Bright as silver. Troubled as storm.
They are watching you. They beg you.
Frozen like sage in winter. Warm with love.
They are searching for you. They miss you.
Dead, yet alive. Shining in the dark like a precious diadem.
They don't know you. Yet, they need you.
Dull with death. Bright with tears.
They are talking to you.
Help your friend.
Help your father.
Help your brother.
You wander through the ruins of a town.
A man approaches you. He says "come with me, we'll find your dad".
You don't trust him.
He hurt your dad.
He hurt you.
But he says he'll find your dad.
You need your dad.
You take the man's hand.
He draws his wand.
And you're gone.
Cassandra woke up with a start, her battered heart racing and her sheets drenched in cold sweat.
Flashbacks and nightmares. They'd got worse. She couldn't sleep, because every time she closed her eyes, images and sounds invaded her mind. She couldn't work, because every sound or smell triggered a memory, alienating her from the rest of the world.
Memories. They were so absurd. So surreal. Strange ceilings, hooded figures, colorful flashes of light. Wands. Cassandra knew what a wand was. She had read about them when she was six, in a children book. Wands were magic. Magic didn't exist. Did it?
Cassandra was confused. And tired, oh so tired. Initially she thought that her new friend could save her from madness, but his presence seemed to make things worse. Not that he wasn't a good dog, actually he was almost too... understanding. Every time she woke up from a nightmare or she fell in her "trance", as her boss called it, Doggie was there, licking her face and nuzzling her neck. It looked like he wanted to comfort her. And it usually worked, for a couple of minutes. The fact was that the dog looked familiar. His grey eyes, his fur... She remembered them, but they didn't cause any flashback. Just like the pictures of Sirius Black.
Ah, Sirius Black, the man of the mystery. Her father knew him. She knew him. The question was how. Cassandra spent hours in the archives looking for more information about the escaped convict, but she didn't find anything, apart from two newspaper articles and a few photos of the crime scene. She couldn't even find out the name of the prison he had been sent into. According to the archives Sirius Black didn't exist, yet everybody talked about him and his horrible crimes. It didn't feel right.
Cassandra got up from the camp bed, her head throbbing painfully. She glanced at the old alarm clock on the floor: 2 a.m.
"Lily...Lily... Auntie Lily, wake up!"
A small candle fills the darkness with light, revealing a pretty disheveled redhead sitting on her bed and looking around frantically.
"Cassandra? Cassandra what happened?"
"I miss them..."
The young woman sighs sadly and lifts the blankets, letting a three-year-old Cassandra crawl under the covers with her. When the child is comfortably cuddled beside her, the girl wraps her arms around the tiny figure.
"Oh, Cassie... My little angel... You know you don't have to worry about them. They'll be fine"
"But.. but... why can't I go with them? Where do they go Auntie?"
"My dear, you know I can't tell you... But trust me, they are safe, and in a few hours they'll be back with you. Now, please, sweetheart, try to sleep."
"What's a "Mudblood"?"
Lily stiffens visibly, the temperature in the room seems to drop dramatically.
"Cassandra, when did you hear that word?"
The girl's voice is harsh, and the child shifts in the bed uncomfortably. She shouldn't have asked that question, now Lily is angry with her.
"...Yesterday that strange boy told a girl that she is a "mudblood". She was very very sad..."
Lily breaths heavily and tightens her grip around Cassandra. Good. Now she isn't angry anymore.
"Well, Cassie... The girl was sad because "Mudblood" is a very very bad word. It means that your blood is dirty because your mum and dad are Muggles".
"But Lily... your Mum and Dad are Muggles and your blood is red like mine!"
Lily chuckles lightly in the darkness, trying to stifle a yawn.
" I know, darling, I know... It's just that some people believe that you can't be a good witch or wizard if your relatives are Muggles. You don't have to listen to those people, ok? They are silly and stupid."
"Good. Now, please, Cassie, sleep."
"Ok... 'Night Lily."
"What's a "Half-breed"?"
God. Not again. Who the hell was this "Lily", anyway? And witches? Seriously?
Cassandra was so tired. However, since sleep was momentarily out of question, the scarred girl got up from bed and started doing the only thing that could give her mind some rest: taking notes about her nightmares. In a few weeks she had managed to fill two notebooks with images, sounds, feelings, smells... Anything that could be important to complete the puzzle of her past. Not that these notes could actually help her research: no British town near a train station had been attacked by terrorists or whatever in 1977, and nobody in England went after the surname of Lupin, apart from her. Long story short, her nightmares and visions didn't seem to have any kind of realistic foundation. Still, despite her scientific mind told her to see a psychiatrist, her heart urged her to keep writing. And so she did, sitting on the floor at the light of an oil lamp.
At some point in the night Doggie woke up and limped towards her, licking her wounded cheek affectionately and laying his head on her lap. Cassandra couldn't help but burying her face in the dog's fur and inhaling deeply. Mint and lemon. Was it possible for a dog to smell so good? It was just another unanswered question, but this time Cassandra couldn't care less: she just enjoyed the freshness of that scent combined with the reassuring warmth of the canine's body.
The ex-soldier kept breathing the dog's scent while stroking softly his fur, and again, that strange sensation of familiarity stroke her. It was frustrating how her brain could provide Cassandra with all sorts of images and "memories" and yet wasn't able to explain that feeling. Trying to find a way to ignore her evil mind, the girl's eyes fell on the remote. It had been a week since she last turned on the tv, shortly before Doggie woke up. She had decided not to watch it again, since her brain was enough overloaded and she didn't want to stumble across Sirius Black's face again. However, since it was two in the morning and the oil lamp didn't allow her to read a book, Cassandra tried her luck, grabbing the remote and push the on button.
Of course, Cassandra Lupin had no luck, and soon the handsome yet haunted face of the escaped convict was floating on the screen behind a pretty blond reporter.
"Scotland Yard is still investigating on the case of Sirius Black, the convicted mass murderer who escaped from prison three weeks ago..."
The girl groaned loudly, leaning her head on the wall behind her.
Bright as silver. Troubled as storm.
They are watching you. They beg you.
You feel you are missing something.
You don't understand.
You trusted him.
He trusts you.
Those eyes... Unknown, yet awfully familiar. They were so sad, so full of grief and despair. They were innocent.
Despite the lack of proofs, despite the fact that the whole British population seemed to be certain about the man's crimes, Cassandra was sure about Sirius Black's innocence. It was a feeling, an instinct that not even her rational mind could ignore.
Twelve years. Twelve years spent in a jail, isolated from the rest of the world, despised by the rest of the world. Cassandra felt a pang of sympathy for the convict in the picture. He was an outcast, just like her.
And he knew your father. Very well.
You knew him too.
You were happy.
What happened? They were happy. They were good. What did they do to deserve such a hard punishment?
She missed all of them. Her father, Sirius Black.. Cassandra didn't even remember their faces well, yet she felt the desperate need to meet them again, to feel their presence, just for a second...
Tears began to shine in the dark as the ex- soldier stroked the soft fur of the dog in her lap.
"What do you think Doggie? Is it crazy to miss a man you don't even know and who could have killed thirteen people in a row? I think it's crazy. But I can't help it, Doggie. Somehow he is part of the family I lost, and I miss him. If only he knew where I am... I only want to talk to him. Maybe he really is a mass murderer, but... but I simply can't believe it! My dad was... is a good person, and his friends are good people too! Yes, that's it. Sirius Black must be innocent. What if he has left the country for good? I can't ... I can't even think about it. No. He must be still here, somewhere in England, looking for... for me..."
Cassandra went on with her rambling, unaware of the fact that Sirius Black was indeed there with her and was now looking at her with wide eyes. The man had spent a week with the girl, trying to understand if she remembered him or her father. She seemed to be completely oblivious of her past, even though she was somehow haunted by brief flashbacks every few minutes. Cassandra often talked to him about her nightmares and visions, but she had never mentioned his name before.
Oh, Cassie. My beautiful Cassie, apple of my eyes...
She believed he was innocent! She missed him! Padfoot's heart was simply exploding with hope and joy.
I'll bring you back to your father, Cassie, and we'll be a family again! You, me, Moony, Prongslet...
In no time the animagus made up his mind: in the morning he would turn back human and answer to the girl's questions. Then he would held her tight and together they would find the rest of the pack.
A deep calm voice echoes in the night.
"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine,
you make me happy when skies are grey
you'll never know dear, how much I love you
please don't take my sunshine away"*
Cassandra is calm and happy, slowly drifting into a peaceful sleep. Her dad is with her and she is wrapped in his scent. Pine, fresh earth and resin.
Cassandra opened her eyes, her headache gone. She felt strangely relaxed and rested.
Stretching lazily and cracking her stiff neck, the girl got up from the floor. She filled a kettle with some water and put everything on the camp stove, her nostrils still wrapped in her father's reassuring scent.
I remember how he smells but I don't even know how his face looks like... I'm reeeally messed up.
Yawning, the ex soldier reached for the bag in which she kept Doggie's food, grabbing a big can and a box of medicines.
Wait... Where's Doggie?
Cassandra looked around, finally wide awake. He wasn't in his kennel, he wasn't on her bed. He wasn't even under her bed.
The girl dropped the tan, her hands shaking with panick.
No. NO. Nononono... he can't be gone. The door was closed, I checked... Didn't I?
The girl bolted to the front door. Yes. It was locked.
Then where could he be?
Suddenly something clicked in the teenager's brain, and Cassandra felt the urge to kick herself mentally for not having checked the other room in her flat, the bathroom. Sighing deeply and still shaking slightly, the girl limped towards the white door, grabbed the handle and pushed...
Doggie wasn't in the bathroom. The room, however, wasn't empty either. In fact, what seemed to be the shadow of a man sat on the floor between the shower and the sink, his face hidden behind his skinny hands. He was wearing an old, battered and dirty... piece of cloth, which slightly resembled a sort of uniform.
Cassandra stood petrified for a few minutes, her right hand still on the handle and her eyes wide with surprise. Being an ex-soldier, and a girl with a bit of common sense, she knew she should have been terrified at the sight of the man. After all, he was probably a thief. She should have grabbed one of the knives in her "kitchen" and kicked the lad out of her "house". Her instinct, however, told her otherwise, and she wasn't the kind of girl who ignored her instinct in order to follow rules and common sense. So she did what her instinct told her to do: she crouched in front of the man and tentatively put a hand on his right knee. The man gave a start and lifted his head, staring at her with wide, fearful eyes.
Bright as silver. Troubled as storm.
They are watching you. They beg you
Cassandra gasped, falling backwards and covering her mouth with her hands.
Two-year-old Cassandra wakes up in her crib in the middle of the night.
Something is wrong with her daddy's silent room-mate.
She can feel it.
Daddy told her not to talk with him, because he is a traitor.
But he isn't.
He made a mistake. Everybody does. And he's sorry. So, so sorry.
Cassandra knows he didn't mean to hurt Daddy. Even Daddy knows, probably. He's just too proud to admit that.
Now the silent guy is in trouble. She knows that because, despite his mistake, the boy is still part of the pack.
She should wake up her Daddy and warn him, but he's just fallen asleep and he's tired.
So she climbs out of her crib and silently trots out of the room.
Everything is so dark, and cold, and scary. And Cassandra is so tiny and vulnerable.
She has never been so terrified before, not even when Mama Wolf told her she would have been thrown in the red well. But she keeps walking, still a bit unsteady on her small legs.
The ghosts in the castle are murmuring and the paintings on the walls snickering. Cassandra starts crying silently, her little heart pounding frantically in her chest.
But she doesn't get lost, because she knows she has to follow the lemon, the mint... and the blood.
Lemon, mint, blood.
The scent gets stronger and stronger, the ghost fall silent and the pictures stop snickering.
Only a small sound echoes in the dark corridor of the castle.
Cassandra falls on the floor, tripping in her own feet. She ignores the pain though. The scent is so strong now..
Lemon, mint, blood.
Lots of blood.
Cassandra walks and walks and walks. Then she slips, and falls on the floor, again.
Lemon, mint, blood.
Everything is so wet and cold.
The moon rises, and a small jet of light leaks through the large windows of the castle.
Cassandra tries to get up, but falls again. Everything is so wet and cold...
Cassandra starts crying harder, terrified. Then, something softly touches her little arm.
Lemon, mint, blood.
Grey eyes. Bright as silver. Troubled as storm.
They are watching her, begging her for forgiveness and help. They are so pained, so sad.
They are filled with tears.
Sirius Black looked at Cassandra, trembling like a deer trapped by a hunter. The girl shifted on the floor, curling up in a ball, her head in her hands.
A mouth opens, trying to speak. Blood trails down a pale, sunken cheek.
Cassandra touches the cheek with her little hand. It is so cold.
The grey eyes close. Tears trail down the cheek, mixing with the blood and soaking Cassandra's little hand.
Something behind her trembles.
The mouth opens again.
Sirius slowly managed to stop shivering, and tentatively sat up straight. He cocked his head curiously, studying the petrified form of his friend's daughter. Cassandra didn't seem to notice him and maintained her odd position.
The mouth can't speak. There's too much blood.
Cassandra knows she doesn't have to walk anymore.
She has found him.
There's something wrong with him.
Cassandra cries and cries and cries.
Cassandra screams, her sweet voice filled with fear and despair.
Daddy, daddy, help 'ius!
Daddy help 'ius!
Nobody answers. Cassandra screams louder.
DADDY HELP 'IUS
The candles in the castle suddenly lighten up.
Someone runs down the corridor.
Someone talks to her.
But she doesn't listen. She just lies beside Sirius, scooting closer and lying her head on his chest.
His heart is still there. Everything will be alright.
Sirius shifted slightly on the cold bathroom floor, worried. Five minutes had passed, and Cassandra still had her head in her hands. Slowly and uncertainly, Padfoot reached out with his hand and softly brushed his fingers against the girl's hair.
Cassandra opens her eyes, tired like hell but warm and comfortable. She feels a hand gently stroking her hair.
Mint and Lemon.
She snuggles further in that warm cocoon, sighing happily. She loves that smell. It is fresh and full of energy.
Something shifts behind Cassandra and another hand softly strokes her back.
Pine, fresh earth and resin.
Daddy is here.
Everything will be fine.
Cassandra lifted her head, revealing a pair of tear-filled eyes. Sirius swallowed thickly, his heart filled with a sense of guilt, hurt and fear.
She is scared of me. She hates me.
The animagus lowered his gaze, bracing himself for the screams and the shouts. Then, something warm and trembling brushed against his cheek. A hand.
Cassandra kept gently touching the man's cheek, her mind dizzy and the lump in her throat almost unbearable. Sirius Black, the man of the mystery, was there, in front of her, for real. Slowly the girl lowered her hand and placed it on the animagus' chest: the flesh was cold but the heart was still there, pounding frantically.
Sirius opened his mouth to speak, but his voice box didn't want to collaborate. Cassandra didn't seem to notice, though. She was too busy checking if the man's heart was still beating.
He tried again, this time with more success.
"C... Ca..C-Ca.. Cas -sie?"
It was more like a croak rather than a human being's voice, but it was enough for Cassandra's tears to win the battle and trail down her cheeks.
Little Cassandra wakes up again, this time to the sound of a low, deep chuckle. She is not sleepy anymore, and is curious to know who is laughing. Reluctantly she lifts her head from the warm cocoon.
"Good morning Cassie"
Sirius is lying beside her, holding her in his arms. He looks pale and tired, but he is smiling, and his eyes are sparkling with relief and gratitude. She knows she shouldn't talk to him, but she also knows it would be impolite not to answer, and she doesn't want to wipe away that wonderful smile from the boy's face.
So she clumsily sits straighter and, with a heart-melting smile, she wraps her chubby arms around the dark-haired boy. Sirius knows that's her favourite form of greeting, he has seen her doing the same thing a thousand times with Moony and Prongs, but that doesn't stop him from feeling his eyes filling with tears. Cringing almost imperceptibly he holds the little girl tightly, burying his nose in her blond locks.
"It appears our little Maraudrette has found a new best friend, Prongs."
Cassie's head shoots up and her smile becomes even brighter.
He knew her name. He remembered her. She wanted to talk to him, ask him all the questions that haunted her mind. But something happened, killing the words that were going to escape Cassandra's mouth. Something confusing and bloody terrifying.
A young man lies in the corner of a tiny, dark and cold room. He is covered in dust, dirt and blood. He shivers and sobs, but no tears trail down his sunken cheeks. He feels so cold, he wants to die.
A beautiful girl sits on her bed in the middle of the night. She is surrounded by other girls, much older than her, fast asleep and ready to face war. But she isn't. She looks outside the large windows of the dorm: it is a full-moon and she has never felt so lonely before.
A handsome boy walks down the streets of a small village. His dark hair are held in a ponytail and a short beard emphasizes the brightness of his silver eyes. Those eyes look tired and troubled. His dark grey robes swirl around quickly as he stops the other pedestrians in order to show them a small photo of a smiling girl with ice-green eyes and dark-blond locks.
A girl marches down an empty, muddy road. It's pouring with rain, but she doesn't care. She is wearing a green uniform with a red cross plastered on her left arm. The visor of her hat covers her eyes. Her pace is quick and intimidating. A gun rests in the case attached to the girl's belt. Her left hand holds a First Aid box. She stops in front of an old, small shack. She opens the door. Her face is blank, but her hearts is in pieces. She takes a small black box outside her pockets. She presses a button and starts talking, with an emotionless, professional voice. "No survivors. I'm going back to the base camp".
Cassandra was terrified. She didn't understand what was happening in her head, why she suddenly felt a foreign presence attached to her mind, why those terrible scenes about Sirius Black were suddenly filling her mind. It was like having a flashback, but in this case the memories were not.. hers. It was impossible. She knew that. She was a doctor, she knew everything about the brain and its tricks! Still, the visions didn't stop, and the only thing Cassandra could do was to wait for that nightmare to end.
Sirius Black runs in a dark corridor, ducking and trying to shield himself from dozens of colorful jets of light aimed in his way. He jumps behind a fallen beam, only to find that the place is already occupied by a lifeless body covered in blood. Gideon Prewett. The young man shakes his head, trying to ignore the sense of nausea which is quickly building in his chest. Suddenly a heart-shattering scream breaks him out of his reverie.
Sirius hastily scrambles on his feet and runs towards his friend, who is kneeling on the stone floor, twitching in pain and holding his head in his hands. A dark-haired woman stands in front of him, holding a wand. She is laughing her head off. Sirius is beyond furious. That woman is his cousin, and she is torturing his brother in all but blood! He can't lose him too. Suddenly, the dark walls of the corridor start trembling, and the room is filled by a blinding light.
Everything is exploding. Cassandra runs and runs, jumping dead bodies, hiding behind burning tanks, falling in the mud. Bullets skip her for a couple of inches, some of them scratch her arms and neck, but she doesn't care. She has a mission. Her colleagues need her. She clutches the First Aid kit, and keeps running, despite the pain, despite the panic. On the corner of her eye she sees a British soldier running desperately in the middle of the field. That place is full of mines, he should know that!
"STOP! DON'T..." she tries to warn him, but it's too late. A mine explodes and a gigantic mouth of fire and dust swallows the soldier.
Sirius Black was shocked, not by the sudden appearances of Cassandra's memories in his mind - he knew perfectly well the reasons of this phenomenon-, but by what Cassandra's mind was broadcasting.
A soldier? So young? In the Muggle world this shouldn't be possible, or at least that was Lily told him when he asked her about muggle wars. There were rules to follow, armies to join... Children weren't allowed to fight! It was clear that something, or maybe someone, had forced Cassie into that living hell.
Who could do that to a child?
Cassandra's memories didn't answer this question, probably because the girl's subconscious was still too wary to share that kind of information. Sighing, the ex-convict tried to swallow his anger and calm his breath in order not to scare Cassandra further.
Slowly, the flow of memories decreased and stopped. They where nothing but short glimpses of a life of suffering and pain, and Cassandra understood less than half of the things that had been showed her. A thing, however, she knew: the man in front of her had actually searched for her. It was a dream coming true, and the girl couldn't help but feeling a deep sense of hope and joy filling her dry soul. Maybe Sirius Black was really trustworthy and her instinct was right, but she needed proofs anyway. And answers. Lots of answers.
"... I think... I think I have a few questions", she half-muttered, cursing her voice for sounding so weak and croaked. I think I have a few questions. Really? Of all the smart sentences her brain could put together, I think I have a few questions? What was she, a bloody freshman in front of the University dean?
Sirius seemed to have a few problems with words too. After a few minutes spent opening and closing his mouth in vain, the man finally managed to get a grip and croak:
"I... I c-can answer. I.. I s-swear. I j-jus-st n...need t-time to... t-o e..e-ex..plain" God. Eleven words, and he was already exhausted. Taking a huge breath he forced himself to continue: "Y-you... you'd-d b-bet-ter... t-tell y-y-your bb-boss you... you're ill and you.. won't be a-able to g-go to the ha... the had-r-r... dware s..shop. It... it will be e-e-easier th..this w-way".
Cassandra hastily got up, ready to bolt to the telephone in the block of flats' hall. After a few steps, however, she stopped on her tracks.
"Wait... How do you know where..."
Then, looking around she noticed that something was still missing.
"... Where is my dog?!"
Cassandra narrowed her eyes, warily looking at Sirius. The man sheepishly scrubbed the back of his head, and his joints cracked soundly when he got up from the floor.
"Well, I... I... I don't a...ac- actually think there is a...a w-way to explain this to you, so I-I think I'll just show you, ok?". Not waiting for a response, the animagus took a deep breath and turned into a big yet skinny black dog.
Cassandra stumbled backwards, her face a clear show of surprise and confusion.
What. The. HELL.
It couldn't be a trick. She had literally seen Sirius' limbs morph into paws... and.. fur... and tail...
The dog happily waggled his tail a few times before turning human again. The whole process sort of pulled a dark corner in Cassandra's mind, but, fortunately, no memory invaded her mind.
The girl opened and closed her mouth once and twice, desperate to say something.
"Ok. Oook. So. You are... and he was... Ok. I... I think I r-really have to... to tell my boss... that I'll stay at home for a while. Yes. I really have to. Ok. You... You stay here. I go. It will take... a few minutes. Not more than that. So. You stay here and... and I go. Here."
Sirius had to chew his own cheeks in order to prevent laughing. She was just completely flabbergasted... It was rather sweet. And hilarious. But sweet too.
Cassandra practically bolted down the five flights of stairs which separated her from the phone. She must have looked particularly messed up, because her landlord didn't bother her with the rent and her boss didn't argue with her too much. After getting two days off work, the girl ran as quickly as she could to her flat.
Sirius was still there, in the bathroom, gripping the sink with one hand and nervously playing with his "uniform" with the other. He immediately looked at her, and she could see that hope and fear were reflecting in his stormy eyes.
Cassandra stared at the dog-man-whatever in front of her for a while, then lowered her gaze to the floor, suddenly finding her bare foot particularly interesting. She didn't know where to start with the questions. Sirius felt her confusion and decided to spare her further headaches. Thank God, his voice was now almost normal.
"Well... C-considering the face you made when I transformed I suppose you don't know anything about your origins, do you?"
Cassandra shifted uncomfortably, leaning slightly against the door frame for support. She had managed to forget about her leg for a while, but now it hurt like hell.
"I... uhm... I didn't remember anything from my past until a few months ago, apart from my name and age. The nun at the orphanage... she... she told my foster family I had been probably abandoned by a group of gypsies or a thing like that, because I was wearing strange clothes..."
Sirius was immediately hit by an image of a little girl covered in dust and wearing a pair of large, flowery trousers and a yellow T-shirt, sitting all alone in the dark in front of a huge muggle building. He felt guilt constricting his chest, but he tried to ignore the sensation. He tiredly scrubbed his face with his hands and tried to step forward, only to sway dangerously. Without thinking, Cassandra immediately run by his side to help him, but he held a hand to stop her.
"Don't... Don't worry. I'm fine. I just... I just h-have to get used not to walk on a-a-all fours". He half smirked at the confession, and the girl couldn't help but chuckle. God, it feels like I've been thrown in a Samuel Beckett's play.
Awkwardly, the strange couple made their way towards the other room of the flat. Sirius managed to reach the pillow on which he usually slept in his dog form and dropped on it unceremoniously, his legs shaking with the effort and his head spinning. Cassandra filled two glasses with orange juice, the tea completely forgotten, and took a box of hypercaloric chocolate cookies. She then grabbed a pillow herself and sat down Indian style in front of the ex-convict.
"Here - she muttered- it looks like you could use a proper breakfast". Sirius stared at the biscuits in awe for a couple of seconds, then took one of the cookies out of the box and hesitantly took a bit. They were delicious. He ate one, then two, then three biscuits, only to be stopped by the girl in front of him.
"Wait! I mean... You... you shouldn't eat so fast... you are... you are sort of half-starved and you may be sick if you fill your stomach all of a sudden..."
Sirius quickly dropped the fifth biscuits, looking terribly ashamed.
Idiot. She gives you food and you thank her by eating like a pig.
She smiled at him reassuringly and replaced the juice with water.
"Maybe a bit of water will help you swallow the bakery you have just eaten... Just... take small sips, ok?"
The man took the glass, blushing slightly. He felt like a retarded. Cassandra probably caught his expression, because she hurriedly started speaking about her flashbacks, hoping to distract Sirius from his current physical condition.
"So... As I said, I grew up thinking I was an abandoned gypsy. I did never truly believed this story, though. I sort... I sort of knew that my father would never abandon me... I never thought about my mother, I don't know why. Then, a couple of months ago... An incident occured. I came out of it alive but pretty badly injured, and since that night I've been haunted by nightmares. Well, a nightmare, actually.. In this dream I am four or five years old and I am wandering through the streets of a destroyed town near a train station. The sky is clouded and strange shots of light flash everywhere. I am crying, and calling for... for my father. Initially I thought it was a reaction to the shock of the incident, but... It felt so real...."
She looked up to see Sirius staring at her with an unreadable expression on his face. Her heart, however, could clearly feel the sadness and the guilt radiating from the man's soul.
"Cassie... You are right. That... that is not just a dream, that's a real memory. But before I go on and explain what that scene means, I have to ask: do you remember anything else?"
Cassandra frowned, distractedly playing with a string of her sweater. Sirius knew that the answer was yes, he had seen her lost in those trances and he had seen some flashes of her flashbacks . However, he needed to hear the whole story, so he waited.
"I... I have flashbacks. Quite often, actually. Well, I don't know if they are real flashbacks, because... they are weird. I mean... Oh, you'll think I am completely crazy..."
"Darling, I am an escaped convict who can turn into a dog. In your eyes I should be the perfect example of craziness."
Cassandra chuckled lightly, a bit more relaxed.
"Ok... So... I've sort of written down all the most significant visions I had... Here. The first one I had was about a huge room with this wicked ceiling... I... don't even know how to explain it, but it didn't seem even a proper ceiling... It was like watching the sky at midnight. I heard a voice, probably my father's one, which stated that the room was called "Great Hall"..."
Cassandra went on describing her flashbacks, and Sirius listened carefully, feeling relief wash through his veins. The situation wasn't so dramatic, after all: she remembered quite a lot of things, although she apparently had some problems with faces and names. He only had to explain that magic existed and how it worked, then filling the gaps would be quite easy.
When Cassandra finished her report, the girl was still averting Sirius' gaze.
"I... I don't remember you. I mean, before I saw you in the bathroom and that strange thing happened... I knew that you were a part of my life before I was adopted... I knew you were one of my father's friends... But it was just a feeling, not a memory. Despite this fact, my instinct tells me I can trust you, and... I don't know... I don't even know exactly who you are, but when I saw your face... God, everything's so messed up!" With that, the girl buried her head in her hands, groaning.
Swallowing the last bit of his sixth biscuit, Sirius tentatively placed a hand on Cassandra's left knee.
"Cassandra... Cassie... look at me, please". The ex-soldier reluctantly complied,finally showing her huge green eyes.
" I'm ... I'm going to explain and answer to all your questions, I promise. Just... don't let your education or beliefs influence your trust in what I am going to tell you, ok?" the girl nodded and unconsciously leaned closer, eager to complete the complicated puzzle of her life.
"Good. Now, first of all... All the "strangest" things you saw in your dreams or visions... they are not a trick of your imagination, you are not hallucinating: everything you saw is real and really happened."
Cassandra expression could only described as dejected.
"But... how? There are definitely no technologies which could allow..."
"What.. what did I just told you? Forget your education and your habits for a bit. Forget what you learned in school or what your foster family t-told you" Sirius's tone was calm but firm, and Cassandra couldn't help but obey.
"Now, think about a possible explanation to this phenomena which does not involve any, and I repeat any of the things you learned in the past thirteen years".
Cassandra opened her mouth to answer, but the words didn't come out. She knew the answer, it was exactly what she had suspected in the last months. Still, that couldn't be possible. It was too much.
Sirius felt her confusion and internal struggle, and tried to smile at her reassuringly.
The girl clenched her jaw and almost forced the words to leave her voice box.
"The... the only explanation could be that those... those phenomena were the result of some sort of... of m-magic, but..."
This time Sirius' chapped lips turned in a broad smile.
"exactly! Magic. I know, at the moment your mind is rejecting this word with all its strength, but I assure you that magic is the answer to most of your question. After all, how could I possibly turn into a dog if I wasn't a wizard?"
Cassandra's eyes were, if possible, even bigger than usual.
Yep. definitely a Samuel's Beckett comedy.
No, no, Cassandra. Sirius is right: it is the only explanation. That, or you are completely mad.
Tiredly, Cassandra rubbed her temples, frowning and closing her eyes.
"Do you... Can you prove this? I mean, ok, apparently you can turn into a dog... And there are no doubts that what has happened in the last months is strange to say the least... But... It may still be a trick of my head. Maybe I am all alone in my apartment talking to my damn wall... Maybe the incident really messed up with my mind..."
Sirius sighed. This girl was just as stubborn as her father.
"At the moment I can't cast any spell. I-I'm too weak, and I haven't got a wand with me, anyway... However, I suppose you are looking for proofs outside this apartment, aren't you?"
"Ok... I would.. send you to Diagon Alley, but you don't have a wand, so you couldn't enter the town... Unless..."
Suddenly, Sirius' eyes brightened. Cassandra could almost hear the wheels in his brain working.
"I got it! O-ok, you have to walk down Charing Cross road ... until you reach Charing Cross Books. Cross the street: you'll find a small, rather plain door which other people do not seem to notice. Do not open the door. You would find yourself in a wizard pub and you would attract too much attention, being a foreign an so on.. Move ... 15 steps to the right: you'll find a really small alley, almost too narrow for you to walk. you have to go into the alley and reach the end of it. It will be dark, but you won't need your eyesight, a-anyway. You just have to touch the walls around you. There is a spot which recognizes magic..t- touch. Once you'll reach it, it will gleam and the floor will open under your feet. You'll land in another alley. Go out of it and... Just look around. I think that will be enough proof for now."
Cassandra stared at Sirius, her mouth wide open.
"You... are you..."
"S-serious? Always, dear."
The girl snorted in amusement and disbelief, but got up to her feet anyway. She grabbed a biscuit and got ready to visit that Dia-something.
*These lines are taken from the song "You Are My Sunshine". It was first published in 1939 in Louisiana by the Pine Ridge Boys and the Rice Brothers Gang, and since then it has been sung by various singers.