When Cassandra woke up the sky was a kaleidoscope of dimmed, ethereal colours.
The clouds were dark violet, almost black, and floated lazily over an army of blue, blurry buildings. Where the city stopped and the horizon began, however, an explosion of yellow, orange and pink was winning over the darkness, signalling the beginning of the dawn.
Cassandra had never been a lover of the dawn, since it meant the end of the night, the end of peace. Now, however, as she stood at the window of her flat observing the still sleeping streets of London, the girl couldn't help but smile.
The sun was rising, but the night wasn't going to end. Not this time.
She had Sirius now. She had a mission, a hope.
She was going to find her father.
Cassandra shifted her gaze from the breathtaking view in front of her, focusing on the sleeping man in her bed.
He was curled up on his left side, just like his canine counterpart. His breath was quiet, but sometimes a small cough still shook his chest, making him twitch and shift, his joints cracking with each movement. Despite the two weeks spent in her home, Sirius still looked ill.
Sighing, Cassandra limped towards the shopping bag which still lied abandoned on the floor beside the camp stove. She couldn't do much for the animagus' weight, only time could have healed his malnutrition. His joints, on the other hand, were inflamed and needed to be treated, and Cassandra knew the perfect remedy for sore junctures: hot salt. It was cheap and highly effective, and didn't hurt the least, since the burning material was usually poured into an old pillowcase. Knowing that Sirius wouldn't sleep much more she put a frying pan on the stove and filled it with sea salt.
Satisfied with her work, the girl made her way towards the shower, her mind lost in the blur of fascinating books and scary hooded figures. The bathroom was completely dark, but Cassandra didn't care: she had a very good eyesight, especially in the darkness, and that was one of the reasons why she was usually chosen for the night shifts back at the base camp.
Maybe this is one of my magical powers. Maybe I am a sort of blonde catwoman!
Thinking happily about all the cool things she could do with magic, the ex soldier slowly set free her long hair, passing her fingers through the locks in order to dissolve any possible knot.
After having turned on the shower, Cassandra took off her blouse, shivering slightly in the coolness of the morning.
As she bent down to slid the skirt off her legs, a soft ripping sound echoed in the room as one of the cuts on her back reopened.
Shit. Not again…
She had tried everything. EVERYTHING. Bandages, rosemary compresses, various kinds of sutures… Nothing could stop the wounds to open over and over again. It was getting frustrating. Not to mention the fact that the skin surrounding the cuts was swollen and inflamed.
Those are not normal scars…
Those were not scars at all.
Deciding to ask Sirius about that mysterious sentence later, Cassandra wrapped her prosthesis in a special waterproof bandage and stepped into the shower, relaxing immediately as hot water massaged her muscles.
Closing her eyes, the girl could pretend for a couple of minutes that her life had been only a nightmare and that her body hadn't been the punching ball of an angry wolf.
As water dripped over her closed eyelids, Cassandra could pretend that she wasn't living in a tiny unfurnished flat but in a cozy cottage in the middle of the forest.
Lifting her hands to feel better the gentle caress of that blissful heat, Cassandra could pretend that her father was there, in a large, bright kitchen, preparing breakfast and chatting happily with Sirius.
But after a while, the dream had to stop. She couldn't spend too much time in the shower, Sirius would need hot water too. She had to get ready. She had to remove the salt from the pan and prepare a decent breakfast. She even had to think about what to cook for lunch. Usually she didn't eat anything, but Sirius needed to fatten up. Pizza? Too fat for him, he would probably throw up. She still had some pasta left from the week before… Maybe she could cook it with the canned lentils she had bought the day before…
Lost in her thoughts she dried up and wrapped her hair in a towel, putting on a pair of knickers and a tank top open on the back. The shorts she had picked up for the day were still in the box, so she limped softly to the other room, where Sirius was still sleeping.
It was when she crouched on the floor that she felt a pair of grey eyes staring at her back. Maybe Sirius thought that she would scream and hit him with something, because the sensation quickly vanished. However, Cassandra wasn't embarrassed or shocked. She was a female soldier, after all: it took much more than that to disturb her. She calmly went on with her rummaging in the carton boxes around her, waiting for the man behind her to speak up.
"Interesting tatoo, that on your back…"
Cassandra arched a brow, mildly surprised by his calm behaviour. She had expected him to stammer an excuse and wait for her to find a subject of conversation. It was a great improvement. Maybe the little chat of the previous evening had helped him to release some of the tension and pain and relax a bit.
"Oh, that… It was a little present for my thirteenth birthday. I won this dancing competition in Liverpool and I had some spare money, so I decided that a little treat was in order… I've always loved wolves, so the subject of the tatoo was obvious. When my… my ex guardian found out I had a huge wolf tattooed on my back.. Woah… You should have seen his face!"
Finally having found the black shorts she was looking for, the girl turned around to look at an half-asleep Sirius Black sitting on her bed.
Shit. You really did have to let it slip, uh? Idiot, Cassandra.
"Ehr… Because he is not my guardian anymore."
Sirius looked at her with an arched brow, the expression "are you fucking kidding me?" clearly evident on his face.
"Alright, alright… His name is Colonel Robert Wilkins, 45 years old, an esteemed member of the British Army and one of the dullest people I've ever met. He took me in because his wife wanted to adopt a little girl … Then she got tired of me and flew off with her personal trainer. A bit cliché, isn't it? Anyway, I was left with the Colonel, who pointedly ignored me, apart on public occasions, until my twelfth birthday. On that day he found out that I had been offered a scholarship to attend university. And I was only twelve! He got sooo angry… Long story short, I attended University to become a doctor… For the British Army, which he oh-so-kindly forced me to join!"
Plastering a clearly fake smile on her lips, Cassandra pointedly ignored Sirius's darkening expression and poured the salt into four pillowcases.
"Here, put them on your knees and shoulders… it will help with your joints. What I was saying? Oh, the Army. Yeah, the Colonel sort of threw me into a raging war going on in Eastern Europe when I was fifteen… I had an accident with a pretty angry wolf –because of course I manage to end up into a battlefield infested by wolves-, I lost my leg and wasn't the pretty blondie a jerk of the Army had agreed to marry, so here I am, disowned and flat broke."
The bitterness in her voice rose and rose, until she was practically spitting venom with each word.
She had never told her story to anyone.
She had never trusted anyone enough to tell them about her life.
She had never considered herself so important to deserve somebody to talk to.
She had never considered herself strong enough to be able to remember the last thirteen years of her life without breaking down.
And now, looking into Sirius' piercing grey eyes, she realised that… that she had just made it.
She had told everything.
In a very short and twisted way, but still.
And it hurt.
It hurt like hell.
On his part, Sirius was staring at her blankly. He knew she had had to fight, both literally and metaphorically. However, this didn't mean that her words couldn't make him feel incredibly guilty and angry.
More than angry.
He wanted to find that Wilkins and kill him, tearing him apart limb by limb.
Probably, if Harry had been in front of him instead of the green-eyed girl, he wouldn't have managed to calm down and stay in the tiny apartment.
But Cassandra wasn't Harry. She wasn't his Cub.
She was Remus' Cub.
It was Remus' duty to avenge her, and Sirius, despite his strength, recklessness and independence, knew better than stealing the sweet pleasure of revenge from his Alpha.
Moreover, Cassandra was in pain. She may have been able to put on a careless mask, but her eyes looked like a forest in late autumn. The trees were losing their leaves, and soon they would be dead.
She was looking at him. Waiting for him to have some kind of reaction.
In that moment, Sirius understood that was a test.
If you care, show it. If you care, find a way to make me feel less lonely and empty.
He wasn't going to fail that test.
So he laughed. A dark, low, dangerous laugh.
He got up, still chuckling and came to stand right in front of the now completely dumbfounded ex-soldier.
He leaned closer, so that his mouth was a couple of inches away from her right ear, and whispered huskily:
"That Muggle decided to mess up with the wrong people, Cassie. Wait until we tell your father… oh, the fun we'll have with him…"
Cassandra was shocked. She had expected anger, or more probably, indifference. But this. She didn't even know how to define it!
Her father was going to avenge her. Sirius was going to avenge her.
She had always dreamt of this. The thought of the Colonel smug expression being replaced by one of fear, of terror…
Oh, it was so sweet.
At the same time, however, Cassandra felt horrible. She wasn't a monster. She was a doctor. She shouldn't go round and enjoy other people's pain.
And, from Sirius' tone, she knew that Colonel Wilkins wasn't simply going to endure a lecture about parenting.
He deserves this.
Her instinct was talking again, muffling the outraged screeching of her conscience.
Yes, he deserved to feel at least a small percentage of the pain she had to bear every day.
Just as to help her accepting the idea of revenge, Sirius' fresh scent wrapped around her, making her close her eyes and tilt her head slightly towards the man's face.
She knew she would feel guilty. But she needed revenge.
She could accept Wilkins' pain. She could enjoy it.
But there was one thing she couldn't even think of: her family being hurt.
And revenge could endanger her family.
So she opened her eyes and locked her gaze with Sirius'.
"If this revenge thing goes wrong and you get killed, I'll retrieve you personally from Hell just to kill you again. Have I made myself clear?"
Sirius' irises burned of a warm, white fire.
"As clear as crystal, my dear".
The leaves in Cassandra's eyes stopped falling. Slowly, a mischievous grin spread on her face.
"Good. Now, Mr. Black. How about you sit down and put those pillowcase on your shoulder and knees? I'd prefer not tho have wasted two boxes of sea salt, you know.
Grumbling something about freaking annoying teenage prodigies, Sirius complied, watching as she prepared breakfast.
"What will these things do to me, again?"
Not even bothering to look up, Cassandra huffed.
"They will help your joints to stop cracking and, I suppose, hurting. Clearly, they are a bit inflamed."
Cassandra hesitated, frowning and biting her lower lip. She wanted to know about that Azkaban place, but she was afraid of hearing the answer. They had just gone past two pretty nasty subjects… Maybe it was better to take it easy for a while.
She heated up some water for Sirius' tea and milk for her in silence, thinking frantically about what she could say that could keep the atmosphere in the room quiet enough.
"So… A doctor, uh? Is it a sort of… Muggle healer, right?"
Cassandra lifted an eyebrow, surprised both by the fact that he had been the one to start a conversation again and that he didn't know what a doctor was. Handing him the cup of tea and a box of cookies, the girl sat next to him on the bed.
"Really? You've never been to a doctor?"
"I went to a healer. You know, herbs, horrible tasting potions and wands… I think I read about doctors in my Muggle studies book, but I've never seen one".
Cassandra snorted in her milk, highly amused by the tone of pure interest and wonder he had. It was fair, though: she didn't know anything about the wizarding world, after all.
"Well… Here I am! A real muggle doctor. You can take pictures if you want."
This time it was Sirius' time to snort and chuckle.
He had a beautiful laugh. Deep and reassuring.
She definitely needed to make him laugh more often.
"Do you like being a doctor?"
She looked as Sirius silently ate a biscuit, apparently lost in his thoughts.
That was a tricky question. Why. Nobody, not even the nicest professors had ever asked her why a twelve-year-old girl should wish to face pain and illness on a daily basis, enduring the exhausting effort of spending nights and nights in the hospital corridors.
Cassandra munched her cereals silently for a while, trying to gather her thoughts.
"You know, when you are twelve and you are alone, you have to find something to do. Someone could start drinking alcohol, going to parties and taking drugs… I studied. Everything. I spent hours in the library, grabbing any kind of book I could reach without having to ask for help. History, Mathematics, novels… I used notions and numbers as a safety blanket. That was the main reason I was able to get my high school diploma so early, I guess. Then I had to decide what to do. I was only twelve. Most of the people don't know what to do with their life at forty, and I had to take such a decision at twelve! It didn't help that the Colonel… well, you know. I didn't have high morals and aspirations. I was a kid. Medicine… was the most difficult subject I could think of. I had already read mots of the anatomy and phisyology books available in the library, and they were so… complicated. I loved them. So I choose medicine. Like that. To keep my mind busy. Note that while I was studying medicine I also had to attend military training, so… The passion was there, but it was the same passion I felt when I danced or read a novel. I think the desire to help the others came afterwards. When I went fighting, when I saw the first children lying dead at the corner of the streets… That war wasn't mine, you see. It wasn't in another country, and it was difficult to understand which side was the good one and which wasn't. So I built my personal battle. Against death. It was a way to make up to all the sufferings I caused every time we were attacked and I had to kill to survive, I guess…"
Sirius studied her, frowning and tilting his head. There was something in her words. It reminded him of something, but it was probably a good memory… God, it was so difficult to remember.
Suddenly, something in his poor brain clicked.
"Your father… he wanted to become a healer too, you know? Apparently it runs in the family".
He smirked as she smiled the brightest of the smiles. Oh, her eyes… It was like spring had brought sun and life to her irises!
"Really?! That's cool! Do you think he did it? I mean, it would be amazing if he could teach me something.. w-when we'll meet him, I mean. You… you still want to bring me to him, right?"
Cassandra stuffed her mouth with cereals, trying to hide her embarrassment. She hated to appear insecure, it was a hundred times worse than walking half-naked in front of Sirius Black.
"Pfft… Do you really think I would change my mind about something like this ?! As I said, Remus is family. Really. He and .. J-James… They were like brothers to me. In the summer of our fifth year we all went to live to James' parents, who treated me and your father as their own children. If it hadn't been for the war… That would've been the most perfect summer ever."
"Fifth year… It means that you were fifteen? So I…"
"Oh, yes, you came with us, of course. Aunt Dorea, James' mother, loved you. If we did something bad, like going a bit too far with a prank, she would ground us for days… You, on the other hand. God, you were only two, but it was clear that you'd have been the leader of the next generations of Marauders! You were able to cause mischief wherever you went! However, differently from us, you had the advantage of being incredibly cute and angelic… Dorea simply didn't have the heart to punish you."
"Hey! I'm not cute!"
"Oh, believe me, darling, you were extremely cute. And you still are. Well, maybe not when you look at me like that…"
Sirius and Cassandra went on and on talking and laughing about everything and nothing. Cassandra learned more about the wizarding world and its characteristics, as well as her father and his most famous deeds. She finally came to understand what "Marauders" meant, although she still had the feeling that Sirius was hiding something about that. Truth be told, the girl was increasingly confused: why did her Dad have to go and live with James' parents? Didn't he have a family? And why did Sirius ignore her question about her Dad being a healer?
She wanted explainations. But maybe it was too soon.
Lunch came, and dinner after that.
It was then that it happened.
Cassandra was laughing about Sirius' deep interest in the mechanism behind the functioning of stethoscope – he had been walking around the room for almost an hour, trying to auscultate books and walls. She was laughing and trying to explain him that thing worked only with living beings… And she forgot about her leg. No, scratch that. She forgot about her missing leg.
She wanted to make some chamomile tea, since that evening was particularly chilly despite the season.
So she got up.
And forgot to grab the crutch.
And it came.
Sharp, but at the same time dull, as if her thigh had given up transmitting information to her brain. Normally Cassandra wouldn't have said anything, she was used to that, after all. This time, however, the pain really caught her by surprise, so the girl couldn't help but hiss in pain, stumbling forward and grabbing her right knee.
Sirius immediately ran by her side, supporting her by the waist and keeping her from falling.
He didn't ask her what was wrong. He had witnessed the reopening of her wounds far too many times for his own good. Ignoring Cassandra's protests, the man gently led her back to the bed. Swatting her hands away, Sirius fumbled with the strings of the prosthesis he now knew pretty well, finally managing to remove it and unwrap the already blood-stained bandages from her thigh.
It was bad.
The skin was so fragile that a couple of steps had managed to reopen the wound completely.
Blood was rapidly trickling down the wound, soaking both the blankets of the bed and Sirius' hands and battered clothes.
Sirius didn't feel sick as the first time he had came to face Cassandra's condition. This time he could help.
Before the girl could tell him to grab the First Aid box, the animagus covered the wounds with his hands, making the girl hiss in pain and squirm uncomfortably. He didn't let go, grabbing the stump more forcefully and fixing his gaze on the ripped flesh.
Cassandra didn't know what to do. He was hurting her. She wanted to push him away, make the pain stop, but he was too strong.
He kept studying the wound with a frown, his eyes oblivious to the world around him.
It was a high risk, considering his current physical condition. But she needed this.
Sirius' pale skin became, if possible, even paler and a light sheen of sweat covered his forehead as he started hissing something under his breath.
If Cassandra had paid attention, she could have understood that those words were nothing but an ancient healing spell.
Phol ende uuodan...uuorun zi holza.
du uuart demo balderes uolon...sin uuoz birenkit.
thu biguol en Sinhtgunt,...sunna era suister; thu biguol en friia, uolla era suister; thu biguol en uuodan, so he uuola conda:sose benrenki, sose bluotrenki, sose lidirenki: ben zi bena, bluot zi bluoda, lid zi geliden, sose gelimida sin.*
He repeated those lines over and over again, not bothering to breath, not bothering to blink.
He wasn't used to wandless magic. Not anymore. Sirius' body soon started fighting against the flow of magic that was leaving his hands: his limbs were shaking visibly and the dinner threatened to be forcefully expelled by his stomach.
But he couldn't stop.
It had worked so many times.
It was the only way.
In the meantime, Cassandra had stopped flinching and squirming. She still felt uncomfortable and scared, but what Sirius was doing…
It was magic.
Slowly, the blood stopped leaking from the wound.
Cassandra shivered as coldness invaded her veins and arteries, paralyzing the twitching muscles and soothing the inflammation.
ben zi bena,
bluot zi bluoda,
lid zi geliden,
sose gelimida sin.
Bones to bones.
Blood to blood.
Joints to joints
So may they be reunited.
Coldness was replaced by a comfortable, warm feeling. Muscles relaxed, blood returned home.
Cassandra looked fascinated as the edges of the wound slowly began to melt together.
It looked fragile and not completely formed, but still.
"How did you…"
But the girl couldn't end her sentence, because as soon as the wound finished healing, Sirius hastily got up from the floor and ran to the bathroom.
Cassandra found him bent over the toilet, violently emptying his stomach.
The girl hopped towards him, slowly crouching on the floor. She sat there in silence for a while, trying to calm the man down by rubbing small circles on his back.
When he finally stopped retching and slumped on the floor, exhausted, the ex-soldier scooted closer to him, placing a hand on his forehead.
He wasn't burning. Actually, Sirius' skin was colder than ice.
"Sirius… what… how did…"
"It… It is an… a-ancient... h-healing spell… r-really powerful.. p-perfect for cursed w-wounds. We… I… used it on your f-father a c-couple of times…"
Suddenly, Sirius' eyes fluttered closed and the man slumped further, almost collapsing on Cassandra. The girl frantically shook him, desperately trying to wake him up.
"Sirius. Sirius, come on wake up! What the hell have you done to yourself?! God, your pulse… Nononono, Sirius, Padfoot, you have to wake up! Please…"
She couldn't hear it.
She couldn't feel it.
Two-year-old Cassandra is playing on the lawn of a wonderful garden.
It is a beautiful sunny day, and the light reflects on the calm water of a swimming pool.
Her Dad is in the water, he is playing with Peter. Cassandra cannot see him because the light is too bright, but she can hear him laughing.
Prongs is in the water too, but he comes out of the pool, a happy smile gracing his lips. He grabs a towel and tries to dry up his hair a bit, only managing to ruffle it further. He looks funny, and Cassandra giggles happily.
A middle-aged, beautiful woman catches her attention. She is twirling her wand in the air, making little bright fairies appear and dance around the baby.
Cassandra giggles and tries to catch the fairies, her ice-green eyes filled with joy and surprise.
Prongs runs towards them, dripping water, and launches himself to the baby girl, tickling her mercilessly.
Cassandra can hear the woman scolding Prongs, but she doesn't want hin to stop. She is having a lot of fun.
Something rings in the distance.
A new heartbeat. It is slow and feeble, but she could recognize it everywhere.
If possible, her smile becomes even brighter.
James looks down at her, looking confused.
Why is he confused?
Cassandra turns to the woman… What's her name?
Dorea looks at Cassandra, frowning, apparently lost in thought.
Why is everybody so shocked? It's Padfoot!
The bell rings again, this time a bit more forcefully.
Prongs speaks to Dorea. But Cassandra doesn't pay attention.
Why is the heartbeat so feeble?
She sniffs the air, but there are too many scents, too many people.
There is mint and lemon… and something else… but her Dad's scent is stronger. It covers everything.
The smile disappears from Cassandra's face.
Prongs goes inside a bright, huge house. Finally, he is going to open the door.
Cassandra wants to follow him and gets up from the grass, only to fall back again. She tries again, and this time she manages to maintain the balance.
Someone comes behind her and picks her up. Somebody wet.
He isn't laughing anymore. He walks quickly, carrying her inside.
Cassandra hears him. Padfoot. He is talking to James, but his voice isn't booming and happy as usual.
Cassandra is worried. Why is Padfoot so strange?
Her father arrives at the entrance door.
She sees him.
The baby leans forward, she wants to hug him.
He looks up and smiles at her.
But it's not a bright smile.
Cassandra looks at him, her big eyes filled with worry.
He takes a step forward, walking towards her.
He looks at her, but his eyes are glazed. He tries to keep walking, but he falls.
Prongs shouts something and runs toward Padfoot.
Padfoot is still there, lying on the floor.
Dad puts her down, he has to call for help.
The heartbeat is gone.
"NO! PADFOOT! SAY SOMETHING… COME ON!"
Cassandra wasn't two anymore.
But seeing Sirius like that, lying on the floor, completely still, his warmth slowly fading in the coldness of the bathroom…
Not a sound coming from his mouth.
How could it be possible? They were talking and laughing…
For an instant, Cassandra felt panick freezing her own heart.
He wasn't dying.
She wasn't two anymore.
She WASN'T useless.
She was a doctor.
And a freaking good one too.
Sirius' heart wasn't beating anymore. So? It was a simple cardiac arrest, probably caused by exhaustion.
She had faced worse cases.
A cardiac massage.
She could do it.
And she did it.
Prongs is shouting and trying to wake Padfoot up.
But Cassandra knows he is not going to wake up.
She has been in this situation before. Useless, sat on the ground watching life leaving the body of another human being.
Dad knows too. She can feel his own fear.
She did it over and over again, catalyzing all her frustrations and fears in that simple yet fundamental movement.
Dorea runs towards the unconscious body of the dark-haired wizard.
Cassandra is crying. But she doesn't sob. She knows adults get angry when she makes noise.
The older woman points her wand towards Sirius' chest.
Sirius' back arches sharply, but his eyes are still closed. And his heartbeat is still gone.
Cassandra feels strong arms wrapping around her.
Dad. He is sad. He is losing his brother.
And then, just as darkness seemed to have swallowed that wonderful sound…
Cassandra's eyes shot open and she quickly makes her way out of her father's embrace.
Cassandra slumped against the wall, panting heavily and closing her eyes.
Cassandra studies Sirius' face. He is white, blue and purple.
He opens his eyes.
Sirius looked around confused for a couple of seconds before fixing his gaze on Cassandra.
He tries to get up from the floor, but his arms are too weak, and Dorea forces him down again.
James leaves the room, but Cassandra doesn't pay him much attention.
It's like the Christmas incident all over again.
But this time, Sirius doesn't try to smile despite the pain. His gaze is unfocused, his limbs are trembling.
Dorea tries to catch his attention placing a hand on his bruised cheek.
He tries to crawl backwards, failing miserably. His face is a mask of terror.
Sirius blinked slowly a few times. He gulped soundly and licked his chapped lips.
Cassandra looked at him, confused and worried.
"Sirius… You are in my bathroom. You tried to cast a s-spell on my leg and your heart stopped… Do you remember? I am Cassandra, Sirius. I won't do any harm…"
Sirius looks at Dorea for a couple of minutes.
He is lost. He doesn't trust her. She is an adult. Adults have always hurt him.
Cassandra understands him. But Dorea is a good person. She is her new grandmother, at least that is what Dad tells her.
Cassandra wants to reassure him, but she's too young.
But Dad can.
He walks in front of her and crouches next to Sirius.
Cassandra stares at her father's back, observing his scar-covered skin. She has already seen those scars, but he always tells her they are not the same as his.
Dad is talking. His voice is deep and reassuring.
Sirius nodded slowly, the pieces of the puzzle finally falling into place.
With a great effort, and a bit of help from Cassandra's part, the man managed to sit up, leaning his back against the cold wall.
Sirius looks tiredly at Dorea. He murmurs something.
Dorea wraps her arms around him, placing her chin on the top of his head and letting him cling onto her like a scared little monkey.
But Cassandra didn't.
She was not a mother. She was not an adult, despite her efforts.
She had already comforted him the night before.
Now she was scared. Terrified.
She needed answers. And comfort.
Sirius understood that. It was another test.
He held up a trembling hand, inviting her to take it.
She did. She shut the soldier down and let the scared teenage girl run free.
She all but launched herself at Sirius, snuggling closer to hs side and placing her right ear on his chest, just like she had done many years before.
He wrapped his arms around her, his grip weak, but his body warm.
She didn't cry. She just stood there for a while, inhaling deeply the man's scent.
She waited until his heartbeat reached a steady rhythm. She waited until his breath didn't sound strained and ragged anymore. She waited until his limbs stopped trembling.
Than she looked at him closely.
And she hit him. Hard.
"Don't. Ever. Do. This. To. Me. AGAIN."
"Ouch!.. Listen..Hey! I'm sorry…Oi! That hurt!"
"Good. Because you scared the hell out of me! What were you thinking?!"
Sirius looked at her, still massaging the back of his head.
" When… When I first saw you dealing with those wounds… I knew they weren't normal. They are cursed, Cassandra… and I… uh.. know that curse. Very well. Your Dad too. That spell… when I first met you, I knew I was too weak to cast it. Now, though… Believe me when I tell you that what happened tonight isn't the worst of the possible scenarios."
Cassandra looked at him, disbelief painted all over her face.
"You could have died! You were dying! If I hadn't been here…"
"A week ago I would have died even before starting to cast the spell, Cassandra. If only I had been able to find my wand… But it was necessary. You were slowly bleeding to death. I couldn't… I have just found you…"
The girl lowered her gaze, trying and failing to process what he had just said. After a while she gave up and resumed her position beside Sirius, ignoring that small demon at the back of her head that tried to convince her to stay away from the man.
She mumbled those words almost reluctantly. Cassandra Lupin wasn't used to thanking people. It made her feel weak, and nobody had ever given her a reason to be grateful, anyway. This time, however, she couldn't help it. Her leg felt great, and she had just been spared the not-so-great duty of pouring alcohol on an open wound.
Grateful or not, Cassandra Lupin was certainly confused.
"Sirius… I know that you are trying to keep something from me. Maybe you do it to protect me, maybe you think that I don't know enough things about the wizarding world to fully understand… But please, Sirius. I am tired of this. I lived in the dark for thirteen years… Memories are coming back shattered and confused, and I don't think I'll ever be able to remember everything."
Lifting her head from his chest, the girl fixed her gaze on Sirius'.
"Tell me about this curse, Sirius. Tell me why everybody believed my Dad was the traitor. Tell me why his back… his back is scarred like mine. Tell me why he had me when he was only thirteen… Tell me everything. I'd find out anyway".
Sirius took a deep breath. She was right. As usual. It was better to get over with that.
"It's not easy, Cassie. Your father… he didn't want you to know. Eventually you found out, but weren't you so smart… But you're right. You're not a baby anymore."
He closed his eyes, losing himself in the reassuring scent of Christmas and family.
"Cassandra… when you had that incident with the wolf… What happened?"
The girl opened her mouth to explain. But the words wouldn't come out.
She wasn't ready.
"I… I can't. Not… not now. Maybe someday. Not now. Too soon."
She felt his warm hand drawing patterns on her left arm, trying to soothe her.
"Don't worry darling… I don't need to know everything. Just… could you describe the wolf? Was it a normal, grey one?"
She breathed heavily, burying her head even deeper in the animagus' chest.
She had never felt so vulnerable before.
" I… I couldn't see its fur. It was too dark. B-but it was huge… I shouldn't have been afraid. They had warned us. That place was infested by wolves… They came at night, when everybody was sleeping or patrolling far away. Nobody had ever survived their attack, before me, of course…"
Cassandra's mind filled with flashes of fangs and claws digging into her flesh, skinning her alive.
"His teeth were terrifying. They were so sharp, so big….And his eyes. They were bright, yellow… hungry."
"… It was huge. Never seen such a big animal in all my life.. He wasn't a normal wolf. After… After what happened I… Tried to convince the other doctors and soldiers, but they didn't belive me."
Sirius closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Moony was going to kill him.
" I belive you."
The girl whipped her head so quickly that the bones of her neck cracked soundly.
"Really? You do? I knew it! It was a monster, wasn't it ? One of your magical creatures…"
The animagus smiled slightly, amused by her sudden interest and curiosity.
"In fact it was. Cassandra… Do you know what… what a werewolf is?"
"Of course. It.. Wait."
Slowly, the girl sat up straight, so that she could look Sirius in the eye.
Her face was a mixture of curiosity, confusion, and a tiny bit of fear.
"You… you are trying to tell me that…"
"That the creature that attacked you that night was a werewolf. Yep."
Cassandra felt her jaw hit the floor.
"A… A werewolf? B-but.. How? I haven't… It didn't… Am I?.."
The girl ranted nonsensically for a couple of minutes, her brain too shocked to think straight.
Sirius, however, seemed to understand what she meant.
"I know this sounds confusing. Even muggles know the effects of a werewolf bite, and it's pretty obvious that you don't show the typical symptoms of lycanthropy. The fact is, Cassie, that you are immune, although not completely. You won't turn into an angry werewolf once a month, but you'll have other… wolfish characteristics."
Cassandra narrowed her eyes and tilted her head, trying desperately to think. After a while, she did the only thing that seemed to make some sense: she analysed the disease.
"So… you are telling me that lycanthropy is like a sort of infection. Or a virus. Yeah, it looks more like a virus, although I should check this statement in a laboratory. Basically, on a… Full moon? Yeah, on a full moon a man turns into a gigantic wolf that goes around eating people alive. If a human gets bitten the.. saliva, I suppose, although it could be another sort of fluid generated by a gland… Anyway, the saliva enters the victim's system and modifies the DNA of the host, causing the lycanthropy. Now, did you knew I was immune before we met or did you just guessed it when you saw me?"
Sirius looked at her, , turning into a Muggle scientific-monster was her form of coping.
"Ehr… Yes, I already knew you were immune. Actually, I had been informed of the fact since you came into our lives".
Cassandra nodded slowly, her doctor side still working full-force.
"Is this a test healers do to every newborn child? Immunity to lycanthropy, I mean… In the muggle world babies are usually tested for some genetic mutations just after birth in order to help parents treating the disease."
The animagus took a deep breath and passed a hand through his matted hair. Here they were. The truth. The tragic, shocking truth.
"No, Cassie… We knew because… because you were born on.. uh… peculiar circumstances."
He waited for her to say something, to interrupt him.
But she didn't.
"You see… you… You were not… ehr… conceived in the, well… conventional way…"
Cassandra wrinkled her nose in disgust.
"Sirius… Is it really necessary to talk about this? You know, it's not the kind of story about my father I would like to hear…"
Smiling somewhat sadly, Sirius continued.
"Believe, me, Cassandra… It's important. As I was saying, the circumstances of your birth were peculiar. Actually, I don't know much about what happened, since Remus never wanted to talk about this. Basically, when your father was thirteen Voldemort and his followers had just begun taunting people and magical creatures. The bastard hated everything which wasn't human, but he also knew that some of the most dangerous beings could be extremely useful…"
Cassandra's eyes widened in understanding, and she breathed:
"exactly. In the magical world, werewolves are considered the most vicious and dangerous creatures. They are usually depicted as criminals, killers who have fun biting people even when it's not a full moon, and I'm sorry to say that in most cases this description is quite accurate. However, their behaviour could probably be different if our Minister didn't try to haunt them down and eliminate them. Most werewolves live like beasts because it's their only way to survive. Voldemort knew that, of course, and managed to use the resentment against the inequality of the system to attract werewolves to his side. He managed to convince Fenrir Greyback, a blood-thirsty werewolf who had built a huge pack by infecting and kidnapping children. Greyback was powerful, and he certainly helped Voldemort in spreading fear and destruction in our world… But it wasn't enough. Riddle wanted the werewolves to be stronger, colder, more reliable. So he decided to fabricate his own army. Initially he wanted to force members of Greyback's pack to mate during a full moon, since legends reports that children born by the union of two werewolves during a full are likely to be the most powerful wolves the world has ever seen. The plan failed, of course: werewolves can't be forced into doing anything, let alone mate!
However, Voldemort was a stubborn, stubborn bastard. I don't know what he did, or who he asked to, but eventually he found out an alternative way to obtain the same… effects of a mating process. I don't know exactly why, but this time he couldn't rely on Greyback's pack: he needed lone wolves, children who had been bitten by Greyback but had managed to escape. He found one hundred Lone Wolves. Seventy –five females and twenty-five males. The Death Eaters managed to kidnap them all during the full moon of August 1972. The male werewolves had it easy: they were put in a cage and a huge quantity of blood was taken from them. Then they were set free, because they could have been destructive if they had found out about a Cub being hidden from them. The female werewolves, instead… They were selected carefully, and the ones who weren't considered suitable for the role were slaughtered. Their blood was taken as well, and then they were given a potion that could prevent them from turning back human after the full moon. A group of death Eaters used the blood samples to create a very complicated potion, with the help of a famous Potion Master. Nobody has ever been able to find the ingredients of that potion, ans the Master always refused to spread its secrets. The important thing is that it worked: all the female wolves became pregnant and gave birth to their Cubs in the April of 1973. "
Sirius took a deep breath and lowered his gaze, trying not to look at Cassandra's face.
She probably had already understood the point of this introduction, but she didn't even tried to interrupt him. Her silence was scary.
"Cassandra… Your father is a werewolf. A Lone Wolf. He was bitten by Greyback when he was four, but Lyall Lupin, your grandfather, managed to take him away from the bastard's pack before it was too late. He had to live isolated from the rest of the world, surrounded only by books and trees. You see, werewolves aren't allowed to go to Hogwarst… The Ministry thinks that they would be too dangerous… Dumbledore, however… He decided to make an exception. He allowed Remus to attend school, of course forgetting to tell the students about your father's condition. As you know we were in the same House and we immediately became friends… Despite his efforts, James and I eventually managed to discover his secret. Initially he was terrified, he thought we were going to report him to the Ministry or something. But we would never, ever have done a thing like that. Remus was our friend, a smart, funny, wonderful person. His "furry little problem" would have never changed that. In fact, we became obsessed with werewolves, reading all the books we could find about them, and asking Rem thousands of questions. We found out that sometimes werewolves isolated from their pack, but, they couldn't survive alone for a long time. Remus and his parents knew this. He knew that and accepted that. He accepted death, Cassie. I shouldn't tell you that, but it is important. He was a child, not even a teenager yet, and he wanted to die. He hated the wolf. His parents had taught him to despise that part of him, to treat it like a handicap.
With us… he… changed. We managed to make him see that life could be great even as a werewolf. We became Animagi to help him during the full moon, and slowly, the wolf accepted us and Remus accepted the wolf. We became his Pack, he became Moony, our Alpha. We were the Marauders, together we could do everything. When the school term was over, though.. We were alone. Vulnerable. That August… Rem was the first one to be kidnapped, despite the wards that surrounded Lupins' cottage.
They found him a week later, lost in the woods, disoriented and amnesic. He didn't know what had happened to him, nor did the wolf. After a while we forgot about it. We didn't know you existed, Cassie. If we had we would have certainly took you away from those monsters. But we didn't, and Moony didn't know your scent, so he couldn't recognize you. We don't know exactly where did you live during the first two years of your life. We only know that you were mistreated and starved. You didn't have a name, you were known as the Kid A, because you had been the first Cub to be born alive from that experiment. You were a… disappointment to them, because you never showed any sign of lycanthropy, apart from a powerful eyesight and earing and an incredible agility and strength. You never transformed, despite the fact that your blood is technically 100% werewolf. You were just a normal child, you didn't even produced accidental magic once.
Soon enough it became clear that even the other babies were not werewolves. Voldemort was furious. Two years after your birth, it was decided that the experiment had been a failure and that every proof had to be destroyed. You were… you were let free in the woods during a full moon. It was then that your father heard you for the first time. You were calling him. Moony went berserk. He half destroyed the Shack he was usually confined into. Luckily enough James had his wand that night and used it to break the wards that prevented the wolf to exit Hogwarst territory.
Rem never told us what happened that night, the point is that the next morning he marched into the Hospital wing covered in blood, mud and other body fluids, with a dangerous smirk on his face and an equally dirty baby girl cradled in his arms. The school nurse visited you and came to the conclusion that you were immune to lycanthropy, although you showed many wolfish characteristics. As I said before, you are incredibly agile and strong. Your senses are empowered, and you can infect a person with lycanthropy. You can't touch silver and you… you have the logic of the Pack. You see Remus not only as your father, but also as your Alpha. James and I were betas, so you saw us as brothers or uncles. Lily… she wasn't part of the Pack, not before she started dating James. After their first kiss she became the only female component of the Pack apart from you, and you started seeing her as your mother. Pettigrew… He wasn't a beta. Moony didn't like him much, although Remus tried to ignore this aspect of the wolf. You… you hated him. Really. I guess it was your instinct…"
Sirius trailed off, finally lifting his gaze to observe Cassandra's reaction.
She was frozen.
Her eyes were wide and bright, her mouth half-open in surprise. And horror.
Sirius tried to reach and caress her arm soothingly, nut she flinched away.
She blinked, and Sirius could have sworn he had seen a hint of yellow in those beautiful green orbs.
She got up from the floor quickly, managing to keep balance despite the absence of the prosthesis.
"Take a shower. Stay away for a while. I need to think."
Her tone was clipped, dangerously controlled. She was going to lose her temper soon, that was a fact.
"I SAID STAY. AWAY. FROM. ME!"
Sirius stopped and stared. He had never seen Cassandra angry. Not even when she was a baby. Now, though… she was furious, although the animagus couldn't exactly understand who was the object of her fury.
Breathing heavily, the girl stood in front of him for a couple of seconds before storming out of the bathroom with a single hop.
Sirius looked at the door and winced as the girl closed it with a bang.
Yes. Moony was definitely going to kill him.
*This is the second spell of the Merseburg Incantations. It is a real spell, written in ancient German, which was originally thought to heal injured ankles.
Phol and Wodan were riding to the woods, and the foot of Balder's foal was sprained So Sinthgunt, Sunna's sister, conjured it. and Frija, Volla's sister, conjured it. and Wodan conjured it, as well he could: Like bone-sprain, so blood-sprain, so joint-sprain: Bone to bone, blood to blood,
joints to joints, so may they be glued.