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
They Apparated in the Shrieking Shack. Snape had raised objections against Black's coming along, but Black had insisted. When the argument had threatened to get out of hand, Lupin had solved the matter by simply Dissaparating, and they were forced to follow suit. As result of a silent agreement, Lupin was carrying Pettigrew, on whom he had cast a spell that prevented him efficiently from assuming his human form, and who was, in addition, bound by magical cords. After their experience two years previously, neither of them wanted to take any unnecessary risks.
The passage leading to the Whomping Willow was still open, as Lupin was surprised to hear. He had expected that after Black had used the tunnel to break into Hogwarts, the Headmaster might have wanted to prevent any such occurrences in future. Snape, however, descended the stairs confidently, followed by the mildly astounded Lupin, and Padfoot was forming the rear, his low, threatening growl reverberating between the narrow walls and low ceiling. When they had reached the Headmaster's office, each man was so tired of the presence of the respective others, that Dumbledore's offer of tea and a lemon drop was for once accepted with little impatience and much relief.
"So, there he is", Dumbledore said quietly, as the limp rat body was placed on his desk. "Your way to freedom, Sirius." He raised his eyes and smiled, rather sadly. The brim of his ridiculous hat had ridden down his forehead as he bend his head to inspect Pettigrew closer. The whiteness of his hair and the lines of his face seemed more pronounced than ever and his wrinkly hand examining Peter gently was trembling slightly. Black drew in a sharp breath and Lupin and Snape exchanged a hasty nervous glance, before they averted their eyes, embarrassed.
"Well, I'd better inform Cornelius, hadn't I", Dumbledore said in the same quiet, flat voice. "Severus, Remus, will you come with me? Sirius must go back to the headquarters, of course. There is the significant risk we might run into an over-enthusiastic Auror at the Ministry."
He had not uttered one word about Black's acting against his wish by leaving the safety of his house, nor had he questioned them about the occurrences that had lead to their cooperation. Black, who had braced himself all the way to the castle for the necessity of offering justifications and excuses, felt oddly put-off when he realised they were not required.
Snape did not let go without a fight. "Headmaster, surely you remember that it was my task and my responsibility to catch Pettigrew and that Lupin's and Black's sudden appearance could have ruined the entire undertaking" he said in a low tone, barely moving his teeth apart, as though he did not want Lupin and Black to hear. "I had stunned him successfully when they both Apparated and Black knocked me down. Who, as I might remind you, isn't supposed to leave his mother's house."
"Severus, you three are no longer at school, and Sirius wasn't out of bounds. I can't give him detention just because he endangered his life -"
"He endangered my life", Snape spat. "Is this still worth nothing?"
"Severus", Dumbledore sighed heavily. "Severus. Your life is worth everything to me. So is Sirius's. And so", he raised his finger pointedly, "is even Peter's."
Dumbledore used the fallen silence to pull out two items out of a desk drawer, which he held presented to them. "This, Sirius, is the Portkey that will bring you back to Grimmauld Place", he handed Black an old, ragged kitchen towel that looked like part of a house-elf's garment. "And this is for us. We will Portkey to the Ministry and talk to Cornelius Fudge."
"And if he doesn't want to listen?" asked Lupin softly.
"He has to", Black said fiercely.
"He has to", echoed Dumbledore.
After the others had left, Sirius remained standing in the centre of the room, staring at the patterns on the carpet and kicking it rhythmically with the tip of his heavy boot.
"There's no need to smear mud on Albus's carpet, really", sounded Phineas Nigellus's cultivated drawl. Sirius turned around to face his great-great-grandfather who was leaning against his frame gracefully, fanning himself with his silken gloves. "It's not his fault everything goes wrong. He's trying hard, poor fellow."
"Not everything", Sirius said pointedly.
"Not everything is going wrong. We captured Wormtail tonight, as I'm sure you've overheard, and I'll be free soon."
Nigellus raised one elegantly arched eyebrow, but remained silent.
Sirius reached for his Portkey. "Well. I see you at home, I suppose", he said in a biting tone and gripped the kitchen towel.
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