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Lily's Thorn

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That night after his day with his father was the first meeting of the DA since the new term started. Hermione wanted to do a review - they had covered several spells in the first half, and she wanted to make sure that everyone was on the same page before moving forward. It was a wise decision, Jacob thought, and the meeting really went well, all things considered. Everyone seemed excited to be there, and many said they'd been looking forward to it. 

After the meeting was over and he finally made his way back to the dorm, Draco had to hurry off with a quick kiss for Prefect duties. He did his Occlumency training before attempting to drift off to sleep. As he did so, he got a brief wave of happiness that he somehow knew didn't come from him. He thought that the Occlumency training was working - at least he was putting the effort in, and his father said things were going fine. Yet, this was the second time that he had gotten something from Voldemort. This was different, though. 

Voldemort was very happy about something, happiest he'd been in a long time. Whatever that was, it could not be good for anyone else. What was it, though?

The next morning in the paper, he had his answer. The headline read that ten Death Eaters had escaped from Azkaban, including Bellatrix Lestrange, the woman who had tortured Neville's parents to insanity. Fudge gave an interview blaming Sirius for it, saying that he had helped him. It infuriated Jacob to hear that about his godfather when the truth was that the Dementors had turned towards Voldemort. That was the only logical explanation, but he didn't see that. It wasn't as if Fudge was going to admit he was wrong, either, not unless something forced him to. 

Jacob had other things to worry about, but it wasn't as if he had missed all the news about it. When you found out your father was alive and the man you thought was your father wasn't really your father, anything else was not high on your priority list. He saw the Daily Prophet articles trashing him and Dumbledore, though. This seemed like such obvious proof that Voldemort was back, he didn't know how anyone could still be doubting it. Everyone should care about this.

Looking around, it didn't seem as if too many people cared that ten dangerous criminals were now loose and likely back with Voldemort by now. The normal teenager conversations were taking place - who was dating who, schoolwork, the upcoming Quidditch match next month, Valentine's Day, the opening matches for the qualifying groups for the Quidditch World Cup, which were also coming up… There were a few at the Slytherin table aside from them who were also looking at the article, and a few more at each of the other three tables. He saw Hermione and Ron bent over the paper, Hermione gasping at something. Neville had a stony look on his face that Jacob had never seen before. 

The look at the teacher's table was quite different. All the teachers were huddled together, talking. While not all of them had a copy of the paper, they were talking about the escape. 

Jacob was saved from having to think about it too much more as Draco nudged him to go to their first class of the day, Arithmancy. While it was not his best class, he was actually looking forward to the distraction right now.  The next day, however, things got even better.

Jacob and Draco ran into Hermione in the Great Hall. She said that Hagrid was on probation, and was very upset about it. Hermione was, too. Jacob wished, for the first time, that he was Harry again so that he could say something to him. Of course, that was brief, because as much as he missed Hagrid, he didn't hate his new life at all. There were things about it and people he missed, but he felt more himself as Jacob Snape than he ever had in his fifteen years as Harry Potter.

There was, unfortunately, another piece of news they saw as they were passing the notice board in the entryway. Umbridge had put up another Educational Decree - this one was number twenty-six. It forbade teachers from giving out information not directly related to their classes. 

Jacob rolled his eyes. "Do you think that qualifies if my father is one of the teachers?"

"I wouldn't want to find out," Hermione told him. "It's best to avoid giving Umbridge the chance to answer that question." He knew that she had a point, and he wasn't about to test it after what happened last time, no matter how sorely he was tempted on occasion. It was only a matter of time before things got worse, as they always did before they got better. Jacob had a feeling that Umbridge wasn't done yet.

~~~~~~~~~~

The rest of the week was a blur of Quidditch practice, classes, homework, and Draco. The teachers were giving them more homework with their O.W.L's coming up at the end of the semester. With a couple of Quidditch practices after school that week, as well, it meant staying up late to try and finish homework. Luckily, he and Draco helping him wind down after they were done. His lips and hands were a great way to distract him from anything he was thinking about. 

By that point, everyone had known that Hagrid was on probation. There also seemed to be a general consensus that the new educational decree was to stop the teachers from talking to any students about the breakout. Lee Jordan had told Umbridge during class that she wasn't allowed to tell Fred and George off for playing Exploding Snap in the back of the class because it had nothing to do with the subject. According to Hermione, he had red marks on the back of his hands the next day.

Saturday morning, he met up with Hermione in Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. She smiled at him as he sat down next to her. "Ron wanted to come with me," she said. "We haven't been on good terms really until the break, so I hadn't mentioned it to him before, just because… well, you know how he can get sometimes. He asked where I went, so I told him, but I didn't want to invite him along when Professor Snape doesn't have to let me come along to these, and he's breaking that new Educational Decree doing this." 

"You know, I don't think my father gives a shit about what Umbridge thinks or what the decrees, say," he replied.

Hermione rolled her eyes. "Yes, I know that," she said, an exasperated tone to her voice. "As I said, that's not the only reason. I also didn't want to invite him along without asking the Professor first, especially since I wasn't invited to these at first, either? I invited myself, remember?" Jacob wanted to correct her that she had asked for permission before he remembered his father had originally said no; Hermione had practically begged him to change his mind. "So, I talked to Terry." 

The change in subject broke his train of thought quickly. "Oh? And how did that go?" 

She smiled at him. "You were right, I just needed to talk to him and tell him how I was feeling," she said. "He apologized for seeming like he was rushing me, and said that wasn't his intention. He just thinks things are going really well, that we have a lot in common, but he would never rush me into moving our relationship faster than I was ready for."

"See, I told you? You were worried about nothing."

Hermione nodded. "Yeah, I know. I should have told him to begin with, but he caught me off guard, that's all." 

"Are things okay between you?" Jacob asked. She didn't seem to be really excited about it, and he never got any feeling from her that she really liked Terry.

Hermione nodded again. "Yes, things are just fine," she replied. Jacob nodded, not wanting to push her, but she seemed to want to talk more anyway. "I'm enjoying things and having fun with him. I'm okay with that for now because I do like him, although I do get the feeling more recently that he may like me more than I like him, but I'm not sure. Besides, I don't want to end a perfectly good relationship that I'm enjoying before I have a good reason."

Jacob nodded. He had no advice to give her because his only experience was with Draco. He certainly had never wondered how Draco felt about him or vice versa. They were crazy about each other, and that was no secret to anyone who spent any amount of time with them. He would imagine that a lot of people would feel the same way with someone they dated; he didn't think she would be alone in not being entirely sure about the person they were dating.

Hermione then told him about another article that he had missed in the paper - a ministry worker had apparently suffered an accidental death by a Devil's Snare. She remembered seeing him at St. Mungo's when they had gone to visit Ron's dad, and had seen the plant coming in. She was pretty sure it was murder, although the article said that it was still being investigated. The conversation ended as his father walked in. 

Hermione immediately popped up, the expression on her face eager. "Professor, I was wondering, can Ron join us?" she asked.

"No," Severus said without missing a beat as they headed towards the sink.

"Ron really wants to join, he's willing to do the work," she said. "He can keep up, I promise."

Severus groaned as Jacob opened up the chamber. "Very well, but I am not slowing down or backing up for him. He will have to keep up." Jacob wondered if he was agreeing to shut Hermione up or if he was agreeing because he was friends with him again.

~~~~~~~~~

The next day came without incident and found Jacob heading to his father's room again before lunch. Severus already had lunch ready for him when he got there. "Thanks for letting Ron come," he told him as they ate.

"If he wasn't your friend, I wouldn't have allowed it," he replied. "He seems to have matured a bit, and as I said yesterday, he will need to keep up. You and Miss Granger have been working at this for some time now. He will be behind."

Jacob nodded, but he had a feeling Ron would be fine. He just didn't want the redhead to be too dejected that he and Hermione might be a bit ahead. He knew that Ron would work hard for something that he wanted, though. It made perfect sense to him that now that Ron was on better terms with him and Hermione that he would want to join their sessions. The two of them were still not getting the hang of doing spells without saying the incantation, but they had come quite a ways from where they'd started.

After lunch was finished, Severus told him it was time for his Occlumency training to start again. "The next step is to work on pushing me out of your mind once I've invaded," he explained as he moved the coffee table out of the way so that nothing was around in case one of them - okay, he - fell. 

"Okay, so, I haven't mastered one step, but let's move onto the next, right?" 

Jacob hadn't realized he'd said that out loud until his father glared at him. "I don't need the sass," he said. Jacob just shrugged, because he didn't think he was wrong. "You won't always be able to keep someone out, especially if they are stronger or more skilled at Legilimency than you are at Occlumency, which they undoubtedly will be. The next step is to minimize the damage by getting them out as soon as possible."

Jacob had to admit his father may have a point, once he put it like that. He still thought that if he wasn't as good at it now, chances are he never would be. That was fine; he was okay with that. The thing that bothered him was not being able to keep Voldemort out, especially if they came face to face when he wasn't disguised as Harry. 

"Alright, let's go, then," Jacob said. He put up the mental like he had been taught to do, trying to imagine it still reinforced, hoping that would help keep his father out as long as possible.

"Now, try and keep me out of your mind as long as possible, as we have been doing," Severus explained. "Once I have invaded, then use your mental defenses to push me out. Understand?" He didn't really understand at all, actually, but he figured he was talking about using the wall to push him out. Or maybe picture throwing him out, or… something like that, anyway. He nodded.

A moment later, his father's wand was raised, and the barrage of attacks on his mind began. His wall began to crumble, as it always did. He tried to keep him out, but it got harder and harder as the seconds ticked on. The wall crumbled, and suddenly images swirled in his mind - Dudley chasing him down, Dudley and his friends hunting for him, him meeting Draco in Madam Malkin's before their first year. He tried to push him out but was failing, and the memories continued - him rejecting Draco's hand on the train, getting caught by his father after flying the car to school their second year.

His father stopped, and he realized he was on the floor now. A moment later, he felt his father's hand on his shoulder, and he was offering him a vial. He downed it without a second thought before Severus helped him up. "That wasn't a bad attempt," he said. "I should have stopped sooner."

His head was no longer pounding with the potion, and he shook his head. "No, it's fine, I was trying to push you, but when the memories keep coming, it gets harder."

Severus nodded. "It does indeed get harder. You have to push past the memories," he told him. "Ignore them, because if someone was attacking your mind, they would not be random. The Dark Lord would use them to torture you, make you see what he wanted you to see. You have to learn to block them out."

"That's easier said than done," he replied. It always like a barrage of images flooding your mind. Bocking them out was like trying to get above water when someone was holding you under.

"I realize that. You just have to focus your mind, control your emotions, and keep listening to what I am telling you," he explained. "You might not ever be that good, but you are improving, albeit slowly, but it is an improvement nonetheless. We just need to keep the Dark Lord from seeing anything that we don't want him to."

Jacob nodded. He just hoped at some point that he got good enough that he wouldn't need to keep doing these lessons. Especially with them almost being done with the memories, would they do this every week then? He certainly hoped not. Luckily, though, they were done for the day. They spent the rest of the time playing chess before Jacob left for dinner.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Severus spent most of the next week debating. Dumbledore had asked him to make Felix Felicis. He knew better than to ask the old man for a reason why, because he'd never tell him. No, the thing he was debating about was that he already had one - not the one he was making for Dumbledore, but one for himself. There was no telling when it would be necessary; it was a very handy potion. While he did not believe in luck, he did believe in making it for himself.

The potion took six months to make, and while he had already started on it, did he want to wait six months before giving it to Dumbledore? Obviously, the old man was prepared to, or he wouldn't have asked. He could give the one he had to him and get it over with. He would be without it until he finished the potion. He did not think he would need it, but when one was a spy, you never knew, did you?

But if he gave it to Dumbledore? Severus would find out what the last memory, the one of Slughorn's, had really been hiding. He knew it was important, or Dumbledore wouldn't have given it to him to give to Jacob. With a sigh, he walked over to his cabinet and took the potion of the self. Severus turned and left, heading straight up to the Headmaster's Office.

In a few minutes, he was knocking on the door to the Headmaster's Office. "Severus, to what do I owe the pleasure?" he asked, gesturing to the seat opposite him.

Severus didn't sit down. He simply walked over to the desk and set the vial of clear liquid right on the desk in front of him. The old man looked at it and then up at him. "Felix Felicis."

"I admit my knowledge of Potions is a bit rusty, but I was under the impression that it took six months to make," Dumbledore said, picking up the vial. 

"It does. This is mine. I will be replacing it with the one I am making now." He knew that Dumbledore needed it, and he was more interested in the last memory. He wasn't sure he wanted to wait six months to find out the truth. Could they afford that? There was no telling what would happen in the next six months, and while he didn't think that Voldemort was ready to make his move by then, there was no way to know for sure. Besides, they didn't know for sure what the final memory really said. 

"How generous," Dumbledore said, slipping it into his robes. "I do appreciate that. Having it will certainly make things a bit easier. Getting it is not going to be easy since he did not want to give it to me the first time."

Severus had noticed. Whatever this was, it involved his son. The Dark Lord had made sure of that, and he wanted to be prepared for it. There was more coming, and if this was step one, then he wanted it to come as soon as possible. He was invested in this war regardless, but knowing his son's place made him even more invested than he had been before.

"I appreciate this, Severus," Dumbledore said. "Hopefully, I will be able to go soon. I am as eager to get this final memory as you are." 

Taking that as his cue to leave, Severus swept out of the room, making his way back to the Dungeons. He wondered how long this was going to take, and would it be worth it?

~~~~~~~~~~

Saturday morning, Jacob woke up early as usual, and he had Draco made their way downstairs for their daily morning exercise. He had mentioned already that Ron was joining for their secret Defense lessons with his father this morning. Draco was still not sure about Ron. He didn't trust him, but likewise, he knew that Ron didn't really trust Draco either, not yet. To his credit, he hadn't said anything outright negative about Ron, though he had seemed interested in how well Ron could keep up with him and Hermione.

After coming up from breakfast, Draco pulled him upstairs, and quickly put up a silencing charm. "How do you think it's going to work with Weasley?" he asked, a smirk on his lips. "I'm sure you and Granger have a routine going now."

Jacob shrugged. "We do, but should be… fun. I mean, two opponents instead of one." He knew Ron was more capable than he sometimes thought, and he was probably eager to prove himself after everything that had happened. It should be interesting.

"I will look forward to hearing about it later," Draco said, pulling him in for a kiss, though Jacob figured that he would like to hear more about poorly Ron did than anything else. "I will see you for lunch. And I suppose Weasley will be joining us for our study session this afternoon." He rolled his eyes. "More questions for Granger." His boyfriend waved him off. "Off you go before you're late."

Sharing another kiss, Jacob left, making his way down to Moaning Myrtle's bathroom. Both Hermione and Ron were already there. "Nervous?" he asked Ron.

"A bit, I mean… you two have been practicing non-verbal spells," he said. 

"Not very well, but we're working on it," he said. "We mainly practice dueling techniques, protection spells, and such."

"You'll do fine, Ron," Hermione told him. "Just like I said last night, don't think so much. You're not bad when you put your mind to it, but you can't let yourself overthink things, Just… let it happen. Even if you're not that good, as long as you're trying to keep up, I'm sure the Professor will let you stay." Ron nodded, and Hermione made a soft "oh!" as she seemed to remember something. "I've been thinking, Jacob… about the spell that your mother put on you. You said Dumbledore had no idea how it was done? And there were so many layers!"

The change in subject nearly gave Jacob whiplash. "Yeah, he did - time delay set to expire exactly at midnight on my fifteenth birthday, glamour that aged with me, changed my eyesight, my height… He said it was complicated and impressive." He wasn't sure where she was going with this.

"I've tried doing a bit of research, but it's difficult because we don't know what she did exactly, and we haven't gotten into glamours yet in Charms Class," Hermione explained. "It's just… she shouldn't have been able to do that, I mean. I haven't heard of anything like that. Surely, if glamours like that were possible, and one that wasn't able to be detected, it would be easier for Death Eaters and other Dark Wizards to escape capture?"

"Not necessarily," Ron piped up. "Not everyone would be able to do it. And it's possible that she created this specific set of glamours and spells herself based on spells currently in use. I mean, I've heard of glamours but nothing that can do that. Just stuff from Bill and Charlie when I was a kid about learning to change hair color and stuff like that. Glamours are supposed to be temporary. NEWT-level stuff. It's not supposed to last even a day, let alone do what his did."

There was silence in the room for a moment. He could almost hear the wheels turning in Hermione's head. "It's just… curious. She shouldn't have been able to do it. And yet somehow, she did. How?" Neither of them had an answer to that. It wasn't something he wanted to think about it, because he didn't want to go back, but Hermione had a point. How had she done it? He supposed they'd never know now. The one person who knew the answer to that question had been dead a long time.