Disclaimer: I own nothing. The characters within belong to J.K. Rowling.

Practicality

The battle had been over for two months, but he hadn't returned. The gashes had healed, his hair had re-grown, and his leg had been re-attached with great success, but still he hadn't returned. He stopped at the gates and stared at the boars flanking them. They were as they had always been. They were large, strong, defenders. Albus rubbed the snout of one affectionately. For a moment it was as though it leaned into his touch before the gate creaked open. Still, he did not enter. His chest burned from the short walk from the apparation point. His magic was still not as it was, nor was the leg, but he could still feel the extended wards surrounding him. The extra effort couldn't be helped.

The birds chirped, and a fresh breeze brought the brine of the lake to his nose. He turned his face into the sunshine and smiled. But, still he did not enter. He was home, but it was for the wrong reason and the wrong time. There was still so much healing to be done; he still had the damned limp and a slew of scars covering his chest. It was only the somewhat frantic owl from the Headmaster that had overcome his pride. Armando had found Minerva, on more than one occasion, crying quietly to herself in an alcove or wandering aimlessly through the corridors at night. Despite her attempts at professionalism as she guarded the school, for her, no news had long since ceased being good news. Everyone could see the toll it was taking on the young woman. A rather scathing letter was sent, one whose singe marks Albus was still nursing, and a wayward wizard appeared.

All this, and, yet, he still did not enter. The students were long since gone, and the grounds were alive with the silence. He reached down and rubbed the bothersome appendage. The dull throb was still present, and it would take a good while to cover the last quarter-mile to the front doors. In his rush to leave, he had forgotten his walking stick. He grasped the gates and pulled himself forward, breathing in the magic that surrounded him while the gates clicked closed behind him. He stepped and breathed, stepped and breathed. With the next step, there was no breath.

She stood on the crest before him. The wind whipped her hair out behind her, and the sun illuminated her skin. She was sickly and pale; she had also lost a fair bit of weight. She was gorgeous. She stared at him, and Albus could see her lips move slightly while her cheeks lost more colour. She finally took a step, and another down the hill. Her eyes never left him. His leg began to burn, and he could feel himself shaking in the sun. Minerva stopped, standing toe to toe with him. He couldn't read the swirl he saw in her eyes. He was fairly certain she would slap him. Her hand came up, trembling, but he refused to close his eyes. She deserved more. The strike never came, but a gentle touch. The curl that had fallen loose not sat securely behind his ear once more.

"Hello, Albus." She said. Her voice was soft and rough.

"Hello, Minerva." He leaned into her hand.

Too soon the comfort disappeared, only to reappear around his waist. She pressed herself into his side, holding onto him for dear life. She pulled his arm around her shoulders. He could feel her warmth seep into his skin. "Hold onto me."

They walked slowly across the grounds towards the great set of doors. He could smell the trees, the musk of the owls. He could smell her skin, and he could feel her hair. She didn't falter when his lips found her crown; they only moved forward as was expected. "Don't worry, Albus. I'll smack you in a few minutes, but we need to get you off that leg first."