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Chapter 15 : Separator part 1
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It had been there that he had waved his second-hand wand for the first time, almost giggling like a little girl as the feather on his desk had begun floating slowly above his professor's head.
It had been there that he had touched a broom for the first time, immediately standing out for his balance and "supernatural" reflexes.
It had been there that he had found the guts to go and try out for his House Quidditch team, accepting the rejection that had followed the first attempt and relishing in the utter joy of accomplishment when he had got the Keeper spot the second time.
It had been there that he had lived his first transformation without a chain around his neck, and it had been there that he had spent his first transformation with a miscellanea of furry friends helping him and supporting him.
It had been there that he had been truly, undeniably happy.
He missed that feeling. The joy of being surrounded by people who loved him, the excitement of pulling pranks, get caught, and find new ways of getting into trouble after five minutes. The knowledge that, no matter what happened or what he did, he had a whole army of friends and teachers to support him.
He didn't think he would ever be able to feel that happiness again. Like when Cassandra had finally managed to garble a sentence that wasn't made of growls or yelps. Or when said child had climbed in his bed for the first time, snuggling against his chest and falling asleep with a soft smile on her angelic face.
No. He would never be that happy again. But on that cool autumnal morning of a sunny Saturday , wandering slowly in the gardens of the huge castle, Remus Lupin could feel that his old wounds didn't burn as much as they had done in the past thirteen years.
Maybe it had something to do with the fact that his job demanded his attention and patience, forcing his mind off gloomy thoughts. Somehow, however, he suspected that talking with other human beings, eating properly and smoking less than sixty cigarettes per day had played an important role in his physical and mental health improvement too.
Not to mention the fact that he had finally, almost completely let her go.
It had taken a walk in the place everybody hates but has to visit at least once in a lifetime. There, the reality of death had hit him like a train.
Cassandra was dead, buried six feet under ground.
Cassandra was dead, and he would never be able to see her bright smile again.
Cassandra was dead, and cold, and still, and her spirit was now playing somewhere with the souls of her favourite uncle and aunt.
Of course, his brain had already understood that long time before, but that piece of white marble lost in the sea of similar, squared stones had somehow settled the last tiny little bit of doubt that kept haunting his heart, tearing it into pieces. Somehow, the sight of that picture and of that name engraved in the stone had put the word end to a tragic story he had never had the courage to finish.
He had cried all the tears he had. He had mourned for thirteen years, not sleeping, not eating, not breathing. In the past months he had grieved even more, thinking about ending that suffering and go and meet his friends in Heaven or his enemies in Hell.
And that day in the cemetery he had been just a step away from doing that jump in the darkness of eternal sleep, too painful the sensation of the last hope being ripped from his chest.
But he couldn't do that to her. She wouldn't have wanted that, they wouldn't have wanted that.
He had to pick up the pieces and prove them he was strong enough.
And so, after a day spent lying on the cool grass of the last home of his beloved daughter, Remus Lupin had got up from the ground and had left towards… whatever the future would have held for him.
He had closed the book of his happy past thirteen years.
Was he too late? Maybe. Or maybe not.
He was still young. He still had some friends, and a job.
He had his students, who apparently had come to adore him in just a week of teaching. Despite himself, he couldn't help but being a little proud of himself for that. Maybe, after a year of DADA, he could ask Dumbledore to take the History of Magic spot. God knew how much students needed a more… solid history teacher, after all.
Remus continued his slow stroll in the dim light of dawn, breathing deeply the scents of the Forest and the lake.
Hogwarst had been and still was a very important place for him. He was relatively content of being there again, relishing in the breathtaking sights and familiar creatures of the magical castle, but maybe, maybe he had to put an end to this part of his life too.
Maybe he should abandon Great Britain completely.
Scratch completely the past. Begin an entire new life somewhere... somewhere far away from the closed book of his past.
Somewhere… wild. Where the wolf could be free to run and hunt, and taste the blood which had been denied to him for so long.
Remus couldn't deny that idea was almost thrilling.
As the sun finally rose above the dark trees of the forbidden forest and the Black Lake started glistening under the first bright rays of light, the once powerful Alpha quietly made his way towards the Great Hall, his heavy boots resounding loudly in the wide corridors.
"Cassie? Cassandra where are you?!"
A young and much more healthy looking Remus quickly trots in the large corridor of the castle, his worn out satchel bouncing happily against his left hip.
Other students turn to look at him curiously, but soon enough their questioning looks turn into ones of exasperated understanding.
Of course. Cassandra has found a new hiding spot. Again.
Remus ignores them and keeps looking around frantically, slipping slightly on the perfectly clean marble floor and cursing under his breath as the paintings around him begin chuckling lightly but refuse to help him in his search.
Where the hell is that child?! Damn Peter and his annoying habit of leaving the map open on his bed. He knows Cassandra loves exploring, which is fine, as long as he is with her.
"Cassandra, come here this instant! We're going to be late for potions!"
Trying not to be noticed by anyone, the young werewolf carefully sniffs the air. His nose is weaker than before, thanks to the newly made blocks on the wolf and the cigarettes offered by Padfoot, but he can still feel that touch of cinnamon and orange that tells him Cassandra isn't far from him.
Of course, the childish giggle coming from behind a purple tapestry helps with the localization of the mischievous cub too.
Lifting the heavy cloth, Remus immediately understands why his little girl is giggling.
Oh, no. His doom has come.
Twinklepuffs. Fluffy iridescent little animals, fairly similar to rabbits, but much furrier and.. Shinier.
No, scratch that.
Twinklepuffs puppies. Smaller than the adults, and more clingy, if that's even possible.
And they are all over Cassandra.
Now, werewolves do not like twinklepuffs. They are annoyingly sweet and small, and sneaky, and they think they can do whatever they want just by looking at you with those enormous eyes…
And they smell like apples. And werewolves do not like apples. Not his werewolf, at least.
He is a ferocious, dark creature, he can't be seen playing with those bouncing furrballs full of glitters and…
Noticing her father's gaze, Cassandra stares at him, her piercing ice-green eyes dancing in mirth and wonder.
"Daddy! Can we keep them? Pleease!"
Oh, well. He is doomed.
Remus stared at the purple tapestry, his mind momentarily lost in old, bittersweet memories. Lifting the cloth, he found only dust and spiders to welcome him.
He had closed the book his past. It was over. Over.
Memories would always be with him. But he could ignore them.
"Looking for Twinklepuffs, my boy?"
Startled by the sudden voice, Remus jumped backwards, almost tripping on his own feet.
Albus. It's just Albus. Calm down.
In fact, the old wizard was right behind him, his eyes twinkling happily.
Quickly recovering from the fright, and finally registering Dumbledore's words, Remus cast his eyes downwards, nervously rubbing the back of his neck.
You say you accepted her death. Prove it.
"Did... D-did s-she showed them to you too?"
His voice seemed a mixture of a croak and a squeak, but it was fine. He had managed to refer to her without crying, shouting or fall into a catatonic state, after all.
Still, he was surprised and maybe even a bit hurt when Dumbledore chuckled happily at the question.
He would probably never be able to talk about Cassandra and laugh.
"Oh, yes! Cassandra was always very proud of her discoveries, and she had the wonderful tendency to share them with others. She gifted me with one of those sweet creatures soon after she found them"
The old Professor quietly began walking towards the great hall, Remus quickly following him, although a bit distracted by a sudden realization.
Not only was it difficult to talk about her without freaking out. Listening to people who talked about her was incredibly hard too.
You let her go. You closed that book..
The two men walked in silence for a couple of minutes, each one lost in their own thoughts. After a while, Dumbledore spoke again, this time with a clear note of concern in his voice.
"Remus, how are you? I know you settled pretty well, considering that the children love you and I still haven't heard of a fight with Severus, but I am still worried about how you are handling... This. A good friend of us told me you would likely be overwhelmed by memories."
The werewolf pursed his lips, slowly managing to get rid of the irritation that almost took him every time someone asked him how he was "holding up".
He's trying to be helpful. Calm down.
You closed that book. You are recovering.
" I... I am fine, I guess. The usual. Well, maybe a bit better than usual. The house elves are definitely better cookers than I am."
Dumbledore smiled lightly, although this time it didn't reach his eyes.
"Although I'm glad you appreciate Hogwarst meals, I think you know very well I was referring to other aspects of your life".
Attempt at changing the topic of conversation: failed! Bloody fantastic.
Staring stonily in front of himself, Remus gained all the strength he had to formulate a truthful answer. After all, the headmaster had saved him multiple times. He deserved sincerity.
"I went to her grave last week."
Silence. No useless words of condolences or worry. Just silence.
An expectant silence.
Remus pinched the bridge of his nose, frowning as dread started pooling in his chest.
He didn't want to talk about it. He had gone there, accepted the reality of things and closed his happy book forever. Period.
There was nothing to talk about. But apparently Dumbledore thought otherwise, because he suddenly took a deviation to their path, walking straight into a corridor that brought them back to the gardens.
Oh, well. He had started talking, he could as well go on and get over it.
"It... It was a militar cemetery. The tombstones were all of the same shape... I had to walk for hours before... Before finally finding her."
Flashes of that awful day filled his mind in a turmoil. The anxiety mixed to the hope of not finding anything, of having the possibility to hope... All crashed in less than ten seconds.
Staring at the lake in front of him, Remus went on talking, suddenly unable to stop.
"She kept her name, you know? The muggles let her keep it. But they changed the surname. Wilkins. Of course you know about it. You saw my dream...Anyway. I was... I was glad she kept her name. It.. Suited her. It would have been strange to... To mourn over a Jane or a Mary..."
God, it had been difficult to accept. It was almost impossible to talk about it.
Those golden words, neat and bright and new, shining on the white marble.
10.04.1973 - 1.08.1990
"There w-wasn't an epigraph on her tombstone. N-not even a d-damn "beloved daughter", n-nothing. I should have... I should have paid m-more attention, I should.."
You already went over it.
You could do something. You didn't. You can't do anything now.
You let her go, remember?
Yes, he remembered. But it was still painful as hell.
Clearing his throat, Remus continued with his rambling, surprised by the absence of tears in his eyes and the lack of words coming from Dumbledore's part.
"Yeah... Uh... There... There was a picture though. A muggle one, it didn't move or anything, but... But I think that even if it had been magic, s-she wouldn't have moved a inch. It was... It was a s-sort of official picture, she was wearing a uniform and looked so... L-lost..."
Incredibly young. Younger than the Cassandra he had seen in that memory. She wasn't as thin as her pre-death self, either.
But the sadness in her eyes. That had been clear even in that picture.
The sudden question startled the werewolf a bit. Of all the things the Headmaster could ask, "why" was certainly the last one he expected.
"...what... What do you mean?"
Dumbledore looked pensive, but his eyes hadn't lost the twinkle as they usually did when he was sad or angry.
He looked… guarded. Wary. Maybe a bit… fearful?
"Oh, my boy, there are many parts of your story that could fit my question. Let's start from the reason why you visited the cemetery in the first place."
Almost imperceptibly, Remus narrowed his eyes at the Headmaster.
Did a father need a reason to visit his daughter's grave?
"I... I had to see... H-her. T-to be s-sure. To... To let go. I couldn't face the world again without having faced the reality of things"
"And you did? Did you really let her go?"
Remus stopped abruptly, and the old wizard followed suit, looking at the younger man with raised eyebrows.
This time, the young werewolf didn't notice the faint hint of suspect that accompanied Albus' words.
He was too occupied panicking for the question the Headmaster had just asked.
Here it was. He had to prove the world he had let her go.
He just had to say it.
Yes, Albus. I said my last goodbye and I let her go. I let everything go.
He wanted to say it. He had spent the past week forcing himself to believe it.
His tongue, however, refused to function.
The wolf started growling in the back of his head.
And doubts, all the doubts that tombstone had risen in his subconscious, came to surface all of a sudden.
It was wrong. The nightmares had begun much earlier than then.
Even the most anonymous of the tombs had an inscription that at least stated the mission during which the soldier had fallen.
Not even a bunch of plain, white flowers that could be found on any fresh grave in the cemetery.
All tombs smelled. It didn't matter how much protected the coffin was, a werewolf nose, although weakened, could still perceive a faint scent of death.
Cassandra's coffin, however, didn't smell.
A sudden sense of dread filled his guts, not too different from the one he had felt that time when he had realised not to have mentioned the role of Giants in the battle of the Goblins of 1456 in his History test.
The only, tiny detail was that this time there were no marks involved.
Just the life of the centre of his world.
Couldn't it be that…
"Remus, there is no need to lie to me, you know that. I perfectly understand that you know everything by now and you are trying to hide it from me. But really, there is no need. "
Remus frowned briefly, before the words of the old wizard finally sunk in.
"Wh-what... What do you mean?"
He hadn't lied.
He never did.
Why should he lie, anyway?
He had gone to the cemetery. He had found the grave. He had let go.
At least, he had tried.
Where was the lie in that?
And what was that "everything" he supposedly knew ?
The werewolf studied his mentor again, even more attentively than before.
Dumbledore still looked wary and guarded, but another emotion seemed to flicker in those over-expressive eyes.
Albus tilted slightly his head to the side.
"My boy, why do you look so confused? You've known since the beginning that she is a muggle soldier. You knew where to find her, and how to search about her past. You probably went there months before and saw that something was wrong. You tried to find out what was wrong, and now you know. You know who she is, and what she is doing. It's… alright, I guess. I'm only sorry that you tried to hide everything from me."
Now Remus was lost.
What was the old man's problem with him going into that damn cemetery? Cassandra was buried there, for God's sake!
Remus was lost.
And he was starting to get annoyed too.
"Albus, with all the due respect, I don't understand what is your problem with me visiting my… my d-daughter in her place of rest. You, of all people… I think you would have understood that people have different ways to grieve. I… sulked until I finally decided it was time to… Wait a minute"
"Something was wrong"…
What did he mean?
Think, Remus. The date. The inscription. The smell.
There was nothing strange with that.
He was only still a bit confused by the pain of seeing the grave of his daughter.
There was nothing strange or wrong in what he had seen.
"You know who she is"…
Cassandra was. Had been.
Albus had always been extra careful pointing out that Remus should refer to her in past tense.
It will make things easier in the long run, he had said.
What had changed now?
The sense of dread increased, the wolf fidgeted with a newfound force.
What did he know?
The date. The inscription. The smell.
A tiny flick of hope made its way in the werewolf's battered heart, but the man forcefully pushed it down.
She is gone.
You let her go.
The Headmaster had just used a wrong verb.
There was nothing to dwell about.
The coffin was…
Confusion clear in his eyes, Remus gave Albus and helpless glance, only to feel his heart stop when the old Professor blanched visibly.
He looked like he had seen a ghost.
Dumbledore never blanched.
Dumbledore never showed panic or fear. But now, those were the only emotions that could be seen in the old man's eyes.
What came out next from Albus's mouth was barely audible, but Remus' powerful ears caught it anyway.
"He doesn't know… He still doesn't know…."
What did he know?
What did he not know?
The wolf was howling now, fighting against the bar of his prison.
A gentle breeze came from the mountains.
Orange and cinnamon.
A faint scent coming from South.
That scent hadn't been in the graveyard.
Not even mixed with the acre smell of death.
Could it be…
He had seen her…
No. His doubts were only fantasies of a broken man.
Despite himself, his eyes flashed amber.
"What do you mean, Albus."
His voice was deadly low, but calm.
His gaze didn't waver and he kept his facial features inexpressive. His hands, however, were trembling.
The Headmaster kept silent, apparently lost in thoughts. He seemed to be too busy biting the inside of his cheek to meet Remus' eyes.
Said werewolf, in the meantime, could actually hear his heart beat faster and his muscles clench painfully.
A cold sensation crawled down his back, forcing him to shiver ever so slightly.
No smell. No inscription. Wrong date.
He had almost drowned in pain. He had almost let her go.
He had seen the tomb, for God's Sake.
An… empty one?
The headmaster only sighed, finally lifting his gaze in order to meet his former student's green orbs.
It took Remus only a couple of seconds to register the resignation and guilt that shined in those damn twinkling eyes, and in an instant, the broken man forgot everything.
His human nature.
The promise he had done to himself.
The respect he held for the headmaster.
"Albus, tell me what the hell do you mean. Because I have a suspect about where this conversation is leading to, and I am not sure you'll like it".
His voice was wavering now. Trembling as the rest of his cells.
You saw that something was wrong…
And now you know..
….Who she is.
He could feel the cage around the wolf becoming weaker and weaker, the creature howling in a mixture of rage and happiness.
He didn't notice he had come to stand only a couple of inches away from the other wizard's nose. He didn't realise he had grabbed the collar of his robes and was currently roaring and growling at his former mentor.
"Tell me you didn't mean it like that. Tell me you don't believe she's... She's …b-because I would NEVER forgive you. I trusted you when you confirmed my ideas, DESTROYING ME. TELL ME YOU DIDN'T FUCK UP. TELL ME."
He didn't realise he had just cursed in front of the most powerful wizard of all times. He didn't realise he had just thrown him on the ground.
He didn't realise that some curious students had started to gather around them, only to be dragged into class by a couple of worried-looking professors.
He didn't realise that Severus Snape was looking at him, smirking slightly.
Dumbledore didn't lose his nerve. He sat up straight, brushing a couple of grass strands from his robes, and then swiftly got up from the ground, his limbs only cracking slightly.
He looked calm, but incredibly sad.
As if he was divided between the guilt of not having said everything and the annoyance of having let slip something he shouldn't have.
"Remus, my boy... I'm sorry. You weren't meant to know."
It was then that the world stopped.
The Forest is so silent.
No screams. No growls.
And light. Dim light that comes after the night, after the storm.
Everything is quiet, apart from the occasional sound of explosions, so far away that could be mistaken for the sound of fireworks.
She is still there.
Sprawled on the ground like a broken doll, covered in dried leaves, mud and body fluids.
Her face is bent to the side, whereas the rest of her body is supine. Her right arm is bent upwards, her hand inches from her eyes. The other arm lies on her stomach.
Her hair is still gathered in the bun, but some locks are now sprawled in front of her pale face.
She seems to be asleep. She looks like a porcelain doll.
She is still. So still. A slight breeze plays with her matted hair and lifts a couple of crimson leaves.
"Sergeant Malcom! I found some-...Oh my God..."
People arrive, dressed in green. They are at least ten, and all of them stare for a couple of seconds at the blood and the flesh shattered around them.
"She... Did she really.."
"Kill the wolf? Apparently so. Now, check her vitals, although I doubt there is something to save."
The Sergeant is cold and professional, but his eyes betray the awe with which he is admiring the scene around him.
A soldier crouches beside her, and touches her neck with two fingers.
The sergeant scowls at him, scoffing.
"Come on Johnson. Don't tell me you've never seen a dead before."
The soldier lifts his almost dazed gaze to the sergeant's one.
"Sergeant... She... She is a-alive sir."
Remus stared at the man in front of him with wide, green and yellow eyes.
No words could describe what he was feeling.
He didn't know what he was feeling.
The only emotion he recognised was an incredible, overwhelming rage at his former Headmaster.
"My boy, I swear, I..."
He was not talking anymore. He was growling.
"All these months…."
No smell. No inscription. Nothing.
Her heart had kept beating.
"You… You let despair and guilt consume me…"
Was still beating.
And he had….
The wolf growled softly, but otherwise said nothing. For the first time in months, no, years, the beast crouched on the ground an quietly rested his head on his paws.
He had obtained what he wanted. He…
He had tried…
All those years…
"I put him in a cage…. YOU TOLD ME! YOU TOLD ME EVERYONE WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER WITHOUT HIM, BUT YOU KNOW WHAT!? HE KNEW! ALL THE TIME HE KNEW SHE WAS ALIVE AND HE COULDN'T TELL ME BECAUSE YOU TOLD ME NOT TO LISTEN TO HIM! I TRUSTED YOU!"
He was roaring now, his heart on flames, his brain almost imploding in his head.
All the hints he had forced himself to ignore.
The scents... The pained growling of the wolf...
It was a fake date. It was so obvious. He had begun dreaming that awful attack months before that date.
How could he have been so blind?!
She was still…
He had abandoned her. Once more.
She must have felt an incredible pain and he… and he hadn't…
"Remus… Please, listen… There is an explanation…"
But Remus had stopped listening long before.
Cassandra was still lost, still breathing somewhere in England.
She wasn't happy as she had been two years before, she probably had never been happy in her whole life.
She was injured, and somehow the muggle government believed she was dead.
But she wasn't.
Remus had been miserable for thirteen years.
Remus didn't want to stay there, in front of that…traitor.
He wanted Cassandra.
The wolf wanted Cassandra.
He needed to leave. He needed to free the wolf and leave.
Cassandra wasn't dead.
She wasn't dead!
He needed to run
Run to her.
He had already mad the mistake to get away from her.
He couldn't do that again.
He had to go…
The wolf would know.
He needed to free the wolf.
He needed help.
He couldn't do that alone.
He was spinning. His head was spinning.
He needed someone… Someone who understood, someone he could tell everyhting without being betrayed.
Yes, Minerva would help him.
He turned, although he didn't notice. He walked a couple of steps before stopping abruptly.
He didn't even try to look into the Headmaster's eyes. He only wanted an answer to the question.
His voice was barely above a whisper, but Albus understood anyway.
"I found out Cassandra's whereabouts five years ago. From then on I always, although indirectly, kept an eye on her."
There was nothing more to say.
Harry was confused. And tired. And scared about his mental health. And school had started only a week before!
Every night the child arrived. During the second and third apparition Harry had followed her, but seeing that she kept running towards Professor's Lupin door, and not wanting to get caught and put in detention for having sneaked into one of the teacher's headquarters, he had stopped running after her on their fourth… encounter.
Surprisingly enough, the child didn't mind. On the fifth day, she simply hadn't run away. She had laid down on the carpet next to his bed and had fallen asleep. If a ghost-spirit-vision-whateveritwas could fall asleep, that is.
And so, day after day, they had kept this routine. She slept and he watched her, completely freaked out. Sometimes he fell asleep too, but that wasn't better.
He kept having nightmares. Nightmares about the screams he had heard that day on the train, but also nightmares about the strange girl, Cassandra.
Or, better, he supposed those were dreams about her: the girl in the nightmares was much thinner and ill-looking than the one he had met.
In the dreams she was dressed like a muggle soldier and was usually in the most frightening situations.
Running in the middle of the battlefield with bombs exploding everywhere.
Trying to wrap a bandage around the bloody strump of a screaming comrade as the earth trembled and the rain poured on them.
Running in front of a trunk to push away a screaming baby, not being run over for a split of a second.
Were they dreams?
Or were they memories?
If so, he bloody hell understood why that Cassandra had refused to tell much about her past.
And he had thought to have a difficult life…
Despite the young boy's interest in the past of that strange girl, however, on that odd morning of autumnal September Harry didn't have the physical energy to dwell upon such complicated thoughts.
He only wanted to sleep. But he was afraid of laying down on his bed.
Fortunately enough, there weren't lessons planned for that day, and Ron had believed him when he had told his dormmates that he wasn't feeling well and that he wanted to stay in bed for a little more. Hopefully Hermione wouldn't storm in the room fretting about his poor health as usual.
Looking around warily, searching and luckily not finding any sign of an ethereal giggling child, Harry snuggled further in the warmth of his bed and closed his emerald eyes.
I can sleep. I won't have nightmares. I will sleep and I'll be fine.
Usually, thinking about falling asleep is the best way to keep the brain alert, but exhaustion can do wonders, and soon enough, the Gryffindor Seeker fell in another troubled sleep.
A/N: I apologize for the shortness of this chapters. The fact is that this is only one half of the original document. The other half will be posted as soon as this chapter is validated :). Sorry again, thank you for your reviews which always help me to write more, and please keep commenting with your ideas and impressions!
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