For you, always

Chapter 13

A/N: I hope you're all safe and well! Enjoy the chapter :)

Chapter 13

After months of biting cold and the grey tinged misery of winter, spring was a welcome arrival. The disheveled grounds soon turned a lush green, erasing every trace of the turbulent winter. The trees blossomed and emergent buds, and the days alternate soft April showers with crisp and luminous days, hinting at summer just around the corner. The inhabitants of the castle welcomed the change in meteorological fortunes, venturing into the grounds for the first time in months.

Since Sirius Black's second attack on the Gryffindor tower security was tighter than ever. Teachers could be seen patrolling the corridors after curfew, and classes were escorted to their dormitories after dinner. The Dementors were an imposing force surrounding the grounds, looking like ghostly reapers waiting for unwitting victims. Lexi was being run ragged, as well as her teaching duties she was writing daily reports and having two or three meetings a week with Fudge and his cabinet. Many had expressed obvious distrust in her, and one of them had been openly accusatory about her true intentions at the school. Lexi's appearance reflected this, she had been suffering from severe insomnia and any sleep she did get with plagued with a recurring nightmare of dead bodies, green light and high-pitched cackling laughter.

Lexi was sat at her desk on Friday evening, her tired face lit by dim candlelight, a stack of paperwork looming in front of her. This was the typical activity for her evenings, filling out seemingly endless reports that Lexi was pretty sure Fudge didn't read. She rubbed her tired eyes. It appeared that she had aged a decade in the last two months. A soft knock at the door punctuated the silence.

"Come in." Lexi called without looking up.

She heard the creek of her door open and footsteps approach her desk, she was so absorbed in her report that she didn't look to see who it was.

"Lexi?" Said a voice from above her.

Lexi tore her eyes away from her work and saw Remus standing in front of her. His eyes were full for concern at the sight of Lexi's unkempt appearance.

"You look awful. He stated bluntly, moving a stack of parchment to the side and taking the seat in front of her desk.

"Don't beat around the bush Remus, say what you really think." Lexi said irritably, picking up her quill and resuming her report writing.

"You need to slow down, you'll work yourself into an early grave." He said, half joking, half serious.

"An early grave doesn't seem like such a bad idea to me." Said Lexi without thinking.

"Don't say things like that!" Remus said which such distress in his voice that Lexi looked up.

"I'm sorry Remus, I didn't mean to say that." She said apologetically, laying down her quill. "I'm just under a lot of pressure at the moment. I am constantly filling out these stupid reports, Fudge is becoming unbearable and to top it all off I've not had a good nights sleep since Christmas."

Remus gave her hand a comforting squeeze. "I've been worried about you," he said, fixing her with what Sirius used to call his 'prefect stare'.

"Please don't waste your worry on me Remus, I'm not worth it." She said glumly.

"I hate that you think about yourself like that," Remus said sadly. "You are my friend and I care about you, of course you're worth worrying about."

Lexi felt tears of frustration well in her eyes. "Oh everything is such a mess!" She wailed, feeling overcome.

"Listen, it's still early. Why don't we head to the Three Broomsticks for a drink?" He asked brightly. "You can tell me all about it over a glass or three of wine?"

"Sounds wonderful," she said gratefully, putting down her quill. "Although I'd better freshen myself up first, I don't want to be mistaken for a banshee."

Remus chuckled as Lexi left her desk and headed for the bathroom. She started at the stranger in the mirror. Her skin was pasty and unhealthy looking, her eyes were bloodshot and her normally glossy hair was shabby and dull. She splashed some water over her face, ran a brush through her hair and tied it back in a loose bun. Thinking that's the best she could do, she headed back to the living room.

"Ready?" Remus asked, offering his arm.

"Just about, good job it's dark otherwise I'd scare the locals." She smiled weakly, taking his proffered arm.

As they excited the castle, Lexi felt fresh air on her skin for the first time in weeks. It was as though it carried healing powers, she suddenly felt alive and the light spring breeze seemed to carry her anxieties with her, at least for a time. As they crossed the courtyard Lexi felt eyes burning into the back of her head. She turned to see a figure watching her from the astronomy tower, she couldn't make out a face but she knew it was Severus. They hadn't met at the astronomy tower since they kissed.

"Lexi?" Remus' voiced, following her gaze to the astronomy tower and frowning. "What is it?"

"It's – nothing," she faltered, trying to sound nonchalant. "Let's go." She added firmly, turned and headed across the courtyard.

Remus eyed the tower and then Lexi with suspicion, but followed Lexi's wake as she picked up pace.

"Who was standing there?" He panted as he caught up with her. "I saw someone watching us."

"It was no one Remus, can we drop it?" She puffed.

"But Lexi –" he began, but Lexi didn't give him a chance to finish.

She whirled round violent, making Remus stop in his tracks. "LET IT GO REMUS!" Lexi shouted angrily.

"I'm sorry Lexi, I'll not mention it again." He said, looking quite shocked.

"No I'm sorry Remus, I didn't mean to shout." She said, pulling him into a hug. "Shall we get that drink? I think we could both use it." She said, her tone lighter.

Remus' arms tightened briefly around her, he then let her go. "I heartily agree," he said softly. "Let's go."

Severus watched Remus and Lexi's retreating backs as they headed down the narrow path towards Hogsmead and into the darkness. He had returned each night to the astronomy tower in the hope Lexi would too, but each night he'd spent their time alone. He wasn't sure what he'd expected to happen, he'd made it abundantly clear to Lexi that he wanted nothing more to do with her. He knew now all too late that he'd not meant a word he'd said to her that night. He was scared, and that had taken him time to admit to himself. Opening up to her, even a little, about Lily had forged a connection that was completely new to him. She saw past his carefully crafted exterior in the short time they'd know each other, she saw through him instantly. At first it unnerved him, but then as he got to know her it became a breath of fresh air. The ease he felt in her company, the fact that she made him laugh and how she seemed to know exactly what he was thinking all led him to the only conclusion there was; he loved her.

It was a revelation. He'd spent most of his life in love with Lily, and he hadn't expected that to change. His feelings for Lexi confused him greatly, as he'd spent the years since Lily's death in seemingly never ending mourning. The entire reason he'd left the clutches of Voldemort was to protect Lily, he'd changed his life for her. All of his actions since then had been defined by that love. When they'd kissed, it had woken something in him he hadn't expected, and thrown everything he'd ever known into doubt. If he was truly honest with himself, it scared him. Scared him to the point when the only course of action he felt he could take was to push her away. He knew as he saw her lie in his bed that night that he regretted his decision, but he also knew that he couldn't possibly give her what she needed. He was in purgatory, unsure where his future now lay.

"What have you done to me?" He sighed to himself, sitting on the balcony and retrieving his book from the pocket of his robes.

He wasn't sure how long he sat there, but he felt a presence in the room. He turned to see Lexi hovering at the top of the stairs.

"Hi," she said shyly.

"Hello Lexi." He said in a breathless voice he didn't recognise as his own.

"I needed to see you." She said, moving closer as Severus felt his feet rooted to the spot.

He felt his heart rate quicken, as it often did in her presence. As she approached him, bathed in moonlight, her beauty struck him once more. She wore no make up, but her alabaster skin was flawless and in no need of any. Her brown eyes were sparkling and alive, as is reinvigorated. Her rosy hair was pulled loosely into a bun, the smaller strands of hair framing her heart shaped face. To him, she was breathtaking. He could smell the scent of honey as she approached him.

"I want to talk to you, and I need you to listen to me." She said with such earnest Severus remained silent. "I understand why you feel conflicted, and I know it's because you're in love with Lily. You've always been in love with her, and you always will be." She paused, showcasing her ability to read Severus like an open book. "I know how it feels to love someone unconditionally. In the months after Lily and James died, I still loved Sirius. Despite the unspeakable betrayal he did to all of us, I loved the man. It took me years, and painful though it was, I got over him."

She reached out and held both of Severus' hands, looking him straight in the eye.

"I know it doesn't seem like it right now, and I hated people telling me this at the time, but it does get better." She said, stroking the backs of his hands with her thumb. "You had years of wonderful memories with her and those memories will never fade. Hold onto them, recall them often and never forget what you felt for her. Being in love is a privilege not all experience, so be thankful you have."

"Lexi, I –" he rasped, feeling overwhelmed but what she'd said to him.

"Shh," she placed a slender finger on his lips. "I don't expect you to say or do anything, I just wanted you to hear that. As for us, I shall be here every night. Whether you wish to join me or not, it's up to you."

Lexi kissed him lightly on the cheek, Severus felt himself come alive as her soft lips touched his skin. Her face remained close to his, and their foreheads touched. Desire coursed through him unlike anything he'd ever felt before, he wanted her so much.

"I had better go," she whispered suddenly, breaking their connection and taking a step back. "I really hope to see you tomorrow evening Severus." She paused for a moment as if contemplating her words. "My feelings for you remain unchanged. Goodnight, Severus."

"Lexi, wait!" He called after her retreating form.

She paused at the top of the stone steps and faced him quizzically. "Yes, Severus?"

Severus opened and closed his mouth several times, willing words to form but no sound came out. He felt every ounce of his breath was forced from his lungs. Truthfully, he had not idea what he'd intended to say, only that he did not wish for her to leave.

"I don't expect anything from you Severus," Lexi voiced quietly, returning to his side on the balcony once more. "I realise opening up to someone is difficult for you, so please don't feeling obliged to say or do anything you don't want to."

"I do want to – say something that is," he said quietly, his gaze flickering from her to his hands.

Lexi entwined her fingers in his and squeezed, he met her eyes with a steady gaze. She was biting her bottom lip and looking up at him expectantly.

"Falling for you was the easy part; it was admitting it to myself that it happened that's hard." He intoned softly. "I've had very efficient defences for so long, with anybody, particularly those who tried to get close, but you didn't even notice them. I think perhaps you held a key to a long forgotten door, and I could ask why, but what's the point? You're here and I glad for it, even if hide it – imagining a distance instead of seeing what's in front of me."

Lexi's complexion reddened at his words and Severus felt something flutter in his stomach. He knew very well what this meant, even if he dared not say the words aloud. Severus' face warmed as she moved closer and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. In the past he hadn't been once for such intimacy, but with Lexi it felt different. He both longed for and craved her, in a way he had never before.

"I adore the way you make me feel, Severus." She whispered, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up as he felt her breath on his cheek. "Even if neither of us know what this is, I'd like to explore it."

Her lips brushed his. Not innocently like the first time, but passionate and demanding. Severus felt a part of try to pull away, despite his earlier proclamation, but that will was almost zero. She had seduced his senses and he was unable to think straight.

"Severus" she uttered slowly, prolonging each letter as if to savour them.

He felt a small smile tug at the corner of his mouth, his chest pulsating at her voice as he clasped his hands on either side of her face. Never before had his name sounded so divine.

The next kiss knocked all of the wind from his lungs. He hardly had a moment to react before he pressed his tongue to the seam of her lips and, as she granted access, delved inside. Her fingers fisted and entwined themselves in his hair as their passion intensified.

His hand drifted to her hip. It settled there and pulled her closer. He felt her inhale sharply. She splayed her hand against his lower back, tightening their embrace. Their breathing quickened, and his lips left her to nuzzle her neck with delicate kisses. So faint at first they were whispers, and he felt her tremble beneath him. He heard her moan softly and his whole body flamed with desire in response. Severus pressed her against the stone wall and snaked his hands under her silk blouse and eagerly roaming the skin beneath

"L-Lexi…" he uttered breathily, as he felt her hands untuck his shirt and paw at the skin of his back.

"Mhmm…" she purred, dipping her fingers below the waistband of his trousers and clawing his backside with her nails.

With great difficulty he moved himself away from her, taking pleasure in his flushed and disheveled appearance. She was breathing heavily and he was momentarily mesmerised by the rise and fall of her substantial breasts.

"My eyes are up here, Severus," she panted.

Severus flicked his eyes back up to hers to see a devilish grin on her face. "How ungentlemanly of me, Miss McNaughton," he answered with a raised eyebrow. "What is this?" He asked, almost shyly cursing himself for sounding like a lovesick teenager.

"Whatever we want it to be," Lexi replied simply, closing the gap he had created and meeting his eyes with a piercing stare. "Look, I am under no illusions that this will be all flowers and chocolates, goodness knows I'd hate that, but whatever this is or turns out to be, I'd rather like to try."

"I cannot offer you much," he said in a small voice. "I am, shall we say, rather out of practice."

"And you think I'm not?" Lexi snorted with amusement. "I've hardly had wizards knocking my door down."

"For that, I am truly thankful," Severus said affectionately, brushing her cheek with his thumb.

A soft blush crept onto Lexi's cheek and Severus' heart fluttered. He knew he was in deep, but as their lips met once more he could honestly say that he did not care one bit.