Chapter 25 – Sleep

'I know it's late,

We've known each other awhile.

I can't wait,

To see your twisted smile.

Kindred spirit of candle light

I won't sleep unless you

Sleep with me tonight.'

- "Sleep" by Conjure One

The area just inside the gates of Hogwarts had been transformed into a triage center. Madame Pomfrey and some of the other teachers were busy trying to mend the wounded that had returned from the battle. Minerva was wondering through the injured taking a tally of who was still unaccounted for. Severus and another man had arrived just a few minutes prior, but Albus and his daughter were still missing.

"Did you find her, Severus?" she asked him.

He looked extremely worried, which she is never a good sign. "Yes, but she bid me to take Francis, the man I brought, to safety while she tried to save the friend that betrayed her in the first place. I didn't want to leave her, but you know how incredibly stubborn that woman can be."

"And Albus?"

"He was showing the dark lord exactly why he is called the most powerful wizard of our time." Severus looked around at the casualties and noticed a few students getting bandaged up and he thought back to Harry Potter. "I ran into Harry Potter during the attack. I see he was not the only student there."

Minerva face took on a stern expression. "Yes, I will be dealing with all of them personally. From what I've been able to gather from listening to some of them, it was Neville Longbottom's idea, not Mr. Potter's. Longbottom seemed to feel that he owed Allexia for saving him. Harry was no doubt the ring leader though."

Severus grit his teeth. "He saved my life. I was cornered and he came to my aid, like the bloody Gryffindor he is."

Minerva stared at him in shock. When she recovered, she cheekily said, "How many house points is saving your life worth, Professor?"

He was about to make a scathing remark when Albus came wandering through the gates. He looked absolutely ancient, the duel with Voldemort obviously taking its toll. Minerva wanted to wrap her arms around him, but that would have to wait until later. Not trusting his legs anymore, Albus sat on the nearest cot. His eyes were searching for his daughter and he momentarily panicked when he didn't find her. He looked at Minerva and Severus questioningly. "The twins are safe. Luna Lovegood brought them back to Hogwarts. She said that Allexia rescued them and told her to get them to safety. Now that you're here, we are only missing Mundungus and…Allexia. Mundungus, no doubt, fled before the fighting even started."

Albus was about the ask Severus what happened, when they heard shouts from the others. Allexia was slowly walking up the path, with what appeared to be a body floating behind her. Her appearance was ragged and her arms and upper chest were covered in blood. The three of them rushed to meet her, everyone parting for them to get closer.

Allexia saw her father and tried in vain to keep control of her emotions. Suddenly, she felt like a little girl who had just woken up from a nightmare. Her father must have sensed it because he pulled her into his arms. Not able to hold it in, she sobbed. She clung to him for fear he would disappear. "Daddy, I'm sorry," she whispered.

"Shhhhh," he said, over and over. "You're home now."

After several minutes, Allexia regained most of her composure and she embraced Minerva, who wiped away tears of her own. "Welcome back, dear."

Severus and Allexia locked eyes, but he backed off to let the other members of the Order greet her. For a moment she could read his happiness for her return in his black eyes, but then it was gone. Not knowing what else to do and satisfied that she was not injured too much, he retreated for his dungeons.

After nearly an hour of thanking everyone personally and making sure that Francis and the boys were well taken care of, she made it back to her quarters and Ebony was there to greet her enthusiastically. She secretly commended the students for their bravery, but she knew she shouldn't encourage such behavior. She saw Severus sneak off and was sad to see him go.

As if suddenly aware that she was still wearing it, Allexia ripped off the gown and threw it into the fire. Although she was exhausted, she headed to the bathroom for a much needed shower and afterwards she would pay the potions master a visit.

Severus was dozing off on the sofa in front of his fireplace when someone knocked on his door. It was nearly dawn. He answered the door with a scowl, but his face softened a bit when he saw Allexia and he let her in. Her hair was still damp and she smelled of lavender. He thought her beautiful despite the look of exhaustion on her face. She stood by the fire, warming her hands. Severus stood next to her, looking at the flames, but casting sideways glances at her. He could tell she hadn't eaten much of anything while she was captive and his hatred for his former master grew.

Allexia wasn't sure what she was doing here in his study when she should be asleep in her own bed, but she had the urge to see him. After everything that had happened, she just needed company – his company. She turned suddenly and embraced him. Her arms circled his waist and she buried her head in his chest, breathing in his scent. Severus stiffened immediately, but unable to resist he put one arm around her and cradled her head with the other. His head came down to rest on hers. Severus slowly realized that they fit perfectly together.

Allexia was warm and content for the first time in weeks. She felt so tired and she wanted to sleep, but she didn't want to leave his embrace. "I wanted to do this when I first saw you outside, but I know how you despise such displays in public," she murmured.

Severus fought the urge to laugh. How well she knows me, it seems. He could feel her falling. "You should get some sleep," he told her. Almost subconsciously, he stroked her hair, marveling in its softness.

"Mmmmm, but I don't want to move. You're very warm and cozy," her exhaustion was giving way to honesty. Severus didn't think the words warm and cozy would ever be used to describe him, but once again Allexia managed to surprise. He maneuvered her to the sofa and she was asleep in his arms almost instantly. Severus shifted his position to be more comfortable and was soon sleeping himself.

At precisely 6:30 in the morning, a house elf popped in to bring Professor Snape his usual coffee and scone. This morning, however, Jipp was not prepared to find the professor still asleep on the sofa along with the headmaster's daughter and he nearly dropped his service tray. Very carefully, he set it down on the table, added a second cup to it and popped over to the Professor Dumbledore's office to see if he was there.

"Is headmaster requiring anything this morning?" asked Jipp, when he saw the old wizard at his desk. Then he noticed Professor McGonagall. "Is you, Professor?"

"Just some tea please, Jipp," said Minerva.

"Oh, Jipp," Albus spoke up. "Why don't you have some hot chocolate waiting in Professor Price's room for when she wakes up?" The house elf froze. Should he tell the headmaster that she's not in her rooms? Confusion was obviously written on his tiny face. "Jipp, Professor Price returned to us last night," said Albus, thinking the house elves didn't know she had been rescued.

Jipp fiddled with his hands nervously. "We knows, sir. It's just that Professor Price is not in her rooms. She's in Professor Snape's, sleeping with him." Not waiting around to see what was going to happen, Jipp disappeared with a pop back to the kitchens.

Albus' brow furled. "What did he say?"

Minerva laughed in spite of herself. "Albus, before your filthy mind jumps to conclusions, remember that house elves are very literal. Jipp said that Allexia is asleep in the dungeons with Severus. I told you there was something between them."

The headmaster rose from his desk and headed to the fireplace. He threw in some floo powder and said, "Professor Snape's study." The flames turned green and Albus called for Severus in the flames. When he got no response, he stepped through. Minerva followed close behind, not knowing what Albus was going to do next. She found him standing very still and was about to say something when he turned around with a finger to his lips. Minerva looked behind him and saw that Jipp was absolutely right. There was Allexia and Severus asleep on the sofa. His arms were wrapped protectively around her. Feeling like they were intruding on an intimate moment, she tugged at Albus' sleeve and they went back through the fireplace.

"Don't tell me you are still uneasy about them being more than friends?" asked Minerva.

Albus didn't want to admit that he was uneasy about any man being more than friends with Allexia. "It's just that sometimes I look at her and I still see my little girl."

She came over to him and kissed him lightly. "She will always be your little girl, Albus. I think they go very well together. Perhaps they can heal their old wounds with each other's help."

Severus woke up to warm breath on his neck. He looked down and saw that Allexia had shifted her body and was nuzzling her face into his neck. It sent shivers down his body for all the wrong reasons. He needed to move before he embarrassed himself. He tried to push her away so he could move, but she clung tightly to him.

"No," she muttered, "Warm and cozy."

"Bloody hell, woman, I need to go to the bathroom."

That brought Allexia out of the haze she was in. "Shit, Severus, I didn't mean to fall asleep here." She sat up and let him get off the sofa. He quickly left the room, leaving Allexia alone. She remembered coming here after her shower, but then it was a blur. She did remember being in his arms and how incredible it felt. It was great to be held after what she'd just been through. Noticing the tray of coffee, she poured him a cup and did the same for herself. She was adding milk and sugar to hers, when Severus returned.

"I'll take mine…" he started to say.

"Black," she finished, handing him the cup. "I know."

They sat together in silence. She lost in the fire, he lost in his coffee. Allexia finally spoke up, "Thank you, Severus. For saving me from Malfoy, for Francis…for everything."

"You saved my life, it was the least I could do," he replied. Severus wanted to say more, but was unsure of how to proceed. The ferocity of his feelings for her surprised him. He thought about his feelings for Lily and how she never reciprocated them, at least not the way he wanted. Allexia, to his dismay, just might actually feel the same. Having never actually been involved in a romantic relationship, he had no idea what he was doing and Severus Snape hated not knowing what he was doing.

"Thank you for letting me stay here last night. I really didn't want to be alone." She took a few more sips of coffee and set the cup down. "Oh, Liz," she sighed, starting to cry. "I got to her. I knew my best friend was under that death eater mask somewhere. Just as I get her back, I lose her. She died for me. We used to joke that we would take a bullet for each other."

He couldn't stand to see her hurting, so he took her in his arms and let her cry into his chest. Allexia's breathing became more even after a while and she was just content to be held once again. I could really get used to this. His chest was solid beneath her and she briefly thought about how it would feel without layers of clothing. Stop it, she chided herself. "If you keep this up Severus, I will never leave."

"If you tell me I'm warm and cozy again, you will never be allowed down here."

Allexia couldn't help but giggle like a schoolgirl. Severus tried with all he had not to be pulled in by her laughter, but the sides of his mouth tugged upward of their own accord. She looked at him and got quiet all of a sudden. "What?" Severus asked. There was a reason he never smiled, it scared people.

"I told you I would make you smile." It slowly registered to him that their faces were very close together and he was adrift, floating in the cerulean pools of her eyes. She touched a strand of his hair that had fallen into his eyes. "You are very handsome when you smile," she said in a whisper. Allexia couldn't believe how fast her heart was beating and how hard it was to breath. Is this what love is supposed to feel like? Like you're drowning?

He moved toward her, determined more than ever to kiss those full lips of hers. He was nearly there when a voice from the fireplace startled them both. "Severus? Allexia? If you are awake, please meet me in my office." Nothing ruins a mood more than being interrupted by your father, Allexia thought. She sighed and lowered her head. Severus put a hand under her chin and forced her to look at him. "I've bloody hell waited long enough," he murmured, before capturing her lips with his. She wrapped her arms around his neck and deepened the kiss. Allexia thought to herself that she was indeed drowning, but she didn't mind at all.

Allexia and Severus sat in Dumbledore's office feeling like a couple of students who were caught making out in a broom closet. Even though nothing happened, just the fact that her father knew she had spent the night with Severus made her feel nervous. Minerva on the other hand, kept looking between the two of them with a half smile. "Do you want to have breakfast here or in the Great Hall?" Albus asked her.

"The Great Hall. I've missed the noise from all the students."

He looked at her over his half moon glasses. "I would like to know exactly what you were thinking when you decided to give yourself up to Tom Riddle." His words were cold and she could hear the pain behind them.

"Headmaster, this is hardly…" Severus said, determined to defend her.

She put a hand on his knee. "No, Severus, it's okay. I was thinking it was a good way to save those boys, which I ultimately did. I've had the dark lord invading my dreams since the Ministry Ball. Do you know how hard it was to resist him? Do you know how many times he showed me my mother being killed? Do you know how close I was to going to him willingly, plan or no plan? Do you know how ashamed I am that he played me like a poker hand? He knew I would give in! He knew I wanted to kill Mom's murderer so bad that I would do anything. I did exactly what he wanted. The dagger needed to be used to kill someone in vengeance and that is exactly what I did. I will have to live with that for the rest of my life." She was out of breath now. Allexia looked to Minerva, who looked shocked and almost in tears. "Minerva, I'm afraid I let you down. I let you both down. For that, I will always be sorry. Thank you for coming to my rescue. I know the Order risked their lives for me and for those boys."

"Allexia, don't you ever scare me like that again. I don't think my old heart could take it," Albus said and she thought he looked so old in that moment. In an instant she was behind his desk, hugging him. "And no more secrets! If Tom is trying to contact you, tell me. That goes for both of you. Moody would like a report on what you saw, but I told him he would have to wait until you were ready. I still don't agree with what you two did, but it worked out in the end. I'm very sorry about your friend, Elizabeth, but considering you would not be here if not for her, I am eternally grateful. She has certainly redeemed herself in my eyes and I think in her parents' as well." Albus nodded toward his penseive. "I would very much like to know what happened."

Allexia knew what her father was asking. "Are you sure want to see?" she asked.

"I know I won't like any of it, but I want to understand what you went through," Albus said.

She walked over to the penseive and took out her wand. It was Liz's wand actually, her own was lost. She did manage to recover Severus' wand at least. "Very well, but don't say I didn't warn you. You get the short version, though, and it doesn't go beyond the three of you." Allexia relaxed her mind and reached into her memories. She pulled the wand away from her temple and watched the silvery strands descend into the basin. "I'll be waiting in the Great Hall."

Students were just starting to come into the Great Hall when she walked in. Some of them came up to her and welcomed her back with smiles and a few hugs from younger students. She was trying to keep herself from getting all emotional when Harry and a large group of Gryffindors walked in. Propriety be damned, she greeted Harry with a big hug. "Thank you for helping Professor Snape and myself in the process," she whispered.

"Your welcome, Professor. It's good to have you back," replied Harry.

"Professor?" came Neville's voice. "I wanted to thank you for saving my life." She pulled Neville in for a hug and his face turned bright red.

"I was so scared when I saw you. I believe I owe you thanks as well. I heard it was your idea for your little army to come after me. Regardless of what the Order or anyone else says, you guys were incredible." She looked around at all their faces. "Thank you all."

As they watched their professor walk up to the teacher's table, Ron blurted out, "Where was my hug?"

Food had already appeared by the time her father, Minerva and Severus walked in and sat down. She could feel their eyes on her and the last thing wanted was pity, but thankfully she didn't read that in their eyes. Sadness, perhaps, and a small amount of admiration, but not pity. Albus squeezed her hand. "You were remarkably brave, Allexia. Godric Gryffindor himself would be proud. Your mother would be proud." She smiled in thanks.

Severus spent his entire breakfast thinking about Allexia hanging upside down while Bellatrix whipped her. Seeing as how this was punishment for saving his and Longbottom's life, he felt guilty. She endured so much for him. He didn't deserve it, he thought. The other thing that bothered him was Voldemort making her see him as a death eater. Yes she knew he had once been a death eater, but to show her. To have his past laid bare before her in such a way made him self-conscious and ashamed. The rational side of his brain was trying to tell him that Allexia obviously didn't let it change her opinion of him, judging by the way she eagerly welcomed his kiss. His lips started to tingle as he thought to earlier that morning. She had smiled so beautifully at him when they finally broke apart and he couldn't help but smile back. The power she held over him was both infuriating and thrilling at the same time.

He was brought out of his reverie by Albus' voice announcing that classes were being cancelled today and he looked over at Allexia, but she was already gone. Instead his eyes met Minerva's and she had that knowing smile again. "Allexia went to visit her friend in the Hospital Wing," she told him. He nodded and moved past her towards the side door. She put a hand on his arm. "She's good for you, Severus," Minerva said quietly. Nodding again, he continued out the door.

Allexia spent half an hour helping Francis eat some breakfast. He was still very weak, but Madame Pomfrey said he'll be back on his feet in no time. The mediwitch mentioned that he was being quite cheeky and was trying to flirt with her while she checked his vitals. "He is definitely feeling better," said Allexia. Afterwards, she asked if she could see Liz. Madame Pomfrey consented and told her that Liz's parents would be by soon to collect the body.

The room she was in was being kept cold and Allexia pulled her robe tighter to her body. They did a good job cleaning her up and she looked as if she were only sleeping. Was it really only six years ago that hey had met? She felt like they'd known each other longer. "I will never forget you, my dearest friend. Wherever you are now, I hope you know that I forgive you. You gave up your life for me. I always felt that being the older one meant that I would protect you. Do you what my favorite memory of us is? Just you and I sitting at your piano, drinking wine and singing songs. I remember you being so embarrassed to admit that your favorite song was "Rainbow Connection." We sang it so loudly that your neighbors complained." Allexia didn't realize that she had started crying. She also didn't realize that someone else had come into the room.

"I used to sing it to her and Maggie when they were children," came a woman's voice behind her.

Allexia turned around and saw Liz's mom, tears in her eyes as well. What do you say to a woman who has now lost both of her children? "Mrs. Brooke, I'm so sorry."

The woman who looked so much like Liz it was uncanny, held up her hand. "I mean no offence, but I'm very tired of hearing that. Professor Dumbledore told us that Lizzy died saving you. She was a hero in the end and not a villain."

"She told me to tell you that she was sorry, for what it's worth."

Mrs. Brooke nodded. "My husband and I cannot thank you enough though for saving our grandsons. If you ever need anything, you are always welcome at our house."

"I was wondering if I could keep Liz's wand. I lost mine in the battle and I actually feel comfortable with hers," asked Allexia.

"I think Lizzy would like that." Allexia hugged her and left her to have some time alone with Liz.

Severus found her on top of the Astronomy Tower looking out over the grounds. She was watching her best friend's body being taken off the grounds. Holding her wand to the sky, Allexia said, "Lumos Arcus." A brilliant rainbow shot out of end of her wand and into the clouds above.

'Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection. The lovers, the dreamers, and me.'

She sang the words softly to herself and when Liz and her parents apparrated, she lowered her wand and whispered, "Nox."

As always, thank you for reading.