My dear readers; indulge me for a moment, please.

This story, as you've guessed, is an AU of the end of Deathly Hallows and what happens after, so there is much I have changed:

- Snape's memory was the same except for the mention of Harry being a Horcrux. He was dying, the memory was incomplete…

- This means there was no trip into the forest, although the Resurrection Stone was still in the Snitch…Harry just has no idea why.

- Nagini was still killed by Neville (gotta let him have his time to shine!)

- Voldemort is dead. The resurrected Dark Lord who had been terrorising the wizarding world was defeated, his body and soul residing within it destroyed…this was due to the Elder Wand's power (even though Voldie wasn't the true master of it), so there is not another bodiless Voldie running around (like the time he attacked baby Harry). This means Voldemort's last piece of soul is…well, you can guess.

All I can really say is bear with me, please! I know it's a lot to ask, but trust me. I was a bit hesitant about writing this, truth be told, and I still am – I've got no idea how it'll be received by you, my wonderful readers!

Our story begins three weeks after the Battle of Hogwarts…


The box flying at him exploded. Harry dived behind a low wall, finding cover just as another curse flew through the spot he had been standing in not a moment before. Pausing to get his breath back, Harry listened for any sign of his attacker. The smoke from various spells and curses hung low in the air over their field of battle.

Something shivered through Harry. His Proximity Charm had been set off – that must mean his quarry was over the other side of the low wall…Harry flicked his wand at the space above him and thought Protego! The Shield Charm expanded above him just as a figure appeared over the top of the wall and cast a spell, which deflected off the Shield Charm and back onto them. Harry's attacker fell with a strangled cry.

Grinning, Harry removed the shield above him and leaned over the wall, disarming his opponent with ease. Standing above the man now with a wand in each hand, his attacker shrugged and laughed.

"Okay, okay, Potter. I surrender."

Harry passed his opponent's wand back to him, and the man stood up and brushed himself off. Kayne Williamson had a long, dark ponytail – longer than Bill's, Harry reckoned – and always wore scarlet robes. At the moment these robes were slightly ripped and singed from the fight, but were quickly repaired with a few careful wand waves.

His robes now back to normal; Williamson turned on the lights with a further flick of his wand and illuminated the room he and Harry were standing in. It was about the size of Hogwarts' Quidditch Pitch, a magically strengthened room filled with empty crates, low walls, platforms and other obstacles. Scorch marks adorned the walls from countless duels, and everything had a well-worn look. Pieces of wood and concrete, blasted from the walls, were all over the floor. It was here Aurors duelled one another in practise and trained up those new to the department – like Harry.

"Well?" Williamson called to the roof. "Time?"

"Just under thirty-four minutes. Not bad, Potter." The voice that answered was coming from a small pane of strengthened glass in the top corner of the room, and the speaker was the current Head of the Auror Office, Gawain Robards. Robards had taken over the Auror Office once Rufus Scrimgeour had become Minister for Magic a few years ago, and had barely escaped with his life once the Dark Lord Voldemort had decided to kill Scrimgeour. He had returned from hiding to fight at Hogwarts, and after Voldemort was defeated was pleased to return to his position and welcome the 'Chosen One' into his department.

"That's better than I expected for your first fight," Robards was now saying. "But then again, you're always underestimated, aren't you, Potter? But now I see that I made the right decision. Williamson, take a break and then get him started on Concealment and Disguise for tomorrow."

"Sure thing, Sir." Williamson led the way out of the arena, and back into the offices.

The Auror Department of the Ministry of Magic was very ordinary looking. Every Auror had a cubicle, the walls plastered with everything from family photos and Quidditch posters to lists of Dark Wizards and their last known whereabouts and memos, and overall the atmosphere was light and friendly.

Harry dropped down into the chair in his own cubicle (its walls were vastly blank at the moment; he'd only been accepted into training under a week ago ago) while Williamson vanished to get two cups of coffee. Harry was absentmindedly rubbing a burn on his arm, received in the fight, when Mona Freeman, a sprightly middle-aged witch with blonde hair and an eye patch, popped her head over the wall of the cubicle next to him.

"Hello, Harry!" She looked down at the burn on his arm. "Just been in the arena, then? How'd you go?"

Harry frowned. What had Robards said? "Uh, thirty-four minutes, I think it was."

She looked impressed. "Oh, not bad! My first time was about forty-six."

New recruits were put in the 'arena' with a more experienced Auror and told to subdue their opponent. It was much harder than it sounded, as one entered with no knowledge of where their quarry was or who it was, how they would attack or what spell would appear first. Rules had been set down concerning the spells, charms, jinxes and curses that could and couldn't be used, and the Auror would go easy anyway – but not too easy. It was, quite simply, a way to gauge the skill of the new recruit.

Mona was looking at the burn on Harry's arm again. "Hang on…" she dropped down, out of sight, and Harry heard her searching for something before she reappeared, now holding a small unmarked tub, which she handed to Harry.

"St Mungo's best burn cream. It'll have that gone in about ten minutes."

"Thanks, Mona." Harry opened the tub and gently rubbed some of the sky blue cream on the burn, which immediately felt cooler. He handed the tub back just as Williamson reappeared with two cups of coffee.

"The last time I tried to magically summon coffee," Williamson said as he handed one cup to Harry and leant against the cubical wall, "was not a pleasant experience. I prefer a short trip to burns and humiliation, I think."

Harry grinned as Mona turned to Williamson. "So, Will – how'd he get you?"

Pausing to sip his coffee, Williamson shrugged. "I'm not that sure, actually. He was prepared, that was for sure…" He trailed off, raising an eyebrow at the young man sitting before him.

"I cast a Proximity Charm on myself, and you set it off," Harry said lightly, before taking a mouthful of coffee. It didn't matter if you were a wizard or muggle, coffee was coffee and coffee was heaven.

Williamson groaned as Mona laughed. "See, Will! Simplicity. Williamson doesn't believe in simplicity, he thinks it is below him," she added with a wink to Harry.

"Not true!" said Williamson defensively. "I just didn't think of it…"

"To be fair, he had me on the ropes a lot before I thought of the charm," Harry said, and Williamson grinned at him in return. "He would have got me if I hadn't thought of it."

"But you did!" said Mona. "And that made the difference. Quick thinking makes a quick Auror."

With a wink, she vanished back into her own cubicle. Williamson melodramatically rolled his eyes at Harry, before putting down his now empty coffee cup and pulling out his wand. One flick in the direction of his cubicle later, and a heavy book soared out of it and into his hands. He passed it to Harry.

"Well, I suppose you'd better read the chapter on the Polyjuice Potion before tomorrow, and brush up on Disillusionment Charm theory. They're both in there. You alright?" He added, brow furrowing. Harry had been absentmindedly rubbing his forehead, tired.

"I haven't been sleeping all that well lately," Harry said, shrugging.

Williamson nodded. "Doing too much, mate. Were you given a parchment this morning?"

"Uh, yeah…" Harry turned to his desk and found the pristine folded parchment that he had been given before going into the arena. It was a survey, filled with questions about various situations – the point was to answer what you would most likely do. Williamson had told him briefly that although it appeared mundane, people had been chucked out of the department before based solely off their answers and it wasn't to be taken lightly.

"Yeah, that's it." Williamson said now. "Think carefully about your answers – and be totally honest. They seem to know if you're only writing what you think they want to know. I'll leave you to it, Robards wants it as soon as possible." With a little wave, he left Harry to work.

Harry stared at the folded sheaf of parchment. With a barely suppressed sigh, he picked up his quill, opened it and looked at the first situation. Just like being back at school…

A week ago, Harry had contacted Kingsley Shacklebolt about joining the Auror Office – in reply, Kingsley had put him in contact with Gawain Robards, who had written back and said although Harry didn't have the required NEWTs, his reputation and skill was well known…so invited him into the office for an interview. Harry had gone willingly (praising him fame, for once) and Robards had taken a look at his OWLs, showed him letters of recommendation from Hogwarts he had asked for (concerning Harry's education and work), and asked Harry a number of things. Harry had been incredibly nervous (but as the interview had gone on he had relaxed) and Robards had agreed to accept him into the department for training.

The arena fight this morning had been his first real chance to prove his skill and show what he knew. He was glad to have impressed Robards enough, and it seemed that he was here to stay.

Harry had been introduced to Kayne Williamson on the first day. Williamson was going to be responsible for much of Harry's training, although there were other Aurors who had specialities in certain areas and would take part as well. Harry learnt quickly that those in the Auror Department were doing the most serious of work – but kept much of the seriousness for their assignments. Everyone was friendly towards him, giving him words of encouragement. Williamson had explained that the Aurors had to work well together, so were friends more than colleges, and everyone usually became involved with the training of new recruits.

Harry had felt a lot better about walking in here the next morning after the interview, when he had been given a basic outline of how training usually worked…it was like being back at school, only the lessons were one on one. Harry would get instruction on all aspects of being an Auror – spells and curses, Transfiguration, problem solving, poisons and antidotes, concealment and disguises, tracking…Harry knew it was going to be like day after day after day of nothing but Defence Against The Dark Arts.

The first few days had been filled with meeting other Aurors and watching others train, and showing some of the other trainers what he knew and could remember – it had been like a pop-quiz everyday for every one of his Hogwarts subjects. They all seemed pleased with what he could recall, and all warned it would only get harder and more complex – harder defensive spells, more complex and dangerous potions, stranger charms. Harry had accepted the knowledge, determined to make this his living.

Hours later found Harry only partway through the survey. The questions required in depth and full answers, and Harry was being as honest as he could be. When he next glanced at his watch, he was surprised to see how many hours had gone by while he was deep in study. Mona and Williamson found him told him to take a break from it, and he joined them to get something to eat.

Mona especially had taken Harry under her wing. She was in charge of the training concerning potions, poisons and antidotes – Harry thought her knowledge could easily have outstripped Slughorn's or Snape's, and she had even told Harry that she had been asked to become the Potions Master at Hogwarts, but had turned it down out of a want of action.

"This," Mona said, pointing at her eye patch as the three of them lounged in the Ministry cafeteria, "was lost years ago. My depth perception's really gone, but it hardly maters now, as in a fight things go so quick and I've learned to compensate for it anyway."

"How did you loose it?" Harry asked before he could stop himself. He had thought it an impersonal question to ask, and hadn't wanted to bring it up, but to his surprise Mona grinned and launched into a story about a dark wizard she had been involved in capturing five or six years ago.

"I still don't know what curse it was…anyway, it hit me right in the eye; the Healers at St Mungo's had no choice to but to remove it…I've got it in a jar on my mantel piece…I'm kidding!" She added hastily, seeing the look on both Harry's and Williamson's faces.

Mona's eye was still on Harry's mind as he returned to his paperwork, along with the cynical thought that here he was, training to be a Dark Wizard catcher…and still doing paperwork.

As the afternoon wore on, Harry found it harder and harder to concentrate. He was so tired…the fight earlier on must have taken a lot out of him. Putting his head on the desk to contemplate another answer carefully, Harry's thoughts mixed and wound together…and he jerked up suddenly to find he must have drifted off accidentally…but not for long, he saw, as he looked at his watch, relieved. Only quarter or half an hour…

Shaking his head to dispel any remaining vestiges of sleep or drowsiness, he looked back down at the parchment. His last answer lay unfinished. Harry picked up the parchment to re-read what he had been writing, and his heart leapt.

On such an offender, I would be sure to perform the Cruciatus Curse first, to weaken them and watch them struggle. Once or twice, enough to hear them scream and beg for death, and then – and only then – would I be merciful, performing Avada Kedavra to end their pathetic life.

Harry dropped the parchment back to the desk. He hadn't written that…he'd never…maybe one of the other Aurors had put it there as a joke? It was on a separate parchment sheaf, one he had been about to write on himself. Harry folded it up and put it away, inside his jacket so it wouldn't be seen. If it was a joke, it sure as hell wasn't funny. A little voice in the back of his head told him that the other Aurors wouldn't be that insensitive, even in jest, even to the new recruit. He pushed it away…he sure hadn't written it, so someone else putting it there was the only other explanation. Right?

Harry looked at his watch properly. It was almost time to go for the day. He'd finish the character test tomorrow. He picked up his jacket and swung it on, peeking over into the Mona's cubicle.

"Am I good to go?" Harry asked, just managing to keep his voice casual.

Mona nodded, her head on the side, watching him closely. Harry was suddenly reminded of Luna. "You look a bit pale. Feel ok?"

"Yeah," said Harry off-handily. "Yeah, bit tired."

She nodded again, clearly only half-believing. "Get a good night's sleep, and we'll see you back here at nine."

Harry smiled at her and left, pausing only to say goodnight to Williamson and say he was leaving. Once out of the office, and alone in the lift en route to the Atrium, Harry took a few deep breaths and composed himself. He was overreacting, that was all. It was just a joke, made worse by sleep deprivation…

Stepping out into the Atrium, Harry moved off to lean against one wall to wait for Mr Weasley, his mind still on the words. Even as Arthur Weasley appeared, smiling and they prepared to Apparate back to the Burrow, Harry could no longer suppress the worst thing about what had just happened. The one thing he didn't have an answer to.

It had been his handwriting.

The Auror Training is much my own creation, as we don't know much about it…and I gave Williamson his first name and Mona Freeman is much my own creation (although she is mentioned, but unnamed, in the books).

Reviews are much appreciated!