Author's Note: The story is now complete. Several people have asked for a sequel, however, I am not sure that will occur. This was a spin-off story from the events in Potions Protege. I am not sure I can find a sequel to this one as technically, the two weeks Harry had with Severus for the holiday period have ended. Still, once I get Potions Protege back on track, I am sure some of flashbacks to Harry's final year might re-occur. On that note, I complete From Darkness to Light and I thank those who have followed the story. :)
Chapter 11: Full Circle
Disclaimer: While I am borrowing many of the characters created by J.K. Rowling, all rights to those characters remain solely with her. I am neither receiving nor soliciting any monetary recompense for this story.
Harry was nervous as he got dressed in his best school uniform and robes. Breakfast had ended an hour ago and he and Severus were getting ready to head into Hogsmeade for what Harry hoped was not going to be an embarrassing meeting with Auror Preston. It had been hard enough to face him the morning after the unfortunate incident at the Three Broomsticks. Now that Harry was going to be submitting what amounted to a punishment essay to the lead auror trainer, he wasn't so sure the trip into Hogsmeade would be worth it. Still, he was going stir crazy inside the walls and knew he was still facing another two weeks of being grounded. The fact that Severus was even allowing the trip was something in and of itself and embarrassing or not, Harry wasn't going to complain.
"Potter," Harry heard, "you have exactly three seconds to get your skinny backside out here or I am leaving without you!"
"Coming, coming," Harry muttered. With one last fortifying breath, Harry grabbed the neatly scrolled essay from the desk and his winter cloak lying over the desk chair, then made his way out to the sitting room and an impatient potions master.
Hogsmeade Auror Office
Severus could actually feel the nervousness coming off of the quiet teenager beside him. They were nearly at the auror's Hogsmeade office, the walk from Hogwarts having taken an extra 15 minutes due to Harry's slow pace. Severus had done everything he could short of yanking Harry along by his collar to speed things up but the teen wouldn't be convinced. Severus had given up and had shortened his stride so he didn't leave Harry alone. As they got closer, Harry started lagging even further behind and Severus finally gave in to his impatience.
"Harry, taking your time to get there is not going to make this any easier. Auror Preston is not going to bite but he is going to be less than happy if he has to wait all day for our arrival. Now will you please hurry up!?"
"I don't see why I had to bring this to him. Hedwig could have just as easily gotten it here," Harry grumbled half-heartedly, as he sped up a little.
"I seem to remember giving you a choice. May I remind you that YOU were the one to choose to hand it to him in person."
"I changed my mind," Harry grumped just as they came up to the door of the Auror Office.
Severus rolled his eyes, calling on anyone who was listening for patience and without a word, clamped his hand around the back of Harry's neck and opening the door, ushered Harry inside. Just as they walked in, Auror Preston looked up from his desk where he had been working on some paperwork.
"Severus, Mr Potter," he greeted them with a smile, waving them to the two chairs in front of his desk "do come in."
Harry swallowed hard as Severus 'helped' him to the chair, not taking his hand off his neck until Harry was firmly seated; Severus took the chair next to him. Harry flushed as he kept his gaze on the edge of the wood desk, not quite able to bring himself to look at the auror.
Auror Preston and Severus both looked at Harry, then at each other, then at Harry again; Severus rolled his eyes again and spoke up. "Mr Potter I believe you have something for Auror Preston?," he said pointedly, looking at Harry's bowed head.
They both saw Harry swallow hard as he lifted his eyes just enough to see the auror as he handed him the neatly tied scroll of parchment. Just as the auror took the scroll from his hands, Harry dropped them back into his lap, clasping them tightly, and returned his gaze to the desk, his face reddening in embarrassment. He looked up in surprise when he heard the auror chuckle and the incredulous look on Harry's face made the auror laugh outright. Harry looked at Severus in confusion.
"Please forgive me Mr. Potter," the auror said good naturedly. "I have seen that same look on the faces of any number of trainees over the years and it just hits me funny. You have nothing to be embarrassed about. You are not the first teenager to get drunk and certainly not the first to get a little, er, belligerent. The fact that you wrote this," he said, holding up the scroll, "and didn't try to make excuses for your poor behavior tells me a lot more about you than you know. I also have a confession to make."
Harry looked at him, the knot in his stomach slowly starting to loosen.
"I know you saw this essay as punishment and I admit that is the way I intended, however, every trainee that comes through the auror program writes several of these same types of essays dealing with alcohol, drugs and other crimes with which young trainees may face out in the field. It gives the trainee a chance to look into the minds of the people committing the crimes when they themselves have researched the causes and issues behind why those crimes might be committed. We don't always go after just dark wizards and it is important for an auror to have a sense of compassion for those who make a simple mistake. You have completed the first essay of ten that I normally assign so you are one ahead of your eventual training group," he finished meaningfully; Harry gaped at him.
"I, Sir," Harry stuttered, "I can still be an auror?"
Severus rolled his eyes again at Harry as Auror Preston went on.
"I am not going to lose a good prospect over one mistake," he said firmly. He picked up a sheaf of parchment and handed them to Harry.
"This is the application and information for the auror training program. These are due to the academy no later than the first of June which will allow for your NEWT scores to be finalized. There is a reading list in there along with related assignments that must be completed in time to send them with your application. We send these application packages out at the beginning of the year to anyone who has an interest in the auror program but since you were coming in, I decided to hand them to you personally."
"I, thank you Sir," Harry said, the knot dissolving as he looked at both the auror and back again at Severus, who had a smirk on his face. Harry narrowed his eyes in suspicion.
"You knew about this didn't you?" Harry asked him.
"Of course I did," Severus said. "We had quite a long chat while Auror James was trying to get you out here. What do you think we talked about..the weather? I knew your aspirations to become an auror and just happened to fill in Auror Preston. I knew about this particular essay from a former student of mine who happened to mention it to me and I made the suggestion for Auror Preston to assign it to you. To me it accomplished two things. It got you to think about your actions and it got you just a little ahead of things for your eventual training."
Harry turned his attention back to Auror Preston who was looking very pleased with himself. Harry smiled wryly.
"Only Professor Snape could manage to think of a punishment essay as a way to get ahead," Harry said. Auror Preston laughed as Harry ducked a good natured cuff to the back of his head from Severus. "Brat," Severus added.
Glancing at the clock, Severus turned to Harry. "We need to get going. I want to stop off at the apothecary and I am guessing you might want to stop at Flourish and Blotts to pick up some of the books on that reading list."
Harry looked excited. "Yes Sir!" he exclaimed.
Standing, with them, Auror Preston held out his hand to Harry. "If you decide to follow through with the auror training Mr Potter, I will see you in July." Harry took the auror's hand and shook it firmly. "I'll be there Sir and thank you."
Auror Preston returned the handshake and smiled at the pair as Severus and Harry walked out of the office. Sitting back down, he grumbled as he pulled the stack of parchment towards him again and started filling in the unending forms.
Hogwarts: 7 PM
Harry was stranding at the front door, watching as the carriages carrying the students pulled up in front of the castle. The knot was back in his stomach as he realized he had come full circle. Here he was, waiting to see his friends, remembering the last time he had stood here, the hurt and anger on his friend's faces; Harry swallowed hard, trying to keep his emotions in check. He wanted desperately to see them, to apologize and to explain but at the same time, he wanted to run and hide, afraid they would not be able to forgive him.
Just as he was about to turn around and disappear for a few minutes, the first carriage pulled up and Harry saw Ron, Hermione and Ginny all climb out. They caught Harry's gaze and to a one, smiled at him. Walking quickly, Ginny was the first to reach him and he was nearly crushed in her enthusiastic hug. Just as quickly, Hermione repeated the gesture and Harry nearly lost his balance when Ron clapped him on the back. Harry couldn't speak for a moment over the lump in his throat.
"I am so sorry guys," Harry said, dropping his eyes, waiting.
The trio looked at each other over Harry's bowed head.
"Harry," Hermione said gently,"it's OK. We know you didn't mean what you said. You explained everything in your letter remember?"
"Yeah mate," Ron added. "It isn't the first time you have been a prat in any case and it probably won't be the last. If we quit being friends every time we had an issue, we'd have parted ways a long time ago."
"Gee, thanks Ron," Harry said wryly. "Anytime mate," Ron returned with a grin.
Hermione grabbed Ron by the hand and pulled him after her into the great hall, as Harry turned towards Ginny.
"I'm sorry Ginny," Harry said sadly. Ginny put a finger gently on his lips. "It's all right love," Ginny said gently. "I love you you know," she said with a grin. "A rotten mood here or there isn't going to scare me off," she finished, wrapping her arms around Harry's neck and kissing him gently.
Wrapping his arms around Ginny, he kissed her back and then buried his face in her long hair, holding her close. For the first time in weeks, he felt, happy.