|Scene Title||A Bitter Pill|
|Synopsis||Siobhan returns to Hogwarts to make her final report to the Headmaster. Having received her owled notice of return, Alistaire rushes to meet his lady for the first time in nearly four months. All does not end well and Siobhan learns what it means to make a bitter choice.|
|Location||Hogwarts: Empty Corridor|
|Date||October 15, 1995|
|Watch For||One of the hardest scenes I've ever done, so aside from my wanting to smack Siobhan upside the head, there's not really much happy here to watch for.|
Sunday evenings are always a time of contradictions. The last of the lasy weekend is meant to be savored and held onto for as long as it can be dragged out, but Monday is suddenly looming - along with that Trasfigurations essay put off and then forgotten. In the swiftly darkening time between the tail end of dinner and curfew, most of the hallways are blissfully bare. The young blonde slipping out from behind a rather large tapestry of frolicking centaurs knows this and uses it to her advantage. She looks first to one end of the hall and then to the other, pushing her hair back out of her face. Tucked against her left forearm is a large, official-looking envelope; in that same hand is a small glass vial with gently glowing white liquid contained inside. Taking a single, deep breath, she turns to walk towards the gargoyle with purpose, her expression slowly blanking as she approaches.
Word had gotten to him. It didn't matter how, and after the fact, he probably wouldn't remember it anyway. All he knew was that Siobhan was free of being a painting. It didn't matter that he was in the middle of an investigation and it was a very delicate time in the inquiry. He told the Brig that she was now the owner of the case and he hared off to Hogwarts, apparating to the very limit of the school's magical defenses. Alistaire Phoenix had wisely brought his broom with him and had flown the rest of the way. Recklessly. Top speed. Who cares if he was flying through corridors he knew and loved from years ago. She was once more able to be held, to be talked to properly, and he was going to grab her and hug the stuffing out of her when he found her.
A pair of decidedly unlucky Gryffindor students happen to be climbing the staircases when a half-crazy man - on a broomstick no less - zips over their heads. Murmurs of awe can be heard as they stare after him before racing each other back up to their tower den to tell their friends what they just saw. No one will ever believe this! As for Siobhan, the quickly scratched note she'd dispatched with Henrik had said that she would be here to deliver her final report to Hogwarts' Headmaster, so she isn't too surprised when all of the sudden there's a larger-than-life Alistaire in the corridor. On a … broom? Her posture stiffens - not a lot, but enough that someone trained by the Aurors would notice - and her brown eyes are shuttered and carefully blank when she turns to face him. "Alistaire," is her quiet greeting and acknowledgement - one word saying so very much and yet so very little. She inclines her head towards him and clutches her deliveries a bit tighter to her person, but makes no other move.
Alistaire doesn't give one damn what any students said to their mates about his crazed flight through the castle. There are few who could have stopped him on his chosen quest, his face stony as he leaps from the broomstick, skidding to a halt in front of her, his eyes soaking up her quite three dimensional aspect. The broomstick remains hovering off the floor obediently, very much ignored at the moment. His dark eyes skim her features, taking in every last piece of detail that a trained auror can do, and then more, that of a lover who hasn't looked up on his lady's face in far too long. "I didn't dare believe this was true… tell me what happened." His whisper turns into a regular-volume statement of command, his gaze intense on Siobhan's features, awaiting her reply.
And Siobhan spends the time doing much the same, finding all of the aspects that match her memory and the few details that don't. He's taller than she remembers, and thinner. There are more lines on his face than on the one from her memory. "I … " His whisper and his command strike chords in her that have long lay dormant and still. Her hard-won control is shaking and slipping, her mask crumbling when faced with this reality. "It's only been since yesteday, Sever - " She swallows thickly, shaking her head and reaching her free hand up to push nervously at her hair. "Snape did it. It - " was the strangest and most complex alliance she's ever forged in her young life " - was in an old book kept by … one of the Death Eaters." Not other Death Eaters, for she no longer properly counts Snape as one of them, truly.
Alistaire's eyes go really really narrow at the mention of Snape. He for one doesn't quibble about Death Eater versus non. Some clubs you can't resign from. "And you're suddenly on a first-name basis with your professor, hmm?" The green of Slytherin and jealousy is as ill-fitting a color as ever on this red-blooded Gryffindor's face. The fact that he couldn't save Siobhan from that torment and Snape was the one… it galls, it really galls him.
This was a mistake. The actual reality of the man she'd fallen in love with and was then locked away from is just too much. It's not as bad today as it was when she first tumbled out of the painting, but her whole body is still over-sensitized to absolutely everything. Sound, smell, taste, touch… Her tongue feels too-large and heavy in her mouth and she swallows nervously as his eyes narrow. And then she really, properly listens to the words that come out of his mouth and something amazing happens. All of that nervous energy generated by the power and strength of all her mixed-up feelings towards this man suddenly has a direction: a channel. Siobhan's posture straightens, her movements still; her face closes off and her eyes go very, very dark. For just a moment, the pain that haunts her every waking moment shows through them like a neon sign before it too - strongest of the emotions though it may be - it pushed back behind cold, hard fury. "When my former professor has done as much for me as Severus has, then yes. I am." Even her voice has gone cold; low and deadly. The nastiness of jealousy on his face is right there out in the open, but her own fears of rejection mix with old arguments and she sees only disgust - whether it's for her or her mentor is at this moment immaterial. "When he has proven a truer friend than I ever could have guesed, then yes. I am." Lifting her chin in a truly aristocratic show of defiance, she arches one eyebrow in an expression she learned from the man in question. "Is that a problem?"
Alistaire isn't some schoolboy to let words push him back as if he'd gotten slapped in the face. Her words wash over him, and the jealousy remains. It masks a far deeper emotion. He stands there, his eyes revealing the fear that his face cannot. The fear that he has truly lost her. To another, to freedom in general, doesn't matter. The fear that another has taken his place in her life. It should have been him saving her, not that greasy-haired bat! And, for once, all of his inadequacies come to the forefront. And he looks away first. That defiant eyebrow, not the dangerous eyebrow he often uses when he's thinking or silently telling someone they're being foolish. He remembers that aristocratic disdainful expression far better than even she knows. "No," he finally says, his voice a ghost of its usual tones. "Not a problem at all." And he'd die before admitting otherwise. "It's… good to see you out of the painting." Glancing at the things in her hands, he puts two and two together. He knows where the headmaster's office is as well as anyone else. "I'll leave you to it." After a pause, he says, "Goodbye," before grabbing hold of his broomstick and starting to walk away.
Siobhan stands proud, ready for a spectacular fight and almost thrumming with the adrenaline that floods her system. It's … a little unnerving that the energy coming from the fight-or-flight reaction feels so good. Then again, after going months without feeling much of anything at all, even feeling pain is a nice change, so maybe not so very surprising after all. The fear in his eyes hurts like a knife to the chest, because Siobhan sees it as fear of her, rather than the fear of losing her. That knife is only twisted when he doesn't fight but instead turns and walks away. It's not the way she'd expected this to go; it's not the way she planned for it to go at all, but the end result is the same. Only this way hurts so very much more. Her empty hand reaches out as if to stop him - but how could she when he's so very far away, so much further than just the physical distance. She closes her hand on empty air and lets herself have her moment of inability to breathe, all the while watching his back get smaller with a finality that settles like rocks in her stomach. It's better this way; he's safer this way. She keeps telling herself that even as she takes a deep, calming breath and gathers her control back into her mind like a magnet sweeping over shredded iron. She tells herself that as she re-adjusts the precious items in her arm and she tells herself as she whispers 'lemon drops' into the gargoyle's cold stone ear. By the time the spinning stairs have taken her halfway up the distance to the Headmaster's office, it's become a sort of mantra. When she knocks on the heavy wooden door, she tells herself that it's fatigue and not guilt that makes her feel queasy and sick. Whatever the actual cause - and isn't denial great? - she cannot focus on it now. There are things Dumbledore must be made aware of; lives more important than hers depend on it.
In that moment, Alistaire realizes that his absence, however unwilling, however much it cost him to break free and race back to her side, how little it matters. He can't help but be proud of the fact she's still doing the job she set out to do, but the hollowness to his dark-eyed gaze that she remembers so well from when they'd first met, when he couldn't come to emotional grips with the passing of his wife and children oh so many years ago, it has returned. As he continues his journey away from this place, his expression is cold and lifeless, enough to frighten even the bravest of Gryffindors into fleeing upon sight of him in the corridors leading out of the castle. The heart of this Auror has left him once more, and those who serve the darkness are about to be put on warning. This shell of a man is about to come after them, no distractions, no fear, no mercy.
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