"To all 363rd FFM officers who submitted post-operation complaints regarding the standing orders for Operation redacted: greatly deviated strategical and logistical applications must be ratified, at minimum, by Highground during active engagements or by the acting MOFC when assets are in play as determined by the mission parameters. While adaptation is expected and encouraged, the widespread disregard for Second Fleet's established jurisdiction on redacted is not acceptable without command-authorized alternatives or situational necessity (which shall be determined, ex post facto, by a designated Imperiarchy CRC with input from observers and referred POR).
Second Fleet command has issued several statements regarding this matter which are required reading for all commissioned officers currently assigned to or pending assignment with the Operation redacted attachments. It is the hope of the current redacted regional command that any continued issues with Second Fleet oversight can be resolved without further overtures towards insubordination."
Requested more than a single sheet of toilet paper.
—Praefectus Minor Phylla Galbarden, in reply to written orders from Forward Command, Operation Lifted Trowel
Harry woke up on his side, squinting against the light shining into his eyes. When his vision cleared, he pushed himself up on one elbow and took in his surrounds. He was momentarily panicked by the unfamiliarity of them.
The walls of the room were blank white. There was a half-opened wardrobe opposite the bed on which he woke up, with a few shirts hanging inside. The light which shone on him emanated from the open door next to it. There was obviously an open window somewhere beyond, since he couldn't see any lights that were on.
Harry's heart rate slowed and the panic receded once he remembered what had happened. He was in the Kharan flat, still on Scott's bed where he had passed out the night before. A gentle snoring from somewhere behind him was proof of Ron's presence. Harry would have been fine with taking the couch but Scott had insisted it was his; only in retrospect did that seem suspicious. Maybe the couch was better than the bed.
Hermione and Ginny were in Lila's room. Everyone had been so knackered the previous night that they had automatically fallen into such 'appropriate' sleeping arrangements without questioning whether they were really necessary any more.
Harry mentally retreated from that thought. He couldn't speak for Ron and Hermione, but he wasn't sure he was ready to share a bed with Ginny, temping as it seemed.
He rolled off the bed and tugged on his shoes. He noted with distaste they were his nice ones from the wedding; they had all fallen asleep in their tattered, filthy clothing. Getting more suitable clothes from Hermione's handbag would be a top priority (as was utilising Scott's shower). Harry walked out the doorway, deciding to let Ron sleep. There was no point in rousing everyone until he had some kind of plan.
The large couch had been vacated when Harry emerged from Scott's room. The door to Lila's room was still closed. There were footsteps and the banging of cupboards from the direction of the kitchen, where Harry found Scott making a breakfast far too large for just himself.
"Is that for all of us?" Harry asked hopefully, eyeing the steaming bacon that Scott had piled on a plate near the stove.
"Good morning!" Scott said with pronounced cheer. "Yes, this is a group breakfast, you can thank me later and you can thank me right now, for double the thanks!"
"Thanks. Any particular reason you're so bright this morning?" Harry wondered, sinking into a nearby chair.
"I'm still riding high on our recent triumph; also, I didn't sleep at all last night and I'm a mite wired."
Harry wasn't feeling especially triumphant. "What the hell are you on about?"
Scott deftly flipped the pancakes he was making with one hand (Harry had eaten such Kharadjai-style pancakes before due to Lila's cooking at The Burrow, and was anticipating them greatly). He pointed his other hand at Harry. "Last night, you dumbhole! Everything went according to plan, it was perfect. We fought the enemy, lured them away from civilian targets, and then cleanly escaped."
That wasn't exactly how Harry remembered it. "Um, we just made everything up as we went along. Also, we were outnumbered, overpowered and terrified."
"And took no casualties. Harry, I know that you're new to this whole 'battle' thing, but take it from a guy with a lot of engagements under his belt — if you get away and nobody dies while you're 'outnumbered, overpowered and terrified', that's a success story. Never mind that we actually accomplished our objective. With a bunch of kids. In the dark."
"All we did was run…"
Scott scoffed dismissively. "We hindered and evaded. With a bunch of untrained kids. In the dark. If I was Riddle — and I'm way too good-looking for that — I'd be reassessing my element leaders at this point."
"Okay, then what would you have done if you'd been them?" Harry challenged.
"Well, first I'd have consulted Hermione as to what spells we could use. Then I'd have actually, you know, utilised my superior numbers to flank and surround you. Split up the left, right and middle, Disapparate further forward and double back. Bring up that area jinx so you can't get out, leave one side open to drive you towards that clearing. You know, that clearing by that hill? With the thing?"
"Hermione would have been with me," Harry said dryly. "I don't see the point of leaving us a way out."
"Never encircle an enemy completely. Nobody fights harder than a man who knows he's trapped. Also, a surrounded force has a tendency to punch a hole through one side, which can put you in a very nasty position. The trick is to make the enemy think they can get away. Then they go where you want them to."
"Never encircle the enemy completely," Harry repeated. He took the lesson seriously, memorising it as he always did whenever Scott imparted advice of a militaristic nature. Such things might someday be crucial. "No exceptions?"
"There are always exceptions. Understanding when they apply is a very valuable skill."
"Do I have time to learn it?" Harry asked, only partially joking.
"I don't know. You've got a decent amount of raw talent, so let's see how that pans out."
"Great. I'll be dead before I learn anything."
Scott studied him. "Hmmm… Your despair is most likely symptomatic of a lack of protein. Quick, eat these eggs! Hurry!"
Harry dutifully began eating the eggs Scott had slid across the table to him, though he did it with considerably less haste than suggested. "Seen any Death Eaters snooping about?"
"No, but I have a limited view from these windows." Scott crossed the room and peered out through the shades. "We could be anywhere, far as they know. You aren't at Privet Drive, you aren't at The Burrow and you aren't at Hogwarts… that pretty much covers all your known haunts."
"I don't get out much," Harry admitted.
"Hey, all those years of being a shut-in are finally paying off."
Harry took another bite of his eggs, suddenly ravenous. He hadn't eaten much at the wedding, and the Death Eaters hadn't paused in their pursuit so they could all have a snack. "Those pancakes done yet?"
Scott's cooking was unexpectedly good. Harry didn't know why that was so surprising, except that Scott didn't really seem the type. Of course, neither did Lila and she had made some wicked biscuits and cake. Harry was just happy to know that there would be someone to provide meals that knew what they were doing, should circumstances require it. Harry himself didn't exactly know his way around an oven.
Harry and Scott ate and cooked, respectively, in a companionable silence for about five minutes before