Author's Notes: Written for the Severus Snape Fuh-Q Fest as a response to the three-word challenge: gentleman, holistic, poodle. The German quotation in the fic is taken from Goethe's "Faust" and means: "So this is the poodle's core." Uttered by Faust the moment Mephistopheles changes from dog to man.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own any of the character that appear in this story. They belong to JK Rowling, Bloomsbury, Warner Bros. and Scholastic. I don't make or intend to make money of them.
The Last Resort
By Donna Immaculata
"... and there's the traitor, coming and going in my mistress's house as he pleases, Kreacher knows he betrayed the Dark Lord, but he can't stop him from entering the house, oh no, not when master lets him in, disgraceful nasty bastard master is, not worthy of baring the noble name of Black. Coming back from Azkaban where he belonged, he and his bunch of blood traitors and half-breeds, to befoul his mother's house. Oh his poor mother, how -"
The cold silky voice cut short the house-elf's muttering, who pressed his hands to his wide-open mouth in horror, his pale eyes bulging.
"I'll see myself inside, no need to trouble you longer", Severus Snape said smoothly proceeding towards the kitchen door in long strides. "I assume your... master is in there, helping himself to the supply of Old Odgen's and having a jolly good time with his friend Fletcher." He threw the door open, glaring menacingly inside.
His glare, however, was wasted on a few Doxys who, banished from the upper rooms, had widely retreated to the kitchen, and were now fighting for the best nesting places in the old, threadbare curtains. Snape eyed them for a moment.
"Pathetic", he muttered, turning away. "Elf! I need you to fetch your master. And stop pulling faces on me or I shall make the Silencing Charm permanent", he added with a dirty look at the terrified Kreacher who was writhing on the floor, frantically opening and closing his mouth like a fish out of water.
Pointing his wand at the elf, Snape muttered "Finite Incantatem", and prodded Kreacher with the tip of his wand. "Well? What are you waiting for? Bring me to your master. Now!"
Kreacher nodded mutely and hurried to the stairs, closely followed by Snape, whose swishing cloak caused whole armadas of decade-old dust to rise from the floor.
The distance to Buckbeak's quarters in Mrs. Black's old bedroom was covered in complete silence, and the satisfaction of having taught the elf a lesson almost made Snape smile. But he settled for his customary sneer instead when Kreacher opened the door for him and scurried away frantically, starting muttering curses as soon as he though he was out of earshot.
The sweetish stench of blood and rotting meat hit his sinuses with a heavy blow and Snape gagged. He recovered in time, though, and assumed his most haughty expression before stepping into the once magnificent, now decaying room. The Hippogriff lay on the bed, half hidden behind the remainder of the curtains, and next to the beast lay... well, the other beast. Padfoot was curled up in a tight ball, pressed against the Hippogriff's side, and Snape had just time enough to marvel on the unique opportunity to throw the insult in Black's face that he was sleeping with his nose pressed against his own bottom, when the dog raised his head and leapt from the bed, changing smoothly into a man in mid-jump.
"Das also ist des Pudels Kern", Snape recited at the sight of the other man's pale face framed by dark untidy hair. Black's eyes were glowing from their deep sockets and his entire appearance was, indeed, more than Mephistophelic.
"Whom do you call a poodle?" he growled in a hoarse voice.
Snape's upper lip curled up unpleasantly. "I should have known that you wouldn't be familiar with the finest in world literature", he said silkily. "Although one might have thought that she", he made a wide gesture indicating the room, "would have developed a more holistic approach to your education as to make you at least somewhat of an accomplished gentleman."
Black stared at him in silence, and for a few minutes, both men glared daggers at each other. Their mute battle was interrupted by Buckbeak, whose strange sneezing noise made both men jump, wands raised.
Black spoke first. "Surely, you don't grace me with your presence to discuss literature with me, Snape? What is it this time? Are you here to whine about how you're forced to associate with your Death Eater friends - the only friends you've ever had in your life, I might add - and how your former acquaintances are now giving you a hard time? Or is there actually a point in your harassing me?"
"Believe me, I can think of hundreds of other places I'd rather be than this... den", Snape looked around in disgust, "but unfortunately, while you are spending your time most comfortably in safety and seclusion, I am risking my life on a daily basis to gather information that will help Dumbledore -" he broke off at the expression of Black's bloodless, hollow face, while the other man was advancing at him, holding his wand in an outstretched hand.
"Spare me!" Black spat. "Just tell me whatever it is and get out of my house! Unlike you, I've never formed acquaintances among Voldemort's lot, who would now be in position to save my arse from his wrath!"
"No, you never have", purred Snape silkily, his eyes firmly at Black's wand tip that was sending off red sparks. "Your friends have always been above any suspicion. Oh, but I forgot", he tilted his head and stared directly into Black's eyes, "you have suspected the werewolf once, haven't you? And have decided to trust your friend Pettigrew instead. That must have made you immensely proud of your own cleverness - for about ten minutes!"
In the next moment, Snape threw his head back, narrowly avoiding being hit by the curse Black had sent his way. His own wand arm had come up in a flash and his "Expelliarmus!" sent Black flying backwards and stumbling to the floor. However, Black had grasped a handful of Snape's robes and pulled the other man back with him. They landed on the floor in a cloud of dust.
Black's head hit the ground with a loud thud, but, unlike Snape, after two years on the run he was more accustomed to the concept of physical attacks and reacted instinctively within an instance. Flexing his muscles, he arched off the floor and rolled over and atop Snape. Snape's head collided painfully with the bedstead, causing Buckbeak to toss his head irritably with a soft, croaking sound. A gnawed rat bone fell from the bed and landed next to Snape's face.
"Sharing your meals with the beast, are you", Snape panted in a raspy voice, hardly able to breathe with his ribcage being squashed by Black. "But then again - your taste for monsters has always been legendary..."
Black's left hand entangled itself in Snape's greasy hair and he made a sudden movement as though trying to push the other's head up and crash his skull against the floor, but at this very moment, an ear-splitting cry pierced the silence as Mrs. Black's portrait sprang to life.
They were too far away to distinguish single words, but the high-pitched screams, easily penetrating the more sensitive ears of a Hippogriff, made Buckbeak leap up on his bed and start screeching angrily.
Looking slightly embarrassed, Black loosened his grip on Snape and slowly rose to his feet. Snape hoisted himself into a sitting position, rubbing his elbow with a pained expression on his face, and his eyes fell on the doorway. He froze.
Black turned his head around sharply and saw Remus Lupin and Kingsley Shacklebolt standing in the door, gaping at the scene displayed before their eyes with identically incredulous expression on their faces.
Snape moved first. Snakelike, he glided to his feet and brushed himself off, flicking his black hair out of his eyes, thin-lipped and silent. Lupin cleared his throat.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Black and Lupin uttered the question in unison. Shacklebolt's mouth twitched suspiciously.
"We heard shouts and what sounded like some serious fighting", explained Lupin, while Black turned his attention to Buckbeak, getting hold of his leather collar and trying to pat his neck in a comforting manner. "We didn't realise that it was only you two having a friendly conversation." Black cast him a venomous glance.
"If you are quite finished", Snape said, brushing past Shacklebolt who was still standing quietly in the door, "I would rather like a word, downstairs. It concerns you, too", he added with a look at Lupin and disappeared in the dim hallway.
Buckbeak's mismatched feet hit the floor with a shattering noise in the Hippogriff's vain attempt to free himself from Black's grip. "Get out of here!" the man growled angrily at Shacklebolt and Lupin, who had started towards him to help handling the animal. The portrait downstairs was still wailing and shouting in blood-freezing tones, and on top of everything, the general mayhem suddenly got penetrated by Kreacher's insane babbling as the elf stopped in the hall muttering insults under his breath. Black snapped.
"Get out of here! Out! OUT!" he roared, face contorted with rage. He continued tagging on the Hippogriff's collar while at the same time, trying to shove both Lupin and Shacklebolt away with his free hand. Buckbeak reared and the worn leather snapped. His deadly talons clawed the air and he flattered his mighty wings helplessly, constricted by walls and ceiling. Black pushed Lupin hard in the chest and sent him tumbling into Shacklebolt, who was already retreating towards the door, both hands raised in an appeasing gesture.
Lupin's eyes flashed. He leapt forward and smashed Black against the wall with a dull thud. "You listen to me now! You won't let out your frustration on any of us!" His voice was barely more than a whisper, but with each word, he was crashing Black against wooden panelling with a brutality that threatened to crush Black's spine.
None of them noticed when Shacklebolt left.
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