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Lily's Thorn

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Severus had just gotten into bed, planning to read for a bit before going to sleep himself. He, of course, wanted to be up earlier than Harry, as he had this morning. At that moment, though, the Dark Mark began to burn on his left forearm. He grit his teeth, gripping the forearm. He had known one was coming. He would have to worry about it at school, at least not as much. He still must go every time it burned. Heaven forbid Dumbledore lost his spy… Groaning, he quickly dressed and made his way downstairs and straight for the door.

That was when it hit him. He had a kid. He couldn't very well just leave because he had no idea when he would be back. The Dark Lord might keep him for a day or two, or maybe just a few hours. Sighing, he turned around and walked back upstairs, straight to Harry's room. The boy was sleeping soundly for once, though for how long that would be, he wasn't sure. 

Severus leaned down, removing his right hand from the Dark Mark on his left forearm. He reached out and gently shook Harry awake. The boy slowly began to wake, blinking at him groggily in confusion. "I have to go." His words didn't seem to sink in, because he got the same confused look in the boy's green eyes. " He calls. I have to go." Harry nodded. "I don't know when I'll be back." With that, he swept out of the room.

In a short time, he had Apparated to the Dark Lord's current hideout; his Death Eater mask firmly in place. He made sure his mental wards were up, too - now more than ever, it was important that the Dark Lord be kept out. There were others approaching it as well, and as he went inside, a few more were in there, as well. He immediately found Lucius, though, of course, he didn't acknowledge him. He could always pick his old friend out, even in Death Eater's robes. Lucius had a distinct way of walking and moving about him. Besides, it was always a good idea to know where he was.

Severus and the others immediately bowed to the Dark Lord, going to their knees in submission and keeping their heads low. 

"Rise, my loyal subjects," the Dark Lord said from his place at the front of the room. "Tell me, what is the news from the Ministry?" Severus could feel a few of his fellow Death Eater's stiffening a little bit and knew that was not a good sign. None immediately piped up. The Dark Lord immediately became enraged when no one answered him. He drew his wand, yelling, " Crucio!" at a random Death Eater. Severus did not turn to see who it was. "I ask again… what is the news at the Ministry?" There was a warning tone to his voice, and a shiver of fear went through the Death Eaters.

"M-my lord," said a voice that Severus recognized but could not immediately place. "The Ministry doesn't trust Dumbledore. Rumor has it that Fudge thinks that Dumbledore is trying to usurp him."

"We have also been slow in infiltrating the Ministry higher up, my lord," said another voice. "We are making progress, though, just not as quickly as originally anticipated."

The Dark Lord raised his wand and Crucioed someone else. Severus couldn't tell if it was one of the people who had spoken up or some other poor sap. "What is the news from Hogwarts?" Though he did not say his name, everyone knew who the Dark Lord was speaking to.

"Hogwarts is unchanged, my lord. Dumbledore has been unsuccessful in finding a new Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher," Severus explained.

"There's a rumor at the Ministry that Fudge will make a nomination himself before long, in an attempt to keep Dumbledore in check," said the second voice from earlier.

The Dark Lord seemed a bit more satisfied with that. There were brief talks about other things before the Death Eaters were excused to leave. Severus, of course, stayed behind. Once everyone had left, the Dark Lord beckoned him forward. "Something else you wish to say, Severus?" he asked. "Something you didn't wish to say in front of the others."

"Yes, my lord," Severus said, getting off the floor and making his way to the Dark Lord's side. "I recently discovered a few days ago that I… have a son. One that was I was unaware of."

"Oh? Who was the mother?"

"Selene Vorchester, little known pure-blood," Severus said. "We had a one night stand that apparently resulted in a child. I was contacted by a distant cousin of hers that raised the boy after her death many years ago. The cousin was apparently on her deathbed."

"The boy is with you now, then?" The Dark Lord asked. 

Severus nodded. "I have already introduced him to Draco," he said.

"Good." The Dark Lord nodded. "Will he serve me willingly… when the time comes?"

A wave of anger rushed through Severus, but he kept his mental wards firmly in place. He also kept his emotions firmly buried. "I will make certain of it, my lord," Severus said respectfully. He was then excused soon afterward.

Severus went home and went immediately to bed. He knew he wasn't going to sleep that well tonight, though. He never slept well after a Death Eater meeting.


Harry awoke the next morning. His memory came back of Severus waking him up, telling him he was leaving for a Death Eater meeting. He could smell food from the kitchen, so he was back at least. He wondered when Severus had gotten back last night.

Harry walked in. "Morning," he greeted. He grabbed a cup of coffee as Severus finished up the food and brought it to the table. He looked up at Severus and wondered if he should ask. What had happened?

"If you're wondering, I am fine," Severus said, not looking up at him. "If there is something that you need to know, trust that I would tell you when the time is appropriate." 

Harry nodded, hating that he was so transparent sometimes. After they finished eating, it was time for exercising. Harry dreaded this part after yesterday, and it wasn't any easier today. When they got back, they showered quickly before having a snack. Then, it was time for potions. Harry received another parchment with a potion on it that he had to complete. He tried to be more precise, but it still wasn't good enough. He wondered how much he would need to put in before Severus would be satisfied. 

After that, it was Harry's favorite part of the day - defense training. He didn't care if Severus was better than him right now. It only made him more determined to beat him one day. After that, they ate lunch. Then, Harry was put to work studying. Ancient Runes and Arithmancy was going to be tough. Even with the sheets of parchment that Severus had given to him to help him learn, it was still going to be tough. He had hoped at first that it might help break down the book; it was still a lot to learn over the next two weeks. 

Harry took a break later and played with Moirai. Actually, she insisted that he put his attention from the books to her by practically laying on them. He moved the books and played with her until she decided she was bored, and the kitten went to curl up in the corner of the bed and take a nap. He went back to studying after that for a bit until dinner time. He and Severus played chess afterward until Severus went downstairs to do some work. 

Harry read and listened to music until Severus came upstairs for Occlumency. After last night, he was a bit nervous about doing it again. The older man materialized a chair to sit in. Moirai got startled and ran underneath the bed. "This time, pay attention," Severus told him as he sat down.

Harry glared at him. "I do pay attention," he told him.

Severus glared back at him, but then closed his eyes. Harry did the same. Last night didn't go any better. It was so hard to just sit there and do nothing . He knew this was supposed to help him focus or whatever, but how were you just supposed to stop your mind from thinking? Or only thinking about one thing? That didn't even make sense to him.

"You can open your eyes now," Severus said. Harry did as he was told. "Did you concentrate this time?"

"I wasn't trying not to concentrate," Harry told him. "Look, how are you just supposed to… stop doing and thinking? How are supposed to think about one thing and stop everything else?"

Severus gave a heavy sigh. "Perhaps I was not clear on that," he told him. "When meditating, you are not supposed to stop all thought completely. That would be most difficult, even for the most trained mind. You are not supposed to stop thinking altogether. Just being able to turn your focus away from whatever you are thinking about and turn it towards your mental walls. Eventually, it'll come easier."

Harry nodded. Severus sounded annoyed, but he gave the man credit for not yelling at him after he failed two nights in a row. "I really need to learn this, don't I?" He knew Severus was right about needing it when he eventually faced Voldemort, but he knew it was more than that, too. "I'll keep trying." 

Severus nodded. "See that you do." With that, he stood up and vanished the chair. "See you in the morning."


Harry and Severus went through their normal morning routine until it was time to leave. He wanted to forget that he'd agreed to go back over to Malfoy Manor, but Severus wouldn't let him. Once again, he found himself at Malfoy Manor. It seemed as if he had just been here. In fact, he had just been here a couple of days ago. He didn't want to be there now, and he hated that his 'new life' was making him be around them more. There wasn't much he could do about that, though. 

Harry was led up to Draco's room. There was most of the fifth year Slytherins and then some. It was a lot more people than he had been expecting. He wanted to turn around and leave right then. This was way too many Slytherins for him to deal with right now. How was he going to do this? They were all staring at him. He swallowed any flight reflex he might have been having at the moment. He was a Gryffindor; he was no coward. He didn't run away from a fight.

"Well, don't just stand there, come on in," Draco said, beckoning him inside. "We don't bite." There were chairs of various kinds set up around the room. Draco and a few of the girls, Pansy included, were sitting on his bed. Everyone else was spread around near it on the chairs. There was one chair left, closest to the bed where Draco was sitting. He walked over and sat down quietly without saying a word. "Well, since he isn't going to introduce himself, this is Jacob, the one I was just telling you all about." 

Draco went around and introduced everyone to him. Of course, he knew most of them already — almost all of the fifth-year Slytherins, minus Millicent Bulstrode. Pansy Parkinson explained that they had invited her, but she declined, citing that she had a family thing to do today. There were three of the seventh-year Slytherins - Pucey, Montague, and Warrington. There were also two fourth-years that Harry had never seen before, a boy and a girl. 

The boy was tall, with shoulder-length blond hair and blue eyes. He had a cold expression and only nodded when his name (Marcus Truchet) was said. He was sitting right next to the only girl he hadn't known, whose name was Salenia White. She was tall, as well, with long, curly red hair, light freckles, and green eyes. They were both very thin. Salenia greeted him warmly, coming over and hugging him. He found that very odd coming from a Slytherin.

"Draco told us everything," said Pansy from her place on the bed next to Draco. "It's so awful. How could everyone have lied to you like that? So terrible."

Pansy didn't sound like she actually felt bad for him, as the only thing Harry heard in her voice was fake sincerity. "I've been asking myself the same question," he said in response. "I guess we'll never know." 

"Are you excited about going to Hogwarts?" Tracey Davis asked. 

Harry nodded. "Yes," he said. "I've heard a lot of good things about it. Everyone's heard of Hogwarts, of course, but Severus has told me some things over the past… what, five days or so." Had it really been five days already? It seemed like everything had just happened. It was hard to believe that five days had passed already.

"Severus?" said Crabbe from a chair to the right of Harry somewhere. "You call your father by his first name?"

Harry gave him a look that clearly said he thought he was a moron and might be one of the dumbest people on the planet. "Of course, you idiot," he told him. "I just met the man a few days ago." There were some chuckling and eye-rolling at that remark from others in the room. At least he wasn't the only one that thought that Crabbe was an idiot. 

"Hogwarts is brilliant, for the most part, anyway," said Daphne dismissively from her spot on the bed next to Pansy. 

"Yes, some of the classes are interesting, but others are just downright dull," said Elizabeth Runcorn.

"History of Magic," said Blaise Zabini. There were nods all around the room.

"That bad, huh?" Harry said, reminding himself yet again that he wasn't supposed to know these details.

"It's taught by a ghost," said Draco.

Harry just gave a light laugh, figuring that would be a good response. "Wait, you're serious? Who lets a class be taught by a ghost?" In hindsight, it did sound rather ridiculous, though he had become accustomed to it over the past four years. 

"Dumbledore," said the rest of the group in unison. 

Harry looked around the group. "That seems rather ridiculous," he settled on saying. There were nods of agreement. "What about the other classes?"

"Well, your father's class is my favorite," said Draco.

The group went around telling him how bad certain classes were. The general consensus was that Potions was good, Transfiguration wasn't bad despite being taught by the Head of Gryffindor, and Arithmancy and Ancient Runes were good, too. Charms was all right, though they didn't seem to like Flitwick very much, felt he was too soft. They didn't mind Herbology but found Astronomy boring. It pretty much went on like this until they were telling him about the teachers. Obviously, they all spoke highly of his father - being their Head of House and all. The only class they hadn't talked about in great detail was Defense Against the Dark Arts.

"What about Defense?" Harry asked. Everyone exchanged glances.

"Positions cursed," said Daphne. Harry knew that sounded ridiculous, so he scoffed. "No, really, it is. We've had a different teacher every year." There were more nods of agreement.

"There's Lockhart," said Theodore Nott from the chair next to his. 

Harry looked around the room as every single other person in the room burst out in laughter. Honestly, he would have too. But he wasn't supposed to have any prior knowledge. "Wait, Gilderoy Lockhart? The author?" he asked once the laughing had died down. "I heard he was in St. Mungo's now… That's right, he taught at Hogwarts, didn't he?" Yeah, okay, that had been a bad choice on Dumbledore's part, but surely Lockhart had been the only one who applied. Dumbledore wouldn't have hired him otherwise, right? One could only hope. 

"What a complete nutter," said Marcus. There were nods of agreement.

"That bad, huh?" Harry asked. There was a lot of eye-rolling in response. Yeah, it really had been that bad.

"Seriously, there had to have been someone better," said Blaise.

Draco scoffed. "I bet he was hoping that he would meet an 'untimely death' like Quirrell."

Harry reminded himself that he shouldn't know anything about Quirrell or what happened. He put on a confused look, or what he hoped was one. "Quirrell?"

"Our Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher our first year," Draco answered. "Something happened with Potter, though, so it was all very hush-hush, of course. Dumbledore awarded Gryffindor a lot of points after that, though, taking away the House Cup that Slytherin rightfully earned."

Harry had never thought about it from the other side. He had just wanted Slytherin to lose as much as anyone else. It never occurred to him to think about how they must have felt having Gryffindor be awarded all those points for some vague things that people only knew half-truths about.

"And then the Defense teacher our third year was a werewolf," Elizabeth said.

Harry had to think quickly about how he was supposed to feel about that. It was a lot harder than he had expected, trying to act like he didn't know anything. "A werewolf? You're joking, right?" he asked, but it was clear that they were, of course, not joking. Draco commented on Lupin's rags for clothes before Harry changed the subject. "What about last year?"

There was some eye-rolling there. "Dumbledore hired Alastor Moody," said Draco, "and the guy was a complete nutter. Acted at the end of the year like he hadn't known any of us." Honestly, Harry had to admit, it all would seem extremely mental if he didn't know first hand that it all happened. "Has your father said anything about who it's going to be this year?"

Harry shook his head. "He hasn't mentioned it much, but I don't think they've found one yet."

"School starts in less than a month," said Warrington from somewhere to his right. 

"Yeah, shouldn't Dumbledore have hired someone already?" Montague asked from his seat next to Warrington.

Harry was reduced to shrugging. He agreed, but there wasn't anything that he could say. "You would think so," he said, "but that's as much as I know. I haven't asked. We've had other things to talk about." He wanted to keep the questions off himself. "So, what about Hogwarts? You've told me about the teachers and the classes. What about the other houses?" He knew the answer to that already, or he was pretty sure he did, but it would keep them from asking questions about himself.

"Slytherin is obviously the best," Draco said. Obviously, Harry thought to himself and fought the urge to roll his eyes. 

"Of course," echoed Pansy. "The other houses are such pushovers."

There some nods and chuckles from the other group. Harry immediately felt uncomfortable and wondered if he had pushed this conversation in the wrong direction. 

"Well, the Ravenclaws are all right," said Daphne.

"Stay away from the Hufflepuffs," said Pucey from somewhere near Warrington and Montague.

"Yeah, they're pathetic," said Blaise, a condescending tone to his voice.

Harry was a bit shocked that they didn't seem to like any of the other houses, and no one had even mentioned the Gryffindors yet! He wondered if this was how all of Slytherin House thought or just Draco and his group of slightly more prejudiced Slytherins. 

"And don't even get me started on the Gryffindors," said Draco with heavy distaste in his voice. Harry regretted bringing this conversation up at all.

"Now now," said Salenia sweetly from a few chairs down, "the other houses aren't that bad." Marcus was nodding from the chair next to her, but everyone else just stared at them. "What?" She held her hands up, almost as if she was shocked at the reaction, though Harry doubted that. "Any of the other houses can be… fun and useful if you play your cards properly. We are Slytherins."

"Agreed," Marcus said. "Besides, Alana Teale is my sister. She's in Gryffindor, and she's not so bad most of the time, despite the fact that she was adopted by Muggles - which wasn't her fault, by the way. Not everyone is created equal, you know, and that goes for Slytherins, too." 

It was clear that it was not a popular opinion. After Marcus and Salenia's words, there was a lot of eye-rolling and scoffing. Harry just nodded, though. It was nice to see that maybe, just maybe, not all Slytherins felt the same way that Draco Malfoy did.

"Well, there are the Weasley twins," said Theodore.

"Oh, everyone knows they should have been in Slytherin," said Daphne.

There was some laughing at that remark. "Yeah, if Dumbledore wouldn't have died of a heart attack on the spot at a Weasley being in anything but Gryffindor," said Elizabeth, which was followed by more laughing.

There was a bit of silence before a smirk suddenly crossed Pansy's face. She looked at Salenia. "So, are you finally going to go out with Vickers this year?" she asked the redhead. "He fancies you, you know."

Salenia scoffed. "Vickers fancies anything in a skirt," she said. "I wouldn't go out with him if he was the last person alive. I'd rather go out with Goyle." At the mention of his name, Goyle opened his mouth to say something. Salenia held up a hand before he could even say a word. "That was not an offer." There were laughs from the others around at that comment, though Goyle didn't look too pleased.

After that, the conversation stayed on less serious matters. They talked about who fancied whom, who was dating whom, and all that. It was a stark contrast from the earlier conversation. Elizabeth asked him about his friends back at the school in Ireland, or if he had been seeing someone. 

Harry quickly shook his head. "I was a bit of a loner, so there was no one," he said. "I pretty much stuck to myself."

"What was the school like?" asked Draco.

Harry shrugged his shoulders. He had been afraid of this question. "It was small," he admitted, assuming that compared to Hogwarts, that would be true. "The teachers and the classes were all right, but I bet it was nothing compared to what Hogwarts is going to be like."

"Are you taking the Hogwarts Express with the rest of us?" asked Theodore.

Harry shook his head. "No, I'm going up early with my father," he admitted. "Maybe some other time." 

The conversation turned back to gossip after that. A couple of hours after he had arrived, Marcus and Salenia left. Salenia came up to him and hugged him, saying it was nice to meet him. He found it very strange. After that, as dinner got closer, more and more people started to leave until Pansy and Daphne left. That left him and Draco alone.

Draco looked over at him. "In hindsight, perhaps I shouldn't have invited so many people," he said. 

"You think?" The words were out of Harry's mouth before he could take them back, but he wondered in what universe Draco thought that this was a good idea. He had been expecting Pansy for sure, and possibly Crabbe and Goyle, maybe Blaise and Theodore, but… There had been so many more people there. It had been a bit overwhelming.

Draco just shrugged his shoulders. "Well, think of this way - you already got it out of the way? Now, at least you'll know people when school starts in a few weeks." He stood up. "Do you want a tour? You didn't get one last time."

Harry nodded. "Sure, why not?" Maybe after that, they could do some flying before Severus made him leave. It was better now that everyone else was gone, even if he still wasn't too fond of Draco. 

Draco then gave him a tour of the house - if he could call it that. Harry wasn't sure that the tour would ever end. He was most surprised by the music room. Apparently, Draco's mother thought that singing and piano lessons were a necessity that a person was supposed to be 'well rounded.' Harry couldn't believe it and commented on not believing that until he saw it. Draco volunteered to play for him, but that was when a House Elf came and told him that Severus was asking for him.

"Some other time," he told Draco.

Draco nodded. "You should come over later this week," he told him. "I can play for you, sing for you if you don't believe me, and then maybe we can play another game of Quidditch. Long time since I played anyone with your skill."

Harry smirked. "Yeah, I'll bet," he told him. "We'll see. I'm fairly busy, but I'll try." After that, he expected he and Severus were going to go home, but that was not where he was taking him.


Severus Apparated him to a dark street with a row of houses. Harry looked around. "What are we -"

"Remember what I told you before?" Severus said quickly. "About the Order?" Harry nodded. "There's a meeting tonight that I'm required to attend. Here." He handed him a piece of paper. On it was written the words Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place . "Memorize it." Harry did as he was told, and then Severus burned the paper. "Now, think about it and look at the row of houses."

Harry looked at the houses, thinking about the address. Suddenly, a house seemed to appear in between two of the others. Harry jerked back slightly. "What was that?"

"The house is protected," Severus explained, "by a Fidelius Charm. You know -"

"Yes, I know what that is," Harry said, cutting him off. 

The two of them walked up and knocked on the door. The door opened. Molly Weasley was there. "Severus," she said. "We were just expecting you." She let them in, and there were a ton of people he didn't know there, but also a few he did. Everyone seemed to be moving into the kitchen. "This must be your son. Dumbledore was telling us about him."

"Never would have thought you the type, Severus," said Arthur Weasley from behind her.

"Neither did I," said Severus in a flat tone.

Harry immediately had a feeling that he couldn't do this and backed towards the door. Severus's hand on his shoulder stopped him, though. 

"The other children are upstairs, Jacob," said Mrs. Weasley in a curt tone. She called for her children and then four redheaded teens and one bushy-haired teen appeared on the stairwell. Fred, George, and Ginny looked a bit confused. Hermione's expression was unreadable. Ron looked almost angry, and the thing that worried Harry the most was that he didn't know if that was part of the act… or if Ron really was that angry. Harry couldn't blame him; he was still angry himself.

Mrs. Weasley introduced each of them before introducing Jacob. Mr. Weasley told them to make him feel welcome. Harry, however, found he couldn't move. He backed up a step; he wanted to leave. Dealing with Draco and the other Slytherins was one thing; they didn't know him. Fred, George, Ginny… they knew him. Severus's hand was still on his shoulder, though, so he couldn't go far. He felt himself pushed forward towards the stairs and looked over at Severus.

"Go," Severus ordered, motioning towards the stairs. "They don't bite."

Harry took a deep breath and then made his way towards the stairs.  For a moment, he stood there with them before they were all ushered upstairs by Mrs. Weasley. They stood there in the hallway for a moment before Fred and George broke the silence. 

"Are you going to say hi?" Fred asked.

"Or just scowl and sneer like your dad?" George asked, finishing his brother's thought.

Harry was torn between glaring at them for that remark and laughing. The result was a bit of both. "Sorry about that," he told him. "Hello, I'm Jacob."

"We should probably stop standing in the hallway," Hermione said, ushering all of them into the nearest room. "It's nice to meet you." She held out her hand. Harry was a bit shocked, but he shook it.

"Yeah, you, too," Harry said. He had been unsure as to how they would treat him. After all, he knew these people, so it might be harder to pretend, so to speak. So far, it wasn't that bad. The twins were the twins. Ron and Ginny hadn't said anything, but Hermione was being civil. Granted, Ron and Hermione knew the truth. It turned out his bushy-haired friend was a fairly decent actress when she wanted to be - well, so far, anyway.

"So, why haven't we seen you at Hogwarts?" Hermione asked after a moment of silence. "Surely, Professor Snape would have wanted you there." 

"My mother died when I was little. My cousin raised me," he told her. "She sent me to the small school up in Ireland. I didn't know about my father until a few days ago. My cousin was dying, and she told me the truth."

"You mean they never told you?" Fred asked.

Harry shook his head. "Nope, not a word," he said.

"What did they say when you asked about him?" Ginny asked, speaking up for the first time. She didn't seem too keen on him or anything, but it seemed she was, at least, curious.

Harry shrugged. "Nothing really," he said. "The questions were always diverted. Needless to say, it's been a long week."

"So, how are you going to be sorted?" Hermione asked.

"Or are they just going to stick you in your father's house without even bothering with the Sorting Hat?" George asked with a smirk.

Harry rolled his eyes. "No, I'm going to be sorted publicly," he said. "Then, I have assessments for each class in the week before school starts to make sure that I am… up to par, so to speak."

"Well, if you need help, I'd be happy to," said Hermione.

"Yeah, Draco mentioned that you were top of the year," Harry said. "Actually, thanks. I'd appreciate the help."

"Ah, met Malfoy already have you?" Fred asked.

Harry shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah, our fathers are friends, apparently," he said. "He's an arrogant little git, but he's not that bad. Some of his friends actually mentioned you two." At that last remark, he looked at Fred and George.

"Oh, really?" asked George.

"What did they say?" Fred asked.

"That you two should have been in Slytherin," Harry said. They got a kick out of that and proceeded to start laughing. Ron, on the other hand, was not amused.

"Fitting in with the other Slytherins, aren't you?" Ron asked.

Hermione glared at him. "Ron! Jacob hasn't said one bad thing since he's come here," she said. "What's wrong with you?"

"Yeah, he's not so bad, Ron," said Fred. "Calm down."

Ron just huffed, got up, and left. 

"Sorry about our little brother," said George. "He's been a bit… sensitive lately."

It was Hermione's turn to huff now. "So, I didn't ask, do you prefer Jake or Jacob?"

Harry honestly hadn't thought about that. "Er, it doesn't matter," he said, waving off her question. "Severus calls me Jacob, but if you want to call me Jake, that's fine with me."'

"What about Jakey?" asked Fred.

Harry laughed. "I would prefer not, but if you really want to, go ahead." The twins didn't seem to care that he was Snape's son as long as he wasn't being a right git. Hermione was acting a bit stiff, but he had expected that. After all, she had to act as if she didn't know him.

They talked about, with Fred, George, Hermione, and Ginny giving their own account of Hogwarts, which differed quite greatly in some areas from what Draco and the Slytherins had told him. They didn't hold his father in such high esteem, which was only to be expected. They didn't say anything negative about the other houses, except that most Slytherins were gits towards them for being Gryffindors. Harry said that he'd already sensed as much from hearing it from the other side, so to speak.

It was a while later before they were called down. Harry took the time to pull Hermione aside and tell her what time to be there - after all, 'studying' was only a cover. Sure, there would be some of that. 

When they got downstairs, all of the Order members were leaving. He saw Dumbledore walking out without a word at all. Severus was standing there in the entryway with Mr. and Mrs. Weasley. "You two should stay for dinner," Mrs. Weasley said.

Severus shook his head. "Another time," he said. "We've had a long day. I just wish to get home."

Honestly, so was Harry. It was a bit draining having to deal with the Slytherins and then, ironically, the Gryffindors. He told himself that he would need to get used to pretending to be someone else. For right now, doing it in small doses was enough for him.

After they got home, Severus asked him how things went.

"Fine," Harry admitted. "It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Fred and George didn't seem to care, though Ginny was a bit… quiet. Ron left soon after I came in. Oh, and I told Hermione to come over first thing tomorrow morning, is that okay?" 

Severus nodded. "Yes, after all, I did say she could come over a couple of times a week," he said. "When she starts makes no difference."

The two of them ate dinner and played some chess before doing the meditation training again. Harry had a hard time concentrating because the whole day had left him rather drained, which of course, aggravated Severus. He told Harry that he needed to try harder because this was just meditation training, not Occlumency.  Harry just wanted to go to bed. Today had taught him one thing, though. He had wondered if he could do this, if he could pretend to be someone else, despite Severus saying he could. It hadn't been as bad as he had thought it would be. Maybe, just maybe, he could actually do this.