Title: Difficult Creatures
Age-Range Category: Three
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Severus Snape, Albus Dumbledore, Newt Scamander
Beta Reader(s): arynwy
(Highlight to View) Warning(s): Minor Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them spoilers.
Summary: Albus' former student has a way with all sorts of difficult creatures.
Snatches of conversation reached Severus' ears as he approached the courtyard to which he'd been summoned like an obedient Crup.
"—thinking of Dorset."
"Because of the Porlocks?"
"Well, after the work I did with the dragon minders in Romania . . . ."
The man speaking with Albus was young, or so Severus thought as he approached them. Tall, perhaps three inches or so taller than Albus, he wore russet-coloured robes that might once have matched the colour of his hair, which was almost entirely white.
"—not quite so dangerous as that."
"Precisely!" the man said, in a voice roughened by strong spirits, smoking, age, or perhaps all three, Severus didn't know. "That's precisely what I told Tina."
Severus cleared his throat to announce himself, and Albus and his guest turned.
The vaguely familiar stranger greeted him first. "Oh, hello, there!"
His face was merry—its wrinkles due more to smiling than age—making his age difficult to calculate.
Severus envied him his obvious happiness, thinking, Bastard, as he said, "Good afternoon."
"Newt, this is Severus Snape, Head of Slytherin and our Potions master," said Albus, clapping a hand on Scamander's back. "Severus, this is Newt Scamander, one of my favourite former students, and—"
"The renowned magizoologist and author," Severus interrupted, taking Scamander's proffered hand and favouring him with a searching look.
To his surprise, the man stooped and fixed his gaze, half hidden by his unruly fringe, upon the outer corner Severus' right eye.
Interesting. However favoured a former student, Albus wouldn't have told him that I'm a—no, it's an old habit for him, avoiding direct eye contact—and he can't Occlude.
"Mr Snape, nice to meet you," Scamander told him, his tone of voice as warm if not as full of ebullience as it had just been. "Albus tells me that—"
"Ow!" Severus exclaimed, shaking his right hand, from which a bowtruckle was current hanging . . . by its teeth.
"Bitey, stop that!"
Albus laughed. "You've named her well."
Feeling stupid, Severus snapped, "How can you even begin to tell the sex of this . . . this creature?"
"With extreme delicacy," allowed Scamander. "Please, I'll just . . . yes, there we go," he said, stroking the bowtruckle as if to soothe her. "She's a bit protective of me, you see, and you're a very imposing young man."
Albus continued to chuckle, and Scamander half-grinned as he coaxed his attack stick back into his breast pocket while Severus looked down in consternation. He despised being laughed at.
His eyes fell on an old, battered steamer trunk situated behind Scamander then. Who needs half that much clothing on a visit? he wondered.
"Oh, dear," Scamander said.
Albus waved a hand at the trunk, and the latch silently closed itself.
"Thank you, Albus. I've er, always been hard on my luggage."
"Given how much you pack, I'm not surprised. Perhaps later you'd take me on a tour?"
Oh, thought Severus. Of course. He must by using an Undetectable Extension Charm.
He'd never used them, himself. They were too tricky and unstable to manage. Only a complete dunderhead—and famous wizards tended towards the dunderheaded, he'd long decided—would use such ridiculous spells.
Tired of being ignored, Severus asked, "Did you wish assistance with a potion, Mr Scamander?"
"Why, yes, I did. I do, in fact. Tell me, ah, Mr Snape," Scamander said, appearing both slightly apprehensive—
He doesn't hold eye contact long.
—and a bit vulgarly eager.
When he does look at me, it's with wide—
"What do you know of, er, Nundu?"
Severus' bitten finger abruptly went numb. "Nundu?" he repeated, momentarily at a loss for any other words.
"Yes. Heard of them, have you?"
"Mr Scamander, the only thing I know about death-breathing leopards is that I've no wish to have anything to do with them at all!"
Albus issued a slight sigh in Scamander's direction as if in apology. "I did tell you that he was tetchy."
Severus barely managed not to stamp a foot. I am standing right here. I am twenty-seven-years-old. I am not a child!
It was irritating in the extreme that the youthful elder before him could make him feel, without any apparent effort, as if he were a churlish brat. More irritating, still, was now there were two of them!
"Well, yes," Scamander said. "When provoked, Nundu have been known—"
"Newt," Albus interrupted, "that's being too mild, even for you—but it reminds me that I really must introduce you to Hagrid."
"I'd quite like that, Albus, but . . . ." Scamander straightened his shoulders and addressed Severus with direct respectfulness. "Mr Snape, I've an injured Nundu under my protection, an injured, pregnant Nundu, and I mean to save her and her offspring. Your Headmaster has recommended you for the job above anyone else he might name for your deep discretion and great skill." He took a deep breath and exhaled it before continuing. "Will you help me?"
The honest hope in Scamander's now-unshielded eyes was almost as great as the concern that Severus could discern in the sudden rigidity of the his shoulders. He knew of Scamander, of course, who didn't? He was legendary in certain, hushed circles of the wizarding world for having kept dangerous creatures out of Grindelwald's much more dangerous hands, and Severus had no true reason to dislike or deny him.
Except for the Nundu part of the equation, that is.
Bitey poked her "leafy" head out of Scamander's pocket.
Severus watched Albus' cheeks puff out with unvoiced laughter and knew that he wouldn't be able to bear it if it were to escape again. And a Nundu means advanced potioneering, which certainly beats preparing Pepper-Up Potion for Poppy all summer long.
Of course, given Scamander's comment about discretion, it was obvious that there would be nothing to publish at the end of it.
"Well, Severus?" asked Albus, for once not twinkling at him but earnestly awaiting his decision.
Giving his answer to Albus' former student, Severus replied, "Very well, Mr Scamander. What would you have me do?"