round her back. They stood there for several moments; she rested her head on his chest and she shivered with pleasure as he stroked the back of her neck. A ripple of pleasure shivered through her spine and she buried herself in the fabric of his cloak inhaling his woody scent from his smoky potions classroom.

After what seemed an eternity they loosened their grips and drew slowly apart, standing almost nose-to-nose. Lexi knew Severus would be struggling with himself, and that this was the first time he'd held another human being in a very long time. Not wanting to make him feel uncomfortable she made to let go.

"No." He whispered. "Don't."

Her heart was now hammering painfully in her chest, and she gripped the tops of his arms. Feeling his strong grasp pulling her towards him, her eyes flickered shut and their lips met.