Superheroes and Secret Identities
As a child, James Potter had always thought his dad was a superhero.
When he mentioned it, Dad just said he'd pick being James' dad over a superhero any day. Mum said he watched too much tellyvision. But Little James couldn't help but compare his dad to the heroes of his favorite cartoons.
In fact, James thought his dad was almost just like Superman.
After all, they both had glasses. And dad's parents had died when he was a baby, too. Also, his dad was the best flier ever (well, maybe mummy was just a little better). And dad caught bad wizards for his job all the time; mummy even said that dad was the very best at catching the bad guys. Dad even had a girlfriend (well, wife) who worked for the newspaper.
Yes, clearly Harry Potter was just like Superman. Except, of course, that his invisibility cloak was much cooler than Superman's outfit.
James made sure he never told anyone but his mum and dad that he thought his dad was a superhero, too. After all, he had a secret identity to protect.
In time, though, James slowly moved away from cartoons and onto Quidditch. One day, when finally went to Hogwarts like Teddy, he was going to be on the Gryffindor team, just like mum and dad and Uncle Ron and Uncle George and Uncle Fred and Uncle Charlie and Aunt Angelina and Dominique and Molly. Maybe him and Freddie could be beaters together. Or maybe they could be chasers with Roxie. Or…maybe, just maybe, he could be a seeker just like his dad.
And so James moved on to aspiring to be a great Quidditch player just like his dad (and his mum, too, he supposed) and the superhero theories were forgotten.
Until, as fate would have it, he finally did go to Hogwarts.
Admittedly, he hadn't noticed all of the stares on September the first. He was far too busy being nervous about the Sorting to pay attention to all of the people on the platform and in the Great Hall—except of course for a quick glance around to find all of his cousins scattered among the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor tables. Not even the encouraging smile Victoire was sending his way could help him now. He had to get into Gryffindor. He just had to.
And get in he did. That was the first hurdle down. Next step: be the second person in living memory to make the House team as a first year.
That decided, he was going to have to have a chat with Molly tonight about introducing him to the Gryffindor team's captain. It was a chat that never happened, however, as he got side-tracked by his new dorm-mates.
"It's James Potter, yeah?" The very freckly boy asked once they were all in their room after the Welcoming Feast.
James nodded. "And you're…Sean, right?"
The freckly boy nodded. "Sean Finnegan. My dad and your dad were dorm-mates, too."
"You never told me your dad knows Harry Potter!" One of the other boys spoke up now.
Sean couldn't respond, however, as James cut him off.
"How do you know my dad's name?"
"You're kidding, right?" The fifth boy questioned—James really would have to learn their names soon.
"No," James said with a frown.
"Seriously?" The fourth boy—Sean's friend, apparently—demanded. Shock registered clearly upon his face.
"Yes," James said tersely, beginning to grow frustrated as the fifth boy had the nerve to start laughing.
"C'mon, James," Fred grabbed James' arm suddenly and began dragging him towards the door. "Come with me to say good night to Roxie."
James willingly followed his cousin back down to the Common Room, though there was a frown on his face.
As Fred's luck would have it, Roxanne was sitting by the fire with Dominique when they exited the staircase. He quickly pulled James over to the pair.
"Hey, you two," Dominique said cheerfully. "How do you like Gryffindor Tower?"
"It's brilliant," Fred said immediately, "Just like dad always said."
"Speaking of dad," Roxanne began as Fred dropped into the seat next to her, still pulling James along with him. "I already wrote mum and dad a letter telling them we both got into Gryffindor."
"That's my responsible little sister," Fred said with a grin.
"And how are you doing, James?" Dominique asked the other boy, unused to his silence. "How do you like your dorm mates?"
"They know who my dad is," James said shortly, still puzzling over the mystery.
Dominique didn't immediately respond, and instead bit her lip, as if torn about what to say to comfort him.
"How?" Roxanne wanted to know.
James merely shrugged. "One of them laughed when I said I didn't know why they know who he is."
"Finnegan's dad actually knows Uncle Harry, though," Fred jumped in. "They used to be dorm mates, too."
"I just don't understand why he laughed," James murmured, lost in his own thoughts.
Dominique sighed heavily.
"James," She began delicately, waiting to continue until he was looking at her, "You're going to find that almost everyone knows who your dad is, and Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione, too."
"But why?" James pressed.
"It's not really my place to say," Dominique replied uncomfortably. "But," She continued over James' protests, "You'll be able to figure it out for yourself as long as you're sure to pay attention in History of Magic, in particular. And perhaps Defense Against the Dark Arts, too…"
"Is Uncle Harry secretly the most popular person in the history of the world, or something?" Roxanne asked.
Dominique shrugged. "All that matters is that he's really just Uncle Harry and he loves all of us."
"That's such a cheesy girl thing to say," Fred informed his older cousin.
Dominique merely laughed. "Get up to bed, you three. It'll be morning and time for class before you know it."
James couldn't fall asleep that night. Rather, he lay awake for hours after his dorm mates had all gone to bed, simply thinking. There was just one thing he could not get out of his head.
Why in Merlin's name was everyone supposed to know who his dad was?
It would appear that his brain was not going to let him rest until he answered that question, no matter that he had his first day of school in just a few short hours. And his next course of action was an easy decision after everything he'd been told today. It was one thing he had never really spared a thought about before when Hogwarts came to mind. One thing he couldn't imagine he'd really be doing very frequently anytime soon after this. One thing that would, beyond any shadow of a doubt, make aunt Hermione very proud.
James crept toward the foot of his bed and opened his trunk before blindly rifling through it until he had successfully extracted the two textbooks he needed.
He then made his way back onto his bed, wand and books in hand, and made sure the curtains were closed, so as not to disturb the four boys in the room who were actually sleeping.
"Lumos," James whispered, getting a small rush, even with all of his anxiety, from finally being able to perform the simplest of spells.
James first slipped open his history book and began scanning the Table of Contents. He was about to give up hope of an easy solution to answering his question when his eyes came to rest on the title of one of the chapters towards the end of the list. Recent history.
James' frown was looking to become a permanent feature on his face.
He flipped to the page number listed and began reading.
One Hour Later…
Roxanne hadn't been far off earlier when she asked if his dad was the most important person in wizarding history. James' history book and his Defense Against the Dark Arts book both confirmed it.
His dad had saved the wizarding world twice. His dad. Twice.
Again: Bloody. Hell.
James could barely wrap his head around it. And yet, he couldn't help but think…
Why had no one ever mentioned it before? James' dad had saved the world! He had been the one to end the war that Teddy's parents and Uncle Fred had died in. He was basically a celebrity. And James hadn't had a clue.
No wonder his dorm mate had laughed.
But back to the new question at hand: why hadn't James known about this before?
Seriously, it couldn't have possibly just slipped his dad's mind, right? No, James knew that wasn't like his dad at all. He must have had a good reason for not telling his own children about how he defeated one of the most powerful dark wizards of all time. He must have had a good reason for not telling them that he was a hero and a celebrity…and the savior of the wizarding world.
And that was when James figured it out. Of course Harry hadn't told his kids the complete truth. Why would he want to?
Admittedly, James clearly hadn't known the half of what his dad's life had been like before he had kids, but he knew enough. He'd been raised by his completely awful aunt and uncle, whose son's family James saw on occasion. After that upbringing, Harry had always wanted a real family of his own. And that was what he got when he married Ginny and they had James, and then Al and Lily.
What Dominique had said earlier all made sense now.
He really was just Harry, not Harry the hero. Just James' dad. And all that mattered was that he loved him.
Why, the memory was vague, but James was sure he recalled being told essentially that by his dad, himself, once upon a time.
Four-year-old James had been sitting by himself in front of the television when he heard the front door open and then close again.
"I'm home!" A voice called out, and immediately James was off the couch, his short legs running toward the sound.
"Daddy!" He cried out, launching himself at his dad, who easily caught James up in a hug.
"Hey, buddy," Harry said, "How was your day? And where's mummy?"
"I watched cartoons," James replied happily. Then he frowned. "But mummy wasn't very happy today. Lily kept crying. All she does is cry. Me 'n Al didn't cry as much as her."
"No, you cried more," Harry replied, tickling James' side as he walked in the direction of the family room, where he could still hear the television going. "And how were your cartoons?"
"Good," James said, giggling. Then, his expression suddenly turned serious. "Daddy, I learned your secret today."
Harry froze mid-step, but James, still in his father's arms, barely noticed.
"What secret?" Harry asked slowly.
"I think you're…a superhero," James' voice got steadily softer as he went on, not wanting anyone to overhear the secret. After all, the hallway mirror was always listening.
"And why do you think that?" James wasn't sure why, but his daddy's voice was sounding kind of funny.
"Because you're just like Superman!" James exclaimed, forgetting that he was trying to keep a secret as his excitement got the best of him.
"I don't know…"
"It's true!" James insisted, each of his hands coming up to rest on his dad's cheeks, as if this would make him admit the truth. "You're really a superhero!"
"I think I'd rather be your dad," Harry replied with a smile.
"Just me?" James asked brightly. "No more crying baby?"
"And Lily's dad. And Al's too," Harry added in for good measure. "I love all of you and want to be all of your guys' dad."
James sighed heavily, finally letting go of his dad's face. "I guess we can keep them…But you really are a superhero."
Harry laughed now. "I'm still not convinced. You better tell me why you think I'm like Superman…"
Really, James shouldn't have been so surprised that his dad had never mentioned that he really was a hero. Clearly he had more important priorities, like James and his siblings.
And honestly, even before reading about the war, James had known how awful it was. He knew that Uncle George, in particular, had never gotten over losing Uncle Fred. And of course, even though Teddy considered James, Al, and Lily to be his younger siblings, James knew he wished he still had his own parents. And then there were James' own grandparents, who had died years and years before, but still, essentially, in the same war, who dad wished they all could have known.
Even if he had, ultimately, been the one to make it all end, why would his dad want to relive a time in his life that had led to so many people he knew and cared about dying?
Even though he did wish he could have at least been told before he came to Hogwarts (he was still slightly irked about being laughed at, after all), James understood fully why he hadn't been told about his dad's celebrity status. Harry Potter didn't care about being a celebrity and it clearly wasn't the life he wanted if he never mentioned it. And, from the vague descriptions of his dad's life after the war in his textbooks, James could tell that he had done a very good job of keeping his life out of the public's eye.
James couldn't help but wonder, though, what kind of reaction his dad was expecting from him—because he had to be expecting something. He knew his dad, and obviously the man must have had some kind of reasoning behind letting his own son find out something like this from people at school. And there was no way any of the older cousins could have known about this until Hogwarts, too. How had they reacted? Because clearly they'd all dealt with it just fine on their own. But still…James was sure his dad was probably just waiting to hear that he'd learned the whole truth.
His dad had saved the world. A part of James still couldn't believe it.
James flopped backwards onto his pillow.
This was definitely not how he'd imagined his first night at Hogwarts turning out. But as he replayed the night in his head (there was definitely no way he was falling asleep after this), James could honestly say that he hoped it was a sign that the next seven years would be just as eventful—minus the laughing incident.
James sat up suddenly, mid-thought.
That was it. He knew just how to handle this situation.
Ginny Potter was barely paying attention as she got breakfast ready for Al and Lily; she was far too busy glancing out the kitchen window every two seconds, anxiously awaiting for an owl to appear.
It had been nearly twenty-one hours since she had seen her oldest child off on the train to school and she had yet to hear from him. This was not okay.
Just then, Harry entered the kitchen, pulling on his work robes as he walked.
"'Morning, love," He said, kissing Ginny on the cheek as he passed her on a quest for his morning coffee. "The paper here yet?"
"On the table," Ginny replied distractedly, her gaze still out the window as she continued to scrub the spoon she'd gotten out to give to Lily with her cereal five minutes previously.
"Auntie Luna and Uncle Rolf found a new creature on their latest trip," Albus informed his father from behind The Quibbler. "It says Aunt Luna is sure it's a cousin of the Crumple-Horned Snorkack."
"Does it have a name?" Harry asked, taking the seat next to Lily, who was busy coloring, her bowl of cereal still untouched beside her.
"Not yet," Albus said, lowering the paper. "Uncle Rolf is still researching to find out if any ancient societies referenced it and already named it." He paused then, and cast a surreptitious glance in his mother's direction, before continuing, "Dad, I think there's something wrong with Mum. She's been acting odd all morning."
Lily looked up from her coloring at this. "She tried to pour orange juice into my cereal. Is Mummy sick?"
Harry didn't get the chance to respond, however, as Ginny chose that moment to drop the spoon (loudly) into the sink and throw open the kitchen window for the owl that had just appeared in order to accept the letter it carried.
"It's from James," Ginny said with an audible sigh of relief after tearing open the letter. Well, Harry couldn't help but think, that would explain her strange behavior, then.
"Where'd he get sorted?" Albus asked eagerly.
"Gryffindor," Ginny replied with a smile as her eyes roved across the paper. "Fred and Roxanne, too."
She looked up then, and now Harry saw that she had a second folded piece of parchment in her hand.
"He's sent you a separate letter," She informed her husband, giving him a knowing look as she crossed the small distance between them to hand him the second letter.
"What about me?" Lily demanded. "Did he say anything to me?"
Harry barely paid attention to the letter Ginny was now reading aloud as he unfolded the small piece of parchment that had 'Dad' scrawled across it in James' handwriting. Honestly, he was a bit surprised to be getting this letter so soon. The rest of his nieces and nephews had taken at least several days to learn the truth. He only hoped James hadn't found out so quickly because someone had given him trouble.
A smile spread across Harry's face as he read what James had written to him. His children were always surprising him.
"What did James tell you?" Lily's voice interrupted his thoughts.
"He's already learned a lot," Harry replied, slipping the note into his pocket, to be placed in his old moleskin pouch at some later time. "I think he's going to do just fine at school."
Ginny's smile widened as she went back to finishing getting breakfast ready, now humming cheerfully. Harry couldn't help but smile, too, as he got up to help her, his thoughts on the letter from James.\
He really loved his kids.
I still think your invisibility cloak is much cooler than Superman's cape.
P.S.-Don't worry, your secret identity is still safe with me.