Chapter 4 : Veritaserum
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Lily tried to muster up some enthusiasm for the food in front of her, but she was fighting a losing battle. Just thinking about eating the potatoes or the salad made the bile rise in her throat.
She had woken up feeling terrible, so rather than follow her roommates down to breakfast, she’d decided to take advantage of her free periods in the morning to get some extra sleep. Initially, it seemed to work – Herbology went fine – but once she’d left the greenhouse, the nausea had begun to creep back in, and by the time she’d sat down in the Great Hall five minutes ago, she should have known that consuming anything but some water would be hopeless.
“Hey.” She looked up, and James slid into the seat next to her. “How are you? I didn’t see you at breakfast today.”
Lily groaned. “I don’t feel well,” she said, resting her head on her hands. “My stomach is killing me.”
He rubbed her back sympathetically. “You could skip out on Potions,” he suggested. “Go to the Hospital Wing. I’ll tell Slughorn that you’re sick.”
She looked up quickly. “No!” He looked a little taken aback, and she winced as she felt her stomach lurch. “No, James, we’re finishing the Veritaserum today, I can’t miss that.”
“Throwing up in your cauldron isn’t going to help your potion,” he pointed out, and she shook her head.
Veritaserum was one of the most important potions they would be brewing all year, and it took about a month to finish. No matter how sick she got, she was going.
“I wish I had alka seltzer.” She took a sip of water, trying to rid herself of the bitter taste in her mouth.
“What’s that?” James asked.
“Muggle stomach medicine.” She could hear him make a skeptical noise and she added defensively, “Well, it works. Everything doesn’t need to be magic, you know.”
He didn’t say anything for a moment, and then suddenly snatched his bag off the floor.
“James?” she asked uncertainly as he rifled around in it.
“Aha!” He pulled a tin out of the bag and put it on the table.
She glanced over at it. “James, I’m not in the mood for sweets right now.”
He picked up the box and opened it. “I know. Take a few.” Lily picked up her head enough to give him a miserable look. “Lily, just trust me. They’re ginger drops. They’ll make you feel better.”
Whenever she felt sick at home, her mother always went out to buy her ginger ale. Maybe these would work the same way.
She held out her hand. “Give me a few. If I’m sick, I don’t want to touch them all and get you sick, too.” He placed a few in her hand, and she popped them into her mouth.
After a few minutes, he asked, “How are you feeling now?”
Lily breathed in, and let the breath out. “A little better,” she admitted, leaning against him. “Thanks. Why do you have ginger drops, anyway?”
“I like them. They’re my favorite sweet.” He put his arm around her, and she filed that information away for future reference. She and James had not been going out for very long, and they hadn’t been close enough friends before that that Lily had really noticed what his favorite sweets were.
“That’s convenient.” She closed her eyes, ignoring the buzz of the Great Hall and enjoying the feeling of his body next to hers, and the way he stroked her hair, and… “Can I have a few more?”
“Sure.” He shifted a little so that he could extract the tin from his pocket and open it, and after a moment, he handed her a few more drops. “You should eat something,” he said as she sucked on them. When she shook her head, he sighed. “How about just an apple?”
Lily considered it. He was probably right. Eating might help to settle her stomach. “In a minute.”
By the time she’d finished the ginger drops and eaten about two-thirds of the apple, she had to admit that she was feeling much better.
She squeezed James’s hand. “Thank you.”
He kissed her forehead. “Let’s get to class.” She tried to give him the tin, and he shook his head. “I’ve got three more upstairs. Keep it.”
They got up and walked along the wall toward the exit. Lily pointedly avoided looking at the Slytherin table; the only time Severus had tried to confront her about James was right after their first date, but given his renewed glares lately, she thought that it would probably only be a matter of time before it came up again.
“You know,” Lily commented as they left the Great Hall and turned down the corridor, “I really do feel much better.”
James shrugged. “Ginger always helps me.”
She raised herself up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. “You’re the best boyfriend ever,” she murmured.
His cheeks reddened slightly, and a small smile spread across his face. “Good.” He pushed aside a portrait that led to a secret passage that she’d never seen before September.
Going out with James had really taught her exactly how much she didn’t know about this school.
“You’re sure you’re feeling better?” he asked, and she smiled.
They exited the passage through a wall that until earlier that year, Lily would have sworn was solid. James let go of her hand to open the door to the Potions classroom. “Ladies first,” he said gallantly.
She rolled her eyes, but stepped through the door anyway. “Thank you.”
James grinned and followed her to their seats, not bothering to hold the door for the other people coming down the corridor.
When they reached their cauldrons, Sirius gave them a forlorn look. “I hate Veritaserum,” he said unhappily. “I was hoping he’d just forget we’d started it.”
James snorted. “Not likely.” Lily sat down on her stool, pulled the tin out of her pocket, and picked out another few drops.
Sirius made a face. “You, too? I thought it was only James who liked those foul things.”
“I have a stomach bug,” Lily told him, and he gave her a sympathetic look.
In truth, Lily was not the biggest fan of ginger, but if it made her nausea go away, she was prepared to tolerate it.
She studied James’s profile as he read the instructions on the board. When he sensed her staring at him, he turned his head to look at her. In that moment, his face was so open and caring and – for once in his life – innocent that she wanted nothing more than to drag him off to a broom closet.
She smiled at him and brushed his hair out of his eyes. “You’re terrific,” she told him softly.
His face broke into a grin. “So are you,” he said.
Professor Slughorn spent that first few minutes of the lesson outlining what they needed to do today for their final touch. When he gave them the signal to start, Lily dumped the last few ingredients into her potions and began to stir. It really should have been less opaque at this point, but she couldn’t complain. Veritaserum was tricky to make, and this was her first attempt. She was just happy that it was actually blue.
James wasn’t so lucky.
“It should be blue, not purple,” she told him, leaning over to get a better look in his cauldron.
James nodded mournfully. “I know.” He gave her a hopeful look. “Want to help me?”
She screwed up her face and pretended to think about it. “I’m not sure. What’s in it for me?”
“My everlasting gratitude?”
Lily considered that for a minute. “Good enough.” She leaned her head against James’s shoulder and murmured softly, “Add more hellebore.”
He grinned and put his arm around her to hug her close. “Thanks.” He bent down and began to search for the syrup of hellebore; Lily was unexpectedly reminded of her mother in the spice drawer.
“Just a few drops,” she warned when he straightened up, enjoying the jolt of electricity that had gone through her when he’d hugged her and had not yet quite departed.
James added the syrup, and after a moment of stirring, his potion shimmered and turned a deep, cerulean blue – several shades darker than the pale blue Lily’s and Sirius’s were.
Lily frowned at his cauldron as she popped the tin open, popping another two sweets into her mouth. “Add another two newt eyes,” she said. He picked them out from the array of ingredients on their table and tossed them in. After a moment of stirring, his potion lightened considerably.
James gave a cheer and gave her a one-armed hug. “You’re my hero.”
Lily felt a pleasant little shiver run through her. “Anytime.” She jerked her head toward his cauldron. “You should be stirring that, you know.”
“Right.” He let go of her and began to stir his potion, which at this point was only a shade or two lighter than it should have been.
Ten minutes later, they had all delivered bottles of their potions to Slughorn’s desk. Lily was fairly pleased with her final result; true, it wasn’t quite as clear as Severus’s, but as least it was nearly colorless.
“Before you clean up,” Slughorn said, and Lily stopped before she waved her wand over her remaining potion to vanish it. “Would anyone like to sample their potion?”
Out of the corner of her eye, Lily saw James and Sirius exchange a look. She was not surprised when their hands shot up into the air.
Slughorn looked pleased by their enthusiasm. “Mr. Potter, Mr. Black. What a surprise.”
Lily felt something in her stir. Before she’d really processed what she was doing, she’d put her hand up in the air as well. “I’ll test mine.”
Slughorn beamed. “I expected nothing less, Ms. Evans.” He looked around the classroom. The other students avoided his gaze.
“Cowards,” James muttered.
Slughorn conjured up three glasses of water and handed them over. “Remember, only a few drops.”
“Yes, Professor,” Lily said, feeling a little nervous as she put the drops in. What on earth had her pride just gotten her into? There were a great many things she didn’t want to share with the entire class, and while she thought that it was unlikely that anyone would ask her a question that led to most of them…
But there was no backing down now.
She exchanged looks with James and Sirius. Sirius grinned. “Bottoms up.” He finished off his water in two enormous gulps. James was not far behind. Lily sipped at hers more slowly. She didn’t feel any different…
Just as she was finishing her water, James broke into a coughing fit. She set the glass down and looked at him in concern, but before she could do much more, he shook his head. His eyes were tearing, but he’d stopped coughing.
When he turned to look at her and opened his mouth, however, she couldn’t stop herself from letting out a very loud giggle. She clapped her hand over her mouth, and he frowned at her. “Are you okay?”
She nodded, trying without much success to stop herself from laughing. James turned to Sirius, probably to say something about how very odd she was sometimes. Sirius had a nearly identical reaction: he let out a loud guffaw.
James grabbed his bag off the floor and dug something out of it. When he held it up, she realized that it was that strange mirror he always seemed to have with him.
He stared at his reflection for a moment, mouth wide open, and then looked frantically up at Slughorn, who looked at though he was trying to hold back laughter of his own.
The inside of James’s mouth had turned bright blue.
“That can happen sometimes if you don’t put in enough pomegranate juice,” Slughorn said. “Not to worry. It should fade within a couple hours.”
James opened his mouth and stared at his electric blue tongue. “Did it even work?” he asked, looking up at Slughorn.
“Hey, Prongs, how long have you liked Lily?” Sirius asked.
“Since fourth year,” James said immediately, and then made a face. “It worked.”
Sirius looked quite pleased with himself until James fired back, “Hey, Padfoot, what do your favorite pyjamas have on them?”
“Reindeer,” Sirius said, and groaned. “I hate you.”
Slughorn turned to Lily. “It appears that both Mr. Potter and Mr. Black were successful in creating Veritaserum,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “Ms. Evans, I would like you to try to lie.” She nodded. “What lesson did you have this morning?”
Lily opened her mouth to say, “Astronomy.” What came out instead was, “Herbology.” She blinked in surprise, and Slughorn smiled.
“Congratulations, Ms. Evans. I expected nothing less.”
“Hey, Lily,” Sirius said as they began to clean up. She looked over at him. He had a sly look on his face. “Does James’s mouth being blue make you want to snog him any less?”
“No,” she said, wishing she could smack him.
Sirius laughed. “This is fun! Hey, James, tell us, did it take you days to stop telling us about it when Lily finally asked you out?”
“Yes,” James said. His face turned bright red. “I hate you, Sirius, have I mentioned?”
They began to walk toward the exit. Lily grabbed her bag and followed them, but before she reached the door, she found Severus blocking her way.
“I still can’t believe that you’re going out with him.”
Lily crossed her arms. Part of her wanted to brush by him and ignore him, but then she’d just have to deal with this again. “Why not?” she asked coolly.
Severus’s eyebrows snapped together. “Because he’s all wrong for you,” he said irritably, pushing his rather greasy hair back from his face.
“Well, I think he’s brilliant,” Lily replied, her voice getting colder by the second.
It was so rich for Severus, of all people, to start trying to tell her who was right and wrong for her. She’d barely spoken with him in a year and a half, for one, and for another, he clearly thought that he was the right sort of person for her to be friends with – and given what he’d called her and what sort of person he’d turned into, she didn’t put much stock in his judgment.
“I thought that you would know better than to fall for his act,” Severus said as James and Sirius reappeared in the doorway.
James looked outraged, but she shook her head at him. Severus needed to know that this was coming from her.
“What act?” she snapped, clenching her hands into fists to stop herself from grabbing her wand. “What act, Severus? The one where he actually cares about me and respects me?” Severus winced and opened his mouth, but she kept talking. “Do you really think that he’s lying about that?”
Severus looked pained. “But—”
“But nothing.” Lily could feel her temper rising. James might have behaved poorly at times in the past, but the idea that he was putting on an act was absolutely idiotic. If there was one thing she had learned about James Potter in the last six years, it was that he was absolutely incapable of putting on an act for anyone. “Stop trying to meddle in my life. You gave up the right to express your opinion a long time ago.”
“You know she’s telling the truth,” Sirius called out helpfully from the doorway. He was standing there with his arms crossed, and seemed to be fairly at ease – unlike James, whose expression was stonier than she had ever seen it before. “She took that Veritaserum and everything,” Sirius continued. She shot him a look, and he grinned.
Sirius was definitely being more than a little malicious and purposefully rubbing salt in the wound, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t right. Lily started to brush by Severus.
She stared him down. “You called me a mudblood,” she said through clenched teeth. “You let your friends curse my friend’s little sister because she told you off for calling her friend a mudblood. You want to go out into the world and support a wizard who is doing his very best to kill off every witch and wizard of my birth.” She could feel the bile rising again, and this time it had nothing to do with her stomach bug.
Severus winced. “Fine,” he said after a moment, his voice heavy with disgust. He motioned to James, who had his wand in hand and looked as though he would like nothing better than to hit Severus as hard as he possibly could. “But Lily, are you really telling me that he is, what?” Severus’s face contorted unpleasantly, and he continued, in a very sarcastic tone, “The man of your dreams?”
“Yes, I am,” she said hotly. “And to be honest, Severus, I don’t really care what you think about it.” A look of complete horror spread across his face, and in that moment, she understood exactly why he’d chosen to corner her here, now.
Despite everything that had happened, despite the fact that these days he really couldn’t claim to know her at all, he’d truly thought that the answer would be no. He’d truly thought that he would be making her admit that she didn’t really care about James all that much, in front of him.
He was trying to split them up.
A jolt of disgust coursed through her. Who the hell did Severus think he was? “You make me sick,” she spat and stalked out of the classroom, leaving him standing there looking rather lost and unhappy.
James and Sirius fell into step with her. She expected them both to immediately start in on Severus, but to her surprise, they remained silent.
“Well, that was unpleasant,” she muttered to break the tension, and they both laughed.
James and Sirius took advantage of the Veritaserum to ask each other increasingly ridiculous questions as they made their way back up to Gryffindor tower, during which time Lily discovered that James’s favorite flavor of every flavor bean was lemon, that Sirius did not have a crush on anyone, and that James had signed up for an N.E.W.T. in Potions largely because he knew that Lily would be taking it.
When they climbed through the portrait hole, Sirius made his way toward the stairs. “I have some books to return to the library or something,” he called transparently over his shoulder. “I’ll see you two later.”
Lily and James made their way over to one of the red couches in front the fireplace. Other than them, the common room was completely deserted; the only noise was the crackling of the fire and the gusts of wind that made the windows rattle.
Lily felt that that was probably the best thing about being an N.E.W.T. student: you might have a lot of work, but you also had a lot of free time.
They sat down on the couch, and she snuggled up to him. The fire drove away the chill, but there was something profoundly comforting about James’s warm body that she couldn’t seem to find anywhere else. “So I’m the man of your dreams, huh?” he asked, putting his arm around her.
Lily felt a smile spread across her face. “Yes, but don’t let it go to your head.”
“I won’t,” he promised. She felt sure that the promise would be broken by lunchtime the next day, but she decided not to say that. “How are you feeling?”
“Better.” They sat there in silence for a minute, and she let out a very contented sigh. “I love you.”
He laughed. “I’m still adjusting to hearing you say that,” he said, and kissed the top of her head. “I love you, too.” His arm slid down a little and his grip tightened. After a moment, he began to pull her into his lap. Lily, who was not expecting her center of gravity to be so abruptly disrupted, squealed and grabbed his arm to stop herself from tumbling onto the floor.
James laughed. “Lily, I’m not going to let you fall.” She smiled at him sheepishly, and he brought one hand up to brush her hair away from her face. “I really do,” he said softly.
His mouth was still blue.
Lily felt a warmth spread through her that had nothing to do with the fire. When he leaned in to kiss her, however, she pulled back. “I’m sick,” she said quickly, before his confusion could turn into hurt. “I don’t want to get you sick, too.”
“I really don’t care,” he murmured. When Lily met his gaze, she felt what was, at this point, the very familiar sensation of goosebumps rising on her arms and the back of her neck.
In that moment, she knew that there was no way that she was going to have the self-control to do the sensible thing and pull away.
When James leaned in a second time, she met his lips with hers, and, for a little while, Lily forgot about everything else.
A/N: Hopefully this chapter didn't disappoint. If you would mind taking a moment to leave a review, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you so much for reading! :)
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