|Scene Title||An Unexpected Refuge|
|Synopsis||Fleeing from the horror she'd witnessed, Siobhan lands in Severus' lab and finds refuge in the least-likely of places.|
|Location||Riddle House Potions Lab|
|Date||October 05, 1995|
|Watch For||Slytherin comfort and a blushing Snape|
As she collapses on the hardwood floor of another painting on the polar opposite end of the Riddle House, her body shaking with gasping sobs, Siobhan Noble knows with a terrible, dreadful certainty that she could run her whole life if she wanted to. She could run until her lungs gave out and her heart burst in her chest. She could run and run and run and run
But she would never get far enough away.
Laying face-down against cold flooring, Sio can't seem catch her breath. Her mind keeps spinning and whirring and stalling - chasing itself around and around a set of memories, facts and ideas that it cannot accept; not yet. There's a low, keening sound that escapes from the back of her throat, but aside from the heavy breath, that's all she so far seems able to manage.
Severus Snape is in the room that his 'Lord and Master' has set aside for brewing. With his foothold into Hogwarts gone, the man's only usefulness for the Dark Lord is as a Potions Master. He appeciates the time and opportunity to work on his craft, but not like this. He is just putting a potion into stasis and preparing ingredients to start another one when he hears a noise. He tilts his head, trying to locate the sound. "Is someone there?" He keeps his voice low, unsure of who might be brazen — and ignorant — enough to disturb him while he's mid-brew.
It takes a while for the vibrations that reach Siobhan's ears to be processed into sounds. It takes a little bit longer to recognize them as a familiar voice and just a hair longer than that to recognize that yes, it was in English. As this series of informational fragments slowly pierces her awareness, Sio does her best to push herself up to stand. She fails miserably, crashing back to her knees with only her arms on the frame to save her from smacking her head against the invisible wall of magic between her and the 'painting' of reality. Between the crack of her knees hitting the wooden floor and the involuntary cry let out at the too-short burst of pain it caused, Siobhan's pretty much gone and blown whatever cover she had left, but even as her brown eyes - pupils blown to an unhealthy-looking level - confirm the familiarity of the speaker, she herself cannot form words. It's as though the connection between her head and her mouth has been severed. The nerves controlling her facial muscles, however, seem to work just fine. The normally bright and energetic witch is pale and shaking, with lines of tension adding an element of hopelessness to her haggard appearance. Then again, the un-heeded line of dried blood that runs from the corner of her mouth down her chin and neck doesn't help the image much.
"Miss Noble!" Severus sets his silver dagger down, placing it far enough away from the werewolf fur that it won't affect it. "It was foolish in the extreme for you to brood me in my own den. To be found in this one is beyond foolhardy." He glances toward the door, and with a quick, silent flick, locks it tight. With a deep sigh, he gazes at her, then takes in her state. "Whatever happened to you, Noble? What would cause such grievous injuries to occur inside your domain?"
Grievous…? Looking down at herself, Siobhan sees the stain where the line of red met her uniform and lifts a hand to press gently at the corner of her mouth. Pulling away with sticky flakes of dry and drying blood on her fingertips, she seems to lose herself in staring at it until the harshness of his words pierces the fog that's slowly re-settling over her thoughts. She flinches noticeably at the sharpness in his tone and lowers her face and eyes at the rebuke. " 'm sorry," she mumbles, shoulders sagging forward. "Wasn't looking for you." It's a quiet statement to refute his accusation, but it doesn't have nearly enough spark behind it to call it an argument of any kind.
Snape's sigh is deep. "There is no apology required, Miss Noble." Were he any more fluent in the language of comfort, this is where he'd say something about telling him her troubles. However, that is way beyond his expertise. "Explain." It's as near as he can come. The command is not quite as harsh or sharp as it might be to a red and golden child, but it is familiar nonetheless.
And it's a command that Siobhan knows well. After seven years, there's a part of her that's trained - in a sense - to respond to that voice in that tone without question. Her head snaps up so fast that it cracks audibly, her eyes wide and horrified. Scrambling backwards and away from the frame - as if that would somehow help her - she shakes her head vehemently, the shaking in her hands only getting more violent as she rebels from even thinking about what she just witnessed. Fear - real, irrational terror - can be seen in her gaze, her posture and her expression. The list of those who have seen this response in her is easily counted down on one hand; this man is not on that list, but she has no other way to respond. Caught between obediance and terror, she says nothing.
And Snape knows Siobahn just as well. So, when she's unable to speak, with the horror of a first-year Hufflepuff in her eyes, he blinks. He's at a loss as to what to do. He leans toward the painting even more, nearly touching it with his nose. "Were you corporeal, I would enter your mind and see what has you so distraught. I am uncertain, however, how that would be affected by your present — planar — condition." He crosses his arms across his chest, wand arm to the outside, in case of trouble. "It might give me some indication, however, if there is a necessity for me to attempt it."
Wait. What? Did Snape just ask permission? Momentarily distracted by the sheer … alien-ness of that fact, Siobhan wrestles her mind into some semblance of order and nods. "Please?" There's no way in hell that she could put it into words. Not yet; possibly not ever. At the first pressure against her mind, she resists as an automatic instinct. For Siobhan, the urge to protect her mind is paramount; all other instincts fall by the wayside and so she uses what this man taught her and barracades her mind behind goblin-wrought iron. But the mind brushing against hers is powerful, experienced and most importantly - familiar. There's a shuddering and suddenly the barriers are gone, leaving Snape unprotected from the hurricane in her head. Should he be able to pass through the initial maelstrom, however, he will find the memory - fresh and raw and bleeding - that he seeks, for it is the only thing Siobhan can remember right now, no matter how hard she tries to forget. He will be able to live tonight as she did and she won't have to say a thing.
Snape does attempt the spell, pressing the force of his thoughts into her head, and passing through the strange — cardboard-like — barrier easily. He finds the memory in her mind, and watches it, only the years of time beside the Dark Lord and the witness he's been to acts atrocious and malevolent keep him from reacting violently. He pulls back, leaving her alone again. It's minutes before he can find the words, and even then they are paltry, unable to accomplish much at all. "That is the work of one man, I am sure. The same man who is responsible for your plight." Perhaps the horror will morph into cold anger, something she can use to carry on. "You have improved your occlumency skills, Miss Noble." When you cannot comfort, perhaps praise may suffice?
There's something about being a passenger to another person watching your memories that settles Siobhan. She's still freezing; she's still shaking; there's still a vague feeling of nausea somewhere around her ribcage, but watching someone else go through your memories is like watching someone else's memories. It's a temporary distance - a fleeting respite - but she's grateful for it all the same. "And the same one who taught me what it meant to scream until my blood stained the snow." There's a quiet bitterness in those words, her mind straying back to the month that marked the beginning of this truly miserable year. There's an attempt at a dry snort - though a weak one - and a sardonic sort of look leveled at the Potions Master that says 'I know what you're trying to do and you suck at it, but thanks.' It's not the best way to express the gratitude she knows she'll feel later - when she can make room for that feeling in her tightly-bound chest space - but it's the best she can do. Hopefully he's known her long enough to read at least most of it. "You'd be surprised at the useful things you learn if you have the time and resources to drive Salazar absolutely mad with your boredom." She is very careful with her words - they are soft and posh, with just a hint of Scottish brogue. It means she is about as far away from relaxed as she could possibly get, but if it gets her through the day… "What is this place?" A flash of moon-bathed corpses lights up behind her eyes and she swallows hard.
"Even a basillisk must begin in a lair." This is Snape's answer to her question. "And when we do not move, it is the familiar that draws us all." He steps back again, eyes beginning to tire of trying to create a three-dimensional scene in a two-dimensional space. "I am certain it has been — enlightening. Should I see you again in tangible form, perhaps you might tell me more about it." It's the closest he'll come to expressing his envy that she spent time with their House's Founder.
Given her predicament and her current … role, Snape decides to give her a little more information about her specific enemy. "Correct. He is only known at this point by 'Shadow', disguising himself in extreme ways, even among his fellow miscreants. I suspect only the Dark Lord himself knows more. I have suspicions about how he may have learned some of the things he knows, but have been able as of yet to prove none of them." He begins chopping again, measuring precisely the ingredients for his potion, keeping his ear toward the painting.
There's something in that initial turn of phrase that niggles at something she should remember, but doesn't. She worries at it for a moment, recoiling when the tugging on those threads of thought loosens others she has to shut out for the moment. Shut … out. That's it. Severus himself had given her the answer on the very first night he taught her the art. Taking a moment to breathe deeply, Siobhan soaks up the quietly soothing sounds of her former professor preparing ingrediants and carefully builds a mental box around the maelstrom of memory and then encloses that box behind a locked door behind a concrete wall. When next she opens her eyes, they are cold and detached in a way that seems … so wrong for Sio, but the lines of tension in her face ease ever so slightly. "Shadow…" Her voice is cold, as well. Perhaps in her eagerness and inexperience, she shut away too much… "And here I had assumed that only Unspeakables were so paranoid." O sweet irony, thou art a cruel bitch. "Does he have private rooms here?" And even though there's an unhealthy detachment in her voice - or perhaps because of it - she seems firm about that line of questioning. She is just about done with this whole affair.
"There is a good chance that you have already answered your own question, Miss Noble. The gentleman so named," he pauses to throw ingredients into the cauldron, flicking his wand to fill it to an unmarked (yet clearly known) point. "The gentleman so named may … appreciate such decorations more than has already been apparent." His mind is churning, though, considering what that might mean, if 'Shadow' has rooms here. "I have met those outside of that occupation that cloak themseves as though they were. Our mutual employer has been known to do so, for instance." Hear the sarcasm and bitterness there. He chops silently for a while, letting the noise wash over them both. He throws a few more ingredients in, then lights the fire beneath it.
Oh ew. Even with a good portion of everything under lock and key, that was just so not the mental image she wants right now. Normally, Sio would pull a face and tease him about that very fact, but her expression remains impassive and any would-be words remain unspoken. She hears that bitterness and she recognizes it, for it is reflected in her own being. Her eyes slide closed and for that moment, Siobhan looks so much older than her own years. "Employer… One can only wonder how much more he intends to wring from my usefulness before I will receive recompense." And with the way her fingers seem distorted, as if the very tips have been erased, the other question to arise is if she will survive that long. A bitterness of her own covers the otherwise cold tones. "It is a wonder to me that such a 'great and powerful' wizard should be so long unable to find even a mention of the curse that was cast." Not to mention how to counter it. She watches Snape work, wondering if it was warm there by the cauldron or if that's a sensation she only thinks she remembers.
Snape snorts, considering her words about the Headmaster. "I imagine he considers it a long-term arrangement. Since it is an experimental spell, our esteemed colleague has no reason to believe that it shall harm you, especially as you appear to be perfectly fine." The slight bitterness is still there. "He is a man of very specific priorities, Miss Noble." And slimy Slytherins seldom make the cut. "It might be prudent to discover this information through a different course of action, and present your amazing recovery as … fait accompli." Severus continues his brewing, completely pushing aside the thought of Shadow's less than tasteful procivities. Indeed, he ventures to the farthest end of the conversational spectrum as he can, hoping to keep her attention away from the horrors she's witnessed. "Did you have an enjoyable discussion with my mother?" His cheeks color slightly at the remembrance of the tidbit of information Eileen dropped in Sio's lap, but he's facing away from her, so she may not catch it.
"Nothing is ever as it appears to be, Severus." She parrots back something he'd told her not even a week prior, completely unaware of the slip in protocol she made by using his proper name. "If you and I can figure that out, then certainly someone as old as he is should understand it." Although the comment about specific priorities does sort of answer that. Her voice matches his tone of bitterness when she continues. "Willful ignorance is a horrific sin." One of the worst, in her mind. While he works, she leans against the frame and watches his movements - a familiar enough activity - letting her mind wander across the possibilities of his suggestion. "I would gladly extract that information from Shadow," and something about the way she says this is decidedly, unpleasantly predatory - so alien for Sio. "But since that is not an option and it's not a curse 'Zar knows…" She shrugs nonchalantly, the wall in her mind leaving her drained of the energy and vivacity that had always defined her.
"I did, yes. I always do." See, now? Observing people while they work has a habit of paying off. That faint coloration is watched and processed silently. She chooses not to comment on it, now. "Eileen has been … very good to me." Another Slytherin-esque understatement. "Without her and 'Zar and Ro, I think I would have gone mad weeks ago." Quiet compliments, but sincerely meant. There's a hesitant pause, then, as Siobhan debates whether or not to ask the question that's been eating at her since she met his mother. "She's very proud of you, you know." Going for the middle-road, then; a more subtle approach. "I heard more about 'her son' than could fill a library." So imagine her surprise when she had a face to connect the information to. This next bit is the tricky part, so even as she asks without asking, she allows enough admiration to color her tone to make it clear that she is not at all mocking. "You're more creative than even I'd given you credit for." After all, turning a bully's trousers pink before sending him into a pit full of Muggle Manly Men sounded more like Jack's infamous Marauders than her quiet, damaged mentor.
Severus does notice the usage of his first name, but considering what his mother called him in Sio's presence, it could really be worse. And probably will at some point when she's not quite so distressed. He first addresses the sticking point of Dumbledore, so they can lay that topic to rest. "I quite agree." On all of it. He also resolves to speak to his mother. Eileen will know how Siobahn is being affected, and how quickly it's progressing. From there, he may be able to devise a timeline for his own actions. He continues to think as he slices flobberworms in a long-cut, different from their usual use. It makes a difference, of course. "Perhaps another may be able to retrieve the information for you." She definitely moves from place to place easily, but he blends in here well. He doesn't offer outright — plausible deniability is a staple of his secondary trade — but the insinuation is present that it would be him finding the information. "Perhaps…" He pauses, turning toward her again. "…it may balance scales that still weigh heavily." He gazes at her for a long moment, then returns to the flobberworms.
On the subject of his mother, Snape is pleasantly surprised. "I am glad that the two of you have found companionship in one another." He knows he's not had the time to spend at home this summer. Eileen's gotten used to his schedule, and that's now completely changed. They've adapted, but he misses the long summer evenings filled with the familiar. "I do worry, however, at the tales she's told of my misbegotten youth." He turns to her, lips pursed in a contemplative line. "You are referring to Lady Ravenclaw and Lord Slytherin, I presume?" His disapproval at her adoption of silly nicknames for two of the most famous people in wizardom shows.
Noting his agreement, Siobhan nods and lets the topic slide. There are certainly more pleasant topics to discuss. But then he's throwing her for a complete loop. Normal!Sio's reaction would have been rather bug-eyed and slack-jawed, but with everything sealed away - at least for tonight, at least until she can process it all - it's merely a narrowing of her empty gaze. "I…" Unable to think of a way to word a proper thank you - and there's a first - Siobhan merely dips her head in a low nod of respectful acknowledgement.
"That is what I said, yes. 'Zar and Ro." His disapproval goes in one ear and out the other. If she didn't listen to their initial protests, why on earth would she be bothered by his? "I suppose that's one word for it. Some of the stunts, however…" Yes, she uses stunts on purpose. "I would have labeled as 'inspired'." From someone else, it might be construed as flattery, but given that Siobhan's version of 'inspired' is often at odds with his… It's merely honest praise - wrapped in a subtle tease, of course. Severus' tacit approval of her friendship with Eileen brings the barest upward twitch to her lips, but it's a bittersweet one. "Don't … " She pauses, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. "Don't tell her. About tonight." And what he saw her go through. "She'd only worry and I - " Want to protect her. But it's not her mother and so she snaps her mouth shut before the rest of that damning phrase can slip past.
Snape pauses in his measuring to glance back at his former student. "I am not an imbecile, Miss Noble." He's not going to mention any such thing to his mother. He always downplays the terrors of his work, though he assumes she has some indication that it's worse than he can say. "Mmm." The noncommittal hum is his only response to her labeling his 'stunts' as inspired. Foolhardy might be a better term for a good portion of them. "The Founders were not …. upset with your diminutiziation of their proper names?" They must not have been, or she wouldn't have carried on too much.
"That's good to hear, Severus," she snaps back a bit testily. Unsure whether it's the response itself or the weirdness of one-half of the interaction being on a first name basis that has her ire woken, Siobhan is honestly, at this point, too drained to care. Pushing herself up to stand, she tries to hide her shaking hands up inside the sleeves of her robe. She sucks at it. "Not particularly, no. 'Zar grumbled at first, but Ro liked them and Hel appreciated the irony." Given how scary the Lady Badger could be if you took more biscuits than she thought were healthy for you, Hel seemed scarily appropriate. Badger, indeed. Feeling a deadly headache creeping up the back of her neck - and if she's feeling it through the numbness of the painting, it's got to be bad - she lifts the hood of her robes over her head and turns to the brewing Potions Master. "You are busy." Her voice is once again flat, though whether that's from pain or irritation or simply a culmination of the night's events is unclear. "I won't impose on you any further tonight."
"I am busy." Severus replies, though his tone is even. "And the longer you are here, the more likely the chance that some lackey will enter my demense with another order from the madman I brew for." He speaks softly, not wanting to be heard by someone other than her. "It is a rare occurance, but it has been known to happen." And he's a bit behind schedule, through no fault of hers, or his own, really. "I shall be speaking to my mother in due haste." He mentions this for several reasons, not the least of which is that the old lady can pass messages between them if he's unable to find her, or can't come home when she's there. It serves as a farewell, too. He returns to his brewing, intent on finishing at least most of the potions on time.
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