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Lily's Thorn

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Harry and Draco met up with their friends. Pansy and Elizabeth didn't question where they'd been, but seeing as Daphne, Tracey and Millicent were already there, Harry was sure that the question had probably already been answered. The only ones missing were Theodore and Astoria, who were on their date. They lead Harry around, and he had to act as if he'd never been to Hogsmeade before. He was shown all over. He was shown the "best" places to shop for everything you could possibly imagine, including things that he was sure he would never shop for. He was shown the best places to go on a "date" (though how any of them would know that was beyond him), including where Pansy was sure where Theodore had taken Astoria. 

They went back to the Three Broomsticks for lunch, before continuing to show him around. "You know, I think I got it by now," he said. "Really, I'm good." He bought some sweets from Honeydukes and some more parchment and ink from Scrivenshaft's. Pansy and Daphne had bought at least twice as much, though. Draco had bought some more parchment and ink, as well as a couple more quills in a couple of different colors. Harry, personally, didn't see what was wrong with plain, regular quills, but Draco had chosen two very bright, fancy-looking quills: a silver eagle-feather with a shiny black tip, and another jet black that might have been raven-feather, with a silver tip.

Draco insisted that they stop by Tomes and Scrolls, and they spent some time there looking at various books. Harry didn't think that Draco needed more books, but nonetheless, the blonde bought two more. They also ran into Terry and Hermione there, who had their heads put together over a book. Figures, Harry thought with a smile. He was almost talked out by the time they made their way back up the High Street towards Hogwarts. Also, his head hurt a little being around the girls for so long. They were much more annoying than Hermione was, and he wasn't used to so much high pitched giggling and gossiping. He was glad when they parted ways with them in the Common Room, and headed up to the library to study for a bit before dinner.

Hermione came in soon afterward and sat across from them. "Hi, how was your day?" she asked.

Harry looked up at her. "Just fine," he said. "So, how was your date?"

Hermione blushed, causing Draco to smirk at her. Harry just sat there until his bushy-haired friend cleared her throat. "It was nice," she said. "We had lunch together, we walked. We talked a lot. He's not much of a talker, but we have quite a bit in common. We like the same books; we're both ambitious. We don't agree on everything, but there weren't too many lulls. I was quite comfortable with him."

"Did he kiss you?" Draco asked, that dreaded smirk still on his face.

Hermione looked down at her book. "No," she said. "He kissed me on the cheek. We're going to have lunch together next week, and study together when we can. Not that it's any of your business, Draco." Draco chuckled to himself, and the trio went back to studying until it was close to dinner time. They parted ways, and the Slytherins headed back down to their dorm to put their stuff back before heading towards dinner.

After dinner, Harry and Draco decided to make their way to their dorm to study. The common room was rather loud, with students playing Exploding Snap and other games, or just talking. Theodore was the only one up in their dorm, and he didn't seem to be paying any attention to them. They were sitting on Harry's bed together, both of them leaning back against the headboard. They were currently working on a History of Magic essay that he would rather not be doing. 

"No, no, that was in 1604. The event you're referring to was in 1709," Draco said, pointing to a reference in the book on Harry's lap.

Harry groaned. "How can you remember all this stuff?" He looked over at Draco.

Draco smirked at him. "I work very hard to remember all this 'stuff,' as you call it," he said, leaning closer to him. The blonde turned his head towards him, the smirk turning into a smile as he looked at him. Everything seemed to freeze for a moment, and Harry was suddenly very aware of Draco in a way that he wasn't sure he had ever realized before. Their faces were only a couple of inches from each other. He couldn't take his eyes off the blonde's lips.

The heat between them was intoxicating. Harry couldn't remember ever feeling like this before; he wanted to kiss Draco more than he'd ever wanted to do anything. That both thrilled and scared him. He could almost picture it, and they were so close… It would be so easy. Their lips were only an inch or two from each other. All he had to do was just lean forward ever so slightly, and they would be kissing. Draco, meanwhile, wasn't moving. He seemed to be patiently waiting, and Harry wondered if he wanted him to. It certainly seemed like he did. Harry had never really imagined himself kissing someone before, but it had certainly never thought it would be a guy. He was straight! Wasn't he?

Harry pulled back, taking in a deep breath that he hadn't even realized he had been holding as he moved his eyes from Draco's lips. He moved them along his sharp, angular cheekbones and up the lines of his face until he met his friend's gray eyes. "Er, so what about this part here?" he asked, pointing to the next section in the rough draft of his paper.

A look of disappointment crossed Draco's face, but the blonde quickly covered it up and helped him correct his next section. Harry was only half-listening, as he was having a hard time concentrating. He was straight, but if that were true, then why had he wanted to kiss Draco? What was he going to do? He had never been more confused.

~~~~~~~~~~

The next morning, there was another Educational Decree - one banning all group activities that didn't have permission. Harry only wondered for a second who told about their meeting the day before, but there had been two people invited that left - Smith and one other person. It was undoubtedly one of them. Montague got permission to start Quidditch training again right away. It was annoying that Smith had ratted them out - because Harry thought it was him - but it couldn't be helped.

After dinner, Harry went to the Room of Requirement to talk to Sirius and Remus. He kept things brief but did tell them about the Defense Club that Hermione had come up with. They seemed to think it was a good idea, and Sirius praised them for coming up with the idea to go to the Three Broomsticks. He admitted he had gotten the idea from Severus, which didn't seem to please Sirius at all. Sirius also told them to be careful, because the latest intelligence from the Ministry was that Fudge didn't want them trained in combat. Apparently, Fudge thought that Dumbledore was forming some sort of Wizard Army, which was stupid, but it did explain Umbridge.

Harry made a reminder to tell Hermione about that over the next week. Meanwhile, Harry thought of that moment with Draco a lot over the next week. He noticed how attractive he was, the way he moved his hands, the way his eyes scanned each piece of parchment, the way he held a quill… It was actually rather obsessive, and it was driving him crazy.  It made it hard to concentrate. He was starting to think that whatever it was that was going on between him and Draco had been going for a while. However, that very thought was a sharp reminder that Draco had only known Jacob Snape for a couple of months. He, on the other hand, had known the blonde for years, and only recently had been pleasant interactions. Now, all of a sudden, he was thinking about kissing him! 

Draco, meanwhile, hadn't mentioned anything about it. In fact, the blonde was acting as it had never happened at all. That bothered him for reasons that he couldn't explain. Part of him said that they should talk about it, but another part didn't want to talk about it at all. After all, what was he going to say? "Sorry, I really wanted to kiss you, and I still do, but I'm straight. I know that doesn't make any sense, and I'm really confused, but there you go."

Even Hermione noticed though she didn't have a chance to bring it up until Saturday morning as he and Hermione were waiting for Severus before their advanced defense lessons. "Harry, are you alright? You've been… distracted this week."

"Yeah, I'm fine," he said.

Hermione raised an eyebrow and gave him that "I know better" look. "Is everything okay between you and Draco?"

Harry looked up at her "Yes, we're fine."

"I only say so because… well, you and Draco have gotten quite close, and…" Harry stared at her for a second, wondering if he was becoming that transparent. However, Hermione spoke first. "Look, just be careful, okay?"

Harry was taken aback. "Excuse me? Be careful ? What do you mean by that?" She was his best friend, but he was angered by the fact that she seemed to be telling him not to feel whatever it was he was feeling for Draco.

"I don't mean it like that, Harry," Hermione said quickly. "Look, will you tell me what happened? Something obviously did." There was a caring, worried look in her eyes, and she patiently sat there, waiting for him to pour his heart out to her. 

Harry took a deep breath before telling her what had happened a week ago while he and Draco had been studying. "I just… I don't understand. I mean, I'm straight!"

Hermione stifled a laugh before she seemed to notice the rather serious expression on his face. "Oh, I'm sorry, you were serious? I should have realized that you wouldn't have figured it out by now," she said.

"Figured what out?"

"You are not straight," she said. "Look, Cho aside - and I think that was purely superficial - you are not straight by any sense of the means. Remember Cedric? I know you were attracted to him, don't lie to me about that. Besides, you and Draco have always had a rather interesting relationship, if you know what I mean. It was always obvious to me! I tried mentioning it to Ron once, though, and he thought I was being ridiculous." 

Harry was about to refute her claims, but as soon as he thought about what she said, a sense of realization hit him. What she said made perfect sense, and he felt a bit silly now. Of course, he wasn't straight. He had almost mentioned that he'd found Tom Riddle attractive, too, but he thought that might be a bit too shocking. It also made his attraction to Draco, which he was just now coming to realize, a bit easier to deal with. He was not straight. He thought about how he'd always sought out Draco whenever he entered a room, even before he changed, and wondered how long this had been going on.

"Look, that's not what I was cautioning you about," Hermione said before he had a chance to say anything. "You have feelings for Draco, and that's fine. It seems as if he likes you back. It's just… You're keeping a rather huge secret from him. It would be hard for you, being the way you are, to keep a secret from someone that you're falling for. You're not going to want to keep lying to him the deeper your feelings get, and that's going to get harder if you admit your feelings to him. Look, just… be careful, okay?"

Harry nodded, thinking a lot about her words and decided to change the subject. He filled her in on what Sirius had said. She thought it was foolish, but she agreed that it did explain Umbridge. It seemed to spur her on. Meanwhile, Hermione told him that she had scheduled the first meeting for tomorrow night after dinner, sending around a few messages to people with directions. She also explained her idea for the coins to help give each other messages, saying that she had gotten the idea from the Dark Mark. It would allow her to mark the date of the next meeting on her coin, and all the others would reflect it. Harry praised her idea and thought that it was brilliant. 

"Also, Harry," Hermione said to him, "be careful about how… good, you are." Harry blinked at her, and Hermione continued. "I just mean… you're so good at it; you're such a natural. If you're too good, it might be a bit suspicious."

"So, you're saying I need to hold back a bit."

"Exactly! Just hold back a little at first, and not get the spells right the first time," she told him. Harry was about to say that he didn't do that, but then he remembered beating Hermione in dueling. Maybe she was right, and he should hold back a bit, at least until he saw other students starting to get it. She was right. Jacob Snape couldn't be seen getting everything right the first time. He was saved from thinking about it any more when his father walked in to start their lessons.

~~~~~~~~~

Hermione wasn't the only one that noticed what was going on between him and Draco. The next day, while he was alone with his father, he brought it up. "So, I noticed that you and Draco have gotten… rather close," the older man said as they played chess.

Harry rolled his eyes. "Not you, too," he said. "I already talked to Hermione yesterday." He felt a bit talked about out, but then again, he wasn't sure if this was the sort of thing that fathers did with their children. Were they supposed to talk about this stuff, or did parents and children typically avoid these conversations? He wasn't sure at all how these things were supposed to work. "Besides, I thought you liked Draco." 

"I do," said Severus. "He is my godson, so yes, I am rather fond of him. That is not why I brought it up." Harry looked up at him. "I merely think you should be cautious moving forward. You carry a rather large secret, and it is not just your secret that you are protecting." That thought hadn't occurred to him. If anyone found out about it, if the Dark Lord figured it out, it could put him at a risk without him even knowing why. "I should also point out that only Hermione and Ronald Weasley are privy to your secret, friends that you do not know. While I do not care if Dumbledore disapproves of you telling anyone else, it puts both of us at risk for the more people that know."

Harry thought a lot about that, and what Hermione had said the day before, as the afternoon wore on. Dinner was still an hour away or so when his father stopped their game early. He was a bit confused, but Severus explained quickly. "I'm afraid our visits are no longer just casual anymore," he said. "It's time that you take the next step in your Occlumency training - practical training."

Harry blinked. "Practical training?"

"If you have been doing the training properly, this is the natural next step," Severus explained. "The only way to truly become versed in Occlumency is to practice it. I will use a skill called Legilimency against you, and you will use your training to block me out. It can be rather unpleasant, so we'll keep our sessions brief at first." Severus used his wand to move the furniture out of the way. Harry stood a couple of feet from him, nervously wringing his hands together. "The more you worry, the harder it's going to be. Just take a deep breath, and remember your training."

Harry nodded and took a deep breath. He settled his nerves and remembered the meditation that he'd been doing for the past two months. Okay, maybe not consistently, but at least now he could meditate without his mind wandering too much. He gave another nod and said. "Okay, I'm ready." 

"Are you sure?" 

"Yes, Dad, I'm ready," Harry said. "Let's get this over with." He kept his eyes focused on his dad, but tried to envision the wall, shutting himself off, the way Severus had always explained it. The next thing he knew, Severus had said a word that sounded like "Legilimens." His resistances held, but only for a few moments before they shattered. The room vanished, and suddenly, images swam before his mind. It was so vivid, almost like a flickering film. There was Dudley riding a new bicycle…. Aunt Petunia throwing a frying pan at his head, nearly missing before shoving him and locking him inside the cupboard…

The force ended abruptly, and Harry's mind began to clear. He had a throbbing headache, and a short moment later, he felt his father's hand on his shoulder. "Are you alright?" When Harry didn't respond, Severus repeated the question.

"Yes, Dad, I'm fine, just… that was intense."

"Yes, I apologize," he said. "I stopped it as soon as I could. You did rather well for your first time. You did manage to hold me off for a bit, and you will undoubtedly get stronger over time." He left, coming back a moment later with a vial. "Take this." Harry did, and the headache cleared. His head didn't throb as much. "Now, what was that?"

"I'm sorry, what was what?"

"The vision, the second one," he said. " What was it?" 

His voice held a bit of a bite to it now, and Harry forced himself to recall what it was. "Oh, that… Nothing. Normal day, actually," he said. At least it had been for him. It hadn't hit him that time.

A dark look appeared on his father's face. " What? That is not normal. My life growing up was far from normal, and even I know that," he said. "You are never going back there. I do not care what Dumbledore says about it, I refuse to allow my son to live in an abusive household. Why were you locked in the cupboard?"

Harry was glad for Severus's caring, and the fact that he wouldn't be going back made him even happier. "Er, I lived there until I was eleven," he said. "That was where I slept, and then I got moved into Dudley's spare bedroom." The look his father's face got worse if that was even possible. He muttered to himself as he walked off, but when he came back, he seemed much calmer.

"Dinner is going to start soon," Severus said. "You should go before your friends start to worry." Harry nodded and turned to leave. "I meant what I said. You are never going back to that place if I have anything to say about it." Harry smiled at him before leaving.

~~~~~~~~~

As soon as Harry left, Severus waited until he was sure that his son was out of sight and back in the Common Room. When he was, he left and headed straight for Dumbledore's office. It almost seemed a bit foolish to be running up to his office on the verge of dinnertime to yell at the old man, because he had a feeling he knew the answer already. He couldn't let it go. Of course, he had suspected that his home life had been less than perfect. Harry's clothes that had been wearing - hand-me-downs from his cousin - and shock at getting his own room were proof of that. However, seeing it for himself was entirely different.

Severus knew full well that not all parents meant well. His own father had been a drunk. What time he hadn't spent drinking, he had spent yelling at him and his mother. His mother took the brunt of it, and she had done her fair share of yelling back. In fact, most of his memories of the three of them together involved his parents yelling while Severus himself hid somewhere to avoid it all. Occasionally, his father would start throwing things or hitting. Never Severus himself, but always his mother. He was usually ignored.

That's who he had seen when he saw Petunia, Lily's own sister, throwing a frying pan at Harry's head. He had seen his father. He had instantly felt angry, both at Lily and himself. She hadn't told him, so he had never been around. He had never wanted children, nor did he blame her for not saying anything. Her letter made it sound as if she was planning on revealing the truth, but he had his doubts about that. Reveal to James Potter that the boy he had been raising was actually the son of his worst enemy, the product of a one-night-stand? That was laughable.

Then again, this was Lily. She had been beautiful and brave… Just maybe, she would have said something. What would he have done? What would he have wanted? He would have been twenty-one at the time. He was not the same man he was now. Severus shook his head, taking the thoughts out of his mind as he reached the door to Dumbledore's office. He was not going to live in the past. There was no way to go back and change anything now.

Severus said the password and made his way up the stairs. Knocking on the door, he heard Dumbledore's voice calling for him to come in. "Ah, Severus, to what do I owe the pleasure?" Dumbledore asked. The old man didn't seem to give a second thought to the angry look on Severus's face.

"Did you know?" he asked, seething as he stood there in the doorway.

"I am sure that I do not know what you mean," Dumbledore said, looking up at him, that damned twinkling in his eyes.

"Yes, you do, you bastard old man," Severus said, stalking forward and slamming his hands on the desk. "Did you know? I saw, in Harry's mind, his Aunt throwing a frying pan at his head. I already knew that they didn't get him his own clothes, and suspected he didn't get his own room. But did you know that he lived in a cupboard for the first eleven years of his life? You did, didn't you?"

"You only say this because now you know that he is your son," Dumbledore said calmly. "Yes, I knew. It was necessary, because of the protections placed on him there that he remain."

"In an abusive household? Never," Severus said, hating how Dumbledore ignored the edge to his voice. So few people did, and it never ceased to grate on his nerves when faced with one of those few. Especially Dumbledore, who always unfailingly calm, it seemed, no matter what he was faced with. That was not something Severus understood.

"I have my reasons, Severus," Dumbledore repeated.

"I do not care any longer," the younger man responded. "He is not going back to that house. Not as long as I am his father. You may have been able to get away with making decisions for him before, but no longer. I decide what's best for him now." With one more unwavering glare towards the old man sitting at the desk, looking up at him, Severus turned and walked out. He did not look back.