For you, always

Chapter 15

Chapter 15

It took a few seconds for the absurdity of what Remus was hinting at to sink in. She felt Sirius' eyes on her, and hers flicked to him for a moment; the expression on his face looked as though he was trying to plead telepathically with her. Lexi shook her head.

"You cannot possibly be trying to tell me that Ron's rat is Peter?" She said faintly, trying to ignore the feeling of Sirius' presence behind her.

"You're both mental!" Ron voicing what everyone except Remus and Sirius was thinking.

"Peter Pettigrew is dead!" Said Harry suddenly, causing Lexi to jump. "He killed him twenty years ago!" He pointed in Black's direction.

"I meant to," Sirius growled. "But little Peter got the better of me … not this time though!"

Sirius suddenly lunged forwards, knocking Lexi onto the hard floor. A shooting pain shot through her side, and she was vaguely aware of a commotion going on around her. She got slowly to her feet, gingerly rubbing her side and glaring at Sirius who was being restrained by Remus.

"Sirius, NO!" Remus yelled, who had launched himself forward in an attempt to pull Sirius away from Ron. "WAIT! You can't do it just like that – they need to understand – we've got to explain –"

"We can explain afterwards!" Snarled Sirius, trying to throw Remus off, one hand clawing at the air trying to reach Scabbers.

"They've – got – a – right – to – know – everything!" Remus panted, struggling to keep hold of Black. "There are some parts to this that even I don't understand! You owe Harry an explanation. And Lexi – she needs to hear this!"

Black stopped struggling, though he kept his eyes fixed on Scabbers. "Sirius –" Lexi said feebly, Sirius' gaze turned slowly to face her. "Please, what is going on?"

"All right, then." Sirius conceded, walking away from Remus and leaning against the wall still not taking his eyes off Lexi. "Tell them whatever you like, but make it quick, Remus. I want to commit the murder I was imprisoned for …"

Lexi was only vaguely aware of Remus' voice next to her; she and Sirius hadn't taken their eyes off each other. Her mind was racing, as was her heart rate, her mind was beginning to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. She knew Sirius, James, and Remus had become Animagus in their fifth year to accompany Remus with his 'furry problem' as Sirius called it. But they couldn't possibly be suggesting that Scabbers had really been Peter all of this time?

She listened vacantly as Remus told of the Marauders nightly escapades, which Lexi remembered all too well. Countless mornings she'd be regaled of their nighttime adventures by Sirius and James over breakfast, she smiled inwardly at the memory of their boyish enthusiasm. To Sirius and James it seemed like an awfully exciting adventure, they didn't see any danger in what they did. They were foolhardy, young and full of life. She took in Sirius' appearance; there was no hint in his sunken appearance of the man she once knew. He could have been a completely different person.

" – Snape's been right about me all along," Remus said sadly.

The mention of Severus' name tore Lexi from her trance.

"Snape?" Spat Black harshly, taking his eyes from Lexi for the first time in minutes and looking at Remus. "What's Snape got to do with it?"

"He's here, Sirius," said Remus, his eyes resting briefly on Lexi before returning to Sirius. "He's teaching here as well, and he fought hard against my appointment to the Defense Against The Dark Arts job. He has been telling Dumbledore all year that I cannot be trusted. He has his reasons –"

Black snorted. "Oh he's not still crying about that is he?" he sneered.

"You did almost get him killed!" Lexi piped up, finally finding her voice.

"It served him right," he retorted, looking a little taken aback at Lexi's defense of Severus. "Sneaking around, trying to find out what we were up to … hoping he could get us expelled …"

"Will someone get to the point!" Lexi hissed crossly, cutting Sirius off.

"The point is," Remus said calmly, turning back to Harry. "We were all in the same year at school and we – er – didn't like each other very much." Lexi shifted awkwardly on the spot. "One evening Snape had spotted me crossing the grounds with Madam Pomfrey as she led me to the Whomping Willow to transform. Sirius thought it would be – er – amusing, to tell Snape how to get in after me. When you father, Harry, heard what Sirius had done, went after Snape and pulled him back, at a great risk to his life."

"So, that's why Snape doesn't like you," said Harry slowly. "Because he thought you were in on the joke?"

"That's right," a cold voice scorned from behind Lexi.

Lexi jumped as though receiving a huge electric shock, she whipped round to see Severus pulling off an Invisibility Cloak, his wand pointing directly at Remus. She felt her heard plummet in her chest; a sickening feeling erupted in her stomach.

"Severus!" Lexi exclaimed without thinking, but Severus didn't take any notice.

"I found this at the base of the Whomping Willow," he said, throwing the cloak aside while keeping his wand pointing directly at Remus.

"Severus," Lexi repeated, walking towards him and putting her hand on his out-stretched wand arm. "Severus please, we need to be calm about this."

Severus looked down at her with an expression of such venom that it knocked Lexi back. "Don't touch me!" He hissed, wrenching his arm from her grasp. "I should have known it was him!"

"N-No, it wasn't –" Lexi stuttered weakly, cowering under his rage-filled gaze. "You –"

"Get out of my way!" Severus spat, pushing her forcefully to one side.

"Severus, please!" She beseeched blinking back tears, but he ignored her.

He moved towards Remus, who recoiled slightly. Sirius watched her with a horrified expression on his face. Lexi cried silently, as Severus continued his tirade.

"Two more for Azkaban tonight," said Severus, his eye maniacal. "I shall be interested to see how Dumbledore takes this … he was quite convinced you were harmless, you know, Lupin … a tame werewolf … "

"You fool," said Remus quietly, taking Lexi by surprise. "Is a schoolboy grudge worth putting an innocent man back inside Azkaban?"

"INCARCEROUS!" Severus bellowed, causing thin cords to burst from the end of his wand and twist themselves round Remus' mouth, wrists and ankles; he overbalanced and fell onto the hard floor. A trickle of blood oozed from his nose where he landed.

At that moment both Lexi and Sirius lunged forward, but Severus pointed his wand straight between Lexi's eyes. Black stopped dead in his tracks.

"No," Lexi whispered weakly, feeling her whole body shake with fear.

"Keep your distance, Black," he mouthed, turning his wand from Lexi to Sirius, pointing it directly at his heart. "Give me a reason to do it, and I swear I will."

Lexi had never seen so much hatred in his voice before. She looked from Sirius to Severus, from her past to her present. A moments' indecision hung in the air before she decided what to do. Unsheathing her wand from her sleeve, she pointed it at Severus' back. A surge of dread rose in her as she realised what she was about to do.

"I'm sorry Severus," she whimpered. "STUPEFY!" She cried, and a jet of red light blasted from the tip of her wand hitting Severus in the small of his back.

Severus landed in a crumpled heap on the floor. Lexi rushed to him and turned him onto his face, pulling him to a corner of the room and sitting him upright. Black had bent down by a Remus, who was struggling against his bonds, and untied him. Lexi remained crouched by Severus' limp form.

"Thank you," she heard Remus say as he straightened up.

"Now, Sirius," Lexi said in a dangerous voice. "Tell us what the hell is going on!"

"I think it's time we offered you some proof," said Sirius. "You, boy – give me Peter. Now."

"Come off it," said Ron weakly, his colour pallid. "Say Pettigrew could turn into a rat – there are millions of rats – how's he supposed to know which one he was after if he was locked up in Azkaban?"

Lexi watched as Black pulled a yellowing, crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. It was a cutout of the Daily Prophet; on it was a photograph of what looked like Ron and his family from the previous summer. On Ron's shoulder was Scabbers.

"How did you get it?" Lexi breathed, aghast.

"Fudge," he answered. "When he came to inspect Azkaban last year, he gave me this paper. And there was Peter, on the front page. I knew it was him at once, I saw he was going back to Hogwarts. To where Harry was … "

"My god," said Remus softly, taking the article from Sirius and examining it. "His front paw …"

"What about it?" Ron voiced, concerned.

"He's got a toe missing," Sirius answered.

Lexi felt her chest tighten. "The only thing they found of Peter was …"

"… his finger!" Sirius finished her sentence. "When I cornered him he yelled for the whole street to hear that I'd betrayed Lily and James. Then, before I could curse him, he blew apart the street with the wand behind his back, killed everyone within twenty feet of himself."

"He cut off his toe?" Remus breathed. "Cut it off himself just before …"

Lexi got to her feet as though in a trance. "He faked his death?" The words barely escaping her lips.

"And why did he fake his death?" Harry voiced furiously. "Because he knew you were about to kill him like you killed my parents!"

"No," said Remus. "Harry –"

"And now you've come to finish him off!" Harry interrupted.

"Yes, I have," said Sirius, narrowing his eyes at the terrified rat.

"Then I should have let Snape take you!" Harry shouted.

"Harry," said Remus hurriedly. "All this time we thought Sirius betrayed your parents, and Peter tracked him down – but it was the other way round!"

"NO!" Lexi screamed, making them all jump.

"HE WAS THERE SECRET-KEEPER!" Harry yells matching Lexi's. "HE SAID SO BEFORE YOU TURNED UP, HE SAID HE KILLED THEM!"

"I as good as killed them," he croaked, he tore his gaze from Harry's to Lexi shaking form. "I persuaded Lily and James to change to Peter at the last moment, persuaded them to use him as Secret-Keeper instead of me … I'm to blame, I know it."

"That night, you left … " Lexi now wept openly.

"I'd arranged to check of Peter, make sure he was still safe," he said, walking towards her. "But when I arrived at his hiding place, he'd gone. Yet there was no sign of a struggle. It didn't feel right. I was scared. I set out for Lily and James' house straight away. And when I saw their house, destroyed, and their bodies – I realised what Peter must have done. What I'd done."

His voice broke. Lexi covered her mouth with her hand, feeling the tears flow in torrents down her cheeks. Her breaths came in short gasps, and her heart was now pounding so furiously she felt sick. Thirteen years she's spent hating Sirius, thirteen years she'd spent believing he had betrayed them all and now everything she'd thought she'd known was coming crashing down around her.

"Sirius," she choked his name out before breaking down completely.

Feeling her legs wobble, she stumbled backwards into the wall behind her. Sirius rushed towards her and put two hands on her shoulders to prevent her from hitting the floor. She looked up at him, up into the gray eyes that had once haunted her nightmares. Eyes that minutes ago had been cold and unfamiliar, now glowed with recognition. Feeling dazed, she slid down the wall and sank onto the dusty floor. Sirius crouched in front of her.

"I loved them," Sirius choked through tears. "I loved you. I would never …"

"Enough of this," Remus said suddenly, his tone hard at the sight of Lexi and Sirius. "There is one certain way to prove what happened. Ron, give me that rat."

Sirius turned reluctantly from Lexi and retrieved Severus' wand from beside his still unconscious form. Lexi looked up and saw Ron hold Scabbers out to Remus who took him by the tail. Scabbers was squeaking continuously now, thrashing round in Remus' firm grasp as though possessed.

"What are you going to do with him?" Ron asked tentatively.

"Force him to show himself," Remus answered gently. "If he really is a rat, it won't hurt him."

Remus held the rat in front of him, as Sirius approaching him with his wand raised. His eyes now burnt at the rat.

"Ready, Sirius?" said Remus.

"Together?" he said quietly.

"I think so," Remus answered, clutching the rat tightly in one hand and his wand in the other. "On the count of three. One – two – THREE!"

There was a bright flash of blue-white light, Lexi's already sensitized eyes screamed in protest but Lexi kept her eyes firmly in front of her. The rat was frozen, suspended in mid-air still twisting madly to escape. He then fell to the floor; another blinding flash of light erupted forth. Lexi clapped her hands to her mouth and the sight beginning to unfold in front of her. Where a rat had once been a moment later a man was standing. He was very short, bald and had thin wispy hair that flew in every direction. He had small watery eyes that flitted around the room as if looking for his nearest escape route.

"Well, hello, Peter," said Remus.