For you, always

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Early morning sunlight streamed through the large floor to ceiling windows in the hospital wing, and despite her still aching head Lexi woke from a restful sleep. She decanted a glass of water from the jug on her bedside table and drank it three gulps, she was just filling up a second glass when Poppy opened the curtains that had been placed round her bed.

"Good morning Miss McNaughton," she said happily. "How are you feeling?"

"My head feels like there's a house elf living in it," Lexi groaned, clutching the back of her head.

Poppy chuckled. "Yes, that's the unfortunately side effect of a head injury like yours." She said, motioning for Lexi to lean forwards so she could examine her head. "It's very fortunate that Professor Snape found you when he did, you suffered significant blood loss."

"Uh huh," was the only response Lexi could muster, she screwed her eyes up as a stinging pain radiated from the wound that Poppy was redressing.

"He stayed with you the entire night you know, very unlike him." Poppy pressed, and even though Lexi couldn't see her expression she knew Poppy was smirking.

After several painful minutes, Poppy had finished redressing Lexi's wound. Lexi almost passed out when she saw the pink-tinged bandages that had just been removed from her head.

"The wound looks like it's healing well," Poppy reassured at the look on Lexi's face as she spied the bandages. "I've put some cream which should help with the healing process."

"Thank you, Poppy." Lexi said. "When can I leave?"

"I would like to keep you under observation for another day, then assuming the cream has done its job you may leave tomorrow morning." She said sternly.

"There isn't any chance I could leave tonight?" Lexi asked hopefully, arguing with Poppy Pomfrey was usually fruitless.

Poppy regarded her intently, and thought for a moment. "Hmm, well assuming there is no sign of concussion then you may do." She said, studying Lexi as though she was a curious museum artifact. "I'll have a house elf bring you some breakfast, you must be very hungry."

As though answering Poppy directly, Lexi's stomach gave a loud grumble of appreciation at the mention of food. Lexi thanked Poppy and she disappeared back into her office. Not long afterwards a tray of sumptuous looking pancakes, blueberries and maple syrup was delivered by a cheery house elf that wished her a speedy recovery. Lexi tucked into the food as though it were her last meal, and she began to feel slightly more human as she polished off the last morsels on her plate mere moments later. Lexi then called Poppy over and asked for a quill and some parchment; she felt now was the time to write her letter of resignation for Dumbledore before she changed her mind. Lexi was grateful for her time at Hogwarts, it had acted as a bandage over of her many gaping mental wounds she had failed to heal over the years. It had re-ignited an old friendship, and without Remus' companionship this year she doubted she would have lasted past the first week.

Then there was Severus. She paused, her quill hanging in the air as though she was having second thoughts. She wanted nothing more than to remain here, so she could see him everyday. So they could continue their nightly meetings in the astronomy tower, and so maybe he could hold her again. Deep down she knew that wasn't possible, Severus hadn't the room in his heart for her despite the love he so obviously felt. Opening up her heart to another wasn't something she'd expected to ever happen to her again, it had felt broken beyond repair. The fact she'd opened it to Severus still baffled her, but their connection ran deep. Their mutual grief linked to form something new, something that could not be broken and something that would forever draw them to each other. Even thought it would break her, she knew saying goodbye to Severus was the right thing to do; for both of them.

When she'd finished, she folded the letter up and summoned a house elf to fetch Professor Dumbledore. She knew this would not be a pleasant conversation, but it was one she had to have. Fifteen minutes later Dumbledore entered the hospital wing, his face beamed when he saw that Lexi was awake. He took the seat Remus had vacated the previous night.

"It is wonderful to see you looking so well," he said, his kindly eyes washing Lexi with warmth.

"Thank you Professor," she said, feeling suddenly quite nervous. "I spoke to Remus last night he – err - told me Sirius Black escaped?"

"That he did," his eyes twinkling mischievously. "Quite extraordinary magic was woven it seems."

"Did you speak to him at all?" She asked, feeling a little aggrieved at Dumbledore's evasive answer.

"I did indeed, he told an extremely astonishing tale regarding the true identity of the Potter's betrayal." He answered, sitting back in the chair his hands clasped on his lap. "I must admit I had trouble believing it myself."

"But you did believe him, didn't you?" Lexi questioned quickly.

"I did indeed believe him," Dumbledore reassured. "I assume you do as well, Miss McNaughton?"

"I do," she said plainly, and Dumbledore nodded.

"It seems cruel that Mister Pettigrew escaped," Dumbledore stated, as though reading Lexi's mind. "But I am in no doubt that he will get his comeuppance in the future and Sirius' name will be cleared."

Lexi nodded, fiddling with the letter on her lap. As if sensing her unease, Dumbledore waited patiently for Lexi to gather herself together. After several moments, Lexi felt steady enough and she took a deep breath.

"Professor, after everything that has happened this year and especially in the last few days I am sorry to say that I cannot remain at Hogwarts." She said slowly. "I have a lot to think about and some decisions to make. I intend on staying with Remus for a few days, and then I am taking leave from the Ministry to embark on my long-awaited travels. I hope you understand."

She said all of this very quickly, as if the quicker she said it the easier it would be to deal with. Dumbledore didn't seem shocked by what she said, but he did regard her sadly.

"I am sorry you feel unable to continue your post Miss McNaughton," he said, examining her over the rim of his glasses. "We have very much enjoyed having you amongst our staff, and the children speak very highly of your lessons. Especially Mister Potter."

"Be that as it may, I don't feel as though I can continue my position here." She said firmly. "I am sorry that you have lost two Defence Against The Dark Arts teachers in one week."

"Two of the best we've ever had," he said, smiling. "Where will you go on your travels?"

"I've always wanted to visit Asia, so I'll probably begin there." She said.

"Ahh as have I, sadly old age has rendered me incapable of doing even the simplest of tasks," he chuckled, getting to his feet. "I must take my leave, it has been an absolute pleasure having you with us. Should you wish to return, the position will always be open to you."

"Thank you, Professor." Lexi choked.

"Goodbye, I hope you find whatever it is you're looking for." He said, reaching out and shaking Lexi's hand.

Lexi couldn't find any words to articulate her gratitude to Professor Dumbledore so she simply nodded. As Dumbledore was about to leave, the doors to the hospital wing opened and Severus entered. He paused at the door when he spied the headmaster as though unsure if he should be there. Dumbledore continued towards the door.

"I was just leaving Severus," he said, a knowing glint in his eye that caused Severus to frown, his eyes flickered to Lexi's letter in that was folded in Dumbledore's hand. "I shall see you at dinner."

Severus nodded his goodbye to the headmaster, and then made his way to Lexi's bedside. He looked visibly relieved to see Lexi was awake, if a little shaken. Severus didn't speak; she could see his eyes travel to the bandage round her head.

"Poppy said that I'm doing fine, Severus." Lexi voiced, trying to distract Severus from the back of her head. "The wound is healing well, and I'm showing no signs of concussion thus far."

Severus didn't answer, but just nodded.

"I hear I have you to thank," she pressed, reaching for his hand and entwining her fingers round his. "Poppy said that if you hadn't found me and brought me here when you did, my prognosis may not have been so positive."

"I thought … when I found you … you were so cold." He voice was hoarse, as though he had not used it for weeks. "I thought … you were gone."

"But because of you, I am here." She stroked the back of his hand with her thumb. "Apart from feeling as though my head is trapped in a vice, I am fine."

"I am sorry … for the way I behaved the other night, it was unforgivable." He said, hanging his head as though thoroughly ashamed of himself. He looked like a lost boy.

"Severus, it's ok, please don't torment yourself." She said, pulling at his hand so he moved closer to her. "You are the reason I am here, I think you've more than made up for it."

Severus didn't answer for a moment; he seemed deep in thought although his eyes never left Lexi's. She felt as though he could see right into her soul, she felt naked. As though she could hide nothing from him.

"Did you … mean what you said that night?" He asked breathlessly, as though he'd run a marathon. "When you said you thought you were falling in love with me?"

"Yes," she uttered in response. "But –" She faltered at the crestfallen look on his face.

"But?" He croaked.

"I … can't stay here, Severus." She could feel a lump rising in her throat. "I have to go."

"Why?" He leant forwards and took both her hands in his.

"I have … some thinking to do, a lot has happened –"

Severus face suddenly darkened and he cut across her. "Is this because of Black?" He spat.

"Of course it does," Lexi replied, wincing slightly at a sharp pain in her head. "A man I believed to have murdered my best friends has turned out to be innocent!"

"Ahh, it seems he feed you the same cock and bull story that has Dumbledore convinced." He hissed, pulling his hand from hers. "Did you run back into his arms as though nothing had happened?"

"N-No!" She said, utterly bemused by his reaction. "I just need to take stock of my life, think things through and get away for a while. It doesn't mean my feelings for you have changed, because they haven't!"

She paused for a moment, until Severus' breathing had slowed and his demeanor had relaxed a little. "Plus, despite what we may feel for each other, you love Lily and you always will." She said quietly. "You may love me, but you won't ever say it because you're afraid."

"Lexi –" He began, suddenly looking afraid.

"No, please I need to say this, Severus." She said, clasping his hand once more. "You love her, and you always have done. She remains in your heart, as she should, because she'll always remain in mine. I cannot ask you to forget her, to stop loving her because you cannot."

Severus leant towards her once more, he pressed his forehand against hers and they both closed their eyes. Lexi could physically feel her heart breaking.

"I love you, Severus." She whispered. "It's been a privilege to have been able to get to know you this year, I only wish it could have been sooner and under different circumstances."

"W-When … do you leave?" He breathed shakily.

"Tonight, so long as Poppy gives me the all clear." She uttered softly. "I will stay with Remus for a few days, then … I shall see some of the world, I think."

"Do you … do you think you'll ever come back?" He asked.

"I'm sure of it, I just need some time to myself." She answered, sitting up a little and was shocked to see his eyes were bloodshot.

He frowned, and opened his mouth to say something but closed it again as though he was holding something back. He frowned, reaching up and stroking Lexi's cheek. A pulse of electricity shot through her body, the spark between them igniting the air around them. He wiped her tears away with his thumb; he could be so tender despite his icy exterior.

"I … you are … " He tried to force his voice, but it faded. He looked frustrated with himself, there seemed to be a conflict in his heart. He was as though he desperately wanted to say something to her, but he couldn't bring himself to do so. "Thank you, for what you have done for me this year, for what you have become to me."

"It has been my pleasure," she said, kissing the palm of his hand.

"I … had better go," he said all too soon.

"I will miss you, Severus." She sniffed, bringing her hand up to her cheek to meet his.

"And I you, Lexi." He breathed.

For a moment neither of them moved or spoke, as though afraid that saying goodbye would mean they would never see each other again. Then Severus leant towards her and his lips met Lexi's, their kiss was intense and full of a passion that hadn't been felt in an age. When they broke up, they were both breathless and Severus looked at her as though he now realised what he was losing. Then, as though following orders, he got to his feet and left the room without a backward glance.

Lexi lay back on the bed, hugging her knees into her chest and burying her face in the pillow to muffle the sounds of her frantic sobs. She felt utterly broken. He had made her love again when didn't think it possible, she had been made again by him. Like a brand new morning, as though she'd woken from a bad dream. Now all of that had walked out of her life.