For you, always

Chapter 5

Chapter 5

As Lexi's first week as a teacher drew to a close, she felt more comfortable in her new, albeit temporary position. She found herself modeling her classroom persona on that of Alastor Moody, her mentor during her years as a Junior Auror at the Ministry. He was the one teacher that Lexi hadn't been able to get the better of. Whatever witty retort she had, he had one better. He took her disobedience and turned into an advantage for himself, but not through belittling her or stamping authority. He checked her behaviour with a style of dry humour that she could relate to, aspire to even. The relationship they forged over the years had become akin to that of father and daughter, a bond made even dearer to Lexi as she'd lost her own Dad at the age of sixteen.

Her last period of the week was with Harry's third year class, and Lexi felt her nerves heighten as she heard the class arrive outside her door. Despite meeting Harry briefly, she felt a pressure to impress that she hadn't with all her other classes. Lexi was also battling against the idea of telling Harry that she was his godmother, despite Remus' optimism she knew the chance for them to have a any sort of relationship had passed by long ago.

"Come on, McNaughton, the world doesn't stop for your problems." She said to herself, mimicking Alastor's supposed word of 'encouragement' he would bark at her. She took a deep breath and opened the door and a hush fell on the students, and Lexi was pleased to note they wore eager expressions.

"Good afternoon, third years," she greeted warmly. "Do come in and seat yourselves in a chair facing the middle of the room."

Lexi smiled as the class filed eagerly into the room, and Lexi noted the Gryffindor's had been paired with the Slytherin's. She often wondered why the two Houses who were supposed mortal enemies were constantly put in classes together, it had been the same during her time at the school and the results often kept Madame Pomfrey in business for much of the year.

"The school has really gone downhill if they're letting that teach here." Jeered a spiteful voice from behind her.

"I beg your –"

"They really are scraping the bottle of the barrel," the voice continued as though it hadn't heard her. "But I suppose there's no accounting for taste."

Draco Malfoy pushed past flanked by two heavyset boys Lexi assumed to be the sons of Crabbe and Goyle, the fathers of whom Lexi had investigated on numerous occasions but each time evidence 'disappeared' before a trial could begin. Malfoy senior, on the other hand, had proved a formidable foe in the months after Voldemort's downfall. Despite Lexi spending an entire year gathering intelligence on Lucius Malfoy's death eater activities, he always managed to wriggle free of her grasp.

Lexi chose to ignore Draco; the last thing she wanted to do was to become embroiled in an argument with a Malfoy. "Now, I gather from the Headmaster that your previous dueling instructor was – uh – lacking, to say the least," she spoke with confidence, the comment earned her some titters from members of the class, particularly Harry and friends. "I assure you that – unlike my predecessor – I am highly qualified to instruct you in the art of dueling."

The students shifted excitedly in their seats as Lexi explained that they would begin with learning blocking spells and maneuvering.

"We will begin with blocking. The most common blocking spell is the shield spell protego," Lexi explained. "Correct pronunciation is key, so repeat after me pro-TAY-goh" the class dutifully repeated the spell back to her. "Excellent, now another important thing to remember is maneuvering. You must keep your eyes and body facing your opponent. Never lower you wand and remember constant vigilance!"

Lexi set about dividing the class into pairs and instructed one to send a disarming spell while the other attempted to block it. She continued to ignore the snide comments and smirks Malfoy and his gang of cronies sent her way, she wasn't about to get herself involved with that godforsaken family again.

"Spread yourselves out," Lexi called over the chatter. "The last thing I want is a serious injury, the resulting paperwork is far too tiresome."

Lexi moved her way through the practicing students, correcting stances and pronunciations when required. She made her way over to Harry and his friend, who Lexi observed were both very competent. Despite James not taking part in the Ministry's Auror training program along with her and Sirius, he was an agile fighter with quick reflexes, and it was clear that some of James' talent had passed onto his son. She watched as he effortlessly blocked his friends disarming spells.

"Well done Harry," Lexi praised merrily as she approached the two boys. "Great stance, remember to keep you wand arm raised and outstretched it'll ensure consistent aiming. Now lets see your friend try Mr -?"

"Weasley, Ron Weasley," Ron answered brightly.

"Well Mr Weasley, let's see you then," Lexi took a step back. "Remember, sideways positioning and keep your wand arm raised."

Ron nodded and took his position, facing Harry and mouthing, "bring it on". Lexi chuckled to herself as Harry's perfectly aimed disarming curst hit Ron squarely in the chest, knocking Ron off his feet.

"Up you get Mr Weasley," Lexi barked, offering Ron her hand and pulling him to his feet. "Now, you're stance is correct but you need to anticipate Potter's movements. You need to be a millisecond ahead, keep your wand arm raised. Go again."

"Okay," Ron answered, a determined scowl crossing his face.

This time Ron was ready, no sooner at the spell left Harry's wand Ron had yelled the shield spell and with a slash of his wand arm sent the crimson glow into the stone wall.

"Get in!" Ron cheered happily.

"Excellent Mr Weasley! Ten points each to Gryffindor for yourself and Mr Potter."

Lexi smiled as Harry thumped Ron in a congratulatory manner on the back, causing him to stagger forward several paces. As the lesson drew to a close, Lexi felt the lesson went rather well, unless you count having to stem the bleeding nose of Neville Longbottom, who had somehow tripped over his own robes.

"Right, homework," Lexi announced as the lesson ended. "I want you to research a wizard duel of your choice, one roll of parchment with particular focus on the conquering wizards strategy. You are dismissed."

The was a unanimous scraping of chairs the students made their way out of the classroom, and Lexi saw Harry make his way through the hurrying crowd towards her, she eyed him curiously. He hovered awkwardly, as though unsure as to whether or not he should be speaking with her.

"Mr Potter, what can I do for you?" She enquired pleasantly, taking a seat behind her desk and motioning for Harry to take the empty chair opposite her.

"I wanted to ask you something," he muttered, staring at his hands. "You – err – don't have to say anything, but …"

Lexi stood and walked round her desk so she perched on the edge next to Harry. "There is nothing you cannot speak to me about," she reassured, placing a hand on his shoulder. "What is it?"

Harry looked up, meeting Lexi's gaze awkwardly. "Did you … know my parents?" He asked quietly, sadness etched onto his young face.

Lexi felt her stomach shift uneasily and she noticed that her hands that were clasped on her lap had begun to pinch her skin. She bit the inside of her cheek in an attempt to hide her apprehension at answering the question. Her discussion with Remus earlier in the week rang in her ears, and her fears at not being ready to reveal to Harry their true relationship came washing over her like a tidal wave. She schooled her features into what she hoped for an impassive expression before continuing.

"What makes you think I did?" She asked nonchalantly, trying to ignore the nervous nausea.

"I thought I recognized you at the Welcoming Feast, but I couldn't figure out why. So I looked through a photo album Hagrid gave me in my first year," Harry revealed. "There was this one photo, at my parents wedding, you were standing next to my Mum." He reached into his pocked and pulled out a photograph and handing it to Lexi.

Lexi had grieved so many times and for so long over the loss of her friend, but seeing Lily's beaming smile on the happiest day of her life almost unraveled the fragile tapestry in her mind. Her shaking fingers clasped the photograph of the two friends smiling and laughing joyfully, Lily looking radiant in a simple, white satin gown. Guilt began to settle once again inside her brain. She had been absent from Harry's life for thirteen years, and even though she wouldn't be able to make amends fully she could begin do so in subtle ways.

"Yes, Harry, I did," she conceded with a deep sigh, placing the photo on the desk and turning away. "It is not something I like to talk about," she steadied her breathing. "For me the grief is still too near."

"I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean to –"

"Please don't be sorry, Harry, you had every right to ask," Lexi insisted, turning to face her godson. "It seems so cruel that I got to spend to much time with your parents while you did not, so I will ensure to answer any questions you may have as best I can, but another time perhaps?"

"Y-Yeah, that'd be great!" Harry exclaimed happily, his eye lighting up.

"Come by my office for afternoon tea, tomorrow after lunch perhaps?" Lexi offered. "We can talk then."

"Thank –"

The door to Lexi's office opened with a loud creak, and she saw Remus poke his head round. "My apologies, I didn't mean to interrupt," Remus announced diffidently, pushing the door further and stepping into the classroom.

"Oh not at all professor," Lexi replied, coming to her senses. "Harry and I were just chatting." She turned to Harry. "Thank you for speaking with me, I'll see you tomorrow."

Harry nodded with a smile, retrieved the photo from her desk and hurried out of the room.

"Afternoon Lex," Remus said brightly. "What was that about?"

"Oh nothing," Lexi waved the subject away dismissively.

"Lexi," Remus said sternly, looking down his nose at her. His expression reminded her forcefully of the time she, Sirius and James had been caught by Remus directing first years in the direction of Peeves who was throwing water balloons at anyone unfortunate enough to pass by.

"Harry asked whether I was friends with Lily," Lexi recounted, sinking into her chair. "He'd seen a photo me and Lily at their wedding."

Remus' features softened. "I recall Hagrid sending an owl requesting any photographs," he remembered, perching himself on the desk beside her. "What did you say?"

"I told him that I did," Lexi rubbed her temples, which were beginning to throb. "I didn't admit to being his godmother."

Remus reached for her hand and clasped it in his. "I think, for perhaps the first time in our friendship, I have witnessed you make the right decision," Remus assured her with a grin. "Just don't run before you can walk, it would have been a big step for both of you."

"I've invited him over tomorrow to talk about it," Lexi said, squeezing Remus' hand. "I said I'd answer any questions that he has, and maybe get to know him a little better. He is all I have left of her … of them."

"All we both have," Remus added softly.

Lexi sighed, resting her head on his shoulder. "I honestly do not know what I'd do without you," she breathed.

"And I you," he intoned softly, kissing the top of her head.

Lexi smiled contentedly in his embrace, feeling a warmth rise in her that had been absent for much of the week. "Fancy taking a pretty lady out to dinner?" Lexi asked brightly, lifting her head. "I've heard tonight is Ladies Night at The Three Broomsticks."

"If I can find one, sure." He laughed, narrowly avoiding Lexi's playful punch. "Okay, okay – I'll take you."

"Cheeky sod," she giggled, taking Remus' arm and allowing him to steer her from the room.

Lexi called back her patronus as she left the dementors after completing her daily check on their positions. Her temper was frayed to say the least, as they seemed hell bent on inching their way towards the souls in the castle. Each one of them was not in the position Lexi had instructed them to be, and it took shouting herself hoarse for almost an hour before they shrunk back to their posts. She was sure Fudge only put her up to this job because he could stand her insubordination no longer; to say the two of them had never seen eye-to-eye was an understatement. Fudge could talk her up as much as he liked, but Lexi knew her deployment was so he could remove yet another employee from the Ministry who openly disagreed with them. Fudge was not the sort who took criticism well; he saw it as a personal attack on his character.

The first Saturday of the new term was blustery but bright, and Lexi relished the warmth of the suns glow on her skin knowing that the harsh Scottish winter was not far round the corner. When she reached her quarters she tossed her robes crossly on the back of the sofa and retreated behind her desk to complete a daily report for Scrimgeour. Since Voldemort's downfall much of her job had been administrative which, unless you travelled abroad on missions, was what life as an Auror entailed these days. Many of the newest recruits joined up expecting exciting espionage, or daring rescue missions from the clutches of evil, but what they got instead was paperwork and tracking down criminals for petty crimes.

After an hour or so, there was a soft knock at her door and Lexi raised her head, thankful for the intrusion. She threw down her quill and conjured some tea and cups, for she knew her visitor to be Harry Potter. They'd arranged to meet since he'd discovered Lexi had been a friend to his mother. Lexi hadn't divulged that Lily had appointed her his godmother, but this relationship would have to be taken one step at a time.

"Hello, Harry!" Lexi greeted warmly as she opened the door. "Do come in."

"Hi, Lexi," Harry answered a little nervously. "Is it still alright to talk about …"?

"Of course," Lexi assured brightly. "Sit down, I'll make some tea."

Harry settled himself down as Lexi boiled the water with a flick of her wand and divided it between two cups. She handed one to Harry who took it but didn't sip, instead he rested it on his lap, his gaze not meeting hers.

"How has your first week back been?" Lexi asked conversationally, keen to start a dialogue.

"Been better," Harry commented despondently. "Did you hear about what happened to Malfoy?"

"I did, I can't say as I was overly devastated," Lexi quipped in the hopes of lightening Harry's mood. "If you are worried for Hargid, then you need not be. Dumbledore will fight his corner, and I doubt even Lucius would be able to over rule him on that."

"I dunno, Malfoy's Dad got Dumbledore suspended from the school a last year," Harry said darkly. "The Ministry is in his pocket!"

"Many of those in Fudge's cabinet are frightened of him admittedly," Lexi said, taking a sip of tea. "But rest assured, Dumbledore will not allow anyone, even Lucius Malfoy, to twist justice to his favour."

"Are you frightened of him?" Harry asked, taking a small sip of his own tea.

"Ha, not in the slightest," Lexi scoffed lightly, recalling how Malfoy would actively avoid her when they encountered each other at the Ministry. "I know too many things about him and his despicable family, he wouldn't dare trouble me."

"Nice," Harry voiced appreciatively. "Have you worked at the Ministry long?"

"Just over sixteen years, I started off with the Law Enforcement department a month after I'd graduated." Lexi reminisced wistfully. "The time in which we lived then were perilous, so the Ministry offered generous packages for any student who signed up to their trainee positions."

"Did my parents join?" Harry queried eagerly.

"James didn't, he always said his talents lay outside organisations," Lexi revealed fondly. "Lily expressed a desire to become a Healer, so she started as an apprentice with St Mungo's. Back then we needed all the Healers we could get, people were dropping like flies."

"My Mum wanted to be Healer?" Harry repeated in awe.

"Her long-term goal was to work in the laboratory, experimenting with cures for the more severe magical ailments," Lexi recounted. "She was particularly gifted at potions, a subject that proved to be my Achilles heel at Hogwarts. If it wasn't for her tutelage I doubt I'd have had the NEWT grades necessary to become an Auror."

"I must have inherited by potions skills from my Dad then," Harry remarked, almost proudly.

"Oh James hated potions, and was more often that not in detention for blowing up a section of the classroom." Lexi chuckled fondly. "Lily tried to help him pull his grade up, but after what happened during his exam I'm surprised he scraped an Acceptable."

"What happened?" Harry asked, grinning.

"James never went into details, but his examiner had to be replaced half way through his exam." Lexi chortled, recalling James' horrified expression when he returned to the common room. "Lily swears she saw him in the hospital wing covered in scales, this is something James strenuously denied, of course."

Harry roared with laughter. "How did he even get an Acceptable?"

"Merlin know, but James was always able to talk his way out of anything." Lexi marvelled. "His gift of the gab saved our bacon more times than I can to remember."

"Hermione does that, well, her brains more than anything else." Harry commented affectionately.

"Lily was the brains in our friendship, she kept me grounded in more ways than one." Lexi sighed sadly.

"How did you meet?" Harry enquired brightly.

Lexi beamed and regaled Harry with the tale of her and Lily's first encounter with obvious glee. They met the day Lexi turned eleven, just after they'd both been sorted into Gryffindor house, their toes barely touching the floor of the Common Room as they sat on the large, high-backed chairs by the fire. There was so much laughter despite only knowing one other for a couple of hours, giggling constantly to soothe their shared nerves about what life at Hogwarts had in store for them.

"It took an angry prefect demanding we go to bed to stop us talking that night," Lexi chuckled. "Most of our evenings were spent like that, when I wasn't off with –" Lexi felt Sirius' name catch in her throat " – off making trouble for myself."

"I'm sorry if talking to me about this stuff has upset you," Harry apologised quietly. "I just … wanted to know about …"

"It's alright, I knew that my being back here would make me relive my past," Lexi assured, patting him on the arm. "You deserve to know more about them, and should you ever wish to talk to me, please do so."

"Thanks," Harry smiled, and Lexi felt a maternal fire light itself inside her. "I had better go, I've already got loads of homework. I swear Professor Snape thinks we have nothing better to do."

"Probably because he doesn't himself," Lexi smirked. "Still, I won't be the one to keep you from your studies. I am now a responsible adult after all."

"Why do I get the feeling you don't believe that," Harry chuckled.

"Because I don't," Lexi replied mischievously. "I do not wish to keep you, Harry. I'll see you next week."

"Yeah, see you," Harry rose from the sofa and headed towards the door, pausing for a couple of seconds then turning back. "And … thanks."

"You're most welcome," Lexi answered brightly.

As the door closed behind her godson, Lexi sank back into the chair and sighed deeply. The effort she'd had expended trying to contain her emotions had taken its toll, and even though she could see the large pile of paperwork piled high on her desk she decided not to tackle it today and instead she headed out of her quarters intent on walking the castle grounds.

As September faded into October the autumnal glow that had once basked Hogwarts in a celestial afterglow was gradually replaced by a budding wintery chill. A harsh, biting wind wrapped the grounds in an unforgiving cocoon and dismal grey clouds stole the sunlight from the mountains. Life within the castle passed with a sense of normality. A few reported sightings of Sirius Black were noted amongst the inhabitants of the castle, but many felt assured in the security of the school and very few troubled themselves with Black's movements. The assurance of Dumbledore's presence was enough to convince students and staff alike that Black wouldn't dare enter Hogwarts grounds, and even if he did he would be swiftly apprehended. Lexi however knew Black better than anyone; he had never been one to back down when something stood in his way.

The much anticipated Halloween feast was almost upon the castle, and the grim mood which had gripped the castle since the departure of summertime was lifted by the festoons of candy-filled pumpkins, apples, black cauldrons of big lollipops, live bats and bright orange and black streamers that decorated the Great Hall. As it was a Sunday, many of the students would be off to Hogsmeade for the day. Lexi positioned herself next to Filch as the students filled out of the Gate and down the hilly path to the quaint little village below. Filch checked off the names of the students as they left the grounds, while Lexi was careful to observe her surroundings. She didn't think Black would be foolish enough to attempt anything here, not in the open. But you always needed to expect the unexpected with him.

"Mr Weasley, Miss Granger, won't Mr Potter be joining you?" She enquired as the pair drew level to her.

"No he isn't," the Granger girl replied, looking a little affronted by Lexi's abrupt question. "His aunt and uncle wouldn't sign his permission slip."

"Ah, that's a shame," Lexi replied absent mindedly, wondering why Petunia and Vernon would have failed to do so. "Well, have a good afternoon you two." She added with a nod.

"Thanks Miss," Miss Granger replied, following Ron Weasley out of the grounds.

Lexi ushered the rest of the students through the gates, and when she was sure everything was above board she returned to the castle. Hogsmead was quite safe as there were plenty of people bustling about on their weekend morning shop. Lexi decided to spend her afternoon reading 'The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader' up in the astronomy tower. Once she had retrieved the book from her quarters she began the long and breathless climb to the top of the tower. She preferred the castle quiet and tranquil, it gave her time to reflect and think. Lexi perched on the balcony so she could catch the glowing embers of the early winter sun.

Lexi had only been reading a few moments when voice tore her from the ships landfall on the Lone Islands.

"You're early."

She looked up to see Severus emerge from the stairs and head over to their now usual spot on the balcony.

"A witch is never early," said quoted failing to mask a grin. "Nor is she late, she arrives precisely when she means to."

"Which Muggle fiction are you quoting now?" He asked in a bored voice, taking his place opposite Lexi.

"How do you not know such wisdom has come from my own lips?" Lexi asked with mock hurt.

"I have spent more than ten seconds in your company," Severus answered dryly. "That is all one needs to conclude wisdom is not something that comes from your lips."

"You wound me, Severus Snape," Lexi joked, holding her chest. "It was from Lord of the Rings." She relented a few seconds later."

"You shock me," he drawled sardonically, leaning against the stone wall. "Your fascination with Muggle literature is … most unusual."

"The themes which run through them are fascinating," Lexi gushed, sitting up cross-legged. "Take the Lord of the Rings for example, to me it is about Death and the desire for deathlessness. Throughout the story death is referred to as the gift and doom of man, while immortality is the gift given to the elves. This leads to some form of fear for Men, who do not understand what truly happens at death and thus fear it as a result."

"You think we humans fear death?" Severus questioned thoughtfully.

"It is a fate we cannot escape and over which we have no control," Lexi hypothesized. "Throughout Lord of the Rings humanity dealing with death is prominent, the desire to escape death is shown to be evil." She paused, meeting Severus' penetrative stare. "To desire immortality means you never truly live, we're meant to envy the immortals but they do not know the joy of lifelong friendship or love because they watch those they care for die."

"Mortals watch those who they care for die too." Severus pointed out, a knowing look in his normally emotionless eyes.

"In the story, an elf known as Arwen forgoes her immortality for the mortal man she loves," Lexi explained passionately. "She is said to proclaim that she would rather spend one lifetime with her love, than face all of the ages of the world alone."

"Foolish, love dies as us mere mortal will surely do." Severus dismissed, clearly unconvinced by Lexi's assertions.

"I think love is the only immortal thing we have," she declared openly. "It transcends time and space, no matter what happens to our bodies, the love we have for others remains strong."

"How can you spout such nonsense?" He articulated disbelievingly. "Muggle fantasy has undoubtedly clouded your judgement."

"I realise the irony in my words," Lexi acquiesced. "It is the tone of a person who has been bittered by experience." She sighed sadly. "Fantastical love, even that through Muggle fantasy, betters my own experiences. It is this this, perhaps, that explains my fondness for the genre."

Severus answered her wordlessly with a pensieve expression.

"You may think me foolish, Severus, but one cannot deny the euphoria that comes with knowing the love of another." Lexi persisted, not wavering under his intense stare.

"You know of the pain love brings, yet you speak these words?" He uttered incredulously.

"I refuse to close myself off to others merely because of the actions of an individual." Lexi vowed defiantly. "I spent a number of very lonely years isolating myself from those who cared for me. It was not a pleasant existence."

"On the contrary I find it removes one from unnecessary torment," Severus argued hotly.

"Do I torment you?" Lexi asked abruptly, folding her arms across her chest.

Severus blinked several times in surprise. "I do not recall saying that." He hissed, clearly losing patience with the conversation.

"Companionship is not a torment, it is a gift," Lexi asserted. "If taking a companion is so torturous for you, why is it that you insist on taking my company every night?"

Severus' eyes narrowed at Lexi as though her question had physically stung him, his hands twitched on his lap. "You … I do not have to explain myself … "

"I only asked why you take my company, Severus, I did not think it impertinent to ask." Lexi huffed, although conscious they were in the frozen seconds between stand off and fight. "I actually think it's a rather valid question, seeing as though we've loathed one another for most of our lives."

Severus regarded Lexi for a moment before answering. "I cannot say why," Severus answered quietly, his anger seemingly diffused. "All I do know is that your company is not completely awful and I am able to suffer it for a time."

"Well, that's as close to giving a compliment as Severus Snape will come, so I'll take it." Lexi smiled, watching with some satisfaction as the corners of his mouth twitched.

"You are still infuriating," Severus mumbled, averting his gaze.

"I am well aware of that," she agreed with a smirk.

As a reward for my long absence please find an extra long chapter :) Updates will be more frequent now I'm on summer break. R&R please x

PS Someone in the reviews pointed out there was layout issues with this chapter. Hopefully i've sorted it but please let me know again. Thanks!