1995-12-06: Illusions Chipped Like Teacups


Valentina_icon.gif Siobhan_icon.gif

Scene Title Illusions Chipped Like Teacups
Synopsis Valentina and Siobhan meet to discuss plans to rescue Emmy. Illusions are cracked on both sides.
Location Noble's Office
Date December 06, 1995
Watch For Awesome blonde women, a cute puppy and new friendships.
Logger I am the Bad Wolf

Wednesday evening - after dinner and detentions and marking - usually sees Siobhan curled up with a good book in front of a warm fire. Tonight, however, is an exception. Tonight, wrapped in a blanket that looks like it might have been hastily transfigured from a pink velvet cloak, the young professor is curled up in the chair behind her desk, Pride and Prejudice half-finished in her lap. Q - the blind albino Seraph - is curled up on her stand and a tray of steaming tea rests on the desk. Light from the torches along the walls gives the office a warm, flickering atmosphere - almost cozy. Apparently, Siobhan likes to wait in comfort - whenever possible of course.

The 'puppy' Valentina mentioned she would have to bring with her due to his sudden suffering of separation anxiety at the loss of Clemency is the first to enter, pulling on his lead, and — well. He's the size of a medium-sized dog already, if not just a bit bigger, but is still clearly a puppy. As a purebred Borzoi, being the size of a Boston Terrier isn't boasting much. "Tch, slow /down/," Valentina is attempting to soothe the dog, and actually stops in the doorway to politely wait to be invited the rest of the way in. The puppy seems to have no interest in this nonsense.

As well he shouldn't! Puppies are - as a general rule - excluded from most of the subtleties of fine etiquette. When the person being visited has had the kind of week Siobhan has, they can be excused anything so long as they're cuddly and soft and okay with being petted. Mister Darcy can wait. Bookmark slid into place, the well-worn paperback is settled on the desk and Siobhan stands with a warm - though tired - smile. She moves around the desk and drops to a crouch, holding out her hand palm down to let the pup sniff at her fingers in a silent sort of hello. "He's gorgeous." And not one of the irritating yippy things so many wealthy women insist upon toting about! "Come on in, both of you. Tea?"

"For me, yes — for him, I think perhaps not?" Valentina replies, perching on one of the guest chairs as the puppy licklicklicks at Siobhan's hands. "All right, that is enough unless Siobhan wants you doing that, Malikov." The dog's tail swings and he completely ignores Valentina's command. After all, he's blacklisting her from the tea. Spoilsport.

Siobhan is quite content to receive puppy-kisses, but she has to agree with Valentina's suggestion about the tea. Instead, she taps out her wand and transfigures a paperclip into a small metal bowl, filling it with cool water from a quick Aguamenti and setting it on the floor near the desk. "There you go, Mally." A subtle cleaning spell on her hands and then the wand is tucked away so that tea can be poured and served. "I'm not much good at fixing other people's tea, just in general, but there's cream and sugar if you want them." Siobhan mixes a goodly amount of both into hers. "I can make the chair something more comfortable if you'd like." A flush of color rises to her cheeks. It's something she should have thought of beforehand. "I have them locked that way so that students - " and pesky Headmasters " - don't stay too long." Never let it be said that she doesn't learn from those around her.

At that, Valentina laughs. "Oh, I do not mind, but if you had something nicer in mind I would also not refuse — do you mind if he is off his lead? Or, really, if I put it down — I will not actually be removing it." Malikov is thrilled by the idea of this water business and sets to lapping noisily and contentedly away at it. A two-sugars type of girl, Valentina stands to set her tea with just that, still holding the dog's lead until told otherwise. It is, at least, very long. Actually, it seems to be continuing to lengthen. Magic leash?

"Not at all." Siobhan waves a - distinctly wandless - hand and the door swings shut. Rather than panicked, she seems completely at ease with her casual display of power. It's not like it would be a secret from Valentina very long, at any rate - not with the plans that need to be laid. "Nowhere he can get into trouble, now." Another wave of her hand sends magic towards the chair. The anti-transfiguration wards recognize her magic and allow the change brooked by the intent of Comfortable Chair. "Now," she begins, leaning back in her own purple chair and sipping at her tea. "How much has Severus told you about your daughter's kidnapping?"

The change of the chair suits Valentina well, as she and her tea settle back, letting go of Malikov's leash so he can contentedly run about if he wants to. Which at present he doesn't; he's gone and consumed a lot of water very fast, and has worn himself out. Bits of the floor are wet, but his fur might be soaking it up as he flops over. "She was taken by Death Eaters," Valentina says, very slowly and precisely, "and is being kept — somewhere — in order to have some sort of influence on her father's work here."

Siobhan considers this, a slight frown tugging at the corners of her mouth. Either Valentina's playing her cards very close to the chest, or Severus used his Merry Unbirthday analogy on poor souls who don't know him well enough to decode his intricate obfuscations. Resisting the urge to sigh and roll her eyes - mostly in case either motion is mis-interpreted - Siobhan instead drinks more tea. "I'm sure you understand why we can't go through the legal channels of the DMLE." She gives Valentina a Significant Look, obviously assuming that she knows about her ex-husband's … gentleman's club. "And assistance from the Order is no longer an option." She definitely doesn't seem happy about that. "Even with your role in the Order, Dumbledore has refused to send the Order after your daughter." She keeps it professional - distant. If she doesn't say 'Emmy' then she doesn't have to think about the bright, happy little girl she remembers from gatherings and parties. "I wasn't given a reason why, but I can guess." Another Significant Look, there. "There is, however, another option."

Largely it's because Valentina is clueless. And it seems like everyone thinks she isn't. But she's not about to just demand answers, because she isn't aware of what's missing: as far as she's concerned, Jas' secrets have never actually been dangerous. Not to anyone but him, anyway. "I do not — actually — understand. Except that I assume the DMLE will not be able to contribute, considering they tend not to involve themselves in Dark matters." Malikov sneaks back to her, in order to try to soothe her nerves. She busies her hands in his ears.

"Oh." Awkward Sio is awkward. "You mean … oh my." Setting the teacup onto the desk and leaning back in her chair, Siobhan cannot help scrubbing both hands over her face. Silence reigns supreme in the warm office for a little while, the gears in Sio's mind turning at a rapid pace. Finally, a decision seems to be reached. "Valentina, your daughter is being held in a house that until the last few years was owned by a family of Muggles. From what I understand, she has been treated well so far - the few House Elves that work there are kind souls." How she knows that nugget of information, she doesn't say. "Still, I don't trust the Dark Lord's sanity and if you will promise me that you will work with me and keep the secrets I will have to use to do it, I will get her out of there." She pauses, a slightly wicked smile slowly curving her lips. "But please, tell your ex-husband that I very well may kill him for putting me into this position." No, she does not specify - if Valentina takes the wrong meaning from her vague statement, that's just fine by Siobhan. Jas can get what's coming to him later.

It's a good thing that Valentina has absolutely no suspicion that Siobhan and Jas are involved in any way other than as old family friends, because otherwise she'd be trying to convince Sio that she can do so, so much better than cheating, lying scum. Thankfully, she doesn't, and so it saves her a lecture on where Jas has been and who she does not want to sleep with by proxy and how hard it was to come to terms with some of those. She's caught up in worrying about her daughter, anyway — thoughts of Jas just aren't important enough. "I cannot imagine," she says slowly, gently, hesitantly, "that the Dark Lord could be considered even on the remotest level — sane. Or safe. Though my view of true evil is very different from that of the people of this country." Namely: she doesn't believe in it. "As for Jas, I can assure you that if any of this was his fault —" She chokes back tears. "He will be killed by me first. You are so young to be the bearer of all this; the Dark Lord himself was rejected from teaching for being in his twenties, and you are younger than that still —"

And while there's a part of Siobhan that is amused by the idea of Valentina going after Jas and all of her agrees with the assessment of the Dark Lord's sanity, the last part is … unexpected. It should not have been, but it is. Perhaps it is that surprise that causes the swift reaction. With all the speed of lightning, the softness and warmth and empathy are gone from Siobhan's face. In their place is cold, hard steel. "I don't know what my brother may or may not have told you about me or about the child his baby sister is." Her voice is low, but not deadly; Valentina is not a threat, she has merely tread on a raw nerve. "I have been attacked and scarred for the rest of my life by a werewolf who lost her temper. I have been put under a Cruciatus so violent that my blood stained the snow. I have fought Death Eaters and been hit with the vilest of curses - a slow death that would first deprive me of those very things that made me human in the first place. And instead of spending the time I had trying to find a cure, I spent it spying on the lowest of the low for an old man who manipulated me into becoming a tool for his use. I have stood there and watched people die because I could do nothing to save them. I have seen the workings of a madman who defiles the bodies of his victims in ways that I don't have nearly enough words - or the stomach - to describe. I listened to the screams of the ghost of a five-year old child who died at his hands because she had my name and I couldn't bear it any longer." The shadows that normally lurk at the edges of her gaze are out in full-force, darkening the cinnamon of her eyes until there is almost nothing but blackness. "The baby sister my brother told you about is dead. What I am now is a woman with the means to get your daughter back and prevent one more death from being piled on my conscience. So." Leaning forward, she braces both arms against the edge of the desk. "Will you accept my terms?"

"Yes, of course, and I —" Valentina forces herself to exhale, to inhale, to not cry again. "That is what I meant. Not that you are young mentally, not that you are too young to do anything. But that it is tragic that you cannot be young, anymore, because your body is still in its youth and it is wrong, somehow, what the world has done to your mind." She will not be misinterpreted! Or — something. Namely, she feels bad about being misinterpreted. "You are very powerful, and you deserve the utmost respect. You also deserve — and will have — help, and so I will keep every confidence so long as you allow me to be truly involved instead of merely awaiting her return."

With the same swiftness that the hardness descended, it fades away, leaving Siobhan looking a little bit older and a little more tired, but far more human. She was in that painting far too long. "Thank you." That is all she says on that score before straightening her spine, setting her jaw and setting down to work. "I made a bargain with the Dark Lord to protect the children of the wizarding world. By taking your daughter, he broke the spirit - if not the letter - of this agreement. We have intelligence that the Dark Lord is planning an attack of some kind in the next two weeks - one that will take him away from the house. While he's away, I will take you, your ex-husband and my brother to the edge of the wards. Jack and I will break them and I will clear the way to your daughter. They're most likely keeping her in the West Wing." The idea of them keeping her in the East does not bear thinking about. "Once you have her, you will need to Apparate out immediately." The slightest of smiles twitches up one corner of her mouth. "I will be going in the guise of the witch who made the deal with him. Tom needs to learn that I will hold him to his promises."

Valentina's eyes narrow when Siobhan mentions Jas, but other than that she seems comfortable with this plan. And impressed at Siobhan's ability to bargain, as well as her ability to keep up on intelligence. "I do not know I want Jas there," she sighs, "but if you both insist, I suppose — I hope he does not bother Jack." She really can't deal with his stupid jealousy right now. But then — she has to pry. She can't not. Not when she's so close to find someone so like-minded they might be a real friend. "You call him Tom." Breathe in, breathe out. "So you believe — there is still some human in him, somewhere?"

"After this, I'm not sure I want Jas there," Siobhan quips back dryly. "However, he is her father and a powerful wizard in his own right." Plus he's been in the house when not in a painting, so his direction-sense will be a boon. "I won't force him to the sidelines any more than I'd force you." She shrugs. "It may be that he can't be in the group at all. Severus can't go either, even though he'd like to." There's a hint in there somewhere, if Valentina is of the right mind to dig for it. As for the question of humanity… Siobhan leans back, lifting her teacup to drink from it. "I've seen him cast the Cruciatus on his most loyal followers for the most inane of reasons. I've seen him kill without remorse." There's a silence, then, as she considers her next words very, very carefully. "But I have also seen the care and consideration that goes into his familiar. I have seen his relatively gentle treatment of the House Elves who serve him. I've seen him sit by the fire and read Chaucer and Whitman." She sighs heavily. "I think he's either been driven - or driven himself - mad, but I think that makes him more human, not less."

"I believe that there is no such thing as pure, unadulterated evil — that anyone who is truly so damaged as to seem so is, truly, damaged. That there are things we do not know about him, and while he does not deserve forgiveness, there may be reasons that we are not aware of for the way he is." Sympathetic? No. Valentina is not sympathetic for the man that has her child, but she is sympathetic for those considered Dark, in general. She is sympathetic for her former Headmaster. She is sympathetic for Severus Snape, no matter that she does not know his pain. She forces herself now to face what seems to be clouding her mind, and forces herself to ask: "What is it, about Jas, that everyone thinks I know but I do not?"

"I believe that there is such a thing as true evil, but I think that the mind that can not only come up with but follow through on it has to be damaged to the point where it isn't human anymore." There's a low hatred that simmers just under Siobhan's tone, there. "The man whose handiwork with the bodies of Muggles still haunts my nightmares… His work is evil. He is evil. But he is no longer human. Whatever made him this way has stripped him of humanity long before I ever met him." So she agrees with Valentina up to a point. Pretty much dovetail - except the one little caveat. "Have you ever spoken with any of the portraits in the castle, Valentina?" Non-sequitor? Possibly. "Some of them can be very informative." Another sip of her tea. "They know only a boy who grew into the madman, but even what they know was enough to turn my stomach." Which means that yes, Siobhan believes there is more to Lord Voldemort than a cardboard-cutout super-villain. But then… There is the million-dollar question. Setting her now-empty teacup back on the desk, Siobhan inhales a deep breath. Since Jas put her in this position by not telling his wife important things, she doesn't feel at all compelled to pull punches in his favor. "The reason that the Tom has your daughter, Valentina, is because of the mark Jas has on his left forearm." If she has to suffer through this, Jas will too. "He has been to the house where they are keeping your daughter because he is a Death Eater. I suspect Dumbledore refused to help because he feels Jas brought this upon himself." At least that's Sio's experience with his thought-process, anyway. "She is being held as ransom to make sure Jas doesn't fail in his assignment."

That mark? Valentina almost never sees it. Almost never saw it — he kept it hidden, and when she did see it it was laughed off. Ignored. And he always wore long sleeves, and after all, she had been a young, stupid girl looking to get away when she first saw him with no shirt at all — and yet. Valentina does not cry. She barely even shows any outward reaction at all, except only to say, "I should have known — not only because I lived with him for years, I should have known because I know rightfully that he is not a good man and never has been." Reality. It sucks sometimes. "But I do also know that whatever it is he is doing here, he was not pleased about it and it was forced upon him — his villainy and wrongness, that may be his fault, but his present situation is — not." Is she defending him? No. Is she agreeing with Dumbledore? No.

"Hey, now … " Siobhan may be more than a little pissed at Jas just now, but she feels some obligation to stand up for him a little. "I mean, I don't know what he did to you, really I don't. And he can be a royal arse." Hah, puns. "But he was good to me when I was a kid. And he's maybe not good, but I don't think he's bad, either. Not any more than Lord Malfoy or Lady Narcissa." As for the current situation, Siobhan has to snort. "I wouldn't imagine being told that he has to bring Potter by the end of the school year and kill Dumbledore in the meantime would be a pleasant assignment, no."

"Oh, I know he is not a horrible person, but he is also not — good. There has never been anything really good about him. He is good to our child, too —" Now, she is their child, when before, when she was talking to Jas, Clemency was only Valentina's. Depends on the mood, apparently. "He is always good to children. But he is bad to many others. Wicked, taunting. Does not take a promise seriously. I would never call him the worst, but I could not call him good." She can't help but roll her eyes in agreement with Siobhan's snort. "However, I know he would not want to do that. He has never taken killing as a very serious thing, though I managed to force him to stop fox hunting, but he could never kill a boy." She says nothing about Dumbledore, as that she doesn't know Jas' feelings on.

"To stop … fox hunting?" Siobhan looks completely de-railed, blinking over at Valentina like she just said that Lockhart was a genius. Shaking her head to clear it, she frowns; there are other considerations brought to light by Valentina's statements. "If you really don't trust him to work with us on getting your daughter back, I'll trust your judgement." She doesn't sound happy about it, but that doesn't mean she can't suck it up a little. "I don't like taking choices from people, but sometimes… " Sometimes there's just not another option.

"I —" Valentina is literally wringing her hands at this point. "Do not know. I think it is best to at least — see what he will make of it. He is a good father to her, even if he has never been truly good to me. While I would not advise you to trust everything he has to say, and always keep a close eye on him, and watch his wording, because he lies without doing it straightforwardly — but if you can handle all of that, I think you can handle wrangling him." A faint, distant glimmer of a smile. "Though he may not respect you properly. He does not often respect women regardless."

Siobhan looks a little relieved. "I would feel better giving him the choice, at least." The latter bits, however … Siobhan shrugs and then just grins. "He doesn't have the information, the resources or the power that I do." It's not an idle boast - she's been honing herself into a force to be reckoned with. "I've not only survived, but thrived in the Serpents' Nest. He's not nearly as scary as Severus can be. Or my mum, for that matter." Edana's temper is rather legendary. "I'll not let him pull another shrub over my eyes, but - to put it in blunt, Muggle terms; if he can't play by my rules, I'll bench his arse in a heartbeat." She becomes suddenly serious. "It will be four of us invading the stronghold of the Dark Lord. We cannot afford to have an argument in his foyer."

"Your mum sounds delightful," is the first thing out of Valentina's mouth — always, in every situation, still keeping some things light. She has sobbed and sobbed in private, and so she, in public, is somewhat collected. "And Jas, he will either cooperate or he will not. He will not risk my child," again, with the shifting, "or you, or Jack. And so I hope he does not throw too much of a fuss about. I am not sure how — pleased, he will be, to defy his Lord." That last part is narrowly avoiding being spit rather than spoken.

And that statement is just so … so anachronistic that Siobhan bursts out laughing. "You have no idea." Or maybe she does! Sio has a hard time keeping track of just who her mum does and does not know. As for Jas… "If he does, I'll just let Sev have at him." It's a dry response, but there's a sense of fond amusement underlying that tone. "I think he's been itching for an excuse to hex him ever since Halloween." Because that thunderous expression wasn't all for her, after all. "Considering that 'his Lord' kidnapped his daughter, I would hope he's not still harboring any serious loyalty." It's a statement, but she phrases it as a question, looking to Valentina with raised brows. She'd know best how to interpret, after all.

Sadly, Valentina has no idea. So far. She also has no idea what happened over Halloween, but — that's probably for the best. She would probably be hexing Jas too, for setting a bad example for a bunch of children — and then getting them blamed. "Well. He has always had unusual definitions of loyalty, and he might — find a way to move past it. He forgives and forgets truly awful things, but just as easily he will hold grudges. I could not truly predict. But I should hope that whatever his heart believes of how the world should be, he would put his family first." Going back to being a Death Eater after that? Well, Valentina wouldn't be too surprised, and that's her unbiased interpretation.

And that unbiased interpretation honestly worries Siobhan. It pulls and twists at her facial expression until it seems pinched and pale. Leaning forward, she takes a moment to just be an eighteen year old girl and buries her face in her hands, scrubbing the palms over her cheeks. "Sometimes I really hate being an adult," she confides in Valentina, sounding tired and much older than she deserves to. "I liked life much better when Jas Lancaster was just this nice man who brought me presents and agreed to my marrying his brother to get out of music lessons." But it seems that yet another piece of her innocence - her childhood - is being chipped away by the harsh greyscale reality. "Do you want to speak to him about all this first?" Because that is her right. "We won't know when we'll be leaving until possibly the very day of, so I'd like to have as much worked out in advance as possible."

"He only has a sister," is the first thing out of Valentina's mouth — because it fell out. She was going to say something comforting, and it's still in her expression — her eyes are sympathy for Siobhan's plight, but the words are unfortunately breaking open another of Jas' lies, if a playful one. "And I — will, yes. I will speak to him tonight." Much as she may not like it. She sure doesn't look excited. "I thank you, Siobhan, very much."

Siobhan did not spend years working her way to the top of the Serpents' Nest for nothing. The only sign of her relief at this answer is a slight twitch as the muscles around her eyes relax. "He - oh." For some reason - probably something to do with the strange nature of the human mind and the strange things it clings to in times of stress - the fact that Jas doesn't actually have a brother twists in her gut worse than all the rest. "You're more than welcome, really. I don't take well to children being used to force someone's choices." Or children being involved at all, really. "Let me know what his answer is when you know? If he won't be going, I'll need to replace him." Because the idea of breaking in with just two people with her is … mildly terrifying. "Once we have everyone, I'll have things to give you."

Another previously-undiscussed agreement, another unspoken simultaneous thought: "War is no place for children," Valentina says, only barely above a whisper. She fails to continue to speak of that matter, or of any other, really — she's drawing herself up into a standing position. "I will go deal with that now, I suppose, to rest both of our minds? Thank you for being so kind to Malikov, as well." The puppy lets out a sweet little bark for Sio as he pulls himself to his feet. See, cheer up, he's cute!

And Siobhan does manage to muster up a tired sort of smile for Malikov. "Night, Mally," she whispers, lifting her gaze to nod at Valentina. "Thank you. If you send your patronus with the answer tonight, I'll receive it." Obviously she doesn't anticipate sleeping until much later - if at all. Catching her hopefully before she disappears from the doorway entierly, Siobhan raises her voice just enough to be heard. "Valentina?" she queries, the fatigue fading into determination for just a moment. "We'll get her back."

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