For you, always

Chapter 14

Chapter 14

The first days of summer heralded the arrival of the end of year exams and an unnatural hush fell upon the grounds. The grass had turned a lush green, with blooming daisies speckling the grounds like stars in the night sky. The crystalline waters of the lake shimmered in the near constant sun that immersed the castle in a penetrating summer heat.

As the first weekend in June drew to a close, Lexi felt as though she was finally at the end of the tunnel. Her latest security measures seemed to be doing the trick, as Black hadn't made another attempt on the castle since January. This pleased Fudge, which had relieved her of the bulk of the paperwork that had been taking up much of her spare time. It was because of this that on a late summer's evening Lexi strolled the tranquility of the castle grounds after dinner. She spied Hagrid's hut in the distance, a thin plume of smoke trailing from his chimney. She watched Buckbeak in the garden nibble on a large bone, and regarded this sight sadly, as she knew the fate that awaited him.

The sun began to sink below the horizon, a glorious pink glow radiating the early evening sky. She turned and headed back towards the castle when something caught her eye. She was, silloetted against the darkness, a figure heading out the castle and down the steep, narrow path towards the Whomping Willow. She squinted into the fading light but couldn't make out their identity. Crouching low and keeping her distance, she followed the shadowy outline until they reached the outer reaches of the willow tree. As the figure inched towards the flailing tree Lexi could just make out that it was Remus. She frowned as he picked up a long branch from the ground and prodded a knot at the base of the tree causing the branches to freeze. Her frown deepened as he disappeared beneath the trees large roots.

For a moment she remained stock still, she was plagued with indecision. Clearly Remus didn't want anyone to know where he was going, and Lexi felt it none of her business to intrude. However, as it had done while she was a student here, curiosity got the better of her and she crossed the short distance to the willow and descended into the small opening. She could hear creak of the branches above her as the tree began to wake.

'Lumos!' she whispered.

Her wand-light showed a narrow passage ahead of her, it smelt dank and earthy and Lexi followed it nervously. Her wand held in front of her light a sword, as if she expected an ambush. A considerable length of time later she felt the tunnel begin to rise, and the earthy smell was replaced by an ancient dusty musk. She spied a small opening in front of her, and she edged through it warily until emerged in a room lit only by the gaps in the boarded up windows. Lexi's sense of dread increased as she saw a large pile of smashed-up furniture. A large high-backed chair had one of its legs ripped off completely. She knew this to be the Shrieking Shack - the place where Remus transformed during his time as a student.

Lexi jumped as she heard a creak and raised voices above her. Feeling quite frightened, she crept a set of stairs quietly. There was a wide, shiny stripe on the dusty floor; it looked as though something had been dragged upstairs. Her heart was pounding against her chest painfully as she reached the dark landing.

"Nox," she whispered, and the light on the end of her wand went out.

She pressed her ear against the tatty door and heard Lupin's muffled voice from beyond it.

"But then …" She heard Lupin say. "… why hasn't he shown himself before now? Unless –" there was a short pause. "unless he was the one … unless you switched … without telling me?"

Remus was talking to someone else in the room. There was a short pause, and then she heard Harry's muted voice from behind the door.

"Professor Lupin, what's going –"

Lexi decided she'd had enough; she held her wand in front of her and kicked the door wide open. Blinking dust out of her eyes she found herself confronted with a large room with four-poster bed with dusty hangings. On the floor beside the bed was Ron Weasley, his face screwed up in intense pain, clutching his leg, which looked broken. Her eyes darted to Harry who looked inconsolable with rage, his fists were clenched and he was breathing heavily not taking his eyes off something at the far end of the room behind her.

She turned sharply on the spot and she saw that Remus was not alone. Gray eyes shinning from their deep, dark sockets met hers. His waxy shin was stretched tightly over the bones in his face. If it hadn't been for those eyes she may not have recognized him. It was Sirius Black.

"Lexi," he croaked, gripping Remus' shoulders for support.

Lexi couldn't move, couldn't speak. She was breathing heavily, gripping the doorframe to prevent her from falling to her knees. A hatred that Lexi had never known before boiled in her blood like poison. She raised her wand shakily and pointed it at Sirius' heart.

"Don't you dare say my name," she spat through gritted teeth, advancing towards Sirius not taking her eyes from his.

"Lexi please, listen to me," Remus said urgently, leaving Sirius' side and walking to Lexi, grabbing her wand arm.

"Let go of me Remus," she hissed, still not taking her eyes off Sirius.

"You have to listen to me!" his answering voice quivered with fright.

"GET THE HELL OFF ME REMUS!" She screeched, shoving him violently into the wall and crossing the gap between her and Sirius. "YOU MONSTER!" She screamed through tears. "HOW DARE YOU RETURN HERE! HOW DARE YOU STAND IN HARRY'S PRESENCE!"

"Lexi," Sirius repeated, gazing at her as though she was an entity he'd never seen before. "Please, hear me out."

"WHY THE FUCK WOULD I WANT TO DO THAT!" She screamed in his face, her wand digging into his ribs. "WHY WOULD I WANT TO LISTEN TO A WORD YOU HAVE TO SAY! YOU'RE A MURDERER!"

He flinched with each of her words as though it caused him physical pain. A solitary tear left Sirius' eyes, mingling with the dirt as it travelled down his cheek. Lexi felt strong arms pull her away by the shoulders.

"Lexi! Listen to me, you must calm down!" She heard Remus say gently into her ear.

"You!" She rounded on Remus, pointing her wand at his face. "You've been the one helping him into the castle! After all the nights I poured my heart to you, telling you how it upset me that I couldn't figure out how he was getting in. When all this time you were!"

"Listen to me, I haven't had any contact with Sirius until tonight!" Remus said all this very quickly. "Do you remember the map of the school Sirius, James and I were working on in our seventh year?"

Lexi, still seething, nodded.

"Well, it isn't just an ordinary map. It shows where every human soul in the castle is at any given point." He explained, still holding Lexi's shoulders firmly. "I was watching the map this evening because I had an idea that Harry, Ron and Hermione would try and sneak out of the castle to visit Hagrid."

Lexi didn't respond.

"I watched them cross the grounds and enter Hagrid's hut. Twenty minutes later, they left Hagrid, and set off back towards the castle. But they were accompanied by someone else."

"What?" Said Harry from the other end of the room. "No, we weren't!"

"I couldn't believe my eyes," Said Lupin, ignoring the interruption. "I thought the map must have been malfunctioning. How could he be with them?"

"No one was with us!" Harry shouted.

And then I saw another dot, moving fast towards them, labeled Sirius Black … I saw him collide with them, I watched as he pulled two of you into the Whomping Willow –"

"One of us!" Ron said angrily.

Remus turned to Ron, keeping Lexi secure with one arm round her shoulders. Lexi shook from the rage that still boiled within her. She could hear Sirius breathing heavily behind her, and it took all her resolve to not turn round and kill him with her bare hands.

"No, Ron," Remus said. "Two of you."

"Get to the point Remus!" Lexi spat, wrenching herself free from Remus' grasp.

She turned to face Sirius who hadn't taken his eyes off her.

"Do you think I could have a look at your rat?" Remus asked Ron quite politely.

"What?" She said Ron say, utterly bewildered. "What's Scabbers got to do with it?"

"Everything," Remus said firmly. "Could I see him please?"

Lexi watched as Ron pulled a rather pathetic looking rat from inside his robes. She was sure she'd seen the rat before, but immediately dismissed the thought as absurd.

"Peter?" She said, turning to Remus. "You're not suggesting –"

"Yes, that's exactly what I'm suggesting." Said Lupin quietly.