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Lily's Thorn

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The rest of the week went by relatively quickly, and before he knew it, Saturday morning had arrived. After exercising with Draco, he showered and dressed and headed down to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom and the Chamber of Secrets that lied beneath it. He did enjoy the lessons and was looking forward to them again. As usual, Hermione was already there when he arrived.

"Hey, Hermione," he said as he sat next to her.

"Hey," she said, turning to him. Her hands were in lap, and it looked like something was on her mind. "Can I ask you something? Something personal?"

"You're my best friend, of course, you can."

Hermione stayed silent for a moment before speaking. "How far have you and Draco gotten?"

That was an odd question. The two of them had never discussed such things before, but then again, they'd never had anything to discuss. After all, she had only had a brief relationship with Krum, and he had… well, done nothing before Draco. "Er, just snogging, and that's it. I mean, we've taken our shirts off, but that's it. We've only been together for two months, after all."

Hermione nodded. "Yeah, that makes sense," she said, twisting her hands around in her lap. "See, the other night, Terry and Padma happened to be doing some rounds the same time as me and Ron. We were both done, so Terry and I hung back a bit, and spent some time together."

"You mean snogged."

Hermione gave him a light slap on his arm, but her lips were twitching up into a smile. "Alright, fine, yes, we were snogging. The farthest we've gotten is snogging with our shirts off, too. Anyway, when we were parting, he said that he really liked me and that he thought it was time to take things to the next level." He could tell by the look on her face that she did not agree with that statement. "I mean… sex? We've only been together for three months. Is that enough time? I don't…" Her voice trailed off a bit.

Jacob put a hand on her shoulder. "Calm down. Terry's a good guy. If you're not ready, you need to tell him that. He doesn't seem the type to pressure you into anything from what you've said," he said, hoping he could ease her fears a bit. "He seems like a decent guy. I'm sure if you tell him you're not ready for that yet, that you feel like he's rushing things a bit, he'll understand. You don't want to do anything you'll regret later."

Hermione nodded. She seemed to be a bit calmer now. "You're right, he's a good guy," she said. "It just… it freaked me out a bit, you understand. I didn't think we were anywhere near close to that!" He nodded. It would have freaked him out if Draco had said that to him that night they were snogging in the guest room. "We haven't even talked about it, not once. What about you and Draco? Have you talked about it?"

Jacob nodded. "Yes, we have. We agreed that we want to, but that it's too soon that we're going to wait." Hermione agreed that it was a mature decision on their part to not only discuss it, but know that waiting was the right thing for them. Any other conversation was cut off as his father walked in and he went down to start their lesson.

~~~~~~~~~~~

After lunch, he and Draco met with Hermione in the library. The two of them were only sitting there for a couple of minutes when Ron came over. "Hey, do you three mind?" He gestured to the seat next to Hermione across from Draco. All three nodded, and the redhead took a seat, getting out his homework. It was kind of nice, having Ron back. It almost felt like old times. Almost. A lot of things had changed since then.

Without even thinking, Draco leaned over and scratched a couple of things off of the notes that Jacob was writing. Ron looked at them curiously. "What?" Draco asked defensively. "See something interesting?"

"No, no, just… didn't know you helped him with his homework, that's all," Ron said. "I guess I wasn't paying attention before."

"I help him, just nudge him in the right direction." Draco gave a nonchalant wave of his hand. "I don't do it for him if that's what you're asking." Jacob groaned. Not that the blonde was wrong, but he still didn't need to point it out like that. 

Both Ron and Hermione blushed, though Ron was glaring at Draco, too. "No, it wasn't, and that's not why I'm here, either!" He put his hands up in defeat. "I hope you'll still help me if I need it, though." He turned to her.

Hermione smiled. "Of course, Ron, but I can't do it for you anymore," she said. Jacob was glad that she was standing up to him, though he was curious about what the redhead's reaction would be now that Hermione had put her foot down on doing half his homework for him.

Ron shook his head. "No, and you shouldn't have," he said. "I should do it on my own. But I'd be grateful for some pointers."

Draco muttered something that sounded like "Finally," but they were all studying after that. To his credit, Ron didn't ask Hermione to write anything for him once, though he was sure by the end of their study session that Draco was getting quite annoyed at the amount of questions Ron was asking.

Jacob was proved right as they headed back down to their dorm to drop off their books before heading to dinner. "Did he have to ask a question about everything?" he complained. "I mean, she might as well have been writing it for him at that rate." He knew he didn't like Ron, but at least he was tolerating him.

"He's trying," Jacob replied. "And you help me quite a bit, too. It's just different because you usually offer the help before I have to ask." He did appreciate that the two of them were at least trying to deal with each other, despite their mutual animosity to get along with it. Things could certainly be worse.

~~~~~~~~~~~

After dinner, a bunch of the Slytherins were spending time in the common room. The Giant Squid had swum by once, which was something he still wasn't used to. Apparently, he wasn't alone in that, because there were some first years huddled up in seats by the window, hoping to catch another glimpse. Draco, Jacob, and their friend had been sitting around the couch, some working on homework but mostly just hanging around. It was too cold to go outside, after all. The weather was still freezing, so they were better off down here by the fire.

Apparently, Moirai thought so, too. Somehow, the little brat had snuck out of his dorm and ended up downstairs. She was curled up next to him. Draco excused himself to go to the loo, and Salenia came down from her dorm at the same time. She pulled a chair closer to the couch that he was sitting in, with a box and what looked like brochures in her hands, as well as a camera. The girls immediately seemed interested, except for Millicent. Marcus was lounging in a chair near her.

"Ooh, what's that?" Daphne said, leaning towards her.

"The Valentine's Comb set, the first batch," she said. Jacob had almost forgotten about the hair color-changing combs that Salenia had. She had one for every house color. They'd used them in the first two Quidditch matches of the season. "My aunt gave them to me over the break, wanted me to try them out as they have to release them pretty soon. Valentine's is only a month away, after all." 

She opened up the box, and five combs sat inside. One was plain black, the color removal comb he had to assume. The others were white, pink, red, and purple. The girls oohed and aahed over them. Marcus looked a bit bored. Pansy asked why the purple comb was dark purple. Salenia explained that they wanted some variety because purple was also in the Spring and Summer sets. That got them excited, and Salenia handed over the brochures, and they took turns looking at that the combs.

Jacob hadn't been paying much attention, but now, Salenia was looking right at him, a smile on her face. "What?" he asked her, wishing that Draco would come back now. What was taking him so long? 

"I was just wondering if you would… let me try it out." She moved the comb to indicate what she was talking about it.

"No."

"Oh, come on," she said. "I think this purple would look so good in your black hair. Not to mention it would go with your green eyes. But you didn't need me to tell you that you were handsome, of course."

Jacob was a bit taken aback because he'd never had anyone tell him that aside from Draco. Then again, hadn't Hermione said it wasn't a bad look? He knew she was only saying it to get what she wanted, but it was still weird for him. "Alright, give it a go," he said. 

Salenia looked thrilled, and got out of her seat, coming to sit next to him and Moirai. He just sat there as she started running the comb through his hair. He looked over to see Daphne doing Pansy's hair with the white comb, while Elizabeth was doing Daphne's with the red comb and Pansy was doing Tracey's with the pink comb. A few minutes later, and Salenia announced she was done. She grabbed a mirror - where had that come from? - and handed it to him.

His hair was purple. It didn't look half bad, though. He was about to tell her to take it off when all of a sudden, a familiar voice asked, "What is going on here? And why is my boyfriend's hair purple?" 

"My aunt's new set of combs - Valentine's Day," she said, as Draco walked over. "Doesn't it look good on him?"

"It actually does," Draco agreed as Salenia handed him a brochure. "Why are you handing this to me?"

"Because you're my friend, you're very fashion-conscious, and you're going to want something if a lot of other people are wanting it," she explained. "And you're the richest person in school." 

Draco acknowledged that she had a point and looked at the brochure as Salenia held up Moirai. "My cat is purple," Jacob said, looking at the faint purple streaks that now went through her fur. Salenia's cat, a big white fluffy one, had come to curl up next to her, and he noticed she too had purple streaks now.

"No, she has purple highlights," she said with a smile as Moriai mewed. 

"Can you remove them, please? And the ones in my hair now?"

"Oh, fine, you're no fun," she said, a slight pout on her lips. "But one second." She put Moirai into his lap and grabbed her camera. Before he could stop her, she took a picture before turning to the girls and taking a picture of them as well. When he stared at her, she just said, "What? Visual proof to show my aunt of how much people enjoy the combs, and who knows they might want to include these photos in their next brochure." 

Salenia set the camera down and grabbed the color removing the comb. "Can I just… leave a bit?" He was about to protest - Draco was smirking as he looked over the brochure - when she continued. "Oh, come on, just… right in the front, framing your face? It would look so good, and it would help me see if it lasts. I'll remove it tomorrow night, I promise."

Jacob groaned. "Oh, alright. Just until tomorrow." Salenia beamed at him, and soon, most of the purple was gone. 

"You know, I think I'll order both sets," Draco said. "Even though I don't really need the entire Hogwarts set, it seems silly to just buy one house. It's new, and it's one entire set, you know? And while the Valentine's set isn't really my cup of tea, it has its advantages." Salenia seemed thrilled by that.  Jacob leaned over to look at the brochure. Apparently, in addition to the Valentine's, Spring, and Summer sets, there was also going to be a Halloween set, a Winter set, a Prism set, and sets for the Professional Quidditch teams.

"What do you get for all this?" Blaise asked. He had been relatively quiet since he didn't have enough hair to work with for the combs to be interesting to him. "They might as well pay for all this free advertisement they're getting."

"Free combs for life, and I get any set before it's released," she said. "And I don't want to be a salesperson anyway; they can keep their money. I just want the combs and bragging rights. Besides,  I have bigger goals than just being a saleswoman. I want to be a Hit Wizard." Salenia turned to Draco. "Now, could I just -"

"Don't even think about it."

"Spoilsport. You'd look good with some pink streaks, but have it your way."

Just then, a rat-faced teen walked over to them. "Oi, Salenia, can you do my hair, too?"

"Fuck off, Vickers." He remembered them mentioning a Vickers that fancied Salenia. This was him, then? He had a vibe that Jacob didn't like, though he couldn't quite put his finger on why. 

"Oh, come on, everyone else's hair was done. And I saw how much you enjoyed playing with Jacob's hair." It was true. Aside from the purple streaks in his hair, Pansy had white streaks, Daphne had red, Tracey had pink, and Elizabeth had put red streaks in her hair. "After that, maybe you'll agree to go out with me."

"Fine, I'll do your hair, but I wouldn't date you if you were the last guy on Earth," she said, grabbing the combs as he turned around. "Besides, I'm dating someone."

"Yeah, a Gryffindor and a girl. It's not a real relationship." 

So, that was where the bad vibe came from. A smirk crossed Salenia's face. "Yes, it is, just because you're homophobic doesn't mean the rest of us are." She then started putting streaks in his hair. It took them all a few minutes to see what she was doing, and then the group started to snicker. She was putting all four colors in his hair, and doing it in such a way that it looked like Valentine's Day had thrown up on his hair. It was ridiculous, and he was pretty sure that was the point. "There you go. You're done. Now get out of my face."

Vickers left, looking quite smug, but the snickers followed him. "Oh, that was genius. He's going to freak when he sees what you did," said Pansy.

"That was the point," she said, sitting back down in her chair. "No one insults my relationship with my girlfriend. Besides, that'll teach him to ask me out when I already turned him down once, and he knows I'm dating someone. Bloody douchebag. Besides, it'll wear off in a couple of days anyway. Or at least it should."

While he still found them draining sometimes, the Slytherins weren't so bad. This was something he was pretty sure even the Gryffindors would appreciate. Maybe they weren't so different after all.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The next morning at breakfast, Vickers ran towards them. He had a desperate look on his face, and his hair was still the Valentine's Vomit that Salenia had done to him last night. The students sitting around them started snickering. He begged her to give him the removal comb; he actually looked quite desperate but she refused. He pleaded, but she stood her ground, pointing out that he had insulted her relationship with her girlfriend by saying that it was "not real" - but he had not said that about Jacob and Draco. Was it just because she was with a girl? Or was it because she had turned him down and he couldn't take a hint? He couldn't respond, and she sent him on his way. He looked kind of defeated and ran out as their friends congratulated her. Salenia said she planned on giving him the removal comb later on tonight because she didn't want to lose house points; she just wanted to make him sweat a bit first.

Of course, their good mood was stolen when Umbridge seemed to be making a fuss to Dumbledore about something. The old man stood up, though he seemed reluctant to do so. "Students, your attention if you please," he said. "While we encourage students to have fun in their free time, I must implore you to keep the colorful hair for free time, and Quidditch matches." He then turned and left the Great Hall while Umbridge didn't seem quite satisfied.

"Did he have to single us out like that?" Elizabeth said. "We're the only ones who have the combs because Salenia's the only one with them right now." 

"I don't think it was him," said Theodore from her right.

Draco and Jacob both nodded. "It's Umbridge. She didn't seem pleased," said Draco. "Probably another way for her to control us. It doesn't seem as if the Ministry likes any individuality whatsoever. She's been trying to control things from the start, and Merlin forbid we have any fun."

Draco was right, and Jacob had a feeling that Umbridge wasn't done yet.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Severus had finished breakfast, reading a book and sipping his second cup of coffee. He rarely had time for such things, but he was allowing himself a moment here for it. Then there was a knock on the door. Sighing, he marked his page before getting up to find the Headmaster at the door. "Headmaster? To what do I owe the pleasure?" he asked as he let the old man inside.

"I need to ask a favor of you, Severus," he said as they both sat down on the armchairs. Severus raised an eyebrow in response. "I would like you to make me a dose of Felix Felicis."

"Liquid Luck? Why do you need that made?" Severus asked. He couldn't imagine why Dumbledore would need that potion made unless he had something planned for it. The old man usually tended to get his way regardless. Felix Felicis was intended to make sure everything went right for you for twenty-four hours. While it was tricky to make, it wasn't above Severus's skills, of course. He just found it strange that Dumbledore would request such a thing.

"I have had to adjust some of my plans due to recent events." It was a cryptic statement, which made Severus think this was even more strange. Something Dumbledore was admitting to needing help with? "I hope I do not need to use it, but I have a feeling that I need a backup plan. It might come in handy. If you do not wish to do it -"

"I didn't say that," Severus said quickly. "I'll do it. I just find this whole thing rather strange, that's all."

Dumbledore nodded. "I understand, and all will be revealed in due time, my boy, I promise." He paused for a second before continuing. "How far have you gotten through the memories?"

"We have two more. I was hoping to get through one or both of them this afternoon when he comes. Why do you ask?"

"Just curious. Things have been going well?"

"Well enough. He doesn't really understand yet, but I'm sure he will."

"Of that, I have no doubt," Dumbledore replied. "I may not get to this before you finish the remaining memories. As soon as you have finished Felix, I will endeavor to get it done as soon as possible so that we may all take the next step." Severus was even more confused now if that was possible. This was connected to one of the last two memories? That was the only explanation he could think of. 

He must have seen the confused look on his face because he smiled at him. "It will all be clear in due time, I promise." Dumbledore then stood up and headed for the door. He paused as he reached it before turning back. "Trust that I am doing this because it is necessary, and we must have all the information in order to proceed forward."

"Proceed forward with what?"

"Everything." With that, Dumbledore left. 

Severus knew he was hiding something, and whatever it was, it was big, and he needed something in order to continue. Another memory? The last memory he had called "the most important" that he had collected. Shaking his head, he knew better than to dwell on such things. He would find out in due time what the old man meant. Still, he couldn't help but wonder what was so important in that last memory? And likely the other memory he needed to collect?

Severus knew one thing, though. He wanted to put off finishing the memories for as long as possible. He would need to tell Harry the truth about the circumstances surrounding his mother's death, and he wanted to wait as long as possible to do that. He knew telling him about the prophecy was important and should have been done earlier, but he was also worried about what Jacob's reaction to his part in it would be.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Before lunch, Jacob separated from the others and went to his father's rooms. He remembered what he had said before, and went straight in. Severus was sitting at the desk, seeming to be marking papers. He looked over at him as he came in, shutting the door behind him. "How was your morning?" Severus asked as he stood up, leaving the papers on the desk. "I've been meaning to ask you. Why is your hair purple?"

"Other than Umbridge ruining a good morning, great." Jacob told him about what had transpired last night with Salenia and the combs, that morning with Vickers and Umbridge convincing Dumbledore to announce the combs when only a handful of students had them - himself, Pansy, Daphne, Tracey, Elizabeth, and Salenia. Surely, Salenia would be giving them to her Gryffindor girlfriend for them to try out, too, but that was beside the point.

Severus just shook his head. "Not something I think she should have made a fuss about, then again, she and I do not see eye to eye," he said as they walked over the couch, the Pensieve and the box of memories already waiting for them. "Now, if you wore it to class, I would have to say something, but such a small thing from a few students doesn't seem like something to make an announcement about."

The two of them sat down on the couch, and Jacob wondered how many memories they had left to go. How many could Dumbledore have collected? Severus seemed to guess this question because the first next thing he said was that there were only two left. "Dumbledore told me that he was unable to collect many from his time at Hogwarts because those few who knew him well did not want to speak up about it," he explained.

Jacob nodded. "I can understand that," he said. "I mean, knowing him before he became Lord Voldemort and being fooled by him… anyone would probably keep quiet."

Severus nodded, going on to explain what Dumbledore had told him what he had been like at school, that he had been sorted into Slytherin almost before the hat even touched his head. He told him how Dumbledore had given him the benefit of the doubt after their first meeting, but that he did keep an eye out for him. In the Chamber of Secrets, Riddle said that Dumbledore kept 'an annoyingly close watch' on him after he opened the Chamber the first time.

His father continued, explaining that, according to Dumbledore, there had been incidents during his school years, but none of them were ever linked back to him and his friends. Jacob doubted he had ever had true friends; chances are, they were more like followers more than likely. The biggest incident had, of course, been the Chamber of Secrets. Hagrid and Aragog had been framed for that, Hagrid's wand snapped, and he had been expelled even though he had done nothing wrong. 

"According to those few that Dumbledore could persuade to talk to him, he was obsessed with his parentage, determined to find some trace of his father before he had to accept that his father was a Muggle. Which is when Dumbledore believes that he started using his new name. He then set out to find his mother's family," Severus had explained. "He had not wanted to believe she was a witch because he saw death as a human weakness." Jacob could understand him being curious about his past. He had always been curious about his parents growing up, though all he had been told was this mother and aunt were sisters, and his parents had died in a car crash. That had been a lie, of course, but he could understand wanting to know where you were from. 

Severus continued speaking. "When he was sixteen, he went off to find the last traces of Slytherin's line, which he had somehow tracked down after years of research. That is where he says this memory starts. It is of Morfin Gaunt, his uncle." They went into the memory, and it took him a moment to recognize the Gaunt's house, which was dirtier than it had been in the older memories. There was a man in an armchair, who almost looked dead until Riddle came in. 

Gaunt yelled at him in Parseltongue, recognizing him for his father before noticing that he was too young. Riddle asked questions, responding in Parseltongue. Gaunt seemed to hold no remorse for his sister's death - saying she got what she deserved for falling for a Muggle. Riddle asked about Marvolo, and Jacob assumed it was because that was his middle name, so he hadn't had much else. Riddle then realized he was being faced with his son, as Morvolo had already died. 

Morfin explained that Riddle Senior had come back, abandoning her and that she had robbed him before running off. Morfin wanted to know where Slytherin's locket was. Then, Riddle raised his wand and a darkness fell over everything. Jacob and Severus exited the memory, and Jacob immediately told him the conversation that had transpired inside, since Severus did not speak Parseltongue. "But what happened with the memory?"

"It ended, obviously, so he didn't remember anything else," Severus replied. "Dumbledore said that not long after, Riddle Senior and his parents were all found dead. Gaunt confessed to the whole thing, every single detail."

"He was Stupefied. That's why the memory ended so abruptly. So, he must have used Morfin's wand to do it, then."

"Yes, I agree, and so did Dumbledore, who also noticed that Gaunt's family ring was now gone," Severus said. "He managed to uncover that memory after some time and tried to use it to free Gaunt from Azkaban, but he had already died."

Jacob thought for a moment. "The trace, you mentioned before that it couldn't sense my magic in our house while you were there," he explained. "So, that's why they couldn't tell. Because of Morfin, and because he used his wand." 

Severus nodded. "Yes. It is up to Wizarding parents to uphold that law."

"Well, that's rubbish, then," he said, and Severus seemed to agree. "I mean, not that I want the MInistry watching me closely or anything, but there has to be a better way to go about it." Gaunt hadn't committed those murders, yet he had died for them.

"I think we've had enough for one day," Severus said. Jacob didn't see why they couldn't just do the last one and get it over with, but his father was insistent that they stop there. He shrugged it off since he didn't really want to do it anyway, they could wait two weeks. After that, they played some chess for a while before Jacob left for dinner, wondering what was in the final memory that Dumbledore had collected.