The Magic Word

By Lucy Potter

Word Count: 1472

Rating: PG (Violence and minor swearing)

Summary: Sirius encounters a young woman (could be Luna) who says something to him that later changes his reaction to Severus at the Shrieking Shack, making this event go much better.

Image Credit: Warner Brothers



Snape had his wand pressed into his neck.


“I could do it, you know,” he hissed. “But why deny the Dementors? They’re so longing to see you.”


Sirius’s mouth went dry, visions of the ghastly, dark, cold (so cold) monsters flashing in front of his mind’s eye. ‘No,’ he thought. ‘Anything but them.’


Maliciously, Snape jeered, “Do I detect a flicker of fear? The Dementor’s kiss… One can only imagine what that must be like to endure.” He stepped forward, almost looming over Sirius as he stumbled back into the edge of what might be a table, breath quickening as his heart raced. “It’s said to be nearly unbearable to witness, but I’ll do my best.”


“Severus, please…” Remus begged somewhere off to his left.


Sirius could feel he was running out of time. Peter was going to get away. Again. As he was scrabbling for even an iota of an idea on how he could get out of this, something he could say to make Snape bugger off once and for all, a recent memory sprang out from the depths of his mind…


He was Snuffles, mangy and skinny, loping through the cobbled streets of Diagon Alley. Currently, he was on the quieter side of the street near the Alley’s few residential buildings. Poking around for a spot to lie down out of the way from the passersby, he heard a high-pitch voice call, “Doggy! Here, doggy! I got some caramel cobwebs for you!”



  • Despite knowing he shouldn’t, Snuffles perked up at the shouting and looked in the direction of the voice. It was a girl across the street. He never spent much time around children, but she appeared to be nearly Hogwarts age. Making her maybe nine or ten. Her long, brown hair was in disarray and her eyes red-rimmed. Snuffles immediately worried for her. Who upset her? He glanced to his left, to his right. He saw no other children. Pity, if he’d seen a smug or mean-looking little git, he’d have bit them right on the arse for the girl.



Cautiously, Snuffles went to the girl. She grinned brightly, showing off a gap between her two front teeth. It was endearing, Sirius thought. The girl crouched beside him and held out her hand. In it, as she promised, was a caramel cobweb. He immediately took it and wolfed it down. Once finished, he sat on his haunches and looked at the girl with an expectant expression.


“Sorry, boy,” she apologized. “That’s all I have.” Her expression darkened. “Stupid Jimmy stole the rest of mine after he messed up my hair.” Fresh tears sprang to her eyes. “I braided it all by myself this morning,” she explained to Snuffles. “And he ruined it.” Absently, the girl reached out and pet him along his spine. “I told him that, too, you know. But he just laughed.” Face taking on a wistful, angry look she grumbled, “I wish I knew the secret word to make him stop and listen to me.”


Snuffles had nothing he could offer the girl other than a gentle lick to her cheek and a sympathetic whimper. And, for the moment, it appeared to work. The girl cheered up considerably and when she found a stick to throw, he deigned to play fetch with her for a while. After a time, she said she had to go in for lunch and told him how nice a doggy he was before disappearing into the apartment building behind her.


Snuffles hung around the apartments for a couple of days after that, just out of sight, watching, waiting, for the little prat Jimmy to show his face and pick on the girl again. Soon enough, the git did just that. Seizing on his chance, he leaped out of his spot and went and nipped the boy right on the arse while he was pushing the girl around.


Jimmy cried out in pain and outrage while the little girl fell into a fit of spritely, delighted giggles.


He had to leave after that. Snuffles hid away in Knockturn for a few days, before vacating the familiar streets altogether to evade detection and discovery by anyone who might want to capture or kill him. There was no way for him to know if Jimmy stopped being such a little pissant after he bit the boy’s bum, but he sure hoped he thought twice before picking on the girl again.


The little girl may not have known the secret word to make Jimmy stop his bullying, but Sirius knew exactly what to say to make Snape pause. The moment Snape whipped his wand away from his neck, Sirius cried, “Snape! For once in your bloody life, keep your ugly beak out of this. It’s not about you! This is about justice for Harry! James,” he paused for all of a second. Staring into the black, hateful cesspools that Snape called eyes, he added, “For Lily.”


Remus’s breath hitched audibly as the ugly twist of Snape’s lips shifted from vindictiveness and anger to contempt. “Is it, now?”


Sirius nodded vigorously. “Merlin, yes!” Never, in his youth, not while he was going mad in Azkaban, certainly not since he had escaped, had Sirius thought he’d get on his knees for Snape. All the same, he did. Holding up empty, entreating hands, he told the man, “Hate me.” He took a steadying breath and put more thought into his next words than he had into any he’d said in a very, very long time. “Hate me all you want. I did some shite to you growing up, I won’t lie.” He wanted to add, ‘And you threw some back.’ But Sirius thought better of it. Now was time for the magic words. The time to say things that in any other situation he’d choose to slit his wrists first, instead.


He needed to stay focused on the goal. Peter Pettigrew had to pay for what he did.


“You know me. James, Lily, were some of my best mates. I’d have never sold them out.” His gaze flickered to Remus. The other man’s hands were twisted in his shirt, nerves having no doubt got the better of him. He could see in his friend’s eyes that he thought Sirius was a dead man walking. “Nor would Remus.” Returning his gaze to Snape’s impassive face, he explained, “There was another of us, though, who did.” Sirius didn’t dare turn his head in the direction of Harry, his friends, and Peter, but all the same he made a large gesture of looking in their direction. “If you’ll just let me up, I and Remus can prove to you just how alive and well the rat is.”


Snape’s eyes darted in the direction of the children and Peter before he returned his hateful eyes back on Sirius. A small, troubled frown was starting in the corners of his mouth. A beat of long, tense silence followed. His wand stayed raised during this time.


Fearing the worst, Sirius whispered, “Please.”


It seemed Sirius finally found not just the secret word, but also the most secret word as Snape lowered his wand.


He began to breathe a little easier.


Suddenly, Remus cried, “Harry, no!”




Later, when Peter was on his way to Azkaban, and the taste of freedom was nearly on his tongue, Sirius asked (because he had to know), “Why? Why did you lower your wand?”


Snape stared at him like he was as brainless as the muck on the tip of his shoe. It ignited the hate he held for the man so strongly he had to bite his tongue hard enough to taste blood to stop himself from decking Snape right there. Snape might think him an idiot, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to answer Sirius’s question.


Then, to prove him right, Snape sighed. “You said please,” he replied. Looking away from him, Snape crossed his arms and explained, “There were two possibilities then. You were either not Sirius Black or…” he tapered off.


Impatient, Sirius pressed, “Or what?”


The other man still wouldn’t look at him. Quietly, Snape said, “You were telling the truth.” He met Sirius’s gaze once more, something undeniably vulnerable lurking in the depths of his fathomless black eyes. “When you began to grovel, I knew,” Snape confided in Sirius. “Potter to you was what Lily was to me. Everything. Since he was your everything, I decided to trust that you meant what you were saying and you would bring justice to not only him, but Lily.”


Left speechless, Sirius could only track Snape with his eyes as he took his leave from the room.



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