Chapter Eleven: Veritaseram

Things changed as the days continued to pass. Neither Draco nor Harry returned to how they were the prior school year, but the black cloud that had hovered continuously over them both had dissipated. Draco was still very quiet, serious about his studies, and quite busy with his potions, but he made a new friend in Martin Umphrey, the third year Slytherin, and getting up in the morning didn't seem so tedious any more.

Draco had finally received correspondence from his mother. She offered written sympathy and told him she never intended to return to Britain. She did expect him to live with her in France over the summer holidays, until he graduated from Hogwarts. However, she did not extend the invitation for Christmas. Draco didn't mind. He loved his mother, but she wasn't his favorite person. They were too much alike to really get along.

Draco also didn't mind having to stay at Hogwarts over winter break. It would give him a chance to work on a new potion that took several days to brew. The one he'd recently created was ready for trial, but he needed several people to properly test the potion's effectiveness. That was why he approached Harry during lunch one Friday, garnering suspicious glares from the other Gryffindors despite knowing of his and Harry's relationship, whether the truth or rumor.

"Malfoy, hello," greeted Harry amicably. "I was thinking of cancelling our lesson tomorrow because of the Hufflepuff/Ravenclaw Quidditch game. Do you have an opinion?"

Draco shrugged. "I wouldn't mind seeing the game."

"Good." Harry smiled at Hermione and Ron, who sat silently beside him, before turning back to Draco. "Now, what can I do for you?"

"I've finished the potion that I've been working on and I need to test it. Would you be willing to help?"

"Of course," Harry answered immediately. "Where and when?"

"After supper, in the potions classroom," Draco replied. He glanced at Ron and Hermione. "Bring your friends, as well."

As Draco walked away, he heard Ron's furious whisper, "It's a trap. I know it. Malfoy's been biding his time!"

"Not so loud, Ron," Hermione scolded. "Though I agree, this is the perfect opportunity to see if we can trust Malfoy."

"You shouldn't," warned Harry, causing Draco to stop and look back at him. Harry met his stare boldly. "Never trust anyone you wouldn't give your life for, if asked."

Draco sat still and quiet, deep in thought, as Martin poked freely around the potions classroom while they waited for the Gryffindors. Since lunch, Draco had been silent and introspective. What Harry had said about trust had been on Draco's mind all afternoon. Harry trusted him, and that meant much more than he originally thought.

It was frightening, actually. Harry Potter would die for him, Draco Malfoy, upon request. Granted, Harry would die for anyone in extreme situations, sacrificing himself so another could live, but that was different. That wasn't a freely made choice. A freely made choice would be if Harry jumped off the Astronomy Tower to his death simply if Draco asked. If Draco asked. The power that Draco could hold over Harry was scary and Draco wasn't sure if he wanted that power.

Then, there was the other side of the coin: did Draco trust Harry the same way? He did trust Harry immensely, almost without question, but... would he voluntarily die for Harry if asked? Could he entrust Harry with that power against him? Should he? And how did Harry know with such certainty that he would give his life upon request? Over the summer, Harry had said he didn't trust anyone anymore. Draco, it seemed, was now the exception. Or were there others? Did Harry trust Granger like that? The Weasel? Dumbledore?

Draco closed his eyes and rubbed his temples. He was getting a headache from the philosophical quandary. Since he wasn't reaching an answer by thinking about it, he figured he would just know when he trusted Harry as much as the other teen trusted him.

Stifled laughter in the hallway announced the arrival of the Gryffindors. Martin came to stand by Draco's table as the other three waltzed into the potions classroom. Hermione and Ron looked suspicious, but Harry was affable as he greeted Draco.

"Hello, Malfoy. And you must be Martin," Harry addressed the dark Slytherin. "Draco mentioned he'd made a friend." He slanted a crooked grin at Draco. "Glad to see that the 'Friendship in Ten Easy Lessons' course paid off."

"And you seemed to have aced your 'How to be a Mincing Ponce' course," countered Draco. Harry chuckled.

"So, what's this about, Malfoy?" Ron crossed his arms and looked down his nose at Draco.

Draco could tell Ron wanted to add a biting remark, probably about being elsewhere on a Friday evening, but he refrained. Draco wondered fleetingly what Harry had said to the lanky redhead to get him to hold his tongue. Though Draco rarely engaged in scathing banter anymore unless provoked, he and Ron were like oil and water, and a verbal war was inevitable if they were together too long.

"Like I said earlier, I am testing a potion I created." Draco stood and walked over to a row of stools he'd set up at the front of the potions classroom, one stool separated from the other three. "Potter, I need you here--" He pointed to the separate stool. "--Martin, Granger, Weasley, if you'll each take one of the other seats."

As they situated themselves, Draco retrieved a corked glass vial and three scraps of parchment from a nearby table. He gave Harry the deep gold potion and one of the slips of parchment to each of the other three.

"All right," Draco began. "You know that the Veritaserum potion forces a person who ingests it to tell the truth. Well, I've crated a derivative of that potion, which I call Veritaseram, that allows the taker to see if someone else is telling the truth or not."

Harry gazed wonderingly at the gold liquid in the vial. "Brilliant! How does it work?"

"Basic physiology," Draco said. "The human body will physically react when you tell a lie, from your eyes shifting, to increased heart rate, to perspiring. Even your brain reacts differently, because the truth is a memory and a lie is created. Veritaseram will basically enable a person to see those changes. This experiment we're doing is to test its effectiveness. Professor Snape has already made certain the potion is harmless, so don't think I'm attempting to poison you, Potter."

"I trust you, Draco," Harry said earnestly.

Draco paused, the reference to trust briefly throwing him, before going on. "The experiment is simple: Potter will take the potion and then ask you three questions." He addressed Martin, Ron, and Hermione. "Your answer will either be the truth or a lie, depending on your instructions written on the scrap of parchment I've given you. Harry will then tell me whether you appear to change color or not."

Draco sat at the potions table directly behind the trio. He could see Harry clearly between Ron's and Martin's shoulders. "Potter, go ahead and drink the potion. We'll do the experiment three times, ten questions each time. Begin whenever you're ready."

The experiment went smoothly from there. Harry was quite methodical with his questions, asking ones that he somewhat knew the answers to, such as name, age, House, and what professor taught which course. Draco was impressed by Harry's astuteness in laying a foundation to determine truth from lie.

Ron's answers were always the truth, Martin's were lies, and Hermione had the choice. A subtle hand sign indicated when she told a lie. Draco dutifully recorded his observations and, at the end of ten questions, he switched the instruction slips so that Hermione always lied and Martin had the choice, leaving Ron as the 'control' subject, or truth-teller. Harry repeated the same questions he'd asked the first time, in true scientific fashion. Draco's estimation of Harry's intelligence increased.

"Are we through?" asked Harry after the third round of questions.

"We're through," Draco affirmed, jotting down his conclusions on his scroll.

Harry clapped his hands together and smiled evilly. "Hey, Hermione. Do you have a crush on Ron?"


"Come on, do you?"

Hermione gave him a dirty look. "No, I don't."

Harry's brow went up. He looked at Ron. "Ron, same question: do you have a crush on Hermione?"

"Sorry, Harry, but no," Ron answered.

Harry's other brow went up. He moved on to Martin. "Martin, how about you? Who do you have a crush on?"

"Draco Malfoy. I'm in love with him," Martin replied tonelessly. The Gryffindor Trio snickered and Draco rolled his eyes.

"Hey, Draco," Harry said. "Do you think this potion works on yourself? Like, can you tell if you're lying to yourself?"

"Hmm. Good question." Draco waved towards a free-standing wood cabinet. "There's a mirror on that cupboard door."

Harry stood and went over to the cabinet. He opened the door and looked at himself in the head-sized mirror. He scratched his cheek, his reflection mimicking the action. "I'm mad for Draco Malfoy." He paused, staring at his reflection. "And I think he dyes his hair, because there's no way it could be naturally that color."

Draco self-consciously smoothed a hand over his hair as the others tittered. Harry closed the cabinet door. "It works," he said. "How long until it wears off?"

"Roughly another half-hour," Draco replied.

Harry nodded. "It's a great potion, Draco. The Ministry will be impressed."

Draco snorted. "Doubtful. The Malfoy name isn't too popular with the Ministry any longer."

"You'll change their minds," Harry said encouragingly.

"I think I liked it better when you weren't so bloody cheerful."

"Can we go now?" Ron inquired somewhat impatiently.

Harry glanced questioningly at Draco. "I'm done," Draco said.

"Okay. C'mon, guys," Harry said to Hermione and Ron. The two Gryffindors followed Harry out of the room without a word of goodbye.

Martin hopped off his stool. "I need to go, too, Draco. Ricky's waiting for me, to play Exploding Snap."

"All right. Thanks, Martin," Draco told him.

"By the way, Potter was right, it's a really brilliant potion," Martin said. "G'night."

"G'night." Martin left, leaving Draco alone in the potions classroom. In the comfortable silence, Draco finished his work. Professor Snape was going to help him register the Veritaseram once his notes were in order and a report drafted.

"Malfoy--" Draco started when he heard his name, quill streaking across the scroll, as he whipped around to see Harry standing in the room.

"Sorry," Harry apologized. "Didn't mean to startle you."

Draco blotted the smear, annoyed. "What are you doing here again?"

Harry paused, before answering hesitantly, "I thought of a question to ask you before, but decided not to in front of the others."

Draco's turned on his stool to face Harry, pale brows arched. "And that would be?"

"Were you going to join the Death Eaters?" he asked bluntly.

"I suppose so, yes," Draco replied slowly, not bothering to lie, and not because Harry had taken the Veritaseram potion. "My father expected me to, and even you had admitted some of what the Death Eaters stand for makes sense."

Harry cocked his head slightly to one side. "Would you still join them now?"

"No, but you already knew that." Draco smirked. "I might start my own cult, though, since everyone worships me already."

Harry wandered over to a wall of shelves lined with potions ingredients, chuckling softly. "You're such a twit, Malfoy."

Draco tapped his quill on his scroll, studying Potter. "You know, I would've told you the truth if you'd asked, even without the Veritaseram."

"I know," Harry said, picking up a jar of yellow powder and reading its label. "The Veritaseram wore off an hour ago. You've been down here awhile."

"So, why don't you tell why you're really here?" Draco said.

Harry shrugged and put the jar back on the shelf. "Seamus claimed Ron for a game of Wizard's Chess and Hermione was invited to a Hufflepuff party that I didn't feel like going to."

"And--?" prompted Draco.

Harry glanced briefly over his shoulder at Draco. "And I prefer your company, anyway." He turned back to the ingredients and picked up another jar. This one held a milky white powder. "You understand that the silence doesn't need to be filled."

"Am I sensing there's trouble between the Terrific Trio?" Draco's tone didn't hold any glee like it would have in the past, only curiosity and perhaps a hint of concern, if he admitted it.

"No, not really trouble, but..." Harry dragged a hand through his midnight hair, causing it to stick up in places. "They think I should be cheery and sociable all the time. They expect everything to be the way it was last year, before I killed--" he paused minutely, "--before Voldemort had Diggory killed."

"But it's not."

"It can't be. I've seen and experienced too much, things they would never understand," Harry said. He returned the jar to the shelf. "Okay, yes, since Pansy slapped you--" he shot a grin over his shoulder, "--which was hilarious, by the way. You should've seen the expression on your face."

"I'm glad my pain amused you," Draco said dryly.

Harry sniggered softly and continued. "Anyway, since then, life hasn't been such a chore, but... I still like the quiet."

Draco watched as Harry began neatly lining the ingredients jars, turning labels to face front precisely. "I'm not your friend, Harry," he stated, though not cruelly.

"I never said you were," Harry responded. He faced Draco, fathomless green eyes focused fully on him. "But... you like the quiet, too."

Chapter 12