For you, always

Chapter 9

Chapter 9

The Christmas holidays were fast approaching, and despite the lingering unease about Sirius Black the castle's spirits were lifted when the buzz of Christmas could be felt around the castle. An impressive Christmas tree stood, glittering in the entrance hall with small fairies acting as shimmering lights. Spirits were lifted further when, one morning two weeks before the holidays, they woke to find that the persistently grey sky had been replaced by a dazzling pearl and the grubby grounds were covered with in a sparkling flurry. The students and staff were excitedly talking of their plans for the holidays; Lexi normally spent the time with her mother. But her work for the Ministry didn't include a Christmas sabbatical, so rather reluctantly she'd have to remain at Hogwarts for the duration.

As term drew to a close, and Lexi saw off the students for their final Hogsmead visit of the year, she couldn't help feeling a little festive. There had been no further encounters with the dog or any more attempts by Black to enter the castle. Fudge seemed to be laying off and the Dementors hadn't tried to re-enter the castle grounds. Shivering, she pulled her robes tighter around her and headed back to the castle. Her intention was to sit by her fire with a cup of hot chocolate and begin reading The Silver Chair. She'd been neglecting her reading, and as it always calmed her she felt it best to spend the first day of the holidays catching up with Prince Caspian.

"There you are Lex, I was just looking for you." Said the voice of Remus Lupin as she began to ascend the marble staircase.

"Oh hello Remus," she greeted warmly. "You're looking better." She added, noting that some colour had returned to his cheeks and he no longer had a sickly look about him.

"Better for me, you mean?" Remus chuckled.

"Well, I wasn't going to mention the grey hairs." Lexi smirked.

"Oh, that hurts Lex!" Remus mocked playfully. "I was wondering whether you'd care to accompany me to Hogsmead?"

"Oh I would Remus, but I've got a meeting with Aslan." Lexi said with a small smile. "I've been rather neglectful of Narnia lately."

Remus smiled fondly. "You're still partaking in your annual pilgrimage then?" He said, with a small smile.

"Every year since my fifth year at Hogwarts," Lexi said proudly. "At Lily's request." She added heavily.

"Then I shall take my leave," Remus said. "I'll see you at dinner Lex."

"See you Remus." She smiled and waved as Remus left the entrance hall.

As she climbed the stairs to her quarters, she was struck with an idea. Reading Lily's old Narnia books always made her feel closer to her best friend. She knew of Severus' feelings towards Lily, he'd alluded as much during one of their nightly meetings atop the astronomy tower. They'd met every night they'd since their initial agreement. Sometimes they spoke, sometimes they sat in silence as they read. When they did speak Lexi never questioned Severus, or backed him into a corner. But he'd revealed far more than she'd ever expected him to, mainly of his childhood and his time as a Death Eater. He spoke of his regret for his rash decision to follow Lucius Malfoy's lead, and his desire to redeem himself by turning spy for Dumbledore. He never spoke of Lily, and she never asked.

Entering her quarters she searched through her bookshelf and extracted Lily's old copy of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe. One the inside front cover Lily's elegant handwriting spelt out her name, and the edges were frayed due to use. Smiling to herself, Lexi decided this would be the perfect gift to give Severus for Christmas. She'd guessed he wasn't a festive person, but she also knew how much Lily had meant to him and that he wouldn't have anything of hers. Owning this series, knowing how important it had been to Lily, had gone some way towards her recovery. She hoped that it would do the same for Severus.

"Now I know you'll tell me off Severus, but I've got something for you." Lexi said mischievously, reaching into her robes and pulling out a small silver package.

Severus looked a little taken aback and eyed the package suspicious as though it were a bomb. It was Christmas Eve and they were in their usual nightly meeting spot in the astronomy tower. The snow-covered ground sparkled in the moonlight, giving the impression that an endless sea laid before them. She handed Severus the present, which he regarded as though it was an unexploded bomb.

"Well, open it! It won't bite." Lexi chuckled at the dumbfounded look on Severus' face.

His eyes widened as he unwrapped the gift and saw what it was. He turned to the inside front cover, and traced Lily's handwriting with his finger.

"You never speak of her, yet I recognise the feeling on loss in you," Lexi said delicately. "Reading her copy helped me feel close to her. I hope it does the same for you."

Severus looked up at her, a peculiar expression on his face. His lips were pressed tightly together and a V-shape had formed at his brow.

"Thank you." He croaked eventually, flicking through each page as though it were made from gold.

"You're welcome," Lexi said, reaching over and placing a hand gently on his arm. "Merry Christmas, Severus."

Severus couldn't remember the last time someone had given him a Christmas present, he certainly didn't get any from his parents. Lily did, but of course that all stopped after their fifth year. Lily had often talked about how much these books meant to her, but Severus never read them himself. To be given something so personal, so thoughtful, he wasn't used to it. He felt a huge swell of a long forgotten emotion wash over him.

"I'm sorry if I've upset you." Lexi said, waking him from his musing.

"You've not upset me Lexi, far from it." He said, trying to steady his voice. "It's – a lovely gift."

He reached over and placed his hand over hers, once again he felt his control evaporate as it so often did around her. He'd always been in control, of every aspect of his life, and around her he felt that disappear. She was the unknown, and he'd never experienced that before.

"I've nothing for you." He said inanely.

"Oh don't worry yourself with that Severus." Lex said, waving his comment away. "I don't give gifts expecting any in return, I do so because I care."

"You care?" Severus said, a bemused expression crossing his face.

"Of course I care." Lexi said, and Severus was aware she'd moved closer to him. He could smell her, a lavender and woody scent as though from an ancient forest in the summer. "Why ever would I not?"

"It's not something I'm used to Lexi." He admitted feeling slightly intoxicated having her so close.

"I know Severus," she replied. "I realise we've formed an – unlikely – connection," she smirked fondly. "But I have come to care for you."

Severus wasn't sure where to go from here. There were quite a few things he wanted to do and say, but something held him back. Whether it was Lily's ghost or his own courage failing him he did not know. All he knew is having her so close to him was inebriating, he felt a sudden urge to stroke her face and he wondered what her lips would feel like on his own.

"Lexi, I –" he began, but she put her fingers to his lips.

"I understand Severus," she said, giving Severus the feeling that she could read his mind. "I shall leave you to enjoy your present."

She leant forward and kisses his cheek tenderly, which sent shockwaves through his entire body. He felt his breathing quicken and his heart pound; he hadn't felt this way in a long time.

"Merry Christmas Severus," She said, getting to her feet and Severus suddenly realised he didn't want her to leave. "I shall see you at dinner tomorrow."

Before he could say anything she left the tower and disappeared down the narrow corridor.

"Merry Christmas Lexi." He whispered to her departing shadow.

You wait ages for chapters and two come along at once...