Disclaimer: No, I don't own Harry Potter. No, I don't own any of the Harry Potter world. I am not JK Rowling nor will I ever be, and none of her creations even begin to belong to me.

Title: Shallow Questions, Deep Truths

Harry looked at the vial and hesitated, unwilling to bring it to his mouth to drink. "Just do it, Potter, and this will be over," Snape said. Harry grimaced, knowing he wasn't getting out of this. Besides, Snape couldn't ask him anything embarrassing, could he? Dumbledore would do something if he did. "Now," Snape snapped. Harry sighed.

"All right, all right," he agreed. He quickly brought the potion to his mouth and downed it in one go. It tasted all right, sort of like ice and something a little sweet, and didn't bother his stomach at all. Then, he felt his eyes sort of glaze over and he slowly wobbled to a chair.

"Now," Snape said, as he settled down. "Potter has taken what is called Semi-veritaserum. It is a heavily dilute form of Veritaserum that is most often used in criminal trials. Its effects are somewhat less severe than Veritaserum, which leads to the person offering up random, true, facts. This instead allows the subject to maintain lucidity while still being unable to say anything but the truth," Snape lectured. Harry felt he had to point out something.

"You left out that it makes me sweat," he piped up. Snape couldn't deduct points from him while he was being influenced by a potion, could he? Several girls giggled at his statement and he smiled at them, only half- aware that his smile would probably seem a bit dazed to them, considering how vacant the rest of his face was.

"Shut up, Potter," Snape said. "In order to verify that a batch of Semi- veritaserum is working on a subject, the usual approach is to ask questions that the answers are already known to. For example: Potter, what is your full name?"

"Harold James Potter," Harry said quickly. "Everyone on the face of the planet seems to know that," he added. Snape decided to ignore that comment and went on.

"Who has the highest grades in the school?" he asked.

"Hermione Granger," Harry said easily. "She's beating the pants off of everyone else," he added. It was honest and well, he felt like it. Snape glowered at him, and he returned it with the vacant smile. He just couldn't seem to make himself feel upset right now.

"Who was it that put dungbombs in the girl's bathroom last week?" Snape asked. Harry laughed a bit.

"Duh. Colin and Dennis did," he said. "They already got detention and lost points for it," he added. Snape looked even angrier as he turned back to the class.

"After asking several questions that most people know the answers to, the validity of the serum is tested with questions that the person might know the answer to, the questioner probably knows the answer to, and that the person probably does not want to answer." He turned back to Harry, glaring. Harry just kept smiling back—that is, until Snape asked his question. "Potter, who took the potions ingredients your second year here in order to brew Polyjuice Potion?" he demanded. Harry snapped his mouth shut and sank his teeth into his lip. Snape smirked and turned back to the class. "Now this is the reaction you see when someone tries to fight back against the serum. Their mind wants to say the words, but they try to stop it by keeping their mouth shut. Eventually, though, he'll have to give in."

Harry's mind was racing for a way to perhaps circumvent the truth. He would never say that it was Hermione, ever. He could see her, further in the room, watching him with worried eyes. She was worried about him, though, not herself. He couldn't let her down. He thought back to that day, meanwhile letting his teeth capture his tongue tightly. He and Ron had distracted Snape and Hermione had stolen the ingredients. Hmmm...nothing he'd read said he had to answer the question exactly. Just tell the truth.

Snape turned back as Harry opened his mouth again. "Ron distracted you with fireworks during class," he said. Snape watched him closely. "I was close to your office at the time," he added, and shrugged for effect. Snape seemed to believe him, and Hermione was looking at him with disbelief.

"One more question, and then we'll move on to the real purpose of Semi- veritaserum," Snape said. "Potter, have you ever suffered any real pain?" he asked. Harry stared at him, keeping his jaw locked. He did not want to answer this one. He couldn't think of anything to say that Snape would believe and that would work for him. "Answer, Potter," Snape prodded.

Harry felt a sharp stab of pain through his tongue—he'd bitten almost through it on one side. "That hurt," he said, tasting the blood in his mouth.

"Answer," Snape said again. Harry sighed. He didn't want to have to go to Madame Pomfrey to have his tongue reattached.

"It hurt when I had to regrow my arm bones second year," he offered.

"Real pain, Potter," Snape deadpanned. Harry couldn't figure it out—well, maybe Snape was trying to prove that Harry's life was oh-so wonderful. Too bad he was sorely mistaken. Or perhaps maybe he was just fooling himself. What was real pain? And that was his answer.

"What is real pain?" he asked. "I don't know," he went on, of course truthfully. Snape just watched him silently.

"Let's be more specific then," Snape said. Uh-oh, Harry thought. He should have just said no-er-yes, well he realized he couldn't have answered any other way and been truthful. "At the end of last year, did you suffer any pains?" Snape demanded. "Or perhaps the year before?"

Harry could feel his teeth sinking through his tongue again and decided he'd rather get this over with than lose any more tongue. "I guess," he said slowly.

"Please be more specific," Snape pressed. Harry swallowed.

"I—In the grave—"he cut himself off, chomping down hard. He winced, and several students gasped to see blood drip from his mouth. Somehow, he didn't think smiling would calm them.

"Stop this!!" Hermione cried out. "He's bleeding!"

"If he would answer, this would be over," Snape said silkily.

"I'll do it instead!" Ron offered. Snape looked at Harry.

"We'll ask Potter," he said. "Would you rather have Weasley take your place?"

"No," Harry said immediately. "He'll be happy that it'll make more people hate me," he added, before he could stop himself with a hand over his mouth. Ron looked taken aback and very embarrassed. Harry cringed. "I'm sorry. That was cruel," he said. Cruel but true, he added silently to himself.

"Very well then," Snape said. "As you were saying?" Snape went on.

"In the graveyard I saw my parents," Harry got out, then he slammed his hand back over his mouth. Snape looked confused.

"And that caused you pain? Were you cursed at all that night? Or was that all a story?" he asked. Harry decided he'd better just get this over with.

"Several times," he said. "Cursed, I mean. Voldemort has a lot of hate for me, and he loves the Cruciatus Curse," he said. Snape looked a little taken aback, as did the rest of the class. "That hurt, I guess. It felt like knifes pounding into my skin and fire burning down my back, like someone was slowly sawing through my skull, but that isn't real pain. Well, er, maybe it is," he had to qualify the statement. "I'm still not sure what is or isn't 'real pain.' He did that twice, though. But it only hurt when prior incantum made my mum and dad's shadows come out of his wand. And Cedric," Harry wrapped his arm around his mouth even as he slid from the chair, too weak from fighting to stay upright. He hadn't meant to add that last sentence.

Oh well, he thought, might as well make it all one fell swoop and destroy his image once and for all. "Last year when Sirius fell through the veil I felt it again," he said. "I think that's real pain, but I know when Voldemort possessed me, I wanted nothing more than to die right there, just to get it to stop. But the pain was in seeing Sirius fall," he said. His last words were soft.

Snape managed a half-sneer. "Class dismissed," he said. Everyone left, except for Hermione and Ron. And Malfoy, who strode forward.

"I suppose it's grand to have everyone looking up to Golden Harry Potter," he sneered. "Bet your family just waits on you hand and foot."

Harry shuddered, in pain again, but couldn't stop the answer from coming from his mouth. "They hate me. They starve me," he gagged out. Malfoy's eyes went wide, and Harry whimpered in pain as his teeth clamped on his mangled tongue. He fell on his stomach, shaking, and could feel the blood dripping onto the stones. "Get. Out," he snarled. He couldn't see it but he heard Malfoy leave. He felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Oh, Harry." It was Hermione. "Are you all right?"

"No. No one was ever supposed to hear that," he told her. "Get the damn antidote from Snape," he said. "And don't ask any questions, please." Hermione left him.

"Why?" he heard Ron said softly. Dammit, he'd heard it and he had to answer.

"Because I'm supposed to by The Harry Potter," he spat sarcastically. "Shut the hell up, Ron," he added. "My tongue's half off as it is."

A/N: I just didn't see this going any farther than this point. I'm in the middle of planning an actual full-length Harry Potter fanfic, so I'm trying to just stick a few one-shots out and test the waters. Thanks for reading. –Miss Laine