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Lily's Thorn

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Harry woke up the next morning, proud of himself that he had actually remembered to do the meditation last night before putting his silencing charms up and going to bed the night before. He still wasn’t sure he was getting the meditation right, but he trusted that Severus would keep him on the right track for this Occlumency thing he was supposed to learn. He trusted that the man knew what he was doing since Severus was apparently proficient enough for Dumbledore to want him to teach Harry. It just wasn’t easy for him, but he had promised Severus that he would try harder.

The Slytherin Fifth Years didn’t have a first class, but for the second class, they had Double Potions with the Gryffindors. The others were already bitching about it, and Harry bit his tongue, figuratively speaking, of course. He walked in, Draco right beside him as usual. He wondered how things would go. This class had been notoriously horrible for him. Things were different now, of course. Severus had passed him into the class without testing him. That meant a lot, but he was still a bit nervous.

Harry hadn’t realized that he’d stopped moving as soon as he’d walked into the dungeon classroom. People were walking in around him. His father was seated at the desk and looked up at him. Harry met his gaze and then went to sit down in an empty seat that Draco was motioning him towards.  The seat, of course, was at one of the front tables and right next to Draco. It was only then that he looked around and noticed Hermione. She was sitting at the back table in the row next to them, the table that she usually shared with Ron, and…. well, him. She was now alone, and it made him feel guilty. She waved at him and then continued to prepare herself for today’s lesson.

Harry looked over at Draco, and almost thought about moving, but that would be suspicious. Therefore, he stayed where he was. He glanced around and saw Ron sitting at the table next to hers in the row over with Dean and Seamus. Two girls whose names he didn’t know were sitting in front of them. (How did he not remember their names?) Lavender, Parvati, and Neville were sitting in the front table. Next to them, in the front of Hermione’s row, were Blaise, Elizabeth, and Millicent. He turned around to see that behind him was Theodore, who seemed to have gotten stuck with Crabbe and Goyle since Draco wanted to sit with him. Behind them were Pansy, Daphne, and Tracey.

Hermione didn’t seem to be bothered sitting by herself. She just sat there, patiently waiting for the class to start as she sat in the Slytherin-Gryffindor divide. That’s clearly what it looked like to him. All the Gryffindors were seated in the next row over except for her, and while there were Slytherins seated in the front table, the room was clearly divided between the two houses. It seems as if his best friend had chosen not to take a side.

At that moment, the door the classroom closed shut. All whispering and fidgeting stopped, and Severus walked to the front of the room. “Settle down,” he said, though the words weren’t necessary. Harry had never known his father to need to tell a class to settle down when he entered the room. His mere presence was usually more than enough for that. He started off talking about the O.W.L and the ‘high standards’ he expected from his students. He pointed out that most would not be continuing, because apparently, he required a very high grade on the O.W.L to get into his N.E.W.T’s class. 

“Miss Granger,” Severus said once he had finished talking about the O.W.L exam next June. The class, including Harry himself, all turned around to look at Hermione. She seemed to be a bit shocked at having been singled out. “While I know you think very highly of yourself, I do not allow students to sit alone in my class. Yes, I realize there are empty tables as there undoubtedly is every class; nonetheless, you must move to a different seat.”

“But -” Hermione started, but Severus cut her off.

“Do not argue with me in my own classroom. Five points from Gryffindor. If you say another word, it will be detention, and I can only imagine how embarrassing that would be for a Prefect such as yourself,” Severus said. Snickers were coming from behind Harry. “Silence.” The snickers behind him died off. “Now, move tables. There are plenty of empty seats. Miss Roper and Miss Moon have only two people at their table, as does Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Snape. Choose a different table.”

Harry hated the way Severus had spoken to Hermione, but he understood it was necessary. He could only imagine the backlash he would receive if he started being nice to her just because she was friends with his son. Hermione, meanwhile, had turned beet red. She glanced around the for a moment, before putting her stuff in her cauldron, grabbing her bag, and walked straight for Harry. She sat down next to him. The whole class started buzzing at that.

“Silence!” Severus bellowed. “I will start taking off house points and handing out detentions if I keep hearing talking in my class.” The class silenced immediately. “Now, today, you will be completing a potion that regularly comes up on the O.W.L exam - the Draught of Peace. Be warned: if you are too heavy-handed with the ingredients, you will put the drinker into a deep and sometimes irreversible sleep, so pay attention to what you are doing.” Hermione, sitting on Harry’s left, sat up a little straighter as she paid the utmost attention to what Severus was saying. “The ingredients and method are on the blackboard.” He waved his wand, and the words appeared on the board behind him. “You will find everything you need in the store cupboard.” He flicked his wand again, and the door to the cupboard swung open. “You have an hour and a half. Start.” 

Harry stared at the blackboard, dread setting in. It was the most difficult potion he’d seen, perhaps aside from the Polyjuice Potion that Hermione had brewed in their Second Year. That had been Hermione , though, not him. Severus had tested him during their few weeks together over the summer, but nothing he had done was quite like this.

As the class went on, Harry did his best, occasionally getting nudges from Draco when he was off-track. He’d nearly forgotten the hellebore in the third line of the instructions when Draco had nudged him. Hermione was so intent in her own potion that she didn’t seem to notice anything - or anyone - else.  With ten minutes left to go, Severus announced, “A light, silver vapor should be rising from your cauldron now.” 

Harry supposed you could call the vapor from his cauldron silver, though it was darker than those of both Draco and Hermione, and a bit heavier than theirs, as well. Since they were sitting on either side of him, it made his own potion obviously wrong. Maybe you shouldn’t sit with the two best people in your class when you’re not at their level, he thought to himself. At least it was better than the green sparks emanating from Ron’s cauldron, he noticed with a glance around the room. 

Severus glared at the class as he walked around the room, mostly ignoring Hermione and the Slytherins, though he noticed Crabbe and Goyle’s potions were a bit too thick, and the vapor nearly black. He made his way over to the Gryffindor row, as Harry dubbed it. He made a beeline for the back table two rows over, where Ron sat with Dean and Seamus. Ron’s cauldron was still emanating green sparks, and Seamus was poking at the bottom of his, as the fire seemed to have gone out. “Mr. Weasley,” Snape said. “Do you wish to explain to me how you managed to emanate green sparks?” Ron’s cheeks flushed as red as his hair, but he didn’t speak. “I asked you a question.”

“I don’t know, sir,” Ron said, annoyance laced through his voice.

“You don’t know,” Severus said. That was clearly not the answer he wanted. “Well, then perhaps you can think about that, and follow the directions properly next time. Evanesco .” Severus waved his wand, and the contents of Ron’s cauldron emptied. Ron was furious but just sat there, as there was nothing he could do. The Slytherins’ snickered, even Draco from beside him. “The rest of you who followed the directions properly , fill up one flagon with the contents of your cauldron, clearly mark it with your name and put it on my desk for testing. Your homework is twelve inches of parchment on the properties of moonstone, and its use in potions-making, to be handed in to me on Monday.”

As Harry filled the flagon with his potion along with everyone else, he found it hard to feel bad for Ron. After the argument that they’d had, and Ron’s refusal to speak to ‘Jacob’... he deserved it. He assumed that’s why Severus had chosen him to pick on since ‘Harry Potter’ was no longer in the class. Harry heard something from behind him and turned to see Goyle’s robes on fire. His flagon wasn’t in his hand, and it seemed as if he had tried to fill it, causing the flagon to shatter. Crabbe and Theodore stepped back from him, and Theodore glared before finishing filling his own flagon. Harry just shook his head and set the flagon on his father’s desk, his father giving him a nod as he did so. He then gathered his stuff. 

Hermione leaned close to him and whispered. “Have you had Defense yet?” She was speaking so low that no one else could hear except him.

Harry shook his head. “No. Why?”

“Be careful,” she warned, and then she left the classroom.

Draco looked at Harry as they walked out. “What was that about?  What was she whispering to you?”

Harry shrugged. “I’m not sure.” She said to be careful in Defense, but what’s that supposed to mean? Harry thought to himself.

Draco raised an eyebrow, but as soon as they exited the Potions Classroom, the Slytherins stopped them. “Draco, Jacob,” said Pansy, a note of disgust in her voice. “Why did you let Granger sit at your table?”

Draco put a hand on one of his hips. “What did you expect me to do? Stop class and demand she sit somewhere else?” He rolled his eyes. “Honestly, Pansy. Besides, she’s a friend of Jacob’s.” The Slytherins all looked at Harry, and he felt anger rising in him. “We helped him study over the summer. He was a bit worried about passing his entrance exams, and we are the top two in our class. Having the two of us there meant there’s no way he could fail.” The blonde shrugged his shoulders. “Besides, as long as I don’t have to talk to her aside from studying, she’s not half-bad.” That earned Draco some chuckles, and the group made their way to lunch.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Harry thanked Draco on their way to lunch for sticking up for Hermione, and the blonde brushed it off like it was nothing. After lunch, they made their way to the Defense classroom. Harry’s heart was beating faster than it should. His father had warned him about Umbridge, and now Hermione had, too. That wasn’t typically a very good sign, and the first class hadn’t even started. He hoped it wouldn’t be as bad as he feared, but if Hermione had taken the time to warn him, right after Potions class… he wasn’t going to hold his breath on that one.

The class went in and took their seats. Draco was to his right, and Elizabeth ended up on his left. 

“Good afternoon, class!” said Umbridge after they had all sat down. There were a few mutters of “Good afternoon” from the around the room. “Tut, tut, well that don’t do, will it? Now, I would like you all to say ‘Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge.’ One more time, now. Good afternoon, class!”

“Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge,” said the class in response, as Harry wondered what special brand of hell they’d stepped into. 

“There, that wasn’t too hard, was it?” she said with a very sweet tone to her voice. “Now, wands away and quills out, please.”

Wands away? That typically wasn’t a very good sign, either. Harry put his wand back in his bag and pulled out his quill, ink, and parchment. Umbridge pulled her wand out of her bag, which was an unusually short wand, and tapped the blackboard sharply with it. Words appeared immediately on the board behind her:

Defense Against the Dark Arts

Return to Basic Principles

“Well, now, your lessons in this subject have been uneven and fragmented, haven’t they?” Umbridge said, turning to face the class. Her hands were folded neatly in front of her. “Most of your previous teachers do not seem to have followed any Ministry-approved curriculum, and you have had a different one every year. This, unfortunately, means that you are far below the level that we’d expect of students in their O.W.L year. You will be pleased to know that such is not the case this year. You will be following a carefully constructed, Ministry-approved course that is theory-centered. Copy down the following, please.” 

She rapped the blackboard with her wand again, and the message disappeared and was replaced by another one:

Course Aims

  •  Understanding the principles underlying defensive magic.
  •  Learning to recognize situations where defensive magic can legally be used.
  •  Placing the use of defensive magic in a context for practical use.

For a couple of minutes, the only sound heard in the classroom was the scratching of quills on parchment. When they finished, she asked to verify that no one had got a copy of the book due to the ‘regrettable lateness’ of her appointment. There was, again, muttering of no around the room. “Now, when I ask you a question, you will respond with ‘Yes, Professor Umbridge’ or ‘No, Professor Umbridge.’ Is that clear? Now, again, do you have a copy of the book?”

“No, Professor Umbridge,” said the class in response.

“Good,” she said. “Luckily, I have a class set for this reason that the Ministry provided.” She flicked her wand, and books zoomed out behind the teacher’s desk, one to each student. “You will need to leave those here for the other classes, but the library has a few copies for homework purposes. I recommend writing to your parents immediately and having them send you one. Now, if you would turn to page five, and read chapter one, please. There will be no need to talk.” She went back to sit at the teacher’s desk, watching them all.

The book was dreadfully dull, almost listening to Professor Binns drone on in History of Magic. Seriously, was this going to be what the whole year was going to be like? They were just going to be reading out of a book and maybe taking some notes? It seemed rather hard to believe, and also a bit ridiculous. A glance to his right showed Draco frowning at the book, before flipping through the pages quickly and then going back to the page he’d been on. It almost seemed as if the blonde had been looking to see if it got better. Apparently, not because he was still frowning. It almost made Harry miss the smirk.

The silence was then broken by a voice coming from behind him. “Er, Professor -” said Theodore.

“Students will raise their hand before they speak in my class,” said Umbridge, once again in that sweet voice of hers. Theodore must have raised his hand after that because the next thing she said was. “Yes, Mr. -”

“Nott, Professor. Theodore Nott,” he said. “I had a question.”

“On the chapter? Of course, dear,” she said.

“No, not the chapter exactly,” Theodore said. “On the course aims, to be more precise. We’re not going to be actually practicing the spells?” 

“Practicing them?” Umbridge asked. “Why, I can’t imagine when you need to use spells in this classroom, Mr. Nott. Surely, you aren’t proposing that you will be attacked in this classroom?”

“No, of course, not, but…” Theodore’s voice trailed off, though there was a sense of… confusion in his voice.

“Intelligent and clever people at the Ministry have designed and approved this course,” Umbridge continued, “and the Ministry believes that the best way to learn is a secure, risk-free way.”

“That doesn’t even make sense,” Harry said before he could stop himself. “If we were going to be attacked, it won’t be -”

Hand, Mr. Snape,” Umbridge called out. He assumed that she must recognize him from his resemblance to his father.

Harry thrust his hand into the air, knowing that he should shut up, but unable to stop himself. Umbridge ignored him, though. Fury raced through him. From a couple of chairs down, Daphne raised her hand. “Yes, Miss -”

“Daphne Greengrass, Professor,” she said. “How are we supposed to properly learn about defending ourselves if we’re not going to actually do anything?”

“I don’t mean to criticise the way things have been done at this school, but you have been exposed to some very irresponsible wizards in your years here, including very dangerous half-breeds, ” she said, and Harry wanted to reach down and get his wand. He forced himself to stop, reminding himself that as Jacob Snape, he didn’t actually know Lupin. “You have been exposed to spells beyond your age group, and told to expect Dark attacks every other day. This is not true.”

There was silence in the class for a bit, before Draco raised his hand. “Yes, Mr. Malfoy,” she said. So, she knows Lucius Malfoy , Harry thought to himself. It was the only explanation as to why he recognized Draco.

“Yes, Professor, I was wondering… isn’t there a practical portion on the O.W.L. exam as well?” Draco asked. “How are we supposed to be properly prepared for that without actually practicing all the necessary spells?”

“As long you study hard enough, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do the spell under the controlled examination conditions,” Umbridge said. “The theory should be sufficient -”

“And how’s theory supposed to prepare us for the real world?” Harry asked before he could stop himself, raising his fist into the air.

“This isn’t the real world, Mr. Snape, this is a classroom,” Umbridge said, her voice like honey dipped in poison. 

“Yes, but the classroom is supposed to prepare us for the real world.” He didn’t even bother lowering his hand. “How is theory supposed to prepare us for what’s waiting out there?”

“Nothing is waiting out there,” Umbridge said. “Who do you think would want to attack children like yourselves?

“Pretty much any dark wizard ever,” Harry said. “Or are you going to say that there isn’t any of those either, because if so - then why do we have an Auror department?” There were some snickers at that from around the room.

“Ten points from Slytherin, Mr. Snape.” The classroom silenced immediately at those words. 

“Now, let me make a few things perfectly clear,” Umbridge said. “You have been told that a certain dark wizard has returned from the dead and is at large once more. This is a lie.”

“Says who?” Harry said, his fist in the air again. I was there, you toad-faced bitch, he thought to himself. I fought him. I saw him. I watched Cedric Diggory die right in front of my eyes. I have nightmares about it. He knew that as Jacob Snape, he couldn’t say certain things. He wasn’t Harry Potter, but he wasn’t about to let her get away with saying that Voldemort wasn’t back. “Were you there? Because from what I heard, no one was, so how do you know?”

Umbridge bristled a little at those words. “Of course not, but the Ministry says -”

“So, just because the government and the papers say it’s true, that means it is?” Harry asked, his fist in the air.

“Why do you propose, would they lie about something like that?” she asked, in that same honeyed-poison voice. 

“Because they’re the government and the papers, and that’s what they do,” Harry said, causing a few more snickers to go around the class.

“Detention, Mr. Snape!” Umbridge called out. “Tonight. Five o’clock. And I will be speaking to your father about this. Now, get back to your reading, class. The Ministry assures everyone that they are in no danger from any dark wizard. Page five, ‘Basics for Beginners.’”

Harry knew that he had lost this argument. As it was, he had detention tonight. He knew he shouldn’t have opened up his mouth, but he just couldn’t help himself. He still saw Cedric’s death over and over, and he wasn’t going to let some Ministry bitch belittle that, or ignore the fact that he fought Voldemort. He also knew that he wasn’t the only person in this class who knew that, because there were other Death Eater’s children here.

One thing he knew, though… He was going to hear about this from his father; he was sure about that.

~~~~~~~~~~

Draco questioned him as soon as they got out of class, wondering what in Merlin’s name he had been thinking to take on Umbridge. “Regardless of who’s lying or telling the truth, whether it’s Potter or the Ministry, I don’t like her,” Harry said flatly. “She’s wrong. Not allowing us to use magic is just stupid, and I couldn’t take it.”

He wasn’t the only one who disliked her, though Harry knew that he had been out of character for a Slytherin, most likely. They went straight to Transfiguration. He had a brief period of rest where he scarfed down food between the end of that class and when he was due in Umbridge’s office. He split from Draco and the others and headed there. The room looked completely different now than the previous times he’d seen it. It was all pink, and kittens, and lace… and rather disgusting. 

“Good evening, Mr. Snape,” Umbridge said.

“Evening,” Harry said stiffly.

“Well, sit down,” she said, gesturing to a small table with a single piece of parchment on it. He sat down. “You will be serving detention for the next three days to reinforce the lesson. Don’t bother getting out your quill. You’re going to be using a special one of mine.” She handed him a long, thin black quill with an unusually long point. “You will write, ‘I must not tell lies.’”

“How many times?” Harry asked, faking politeness.

“Let’s just say as many times as it takes for the message to sink in.”

“I haven’t got any ink,” Harry pointed out.

“You won’t need any,” Umbridge said, and it almost sounded as if there was a laugh in her voice. 

Harry put the quill to the parchment and wrote I must not tell lies . A gasp of pain escaped his lips. The words had been written on the paper in bright, red ink, and the words had also been etched into the back of his right hand, almost as if they had been cut there by a scalpel. As he stared at it, the skin healed over. He looked over at Umbridge, but then looked back at the parchment and continued writing.

It seemed to go on for hours, the constant pain in the back of his hand, and it healed over again seconds later. What seemed like forever later, Umbridge finally told him to stop and called him over to her. She grabbed his hand and examined the place where the cut had been. “I haven’t made much of an impression yet, have I? I suppose we’ll have to try again tomorrow evening, won’t we? You may go now.”

Harry grabbed his bag and left.

The hallways were deserted. It was past curfew, that was for sure, though he wasn’t sure how late it was. It had been at least four or five hours, he had to imagine. He headed straight for the dungeons, wanting to go straight to bed. No studying would be done tonight. He would make it up tomorrow. He passed through the Entrance Hall and then headed towards the dungeons. As he went down the stairs, he saw a familiar face at the bottom - Severus, who was not happy, judging by the glare on his face. I am definitely in trouble , Harry thought to himself.