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Lily's Thorn

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Jacob woke up in a deep sweat, his breathing a bit ragged. He covered his face with his hands. He hated the dreams, the nightmares. He didn't want to get addicted to Dreamless Sleep, so he hadn't asked for more since he'd run out a week ago. It was very early Saturday morning. He hadn't even been off the Dreamless Sleep that long - he'd used it fairly regularly, but on light doses, since he had moved in with his father on his birthday four months ago. He could see why it became addictive. He didn't take it every night for that reason, but despite his father's words that he would tell him if it was becoming an issue, he hadn't mentioned it to him yet. The thing was, he didn't want his father to have to tell him that he needed to stop. By that point, he may already be getting addicted. No, he wanted to be able to handle it on his own. Well, fuck that, because his sleep had been messed up ever since.

Moirai mewed, and he took his hands off his face as he felt her little black paw touch his side. He patted his stomach, and she hesitated for a moment before jumping up on top of him. She fluffed him for a bit before laying down on top of him and curling up into a ball. He gave her pets, hoping to fall back asleep to her loud purrs, but no such luck - especially with Crabbe and Goyle's snores reverberating throughout the room. Sleep wouldn't come for him. Giving another groan, he gently scooped up his kitten and put her on the bed in his spot. She looked up at him and mewed, but he gave her another pet, and she curled herself up again and went back to sleep.

Jacob quickly grabbed his robes and got a piece of parchment. He wrote Meet me downstairs on it before setting it on Draco's bedside table. With that, he left the dorm, walking to the common room and out the secret passageway. He continued down the hall, remembering the new familiar steps Severus's rooms. He reached them, entering silently as the wards that his father put up allowed him entry. The room was dark and quiet except for the fireplace. The teen continued his way to his father's room. He had never actually been in there. He remembered that Severus had told him to let him know if he wanted to use his room here, and that's what he was going to do.

His father was sleeping on his back, chest slowly rising and falling. He sat down next to him and gently tried to wake him up. "Dad, Dad…" Severus awoke with a start, tensing up and firmly grabbing Jacob's wrist, seemingly almost on reflex. "It's me."

Severus seemed to untense almost instantly. "Sorry," he muttered, still obviously groggy from being woken up in the middle of the night. "What happened? Is everything okay?"

Jacob shook his head. "No, I'm fine," he said. "I just had a bad dream, and I wanted to come here for the rest of the night."

His father nodded. "Are you out of Dreamless Sleep?" Jacob nodded. "For how long?"

"About a week ago," he said. "I thought I would be okay for a bit since I've taken it pretty regularly, but…" He shrugged.

"Do you want to talk about the dream?"

Jacob shrugged. "It was about a door," he said." I don't know. I was running down this long, silent corridor towards it and trying to open it." He shook his head. "I don't know." There was something off about it, but he didn't know what. It was haunting, and it gave him a bad feeling, but he couldn't explain it. He couldn't shake it, either.

Severus nodded, and in his usual manner, never pushed. "Get some more from my cabinet," he said. "Middle shelf, small blue bottle. It should be labelled." Jacob nodded, leaving his father to go back to sleep. He found the bottle in question, and it was indeed labelled. He grabbed it, and then made his way back to his bedroom - his bedroom. He never would have imagined that Severus would be the type to want to stick around, to try to give him his own things, to make him feel included. Yet, that's exactly what Severus had done since day one. He had bought them a house, given him his own room in his quarters at Hogwarts, made time for him every week… This was working out, and while it shocked him, Jacob could not have been more glad.

Jacob curled up into bed, taking a sip of the Dreamless Sleep before setting the bottle on the bedside table. Within moments, he was fast asleep into a nightmare-free slumber.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Severus woke up a couple of hours later, the mark on his arm burning. He gripped it tightly. Getting up, he got dressed and made his way into his son's room. Jacob was sleeping peacefully, and he hated to wake him from a Dreamless Sleep induced slumber, but he knew if his son found out that he had been called without telling him, he would probably be quite hurt. There was no reason to anger the boy or upset him for no reason. Besides, this was something that he probably needed to know. There was no telling when his next Death Eater meeting might be his last. Jacob had a right to know.

Severus sat on the edge of the bed beside him, taking his hand off his mark and gently shaking his son awake. "Jacob, it's me," he said at the sleepy but startled look on the teenager's face. "I got called." He nodded, opening his mouth to say something but then just closed it. "I will be back. Go back to sleep, and I will talk to you in the morning."

Jacob nodded again as Severus got up. "Be safe, Dad, please," he said.

Severus turned around, his son's green eyes looking up at him from his spot on the bed. He had no idea what to say because he couldn't promise that. The older man simply nodded, and then turned and left. Within about ten minutes or so, he was at the Dark Lord's side. As much as he blamed Dumbledore for forcing him to spy again, Severus knew that there was no way for him to escape his fate. He had taken the mark willingly after he had finished school. 

Once a Death Eater, always a Death Eater. If you ran, eventually, you would be caught - at some point. Severus was safe inside the castle, but eventually, he would have to leave. He could run; he spoke enough languages that he could hide. However, he was not a coward. He would not run and hide from the mistakes that he had made. He couldn't make up for them, and nothing could take back the things that he had done. This was the closest that he could come. Now, with his son in the picture, he had another reason to stay, and he wouldn't run for anything. Not anymore. 

The Dark Lord had made sure that the boy he had thought was Harry Potter was tied into this war. Now he was, as well. It mattered very little at this point that Harry Potter had been a lie, fabricated by Lily Potter to cover up her one night of drunken infidelity.  The Dark Lord had chosen the boy and set them all down a path from which there was no getting off. He wondered what the bastard would think if he knew the truth, before he killed Severus, of course. He knew that it would mean his death if the truth was ever revealed. This charade had to continue.

Severus was broken out of his thoughts - his carefully concealed thoughts - as he and the other Death Eaters bowed before the Dark Lord. They kept their heads low as Voldemort ordered them to rise. Severus hadn't been to a meeting since the summer. Due to his position at Hogwarts, his meetings were kept fewer and far between unless something concerned him. That meant that the Dark Lord wanted an update on Harry Potter - something he could not give him. There was always the possibility that he could deliver the lie that Dumbledore had told everyone else, but the Dark Lord would likely know it was a lie as well, or he would have searched for the boy already. 

Severus was not, nor was he ever, in the mood to be put under the Cruciatus Curse. He could give him another story as the "true" story of where Harry Potter was, but Voldemort would find out that was a lie eventually. Likely, that either meant that he had not been told the truth or that he was no longer trusted. Both were dangerous for him. This entire operation was dangerous. All he could hope was that they managed to defeat him before Severus would be risking his life by returning to his service as a spy. One did not stop being a Death Eater.

Severus could hope that this night turned out well for him, as some of the other Death Eaters had good news on the Ministry front. They were gaining traction with some members of the Ministry that might end up being useful to the cause. The goal, of course, was to take over the Ministry. That required a lot of time and planning since they had to be very cautious as to who they talked to at the moment. They were operating in secret, and for the moment, that was how Voldemort wanted it. No one was looking for them because the Ministry did not believe there was an issue. It allowed them to operate behind the scenes without detection for the time being. This way, the Dark Lord could reveal himself when he wanted, and on his terms - as everything was in his world.

Slowly, everyone else was excused except for him. Severus had expected this, of course. Why else would he have been called? "Severus," the Dark Lord said, turning to him, "do you have any more news on the Potter boy? What have you been able to get out of Dumbledore?" 

Severus forced himself to stay calm. He had been in this position before. There were always times when you couldn't give him what he wanted. It really couldn't be avoided if one stayed in his service as long as Severus had - well, any length of time really. "My apologies, my Lord, but Dumbledore is keeping this very tight to his chest," he said. "He is sticking to his story, even with me. I have asked around and no one is saying anything different. If the story is different, then no one but Dumbledore is any the wiser."

For a moment, Severus thought he might escape the Dark Lord's wrath. He was mistaken, of course. "Crucio ," Voldemort uttered, and the Potions Master felt his body suddenly overcome with pain. Every inch of his body screamed as the intense pain made its way through every inch of his body. He didn't scream; he never screamed, because that was a sign of weakness. One never showed the Dark Lord weakness unless they wanted it worse. Voldemort could play with you for hours if he was so inclined. Luckily, Severus had never been on the receiving end of one of those tortures - though everyone had been tortured by the Dark Lord at least a couple of times - some more than that.

Severus waited for the white-hot pain to subside, or at least subside enough so that he could get on his knees. "For my plan to succeed, I need the boy," Voldemort said as he took a couple of steps forward. There was a dangerous edge to his voice. "You know this, Severus, and yet, when Dumbledore is supposed to trust you completely, he won't give you his location."

"He trusts others besides me, and yet no one knows any differently than what Dumbledore has told. If I may, my Lord," Severus continued before he could use the spell on him again, "when you follow through with your plan, the boy will come to you. He will not allow you to hurt his friends, those he cares about. At the very least, he will come out when you are ready to attack Hogwarts. He cannot hide forever." He forced his voice to stay calm. He could not show how this had affected him. If he did, there was always a chance he would get it worse for showing weakness. He kept his voice even and his body still, even as he could feel the aftereffects of the torture curse.

Voldemort hesitated, and that could go one of two ways for Severus. "I suppose you're right, Severus," he said. "For now, that will do. I want the boy, and I cannot win this war that is coming with the Light without his dead body at my feet. If Dumbledore wants to hide him from the world, you will find him for me."

Severus bowed deeper, keeping his emotions thoroughly in check. Any slip right now would mean his death. "Of course, my lord," he said. He fought the urge to tell the Dark Lord he would never get his hands on his son. He was many things, but foolish was not one of them. "I will increase my efforts to get the information from Dumbledore without arousing suspicion as to why." 

"See that you do," Voldemort said. "You may go now, Severus." He thanked the Dark Lord before bowing again to him and then slowly getting his battered body off the ground. He stood straight and tall as he walked out and Apparated back outside the wards of Hogwarts.

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

Severus felt his strength begin to fail him, and he immediately reached into his robes. Grabbing a potion to temporarily relieve his pain, he downed it before beginning the long trek back to his rooms. Luckily, the potion helped, or he wasn't sure how he would get back into the castle. He knew that there was a good chance that this had been coming. He couldn't - and wouldn't - give the Dark Lord what he wanted, which was his son. He could only hope that he could stave off his disappointment with fabricated lies. He would have to talk to Dumbledore about this.

Severus reached the doors and made his way into the entrance hall. He turned, instead of going down to the dungeons, he made his way to the stairs instead. He needed to speak to Dumbledore, and while would prefer to just Floo the old man from his rooms, it was too much of a risk with Umbridge. He didn't want to take the risk if she was watching the Floos. This was information that could not be overheard. He reached the gargoyle statue, said his password - one Dumbledore had put in just for him so that he would be notified when late-night meetings like this happened if he needed to talk - and made his way inside.

Severus had only had to wait a moment before Dumbledore appeared, wrapped in a purple silk dressing gown. "Severus, you were called, I take it," he said, making his way to his desk and sitting down across from him. "Are you alright, my boy?"

"I have survived worse," Severus said. He explained what had happened - that the Death Eaters were gaining hold in the Ministry and that Voldemort had asked about Harry Potter. He also explained that he could not give him what he wanted, and when his answer was not sufficient, he had been punished. "I can try and stave him off because if we send the Dark Lord on a wild goose chase, it could make things worse."

"I quite agree," Dumbledore said, summoning some tea. "Tea?" He shook his head, and the old man shrugged before taking a sip. "We can also not put someone on what could be a death sentence if they are discovered. It will, ultimately, be found to be a false trail, which would make things even worse for you than the alternative."

Severus nodded. "I am certain that I can stave him off," he said. "Ultimately, the Dark Lord will come here, and 'Harry' will need to be here."

Dumbledore nodded. "Once again, I agree. For the time being, he is much safer as his real self. If it becomes too dangerous -" 

Severus cut him off. "I know what I'm doing, and I can handle it." He had agreed to this, not that he'd had much of a choice in the matter. The Potions Master knew that he was good at his job, and being a spy in and of itself was dangerous. He would not run.

He didn't stay much longer after that. He soon excused himself, making his way out of the room and back downstairs and to the dungeons, his mind reeling. If he could convince the Dark Lord that when it all came to a head, that Harry Potter would be there, perhaps it wouldn't mean his death. He never thought that he would survive this war when Voldemort returned last summer. For any Death Eater, the more time spent under Voldemort's thumb, the harder it got. They all got angry at him, but as the only spy that Voldemort had in the Order, he was particularly at risk.

On the other hand, it also made him more valuable. There was no one else in the Order that was in his position - he was the only one as high in Dumbledore's favor as he was. That meant that Voldemort needed him because there was no one else that could be groomed to take his place. Despite that fact, he knew that there was always a chance that the Dark Lord could get tired of him and decide that he was no longer worth the trouble, that he could do it without his spy. The thing that would keep him alive, and allow him to spend more time with his son, would be to continue to prove that he was invaluable so that the Dark Lord didn't decide to end him before the war could be ended.

Severus reached his quarters and slowly made his way inside. The potion was already beginning to wear off. He always took a temporary potion because what he needed when put under Cruciatus was something a little different. He went to his cabinet, grabbing two potions - one for pain, one for muscle relaxing - and made his way into the bathroom. He started the tub before stripping, his muscles protesting every movement he made. He had found years ago that the combination of those two potions on his entire body helped to relieve the pain from Cruciatus. It also helped stave on any lasting effects for those, like him and most if not all, of the other Death Eaters, who had it done more times than they care to count. He would fill the tub, put the potions in, and then got in, trying to get his body to relax.

Severus would get no sleep tonight.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Severus had been correct - he had not slept at all that night. After he had soothed himself with his potion bath, he had laid down, but sleep would not come. It would not be the first time he had gone without sleep. He could take Dreamless Sleep and force it to come, but after a Death Eater meeting, he hated doing that. He despised forcing sleep, as well, though only for himself and not for others. He would tonight if it was necessary, because with classes tomorrow morning, he would need to rest. It wouldn't do if he started wanting to curse his students more than he already did. Maybe he would go to bed early tonight if he was so inclined.

Jacob got up early as he was sitting at the table and drinking a cup of coffee, continuing to read his book. "Morning, Dad." Severus just gave a low grunt of acknowledgment. "How did last night go?"

"Fine." Severus did not want to discuss it, and he told the boy before that if there was something that he needed to know, he would tell him.

"Are you sure?" Jacob did not seem convinced. Was it that obvious that he hadn't slept all night?

"Yes," he said, his voice coming out a bit harsher than intended. He immediately wondered if he should say something, but brushed it off. As much as he had come to care for his son, right now, he was not in the mood to answer a series of questions, especially when he already said he was fine.

Jacob jerked back like he had been slapped, and then immediately sent him a green glare. "Excuse me for worrying," he said, getting up and heading for the door.

Severus groaned. "Jacob, stop," he said. The boy stopped in his tracks, turning around and crossing his arms over his chest. "I am sorry." Jacob seemed to relax a bit at that. "Last night was… not pleasant, and I do not wish to discuss it." Especially since he had a feeling that his son would end up blaming himself for his predicament, and that was the last thing that Severus wanted. 

"I - I mean, you're okay, though, right?" He asked, and a worried look crossed his son's green eyes.

Severus nodded. "I am okay. I just did not sleep last night, but that is normal after a meeting," he said." I have had worse. Go back to your dorm and meet up with Draco. I will be fine." 

Jacob hesitated for a bit before nodding. "I'll see you for lunch, then, if you're still up for it?" Severus nodded because he was not going to give up an afternoon with his son because of the Dark Lord. The bastard was not going to take that away from him. The boy smiled, saying goodbye, and then making his way out. The Potions Master let out a groan. He would have to learn to curb his temper when it came to his son. They couldn't have this conversation after every time he got called for a meeting. He knew he was not the easiest person in the world to get along with him. He couldn't blame his son for being worried. He would have to work on that.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Jacob made his way down the dungeon and back to his common room. He reminded himself that he needed to be more patient with Severus, but it was only understandable that he wanted just a bit of security after knowing that his father had been called by Voldemort. He had to remember that he shouldn't pry, though. He should have backed down when his father said he was fine - even though he had obviously been not fine. Perhaps next time he could wait before asking, when he was less prone to being short-tempered. Then again, he was pretty much always short-tempered. At least he was trying, but nothing happened overnight. They both had to be patient.

Jacob entered the Slytherin dorm and found Draco waiting for him in the common room. His boyfriend had his arms crossed over his chest, and the note he'd left for him in his hands. "Meet me downstairs?" Draco said. "What the bloody hell was that about? Are you okay?" He looked somewhere in between annoyed and worried.

"I'm fine," Jacob said, waving off the question. "I just… I had a nightmare last night, so I went to go sleep in my room off of my father's rooms." 

Draco's stiffness passed a bit, and the worry took over. "Nightmare? Are you alright? Do you have those a lot?"

Jacob shrugged. "I used to… before," he said, being careful of his words since they were in a public place at the moment where anyone could overhear. "I haven't since I've come here, because I've been using Dreamless Sleep most nights, but I ran out and…" He shrugged. He would get the Dreamless Sleep when he went back this afternoon for lunch and chess with his father. 

"Do you want to talk about it?" 

Jacob shook his head. "No, I'm fine, really," he said, wrapping his arms around Draco's waist and giving him a light, lingering kiss on the lips. "Let's just exercise, and I think that will help." Besides, he would get distracted by his body protesting and getting to admire the long lines of his boyfriend's body. Yes, that would be a very wonderful distraction, and besides… Christmas was almost here, and for once, he was getting a proper Christmas. No amount of bumps in the road, not even Voldemort, could take that away from them.