Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, not making any money off 'em.

Spoilers: As with everything I write, I'm assuming you've read all four published books. If you haven't, you're taking your chances here.

Summary: An object lesson in the hazards of Veritaserum. Snape/Hermione

This will be an SS/HG fic, promise. But if you have any other cherished ship preferences, I'm not going to be responsible for your disappointment in possible eventual pairings. Subplot ships may turn out to be het or slash. Be warned.

There is SLASH in this fic.

Rating: PG-13, will probably go up

Tell Me Lies

by Auror Borealis

"About time you got here, Snape." Sirius Black leaned his hip against his desk and surveyed the Potions Master insolently. Black, the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, had a long, turbulent history with Severus Snape. The two circled around each other like wary dogs, which was half right. Snape could practically see the hackles on Black's neck rise at his own proximity. That was all right; he felt the same.

"Down, boy," he said with a sneer. After Black's name was cleared the year before, his status as an animagus capable of transforming into a dog had become public knowledge. Tense laughter at this insult swept through the classroom. The two teachers had never come to blows or worse in front of students, but the potential crackled between them. Three seventh year Gryffindors, in particular, fingered their wands nervously inside their robes. There was no telling when the need to intervene might arise.

Snape set a small glass bottle on the desk and turned to leave.

"Oh, come on, Snape, don't you want to see if it works or not?"

Snape stopped in his tracks, as Black had no doubt guessed he would. The Head of Slytherin's chief vanity was his knowledge of the art and science of Potions. To have his competence questioned, even by a comment obviously intended to bait him, rankled deeply. He turned around.

"I already know it works. Let's see if brewing it wasn't a complete waste of time. Can you teach these children anything useful concerning Veritaserum?" He leaned with assumed indolence against the door frame, black eyes glittering coldly.

Black snatched the bottle up.

"Miss Granger."

Hermione looked warily from one teacher to another. Along with Harry, she had a keen personal interest in keeping these two from harming each other.

"Yes, Professor Black?"

"I need a volunteer. What do you say?"

She looked as though she wished he'd asked someone else, but nodded. She came forward to take the bottle.

"How much do I drink?" she asked Snape.

"The entire bottle. It is enough for one person only."

Hermione nodded again, unstoppered the bottle, and drank the contents in one gulp. She set the empty container on the desk and returned to her seat.

Black spoke to the class. "Veritaserum, when mixed correctly," he glanced meaningfully at Snape, "is a weapon not to be underestimated. You cannot lie under its influence. Today's lesson is not aimed at teaching you to resist it; that simply isn't possible. Any falsehood, from the polite social fiction to the concealment of information that could destroy you, cannot stand under its effects. I chose Miss Granger because she is, while a fundamentally honest person, also a kind one. You all need to know what this stuff can make you do. Hermione," he said, focusing on her. She waited, the look on her face making it clear she hoped the question would not be too personal. Black smiled at her.

"Don't worry. I'm not going to ask you about your love life or anything like that." The class laughed again, more relaxed this time. Hermione looked relieved.

"Tell us," he continued. His expression was anticipatory. "How do you feel about Professor Snape?" He leaned against the desk again, waiting for the insults to flow. Snape raised one eyebrow, but waited calmly.

"I…" She paled visibly and pressed her hands against her mouth, trying to stop the words from coming out. Her face held panic. Black walked over to her, and gently removed her hands.

"Don't worry, you can say anything you like. There won't be points or detention. This is for science, remember." Another glance at Snape. He repeated his question. "What do you think of Snape?"

"I…" She bit down on her tongue, hard. Blood trickled out of the corner of her mouth. Black's face began to look concerned.

"Is she having a reaction, Snape?" he demanded.

"She's resisting the potion," he answered, striding over to stand in front of Hermione. "Say it, Miss Granger. I can assure you it will be nothing I haven't heard before. I promise not to hold it against you." His voice was unexpectedly gentle.

Her eyes filled with tears. Her classmates looked alarmed, especially Harry and Ron. It was true that Hermione had been much kinder in her assessment of the Potions Master since the end of their fourth year at Hogwarts. Ever since she had seen the Dark Mark on his arm, she had displayed an increasing sympathy for the impossible position he occupied. She was one of few who were aware that he was an ex-Death Eater who had to pretend to be an active Death Eater. Harry and Ron were also inclined to be more tolerant of him, but their dislike had not completely dissipated. He was still a bastard to them, after all. Her friends understood her reluctance to speak badly of him in front of a room full of people. They could not, however, understand why she appeared to prefer to maim herself rather than speak.

Black eyes gazed into tormented brown ones. "Answer the question," he said softly. "How do you feel about me?"

Her eyes closed, tears slipping beneath the lids.

"I love you."

All movement stopped. The sound of breathing was conspicuously absent. Black looked horrified; Ron and Harry were stunned.

A spasm of shock crossed Snape's face, to be quickly replaced with rage. Hermione quailed, but he turned from her to face the other teacher.

"Black, what the hell have you done?"