"...And then, just when I was about to buy that wonderful book I overheard that wizards do not use British currency. It was a shame, really. There was this interesting potion to cure dragon pox... Really fascinating! And the pictures... Wow. They were moving! I mean, actually moving.
I know that's not a new thing for you, but... Wow! Anyway, in that moment I noticed that I had been away for a whole day, so I decided to come back and check how you were doing." Cassandra ended her long and detailed account, still grinning madly and slightly out of breath. She had never felt so thrilled
before. During her slow walk towards home she had had the time to let her new discoveries sink in, and was now pleased to say that she wasn't shocked or scared anymore. She was giddy. And excited. And wonderfully alive.
Waves of raw energy flooded through her body, making her almost jump on the place. She wanted to go back there and buy that book. And an owl. And one of those wonderful set of quills she had spotted in one of the shops...
Calm down. Answers first. Mad magical shopping later.
Still practically glowing with happiness, Cassandra looked at Sirius properly for the first time since she had entered the flat. He was sitting quietly on his pillow, his knees brought near his chest, and was smiling at her gently. His eyes, however, weren't smiling. They were troubled and full of anxiety.
Sighing, Cassandra carefully sat on the floor, facing the escaped convict like she had done in the morning. The man clearly noticed her change of attitude and stiffened slightly, the smile gone. He didn't talk, though, and the girl knew she had to be the one to break the ice.
"Alright, Mr. Black. Magic exist, I think that denying this now would be a bit dumb of me. So... You said that I could have all the answers I needed..."
The words came out before he could held his tongue. He knew that she knew that he wasn't a murderer, but those three words were the only thing he had dared to say for twelve years. It was almost an automatic tape.
Cassandra tilted her head and frowned in confusion.
"Yeah... I thought that I'd already made myself clear about this point. I trust you. And believe me, if I had even a tiny doubt about your innocence you wouldn't be here, chatting quietly with me."
Sirius didn't reply. He simply lowered his gaze and gulped soundly.
The girl looked at him sadly. He was like a frightened animal. What could have possibly happened in the last twelve years to make him so scared of everything?
After a while she understood that he wasn't in the right condition to talk without a guidance. Somehow, in the few hours she had been away he had lost that bit of confidence he had showed during their first encounter.
"Very well... Since you don't seem so eager to talk, I'm going to ask some questions about what happened to you, alright?"
The animagus nodded imperceptibly, daring to lift his gaze and look at the ex-soldier.
"Ok. First of all, I want to know exactly the reason why you were imprisoned. I know from our reporters that you are accused of killing thirteen people, but somehow I don't think that's the full story. Maybe this has to do with the fact that Diagon Alley was plastered with pictures of you.."
Cassandra trailed off, studying the man's eyes carefully. They were lost in the space, probably reviving the memories of the past years. They were like a cloudy sky just before a huge tempest. She could almost hear the rumbling of thunder and the flashes of lightnings.
Cassandra couldn't help but roll her eyes, a bit exasperated.
"Of course it's complicated. If it had been simple you wouldn't have spent twelve years in prison, right?" Seeing that her caustic comment wasn't doing any good to their already difficult conversation, the girl backtracked quickly.
"Sorry. I get a bit short-tempered when I'm hungry... Well... What about having something to eat, uh? I stopped by the supermarket before coming home and I bought some rice. It's not much, but I don't think your stomach could hold something else at the moment. I have always a bit of cheese in the fridge, if you want. It's Italian. A bit expensive, actually, but it's really good, it will help you fattening up a bit..."
Cassandra got up from the floor preparing their frugal dinner and keeping talking about whatever came up to her mind. She had noticed that her chattering relaxed Sirius, and he really needed to stop being so stiff and jumpy.
"... Oh, I also bought some new clothes for you. They are quite plain, I warn you. Just a track suit, underwear and some t-shirts. Oh, and trainers. I found them in a secondhand shop. I'm sorry I couldn't afford anything else, but maybe next month I will be able to find something cooler... Maybe a jacket. Yes, you really look like the leather jacket type."
"There was a war going on. In the magical world, I mean"
Cassandra almost dropped the bag of rice she was holding. She had almost forgotten about the question she had asked him a couple of minutes before.
We are in the middle of a war, sweetheart. We have to stay united.
It looked like Cassandra was destined to jump from a war to another.
"Mmmh.. Yes... I remember Dad once told me something regarding being in the middle of a war. What was that about?" Sirius slowly got up from the floor and started pacing, frequently passing a hand through his matted hair.
"Cassie... Do... do you remember that flashback... that flashback with the redhead g-girl? L-lily?".
Cassandra nodded absent-mindedly, too busy pouring the rice in a kettle to notice his pained expression.
"Yeah... I asked her some odd questions... who was her by the way?"
"That's beside the point".
Sirius croaking voice had a harsh tone that made Cassandra jerk her head up. The man, however, didn't seem to notice and resumed his pacing.
"In that flashback she... she told you that some people thought that witches and wizards who had non-magical parents or closed relatives were inferior to the so-called purebloods, who instead came from entirely magical families. Well, that was practically the main reason the war began."
The animagus paused, looking at the girl in front of him intently. He had expected her to rant against the stupidity of that conflict, but she didn't say a word. Actually, she didn't even tore her gaze off the now boiling water of the kettle, although Sirius could clearly see her frowning.
"... Right... There... there was this man, Tom Riddle. He hated Muggles and Muggle-borns.."
"What's a muggle?"
"A non-magical person... Anyway, Riddle really despised Muggles and Muggle-borns, he blamed them for the problems of wizarding society. Muggle-borns, in particular... Well, he thought they shouldn't have been accepted in our world. He wanted to destroy them. Of course, many people were against his views, but some families... The most ancient, "pure", ones... They agreed with him. Long story short, in a few years the lad managed to gather quite a large group of fanatics who would do whatever he asked them to do."
Sirius stopped for a couple of seconds, trying to stay calm. Cassandra looked at him, worried. She could see his hands clenching and unclenching and his jaw set almost painfully, and suddenly realized that his war experience had been radically different from hers.
She had fought in a war. He had lived a war. He had seen his world, his life, his friends falling apart, whereas she had just gone into the battlefield like a manager goes to his office, never risking anything but her own life.
After a while Sirius finally managed to calm down a bit and continued the story.
"It was... It was horrible. People disappeared, entire families were tortured and slaughtered like filthy beasts. Riddle called himself Voldemort. His most loyal followers started wearing masks and took the name of Death Eaters. Many of them were teenagers, Cassie. Just like you. Children coming from pureblood bigoted families, trained to kill and torture and hate muggle borns and magical creatures which weren't wizards and witches. Soon enough everybody had to take a side and fight, or try to move abroad and hide... I... I decided to fight... against Voldemort of course."
Now Cassandra was confused. Why using children and common citizen to fight? Didn't they have a government, an Army?
"I... don't understand. I mean, there was this Voldemort who woke up one day and decided to kill and torture muggle-borns. He gathered up a bunch of psychotic teenagers and started going round and spreading death and destruction. That's understandable. But why you? I mean, were you a member of the Army or something? Did your government trained you or.."
"Cassie... Wizarding world is... different from Muggle world. We don't have an Army. We have Aurors... who are like muggle... ehr... Policemen? Apart from that we are defensless. Not to mention that our government... our government mainly consists of a bunch of idiots and corrupted jerks who are more interested in money and fame rather than people safety and justice". He said that without breathing, his voice not so different from a low growl.
"... The only hope was a secret society, the Order of the Phoenix. The Headmaster of the school your father and I went to created this organisation to gather whoever was willing to fight against Voldemort. Remus, James...Pettigrew and I joined it when we were fifteen."
Who was him?
Another question for another time.
"Fifteen... Wow. That's... You were as old as I was when... when I went fighting"
Sirius looked at Cassandra, who was now concentrated on the really complicated task of cutting the cheese. She probably didn't know that he had been able to see some of her memories, but that was a subject they would have to face later.
"I am sorry for what happened to you. I... I don't know exactly what happened in your life after you... you d-disappeared, but I know it hasn't been easy. And I am s-sorry. Because I... because we should have been here for you... And we couldn't."
Cassandra stared at him wide-eyed.
Nobody had ever said that to her.
Well, apart from the doctor who told her about her physical condition, of course, but that didn't count. He was just following a script.
But Sirius Black... he was really apologizing. Why, though? It had been her fault, after all. She hadn't listened to her father. The only person who should have been feeling guilty was her.
Suddenly uncomfortable, the ex-soldier hastily handed Sirius his bowl of rice and a piece of cheese, carefully averting his gaze. The couple awkwardly sat cross-legged on Cassandra's bed, and for a while no sound could be heard apart from quiet munching and swallowing.
Cassandra studied closely the man in front of her and started thinking about that Azkaban prison. In fact, it was highly improbable that a week on the run could have done such a damage to Sirius' physical condition: he was definitely too skinny and weak. Suddenly, Cassandra remembered the old-fashioned outfits and habits showed by Diagon Alley's citizens and shivered at the thought that, maybe, even the magical prison system hadn't improved since the Middle Ages.
"So... you joined this Order of the Phenix when you were fifteen... together with my father and two other guys. What... What did you have to do?"
Sirius shook out from his reverie and lifted his grey eyes from the highly appreciated bowl of rice, frowning slightly as he tried to recall some of their missions. It wasn't that difficult, since most of them were bad memories.
"Well... Mostly we had to patrol our school and try to prevent other kids from joining Voldemort. Sometimes we were asked to spy on the youngest Death Eaters and report our findings to the Headmaster. When the term finished, though... Things often became complicated." With that he stuffed a spoonful of rice in his mouth, munching it more than necessary.
"We had missions. Real, potentially fatal missions. We had to run whenever an attack occurred, wherever it was. We... we were young. Too young... that first summer of fighting almost broke us."
Then, to Cassandra utter surprise, Sirius' eyes brightened, ad if he had suddenly remembered something wonderful. And he had.
"But you were there. A two-year-old bundle of happiness and energy. It didn't matter how much tired or injured we were, you could always cheer us up."
Wait. Two years old? That meant... That meant that her father had her when he was thirteen? That was... weird.
Sirius completely ignored Cassandra's expression of confusion and went on with his story.
"So we managed to survive. Your father, James and I became even more friends than before, if that's possible. We were like brothers.
When we were seventeen... A traitor infected the Order. We didn't know who he or she could possibly be, but all the trust and faith we had in each other... was g-gone. All the small things like being late to a meeting or spending a bit too much time in the loo... Everything was interpreted as a sign that maybe, just maybe that person could be a traitor."
Sirius swallowed thickly, his expression dark and hollow again.
"I... think everybody thought that the most likely traitors were Remus and I. From my part, I was the Heir of one of the most bigoted, pureblood family in Great Britain. I had been disowned before my sixteenth birthday due to myabsurd ideals and disrespectful behaviour, but apparently that wasn't enough for the public eye to understand that I wasn't a Voldemort follower. Remus, on the other hand... he wasn't a pureblood, he... had another problem... I... don't... think this is the time to tell you about it".
Cassandra stared at him with wide eyes. A problem? With her father? How could he possibly think that she would let it go?
"furry little problem", Cassandra whispered those three words, completely oblivious to their meaning, but Sirius' sensible ears caught them anyway.
"You... you know?". the animagus' voice was strangled and slightly high-pitched. What if Cassandra knew? What if Cassandra had suddenly remembered that horrible discussion he had had with Moony just a couple of weeks before her disappearance? He wasn't sure to be ready to face her reaction, and couldn't help but exhale a breath of relief when the girl shook her head, utterly confused.
"those words just came to my mind, but I don't... I don't know what they mean. Furry little problem? Who is him, a Yeti or something?"
Despite the tense situation, Sirius found himself snorting in amusement at the ex-soldier's expression of real interest and concern.
"No... I can assure you that Moony is not a Yeti. But when we meet him I'll make sure he knows about your first guess. I think he'll find it quite amusing."
When we meet him.
Moony is Remus.
Remus is Dad.
"You... you will... you will b.. bring me... t-to... Dad?".
Sirius thought he had never seen wider eyes. There was so much wonder in them, so much... hope. They practically sparkled with longing.
You, filthy Voldemort scum who ruined Cassandra's life. Wait until I find you...
Trying to sound nonchalant, Sirius shrugged.
"Of course we'll meet your Dad. He's family. And we have thirteen years to made up for"
Cassandra stared at him.
Then, really, really slowly, she grinned. A wonderful, sweet, adorable grin.
Then she did two things she had never done before. Two very girly things.
And she hugged Sirius. Actually, she all but threw herself at him, tackling the poor man on the ground and making the two bowls of rice crash on the floor.
Sirius tentatively hugged her back, trying to adjust to the strange feeling of his facial muscles stretching into an equally wide grin. It was like having eaten a whole bag of Chocolate Frogs after a Dementors attack: he felt incredibly warm and cozy.
The hug didn't last long. They were both too uncomfortable with human friendly contact to bear an actual embrace. After a couple of seconds Cassandra took again her place on the camp bed, helping Sirius to do the same. She was still grinning madly.
"Ok… Ehr… Everydoby thought either you or Dad could be the traitor. What happened then?"
And again, the silver in Sirius' eyes lost their brightness, being filled by dark, dangerous clouds.
"You got lost"
Suddenly, Cassandra felt really guilty. If only she hadn't be so… childlish…
The animagus looked at the girl, observing as she lowered her gaze, her beautiful smile gone. He had to gather all his strength to fight and win over the lump which was blocking his throat.
"That April day… the young group of Death Eaters who populated Hogwarst decided to throw an attack to Hogsmeade, the magical village near our school. We… we never understood what happened. One minute you were there with us in the pub and then… and… t-then you were gone. D-disappeared. L-lost… l-lost in the chaos of the battle…."
Sirius paused for a while, clenching and unclenching his bony hands trying not to lose his temper. Despite the sinking feeling in her chest, Cassandra managed to smile weakly at him, tentatively brushing her hand on his.
"That was… that was the last straw. We completely lost it, your father in particular. We spent months inspecting the forest around the school inch by inch, questioning any creature we could find on our path. Nobody… Nobody dared to try and stop us. The teachers never asked questions and didn't even bother to try to collect our works, despite the fact that it was our last year before graduation. Our Headmaster, Dumbledore… decided to stop asking us to go on missions, and James' father, the Head of the Auror department at the time, did everything in his power to find you…. Of course nobody ever succeeded."
"From that fateful day on, everything went worse. James'… James' p-parents, who had been so kind and.. welcoming to a-all of us… They d-died a few days a-after our graduation. James was a wreck and so was I. It didn't help the fact that Lily, James fiancée, was pregnant and bloody terrified that something similar to what had happened to you could take her baby away from her. "
"Your father… your father became more and more distant, Cassie. He… he couldn't accept your loss, he thought it was his fault."
"No! But that's.."
"Unreasonable? Irrational? Untrue? Of course it was, Cassie. But he is your father. He loved you more than anything…. When you came into lives you brought a light and a warmth… nothing… n-nothing could replace. "
Sirius looked at the girl straight in the eye, his expression full of grief and despair. He didn't look different from the hysterical man in the pictures in Diagon Alley. Cassandra scooted closer to him, her own eyes bright with unshed tears she just refused to let fall.
"I'm sorry… so sorry…" She whispered, hoping to convey all her sorrow and guilt in that short word.
Without thinking, the animagus lifted his hands to cup her bruised cheek, gently tracing the scar –now patch-free- with his thumb.
"Never, never say that word again, Cassandra. Never, do you hear me? You w-were a child. A-an i-innocent, k-kind b-baby. And we …lost you. We l-let you dis..disappear. You paid the highest price, you… paid for every possible crime you could commit in the future. Sorry… is not your word to say".
Cassandra still looked at him with watery green eyes, the guilt not disappeared from her expression. Unconsciously she leaned to the gentle touch of the man in front of her, finding herself wishing to be closer to him. It was a strange feeling, quite disturbing, actually, considering that she had spent thirteen years utterly alone. She could sense that similar thoughts were passing through Sirius' mind too. After all, he had been in a cell for more than a decade, probably isolated from the rest of the prisoners. He needed human touch more than her.
However, she wasn't ready to scoot closer. Nor was him ready to accept her. They were like hungry, lone wolves who had just been offered a piece of meat by a gentle human being. They wanted to reach the hand of the man and eat the food, but they just couldn't.
They both needed time. In the meantime, Cassandra was perfectly pleased by the light touch of Sirius' rough hands on her cheek, and Sirius was happy to see her leaning to the touch and placing her left hand on his. Gently she removed his hand from her face and held it close, placing it on her lap and drawing complicated patterns on its palm with her thumb.
Breathing heavily, Cassandra asked:
"What… what happened to my father?"
"He didn't stop looking for you. Never. Not even after James' and Lily's son's birth. He was able to disappear for days or weeks without telling anything to anybody. We… we knew that sometimes Dumbledore sent him away to spy on certain groups of… people, but most of the time not even the Headmaster knew what was going on with him. I tried to help him, Cassie. I really did. I searched for you everywhere within the wizarding word. But for him it wasn't enough. Hell, it wasn't enough, but, with James and Lily busy with little Harry, what else could I do?"
Noticing the despair in his tone, Cassandra gently caressed the arm which was still in her lap, tracing with her index finger the thick network of white scars that covered his skin.
She wasn't stupid. She could imagine what happened.
"You… you started thinking he was the traitor, didn't you?"
There was no blame in her voice, although that was clearly a rhetoric question. She understood the pain her father may have felt was immense, but he should have known that his behaviour would have been interpreted as a proof of his betrayal. It was a war, after all. It sounded horrible and heartless, but he really should have simply given up on her, for his own good.
"Yes… I… wasn't sure, because I knew he was probably just busy trying to cope with the pain of your loss, but the others… There was this guy, Peter Pettigrew", Sirius spat that name like if it was poison, making Cassandra flinch slightly and tighten her grip on his arm, "he… He was… We thought he was a friend of us. He was… he was clumsy, and fairly stupid. We… we had to help him with homework every single time, because he wasn't able to do anythingwith his wand. Hell, even you managed to understand complicated spells and potions better than him!"
With every word, Sirius' tone rose and rose, until he was almost shouting. At some point of his speech he rose abruptly from the bed, pacing the tiny room like a caged animal.
Cassandra didn't remember that Pettigrew lad, but she could guess one thing: he was the reason why Sirius Black was skinny and covered in old dirty pieces of cloth. And that was enough for her to feel ad enraged as the man in front of her.
"It was for his incredible stupidity and ignorance that everybody trusted him. Poor Peter, he would never hurt a fly!The bastard. He started insinuating that Remus was the spy. Nothing too explicit, just a hint here and there… in the end he managed to convince everybody. Everybody! Even… even m-me."
"How could I have believed the rat?! How could I have been so dumb, so blind?! Remus was my best friend. Until that fateful day of April I trusted him with my own life! But I guess that war does that to people. It destroys your soul until your unable to see the truth. You see what you want to see… And in that period Remus wasn't there. This isn't a way to try to make up an excuse… It's just the truth. Remus was away, maybe on a mission for Dumbledore, maybe searching for you somewhere else… I don't know. The fact was that he disappeared when we most needed him. And that played a great part in my decision to trust Pettigrew."
"Months passed. A prophecy was made about Harry, James and Lily's son. My g-godson. I know that it may sound unbelievable for you, and trust me, Divination is usually a joke of a discipline. But that prophecy was authentic, and, most importantly, Voldemort knew about it. I don't.. I don't know what exactly the prophecy said. I only know that, according to it, little Harry was destined to cause Voldemort's demise or something like that… you… you probably imagine how that monster took it".
"He.. he k-killed a baby?!"
Cassandra knew she shouldn't have sounded so shocked. After all, she had witnessed the horrors of a war. But the thought that a baby could be killed for a stupid thing like the babbling of a "Seer"… it was horrible. Absurd.
Not to mention the fact that that baby boy… Harry… He was the son of James and Lily. Lily, that girl who had comforted her when her Dad wasn't there…
"Lily! Lily I felt him!"
Cassandra lays her dark blond head against the redhead's stomach, squealing in delight as a tiny kick bumps against her cheek. The older girl chuckles lightly, caressing her small baby bump with her hand.
"It likes you, see? Oh, uhm, Cassie?"
"Why do you keep telling everybody that the little one here is a boy? You know that it could be a girl, right?"
Cassandra frowns, looking up at Lily with an adorably serious face.
"But Lily… He can't be a girl! He has to be a boy! So he will be my baby brother!"
"What's the matter my dearest doves?"
Cassie's head turns around immediately and the girl grins madly at the sight of a tall boy with hazel, bespectacled eyes and ruffled, jet-black hair.
With that the girl all but jumps towards the young man open arms, being immediately lifted and whipped around.
Cassandra likes Prongs a lot. Not as much as Padfoot, that's obvious. But Prongs is good enough. Moreover, he has made her future baby brother.
Prongs starts talking softly with Lily, still holding Cassie in his arms. The little child stops listening when the couple mentions Peter.
Cassandra doesn't like Peter. He's stupid and smells. She knows she shouldn't judge people by their intelligence or scent, Dad always tells her so. But Peter is… Peter. A rat. A smelly, stupid rat. And she doesn't like rats. They are… untrustworthy.
The ex-soldier shook out of her reverie with a gasp, lifting her head to find Sirius looking at her with concern clear in his eyes.
"Oh. Uhm… nothing, I just, sort of… Dozed off for a minute. Nothing serious, really… So… what… what were you saying?"
Still looking worried, the animagus resumed his story.
"…As I was saying… Voldemort wanted to…to kill Harry, and he tried. Many times. After a while Dumbledore decided it was time for L-lily and J-james to go… to go into hiding."
Cassandra could sense that the story was rapidly reaching an end. And she had the terrible feeling she wouldn't like it.
"There was… there was this complicated spell the… the F-Fidelius Charm. Using this spell you can design a person you trust as a Secret Keeper. That person will be the only one apart from you to know where you live. Of course, the point of the spell is that in this way, your location will be unknown to whoever wants to harm you, since the Secret Keeper is meant to keep that information, well.. secret."
"We decided that this, among with other forms of protection, would have been p-perfect to keep little Harry s-safe. In front of Dumbledore we decided that I would have been the Secret Keeper. But then… just a couple of days before casting the spell… I… God, how could I be so stupid!"
Cassandra followed Sirius' pacing for a while before it dawned on her.
Rats are untrustworthy.
Peter is a rat.
He started insinuating Remus was the spy.
Poor Peter, he would never hurt a fly!
"You decided to swap Secret Keeper without telling anyone. You told James and Lily to choose Pettigrew instead of you. He was the spy."
Cassandra's tone was cold, monotonous. She didn't look at Sirius in the eye. She kept her gaze lost in the distance, trying to understand why.
"Why? Why would have Peter made a better job than you in keeping the secret? What made you think that?"
Again, no blame could be found in her voice. Just interest.
Sirius scrubbed his face tiredly with his hands and shook his head, clearing his thoughts.
"I… I was the obvious choice. You don't remember it, Cassie but J-james… he… he is… he was my brother in all but blood. Everybody… everybody knew that. Pettigrew, instead… He wasn't as close as I was to James, but… I thought…. I thought he could be as trustworthy as I was! Choosing him in secret… Everybody… Everbody would have l-looked for m-me . I thought… I thought he cared for James.. for L-lily… for Harry at least"
Suddenly Sirius' legs started shaking uncontrollably and soon enough the escaped convict's knees buckled. Cassandra made to reach and help him up, but there was something in his blank expression that told her to stay still and listen to the rest of the story, although she could easily imagine its end.
"But he didn't. Of course he didn't, he is a rat for God's Sake! He was the spy. He told… he told e-everything to Voldemort. O-on the 31st of October 1978 I went to Pettigrew's home. I wanted to see if he was alright, but… but when I arrived… nobody was there. I-initially I thought he had been kidnapped by Death E-eaters but… there were no… no signs of f-fight. It was then that I understood. How could I have been so stupid?! HOW?! The evidences were there, in front of me… God, what have I done…"
A young Sirius Black lands with his flying motorbike in the middle of a quiet street, surrounded by the darkness of the night. He has dark circles under his eyes and his skin is pale and strained. His heart is beating so fast that the sound of its contractions can almost be heard from the villages nearby. The young man is shaking uncontrollably and almost jumps from the motorbike, not even turning off the engine.
Sirius Black runs. He runs as he had never done before.
There is a house at the end of the street.
He shouldn't be able to see it.
But it's there, and it's in ruins.
The sky is dark, but he can still see it. The Dark Mark.
Over the house nobody should see.
Floating and saying out loud what Sirius could never even think.
In the house nobody should see.
Sirius' legs refuse to run anymore. They don't want to enter that house. They don't want their owner to see what's inside.
But Sirius goes on. Trembling like a scared child, muttering under his breath like a madman
"James, Lily,Harry. Nonononono…"
The front door of the house is open. Blasted.
Sirius bolts inside, without looking down.
He stumbles over something. The Carpet? Please, please let it be the carpet.
But it's not.
Glasses askew, hair ruffled as usual.
He is sleeping.
"Hey, J-james, wake up man… You gave me quite a fright"
Sirius crawls towards his best friend, his brother. Why is he sleeping on the floor? He has to get up, Death Eaters could come back in an instant.
"Come on Prongs, there's no time to lose…"
Sirius' tone becomes more urgent, desperate as he keeps shaking James' body.
Why doesn't he wake up?
He is so cold…
He is so pale…
Dull with death, bright with tears..
"No, James, you have to get up.. Come on, Jamie… JAMES POTTER WAKE THE FUCK UP!
Sirius Black sobs. Sirius Black shakes. Sirius Black screams.
But there's nothing he can do.
James Potter is dead.
So Sirius Black can only cry. His best friend cold and limp in his arms.
Sirius Black is crying, but he's not the only one.
Someone is wailing.
In a crib.
Sirius Black doesn't ask when, or where or why.
He just runs.
The crib is destroyed. Lily…
Her beautiful auburn hair…
Sprawled on the floor like a pool of blood.
Her wonderful emerald eyes.
Once so bright. Once so kind.
Now they are so dead… frozen in a permanent expression of fear.
They are so dead.
But yet, alive.
He wants his parents.
He has Sirius now.
Sirius gently picks up the baby, burying his face in the jet-black, ruffled locks.
Through the tears, despite the pain, Sirius Black smiles.
Sirius is not in a house anymore. He is in a street. A broad street crowded with muggles.
And Peter Pettigrew.
"HOW COULD YOU DO THAT, SIRIUS? LILY AND JAMES… THEY WERE OUR FRIENDS! HOW COULD YOU BETRAY THEM!?"
Those words, coming out from that mouth.
They are like fuel on fire.
They burn and make the anger rise and rise.
Anger, but also Guilt, Regret and Sadness.
Sirius rises his wand. He is going to kill Pettigrew.
He opens his mouth to cast that unforgivable spell, he wants to say those two words, he needs to kill the rat.
But he can't. Not because of an immediate epiphany. Not because of Dumbledore's words about love and forgiveness.
He can't because Pettigrew has already cast a spell with a wand hidden behind his back.
The rat is silent, nobody hears the spell leaving his filthy mouth.
They only see Sirius holding a wand with a furious expression on his face.
Then chaos explodes.
Dust is everywhere, people are screaming, begging for help.
The alarms of the car go off, but Sirius can't hear them.
He is too busy clutching his ears with his hands, his eardrum damaged by the sudden explosion.
He forces his grey eyes open, fighting the burning sensation of the particles of smoke invading his corneas.
Where is the traitor?
He stumbles forward, trying to walk straight, fighting the dizziness which is rapidly overwhelming his battered mind.
He sniffs the air, trying to catch the cheesy smell of the rat.
The dust scratches his lungs, but it's worth it, because he finds him.
A chubby young man with watery eyes and a greasy smile.
He his watching Sirius. He waves at him, giggling like a madman.
Sirius has to reach him… But, for the second time in eighteen years, Peter is quicker.
He draws out his wand.
A waterfall of blood hits the ground.
And Pettigrew is gone, replaced by a rat and an amputated finger.
Pettigrew is gone.
Sirius Black is screwed, and laughs.
Laughs until a fresh wave of tears cover his cheeks.
Laughs until his knees buckle and he falls on the floor.
Laughs until his old friend Kingsley and his Mentor Mad-Eye drag him to Azkaban, without a trial, without a legal questioning.
Only disgust and despise.
Cassandra was crying
James and Lily, the 50% of her family, were dead.
And she'd never had the possibility to say goodbye.
But that wasn't the reason why she was crying.
She had loved James and Lily, but Sirius…
Together with her father, Sirius was her world.
And now he was kneeling in the middle of the room, broken and catatonic after having shared with her his worst memories.
He was mumbling something, but Cassandra didn't catch it until she crouched in front of him.
"Sorry… Sorry sorry sorry…."
Trying to suppress her angry tears, Cassandra decided that, for a couple of hours, she could throw her weariness in the bin and accept some human contact. So she hugged the broken man in front of her, delicately, almost reverently. She hugged Sirius and let him cling onto her, burying her face in his hair.
She cried. She cried all the tears she didn't let fall in the past thirteen years.
He didn't cry. He didn't have any more tears.
So he simply stayed there, wrapped in a scent of Christmas and family, listening to a sweet hoarse voice.
"We'll find him, Sirius. We'll find the rat. Together. And you'll be free, and the family reunited. We'll meet Dad, and why not? Maybe even Harry. And we'll find a house, a huge house lost somewhere in the forest. And we'll be happy. Because we have suffered enough. We deserve some peace"
His answer was a single, short word: "Sorry".
Through the tears, Cassandra led the broken man to her bed and snuggled beside him, listening to his heartbeat and letting him wrap his arms around her.
In the darkness, just when the mumbling finally stopped and Sirius' breath became slow and regular, Cassandra whispered:
"You paid for any possible crime you could commit in the future. Sorry is not your word to say".