He lies through his teeth, but always for their good. He tells Kevin's family that he's a ghost, standing by the kitchen table, so they can say goodbye to a spectre that's not there. He hold's Su Li's hand and spells out to the newly blind and deaf girl that it's over and the sun is rising over clear fields and Hogwarts stands proud. He tells Padma that her friends are alive, and in her dying moments, she smiles. He tells Ernie he did the right thing in marrying Susan, war or no war. He tells Harry that he doesn't blame him. He tells Cho, recovering from self-inflicted wounds at the hospital, that things are going to get better. He touches Lavender's cheek and smiles, saying that she's beautiful. He promises Ritchie Coote an afterparty when they win. He looks Demelza Robins in the eye and tells her that her scars don't scare him, because she's just as human as she ever was. When his grandmother apologizes for not making him feel loved all his life, he tells her it's fine. It's the now that counts anyway. He's a liar, but he knows just what to say.

Except when he doesn't. He claps Dean on the shoulder wordlessly. He visits Anthony and Lisa, and so many others at the hospitals and that's enough, because they know their leader hasn't left them. He doesn't see Seamus for sixteen years since he gives him an order during the Battle. He sits next to Luna when her father commits suicide and it's enough that he's there, because he knows what it's like to lose people to madness. He tells Terry to stand up. On your feet, Lieutenant Boot, there's a war to be fought. The times he doesn't bother to lie are few and far between.

But he can never lie to her. She is fluffy aprons in a dingy pub, and blonde curls that have outgrown their childish pigtails. She can see straight through him with a single look. Everyone else looks up to him, even in the broken remains of their lives, and he carries himself like a humble leader: always there, holding hands, holding tight, whispering caring words, saying exactly what they need to hear, lying. But she's different. She can see he's just as broken as the very worst of them, and she loves him all the same. He gets free drinks at the Leaky Cauldron. Hell, he gets stone-cold hammered and she's the only one who's privy to his rants. He's full of so much sorrow and blame, but above all hate. Above everything else, he hates himself. She'll refill his glass long after the pub is closed for the night, and she'll wipe his tears when he'll stop thrashing long enough to let her. She'll wait forever if she has to. He carried the weight of the rebellion on his shoulders, now she carries him.

He meets a war veteran in a Muggle bar, and the older man tells him that sometimes the best you can do is keep walking, holding your head high, and living, because the others didn't get a chance to live. Don't waste your chance. He proposes to her that night, drunk and staggering, but more honest than he's been in a long time. They name their children after victims of the war: their classmates, their underclassmen, their parents. Sarah, Alice, Frances, Colin, Michael, Dennis.

He can smile again. He dedicates his life to helping the next generation of Hogwarts students remain safe and sane. He has no idea how much his gentle reassurance mirrors that of Remus Lupin, his favourite teacher. He preaches and supports house unity, and is proud of his Gryffindor girls, his Hufflepuffs, and little Denny, who's in Ravenclaw. He'd be proud of them even if they were in Slytherin. But old habits die hard, and he's still a liar. The students learn about the war in Modern History of Magic, it's a new class, with a young teacher who was too young to have attended Hogwarts at the time of the Battle. Everyone knows he was there but no student knows the part he's played. Sarah wants to be an Auror, and she thinks Daddy's weak. That's okay. Alice is scared, and she thinks Daddy's too complacent. That's okay. Frankie is reckless and she thinks Daddy's too strict. Colin is quiet and he thinks Daddy plays favourites. Denny is different and he thinks Daddy doesn't care. Michael is the most like his mother: he can see straight through the cheery smile and the reassuring pats on the back. He can see every time Daddy avoids someone's gaze or expertly dodges a subject. He can see the soldier's pose in a meeker man's stance, and a broken man in a solid shell. Michael can tell every time his dad tells a lie, but he keeps lying anyway. It's alright. Maybe if he says it long enough, he'll begin to believe it.