1995-10-22B: Delectus

Participants:

Snape_icon.gif Siobhan_icon.gif

Scene Title Delectus
Synopsis After the OotP meeting, Siobhan finds herself tormented by demons she buried instead of facing. Unable to find sleep, she bares her soul to Eileen and accidentally falls asleep. Snape returns from dinner to find his sitting room already occupied. Important Discussion Ensues.
Location Hogwarts - Snape's Quarters
Date October 22, 1995
Watch For Several new beginings
Logger I am the Bad Wolf

The end of the meeting saw Siobhan as one of the last to leave the Room of Requirement. Though she had come into it almost unwillingly when she'd been given her task, it was with a pang of some unnamed sadness that she left it, looking over her shoulder as the door - its inherent magic somehow knowing she was no longer one of those who needed it - faded back into the ancient stonework. She didn't go to her classroom and she didn't go to her office. Blinking and unsure of just how she'd managed it, she found herself in front of her own panther-guardian. Thankful to whatever small piece of her mind - or of the castle's own magic - had led her to safety unmolested, she had genuinely tried to find peace. When the meeting had played itself behind her eyes thrice through and still she could not sleep, Siobhan lifted her tiny wand and cast a mumbled Tempus. Dinner would be starting soon. She had an hour. Draping Q over her shoulders and wrapping herself in her old cloak of magenta velvet, she cast a Disillusionment Charm over herself and slipped through dark and silent passages to stand barefoot in front of Circe's own temple.

The woman with her own serpent familiar recognized her, of course, as they all did now. While it was usually a thing of comfort for Sio, she found that tonight it did nothing to settle her - quite the opposite, in fact. She concentrated on the wood of the frame instead of the subject and finally spoke the only word that made sense. "Delectus." When Circe inclined her head and the door swung open, the youngest professor found that she wasn't as surprised as she probably should have been. What other choice was there, really, except for Choice itself? She padded into the room that was not her own and curled up into herself on the plush green armchair. Eileen was there, as Siobhan somehow knew she would be. And despite her best intentions of protection and care for this mother who was and was not hers… She found herself telling the portrait everything. It didn't take as long as it felt like it did. Though the memories and their burdens were heavy, they were still blessedly few. Everything from her guilt to her fear to her anger and even the first stirrings of hatred deep inside her soul… All of it was poured out in a steady stream to her long-dead confessor.

They say confession is good for the soul. There might be something in that, for very soon after Siobhan finished her choked tale, she fell asleep right there curled in the plush green armchair. At some point, Q got too warm and slithered out to settle on her mistress' lap and though she tugged a good portion of the cloak off with her, Siobhan didn't stir. And so now, even as the very last dinner stragglers wane and the hour of curfew draws slowly but inexorably closer, Sio sleeps, curled up in a position that could not at all be comfortable… Except for when it is.

The meeting was interminable. Especially when he realized some of the outcomes. However, it wasn't the most tedious part of his day. That supreme honor belonged to marking the fifth years' essays. Neville Longbottom appeared to understand the basics of the plant-based materials, which might be the only thing that kept him from completely failing. However, a few of his housemates had no clue whatsoever. He marked for a while, ate his lunch in the Great Hall, then trode back to his office to mark more. After a few hours of that, he opened his office to his snakes. There were a couple older ones interested in career advice, which he dispensed with a sharp mind but terse words.

He trudges to his quarters, exhausted. He ate in the Great Hall, scowling down at the students. He had thought long and hard about using his 'free night', but wasn't sure whether Dumbledore was still with the Governors or whether Minerva was as tired as he. If that were the case, he would have to be there to keep the little miscreants in line. Fillius and Pomona could, but they had much looser standards than Minerva and himself, and when all three of them were gone, the children went insane. He steps up to his door and hisses out the password silently. When he steps in with a, "good evening, Mother," he pauses, frozen to the spot. Sitting in his chair is a woman. Not just any woman, but his 'protege' and fellow professor. "Miss Noble, how in Merlin's name did you get in here? You are like a bad knut. Always showing up in the strangest of places." He seats himself in the wooden chair, wincing as his back aches.

The sound of a now-familiar voice manages to do what Q's shifting could not. Tilting her head back, feeling the slide of the fabric on her sleep-warmed cheek, Siobhan squints and blinks in Snape's direction. Her mouth draws up into smile, it too warmed by sleep and the haziness that comes with it. "Hi," she mutters, lifting her arms to stretch, maneuvering around her juvenile familiar without a conscious thought. "Sure, but I'm a lucky knut." As soon as the words slip out, something seems to trigger the realization that no, they're not in Spinner's End. Funny how things become routine so quickly in the aftermath of trauma. The mind's way of clinging to things, perhaps. More awake, she tugs the magenta cloak back over her bare shoulder and her sleeveless top almost defensively. "Couldn't sleep." She glances up to Eileen's portrait, her soft brown eyes and still-sleepy expression begging without shame for her silence. It's not like she hides the pleading expression, but she doesn't explain it for Severus either. "Meant to be gone before you got back."

Snape stretches slightly, and gives a quiet snort. "Lucky for whom, I wonder?" He mutters, then frowns. "You came to speak to my mother then?" He gazes up to the painting on the wall. "I see." Silence falls for a few moments before he gives up on the chair. He stands, then turns toward it, giving it a baleful glare. "It was such a good idea at the time. He moves to the sideboard to retrieve his drink. "Would you care for a drink, Miss Noble?"

Siobhan doesn't answer his first two questions. There's nothing she can say. Even though the guilt eating at her from behind her eyes isn't hidden, it's hard to give it a voice. She doesn't hide the wince at the return to her surname, either. He's pouring a drink, there's no need. Right? Right. For someone who never uses surnames unless she's angry or can't avoid it, having hers thrown back in her face is a pretty effective form of punishment. When Sirius did it, it rankled. This time is worse, because she's pretty sure she deserves it. "Please," she answers him, subdued. A drink will give her something to hide behind, and possibly the courage to face down the censure she fears as a result of the apology she knows is owed.

That chair is given a strange look. It certainly doesn't appear to be very comfortable, but she knows Severus well-enough by now that the seat can't be by choice. Unwilling to give up her own perch - the one that's warm and comfortable and smells like 'her' couch - she taps her wrist on the arm of said chair and mumbles a slurred spell, conjuring an armchair almost identical to the one her mind processes as 'his' at Spinner's End. It's a little far from the fire for comfort, but since he didn't spell the uncomfortable chair, she's relunctant to try it either. Not in possession of a Gryffindor's blind courage, Siobhan.

Snape pours his colleague a drink and hands it to her, then makes his own, settling down into the seat Siobhan conjured for him. "I placed anti-transfiguration wards on that particular chair. Albus is the only one who comes to see me, and of course, he would not think of taking my personal seat. It was … rather amusing when he attempted to spell the chair the first time." It's a little petty, maybe, but it's funny to him. "Did you wish to speak to me?" No, he's not going to let her get by without saying the words. Partially because he's a bastard. Partially, though, it's because he knows that if she feels the need to say something, it will not pass unless she actually … says something.

The implication that she was rude enough to take his personal seat does not sit well with Siobhan. It hits far too close to the mild, soft-spoken censure that - as a child - her father had used to far better effect than any of her mother's screaming rants. She squirms a little in her seat, trying to mask it as merely shifting position. It's enough to irritate Q. Perversely, however, the reminder of her Da also makes the words harder to form, even though Siobhan knows they need saying. Suddenly the fact that she was just half an hour ago wishing fervently for a return to the time of childhood without any of these ghosts over her shoulder and decisions on the horizon… it is immaterial. Because now she's being made to feel like a child, and somehow that's … different. "I did, yes." She lifts the drink to her lips and takes a small mouthful, letting the amber liquid fill her mouth with its bouquet before swallowing the fluid heat. "I've been experimenting with the feel of my magic." She hadn't said anything before, but snakes tend to keep things close to the chest unless they're sure, so this might not be much of a surprise. "I can find it now and channel it a little, but unless I get angry or startled, I can't control it." She takes another sip and savors it, letting the silence become comfortable again. "If anyone could control wild magic, it'd be you." It's a dry remark, but there's no malice in it. "So I came to ask you to learn with me." It's not entirely the truth, but she had been meaning to ask… So what's the harm in using it for a bit of a diversionary tactic?

Snape listens and watches the woman, gazing at her for a long moment. He's pretty sure that wasn't exactly what she wanted to say, but without casting legilimens, he won't find out what she wants to say until she says it. Caution teaches him that it wouldn't be a good thing to do right now. "Learn to cast wandlessly?" Snape leans forward, considering her words. "I have made an attempt or two." Not anything serious, but he has given it a quick try. He, too, sips at his drink as a cover. "You think this experience will help us better learn the skill?" He strokes his chin with his free hand thoughtfully. "Perhaps." It's not an agreement yet. "May I have some time to consider this?"

It's easy now to find the 'miniature sun' - as she's dubbed it - that sits in the deepest part of the base of her skull. It's so tempting - as it always is - to luxuriate in it, lose herself in it. She resists, this time. Tugging at a flare of power as thin as a thread, she pulls it loose from the greater core and directs it down her arm, where it writhes and twirls between her fingers as a hazy golden smoke. Holding her hand up and out for her companion to get a better look, Siobhan watches his face carefully for any hint of suspicion or mistrust - she hasn't forgotten the American Auror's initial response. So focussed is she on watching for any kind of negative reaction that she doesn't notice the growing heat until suddenly her arm jerks back to her chest. A hiss escapes her lips and in the time before she can pull out her wand and cast a simple healing charm, the skin over her fingers is angry, blistered red.

"That's … why I need the control. If I can't make it do something, it … backfires." She flexes her affected fingers, but the burns have healed. "I think my knowing what it … what it feels like will help you find it and your control will help me not …" She holds up the hand and flicks her fingers in wordless conclusion. It's an un-Orthodox approach, most certainly, but everything she found in the old books was absolutely useless. "Of course." She reaches for her glass to take another drink, not altogether surprised by the cautious answer. "After today, I don't think I'll be able to finish a thought for a week, forget a rational one." It's a little bit of light humor, punctuated by a short-lived chuckle. If you don't laugh, you'll cry - that kind of mentality. Because it's very plain that Siobhan counts today as an Unmitigated Disaster.

Snape has kept his eyes on her as they've been speaking, so he notices her inhalation, moment of calm and then pulls his wand to hand, ready to cast a shield charm should he need it. He begins to say something when the yellow-hot magic sits in her palm, but before he can speak, she's dropped the magic and cast a healing spell. "Well done, Miss Noble." His words are dry, so it may not be clear whether it is simple praise, an acerbic jibe, or most likely, a combination of the two. "You do present a — strong presence in a group." That's his comment on the Order meeting for now. He'll leave the 'crowd control' stuff alone. If she wants to discuss it, she'll have to bring it up. "I don't suppose you expected to be in that particular position when you brought the message."

Maybe it's a case of hearing what she wants to hear, but Siobhan's gut hasn't led her astray too often; this time she chooses to trust it. The dry words - even though the jibe is noted - bring forth a smile almost as sunny as the raw magic that had so scalded her skin. It fades back to nothing at the mention of her behavior in the meeting. "Yeah," she mutters, suddenly fascinated by the thinning layer of amber liquid between her and the bottom of her glass. Her shoulders sag forward and she huffs out a long breath. "No, I didn't expect it at all. Dumbledore should have - " But she cuts herself off, swirling the liquor around the glass absently. "I was the youngest person there." And there's something a little lost in that statement. "I thought all I had to do was to make sure the information got out." Steeling herself for the acid she knows very well this man is capable of speaking, she looks up into his face, letting her earnest apology show in her face as well as her voice. "I am sorry, though. About what I did." Her lower lip is pulled in and worried between her teeth. "It was the lowest form of manipulation and I didn't even think about what I was doing. I just wanted it over and I was so worried it'd be Sirius who said something stupid and then when it was you, I - " She cuts herself off again, knowing she's rambling and probably not helping her cause. Her throat is cleared and she tosses back the last of the liquor. "I'm sorry."

When Siobhan apologizes, he stops mid-drink, and looks intently at her, silent for a long moment, eyes hooded. "Thank you." It's all he can manage to say at the moment. He takes a long drink of his mead, and decides to move on to the more easily answered words. "That seems to be rather normal for that particular grouping of people. Because you carried His Word," the capitals are audible, yes, "you became His Representative in all ways. He may not appreciate the outcome, but since he deigned not to be present, the consequences remain." This is how Severus Snape says, 'He'll just have to deal with it.' After another few moments of silence (during which Siobhan may hear a clearing of a throat from the other side of her, Severus continues. "I bear my own share of blame for allowing my childhood prejudices to control my actions."

That's the second time Siobhan has seen the long, silently intense look from this man. The quietly offered thanks also rings like an echo of the last time she'd heard it from him and the almost solemn nature of both instances sparks a hint of suspicion in the back of her mind - though not directed at her colleague. It writhes and twitches like a puzzle whose solution is just on the tip of her tongue, but when Snape changes tracks, it's lost back behind the current conversation. "That sounds an awful lot like a cult." It's a dry remark, but it also triggers a personal memory that has her shuddering with revulsion. "Or a fan-club." There's bitterness and self-deprecation in that last, but before she can sink too far down that whirlpool, the sudden continuation shocks her right out of it.

A slow, proud smile changes completely the lines of her face, returning to Siobhan a touch of her former spark - the real one from before, not the painted mask of surety and confidence she gives the world, now. She attempts to hide said expression in another drink of her own meade, but realizes that it's empty and aborts the motion halfway, setting it aside. "I don't ever want to do that again." It's an honest answer. "That kind of responsibility without the power or authority to back it up? I thought I was going to be sick." She reaches down to run her fingertips over Q's smooth skin. "It's a wonder anything ever gets done. I've never seen a meeting so … haphazard." And she's seen meetings from the Ministry's Wizengamot 'closed sessions' hidden at her Da's Manor all the way down to Voldemort's meetings of his Inner Circle.

"Wait…" Siobhan pauses, looking up at him with slowly dawning concern. "What part won't he like?"

Snape curls his lip as he snorts, his dry, sharp humor finding this extremely funny. "That may be the most apt description I have heard of our illustrious band of do-gooders yet." He takes another slow sip, considering his words. "Albus has a overdeveloped need to be the one to 'gently lead' an erring child back to the light." His words are harsh, but there's a fondness in his expression that may mean he's felt this need affect him personally. "For us to suggest the tracking and or removal of someone like Shadow — he would see it as a base affront to his ability to encourage those younger than he to toe the line." He swirls the last bit of his drink within his cup then looks back up toward her. "We all do those things which we are suited for, Miss Noble, whether we wish to do them or no."

It's Siobhan's turn to laugh, though hers is more of a soft, low chuckle than a snort. She's never felt the need to be ashamed of her sense of humor when among friends. "Albus Dumbledore and his Band of Merry Men!" Amused by the connection her own mind has made, she tips her head back to rest against the chair and lets her laugh spill naturally from her lips. When the happy sound fades into silence, she turns back to look at Severus once again. What she hears does not make her happy.

"That's got to be the biggest load of bullshit I've ever heard." No, she's not accusing Snape of lying. Her eyes track back and forth over nothing as she processes the implications of such a leadership strategy. "If you're going to lead people, you need to make a decision and be firm with it, be honest about it. Otherwise how can you expect them to make the choice to follow or to stand down?" Her hands ball into fists and her jaw clenches. "Without that clear choice… Oh Circe…" An inkling of cold horror trickles onto the scene. "They'd believe they made the choice themselves when they never…" One hand goes to her stomach and she closes her eyes against the physical wave of nausea that realization brings. "And then if things go wrong, they live their whole lives blaming themselves for a choice they never truly made." She swallows thickly and when she opens her eyes they are no longer soft or open; they are hard, hot cinnamon. "I was wrong, Severus." When she spoke before. "What I did was wrong, but that, right there… That is the lowest form of manipulation."

Snape watches Siobhan's face as the nearly visible thought process works its way through her brain. "He offers choices." He will say that. "There are just usually several layers of thought and planning behind those choices that … perhaps you may not understand." The tone of his voice lightens just enough that it will be clear that it isn't his opinion he's voicing. "I had not seen it that way." The comparison to Robin Hood's band of men makes him snort. "He certainly would stand out in the middle of a forest." And perhaps that's part of the reason he does dress that way.

Siobhan snorts right back, though hers is one of derision, not amusement. "Oh yes, he does." Siobhan's own experience with the man leaves a sour taste in her mouth. "And he'll even go so far as to advise you against the choice you seem to point towards. Advise care and caution…" Something heavy tightens in her gut and sinks. "So that in the end he's blameless… He warned me. It's my fault." White-knuckled fists slam into both arms of the chair simultaneously and Q startles, beating her wings hard enough to leave behind a few feathers and winging away from her mistress until she slams her nose straight into Snape's chest before collapsing across his chair. A bit ashamed - both at her own reaction and her familiar's - Siobhan winces and offers a sheepish 'Sorry' for that unintentional mess. It doesn't put out the anger burning in her gut, but it does bank it. "I'll have to resign from the Order." Although she's never heard of such a thing being done before… That doesn't mean it's impossible, right?

Snape looks down at the seraph in his lap, taking the time to allow his normal reaction — of hex the intruder to hell and back — to settle before speaking to her and to her mistress, quirking a brow at Siobhan. "And do what exactly?" He shifts a little to allow the creature to move if she wishes, but does nothing. Calming a startled familiar is not something he does well. "Calm your beast, Miss Noble."

Siobhan notes the discomfort and can't help the upward twitch to one corner of her mouth. "Pet her," she offers simply, doing nothing to either alleviate or exacerbate the situation. Q seems to calm mostly on her own, anyway; she knows the smell of this human and he's not making massively sudden moves like Siobhan was. So long as he doesn't actively shove her off, she'll curl right back up - on him this time - and resume her nap. That still leaves the initial question hanging in the air between the two humans in the room and it has Siobhan running a hand through her already sleep-mussed hair in frustration.

"I honestly don't know, Severus." She heaves a sigh and flops back in her seat, lifting one of the white feathers off her lap and twirling it between thumb and forefinger absently. "But I know I can't sit there and just … " She grinds her teeth and takes a deep breath. "I can't follow along and pretend that I'm not going against what I believe is right." There's a firmness to those words that would rival any Gryffindor with their heels dug in. "And even more than that, I won't. I have the right to choose the way I live my life and I choose not to give anyone my loyalty who won't see that it's a gift to be respected, not a right to be manipulated." She growls her frustration, feeling like the words to express this concept she's been raised around are just out of her reach. That she's failing something important somehow by not having the mastery of language that seems to come so easily to her current companion.

"I know that it's probably very naive of me, and I know I'll probably look back in twenty years and say how stupid I'm being once I've had the idealism beaten out of me, but I meant it when I said I'm tired of having my choices taken away from me. I'm tired of watching it happen to people I care about. And if … " She trails off, staring into the fireplace for a moment. When she continues, her voice is so very, very quiet. "And if that means I have to count Albus and Tom as enemies both, then so be it."

Choice. It is his password after all. He set it after arriving back at the castle. Siobhan Noble has given him so much to think about. His realizations have led to some soul-searching, or at least the beginnings of the same. "It is a novel concept," he reiterates, knowing that this conversation could change so much. "One often works with one side becasue one cannot stand what the other has done." He doesn't clarify to which side he refers, and he keeps the pronouns conspicuously neutral. "However, if a choice such as this were to be offered…" He absentmindedly strokes the seraph on his lap as he thinks. As he looks up, there is someting in his eyes that looks very like hope. "I would not …" He can't seem to continue.

"When faced with an impossible situation, one's duty is always to choose the lesser of two evils." It's a concept Siobhan is familiar with. What? Brian had a mild obsession with British naval officers at one point. The whole family heard more than any one of them cared to about policy and tradition and dress and the like. "He always hated it when I'd tell him that was a stupid rule." A rueful smile - one of the few she saves for mentions of family - softens her almost melancholy determination. When Snape continues, however, utterly solemnity returns.

She takes a moment to study the lines and angles of this face belonging to a man she'd respected, learned from, hated, resented, learned from, respected, admired and then genuinely come to like. For the first time in a long time, she just takes in everything that makes him up - looking at the parts rather than the whole. Everything from the stringy, unkempt hair to the sallow skin and Potions-stained hands is taken into account and pieced together. Only by doing this slow, quiet cataloguing does she recognize with a start what it is she sees in deep black eyes that so often show nothing at all. Suddenly, like a steel trap slamming shut on its trigger, she finds her decision made.

"Consider it offered, Severus." She lets her gaze meet his, open and unflinching. "I don't believe in either of the sides in this war and I will stand against them alone if I have to." Her smile actually reaches her eyes, this time. "But I would be very glad indeed if you chose to stand with me."

Snape is just contrary enough, just intelligent enough, just obligated enough to stop and consider this. He won't jump headlong into it just because it is offered. He has done that before, and it has cost him more than he can bear to think. "I shall ponder this, along with the many other things you have given me to think about, Miss Noble." He gazes at her for a long moment. "I have promises to keep." They are the only strand holding him in place, now. Without them, things would look very different. Still holding a glass of mead in one hand and petting his guest's infernal familiar with the other, Severus Snape falls into deep thought, seeming to ignore her entirely as he ruminates on things he's never understood before tonight.

And Siobhan is true enough to what she believes in to let him do so. A mumbled cleaning spell has her glass once again ready to use and so she stands and slides it back into the sideboard next to the bottle. Re-adjusting her cloak so that it covers the tank-top and sleep-shorts she'd worn over to speak with Eileen, she steps around to lift Q from his lap and onto her shoulders as gently and as unobtrusively as she can. By now, she can recognize his expression of deep thought. Straightening, there's an instant where her hand hovers over his shoulder as if she would lay it there in a tactile farewell. Choosing instead not to have any undue influence on the thought process that takes him so deep into himself, she curls her hand into a loose fist and turns to pad on silent bare feet out of the sitting room and back into the dark and empty dungeon hallways.

She does, however, leave all three of Q's fallen white feathers on his end table.


Delectus is the Latin word for Choice.


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