AN: Hello, readers! As it says on the box, this is a fanfiction of The Pureblood Pretense by murkybluematter, so it won't make much sense if you haven't read that one. For returning readers, no, sorry, this doesn't pick up right after Liar Liar, for reasons explained at the bottom. New readers, you don't need to have read any of my previous works to understand this one - but eventually, you'll probably get more out of this fic if you have. I hope you'll take a chance on it, and just go along with Archie for the ride!
Archie slammed his bedroom door, storming to his bed. Before he dropped onto it, he paused, turned around and went back to his door, because just one loud slam was not enough to express the depth of his displeasure. He slammed it again, and a third time, before finally throwing himself on his bed to stew.
He and Dad didn't fight much. Not since Mum died – not since he could remember. He was easygoing by nature, or so he thought, and so was Dad. It was always Mum who scolded him, if necessary, and since she died, well…
He didn't like to think too much about it. But when she died, she took something of him with her, too, something light, innocent, some child-like part of him.
He was six when she first got sick – old enough to remember the spells of weakness, lightheaded-ness, that marked those first few months. He was old enough to remember the visits to St. Mungos, so many of them, to hear the uncertainty in the Healers' voices, to remember the referrals to this specialist and that specialist, again and again. He remembered the months where Mum was better, the joy in the months where he had thought it was all over. And then he remembered the months where she worsened, the longer stays in the hospital, the eventual "diagnosis" – a neural wasting disease, NYD. NYD stood for "not yet diagnosed", and was one of the worst diagnoses that could happen, because if the Healers didn't know what it was, they couldn't fix it. It wasn't communicable, obviously, because neither Dad nor he had caught it. Possibly a result of pureblood genetics, some Healers said, like the Fade which so often affected second-born children of pureblood families.
He was eight when she died. He remembered her bravery in that last year, her utter conviction to spend as much time with him and with Dad before she passed, the frenetic energy of the days that she felt well enough to get up and do things, the fervent dash to do all the things that she knew she would never be able to do again. He remembered, too, the days where she couldn't get out of bed, the pain and weakness being too much, and he remembered her asking, those days, for him to stay nearby, for him to read her books and talk to her. Mum was light, and even on the darkest of days she tried to put a good face on it all.
He knew, though. He wasn't stupid, he knew that she suffered, that she never wanted to leave him and Dad. And he was old enough, then, to remember those days in their fullness – light and energy and heavy dread underlying it all. And when he was eight, clinging to Harry's hand in the cemetery where Mum was buried, he remembered the bone-deep sorrow he felt, too overwhelming even to weep, and he remembered the lost expression on Dad's face.
When they lowered her into the ground, he felt like some part of himself went with her. And it wasn't just him, it was Dad, too.
At eight, he knew about Dad's depression. He remembered the quiet stillness of Grimmauld Place when he woke up, the first weeks after, the uncommon silence that followed him into the kitchen where he would pour himself a bowl of cereal and milk, the solemn coldness of the house while he ate. He remembered making trays of simple foods – cereal and milk, toast, cheese, sometimes leftovers from when Uncle James came by and dropped off things – to take to Dad, still in bed, sometimes still asleep. If he was awake, he would always try to smile, try to get up, and some days were better than others.
And he remembered, perhaps a month later, Uncle James and Uncle Remus coming by and sending him to Harry's for the afternoon. Things were better, afterwards, sometimes, and he knew it was because Dad was seeing a Mind Healer. He never said anything about it.
That was, in a nutshell, what made him so angry now. Something died in him when mum died, some sense of innocence, some sense of fun – even as he learned from it. He smiled more, put energy and joy into everything he did, because even if it wasn't always real, one never knew what would happen next. And something died in Dad that day, too, but instead of changing, instead of learning from it and moving on, he was stuck. He was stuck in the past, a past that was gone.
So what if Dad loved Hogwarts? It didn't matter one whit to Archie that Hogwarts was where Dad had met Uncle James and Uncle Remus, that it was where Dad met Mum and fell in love. It didn't matter, because Archie wasn't the same person he was when Mum was alive, and Hogwarts didn't have a proper Healing program.
It didn't have a proper anything, to be honest. Maybe an excellent Potions Master, but aside from that, he didn't see what was so great about Hogwarts. Harry would have given, not a hand, but perhaps a foot, for the opportunity to go to Hogwarts, but instead, because she was a halfblood, she would be in America. Where he wanted to be.
It just wasn't fair.
He rolled over, burying his face into a pillow, sniffling, feeling his tears soak into the cloth. A few minutes, and the pillow was cold, rough on his face. If Dad saw him, he would tease – but something Mum had always said was that emotions took strength. There was no shame in tears.
"Really mature, Arch," he heard a soft voice say.
He wasn't sure when she had come in, but there was only one person it could be. "Go away, Harry," he muttered, but without any heat.
She plopped herself on the bed, crawling across his massive four-poster to rest her back against the headboard, beside him. Her black curls were, as usual, a riotous mess, which she had pulled back into a thick tail. Her nails were discoloured, again – she must have come from her potions lab. "No luck?"
"None at all," Archie replied miserably, turning his head to face her. "Dad's convinced that I need to go to Hogwarts. He brought up all of the stories again – he met Uncle James there, and Uncle Remus, and Mum, and it was the greatest seven years of his life, you know."
Harry nodded, her expression serious, attentive. He knew she saw the streaks in his face, but she wouldn't mention it – not unless she thought it would make him feel better. If she thought teasing him would make him laugh, she would do it, but not over something like this. She was worrying at the hem of her brewing robes. "But Hogwarts doesn't have a Healing program," she said.
"Yes!" Archie sat up, but this time, he caught the glint in his cousin's eye.
Harry had been there with him forever, their birthdays only days apart. They spent nearly every day together, for as long as he could remember, and he knew that glint in her eye. There was no person in the world he knew quite as well as Harry, and that glint always signaled trouble. Trouble that he, incidentally, would usually be blamed for, even if she was standing there right beside him. For some reason, Dad and Uncle James always thought he was the instigator.
"Uh – Harry? What, exactly, are you thinking?" he ventured cautiously.
"Just – it's such a shame, don't you think, that I would give almost anything to go to Hogwarts, and you would do the same to go to AIM in America?"
"And really, the rule against halfbloods going to Hogwarts is stupid. Dad says it all the time." She bit her lip.
"What's your point, Harry?" Archie sighed. She was not normally so evasive, so whatever it was, it wasn't just trouble. It was probably absolutely insane. Still, sometimes Harry's insane ideas were the most fun ones.
"I'm just thinking – maybe we should … switch."
"Switch?" Archie's voice dropped. "What do you mean, switch?"
"I'll tell my parents that I want to go to AIM. It's where mum went, so I don't think they'll be surprised, and they'll probably agree. Then, we trade places – you take my place at AIM, and I'll take yours at Hogwarts. You get your Healing training – and I'll get to study with Master Snape at Hogwarts."
Archie stared at her, and opened his mouth to tell her that she was insane. The idea was absolutely insane, and there was no way they could get away with it. More importantly, for Harry, it meant committing blood identity theft – punishable by, at minimum, a life sentence at Azkaban or, more likely, the Dementor's Kiss. And she would need to masquerade as him for seven years, through all her girly changes, and there was no way that their physical appearances would stay the same for all seven years. It just wasn't possible.
And yet, Harry wasn't stupid. In fact, Harry was the smartest person he knew, and if these thoughts were running through his mind, then she had probably already considered them and dismissed them. She would never have come to him with this idea unless she had reasoned it out beforehand. And if she was right, if they pulled this off, well…
He would get his Healing training. He would be able to work on the diseases that killed Mum, that killed people every day, he would be able to work to make sure that other people wouldn't feel the way that he felt. She would get to work under Master Snape, her dream – she would get to train under the greatest Potions Master in the country, if not the world, and make her dream of becoming the best Potions Mistress in the country a reality. And really… they weren't hurting anyone. The pureblood requirements to attend Hogwarts were stupid.
So instead, his mouth opened, and what popped out was, "I'm listening."
She leaned forward, her green eyes earnest. "We look similar enough – people already mistake us for twins when we go out. And on top of that, no one really knows us yet – because of the Split, our families aren't social, and we haven't met anyone that you would run into again at school. I bet we could make ourselves look more similar for school, though it's not very likely that someone who knows us from one school would ever be in a situation where they would meet the other one of us. So I disguise myself as a boy and go to Hogwarts, and you…"
Archie gave her a flat stare. "I'm not disguising myself as a girl, Harry."
Harry grinned, a bright flash across her delicate face – delicate enough, he realized, that passing as a pureblood would not be completely out of the question. "You won't need to. No one in America knows me – Mum didn't keep in touch with any of her school friends there. So you go to America, you tell them they made a mistake transcribing the forms over Floo when you get there, or, I don't know, that dad played a prank on you, and that it's Harry Potter, not Harriett Potter, and you're a boy. You laugh, they laugh, and poof – Harry Potter is now a boy."
"All right," Archie allowed, thinking it over. "What about you, though? Society knows, here, that the Black heir is a boy. How are you going to hide that for seven years? And what about our parents? You know that they can tell us apart."
Harry waved her hand dismissively. "I'll deal with the changes later – I'm sure there's a potion I can use to make it work. As for our parents, we eat dinner together almost every night anyway, and we most certainly will the night before we go to school. I'll swipe enough of my dad's Polyjuice from his kit for his to disguise ourselves as each other for the night and the morning before we get on the train or plane to school, then we'll let it wear off and be ourselves at school."
Archie scrunched his nose a little, thinking it over. It was stupid. It was crazy. It was absolutely insane. And yet…
He felt the call of the Healing program in America like a siren's song. AIM had the best Healing program in the Western hemisphere, certainly the best of the English-speaking schools. They provided practical training right from the first day, and he wouldn't need to take a years-long apprenticeship out of school for a basic Mediwizard license. Rather, AIM Healers went straight into advanced specialty training, such as internal medicine, spell damage, mental illnesses, infectious disease… most of the most prominent mediwizardry research, too, came from AIM graduates. If it worked, he would be able to head straight to research in infectious diseases after graduation.
And Harry… well, when Harry decided she wanted something, and she would find a way to get it. And no matter how crazy it was, she made it work.
"What about the danger? You know it's Azkaban, at best, if you're caught."
"I know." Harry's voice was serious. "But I'm willing to take that risk. Are you?"
There was a long silence. Harry stared at him, her green eyes pleading, but he knew she wouldn't hold it against him if he said no. It was dangerous. It was crazy. It was absolutely insane.
"I'm in," he said.
After that conversation, they put their heads together and drafted the plan. Archie wrote it out, in chart form. Under both of their names: Act like your life depends on it. Lie through teeth to parents. Jump for joy. Under Harry's name, Study pureblood etiquette until it is second nature. Learn to bow, dance, speak like a pureblood. Engrave the Black family tree into memory. Become a boy. Under Archie's name, SULK. Throw a few more temper tantrums. Become a girl. Harry thought the list was overly dramatic, but each of the points did, Archie thought, have a point to them.
They both had to act, for the next few months, like their lives depended on it. Of course, they could not simply revert to their regular selves – they needed to sulk. They needed to make sure that their parents didn't notice anything odd in these first few months. They couldn't have Aunt Lily or Uncle Remus, easily the most observant of their family members, remember this summer and think, it was odd that Archie and Harry were resigned to their fates so early.
More than that, they would both need to pretend, to act, to lie over the next seven years. These first few months were just the preparation for the marathon. Harry had it worse – she always would. It would be far, far harder for her to pretend to be a boy, to pretend to be the Black Heir, for seven years, even if Archie's personality wasn't broadly known in wizarding society. Archie, in America, would be able to keep his gender and personality, because it was so unlikely that anyone from America would ever encounter anyone who should have known either the Blacks or the Potters in Britain. But he would still have to lie to his family, to Dad, about attending Hogwarts. Beyond that, he would need to act like he actually attended Hogwarts at home; there was no way he could get through even one year, let alone seven, without Dad wanting to reminisce at length about Hogwarts with him.
There was the lying, too – it didn't sit well with Archie to have to lie to his dad for seven years. He and Dad had always had a peculiarly friendly relationship; in many ways, they were more best friends than they were father and son. If Dad ever found out about what he was doing, there was simply no way that their relationship wouldn't change. But then again, they were as much best friends as they were father and son, and Dad would understand. He hoped.
And on the other side – this was the training he always wanted, ever since Mum died. This was about more than just him, it was about learning how to heal people, it was about saving lives. It was about making sure that no other person would hear the diagnosis, "NYD", knowing – fearing – that there was nothing that anyone could do. It was about preventing people from dying before their time. If he could prevent that from happening to anyone else, well, then it was worth it. It would all be worth it.
So, according to plan, Archie sulked in his room for weeks, reading Healing textbooks that he had rifled from the Potter library, clearly the better of the two libraries when it came to Healing. He was short with Dad when he ran into him – to the point where Dad was pouting at his door. He slammed a few more doors, he threw one more, loud, screaming tantrum with Dad, he didn't contribute as much to dinner conversation as he normally would have – and neither did Harry. Both of them, to the world, were sulking.
For Harry, he also snuck out books on pureblood etiquette, who would look odd doing so if Dad wandered into the library at the wrong time. Archie could have given her an overview, Dad having been careful about making sure the Black Heir got a background in pureblood etiquette, dancing, rituals, politics and the like. But Harry hadn't gotten any, so she needed to learn. He had pointed out that really, she only needed to learn what he knew, since she was trying to pass as him, but she only crinkled her nose at him and said, "Since it's my soul I'm risking, I'll decide what I need to know, thanks." It certainly couldn't hurt, so Archie shrugged, and instead forced her to memorize the last three branches of his family tree, as well as the family trees of some of the purebloods she would go to school with.
He left it in Harry's hands when she would ask her parents to enroll her at AIM. She approached them formally in mid July – it wasn't quite the deadline, but since Harry had grown up knowing that Hogwarts wasn't an option, her sulks weren't supposed to take as long. As expected, her parents agreed easily to her going to AIM, and there was that, done.
Archie took charge of their appearances, because while Harry understood that they needed to look alike, she didn't necessarily understand what that meant. Archie had always been the more fashion-conscious of the two of them, whereas Harry tended to throw on brewing robes and heavy boots every day and leave it at that. Looking alike was in the details – and there were some details that they couldn't get around. Pureblood genetics dictated that the Black Heir had black hair, grey eyes and a tendency towards madness, whereas the Potter Heir would have messy black hair, poor eyesight, and a talent for flying. And even if they didn't expect their lives at school to intersect with their lives at home, they needed to have some similarity, because their parents could hear something.
So Archie talked Harry into going to a barbershop in Diagon Alley to cut their hair together, which they would explain as 'grand gesture' of leaving their childhoods behind, but which would hide the fact that Harry's hair was actually quite different from his. Archie wasn't thrilled with the idea, overall, but the barber had done a good job and they did end up looking quite similar, so he called it a success and left it at that. He also quietly sourced the contacts they would need – after some consideration, he concluded that his eyes were steel rather than argent, and bought a few sets of them to put in his trunk for Harry. He also picked out green contacts for himself – there weren't any contacts that would capture her exact, intense, spark, but he did his best. Since he was in America, his contacts would matter less, anyway – he didn't think that anyone he would be meeting would be commenting on anything other than the fact he had green eyes, if that. Heck, if anyone was writing home to Uncle James and Aunt Lily, the game would likely be up anyway, given that he wasn't, emphatically wasn't, disguising himself as a girl.
Before he knew it, it was the night before they left, and Archie packed up everything Harry could possibly need for Hogwarts. He had made sure to get his own clothes into Harry's trunk a week earlier, so most of what she had were his non-preferred robes. Harry was hard on her clothes, and he also had no interest in wearing her clothes while in America, but as a pureblood Heir, she would need certain clothes that she just didn't have. She, too, had put her favoured brewing robes into the bottom of his trunk, and Archie took charge of ensuring that their new school robes were appropriately fitted. That night, he checked through everything one last time, and took a deep breath before walking downstairs.
It wasn't that he didn't have any misgivings about their plan – there were too many ways that this could go wrong. It was a risk. But Harry was the most brilliant witch he had ever met, and if anyone could pull this off, it was her. And if this worked – and it had to work – then he would graduate as a fully qualified Mediwizard, from the best Healing school in the Western Hemisphere. The equivalent qualifications from Hogwarts would take at least an additional five years, and he had no illusions; the best Healers today were trained in America, and most cutting-edge medical research happened in America. And Harry, too, would get her dream of studying under Master Snape.
"Ready to go, Arch?" Dad asked, waiting by the Floo when Archie came down the stairs.
He smiled, not as brightly as he might have, had Dad known he was planning on going to AIM, but he was supposed to be more-or-less resigned to Hogwarts, at this point. He grabbed a handful of Floo powder from the mantle. "Let's go."
He threw the glittering powder onto the flames, calling out "Potter Place", as he had a million times before, and walked through the flames into the Potters' kitchen. Uncle Remus was already there, setting the table, and it wasn't more than ten minutes before they were all seated at the table.
It was, not surprisingly, Uncle James who brought up the topic first. If there was anyone more in love with his time at Hogwarts that Dad, it was Uncle James.
"So, are you psyched to go to school Archie?" he asked brightly, almost as soon as dinner was served. Inwardly, Archie winced – even if he knew that Harry was going to go to Hogwarts, assuming all went to plan, it was outrageously insensitive. Aunt Lily was giving him a look, but Uncle James ignored it.
Archie spared a glance at Harry, who was eating, expressionless, as Uncle James continued. "You're going to love Hogwarts – there's no place like it anywhere. Why, the things me and your uncle and father got up to when we were there … as the representative of the second generation of Marauders, you'll have to carry on the family legacy –"
"—of pranking the daylights our of unsuspecting Defense Against the Dark Arts professors!" Sirius roared with laughter, slapping Remus on the back beside him. Remus smiled indulgently, but Archie could tell that he was picking up on the tension in the room. Aunt Lily, too, wore a resigned expression – slightly wistful, almost.
Even if they had good memories about the exclusive school, Archie didn't think they needed to go on about it, not when everyone knew that Harry would have killed for the opportunity to attend and couldn't, formally, because of her blood status. Still, he had a role to play, so instead he simply asked, "Why just the Defense professors? Is it part of the tradition?"
"Eh, not really… It's just that they're usually the best targets. See, the job's been cursed as long as anyone can remember, so you never get the same one two years in a row," Uncle James replied, reflecting on the question.
"Rookie professors are the easiest marks," Dad added, winking. "Though if you'll prank Snivellus once or twice your old man would be much obliged."
"Don't call him that, Sirius," Lily interjected dully. It was a reflex, at this point – her tone said that she expected nothing to come out of her objections. "He's a good man."
"Not to mention a genius," Harry murmured into her plate. Everyone ignored her.
To be fully honest, Archie had no particular feelings about Master Snape. He knew that Dad and his uncles had apparently not gotten along with the man when they were still in school, but he had never really heard or cared about the specifics. He knew, too, that Aunt Lily had been childhood friends with him, until some falling-out that no one would tell him about. Perhaps he had been too influenced by Harry – Harry thought he was a genius worth risking her soul for, so he had to have some redeemable qualities.
"Eleven years later, and you're still defending the man," James sighed.
"Eleven years later, and you're still holding onto a childish rivalry," Aunt Lily retorted. "Remus thinks it's ridiculous, don't you?"
Remus smiled ingratiatingly at his friends. "She has a point, there's no need to perpetuate this, is there?" He paused. "I'm sure by now he's washed his hair."
Dad and Uncle James fell apart laughing, while Aunt Lily glared at him. He lifted his hands in apologetic surrender, but Archie could tell he didn't really mean it. Uncle Remus had always been the opposite to Uncle James and Dad, the level-headed and reasonable one of their group, but Archie sometimes got a sense that Uncle Remus was never quite sure if he belonged. For example, Archie never heard him say anything one way or the other about Snape unless Dad or Uncle James were present. Still, he changed the subject. "So Harry, how are you looking forward to America?"
"I can't wait," Harry replied brusquely. Her tone was not enthusiastic, but then again, Harry didn't really do enthusiasm. "It'll be interesting to travel abroad. I'm actually thinking of trying the Healer track."
"Really? That's quite a difficult area of specialization," Uncle Remus replied, though Archie caught the confused look that Aunt Lily and Uncle James exchanged. "I thought you were planning on pursuing a Potions career, though."
"Well, all the really advanced Healing is done with potions nowadays," Harry said, reaching for more vegetables. "If I want to make potions to help people, not just brew them for money, then I should see the problem from the other side too."
Archie looked down at his plate, his lips quirked into a tiny smile. It wasn't entirely false – a lot of advanced Healing, particularly for progressive diseases, were done using potions. But he had also caught the if that his cousin had slid in – if I want to make potions to help people. It wasn't that Harry was disinterested in helping people, or that she only intended on brewing potions for money. No, Harry liked potions for the art itself; there was something about the cauldron that just called to her. She liked making potions and researching potions and living and breathing potions, and even if Archie never understood it, it was something about his cousin that he had long since accepted. It was something one had to accept, if one was ever to really know Harry.
After dinner, he and Harry had a private goodbye in her bedroom. She had, as planned, stolen the Polyjuice Potion from Uncle James' Auror kit, replacing it with a neutral compound that looked and smelled the same. Without ceremony, they each plucked a hair, dropping it into the potion. Archie's turned a bright, electric blue, whereas Harry's fizzled into a placid, deceptive grey. They swapped their vials.
"One, two, and down the hatch," Harry murmured quietly, and on the count, they threw them back.
The burning started from his insides, and Archie doubled over, gasping quietly. He felt his fingers deflate, and his eyes burned. He knew that Harry was doubled over beside him, in her own pain, but she was far too clever to make any noise about it. It was a second before he realized the pain had passed, and he straightened, opening his eyes. The world was blurry.
"Weird," he said, looking over to his cousin. It was like looking into a mirror, except his mirror was wearing Harry's glasses and robes. Ugh, he'd forgotten about the robes – Harry had no dress sense whatsoever, and the robes that Archie so carefully went out of his way to dress her in always seemed to end up in the back of her wardrobe. "You have awful eyesight, Harry. Give me your glasses. And we need to swap robes."
"That explains why the world is so blurry," Harry replied, cheerfully handing over her glasses and looking around her room curiously, apparently now enjoying having perfect vision, and pulling off her robes to hand to Archie while he did the same. Archie put on the glasses, with only a grimace of distaste. It would only be for a little while, anyway.
"I've packed my extra potions books in my trunk, so study up in case Mum asks me something in a letter that I should know about," Harry said, her serious frown looking distinctly out of place on his face. "And don't forget to learn a handwriting charm first thing so you can answer my parents' correspondence, and I'll do the same for your letters that your dad sends. Keep an extra copy of everything you write and we'll exchange them by owl post at the end of the term so we can keep our stories straight over the summer."
"All right, I remember," he said, trying to inject his voice with reassurance. It was unlike her to ramble like that, a sign of her nervousness. But they had taken all the steps, and even if he, too, was nervous, well, they had done all they could to carry it off. There was a long, pregnant, pause, and he reached out to her, letting his hand rest on her upper arm.
"That's it, then," Harry said firmly, shaking herself. Himself. Really, all of Harry's normal actions looked so odd when done with his body. "This is … goodbye. Good luck."
"Yeah," he replied, then pulled his cousin in for a tight hug. Harry wasn't normally inclined towards physical affection, but given the magnitude of what they were about to try to undertake, he thought a hug was entirely appropriate.
"Arch?" Her voice was muffled against his shoulder.
She pulled back, gripping him on his shoulders. "Even if this blows up in our faces, and they kick me out before the first class, I'm saying this right now: I don't regret anything."
Archie was surprised; she wasn't normally so forthright. Still, he met her eyes, grey, and nodded, squaring his shoulders. "Me neither. Thank you. This was your idea, and without it, I would have taken years longer to reach my goal. It's also going to be a lot more dangerous for you, and, well…"
He paused, unsure of what to say further. It was going to be a lot more dangerous for her – that was a known fact. If they were caught, Harry would get Azkaban at minimum, and possibly the Dementor's Kiss. If caught, she would also have a much harder time escaping Britain to claim sanctuary elsewhere. Meanwhile, if caught, Archie would face a fine. He would change all of his schooling into his proper name, and if anything more specific was on the horizon, he would be well positioned to claim sanctuary in America – famously friendly towards Muggleborn and halfblood witches and wizards.
If they were caught, he was all too aware of the consequences, and he privately resolved to protect Harry, too, as much as possible over the next seven years. He was a pureblood, and he was a pureblood Heir – surely there was some protection he could extend to her if anything happened.
Harry was watching him, waiting for him to finish his train of thought. He smiled at her, a light smile meant to be reassuring. Even on Harry's face, instead of his own, he knew that she caught the meaning when she smiled wryly back.
"I'm grateful for everything, no matter what happens."
"Same," Harry replied, smiling and trying to lighten the air between them. "Thanks for letting me borrow your name, Arch. I'll try not to blacken it too much in the next seven years."
Archie grinned back. "Do your worst."
And just like that, she turned her back, and with a quiet snick of the door, she was gone.
AN: Thank you, as per usual, goes out to my faithful beta-reader (who also deals with late night panics about how everyone will hate Archie), meek-bookworm, and to the rant-crowd/subject-matter-experts: JAP, SHL, badculture, JEM. A few pre-emptive answers to questions I can see coming: Is this in the same canon as Liar Liar? Yes - this is a parallel story of Archie's path to the same point where Aldon's leaves off. Wait, what, how can you leave us on that ending in Liar Liar? Well, as the more astute among you shouted at me, "No, Archie, why did you come back?!" ... well, you are right, Archie wouldn't come back - if it weren't for the things that happened (will happen?) in this fic. How AU am I? It's not significantly different through TAA, but the background underpinnings are incredibly different - you can check my profile for a running list of differences. Am I using these fics to explore radicalization? Uh, maybe, yes? Anyway: the update schedule for this one is a quite bit different because the chapters are shorter (Aldon wallows a lot - Archie doesn't), so keep an eye on my profile for precise dates. As always, I love to hear your feedback - leave me a review or message me on discord!