The Sugar Quill
Author: Ashley  Story: The Serpent and the Sorceress - Book 2: Puppets and Pawns  Chapter: Chapter 1: A Werewolf, a Squib, a Selenai
Next Chapter
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Chapter 1

A/N: It’s taken 3 years to get here, but the rest of the climb is all downhill. Thanks again to my beta, Yolanda, for her thoughtful suggestions and support. As well, thanks to Matt and Seldes, because this story would have just been another file on my computer otherwise.

 

Chapter 1: A Werewolf, a Squib, a Selenai

 

“Welcome to the Order of the Phoenix, Arienne Jacobs.”

 

I nodded and found my voice. “Thank you, sir. It’s an honor.”

 

I spoke the truth.

 

From the moment I’d found the invitation I’d felt a giddy sort of admiration for the man who had been elected Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot. But standing beside him within the bowels of Hogwarts, watching him address everyone present at this intimate gathering, a phoenix perched on his shoulder, I was left in no doubt that he was something far beyond even those titles that served to quantify his greatness. The thought was humbling, and perhaps even a little frightening.

 

Now, in addition to his many more public accomplishments, he’d single handedly managed to found an Order and keep it operating without the Ministry hearing even the faintest of whispered rumors. Of this I was certain, because the Watchers hadn’t known anything, either.

 

More, I marveled at how deeply Albus Dumbledore had infiltrated the unsuspecting Ministry, drawing many of the Order’s members from its numerous departments. I recognized Alastor Moody and the younger female Auror who occupied the seat next to Remus Lupin’s vacant chair. A little ways off from them sat a redheaded couple, and I was almost certain the gentleman was Arthur Weasley, another Ministry official, though of significantly lower rank. When Albus introduced them as Molly and Arthur, my uncertainty dissolved, and although Arthur had considerably less hair than his son, who I knew, they shared a similar facial structure, and emanated the same gentle kindness.

 

I’d become acquainted with Bill Weasley on one of my more recent expeditions to Egypt. As a curse-breaker, he’d been through many of the tombs, and I’d reserved some hope that he might be able to tell me more about the mysterious tomb my Aunt had stumbled upon. I’d spent a great deal of time with Bill during those brief weeks in Egypt, admittedly not solely for his knowledge, but when I’d learned that the one tomb he’d wanted to explore was off-limits even to him, since an Unspeakable had had an accident there, the brief flare of hope I’d held had been extinguished.

 

I didn’t feel any sort of resentment towards him, not by any means, but the mass of disappointment I’d felt had deterred me from returning to the curse-breakers camp with the same frequency I once had. Bill had seemed to understand, and I’d returned to England shortly thereafter.

 

My eyes followed in accord with Albus’s introductions, which had moved on. Beside the Weasleys were two elderly wizards, Jadrek Ladislov and Eldwin Kasch, and beyond them sat Rubeus Hagrid, whose immense proportions dwarfed the two witches to his right. Minerva McGonagall sat with her quill poised, and even from my vantage point I could see that the parchment beneath it was already covered with hastily jotted notes. Arabella Figg was leaning back in her chair, arms crossed, and offered me a faint smile when Albus called her name.

 

I was not surprised that either was present, and found that I’d been expecting them; Hagrid and Remus as well, the latter still standing behind me, just out of my field of vision.

 

Clearly, Albus Dumbledore was far more influential and powerful than Cornelius Fudge had made him out to be. Or perhaps, I mused, he truly doesn’t know. I allowed myself to feel a little pride, then, at being selected to join such an exclusive group, under a much more capable leader than the one I’d previously been employed. I assiduously ignored how few of us sat around the table, or how an outsider might look upon the unusual assembly and see a werewolf, a Squib, a paranoid, retired Auror, a Muggle-loving pureblood, a half-giant…

 

Those first thoughts had been fond and fleeting, with no trace of maliciousness. I found, standing there, looking out at the faces of people joined in a common purpose, that I would not choose to align myself with any others had I the option. But the lightness of my thoughts dissipated when the pleasantries ended and Albus concluded the introductions by excusing Remus and I back to our seats.

 

I selected the first vacant chair I could find and sank into it, almost oblivious to the resumption of questions throw out at the Headmaster. I had allowed myself to be distracted by the moment, forcing away all encroaching doubt and fear during the induction. I’d focused single-mindedly on Albus and the Order, a skill I’d picked up somewhere long ago, but my defenses were crumbling, and I had no choice but to face the revelation head on.

 

Phaenis. Even if Albus had not detailed the rest about the book or the ability of Selenai to visit Phaenis while they slept, I would have known beyond all reasonable doubt that he was referring to the snake I’d spoken with many months ago. Looking back, it seemed like a lifetime had already passed since the crash on the Express.

 

But what this meant was: I had my answer, point blank, in my face. I could deny nothing.

 

And it changed everything.

 

An odd sensation overtook me, then, and for a brief moment it felt as if the chamber around us was vibrating. I looked up and across the table but no one else seemed to be aware of it; they were engrossed in whatever Albus was saying. My eyes wandered, lower, and found my hands, white-knuckled fists, and I realized that it was me. I was trembling. Fear, shock, anger; they poured through me until the separate emotions were indiscernible. The enormity of the response left me numb to all else, and I was torn between an urge to laugh or scream. So much made sense now, and yet even more had spun vastly beyond the reaches of my comprehension.

 

Voldemort sought Phaenis.

The Holder could wield Phaenis.

Phaenis was born of hate and betrayal.

Your mother…

Miss Jacobs, we regret to inform you that your Aunt -

Ophyres, why?

is deteriorating rapidly. We have moved her, in accordance with your previous request

I doubted you even exisssted anymore

Thossse who weren’t killed by the Dark Lord ssserved him

Your mother…

I’m sssure you will not be able to tolerate ssstaying ignorantly on the sside while

It seems Albus Dumbledore owns the only remaining copy, go figure

innocent people die at Hisss handsss

It has come to my attention that Voldemort is in possession of a rare book

Jessamine Tareneh and Khalid Atum, two of the Ministry’s ambassadors

Your mother…would not have ssstood for it

have been murdered.

I…

I am…

I am a Selenai.

 

***

 

Severus Snape awoke feeling as if he’d just partaken in a month-long bender.

 

The Veritaserum had left his mouth tasting foul, and he rose to remedy that - or tried to – but ended up falling onto his back once again, helplessly staring up at the dark canopy above him, not bothering to stifle a groan when his forehead exploded.

 

He was pleased to see that they’d returned him to his room once the inquiry had finished. Through the painful fog clouding his memory he could hear two voices, one, his own, but the words were unintelligible.

 

He remembered nothing.

 

It had worked.

 

He’d spent two torturous nights trying to figure out a way to convey his message to Dumbledore, knowing he owed the Headmaster an explanation, but fearing Voldemort would know if he’d done so.

 

Snape was still not wholly unconvinced of Voldemort’s power. The entire meeting with the Dark Lord sat uncomfortably with him, though he could easily hazard a guess as to why. Voldemort was a master puppeteer, he did not confide in anyone, and only a fool would believe otherwise.

 

Snape was aware that he was being used, played like a musical instrument, but wasn’t sure to what extent. Nor did he know how much of his thoughts were accessible to the Dark Lord, but it would not be ill done to exercise caution.

 

Legilimency would allow Voldemort access to Snape’s conscious thoughts, and if the escapade with the book had been any warning, his powers had gained considerable potency.

 

Still, Snape prided himself on being a gambler, and he’d kept Dumbledore in the dark for far too long. He would have to come clean – about everything.

 

At the end of his second sleepless night he’d decided on the course of action he would take. Memory Obliviation was entirely out of the question. To a skilled Legilimens like Voldemort, a gaping void of thought in the subject’s memory (such as the one that would ultimately arise from the duration of the inquiry) would have aroused a deep suspicion.

 

But, if the memory was accounted for, but unable to be consciously recalled by the subject, it stood a better chance of being overlooked, like a dream. Thus, the Veritaserum.

 

That night, only days after he’d stolen the Selen Prophecies, Snape had swept into the Headmaster’s office, wordlessly shown him the Veritaserum (the less he remembered of the ordeal, the better the chances were that the memories would evade Voldemort) and proceeded to drink it.

 

Dumbledore had watched him quietly, and if he’d had any questions about what was going on, he’d saved them until Snape was under the potion’s influence.

 

Snape remembered nothing more.

 

He lay motionless for a while, his eyes closed, trying not to mull over what could have happened in the Headmaster’s Office. But like a child tonguing the spot his tooth had occupied moments before, his thoughts turned to the gap in his conscious memory again and again.

 

Veritaserum was not something to be used frivolously, and particularly in the case of himself, Snape would have never willingly submitted to its power in front of any other human being. But Albus Dumbledore had always trusted him, no matter how often he was told it was misplaced, and had taken everything Snape had ever said or done with a leap of faith. It was only fitting for Snape to return the trust in kind.

                                                                                                                               

Soon, as the throbbing of his temples began to subside, Snape began to drift in and out of consciousness. His sleep was not exceptionally restful, but the next time he awoke the chamber was suffused in a dim gray light that trickled in through a gap between the thick curtains hanging over the windows.

 

Judging by the strength of the light it was nearing six in the morning. He’d been abed for roughly ten hours, and that realization was enough to rouse him from the cocoon of blankets he’d become entangled in.

 

He sat up, wincing at the protestations of his still-hazy mind, but found the pain had lessened somewhat. He noticed then that he was still wearing his robes from the night before, and they were creased with sleep.

 

Steeling himself against the pain, Snape rose with an effort. He took a tentative step forward and found that his legs weren’t about to give out beneath him. His balance left him more than a little precarious, however, and after the few short steps he’d taken to cross his room in the direction of the lavatory he found himself quite unable to go further, and sat down heavily in the armchair by the fireplace before the room began to spin.

 

It was at that moment Arabella Figg poked her head into his chamber.

 

“Oh good, you’re awake.” She let herself in.

 

Disgruntled, Snape opened his mouth, about to reprimand her for her blatant lack of consideration of others’ privacy, but found himself brought short when he saw her expression.

 

“Albus called an emergency meeting last night,” she said, settling herself down on the corner of his bed. She ignored the tangled mass of blankets and sheets.

 

This did not surprise him. He was about to say as much when he realized, then, what it was about her expression that had stilled his tongue in the first place. Arabella, who he’d come to begrudgingly tolerate, had always been tiny and fierce. There was nothing minutely diminutive or delicate about her. Bold and brazen, outspoken and obstinate. He’d seen – and been on the receiving end – of it all. Which was why he permitted her company. Anything scathing or snappish he said would glance right off her, and she’d give him her cool, uncannily feline look of boredom, and then continue on as if nothing happened.

 

Yet here she was, her shoulders slumped in the sign of universal defeat. When she looked at him, he saw the resignation in her eyes.

 

“I think it’s too big,” she said softly. “This nonsense about visiting snakes in dreams and a Holder that can wield –“

 

“What?” Snape asked sharply. His tone startled her out of the thoughts she’d been speaking aloud.

 

“Oh.” She looked abashed. “I suppose I should start at the beginning, then.”

 

Snape gestured impatiently for her to continue. His headache had returned, and with it a deep feeling of unease. Clearly the meeting was in response to what he’d told Dumbledore.

 

He listened, then, to her retelling of the night, about the deaths of the Ministry ambassadors (which had genuinely surprised him, since he hadn’t seen it mentioned in the Daily Prophet) and of Voldemort’s search for an artifact amongst Muggle holy sites.

 

Arabella’s expression grew graver as she charged on, explaining (needlessly, but he didn’t correct her) that Voldemort’s true interest lay with the Selenai, and an artifact of theirs.

 

He tensed at the mention of the Selenai, and Arabella mistook it for fear.

 

“Oh Severus,” she said scornfully, her tone almost returning to normal, “not you too.” She muttered something under her breath that sounded suspiciously like baboon, and continued.

 

But Snape was not afraid of them, not truly. He feared where this conversation would lead. The one question he’d asked himself repeatedly since seeing the snake on the cover of the Selen Prophecies was the one he had no wish to be answered.

 

What part am I to play in this?

 

Clearly this association was all part of Voldemort’s mind-poison, perhaps a form of propaganda, to get him involved thinking he was part of the whole thing to get results faster. He could not fathom any other explanation. He resolutely refused to. 

 

And yet, this reasoning was far from satisfying. Perhaps there was more…

 

“You keep mentioning the Serpent,” Snape said irritably, interrupting Arabella’s retelling of the record of the meeting with the Selenai. He wondered where her first comment found context, because it had resonated deeply within him. “Did the Headmaster not give you any other information?”

 

Her eyes blazed. “Yes, he did, I was getting there,” she snapped. “But you’d be the first to bite my head off if I’d missed something else that was important.”

 

Snape conceded her point and lapsed once again into brooding silence. He felt restless.

 

“The, well, you know,” she said, attempting to avoid saying Selenai, probably thinking it was for his sake, “it told him they could see the Serpent in their dreams, but they’d never seek it out in real life, or they’d go mad. But it doesn’t end there.” Here, her voice deflated.

 

“There is one person who can wield the Serpent. The Holder.” She gave a derisive snort. “The Serpent and the Holder,” she muttered as an afterthought.

 

Snape felt a spasm ripple through his body, but Arabella had not noticed. She was staring at the floor.

 

The Serpent and the Holder? The Serpent Holder? Ophyres?

 

Had Voldemort been preparing him for this role since initiation? Suddenly, it didn’t seem so unlikely. If this plot had been in motion for nearly two decades, then it only made sense for Voldemort to have taken Snape back; he wanted to see it completed. But why couldn’t he choose someone else? Why is it so important that I play this part? The answer evaded him, and he forced himself to listen to Arabella.

 

“This Holder can apparently use the Serpent to channel energy. Magic, I suppose. The raw stuff. Whatever all that means. I wouldn’t know.” She looked up at Snape with an odd expression on her face, but he couldn’t read it.

 

“And if that wasn’t enough,” she continued, “he’s…or she’s…I guess…got all the Selenai under his or control. If this Serpent gets found.”

 

Arabella shuddered.

 

For a few moments there was silence, and Snape stared at her, waiting for her to add more. Finally, she did, but she spoke softly, in the same tone she’d used to make her first statement.

 

“The Holder…everyone reckons it’s You-Know-Who.”

 

She met Snape’s eyes, and for the first time he could recall, he saw fear there, and with her next question, understood.

 

“What do we have to compete against that?”  

 

***

 

I lay awake a long time that night, thinking, hopelessly unable to sleep.

 

This was my first night without Albus’s herbs, and I’d purposely not taken them, hoping to curb my reliance on the release they offered.

 

Which meant I would dream.

 

When the meeting had ended I’d left immediately, muttering to Minerva and Arabella that I didn’t feel well, knowing they would pass on my apologies. There would be time, they’d assured me, to get to know the members of the Order after tonight.

 

Truly, I was not concerned about it at that moment.

 

My mind was full and I felt sick and distraught, lying in my bed, knowing it was the one place no physical being would disturb me.

 

I laughed then, but there was little mirth, and thought back upon the night.

 

Remus Lupin had accosted me in the stairway, before Arabella and Minerva’s message could reach him, but he took one look at me and released my arm, telling me to go on.

 

He understood. More, he knew.

 

It all seemed painfully obvious at that point, that Albus had enlisted him to learn what he could about my condition. The random books he’d devoured voraciously, day after day, had appeared to have nothing in common. But that was just it, wasn’t it? Their apparent unlike, the disarray of genres and languages and subjects, it was all connected to a single point. Me.

 

I’d said as much.

 

“Arienne.” Remus’s voice was soft but firm. He paused, glancing around for any signs of others, and then took my elbow and led me up the stairs and into the deserted hallway above.

 

He looked at me, and his eyes were serious. “ I hope you can understand that this wasn’t in any way an attempt to alienate you. Albus thought it would be best if we took an active role in trying to help you uncover your…well, Talent, really.”

 

I would have liked to be angry with him. To tell him that I felt betrayed, that I’d just been some project of his, and that was the only reason he’d even been interested in getting to know me.

 

But I was not a petulant child.

 

 And Remus Lupin was not the sort to molly-coddle, despite his gentle nature. He had merely been defending the position he and Albus had taken, and had been entirely honest with me, so I could not respond back with my own frustration and self-pity.

 

In fact, if I was to be perfectly candid with myself, something I had achieved very rarely as of late, preferring to bury what I chose not to deal with at the moment, I was relieved. Immensely. Because I was not alone.

 

Remus knew the truth, all of it, it seemed, even more than me, and yet he had not recoiled. His voice held a note of urgency, as if he desperately wanted me to believe him, but all he had to offer were those words, and would allow me to rebuke him if I felt it necessary. But I took them. I nodded, showing I understood, and he smiled, his own relief evident.

 

He gripped my arm, then, just below my shoulder, an unthinking gesture of camaraderie that moved me far more than he was likely aware. We stood there for a moment, his eyes saying everything that spoken reassurances could not, and he promised his help, where it could be given. All in silence, all with that gesture.

 

“Remus, there is one thing I need to know,” I said finally, and he relinquished his hold on my arm.

 

“Whatever I can answer, I will.”

 

I nodded, grateful. “Who is Albus’ in?”

 

For a moment he looked confused, he had not been expecting that particular question, and I hastily explained myself.

 

“For him to know…everything that he knows…about…about Voldemort,” I had taken a page out of Albus’s book, and I was proud of myself for it, “he has to have someone operating within the Death Eaters. A double agent. And no one at the meeting really struck me as being the right…sort…”

 

My unspoken question hung in the air, although I was almost certain I knew the answer to it.

 

Remus shook his head, “It isn’t me,” he said gently. “I doubt the pure-blooded wizards he’s amassed would look twice at me.”

 

My expression must have given away my reproach. He smiled bitterly.

 

“Ah, well, yes, there is that small matter,” he conceded. “But I think my past affiliation with Albus has ruined any interest Voldemort may have in recruiting this werewolf. No, Arienne, I’m not Albus’s in.”

 

“Then?” I asked, trying not to sound like I was prying. I assumed that sort of thing would be common knowledge amongst the members of the Order, and although I was a new initiate, surely I deserved to know as well.

 

Remus appeared to be thinking along the same lines.

 

“He wasn’t here tonight,” he said slowly, as if that troubled him.

 

“But it’s Severus Snape. Snape is our in.”

 

I should not have been surprised, but I had been. I still was, though it had ebbed away, little by little.

 

Albus had spoken for Snape when he’d been captured, fifteen years ago. He’d been released because of his services to the Ministry and to Albus himself; passing along whatever information he’d been given, although very few knew that. As a Watcher I knew the truth, and that they’d released him on some other pretext, something similar to Lucius Malfoy, the Imperius or other nonsense. But Malfoy, despite his allegations of  “never meaning any of it”, had rekindled his allegiance with the Dark Lord. I’d overhead that at some point tonight.

 

Still, Malfoy had money, and money protected him. The corruptness of our Ministry sickened me, but then again, witches and wizards were still human. Fear and greed reigned supreme. Why else would people willingly choose to follow Voldemort?

 

Idly, I entertained the idea of walking up to Snape and asking him just that. Why?

 

Malfoy, it seemed, had played it off as being young an impressionable. Thrill-seeking. A joke of sorts.  Killing people was far too morbid a jest for my delicate sense of humor.

 

Had it been the same for Snape? Some sick teenage-angst prank?

 

I didn’t care what Remus said, despite Snape’s “proof” of loyalty, he was still a double-agent. He could be playing both fields. He was clearly skilled if he had managed to fool Voldemort into believing in his devotion. Yet Albus had given him employment, even though he had a record that would have seen him in the streets begging for Knuts for the rest of his life. No one would have ever dreamed of hiring a Death Eater after Voldemort fell.

 

I became aware then, of an eclipsing anger, at the injustice of it all, and my own relentless struggle was temporarily displaced. A former Death Eater was suitable for employment, but a werewolf was not, so much so that there was actual legislation in place to prevent a werewolf from ever finding employment. How could people be so blind? This pervasive fear that had found its way into every werewolf rights conversation stunned me.

 

Remus had told me of the circumstances surrounding his dismissal, though vaguely, as if there was more but he was not certain how much to tell me yet (although, perhaps, the induction had changed that). It had been enough to fuel my explosion, however, and as I lay in bed, listening to my own enraged voice cutting down prejudice and stereotype and a willingness of society to accept and never question precedent, I felt a deep, lingering sadness.

 

It had been Remus who had soothed my temper, and Remus who had argued that precedent was a powerful medium to convey impressions; it was proof, and not everyone was able to make a leap of faith without being encumbered by the idea that what had happened before could happen again.

 

Albus Dumbledore, however, was not one of those people. He’d accepted Remus and given him a chance, but in the end, the truth still stood that Severus Snape was employed, had respect and stability, and Remus Lupin had none of these things.

 

But as my anger began to cool once again, I felt the uneasy pricklings of guilt. Albus saw potential that most couldn’t see, and it undermined his judgment to question him. He could not change what the rest of the wizarding world thought, but he tried to invoke acceptance within his own sphere, amongst the students and staff. In regards to Snape and Remus both. The other circumstances were out of his hands. And, after all, was he not taking a chance with me? What if someone caught wind of what I was?

 

Not for the first time, I checked my emotions, my thoughts, my feelings, wondering if there had ever been any indication that I was a murderous sub-creation of witch. I didn’t feel any uncontrollable rage, or bloodlust, but thought: maybe you just snapped one day, and that was that. You were Selenai and homicidal and pledged to the Dark Lord and there was nothing else you could do about it.

 

Deep down, I doubted it. No matter what drove the others to commit such heinous crimes, there was always choice. There was no full moon or curse in our blood. The quest for power and domination was purely a human trait.

 

But what of the Holder? What then? That frightened me. To know that if someone were to find Phaenis they could use it to control the Selenai like puppets. But if Voldemort was looking for it, then it hadn’t been found yet. My mother had been proof enough of that, and the choice theory. She’d died because she had not joined him – though she must have been Selenai to be sought out, and for me to have gained Selenai status – the powers passed on through the maternal genes, I recalled from the little bank of knowledge I possessed. But why had she not been able to fight off the Death Eaters? Phaenis had said that full Selenai power could rival the Dark Lord’s. Had we truly held her back, my father and I? Had we weakened her so irrevocably? I would never know, but I was sorry all the same.

 

It was funny, though in a humorless way, that, hours ago, I had been ravaged by fear and disgust, and now suddenly found myself very detached from what had been revealed tonight. What it all meant. It was as if I was sitting outside myself, a formless presence, watching someone else reason and rationalize, and try to put together a puzzle where more than half of the pieces were missing. Fear and revulsion and self-pity were slowly giving way to a mounting curiosity as I began to understand my position more fully. I only wished that my mother had had time to teach me more. No, that was not entirely true. I wished a great many things about my family, but that seemed to be the most reasonable.

 

However, knowing that I was not alone in this calmed me - and above that I felt the beginnings of a plan begin to take root. I was not going to cower behind Albus Dumbledore and his Order. I was still desperately afraid of where my life was going from this pivotal point, but I also saw opportunity in the near future, and a sense of obligation and responsibility. I exalted in the clarity of my thoughts, and knew that with a little more prodding I would be able to unearth the seed that had taken root in my subconscious.

 

I was so engrossed in my introspection that I did not realize that my body had already fallen asleep. The moment I became aware of it, however, my stream of thoughts winked out.

 

I became lucid again some time later, and found myself standing in darkness, feeling smooth stones beneath my bare feet. A warm breeze rustled my nightrobes, like a gentle caress of welcome, and I found myself moving forward, towards a light, towards a pillar, towards my answers.

 

Because indeed, with acceptance, came more questions. But I was prepared.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

//
Write a review! PLEASE NOTE: The purpose of reviewing a story or piece of art at the Sugar Quill is to provide comments that will be useful to the author/artist. We encourage you to put a bit of thought into your review before posting. Please be thoughtful and considerate, even if you have legitimate criticism of a story or artwork. (You may click here to read other reviews of this work).
* = Required fields
*Sugar Quill Forums username:
*Sugar Quill Forums password:
If you do not have a Sugar Quill Forums username, please register. Bear in mind that it may take up to 72 hours for your account to be approved. Thank you for your patience!
*Comment:
The Sugar Quill was created by Zsenya and Arabella. For questions, please send us an Owl!

-- Powered by SQ3 : Coded by David : Design by James --