Hi! We've arrived at the second book! It's going to be epic.

If you haven't perused the first installment of this series, Albus Potter and the Global Revelation, I HIGHLY recommend that you do so, or you will be VERY lost throughout ALL of this book. These are like the original Harry Potter series in that they are sequential. The first chapter of this book pretty much ruins all of the first one, but it doesn't give you any of the crucial plot exposition that takes place in the first. There are even going to be spoilers in this next paragraph, so take caution if this is your inaugural visit to the series.

Albus has now entered his second year of Hogwarts studies. After the events of the first book, the world is drastically different than it was just a year ago. He hopes that school will provide an escape from the insanity of the post-global-revelation world... of course, anyone who knows the Potters knows that this is an impossibility. In this year, Albus will experience the most horrifying moments of his young life so far. A serial killer on the loose, the reappearance of a missing man who brings a stunning mystery, a secret festival on the date of a lunar eclipse, strange sounds from under the castle, and inexplicable movement in the forest? The world is not safe anymore, but now, not even Hogwarts is safe.


ALBUS POTTER AND THE LUNAR ECLIPSE

CONTENTS

O

ONE

Gimmick and Bagshot

O

TWO

Back to the Castle

O

THREE

Quidditch Tryouts

O

FOUR

The Resident Wolf

O

FIVE

Loki, Pokey, Polo, and Pent

O

SIX

The Lunar Eclipse Festival

O

SEVEN

The Werewolf Hunter

O

EIGHT

Solemnly Sworn

O

NINE

The Lunar Eclipse

O

TEN

Nightmare

O

ELEVEN

The Fighting Spirit

O

TWELVE

Rumors of War

O

THIRTEEN

A.R.M.

O

FOURTEEN

Off the Map

O

FIFTEEN

The Next Great Adventure

O

CHAPTER ONE

GIMMICK AND BAGSHOT

O

The eyelids slowly lifted, a familiar sound having roused the twelve-year-old boy wizard. Based on the noise emanating from below, Harry was teaching James that charm again, the complicated one that he said was crucial to learn if they were ever threatened by Dark creatures.

Albus Severus Potter waited for his limbs to become fully functional before he pulled himself out of bed to check on his brother's progress. The familiar voices from downstairs suggested that James hadn't yet advanced too far from yesterday morning.

"Now, which memory were you using this time?"

"That one where I got Lucy pretty good in the face with a pie…"

"James… really? This is the most basic part of the charm and you still haven't taken any of my advice. This memory needs to be something deep. Something meaningful. This charm is going to protect you from the worst sorts of evil, and you expect that darkness to be parted by the thought of a childhood prank? Your memory needs to come from a place inside you that carries you through the hardest times in your life; you need to think of this memory as your tether to life, the reason you must protect yourself at all costs. Get a memory like that and try again."

"Expecto Patronum!"

Albus plodded down the stairs sleepily to see a small wisp of a strange light emitting from James's wand.

"Better, much better—you see that silver smoke? A protective wall is hard enough, but it's extremely difficult to form a corporeal Patronus. That's because you have to give that spell so much energy that your memory takes on a life of its own, a sentience that will defend you from your worst nightmares. Do it again."

"Dad, I'm exhausted…"

"Yes, yes, all right, we'll take a break for now. Regenerate your Kinesis. Eat breakfast and get ready to go, and if we run into Uncle Percy today, don't tell him that I've been letting you practice magic in the house."

Harry glanced over as Albus began scavenging for breakfast foods. "Al! How nice of you to join us, that's gotta be the latest you've ever slept!"

Albus grunted and continued searching for sustenance.

"I thought you were going to be up with the sun, seeing as how we're going to Diagon Alley today," Harry continued. "Your friends are actually there already, it's past eleven!"

"It is?" said Albus sleepily.

He had stayed up late trying the Patronus Charm with the instructions he'd heard while eavesdropping on his father and brother. He had made absolutely no progress; not even the slightest sputter of silver had been seen all night. The effort involved had exhausted him so thoroughly that he'd fallen asleep in his clothes.

"It's so nice to have you here in the mornings," said Ginny, walking into the room. "Thank you for taking the night shifts this week so we can go to Diagon Alley as a family. I promise we'll be quick so that you can come home and sleep."

"I don't need that much sleep," said Harry. "I've got that supply of Cerespitite; it should allow me to easily deal with sleeping only a couple hours a day. The side effects of anxiety and edginess won't show up if I'm getting some sleep and only taking small doses for a week."

"Let's hope not, you're going into a joke shop," laughed Ginny.

"Did Albus bury Flibley?" asked Harry, more quietly.

Albus glanced out the kitchen window, to where there was a small gravestone next to a smaller mound of soft dirt with a flower laid on top. He sighed and asked the toaster for waffles; it chimed a second later and he pulled them out, piping hot.

"Yes, he did," whispered Ginny back. "It was very sad for him, but he's looking forward to getting an owl of his own."

"At least it happened right before going to Diagon Alley, as opposed to right after," said Harry.

"So… Do you have any hilarious stories from the office to help ease the tension in these troubled times?"

"Oh, yeah, of course," said Harry. From the tone of his voice, Albus could tell that his father was grinning. "Of course there's some of that. Just last night, we got a claim from an older man, a former police officer, I forget the name; he said he was certain that magical memory modification was the cause of his inexplicable urge to name his child 'Elvendork.'"

Ginny snorted.

"Some of these people are just idiots," said Harry. "There's some in every community, I suppose."

"Village idiots are a hazard that comes with having any village," replied Ginny.

Slowly, Albus regained full consciousness, and realized what he was missing with every second he took to eat breakfast: Aidan Finch-Fletchley, Alec McKinnon, and Eftan Griffiths were all at Diagon Alley, waiting for him. And he was going to get an owl today, who would be a friend to him for a very long time to come.

He scarfed down his pancakes and ran to the fireplace eagerly.

"Ah, look who's among the living," said Ginny, laughing. "Are you ready to go already? Did you eat breakfast?"

"Just did, Mum," said Albus.

"Can we get Fortescue's today?" asked James, heading over to the fireplace as well. Lily was shortly behind him. "Farah always gives us free ice cream when she's there."

"We'll get it for you, even if her hard-nosed brother is heading the shop today," said Harry. "And you look positively perky, sir. I'm not sure why we had to cut off our lesson on account of exhaustion!"

James groaned in exaggerated exasperation. "Oh, come ON, Dad. There's no way I'm going to get this before we go back to school next week; I don't see the point in doing this every morning!"

"You can get it," said Harry sternly. "I believe in you. I was almost a full year younger than you when I did it!"

"Wait!" said Ginny as Harry was about to reach for some Floo powder. "Do we have the school letters? We marked them up to see if we needed any backups of any of the items."

"Oops," said Harry. "That might be helpful. Al, James, are there any books for this year that are different from last year's?"

"We need that fourth edition of Modern Magical History," said James. "They just updated it or something. And if we bring our third editions back to the bookstore, they'll just convert them to fourth edition for a much lower price."

"Hear that, honey?" yelled Harry.

Ginny walked in with the books and the lists. "Already was on it."

"Poor Modern Magical History writers," laughed Harry. "First edition, and then Voldemort comes around. Then Voldemort's gone, and they get out a second edition including the First Wizarding War. Then the Second Wizarding War sixteen years later when Voldemort returns, and they spend the next few years after that making a third edition. Then the Dark Revival, and they have to come out with a fourth edition. And now they just completed the fourth edition, and there goes the International Statute of Secrecy! They're going to have to make a fifth edition in another few years when the dust settles after this."

"But they're having a field day with the new Muggle audience," said Ginny. "Don't pity them too much. Muggles are picking up copies of magical history books all over the place out of curiosity… they've got a much larger audience now; they're getting richer than goblins in a gold mine."

"Ready?" asked Harry.

The three kids nodded excitedly.

Harry took a handful of the glittering gray powder and threw it into the fireplace. "Weasley's Wizard Wheezes!" he yelled, disappearing into the bright green flames.

Albus, James, Lily and their mother did the same. Albus was first, and he tumbled after his father into the shop, brushing the ash off of his clothes.

"There he is."

He looked up to his father's voice, and saw Aidan, Alec, and Eftan all with their parents in the store. After hugs from being reunited with his friends, Albus shook all of the parents' hands, introducing himself, and Harry and Ginny started doing the same when Ginny arrived.

Albus's parents already knew Aidan's mother and stepfather, Laura and Justin. Alec's parents had never met Harry, and they were very excited to be in his presence; Mr. McKinnon's aunt and uncle had died fighting Voldemort, and Harry was sort of a household celebrity. Eftan's parents had only recently heard about Harry when the details of the magical world came out to the Muggles, and they greeted him nervously.

"From a Muggle perspective, what was it like for all of your friends when the magical world came out of hiding?" asked Harry after he and Ginny and Eftan's parents had introduced themselves.

"Very few of them believed it," said Mrs. Griffiths. "Eftan told me it was happening, so I invited all of our friends to our place to watch the news. They all thought that it was a joke, and kept asking me how I got to be in on it, and I explained that Eftan was a wizard. They continued to think I was joking, until we got out Eftan's new broom and they watched him hover in place. And then…"

"All hell broke loose," said Mr. Griffiths. "Most of our friends ran screaming from the house; the others kept looking for wires, and blanched when they realized that he really was levitating. Most of them apologized afterwards for overreacting, of course, but some of our friends still believe that Eftan is a devil-worshipper, and that we should do the right thing and get someone to perform an exorcism on him."

George strolled over and introduced himself to the six parents. Shortly after, they began to talk about politics again, but this time, Albus wasn't finding it so boring.

"You hear about that testimonial in the Prophet?" asked George as the painting of Fred sailed over. "The one about the Muggle woman whose husband died in the car crash?"

"And how magic could have saved him if the Wizarding world hadn't been so greedy in keeping magic to themselves?" asked Mrs. McKinnon, sighing. "Yes, Carl and I saw that one, too."

"So did we," said Justin. "What do you think about it, Reba?"

Mrs. McKinnon bit her lower lip and her eyes jumped from one parent to another guiltily. "Well… having a Muggle mother, myself… I have to say… I don't see where she's faulted in her reasoning. We could have saved her husband."

"How many of them could we have saved?" asked Harry, shrugging. "There are so many more Muggles in the world than there are wizards. Even if every wizard in existence was tirelessly working to cure any sick Muggle they came across, we wouldn't be able to do it all. Not to mention that we have our own sick people to take care of. And aren't Muggles developing their own cures? Eventually they'll get to a point where they can take care of the same illnesses and injuries that we can, but not if we interfere in their health system by curing everything with magic. If we do that, there wouldn't be any reason for them to keep attempting to find remedies, and any wizard who studies Healing would essentially be a slave of Muggle hospitals."

"I see your point," said Mrs. Griffiths, "but still I feel that there's some mutual trust to be gained by assisting those who do not have the privilege of magic."

"Agreed," said Ginny, "but we can't risk spoiling non-magic people, as if they have some sense of entitlement to our services, because there honestly just aren't enough wizards to go around."

"Whatever," said Alec, yawning. "Hey, Albus, how was your summer?"

"Pretty good," said Albus, and on average, it was; but he could remember several days that didn't go very well and brought the average down.

First, there was the day he'd come home on the Hogwarts Express, and witnessed the death of a fellow student's father in King's Cross Station. No matter how much he disliked Red Pierce for the Slytherin's disapproval of Muggle-borns, the loss of a parent was never less than an absolute tragedy.

Then, on the day of the global revelation, the Potters' neighbors, the Dempseys, had pieced together all of the strange things they remembered witnessing in the Potters' residence, and had shut themselves in their house for protection. They had not mingled with the Potters ever since, and it had been over a month.

Shortly after that, Harry had been called to try and help track a serial killer who had apparently surfaced days after the global revelation. He hadn't come back for two full weeks, and after returning, he told them that the mission wasn't even successful; the Auror department could not track this man. Ginny was very unhappy with Harry for leaving them for two weeks and coming back with nothing to show, and she was clearly struggling not to be passive-aggressive to him for the rest of the day.

And then yesterday, Flibley had died. As much as he made fun of the fact that Flibley was older than he was, he missed the owl; it had been a faithful friend to him during his first year. At least the timing was convenient, he thought morbidly.

"My cousins are all totally jealous that I'm going to wizard school," said Eftan. "They got annoyed that I couldn't show them magic, though. They didn't believe that the Ministry immediately knows when magic is used in a Muggle home, they thought that I was just a sissy making excuses for why he doesn't want to break the rules."

"The world is weirdly different now," said Aidan. "My dad takes out the trash with magic now. The neighbors watch it like we've scheduled a display of fireworks."

"Talk to Holly at all this summer?" asked Alec, grinning.

"Actually, no," said Albus. "We haven't corresponded."

Holly had kissed Albus on the cheek shortly before they left King's Cross, but she hadn't written him a letter this summer. Albus wondered if she just didn't think to, or if she figured that they could see each other when they got back to Hogwarts.

"Me and Mia talked," said Alec, clearly proud of himself.

"Mia and I," corrected Aidan. Even outside of school, he couldn't help being a know-it-all.

"Does your uncle have any new prank stuff?" asked Eftan, glancing around the aisles.

"I don't know," said Albus. "He just came out with a big new line of Scheming Sweets. I think he's dry on ideas at the moment."

"I love this shop," said Alec, wandering over to the toy figurines of Voldemort dueling baby Harry Potter and losing.

Albus followed him to look around again; he never got tired of this shop, either. Another row of figurines showed Adelina Nelson, whose death was the very day on which Albus was born, which was also the day that the Dark Revival ended; and now, it the exact day twelve years preceding the global revelation. Adelina had a large snake curled around her shoulders and a fierce look on her young face.

"Sylvester is undeniably her nephew," laughed Eftan, pointing. "She's got a snake curled around her shoulders in the exact same pose he likes to make with Razka."

"Who's Razka?" asked Alec.

"His snake, the one he had on the Hogwarts Express last year."

"Who the heck names a snake?"

"Voldemort?"

James walked over to Albus and his friends; while the adults were talking, he had reunited with two of his usual group of four friends, Gavin Thoreau and Marco Murray.

"Yo, little bro, we're hitting up Fortescue's for some ice cream," he said, the level of swagger in his voice increased now that friends were around. "Mum gave me money for all of us, want to come?"

"Sure," said Albus, and his friends agreed.

Soon they were all treated to deliciously cold ice cream treats from Farah Fortescue, who always gave James and Albus free cones. Ginny's money ended up covering all five of the friends. She and Harry, along with Mr. and Mrs. Griffiths, showed up as they were finishing to pick up their kids for continued shopping.

"We want to get back around one o'clock today," said Harry, checking his watch.

"What?" said James thickly through the last bites of his ice cream, squeezing his eyes shut from brain freeze. "Why?"

"Because roughly one o'clock is when the full moon strikes," said Harry. "You remember Gaimond's Law from your classes, don't you? Thonner Gaimond did a massive amount of research into Kinesis and volition, he's one of the most respected magical authorities of the last century. On the full moon, you'll tire faster, but your spells will be at their most powerful—who knows, it could be the bump that you need to finally get your Patronus to take shape."

"We tried the full moon last month," grunted James, massaging his forehead as Alec developed a brain freeze of his own. "I didn't feel any difference at all."

"Yes, well, there was a lunar eclipse," said Harry, chuckling. "I didn't see that coming. Our practice session was rather unfortunately timed. I didn't even know then that lunar eclipses are when magic is at its weakest. And besides, you've come very far from last month, so it's worth another shot at the full moon."

They tossed their garbage and got up to leave.

"Are you going to come do your shopping with us now?" asked Albus. "Or have you already done it?"

"We've done most of it," said Aidan; Eftan and Alec nodded. "But maybe we'll catch you at our last few stops. We're going to Flourish and Blotts, and then Eeylops to get owls. Our parents say they want to hear from us more often. You know how it is. They're nervous… because of what the world is like now."

"Our family usually goes to the Magical Menagerie," said Albus. "So we probably won't see you guys… But I'll see you in a week!"

"We'll be seeing too much of each other in a week," said Alec in agreement.

Albus, James, and Lily followed their parents down the alley. Ginny ran a few quick errands of her own while Harry took the kids to the Apothecary to pick up Potions ingredients for James, then to Madam Malkin's for new robes to fit James's growth spurt, then Obscurus Books to upgrade their Modern Magical History textbooks to the fourth edition. Ginny met them coming out of Obscurus Books, and they started walking down to their final stop: the Magical Menagerie.

James had already been asked if he wanted to hand Thoebl down to Albus and get a new owl of his own, but he declined; he loved his owl. So Albus was going to be able to finally get an owl that was his and always his. He wondered what kind would be best.

They walked into the bright shop, which was as always very pleasing to the eye. There was a little girl named Sophie here, usually; she was the daughter of the owner, Mr. Rocksbone. Sophie oversaw decoration of the place. Little drawings of cats and owls danced around the sides of the shop. Once Sophie had finished drawing a cat or an owl or a mouse or a toad on the wall, Mr. Rocksbone would perform some interesting kind of spell to animate them, which always delighted his daughter to no end.

He looked around at the owls. They all looked perky and affable… the Great Horned Owls were huge, the snowy owls were handsome and looked at him with interest… how would he ever decide which one he wanted? Maybe he should just go around to all of them, look at all of them, maybe hold all of them. Perhaps he would feel something, like he did with his wand, when there was a special connection brewing.

Then suddenly, he felt something brush up against his leg. He looked down and saw the most adorable, scruffy black kitten he'd ever laid eyes on. It was from a pack of six other kittens at the other side of the store, but this one had split from the pack to come say hello. He picked it up and looked into its eyes—they were green like his own, and they stared into each others' eyes for a while. Its fur was sleek black with patterns of thin white lines dancing across it like random chalk marks on a blackboard.

"I see Gimmick came over to say hi," said Mr. Rocksbone as he walked across the shop to greet the Potters.

"Gimmick?" asked Albus, putting down the kitten; it was a charming name.

"Yes. Sophie named him; she names all of our kittens. His nickname is Mick."

Mr. Rocksbone scratched Gimmick behind the ears, and the kitten bared his tiny teeth in appreciation. Gimmick continued to brush up against Albus's leg.

"He really likes you," laughed Mr. Rocksbone.

"I really like him," said Albus. "Can I get a cat, Mum?" he asked, turning to his mother excitedly.

"A cat?" asked Ginny, furrowing her brow. "But… didn't you want an owl of your own? So that you can write home?"

"I can use school owls, or Thoebl," said Albus. "Come on, Mum, look at this!" He picked Gimmick up and held him up to Ginny's face.

Gimmick must have had an adorable expression on his scruffy face, because Albus could see his mother's heart melting.

"Part-Kneazle," said Mr. Rocksbone. "Intelligent little rascal, and the most attractive cross-bred cat I've seen. Mrs. Figg was very distraught to part with him."

James didn't have a cat. Was Albus finally about to get something that his brother never had?

"Please, Mum?" said Albus, shaking Gimmick in front of Ginny's face for emphasis. The little kitten lay relaxed in his grip, purring.

"He's a character," said Mr. Rocksbone. "He's always jumping around the place; he needs to stand on everything that has a top. He went after the birds and rats once—but just once. I told him off that first time and he's listened and remembered ever since. Curious, and a gentle soul, too. And he doesn't just follow the pack, as you've seen."

Albus had already made his decision before Mr. Rocksbone's monologue. Gimmick looked contentedly around the shop again; he made no move to struggle. Apparently he enjoyed seeing the store from this angle.

"He does seem remarkably good-natured," said Harry.

"He is," said the store-owner. "You want him?"

Albus nodded vigorously. The kitten started to wrestle his grip slightly, so Albus put him on the ground. Immediately, Gimmick jumped up onto his pant leg and climbed all the way up to his shoulder and sat there, purring sharply out of uncontrollable joy.

Lily had been allowed to purchase an owl, too, to offset the misery of not being able to attend Hogwarts for another year. She chose, as Albus could probably have guessed, the fluffiest, sweetest-looking owl in the room, a tiny pygmy owl that hadn't yet been named by Sophie.

Harry got out the money. Albus scratched behind Gimmick's ear, and the kitten purred even louder, craning his head up to enjoy the scratches to their fullest.

"So, is Sophie at Hogwarts?" said Harry as he laid out the correct change.

"Next year she will be."

"Ah, really? Lily will be starting then!"

After a bit more boring adult conversation, Harry finally handed over the money to make the purchase final, and they walked out of the store with Gimmick still rubbing against Albus's face.

"You happy, Gimmick? You're coming with me to Hogwarts!"

Gimmick almost seemed to know what this meant, and he pushed his way off of Albus's shoulder and down his leg, then ran around his feet in circles. His furry face was wild with excitement.

"What are you going to name him, Lily?" asked Ginny.

"Bagshot," replied Lily immediately. "It's a funny name."

"Bagshot?" laughed Harry. "Like Bathilda Bagshot?"

"Just Bagshot. Right, Bagshot?"

She reached through the cage and poked her owl's head, and it wobbled back and forth on its bar and hooted cutely.

As they approached Potage's Cauldron Shop, they recognized voices, and Albus's head perked up in excitement. After nearly stepping on Gimmick for a third time, since the kitten was running around his legs like an obstacle course, he picked up the little ball of fluff and ran for the familiar group of four.

"My word!" said Uncle Ron, staring through the window at Potage's. "Look at those absolutely gorgeous cauldron bottoms. Your Uncle Percy is behind those beauties, kids; be proud!"

"Ronald!" yelled Aunt Hermione. Their kids laughed, and then Rose gave a squeal of delight as she saw Albus and Lily did the same when she saw Hugo.

"Thought we were going to see you here," said Harry, opening his arms to hug Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione. "How goes the shopping?"

"Not bad at all," said Uncle Ron. "Have you seen the Muggle bus tour?"

"The what?"

"The Muggle bus tour," he said. "It's hilarious…" He turned around and put a hand up to shield his eyes against the sun. "Oh, excellent—here it is now!"

Albus looked over and saw a very thin bus weaving through the crowded streets. It resembled what the Knight Bus looked like from the outside when it stretched itself thin. Extremely skinny people were packed into the bus, though it was probably roomier on the inside due to advanced spellwork; they were pressed against the windows with cameras.

"They're taking groups of Muggles on tours through Diagon Alley," said Uncle Ron. "Never thought I'd see the day!"

"It's rather obstructive to traffic," said Aunt Hermione in her classic disapproval voice.

"I think a few seconds of our time is worth such a hilarious display of—"

"Harry! Ronald!"

Three men were walking towards them; they would have stood out from the crowd to Albus even if they hadn't hailed his father and uncle. The man who shook Harry's hand first was very, very tall and had rather thin arms, and had a hungry look in his eye. Albus was reminded strongly of a hunting spider. The second man was about an average height, but muscular and with a threatening air about him that made him seem like a larger presence. He reminded Albus of a stern gorilla. The third man was very, very short and fat, making them quite an awkward group to travel together. His beard gave him a look of permanent disapproval. With his fur coat, despite it being just a week into fall, he looked like a grumpy Puffskein.

"Caradoc Slade, ma'am, I don't think we've met," said the very tall man, shaking Ginny's hand. "I am the Senior Undersecretary to the Minister, your brother."

"Obydin Auchland," said the muscular man, shaking Ginny's hand next. "But we've met."

The very short and pudgy man put his hand up to shake Ginny's as well. "Ottovius Tulta. Pleasure to meet you."

They then turned and introduced themselves to Albus and his siblings and cousins. Lily tried to hide behind her mother; the first two were quite an intimidating pair. Tulta coaxed her into the open, though, with a genuinely warm smile.

"We were hoping to run into you today," said Obydin Auchland immediately afterwards to Harry, all business. "We're visiting the Daily Prophet's main office. We have a name now."

"What?"

"A name," he replied, glaring. "We now have a name with which to work, for the serial murderer whom I sent you and Weasley to track just a short month ago, do you not remember it?"

"I remember," said Harry, his brow settling in mild irritation.

"Then to what else would I have been referring?"

"Get on with it, we're with our families," said Uncle Ron, not bothering to hide his clear agitation with Auchland.

"Slade has been working with the press," he continued indifferently. "We're hoping that some Prophet reader will have information, we think this man is named Ivan Siobor. His background is still hazy. Ever heard of him?"

Harry paused to think. "I thought he was a Russian wandmaker."

"That's right," said Tulta, rocking back and forth on his heels. "But he was always shrouded in mystery. We don't know his parentage, or if he is even Russian. He disappeared roughly around the Dark Revival. People suspected that he joined forces with Ingot, but no one knew what happened to him afterwards."

"How d'you know it's him?" asked Uncle Ron.

"Style," grunted Slade. "Style of attack. Siobor was always experimenting with Diwandology, and further. We've investigated wounds in the victims, and we've determined that the killing strikes always happened more than one at a time."

"So Siobor's brandishing two wands?" asked Harry. "That'll make him difficult to corner, but he'll tire faster if he gets in a fight."

"More than two," said Slade.

Harry furrowed his brow. "You're sure they were simultaneous?"

"Not entirely sure—they were very close together, but if they weren't simultaneous, then some of them had to have been after the target was already killed. Why would he fire multiple shots into the victims when they're already dead?"

"To hide how many wands he's really using," said Uncle Ron.

"A fair speculation," said Tulta. "We'll consider that."

"Have you found a connection between the victims yet?" asked Aunt Hermione.

"We think we have," said Auchland, and he whispered the information to Harry and then to Uncle Ron.

Harry looked distressed. "That's not good," he said. "Then… Helio's…"

"We're on the case," said Auchland. "You should be, too. Your wife can handle the shopping, I'm confident." Ginny narrowed her eyes at him.

Harry folded his arms. "My family is out in public," he said sternly. "I am going to accompany them until such time as the public is safe."

Auchland nodded curtly and set off at a fast pace; Slade kept up easily with his long, spidery legs, but Tulta had to jog to keep up.

Uncle Ron was grinding his teeth. "I can't stand him," he said.

"I know, I know, but rumor has it he's retiring soon," said Harry. "Chinch will probably take over. We'll only have to deal with Auchland for a couple more years."

"Why's he retiring?"

"I think to spend more time training young Aurors," said Harry. "He might even take up a teaching post at Hogwarts; he and Wilcox are close. But Westerling would have to leave; I don't think Auchland would take Charms, for example."

"Let's hope you don't get Auchland," said Uncle Ron darkly. "The man's blunter than a Bludger."

"He's just intense on his work," said Aunt Hermione. "He has to be, or people would accuse him of apathy."

"What did Auchland whisper to you?" asked James; he'd always been nosy like that.

"That's none of your business," said Harry. Albus could have predicted that response.

"Why'd it have to be a secret?"

"Oh, because if a secret is none of your business, the reason for keeping it secret is obviously something I can tell you," laughed Harry.

"Why'd you mention Professor Wilcox?"

Harry shot him a warning glare. "I said that it is none of your business, and I meant it."

James huffed and folded his arms.

Harry glanced at his watch, and turned to Ginny, scratching his sideburns. "You think we should head back now?" he asked. "It's almost time."

"You and your full moon," said Ginny, laughing. "You know it doesn't make THAT much of a difference."

"But what if that small difference is all he needs?" Harry pointed out.

They returned to Weasley's Wizard Wheezes, parting from Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione who had some more errands to run, and flew through the Floo network back into their house.

"All right, get out your wand, James!" said Harry. "We're gonna get your Patronus today!"

"No, we're not!" moaned James.

"You're gonna get a corporeal one today, I know it!"

"NO, I'M NOT!"

Albus foraged for food again; why was there never anything good to eat in this house? He settled for a back-up Chocolate Frog, and tore it open. Inside was a card featuring Severus Snape. He smiled.

"Expecto Patronum!"

"I can tell you weren't thinking of a happy memory! Come ON, James, I want to see you do this! Don't you know how proud this would make me—you can impress everyone at school, very few people can do a Patronus coming off of their third year!"

Albus looked over. His father certainly had a talent for playing to people's strengths. This bragging opportunity presented to James made him more focused than Albus had ever seen him.

James closed his eyes for a while.

"Good! Focus on the best memory you can find… something that fills you with an inner light to remember… and then let that inner light out!"

Albus read his Chocolate Frog card.

Severus Snape was a Headmaster of Hogwarts and a triple-agent. Sent to spy on Albus Dumbledore by the infamous Lord Voldemort, he secretly turned from the Death Eaters. He spent the Second Wizarding War passing inside information to the Order of the Phoenix. His life was ended shortly before he could see Dumbledore's final plans through, but his actions lit the path for the end of the Dark Ages.

Albus read the card twice before looking up as James raised his wand again.

"Expecto Patronum!"

And out of the tip of his wand burst a spiny creature made of light.

It looked like an iguana, but with sharper edges and small spines sticking up along a ridge on its back. It landed on the back of the couch and spun its head around to look at James, and James dropped his wand in surprise; the phantom animal faded.

Harry yelled out in shock. "YOU DID IT!" he shouted. "YOU DID IT—what was it? Ginny, did you see that?"

Ginny nodded. "I'm not sure. It looked like an iguana, but… pokier. You'd have to get someone who knows animals to classify it exactly."

"It's a tuatara," said Lily matter-of-factly.

The family glanced at her curiously.

"I saw a picture in an animal book," she said. "James's Patronus was a tuatara."

"I'll take your word for it," said Harry. "James, what was your memory?"

James turned red and mumbled something intentionally incomprehensible.

"Sorry?"

He turned away and tucked his head into his shoulders.

"James, what do you have to be embarrassed about a happy memory?" asked Ginny. Then she tilted her head and smirked. "Was it a kiss, or something?"

He shook his head.

"What, then?" asked Harry.

He mumbled again.

"James, spit it out!" said Harry.

James sighed.

"Watching… Seeing Albus get sorted into Gryffindor."

Albus stood in a stupor, convinced for a moment that he had heard wrong. Transfixed, he watched the eyes of his parents and sister shift over to him as his brother shuffled out of the room uncomfortably, and pride swelled up in his heart.