Home at War

It had been a sleepless night for Harry who had been unable to settle with the unknown beast somewhat lying-in wait above him. Whatever the creature was had calmed with him away from his bedroom that it had evidently turned into its lair.

He had whiled away the hours waiting for a reply from Newt Scamander by reading through the missives he'd received in his absence, some bearing welcome news, and others ensuring the rest of his leave would not be as peaceful or relaxing as he'd hoped.

As expected, his investments were doing exceptionally well, and without him here spending the gold he was making, his fortune had accumulated much more than he'd thought.

His latest bank statement showed just how wealthy he was now, and though Harry had never been a materialistic person, there were many pureblood families who would undoubtedly be envious of his fortune were they to know the sum of it.

Still, he was always looking for new investments to make when the opportunity arose, and with what little knowledge he possessed of products that would prove to be profitable, the wealth he'd worked for would only continue to grow.

It was welcome news indeed, which was more than could be said for those bearing the Ministry seal.

The first had arrived around the time he had been made Commander of the British forces on the continent and was little more than a congratulatory note from the Minister of Magic.

The second had been to inform him that he had been awarded an Order of Merlin First Class for his defeat of the dragon, something he would be presented with during the meeting of the Wizengamot he had been summoned to attend as per the request he'd received only the previous evening.

Minister Fawley had gotten wind of his leave of absence from the trenches and wished for him to give an update of the war to the governing body, and to meet with the man after to discuss matters in more detail.

Harry could think of nothing less he'd rather do, but the position he held came with these inconveniences.

At least he had dinner with Nicholas and Perenelle to look forward to after.

He jumped as a crash of thunder rattled the windows of his home.

It had been raining steadily since he'd arrived back in Britain, not an unusual occurrence, but the storm had come on unexpectedly.

He winced as he heard another sound, one that did not usually accompany a storm.

He frowned as he flicked his wand in his hand and entered the kitchen, his eyes widening as he took in the sight of the enormous bird in his back garden, one that he recognised from his tour of Scamander's impressive suitcase.

"And people think I have a way with dealing with creatures," he muttered as he carefully opened the back door.

Harry wasn't sure how dangerous thunderbirds were and he didn't wish to find out.

However, clasped in the creature's mouth was a roll of parchment it held out to him, and Harry carefully removed it, cursing under his breath as the bird shrieked and vanished in a burst of lightning.

"Probably quite dangerous," he snorted.

Scamander, Harry learned, was either quite insane or a genius when it came to taming magical creatures. He wasn't sure which yet, but if he could help him with the problem he'd arrived home to, he didn't care.

Returning to the living room, he unrolled the letter, breathing a sigh of relief as he read.

To The Serpent,

I find myself excited to see what creature emerged from the egg!

For years it was in my case and showed only minimal signs of life. The fact that you have hatched it brings me boundless joy.

I will arrive in Godric's Hollow as requested within the hour of you receiving this letter.

Yours truly,

Newt Scamander

"Great joy?" Harry grumbled. "Wait until you meet it."

With a shake of his head, he decided he would have his breakfast whilst he waited for Scamander to make an appearance, wondering just how the man planned on tackling the beast upstairs.

Somehow, he had tamed a nundu amongst other things no sane would go near, and Harry hoped Newt's expertise could help him with his own problem.

He would find out soon enough, and as the time slowly passed, he transformed himself into the man that Scamander would recognise before taking leave of his home and entering the main square of the village.

True to his word, the man did appear shortly after, emerging from the alley next to the pub.

"I apologise for the delay," Newt offered. "I had to convince my wife that I would not be visiting with Albus."

"She's not a fan?"

Newt shook his head.

"He tends to get me in trouble, as you saw for yourself when we last met. My wife is grateful for your assistance, but that did not prevent me spending a week on the couch."

Harry snorted amusedly.

"Well, at least you didn't die."

Newt nodded his agreement.

"No, and Merlin knows what she would have done to Albus if I had," Newt murmured. "Now, I believe you have a creature for me to look at?"

"If you can get to it," Harry grumbled. "It didn't respond to me even when I spoke to it,"

Newt hummed thoughtfully as he followed Harry back to the house.

"It may be that it will take time to understand you, and you it," he mused aloud. "If it is not long been hatched, it is only a baby."

Harry shook his head.

"Well, from the size of it, I fear what it will become."

Instead of appearing nervous, the man's expression was alight with excitement, and Harry decided that he must be mad.

"Where is it?" Newt asked as they entered the house.

"I'll show you."

Harry led the man to the top of the stairs and pointed to the door the beast was behind.

Showing no signs of hesitation, Newt approached and placed his hand against it.

"It's warm," he whispered with a frown creasing his brow. "Serpents are usually cold-blooded. I know of no other than an ashwinder."

"It's bigger than that," Harry warned.

Newt nodded his understanding.

"I think we need to take a look," he declared, opening his briefcase, and removing several vials of various substances, most of which Harry didn't recognise. "You said it was aggressive?"

"It knocked me on my arse when I opened the door."

Newt chuckled amusedly as he removed the cork from a bottle of silver powder.

"What is that?" Harry asked.

"It is a sedative of my own creation," Newt declared proudly. "Don't worry, it won't harm the creature."

"Will it work?"

Newt shrugged.

"It's never failed me yet."

Carefully, he tipped the contents of the vial in front of the crack at the bottom of the door and banished it within the room.

The beast inside did not take kindly to the intrusion and once more struck, the door dangerously close to breaking upon impact.

"It will only take a minute," Newt murmured, undeterred by the violent outburst.

Harry could only shake his head.

He had faced off with all manner of creatures throughout his life, but even he wasn't as calm and collected as the would-be famed magizoologist.

"There, I think she is relaxed now."

Harry drew his wand as the man turned the handle of the door and cautiously peered inside, gasping as he did so.

"What is it?" Harry asked.

Instead of answering, Newt went inside and gesture for Harry to follow.

He did so, his grip tightening around his wand, ready to defend himself if necessary.

What he saw was like nothing he had ever heard or read of.

Coiled on his bed was a large serpent, black as night with red eyes that danced with flickering, orange flames.

Newt was wide-eyed as he approached the snake and took a deep breath as he attempted to rest his hand on it, only for his palm to pass through the body as though it wasn't there.

It was then that Harry noticed that the snake wasn't scaled, but it's body seemingly made of smoke that flowed through a body that couldn't be touched.

Tucked down its sides were what appeared to be wings, feathered but also made of a wispy substance.

"Unbelievable," he whispered in awe.

"What is it?" Harry repeated.

Newt shook his head.

"I don't know," he murmured as he picked up the discarded remains of the egg.

Where it had been a pulsating blue before, it was now black on the outside and red within.

"It's still warm," Newt mused aloud.

The entire room was warm, stifling so in comparison to the miserable weather outside the house.

"So, what do we do?" Harry asked.

Newt hummed thoughtfully as he studied the snake.

It must already be around nine feet in length when uncoiled, though there was no way it had fed in his absence.

"This is no regular serpent," Newt explained.

"Even I can see that," Harry huffed.

"Its eyes are made of fire."

Harry edged nearer to take a closer look.

The man was right.

It didn't have actual eyes but small flames that functioned as them.

"I don't know what that means," Harry sighed.

Newt snorted as he again attempted to touch the snake, only for his hand to pass through it.

"Give it a try," he suggested.

Tentatively, Harry did so, his eyebrows raising as he felt the warmth of the body on his fingertips.

"You can touch it," Newt declared happily. "I suspect it has something to do with your parselmagic. That is why it didn't hatch under my care. It needs to feed off a speaker."

"But I've not been here," Harry pointed out.

"No, but you would have left traces behind, especially in your bed," Newt explained.

"Bloody hell," Harry muttered. "What am I going to do?"

Newt looked at him, his eyes twinkling with the excitement he felt.

"I have a suspicion, and though it is farfetched, it seems to be the only one that makes sense."

"Why do I have a feeling I won't like this?" Harry groaned.

"Well, you should feel honoured it has chosen to accept you."

"Accept me?"

"As its companion," Newt explained. "You have a unique opportunity to explore a new magical relationship between man and beast."

Harry could only shake his head.

"Think of it as a good thing," Newt urged. "If I am right, I suspect this will be of great benefit to you in the long run."

Harry released a deep breath.

"So, what is it I've gotten myself into?"

Newt smiled brightly.

"On my travels, I heard of creatures that bonded with people, but these were only whispers. I never saw one for myself. It was told to me by numerous villagers across the world that there were people they feared, that they had guardians that would appear from within them to protect them from danger. I have never heard of one being a snake though," he added with a light frown marring his features.

"Guardians?"

Newt nodded.

"Creatures that lived in the shadows of their companions."

Harry snorted amusedly, but there was no jest in the expression of the man.

"I will not pretend to understand how or why, but too many across vast distances spoke of them for me to dismiss the stories. I think what you have here is one of these shadow creatures. Already, it has fed on your magic."

"Great," Harry said sarcastically.

"No, no," Newt placated. "This needn't be a hindrance to you. She will be an asset. Think of it like the relationship Albus shares with Fawkes."

"Except that this snake will live in my shadow?"

Newt nodded enthusiastically.

"She would be little more than a companion but may be able to help you in certain ways. That will be for you to discover yourself."

"It tried to kill me!"

Newt shook his head.

"She is a baby," Newt corrected. "She was defending herself when she thought she was in danger."

"Baby?" Harry scoffed, "she's huge!"

Newt chuckled amusedly.

"She is a part of you," he pointed out. "She hatched for you and is relying on you to give her life. You don't strike me as the kind of man to shirk that responsibility."

Harry turned his attention back to the snake who was looking at him almost sadly, as though she could feel he was rejecting her.

"How do you know she's a female?" he asked.

"When you have worked with creatures as long as I have, you just know."

Harry shook his head.

He wasn't going to question the man's knowledge.

"What if it attacks me again?"

Newt snorted.

"My concoction wore off some time ago now and she hasn't," he explained. "She's scared, she's hungry, and only you can feed her."

Harry's eyes hadn't left the serpent, and the way she was looking at him was quite pitiful, but oddly sweet.

Reaching out a hand, he waited for her to come to him, and she did, resting her large head in his open palm.

"You must allow her to bond with you."

"Bond with…"

His words were cut off as he felt a heat start to spread throughout him and it took everything he had not to panic as he watched the snake disappearing into his chest.

"It's done!" Newt gushed, clapping as the tail vanished inside Harry.

"What is? What the hell happened?"

Newt cast a bright lumos charm and nodded towards the wall where Harry's shadow had been cast.

He saw his own silhouette as he normally would but protruding from his left shoulder was the unmistakeable shadow of the snake.

"She is in my shadow?" Harry asked in disbelief.

"She is," Newt confirmed happily. "I suspect you won't even notice she is there most of the time unless she wishes to see you. She needs to be nurtured and cared for. Most of that she will handle herself, but she will learn things from you just by being there."

Harry could only shake his head.

He had expected Newt would take the snake with him, instead, it was now living within him somehow.

"What do I do?" he asked dumbly.

"Nothing," Newt suggested. "Just let her be, let her grow and you will become the best of friends."

Harry felt the urge to slap the grin off the man's face.

"Where are you going?" he asked.

"Home," Newt answered. "I have done all I can, and now the rest is up to you. Oh, do keep me informed of your progress. It will be a most interesting journey to learn of."

With that, the man vanished with a gentle pop, and Harry cursed under his breath.

What was he going to do with a snake that had invaded his shadow?

(Break)

It was only the second day since Charlus had arrived back in Belgium, and much to his relief, things remained quiet. Reports had been received from the Russians guarding the border that Grindelwald's men had been scouting, but they were confident that no attack was imminent.

The defences were tight, and it would be foolish to attempt another invasion.

The same mistake certainly wouldn't be made again, and though the Spanish Commander was still swaggering around the city, none paid him any heed.

What Harry had done to the man was common knowledge, and if anything, the Spaniard had become a laughingstock.

Even the French Commander had distanced himself from his colleague and had not been his usual brash self.

All was as well as could be, but Charlus still counted down the hours until Harry returned.

He was amongst those that just felt better with him here, leading them as he should be.

Although the men listened to Charlus, and respected him even, he wasn't Harry, and had no desire to be.

"What is it?" he asked as a knock sounded at his door, and he hoped the peace was not about to be disturbed.

He had sent Arcturus away to practice his patronus charm, and he had already trained the men today.

"Mind if we come in?" Reg asked, peering into the room from a partly ajar door.

Charlus beckoned for him to enter, and he did so with Gilbert and a few others in tow.

"What can I do for you?"

Reg released a deep breath, seemingly uncomfortable with the topic he wished to discuss.

"It's Black," he said simply. "We aren't convinced he is trustworthy."

Charlus frowned and gestured for the man to continue.

"I have nothing against him, and neither does anyone else, but we can't ignore the knowledge that his sister follows Grindelwald. Bloody hell, his brother tried to kill your father."

Charlus held his hands up to silence Yaxley.

His concerns were valid, but he was wrong about Arcturus.

"I understand your worries," he said diplomatically, "but what happened between my father and Perseus Black is irrelevant, and if anyone would have reason to not trust Arcturus, it would be me, and even Harry after what happened between him and Cassiopeia."

"I know, but…"

"Spit it out, Reg," Charlus sighed.

"What if you're wrong about him and he's passing on information? It won't take him long to work out that Harry is…you know."

Charlus knew that Harry would be flattered by the concern, as he was. Despite the questionable reputation of the Yaxley family, Reg cared for Harry, and was loyal to him.

Of that he had no doubt.

"Reg, I know Arcturus," Charlus assured the other man. "The reason he is here is to ensure that his family reputation is not left in tatters, and to keep his younger sister safe."

"You trust him?"

Charlus nodded resolutely.

"As much as I trust all of you, even where Harry is concerned," he said firmly. "We went to school together, me, Harry, and Arcturus. He's a good man, and if Harry trusts him, that should be enough for you."

Reg nodded his understanding.

"It's enough for me," he said sincerely, "but that won't stop us looking out for you and Harry," he added. "If we think something isn't right, we'll bring it up."

"I wouldn't expect anything less, but there is nothing to worry about with Arcturus. I would trust him with my life."

Reg seemed surprised by the declaration, but visibly relaxed.

"That's that then," he declared. "Any news from Harry?"

"Nothing yet, but I imagine he'll be in touch soon enough to check that you're all behaving yourselves."

Reg snorted.

"More like to check no one is being idiots."

"That too," Charlus agreed. "Now, bugger off, I have things to do."

"Rather you than me," Reg chuckled. "Oi, you and Harry aren't allowed to take leave together. You're not leaving me here to deal with these shits."

"You'd best not piss us off then," Charlus urged. "I'm sure Harry would have no problem arranging for you to take charge for a while."

"Bugger that," Reg grumbled as he led the group from the room.

Charlus simply shook his head amusedly as he turned his attention back to the letter he was writing, the reason he had sent Arcturus away in the first place.

He hadn't told the man that he and his sister would be exchanging letters.

There was no telling how the protective older brother would react, but if things developed between him and Dorea, he would talk with Arcturus.

How he would mention the topic, he didn't know, but for the time being, he was content to keep it between him and Dorea.

As far as Charlus was concerned, they were doing no harm to anyone, and the thought of receiving a missive from the woman made being here just that little more bearable.

(Break)

Although Harry was not relishing the impending Wizengamot gathering that he was to attend, for the first time in his life, he was pleased to find himself inside the atrium of the Ministry, the short walk through the streets of London having been sobering to say the least.

Since arriving in the trenches, he had given little thought to the muggle conflict, other than when he had almost been killed by the shelling he'd experienced in no-man's-land.

It had been easy to forget that the muggles were at war too but seeing the devastation that had been wrought by the bombing that had begun several weeks ago now, he was sorely reminded of it.

He couldn't begin to fathom how many had lost their lives or homes, and he knew it was only the beginning.

Shaking his head of the thoughts of bombs and aerial fights in the skies above Britain, he approached the desk where the security guard was sitting, filtering himself through the crowds of witches and wizards as they went about their business.

None paid him any mind until the man on duty behind the desk spotted him, and stood sharply, offering a smart salute.

"Commander Evans," he greeted Harry with an expression of awe.

Harry offered the man a nod before holding out his wand.

"I'm here to meet with the Wizengamot."

"O-of course, sir," the guard stammered, taking Harry's wand, and holding it gently before placing it onto the machine.

When it had finished its scan, he handed it back and waved Harry through.

"My son won't believe this when I tell him," the man gushed excitedly. "You're all he speaks about. He and his brother play in the garden with toy wands and brooms pretending to be you when you fought the dragon."

Harry smiled softly at the man.

"Tell your sons that I am honoured they think so highly of me," he replied.

The man nodded frantically.

"I will, sir."

Harry clapped him on the shoulder before heading towards the golden-gated lift and entering.

He would never get used to people acting like that around him, something he had experienced since entering the wizarding world, but now, it wasn't because of something he had no control over.

They looked to him for the things he done, so it was somewhat more understandable to the man.

"Basement level, Department of Magical Law Enforcement Holding Cells, and Chambers."

Harry exited the lift and was greeted by the sight of a dozen aurors lining the hallway leading to a large set of double doors, the very same room he'd been summoned to for his trial shortly before fifth year.

The memory set him on edge, and he barely acknowledged the aurors saluting as he passed them and took a deep breath before pushing the doors open.

The room was full to capacity other than the stand Harry believed was for the media, who had evidently been excluded from this meeting.

The people within were talking animatedly amongst themselves but fell silent when his presence was noted.

For a brief moment, they simply stared at him before almost all broke into a resounding round of applause, something that only made Harry frown.

He never did feel comfortable being applauded, and this was no different, but he acknowledged it with a series of polite nods.

"Please, Commander Evans, take a seat," Minister Fawley urged, who was standing in the same spot Cornelius Fudge had when he'd tried to have Harry expelled.

The chair he'd gestured to was next to the Minister and his closest advisors, a place Harry would rather avoid, but seeing he had little choice in the matter, he joined the man who shook his hand firmly.

For several minutes, Harry felt as though he was the main attraction of a sideshow.

The members of the Wizengamot whispered amongst themselves as they talked about, seemingly not caring that he was in the room.

Much to his relief, before he could become too irritated by the pointing and comments, the Minister nodded towards the Chief Warlock who banged his gavel atop his podium several times.

The room once more fell silent, and the man spoke.

"I call to order this Autumn meeting of the Wizengamot, dated October 29th, 1940, and cede the floor to the Minister."

Fawley bowed at the man overseeing the proceedings and cleared his throat.

"Thank you, Chief Warlock," he said gratefully. "My Lords and Ladies, as you can see, we are today joined by the Commander of our forces, and I think that it would be prudent that we proceed without preamble in presenting him with the Order of Merlin, First Class, for his achievements thus far in the war. Please stand, Commander Evans," he requested.

Harry did so, once more feeling distinctly uncomfortable under the gaze of the wizards and witches within the room.

"Although the members of the media have not been allowed to attend today's gathering, I can assure you that they will be informed of this," Fawley continued. "Commander Evans, it is my privilege and honour to award you an Order of Merlin, First Class, for your outstanding valour in the face extreme adversity, and in doing so, preventing a significant loss of life."

The man beamed proudly as he hung a gold medal dangling from a purple ribbon around Harry's neck and shook his hand.

"Just a few words from yourself would be appreciated," the Minister prompted, gesturing towards the podium.

Harry nodded his understanding and waited for the lords and ladies of the Wizengamot to take their seats, most standing to applaud him now.

The showering of praise lasted longer than he'd expected, but eventually, the room fell silent, and the seats were occupied once more.

"I am grateful for your appreciation," he began cordially, "and for the kind words of the Minister. I'd like to dedicate this to all the men that I fight alongside, and those that have been lost on the way. Let us not forget the sacrifices they have made in the pursuit of peace to keep everyone safe from a regime that would only serve to harm us. Thank you," he finished.

Harry hadn't known what to say, but his words went over well with the audience who gave him another standing ovation as he took his seat.

"I think that we can agree that Commander Evans is a humble man," Fawley spoke once more when the room had quietened. "We of course receive reports from our ICW representative, Mr Doge, but we would like to know your thoughts on how the war is proceeding. Mr Doge has painted a rather grim outlook thus far."

"And he is right to," Harry sighed. "We are not winning this war by any means. For many months, we delayed Grindelwald's advance, but were eventually overwhelmed in France. With that being said, I have every confidence that we will win this war, and that things will change for the better in the coming weeks and months."

"You have plans?" Fawley asked.

"I'd be a rather poor leader if I didn't," Harry pointed out. "We have secured a firm hold on Belgium, and without divulging too much information, are continuously looking to better our position. Grindelwald will ultimately fail in his efforts"

Fawley nodded appreciatively.

"I have every confidence that you and your men will be successful, Commander Evans," he said sincerely, "and the charity you have decided to setup is certainly a worthy cause to coincide with what you are doing. Each of us are proud to offer our support."

"Thank you," Harry replied gratefully. "The fund will be invaluable to those in need of it. Many men with families here have been killed to protect Britain. I think the least that can be done is to ensure those they have left behind are well cared for."

"Absolutely," Fawley agreed wholeheartedly, though Harry noticed there was some within the chamber that didn't.

Not that he cared.

If only to save face they would make donations, and to Harry, that was all that mattered.

"Whilst I am in Britain, I will appoint someone to oversee the running of it, and those that have lost someone will see the benefits soon enough," he vowed.

He would ask Nicholas and Perenelle if they wouldn't mind doing so.

Harry trusted them both implicitly.

The Minister smiled warmly.

"You will be returning to the continent in only a few days?"

Harry nodded.

"I will be," he confirmed.

"Then let us not take up anymore of your precious time," Fawley chuckled. "For one final time, I give you Commander Harry Evans," he announced.

Again, those within the room began applauding, more subdued this time, but loud enough for the Minister to lean in and have a private word with Harry.

"You have my apologies, but I think it is imperative that we meet with the muggle Prime Minister before you return to Belgium. He is quite keen to be updated on our progress."

Harry nodded his understanding.

"How is Mr Chamberlain?" he asked.

Fawley shook his head.

"He couldn't handle the pressure of war and stepped down from his position," he explained. "Another has taken his place. Quite an acerbic fellow, but one the muggles look up to. I will take you to him the day before you are due to leave. Look out for a letter from me."

Harry released a deep breath, but accepted the handshake offered to him by the Minister of Magic before taking his leave of the Wizengamot chambers.

As far as such a thing could proven to have been irksome, it hadn't gone so badly, but he was now keen to leave the Ministry and spend time with people of his choosing.

He managed to avoid the starstruck guard as he left and exited the atrium without being delayed by any other.

When he was clear of the building, he crossed the road and entered another alley he'd spotted earlier during his walk, glad that he wouldn't have to relive the experience of seeing London in ruins from the bombs that had been dropped.

Checking that there were no muggles around, he activated his portkey and quickly found himself away from the hustle and bustle of the capitol but in a rather secluded woodland with a house only a short distance away.

"HE'S HERE!" he heard a female voice call, and before Harry could truly gather his bearings, he found himself wrapped in the tight embrace of Perenelle Flamel who clung to him as though he might just vanish if she didn't hold him so tightly.

Harry chuckled as she mumbled at him in her native tongue, but returned the gesture, nonetheless and the smile of Nicholas as he emerged from the home.

"Stupid boy," Perenelle muttered tearfully as she inspected him, placing a lingering kiss on each of his cheeks.

"Hello," Harry said simply, bursting from the warmth he felt from the welcome he'd received.

(Break)

Minerva sipped her Firewhiskey and leaned back in her chair. Ever since Harry had left the castle, he was all the students had talked about, and when she was already trying not to overthink what had happened between them, it was quite unhelpful.

"Long week?" Augusta asked as she joined her at the table in The Three Broomsticks.

"You could say that," Minerva snorted.

"Have you seen Harry?"

Minerva frowned at the question.

"You know he's back?"

Augusta nodded.

"Frank told me he was at the Ministry today. They awarded him an Order of Merlin," she whispered.

Minerva smiled at that, more so at the pained expression she imagined Harry wearing throughout the meeting, but he had more than earned it.

"It's about Harry that I wanted to speak with you," she explained. "He'll only be here for a few more days, and I was hoping you'd be able to get the others together for dinner."

"I can do that," Augusta readily agreed. "I'll send some owls off tonight. We can have it at mine and Frank's."

"Thank you," Minerva replied sincerely, taking another sip of her drink.

"What's wrong?" Augusta sighed.

"Nothing," Minerva denied.

Augusta raised an eyebrow in her direction.

"I have known you for almost ten years, Minerva," she pointed out. "I know when something is bothering you."

"It's not bothering me, I'm just distracted," Minerva replied, fighting the urge to blush.

"Alright, what's happened?"

Minerva drained her glass before placing it on the table, scrutinising her friend closely.

"Fine, but this doesn't go any further."

"My lips are sealed," Augusta assured her.

Minerva released a deep breath as she shook her head.

"When Harry returned, he came to Hogwarts."

"To see you?"

Minerva nodded, smiling once more.

"Well, it got late, and Armando gave him a room in the castle to stay in. I may have strayed to it in the middle of the night."

Augusta's eyes widened.

"Did you…?

The woman let the question and all Minerva could do was nod.

"Minerva McGonagall!" Augusta choked.

"I know, we probably shouldn't have, but I don't regret it."

"Well, it's about bloody time," Augusta chuckled.

"Excuse me?"

Augusta shook her head almost irritably.

"The two of you have been dancing around each other for years," she sighed. "All of us could see how you looked at each other, how you were when you were together."

"Was it that obvious?"

Augusta snorted.

"If someone as dense as a sixteen-year-old Tiberius Ogden noticed it, yes, it was obvious. Wait, you said you went to him?"

"I did," Minerva admitted unashamedly. "I don't know what came over me, but all I could think of was that he would leave, and I might never get the chance."

"But you want it to happen again," Augusta stated. "Are you together now?"

Minerva shrugged.

"We didn't really talk about it," she murmured. "I didn't want to hear him say he regretted it or put any pressure on either of us."

Augusta frowned questioningly.

"So, you slept together, and pretended it didn't happen?"

"No, it wasn't like that, we just haven't spoken about it," Minerva huffed. "He's fighting a war. I just didn't want to have any regrets about not having that experience with him."

"Bullshit," Augusta denied. "You didn't just want that with him, Minerva, you're not that kind of woman. You wouldn't have done that if you didn't want more."

Minerva couldn't refute what Augusta had said, and for the first time since her and Harry had spent the night together, she felt vulnerable for her own feelings.

"What about Harry?" Augusta asked gently.

"What about him?"

"Does Harry strike you as the kind of man who would just do that and that would be it?"

Minerva shook her head.

"No, but when this war is over, he will have women flocking to him for everything he has done."

"Probably," Augusta agreed, "but this isn't about anyone else and their delusions. This is about what you and Harry want, and I can already tell you that Harry would pick you over anyone. Bloody hell, Minerva, the man has practically worshipped the ground you've walked on since you met, and you've done the same for him. I would always have bet anything I have of worth that the two of you would end up together. I can't think of two people I know who are better suited."

Minerva smiled at her friend's words.

"Listen to me, you stupid woman," Augusta huffed. "If you're worried because of what other people might say or think, then you are an idiot. Harry couldn't do better than you in a million years, so if you want him, then bloody well take him."

"You make it sound so simple."

"Because it is!" Augusta snapped. "So what if he is famous, and so what if he becomes even more so. There is no one who deserves him more than you, and like I said, it's not like the prat can do better. You're beautiful, and you're going to be successful. What more could he want?"

Minerva knew that Augusta was speaking sense but having what they had and trying to grasp more was two different things entirely.

"Honestly, Minerva, you're wasting your time talking to me. Go and speak with Harry so you can figure this out. If you're happy living in limbo, that's your choice entirely, but the fact that you're here making excuses doesn't wash with me at all, and you know you're not fooling yourself."

"You're quite a pain in the arse," Minerva grumbled as she stood.

"Maybe, but you'd be doing the same to me if it was the other way around," Augusta replied with a smug grin.

Minerva knew she would, but it didn't stop her feeling chastised.

Still, she couldn't ignore the sense of nervousness that filled her as she took her leave of the pub.

What would she even say to Harry?

She didn't know, but after her conversation with Augusta, she was compelled to see him.

Minerva could only hope that the right words would come to her when she needed them.

(Break)

Between dealing with the snake that had hatched in his absence, attending the Wizengamot, and then having dinner with the Flamels, Harry had been granted little time to even think what was at the forefront of his mind.

In truth, he didn't know where to begin.

What had happened between him and Minerva was something he had never experienced.

Harry snorted as he shook his head.

He had slain a dragon, survived so many things that should have killed, and yet, when it came to something like this, he was clueless. He didn't know what to do, nor what Minerva wanted.

She had given no indication of what she had been thinking the morning they woke up together. If anything, she had been quite dismissive of the whole thing, and Harry didn't know what to think about the whole situation.

He released a deep breath as he placed his Order of Merlin on the table his mail was usually left on.

Having dinner with Nicholas and Perenelle had been a welcome distraction, nonetheless, even if the woman still treated him as though he was but a boy.

She, as ever, had doted on him, making him eat more than his fill before plying him with treacle tart.

Not that Harry had any complaints.

He cared for Nicholas and Perenelle as much as any other and he wouldn't begrudge the woman her need to fuss over him.

Much to his relief, they had accepted his request to oversee the running of the charity for him in his absence, so it was one less thing he needed to concern himself with.

Still, what was left for him to ponder was more than enough to keep him occupied.

He was pulled from his thoughts by the sound of the doorbell, and Harry frowned.

There were very few people that could visit his home without triggering the charms he'd cast around it, and one of them was in Belgium.

Thinking that it may perhaps be Nicholas having forgotten something, Harry opened the door only to be taken aback by the appearance of Minerva.

She was looking at him wide-eyed, at least a dozen questions on her lips, but in lieu of asking them, she threw herself into his arms, crashing her lips against his.

Without thought, Harry fell into the kiss, throwing caution to the wind as they had only a couple of nights prior, though this time when he pulled away, he swallowed deeply.

"What are we doing?" he asked.

Minerva cupped his cheek and when he met her gaze, her eyes spoke more than her words could.

What he saw was need, want, and something else that he dared not consider in this moment.

It was intense, more than lust, but it didn't unsettle him.

"I don't know," Minerva answered. "Do we have to answer that right now?"

Harry shook his head, and once more, they caved like fools to whatever it was that hung between them with no further words spoken, led by nothing more than what they needed in this very moment.