Chapter 21 Needing to be Needed

The next weekend Hufflepuff lost to Ravenclaw in the first match of the season. It had been an excellent match, said most of the viewers. One thing they'd noticed, though, was that the Ravenclaw Seeker, Jordan Hawke, had had an intense concentration throughout the entire match. His face had never smiled, never changed expression from the hard look of determination.

Many speculated that his demeanor was a result of the bitter falling out in the relationship he'd had with Lily Evans. Others said he was just very serious about the sport. But no matter what was thought or said, one thing was for certain: something had changed in Jordan Hawke.

The following Saturday was the Halloween Hogsmeade trip. Everyone was excited, especially the third years. But none so much as Alexandria Cole.

She was going on her first date since Simone. As she dressed for the outing, she assured herself that it was only right to be a little nervous. Surely it would be a fun experience. After all, Sirius was the last guy she'd expect to be boring.

"Lexy, are you sure you can stand to walk all the way there?" Lily asked, glancing down at her friend's quickly swelling belly. She and Janet were sitting on the end of Lexy's bed in the sixth year girls' dormitory, waiting for their friend to finish. "It has to be at least a good mile."

"Of course I'll be fine." Lexy saw Lily and Janet exchange dubious looks. "Really, you two, the exercise will be good for me. And I'm used to walking long distances, anyway. I swear it takes fifteen minutes just to go from class to class in this place."

"All right, if you say so."

"I do."

Lexy finished and the three made their way down to the Common Room. There they joined the Marauders before continuing down to the Entrance Hall to check out. There was a problem with Lexy, seeing as she hadn't a signed permission slip from her parents. Suddenly Dumbledore was there, claiming to be her guardian and giving her permission to go.

Lily and James led the way down the path, arm in arm, followed by Lexy and Sirius, who were holding hands. Bringing up the rear were Janet, Remus, and Peter; the entire way the three argued which candy was the best at Honeyduke's, and tried to ignore the feeling that they were extra wheels.

Lexy was tense with anticipation when they reached the gate. She stared at it as the group approached, gnawing on her bottom lip, not noticing with James looked at Sirius over his shoulder and signaled for them to take the lead.

One hand ready to push the gate open, Sirius smiled at Lexy. "Ready?"

Hormones raging with excitement, she commanded, "Just open it!"

He complied, and Lexy rushed through. Then stopped. There was yet a small distance to walk before they actually entered the village, but from a distance it still amazed her.

Sirius came to stand next to her. Taking her hand, he said, "Come on."

Past the tracks of Hogsmeade Station, the streets were crowded with natives and students alike. Lexy couldn't ever have had enough eyes. The Marauders were for giving her a full tour first, then going shopping. However, Lily and Janet took James aside and discreetly told him that they thought Lexy should rest a few minutes first. Luckily, the Three Broomsticks was the first building they came to.

The group waved when Rosmerta called a greeting across the tavern from behind the bar. The boys found them all a table and they took their seats. Remus and Janet collected everyone's money and went to get drinks. Lexy reminded them that she wanted pumpkin juice.

"Who was that woman you lot waved to when we came in?" Lexy asked. She had to raise her voice slightly to be heard over the din.

James answered, "That's Madam Rosmerta, the proprietor. The Marauders are frequent customers; she's rather fond of us. I'd wager even now she's chatting up Moony trying to find out the latest gossip. Not to mention asking who you are."

Lexy looked startled, then shook her head. "It feels like I've been at Hogwarts for ages already. Sometimes I forget some people around here have never seen me before."

"Don't worry," he reassured her, "Remus won't tell her anything he doesn't think you would want her to know. Nice guy, Remus is."

"Yes, I've noticed he seems to be the most reasonable out of all of you." Lexy raised her brow.

James grinned. "In a band so mischievous and trouble-making as that of the Marauders, surely there must be one reasonable compeer." Delighted with the world in general now that Lily's in his life once more, he settled back in his chair. "He's smart, generous, conscientious, reasonable, peaceable—and practically any synonym of those words." He glanced at the object of his monologue, whom was on his way back to the table. Quickly James added, "But despite all those attributes, there's still something…dangerous about him."

Lexy had been listening raptly. "Dangerous? Remus?" She glanced at him. "Yes," she said thoughtfully. "Yes, I suppose I've noticed there is something about him…"

While Remus and Janet handed out orders, Sirius looked significantly at his best friend, as if to say, "What the hell are you doing?" James shrugged, meaning, "She's got to find out sometime."

Sirius agreed, but as he took the first sip of his butterbeer, he hoped that "sometime" wouldn't ruin their date.

They decided to start at the end of High Street and work their way back to the Three Broomsticks. Sirius was relieved when Lexy's nose wrinkled at Madam Puddifoot's Tea Shop; he wouldn't have to take her there. James cursed when they entered Dervish and Banges, for he'd forgotten that he'd wanted to bring his broom along on the trip so it could be repaired.

"I don't know why you would bother," said Lily candidly. "With the kind of money your family has, you could just buy a new one."

"But I don't want a new one," James protested, looking over a display of broomstick servicing kits. "A new one has to be broken in, in a way. One has to develop a feel for it, learn to control it. Temperamental things, broomsticks can be." He paused in thought. "Though I don't think I've ever had one be very disagreeable with me."

Behind his back Lily and Janet rolled their eyes at each other.

Lily and Lexy bought some extra quills at Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop. They didn't dare enter Gladrags, the boys not wanting to risk the chance of the girls suddenly embarking on a spree to buy things they'll never wear. For the same reason the girls pushed the boys past Zonko's.

"But the Halloween Feast!" they objected. "What will we do at the Halloween Feast!"

"No reason to worry," Lily said assuredly, with a hint of resignation in her tone. "You lot will think of something."

They did linger in Honeydukes. The moment they crossed the threshold, the three girls made a beeline for the chocolate stands. The Marauders spread out to find their favorites. When they finally left, each member had an assortment of the candy they preferred.

Last was the Shrieking Shack. Remus hesitated before following the group up the path.

"What's so spooky about this place?" Lexy asked, wanting to hear it again as they walked.

"It's just rumored in the village that very unhappy ghosts reside there," Lily answered. "Some say they can hear screams and bangs sometimes when the ghosts are particularly unhappy. The place looks downright creepy, too."

This information only seemed to make Lexy more eager to take a look at the shack. She quickened her step. "I wonder if the spirits are restless today." Her eyes glittered with anticipation.

The Marauders shared a look. "Maybe," Sirius said.

They reached the fence and gazed upon the quiet shack for a few solumn minutes. It looked rickety and old; all the entrances and windows were boarded up. Occasionally it creaked with age. Finally Lexy let out a big sigh. "Doesn't seem particularly active." She began to study the fence. She leaned on it, testing her weight against the sturdiness.

"What are you doing?" Remus burst when Lexy began to scale the fence.

"I'm going to get a closer look," she announced. "I want to see what's inside."

He looked as if he was about to tell exactly what he thought about that, but then beside him Sirius shrugged. "What could it hurt?" he demanded in a low voice before following the blonde. "Keep watch for people coming up the path."

The others watched them advance toward the shack. Lexy was about halfway across the yard when she went rigid and collapsed. Sirius shouted her name and ran to her, the others quickly jumping the fence to follow his example.

When they surrounded her and all started talking at once, Lexy raised her voice to be heard. "I'm fine!" she assured them. She struggled to sit up. "Suddenly I just—well, it felt like I walked into a brick wall."

Lily reached out a hand and felt the space in front of her. Sure enough, she met something solid. "Must be some sort of security someone's put around the shack," she said. "So no fearless persons get too close."

Lexy slapped the ground. "I really wanted to see what it was like inside."

"There's nothing much, really." James realized his mistake as soon as the words left his mouth. Lily tried to kill him with her eyes.

Lexy narrowed her own as she stood up, Sirius gripping her elbow. "You've been in there." It wasn't a question.


"Well?" She looked around at each of the Marauders. "What's it like? Did you see any ghosts? Footsteps upstairs, strange music suddenly playing? Anything?"

The group started walking back to the fence. "Nothing like that, no," James answered cautiously. "There's some old furniture collecting dust. It's dark because everything's boarded up. Not that exciting."

"Give you a chill, though, right up your spine." Peter shrugged. "The atmosphere, I reckon."

Lexy gave a light shudder just thinking about it. She let Sirius help her over the fence. "How do you get in there?"

"In a way that wouldn't be possible for you in your condition," Remus said in a hard voice.

She scoffed disgustedly. "Fine. Don't tell me. I'll just find out for myself."

"You will not," Sirius disagreed firmly.

"I'm not an invalid, you know," Lexy informed him, getting heated. She glared. "Just pregnant. Don't tell me what I will or will not do."

Sirius spun to face her, not so much angry as wanting to get his point across. "Look, Alexandria, as long as you have a bun baking in your oven, you can't be reckless. You can't risk the baby."

Indignant and outraged, Lexy tried to grab back the pride of which he'd just stripped her. She wouldn't have him making her feel like she wasn't being a smart mother. She faced him squarely. "Of course I wouldn't risk the baby! How could you think I would want to harm it?"

"That's not what he meant, Lex," Lily said softly. When the couple shot daggers at her with their eyes, she hastily began pushing the rest of the group back toward the village. "Let's leave them to their spat."

"Don't have to tell me twice," Janet mumbled and she led the way.

Sirius waited until his friends were out of earshot, then turned back to her. In a low voice, he said, "I never said you were trying to harm it. That's not what I meant, Lexy. I meant however much you want to, you can't go traipsing off on an adventure trying to find the secret entrance to a ghost house."

"I know!"

"I know you know," he told her. "But that doesn't mean you've realized. There are two of you now."

"Stop it!" It was demeaning, having him talk to her this way, as if she was some gallivanting, carefree rolling stone who didn't know what was happening to the world around her, let alone to her own body. As if she didn't wake up in the morning to find her stomach bigger, her breasts more tender, her feet more swollen. As if her clothes didn't have to magically readjust themselves every week to accommodate her swelling body.

She spun away, fists clenched at her sides. She was so angry, yet she wanted to weep, too. She also wanted to slap Sirius, then hug him. Damn hormones.

Finally she turned to face him again. The blue in her eyes had cooled. Sirius fought the urge to shiver, and not only from the biting October wind.

"I can't believe I'm hearing this, from you of all people!" Her teeth were clenched as she walked up to stand toe to toe with him. "The wild, promiscuous Sirius Black, lady's man of Hogwarts."

He seemed unaffected by her would-be insults. "A proud title, to be sure. But Lexy," he took a step toward her, leaning down close. "You're the only lady this man has been seen with as of late."

She didn't know how to retort. Then a sudden thought crossed her mind. She gasped. "They'll think you're the father."

Sirius nodded, having apparently already come to that conclusion. "I've been thinking about it a lot lately."

Lexy was still reeling from her revelation. "Of course. Of course. I can't believe I never… They'll think we had a summer fling, made a mistake, and something happened that I had to come back to school with you. Oh, God, what to do?"

"Let them believe it." When she looked at him in shock, he shrugged, uncomfortable. "Like I said, I've been thinking about it a lot lately, and honestly… I don't think I'd mind being thought the father."

"But you're not," Lexy reminded him.

"So? They won't know that." His eyes caught hers and held firm. "And if everything goes my way, I'll be as good as."

The statement—the threat, in Lexy's way of thinking—hung between them. Tension snapped in the air. She was struck speechless; his mind was set.

"What?" she finally burst. "What? You want to be the father? Have you absolutely gone mental?" He looked away and shook his head in frustration. She continued to rant. "You are seventeen years old, Sirius Bloody Black! We just met a few months ago! This is our first date! I don't even know you!"

He opened his mouth to speak, probably to place argument and protest, but she wouldn't let him.

"And here you are, claiming you want to take the place of father of a child that's not even yours! You're nuttier than squirrel poop! Do you honestly think that you—wild, promiscuous, lady's-bloody-man Sirius Black—would be happy changing nappies and waking at odd hours of the night for a feeding? No!" She screamed it. "No! No, no, no!"

With that she turned away and started marching down the path toward the village. She hadn't taken two steps before he was pulling her back, making her listen to him now.

"Yes! Yes, yes, yes! I do want to change soiled nappies"—Lord, he sounded ridiculous saying that—"and wake up every few hours to feed it. I do, Lexy. I've thought it all threw, not just the good things, but the disgusting aspects, too! I know what I'll be taking on. Lord, how could I not? I'd be responsible for another human being—"

"That's exactly my point!" she cut in. "Have you ever had any real responsibilities, Sirius? Have you ever felt like the weight of the world hanging on your shoulders?"

Through his mind flashed brief images of his family, of the Sorting in his first year, of his friends. "Yes."

Lexy opened her mouth, then shut it, realizing that she hadn't thought he'd say that. She didn't know what to say now.

"Yes, I have," he repeated quietly. With her off guard, he took advantage by placing his hand on her swollen abdomen. He watched her eyes. "I can't explain it, Alexandria, but I'm saying this, suggesting this, because I… because I feel this bond with you, and because I want the responsibility. I want this baby, Lex. Over the past few months of knowing you, being around you, supporting you, I realized I…" He swallowed and looked away. "I need to be needed." His eyes found hers again. "I want you to need me. I want this baby to need me, to depend on me. I need to grow up, and this will help me to do that."

"Your friends need you," Lexy countered quietly. "James, Remus, Peter, Janet, Lily—they need you."

"But they're not you, Lex," he told her. "And you're not just my friend."

"Do you think she killed him?" This cheerfully came from James. Sitting next to him, Lily slapped his arm. "Ow! Why are you always hitting me? Are you some kind of sadist?"

"No, but I was once the leader of a cult."

"What cult?"

"The 'I Hate James Potter' cult, of course." She patted his cheek belittlingly. "You needn't worry, though, dear; we've disbanded."

"How heartening," he muttered as he took a gulp of butterbeer.

The remaining members of the group sat in a booth at the Three Broomsticks, waiting for Lexy and Sirius.

"So." Peter leaned forward avidly. "How do you think she did it?"

"Did wha—?"

"Limb from limb," James answered over her. "Definitely limb from limb. Every limb." He wiggled his eyebrows. All three Marauders shuddered appreciatively.

Janet shook her head. "Too messy. I think she seduced him right there on the path, then when he was on his back, she caught him off guard and strangled him."

"Janet!" Lily gasped. But she couldn't hold back a giggle at the image: timid little Lexy, straddling her victim's chest, blushing as she placed her hands around his throat.

At that moment, the couple themselves stepped into the pub, whole, healthy, and smiling. Lily waved to get their attention. "We've already bought your drinks."

The group chatted for a few minutes. The five wanted to know what had happened between Lexy and Sirius that had them growling at each other one minutes, glowing the next. The couple refused to answer, wanting to keep their secret to themselves for now.

As the group was walking back toward Hogwarts, Lily asked Lexy, "Well, what did you think about Hogsmeade?"

Lexy seemed to think for moment. She was staring at Sirius, who was walking with the Marauders ahead of the three girls.

"Surprising," she finally said with a soft smile alighting her mouth. "Pleasantly surprising."

Late on Hallow's Eve, she hurried through dark corridors. She was walking fast, scared of and thrilled by the chance of being caught.

She went to the place at which they'd agreed to meet. He was there already, just as he'd promised. She rushed into his arms, letting him make her feel safe, letting him protect her from the shadows and the silence.

"What have you discovered?" he asked.

"I did just as you wanted," she told him. "I looked through all her things. And I found this." She proudly pulled the thick, hardcovered book from under her robes. "Guide to Pregnancy," she read.

He smiled. "Perfect."