Guest Appearance By: Eileen Prince
|Synopsis||Having come to pay a visit to a friend's portrait, Sio meets her Brutus and while she purges what has festered in her mind since the attacks, she also learns much and maybe, just maybe regained some of her lost balance.|
|Location||Spinner's End - Snape Residence|
|Date||October 02, 1995|
|Watch For||Cussing, double meanings and Mama-Snape!|
|Logger||The BAD WOLF herself|
Oh the weather outside is frightful! But the fire is so - oh wait, wrong time of year. Slipping through portrait after portrait on a route that is - by this time - almost muscle memory, Siobhan finds a strange sort of bounce in her step. Even Phineas - the batty old coot - gets a bright smile and a cheery wave, despite his mutterings about the decay of manners in the younger generations. Poking her head into a (by now) familiar portrait with one hand behind her back, she looks both to the left and to the right. "Miss Prince?" Huh, that's strange. She's never not been here before… Shrugging one shoulder, she steps fully into the painting and flops down into her usual fluffy armchair, dropping the bag of biscuits she'd brought onto the dark oaken table. She doesn't have anywhere she has to be this evening - or tonight for that matter. She can wait.
Severus Snape has been gone on errands best left unmentioned and finally gets the time to return to his home. He apparates to the point outside, walking to the door. He taps his wand in a pattern on the door, opening the wards to let him in. "Mother, I'm home." It's his usual greeting to Eileen's painting. He tilts his head back and forth getting most of the excess water from his hair. With a frown, Snape looks around the dingy house to see where the water may have fallen. He sheds his outer cloak, draping it across the back of a chair. In another evening ritual, he grabs a decanter of alcohol and pours himself a drink. He sits down in the other chair, taking a long sip of his drink.
The chair is comfortable in a way few things in these paintings are. Perhaps it's a side-effect of the rather energetic inhabitant of this particular portrait, or perhaps it's just that Sio is that tired. She doesn't sleep like this except in fits and spurts, and just about now she can't remember the last time she had even one of those. And so as she waits, she finds her eyelids drifting downward, ever downward. Heaving a shaky sort of sigh, Siobhan lets her mind wander outwards in the way she must to relax into rest. She can feel that boneless heaviness to her limbs that means she's falling into a lovely, restful sleep when a voice shocks her to complete wakefulness. It's like that feeling that you're falling and then you jerk awake just before you actually sleep. That voice is not just any voice.
She knows that voice. Slowly, ever so slowly, she sits forward in her chair, tapping her wrist softly against the arm and feeling the familiar weight of her small wand settling into her fist. Not that it'll do her much good here, but old habits die hard. As she stands, a moment of indecision flickers behind her eyes - the Headmaster's suggestion that perhaps things are not as they appear stirring up dredges of hope she doesn't want to have to cope with just now - but she squashes it flat. In the past few months, Siobhan has born witness to horrors she had trouble even reporting. For who in their right mind would censor themselves for a canvas? It's the memory of those events that chills her blood and kills the hope where it was born. It's the memory of those atrocities that gives her the strength to stand and level a wand at the picture of her former mentor taking a long sip of his drink. "Give me one good reason not to set this frame on fire, you filthy rat-fucking traitor." There is a dark venom in her voice - a hatred fueled by anger that's had many months to broil and fester. It's a cold sort of viciousness that Snape won't have ever heard from bouncy Sio before. Not ever.
Siobahn's words come at the most opportune moment. Snape is taking a long pull of his drink, and he sputters, droplets of the liquid dribbling down on to his robe. "Noble." His drawl is at its most dry, its most sarcastic. "Welcome to my humble abode." He cleans himself off, draining the glass of the last of the amber liquid before setting it down on a nearby surface. "So nice to see you here. And how have you fared in the land of the canvas?" He tilts his head as though listening to a perfectly acceptable answer. "I see. Thank you for your inquiry. I have been well, albeit exceptionally busy."
He stands from his seat, turing toward the canvas, gazing into it. "What." His voice is low, hissing his words. "Have. You. Done. With. My. Mother?" Perhaps that will suffice as his reason not to burn the frame, though he could frankly care less.
It's most likely a completely and totally childish reaction, but somehow seeing the austere potions professor - the man who is always so in control of himself that not even Dumbledore gets a rise from him - sputtering his liquor in dribbles down the front of his shirt … It would be wrong to say it makes things better, but somehow it makes Siobhan feel better. It's the little things that get you through the day after all. A smile curves up one side of her mouth. It's not her usual, contagious grin. It's actually rather unpleasant, eerie even - especially if one is familiar with her happy smiles. But even that disappears with his completely frustrating response. "I'm sure you have been," she spits out nastily. "Voldemort has kept his Inner Circle of lapdogs on a very short leash of late, hasn't he?" Siobhan isn't a Slytherin for nothing. Snape won't be as easy to nettle as Holly was - that one she did without even properly trying! - but her words are always chosen to strike hard and fast at any suspected weak points.
When he stands and comes to face her down, Siobhan meets his gaze unflinchingly. The memory of all the times she stood up for this man, fought for this man, looked up to this man… They all bleed together into one endless cycle of anger; like an ouroborous of betrayal that adds a slightly unhinged cast to her stare. "Why worry?" she taunts him, having to fight for control over her voice on the last syllable. "Whoever she is - wherever she is - I couldn't possibly do any worse to her than you could." Call it a product of surprise, shock and anger - or a side effect of long-suppressed emotions coming to the fore - but it never even occurs to her to connect the kind-hearted, vivacious, rough-around-the-edges Eileen Prince with this … man.
Though the mark hits home, Snape does not show it. The flung jibes of a miniature snake have nothing on the self-proclaimed king of the nest. He's listened to Voldemort's diatribes and become inured to them out of pure need. "Well, considering you're sitting in her chair, it stands to reason that it is a very good question." He glances around the frame, as though Siobahn has hidden her behind the chair. "Grandmother. What big teeth you have." He strides away from the portrait, not wishing to deal with explanations and perceived betrayals.
"Sitting in her … " That causes Siobhan to frown. This was the chair she always sat in, while Eileen sat in the other one and poured the tea. Perhaps his mother was supposed to be in the painting with the Miss Prince but had disappeared? That would certainly explain there being two chairs in this particular painting… Momentarily distracted by a Mystery(tm), Siobhan is brought back sharply to the present situation by the sight of his retreating back. "That's it. Turn and run like a coward." There's still a healthy dose of venom in her voice, but it's now accented by a taunting lilt. "Prove Alistaire right." Tick. "Prove Moody right." Tick. "Prove Moldavia right." Tick. "Prove Sirius right." BOOM. That last one she emphasizes just enough to drive it home. She doesn't know the details, but she knows people, she knows interactions, and while she's always - for lack of a better term - 'used that power for good', she was well beyond the stage where morality was playing any part in this. "Prove me wrong." Her voice is quieter here, and the hurt which fuels her anger is laid bare for just that fraction of a second. "Go on, you spineless assassin. Run. Prove me wrong. Twist that knife just a little bit deeper."
"Do not presume to understand anything, Miss Noble. Do not presume to understand the center of the onion when you only see the skin on the floor." Snape can grant that it looks bad. It's supposed to, dammit. "Use your head for more than making an imprint on your pillow. " He bristles at the mention of his failures and biggest detractors. "Not all is as it seems." He would explain, but pride prevents him, as well as the need to keep things closer to the chest than most, even most Slytherins. "You are an intelligent young woman." Put the pieces together. Don't make him say it. He can't. "Think about it, Noble. Is Black a good barometer of my intentions?" Has he ever understood the line they walk?
"Sirius isn't a good barometer for anything outside of a pregnant woman's mood-swings." She'll give him that one, but it's a dry admission - Sirius isn't exactly back up into her full good graces either, just now. "Nothing is ever as it seems…" And there she goes, almost getting caught up in the familiar rhyme and rhythm of the barbed banter they'd used to communicate for years.
"But there are lines you do not cross." Her tone darkens there again, colored with a bitterness no one that young should know. Ah, the joys of war. "And I'll judge the thrice-damned onion when it's my skin on the godsforsaken floor!" She practically shouts that last at him, her voice hoarse from the effort it takes to keep from crying like a child. Her temper always had been tied into her tear ducts. And here we come to the crux of the matter entirely.
"I trusted you, you bastard!" The yelling seems to be a theme, now. "I was the one person in that whole damn castle who defended you, who kept your secrets without ever once holding them over your head." The Azkaban papers having been one of the bigger ones she kept to herself. "I listened to the people I love most in this world tell me again and again not to trust you, that you were Dark and evil and slimy and not worth defending. But I didn't listen. I thought you knew what the fuck you were doing. I thought you were the single person in the whole school that I could trust to protect us snakes, to - " To protect me is cut off before it can be spoken, but Siobhan is no fool. Even as she chokes back the words, a far-distant conversation with a very optimistic young Hufflepuff rings in her ears like the peal of a death bell.
"But instead of protecting us when we needed you most, you threw your lot in with the Death Eaters - abandoned me to a curse that almost killed me and then stood by and did nothing as the same scum who left me under Cruciatus until I choked on my own Merlin-fucking blood then trapped me in a world where I bleed out into nothing but ink on paper." She's breathing heavily and there's more animation to her than there has been in quite a very long time. Eileen would be so thrilled. "So don't you dare condescend to me like that, Severus Snape. Don't you dare tell me to sit down and come to my own fucking conclusions, because I deserve better than that. Because after everything I've done and everything I've seen, I think I've earned the right to hear your justification," and she sneers on that word, dragging it out and flinging it away like it's something filthy, "from your own damn mouth."
"There are very few lines I cannot cross." There is a dual meaning there, very like their old banter in so many ways. "I appreciate the trust you have placed in me, Miss Noble, though I cannot see the justification in it." He sounds tired, and moves to pour himself another drink as he ponders her accusations. "Indeed." He thought of those very same things even as he was acting. After pouring another drink, and sipping at it for a few quiet moments, he sets the glass down again, rolling up his sleeve exposing the Mark. "This has been here, Miss Noble, for as long as you have been alive. Nothing has changed about me since I met you as a first-year student." That much is true. He's been spying for at least that long. "If you are only now seeing something you chose not to see before," or were not privy to, he does not add (at least vocally), "I cannot give you justification that will ease your mind." He sits down in the chair, looking over at the painting, expression darkly pensive.
Deflated utterly, Siobhan flops down to slump over the edge of the chair in a way Eileen would surely tut tut her for. The alcohol is eyed almost hungrily; the burn of Moody's flask-mix after the attack on Hogsmeade is a remembered sensation that she has learned to crave over the past few months - trapped in this world where warmth doesn't exist. She watches his hand roll up the sleeve and cannot help the sort of morbid fascination that overtakes her when the Mark is revealed. She'd been shown the symbol as a young child - as had all of the Noble children - and told to Stay Away from those people or places that might display it, but it's different somehow, seeing the ink etched into pale skin by pain and Dark Magic. It hits her like a punch to the stomach and she drops her head to her chest, her forearms covering her crown as both hands tangle in her hair. She stays that way for long moments, listening to the rest of what he has to say in unmoving silence. Just when the silent stillness begins to become worrisome, she looks up.
Her eyes are red-rimmed and puffy, but her face is dry and there was no sound or movement to betray any such unseemly display. Her shoulders are slumped forward and the dark circles under her eyes seem to stand out in a way they didn't before. Must be a trick of the light. Over the course of the past year, everything she had been - all of the pillars on which she built her strength - has come crashing down around her ears. Combine that with the war she was not ready - is still not ready, if she's honest - to witness, let alone fight… Siobhan feels exhausted. Siobhan feels broken. Siobhan feels empty and used up.
"I should hate you." Because after everything, she just wanted one thing - this one thing - in her life to stay the same as it always had. Because she knows it will never be the same and she wants to understand why - but he cannot (or will not) tell her. Because she made the stupid mistake of believing she meant more than just another face in his endless line of charges and he won't give her any proof of that. It makes her question whether it was ever true - whether a lot of things were ever true - and that hurts more than her teenaged mind has words to describe. "I want to hate you." For all those reasons, she wants to. But she can't. She pushes her head between her arms and lets her fingers fist in the hair at the back of her head as she stares into the empty space to his left. It's a weakness that will probably end up with her dead, but despite all the other betrayals - or perhaps because of them - she cannot bring herself to hate this man.
Snape stands, moving to the picture, gazing at her reaction with impassive eyes. "It would be the natural course of things, yes." The weariness in his voice sounds much like her own, only aged, compounded and borne on his shoulders. She wouldn't be the first to see what he's had to do and hate him forever. "Your judgement has, on the whole, been sound, Miss Noble." He tries to encourage her, to lead her to the right conclusion a little more, but only just a small nudge. "I have not forgotten what has transpired before." She's still one of his favorite Snakes, even if she never looks up to him again. "Were things more simple, as our scholastic competitors are wont to declare." Gryffindors see the world in Black! And! White! Sometimes, that would be so easy. "However, we know the truth is often obscured." It's an old sentiment, spoken in many ways, bluntly to the youngest, and reiterated again in couched phrases to each successive form.
Comfort in any shape is not at all his strong suit; most of the time, the Snakes are self-soothing enough that it is rarely needed. "It is never an easy thing to have one's perceptions forcibly shattered." This is yet another thing he knows all too well. It's also meant to be an oblique apology for his part in that process. Another strong value of their House is a stark pragmatism that overrides other considerations. "What I do must be done, Miss Noble. Perhaps not in specificity," another unexpressed apology, "but in generality, and one's way is seldom as clear as may be surmised by one looking on."
When he speaks again, Siobhan jerks a little, startled out of some deep, dark place. Turning to regard him again, she notes more changes with his nearness. She notes the weariness in his voice and face and understands - to a degree - the kind of living that takes such a toll. She notes the shadows in dark eyes and she can see ghosts over his shoulder that look remarkably like the ones that follow her now. Ghosts of the people she could not save; ghosts of the people he could not protect. It's this similarity - layered with the words that her Slytherin mind deciphers and decodes to mean at least a little of what she needs to hear - that makes the pieces finally click into place.
Raising her free hand to lay her palm against what to her looks like a canvas painting of her … mentor seems like the wrong word somehow now. Friend is wrong. Professor is wrong. Her Snape. That works as well as anything for now, and encompasses him in ways that other words seem to fail. With that re-labeling, something clicks in her mind and the shattered, jagged pieces fall into a much better semblance of order than they have been for … well, for a very long time. Her eyes slide closed and she takes several deep, calming breaths. When her brown eyes open and focus on his dark ones, she meets it calmly and with a smile. It's not anywhere approaching her bright one of old; it's tiny and it's fragile, but it's there. It's definitely more of an improvement than most others could have wrung from her. "I understand, sir."
And she does. In a bounce of sudden brilliance - as always was her wont - it all comes together. A viper in the Dark Lord's den… "Dumbledore does like his Extendable Ears, doesn't he?" A reference to the Weasley Twins' mischief that means so, so much more. "Crazy old bastard." There's a bit of a growl in those words, but she doesn't seem inclined to comment on it.
Snape relaxes only slightly, visible well to only those who know him. "I knew you were a brilliant student, Miss Noble." That is his acknowledgement. That, and a snort for her comment on the Weasley product. "Each tool with its use and window of availability." The dry tone returns, and behind it, a hint of concern for her own position.
Now that that issue is settled, he shifts quickly to the issue that bothers him. "Again, Miss Noble, I do have to ask. Where is my mother?" He shifts his gaze to the empty chair. "It was quite a surprise when I returned home from a long absence to find, not the genial tones of my esteemed parent, but the angry hisses of one of my charges." He glances around the painting. After a moment of not finding Eileen, he turns again, this time much more slowly and sedately, to pick up his drink. "To perceived urgency, and those shaping that perception." He lifts it, gives a quick salute, and takes a long pull.
Window. Hah. Funny. "Or frame." There's a mild dryness to that simple phrase, an echo of his own, perhaps. (Never let it be said that Siobhan could not adapt.) His relaxation is noted and processed, a slightly crooked smile growing slowly. The compliment that accompanies it further smooths ruffled feathers - especially knowing just how rare they are to come from him - and Siobhan settles back in her chair to regard him for a long moment. Torn between the desire to finally unload the strain on someone who wasn't Dumbledore - that man still makes her uneasy in ways she can't explain - and the strange protectiveness that directed her to avoid adding more burdens to his load, she is at a loss. In the end, she settles for something she hopes will placate him without arousing further suspicions - at least for now. "And he the gardener who wields each to suit his plan." Oh yes, she knows - and loathes - what it's like to be under Dumbledore's thumb.
Leaning back against the far-too-comfortable chair, Siobhan considers his question more thoroughly this time. The clearer mindset helps. Surnames are patrilinear… It's entirely possible that … "Her name wouldn't happen to be … Eileen, would it?" There's a strange sort of forboding in her voice, because if loud, sassy, rough-around-the-edges-heart-of-gold Eileen Prince was his mother… That would indeed pose a lot of interesting questions. Resting both arms up along the sides of the chair, she levels a glare in Snape's direction - one he would know well enough to discern as light; playful - in a very Slytherin sort of way. "I need to find a painting of a Scottish distillery."
Snape snorts at her comments, accepting them for the repartee they are. "Indeed." Frame. He takes a slow sip of the drink, and looks down into it. "He does tend to get the maximum efficiency from each before — its poor, lamented end." Another snort for the harsh reality of being pulled between both 'gardeners'. One artfully arranging wildflowers, but construing them to appear wild, while the other plainly planting his nightshade in rows. "Eileen Prince, yes. My mother retained her maiden name in magical circles." He doesn't elaborate why, though the girl may infer much from his tone. "You have met her?" For some reason, he wants to know what Siobahn thinks of her — and vice versa — but will not express it, of course. He sets the glass down again, returning to his seat, appearing just that little more at ease. "And, what, pray tell, drives you to discover painted potables?" Now the concern is a little more evident.
"And each one going smiling into an unseen grave." There's a twisted, macabre sense of humor to these dark musings. "Convinced their deeath meant something beyond a half-step forward in his twisted chess game." Siobhan knows that she walks a fine line. If she proves useful enough, she'll be worth the effort to find a way for her to escape her prison; if she proves too useful, then she knows with dreaded certainty that she will never again see life beyond these canvassed worlds. "Yes, I've known Eileen for quite some time, now." She sees no need to dissemble on this account. "I actually came to bring her biscuits I found in Rowena's portrait, but … " Then, well, Snape happened. Snape gets a sharp look. She hadn't expected him to connect those dots quite that quicky. Still, she has a answer ready. "Weekly … teas - " for that's what the man insists on calling Siobhan's reports " - with the Headmaster aren't enough reason?" Hey, at least it's believable. Very believable.
Snape harrumphs, accepting her words, and pondering them before offering his own response. "They have certainly been for me the impetus for many an unplanned nightcap." Dry as dust, his words, and yet they carry a small bit of empathy. He hates to see her doing what he's done for years, but with him out of place, it stands to reason the Old Man would find another implement in the box. "I pray you have been decorous?" To whom is not elucidated, indeed, as per usual, there are several meanings to his words at once. To Siobhan's macabre sentiments, he merely nods and holds up his glass before adding, "and I am certain he has always made extremely clear the intense need for such … sacrifices." There is a hint of bitterness at the end of that, as though he's seen too many of those in his short lifetime.
Snape inhales, ready to speak a little more, perhaps ask his charge a more direct question, but he keeps his mouth closed and leans forward to gaze into the painting as his mother appears. "Mother." The tone is still dry, but it carries a strong surge of affection within it. "Welcome home. Imagine my surprise when I returned from my travels to find you gone, and Miss Noble in your place." His wry smile is present, and he stands to move back to the painting.
"Sevvy!" Severus can't forbear the slight wince that escapes when his mother chooses — quite intentionally, he is sure — to address him by his diminutive. "It's so good to see you son. Are you all right?" The two-dimensional woman turns, and spotting Siobahn, she smiles delightedly. "Oh, lass. Sio. Good to see you again. How are you?" It's a slightly different warmth in her voice for the young woman as it had been for her child, but the warmth is present as well.
Seeing as the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, Siobhan feels that she can speak her mind on one point at least. "He was very careful to make it plain that I must think about the consequences and make my own decision without his influence." She scoffs at that. "Knowing that there wasn't a choice at all… There are days I dream about him choking on his tea." Siobhan can afford to be blunt with him once in a while, especially if it's in such a mild tone of voice.
She is about to continue herself when his greeting - and … holy … wow, smile - catch her off-guard and completely derail her process of thought. Damn him! Tilting her head back to regard Mama-Snape in an upside-down fashion, Siobhan pushes forward one of her more broad grins. Snape might recognize the fallacy, but given that it's for his mother's benefit, she doubts he'll call her on it. "You know, Eileen, you had plenty of opportunity to mention that your oh-so-wonderful son was my former professor." Her tone is dry, but not at all caustic. She's obviously fond of the older woman. "Some warning would have certainly been nice." Plus she could have arranged for backup when she chewed him out before. Sneaky Sio is sneaky. The endearment for Eileen's son, however, has Siobhan pulling on all of her willpower to keep a straight face. She manages - but only just. (Biting one's tongue really can do wonders.) There's no way to keep the amusement out of her eyes, however, and she turns to raise a single brow at Snape - the man from whom she learned that expression. The question remains unspoken, but hangs between them nonetheless.
"That is exactly his method." That is all he'll say for now, in this situation, which has markedly changed. Severus keeps his own expression stoic, the embarrassment only showing for a very slight second in his eyes. "Indeed. However, Mother, like ourselves, has learned the value of the precise moment of revealing information." She's a Snake herself. He turns away again, face hidden from the women's view by his trademark hair, and drains the glass of the rest of the drink. Then, having had the opportunity to completely compose himself, he faces them and sketches a short, ironic bow. "Ladies, if you do not mind, I believe I shall retire and leave you to your distaff contemplations." He gives a small smirk again. "I have a few things to attend to before I retire, and it becomes late." Whether the clock actually bears that out does not matter. "Miss Noble, Mother." With a nod to each of them, he disappears into the back rooms of the house, ostensibly to find food and fall asleep.
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