A Pottermore Spoiler or two...if you really squint.

22 June 1996

Minerva sat in her winged armchair before the flickering fire in her small, comfortable bedroom. She was home at last; tired, a little uncomfortable, but cozily covered with an old tartan blanket and slipping in and out of consciousness as her head rested on her hand. Her other hand she held against her aching breastbone, breathing carefully to avoid the sharp, stabbing pains that still had not entirely left her, even after nearly three days in St. Mungo's.

Suddenly, from above the fireplace, there came a voice.

"Professor McGonagall," said the portrait of Godric Gryffindor. "My Lady Professor," he said graciously, when Minerva did not awake right away. She started and winced, rubbing her chest, but looked attentively up at him. He bowed slightly. "Your colleague Professor Sprout waits in your office, seeking entry. She wishes to—ah, 'check up on you,' I believe she said," Gryffindor told her.

"Oh," Minerva said in surprise, drawing herself up slightly and folding down her blanket. "Yes, Professor Gryffindor, that's fine with me, thank you," she said, and Gryffindor gave another bow before walking sideways out of his frame.

Minerva pulled her blanket off her legs and reached for her walking stick, not wishing to be sitting when Pomona arrived. It was a little difficult to stand, but she managed to get up and wave her wand so that her blanket folded itself before the hidden door to the office swung open.

Pomona, bearing her latest knitting project, spectacles, and several magazines stepped inside, fixing Minerva with an appraising stare. She sighed briefly and drew her own wand, conjuring a comfortable little violet armchair beside Minerva's.

"Sit back down, Minerva," Pomona told her, smiling and settling herself in the chair as she perched her glasses on her nose. "You need rest."

"I don't need anything of the kind," Minerva grumbled, though she limped back to her own chair and sank down, biting back a groan as her right hip gave a sharp pain.

Pomona was watching her closely, but Minerva pretended not to notice and reached for a copy of Transfiguration Today, which Pomona had brought with her. They were silent for a few moments, the crackling of the fire and the clicking of the knitting needles the only sounds in the room.

Minerva rustled a page of her magazine, frowning at an article. "Oh," she said suddenly, frowning and changing her position in the chair, for her hip had just given another sharp stab of pain.

"If you don't take those potions, you're not going to get any better, Little Miss Proudfoot," Pomona said, shaking her head as she counted stitches. Minerva glared sideways at her.

"That is the worst name my Animagus form has ever been given, and that includes Caradoc Dearborn's insistence that I should go by Abby the Tabby," she said, and Pomona laughed. "And who's to say I haven't been doing everything I was told to?" Minerva added in an wounded tone.

"Oh," Pomona said, tugging her spectacles down to the end of her nose and looking at her in great surprise. "Have you? I must have mistaken you for Minerva McGonagall, the Gryffindor Chaser who broke her back and tried to leap out of bed to duel a Slytherin Beater in the same afternoon. Do excuse me."

"Very funny," Minerva said, shaking her head and smiling reluctantly.

"How does your hip feel, dear? And your back? You mentioned it was sore, when I brought your things yesterday…" Pomona trailed off, looking genuinely concerned.

Minerva nodded. "My back is fine, my hip is healing," she replied briskly. "I didn't fall that hard—"

"Your Healer said you might as well have fallen from a broomstick," Pomona interrupted disbelievingly.

"Exaggeration and speculation," Minerva said, turning her nose in the air, but ruining the effect by smiling almost imperceptibly. "Really, though, I'm fine, there's no reason to fuss."

Pomona narrowed her eyes, and Minerva had the distinct feeling that she was closing in on what truly ailed her. "What have you been working on, Pomona?" she asked quickly, nodding to her friend's knitting.

"Hm? Oh—shawl," Pomona said, as if startled, and turned back to the needles. "You can have it, if you like it, I'm not sure I like the color as much as I thought."

Minerva reached out and fingered the dark green yarn. "I think it's nice," she said.

"It's yours," Pomona told her. "I'll use the pattern again sometime in another color."

Minerva shook her head and picked up her magazine again, delicately crossing her legs and resting her head against her hand. There were several more minutes of silence, during which Minerva began to frown, trying to ignore the throbbing in the back of her head. She looked up at the mantelpiece, where an old carriage clock that once belonged to her father sat. It was only six o'clock in the evening. She cast a brief but longing glance over to her large, inviting bed and considered skipping dinner so that she might get some sleep, uninterrupted by Healers and nurses, in a room that did not smell of medicine and Sanitizing Charms.

"Have you been to see Poppy for that headache?" Pomona asked lightly, not looking at her.

"Yeh—I haven't got a headache," Minerva lied, self-consciously touching a hand to her neck.

Pomona lifted her eyebrows and glanced at her. "Do you really think that after forty-odd years I don't know when you've got a headache? You always try to hide it, and you make the exact face you're making now. So, have you seen Poppy, or do I have to go and get her?"

"I saw her, Pomona, you're fussing," Minerva said, unable to keep the mild annoyance out of her voice as she massaged her temple. Then, because she couldn't stop herself, she continued, "And I saw Mr. Weasley, and Miss Granger, both seriously injured. I've never seen Hermione Granger admit to being in pain, Pomona—the girl managed to half turn herself into a cat and she asked me for more homework—but she looked at me this afternoon and I—I could just see it—"

"Oh, Minerva," Pomona said in a tone of gentle surprise. "Oh, goodness, no, you can't blame yourself for that," she said, setting down her knitting.

"And why can't I?" Minerva asked, sitting up slightly and wincing. "I was foolish enough to go chasing after that—that woman—possibly the stupidest thing I've ever done, leaving you all to protect the school on your own. And worse than that, I left my students! If I'd been here, Potter would never have had the chance to go running off to the Ministry, and the others wouldn't have followed him into that ambush. So, Pomona, tell me why I can't bl—" she gave a little gasp as her heart raced for a moment, and she closed her eyes, pressing her hand to her chest.

Pomona clucked her tongue and got up, pulling Minerva's blanket from the back of her chair and draping it over her lap; Minerva glared balefully at her as she caught her breath. Pomona ignored this. "For one thing, you can't because you're not well yourself," she said, pointing her wand at the fire so that the flames rose.

"I'm quite well, Pomona," Minerva insisted irritably, allowing her eyes to slide shut.

"And for another," Pomona continued as though she hadn't heard, "We were less worried about putting up with dear Dolores than we were about you. Your heart stopped, Minerva. It stopped four times before Severus, Poppy, Filius, and I even got you to St. Mungo's with the mediwizards. We weren't helpless because you were in London, but we would have been if we'd really lost you."

Minerva sighed, looking at her and arching an eyebrow. "I would never call the four of you helpless," she said.

Pomona nodded and sat down again. "And for another thing, that little group is a determined bunch, especially Potter. He would've found a way to do exactly what he thought he had to, whether you were here or not." Minerva said nothing. Pomona lifted an eyebrow. "Of all the things going through their minds right now, I can promise you that neither Harry, Ron Weasley, nor Hermione Granger thinks that Dolores's…attack on you contributed to their current situation.

"Your Gryffindors are going to be just fine," she continued sagely, folding her hands. "And as a matter of fact, I never knew Miss Lovegood to fall to pieces in the face of trouble, either." She picked up her knitting. "She was something of a Hatstall, wasn't she? I'll bet you anything it was like you and Filius all over again, Ravenclaw or Gryffindor," she said with a knowing smile.

Minerva gave a faint sigh. "She was on that dreadful list Dolores found—Dumbledore's Army," she said. "Could very well be." She stared into the fire unfocusedly for several minutes.

"Poppy says Granger and Weasley are going to be back on their feet by the time the train leaves," Pomona said, and Minerva nodded. Then she heard Pomona give a heavy sigh. "Oh, Minerva, really, haven't you noticed who they've chosen as their best friend?"

Minerva looked up, startled at her sharp tone. "I—have I what?"

"Being friends with Harry Potter, in this climate, is a dangerous occupation," Pomona said. "Weasley and Granger are in rather a sensitive position, wouldn't you say? And yet they choose to be there with him, whenever he gets up to all the mad things he's done since he started here," Pomona told her. "There's nothing you or I can do about their choice to stand by their friend, so perhaps we should be grateful that they are alive and healing, in—instead of—much worse."

"Oh," Minerva said softly, putting a hand over her mouth. She met Pomona's eyes, genuinely sorry. "Pomona, I—I didn't mean to sound ungrateful. Diggory was—that was beyond your control—"

Pomona nodded and looked away. "I know," she said quickly, sounding as though she had a sudden head cold. She took a deep breath and was quiet for a moment. Then she looked back to Minerva. "But I needed you to tell me that, remember? And I wouldn't listen, for the longest time, until I finally realized you were right. So now you need to listen to me, Minerva, and listen well: whatever those three do—with the others or without—you won't be able to protect them all the time."

Minerva put out her hand and patted Pomona's elbow. "You're right, of course, Pomona," she said, giving her a faint smile.

"Of course," Pomona repeated. She looked shrewdly at Minerva. "And don't worry. Something tells me we're going to have our chance to fight with them against whatever's coming our way. I'm positive."

Minerva lifted her eyebrows and looked back into the fire. "I'm positive, too."

Another silence fell, but Minerva did not pick up her magazine again. She stared deep into the fire for nearly twenty minutes until she heard Pomona speak.

"Minerva," she said.

"Yes, Pomona?"

"I'm sorry about Black."

Minerva clenched her jaw and shut her eyes, nodding. "I am too," she said, and she felt her heart ache. "But I'm sorrier for Potter. I saw him today, too, Pomona, he looked—he looked dreadful."

"Poppy mentioned that he seemed rather out of sorts," said Pomona grimly. "Have you spoken with Albus about him?"

Minerva shook her head. "Not yet. Albus and I only talked briefly. He was busy, and I wanted to get back here and unpack," she said, realizing her mistake as she spoke, but it was too late; Pomona quickly spotted Minerva's unopened carpetbag sitting on the end of her bed. She sighed.

"You're exhausted, Minerva," Pomona said, shaking her head and getting up. As she passed before Minerva's chair, she brushed against the walking stick, sending it clattering to the floor. Minerva felt an inexplicable rush of heat flood her face and closed her eyes tightly. "I'm sorry," Pomona murmured, clearly equally embarrassed, and Minerva heard her replace the cane against the arm of the chair.

"Dreadful thing," Minerva said conversationally after a few moments.

"I know, dear," Pomona answered, and Minerva leaned forward to look at her over by the bed, where she was directing Minerva's things back to their places with her wand. "It's just a few weeks, though. You can even come and stay with me, if you like, while you get better."

"I'd like to, though Malcolm and Kate offered me a stay," Minerva said. She sat back. "Robert and Meg want to see me, too, and I'd like to spend a little time with my brothers after—after this year," she added, starting to get up.

"Stay there—"

"No, no." Minerva shook her head and straightened, rubbing her hip before picking up her cane. "The—ouch—the Healer told me I'm not to sit too much, though she didn't seem to have a good reason why. I'm sure something dreadful will happen if I do—oh, perhaps I'll spontaneously combust." Pomona laughed as Minerva took a deep breath—winced, patted her chest—and smoothed her hand over her hair, flattening any stray strands. "How do I look?"

"Like someone who's about to get a standing ovation from her Gryffindors," Pomona said, beaming as she snapped Minerva's carpetbag shut and took it to the wardrobe. "And my Hufflepuffs, if I can prod a few of them to it. Take your potions before we go down to dinner then, if we're going."

"Yes, Professor," Minerva said, nudging Pomona with her walking stick as she crossed the room to her bedside table. She took three quick doses of the medicines she'd left St. Mungo's with and felt a sudden rush of cool comfort. The pain in her chest and hip melted away substantially and she sighed, pleased, and turned back to Pomona. "Let's go—I want to see Dolores's face when I—"

"Oh, didn't you see Dolores?" Pomona interrupted, a wicked smile lighting her face. "I would've thought since you'd been in the hospital wing…"

"Don't tell me that was her behind the curtains!" Minerva cried. "Poppy never said—"

"If you looked half as miserable as you did when I came in here, it's no wonder Poppy didn't tell you," Pomona said knowingly, and Minerva resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "I would've been afraid that you might try to hex her."

"Don't discount the possibility," Minerva said, only half-joking. She mumbled something about visiting the hospital wing later, and Pomona narrowed her eyes.

"Albus—don't ask me how, but somehow he rescued the poor creature from the centaurs," Pomona said, with an air of great pity and sorrow for their colleague. "And apparently she called them 'filthy half-breeds,' if Filius wasn't exaggerating…"

"Albus is a much nicer person than I," Minerva observed, starting for the hidden door with Pomona. "I might've left her there a while longer."

"I certainly would have," Pomona said darkly, and Minerva actually laughed.

"I think we'll be seeing the end of Dolores very soon," she said, patting Pomona on the shoulder as she swept her wand through the air, sealing the hidden door. "No need to rub salt in her wounds, I suppose." Godric Gryffindor's portrait, which hung on the wall above the desk, nodded graciously at them as they left.

Pomona and Minerva turned down the Transfiguration corridor, and though Minerva was used to a much brisker pace, she had to admit that it was simply nice to be back where she felt most at home. They took a shortcut past Filius's office, but it appeared he had already gone to dinner, so they proceeded to the entrance hall, still chatting about this and that as they went.

"Professor McGonagall!"

Minerva looked up, startled, and saw Neville Longbottom and Ginny Weasley staring at her, frozen on the spot in the middle of the corridor that led up to Gryffindor Tower. Her heart seemed to swell with pride and affection.

"Miss Weasley," Minerva said, inclining her head slightly. "Mr. Longbottom."

"Professor!" Parvati Patil cried, skidding to a halt beside Ginny with Lavender Brown. Minerva gave a thin-lipped smile.

"Good evening, Miss Brown, Miss Patil."

"It's great to have you back, Professor," said Neville excitedly, as he and his classmates made a little huddle around Minerva and Pomona, who stood back silently, beaming at the Gryffindors.

"It's nice to be back, thank you, Longbottom," Minerva told him. He looked a bit tired, she thought—though if rumors were true, he had seen Bellatrix Lestrange two nights ago. She felt a surge of pride and pain for him.

"Are you feeling better?" Lavender Brown asked worriedly, though Minerva saw Parvati Patil give her a shove, as though she shouldn't have asked such a question.

"I'm quite well, thank you," said Minerva. "I trust all of you finished your examinations well?" She caught Ginny Weasley's eye at this. The girl was bright—she would know what Minerva was truly curious about. As the fifth-years nodded and chorused their successful completion of their O.W.L.s, Ginny gave an imperceptible shrug. She didn't know where Potter was.

Minerva sighed, but covered it as an exhalation of satisfaction. "Excellent, I look forward to seeing your grades," she, starting down the stairs with Pomona and the little cluster of Gryffindors. "Why don't you all hurry along to dinner, Professor Sprout and I need to finish our conversation," Minerva suggested, stopping on a stair, and the Gryffindors nodded excitedly, waving as they trotted down the steps.

"Our conversation?" Pomona asked, lifting her eyebrows and coming to Minerva's left side.

"About how you need to give me your arm, because I'm fairly certain my spontaneous combustion may be imminent if you don't," Minerva muttered, nodding smartly to a cluster of second-year Gryffindors, who looked overjoyed to see her.

Pomona laughed and carefully arranged herself so that their shoulders overlapped and Minerva could hold onto her elbow undetectably as they descended the rest of the stairs. "Nice work, Proudfoot," Pomona muttered when they had arrived at the doors of the Great Hall.

"Oh, do be quiet," Minerva muttered back, leading the way up the aisle between the Gryffindor and Hufflepuff tables. She nodded here and there to cries of "Professor McGonagall!" and "Welcome back!", finally arriving at the head table. She saw Severus, who nodded curtly to her—he was undoubtedly still sulking about her timely arrival that afternoon, but he would get over it—then Filius, who looked fit to burst with happiness—Poppy, who was smiling gently—and finally, Albus, who beamed and stood as Minerva approached and drew out her chair, immediately to his right.

"Thank you, Albus," she said, giving him a thin-lipped smile and sitting down a little stiffly.

"You're feeling better?" he asked, seating himself beside her.

Minerva looked out over the Great Hall, her eyes lingering on the Gryffindor table. There was no sign of Potter—well, she had the hope that he was in the hospital wing, visiting with Weasley and Granger—but the rest of her House were all whispering and pointing excitedly up at the table; she even spied a few excited waves here and there, which she acknowledged with a few nods.

She looked at Albus. "Much better, now I'm home," she said, and Albus patted her hand, smiling warmly.

So this was just a writing exercise, because I'm supposed to be writing for the "Best Friends Challenge," using Minerva and Pomona. This doesn't totally respond to my prompt, so it became a kind of examination on the relationship between these two (apparently they've been friends since Minerva was 16 and Pomona was 11–or the other way around, actually, now that I think of it, Pottermore doesn't specify–but either way, how cute is that?), as well as the way Minerva thinks of her students, past (SIRIUS...NOOOOO) and present. I will be writing a focused, prompt-driven story on these two, so if you spot anything that you think is weird, tell me. And also, don't worry if it seems like I didn't write in enough Dumbledore, because she and Albus DEFINITELY have a whole different level of BFFL-ness. (OHHHHH it's four in the morning. Goodness. But yes, McGonagall and Dumbledore are an entirely different TOTALLY AWESOME relationship that I will ONE DAY find the guts to explore). This was just specific to learning about her and Sprout.