For you, always

Chapter 8

Chapter 8

The roaring of the wind that rattled the glass in her bedroom window abruptly woke Lexi the next morning. At first she thought it was early, as it was still dark outside, but upon closer inspection she could make out a foreboding cloud, which had enveloped the grounds. A loud cracking of thunder could be heard overhead followed by a shimmering flash of lightening.

Lexi rolled over, hugging the sheets and attempted to get back to sleep. But it was difficult to ignore the imposing storm and soon she decided to get up. Her skin prickling with goosebumps as she untangled herself from her sheets and perched on the edge of the bed and stretched. She glanced at her clock and saw that it was 6am. Realising that she had an inspection of the Quidditch pitch to do before breakfast, she rose reluctantly from her bed and dressed with a flick of her wand.

Bracing herself by the doors in the entrance hall, she wrapped her winter cloak tightly around her and headed out into the stormy morning. Stooping to shield her face from the relentless gale, she walked quickly down to the Quidditch pitch, careful not to lose her footing on the sodden, slippery grass. Once there, she walked round the outside of the pitch and performed all the necessary defensive spells and anti-intruder jinxes. She then pulled out a map of the Dementors' positions, on which she performed a water-repelling spell, and checked that she had enough stationed nearby should she need to call on them.

A sudden gust of wind ripped the map from her hand, and Lexi swore angrily as she chased it to the edge of the forest. "Immobulus!" She commanded, causing the parchment to come to a halt by a tree.

She bent down to pick it up but froze, as she sensed movement nearby. Lexi stood slowly and pointed her wand in front of her. "Lumos," she cast shakily.

She jumped back in surprise when she saw a large black dog, possibly a Scottish deerhound, standing in the gloom watching her. Dirt clogged its wiry fur into matts, and its grey eyes were sunken and dull, as though it had gone weeks without a proper meal. It sniffed the air before moving slowly towards her, and Lexi could hear it give a low whine.

"What are you doing here? Nox," She enquired, baffled but lowering her wand as the dog approached. "The forest isn't exactly dog friendly."

The dog nudged her hand and Lexi obliged and scratched the dog behind its ears. Lexi giggled as the dog emitted a satisfied bark of approval, it's tail wagging in a furious blur behind it. A vague sense of familiarity washed over Lexi, as she saw something from her past in the animal's eyes. They were grey like the colour of the gathering storm clouds on the horizon, and she sensed that she'd looked into those eyes before. The feeling was deeply unsettling.

She ceased contact with the dog and made to back away, but the animal inched forward whining loudly as though he did not wish for her to leave.

"I – err – have to …" she stuttered vaguely, unsure as to why she felt the need to explain her departure to a dog.

Lexi turned and ran against the howling wind, ignoring the incessant barking behind her. She did not look back until she reached the doors to the castle, seeing nothing on the edge of the forest to suggest the animal had followed her. Feeling completely foolish she hurried into the castle, slamming the door loudly behind her and panting as though she'd wrestled a troll.

"Weasley's," she nodded at the Fred and George, who were heading for breakfast and eyeing her curiously as she lent against the doors.

"McNaughton," they answered in unison with identical smirks, bowing as she passed.

Lexi screwed her eyes shut, attempting to block out the sharp memories that cut through her each time she let her guard down. She remembered Alastor telling her that the human brain was hardwired from cavemen times to recall bad memories, it was an evolutionary advantage to keep you alive. Which Lexi always found ironic, as it was the happy and uplifting ones she needed to maintain her sanity.

"You alright, Lex?" Asked Remus' voice from the bottom of marble staircase. "You look as though you've seen a ghost."

"Wha – oh, no I was just checking the pitch and it's frightful outside," Lexi said airily, hiding her shaking hands in the pockets of her robes. "Although I know better than to think it would be cancelled."

"Ahh yes, the great storm of '76," Remus chuckled, gesturing for Lexi to enter the Great Hall. "Quite the spectacle, if I recall."

"I would not call being blown headfirst into the stands a spectacle," Lexi said darkly.

"I'm surprised you remember that, you were out cold in the hospital wing for almost a week." Remus commented, failing to hide his amusement at the memory.

"James made sure I knew of it, in particular my rather – ahem – undignified landing." Lexi scowled into the scrambled eggs she'd just pilled on toast. "I doubt I'll be able to look Slughorn in the eyes ever again."

"I dare say he rather enjoyed himself," he quipped mischeviously.

"Urgh, Remus!" Lexi exclaimed in disgust, swatting him on the arm. "You've put me off my breakfast!"

Remus bade Lexi farewell as she headed down to the Quidditch pitch, with the full moon upon them he was to retire to his quarters. Despite the ferocity the weather had taken, the whole school turned out to watch the match. Such was the popularity of Quidditch it would take nothing less than a category five hurricane to keep players and fans at bay. Bent low against the unrelenting wind, the crowd headed to the pitch and took their seats. Several umbrellas threatened to knock people off their feet as they were torn from peoples' grasp.

Lexi tightened her Gryffindor scarf round her neck and hugged her robes. Her eyes darting here and there in case the dog materialized again. But she saw nothing as she reached the stands and took her seat next to Minerva, who seemed a little on edge.

"Don't fret Minerva," Lexi laughed, patting her colleague's arm. "I've seen the team train this week, they'd put the team of '77 to shame!"

"I just want Gryffindor to thrash Slytherin for the Cup," Minerva said through gritted teeth. "If I have to suffer Severus' false condolences once more I shall go mad!"

Lexi laughed at this, she couldn't imagine Minerva ever 'going mad'. As her head of house, Lexi had found herself sitting in front of Minerva's desk on numerous occasions throughout her time at Hogwarts. Each time Minerva had look exasperated, but never mad.

"Mount your brooms!" Lexi heard Madam Hooch's voice reverberate round the stadium, magically enhanced due to the defending roar of the wind.

Madam Hooch blew her whistle and Lexi could just make out scarlet and yellow blurs zoom in every direction. The wind and rain was making it difficult to make out the players, and Lexi felt her hands numb in the biting cold. Despite the adverse conditions, the Gryffindor chasers easily scored fifty points. After a short time out, lightening began illuminating the stands and the players.

Several moments later with her hands over mouth, Lexi watched as Harry went into a spectacular dive. But then something odd happened. A ghostly hush had fallen, it seemed as though the storm had forgotten to rage. Lexi felt as though cotton wool had suddenly been forced into her ears. What she saw next made her cry out, although her shouts were drowned out by the screams now echoing throughout the stadium.

At least a hundred Dementors were swarming the pitch, each of them looking up towards Harry. Lexi scrambled to her feet and rushed, with Minerva beside her, to the pitch. Then she looked up and what she saw made her heart plummet. Harry was falling, hundred of feet to the unforgiving ground below.

Not wishing to waste time fumbling through her robes for her wand, Lexi pointed at Harry as he fell, following his tumbling form with her right index finger.

"ARRESTO MOMENTUM!" She shouted so loudly it physically hurt.

Lexi rushed over to Harry as she slowly guided him to the ground. His sodden face was splattered with mud, his face was as pale as death but he was breathing. Lexi felt a hand on her shoulder.

"Lexi, we must get Harry to the hospital wing." She felt Dumbledore's firm grasp on her shoulder, helping her get shakily to her feet.

Lexi clumsily pulled her wand from her robes and conjured a stretcher, lowering Harry onto it as gently as her violently shaking hands would allow. She steered Harry carefully up to the hospital wing, where Poppy began busting around him, shooing Lexi to one side.

"Miss McNaughton, I would appreciate it if you gave me some space!" Poppy barked, as she tucked Harry into his bed and fed him a foul smelling potion.

"S-Sorry, is there anything –" Lexi said desperately.

"No Miss McNaughton, there is not." Poppy said, a little more softly. "Harry will be fine in my care." she clasped her hand briefly and squeezed, as a sign of reassurance.

Lexi nodded and hurried out of the room, narrowly avoiding Harry's friends as they barged through the doors to the hospital wing. She stormed through the castle, feeling a white hot anger burn through her veins. Her fury was directed squarely at Fudge, who had seen it fit to put these unfathomably evil creatures to be within the school grounds. She also felt helpless, that her godson was lying motionless in the hospital wing and she could do nothing about it.

Lexi almost tripped several times as she ran down the marble staircase and, not looking where she was going, collided with someone in the entrance hall. Strong arms grabbed her before she fell face first onto the stone floor.

"Lexi, what –" Severus' startled voice broke her trance.

She looked into his eyes, feeling one of his hands on her back and the other resting on her waist. She gripped his forearms to pull herself up into a standing position.

"Where are the fuckers, I'll –" she began crossly, as Severus continued to hold her back.

"They've all returned to their posts," Severus reassured. "The Headmaster and I both checked."

"WHAT THE HELL WAS FUDGE THINKING?!" She shrieked, continuing to struggle against Severus' grasp. "I told him! I told him they wouldn't listen to me!"

"They are the foulest creatures to walk the earth and they answer to no one." Snape said calmly, but disgust apparent in his voice. "Fudge was a fool to think they'd follow orders. Come, let's not make a scene."

He steered her away from a small crowd that had gathered in the entrance hall. With his arm round her shoulders he guided her towards her quarters. Lexi muttered the password and they entered. Severus lowered her into the armchair and a fire sprang in the grate. Severus located a bottle of brandy and a small glass, he poured a small amount and handed it to Lexi who downed it in one go. He poured Lexi another and one for himself, then sat in the chair opposite her.

"You don't have to stay, you know." Lexi said quietly, holding her glass limply by her side.

"Yet here I am," Severus replied, observing her over the rim of his glass.

"Don't let word get out of this or your reputation with be ruined," Lexi smiled weakly.

"My reputation is not what concerns me at present," Severus stated, eyeing her with concern. "In any case, I am far too convincing in my role as villain for people to be persuaded otherwise."

"Thank you," Lexi said, catching his eye.

"You're welcome," He replied, sighing but not taking his eyes off her.

Several moments passed, Lexi nursed her drink while Severus regarded her as though she was on display. Lexi wasn't sure where to take the conversation from here. She didn't want to talk about the Dementors, she'd have enough talking about them with Fudge later, neither did she wish to mention the dog she'd seen this morning. People would think she was losing her mind, and it wouldn't be the first time.

"Why did you spend time in St Mungo's?" Severus asked out of the blue.

"How do you –" Lexi began, hardly expecting him to mention that.

"It is a matter of public record Lexi, the Prophet reported on it also." Severus said quickly, and Lexi had a suspicion he was not being entirely truthful.

Lexi sighed and took a deep breath. "In the months after – what happened – I spent a great deal of time, as an Auror, tracking down dark witches and wizards." Lexi said, leaning back into her chair. "I was living with my mother at the time – I couldn't bear to return to my house – and it was not long after I captured you that I had a –"

Lexi's voice trailed off.

"Go on." Severus urged softly.

"I had, what the healers termed, a psychotic break." Lexi said, her voice faltering. "I'd not really been looking after myself. I wasn't eating or sleeping, just – working. As I was deemed a danger to myself I was – sectioned."

Severus said nothing; he just continued to watch her.

"After several months of rehabilitation and therapy I was allowed home." Lexi sighed, feeling more ashamed than ever. She had never divulged this much to anyone, except her mother. "It took more than a year for me to be fit enough to return to work." Lexi hastily wiped the tears that were formed in the corner of her eyes with her sleeve.

"Never be ashamed of you past, Lexi." Severus said firmly. "We all have parts of our lives that we'd rather forget. But you're strong. Not many could have gone through what you have and be sat here in front of me."

"People keep saying that I am strong, but I do not feel it half the time." Said Lexi, standing and moving towards her living room window. "I feel like lately I've done nothing but break down."

"Stop punishing yourself, you've done nothing wrong." Severus said, standing next to her. "Don't say another word against yourself."

"You could take some of your own advice, Severus." Lexi smirked at Severus, who wore a sad smile back at her.

"The irony is not lost on me, Lexi." He said.

"Let us, for a moment at least, forget about our scars." Lexi said, turning her gaze back to the grounds still being assaulted by the storm.

There they stood, neither knew how long. Severus watched Lexi out from the corner of his eye. He couldn't recall ever feeling so connected with another human being. They were both broken, both were suffering due to events in their past. He felt as though she was the missing piece to his puzzle, and that thought unnerved him.

FINALLY I'm updating this! I know it's been such a long time, but I hope you enjoy. R&R!