Truth Amid the Lies
By Anne B. Walsh
The two halves of the Den were mirror images; each room had its twin on the other side, which had made placing secret doors and windows between the halves easier. It had been only a joke to make the mirror-fronted cabinets backless, both in the master bathrooms upstairs and in the washrooms on the ground floor, but it had turned out to be helpful, since no matter which side you were on, you could get at things in both sets of cabinets.
Of course, a small and enterprising person could also climb through said cabinets.
Hermione had been able to slither feet-first under the bottom shelf once all the junk that was in there had been removed. Harry wasn’t going to manage that, no matter which way he turned. Fortunately, the shelves were merely sitting on two brackets per side. They lifted out without even any screws to undo.
"That was easy," said Draco dubiously, regarding the wide-open window between the halves of the Den. "Harry, are you sure about this?"
For answer, Harry climbed up onto the counter and peered through the cabinets. "All clear," he said. "See you later." He put one leg through the opening, ducked his head under, pulled his torso and other leg through after it, and closed the cabinet door behind him. A distinct thump sounded as he dropped to the floor. Then silence.
"He’ll be fine," said Hermione firmly. "He’s still glamoured. How could they tell who he is?"
"They could look real close," suggested Draco. "It doesn’t cover up that scar."
"He be fine," repeated Meghan, folding her arms as if she would make it so. "Harry be fine."
The three remaining cubs sat down to wait.
Harry knew the passage back to the music room as well as any other hallway in the Den, but it had never felt so big or so dark before. The music room itself seemed like a dragon’s cave lurking ahead, and only a stupid person walked into a dragon’s cave all alone.
His hand rose to his chest, pressing against it, but the familiar half-felt shapes failed to give him courage as they usually did. He was about to see the people those shapes meant, people who had always been just stories. He remembered how Draco had sometimes been funny around him, those first few months, because Harry Potter was someone out of a story, not a real person who would fight him for the last piece of toast or shake him if he was having a nightmare. Now Harry understood the feeling.
My mum and dad. My real mum and dad.
I want them to like me. Will they like me?
He had to smile a little. He was probably starting wrong if he wanted them to like him. Experience told him that adults didn’t much care for children waking them up early in the morning.
So I won’t wake them up. I’ll just go in and look.
He stopped in the doorway and closed his eyes, listening. Two sets of breathing. Both had a little bit of snore in them, but one had more than the other. Both were the deep, regular, even sound of people who were either actually asleep or faking it well. All the older cubs could fake sleep convincingly, and Meghan was coming along nicely, though the Pack-parents were usually able to root them out by standing and looking at them for a while. Hermione, in particular, was prone to giggles if she sensed someone looking at her for too long.
But these people were probably asleep. He hadn’t heard any catches or stops that would mean they were awake, faking, and had heard him come in.
So they’re either really asleep or really, really good fakers.
For the moment, he’d go with "really asleep."
Harry stepped inside the room, opening his eyes. Closing them had not only let him concentrate on listening, it had given them time to dark-adjust, and he could see outlines and shapes in the gloom. Directly in front of him sat the camp bed they sometimes wheedled Padfoot into getting out of the attic so they could play tent under it. The louder snoring was coming from there, and the softer set from the pull-out bed to his left.
Man on the camp bed, woman on the pull-out, he decided. Which one should he look at first?
"There’ll never be a doubt whose boy you are," said Moony’s voice in his memories. "You look just like your dad, but you have your mum’s eyes."
And people close their eyes when they sleep.
Mind made up, Harry edged around the camp bed, only to discover that the man was currently lying on his back. Getting a good look at his face would require a higher angle than Harry’s height could provide. He looked around for something to stand on and spotted the piano at the foot of the bed, with its bench pushed under the keyboard.
Thankful for a carpeted floor, Harry padded over to the bench, pulled it clear of the piano, and climbed up on it. He spent a moment admiring how different the world looked from high up — was this how adults saw things? — then turned to look at the man sleeping on the camp bed.
His brain jammed. Involuntarily, he took a step back. The bench rocked threateningly. Harry dropped to all fours, stifling a yell, and leaned forward hard to keep the bench on its feet. Too hard, he realized an instant later, as the bench began to tilt forward instead. He couldn’t correct this, there was no time, it was going to fall and make noise and they’d see him —
He leaped clear, landing beside the bed with a muffled thump that was entirely eclipsed by the crash of the bench falling over on its side, mingled with the bang of the top slamming shut. A pair of gasps alerted him that both occupants of the room had just woken up. He crawled under the bed and shut his eyes.
If I can’t see them, they can’t see me.
Besides, there was nothing interesting to look at under the bed, and a lot to think about.
The face of the man on the camp bed, except for being without glasses, was exactly the same as the face he’d seen in photographs all his life, and very like the face he saw in the mirror every morning.
"James?" said a woman’s voice, quiet, breathy.
"Hush," said the man, and Harry heard him standing up. "I don’t think we’re alone."
"What happened?" Lily looked around as best she could without sitting up, which she felt would be a bad idea at the moment. "Where are we?"
"This is Letha’s house. You ran out in the street and got hit by a truck."
Lily resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "I remember that."
"It was her neighbor driving it. He lives on the other side of this house, he’s married with boy and girl twins, about six, and another boy they took in a few years back. At least that’s what they say. Things keep not adding up around here." James was walking around the room, his wand in his hand, searching the shadows. "Why did you run out like that?"
"I saw him." The warning weighed on her mind, she was careful not to use any of their real names, but she had to tell him this. "I saw our son. It was him, it had to be. His hair was the wrong color, but we both know how easy that is to change."
James snorted a brief laugh. "You might be right," he said, opening a cabinet at the end of the room. "I was talking to his wife — Letha’s neighbor’s — and she said her son’s name was James. Now I’m trying not to jump to conclusions, trying to keep an open mind, but doesn’t that seem a little overly coincidental to you?"
"Maybe a little." Lily waited until James turned back around, then beckoned him closer. As he approached, she pointed downwards. Check under the bed, she mouthed.
"You’re right." James circled around the bed, putting himself between it and the door. "I’m sorry, I’m off on tangents already, and I haven’t even asked you how you feel." He took her hand and leaned over to kiss her.
"Awful," Lily said when they parted. "Like I fell from the first floor of a house onto a pile of rotten wood at ground level, then got hit by a truck the next day." She tried a smile and was delighted when it worked. "And a little queasy. I don’t know why."
"I think I might..." Abruptly, James dropped to his knees, shining the wandlight under the bed. "Ah-ha!"
Directly below Lily, something made a frightened sound, and the bed shook a little.
"I’m sorry, did I scare you?" said James, suddenly sounding contrite. "I didn’t mean to. You can come out. I won’t hurt you." He backed up on all fours, putting out his wand and handing it to Lily. "Here, the nice lady has my wand now. She won’t hurt you either."
"Thanks a lot," Lily muttered to him.
Wordlessly, James pointed past her.
Lily turned over and felt her heart speed up. On the other side of the bed, a small boy was getting to his feet. His hair was light-colored, but his face was the same one that had caught her eye, and her heart, and pulled her towards him with so nearly disastrous results. She wanted to leap from the bed and snatch him up, but even thinking about it made things ache and burn inside her, and she forced herself to relax.
"So, are you Reggie or Jamie?" asked James in a carefully light tone from behind her.
"Jamie," the boy said, looking at them both warily, edging along the wall. "Jamie White. I’m six. I live over there." He pointed towards the opposite wall. "I’m sorry I bothered you. Can I go home now?"
"Not quite yet," James said. "Cecilia, love? Do you think you could stand a little more light in here?"
"Only my stomach hurts, not my eyes," said Lily. "Go ahead."
James walked over to the French window and pulled back the drapes. Early morning light spilled in. Jamie squinted against it, shielding his eyes with a hand. His hair was the honey blond Lily remembered.
But look at it. Messy as a niffler’s nest. Only Potters have hair like that.
"So your dad is John, and your mum is Kelly," said James, sitting down on the end of Lily’s bed. "And your sister is Jane, but they call her Neenie."
Jamie nodded, his eyes fixed on the carpet.
"And your — cousin, was it? — is Reggie. What’s that short for?"
"I dunno," said Jamie. "We don’t ever call him by the long name."
"How old is your sister?" asked Lily.
"She’s six. We’re twins." Jamie looked full at her for the first time. "Reggie’s six too. Meghan’s littler. She’s just three."
Lily heard the words, but they meant nothing. Her mind was occupied by other things.
Her own eyes were looking back at her from the little boy’s face.
"You’re not twins," she said quietly, certainly. "That’s just pretending. And those people aren’t your real mum and dad. Are they?"
The boy looked from one of them to the other, and Lily heard James’ sharp intake of breath as he, too, noticed the child’s eyes. "It’s all right," he said unsteadily. "You’re safe with us."
Slowly, the boy’s hand went beneath his shirt. He withdrew a fine gold chain, from which two small things hung, and lifted it over his head, taking it off. Two steps forward brought him to the bed, where he placed the chain in a neat pile, then scooted quickly away, putting his back against the wall.
James picked up the chain, lifting it slowly, until the objects at the bottom dangled free. The light from the door shone on them, and through them, and Lily reached her hand out to grasp them almost without meaning to. She knew what she saw, and what it meant, and there was no room left in her mind to wonder why, only a great shout of joy overwhelming everything.
The same joy shone from James’ face as he opened the clasp of the chain and slipped the two items off it. He moved up the side of the bed, leaning over to pull Lily gently toward him, until they were within easy reach of one another. She took his wedding ring from his hand with trembling fingers, kissed it once, and slid it onto his left ring finger, as he did the same for her.
The rings fit as if they’d never been away.
"Those were my mum and dad’s," said a little voice.
"No, they are your mum and dad’s," corrected James, turning towards the speaker. "Hello, Harry."
"That is your name, isn’t it?" said Lily.
Very slowly, the boy nodded. "Are you wearing glamours?" he asked.
"Yes," said Lily, wanting to scream the word at the top of her lungs, to shout and dance for joy, but keeping her tone mild and gentle. "Do you want us to take them off?"
Harry nodded. "You can do mine too," he said. "Please."
"You can do mine too please," repeated James, taking his wand from Lily. "How polite." Two quick waves changed his hair back to black and revealed his glasses, and two more in Lily’s direction returned her hair to red and (she assumed) her eyes to green.
Harry was smiling now, the same delighted smile Lily remembered from the baby she’d held in her arms, and she knew in that moment that she loved this as-yet unknown boy just as much as she’d loved that baby, and would soon learn to love him even more.
"And now you," said James, bringing the wand around to point at Harry.
There was no warning, no incantation was spoken. Harry’s eyes widened and he dodged to one side as James suddenly fell forward off the bed, the wand flying from his hand. Lily wrenched herself over, gasping at the pain in her belly, to see Letha standing near the door of the room, wand pointed towards James.
"Get up," she said. "Clay, or whatever your name is. Up."
"Letha, please," Lily said imploringly, reaching a hand toward her friend. "It’s us."
"Don’t move too much. You’ll hurt yourself." The tone was that of a Healer to an errant patient. "You. Man. On your feet."
James stood up, rubbing his back. "I suppose â€˜Hello, James, hello, Lily, how are you’ is too much to ask for," he said ironically.
"It’s not what I generally say to people I’ve thought were dead for five years." The wand’s tip never wavered. "Or people impersonating them. Fortunately, there’s something you can do right now that could very easily convince me you are who you look like."
"And what might that be?"
"Don’t play stupid with me. If you really are James Potter, there’s one skill you have that you never told anyone about. Only the people you learned it with, and the person you learned it for, know about it. But secrets have a way of coming back and biting you. So start making up for a little of the biting this one did. Convince me. Now."
James’ face mirrored Lily’s inner confusion. "I don’t underst—" he began.
And then his expression changed entirely. "Oh. You mean how we got our nicknames."
Aletha’s lips twitched. "Among other things. You never even told Lily, did you?"
"Never told me what, for heaven’s sake?"
"Er, why don’t I just show you," said James, moving around to the bottom of the bed. He glanced upwards. "I think I’d better go outside. I’d rather not damage your ceiling."
"I’d rather you not either." Aletha was still covering James with her wand, Lily noticed, but her entire demeanor had changed. She had the smile on her lips Lily well remembered from her Quidditch-playing days, when she and Sirius had just pulled off some amazing stunt that devastated the other team’s Chasers to let James score.
James pushed open the French door and stepped out into the back yard. He rolled his shoulders, arched his back once, then bent over forward —
And changed shape entirely.
Lily sat up in shock, disregarding a stab of pain through her stomach. James was gone. In his place stood a deer, a stag, tall and stately with at least an eight-point rack.
"Prongs!" shouted Harry gleefully, running out the door.
"Good God, Lily, lie down!" Aletha was at her side, pushing her gently down in the bed. "Yes, he was stupid not to tell you, but that’s no reason to hurt yourself!"
"How long has he been able to do that?" Lily demanded, pointing a shaking finger at the stag, which was now kneeling down to allow Harry to climb onto its back.
"Since he was fifteen, if I understand correctly." Aletha Summoned a potion from the mantelpiece and handed it to Lily, conjuring a straw in the mouth of the bottle. "Here, drink this. They all of them did it. It was for Remus. Am I the only member of the Order who didn’t know he was a werewolf?"
"No, most of the others didn’t know either," Lily said between sips of the potion, which tasted surprisingly good for a medicinal brew. "Just Dumbledore and McGonagall, and Alastor Moody and a few of the older members, who could help him and wouldn’t panic. James told me when we were married. I take it Sirius never told you."
"No, he never did. I heard it from Remus himself, a few years ago." Aletha was on her knees beside the bed, and Lily saw with a little shock that tears glistened in her friend’s eyes. "Lily, it’s so good to see you again..."
"Same to you." Lily reached over and squeezed Aletha’s hand. "I hope Harry’s been behaving himself."
"That depends entirely on your definition of behaving." Aletha sniffled several times and wiped her eyes. "No, I am not going to cry right now. I’ll wait until we’re all together and cry then."
"All together? Who else is there?"
A deafening volley of barks burst in upon the women, and Aletha turned to look out the door, then began to laugh. She moved aside so that Lily could see a huge reddish dog darting in and out through the legs of the stag, barking its head off. "My loutish husband," she said, waving towards the dog. "And before you ask, he’s not usually that color. Harry played a prank on him recently that changed his hair color, and his fur changed as well."
The stag became the human James again, with Harry clinging to his back. The boy slid to the ground as James embraced the dog, a hug which rapidly became a wrestling match. Harry hovered by the sidelines, apparently unsure which side to cheer on.
"He looks well," said Lily, chuckling as James got Sirius into a headlock.
"He should. He eats like a horse and snores like a pig." But Aletha was smiling. "I shouldn’t run him down too much. It’s not easy for him. He can only go out in dog form, or with a glamour on, and we don’t like to do that since he nearly got caught once. So he stays home a lot, and because of that, he takes care of the children more often than not."
"Yes, children. I understand where Meghan came from, and Harry of course, but who are the other two? And their parents — who is it that lives next door to you?"
A shout echoed in from the yard. Lily looked out again and saw James now chasing another man around — not Sirius, he was still in dog form, standing beside Harry and watching the chase. This man was smaller, lighter, built more like —
"Ickle Moony needs his knuckle rub!" James sang out.
"Remus," said Lily in delight. "Of course, I should have guessed..."
Remus ducked in through the door. "Hello, Lily, sorry about the truck," was all he had time to say before he had to dodge James again. Unfortunately, in the smaller confines of the room, he couldn’t stay out of the way for long.
"Now, now, ickle Moony, it’ll do you good," said James in a mock-professorish tone, cornering Remus. "Hold still, now."
A woman with a head full of frizzy brown curls popped in through the back door, wand in hand, and fired off a spell at the seat of James’ trousers, which immediately burst into flame. James yelped, and the flames went out, leaving Aletha, Remus, Harry, Sirius (in his dog shape still) and the mystery woman all laughing.
"I thought you were a Muggle!" James said to the woman, sounding very aggrieved.
"Sorry, just my cover story." She didn’t seem in the least abashed by it. "And I was a Muggle until I was about twenty, so there you have it."
"A Muggle until you were twenty?" James repeated.
"Remus, who is this?" Lily said over him. She had a decent idea, but it would be nice to have it confirmed.
Remus smiled proudly, moving past James to the woman’s side. "James, Lily," he said. "I’d like you to meet my wife. This is Danger."
"Pleased to meet you, again," said James, shaking Danger’s hand.
"Danger?" asked Lily as the woman came to her bedside.
"It’s actually Gertrude, but I haven’t used that name since Letha came up with Danger when I was eight."
"Oh, I’ve heard about you! Letha used to talk about you all the time — she was always so unhappy that she could never find out where you’d moved away to..." Lily felt strength and compassion in the other woman’s handclasp, and saw a wicked sense of humor lurking in the brown eyes. She had always hoped Remus could someday find someone to love, and it seemed he had.
"Wait a second," said James. "That means that little girl, Neenie, she can’t be yours. Unless she’s yours and somebody else’s. Because first off, I know you didn’t have any kids when we... you know," he said to Remus. "And you can’t, can you?"
"No, I can’t. But I’ve ended up with a fair houseful anyway, wouldn’t you say?" Remus grinned. "Harry you know about, Meghan likewise, and Neenie is actually Danger’s sister."
"’Scuse me," said a high-pitched voice from the door. The adults all turned to look, obscuring Lily’s view for a moment. She tried to work herself around to where she could see, but Aletha’s hand held her still, which gave her a perfect view of a much smaller version of Aletha stopping directly in front of James and looking up at him. "Are you Harry’s daddy?"
"Yes, I am." James knelt down, putting himself more on a level with this small and determined person. "You must be Meghan. It’s nice to meet you."
"Thank you," said Meghan, solemnly shaking his hand. "What I call you, please?"
"What she call me?" James repeated, looking around at the other adults.
"You can call him Prongs, sweetheart," said Aletha quickly. "Prongs and... what do you want them calling you?" she asked Lily. "They use my name, and Danger’s. Do you want them just to use yours as well?"
"Why don’t they call her Tiger?" suggested James, grinning.
"No," said Lily with a groan. "No, please, anything else..."
"Tiger!" cried Meghan happily. "Mrs. Tiger!"
Remus chuckled. "Looks like it’s been adopted," he said. "Sirius, why don’t you come inside and actually say hello, rather than just sitting there panting?"
"I’ll be back in a moment," said Danger quickly, slipping out the back door. "Harry, Meghan, come with me, please."
"Aww," protested both children.
"Go," said Aletha firmly. "You’ll be allowed back in just a moment, but this is grown-up talk."
"Okay," said Harry, taking Meghan’s hand. "Bye, Prongs. Bye, Mrs. Tiger."
Danger shut the door behind them. James was staring. "Whatever happened to Dad and Mum?" he asked.
The dog reared onto its hind legs and became a human. "Give him some time," Sirius said. "Hello, Lily." He came over and pressed her hand. "I’d get closer, but I’ve got a nasty cold, and I don’t want you to get it."
"Why didn’t you take Pepperup Potion?"
"I did. But your son did this to it." Sirius pointed at his hair, then grinned. "Hey, I finally have someone I can say that to. This is going to be great."
"There is something we need to tell you about," said Remus, righting the piano bench and sitting down on it. "About our fourth child — because we do consider them all very much ours. We’ve had him for two years, and he’s just as much a part of our family as Harry or Meghan or Neenie. But you might be a bit surprised when you see him, because he does look a little... unusual, I suppose you’d say..."
Something from the newspaper retrospective popped into Lily’s head. "Hold on," she said, lifting her hand. "Two years, you said?"
"Yes, two years this past summer."
"And does anyone else know where this little boy is?"
"No." Remus had begun to smile. "He is officially missing, presumed dead."
James caught on. "No," he said. "No way. You did not... I mean... he’s not... blond. Not like that. Is he?"
"Well, yes, actually, he is."
"I don’t believe this!" James was on his feet. "You must be out of your mind!"
"No, I’m quite sane." Remus’ smile was changing, Lily saw in fascination. It had become distinctly predatory.
James didn’t seem to have noticed. "How dare you! How dare you raise my son in the same house as the son of Lucius Malfoy! How dare you let that stinking spawn even get near Harry! You’re lucky he hasn’t burned the house down with you in it, or poisoned you all! How dare you—"
"That’s enough," said Remus sharply, standing up himself. James shut his mouth abruptly. "Draco is not his father. On the contrary. Lucius beat him for crying at his nightmares and neglected him to the point where Draco would go for weeks without seeing another human being. For the first few months that he lived here, he barely allowed us to touch him, because he had never learned that any adult would ever touch him with some other intent than that of hurting him. For the first year, we could not say his father’s name in front of him without frightening him badly."
James’ mouth had come open again and was hanging rather loosely. Lily could appreciate the feeling. This was a side of Remus she’d never seen before.
"How dare you imply that a six-year-old boy would, or could, do anything you mentioned? How dare you condemn a child you don’t even know, purely on account of his blood? Draco is as much a part of this family as Harry, and you would do well to remember that."
"Well, Harry’s not a part of this family any more," said James, staring down his nose at Remus. "As soon as Lily’s well again, we’re taking him and leaving. You can do what you like."
"Oh, we are, are we?" Lily sat up, ignoring Aletha’s faint sound of alarm — it didn’t hurt this time, she noticed, and she felt no need to lie down again. "I believe it takes two people to make a we, James Potter. And I don’t plan on taking Harry anywhere."
"What?" James whirled to look at her.
"We’d scare him to death if we just snatched him away. He doesn’t know us, and we don’t know him. We don’t know how to take care of him. We don’t know what he will and won’t eat, or what time he goes to bed, or what stories he likes to hear when he does. We need to get to know him without frightening him, and I see no better place to do that than here."
James’ mouth was hanging open even wider than before.
"And another thing. I’ve always wanted more than one child. You knew that, agreed to it. Well, there are four children here. A ready-made family, if you will. I, for one, would like to get to know not only my son, but the other people he knows and loves, before I start talking about taking him away."
The sound of clapping startled her. Sirius was applauding. "I like that," he said. "And you always did say you wanted a big family. Letha, think we should tell her now?"
"I think now would be the perfect time to tell her." Aletha was grinning.
"Hey, wait a second!" James protested. "I’m supposed to get to tell her!"
"I don’t think so," said Remus. "You forfeited your right to tell her things when you started being stupid. Am I right?" he asked over James’ shoulder.
"Exactly right." Lily returned Remus’ smile, feeling her soul warm within her. "So what do you have to tell me?"
"Well, let’s just say it’s a very good thing I didn’t hit you any harder. You might have been able to take it, but..." Remus stopped. "Oh, let’s let him tell her anyway," he said. "As long as he promises to be good from now on."
"Whose side are you people on?" James muttered.
"Our Pack’s side," said Aletha firmly.
"And your Pack would be...?"
"The eight of us," said Sirius. "Plus you, I guess, if you want to be. But we can talk about that later. Tell Lily the big news."
James made a face at Sirius, then stepped over the cot and sat down on it. "You’re supposed to be the one telling me this, you know," he said. "Lily, you’re pregnant."
All the cubs’ heads jerked around at the shriek which came from the music room. "What’s that?" asked Harry.
"Oh, just your mum being happy," said Danger. "Let’s keep going." She found her place in the book she was reading to the cubs. "It was getting dark. He could see mountains and forests under a deep purple sky..."
I disclaim that line, which comes from a book you should all have pretty handy...