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Lily's Thorn

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Hermione came over early the next morning. She had the same reaction to the exercising that he did - how was Severus in such good shape? Of course, she took everything in stride, as if it was all a challenge. It was just something else that she needed to excel at because she excelled at everything. She was Hermione, after all. She hadn't brought a spare set of clothes, though, so she used spells to quickly clean them after all the exercising they had done. They had a spare bathroom downstairs, so she used that while Harry and Severus used both of the bathrooms upstairs. 

Potions was next, and Hermione got a warning from Severus not to help him. To her credit, she tried really hard not to, only merely offering a suggestion or two. Severus nodded and gave him more pointers for next time. Harry was determined not to need any suggestions one day.

After lunch was Harry's favorite part of the day - defense. He wondered how things were going to work now that Hermione was here, and quickly found out when Severus said that he and Hermione would be dueling each other. Severus watched. Harry surprised himself a bit by beating Hermione. He thought they would be more evenly matched.

"Miss Granger," Severus said, annoyance laced in his voice, "there is no reason as to why he should be beating you."

Harry took a bit of offense to that but put it aside. After he beat her again, Severus walked over to Hermione and stood behind her. Leaning down, he whispered something to her. Harry saw his father's lips moving but couldn't hear a word he was saying. Hermione's expression turned from neutral to one that seemed to be one of determination. The next time they dueled, she got the better of him, and he had a hard time beating her again after that.

After lunch, Harry and Hermione were in his room studying. Moirai was curled up in between them as Hermione was helping him get caught up on Arithmancy and Ancient Runes. "What did he say to you?" he asked.

Hermione paused for a second. "He told me that I should stop thinking about you as my best friend while we were dueling," she said softly. "He told me to think of you as the enemy, to try to put myself in the proper mindset. Then, he told me what you would do to me and my parents if you were." 

Harry looked up at her. "That sounds like him ," he told her. It wasn't typical motivation but seemed to have worked.

"It's a shame I'm not coming back until later this week, at least I assume."

"Yeah, I don't see what the big deal is," Harry told her. "I don't see why you can't come back more often."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Honestly," she said, shaking her head. "Isn't it obvious?" When he just stared at her, she went on. "He wants to spend time with you. Yes, all of this is necessary, but he doesn't want me around all the time, because then the two of you can't be alone. This is his way. He's very private after all, isn't he?"

Harry felt like a real idiot after that. Of course, why hadn't he thought of that before? "Yeah, I guess that makes sense."

"You two have to find a way to deal with this on your own, and you can't do that with anyone else around," she explained. "You two need to be alone, and your time alone will be very limited once we start school, especially with him being a teacher and all."

Harry nodded. "Yeah, that makes sense," he said, still feeling like a bit of an idiot. He was still coming to terms with everything, but he was beginning to slowly realize over the past few days that the new arrangement wasn't all bad.

As dinner neared, Severus came up and told Hermione it was time to leave and that she could come back on Thursday. Hermione wanted to stay until Occlumency, but that wasn't happening. It was clear that he didn't want her staying all night since she'd been here all day. He had a spare Occlumency book, and gave it to her, telling her to start with meditation. He told her the basics and then told her to leave. 

Harry and Severus cooked dinner and played some chess before Severus went down to work for a while. They practiced their meditation before going to bed. 

~~~~~~~~~~

The next day, Severus had a Fidelius Charm put on the house, to protect it and them. He knew it was because of him, and he also knew it was necessary. Dumbledore came over to perform and then gave them pieces of paper to allow people - such as Hermione, Draco, or anyone else who might need to come over- in the house. 

A couple of days later, Severus let Harry go over to Draco's to fly for a while. He made the mistake of mentioning to the blond that Hermione had been over, helping him. 

"Why in Merlin's name would you do that?" he asked, shocked and offended. "And why wouldn't you ask me for help when I already offered?"

Honestly, that thought hadn't even occurred to Harry. After all, it wasn't as if they were friends - then again, what else would they be? "We ran into each other in Diagon Alley," he said, "and we got to talking a bit, and she offered to help. I said, yes. I'm sorry, I just didn't remember that you offered, too."

Draco was clearly offended that he seemed to have chosen Hermione over him. He actually felt bad, because the blond hadn't been all that bad. Besides, if he was going to be sorted into Slytherin, it wouldn't do to be making enemies before school even started - especially not with Draco Malfoy. "Look, you can come over tomorrow afternoon," he told him, hoping that smoothed things over. "I need all the help I can get."

Unfortunately, Harry didn't realize at the time that tomorrow meant the same day that Hermione was coming over. In fact, it didn't occur to him until Draco walked into his room. Surely, Severus must have realized Hermione was up there, too, but had still allowed Draco to come up. Draco looked clearly shocked to see Hermione lying on his bed, one hand scratching Moirai and another writing notes.

"Now, look, Draco," he said, "she's my friend, too. I don't care about the whole Pureblood hatred for Muggleborns thing, so you will just have to deal with it."

To Draco's credit, he didn't insult her the rest of the afternoon, but he wasn't overly kind, either. That didn't seem to bother Hermione any, and it was a step in the right direction. After all, he wasn't asking them to like each other or anything. He just didn't want Draco making her cry or having either of them trying to hex - or punch or slap - the other.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The next two weeks went pretty much the same. The daily routine was long, but Harry came to like it. In fact, when it came time for him to go to Hogwarts with Severus, he was actually going to miss the routine. His relationship with Severus was… coming along. At least that was the only way to put it that he could think of. After all, there were still moments when he wanted to scream at him, but he was also beginning to really like having him around, too. They didn't always see eye-to-eye or get along, but that was only to be expected. They seemed to have grown to understand each other, which considering where they were when this month started… that was saying a lot.

On his last day with Draco before leaving, the blond finally took Harry back to the music room he'd showed him during one of his previous visits. "I did tell you I would play for you," he said, sitting down on the piano bench. Harry was content to just stand there and listen to him. Draco, however, just looked at him. He motioned to the empty spot next to him on the bench. "Well, sit down, I don't bite. Unless you want me to, of course." A smirk crossed Draco's lips at that remark.

Harry had no idea how to take that remark. He just stared at him for a bit before sitting down next to him. Draco still had that blasted smirk on his face. They sat there together for a bit before Draco cleared his throat, put his fingers on the keys, and began to play.

Harry almost expected Draco to be mediocre because he couldn't be good at this. It just didn't seem to be in character. He was wrong about that, though. Draco was actually very good. He didn't recognize the song that he was playing. It was beautiful, soft and passionate. He didn't know that Draco could feel any of those things, let alone play it.

When Draco finished playing, he took his hands off the keys, and then looked over at Harry. "You see? I can play."

"Yeah, you can," Harry said. "You're very good."

"I know," Draco said, that dreaded smirk playing on his lips again. Harry wanted to slap it off his face. "I sing too if you remember me saying."

"I do remember," Harry said. "Will you sing for me?" He was curious now that he'd heard the blond play. 

Draco never let the smirk leave his lips. "No. Always leave your public wanting more."

Harry rolled his eyes and levelled Draco with a glare. "You're an arrogant little shit. You know that?"

That smirk continued to play on Draco's lips, and it annoyed Harry more and more. "Yes, but I'm that way for a very good reason."

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hermione mentioned something on her last day with them about missing the training. Severus basically said that it couldn't be helped, because while he was free to teach his son anything he wanted, the same didn't go for her. She started muttering about a secret place and then gasped. "Professor, if there was somewhere… private, where we absolutely wouldn't be bothered by anyone, could this continue, once a week if possible?" she asked. "After all, we can come up with an excuse if we need to."

Severus studied for a moment. "Yes, I suppose."

"What about the Chamber of Secrets?" Hermione suggested. "After all, Harry is the only one who can get in." 

Honestly, it was genius. "Very well," Severus agreed. Hermione beamed. "In the mornings, when there aren't Quidditch games, we can practice defense." That was good enough for her. 

Besides, if Ron and I could go in as much as we did second year, this shouldn't be a problem, Harry thought to himself.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The month was almost over. School started in a week, so they had packed the night before, and Flooed to Hogwarts with all of their stuff. Severus had his trunk redone while had he had been over at Draco's, so now it said JAS instead of HJP. "Where am I staying for the next week?" Harry asked as they walked into the room.

"Obviously, with me," Severus drawled as if that was the most obvious thing in the world. "The couch can be transfigured into a bed at night. We are about three doors down from my office and the Potions Classroom. I will spell the door to allow you entry whenever you wish."

Harry nodded. He hadn't been officially sorted yet, so it wasn't as if he could stay in one of the dorms. Besides, he doubted that Severus would let him stay there all by himself anyway. It should have been obvious that he would stay here. It made him feel comfortable knowing that he could come here whenever he wanted, though.

He looked around the room. There were two chairs and a small table by the fireplace that they had come out of. On the wall to his left next to the door was a desk. In front of him was a coffee table and a couch. On the other side of the door was a tall bookshelf. Past the living room in front of him was the kitchen, with a small, rounding dining room table and two chairs. The couch and armchairs were black; everything else was brown, and the walls were spelled a light beige. There was a small hallway beyond that, which he assumed led to Severus's bedroom and the bathroom.

Harry moved his trunk over the corner, feeling a bit weird that he had to live out his father's living room for a week. It was only for a week. Of course, after that, who knows how often they would see each other? He let Moirai out of her cage, and she proceeded to start sniffing around.

Severus must have seen something in the look on Harry's face right then, because the next thing Harry knew, he was standing beside him. "Perhaps, we should come up with a new arrangement," Severus told him. When Harry looked confused, he continued. "We have had a routine, one which we cannot continue now. We will see quite a bit of each other over the next week, but you have a lot of studying, which must take priority. Perhaps, dinner one night a week, and then you can come over Sunday afternoon, and we can… play chess? If you want, and don't have anything else to do, of course."

Harry smiled brightly. "I like that idea," he said. "I was afraid… I thought maybe…"

"We will continue to adjust," Severus said with a nod as he went to his bedroom. He came out a few minutes later, saying something about taking Harry to the staff meeting briefly.

Harry blinked. "What? Why?"

"To meet your teachers, of course," Severus said as if the answer was obvious.

"But I - Oh. Right." Harry had been about to say that he already knew them, but Jacob didn't, of course, and he actually didn't know his Arithmancy and Ancient Runes teachers - provided he passed the entrance tests, of course. 

~~~~~~~~~~

Severus led Harry out of the dungeons. The staff meeting took place up in the teacher's lounge a few floors above them. The boy was quiet, and he wondered how he was going to adjust. Yes, he was talking to Draco as Jacob, and even Hermione while Draco was around. Harry had met with some of the other Slytherins once, and the Weasleys. However, this was different. This was fully immersing himself in his new life.

While the adjustment hadn't been easy on either of them, Severus admitted that he liked having Harry around. A month ago, he would have poisoned anyone who suggested that. Of course, a month ago, he didn't know that Harry was his son. They were still adjusting, but things were better. They were more comfortable around each other now. School would change things, but hopefully not too much. Harry had seemed pleased with his suggestion, but tests and homework would change things for both of them. Severus didn't want things to slip backward, so to speak. He still wasn't entirely sure what he was doing.

Upon arrival at the teacher's lounge, Severus found he was last to arrive. This was unusual, but not unexpected. He knew there was a chance he might be late because he stayed longer at the house to get more time there with Harry. However, since the meeting hadn't officially started yet, he wasn't overly concerned about that fact. 

"Ah, Severus, you've arrived," said Dumbledore brightly. "And you've brought young Jacob, wonderful to see you again. Doing well, my boy?" 

Harry just nodded. Severus introduced one by one, though granted he knew most of them. Appearances must be kept up. Harry muttered hello, giving a weak wave of his hand. There were shocked looks on some of the faces of his colleagues, almost as if they thought this might have been some sort of elaborate joke.

"Now that we are all acquainted, you have some entrance exams to do, yes?" Dumbledore asked. "As I will be administering your Defense exam, perhaps we should get that over with tomorrow?" Harry nodded. "Great. I'm sure you can get your Potions one out of the way tomorrow, as well." A schedule was quickly hashed out.

Severus wrote it down for Harry:

Monday - Defense (am) & Potions (pm)

Tuesday - Charms (am) & Transfiguration (pm)

Wednesday - Herbology (am) & Astronomy (midnight)

Thursday - History of Magic (am) & Care of Magical Creatures (pm)

Friday - Ancient Runes (am)

Saturday - Arithmancy (am)

This would give them Sunday morning and afternoon together before the feast that night when all the students arrived, and the sorting. After that, Severus told Harry he could go back to his room now. He knew that the boy was uncomfortable. 

"I had no idea that you had a son, Severus," said little Filius Flitwick from Severus's right. "All these years…"

Severus scoffed. "Obviously, neither did I or he would have been here," he said.

"How has he been adjusting?" Minerva asked.

"As well as can be expected," Severus said. "Now, last time I checked, we were here for a staff meeting, were we not? Which does not include discussion about my and my son's life." Just because he had a son now, did not mean that he wanted to spend the entire meeting talking about it. It didn't concern anyone else.

~~~~~~~~~~~

After Severus got back from the meeting, they played some chess before dinner, which they ate in the room. It wasn't as if Harry had expected to eat in the Great Hall with only the teachers there. They played another game after that before going to bed. After breakfast, Harry made his way to Dumbledore's office, uttering the password that Severus had given him. The gargoyle moved aside, and Harry walked up and knocked on the door.

"Come in," Dumbledore beckoned from the other side. Harry walked in, and there was Dumbledore, sitting on the other side of the desk, the familiar twinkle in his eye. "I would tell you to sit, but that's not necessary. Considering what you accomplished earlier this year, and before that… I don't think a Defense exam is necessary. You have more than proved yourself."

Harry blinked at him. "So, I can go."

Dumbledore smiled at him and nodded, and Harry left. He went back to Severus's rooms and told him what had happened. Severus didn't seem surprised. "So, just Potions this afternoon and then -"

"Not necessary," said Severus. "You have proved that you are capable of handling the coursework."

Harry beamed. "Thank you!"

"Do not thank me," Severus said. "You did the work."

"With your help," Harry said, still smiling.

Charms and Transfiguration went well. Transfiguration wasn't his best, but he had completed the task well enough that McGonagall passed him. Herbology, Astronomy, and History of Magic went well enough. None of the teachers were giving him full tests, but merely a task or two that he should know at this stage and a couple of questions to prove his knowledge. 

Care of Magical Creatures was…. interesting. Harry had met Professor Grubbly-Plank last year. She had a foal Unicorn and asked him questions about it as well as asking him to do a few things. It was relatively easy, as he remembered it from last year. He wondered where Hagrid was, though. Severus wouldn't say anything or even hint if it was Order business. Harry thought it was, though.

~~~~~~~~~~

Severus knew that Harry was most worried about his last two tests. He passed his Ancient Runes exam. He admitted that he was proud of him. After all, how many people could learn enough in two weeks of a subject they'd never taken. They were playing a game of chess before Harry went to study for his last exam tomorrow. That was when he heard the Floo went off beside them. He looked over to see Dumbledore's face looking at them.

"Sorry for the interruption," Dumbledore said, though he didn't truly sound sorry. He sounded distracted almost. "Severus, I'm afraid I must pull you away from Harry. I have called an emergency staff meeting."

Severus nodded. "I will be there shortly." Dumbledore's head disappeared. "I will be back soon." Harry nodded, and with that, Severus was out the door. He made his way up to the teacher's lounge. Everyone arrived shortly, and finally, Dumbledore told them why they were all there.

"I have received a letter from the Ministry just now," he said. "I was informed that the Ministry has passed Educational Decree Number Twenty-Two. It allows the Ministry to appoint a teacher if I cannot find one."

"They haven't -" began Minerva, but Dumbledore cut her off.

"They have. I was informed that Minister has appointed his Senior Undersecretary, Dolores Umbridge to be Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher." There was some muttering around the table. Severus groaned. Dumbledore could have solved this issue by giving me the job. Dumbledore held up a hand to silence the muttering. "I know what you're thinking. We can't do anything about this situation. Therefore, we must do our best to make her feel welcome. Also, I would like to add that it would be in our best interests if you do your best not to piss off the Ministry."

Dumbledore didn't have to look at him; Severus knew he was talking about him. He rolled his eyes. The Headmaster dismissed them soon afterward, and Severus went back down to his rooms to find Harry curled up on the couch with his cat, studying. 

"So, what was that about?" Harry asked as he put the book down on the coffee table. Severus figured that he would find out soon enough, so he told him what happened. Harry was understandably shocked. "Why would the Ministry do that?"

"They obviously don't trust Dumbledore," Severus said, "although that's nothing new. They are interfering. Dumbledore said we should try not to piss off the Ministry while we're at it." Harry had seen the Daily Prophet articles, though they had been rather distracted as of late. 

"Was he talking about you when he said that?"

Severus smirked. "Yes, he was. I wish to say the same to you. Remember, you are not Harry Potter any more. Things are different now." As his son, Harry would be treated differently now.

Harry nodded. "Okay, I'll do my best." They continued their chess after that before Harry studied for his last test - which again, he passed.

~~~~~~~~~~

On Sunday, it was the night of the feast - and his new sorting. He and Severus talked and played chess all day before they had to go to the Great Hall, as the students would be arriving soon from the train. "What am I supposed to do?" he asked. 

"You will be in the room behind the teacher's table until Dumbledore announces you," Severus explained, "and then you will be brought out to be sorted before the first years arrive."

Yeah, that's right… Harry would be sorted alone. Better, he supposed, than being sorting along with a bunch of first years, seeing as how he was fifteen and not eleven. It was still going to be awkward. 

Harry was ushered into the room, and it felt like he was back there for ages. At first, it was just the noise from Severus and the other adults. Then, the noise on the other side of the door got louder and louder as the students arrived and started sitting down. Meanwhile, Harry just paced. He wanted this done. He was more anxious now than during any of the entrance tests. Eventually, the noise died down, and Dumbledore started speaking. Harry could hear pretty well from his vantage on the other side of the door. He knew the "start of term" stuff took place after the sorting, so the words were short. 

"Welcome, students. I have a couple of things that I need to announce before we can continue with the sorting," Dumbledore said. "As you may have noticed, the Gryffindor table is missing someone. Harry Potter received an owl over the summer inviting him to a school out of the country and has decided to take it. We, of course, wish him all the best." Harry figured that was an excuse because he could have sworn that Severus told him the excuse to the order was going to be 'training.' "With that being said, we also have a new transfer student! I would like you all to welcome Professor Snape's son, Jacob, from the Ireland School of Magic, who will be entering as a fifth year."

That was his cue, although, did Dumbledore really have to say he was Severus's son? The last name and the resemblance should have made it obvious. Harry exited the room. Harry could feel every eye on the Hall on him right now, and it made him want to go and bury himself somewhere. He could hear the whispers coming from the students, and it made him want to run back into the room to hide. He found his father's face from the other side of McGonagall's vacant seat. He walked around the teacher's table, keenly feeling the eyes of the entire population of Hogwarts - minus the First Years, of course - as he walked over to the stool. Professor McGonagall was standing there next to it, the scroll in her hand. The hat was sitting upon it. Harry could feel his heart beating rapidly inside of his chest.

"Place the Sorting Hat on your head, sit on the stool and be sorted into your house," she said simply, gesturing to the stool and the hat.

Harry took a deep breath. His mind flashed back to his first sorting, which seemed like such a long time ago now. He picked up the hat, sat down, and put it on his head. He felt the hat fall down around his ears, and suddenly, felt like an eleven-year-old again. 

"Well, well, you again," the hat whispered in his ear. "I must admit, I am a bit surprised to see you again, especially under these circumstances. Besides, I don't typically sit on someone's head more than once, and you I have three times. You were rather difficult to place last time, but I wonder, are you going to disagree with me this time? No, I don't think so. I won't give you the chance. I am going to put you where you should have been in the first place." With that, the hat opened its brim wide and yelled, "SLYTHERIN!"

Some boos and jeers were coming from the other three houses, but Slytherin screamed with joy. He quickly got up, put the Sorting Hat back on the chair. Harry let out a breath he didn't even know he had been holding and quickly made his way to the Slytherin table, opposite from where he usually sat. He had expected this, although admittedly he was a bit disappointed. Things were much better this way. He found a convenient empty spot next to Draco and watched as McGonagall led the First Years in.