“So, um.” Danny cleared his throat, awkward at the silence that had fallen after his statement. “Can I, uh. Take it out?”
“What?” Harry jerked as if startled, then nodded in a similarly jerky fashion. “Yeah. Yeah, go for it.”
Danny nodded, floating closer to Harry. He paused right in front of the boy, turning his arm intangible and holding it up. “I’m gonna reach for it, okay? It might feel a little weird, I’m not sure. Usually people aren’t conscious when they’re overshadowed, so…”
“Just get it over with.” Harry visibly steeled himself, stiffening his spine.
“Alright, here it goes.” Slowly, Danny extended his arm, hand phasing through Harry’s head. The boy shivered, but to his credit, didn’t move away.
It took a little swishing around, but finally Danny’s fingers caught on a stray shard of soul. He tugged at it, pulling it free from its foothold. As he dropped his intangibility and let color return, the shard remained colorless and dull, twisting in his gloved hand.
“Got it,” he said, rather unnecessarily. Making sure to keep a good grip, he uncapped the Thermos in his other hand, lifting it towards his fist. “Bye bye, shard.”
The moment he let go of it, he pushed the button on the Thermos. With a whir it turned on, sucking the soul shard in with a blue vortex.
“That was it?” Harry asked, somewhat incredulously. “That has been tormenting me for years on end?”
“Never said it was very impressive.” Danny shrugged, capping the Thermos again. “It was only a shard, and even a full soul doesn’t become very large in a ghost.”
Harry frowned, wordlessly looking him up and down.
“See, that’s where you’re making the wrong assumption.” He laughed, gesturing at his chest with his free hand. He held out his fingers, pressing them near the upper and lower boundaries of his core. “My core, my soul, is only about this big. The rest is just ectoplasm.”
“Oh.” Harry nodded, apparently satisfied by this. “Well, I suppose that makes sense.”
Twirling the Thermos in his hand, Danny nodded too. “If that was all, I’ll be going. I gotta get working on finding the other Horcruxes.”
“No, you won’t,” Dumbledore said, slowly, but with strength behind his words.
“Uh.” Danny shot an uncertain glance at Harry, who seemed a little confused as well. “Sorry? Who died and made you boss?”
“Voldemort and his Horcruxes are Order business, Phantom. You agreed to follow our rules.”
Danny scowled. “I agreed to help take down Voldemort. And, wow, look at that! He’s captured. Now all that needs to be dealt with are his Horcruxes, which I’ve been tasked to clean out.”
He took a steadying breath, letting his glow cast out, a show of power. One that Dumbledore didn’t understand, but hopefully would feel, nonetheless. “No matter what you think, how powerful you are for a wizard, you are not the highest being in the world. I’ve been tasked by beings far greater than you to capture Voldemort’s soul shards, so yes, I’ll get them whether you like it or not.”
“You are just a child,” Dumbledore countered, shaking his head. “I will not let you undertake such a dangerous activity on your own.”
“I’m a ghost, you have no way of knowing my real age.” He rolled his eyes, crossing his arms. “Also, not sure if you realize this, but I’m also dead. I’m literally the best suited to dealing with dangerous artifacts. D’you want me to follow your example and drag a bunch of teenagers along, instead? I’m sure Sam and Tucker and Danny wouldn’t be opposed to a trip around the country.”
Dumbledore frowned. “I have never--”
“Of course you haven’t, man.” Danny shook his head dismissively. “Whatever makes you sleep better at night. Look, I’m gonna do this one way or another. I can wait until school ends and bring along my friends, and if there’s any items of particular value I can bring them to you when they’re cleaned out. That alright with you?”
“You should bring adults as well, Phantom.” Dumbledore’s hands folded on the desk, his face smooth and patient.
Rolling his eyes again, Danny settled onto the back of a chair. “Alright, how about this. If things look particularly threatening or dangerous, I’ll bring Sirius and Lupin, if they’re okay with it.”
“Why only them?” Harry asked, finally breaking back into the conversation. “I mean, I can’t blame you, they’re nice blokes, but why only them?”
Because they were the only people who knew his secret around here, he thought.
“Because they’re the only adults I really know around here,” he said. “Since they came to Amity and met me. I trust them.”
Harry nodded, thoughtful expression softening. “Makes sense.”
Dumbledore heaved a deep sigh. “Very well. I suppose that this is the best I can hope for.” The sparkle returned to his eyes, and his expression shifted into something far more cheery. “On the note of me receiving any items of potential value, do you know what you are searching for? Perhaps I can offer assistance?”
“Ah, um.” Danny twitched, scrambling for the answer. Clockwork would provide him with a list, right? But he’d left, on Clockwork’s insistence, before he could--
The world jerked, an almost unnoticeable twitch, so minute that Danny wouldn’t have noticed except… except that his hand was suddenly furled, a scrap of paper crinkling in his hand.
“Ah, I have a list, actually,” he said, slowly, as he unfolded the paper. He didn’t do a very good job of it, considering that he only had one hand, but it was readable at least. “Hmm. One is already destroyed, a diary? And we just took care of Harry, obviously.”
Both others nodded, Harry a little sheepishly. “Yeah, I… took care of that in my second year. The diary, I mean.”
“Huh. Good job.” Danny read over the rest of the list quickly. “There’s another one listed that seems to be a name, but I haven’t heard it before, I think. Does ‘Nagini’ mean anything to you two?”
Harry made a face. “She’s Voldemort’s snake. Big and highly venomous.”
“Well, that’ll be tricky.” At least he wouldn’t have to kill her, probably. Depended on how violent the snake was on her own. “Then there’s a ring, belonging to a Marvolo Gaunt? And three items that seem to be linked to the Hogwarts founders. A locket from Slytherin, a Cup from Hufflepuff, and a Diadem from Ravenclaw. Not sure why Gryffindor is missing.”
“Most likely,” Dumbledore said, slowly, “Because the only item Goderick Gryffindor left behind was his sword, which,” he gestured at a nearby wall, where a shiny sword hung, beautifully decorated, “as you can see, is still here.”
Danny blinked, eyes casting over the sword a moment longer. Then he nodded, turning back to the list. “Yeah, I guess so. Anyway, it was just those seven. Two are already taken care of, one is apparently a snake so that’ll be tricky, and the other four seem pretty standard. If you’ve got any advice for finding those, that would be much appreciated.”
The older wizard hummed, thoughtfully. Danny let him think in peace. He would have to wait with the actual search anyway, and any help along the way would be nice. For the Hogwarts items, he supposed he could ask the house ghosts, but the ring? Not a clue.
“Marvolo Gaunt’s ring, you might find in the shack belonging to said family,” Dumbledore finally said, words measured but steady. “It should be located near Little Hangleton, although that name will mean very little to you. It is a village in this country. It was important to Voldemort in his past, and would make a reasonable place to hide any of his Horcruxes.”
Nodding energetically, Danny made a mental note of it. “Gaunt shack, Little Hangleton, got it. Are any of the others familiar to you, too, or do I have to start from scratch for those?”
“I am afraid that I cannot help you with those,” Dumbledore told him, expression somewhat sad. “However, should you find and reclaim them, I will gladly take them from your hands.”
“That figures.” Danny sighed, folding the paper before stuffing it into a pocket on his belt. He would have to take it out if he wanted to keep it after shifting back, but he would deal with that when that time came. “Well, thanks, anyway. I’ll get working on research, then.”
He waved the two of them goodbye. “Bye Harry, Dumbledore! I’m sure I’ll see you two around sooner or later!”
“Um, Ma’am? Miss Grey Lady? Whatever title is appropriate?”
The ghost halted, turning to look at him, curiosity clear on her face. “Yes? What can I do for you, young man?”
“I was, um, wondering if you were familiar with Rowena Ravenclaw’s Diadem?” He blushed, one hand rubbing his neck. “Sorry, that sounded a little too forward. I have heard from, ah, reputable sources that Voldemort stole it and turned it into a Horcrux. I’m trying to find it so I can clear it and return it to where it belongs.”
She softened visibly, nodding slightly. “Yes, I am aware of what he has done to it. Defiled it, he has, and hidden it right here in this school.”
“He has?” Danny replied, startled. “Really? Where? I thought I would have to wait to start clearing out Horcruxes, but if it’s here I can do it right now.”
“I will tell you, if you will let me accompany you.” She angled her head slightly, in thought. “I would like to see how you plan to accomplish this, and to ensure that you will do as you say.”
“That’s fair,” Danny agreed easily. “You barely know me, anyway. Where is it, and do you have time for it right now?”
“It is hidden in the Room of Requirement.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “If that place is familiar to you.”
Nodding, Danny twisted around slightly. “Yeah. In the Room of Hidden Things, then. I should be able to find it based on the Horcrux’s energy, but another pair of eyes wouldn’t hurt. Shall we go there now?” This last, he underlined by offering her a hand.
“Yes, let’s.” She took his hand, brow only creasing a little as her transparent silver hand made contact with his own opaque white one.
The flight there was short, and Danny quickly set the room. He even held open the door for the Grey Lady before following her inside.
“And you can remove the Horcrux without damaging the Diadem?” the Lady asked as they flew through the room, slowly. “You are sure of this?”
“Uh huh.” Danny tried to focus on his magic sense, on the barely-there sensation of the Horcrux – just slightly closer to his ghost sense than normal magic. “I mean, I successfully pulled the shard out of a living person without hurting him, so a magical object should go fine as well.”
She hummed, and they flew the rest of the way in silence. The Diadem rested in a tall bookcase, both of them hovering in front of it.
“This is it,” she confirmed for him, rather unnecessarily. His magic sense had pinpointed it already. “Now, I would be happy to see you work your… magic.”
He laughed. “Was that pun accidental or on purpose? Because it was pretty good, actually.” Turning his hand intangible, he stuck it into the Diadem in a sudden motion.
The soul shard was easy enough to find, and he pulled it loose with ease. “There it is. The Diadem should be like new, now.”
As the Grey Lady inspected it, he uncapped his Thermos with his free hand. The shard of Voldemort was sucked in as easily as the first one, and when the ghost turned back to him, he had capped it already.
“Yes, it looks better. What will you do with it now?”
“I promised Dumbledore to bring everything of value to him.” Danny took the Diadem in his hands, carefully. It still responded heavily to his magic sense, but none of it had that foul taste of the Horcrux anymore. “He’ll bring it back to its rightful place, I’m sure. Want to accompany me there, too?”
She looked at him, a sparkle in her eye. “Yes. Yes, I would like that. Come, let us go.”
They stood waiting on the station, their luggage heavy and their arms full, when Draco approached them.
“Hey Danny,” the boy said, before his eye caught on Sam and Tucker. Hesitantly, he added, “Friends of Danny.”
Danny smiled, hiding his confusion. Why was Draco here? “Hey Draco. What’s up?”
“I, ah… was wondering if you plan on returning next year?” The boy looked put-off, for once not full of blustering (and faked) confidence. “I heard that it wasn’t a certain thing, but I fail to see the point of not finishing the education you have started.”
“Oh, well, y’know.” Danny glanced at Sam and Tucker. “We, uh, haven’t quite decided, to be honest. It’s really far from home, really, and we’re not sure if we’re ready to handle two more years of that.”
“Ah… I see.” Draco’s brow creased into a slight frown, and Danny felt bad. Just a little, at least. He’d put so much effort into befriending Draco and dragging him into the light, and now he really was just sort of dumping the boy to figure out the rest on his own.
“I could owl you when we’ve decided, if you want?”
The crease lightened, and Draco nodded, shortly. “That would be… nice, yes. Thank you, Danny.” He paused, briefly, then continued with a more uncertain tone, “For… for everything. You have… you have taught me things beyond what I normally would’ve learned.”
“Is this… Are you thanking me for teaching you to look beyond houses and stuff?” Danny laughed, surprised. “That’s alright, dude. You can thank me by staying open-minded, alright?”
“I… yes. Alright.” Draco stepped back a little, as if preparing to leave. “Have a good summer, Danny, friends of Danny.” He inclined his head, then whirled around and left.
Watching him leave, Tucker raised a hand and shouted after him, “You too, man!”
“Well, the ring was easy enough to find,” Sam said, tossing the item in question in the air and catching it again. “And you already did the diadem while at school. Which ones are we missing, still?”
“The locket, the cup, and the snake,” Danny recited effortlessly, lounging in mid-air. He could lie on the ground, sure, but they were outside and there were rocks. “All of which we have basically no information for.”
“Hey, Sirius.” Tucker nudged the man with his foot, receiving a tired groan in answer. “How good are you at tracking while you’re a dog?”
“Not that good,” Lupin answered for his friend. “I don’t think any living dog could.”
Danny snapped his fingers, shooting upright. “That’s it! No living dog could!”
Tucker and Sam shared a worried glance, which in turn jolted Sirius and Lupin into wariness as well. None of them were quick enough to stop Danny from sticking his fingers in his mouth and whistling loudly, however.
Nothing happened for a few long moments.
“So, um,” Sirius started to say.
Then he was bowled over by a ball of green ectoplasm, landing face-down in the dirt.
Danny dove down, picking up the small green canine off of Sirius’ back. “Sorry. Cujo is a little hard to control.”
“Danny, I’m not sure if he can…” Lupin paused, clearly searching for the right words. “…Do what you’re hoping for.”
“Well, he’ll give it a damn good shot at least.” Danny shrugged, the motion jostling the ghost dog in his hands. “Anyway, he once found an item in the living world from where he was in the Ghost Zone, and repeatedly broke through the Ghost Portal to come retrieve it, so.”
“He also needed you to break him into the place where it was, and it was you who actually found it,” Sam pointed out, frowning. “He doesn’t have much accuracy, Danny, and he caused a lot of trouble back then, too.”
“Eh, he’ll lead us in the right direction at least.” Danny frowned at Cujo, whose tongue lolled out of his mouth, tail wagging up a storm. “Besides, we’ve got nothing to go on, right? It’s worth a shot if you ask me.”
Tucker released a heavy sigh. “Man, I hate to admit it, but I guess he’s right. Just give him the ring and get it over with, Sam.”
She rolled her eyes but offered the ring to Cujo. The dog sniffed it a bit, then suddenly jerked out of Danny’s arms and sped off.
“Well, here we go!” Danny flew after the canine, spectral tail trailing after him before he disappeared from sight.
The four humans left behind shared a tired, exasperated look, and trudged after them.
“I still can’t believe that that worked,” Sam complained, her boots dragging as she followed Danny, Tucker right next to her.
“I still can’t believe that Cujo caught that big-ass snake.” Tucker shrugged, not actually seeming particularly concerned about it. “That was pretty impressive, let’s be real.”
She rolled her eyes at him, speeding up a little to catch up with Danny again. “Are you really sure about where this last one was hidden? I don’t think Sirius will be thrilled about us messing up his whole house for nothing.”
“I’m sure, Sam.” He scoffed. “Besides, we won’t even be messing up his house. I’m pretty sure Kreacher has it, so we just have to look in his little hidey-hole.”
They came to a stop in front of the house, its magic useless as they had been allowed in before. Danny stepped forward to ring the bell, immediately flinching when he heard the yelling of the portrait in the hall.
“Forgot about that thing,” he muttered under his breath as he took a step back. “God, how vile do you have to be to voluntarily make such a thing and stick it in your house?”
“Pretty damn vile,” Sam agreed easily, a concerned twist still about her mouth. “Man, I can’t wait to get back home, where the people make sense.”
“You really have been gone for too long if you think anyone in Amity makes sense, Sam,” Tucker pointed out. “I mean, you remember Danny’s parents, right?”
She scoffed. “Yeah, alright, fair enough. I can’t wait to get back to somewhere where at least people’s natural insanity isn’t bolstered by magic. That better?”
“Much,” Tucker cheerily accepted, just as the door opened.
“Kids?” Sirius asked, clearly baffled at their appearance. “Uh. What’re you doing here?”
“Last Horcrux is here,” Danny explained, gesturing vaguely. “Can we come in?”
“Sure?” Sirius stepped back from the door, allowing them in. “But I’m pretty sure we would’ve found the Horcrux while cleaning if it really was here.”
“If I’m right, Kreacher has it.” Danny stretched, his spine popping loudly, and he grimaced at the sound. “There is no real magic protecting it anymore, since it was taken from its rightful place, so it’s not very obvious.”
“How do you know that?” Sirius asked, leading them towards the kitchen. He paused in the doorway, suddenly. “Also, ah. I have guests present, so.”
Danny took the silent hint, shifting and forming a human duplicate. He would need to be in ghost form himself to get the Horcrux out, he was pretty sure.
Sirius nodded, letting them in the kitchen properly. “You still haven’t answered my question, by the way. How do you know the Horcrux isn’t protected anymore?”
“Because we found the place where it was supposed to be.” Danny shrugged, floating into the room, his eyes immediately catching on Harry, Ron, and Hermione. He shot them a quick wave before turning back to Sirius. “There was a fake there, a replacement. Someone stole it and hid it.”
“They stole it and hid it here, with Kreacher?” Sirius scoffed, incredulously. “Who would do such a thing, and why?”
“Dunno. That’s just the way it is.” Danny unclipped the Thermos from his belt, handing it over to Sam. “Can you call Kreacher and ask him?”
“Wait. Will this hurt him?” Hermione asked, half risen from her seat. “Helping you with this?”
“Nah. If anything, it’s more likely to help him,” Sam assured her, voice as soothing as she could make it. “If he’s hiding it, he probably got commanded to deal with it, but the magic of the Horcrux is too strong for him.”
“Alright.” Hermione sat back down, arms flat on the table. “But I want to watch to make sure.”
“Whatever makes you feel better.” Danny floated back a few steps, clearing space between him and Sirius and Sam. “Now, Sirius?”
“Yeah, yeah. Kreacher, can you come here?” He raised his voice for the latter, and the response was almost immediate.
“Yes, Master?” the house-elf asked, venomously, eyes darting around the room.
“Kreacher, do you have… what was it again, Phantom?”
“Salazar Slytherin’s locket.”
“Right, that. Kreacher, do you have that locket, and if yes, can you bring it here?”
The house-elf stiffened, then started shifting on the spot. Finally, slowly, he said, “Yes, Master.”
He disappeared with a bang, before returning the same way. Clenched in his hand was the locket.
Danny floated over, carefully, keeping his expression soft. “Kreacher,” he told the house-elf, “Has your master told you to destroy this to remove Voldemort’s influence on it?”
Kreacher shifted, his expression becoming impossible to read. “I don’t have to tell you anything, foul creature,” he finally bit back.
Rolling his eyes, Danny forced himself to stay calm. “That’s a yes, then. But what your master didn’t know, Kreacher, is that this is special magic. He couldn’t have destroyed it even if he wanted to, and neither can you. But I can break it, if you will let me.”
His eyes darted between the locket, then Danny, then back to the locket.
“You don’t even have to let go of it,” Danny told him, coaxingly. “I can phase through your hand to take out the bad magic. Is that okay?”
Now Kreacher turned his eyes to Danny’s face, staring him in the eyes for a long moment. Then he inclined his head, just slightly. “Yes.”
Turning his hand intangible, Danny did what he had done so many times already; he phased through and pulled out the shard of soul. Kreacher, as well as Hermione and Ron, who hadn’t seen it yet, jerked at the sight of the distorted soul shard.
Danny released it, and Sam immediately swept it up in the beam of the Thermos.
“See?” Danny gestured at the locket in Kreacher’s pale-knuckled hand. “You did it. You fixed the locket for your master.”
Kreacher’s hand opened, and he inspected the locket carefully. “I… did. I did.”
Then immediately he shoved it in Sirius’ hands, roughly. “I don’t want this anymore. Take it away from me, cursed object that killed Master Regulus.”
“Alright, alright.” Sirius grabbed onto it, stuffing it in a pocket. “See, all gone. You’re free to go, Kreacher.”
The house-elf nodded, jerkily, and disappeared.
“And that was that.” Sam handed the Thermos back to Danny, who clipped it back onto his belt. “The last Horcrux, the last thing binding Voldemort to his false immortality.”
“Yep.” Danny dusted off his hands, a grin finding its place on his face. “And now… we can go home again!”
“Whoo hoo!” Tucker shouted, throwing his hands up in the air. “Finally, summer vacation!”
A throat cleared behind them, and Danny half-tumbled over himself in his haste to look. Mrs. Weasley stood in the opening of the kitchen, a deep crease to her brow.
“Phantom,” she said, her voice heavy and smothering. “Will you really not stay?”
“I… no?” Danny blinked at her, a little dumbly. “I’ve got a home to return to, too, y’know?”
Mrs. Weasley’s eyes seemed to grow a little wet, and Danny felt just as awkward as he had in the last summer. “I just… worry. You are young still – and don’t give me any of that ghost stuff! – you are young, and you deserve a family, too.”
Danny shared a look with Sam and Tucker, a short and silent conversation. Turning back to Mrs. Weasley, he shrugged. “Well, don’t worry about it. I already have a family. And…” His eyes wandered over to Sirius, almost inadvertently, before he pulled them back to Mrs. Weasley. “And I’m gonna tell them that I’m not all gone yet, when I get back. Tell them everything.”
“Oh.” She sniffled, then, sudden and loud, and patted away her tears. “Well, never mind, then! I cannot keep you away from your real family, dearie.”
“Ah, yeah.” He laughed, the grin growing more genuine as he thought about it. “Yeah. It’ll be fine. Everything’s gonna be good.”