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Lily's Thorn

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Compared to the day of the Quidditch tryouts, the next day was completely uneventful. The only exciting thing going around Hogwarts was the next of Umbridge’s inspections - this time on Professor McGonagall. It had been one of her second year classes in the morning. The Hufflepuffs were talking about it during lunch, and by dinner time, the entire school was talking about it. Apparently, McGonagall, in typical McGonagall fashion, hadn’t taken any of Umbridge’s shit and wouldn’t even let her speak. Harry remembered Umbridge’s inspection of Care of Magical Creatures the day before, and could almost picture McGonagall shutting her down. He was almost sad that he hadn’t been there to see it.

The next morning when he and Draco had arrived for breakfast, there was a conversation going on between Daphne, Pansy, and Blaise. They looked at both of them as they sat down in between Theodore and Marcus. Crabbe and Goyle were sitting next to Blaise, and looked a bit off-put that Draco wasn’t sitting with them. Then again, Draco hadn’t sat with them the entire school year, all ten days of it. The conversation died off as they sat down and acted for a few minutes as if they hadn’t been carrying on a conversation when they had walked in.

“Draco, I find something very curious,” Pansy said.

“Oh, and what is that?” Draco asked, a bored and drawling tone to his voice as he ate. 

“You see,” said Pansy, “you and Jacob are spending an awful lot of time together.” Harry’s head snapped up at the mention of his name. He looked over at Draco, who didn’t seem overly interested in the conversation. 

Draco shrugged, not even looking up at them. “Your point being?”

“My point is,” said Pansy continuing, “that we just find it curious that since the start of this school year, you haven’t hung out with poor Vincent and Gregory at all. Just Jacob.”

Draco’s head snapped up to look at the three of them. Blaise and Daphne were smirking on either side of Pansy. “You’re overthinking things,” he said, his grey eyes giving them a fierce glare.

“Are you sure about that?” Blaise asked. “Because - “

“Yes, I’m sure,” Draco said, cutting him off. “You’re overthinking things. Now drop it.” They did drop it, and the conversation turned to other things after that. Nonetheless, Harry had a slight feeling that he had missed something. What were they trying to get at? So, he and Draco hung out a lot. They were friends. He, Ron, and Hermione had hung out a lot, too. He wasn’t sure what they had been trying to hint at, so he put it out of his mind.

~~~~~~~~~~

Potions was their first class that day. Severus started handing back the essays, and Harry was satisfied with the A he had gotten on his. He preferred to have gotten an O, of course, but that was never going to happen. At least he had passed. Draco peaked over to see his paper, and Harry saw the bright, shining O on his paper. Hermione did the same, but he noticed her paper had gotten an E, not an O. He found that rather strange, but he knew that Hermione might be a bit put out once she saw Draco’s grade. If she saw Draco’s grade, of course. 

“I have given you the grades that you would have gotten had you turned that work in for your O.W.L,” said his father as he walked around the room, handing back essays. “This should give you a realistic idea of what to expect when that examination comes and what you need to work on. The general standard of this homework was atrocious. Most of you would have failed your examination. I expect a great deal more effort on this week’s homework on the various varieties of venom antidotes. If the standard isn’t improved, then I will start handing out detentions if anyone gets a D.”

Draco started to snigger, and Harry nudged him in his side. “Some people got D’s ?” Harry nudged him again, and the blonde didn’t say anymore, though that superior smirk was still on his face.

“We are continuing the Strengthening Solutions today,” Severus continued. “You will find your mixtures as you left them last lesson. They should have matured over the past couple of days if you made them correctly.” He waved his wand, and the instructions appeared on the board. “The instructions are behind me. Carry on.”

Harry was determined to do a good job on this potion, and he paid diligent attention to each instruction that his father had written on the board. He still got nudges from Draco a couple of times, but all in all, he was relatively pleased with himself when the class ended. His potion still ended up a bit greener than the turquoise it was required to be. Both Draco’s and Hermione’s were the proper color. 

After they had turned in their potions, they were packing up when Hermione started speaking. “I would have preferred an O,” she said, “but I’m okay with what I got. Somewhere to go from here, right, Jacob?”

Harry knew why she was saying this. She wanted to make sure that he didn’t feel bad about him getting an A instead of E, which he had gotten on his first potion. “Yes, I know,” he said.

“What did you get on the essay, Draco?” Hermione asked conversationally.

Draco scoffed. “An O, of course,” he said as if the very idea of getting anything else was insulting.

Hermione got quiet for a moment before speaking again as they were walking out of the dungeon. “Oh. That’s just… I mean, that’s great for you, of course…”

“Let’s see your essay,” Draco said, holding out his hand. Hermione hesitated for a second, before digging hers back out as they walked and handing it over. Draco gave another scoff and handed it back to her. “I see why you got an E instead of an O, Granger.”

Hermione’s eyes widened, and she did nothing but look at the essay over, and over the entire time, they walked into the Great Hall. “Did you have to do that?” Harry asked him.

Draco smirked at him. “Of course,” he said. “She typically either beats me or equals me in everything, so I’m going to enjoy it when I beat her fair and square for once. She’ll have to learn not to go off on those tangents in her essays, especially in Snape’s class.” Harry rolled his eyes but didn’t continue the conversation after that.

~~~~~~~~~~

That night was the Slytherin team’s first Quidditch practice. He was nowhere near as nervous as he had been for tryouts a couple of days before. He and Draco had gone back to the dorm room to change into their Quidditch robes. “Nervous?” the blonde asked him.

Harry shook his head. “A bit. I mean, it’s my first Quidditch practice, but not as much as I was the other day,” he said. Well, it was his first Quidditch practice as a Chaser , though he had been to plenty as a Seeker. Wood had been a taskmaster, after all. 

“It was a tryout,” Draco said simply. “Of course, you would have been a bit nervous.” 

Harry felt the need to roll his eyes at that because he doubted that Draco knew anything about being nervous during tryouts. He didn’t think that Draco had actually tried out back in their second year. Chances are, he was the only person who tried out. That and his father buying the entire team brooms would pretty much have made up Flint’s mind. “You told me not to be nervous, as I recall,” he settled on saying.

“Of course, I did.” The two of them made their way out of the dorm and into the common room. “I’m your friend. What was I supposed to say? ‘Sure, be nervous. It’s going to be nerve-wracking, but you’ll do fine. However, yes, be nervous. Be very nervous,” Draco drawled. “Honestly…”

Harry did roll his eyes that time. “No, of course not, I just mean that -” What had he meant? Isn’t that what a friend was supposed to do? Do their best to ease their friends’ nerves and make them feel better? 

Draco just smirked at him as they walked out of the common room, seeming to know that he’d won that argument. Harry gave him a good-natured shove. “You can wipe that smirk off your face, thanks,” he said, which only caused Draco to chuckle. 

Harry was still getting used to the idea of being friends with Draco. He had only agreed to spend time with him at first because he felt it made sense, and since he had assumed he would be in Slytherin, it would do no good to alienate him. However, as the weeks had passed, things had changed. He wasn’t as bad as he had expected, and while he was still a pompous, arrogant little shit, Harry found himself actually enjoying spending time with Daco. That thought in and of itself was strange, but since they had come to school, he hadn’t been without him for very long. The only time they were separated, it seemed, was during his and Hermione’s training sessions with Severus Saturday morning and during his time with his father on Sunday. It was a bit weird, or at least it should be. For some reason, though, it wasn’t.

Before long, they were at the Quidditch pitch, and Harry and Draco made their way to the locker room where the other members of the team were waiting. They took their seats, and Montague was leaning up against the wall. As soon as they sat down, he pushed off from the wall and stood in front of the group. “Okay, so here’s how this year is going to go,” he said in a plain, matter-of-fact tone. “We’re going to train hard. We haven’t won the Quidditch Cup in four years, and that’s going to change. We will win this year.” Harry heard the meaning behind the words: by any means necessary. 

Harry could, and would not cheat. Yes, he knew he was in Slytherin now, and yes, he knew the Sorting Hat had wanted him in there from day one. Nonetheless, he wouldn’t resort to cheating. If Montague encouraged that, and he knew that at some point he would, Harry planned on putting his foot down. Besides, it wasn’t like they weren’t going to get caught. It was bound to bring the whole team down when the other team was allowed a penalty shot - or three - because their team was cheating. It didn’t make sense to him. Maybe if they couldn’t get caught, but there was always a good chance of getting caught in a Quidditch game with Madam Hooch watching.

Montague talked for a little while about strategy. He hadn’t specifically mentioned cheating, but Harry waited for it. Surprisingly, though, it didn’t. Their Captain just talked about being aggressive while playing, to not shy back from the other team, and stuff like that. He didn’t specifically mention cheating at all. He knew it was coming, though. It was only a matter of time.

~~~~~~~~~~

All in all, their first practice went well. Montague had talked about some plays for a bit before they went and actually began practicing. Their Captain was a taskmaster, and everyone seemed to be putting everything they had into their first practice, even Crabbe and Goyle, who never seemed to show much interest in anything except food. That is, everyone except Draco. It was about halfway through when Harry realized what was going on. Draco was watching them, not the Snitch. He wasn’t doing anything . He tried to look for the Snitch after that, and it took him some time to find it. He was, after all, more worried about trying to score and not looking for the Snitch. He did manage to spot it eventually on the other end of the pitch.

Immediately, a wave of anger rushed through him. What was Draco playing at? It shouldn’t be any of his business, but it annoyed him nonetheless. After all, Montague was the Captain, yet he didn’t seem to be too worried about Draco and what he was - or wasn’t - doing. Harry just put the anger into his training and noticed that towards the end of practice, Draco actually went and looked for the Golden Snitch. It was too little too late as far as Harry was concerned.

They went back to the locker rooms and changed as Montague told them what they needed to work on for their next practice Sunday night. He waited for Draco almost out of habit, though he was still annoyed with him. They walked back to the Slytherin Common Room in silence, and it was about halfway there before Draco started to speak. “What’s wrong with you?” Draco asked. “Practice went well if you asked me.”

“I didn’t,” Harry snapped, and he didn’t look over to see the expression Draco’s face. He could imagine the blonde was a bit shocked, though. “Practice went well for us . Do you know what you did?” He realized that he had stopped walking, and the two of them were now facing each other in the hallway. Harry tried to tell himself that he shouldn’t care. He wasn’t the Captain. Montague was. What Draco did during practice was none of his business, but it did bother him.

“Oh?” Draco crossed his arms over his chest.

“Nothing.” Harry saw an almost confused look crossing Draco’s face. “You did absolutely nothing but watch the rest of us work. Even Crabbe and Goyle were practicing! All you did was fly around, observing the rest of us like you’re better than us while the Snitch was on the other side of the pitch!” He could tell by the fleeting look of shock crossing Draco’s face that had caught him off guard. He had no idea whether that was because he didn’t think that it was true or he didn’t think that he was going to get caught.

“I was just -” Draco began and then seemed to switch gears. “I always come through when it counts.”

“Oh, really?” Harry said, knowing first hand how much of a lie that was. “So, you’re undefeated then, I take it.” He knew that was a low blow because he was the only person to have defeated Draco to his knowledge. Draco’s silence was the only answer that Harry needed. “I thought so. You’re getting complacent. You don’t know what the new Seekers of Hufflepuff and Gryffindor are like; you only think you do. If you let yourself get smug about it instead of actually doing the work, you’re going to bring the whole team down. We are working.”

Draco just stood there for a moment, and Harry wondered if he’d lost his temper. Okay, so he had lost his temper. He and Draco had become friends, though, and he didn’t want his temper to lose his biggest ally in Slytherin. Things would get very hard for him if he made an enemy of Draco. “You’re right,” Draco said. “Potter’s gone, but that doesn’t mean I should get complacent, especially when you and everyone else on the team are working so hard. I should put in the work, too.”

Harry stood there in silence for a moment, a bit surprised that it seemed he had won this argument. He hadn’t expected Draco to agree with him. “Well, okay then,” he said. “Glad you agree.”

“Next practice will be different,” Draco said as they began their walk back to the Slytherin Dungeon. Harry found that he actually cared if it was. This was his team now, and there was nothing he could do about it. He was going to do his best because he didn’t like losing at Quidditch - no matter what his position on the team happened to be. He wanted Draco to do well, too, which surprised him a bit. He put that thought out of his mind, though.

“So, you found out where the Snitch was, did you?” Draco asked, trying to lighten the mood. “Not trying to steal my position, are you?”

Harry scoffed, silently knowing that he could easily do so if he wanted. No, he had promised Severus. It would be too suspicious. “No, don’t worry, and it took me a while to find it if you must know.” That, at least, was true, but not for the reason Draco would think. It wasn’t that he wasn’t as good at it - history had proved otherwise - but he had been too busy being a Chaser.

“Good, because don’t think that practice is a sign of how good or bad I am,” Draco said, the trademark smirk on his face. 

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Harry replied as they went into the Slytherin Common Room.

~~~~~~~~~~

Severus made his way up to the Headmaster’s Office. The Headmaster had requested to see him. Since there was no reason at the present time for the old man to want to meet with him, he found himself a bit confused. After all, school’s second week had just ended, so it couldn’t be school-related. There hadn’t been a Death Eater meeting, as Voldemort was still building his army and getting his plans in place. There hadn’t been an Order meeting either, so it couldn’t be that. Therefore, there was no logical reason for this meeting to be occurring. The Potions Master still found his way to the gargoyle, and uttering the password, went up into the Headmaster’s Office.

“You summoned me, Headmaster?” Severus asked as he went inside.

“Ah, yes, Severus,” said the Headmaster, those damned blue eyes twinkling at him. “Please, do sit down.” He gestured towards the chair in front of him. He did as he was told, sitting down across from the Headmaster. “Tea? Lemon Drops?”

Severus shook his head. “No, thank you,” he said. “Now, why did you ask me here?”

Dumbledore smiled at him. “I simply wish to see how things were going.” Severus just sat there, silently, because the Headmaster never just simply asked him up here for a talk. There was always an ulterior motive where he was involved. “I was wondering how young Jacob was doing.”

Severus’s black eyes flicked towards the portraits on the walls, before looking back at Dumbledore. Of course, the old man couldn’t be honest with them around. Everyone knew that the portraits liked to travel between frames and gossip. “He is fine,” he said.

“He is adjusting well enough? Doing well in his schoolwork?” Dumbledore asked.

“Yes, he is doing fine,” he said. “It hasn’t been an easy transition, but thanks to Mr. Malfoy and Miss Granger, he is adjusting well enough.” 

“That is good to hear,” Dumbledore said. 

Severus found this whole thing rather odd. He knew that Dumbledore was invested in his Harry. He was still his Golden Boy, after all. The Potions Master also knew that the old man had his plans for his son, but that didn’t mean that he had to like being in the dark. “If there is something -”

“No, Severus, nothing at all,” Dumbledore said, the tone in his voice unfailingly pleasant. It gave nothing away, which annoyed Severus to no end. “How are you adjusting to fatherhood?”

“Well enough,” Severus admitted. “It is something that I am getting used to.” He did not feel like going into greater detail in that regard. They were doing great, him and Harry, all things considered. Just over a month ago, they had hated each other. They most certainly did not now.

“Of course,” Dumbledore said, simply sitting there, sipping his tea.

“If there is nothing else -” Severus began.

“No, that is all,” the old man said. “Just checking on our exchange student. We haven’t had one in many, many years. I am invested in the boy’s future.”

Of course, you are, Severus thought to himself. He knew the old man had something up his sleeve, but he knew better than to try and pry such information out of him. The Headmaster never told everyone everything, but he confined in Severus more than most. He didn’t think for a second this was just a social call, but only time would tell as to what was really going on. However, Severus took his leave of Dumbledore. He had better things to do than sit here watching the Headmaster drink tea.

~~~~~~~~~~

Saturday morning came. Harry was, as he had been doing every day, up early to exercise. After breakfast, he headed to meet with Hermione and Severus for Defense training. She was, as she had been last week, already there. After they exchanged greetings, something irked at Harry’s mind. “I was wondering something,” he said. “Why have you been getting so upset at Draco helping me?” Silence followed his question, and she averted her gaze. “Is it because it’s not you helping me like you always used to do with me and Ron?”

Hermione looked up at him then. “No, of course not!” she said. “It’s just…”

“Because, you know, you used to practically do half of Ron’s work for him,” Harry pointed out.

 A flash of annoyance went through Hermione’s eyes then. “I know, and don’t think I’m proud of that fact now, because I’m not,” she said.

“Is it because you fancied Ron?” Harry asked her, the words coming out before he could stop.

A look of shock crossed Hermione’s face, but she quickly covered it up. “You knew that, huh?”

Harry nodded. “Yes, I figured it out,” he said. It had been kind of obvious actually, not that Ron would have noticed anything. He hadn’t planned on mentioning it at all, ever, but it had just come out. He was still trying to figure out why she had a problem with Draco helping him.

“That was part of it,” she admitted, “but that wasn’t the whole reason. And it has nothing to do with this.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “Look, I realize something now. Ron was a bad influence on you, and don’t argue with me. He’s not stupid or weak or anything like that. He’s not, but he just doesn’t apply himself or see the need to try. You always stuck to him like glue, and so that sort of rubbed off. I didn’t want either of you to fail, and I was afraid you both would if I didn’t, so I helped you more than I should have.”

Harry had never considered that before. For the most part, his and Ron’s grades had always been decent, outside of the obvious classes that they didn’t do well in, like Potions. It never occurred to him that she may have feared them failing without her help. “We wouldn’t have failed,” he told her. “We always managed.”

Hermione nodded. “That’s probably true,” she said. “And maybe I worry too much.” She shrugged her shoulders. “It doesn’t matter now.”

“So, what does that have to do with Draco helping me?”

Hermione sighed. “It’s like I said, I always thought Ron was a bad influence when it comes to academics,” she said. “I saw you doing better, studying more and all that. And on your own, without help, because I should never have helped you or Ron as much as I did. I know that. I guess seeing Draco helping you so much; I was afraid you would slip into bad habits.”

Harry shook his head. In a way, he understood what she was saying. At least she was acknowledging that she shouldn’t have helped them so much. Not that he turned down the help before, because honestly, who would? “It’s not the same thing,” he said. “He’s not doing the work for me, like you doing half of Ron’s paper that one time.”

Hermione blushed, burying her face in her hands for a moment. “I know, and I’m so ashamed of doing that now,” she said. “I just don’t think you see how smart you really are, and I was afraid if you let Draco help so much, you never would.”

Harry walked over, putting a hand on Hermione’s shoulder. “You need to stop worrying so much.” 

“I know,” she said, smiling at him. “It’s just… this change has been good for you. You realize that, don’t you? I think you’re more comfortable, more yourself now. It suits you, and I don’t just mean your new face - sorry, I mean your true face - but just everything.” Harry wasn’t sure what to say to that, because honestly, he hadn’t thought much about it. Maybe she was right, but he was saved from having to think about that anymore as his father walked in.

~~~~~~~~~~

Training went well, Harry thought. He and Hermione still had a lot of work to do, but each time they trained with Severus, they got a little bit better. Severus left ahead of them, leaving Harry and Hermione to walk out alone. He noticed that Hermione was being rather quiet. He didn’t think it was because of their earlier conversation. “What’s wrong, Hermione?”

“Nothing,” she said. He gave her a look, one that clearly said that he knew she was lying. “Really, it’s just… This got me thinking again about something, something I’ve been thinking about. It doesn’t matter, though.”

“Hermione…”

“Look, it’s just that… Umbridge is horrible, and her class is utterly ridiculous,” Hermione said, a fire in her eyes now that he had gotten her talking. “You and I may be learning how to pass our O.W.L’s, thanks to Snape, but no one else is. It’s just ludicrous that we’re stuck with her because the Ministry is a bunch of morons. Someone has to teach Defense; someone has to.”

Harry was confused. “What are you going on about?”

“Well, if circumstances were different, I would have asked you to teach defense.”

Shock ran through Harry at that. Him? Why would she suggest something like that? “I can’t teach defense,” he said, hoping to brush this conversation under the rug.

“Of course you can,” Hermione said. “We need someone with real experience, and that’s you. Your father can’t do it publicly for obvious reasons, but if you were still Harry Potter, you could.”

A mix of emotions ran through Harry at that - anger and fear among them - and he quickly made to push them all down. “No, I couldn’t have taught anyway. I mean, you and Draco must have beaten me in every test.”

“No, actually we didn’t,” Hermione said. “You were the top of the year in Defense in our third year, the only year we’ve had a competent teacher. And I’m not talking about tests and grades, Harry! There are more important things. Look at what you’ve done.”  

The anger came back, along with annoyance. How could Hermione just stand there and say that when she knew first hand what he’d had to go through to do those things. “It’s not that easy,” he said. “I mean, you can just say that I have experience with Defense like it’s an easy statement to make, but it’s not. It’s a lot more complicated than that. I mean, I hardly knew what I was doing most of the time, and I almost always had help. I got through it because I was lucky or I got help, not because I’m brilliant at it or anything. You don’t know what it’s like. It’s not just knowing some spells and throwing them at Voldemort or anything like that.”

Hermione had fallen silent, simply listening to him rant. Harry just kept talking, not being able to stop now that he’d gotten started. “I mean, when you’re close to death or watching a friend die, it’s just… You don’t know what that’s like. That’s like saying Cedric Diggory was stupid or something -”

“Calm down, Harry,” said Hermione, finally speaking up. “That’s not what I meant, and you know it. But everything you just said, that was why I would say you. It doesn’t matter now, though, because we can’t put the spells back on you just for this. It’s too much of a risk to you and your father. That’s just what I was thinking, that’s all.” Harry had a headache now, and he didn’t want to think about this anymore. She had a point - someone had to do it, but there was no one, was there? They were silent the rest of the way as they left, promising to meet up later for studying as they usually did.