That night, Sirius left Cassandra alone for two hours. He showered, shaved, cut his hair and threw his Azkaban uniform in the trash bin.
He had dreamt about soap and hot water for twelve years: every day in that hell hole of a prison, people who once had been friends taunted him, calling him names, laughing at his miserable appearance. Surely, it was ironic: the most handsome boy of all Hogwarst confined in a filthy cell, covered in grime and reduced into a heap of bones.
Sirius remembered how their words could hurt his already battered heart, not because of his ego, but because they made him realise over and over again that he was an useless dirty beast , a lonely piece of rotten flesh.
Now, finally, he was able to wash away all those insults.
After two hours the animagus left the bathroom, only to find Cassandra sitting on the floor, staring at the wall in front of her. Her orbs were still flecked with yellow, her hands clenched into fists. She was still fuming, that was pretty obvious.
Initially Sirius had had trouble understanding her anger, but a good deal of time in the blissful heat of the shower had helped him analyse her reaction.
Cassandra was very similar to her father, not only in her physical appearance, but also in her behaviour. She was caring, gentle, incredibly intelligent and wonderfully mischievous, but she had the tendency to swallow her sorrow.
She had said that herself, even though not explicitly: she had taken refuge in books and knowledge, building a fragile shield that could help her bearing the loneliness and abuse. Remus had done the same every time something bad had happened to him. However, nobody is unbreakable. Cassandra's past... It would have been hard to accept it even if she had lived a perfectly happy childhood. Anger was a reaction not only to what Sirius had told her, but to everything that had happened to her.
Sighing in frustration and sadness, the animagus sat silently in front of Cassandra, picking up one of the novels on the floor and reading the title.
I robot, by Isaac Asimov.
Robot. Sirius didn't know the meaning of that word.
Maybe it's some sort of odd Muggle first name..
Increasingly curious, the animagus opened the book, reading the title of the first chapter.
"Do you know what a robot is, Sirius?"
The man's head snapped up. Cassandra was still looking at the wall behind him, the yellow in her eyes shimmering slightly.
Not bothering to wait for an answer, the girl kept talking in a strained, monotonous voice.
"A robot is a very special machine muggles are trying and managing to fabricate. It looks like a human, moves like a human, sometimes even talks like a human. But it isn't. It's just a very good combination of metal and plastic. It doesn't have feelings or a conscience, it can't love or hate, although some of them are able to reproduce emotions. Its brain is a sort of archive in which muggle scientists have stuffed codes and rules. It is made to serve humans without complaining. Robbie is a robot. He was made to be the babysitter of a little girl, but after a while the child's mother decides to get rid of it. The girl of course misses the robot, despite it being not a real human being, and tries to convince her parents to get him back. In the end, the whole family ends up in a robots factory to try and explain the child that robots are soulless machines which do not deserve our affection. In the factory, the girl spots Robbie and runs to hug him. She almost gets ran over by a machine, but Robbie saves her..."
Cassandra closed her eyes, sighing deeply.
"... I read this story when I was seven. I immediately loved it. I daydreamed about a robot who could be my friend and play with me. I pretended to be Gloria, the little girl. Turns out I am more similar to Robbie... Ironic, isn't it?"
Sirius stared at her open-mouthed. Did she really think she was nothing more than a soulless machine?
"No. Don't say that. Don't say that it's not true, that I am human. I am not. I was assembled, ideated by a group of brilliant researchers in their perfectly clean and asettic laboratories. My father would probably never had known of me if it hadn't been for that incident during the full moon, and my mother is dead, or still doesn't know of my existence, and that is so... miserable.
Obviously, I already knew that my parents weren't a couple. I've never had the temptation to know more about my mother, and in my flashbacks she never appears. But now... The chances are my Dad doesn't even know her name, he has never seen her. He can't even say that he met her in a pub and got drunk...
I thought I was an incident. I was alright with that, really. Certainly it would have been better that way... Love, even if just for a night, is love, and I was perfectly content knowing that I was born due to this short-lived passion. The casualty of the thing never bothered me.
Now, instead... Now I know there was nothing casual in my birth, if I can call that birth, and all I can feel is coldness. And anger. I am a well planned chemical reaction...well, maybe not so well planned since I didn't even come out as they wanted. God, I shouldn't even be in the form of a human being! I should be a wolf, a sadistic, blood-thirsty death machine. And maybe I am. I am able to kill, after all. I've shot so many bullets that I don't even know how many lives I ended. Probably, the only thing that distinguishes me from a wolf is the lack of fur! "
During her little speech,Cassandra's voice kept rising until she was almost shouting. In the end, the girl stood there breathing heavily, crouched on the floor with her eyes closed and her hands clenched into fists. She refused to look at Sirius in the eye.
Suddenly, she felt something warm and rough touching her cheek. She wanted to flinch and swat that hand away, but somehow managed not to move. Her rigid demeanour, however, seemed to convince Sirius that his touch wasn't welcome, since the warm feeling immediately disappeared.
"Cass.. look at me, please".
She didn't want to open her eyes, but apparently her brain had decided to annoy her, because her eyelids fluttered open, coming to stare into the animagus' grey, warm eyes.
"Cass, I want you to listen to what I'm going to say. I want to tell you the story of my life before I went to Hogwarst and met your Dad. As I said previously, I come from one of the most powerful pureblood families in England. they are bigoted, sadistic bastards who make of the preservation of their blood purity the major goal of their lives. My parents... they were first cousins, they didn't love each other or even tolerate each other, they got married because in this way they wouldn't have to mix with other impure families. I wasn't a product neither of love nor of a drunken night.I was planned... projected, as you said. I had to be a boy, I had to be the Heir. My sole scope in life was to get married to one of my cousins and have another heir. I was expected to feel in a certain way on certain occasions. I had to dress and behave according to magical noble tradition, and I couldn't, under no circumstances, express my own opinions.
In a sense, I am a robot too. Maybe even more than you, because if you had been a full werewolf Greyback would have treated you as part of the pack and you'd have had a good deal of freedom. But, Cass... I don't consider myself a root. I am a person. We are people. We are not.. Machines. Yes, we were not born out of love. Yes, we were projected. Yes, you come from a chemical reaction, a potion implanted in a wolf. But we have found love, we have destroyed other people's expectations and you definitely don't behave like a boiling potion!
It doesn't matter how you came into this world or what you were meant to be. it doesn't matter even what your blood is made of. You are Cassandra Lupin, daughter of two werewolves, child prodigy and an amazing doctor. You had to do horrible things to survive, but that doesn't define you as a sadistic monster. I had to do horrible things myself, and so had to do your father, and I am quite certain you'd never call us blood-thirsty beasts!"
Noticing Cassandra's disbelieving gaze, Sirius sighed. "Look, Cass... I know that right now you don't believe me. You are still angry, and I accept that. You lived a life of sufferings, and for you this must be the last straw. You can scream, shout, or stop talking to me altogether. You have every right to be angry. I have been angry for a long time too. But please, please, never doubt that you are human, never think you are not worth living or being loved. I did this mistake once, and I almost lost everything I cared for."
The girl kept studying Sirius in silence for a couple of minutes, not sure about what to say. Was that the time? Was that the time to spill everything, tell him everything about what she had to do to pay for his medicines? It probably was. They were talking about that already, in a certain sense. Moreover, the anger she felt encouraged her to scream and shout, to yell to the world about those awful afternoon sessions in the clinic.
But her mouth didn't open, the words didn't come out. She couldn't do that to him, despite the fury that was almost blinding her. Sirius was trying to help her, he was revealing her all the secrets of her past, no matter how painful they were. She didn't want him to feel guilty.
She closed her eyes again, inhaling deeply. She wanted to calm down, really. However, as minutes passed it seemed that her anger still had no intentions of leaving her. Actually it was getting worse.
Sirius kept sitting in front of her, his arms almost brushing against her leg. His scent, his voice, his warmth... everything about him annoyed her. Why was he so close to her?
She couldn't breathe, she needed air. He was suffocating her!
Her heart started beating faster, her blood was boiling. She clenched her jaw, trying not to snap again.
Why was she so angry? She wasn't an irascible person. She used to yell a lot back at the base camp, but only because that was the only way to gain the other soldiers respect.
She had never been furious. Annoyed, yes. Frustrated, definitely. But fuming..
The wolf thing... it wasn't such a big deal after all. She still didn't believe to deserve the definition of human, for obvious reasons, but she wasn't actually bothered by that. Even her outburst about her birth now seemed out of place, considering that there wasn't much she could do about that, anyway. Her rational thoughts, however, couldn't stop that insane anger that was threatening to explode.
It was like fuel in her veins. It burned, making her shiver and sweat at the same time.
Another wave of mint and lemon hit her nostrils. Why was Sirius there? She needed air!
"Please, Sirius... Move...stay away... You're... You're making things worse."
Sirius complied, definitely confused and a bit hurt. Why was she still angry at him? He was trying to comfort her! Cassandra scrambled to her foot, grumbling angrily as she tried to keep balance. The animagus made to help her, but was immediately stopped by a warning growl. The girl managed to reach the bed without falling and collapsed on it, grabbing the prosthesis and fumbling frantically with the strings.
"C-Cass ... What..."
"I don't know, OK?! I don't fucking know. All I know is that right now I am FURIOUS, so shut the fuck up and stay away from me!"
Sirius stared at the ex-soldier, noticing that the green was completely gone from her eyes.
Suddenly, the man realised that the room had become incredibly dark.
A new moon.
New moons were never good for werewolves. They couldn't see their favourite satellite, and that irritated them considerably. Sirius remembered how little Cassandra was during blue moons. Grumpy. Restless. Incredibly prone to express her inner magic. And that wasn't good. Not in a tiny flat in the middle of London.
Cassandra grabbed her satchel and soundly stomped towards the door, shaking Sirius out of his thoughts.
"Where are you going?"
He could see the girl's muscles clench and unclench as she tried not to tackle him and strangle him with her bare hands. She was quite scary, actually.
"Outside. Isn't it clear?!... This place is claustrophobic. I need air".
Oh, darling, you are really dumb if you think I would let you go outside alone tonight.
"I'm coming with you."
"Oh, of course. the infamous Sirius Black, serial killer and escaped convict wants to have a walk with me, in the middle of London, with thousands of people who could spot him and send him straight back into that wizard jail. Nobody would see him, nooo... he is far too smart to get caught!"
She spat those words as if they were venom. Her voice was filled with bitterness and sarcasm. Her eyes were almost glowing in the dark.
In that moment, Sirius understood that Dumbeldore and Madame Pomfrey had been wrong in their diagnosis. Cassandra wasn't immune to lycanthropy. The wolf was there, under her skin, pulsing in her veins, haunting her mind. It was waiting, growing more and more impatient with each full moon, trying desperately to explode.
Probably the other werewolf's attack had made things worse. The chances were that the new wave of toxins had somehow triggered the sleeping wolf genes, helping Cassandra fighting the memory charm and recovering from the otherwise fatal wounds. Those genes, however, also contained the violence and temper of the wolf. Maybe, in a few months time, she would become a real, raging werewolf.
The animagus knew he would have to talk about it with Dumbledore soon. Now, however, he had to calm Cassandra down.
"Ok, Cass, you're right. I can't come with you in my human form, but I can't even let you go alone. I know why you are feeling so angry: tonight it's a new moon and that makes the wolf in you irritable. Your own anger has fed the wolf and now you can't control it. if you meet someone during your walk you may explode and hurt an innocent. If you stay here, you will hurt only me, if things get bad. But you won't hurt me, because I am a part of your pack. now please, please stay here. Stay with me. Scream, shout, hit me if you want. But stay here."
His tone was calm and his voice low, but Cassandra wasn't listening. She was just angry.
"YOU CAN'T COME HERE AND TELL ME WHAT TO DO! YOU LOST THAT RIGHT THIRTEEN YEARS AGO. YOU NEVER HAD THAT RIGHT!"
Something snapped in the darkness, effectively distracting Sirius from those venomous words.
That was it.
Another snap echoed in the room, followed quickly by a loud crack.
Cassandra's eyes weren't human anymore.
They were the wolf's eyes.
And then, he saw them.
Crawling in the dark, breaking the concrete, slowly but persistently reaching for him.
Cassandra's magical speciality.
Sirius remembered the first time she had been angry enough to evoke them. It had happened at the end of sixth year, on a new moon, of course. The Malfoy brat had done something to enrage the little girl, earning a week in the hospital ward.
Those things stung. And were poisonous.
Sirius knew he couldn't fight them. His magical core was drained, and the spell to kill Earth Nymphs brambles was incredibly complicated.
They were coming closer and closer.
Nothing could stop them from reaching their goal.
Cassandra's body stood there, pale as death, trembling with rage.
The brambles were tightly wrapped around her arms and neck, but of course they weren't hurting her. Their goal was Sirius.
Cassandra's orbs were staring at Sirius, hungry and cold, and a low growl erupted from her mouth.
The wolf was out of the cage, furious with the world for her imprisonment. She had been in exile for so long, unable to access to her Human memories, unable to see what was happening to Cassandra.
The old man had treated her like a danger, an illness.
He was wrong.
She could have helped her Human. But now it was too late.
The Human was angry and upset. Something bad had happened, although the wolf couldn't understand what.
And that enraged her.
The wolf was young and untamed. In her mind it was still 1975, it was still a peaceful sunny morning and she was still safely held into her father's, her Alpha's arms...
Where was her Alpha?
The wolf looked around frantically, searching for the tall strong man with shabby blond hair and ice green eyes.
She sniffed the air for some traces of his earthly, fresh scent.
But nothing came to her nostrils.
She tried to call for him as she had done back in the forest. But she couldn't feel his presence in her mind.
Her Alpha was gone!
Who had brought her Alpha away?
And where was she?
And why wasn't it morning anymore?
And... where was the moon?
Oh, no... Even the moon was gone!
It was dark.
There was only the human in the room.
He was familiar. A member of the Pack?
Why was he there and not her Alpha?
She wanted her Alpha!
Cassandra's wolf snarled angrily, and Sirius knew perfectly well what was going on in her mind. She was only a Cub, after all. She needed her father, but he wasn't there.
She had probably tried to call for him, in vain, of course. Remus had still his wolf safely closed in his cell, the Animagus had verified that just the night before.
But the wolf didn't know that. She thought her father was dead, and seeing that a member of the Pack was still there, she had come to a really dangerous conclusion.
Sirius had killed her Alpha.
Sirius could already feel the vicious plant brushing against his ankles, ready to dig its thorns in the wizard's flesh.
He had only one option.
And the wolf was not going to like it.
What most people don't know about animagi is that they aren't so different from werewolves. The principle of the transformation is the same, although less painful, and so is the nature of the "infection". A person does not simply turn into a dog or a cat: the essence of the animal becomes one with the soul of the animagus, and the two beings have to share thoughts, feelings and actions. Sirius didn't turn into a dog from time to time. He was a dog, a Grim to be precise. He had instincts, a pack, and presented collateral effects similar to those of a werewolf. The only thing that prevented him from howling to the moon was that he had a major control over his canine counterpart and Padfoot was much more docile than Moony. Even when he turned into his dog form, he never let the Grim take control of his mind: the last time he had done that, Snivellious had nearly died.
This time, however, Sirius had no choice: he was too weak to deal with the wolf's wrath alone, he needed the Grim to take control completely. So he transformed. Well, not entirely: he wasn't strong enough to endure a full morphing process without having a second heart attack. He simply let Padfoot overtake his mind.
His eyes changed, as silver covered completely the man's sclerotic, and his muscles reinforced considerably.
He could feel the blue moon affecting his mood too, but the Grim knew that the absence of the satellite wasn't his biggest problem.
The dog took a deep breath, lifting his gaze and meeting the young wolf's eyes.
Oh, what a wonderful sight. Your human eyes don't do justice to her beauty.
Shut up, Padfoot. She's Moony's Cub.
Well, she's hot.
That... that is NOT the point. She is trying to kill us, if you haven't noticed! She thinks we have murdered Moony!
Oh... right. Relax, Human. She is only a Cub. I'll tame her in a second.
Padfoot smirked lazily at Cassandra, making her furious expression waver slightly.
The wolf sensed the change. But the brambles didn't subside.
"Uuuuh, tough one. You're pretty pissed Wolfie... Those plants are a real work of art, believe me. Fascinating, really. But my human... he isn't so fond of them, you know. So why don't you wipe that scowl from your pretty little face and sit down like the good Cub you are? I think there has been a misunderstanding about what happened to our Alpha"
Those words came out of Sirius' mouth as a sort of low growl. The smirk was still plastered on the Grim's face, but his eyes were narrowed dangerously and his nostrils flared slightly. The persistence of the brambles was starting to annoy him, and the furious snarl that came out of Cassandra's mouth as an answer to his little speech didn't help.
Padfoot moved, graciously avoiding the thorns, going to stand right in front of the wolf. Cassandra's eyes darkened further, and a growl rumbled in her throat. The Grim's words had irritated the wolf considerably. But that look... That look stirred something in the Cub's newly freed mind. A sense of authority and power. Was he the new Alpha? Impossible, he wasn't even a true werewolf!
Suddenly, the wolf became far too aware of Padfoot's presence in front of her. The Grim's smirk widened evilly, and the dog slowly lowered his head, whispering hoarsely into Cassandra's ears:
"Mmmh... Not so bold anymore? What, do I... Scare you? Maybe... Maybe Moony scares you more! I guess our Alpha wouldn't be too pleased to discover that his favourite beta has been hurt by the little pretty princess "
Her Alpha was alive?
But he wasn't there.
And that... that Grim was his beta...
The wolf was confused. Everything was so different from the last time she had been awake. What had happened to her human?
Suddenly, a new conscience of Cassandra's body filled the wolf's mind.
She couldn't feel her leg. Why? Where was it?
Yellow gleaming eyes scanned the girl's limbs, widening in horror. All those scars... All that blood...
The brambles tightened their grip around her arms and grew even more thorns than before. She was panicking.
Padfoot looked around frantically as giant plant snakes emerged from the floor, destroying everything they met, digging holes and cracks on the walls.
"STOP! CAN'T YOU SEE WHAT YOU ARE DOING?!"
But the wolf wasn't listening. She kept staring at her hands and arms, dazed by the dark cuts that drew complicated patterns on her skin.
And then, she felt them. Memories. Short flashes of abuse and solitude. The hunger of days spent without anyone that bothered giving her Human enough food. The pain of her young joints as she was forced to clean and work in her house at such a tender age. The teasing and mocking of maids and butlers.
And the war. The bombs, the bullets, the hard training.
The wolf stumbled backwards, hitting her back against the wall. The brambles grew further, covering the windows, trying to catch the Grim
But Padfoot wouldn't take that. He launched himself at his Alpha's Cub, pinning her to the wall, his face a couple of inches away from hers, his breath hot on her skin.
"Wolf! Cub! LISTEN TO ME! You have to stop with this mess! Do you understand? STOP IT! Do you think my Human and I don't know what happened to you? Do you think we don't know the sufferings your Human endured?! We'll have our revenge. Our Pack will be reunited and together we will make the world pay for our miserable lives! LOOK AT ME. We have to find our Alpha, wolf. We have to find him and let him free. This is NOT the time to let panic take you!"
The wolf looked into those steely grey eyes. It was true. All true. She had to be strong... But she was just a Cub... She didn't want to be strong, she wanted her Alpha... She wanted her father..
With a pained cry the wolf collapsed on the floor, sobbing brokenly as the brambles slowly subsided.
Padfoot looked out of the window. The new moon was over. Dawn was coming. The Grim crouched on the floor, embracing the shivering figure and burying his face in the messy blond locks.
"Sshh... Don't cry... All that pain is just a memory... You don't have to suffer anymore. You've got me. You've got your Alpha...Sshh... Now, my Wolf, you have to go to sleep, ok? The human needs to be freed. But don't go away. She'll need you. You are powerful, my dear. She is powerful. Together you'll be almost invincible."
Well, human, my job is done. Try not to piss this girl off on a new moon in the future. She scared the hell out of me.
Oh, really? What did you say... "She is only a Cub, I'll tame her in a second"!
I would like to remember that you didn't even try to tame her. Coward.
Oh, sod off you mutt.
Cackling madly, the Grim slowly made his way towards his corner of Sirius' mind.
Finally able to use his body again, Sirius studied the girl in his arms closely. She was still looking at him, but the yellow in her eyes was slowly being replaced by the usual stunning green.
Cassandra blinked a few times, looking around confused and sleepy.
"What... What happened? We were talking about that... That experiment thing and.. And... WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED WITH THE WALLS?!"
The ex-soldier immediately jumped on her feet, taking in the damage of the flat with her hands in her hair.
A small, quiet voice suddenly resounded in her brain, startling the poor girl considerably.
Ehr... It's... My fault. Yep. Sorry Human. I was angry.
WHO THE HELL ARE YOU, AND WHY ARE YOU IN MY HEAD.
She could almost feel the strange presence shrink and shift nervously.
I... I am your w-wolf... H-hi...
My... Wolf... Oh, Jesus.
"Ehr... Sirius?" the man half-smirked at Cassandra, lazily leaning against the wall. He had noticed the young woman paling and fidgeting nervously, and he knew what was going on. The wolf was talking to her.
"I think... I think I have... I have a wolf inside my head. And she.. she is speaking.."
The animagus grinned widely, going to stand next to the girl.
"Of course, Cass. That is the way it should be. The poor wolf has been confined in a sort of mental cage since you were found by your father, that's the reason you didn't hear her till now. Don't worry: with time you'll get used to it."
The girl, however, didn't look reassured, just more and more confused.
"But... but why was she in a cage?"
"Oh, just a little precaution Dumbledore took. You know, he wasn't exactly aware of the fact your father had built a Pack: he still believed Rem rejected his wolf completely, so he decided that leaving your wolf roam free would have been dangerous for you. An untamed wolf can be destructive, as you have been able to see. Form his part, Remus was so upset by the way the other werewolves had treated you that he didn't oppose to the Headmaster's decision... We didn't either, and that was probably our biggest mistake. "
Noticing the questioning look on the girl's face, Sirius went on with his explanation. "You see, Cass... A wolf in your head is dangerous, but it can turn to be quite useful. I think you've already noticed that you have a quite good instinct and your senses are empowered. Well, if the wolf hadn't been confined all this time, those characteristics would be even stronger. You would smell everything in a ray of fifty miles, and your eyesight would be downright exceptional. Your insight of people's thoughts and emotions would be improved too. Not to mention the fact that you'd be able to share memories and information with the rest of the Pack telepathically... Willingly, at least."
Realization dawned on the ex-soldier.
"You mean... When we first met..."
"We shared memories, yes. That time it was an automatic reaction, your Pack instinct and my Pack instinct reacted to the sudden reunion: your subconscious showed me pieces of your life as a soldier, mine probably gave you some glimpses of what happened after your disappearance. It wasn't much, because your wolf was still chained and couldn't participate actively to the process... Anyway, as I was saying, when Rem found you, you and your wolf didn't have any boundaries. You were perfectly merged, your abilities were joined. If Dumbledore... If we hadn't impeded this connection, you would probably have been able to resist the temptation to follow that Death Eater and nothing... nothing would have happened."
Yeah, oh. Cassandra had spent the majority of the past months regretting her foolish decision, her childish need to listen to that evil being... And it wasn't her fault. Not completely, at least.
An odd sense of relief filled her heart. She knew she should have been angry with that Headmaster, his father and his friends, but... at the moment she was just happy not to be the responsible of her misery. She even found the strength to smile, despite all the weird and disturbing things that had happened in the past 10 hours.
Sirius looked at the girl suspiciously.
"Mmh... Cass? You are... calm... Is everything ok?"
"What? Oh... ehr... Yeah.. I... Yesterday I think... I think I exaggerated a bit... I mean, not that didn't have any reason to be angry, and the way I was born still creeps me out, but... "
Cassandra lowered her gaze, shifting uncomfortably. She wasn't used to losing control. She had always been the cool head, not the bitchy, slightly psychotic teenage bird.
"I don't... I don't know what happened... I was so... furious and I couldn't control my anger and suddenly you were so close, too close, and I couldn't breathe, and I all I wanted to do was to go out and run, but you wanted to come too and everything became so dark, and..."
In an instant, Sirius was right in front of her, lifting her chin with his right hand.
"You don't have to blame yourself for what happened yesterday. It was a new moon, and it is common knowledge in the wizarding world that on these nights werewolves become particularly restless. Your wolf was already partially free from her restraints, and was furious for having been secluded for so long... I should have remembered the day and put off that particular conversation... Telling what I told you yesterday I simply amplified the combined effects of a new moon and a pissed wolf. I am the one who should be sorry"
I'm sorry too, Human. I didn't know what was going on, I only sensed your frustration and tried to help you... I guess I messed things up.
Cassandra jumped backwards with a gasp, still not used to that quiet voice in her head. Sirius chuckled lightly. "I know it's strange... but as I said, you'll get used to that voice. "
Taking a few steadying breaths, the girl leaned against the wall, tiredly rubbing her eyes with her hands.
"It's... It's not so bad... the wolf, I mean. And all those special powers... they are pretty cool too. I only have to let everything sink in I suppose. And then I'll have to make some research... About werewolves and pack stuff..."
Sitting on the bed, the girl furrowed her brows, lost in her thoughts, and then looked up, a faint mischievous glint in her ice green eyes. "what exactly did the wolf do to reduce the walls in this awful state?"
With a satisfied smirk, Sirius sat down on the bed too and launched into the description of what had happened that night, leaving Cassandra speechless.
"I...evoked... brambles? But... I don't ... I'm not... Y-you said..."
"I said you didn't show your magical powers when you were two. After your third birthday, however... woha. You practically radiated magic, even though of an unconventional kind."
"Oh, yes... your magic is... ancient. I would say primordial. That's mainly why you never received your admission to Hogwarst. You can't be defined as a witch... Actually, Dumbledore himself had many problems understanding what you are... You resemble Earth Nymphs under many aspects, but you look like a human. Moreover a Nymph would never, ever show signs of lycanthropy, not even a hint of empowered eyesight, so... You're not a Nymph. Nor a complete werewolf. Nor a witch...It's pretty confusing, actually".
Cassandra stared at Sirius for a couple of seconds, her eyes practically bulging out of her head and her mouth slightly agape. After a while she shook her head, snorting in disbelief.
"Am I ever, ever going to be somewhat normal?!"
Sirius barked one of his now rare booming laughs, patting fondly on the girl's shoulder. "Believe me, Cass... No Marauder has ever been normal. As our Heir, you can't expect to be a plain witch, can you?"
Cassandra chuckled lightly. All that huge deal of information was still confusing and disturbing, but, now that the Moon influence was gone, she saw everything under a brighter perspective. Sirius was with her, and soon enough she would have a proper family. Yes, her past had been even darker than se thought, but it was past. The future couldn't be worse than that, could it?
Speaking of future...
"Sirius... what time is it?" the man glanced at the alarm clock beside him, paling slightly.
"Ehr... Cass? I would... I would get ready for work, if I were you."
Frowning, the ex-soldier looked grabbed the clock, only to let it fall with a crash and curse loudly.
"HALF PAST SEVEN! I AM AN HOUR LATE!"
The next ten minutes passed in a blur. Cassandra all but threw herself into one of the boxes on the floor, hastily grabbing a pair of light blue jeans and an old T-shirt. She then ran to the bathroom, came out, grabbed her satchel, a collar and a leash.
"Hurry up, do that magic thing and turn into Doggie. I won't let you stay here all alone for the whole day."
"My magical core is practically drained, Cass. If I transform I won't be able to turn back human for at least 24 hours"
"Oh, don't be a sissy. I have a whole bag of dog food to finish, anyway. Now, where the hell is my cr... "
In that moment, Cassandra noticed that she had been running around, jumping scattered books and boxes without using her crutch.
Her leg hurt a bit, but... It was bearable. More than bearable.
The wound hadn't reopened.
The ex-soldier looked down at her leg, then up to Sirius, then back to her leg.
She had thought that spell was only a temporary solution, a patch to prevent her from dying of blood loss. But it wasn't. That mutt had really solved her problem!
A huge grin spread on Cassandra's face, and in a minute she launched herself at Sirius, hugging him tighter than she had ever done before. Understanding perfectly the reason of her sudden giddiness, the man hugged her back, losing himself in her wonderful scent. What he didn't expect at all was the quick kiss on the cheek Cassandra gave him.
Noticing his dumbfounded expression, the girl laughed loudly. "Come on, Doggie. You earned yourself an ice cream and a walk in the park. You'll only have to bear a few boring hours in the shop".
And boring they were indeed.
A dishwasher, a television, a telephone, another dishwasher, a computer, another television. In almost eight hours Cassandra had to repair all the electrical appliances two days off had accumulated on her desk on the hardware shop.
She spent hours submerged by cables, screwdrivers, wrenches and various spare parts. It wasn't a bad job, but after a while it tended to become monotonous, especially after having spent a night destroying her own flat. Her boss noticed something was off when she almost fell asleep on the blowtorch, but didn't even bother to ask her if she needed a break. After all, she had taken two days off, is she had spent them partying and drinking it wasn't his problem.
So Cassandra kept cutting, unscrewing, screwing, welding and hammering, occasionally ruffling Doggie/Sirius' thick fur or chatting mentally with the wolf.
She found out that the magical creature inside her head wasn't an unpleasant company at all. Actually, she was quite entertaining, when she gave up being sorry for what had happened to her Human, that is. It was strange to think that such a quiet and fearful being had been capable of crumbling tonnes of concrete just a couple of hours before.
So, Wolf... Do you have a name? I mean, I can't keep calling you "Wolf"... After all, both Moony and Padfoot have names.
I.. I don't know, Human. I was confined in my cage when you were only two, I don't have a name...
Really?! Well, we must find one! Come on, shoot a name you like! ...
Ah Ah Ah. Doggie is a wonderful name for a dog! It's simple, easy to remember...
Oh, shut up. So, apart from that, do you have any ideas?
I don't know... The other members of the Pack chose their names together... Maybe we should ask Padfoot?
Mmmh... maybe you are right, but...
Cassandra and her wolf, however, never finished that conversation. In that moment, in fact, the door of the shop opened and two interesting figures made their way towards the girl's working station.
One of the figures was a tall man with a really dark complexion, dressed with colorful ethnic clothes. He looked calm and peaceful, although pretty interested in the odds and ends crammed in the shop. He was holding a huge and old computer, clearly broken.
The other one... oh.
I don't like him, Human. I don't like him I don't like him I don't...
Come with me, we'll find your Dad.
Three-years-old Cassandra runs happily in a huge park. She is giggling madly, her blonde locks dancing in the air as a laughing redhead chases her on the lawn.
"I'll catch you, anyway!"
Cassandra laughs even harder and keeps running, only to bump into a tall, dark figure.
"Playing with half-breed filthy offspring, now, Mudblood?"
The child immediately recognises the voice of the figure and jumps backwards, falling on her bum.
Lily rushes forward, gathering Cassandra in her arms and holding her tightly.
"Oh, sod off, Snivellius!"
The lanky, pale and greasy boy stares at the beautiful girl for a while, probably stunned because Lily never, never uses that nickname. Surprise and hurt are however quickly wiped off the Slytherin's face to be replaced by a sneer.
"I see. Well, you really got into Potter... How long will it be before you start taunting students with the Black git and that Lupin beast?"
I don't like him, Human, I don't like him I don't like him...
Oh, Shut up, wolf! We need to pretend not to have recognized him!
But... but I could rip his head off...
NO. You. won't. kill. him. Not now at least. First of all, we need to talk to..
"S... DOGGIE! STOP!"
Cassandra jumped off her seat and managed to grab the dog by the collar just before he could tackle that awful, greasy, poor excuse for a man.
You could have let him kill the man.
I said no. No killing until I have understood what's going on.
But it's clear! That git is the one who destroyed your life with that... charm.
I know, but... I don't even know what that word mean!
Oh, come on. Obliviate. You know exactly the meaning of that word.
Ugh... Why do you have to be a wise wolf?
We share a brain, Human.
Despite the internal banter that was going on in Cassandra's mind, the girl managed to play the part of the oblivious Muggle perfectly.
She kept struggling with a growling and howling Sirius, trying to prevent him from killing the git and at the same time managing to smile weakly at the visitors.
"I'm... sorry... I don't know what happened to him. Usually he is so friendly... Come on Doggie, sit down..."
The tall black man stared at the girl with a mixture of alarm and sympathy, while that Snivellius lad's face remained emotionless.
After a couple of minutes and a good spank, Cassandra managed to calm Sirius down. Almost. The Grim begrudgingly padded towards a corner of the shop, still growling under his breath and never tearing his gaze off the two visitors.
Cassandra huffed a strand of hair off her face, smiling brightly at the men in front of her and trying to straighten up her T-shirt.
"So... what can I do for you?", she tried to keep her tone as calm and gentle as she could, sitting at her desk and tilting her head on a side.
Snivellius' companion returned the smile and finally spoke with a deep, calm voice. "We would like to know if you could fix this... com... computer for us"
Cassandra didn't miss the hesitation showed by the man at the word "computer".
Curious. Computers were a relatively new gadget in the muggle world, but that man was treating the object as a bomb ready to explode. Clearly he was a wizard trying to act as a muggle... A quite amusing scene, to be honest.
Smiling even brighter, the girl motioned the man to put the compute on the desk.
"I'll see what I can do... It seems the poor lad has seen better days."
It was true. The screen was broken and the monitor missed some pieces. Not to mention the numerous cracks on the system unit. Grabbing a screwdriver, the girl started disassembling the device, listening the dark complexioned man as he blatantly invented a lie about the story of the object.
"It's my son's com..puter. We have just moved and when we opened the box in which we had put it, well..."
"You found a wonderful pudding of chips and plastic."
The man smiled pleasantly, clearly satisfied that the girl had believed his story.
After half an hour of examining the sad remainings of the computer, a period of time during which Snivellius kept an impassive expression and the other man chatted quietly with the ex-soldier about the weather, Cassandra finally came out with her verdict.
"Ok, Mr. Shackelbolt. I am afraid that I don't have good news for you. Our poor friend is... well... completely destroyed! I mean, I've never seen such a mess! It's not just the monitor or the external cover... It seems that the case fan sort of exploded... the video and audio card melted in the heat of the explosion, and the modem and power supply are in pieces... Even the mother board is damaged.. I don't know which furniture mover you hired, but I suggest you to ask for a refund, because this computer is gone."
The calm, pleasant man swallowed thickly, a worried frown wiping the gentle expression from his face. Beside him Snivellius shifted almost imperceptibly. Cassandra looked pointedly at the greasy git, trying to understand the reason of his presence there. He hadn't uttered a word since he had entered the shop, nor had he looked at her. He kept his gaze fixed into nothingness, seemingly lost in thoughts.
In that moment, however, the git met her eyes, and if she hadn't been busy at keeping up the appearances, Cassandra would have probably burst out laughing at the almost comic change in the greasy man's expression. He clearly recognized her immediately, and apparently wasn't happy to know she was alive and well.
He stood there frozen for a couple of seconds, his skin even paler than before and his black eyes slightly widened. He was horrified by the girl's presence. He was frightened!
It was clear enough that whatever he had done to her in the past, that man hadn't meant the ex-soldier to live long after her disappearance.
Cassandra's hands hitched with the need to punch that bastard in the face. He had destroyed her life. Obliviate... The wolf was right, she understood the meaning of th word, although she had tried to push that thought away from her mind as long as possible.
He was the responsible of her loss of memory, he was the one who had erased her past from her mind, condemning her to a miserable existence without love or happiness.
He deserved to pay.
And he will, Cassandra. Just wait until our father knows who was your butcher.
If his reaction is half as bad as Sirius' ones,- and Sirius doesn't know what the git did to me-, the man will be dead in a matter of seconds.
Exactly so, Human, exactly so.
So Cassandra kept up the farce, listening to that Shackelbolt man as he nervously asked if she could at least recover the information contained in the computer, and concentrating on her work.
Snivellius kept staring at her, his onyx eyes filled with dread.
Cassandra tried to ignore him, but he was really getting on her nerves. If he wanted to study her he could at least try and talk to her, but maybe that would have required courage.
After a while, the girl decided to give up and talk, not lifting her eyes from that small heap of chips.
"So, Mr Shackelbolt... Your friend here is your bodyguard or something? He hasn't uttered a single word since he came into the shop"
To her surprise, Shacklebolt chuckled lightly, whereas the git remained silent.
"Oh, don't mind Mr. Snape... he's not the talkative one. Are you, Severus?"
"I prefer not to waste words into useless chattering".
That voice. That awful drawl. Cassandra felt her blood boil and her wolf growl, but she managed to keep her composure.
"I see. Well, Mr. Snape, your parsimony is admirable, but completely unnecessary. Our voice box is made to speak, it's not that we were born with a built-in word counter. In some cultures your silence could be even interpreted as a sign of unkindness and disrespect. But don't mind this poor electronic appliances repairer: my brain isn't enough noble to deserve your attention"
So as my life wasn't noble enough to deserve your respect, you greasy git.
Cassandra could sense Snape tensing at her words, while Shacklebolt simply burst out laughing good-naturedly.
Smirking smugly, the girl managed to recover the memory of the computer and handed it to Mr. Shacklebolt.
"Here you are. This is the memory of the computer. Unfortunately, I don't have the instruments to import the information it contains, but I am sure there are specialized shops that will be able to help you."
Shackebolt smiled gratefully at Cassandra, eyed the memory card suspiciously, paid for the service and wished the girl a good evening, exiting the shop followed by a still pale Severus Snape.
Just as the door of the shop closed again, Cassandra turned to the dog still growling in the corner.
"We need to talk"