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
Sirius decided against drinking and put the bottle of Firewhisky back on the shelf. For one hour and twelve minutes he had been pacing the floor of Buckbeak's room impatiently, waiting, waiting for anything. Any sign that they had arrived safely and that Dumbledore was now negotiating the terms of his trial. Peter's trial.
Pacing restlessly, he only stopped every now and then to viciously kick the wardrobe, the table leg, or the wall, until he annoyed Buckbeak so much that the Hippogriff started ruffling his feathers and tossing his head.
"Sorry, Buckbeak", Sirius came over and sat next to the Hippogriff, placing a calming hand on the animal's glossy neck. "I know I'm irritating you. But I promise, as soon as I'll have my freedom back, I'll make sure you are freed from this room, as well. If only to sneak into the garden from time to time."
The Hippogriff clacked his mighty beak in response.
Sirius sighed and leaned his forehead against Buckbeak's neck. "I know it's hard to be trapped here. But there's nothing we can do. Nothing I can do, at least, and no-one else cares."
Buckbeak made a soft sound in the back of his throat and stretched his neck, closing his eyes lazily under Sirius's gently stroking hand.
The short moment of peace and quiet was rudely interrupted by the loud outburst of abuses downstairs, and Sirius jerked up. "They're back", he whispered. His fingers flexed unvoluntarily around a handful of Buckbeak's feathers, and the Hippogriff protested. "Sorry." Sirius jumped to his feet. "Sorry, Buckbeak, I've got to go!"
Approaching the kitchen, he saw from the corner of his eye Molly Weasley usher the children away, looking nervous and flustered. He stopped in front of the door, wiped his hair from his face, and, taking a deep breath, pushed the door open.
Sirius would have laughed at the tableau before his eyes, had the situation not been so grave. They all seemed to be frozen in mid-step. Lupin stood so close before him Sirius had almost bumped into him the moment he entered the kitchen. Over Remus's shoulder, he could see the small, pale face of Tonks who looked apprehensive. Shacklebolt and Moody were there, too, both balancing in awkward positions, seemingly fixed on the spot from the moment of Sirius's entrance. Unsurprisingly, Snape was looking unruffled and cold, as he was standing next to the fireplace on the spot where... Where it had happened. Sirius's eyes locked with Snape's, and neither looked away.
"I was just about to come and get you, Sirius", Remus said, moving aside and making way for Sirius. As though on clue, the whole scene unfroze. Mad-Eye passed a cup of tea he was holding to Shacklebolt, who passed it on to Tonks, who passed it on to Snape, who put it down on the mantelpiece. His gaze never wavered.
"Mother", Sirius explained curtly. "She's more reliable than every doorbell."
Everyone forced a small, fleeting smile on their faces, but the silence that fell after Sirius's word weighted more heavily then ever before.
"Just tell me already!" Sirius growled impatiently.
"Sirius, Cornelius was very unreasonable", Lupin began, and stopped as Sirius's shoulders sagged.
"He didn't believe one word, Black. We forced Pettigrew to transform, and even then, Fudge insisted that we were making up vicious lies, trying to ridicule the jurisdiction system and with it the entire Ministry, and that we were a bunch of - what was his expression - ah, raving lunatics, and Dumbledore was the maddest of the lot."
"What happened then?" Sirius asked in a clipped, dry voice.
"We had to obliviate Fudge." Sirius startled, surprised, as Shacklebolt's deep voice sounded next to him. He had not noticed the tall man moving towards him. Shacklebolt put a cup of tea in his hand and indicated a chair.
"We were lucky Kingsley was there. He reacted quickly enough, before Fudge could call other Ministry officials and force us to erase more memories or undertake more drastic measures", explained Lupin, who had seated himself beside Tonks. "He was the one to cast the Memory Charm on Fudge."
"Yes, I'm quite good at those", Shacklebolt's voice held a trace of darkly humour.
"Dumbledore had to stay there to make sure the memory modification had worked out all right", added Lupin. "The Minister for Magic is well protected by extra-security spells applied by Mediwizards every few months to make sure he is safe from possible assaults by Dark wizards."
"But what now?" Sirius asked rather helplessly. "They're bound to leave Wormtail free if you left him there."
"Left him there? Sirius, what do you think we are? Amateurs? Of course we didn't leave him there, he's right here, placed under a strong sedation spell. We only have to decide where to store him until we need him." Lupin indicated a small box with air holes punched in the lid.
A weak smile appeared on Sirius's face, spreading wider and wider, until he was positively spluttering with laughter, bent double over the table.
"He's lost it", Tonks whispered to Lupin. He shook his head.
"Sirius? Are you all right?"
"Where to store him?" Sirius managed, his shoulders shaking. "Why, I think this suits him just well."
"It's not safe, though. We'd have to place an unbreakable charm on it, and it has to be replaced every time after the box has been opened. Someone would have to take the responsibility for him and to make sure he doesn't escape", Shacklebolt objected.
"Ron could", Lupin said with a small twisted smile and a sideways glance at Sirius. Sirius sniggered in response.
"Tell you what, guys", growled Mad-Eye from his position by the sink. "I've got this trunk, as I'm sure you know. We could keep him there, nice and safe, and when we need him, we will just pull him out and have him ready at hand."
Every head turned to him in amazement, and Moody shrugged. "It's a good idea, even though it's plagiarised", he said gruffly.
"Where do you want to keep him, then? Are you taking him back home?" Tonks asked.
"I need the trunk, it holds many valuable items", Moody looked around at them. "And I don't trust you youngsters to keep an eye of him. This is not funny!" he added glaring at the still sniggering Sirius.
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