1995-07-03B: Tasteless Tea (And Other Unpleasant Things)

Participants:

Siobhan_icon.gif Dumbledore_icon.gif

Scene Title Tasteless Tea (And Other Unpleasant Things)
Synopsis Siobhan visits the Headmaster looking for answers. She gets quite a bit more than she bargained for.
Location Hogwarts: Headmaster's Office
Date July 03, 1995
Watch For Hidden doors
Logger The Origami Snake

Some time spent in her own 'home frame' seems to have rejuvenated Siobhan in a way that seems to defy the logic of mere oil and canvas. Oh well, at least she'll fit in. Considering her destination is one of the few places where it seems logic has no place, she isn't so concerned about it. Navigating the labyrinthine maze of Hogwart's artwork has become almost second-nature, now. And quite right, too. She's spent the entire summer so far inside them. Finally, however, she lands in a rather cushy chaise next to a rather severe-looking silver-haired witch dressed in the old Roman style. "Hallo, Callie!" She greets the witch with a warm smile and weathers the subsequent deadpan stare quite well. "I didn't realize you had a portrait here, too." At least, she thinks she's in the right place. Peering into the rather obscenely large picture frame on Calliope's wall, Sio looks down upon what just must be the Headmaster's Office. Unfortunately, she's at a rather bad angle to see if the man himself is home or not, but she's unwilling to leave the familiar witch's portrait just yet.

"Good afternoon, Miss Noble," speaks the voice of one rather aged wizard, and it doesn't resonate from any of the other portraits nearby. The headmaster of Hogwarts strolls into the main portion of the office, carrying a pleasant portrait in his wrinkled and liverspotted hands. The canvas depicts a nice harmless scene of a small table and chair, the table covered with a proper tea service and cakes and clotted cream and assorted teatime goodies. He props the portrait on a little stand on the chair facing his desk and gestures for Siobhan to wander on down, if she has a mind to do so. "Would you care for some tea?"

"Actually, I would. Thanks." Blinking several times in sheer surprise, Siobhan stands slowly from her current perch, shrugs and jogs through doorways and staircases until she reaches Phineas' painting. From there, she eyes the window it seems she'll have to climb out of. Briefly, she turns to the scowling former-Headmaster. "Sirius said to kick you, but I honestly can't be bothered." Still, she notes an odd door in his current room that doesn't look anything like the other doors she's gone through. Filing that away for later investigation, she clambers out the window and lands on her feet in the soft, springy grass. She settles herself at the table and lets a long, white shape slither out from her sleeve before turning to the Headmaster. "I'm gonna go with m'gut an' assume you already know why I'm here."

Dumbledore waits politely until his guest has seated herself before resuming his own seat, taking his time with the tea-making. Some things shouldn't be done with magic, after all. "Let us say that I have an educated guess, but far be it from me to rain on your parade, as the Muggles would say. Please enlighten me," he adds as he puts three lumps of sugar into his cup, ignoring the dire look the sugar tongs are giving him. Absently stirring the cup with one hand he reaches for one of the lovely little cakes that have the words 'Eat Me' printed on them. "Someone's been reading Lewis Carroll again," he observes as he takes a bite of one and completely does not change size in the slightest. Except perhaps a smidgen outward at the waist.

"Considerin' that you brought a portrait with you to your office - an' one outfitted for tea already, I think it's safe t' say my parade has been duly rained on." An odd combination of her own wit and a distinctly 'Snape' flavor of sarcasm seems to suit Siobhan eerily well. There's not nearly as much 'bounce' or 'flair' to her as there once was, but that could be the fact that she doesn't trust this man. Or it could be the fact that she's stuck in paintings. That might do it, too. "Don't read it t' Hagrid," she cautions, though the smile that accompanies it is fond. "I doubt his classes would survive a Jabberwocky." Reaching down to the table, she mixes herself a cup of tea - more something to busy her hands with than any mad desire for tea - and watches that little white shape stretch out in the sun. "What has my family been told?" Sirius hadn't heard anything and she'd asked him to keep silent, but Sio isn't a Slytherin in name only. It's quite difficult for her to take anything at face value, these days.

Dumbledore watches the little white shape without seeming to under his big bushy eyebrows. "Enough of the truth not to come beating my door down," the old wizard says after a satisfying sample of the tea before putting the cup back on its saucer neatly. "I find that the entire, unvarnished and brutal truth would do nothing other than to needlessly upset your parents. However, one thing I did impress upon them was a very simple truth… I am still seeking a way to free you from your circumstances. It is a matter of not yet having found the means, regardless of what that young loon of a friend of yours might think." Despite the slightly disparaging words, the headmaster seems vaguely fond of the Gryffindor Auror.

Siobhan snorts. "I was hit by a green light and woke up in a paintin', Professor." She shakes her head, then, bottle-blonde hair spilling from the sloppy knot she'd fixed it in. "Only you could put a positive spin on that." There's amused resignation in her tone, but Siobhan still watches Albus Dumbledore warily. "But I agree with you, on this at least. S'why I told Sirius not to say anythin'." She shrugs again, looking down at her tea. "It isn't fair to say somethin' to 'em when I'm still not sure if I'm dead an' stuck in an paintin' or alive an stuck in a paintin' or dead an' just temporarily inhabiting a picture or…" She trails off there. He gets the point, she's sure. "He didn't like it, but I suppose that's th' Gryffindor in 'im." Finally, a sip of tea is taken. It's tasteless, but the liquid does soothe her throat. "Can't be helped."

"Well, you're alive, as far as I can tell," Dumbledore says. "Had you actually died, there would be nothing that could be done for you at all, the same as with the ghosts that haunt this castle and elsewhere," he continues, a sad and wistful tone in his voice for a few moments. "And I would have told you a long time ago if that were the case," he points out with gentle firmness. "I am not in the habit of taking months to break bad news, after all." He continues to stir his tea, as if it needed it, which it doesn't. "While I do not go out of my way to discourage the notion, as it gives certain people pause before considering foolishness against this school, I am not all-knowing or all-powerful. Even I haven't got all the answers ready at a moment's notice."

"Alive is good," Siobhan acknowledges, though she doesn't seem entirely convinced. Call it trust issues or years of watching the man before her favor everyone else but her snakes. Whatever label it is assigned, Siobhan's caution doesn't seem ready to abate just yet. "Has it been months?" She knew it was still summer because there were no children scampering through the halls. Aside from that, she'd lost pretty much all track of time. Days and nights were hard to keep track of when seen only through picture windows. She is startled from that disconcerting thought, however, when he admits to not being omniscient. Leaning back in her chair, she considers him with all the weight of a Ravenclaw to a particularly good puzzle. "Would you like to be?" She lets the question hang between them a moment. "If you could know everything, have eyes everywhere… Would you?"

"Oh heavens no!" Dumbledore blurts out immediately, looking quite ill-at-ease with the notion even before it sinks in properly. "Live in a world without the wonder of a new discovery, of inventing a new way to use an old spell that its creator never thought of, and to deny people the simple right of privacy?" He shakes his head gravely but emphatically. "No one should have that terrible power, even if such a thing would save lives," he adds pointedly. "Even Voldemort has his right to privacy, although I know many in the Ministry who yearn for such power, to lord it over others or to learn secrets to share or hide for a price. It is not an easy burden, you know, treading the path between the safety of everyone around you by ferreting out the other side's plans and secrets and giving others a basic common courtesy."

It's odd, Siobhan muses, that the almost sixth-sense she's always had about people's… not thoughts, but something deeper. The ability to feel about and for and with another person… It seems to have become more tangible in her current state. Odd, that, when so many other senses seem to have been muted or numbed. It's that sensation of feeling alongside the man she's held bitterness and animosity against for so long that really lets something click in Siobhan's head. She nods, slowly. "I don't very much like you, Professor, and I certainly don't trust you." She gives a wry half-smile. "I've been a Slytherin in your school for too long to do either." Let him take his own meaning from that. "But I know what it's like to walk a thin line." The Slytherin in love with the Gryffindor and friends with anyone from the snake to the badger and back again. "And I would have helped you in your fight, once I graduated." She would have, too; if only to ensure that the people she'd come to care for were kept safe. Still, she leaves it vague - as such - because while she may be mostly useless in her current state, one thing Sio can do is keep a secret.

Dumbledore looks at the girl in the portrait, not surprised by her candor, although his expression is gently sad for a few long moments. "I fear you have quite the wrong impression of me and what I have done in this school, or my opinion of your House. What's truly sad about it all is that it doesn't matter what I say to try and change your mind about how I feel about Slytherin, either in terms of the House itself or in terms of the current members or past members or anything to do with it. You simply will not hear me. Granted, I have fought for more years than even your parents have been alive against Dark wizards and witches, and many of them have been graduates of your House but that is due more to a stereotypical Slytherin ambition than simply because they were Slytherin. All I shall suggest you do is ask around. Ask the ghosts, who predate all of us, ask the portraits, who have been here for centuries. I am quite sure you may very well hear some very unsettling stories about me in my own youth. If you think ill of me now, you probably will have a most dismal opinion of me after that. And I wish I could change that. But life doesn't work like that."

Siobhan tilts her head off to one side, for the moment simply listening. When he speaks of unsettling stories, however, she can't hold back a chuckle. "If you're idea of 'unsettling stories' is anything like what Ja - what my brother used to tell me of the Marauders, then I highly doubt it could make me think any worse of you." She shrugs. "An' I know we some of us deserve the shite we get from everyone else. Hell, I'm the one what put the fear of the Grim into Draco so's he'd grow up an' stop struttin' about like a peacock in season." That memory - not as fresh as some of the others - still holds a little nugget of delight for Sio. Noble her intentions may be, but she'll never escape her malicious streak. "But I always hated seein' the little ones cryin' because they hadn't done a damn thing wrong to anyone else in this school 'cept for bein' sorted into the 'wrong House'. And then there's Sn - " But she cuts herself off, there, and seems to deflate entirely. Running her hand through her hair, she looks away from the picture window into Dumbledore's office and sighs heavily. "Then there's Snape." Her voice is heavier now, and weary… and older; so much older. "I very much liked that man. I looked up to him, I kept his secrets, I learned from him, I did everythin' I could an' I thought I understood him, to a point." An almost-embarrassed look is shot the Headmaster's way. "I supposed I loved him in my own way. He was himself an' he looked after us snakes in a way that no one else would. But then…" Sio swallows harshly, her throat suddenly dry. "He betrayed me. Us!" she hastily amends. "At Hogsmeade an' again in that damn hallway… Maybe Slytherin is a curse," she muses, tucking her knees to her chest and bracing her heels on the edge of the chair. Can you tell she's been lonely the past few months?

Dumbledore's face is one of kindness, listening to Siobhan's words without a hint of judgment on his aged face, letting her get it all out, and he probably wouldn't mind it if she'd put her feet up on his desk if she weren't stuck in the portrait. Fawkes releases a soft trill of notes, fluttering down near the painting and peering at it, glancing back at his friend briefly, clearly frustrated that he cannot sing away the girl's sorrow, but the phoenix doesn't leave, claws firmly gripping the arm of the chair the painting is perched upon. "There is the theory that perhaps Sorting is the wrong thing to do," the ancient headmaster states, giving the Sorting Hat a quelling look before the old hat has a chance to open its brim to interject something. "Personally, I never found much use in the notion of sticking like-minded individuals together. We grow best when we're challenged by different points of view, different ways of doing things. It is the one Hogwarts tradition I would do away with if I could get away with it," he admits, lacing his fingers and putting his bearded chin on them, elbows on his desk. "Severus' departure… was a shock to me far more than it was to you, Miss Noble. For all his behaviors and heedless uncaring what others thought of him, I trusted him too, you know. There was a time when I would have entrusted my life to him. Now…? I do not know anymore."

Hackles that would have been raised at his seeming dismissal of her own feelings of betrayal are cut off prematurely by the sound of the phoenix's song. Though it can't quite soothe her soul the way it would if she were anything more than a bit of oil on a canvas to him - and he the same to her - she knows the intent and feels better for the effort extended. "Thank you, Phoenix," she offers quietly - not knowing the bird's name - and does her best to smother the choked sound that rises from her throat at the name. She sits a few more moments in silence, half-tempted to reach out for the glorious plumage even though she knows it would do her no good. The texture of a painting - while not wholly unpleasant - cannot hope to rival soft feathers. "That's why I liked him, sir." The first truly respectful title of address for the old wizard leaves Siobhan's lips quietly. "Because he was himself, an' that didn't change to suit anybody else." She takes another sip of her tea. It's cold now, but that doesn't really matter. Tasteless, either way. Taking a deep, shuddering breath, she pushes thoughts of a much taller, skinnier Phoenix from her mind - with no small effort - and plunges on. "I think I know how I can help you." Those words are so quiet that they might very easily be missed, especially since Siobhan doesn't say anything else afterwards.

Dumbledore appears mildly startled at the honorific bestowed upon him, enough so that it takes him a few moments before murmuring, "His name is Fawkes." The phoenix trills again as he is named, but remains where he is, preening his feathers since he's realized that the girl in the painting is just that, for now, and his usual methods of soothing a troubled soul aren't working. Yet. "And Severus is a product of much more than his House. Any of us are, but to lose a very close friend is never an easy thing. And you may call me foolish, but I still hold out hope, slim though it may be, that perhaps we will meet Severus again as friends, or at least allies. I have not given up on him yet." And after that truth is spoken, he then asks, "How do you think you could help?" There is no condescending in his voice, no dismissal of the idea because she's a girl or a Slytherin, although from his expression, it's clear he has some suspicions exactly what that help may be.

Heaving a sigh, Siobhan does her very, very best to stamp out the little flicker of hope in her chest at the Headmaster's words. No, if he was still her friend in any respect, he would not have resigned her to either of her most recent fates. The suspicions, she can handle - and in truth, had expected. He has no reason to trust her, just as she doesn't trust him, but the enemy of my enemy is my friend and there is no doubt that Albus Dumbledore is a powerful wizard. "I'm…not quite like a normal painting, Professor." She takes another deep breath and plunges onwards, her gaze firmly locked on the flaming bird in the frame before her. "They all talk about doors they cannot cross, but…" Here she swallows hard. "I've not found one I can't pass. Ended up in St. Mungo's on accident last night an' took me forever to find the right door back." Shivers race up and down her body and though the sensation is uncomfortable, Sio relishes in it for a moment, because it is a feeling. "The worst part, I think, was that nobody noticed I was there, at all. Everyone just went about their business with hardly a glance in my direction." She shrugs. "Even so, it's just a matter of crossin' a threshold an' I'm halfway across Britain. The wards don't seem t' mind a paintin'." She seems a bit embarrassed, now; scuffing her toe in the dirt and looking down at her empty teacup. "Dunno, just suppose I could carry messages or somethin'." Of course, the true ramifications of her new 'talent' aren't immediately mentionable, she thinks. After all, he'd said only moments before that he wouldn't want to know everything, so what use could a paper spy be to him?

A paper spy could mean the difference between winning the war and losing it, and Dumbledore knows this. He rises to his feet, eyes on nothing, but vaguely on the ceiling, hands behind his back as he paces to and fro, mulling the notion. Eventually, after several minutes of silence filled with nothing more than curiously-staring dead headmasters, awaiting his judgment call, several of whom are shaking their heads silently and the soft whirring and puffing noises of the silver objets d'art scattered about rickety tables throughout the office. "I would rather you did not, as a personal opinion," he begins, finally coming to rest, crouched so he can look at the girl on her level. "And as distasteful it might be to put someone of your age at so great a risk, as it always is, I may very well have need of your services." He looks intently at the portrait of the young woman, sorrow barely muted. "And only an utter fool would be blind to your own plight and need to be able to /do/ something, until we figure a way to get you out of there."

Mildly thrown-off by the wizard's odd behavior, Siobhan merely stares. "You'd rather I didn't… carry messages?" Her nose wrinkles up in confusion, especially when he crouches down to her level and says he may need her services anyway. Cautious now, she rests her chin between her bent knees and adjusts her arms' grip around denim-clad legs. "What is it you had in mind, Headmaster?"

Dumbledore gestures with one hand toward the other portraits in the room. "These portraits who have other paintings of themselves in other locations do a bit of message-running for me from time to time. Dilys here is quite useful to me whenever I need to know something going on at St. Mungos, for example." The former headmistress of Hogwarts nods from her portrait, a kindly yet mildly stern expression on her face, most of the sternness directed at her successor than the fellow painting. "But it sounds like you can get past wards they cannot," he continues, his tone more grave. "I will not pretend to know what you will find on the other side, or if anyone else can do this, or be able to give you an accurate impression of how much danger this might entail for you, because I do not know. This is one of those things that I have not studied in great detail, nor does the world like to limit itself to what we think we know."

"I'm no expert in the Dark Arts or nothin', Professor, but I don't know that anyone's studied this in great detail, save maybe the bastard who invented the spell." And no, Siobhan does not apologize for her language. Brown eyes, normally warm and open, narrow to harsh slits of cinnamon. "You want me in their Manors, their offices, their hideaways…" She doesn't sound accusatory. On the contrary, Siobhan sounds… interested. "An' what about this 'Order' what says they fight against Voldemort's goons?" Time spent with Alistaire has effectively killed any fear of that word. Don't worry Sirius, your arse is covered. "You want to know what they know as well, I suspect, since it seems the Ministry is beyond incompetent." The odd sliding of her speech from the easy South London slang to more clipped, precise tones may be a bit disconcerting, but it doesn't seem like the young blonde has noticed. "After last year, Professor Dumbledore, I think gettin' out of bed entails a fair bit of danger." Especially with a family as… involved in things as hers is.

"Miss Noble…" Dumbledore begins, "Siobhan… I know exactly what the Order is up to." His eyes flicker a warning, a mild one at that, about her language. But he leaves it unsaid. This one is smart enough to figure it out. Far too clever, in fact. "You needn't spy on them for me. However, if, and /only/ if you're willing, and I don't mean right now, I mean you should truly think about it and discuss it with those you actually /do/ trust, then I will be honored if you would help me gather information so we can stop Voldemort."

"Oh." Siobhan blinks several times as that information processes, then just barely resist the urge to promptly channel Tonks and smack her palm straight into her forehead. "Ohhhh, right." She gets it, now. "Of course." It only makes sense that Dumbledore would be heavily involved with an organization dedicated to fighting old Moldy-shorts. She lowers her legs and stands, coming right to the front of the portrait of the Headmaster's face and office - which is rather disconcertingly hanging in midair - and looks him straight in the eye. "If it helps keep the people I care about safe, Professor, then I think you know what my answer is goin' to be." Whether or not she discusses it with anyone else. "Where would you like me to begin?"

Where a lesser man would promptly put on an expression relief and begin the work, if anything, Dumbledore's expression remains quite grave and serious. "I think your first step would be to begin learning about the limits of your newfound talents. Are there some doors you can't open, are there dangers associated with traveling via portrait? These are things you will need to know before you tackle any actual spyings-on. I will have a suitable 'base' painting for you to have here, according to your preferences, so you can contact me as necessary. Also, Fawkes here will be on guard, so that if you come with an urgent message and I am not here, he will swiftly seek me out and I will come." A hand gently strokes the rich scarlet and gold plumage of the phoenix, and he smiles up at his avian friend. "However, I must ask for your solemn promise that you will not knowingly risk yourself in this venture. You know, do something foolish and excessive, as my House is more famous for doing. You have suffered so much already, and I would not wish for any more to be heaped up on you, especially for my cause." Not his sake, as Dumbledore's stake in this is no more personal than anyone else's.

"Aye, Professor." Testing those sort of things will definitely keep her mind busy. "An' I've already got a 'home frame' of sorts, actually." She doesn't mention her suspicions about it just yet, because that's all they are - suspicions. "It's the one I woke up in. Paintin' of some old castle ruins an' a shepherd movin' his flock on through. Hangin' a good story or two above the ground in the Armor Gallery." In case he needs to know. "I'm a Snake, Professor. We don't take foolish risks." Turning her head to glance back into the portrait at the window she climbed out of to get into the tea-set painting, Siobhan gets a thoughtful expression on her face. "An' actually… I think I've got the first thing I want to test right here." She turns back to the table and scoops her now-sleeping Seraph off of the table and lays it around her neck. "Is there anythin' else, Professor?" Now that she actually has a goal in mind, rather than just randomly exploring, Siobhan's very essence seems to vibrate; energy suffusing her very core. Time to move.

Dumbledore shakes his head, although regret still lingers on his visage. "Not for now. I hope you'll beg forgiveness if I move your 'home' painting here, so you can reach me as swiftly as possible in a time of need. When things go haywire, even the relatively brief time it would take you to get from there to here would be far too long. And I will continue seeking a way to free you from your current state, I promise you that."

Sensing her cue to go, Siobhan very nearly dashes off. Instead, what does happen is a half-started, half-aborted jerking motion that would be… rather comical in other circumstances. Still once again, she looks the Headmaster right in the eye and nods slowly. "Thank you, Professor Dumbledore." And with that, she is gone, scaling up to crawl in the window despite Phineas' loud and rather nasty protestations. "Oh shut up, you great bat," Sio replies, brushing herself off and heading for the really odd-looking door. His demands that she not go in there are met with only a roll of the eyes and as Siobhan reaches out with one hand, the door opens. Well, it sticks for a bit, resists for a time, but eventually gives way. Strong-willed girl, Sio. Taking a deep breath, she steps over the threshold… And promptly disappears.


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