"Truth hurts. But lies can kill."
Karen Marie Moning, Fæfever
Remus helped Hermione clean herself with spells, even though she didn't really like it. He could understand why she found it slightly humiliating to need someone else to clean her, like an elderly person, but she had no choice, she was injured. Remus knew it would take several days for her to fully recover from the attack and the coma that followed. The witch didn't want to admit it to herself, but she would still need him, whether it was for a cleaning like this, using spells or a more thorough shower. At least they had a tub on their floor.
When they were done and Hermione was pretty much presentable, meaning she didn't have any more blood on her skin or clothes, it would take more than a few spells to get all the dried blood out of her hair, Remus carried her to the living room where Lily and the marauders were, all of them had closed faces and cold expressions, more or less icy depending on the person. He gently placed Hermione on the couch, but the young woman could not hold back a grimace of pain.
She felt naked in front of these inquisitive looks. She may have had pajamas on, but she knew that she was in her true form, Hermione's form. But she had to keep in mind that she was Helena, and that she had to continue playing her role. She hadn't put the hidden object spell back on the Potter and Black signet rings. And that also made her feel naked. For years she had been hiding the signet rings Harry had entrusted to her, taking great care of them and seeing them like this, revealed for all to see, even if the 'all' was only five people. All her scars visible, making her vulnerable. And she hated it. Yet it was by mutual agreement with Remus that they had decided to keep their true appearance.
Seeing the four wizards in front of them like that, lined up with their faces closed, showed the extent of the problem they had gotten themselves into. How could they get out of it while revealing as little information as possible? It was a mystery to Remus and Hermione alike.
They all seemed equally eager to ask the questions that were nagging at them, but it was James who asked the first.
"What's true about you?" he asked in an icy voice. "Is any of what you've told us true?"
Hermione and Remus glanced at each other, they were annoyed, this was going to be a tough conversation, not that they expected anything else, but they had hoped the marauders would be understanding.
"We are werewolves."
Their looks prompted Hermione to continue, but she remained silent.
"Is that all? The only truth is that you're fucking werewolves?"
Sirius stood up, starting to get angry, but Remus quickly told him to sit back down. Remus spoke up, looking his counterpart in the eye.
"So the whole story is false? About Juan, Lea and Sergio? It was only to comfort me?" he finished with a sneer.
His friends stared at each other, not having heard the story, while Hermione held her head in her hands, wondering why Remus had chosen names so close to reality.
"No, of course not! And Helena's not done, we're really coming out of a war where all our friends and family died."
"So why come here, at the dawn of a new one?"
"Because we are spies. Investigating, fighting, killing, that's all we know how to do."
"Spies in whose pay?"
"Of the devil" she answered, very seriously.
They didn't seem to like it, as Lily's pout showed, but in front of Hermione's categorical expression, they decided not to question them further, at least for the moment.
"This war, it wasn't in Spain, was it? Have you ever even been to Spain?"
"Yes, one week, in the hospital in Madrid, I had just bitten Helena."
Her face closed even more than it was, while in young Remus' eyes a brief flash of understanding passed.
"I also went there when I was a child, my grandfather was Spanish."
"Which brings us to the main question" Lily interjected. "Who are you?"
Hermione sighed as Remus massaged his temples. The real questions were only now starting, they were well aware.
"First of all, I swear on my life and magic that I am not legally part of the Black or Potter family."
Remus did the same and then said that they had indeed both lied about their identities at the behest of their superiors, which was true, it was Hogwarts who had named them Remi Lucas and Helena Grace, but She told them that under no circumstances would they reveal their true identities.
"You're not even going to tell us your real names? If your names aren't Remi and Helena. How do you keep it straight?"
"It's practice. We've been used to talking to each other with different names. It's always a little difficult at first but you get used to it."
Once again they were telling the truth. They had all called each other Professor Lupin and Miss Granger respectively, then Remus and Hermione, and finally Rem' and Helena in public, Rem' and Hermione or Mione, depending on the circumstances, in private. What could be better than some truth in all these lies?
"Which still doesn't explain why you're wearing my family signet ring as well as Sirius'."
"Prongs! It's not my family anymore!"
"I can't tell you that."
"You only swear by Morgana."
James' statement left the other two marauders and Lily stunned. None of them understood what Morgana was doing in the conversation. Sirius and Remus, since they were eleven years old, swore by Morgana as well, and by hearing James do it, he had gotten used to it and ended up imitating her. Lily watched him, waiting for him to continue, before she realized something.
"You told me that now that I was going to be a Potter —Hermione barely held back a yelp of surprise and contentment, finally they were getting married, it was not a moment too soon, she had been waiting for this since she had arrived in the past— that I had to swear by Morgana, Why?"
James hadn't taken his eyes off Hermione, his face was cold, but he also looked disappointed, almost sad.
"For centuries, while most wizards have sworn by Merlin, the Potters have sworn by Morgana from generation to generation. It's a rather peculiar tradition since it's based on the houses at Hogwarts. Merlin went to Slytherin, the majority of Potters went to Gryffindor, Merlin's house's enemy. My ancestors refused to swear by a Slytherin and instead chose a witch who went to Ilvermovy, USA. I was surprised the first time you swore by Morgana, but you were a foreigner, so maybe you didn't have the same traditions as us. But now you wear my family signet ring, which I know is on my father's finger."
The three wizards ignored the story while Remus quietly asked Hermione how she could have been so careless. After all, he too had been used to swearing at Morgana during his years at Hogwarts, but with James' death and Sirius' imprisonment, he had retreated into his solitude, talking to few people, a few werewolves, a few muggles, very rarely wizards, and that habit had left him. He no longer felt legitimate to do so, knowing that his friend was dead. So he had to learn to swear by Merlin, like all wizards, and at first it was hard, but he didn't want to stand out anymore, to blend in with the crowd, that had been his greatest wish, and he had succeeded, at least for a while.
Hermione, on the other hand, was the opposite. It was Sirius who had taught Harry that all Potters had sworn by Morgana for generations. The young man had quickly caught on, too happy to know something about his family and get closer to his father and his ancestors. Hermione had gotten used to hearing him swear by Morgana and without realizing it, she had started to do the same. It was Harry who had pointed it out to her during one of their evenings at the Astronomy Tower. She had been afraid he would be offended, after all it was one of the few things he knew about family traditions, and Hermione had followed suit. Harry had told her that it didn't bother him in the least, he even preferred that she did it, he felt like he belonged to a family.
Hermione too, just by swearing by Morgana, felt like she was part of Harry's family. That was why she had insisted on the legal when she swore on her magic. Because to her, she was part of the Potter family, Harry's family, plain and simple. And she knew that Magic knew her attachment and love for that family. So yes, she wasn't legally part of the Potter family, but in her heart, it was something else.
"I knew a Potter a few years ago" she began quietly.
Hermione glanced at Remus, beckoning him to be quiet. She didn't really have a plan, but the lies flowed easily, as if she wasn't destroying her best friend's image.
"In the United States. A minor branch of your family, distant cousins, too distant to even be considered family. One of them hurt me a lot, I wouldn't go into that. I could never forget his name, nor did I want to. He destroyed me. So did Bellatrix."
Forgive me, Harry, for associating your family name, your kindness, your courage, your whole person with the worst person who ever lived.
"I have researched each of them. I learned about their families. I saw what the Potters' and Blacks' signet rings looked like, and I decided, never to forget, to reproduce them. They are not real, I am not part of your family, the signet ring could never have been put on my finger if that was the case."
Everyone present was stunned by Hermione's words, Remus for the nerve of the lie, the other four for the story, and it was Sirius who first came out of his stupor.
"You're a masochist."
"Of course I'm not! You can't judge me. You don't know what I've gone through to get here, what I've sacrificed to try to save you, to save Britain and the world from the abomination that is Voldemort. I have scars, that I did not want, they are there reminding me every day of what I went through. They don't remind me of the physical pain. That's not their fucking job! My scars are there to remind me of the terror, the humiliation! They are there so that every time I look in the mirror, I remember. There are many kinds of scars and I assure you that the ones you see are not the worst!"
Hermione's voice died at the end of her tirade and she struggled to swallow her tears. No one should see her so weak, no one except Remus who could help and comfort her. She didn't want to unpack her feelings that had been nagging at her for years. Of course the physical scars were not the worst, but many people seemed to forget what they were really about. Hermione had never felt physical pain when she looked at any of her scars. Never. She would have liked to have kept her mouth shut, but it had opened on its own, she didn't seem to have any control over her words.
"I can't make my scars go away, even with advanced transfiguration. My fucking scars are there for all to see. Why do you think these are the ones that are visible? Why did I manage to diminish one and not others? Because the ones that are there can't go away! Because the humiliation, the terror that I felt is still there, still in my mind!"
Remus took Hermione in his arms as the young woman snuggled against his chest, barely holding back her tears. Getting so angry had reignited her wounds and now, in addition to being tired, angry, and sad, she was in terrible pain.
"Who are you to each other? It's bad enough that you don't look much like each other under spells, but now... Are you really related?"
Remus said no, while Hermione said yes. The four wizards stared at each other, waiting for the next part of the conversation, since the two of them didn't seem to have the same background. Which was strong if they were related.
"We're not related by blood, but Rem's my family. He is the last person I have left, but that is not why I am attached. As for our relationship, it's a bit complicated. I think it's a mix between a friend, a father, an uncle, a mentor. Everything, really. That's Rem."
The wizard was moved that Hermione was confiding in him, even if it was initially to answer Lily's question. She had never told him how she felt about him. He knew she considered him her friend, but he doubted her affection went that far. The marauders seemed to notice his confusion because they didn't say anything more, although they didn't want to.
Remus declared in a firm voice that the discussion was over, to the protests of the others present. Hermione was close to dying, they weren't going to continue questioning them for hours. Although their looks showed that they would want more answers, Remus doubted that there would be another conversation. He and Hermione had already revealed a lot of things they weren't supposed to know, and even though they had lied about some things, there was still some truth in it. They couldn't afford to say too much, or it would lose them.
No sooner had he put the witch to bed than the alarm was already sounding. A battle was taking place in South London.
Hermione tried to get up, but strong arms prevented her from doing so. She tried to get out of Remus' grip, but he was too powerful for her condition.
"You stay there, don't move and rest."
Before she could string it together, he cut her off again, she was too weak to walk, she wasn't going to be able to fight a horde of Death Eaters. Hermione held him by the arm, begging him to be careful, her eyes watering.
He nodded and hurried off to join the battle. Once Remus was out of the room, Hermione wanted to crawl out of bed, but magic immediately pulled her back inside her warm comforter. Before she could rant about Remus and the fact that he was covering her up too much, her mind grew heavy and sleep took over.
Her sleep was restless. She moved around a lot, sweating, moaning. She dreamed of Remus. A Remus who was bloodied, his face lacerated, one leg gone, cursing her for bringing him to this time he hated so much. Her dream ended with Remus dead and a Tonks came out of nowhere threatening to kill her. She woke up with a start, her hair wet, plastered to her face, fear tugging at her insides. She did not remember her nightmare. Only that she had been afraid, the frantic rhythm of the beats was a proof. She tried again to get out of bed to go downstairs, but failed, and make sure Remus was okay. She had no idea what time it was and her wand was not on her, something she hated.
The wait was endless. She finally managed to get out of bed after several hours of trying. She had used a lot of tricks and magic to get out of bed, but as long as she stayed wrapped up in her comforter, it was enough, no matter where she was in the house. She still couldn't walk, but she could fly.
For several years, in fact since Harry's death, Hermione had been trying to master objectless flight. Voldemort could do it, why couldn't she? She had been looking for it, it was by no means a gift reserved for the Slytherin heirs, but a long-term task that only the most persistent managed to achieve. And Hermione had the willpower. Flying would allow her to do many things, she couldn't miss that. Sure, it was a dark magic process that had taken a lot of sacrifice, but the witch didn't care. Sure, she was a phoenix and so could fly, but it wasn't always practical. She had to lower her guard while she transformed, and even if she kept her human consciousness, a phoenix could never fight as well as the wizards. She didn't deny Fawkes' role in Harry's survival in second year, but fighting was not her calling.
After years of training, she had finally managed to fly. She couldn't rise more than five meters, but she was already happy to have accomplished this. And it was very useful in situations like this. She had to concentrate to fly, but she didn't use too much magical power to do it, which was a big bonus.
So Hermione had gone downstairs and waited on the couch anxiously for many hours before someone finally appeared.
Gideon entered first, quickly followed by Frank and Lily. The young woman, not seeing Remus, began to get upset, demanding to see him. The wizard did not arrive and Hermione became more and more hysterical. Her heart missed a beat when she recognized Remus, his face full of blood, but safe. She was shocked by his face.
"What happened to you Rem'?" she whispered in a trembling voice.
Hermione didn't see her friend's incomprehension. She couldn't take her eyes off his face. Her eyes were fixed on his new scar. A lightning bolt shaped scar that adorned his forehead.