BETA READ by Holly Phoenix


Chapter 1

Harry James Potter, the Boy-Who-Lived, the Boy-Who-Survived… He remembered how his heart had felt less constricted, just a little lighter, when she said that it was good to see him, her voice ever so soft – softer than he had heard, despite her addressing him by his last name. It surely had been good to see her. He had been glad when he had seen the others, too: Neville, Ginny… but McGonagall had been special indeed. Special, by lack of words better fitting for it. He hadn't anticipated it, had really lain awake pondering over it until days later, but reckoned what he had felt – still felt – was true, no matter how ridiculous it would sound to others.

With this very realization, he had gently let Ginny down, saying that too much had changed and that he didn't believe they could continue any longer as a couple. He hadn't thought he loved her the same way she loved him any longer. She deserved more than just that. She had regretted it, of course. He had seen the pain in her eyes when she had weakly smiled – maybe insightful – and had just nodded, telling him that she hoped for the boy, the man's happiness no matter what.

With this very realization and the fact that he wanted to know just how she was doing now, seeing it from the first hand, not hearing it from anyone else, Harry had gathered his courage and gone to St. Mungo's, where he had been told upon his arrival Miss McGonagall was away for a few tests but would return soon. The nurse at the desk had been helpful enough. She had given him McGonagall's room number, offering him to await her there – telling him that it wouldn't take long.

So Harry had seated himself there then, occupying the chair beside where he supposed her bed would normally be, leaning his head against the wall behind him, his mind somehow wandering to Hogwarts. With McGonagall still gone, he suspected that not much yet would have been rebuilt. He, too, suspected that, based on the little he knew about her, Minerva McGonagall would most likely have questioned her doctors on release already, in order to get to Hogwarts. He guessed that he should be glad to know they had at least managed to keep her at St. Mungo's for four days already – or maybe her condition was so bad that she had not been able to fight it. His intestines curiously tightened at the very thought of it, or so it felt.

Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry hadn't felt like "home" much when he had returned there, what with two known Death Eaters on the staff and the way in which they ruled reminding him of slavery. As McGonagall pushed him aside before anyone had the chance even and the smell of her perfume had wafted in his smelling nostrils, the challenge in her eyes had been visible, Harry had concluded that she, at least, hadn't changed even one bit – that the little that reminded him of home still, was at least partially Minerva McGonagall. It had felt like a concentration camp and from the little that he had heard from Neville, it hadn't been very far from… He wondered how it might have been, had Snape not been on their side after all. He caught himself wondering… how much nastiness that he had always shown to his pupils had been really necessary not to get suspicious, and how much had been by will? He regretted not being able to ask any longer. He regretted not being able to say or ask a lot anymore, though once Hogwarts was rebuilt, maybe he might receive a portrait. At that very moment, Harry resolved to make sure Severus Snape got his own frame, beside Dumbledore.

Dumbledore and McGonagall had been the very best of comrades – or so he and many others had thought. At first, Harry had really thought they were a married couple, considering how they behaved. There were no kisses, no hugs… at least none he had ever seen. However, there had been a something between them. He still remembered the day he found they were not. When McGonagall had caught him flying over the rooftops of the school after Malfoy, Harry had been terrified to be sent home on the first train. He had recounted his fears to Ron later, saying that he had been very relieved indeed, for McGonagall would most likely have convinced her husband to kick him from Hogwarts if necessary. Fred had joined the conversation then, not giving his younger brother a chance to reply, smiling wide and saying they were not married or even together to anyone's knowledge, followed by George saying he was glad for it – they were loving enough already for not being a couple; he couldn't imagine how it might have been then. That was, of course, before anyone knew about Grindelwald and what the old headmaster had once harbored in feelings for him. Harry had never asked them or known just how Fred and George had known with great certainty that they were not together. Had they known of Dumbledore's homosexuality? It mattered little in the end.

He wondered, if McGonagall and Dumbledore had been so close, why she had never been told anything. McGonagall had accepted him acting on Dumbledore's orders without a doubt, never even knowing until later how or why. It showed of great confidence in Dumbledore at least; in him. He suspected maybe he had had his reasons; maybe Hogwarts had been the main one for him not to tell her anything. Neville Longbottom had mentioned McGonagall having tried to keep everyone safe with all that she had…