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Albus Dumbledore had, in his many years of life, heard a lot of stories. Fantastic tales and awe-inspiring myths and many, many more. He knew that most of these stories had a kernel of truth in them. After all, even the most extravagant of legends had to come from somewhere. And, sometimes, this made it worthwhile to investigate such fairy-tales.

Especially now that Voldemort was back.

Albus had revived the Order of the Phoenix in turn, yes. But they lacked strength. They needed all the help they could get to oppose Voldemort. Any allies, human or otherwise, were desperately needed. Many of the current members of the Order were doing the best they could to recruit more members. But it was slow going; the Order had to stay secret, and the Ministry was doing its best to cover up Voldemort’s return.

Which had led him here. Or, more accurately, to the stories of a small Muggle town in America known as Amity Park. A town which was, apparently, often attacked by some form of magical creatures. The Muggles called them ghosts, but they weren’t like ghosts at all.

No, these beings were solid – but still capable of becoming intangible like a ghost. They could perform quite an array of magical tricks, leave quite a bit of devastation. But, above all, most were humanoid in both appearance and intelligence, which was like ordinary ghosts.

Which meant that, if the stories were true, these beings could be recruited. Unless, of course, they were all as malevolent as the stories suggested. Or if the other wizards were right about this being a Muggle hoax.

But if these beings were real, they were powerful. Even the weakest of them possessed versatile magic. And, most importantly, they were unknown. Even a single individual of these ‘ghosts’ could alter the war. They could catch the Death Eaters, and Voldemort, off guard.

And Albus knew that there must be some truth to the stories. Muggles were a creative bunch, yes. They very eagerly came up with all kinds of explanations and stories, some remarkably similar to the world of magic they knew nothing about. But this many stories, of such scale…

It was worth investigating, at the very least.

Not by him, of course. He was an extraordinarily busy man, even before Voldemort’s return. Besides, he was too well-known. If he traveled not only to America, but to some small unknown Muggle town, he would draw too much attention.

Luckily, Albus knew just the right people to send in his stead.


“You want us to what?”

Albus watched, face smoothed out as always. He didn’t even blink at the shout – he had quite expected it.

“Ignore him,” Sirius pleaded, giving Remus a short shove. “We would very much love to go to… where did you say, America? We would very much love to go there.”

Remus shot the other man a dry look. “Sirius, you’re literally a wanted criminal.”

“And if I have to stay in this house for any longer it’ll be deserved.” Sirius crossed his arms, then turned to look at Albus again. “Order business, right?”

“Of course.” Albus smiled, his eyes twinkling. Sending the two of them was a bit of a gamble, but one he had carefully considered. Besides, Sirius’ volatile nature would likely be calmed by Remus. The only reason it hadn’t worked out back when they were students was because James was too much of a troublemaker, too.

Remus, apparently noticing that he couldn’t win, sighed. Then he pinched the bridge of his nose and turned to Albus as well. “So you’re sending a werewolf and a wanted criminal to America. It must be pretty important, then.”

Albus nodded, before spreading a couple of pictures on the table they were sitting at. They were all still, Muggle in origin. The photos displayed a variety of magical beings, all completely different from each other, bar the fact that they all glowed.

A huge black-furred bipedal wolf, which one might’ve called a werewolf if they weren’t familiar with actual werewolves. A sky-blue dragon, perfectly ordinary except that the photo depicted it flying through a building. A metallic humanoid launching some sort of projectiles at another being, this one perfectly human except for his white hair and odd clothes. A giant green dog mauling a branch – or was that just a small tree?

“What are these?” Sirius asked, leaning forward to inspect the photos. “I’ve never seen magical creatures like these before.” He picked up the first picture, with the black wolf on it. Showing it to Remus, he grinned. “Look Moony, it’s your family.”

But Remus only frowned. “These are from that small town in America, aren’t they? I thought it was decided that these were all a hoax? Since no traces of magic, from wizards or otherwise, were detected?”

“That’s true,” Albus allowed, folding his hands together on the table. “But spells and hexes can be tricked. These magical beings, or whoever is behind them, are completely unknown. Perhaps they can’t be detected by traditional magic.”

“So you want us to check it out?” Sirius put the photo back again, looking a little disappointed that Remus hadn’t reacted to his joke. “To, what? Attempt to recruit them to the Order, or something?”

“How do you even want us to get them back?” Remus looked away from the pictures to look at Albus again. “If they’re somehow immune to detecting magic, who says magical transportation will work?”

Sirius laughed, picking up the picture with the two beings. “Yeah, and no matter how humanoid these are, I highly doubt that the Muggles will let them travel their way.”

“I’m sure something could be managed.” Albus smiled a little, the corners of his mouth turned up. “But first, the two of you will need to learn more about them. We know nothing about them, except that they’re allegedly powerful, almost all malevolent, and that the Muggles call them ‘ghosts’.”

Snorting, Sirius flapped the photo around in the air. “They’re calling these ghosts? They’re nothing like actual ghosts!” Then he put the picture down again, the corner creased a little where he had held it.

“What if they’re all malevolent, or unwilling to join us?” Remus asked instead, ever-serious. “Or worse yet, if they are more interested in joining Voldemort?”

“Ideally, you would be able to avoid mentioning him until you were certain that these beings would join us.” Albus eyed the two wizards. He was sure that they would do a good job. He wouldn’t have picked them otherwise. But he also knew that Remus was a responsible man, and perhaps, a little too insecure. “And I’m sure the two of you will do an excellent job.”

Remus frowned, but nodded his approval. “Why us, anyway? I mean, we’re a werewolf and a wanted criminal. Not exactly the type of people you would send to another continent to recruit new members.”

“Perhaps not,” Albus agreed. “But you two are more than just ‘a werewolf and a wanted criminal’.”

“Obviously he picked us for our good looks.” Sirius grinned, wide and toothy. “We’re gonna charm these supposed ghosts to our side.”

“Ha ha.” Remus rolled his eyes. “Sir, I can understand why you’re sending me, but surely you don’t expect that Sirius will avoid notice just because it’s a different continent?”

“He is also a highly skilled Animagus.” Albus quirked a single eyebrow at Remus, challenging.

“’He’ is also right here,” Sirius interjected, throwing an arm over Remus’ shoulder. “And quite ready to leave this damn house, even if I have to be a dog the whole time.”

Remus sighed but didn’t protest. He just shook his head, looking rather exasperated. “Fine, alright.”

“And surely you don’t believe that I have made these decisions without careful consideration?” Albus kept his tone light, a little teasing. Most, if not all, wizards believed him to be infallible. And while he was certainly powerful, certainly wise… Infallible, he was not.

But that didn’t stop him from relying on his reputation. It was just another tool in his repertoire.

“Of course not.” Remus looked almost offended by the suggestion. “It’s just… It seems like a dangerous choice, the two of us. Former Marauders on a mission to gather information and potentially recruit new members.”

“You two were the most suitable.” Albus stared him down, gaze a little stern. “I trust you two, and your abilities.” Then he allowed a small smile, a quirk to his lips. “Besides, Sirius very much needs to leave the house.”

“Thank you!” the man in question exclaimed, throwing his hands into the air. “Because you’re absolutely right! This house is driving me crazy.”

“You already were crazy,” Remus remarked under his breath. Both other men pointedly ignored it in favor of Remus’ follow-up statement. “And I’m supposed to come along to what, keep an eye on him?”

“Well, we can hardly have a dog asking around for information about these magical beings, no?” Albus smiled a little, kindly. “And Remus, you already have experience with recruiting new members for the Order. You have value beyond being Sirius’ caretaker.”

“Hey!” the man barked, a somewhat offended note to his tone. “I don’t need a caretaker!”

“Yes, because there’s nothing suspicious about an enormous black dog wandering around without any supervision.” Remus rolled his eyes, a little less agitated now. “And I suppose the two of us are estranged from society enough that our disappearance won’t be noticed.”

“Indeed.” Albus nodded, raising his still-folded hands off of the table to rest his elbows on it instead. “I have already taken care of transportation, and I expect regular check-ins on your status. Weekly, at least. More often if you’ve uncovered important information. I don’t expect that you’ll run into much trouble, as I doubt that many Death Eaters will have traveled to America, but still.”

“Right.” Sirius’ smile had dropped, his face now serious and focused. “And where was it that we were going, again?”

Albus smiled, unfolding his hands.

“Amity Park, USA.”


Traveling to their destination was… an adventure. In some ways, it wasn’t as disastrous as Remus had expected.

In other ways, it was far worse.

Reaching the headquarters in America via Floo Powder was easy. Checking himself and his ‘dog’ in was also easy.

Getting to Amity Park, a small Muggle town in the middle of nowhere… Not nearly as easy.

Floo Powder wouldn’t work. Besides the fact that the fact that they required several transitions to even get to the right network (who knew that America needed multiple?) there also weren’t any available in Amity Park itself. There was a single fireplace registered, but it apparently belonged to an elderly witch, and they could hardly Floo themselves into her house.

And so Remus and his beloved ‘dog’ found themselves in a Muggle taxi. A few helpful wizards had helped them convert their money into American dollars, and had hailed the taxi as well. Once Remus had mentioned their destination being Amity Park, the driver had nodded understandingly.

“Going to see the ghosts?” he had asked, but he hadn’t waited for an answer as he already drove off. “I hope your dog doesn’t spook easily, then.”

Sirius, in answer, had created a sound much like a laugh.

“He doesn’t,” Remus had confirmed. The taxi driver just eyed them, a twinkle of joy in his eyes. But he had remained quiet the rest of the drive, something that Remus was glad for.

Once they finally arrived in Amity Park, their troubles weren’t over. The two of them still had to find a hotel to stay in, and one that would accept dogs.

Luckily Amity Park had become something of a tourist attraction to Muggles. Even if they were a little early for the Summer Holidays (for America, at least), most hotels were ready for visitors. Finding one that would let Sirius stay with Remus wasn’t too difficult, either.

“Here for the ghosts?” the receptionist had asked, with a smile on her face. And, once again, “Hope your dog doesn’t spook easy.”

“He doesn’t,” Remus had confirmed again, frowning a little.

He knew that the stories of Amity Park’s ghosts had spread far and wide. That was the whole point. It was known as a tourist trap to Muggles, a small town that had made up stories to lure tourists. It only made sense that the people who tourists would interact with would play up this reputation.

That didn’t account for the group of teenagers they ran into that afternoon.

“Hey sir!” a voice called, and Remus whirled around with a quirked brow. A group of teenagers, dressed in red-and-white jackets approached him. The one in the front, with gelled blond hair and blue eyes, stepped forward with a smile. “Can we pet your dog?”

Remus glanced at Sirius, who still looked as mangy and shaggy-haired as always. The dog, in turn, looked at him a little pleadingly. Remus considered, for a moment, to ignore Sirius’ wordless plea. Then he took mercy on his friend.

“Better not,” he told the teenagers. “He’s a little shy.”

“Oh!” one of the other teenagers exclaimed, an Asian boy. “You’re British! Are you a tourist?”

“Yes. Do you get a lot of them?” This could be a good way to dig for information. Adults might be coaxed into playing along, but teenagers were headstrong. They couldn’t be forced into a lie if they didn’t want to be.

Sirius sat down by his feet, looking around as if he was surveying their environment. He kept his ears twisted towards the teenagers however, clearly listening.

“You’re a little early, but yeah,” the blond boy said with a shrug. “They come to check out the ghosts. For some reason no one ever believes that they’re real.”

“You don’t look like the typical ghost-chasing tourist, though.” The Asian boy frowned at him, discerning. “Usually they’re more… I dunno. Weird. Like fanatics of the supernatural.”

“And I don’t look like that?” Remus had dressed himself as normally as possible, of course. But… maybe this town did get magical visitors.

“Nah.” The blond boy scoffed, flapping his hand. “You look like shit. But not like, interested in the supernatural.”

“Doesn’t matter anyway,” one of the other boys added. “Whether you believe in ghosts or not, whatever reason you have for coming to Amity Park. You’ll see a ghost sooner or later anyway.”

“That’s… good.” Remus smiled a little, ignoring the hurtful comments from the boy who appeared to be the leader. “Since that’s why I’m here, and all that.”

“Yeah, sure.” The boys started walking again, following the blond boy. Under his breath, the boy uttered, “Weirdo.”

No, definitely not used to wizards. But they did believe in these ‘ghosts’. Either they played along with the hoax, or… maybe Dumbledore had been right. Maybe these magical beings were real.


The rest of the week was much of the same. They hadn’t yet encountered any magical beings, both human or otherwise. There had been a few supposed ‘ghost attacks’, but due to the sheer size of the town, Sirius and Remus had managed to miss all of them.

The damages left behind were fairly convincing, however.

“I just can’t imagine Muggles causing this kind of damage just to lure tourists,” Sirius remarked, leaning against a tree. They were looking at a huge crater left in the park, the fountain cracked and several blackened patches in the grass.

After the first few days Sirius had concluded that no wizards came to Amity Park, and promptly decided to stop pretending to be a dog. He still stuck around in canine form in the hotel to save money, however.

“If they make enough money off of it, why not?” Remus shrugged.

“Surely they don’t.” Sirius frowned, looking over the damages again. “I mean, for a wizard it would be an easy fix. But Muggles can’t just magic away the damages.”

“And you don’t think Dumbledore is wrong about his suspicions?” Remus knew Sirius well enough to hear the silent comment. “That there probably is something magical happening here, even if these so-called ‘ghosts’ aren’t real.”

“I mean, I’m just happy to be out of the house for once.” Sirius grinned, looking happier than Remus usually saw him. The outside air was doing him some good. “I don’t mind spooking around town a little longer.”

“But it would be nice to find some proof?” Remus recognized the sound of longing. If they could just dig up enough information to prove that Dumbledore might be onto something, they could excuse a longer stay.


The silence lingered after that. But it wasn’t cold, or uncomfortable. It was a warm silence, one between friends who knew each other well enough to surpass the need for words. Sometimes… Sometimes just being together was enough.

“I bet James would’ve loved these things,” Sirius eventually muttered.

Remus scoffed. “He definitely would’ve found a way to pull a prank with one, that’s for sure.”

“I wonder what Harry would think of them.” Sirius’ voice was quiet, but Remus heard him nonetheless. He wished that he could give some sort of supportive reply, an assurance that Sirius could just ask the kid when they got back. But he knew that that was impossible. There was a strict no-talking-to-Harry rule.

Instead, he went for, “Why don’t we find out if they’re real, first?”

Which wasn’t as comforting as he would’ve liked. But at least it would get Sirius out of dark mood and back into something more productive.

“Yeah, alright,” the Animagus grunted, pushing himself off of the tree. “We’re not learning anything new from this place anyway, and it doesn’t look like these supposed ghosts are coming back, either.”

“Maybe we should pick a spot that they frequent and wait?”

Sirius hummed noncommittally. “Like what, the school? I’m sure that that would go over well.”

“It’s the weekend, Sirius.” Remus rolled his eyes. “We could try the mall or the restaurant.”

“It’s weekend already?” Sirius blinked, somewhat stunned. “Huh. But, uh. I think the mall would be better. They’ll probably expect us to pay if we’re staking out the restaurant for several hours.”

“Probably,” Remus agreed with a sigh. “Let’s just try and at least get enough information to satisfy Dumbledore tonight. If we can prove that there is something going on, we can stay for another week.”

Chapter Text

The distant sound of an explosion sounded. Remus frowned, looking over at Sirius. “Should we--”

Another explosion, far closer, cut him off. Dust filled the air instantly.

“Yeah,” Sirius croaked. “Sounds like it’s close. We might finally see one.”

Remus nodded, walking closer to the source of the explosion. He held a hand near his wand – he couldn’t draw it while Muggles might be around, but they didn’t know how dangerous these beings might be.

Suddenly a loud booming noise blew away the cloud of dust, revealing a lone humanoid figure. Remus would’ve thought her human, if it weren’t for her hair.

The being had her back turned towards them, one hand clawing a guitar and the other hovering near it. She was dressed in form-fitting black clothes, but ones that Remus could hardly describe. Her hair, her most notable feature, was blue and bound in a ponytail. More notably, however, it was flickering like fire, defying gravity. She was also glowing faintly, her hair brighter than the rest of her body.

She was standing in a dent in the floor, her head moving minutely. Was she looking for something?

Remus was snapped out of his inspection when Sirius pulled him down. He was crouched behind a table, which was flipped on its side. “Careful. We don’t want it to see you yet,” the man hissed quietly.

Remus nodded in answer and opened his mouth to reply--

“What is it with you and the mall?” a young voice suddenly called out. It echoed eerily, defying logic. “Had to go for somewhere busy, didn’t you?”

Remus and Sirius exchanged glances. Then they both turned to peek over the table.

Hovering in the open air of the mall was another humanoid figure. Remus vaguely recognized him – he had been on one of Dumbledore’s photos. Also humanoid, with a healthy skin tone but unsuitably white hair. Bright green eyes, a skintight black suit of sorts, but with white gloves and boots. The white glow he gave off was easier to see than the one the grounded being gave off. Was it a measure of strength? Or did it respond to something else, like emotions?

“Dipstick,” the female ghost growled, voice also echoing. “Can’t you just leave me alone?!”

The last statement she supported by swiping her hand over her guitar. This, in turn, released a visual (and quite audible) sound wave in the direction of the floating boy.

He dodged it easily, legs blending together in a single black wisp. “No can do, Ember.” A flickering green flame grew around his hand, and he grinned at the other being.

Then, in the blink of an eye, he fired a beam of equally green energy. It hit his opponent in the chest, blowing her back and knocking her guitar out of her hands.

The boy dove down, reaching behind him with one hand. Once he was at ground level, he pulled his hand forward again. In it, he held a metal tube of sorts, detailed with green. He twisted the top off, then aimed the open end at the female ghost.

She yelled out some incomprehensible curse, but was somehow sucked into the tube, despite it being far smaller than her. The guitar soon followed suit.

He shook his head with a sigh as he capped the canister again. “It would be nice if these guys learned their lessons for once,” he muttered.

The being glanced around, and apparently spotted Sirius and Remus. Remus tensed, ready to protect himself if needed--

But the apparent teenager just gave them a short wave before shooting up towards the ceiling. Remus tried to track him, but the being passed through the intact roof effortlessly – like a ghost.

“Well,” Sirius said as he stood up. “At least we have proof that these so-called ghosts exist.”

“And that they’re apparently fond of fighting.” Remus looked around the mall. The destruction wasn’t very severe, but it seemed perfectly in line with what they had already seen in their first week. “Or that white-haired one is, at least.”

Sirius nodded, brushing some dust off of his clothes. “Do you think that he picks fights all the time? That that’s why the city has damages everywhere?”

“Maybe. Or maybe the others are all prone to causing trouble and he stops them.” Remus shrugged, making his way towards the exit of the mall. “We don’t know enough yet. But we can ask around. I remember seeing him on one of Dumbledore’s photos. Maybe the Muggles here know more about him.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Sirius agreed, shoving his hands into his pockets.


“Ghosts, huh?” The man eyed the two of them. But it didn’t seem suspicious. More… inspecting? Considering? “Yeah, I know some things about them. As much as anybody here, at least.”

“Are they that common?” Remus asked, quirking a brow at the man. “That everybody around here knows about them?”

“Yeah,” the man admitted with a shrug. “Common, and dangerous. We’re lucky to go a day without a ghost attack, really. And that’s not even counting sights of Phantom flying around, patrolling the city or whatever he does.”

“Phantom?” Sirius repeated with a frown. “Kind of a shoddy name for a ghost.”

“That’s what he calls himself. We used to call him Inviso-Bill, at first, but he didn’t like that.” The man grinned a little. “He’s fond of puns, but I guess that he didn’t like that one.”

“Is he, by any chance, the white haired teenager?” It was unlikely, but… if he really was that common…

“You’ve seen him? Yeah, that’s Phantom alright.”

“What can you tell us about him?” Sirius’ frown relaxed.

“Not much,” the man admitted with another shrug. “I try to avoid ghost attacks, and Phantom is rarely seen outside of them. You’d have more luck asking someone who frequents them.”

“Like who?” Remus asked, dubious. Why would anyone frequent dangerous attacks, no matter what kind of magical being was responsible for them?

“Like the Fentons, or…” he trailed off, eyes settling on someone in the distance. He grinned, pointing at the man. “Or someone like him. That’s Lancer, he teaches at Casper High – the local high school. They get a lot of attacks there, so he can probably tell you more.”

Remus took the dismissal for what it was and nodded. “Alright, thank you for your help. We’ll go talk to him.”

The man immediately took off, eagerly escaping the conversation. Sirius, meanwhile, was studying their new person of interest. “Looks kind of shabby. Bald and fat – not an appealing combination.”

“The important part is his knowledge, Sirius, not his looks.” But he was certainly right. The man in question was less than appealing to look at. But he was still stuck on the previous man’s reference to ‘the Fentons’. These people apparently frequented ghost attacks, but why? Would they be able to offer more knowledge as well?

Seeing Sirius storm to approach the man snapped Remus out of his thoughts, however. He had no doubt that Sirius would burst into the conversation as bluntly as possible.

“Excuse me, sir!” he called, to make sure that Sirius wouldn’t get a chance to be rude. Or to ruin their first introduction with rudeness. “Are you Mr. Lancer?”

The man blinked, apparently surprised by their sudden approach. “Yes?” he said dubiously. “Who is asking?”

Remus stuck out his hand, offering a small smile. Sirius offered a far more toothy grin, but didn’t move his hand. “I’m Remus Lupin, and this is Sirius. We heard that you could tell us about the local ghosts.”

Lancer accepted his hand and shook it. “I… could tell you a little, yes. But if you’re after in-depth knowledge you’ll have to try the Fentons, I’m afraid.”

“Who’re they?” Sirius asked, also shaking Lancer’s hand. “The other guy referred to them too.”

“They’re… local ghost hunters. You’ll want to speak with the parents – they’re quite recognizable. Both prefer to wear their hazmat jumpsuits around town, Maddie in teal and Jack in orange.” He sighed, sweeping a hand over his head as if he was combing through his hair. “If you haven’t seen them, you can try their house. It’s very obvious – it’s the one with the precarious metal UFO balancing on the top of it and with the bright sign in front of it.”

Remus frowned. “If they’re ghost hunters, why doesn’t everybody recommend them as a source of knowledge?” he wondered out-loud.

“Because they’re obsessed.” Lancer sighed, dropping his hand again. “I recommend only going there if you have to. Jack, especially, will talk for hours on end if you get him started on ghosts. Maddie, I’m afraid, is not much better.”

“Then what can you tell us?” Sirius asked.

Lancer stayed silent for a little longer, pondering. “It depends on what kind of knowledge you’re looking for, I suppose. Most of what I can offer you is insubstantial, or things I’ve heard from the Fentons rather than direct knowledge.”

“Do you know why the ghosts cause so much damage?” Remus tried. It seemed like their best shot at useful information – it would tell them if these beings were dangerous, and why they acted. If they could be turned on Voldemort, that would be a boon for the war.

But Lancer sighed again, frowning. “According to the Fentons, ghosts are malevolent beings that cause trouble because it’s in their nature. But… I am not sure if I agree with that. Most ghosts certainly seem to be like that. But there is one exception.”

“Phantom?” Remus guessed. If that was the case, this Phantom could be worth investigating.

Lancer nodded. “Exactly. Now, opinions on him are quite divided. He has done a number of questionable things, especially when he first started appearing in this town, less than a year ago. But… he also fights off the other ghosts. Maybe he’s just territorial. Maybe he’s trying to do good.” He shook his head. “I wouldn’t know.”

“Thank you for your time anyway. And for your… advice… regarding the Fentons.” Remus offered a lopsided grin. “We’ll keep it in mind if we get very desperate for knowledge.”

The man said his goodbyes and left. Sirius cocked a brow at Remus. “Please tell me we’re not gonna go to these Fentons.”

“We’ll hold off for now.” Remus sighed, mussing up his hair. “We can work with what we know so far. Let’s talk it over in some place frequently attacked by ghosts, see if we can spot another encounter.”

Sirius nodded, pointing in a seemingly random direction with his thumb. “Supposedly that Nasty Burger restaurant is attacked pretty often.”


“Thank god for summer.”

Remus snapped out of his thoughts. The voice seemed vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. He glanced around the restaurant he and Sirius had been staking out, but didn’t see anyone he recognized.

“It was the black haired kid,” Sirius offered, cocking his head in the direction of a trio of teenagers. Two were already seated, the black-haired male that Sirius referred to, and a darker skinned guy wearing a red beret. A girl, also with black hair, was just taking a seat opposite of the two.

Remus frowned, looking over the group again. None of them seemed particularly note-worthy, and he didn’t recognize any of them – he hadn’t even seen them in Amity before. Maybe the black-haired kid just sounded similar to one of his previous students?

“It’s been a long year,” the girl agreed with the boy, sounding weary. “I’m glad that it’s finally over.”

“Hopefully next year will be better,” the last member of the group added. “Since you’ve got a better grip on things now.”

The black-haired boy nodded. “Yeah. And it’ll be easier to hide all of the weird stuff during the summer, too.”

This caught Remus’ attention – and apparently Sirius’ as well, since he perked up.

“It’s gotten better, at least,” the darker boy said, apparently attempting to cheer up the other teen. “Your control has gone up a lot this past year.”

The black-haired boy shoved in face into the table and groaned in response. A mumbled “I know” could barely be made out.

The girl shook her head but patted him on the shoulder anyway. “Besides, Danny, we’ve got a lot of time this summer. We’ll work on it tons, okay?”

“Fine,” the boy – Danny – sighed, drawing out the syllable as he lifted himself off of the table again.

“Besides, I’ve already gotten a schedule prepared.” The other boy whipped out some kind of technological gadget – Remus wasn’t familiar enough with them to recognize it. The kid tapped on it with some kind of pen before showing it to the other two. “Plenty of time for all of us to work on control.”

“Yeah, I’m not sure that I trust that.” The girl squinted at the screen, then the boy holding that. “I still remember when you were in charge of Danny’s schedule at the start of this year.”

Sam!” the boy said, affronted. “How could you!”

Danny huffed out a laugh, shaking his head in what appeared to be exasperation. “No offense Tuck, but I agree with Sam. Why don’t we run over it with Jazz, first?”

“I thought that Jazz didn’t believe in ‘magic’.” The boy supported the last word with air quotes and an eye roll, but stuffed the appliance back into one of his pockets anyway. “But fine, whatever. Don’t trust in technology.”

“Oh, I trust in technology alright.” Sam leaned forward and poked ‘Tuck’ in the chest. “I just don’t trust you. Not with this, at least.”

“Ouch,” the boy muttered. Then he consoled himself by shoving a handful of fries into his mouth.

“Hey!” the other boy exclaimed, shoving ‘Tuck’. “Tucker, those were the last ones!”

“Too bad,” Tucker mumbled, swallowing the fries. “Should’ve grabbed them sooner.”

Sam sighed, shaking her head at the two boys. “We should get going anyway. We still need to talk with Jazz.”

“I guess.” Danny shot another dark look at Tucker, but pushed himself out of his seat. “But I’m remembering this, Tuck.”

“Yeah, right,” Tucker muttered under his breath, following the other two towards the exit. The empty carton of fries he chucked in the trash as he passed it.

Remus and Sirius sat in silence for a moment longer, before Sirius cleared his throat.

“That was… interesting.”

“They sounded like they knew about magic.” Remus frowned. No one magic ever came here, but… maybe the three were Muggle-born? America was far larger than the UK – it wouldn’t be unreasonable that they might’ve been missed by the Ministry.

“But to have no control at their age? They looked like they were 4th or 5th years, Remus.” Sirius shook his head, glancing in the direction of the exit again.

“Maybe their Ministry missed them somehow.” Or maybe the supposed ghosts had something to do with it. Maybe they were some bizarre new form of Obscurus – or some type of creature similar in nature. “And they clearly already had some control. If they’re here as isolated as I think they are, they probably don’t even have wands.”

“And what, there are just three Muggle-borns running around this city without anyone knowing about it?” Sirius grunted, then shook his head. “It doesn’t matter, anyway. It’s not like we can do anything for them.”

Remus shrugged, frown easing up a little. “We can at least tell them about magic. If they really have nobody to teach them, they must be so confused.”

Sirius sighed, but finally gave in. “Fine, fine. If we run into tell we’ll give them the whole magic spiel. Whatever. Let’s just focus on learning more about this one ghost. What’d they call him again?”


“Phantom? Yeah, of course I know him.” The teenage girl offered them a brilliant smile, sweeping her long black hair over her shoulder. “He’s the love of my life! He saves me from ghosts all the time.”

Remus frowned at this admission. Whether Phantom was actually a ghost or not, most of the population seemed to have no problem looking at him as a human. Which was… somewhat surprising, considering how the magical community saw beings that very much were former humans.

“And you’re not deterred by the fact that he’s dead?” Sirius had a lopsided smile on his face as he asked, blunt as ever.

The girl rolled her eyes, clicking her tongue. “You don’t understand, and I don’t care enough to explain. He’s a hero, and he’s hot. That’s all that matters.”

Remus shook off his thoughts to focus on the matter at hand. “So you don’t think that he has done the bad things the public blames him for?”

“No way. My ghost boy would never do such things!” She crossed her arms, glaring them down just for suggesting it. “And now if you don’t mind, I have better things to do.”

And with a sniff and a raised chin, she stormed off.

“Well, that was… something.” Sirius frowned, looking in the direction that the girl had left in. “For some reason, teenagers seem to like him way more than the adults do.”

“They don’t mind that he’s not human, either.” Even most adults didn’t. It was… weird. It went against Remus’ expectations, against everything he knew. “I thought Muggles were supposed to be the less accepting people?”

Sirius eyed him for a moment, thoughtful. “Maybe they’re just better around here. I suppose if these ‘ghosts’ attack as often as they say, any help is welcome, human or not.”

Then he grinned, serious moment over again. “Although if he really is a ghost of some sort, it’s kind of weird for these kids to be crushing on him.”

“I suppose it’s not as weird as it could be.” Remus shrugged. “At least these ghosts are corporeal.”

Sirius barked out a laugh. “Right you are!” Then he shook off the laughter, glancing around them. He pointed at another teenager, another girl. “Why don’t we ask her too, and then we’ll call quits for today?”

Remus eyed the girl Sirius picked out. She was darker skinned, long curling hair cascading down her back. Dressed in fairly ordinary clothes, and with a shopping bag slung around her arm.

Then he shrugged. “Sure, why not.”

Sirius nodded, heading over to the girl. “Excuse me, miss!”

The girl slowed, looking over her shoulder with a frown. She raised her free hand to point at herself, a silent question.

“Yeah, you.” Sirius caught up to her, Remus not far behind. “What d’you know about ghosts?”

The girl stiffened, and Remus rolled his eyes at Sirius’ blunt approach. “Sorry about him. We’re tourists and new to the town. We’ve heard all kinds of opinions about ghosts around here, especially about Phantom. Teenagers seem to have a different view on him than adults, so we were hoping to hear about it from a teen’s point of view. Do you have a minute for us?”

“Oh,” she muttered, shifting her bag around in her hands. “I guess I got some time, yeah. But I’m not going anywhere.”

“Of course not,” Remus assured her, raising his hands placatingly. “We can stay right here if you want.”

The girl nodded, then started fidgeting with the straps of the bag in her hand. “So… You wanted to know about Phantom, right?”

“Exactly. Unless you’ve got a crush on him too, we don’t need to hear about that.” Sirius quirked an eyebrow at her. Remus, on the other hand, very much hoped that this teenage girl didn’t have a crush on what was possibly a dead teenager.

“You’ve met Paulina,” the girl stated with an understanding look. “Yeah, no worries, I definitely don’t have a crush on Phantom.”

“That’s a relief.” Remus sighed, then suddenly remembered that he hadn’t introduced himself. He offered her his hand. “I’m Remus Lupin, by the way. And this is Sirius.”

The girl took his hand, gripping it with surprising strength. “Valerie.” Then she released his hand, a thoughtful expression on her face.

“As for Phantom… I guess that he’s not as bad as most adults think. For a long time I thought he was out to cause trouble, but…” She shrugged. “I guess that I’ve seen proof that he means well.”

“So you don’t think that he’s a malevolent being either?” Sirius noted.

Valerie made a face, but eventually nodded. “Yeah, I guess so. I don’t know about all the stuff he’s done wrong, and maybe he was a bad guy at the start, but he isn’t anymore, I don’t think. I dunno. I guess I’m not quite sold on him yet.”

Remus nodded understandingly. “You’re neutral. You’ve seen good things and bad things, and you’re not sure enough about your information to make a decision.”

She eyed him for a moment. “Yeah. Yeah, that sounds about right. Now, if that was all you needed…” She held up her shopping bag. “I really need to bring this home.”

“No, that was all.” Remus offered her a smile. “Thank you for your insight.”


Remus held the scroll of parchment loosely. He and Sirius had summarized everything that they had learned this week, noting it down for Dumbledore.

These beings appeared to be some sort of Spirit creature, although their category was dubious. The people around Amity seemed convinced that they were ghosts, but hadn’t been able to figure out any of the ghosts’ living identities. They might, instead, be non-beings; very similar to poltergeists, except far more powerful.

Additionally, they had noted that almost all of these ‘ghosts’ were malevolent in nature. If not outright harmful, they certainly thrived on chaos and fear – again, much like poltergeists. The one bizarre exception seemed to be a teen-like ghost by the name of Phantom. He instead fought off the other ghosts, seemingly protecting the small town of Amity Park.

They were hoping to get a chance to encounter Phantom again. While the public had varying opinions, the general consensus seemed to be that he was a good person. If they could find him and talk to him, they could make a better judgment of his personality.

That, and he might be able to tell them more about his species. Because neither Sirius nor Remus wanted to try their luck with the Fentons if they didn’t have to.

A sudden burst of flames lit up the hotel room as Fawkes materialized. The large crimson bird eyed the room before setting down on the back of a chair.

Obediently, he held out a clawed foot in Remus’ direction.

“Thank you, Fawkes,” Remus said as he handed the bird the scroll. The bird simply thrilled, then flared out of existence again.

“And now we wait,” Sirius groaned, leaning back in his seat.

Luckily, they didn’t have to wait for very long. Fawkes returned with Dumbledore’s reply, leaving as soon as Remus held the scroll.

Quickly he read through it. Dumbledore’s reply was short, little more than an acknowledgment of their message and confirmation that they can stay for another week.


“What’d he say?” Sirius asked, pushing himself upright.

“Nothing much.” Remus shrugged, handing the scroll to Sirius. “But he’s supportive of our idea to learn more about Phantom. If he really is as good as he appears, Dumbledore wants us to try and recruit him for the Order.”

Sirius clicked his tongue as he accepted the parchment. “Let’s hope he meets our expectations, then.”

Chapter Text

“There he is!”

Sirius’ exclamation was followed up by a hacking cough – the man must’ve inhaled some of the plentiful ash and dust while shouting. Remus glanced over the piece of debris he was hiding behind, in the direction where Sirius was pointing.

He looked just in time to see Phantom cap the cylindrical device and put it away. The enemy, which had caused significant damage and several fires, was already gone. Remus hadn’t seen what the being had looked like, but it must’ve been very dangerous. Another point which suggested that Phantom was, indeed, as good as people said.

The teenage ghost sighed deeply, dragging his white-gloved hands down his face. Then he cast his eyes around the area with a grimace. “Yeesh, not great. Let’s see if I can clean up some of this…”

Sirius glanced at Remus with a raised eyebrow. The man shrugged in response. He didn’t know what the being was planning to do, but it might pay to watch before approaching him.

Before Sirius could open his mouth, however, Phantom reached into a previously unseen pocket and grabbed…

“Is that a wand?” Sirius hissed quietly, incredulous.

And indeed it was. The wood was a rather standard brown, perhaps a little paler than most wands, but nothing particularly special. In design, too, it was a little simple, but it certainly looked like a regular wand.

The ghost dove down closer to one of the raging fires. Then he took a deep breath (another hint that this being wasn’t dead or a ghost, really) and pointed the wand at the base of the flames. His face screwed up in concentration, Phantom called out an incantation.

Aqua Eructo!

A powerful spout of water burst from the tip of the wand, extinguishing the fire. Nodding to himself, Phantom started turning mid-air, aiming the water at all the flames.

“What the bloody hell.” Sirius looked at Remus, eyes wide. “How does he have a wand? I thought the MACUSA said that they hadn’t detected any traces of magic?”

Remus, admittedly, didn’t know either. “I don’t know, but if he possesses magic, he’s definitely a magical being. We need to talk to him.”

Sirius nodded, and then, before Remus could stop him, jumped over the rock they were hiding behind. “Hey Phantom!” he yelled, raising a hand in greeting.

The being visibly startled, almost dropping his wand in the process. He whipped around, glowing green eyes wide with fear. He looked at Sirius first, but saw Remus almost immediately after.

“Can we--” Sirius started saying, but the ghost faded out of visibility immediately. The man blinked for a moment, then lamely finished, “--talk.”

“I think that that’s a no,” Remus concluded as he walked over. Phantom had extinguished all the fires before he left, and had even washed away some of the ash and soot. “Maybe we should’ve approached more slowly.”

Sirius sighed. “Maybe. I guess that that means that you should approach him next time?”

“That might be for the best.” Remus offered a small smile. “You might scare him off if you try again.”

The other man nodded grimly. Then suddenly he brightened again. “D’you think he knows about the Statute of Secrecy? Since he immediately left when we spotted him doing magic? None of the Muggles ever mentioned it.”

“That, or it’s just something he’s trying to keep secret.” Remus shrugged. “If he’s got so many enemies, even among the people he’s trying to protect, I can imagine that he wants to keep some things a secret.”

“Like me and my Animagus form? I guess that that makes sense.” Sirius frowned. “Still, I wonder where he got the wand from. There aren’t supposed to be any wizards here. Did he steal it from somewhere else, before he came here?”

“We don’t even know what he is, or where he came from.” Remus scratched his cheek, thinking. “Spirits, including non-beings like we thought these ghosts were, can’t use magic. And Phantom seemed to be breathing – maybe they’re some other type of Being with magic and abilities similar to those of an actual ghost.”

“Maybe we can ask him… If we can pin him down for a conversation.” Sirius glanced around the empty area around them. “Either way, maybe we should continue this conversation elsewhere. People are bound to come check out the fight scene sooner or later.”

“Right you are.” Remus nodded, dusting off his clothes. “Let’s head back to the hotel room.”


It had been just a few days since Remus and Sirius had seen Phantom do magic. The creature had returned to his elusive nature, and they hadn’t seen him again. They hadn’t had much luck figuring out what he was, either.

The two of them were just making their way through the park, when a group of three teens caught Remus’ eye. He grabbed Sirius by the upper arm, tilting his head towards the three teens. “Sirius, do you see them?”

Sirius stopped to look, then frowned. “Yeah. Those are the three kids that were talking about magic, right?”

The three were standing in a quiet corner of the park, far away from everywhere else. The black-haired male seemed to be having an animated conversation with the girl and the darker skinned kid, his hair mussed up – and getting even more messed up as he ran his hands through it.

“Let me guess, you still want to give them the magic talk?” Sirius guessed correctly. He rolled his eyes in exasperation, but nodded his approval anyway before Remus could say anything. “Fine. Let’s head over.”

Remus shot his friend a lopsided smile. “You know me so well.”

“A little too well,” Sirius grumbled as they headed towards the teens. As they approached, they could hear snatches of conversation – nothing very clear, but enough to suggest that their initial suspicions were correct.

“Hi, excuse me,” Remus said when they had gotten close enough. “You were talking about magic, right?”

“Uh… no?” the darker skinned boy – Tucker, Remus thought – tried, quirking a brow as if confused. “Magic isn’t real, obviously.”

“Yeah.” The girl (Sam?) crossed her arms, also cocking an eyebrow. Her expression was even more incredulous than the ones the boys wore. “We’re not interested in whatever lies you’re trying to sell us. Please fuck off.”

Sirius barely managed to stifle a surprised chuckle at the blunt curse. Still, he worked around his surprise to contribute to the conversation. “Then what were you talking about in the restaurant, a few days ago? Because it sure sounded like you were trying to learn to control magic.”

“Not that that’s anything to be ashamed of.” Remus grimaced a little at Sirius’ direct approach. The man was many things, but graceful in social situations he was certainly not. His attitude with kids could use some work as well. “Magic is a fickle thing to learn, and to do it without guidance is incredible. Since no one knew about your existence, no one must’ve been around to explain it to you.”

He straightened himself a little, gesturing at himself and Sirius. “We’re both experienced wizards, and graduates from Hogwarts – a highly reputable school for Witchcraft and Wizardry. I later returned as a teacher for Defense Against the Dark Arts, so as you can tell, we’re both well-trained and educated about magic. With your permission, we would like to teach you some of the basics.”

“Uncontrolled and untaught magic is dangerous,” Sirius added, frowning a little. It wasn’t clear if it was in thought or caused by some other emotion. “The three of you have done a good job figuring out things alone, but sooner or later it’ll go wrong.”

Remus opened his mouth to continue, but the black-haired boy (Danny, right?) held up his hand to stop them. Once Remus had shut his mouth again, the boy spoke up. “Thanks, but no thanks.”

“Yeah.” Tucker shrugged, a weak smile on his face. “We knew all of this already.”

Remus’ expression fell as his thoughts ground to a halt. They knew already? How? Who taught them?

Sirius looked like he was caught between breaking out in laughter and complete confusion, much like Remus himself. As Remus started working through his confusion, the man gave in to his giggles.

Shaking his head, Remus focused on the three teens instead. They looked a little disgruntled, but Remus wasn’t sure what, exactly, they were disgruntled about. “What do you mean, ‘you already know’? We were told that no one magic ever comes here. Who taught you?”

The girl shrugged, crossing her arms. “We’re self-taught.”

That shut Sirius up. His laughter subsided instantly as he focused back on the conversation. “Excuse me, what?”

“So, hold on.” Remus held up his hands placatingly. “What, you just decided that magic existed and to learn it?”

“Do you even have wands so you can actually use magic?” Sirius asked, face incredulous.

Sam rolled her eyes as she uncrossed her arms again. One hand dug into a previously unseen pocket in her skirt, revealing a shiny black wand. She presented it to Sirius and Remus.

“And no, we didn’t just decide that magic was real and that we wanted to learn it. My grandma is a witch. She recognized our accidental magic, and since no one ever came to teach us, she taught us some. That, and we have access to her books and stuff.”

Sirius frowned. “Wait, your grandma is a witch, but neither of your parents are?” Then he turned to the two boys. “And what about them?”

The black-haired boy, Danny, spoke up, crossing his arms. “We’re both No-Maj-Born. None of our parents have magic, and neither does my sister. Tucker’s parents know about magic though, and so does Jazz. We, uh, didn’t tell my parents.”

Remus was about to ask why, when Sam cut back in. “And my dad is a Squib. My mom is also a No-Maj, she didn’t know about magic until I started showing signs of possessing magic. Neither of them want me to talk about it though, they want to be normal.” The last word was bitten out with extreme venom.

“How come no one detected the use of underage magic, then?” Remus asked, frowning a little. How were these three kids missed by the Ministry? Especially if they were actually practicing magic on their own, without trying to hide it.

“We think it might be related to the ghosts,” Danny offered with a shrug and a sheepish expression. “The Wizarding World obviously isn’t familiar with these ghosts, but we are. Just like traditional Wizarding ghosts, they’re immune to magic – cancel it out, even. But they don’t originate in this world, but in another dimension.”

“The separation between our world and the so-called Ghost Zone is especially thin around Amity Park,” Tucker continued when Danny stopped talking. “Since their ectoplasmic energy seeps through that veil and into our world, we think it might be messing with magic detection spells.”

“So then why not contact the Ministry?” Remus asked, frowning. “Even if they missed you, surely if you contacted them they would’ve let you attend a Wizarding school?”

The three teens shared a long glance. It was Sam who finally spoke up. “I suppose we could’ve, but we’re fine with how things are. I think we’re doing a pretty good job with learning magic already, and we didn’t want to leave behind our families and our lives.”

Sirius’s brow creased, apparently in confusion. The sentiment must be confusing to him, a Pureblood wizard who was all too happy for a chance to get away from his family.

“Well, I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway.” Remus sighed, combing a hand through his hair. “We’re not responsible for you or your magical education. And we don’t have to worry about you three having no one to look after you, since you have your grandma and actual books to learn from.”

“But thanks for the concern anyway.” Danny smiled a little. “It wasn’t necessary in this case, but your intentions were good.” His smile turned into something more like a grimace. “It came across as a little creepy, but still.”

“Yeah, sorry about that.” Sirius laid a hand on the back of his head. “Guess we didn’t think it through entirely.”

Before anything more could be said, however, a ringing sounded. Danny started, then pulled a small machine from his pocket. He flipped it open and hit a button, then held it to his ear. “Yeah?”

His expression fell as he listened to the machine, twisting further into a grimace. When he closed the appliance again, he looked rather apologetic. “Sorry, that was my sister. I really gotta get home. Sam, Tuck, you should probably get home too, before your parents get worried.”

Both the other teens nodded, and Sam stowed her wand again. “Ida could cover for me, but yeah, probably.” Then she turned to Remus and Sirius. “Well, it was nice meeting you, even if you never actually introduced yourselves.”

Remus shook his head at the chastisement. “Right you are. I’m Remus Lupin, and this is Sirius. It was nice meeting you three as well.”

“What he said,” Sirius cheerily added. “We should head off too.”

Their groups split, the three teens leaving in separate directions while Remus and Sirius stayed behind.

“And we learned something more about these ghosts,” Sirius remarked, turning to face Remus again. “Although if these ghosts cancel magic, I do wonder how Phantom was able to perform it.”

Remus nodded in agreement. “That at least answers the question of how he acquired a wand. He might’ve gotten one from these three teens, either as a gift or stolen from one of them.”

“Hopefully he’ll stop avoiding us.” Sirius sighed. “As nice as it is to be out of the house, I kind of want to head back to Britain. I’m… worried that Harry will get himself in some mess, and I won’t be around to help. Again.”

“I’m sure he’ll be fine, Sirius.” Remus laid a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Besides, it’s summer. What’s the worst that could happen?”


A shiver ran over Remus’ back, and he had to distinct feeling that he was being watched. He looked around the empty street, however, and saw no one besides himself and Sirius.

Then he remembered where he was, and looked up. Right into two vivid green eyes.

“Why are you two chasing after me?” Phantom asked, his wispy tail twitching in… irritation, it seemed like. “I keep seeing you two in places where you shouldn’t be. Didn’t anyone tell you that you should run away from a ghost fight?”

“Nope!” Sirius declared brightly. “Besides, we’re wizards. We can take care of ourselves.”

“Uh huh.” Phantom didn’t seem surprised by their declaration of magic. While he probably already knew about magic, being a magical creature himself, how could he know that they were magic? “You do realize that you’re dealing with ghosts, right? Immune to magic and all that?”

Sensing the impending fight, Remus interfered. “Regardless, we wanted to learn more about ghosts. And, more recently, speak with you.”

“Most people just ask around.” Phantom rolled his eyes. “But fine, you got me. Here we are, talking. Now what?”

Remus briefly considered bringing up the fact that Phantom somehow used magic despite being a ghost, but put it off for the moment. Recruiting him was more important. The details of what he was and can do could wait.

“Are you familiar with the Wizarding War?” he asked instead. Better to gently lead Phantom into the war and the reason they were fighting. He didn’t know what motivated Phantom, or what might trigger him into aggression.

The ghost frowned, then shook his head in the negative. “No, I don’t think so. I’m kind of distanced from the Wizarding World, as you might understand.”

“So you haven’t heard of Voldemort either?” Sirius frowned. It was hard to imagine anyone not knowing of Voldemort and his war, but… this was a whole different continent, with a supposedly dead being who haunted a town that wizards avoided.

Once again the ghost shook his head. “No. But why are you asking about this… this war?”

Sirius and Remus shared a glance, then Sirius tilted his head – Remus should answer this one. “We are… members of a group of people who fight against Voldemort, as part of the war. We… We protect the people, to make sure no one else has to fight.”

“Okay… I still don’t see why you’re telling me this.” Phantom’s tail split back into legs, and the ghost hovered mere inches above the floor. Like this, he was at eye-height for both wizards. “I’m just a ghost.”

“You’re a protector too,” Remus insisted. “And a powerful one, from what we’ve heard and seen. We’ve watched as you protected the people of this town… And we think you could help defend Britain against Voldemort, too.”

The ghost clearly thought this over, brow creased a little. Then his expression grew more stern, more serious. “Okay. Well, that’s all nice and stuff, but you haven’t even told me why you’re fighting against this ‘Voldemort’. A war doesn’t just start, there has to be a reason behind it.”

“Oh yeah,” Sirius agreed, scowling. “He’s got plenty of reasons to start a war. All terrible, of course.”

“He’s a blood supremacist,” Remus expanded. “He believes that only the best, most pure-blooded wizards should be allowed to exist. Muggles, Muggle-borns, and half-bloods all deserve extinction – and not to mention what he thinks of magical creatures.”

This seemed to have done the trick. Phantom’s frown deepened, his white glow flickering brighter. “Is that so?”

“Yup.” Sirius folded his arms over each other, faux-casual. “And he has no problem with cold-blooded murder and torture to achieve this. Years ago, during his first attempt at the Wizarding War, he was stopped when he tried to murder a baby – his spell backfired. Now he’s back, and we fear the worst.”

“That’s… awful.” Phantom slumped in a little, and even landed on the floor. His white boots touched down noiselessly, but his posture suggested that he actually rested on the floor, rather than hovering right over it. “I just… I’ve heard of such people in the past, of course, but… I didn’t think anyone still existed who thought of other people like that.”

The boy combed his hands through his hair, aggravated. “I mean, people treat me like I’m lesser all the time, just because I’m a ghost. But to do so based on something like this… It’s insane.”

“Hence why we’re fighting him.” Sirius shot the ghost a toothy grin, but it was clearly wasn’t a happy one.

“Right you are.” The ghost nodded. “I just… You’re right, and I would love to help… Can I think about it?”

Remus nodded. “Of course. We’re messaging back the leader of our group Saturday night, so if possible we would like to hear back from you before then. If you know anybody else who could or might want to help, we would be happy to hear from them too.”

The ghost grimaced. “I don’t think so. Most ghosts who enter the human world don’t have good intentions. The others, ghosts that I’m allied with, prefer to stay in the Zone and out of human business. Plus, most of them aren’t all that familiar with the Wizarding World, and they certainly don’t care about it.”

How could ghosts not know about the Wizarding World? Aren’t all ghosts the remains of magical beings, human or otherwise? Remus was about to ask this, when the ghost lifted off the ground again and snapped him out of his thoughts.

“I’ll think about what you said about the war, and I’ll let you know before Saturday night. I gotta go for now, bye!”

And then the ghost faded out of visibility. A wind whipped past Remus almost immediately after, suggesting that the ghost had flown off.

“Well,” Sirius clapped his hands together, “I think that we did our job.”

Remus nodded. “Hopefully he’ll join the Order. He seemed to agree with our side of the war, at least.”

“I would’ve thought that mentioning Voldie’s hate of non-humans would do the trick, but apparently he cared more about the people-hating.” Sirius shrugged. “Surprising, but not in a bad way.”

“Indeed.” Then Remus frowned. “Still, his suggestion that most ghosts of his kind don’t know about the Wizarding World… Do you think that that’s somehow related to them existing in a different dimension? That they’re somehow too distant from the living world to remember such things?”

“I don’t know.” Sirius’ brow creased. “I suppose we could try asking those kids, if we run into them again. They seemed to know more about these ghosts than we do.”

Remus nodded. “Maybe they could tell us more about Phantom and his powers, too. I still don’t understand how he used magic, especially since both he and those kids mentioned that his type of ghost is immune to magic.”

“It’s certainly baffling,” Sirius agreed. “But for now, we’ll learn nothing more, I don’t think. We’ll just have to wait.”

Chapter Text

Danny sighed deeply. He felt exhausted, both physically and mentally. Ghost hunting continued to eat away at his spare time, and fitting in training for both his ghost powers and his magic took what little was left. He honestly wasn't sure how he had made it through his first year of high school. There was no way that he had studied enough to actually pass the year.

But more importantly, however, were the two wizards he had run into. That knew that he, and Sam and Tucker, were magical. That wanted to recruit Phantom for a god-damn war.

His sigh had drawn the attention of the other three people in the room. They all looked at him with a variety of concern on their faces – Sam and Tucker on his bed, and Jazz on a chair on the opposite end of the room.

"Sorry," he apologized, rubbing the back of his neck. "I'm just… tired."

Jazz clicked her tongue. "You wouldn't be if you took a little more time to sleep, Danny."

"I don't know, dude," Tucker intercepted. "I'm getting pretty exhausted from all this discussing as well."

Jazz shot him a short glare, then rolled her eyes amicably. "I know, I know. But this is an important discussion to have. Danny has a big decision to make, and one he should carefully consider."

"Jazz," Danny groaned, laying his head on the desk in front of him. "I know. That's why we're all here, remember?"

Then he pushed himself further upright, dragging his hands over his face in an attempt to wake himself up. "Okay, okay. Let's just… recap this. Or something."

Sam, leaning against his headboard with her back, raised a hand. "Alright. First of all, there are two British wizards in Amity Park." She raised a single finger. "Second, these wizards now know that we exist, and that we don't have proper magical training." A second finger went up. "Third, these wizards are apparently here because they want Phantom to fight on their side of some kind of war." A third finger joined the other two. Sam paused, looking at the three raised digits. "Is that all?"

"Both wizards are actually trained, and one of them worked as a teacher at a prestigious school?" Tucker offered with a shrug. Sam raised a fourth finger in answer. "And I guess that it's worth mentioning that this war is very real and that these guys are absolutely on the right side of it."

"Right," Sam nodded and her thumb joined the other fingers. "So those are the important facts, right?"

"I guess…" Danny trailed off, licked his lips, then tried again. "I guess that I should help. Even if this war is just in Britain right now, sooner or later it will spill over, right? Better to nip it in the bud before it's too late."

Jazz stared at him, her eyes sharp and knowledgeable. She really did know him too well. "But?"

He sighed again. "I'm just… worried. What if something happens here, while I- we are away? What if Amity needs my help, too?"

"Danny, it'll be okay," Jazz soothed, getting up so she could rub his shoulder comfortingly. "Mom and Dad and Valerie can take care of things. And if, heaven forbid, something happens that they can't handle… I can always contact you. It's not like we can't call, you know?"

Sam and Tucker shared a silent glance, then stood up to settle around him as well. "Besides," Tucker said, "See it as an investment into the future. These guys are serious wizards – that Lupin guy even taught Defense Against the Dark Arts. If you can find a way to get them to agree to us coming along, they can help us with like, actual training. Imagine how much that would help with keeping Amity safe."

That… was a convincing argument. Danny's shoulders slumped, but he offered a tired grin to his friends and sister. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess you're both right."

Then he nodded, more resolutely. "We're gonna do this."


Remus saw Sirius suddenly sit up straight, and his hand immediately went for the wand lying in front of him. The Animagus looked wary, glancing around the room. Vaguely, Remus picked up the same thing as his friend; the room felt slightly colder all of a sudden.

"Sorry," a young echoing voice said. Then Phantom faded into visibility, rubbing his gloved hand on his neck. "I didn't mean to startle you."

Sirius sighed and slumped into himself again, and Remus turned to look at the ghost properly. His wand was still held in his hand, although he doubted that he would need it.

"It's fine Phantom, although I am a little surprised that you came to our hotel room. How did you find us?"

Phantom shrugged, dropping his hand again. "It wasn't that hard. There aren't a lot of hotels around here, and I can look through the register for your names without anyone noticing." His expression turned sheepish. "I figured this would be easier than trying to find you guys out on the street, especially since we probably want to keep this conversation a secret."

The ghost cocked his head towards Sirius, grinning a little. "Although I am surprised that you guys are listed as Remus Lupin and his dog Sirius. I've heard of Animagi before, but I've never seen any. That's pretty cool." His eyes glittered, and the being looked more like a kid than usual. Remus had to repress the urge to compare him to his students – the supposed ghost might not even be an actual child. Phantom might've been born as an ectoplasmic being. There was no guarantee that this was a dead teenager.

But that didn't make it any easier to ignore the possibility that he could be. That any of the children he taught, took care of, could die just as easily. Especially now that Voldemort was back, waging war on all of the magical world.

Sirius grinned back at Phantom, eagerly taking in the compliment. "I imagine not, if you're either in this town abandoned by magic or another realm." Then Sirius seemed to get an idea, because his smile widened. "Speaking of which, would you mind telling us some more about that?"

Phantom blinked, as if jarred by the sudden change in topic. He frowned, remained silent for a moment as if considering his options. Then he shrugged. "I guess that an exchange in information would be fair, since you told me about the war and all that. What do you wanna know about the Ghost Zone?"

"Last time, you mentioned that most… ghosts… aren't very familiar with the Wizarding World." Remus turned himself in his seat entirely, so he could talk with Phantom more easily. "But aren't all ghosts the remainders of wizards or otherwise magical animals?"

"Nah," Phantom said, shaking his head. "All of the ghosts you are familiar with are. Wizarding ghosts, both human and animal, are like… an earlier form of ghosts, so to say. They tend form preemptively, from wizards who are so afraid of passing on that they use their magic to cling to life. But as a result, they barely come in touch with ectoplasmic energy, so they're like… weakened shells."

He shifted, as if getting more comfortable in the air. "If they would've let themselves pass on further, they would be able to form a ghost in the Ghost Zone. All the ectoplasmic energy in that dimension means that ghosts can form proper bodies – and powerful ones, too. I know sometimes wizards form ghosts in the Zone instead of Earth, but usually they forget so much from their lives in the process that they can't remember that magic is real. Even if they do, they rarely care about it."

Remus shared a glance with Sirius. Then, hesitantly, he asked, "Ectoplasmic energy?"

"Yeah. I guess most of the Wizarding World isn't familiar with that concept." Phantom raised a hand, and acid green energy started coiling around it, the color eerily similar to the Killing Curse. "It's what ghosts run on, basically. Wizarding ghosts hold a little of it, since the atmosphere holds some, but in the Real World, there isn't enough to form a proper body."

The energy surrounding his hand flared, then shrunk into a small glowing ball. "We can weaponize it, too. The blasts you might see us wielding are made out of pure ectoplasmic energy. And No-Maj inventors can use it to run their equipment, or even use it as weapons in turn."

"Is that related to why ghosts are immune to magic?" Sirius asked, leaning forward with an intrigued look. "Does that mean that your type of ghost is more immune, somehow?"

"Yes on the first, no on the second." Phantom tapped a finger on his cheek, as if in thought. "I'm no scientist, so this is all based on my own observations – and those of my friends. But we believe that ectoplasmic energy is basically the direct opposite of magical energy. Like, one is for the living, and the other for the dead. That's why wizards can attract it more easily when they die – No-Maj or other non-magical creatures can't form ghosts unless they're absolutely doused in it. That's why only wizards can form ghosts in this dimension."

Sirius nodded, then raised a brow. "And the second? How come you're not more immune if you contain more of the stuff?"

Phantom huffed out a laugh. "We're all made out of pure ectoplasm. Wizarding ghosts just contain less of the stuff, overall."

"If this ectoplasmic energy of yours cancels out magic, then how did you perform magic?" Remus had put down the wand, and now steepled his two hands. He would ask the ghost about these supposed friends, but he was sure he already knew. There were, after all, only four people in this town that were familiar with magic – and the three that they'd met seemed to know a lot about these ghosts, too.

"I, uh." Phantom's shoulders slumped a little. "It's not… really magic. It's a specialized ghost power that acts like magic." His shoulders crept up again, a glowing green spreading on the ghost's face like a blush. "I… tend to get new powers by mimicking other people. And I guess I sort of… copied the way my friends performed magic."

Remus pinched the bridge of his nose. "So then are the wand and the incantation even necessary?"

"Eh." Phantom bobbed his shoulders, raising and lowering them separately. "They help me focus the powers, especially if I'm trying to mimic things that my other powers can't do."

Well, that answered Remus' questions. Although the versatility of these more powerful ghosts was intriguing – and something to be concerned about, as well.

Apparently Sirius wasn't done with this line of questioning, however. "Wait, so if wizarding ghosts can pass through stuff because they have so little energy, how can you do it?"

"Intangibility is one of the standard ghosts powers," Phantom explained. "That, and flight and invisibility. Every ghost can do it, regardless of how much power they contain. And-"

Suddenly the color sapped from Phantom, until he was entirely silver and see-through. He looked like a perfectly normal wizarding ghost, bar his strange clothes. "-every ghost looks like that while intangible. Although it does take some amount of effort for us to maintain, as opposed to wizarding ghosts who have no choice in the matter."

Once he finished speaking his regular coloration returned. Then he demonstratively held out a hand, turning only that limb intangible. "And we can apply it to any part of our body, too."

Sirius turned to look at Remus, eyes big and twinkling. Oh no. Ooooh Merlin no. Sirius had clearly caught on to the pranking potential that Phantom held.

Which reminded him… The ghost came to tell them about his decision about the war, right? He had gotten so distracted by learning more about Phantom and his world that he had forgotten entirely.

"Ah, Phantom." Remus adjusted his clothes briefly, shifting them a little to get more comfortable. "You came here to tell us whether you would join us against Voldemort, yes?"

Phantom blinked his wide green eyes, surprised. "What? Oh, uh, yeah." He laughed shortly, apparently in embarrassment as he flushed green too. "Sorry, I guess I got a little distracted. But uh, yeah. This Voldemort guy sounds like really bad news, and I agree that he needs to be stopped."

Remus caught on to the silent catch. Apparently Sirius did too, because he quirked a brow at the ghost and leaned forward. "But?"

"But I want something in return," Phantom stated, solemn. Remus stiffened minutely, considering his options. There were many things a ghost could ask for, but he highly doubted any of them would be good. What could someone as powerful as Phantom want? He was so occupied with possibilities that he almost missed the second part of Phantom's sentence.

"I want you to train and educate my friends."

The actual answer was so different from Remus' thoughts that he was thrown off of his proverbial feet. "Excuse me?"

Phantom rolled his eyes but repeated himself. "My friends – they possess magic too. If I join your group of rebels or army or whatever, I want them to receive training and education for said magic. You two are graduates from Hogwarts, a highly ranked wizarding school, right?" He turned to look at Remus. "And you, specifically, are a former teacher at said school? Surely you, or someone you know, can train my friends in return for my help with this war?"

Another bit of evidence towards Remus' theory of the three teens being the friends Phantom was talking about. He was pretty sure that neither he nor Sirius had told Phantom about their background, yet somehow the ghost knew. The three teenagers must've told him.

Besides, how many untrained magical teenagers could this one town possibly contain?

Remus shared a glance with Sirius. The man simply mouthed 'Dumbledore' behind Phantom's back. Right. Since the leader of the Order was Dumbledore, that was probably pretty manageable. Well, if Dumbledore was okay with taking in three teenagers with very little training. And if those three were okay with spending a year, or longer, at Hogwarts.

"We… might be able to manage something," he ended up saying. "If you're okay with it, we can try asking Headmaster Dumbledore if he would be okay with letting your friends attend Hogwarts. He's… familiar… with the Order, too."

Phantom nodded energetically. "That sounds great! I'm sure that they would appreciate that."

"Wouldn't it be a problem for them to be away from home for a year?" Sirius asked, crossing his arms. "I assume that there is some sort of reason for them to not attend a local school, after all."

The ghost wiggled his shoulders again, making a so-so motion with his hand. "Eh, sort of. They had a bunch of reasons, but they were okay with me asking this. Besides, if they're going to a prestigious school, why wouldn't their parents be okay with it?"

Sirius stared at the ghost for a little longer, then rolled his eyes and sighed. "Fine, alright, I'll give you that."

"Anyway," Remus interrupted them before they could get into too much of a fight. "We'll see if we can arrange something for your friends. And we'll talk with the leader of the Order about having you join us, too."

Phantom nodded. "Sweet, thanks. I better get going again, then." He stuck a thumb over his shoulder.

"You do that," Remus agreed. The ghost nodded again, then the color drained from him and he flew through the wall and out of the room.

"That seems useful," Sirius pondered, looking in the direction that Phantom had gone. "Can you imagine the kind of pranks we could've pulled if we could turn parts of ourselves intangible like a ghost? Hell, even just the full intangibility and pretending to be a ghost would've been great."

Remus rolled his eyes. "Sirius, he is a ghost. And just a teenager, too. Don't encourage him."

"Who knows how old he really is, though." Sirius cocked a brow at Remus. "Moaning Myrtle has been around in Hogwarts for like, 50 years, and she hasn't aged a day."

"Just because he might've been around for so long doesn't take away the fact that he died, Sirius. Plus, he has teenage friends. I'm pretty sure that that means that he still considers himself a teenager."

Sirius huffed out a breath. "You're ruining my mood, Moony. Way to spoil the fun."

Sighing, Remus turned back to the desk he was sitting at. He didn't answer Sirius.


Fawkes arrived to mark the end of their third week in Amity Park, USA. For once, Remus felt good about the letter he and Sirius sent back to Dumbledore. After all, they had finally succeeded in recruiting new help for the Order. That, and they had made big steps into learning more about these ghosts.

Writing down everything they had learned from Phantom's one visit was… an eye-opening experience. They hadn't realized how much the ghost knew, and had told them, until they had written it down. It was rather impressive, really.

Dumbledore's reply took a lot longer than the first two times. But that wasn't very surprising, honestly. Their letter, too, had been a lot longer. And the Headmaster likely needed some time to consider Phantom's offer.

When Fawkes finally brought the reply, it had been cheery and celebratory. Dumbledore congratulated them on a job well done, and was more than happy to let the three teenagers come to Hogwarts.

'The more the merrier,' he had written. He had also noted that the three might as well stay at Grimmauld Place once they arrived in Britain. That way, it would be easier to guide them as they caught up to their new classmates.

'Besides,' Dumbledore noted, already familiar enough with Phantom to correctly estimate his character, 'there is no point in keeping the existence of our headquarters a secret. Phantom will tell them anyway, if they are such close friends.'

And, well. Remus couldn't deny that.

Chapter Text

“What are the chances that those three are Phantom’s supposed friends?”

Remus turned to follow Sirius’ gaze, and spotted exactly who he had been expecting. The three magical teenagers – Danny, Sam, and Tucker – that they had met before.

“Pretty high, I’d wager,” he answered his friend.

“Well then!” Sirius clapped his hands together, already making his way over to where the teens were walking. “Why don’t we go ask them?”

He rolled his eyes but followed the other man. They caught up to the three teenagers fairly quickly, and the five of them came to a halt near a dense corpse of trees.

“Hey kids!” Sirius shot them a wide grin. “How would you feel about joining Hogwarts for the next year or so?”

The trio shared a few short glances, before Sam shrugged and turned to face them again. “Pretty good. But that’s a pretty random offer, Mr. Lupin.”

Remus stiffened a little, doubt creeping in. Surely these kids were the friends Phantom had referred to?

“Didn’t Phantom mention the possibility?” Sirius asked, apparently not as concerned about the possibility of being wrong as Remus was. “According to him, you were the ones who asked for magical education, after all.”

Tucker frowned. “How’d you know we were the ones Phantom referred to? There are hundreds of teens in this city.”

“Hundreds of teens, sure. But how many of those are magical and knew about our histories?” Sirius rolled his eyes. “We never told Phantom – or anyone else in this town – about our histories at Hogwarts.”

Danny pressed his hand to his face and groaned. When he slowly dragged it off again, he grumbled, “Of course. Of course it was a stupid detail like that.”

“Well, no harm done.” Remus raised his hands, hoping to placate the teen again. He seemed more agitated than the situation called for, but, well. That’s just how teens were, sometimes. “Headmaster Dumbledore would be more than happy to have you three attend Hogwarts. We have arranged a place for you to stay in Britain until the school year starts, so we can help you catch up on your studies.”

Then he realized that they didn’t even know what year the teens would join. “What age are you three? The same, I presume?”

They nodded, simultaneously. Danny was the one who answered, afterwards. “Yeah, we’re all 15.”

“So that would make them fifth years,” Sirius surmised. “So that’s four years of Hogwarts education to make up for, minus whatever you three picked up on your own.”

Now Tucker was the one who groaned. “Four years? In just one summer?”

“Don’t whine.” Sam shoved him, frowning. “We’ve been studying magical stuff for years. We can’t be behind that much, at least in the practical stuff.”

Danny ignored his two squabbling friends to focus on Remus and Sirius. His eyes were big and pleading. “Please tell me that there isn’t a thing like literature or history or math which they teach at Hogwarts?”

Sirius’ grin grew wider, and Danny visibly paled. “History of Magic is a mandatory subject, yes. Arithmancy is also a subject available, but as an elective.”

Joy,” the boy grumbled. Then he perked up a little. “What about the other subjects, then?”

Sam and Tucker stopped fighting to focus back on the conversation. Remus couldn’t blame them – this was important information.

“Well, there are seven mandatory classes that are taught to everyone up to OWL level. For the third year and above, students get to pick two more electives.” Remus glanced around to make sure the three new students were still paying attention to him. Satisfied that they were, he continued.

“Hogwarts’ classes are all magical in nature. Charms, History of Magic, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, Potions, Transfiguration, and Astronomy.” Danny’s excited gasp made him pause. The boy blushed when he noticed everyone turning their attention to him.

“Sorry,” he said, his shoulders crawling up. “I just… really like space. And stars.”

“Good, well.” Remus clapped his hands to draw the attention back to him, saving the kid from further embarrassment. He studiously ignored Sirius’ disappointed look. “As for the electives, you get the choice between five subjects; Arithmancy, Care of Magical Creatures, Divination, Muggle Studies, and Studies of Ancient Runes. You’ll have to pick at least two of those, as well.”

“We’ll… think about which ones we want to follow, then.” Sam’s expression was determined but thoughtful. “Most of the main subjects we have some knowledge in, at least. And I bet that we won’t be too far behind in Defense and Charms.”

“You don’t think you’ll be behind due to your wands?” Sirius raised a brow, curious. “Are they well-suited to you? Do they even come from a reputable wand maker?”

Sam snorted, and Tucker grinned. “Yeah dude, they’re from Ollivanders.”

“And they’re well-kept and maintained?” It wasn’t unheard of for the kids to have wands from a British wandmaker. Ollivander was commonly considered to be one of the best – and traveling to a different continent wasn’t that much of a hassle with magic. He was more concerned if the wands were cared for – and how Phantom had gotten his wand. Had he stolen it from one of the three magical teens?

Two of the teens drew out their wands immediately, ready to show them off. Danny, however, didn’t take out his’.

Sam’s wand was black, and appeared to be quite rigid. It was also quite a bit longer than Tucker’s. “Ebony and dragon heartstring,” she explained, twisting the stick to show it off better.

Tucker’s, on the other hand, was pale brown and more flexible. He followed Sam’s example, stating his wand to be “Willow and unicorn hair”.

Then both adults turned to Danny, who fidgeted with one hand in his pocket – presumably the one he held his wand in. “I, uh. Do you really need to see my wand?”

Remus immediately grew suspicious, and apparently Sirius did too. “Yes,” the man said, gesturing for Danny’s wand. “Besides, your friends had no problem showing us their wands.”

The boy hesitated for a moment longer, then slowly drew the wand out of his pocket. It was somewhat pale, fairly flexible, and most importantly… quite familiar to both adult wizards.

Remus and Sirius shared a glance, and Sirius nodded once, silently confirming Remus’ thoughts. It was the same wand that they had seen Phantom with. But you couldn’t just share a wand, not even with family. Even if the wand was Danny’s, he wouldn’t be able to use it with much success. Not if Phantom was around.

“Isn’t that Phantom’s wand?” Sirius asked, crossing his arms.

“I, uh.” Danny rolled the wand around, twirling it between his fingers. “He’s my… dead twin?”

Remus shot him an unamused look, while Sirius looked more incredulous. “First of all, I doubt it. Second of all, that doesn’t explain the wand.”

“Yeah,” Sirius agreed, leaning closer to the boy. “Twins don’t have identical wands. And no wandmaker would make two wands identical in appearance, either. Especially not Ollivander.”

“Um.” He was still playing with the wand. It laid surprisingly comfortable in his hand – Remus wondered how often Danny carried it instead of Phantom. “Phantom… borrows my wand sometimes?”

Behind him, Sam and Tucker were visibly tensing. They were obviously aware of the truth… and the three of them intended to hide it, for some reason. What could be so bad that they felt the need to hide it? Were they so embarrassed to admit that Danny had no wand of his own?

“Danny,” Remus said, hoping to gently coax the boy into telling them the actual truth instead of these painful lies. “A wand won’t just switch between wizards like that – it needs to bond with a single person. And Phantom’s magical display was too good for it to not be his wand. Therefore, you must be the one who can’t get proper results from it.”

The boy stiffened, and Remus raised his hands placatingly. “But that’s okay! If this wand won’t work for you, you can get a new one from Ollivanders. We’ll need to visit Diagon Alley for your supplies, anyway.”

“But--” Danny protested, but Sirius held up his hand to shut the boy up.

“Why don’t you show us some magic? If you insist that this is your wand instead of Phantom’s, prove it.”

Sam and Tucker shared a silent conversation, but Danny gripped his wand and nodded. His expression was fierce – fiercely determined. “Alright. Got any requests?”

Sirius considered only for a brief moment, then suggested, “How about a Summoning Charm? Fourth year stuff, but useful enough that I assume you’re familiar with it.”

“And inconspicuous enough that no one else in the park will notice?” Danny shrugged, looking a little more relaxed. “Yeah, I’m familiar with it.”

Sam swiped the red beret that Tucker was wearing off of his head, then threw it into the woods they were standing next to. “Why don’t you summon that, Danny?”

The boy nodded, glanced around them to make sure that no one was watching, and held out his hand. Standing straight, he shouted out the necessary incantation. “Accio beret!”

And the hat in question zipped back almost immediately, allowing Danny to catch it almost effortlessly. He quirked a challenging brow at Sirius, handing the beret back to Tucker. “Satisfied?”

But that didn’t make sense. The wand couldn’t possibly work this well for both Phantom and Danny, not at the same time. But there was no other explanation, unless both boys were somehow one person. Which might be possible, with how little they knew about these ghosts, but still. Danny didn’t appear like a ghost – even if Phantom was more human than most of the other ghosts, too.

Sirius, in one quick move, grabbed the wand from Danny’s hand. He inspected it, carefully. “What is it made out of? What’s the core?”

“Uh.” Danny seemed thrown off by the sudden questioning, making a belated lunge to grab the wand back. Sirius dodged him without even looking. “Yew, with a core of, uh, Thestral tail-hair.”

Sirius froze, the wand held between two fingers. Danny looked at it as if he was considering grabbing it now that Sirius was distracted. “I’m sorry, the core is what?”

Remus felt inclined to agree with the shocked man. “Ollivander only uses three types of cores for his wands, and I know for a fact that none of those are Thestral tail-hair.”

“Uh, yeah.” Danny fidgeted again, rubbing the back of his neck. “I… got the wand as a gift from a friend.” Seeing their widening eyes as both Remus and Sirius thought of Phantom, he corrected, “A friend you don’t know. Not, uh. Not Phantom.”

A silence fell as everyone considered this. Then Sirius twirled the wand, pointed it in the direction of Tucker, and, with a grin, said, “Accio beret!”

Instead of a regular summoning, which had no visible effect bar the moving of the object, the wand spat out blue sparks. The light knocked the beret off of Tucker’s head, but otherwise didn’t move it.

“Huh.” Sirius eyed the wand in his hand. “That’s weird. It’s not supposed to do that.”

Danny swiped the wand back, pulling it away from Sirius. However, he made no effort to hide it, instead glaring at man he grabbed it from. “Yeah, wow. Maybe it doesn’t want to work for you.”

Something about this situation was off, somehow. The wand itself was certainly odd, the combination of wood and core seemingly designed with Phantom in mind, not Danny. So then why did the boy own the wand? Why could he wield it so well, if Sirius couldn’t?

What was so special about Danny? Why was he the only one in the group to have a special wand, one not from Ollivanders?

“Danny,” Remus started, keeping his voice soft and gentle. He had to coax the truth from the boy, not startle him into hiding it further. “Who gave you that wand?”

“I, um.” He glanced down at the wand, then looked back up and shrugged. “A ghost. Not one you’ll recognize, though. He prefers to stay unseen.”

Why would a ghost give a wand to a living boy? Why would he need such a special wand, anyway? Unless he was…

“Are you a ghost?” Sirius asked, blunt as ever.

The boy stiffened, and both of his friends shared concerned glances. And while he quickly put on a mask, an uncaring expression… It wasn’t enough to fool Remus or Sirius.

“No,” he said, stubbornly crossing his arms.

Sirius rolled his eyes, unimpressed. “Right, uh huh. Very convincing.”

Remus nudged his fellow wizard to shut him up, then turned to Danny. “Look, I’ll admit that we don’t know much about ghosts. Not this type of solid ghosts, at least. But your wand seems to only function in one of two hands; yours, and Phantom’s. And we already know Phantom is a ghost.”

“Okay.” Danny narrowed his eyes slightly, then shrugged. “I can see your reasoning, but you’re wrong. I’m not a ghost. I have a heartbeat – even the most human of ghosts can’t mimic those.” And he held out his hand demonstratively, so they could check.

Now Sirius nudged Remus. He rolled his eyes, but took Danny’s wrist to check the pulse. Danny’s hand was cold – Remus got the uncanny feeling that it was too cold – but otherwise seemed normal. When he laid his fingers down, the beat that greeted him was slow, but strong.

Still… Something was off. The heartbeat just a little too slow, the flesh just a little too cold. Maybe he wasn’t a ghost, but he wasn’t quite human either.

But Remus couldn’t blame the boy for hiding it. After all, he was very familiar with how the Magical World tended to react to anything less than human. Other magical creatures, werewolves, hell, some even looked down on Muggles like they were undeserving of their time.

And maybe he was just straight-up lying. Maybe ghosts like Phantom could have a heartbeat. They had no way to confirm or deny it.

He released the wrist again. Then he sighed, heavy and weary.

“Danny.” He folded his hands together, trying to look like the patient teacher he was – or used to be. “There is no point in denying this. I – we – can tell that you’re not human. Not entirely.” Seeing the boy’s widening eyes, he held up a placating hand.

“But that’s okay. We know that the Wizarding World is… less than pleasant towards non-humans. But I can assure you that we’re not that way.”

Danny stared at him, scrutinizing. His eyes went from wide to narrow again. Then, finally, he spoke – and caught Remus completely off-guard. “Because you’re a werewolf, right?”

Sirius looked over at Remus, eyes big and cautious – he hadn’t expected Danny to know. Sam and Tucker also looked at him, surprised – but not guarded. The benefits of having a non-human creature as a friend, Remus supposed.

“How’d you know?” Sirius had turned his gaze back to Danny, stern. And perhaps a tad protective. Remus appreciated the gesture.

The boy just rolled his eyes, crossing his arms. “I could ask you the same.”

“Look,” Remus held out his hands, hoping to calm both sides. “So I’m a werewolf, and you’re… a ghost? A very humanoid one?” He paused to consider this for a moment, then trucked on. “Either way, we’re not going to report you or anything. We just need to know what you are, and how it affects you and your magic, if you plan on attending Hogwarts. The Headmaster won’t mind, I promise.”

“I’m not--” Danny huffed out a breath. “I’m not a ghost, alright?”

“Then what are you?” Sirius glared at the boy. “Some sort of hybrid?”

“I--” He glanced over at his friends, who offered him helpless shrugs. Then Danny’s shoulders slumped down as he turned back to them. “Yeah. I’m… I’m a hybrid. I’m half ghost.”

Remus wasn’t entirely sure if he believed that, but… it wasn’t impossible. Like he had said earlier, there was a lot they didn’t know about ghosts. And it wasn’t unreasonable to believe that a solid ghost would attempt to procreate with a living human being, especially if they had been together before.

That it was possible, he wasn’t sure of. The mingling of ectoplasm and flesh – of these opposite energies – surely must’ve been so unlikely that it couldn’t happen?

“So which one of your parents was the ghost?” Sirius asked, intrigued. Apparently he hadn’t been caught on the perplexities of this hybridization like Remus – or he was hoping to catch Danny in a lie.

“Which one of my… oh, yuck. Neither!” Danny shivered, shooting Sirius a short glare. “Both of my parents are perfectly alive, thank you very much!”

Remus caught the hint of green in Danny’s eyes when he glared at Sirius. For just a short moment, his eyes seemed to glow green. And not just any green – a color he had seen before.

A green like Phantom’s eyes.

Just like Danny had Phantom’s wand.

“So then explain to us how you are half ghost,” Remus coaxed. “Surely you can understand how confusing such a hybridization is to us, to people only used to the intangible specters of the Wizarding World?”

Danny sighed, and when Remus met his eyes, they were as crystal blue as they had always been. So then what had he seen before?

“I… wasn’t always half-ghost,” Danny confessed. Both of his friends had crept closer, and now laid their hands on his arms. A clear attempt at comforting him. “I had an accident, about a year ago. I died – but not entirely. And since then I’ve been half-ghost.” He looked down at the hand in which he still held his wand. “I… didn’t have magic before that, either.”

It’s not really magic,” Phantom had said, before. “It’s a specialized ghost power that acts like magic.” He had copied it from other people – from his friends.

“So you are Phantom.”

He hadn’t intended to say it out loud – it had just been a thought. But the shocked expressions on the faces of Danny and his friends told him that he had said it.

Then the boy sighed again, and nodded. “Yeah,” he said, defeated. “Yeah, I’m Phantom. You got me.”

“You can’t tell anyone.” Sam pushed her way past Danny, getting right into the faces of both Sirius and Remus. “Half-ghosts like Danny are incredibly rare – and powerful. No one can know.”

Sirius stepped back, and Remus felt the need to backpedal as well. He raised his hands instead. “We won’t. Like I said, we understand. I understand. We know how the Wizarding World works.”

She eyed him a little longer, violet eyes angry. Then she nodded, once, apparently satisfied. “Good.”

“But Dumbledore--”

“No.” The three of them looked to see that Danny stared back defiantly. “No one can know. Not the Headmaster of Hogwarts, not the leader of that Order of yours. No one.”

Remus considered protesting again, but then he remembered another black-haired boy. A teenager Danny’s age who was spending his entire summer with relatives who hated him, not receiving even the slightest messages from his friends – from people he cared about.

All because of Dumbledore’s orders.

“Okay,” he said. “As you wish. No one else will know.”

Danny nodded, satisfied. Then he turned to Sirius.

“Yeah, what he said.” The man grinned, not quite as cheery as it should’ve been but not entirely faked either. “We won’t speak a word. Although I wonder how you plan on keeping up the charade while in school.”

“I’m sure that I’ll find a way.” But the tension leaked from his posture, and he stood more easily. “But that’s my problem.”

“Good, well, with that done…” Sirius wiped his hands together as if he was dusting them off. “Mission accomplished and all that. You three tell your parents… whatever you need to tell them, and we’ll get in touch with the Order to figure out transportation. Where can we find you?”

The three teens shared a quick and entirely silent conversation, spoken through several quick glances. Eventually Danny turned back to them with a sheepish expression. “My house will be easiest, probably. You’ll want to look for FentonWorks – it has a very bright sign, you can’t miss it. But if you ring the doorbell, you might want to step aside, just to be safe.”

“His dad tends to shoot an ecto-gun while opening the door,” Tucker explained, seeing the confused expressions on both their faces. “And trust me, human or not, you don’t want to be hit by one of those.”

Chapter Text

As predicted, getting their parents to agree with them attending Hogwarts had been fairly easy. The Mansons were somewhat reluctant to let Sam go – they had never been overly fond of magic – but were convinced when Sam and Ida mentioned it being a very prestigious school all the way in Europe. Besides, it was a special offer made by the Headmaster – it would be rude to decline.

The Foleys were even easier. Tucker simply had to mention that it was a highly accredited school which taught magic to magic-users, and it was a done deal. They had worried, of course, over Tucker losing contact with his friends. But Sam would come with him, and Danny promised to stay in touch.

Maybe a little more directly than the Foleys thought but, well. It wasn’t really a lie, was it?

Not entirely unexpectedly, the most difficult were the Fentons. In part because they couldn’t be told as much as the others – they were the only ones unfamiliar with magic, and none of them intended to change that. And then there was also--

“All the way in Scotland?!”

Then there was also their very protective nature. Which Danny tended to invoke, thanks to his less than stellar grades and rep sheet this last year. Not that it was his fault – school and ghost hunting didn’t combine well – but it wasn’t like he could tell them that, could he?

“Yes Mom, all the way in Scotland,” he said, placatingly. “It’s a very prestigious school, and they specialize in this kind of stuff.”

“I don’t know, Danny.” She frowned at him, concern clearly visible in his eyes. “If you need help so badly, surely you could find something a little closer to home?”

“Yeah, well, maybe.” He raised a hand and started to rub the back of his neck. “But this was a special offer – and they don’t make those very often. And Sam and Tucker will come with me, too, so I won’t be all alone.”

“Mom,” Jazz cut in, seeing Danny struggle. “A new environment might be just what Danny needs. Research has shown that significant changes can have positive effects on teenagers – and seeing more of the world doesn’t hurt either.” She smiled at their mother, sweet and well-meaning in the way only beloved children can do.

Danny remembered the days when he could do it. Before his accident, almost a year ago. He would be more bitter about it but, well, a lot of good came from that, too.

Maddie looked between him and Jazz, then sighed. She turned to her husband – his father – clearly looking for support.

“Well,” Jack tried, “There are lots of ghosts in Europe, right? So he can catch us some European specters while he’s out there!”

Danny grimaced, but nodded along when his parents turned to look at him. Maddie sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose.

“I suppose you’re right. But,” and she poked Danny in the chest with her index finger, “you better call us regularly, young man! Let us know how things are going!”

He nodded, this time more genuinely. “I will! And I’ll see if I – we – can drop by for Christmas too. I’m not sure how those things go there, but I’ll look into it and let you know.”

This seemed to satisfy her, and her expression softened. “And when will you be leaving, again?”

“In a couple days.” He rubbed the back of his neck, grinning sheepishly. “We’ll have time to pack and stuff, but after that we should go there as soon as possible. It’s a boarding school, so we’ll have somewhere to stay, too.”

“Well Danny-Boy,” Jack boomed, slapping Danny on the shoulder, “Better get your stuff packed, then!”

“And be sure to say goodbye to all your friends.” His mom smiled at him, warm and comforting. He would miss her, he was sure. He almost regretted his decision.


“Alright, alright.” He stood up, shoving his dad’s massive hand off of his shoulder. “I’ll get started on packing, then. I don’t know how often I can call – they might restrict phone usage – but if that’s the case I’ll tell you the address and we can use snail mail instead.”

Jazz also stood up, following him to his room. She already knew most of the story, of course, but she probably wanted to know the rest too.

Typical Jazz. He would miss her too, as much as he hated to admit it.


“Hey Val,” a soft echoing voice called. She repressed her first reaction – to draw a gun and shoot the ghost – and instead settled for a groan.

Phantom floated up beside her, stopping once he was at eye level with her. His expression was uncertain but hopeful – probably because she hadn’t shot him yet.

After the whole thing with Phantom’s cousin, things had been weird between them. Because she couldn’t deny that he had been right. Vlad – her former boss – was an evil ghost. And Phantom had offered up himself to save someone – a human, a half-ghost, whatever. Had been willing to sacrifice himself, and had followed through.

That didn’t make them friends, however. There were still a lot of things in his past she found sketchy.

“What’s up?” she asked, keeping her voice neutral. Phantom rarely sought her out. Actually, scratch that. He never sought her out. He even avoided her, whenever possible. He didn’t like to fight her, she knew.

“I, uh.” His legs merged together, the remaining ghostly tail twitching with… nerves? She wasn’t very adept at reading tails. “I wanted to talk with you. And I had something to ask you… a request, kinda?”

Now that was intriguing. Phantom wanted her help with something, again? It didn’t make sense. Phantom seemed to be fine with taking care of stuff himself.

“A request?” she echoed, frowning at him. Then she realized he couldn’t see that, and she let her helmet retreat.

Phantom nodded, fidgeting with the hem of his gloves. “Uh, yeah. I’m kind of… leaving Amity Park. Not permanently, but for a while.” He took his eyes off of his hands and looked her in the eye. His acid green eyes were wide, uncertain. “It might be several months or even a year.”

“Okay?” She drew out the word, watching Phantom. “Why are you telling me? Do you think I would worry if you disappeared, or something? Afraid that I can’t handle things myself?”

She didn’t like that insinuation. Valerie Gray was a very capable woman, thank you very much. She didn’t need the help of a sketchy teenage ghost.

But Phantom shook his head. “No, no. The opposite, actually.” His tail uncurled and re-curled, like someone shaking their restless legs. “I’m, uh. I’m trusting you to keep Amity Park safe while I’m away. Because I know that you can do that. Because I trust you, Valerie.”

“Why does it matter to you anyway?” She bit out the words, a little harsher than she really intended to, to cover up her roiling emotions. Phantom trusted her? Despite their constant battles? Was he really that stupid? “Why do you care about what happens to Amity, anyway?”

Phantom looked away from her, down towards the city itself. His eyes were big and shiny and, goddammit, hurt. Then he sighed, heavy and weary and tired. “It’s not the city I care about, Val. It’s the people.”

“What does that even mean?” she snapped back, combing a hand through her curly hair. “Why do these people matter to you?”

And then Phantom’s bright green gaze snapped back to her, and he growled, “Because my family still lives here, dammit!” Then more weakly, more quietly, he repeated, “My family still lives here, my friends still live here. They are the reason I protect this city.”

“Oh.” She looked him over again, with this knowledge in mind. If Phantom’s family still lived in Amity, he must’ve died recently. And, sure, he looked like he was close to her in age, but you never knew with ghosts.

Phantom turned away from her again, sighing once more. His gloved hands brushed through his bangs, further messing up his already messy white hair. “They don’t even know,” he said, quietly. So quietly that Valerie doubted he had intended for her to hear it. But she had.

“Don’t even know what?” She drifted towards him, her hoverboard carrying her closer. “That they are the reason you fight ghosts?”

He snorted humorlessly. Without turning to look at her, he answered, “They don’t even know that I’m Phantom.”

“How could they not?” She eyed him critically. Sure, the glow of his eyes might make it hard to recognize him, and she doubted that white was his original hair color, but still. “If you care so much about them, why wouldn’t you tell them? Why would you let them mourn you if you’re still around?”

“It’s better this way,” was his lackluster answer. He sounded exhausted – not just physically, but emotionally. “They don’t… think that I’m a good ghost. They’re no supporters of Phantom. And I’m sure that if I told them they would change their minds, but…” He trailed off into silence, not finishing the sentence. Valerie, too, remained quiet.

“I just… don’t want them to think of their own kid that way,” he finally admitted, bright eyes downcast. “It’ll hurt them more, knowing who I am and what I do. I don’t want that. It’s… It’s better this way.”

“Oh,” she said again. Then, “I’m sorry. To hear that, I mean. And for insinuating, well…”

He nodded, still not looking at her. “Apology accepted.”

“And… I’m sorry about hunting you, too.”

That got him to look at her. His eyes were wide with surprise, the glow around him flickering brighter for a moment. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me, Phantom,” she bit back, but she kept her tone slightly playful. He must’ve realized, because he smiled a little. Then the smile dropped again when she continued with, “You’re just a kid my age, aren’t you?”

“Yeah,” he sighed, turning his eyes back to his fidgeting hands again. “Just… doing my best. As you do.”

“And you died recently too, right?” Okay, that might’ve come across a little too harsh. “Because your family is still around?”

He nodded. Then he looked at her again, a humorless smile on his face. “Why else would I know your name, Val?”

She snorted, shaking her head. “I don’t know. I figured you must’ve stalked me and overheard it, or something. I never really thought about it.”

Phantom’s smile became a little more genuine. “Okay, no offense but that’s pretty dumb.”

“Yeah, well. Shut up, Phantom.” She shoved him a little, playfully. He grinned back, making it clear that he had understood.

Then she paused. If Phantom had died recently, had been close enough in age to her that he knew her name… why did no one know? Even if he was somehow completely unrecognizable, his death must be known, right? People would have mourned him, wouldn’t they? His family, his… his friends?

“What about your friends?” she blurted out, startling not only herself but also Phantom. Because his family… she didn’t know them. But his friends, they must be their age – her age. They would be in her classes. How could they not mourn him? Miss him, whoever he was before he died?

“My friends?” he repeated, frowning. Then he flapped a dismissive hand. “You don’t have to worry about them. They’re stubborn idiots so they refused to stay behind. Said that if I was going into danger they would come with.”

“Wait, hold on.” She shifted to look at him more directly, and briefly regretted not sitting down for this conversation. It was dragging on a lot longer than she had expected. “I thought your parents and your friends didn’t know about you being Phantom? And what’s this about you going into danger? I thought you were just leaving?”

Phantom shook his head dismissively. “Nah, my friends know. They were there when I died – it was an accident, you know?”

Well, that explained some things. His friends weren’t mourning him because they knew he was still around.

She couldn’t imagine that, though. Watching your friend die and then come back. How horrifying would that be? The guilt must be killing them – no wonder that they wanted to come with him.

“And the danger thing?” she asked, trying to get her thoughts away from the depressing topic. She knew that if she lingered on it for too long, she would’ve started imagining such things happening to her own friends. To Danny.

“Eh.” He shrugged. “Why else would I leave Amity? Something came up, something dangerous. And sure, maybe it’s not my responsibility, but…” he trailed off, then allowed the silence to linger for a moment. Finally, more quietly, he continued. “But if no one stops it, it’ll come here, sooner or later. And even before then, how many would die? How many more will die, before it’s stopped?”

Briefly, she wondered why she had ever thought him to be a bad guy. Phantom was a kid her age, yet he was so… responsible? She wasn’t quite sure that that was the right word for it, but she didn’t know a better one.

Because, sure, she wasn’t unfamiliar with taking responsibility for these kind of things. She might’ve started hunting ghosts for vengeance, but that definitely wasn’t why she did it now. She was a protector, a guardian. An icon for the people of Amity to look up to. To know that they were safe.

And Phantom had been doing that for much longer. For longer than her, even. While people shot him down, both literally and figuratively. Even when people put out bounties on his head, threatened to hurt him. Actually did hurt him.

He still put everything on the line to fight ghosts. Fought off the giant ghost that had dragged Amity Park into the Ghost Zone, despite every other ghost fleeing from it. And yes, of course she had been angry at him for revealing her to her dad. But looking back now…

She was sure that Phantom had saved her life that day.

“I’m sorry,” she said. Then, realizing that it sounded weird without the context of her thoughts, she added, “About everything.”

Phantom blinked at her, his glowing eyes wide with confusion. “Thanks, but… you already apologized, Val.”

“I know.” She looked away from him, folding her arms together. She wasn’t very good at this. With emotions in general. And people, really. It seemed like Danny was the only person she got along with, these days. “But I mean it. This whole time that I’ve been hunting you, you refused to fight back. And still… still I didn’t realize.” She growled, her fingers digging into her upper arms despite the armored suit she wore. “I hurt you, just for trying to do the right thing!”

She would’ve continued, but a cold hand wrapped around her wrist, gently pulling it off of her upper arm. Phantom looked at her with concern in his eyes. “It’s okay, Val. You were just… trying to do the right thing.”

Valerie pulled her hand out of Phantom’s, but let it hang free instead. “I just… I can’t… Can you forgive me, Phantom?”

“Well,” he drew out the word as he said it, “I suppose I can – if you promise to protect Amity for me.”

She cocked an incredulous brow at him, and he grinned back. “Seriously, I already forgave you, Val. It’s okay.”

Valerie sighed, her shoulders slumping down. “You’re too good for your own good, you know that?”

“That’s what my friends keep saying, too.”

“Yeah, I can believe that.” She scoffed, rolled her eyes. “I’ll keep Amity Park safe, alright? But you gotta promise me something, Phantom.”

He frowned a little, his tail twitching. “Promise you what, exactly?”

“Stay safe, alright?” She smiled at him. “I don’t want to protect this city on my own forever.”

Phantom huffed out a breath. “Yeah, alright. I think I can do that.” Then he shook his head, grinning back. “But you won’t be alone, you know? The Fentons will still be here. They can help.”

The only answer he got was a dismissive snort. Yeah, right. Maddie Fenton might be a capable ghost hunter, and the both of them were excellent inventors, but in the field? Not great.

“Yeah, I suppose that that’s fair,” he said. He shifted mid-air, like he sprung to his feet. “I better get going. I’ll be leaving soon, and I still have to get ready. Stay safe, okay?”

“I will,” she agreed, offering her hand to him. “Partners?”

He took it, shaking her hand with a grin on his face. “Partners.”

And then, once they had let go, he launched himself off again. Left Valerie to her own thoughts.

Who knew that Phantom was so complex? That he had a family in this city, and friends who didn’t even miss him? Who were going with him to… wherever he was going.

She wondered how Danielle fit into the equation. In her ghost form, she had clearly resembled Phantom. Maybe her human form looked like Phantom when he had been alive, too? A clear family resemblance?

Valerie tried to picture it. Phantom but with black hair and… blue eyes…

“God dammit,” she hissed, dragging her armored hands down her face. “That god damn idiot!”

And he called his friends stubborn idiots? At least Sam and Tucker had tried to stop him from befriending a ghost hunter. A ghost hunter who hated his ghost form, even.

“Moron,” she growled to herself, lovingly. Because, as stupid as it had been… Well, Danny was her one good friend remaining. She couldn’t be mad at him for doing something so nice. Not really.

But still. Danny Fenton had just told her that he – and Sam and Tucker – were leaving to a school in Scotland. How could she not connect the dots? Especially since she knew about Danielle?

Now she really needed to talk with him.


Danny eyed the bag at his feet, running over his packing list in his head. He was sure that it contained everything he might need – he had packed with Jazz, after all – but still. Better safe than sorry.

Sam and Tucker were already there, loading their bags into Jazz’s car. She would drive them to the meeting place they had agreed on with Sirius and Lupin. Or, as far as their parents knew, the airport.

A Portkey was basically a plane, right?


The voice snapped him out of his thoughts, and he looked up from his bag – and right into the green eyes of Valerie Gray.

“Uh, hey,” he greeted her, uncertainly. He hadn’t been expecting her to show up. Sure, she knew that he was leaving, and he had even told her when, but… he hadn’t thought about her coming to say goodbye.

She smiled at him though, warm and kind, which helped melt his doubts a little. “I came to say goodbye. Hope you don’t mind.”

“No, uh, I mean.” He groaned, slapping himself in the face. Then he smiled back at her. “Thanks, Val. I appreciate it.”

He could see that Sam and Tucker had stopped loading in their bags. Now they were watching him – and more importantly, Valerie. Jazz, too, was keeping a careful eye on them.

Suddenly warm arms wrapped around him, and Valerie pulled him closer to her. As he hugged back, she leaned closer. Whispered in his ear, “I’ll keep Amity safe for you, okay?”

Danny pulled himself back, looking at her with confusion clear on his face. “Excuse me?”

But she laid her hand on his shoulder, still smiling. “I figured it out. It’s okay. Go do… whatever you have to do, Danny. But stay safe, please?”

“Yeah,” he sighed, airy. “Yeah, alright. Um. Thanks for not freaking out on me.”

“Pretty sure that that’s still coming.” Which, fair. He was pretty sure he would’ve done the same. Had done the same, in fact. “Keep in touch, will you?”

“I will,” he agreed, finally moving to load his bag into the waiting car. Sam and Tucker stepped aside to let him, still watching Valerie warily.

When he was done, he turned back to her. “And Val, you won’t be alone, alright?” He stuck a thumb over his shoulder, pointing at his sister. “Jazz has gotten really good with ghost hunting, too. And she has access to our parents’ arsenal, so if you need replacements, she can take care of you.”

Now it was Valerie’s turn to look wary, eyes glancing between Danny, Sam and Tucker, and Jazz. “Yeah,” she finally said, after a long wait. “Sure.”

Then she turned and left.

“Well,” Tucker finally broke the silence, “That was something. You ready to go, dude?”

“Am now.” Danny slammed the trunk shut, walking around the car to the passenger seat. “Come on, we got a Portkey to catch.”

Chapter Text

The feeling of the Portkey was nauseating, but bearable because it was eerily similar to being sucked into the Fenton Thermos. Sadly, neither Sam nor Tucker had the advantage (or was it really an advantage?) of knowing what that was like, so they stumbled and almost fell when they landed.

“That might’ve been worse than the Infi-map,” Tucker complained, looking a little green. Sam had recovered a little quicker, and was looking around the place they had landed.

“Do I want to know what that is?” Sirius asked, looking completely unruffled. He had taken the Portkey with them – Remus had taken a separate one, one provided by the government to make sure they knew he had left the country.

“No,” Sam said, at the same time that a different voice intoned, “I certainly do.”

That got him – and his friends – to whirl around and face the man who had already been present. An elderly man, with a long white beard and matching hair. Also some obscene robes – really, did this man have to look like a typical wizard so bad?

Seeing that he had caught their attention, the man smiled, his eyes twinkling. “Pleasure to meet you three. I am Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts.” He folded his hands together, entwining his fingers. “And you three are the friends of Phantom, yes? Where is the ghost, if I may be so bold as to ask?”

“He, uh. Decided to travel here on his own powers.” Danny paused as the fireplace lit up green, and Remus came through. “Magic doesn’t mix well with ghosts, so we didn’t want to risk the Portkey messing up because of Phantom.”

Dumbledore nodded, apparently satisfied with this answer. Danny felt himself relax a little – he had feared that the man would call out the lie. That he would somehow see through his disguise and call him out – recognize him as a ghost he had never even met.

His magic sense had had no trouble with notifying him of the sheer power that Albus Dumbledore held. And Danny himself knew exactly how much power one could have even without such magic.

“Very well. Is he heading here, or can he meet us elsewhere?” The man had turned to face the whole group – including Remus who was dusting the ash off of his clothes. “Such as the house where you will be staying, perhaps?”

“He would meet us at the Headquarters.” Sam looked casual as she said it – Danny felt vaguely jealous of her ability to look calm in all situations. “Sirius and Mr. Lupin have shown him the note, so he should be able to get in.”

They hadn’t, yet, but they didn’t have to. He would be brought in together with Sam and Tucker – but Dumbledore didn’t know that, obviously. He was glad that the two adults had cooperated and helped them plan around these things. Lying to a powerful wizard like Dumbledore was more nerve-wracking than he had anticipated. Having the lies and contingency plans prepared beforehand helped a lot.

“Very good, very good.” Dumbledore nodded approvingly, still smiling politely. “Do you know when he will arrive? It will be good for him to meet with the rest of the Order – and I would love to meet him, as well.”

“He should arrive this evening.” It wasn’t quite a realistic time, but that was alright. Dumbledore wouldn’t know how fast Danny – or Phantom – could fly, anyway. Besides, he could always say that he took a shortcut via the Ghost Zone. They didn’t know enough about that dimension to catch him in the lie.

“Then we will have an Order meeting this evening.” Dumbledore met the eyes of Sirius and Remus. “You two will attend as well, of course, so you can be caught up to the last few weeks.”

The two adult wizards nodded. It sounded like a dismissal… but they weren’t done talking yet.

“Wait,” Tucker said, clearly noticing the same. “We have something we need to discuss. About Phantom.”

“Oh?” Dumbledore quirked an eyebrow, intrigued. But only like, mildly intrigued. Like a gentle curiosity. “What is it, then?”

“He wants to stick close to us – close to his friends.” Sam crossed her arms, standing as opposing as possible. As confident as possible. “Except for missions, of course.”

Now the old man nodded, as well. “Very well, and quite understandable. I had already assumed you four would stay at the Headquarters together. After the summer, Phantom can come along and stay at Hogwarts. Was that your only concern?”

Danny ran through his mental checklist. Was that his only concern? “Will he have to stay hidden, or can he mingle, or…?”

“Another good question.” Dumbledore’s attention turned to Danny, and he barely withstood the temptation to fidget under the watchful blue eyes. “I will not ask him to stay hidden, although he should stay quiet about the reason for his stay, naturally.”

“That makes sense.” Danny didn’t plan on interacting with the students a lot, anyway. But… Hogwarts was supposed to be a large and magically enhanced castle. Who wouldn’t use ghost powers to explore it?

“If those were your only questions…” Dumbledore remained quiet for a moment, giving them the chance to interrupt him again. When no one spoke up, he gestured towards one of the cluttered walls of the room – Danny hadn’t taken the time to really check them out beyond a brief magic-scan.

“You want to sort them now?” Remus asked. Danny didn’t miss the emphasis on ‘sort’. It sounded serious, but he didn’t understand why. Neither of the adults had mentioned it before – and Remus seemed genuinely surprised by it. What did it involve?

“Now would be best, yes.” Dumbledore smiled, and Remus gave up on his protests to grab the item Dumbledore had gestured to earlier. It was… It was a really ratty old hat. Like classical pointed hat, but really worn down. Wizards, really?

“Normally, students would be sorted at the start of the school year,” Dumbledore started to explain, his gaze turning from Remus to the three teenagers. “You see, Hogwarts is separated into four houses. Each house has their own common room, sleeping quarters, and showers. They have their own Head of house, their own Quidditch team, and houses eat together in the Dining Hall – there are four tables. Houses also earn so-called house points, based on student performance. Similarly, students can lose their house points as well, on top of receiving detention or similar punishment. Does this make sense?”

“Sure,” Tucker said, his brows creased. “But why are we getting sorted now, if you usually do it at the start of the year? It’s not like we’re staying here, so we don’t need access to the common rooms anyway.”

“That is quite correct, Mr. Foley.” Wait. They hadn’t told Dumbledore their names. How’d he know? Oh, duh, Sirius and Remus must’ve told him. “However, sorting is a first-year experience – they are separated from the main crowd for it. Since you three will be joining the fifth year, and as rarely-seen transfer students, I expect that you will be hassled enough already when you arrive. This way you can simply join your new housemates without any further troubles.”

“That… makes sense,” Tucker conceded, brow smoothing out a little.

“What are these houses anyway?” Sam still had her arms crossed, although she had straightened out a little further. “How do you determine which house we join? This so-called ‘sorting’?”

“That’s my job!” a new voice exclaimed, startling all three of the teens. The adults simply smiled, as all three had apparently expected it. Jerks. “I’m the Sorting Hat! I sort you based on your qualities – and your goals.”

And it was, in fact, the ratty old hat that had spoken. Man, despite being familiar with magic already, Danny hadn’t expected the Wizarding World to be so… crazy.

“So, uh.” Tucker gestured at the hat. “Who’s going first?”

Sam shook her head. “I want to know about these houses first. What qualities, and how do you determine them? You don’t even know us, do you?”

“The Sorting Hat can read your mind, your memories and your thoughts, to determine your best qualities,” Remus explained. He then looked over to Dumbledore, “Should I explain the houses as well, or should a neutral party do that?”

“I’ll do it myself!” The hat shifted its rim, the folds creasing as if it was frowning. It was kinda weird to read the expressions on an animated hat, but… Danny was familiar with weird, at least. “The house of Gryffindor is noble! They are courageous and kind-hearted, the most daring – and the most reckless.”

Remus and Sirius shared a glance, the black-haired man grinning wildly. Were they both former Gryffindors? That made sense; visiting Amity Park on a hunch wasn’t something you would do if you weren’t brave.

“The house of Slytherin,” the hat continued, uncaring, “is the house of ambition. Slytherins are cunning and determined, and make the most out of their resources.”

“The house of Ravenclaw are known for their intelligence.” Its creases lessened, its expression smoothing out into something more neutral. “Ravenclaws consider both knowledge and wit to be their most important traits.”

“Finally, last but not least, the house of Hufflepuff are the most loyal. They take value in justice and kindness – but do not underestimate them, as a Hufflepuff is unafraid of toil and hard work.”

It fell silent, giving Danny the feeling of anticipation. It was waiting. Someone had to go first, right?

“So… Should I go first?”

Dumbledore nodded, and Danny stepped forward to take the hat from Remus’ hands. He didn’t want to go first, but… might as well get it over with.

Hmm,” the hat said, its voice… in his head? Of course. Magical hat. Duh.

Indeed,” it replied. “Although I must compliment you on your Occlumency shields, Mr. Fenton. They are quite impressive for a boy your age.”

Sam and Tucker are almost as good as me,” he said dismissively, focusing on keeping the thought into solid words for the hat to hear. The three of them had practiced them together, even though it was mostly Danny who had wanted the protection. His first encounter with Freakshow had been an eye-opener.

Very well… You are a versatile young man as well. With your traits, you could find a good home among all houses. Loyal as a Hufflepuff, courageous as a Gryffindor, witty like a Ravenclaw. But I think you will best among the ambitious – where you will be acknowledged for your skills, your leadership. Where you can further hone your cunning. Yes, I think you will do quite well in--”

“Slytherin!” the hat exclaimed out loud, startling Danny. He almost flung the thing off of his head – but didn’t, thankfully.

Remus and Sirius shared another glance at this, less pleased than the last one. But Danny didn’t stop to worry about it, instead taking the hat off and offering it to his friends. “Next up?”

Tucker took it from his hands and put it on. “I’ll do it, going down the line and all that.”

Interesting,” the hat said in his head, and Tucker sighed. Couldn’t Danny have warned him about this?

Mr. Fenton was right. You, too, have impressive Occlumency shields.”

Thanks,” Tucker replied. “So, uh. House?”

Yes, yes. Let me see. You are certainly brave like a Gryffindor, but… that is not where you will be truly appreciated. No, I think that you will find a better home among--“Ravenclaw!”

“Makes sense.” Danny smiled as Tucker handed the hat to Sam. “You are a techno-geek, Tuck.”

Sam rolled her eyes, but focused on the hat, which let out a hum inside her head.

Well well well. Even braver than the other two, I see.”

Am I?” She didn’t feel like it. She was pretty sure that Danny was more courageous than her. He had gone into the Portal after all, when she hadn’t dared. He willingly sacrificed everything in his life, just to keep the others safe.

But not as much as you want to be, hmm? I am sure that you will find more like yourself in--” “Gryffindor!”

“Aw man, we’re all in different houses?” Tucker huffed while Sam handed the hat back to Remus. “That sucks.”

“Do we at least share classes?” Danny asked, turning to Dumbledore. “Or are those split between houses too?”

“Classes are taught to two houses at the same time, although the class composition differs. For example, for Potions Gryffindor and Slytherin might be paired, but for Astronomy Gryffindor might instead be paired with Ravenclaw. But teachers and homework are the same.”

“So we can still work together, at least,” Sam concluded, sounding a little less miffed. “That’s alright, then. We can’t change it anyway, can we?”

“Indeed not.” Dumbledore smiled, appeasingly. “Now that we have handled this matter, however, there is another subject to touch upon. Electives.”

“Right,” Danny said. “Remus and Sirius mentioned those before. We need to pick 2, right?”

“Have they? How convenient.” Dumbledore shifted, still smiling. “And yes, each of you needs to pick two subjects. Do you know which five we offer here at Hogwarts?”

“Yup.” Sam uncrossed her arms, letting them hang freely now. “We’re all doing Muggle Studies and Care of Magical Creatures.”

“Ah, excellent choices. May I ask you why you picked those subjects?” His smile didn’t falter, but Danny got the feeling he was judging them for their answers anyway.

“Eh, a variety of reasons,” Tucker said, as simultaneously Sam snapped, “No.”

The two of them shared an irked glance, while Danny answered Dumbledore with, “A bunch of reasons. But it doesn’t matter, right?” The ‘can we please drop this subject’ was left unsaid. Because while they had a variety of reasons for picking Care of Magical Creatures, most of those involved Danny’s partly inhuman nature – and knowing how creatures might react to it.

And Muggle Studies? Well, that would just be an easy subject, wouldn’t it? They all lived like Muggles anyway. How hard could it be to do homework and tests about that?

Not that Dumbledore needed to know that. You didn’t tell a teacher that you picked a subject because you thought it was easy. Duh.

“Ah, I see.” He unfolded his hands, apparently not bothered by the evasive answers. “If that was all, then I think it is time for you three to get settled at your temporary quarters. Mr. Lupin and the Weasleys, who you will meet at the house, will take you to Diagon Alley for your school supplies.”

“So how are we getting there?” Sam looked between Dumbledore and the two adults they were actually familiar with. “To the house, I mean.”

“We’ll take the Floo.” Sirius gestured over towards Dumbledore’s fireplace, which Remus had come through earlier. “It’s the easiest way – and we’ll have to take it to Diagon Alley too.”

“Joy,” Danny grumbled. Something about Floo just put him off. Perhaps it was the clash of magic against his ghostly half – it never took well to magical transportation.

“Don’t whine.” Sam nudged him, coming across to the adults as a ribbing teenager – but to Danny as a supportive friend. “You’ll be fine.”

“The address is 12 Grimmauld Place.” Dumbledore eyed them, and Danny would be glad to finally get out of his sight – Floo or no Floo.

“Thanks,” he said, grabbing a handful of the powder. Then he stepped aside to let Sirius go first – the man would warn the others of the incoming teens.

After he had gone, Danny took his turn and prayed that it would go well. The Floo spit him out in a shabby looking room, and dusty to boot. But Sirius was there, which assured Danny that it had gone well.

There were two other people in the room, both adults of similar age and with fiery red hair. They smiled at him, big and friendly – and Danny felt a lot easier about accepting their kindness than Dumbledore’s, since these two weren’t freakishly powerful.

Of course, that didn’t account for all the other magic that Danny could sense around the house. Much of it was dark, too. Felt vaguely – or sometimes not so vaguely – evil.

Before the two could come over to greet him, however, Sam and Tucker stumbled through the Floo. Separately, of course, but within moments of each other. Remus came soon after, too.

“Good, good, we’re all here.” Sirius clapped his hands together, then stuck his thumbs in the direction of the two strangers. “As Dumbledore said, the Weasleys will join you to go to Diagon Alley. I, unfortunately, am back to my old status of house arrest.”

The woman stepped forward, still smiling brightly. “I’m Molly Weasley, and this is my husband, Arthur.”

“Sam Manson,” Sam said as she stepped forward. She gestured towards Tucker, then Danny, and said, “And these are Tucker Foley and Danny Fenton, in that order.”

“Nice to meet ya.” Tucker gave them a short wave.

“Thanks for taking us.” Danny smiled back, comforted by how homey these two looked. And, for better or worse, he trusted Remus and Sirius.

“Oh, don’t thank us.” Molly waved them off. “We’re just doing our best to help. I can’t imagine spending so much of your lives without magical education.”

“Sam’s grandma wasn’t that bad,” Danny protested. But before he could continue, a sharp ringing sound came from his pocket.

“Uh, sorry.” He pulled his phone from his pocket, glancing at the screen. Jazz was calling him. Of course it was Jazz, who else? “It’s my sister. Mind if I answer?”

“Incredible!” Arthur stepped closer too, his eyes big and sparkly. “Is that a Muggle device? It shouldn’t work, not in a magic-heavy environment like here!”

That… wasn’t an answer. He glanced over at Molly.

“Oh dear, yes, by all means. Family comes first,” she said, smiling warmly.

He nodded back, stepping a few steps away from the group and flipping open his phone. “Hey Jazz, what’s up?”

Just making sure you arrived okay,” her tinny voice answered. “I worry, you know?”

He smiled, not that she could see that. “Yeah, we made it just fine. Just got to the house, but we still have to buy school supplies. Can I call you back later?”

A shuffling sound, then a hum. “Yeah, that’s fine. Stay safe, Danny.”

“Yeah, yeah, worrywart. I’ll be fine.” He rolled his eyes and closed the phone again, turning back to the group. “Sorry, she was just making sure we got here fine. So, Diagon Alley?”

“Yes…” Arthur still eyed his phone with unbound curiosity. Then he tore his eyes off of the phone to look at his wife instead. “Yes, let’s go buy your supplies.”

Chapter Text

The room they were sat in was shabby. And incredibly dusty. The suitcases that Danny and Tucker had taken with them – their contents strewn across the entire room – didn’t help much.

Thankfully all three of them were used to messy rooms, and Sam had been glad to be away from the room that she had received. Apparently both her roommates were away, cleaning the house like most occupants, but just one glance had told Sam that she didn’t want to stick around too long. One of the two girls was apparently a bit of a neat-freak – or a very bookish nerd. If that was the case, they would surely see the girl more often in their attempt to catch up on their studies.

Dinner would be soon, and the Order meeting almost immediately after. The meeting that Phantom was expected to attend.

“So how do you want to do this?” Sam asked, leaning forwards. She was sitting on Tucker’s bed, next to the boy himself. Apparently the floor was too dusty and the carpet too moth-eaten to risk, even for her. “We escape to our rooms, you transform to Phantom and fly down and we cover for you if necessary?”

“I dunno.” Danny picked at a loose thread on his blanket. “It’s definitely too early for duplication, although we’ll have to work on that for future meetings, just to be safe. But wouldn’t Phantom want to check in with his friends first?”

“Sure, but they have no way to prove that you didn’t do that first.” Tucker shrugged loosely, half an eye on the phone in his hand. “If you fly down from here, you can always tell them you dropped by us first.”

Sam nodded. “Yeah, that sounds good. But for the future, we’ll definitely work on your duplication skills. They’ll need to see Phantom and Fenton together a couple of times, for sure.”

Danny groaned but silently agreed. Just because Remus and Sirius already knew didn’t mean that he wanted more people to know.

Besides, the two had promised to keep his secret. Kind of a waste of time if he revealed his secret, afterwards.

With the serious conversation done, Tucker fixed more of his attention on his phone while Sam smiled at Danny. “And, what did you think of your first visit to Diagon Alley?”

“Wasn’t that special, really.” Danny shrugged. “It just kind of looked like an old street, you know? Although the shops were pretty cool. Not having to hide my magic, too.”

“We should consider getting an owl when we go to Hogwarts,” Tucker said, not looked away from the device in his hands. “Our phones should hold out, but we can only use those to text and call. Owls can be used for packages too, should we need anything.”

“You’re thinking of a communal owl?” Sam quirked an eyebrow, but she looked thoughtful. “I suppose that that might work. We will have to return before the school year starts, anyway, since we will have to buy our actual school supplies too.”

“Getting one that won’t react badly to me will be a joy, though.” Danny let himself fall backwards onto his bed, coughing at the dust that came loose. “Animals don’t like me much.”

Tucker snorted. “Yeah, no kidding. The only animals that like you are ghost animals, and I think those might like you too much.”

Danny stuck out his tongue, childishly. Sam clicked her tongue and rolled her eyes. “Boys.”

“Lots of em, apparently.” Tucker’s phone beeped and he frowned at it. “Apparently the Weasleys have like half a dozen sons and only a single daughter, and a lot of them are staying here as well.”

“And there are plans to get super famous Harry Potter here too, right? Or Sirius wants to, at least.” Danny flickered himself intangible to get rid of the dust on him. “Although I don’t understand why they’re keeping those two apart in the first place, if Sirius cares so much about him.”

“That’s wizards for ya, Danny.” Tucker tapped his phone a few more times before his eyes turned back to the other two teenagers. “Well, most wizards at least. They’re all too stuck in their ways and old-timey.”

“Not Ida, thankfully.” Sam leaned backwards as well, resting her back on the headboard of the bed. “She even uses an electric wheelchair. Did you see how Mr. Weasley looked at Danny’s phone? I’m pretty sure that he would have an aneurysm if he saw her wheelchair.”

“Especially since it’s enchanted. I don’t think any of these people know how to mix magic and technology.” Tucker waved the phone in his hand in example. “Although we do kind of cheat by making a lot of it run on ectoplasm instead of electricity.”

“Nonsense.” Danny flapped his hand. “That’s just for the really complicated things, to make sure they run in magic-heavy environments like here and Hogwarts. Simple mixes like Ida’s wheelchair shouldn’t be that complicated.”

“Not to make you lose all hope in the Magical World, Danny,” Sam folded her arms together and smirked at him, “But for most wizards even regular technology is too complicated.”

Danny paused for a moment to let these insinuations run over him. He had known, to some extent, that wizards and non-wizards didn’t mix. He knew that many wizards, including this so-called Voldemort, looked down on non-wizards. But come on, really?

“Well,” he finally said, “at least Muggle Studies will be easy.”


After dinner, the three of them had retreated to their room – or, well, Tucker and Danny’s room, but they all knew they would share it anyway. And then Danny had tapped into the ball of cold in his chest and let the white light of his transformation wash over him.

“Well, let’s get this over with,” he said, mentally preparing his magic sense. Unlike his ghost sense, his magic sense had to be hand-triggered. The upside was that it was a lot more specific – it pointed out not only the presence of magic, but also where it was and how strong it was. It even carried specific tastes sometimes – like how he had been able to tell that Remus Lupin was a werewolf (although connecting the dots between ‘feels like Wulf’ and ‘werewolf’ wasn’t as easy as he might’ve suggested).

“You’ll be fine, Danny.” Sam shot him a smile, and Tucker did the same. “They wanted you as their ally, remember?”

“I know.” But he was more than a little paranoid about his secret leaking out. And while magic might be familiar to him, the actual Wizarding World wasn’t. Wizards weren’t.

“But you’re a worrywart. We know, dude. Just get going.” Tucker flapped a hand in his direction, and with a sigh, Danny dove through the floor. He didn’t bother turning invisible – the Order would think that he visited his friends before attending the meeting.

Remus stood next to the still-open door. When he saw Danny phase through the floor, he raised a brow. “I would’ve expected you to come through the front.”

“Went to see my friends first,” Danny explained, using his cover story – he didn’t want to risk anybody overhearing otherwise. Besides, Remus knew darn well where he had come from.

“Fair enough.” The man stepped aside, and Danny flew past him and into the kitchen.

In the time between dinner and now, the kitchen had expanded in size tremendously. The table, previously barely big enough to seat the entire Weasley family and the six others (Remus, Sirius, him, Sam, Tucker, and a girl their age who was introduced as Hermione), now seated a lot of people. Like, Danny didn’t bother counting them, but there was a significant number of people.

Not entirely surprising, he supposed, since this was supposed to be an army against Voldemort.

The entire room hushed when he flew in. He gave them a short wave, then decided to hover a little ways away from the table. If he continued to float he would look taller – and people automatically offered him more respect if he was taller.

It was one of those tricks that Jazz had taught him, based on psychology. If he was taller, visibly using his powers, it was easier to see him as the powerful ghost he really was.

That, and floating just came naturally to him in ghost form.

He scanned the crowd, using his magic sense to try and memorize the biggest threats. Dumbledore was obviously the strongest, but there were a couple others quite capable. He recognized both the Weasley parents, and spotted what appeared to be another Weasley – he hadn’t seen the man during dinner, but he was sitting right next to the older Weasleys and had matching red hair. Admittedly, his hair was tied back into a ponytail – and he wore a fang-like earring which Danny was sure Sam would like.

Remus joined the table, taking an empty seat next to Sirius. Danny didn’t recognize anybody else – although the powerful and heavily scarred man with the fake eye seemed easy enough to remember. He noted him down as a potential threat – he didn’t like the way the fake eye seemed to fixate on him.

Two more potential threats were sitting next to Dumbledore. An older woman with her black hair tied back in a bun and glasses, and a middle-aged man with long and greasy black hair. The man, especially, seemed to have a dark tinge to him.

Dumbledore smiled warmly at Danny, eyes twinkling, and stood up. “Phantom, I presume?” he said, offering his hand.

Danny took it, wrapping his gloved hand around Dumbledore’s. “Yeah. Nice to meet you.” Releasing the hand, he turned to the rest of the table. “Nice to meet all of you.”

A few people nodded or greeted him back. Most seemed to be less than thrilled, however. Frowning and thinning mouths and other signs of displeasure. He supposed that Dumbledore hadn’t announced that he had recruited a ghost to their team.

“Take a seat, Phantom,” Dumbledore prompted, waving a hand around to the empty seats. “Unless you prefer to float?”

“Yeah, I think I’ll stay airborne for the moment.” He hovered back to empty space he had been before, keeping some space between himself and the wizards. Just because they were going to be working together didn’t mean that he trusted them. Not yet, at least.

Dumbledore nodded at him, then turned to the table at large. “In that case, let us begin our next meeting. As you can all see, we are joined today by a new ally. Phantom here is a ghost of a type previously unknown to us. He has, kindly, agreed to aid us in our fight against Voldemort.”

A woman with a weird feel to her magic snorted. Even without her weird magic she stood out – her hair was a bright pink that Danny wouldn’t have expected in the magical world. “How will a ghost help us? Is he gonna spy on You-Know-Who or something?”

Rolling his eyes, Danny formed a ball of snow in his hands. He chucked it up in the air a couple of times, catching it every time it came down. “I could,” he answered, “Or I could use my powers and my ghostly immunity to magic to fight.”

“Just because you’re immune to magic doesn’t mean you can fight.” Danny didn’t recognize the man who spoke. Dark-skinned and with strong magic, but not notably strong.

“Sure,” Danny agreed easily. Then he pressed his hands together, hiding the ball of snow from sight and simultaneously turned it into ice. Twisting his hands away from each other, he dropped the ice on the table – now formed into a spike. It landed with a heavy thunk, the point driving into the wood of the table.

The pink-haired woman leaned over, carefully touching the spike with a finger. When she deemed it solid, she wrapped her hand around it and pulled it loose. She weighed it for a moment, then passed it to the rest of the table. “That’s…”

“Solid?” Danny finished for her. He shrugged. “Yeah, well, so am I. And ice isn’t the only trick I’m capable of.”

“Which we could’ve told you,” Sirius complained. “Since Remus and I actually went and recruited him. Which we wouldn’t have done if he was useless to us.”

Thanks.” Danny shot him a glare, but Sirius just smirked back. Jerk.

Dumbledore had gotten his hands on the ice spike, and he looked it over appreciatively. “Regardless of your ability, Mr. Phantom, I am afraid that it is not time to do battle quite yet. Our fight against Voldemort is slow, many small battles leading up to a final battle.”

Danny opened his mouth to reply, but Dumbledore held up a silencing hand. “For the moment, it would be best to have you remain a secret. We have matters in hand, still. Your presence, your existence, would serve us better as a secret weapon. If Voldemort knows about you, he will be prepared when we most need the advantage you have to offer us.”

“That’s… fair. I guess I see your point.” Besides, even if Danny was here to help, some quiet time would be good. He could learn magic, catch up to his studies, and get a grip on duplication. “So I’ll just stay hidden and out of sight until you need me?”

“Indeed.” Dumbledore folded his hands together, looking awfully put-together for a guy sitting at a kitchen table. “You will remain close to our new Hogwarts students, yes?”

“Uh, yeah.” He shifted, folding his arms across the back of an empty chair. “I mean, I might leave occasionally – or often – but those guys know how to find me if you need me.”

“Good, good.” And from there, the conversation turned to more mundane topics. They discussed the war, Voldemort’s intentions and plans and moves. A lot of it went over Danny’s head – they often referred back to topics or knowledge that seemed to be common among them, or things they had discussed earlier – but he stayed focused anyway.

Although he had to admit that at the end of the very long meeting he was blinking with half-lidded eyes.

He was also draped over the back of the chair he had been leaning on like a melting cat. One arm under his chin to support his head, with the other hanging down. His ghostly tail – the formation of which had startled quite a number of people, since Wizarding ghosts apparently didn’t do tails – was curled around the chair.

And… And maybe half lidded was a bit too optimistic. Really, he could barely keep his eyes open. He blinked slow and sluggish.

Then he realized that most of the people had already started leaving the room, and he perked up a little. Pulled up his hanging arm and raised his head off of his arm.

“Oh, I’m sorry, Phantom! We didn’t wake you, did we?” Mrs. Weasley had fluttered closer to him again, looking at him with big worried eyes.

“I… wasn’t asleep.” He rubbed a hand through his eyes, wiping away the sleep that had come over him. “But if the meeting is over I should head out.”

“Nonsense, nonsense.” She flapped a hand dismissively. “You can stay as long as you want or need, dear.”

Danny had pushed himself completely upright again, splitting his tail back into legs again. He raised a hand to rub the back of his neck, feeling sheepish under her watchful eyes. “Um, thanks. But uh, I’m good. Don’t worry about me.”

“Don’t worry about you?” she repeated, scandalized. “Don’t worry about you?! You’re just a kid! The Order has a minimum age for a reason, you know?!”

He shrugged listlessly. “Yeah, well, I already died. What’s the worst that could happen, I die again?” Well, he hadn’t really died, but she didn’t need to know that. Phantom, after all, was just a ghost. And ghosts were dead.

Besides, the actual worst that could happen was far worse than death. The death of Sam and Tucker and everyone he cared about… Dan.

She eyed him, stricken and… and sad. “Oh. Oh, you poor thing.”

And then suddenly she was approaching him again, closer than any of the other wizards had come. She spread her arms, and Danny realized with increasing dread that she was coming to hug him.

He turned intangible, backing away through the chair and the corner of the table. Once he was on the other side he turned tangible again, color bleeding back into his body.

Unfortunately this show of his powers just made her more sad instead of less. He grimaced. “Sorry, I’m just… not big on touching.”

Briefly, Danny wondered how late it was. He was seriously getting tired – and he would need to be well-rested to work on catching up on his magic studies tomorrow. He shot Mrs. Weasley an apologetic look. “I better get going. But, uh. I’ll keep your offer in mind. Thanks.”

“Of course,” Mrs. Weasley started saying, but she trailed off when he faded out of view. Danny eyed her for a moment longer, taking in her sadness and worry. He sighed soundlessly. There was nothing to be done. Phantom, for all intents and purposes, was dead. A dead teenager. If that knowledge was too much for the overly protective mother… Well, that wasn’t his fault.

But maybe he, and Sam and Tucker, could reassure her tomorrow. To make sure that she knew that Phantom wasn’t alone, that he had friends among the living still.


And that next day, the studies for Team Phantom began. As much as they were against working on school during their summer vacation, magic was still a welcome exception.

Well, except for History of Magic. That was a subject that was entirely too much like actual school. Bleck.

For the most part, the three of them were left to their own devices. Sirius and the armada of Weasley kids (and Hermione) had apparently been set to clean the house under Mrs. Weasley’s watchful eye. While they were allowed (and encouraged) to ask questions if they had any, no one usually bothered them while studying.

Which was great, because that meant that Danny could work on his ghost powers as well. Duplication still needed a lot of work, and his magic sense could use further refining as well. He had always been rather limited in what he could test it on – after all, there were only four people in Amity Park capable of magic. There was only so much they could do to have him practice detecting wards and determining the strength of wizards.

And figuring out what the weird qualities to some people meant? That was a fun task as well. ‘Fun’, that is. He still hadn’t had a chance to work on how it detected regular magical creatures, but, well. That was one of the reasons why the three of them had picked Care of Magical Creatures.

They were glad to discover that they weren’t far behind in Defense Against the Dark Arts – and Charms wasn’t too bad either. Previously, they had mostly studied magic that would be helpful during ghost hunting – healing spells and conjurations, but also a variety of charms, jinxes, and hexes. Many of these came back in DADA, and those that didn’t were often part of Charms instead.

Really, Danny was glad that they didn’t have to start learning magic from scratch. No matter how enthusiastic they were about learning more, he highly doubted that they could catch up on five full years of school.

Now that they were learning such a wide expanse of magic, the three also discovered that they had their own specializations. While Danny’s knowledge of Astronomy was something they hadn’t doubted, his skill in Transfiguration was rather surprising.

That was, until Tucker jokingly remarked that Danny was good at Transfiguration because technically all his magic was Transfigured that they recognized the connection. Just because they always called it a shift or a transformation didn’t mean that it wasn’t a form of self-Transfiguration. Like an Animagus, except he turned into an ectoplasmic being instead of an animal.

And, well. That just made sense, didn’t it? He supposed he could check if other half-ghosts were equally skilled at Transfiguration, but he didn’t know where Dani was – or if she knew about magic – and he still wanted to keep this a secret from Vlad. Magic was still the one advantage he had over his nemesis, and one he intended to keep as long as possible.

Sam had a mixed opinion on her skill at Herbology – the incident with Undergrowth was still fresh in her mind. But he and Tucker managed to cheer her up again. After all, Herbology was a useful skill, and a stupid ghost wasn’t allowed to take away something she enjoyed.

Tucker being good at Potions was the real surprise. They all had a workable knowledge of it, although he and Sam tended to be perhaps a tad too impatient for the really fickle stuff. But Tucker? Tucker was incredible. He was patient and steady, and he could memorize the recipes and sequences almost effortlessly.

The relative peace they received for studying was useful for another reason. Danny’s magic was still shaky and uncertain. It was, after all, converted from its direct opposite – ectoplasmic energy. If he lost focus, too much ectoplasm would remain, and the spells would turn out unstable.

And usually unstable meant explosive. Or otherwise far more destructive than the spell was supposed to be.

Danny’s awful tendency to accidentally channel his ghost powers through his wand instead of magic wasn’t great either. Thankfully he had gotten a lot better at avoiding that already. The last thing he needed was for people to see him shoot ecto-green energy out of his wand. He knew very well that his ecto-energy looked almost exactly like the killing curse.

He would just… have to make sure that it didn’t happen in class. Would have to make sure to draw back on his energy, to make sure no green crept into his spells.

It would just be that easy!

Chapter Text

Phantom had, over the past few weeks, become something of a common sight in the house. Danny had been practicing his duplication a lot, and was now working on his stamina – on maintaining the duplicate as long as possible.

Besides, it was good for him and Phantom to be seen together. The more they were seen as separate people, the less likely it was for people to suspect them to be the same person.

On top of Danny’s duplicating exercises Phantom also had to show up often for the Order meetings. Danny usually attended those himself – although he did, on occasion, leave behind a human duplicate to cover for him.

Sadly, the meetings continued to disappoint him. Dumbledore insisted that he remain a secret, and while Danny could understand, he didn’t have to like it. At least he didn’t have to sit around, doing nothing. He could work on his magic, which was a good cause. He would’ve been away from home for a whole year whether the war was over soon or not.

But that didn’t mean that he liked sitting there, having to listen and not being able to help. That, and Mrs. Weasley had kept up her strange behavior from the first meeting. Flutter around all sad and worried, like something might happen to him, even though no one let him help.

And then August rolled around. Barely two weeks away from home, yet it felt like an eternity. An eternity, and entirely too short at the same time.

When Danny headed down for the Order meeting, the mood seemed grim. More so than usual, even.

He quickly sat down, curious as to why. Had Voldemort – whose name people were apparently scared off – struck some kind of huge blow? Were they losing the war?

Dumbledore cleared his throat, and silence fell instantly. He looked out over the gathered group, expression serious. For once, no sparkles could be found in his eyes.

“As most of you might have heard, Harry Potter was attacked today.” He paused, as if waiting for an outcry. But the Order members remained silent. Even Danny, who only knew vaguely of Harry, knew the importance of this – he had heard Harry referred to as some sort of Chosen One.

“He was attacked near his house, while in the company of his Muggle cousin. The attack was not perpetrated by wizards, but by Dementors.” The man folded his hands together, before calmly continuing. “Harry managed to fight them off thanks to his skill with the Patronus charm. But, sadly, the Ministry caught wind of his underage magic use. He will be put on trial, and we will have to do our absolute best to make sure this is resolved properly.”

“But where was his guard?” Tonks asked. She was one of the more recognizable members of the Order – a Metamorphagus who preferred bright hair – including the pink from the first time Danny had attended a meeting. “Wasn’t the whole point that we were guarding him 24/7 to make sure no one could get to him?”

“Yes, this is true. However,” and here Dumbledore shook his head disapprovingly, “It seems that Mr. Fletcher decided his business deals were more important, as he left his post. You can be assured that he was punished appropriately.”

Danny huffed out a disgruntled breath, but ignored the looks some of the others shot him. He couldn’t believe that the Order had resorted to counting on people like that while he had been available! Well, he had been busy with catching up on his studies, but they didn’t know that!

Instead they had called in this ‘Mundungus’ and gotten Harry in trouble as a result. And now they all had to scramble to fix things – and they had already gotten lucky. Because Dementors were nasty stuff. Harry could’ve been seriously injured – or even dead – if it hadn’t been for his own skills.

Why hadn’t they just asked Danny to help? Was Phantom really that useful as a secret weapon that they refused to call on him?

Because, sure. He wasn’t too enthusiastic about the prospect of facing off against a Dementor – he didn’t know the Patronus charm himself, and ghosts were very attached to their souls. A Dementor’s kiss was terrifying to them – and to Danny as well, as a result. Some kind of inborn fear from his ghost half.

But that didn’t make it right. The wizards didn’t even know about it. This was purely them trying to keep him, his powers, a secret from the other side.

And was that really worth it?


Harry was angry. More than just a little angry, too. He had been kept in the dark – and on purpose, as well!

But he’d forced himself to calm down a little. Listened to Ron and Hermione as they explained about the Order. None of the kids had been allowed in, but Fred and George had invented Extendable Ears which allowed them to listen in a little.

“It’s bloody ridiculous, though,” Ron complained. “Because the Order has this special ghost, right? From America or whatever. And obviously he is allowed in, since he’s an actual member. But he has these friends, three transfer students from America.”

“Okay?” Harry frowned, wondering if Hogwarts even did transfer students. He had never heard of such a thing happening in the magic school. “So?”

“So Phantom is obviously telling his friends everything he learns during the meetings!” Ron flailed his hands, frustrated. “But he refuses to tell us anything! Even if we ask him when we see him – which is surprisingly often – he refuses to talk!”

Before he could continue asking about this ghost – or the transfer students – two loud cracks sounded. Fred and George had materialized in their room, startling all of its occupants.

“Stop doing that!” Hermione scolded weakly. The twins ignored her to beam at Harry.

“Hello Harry,” one said. “We thought we heard your dulcet tones.”

“You don’t want to bottle up your anger like that, Harry, let it all out,” said the other, smiling just as widely as his brother. “There might be a couple of people fifty miles away who didn’t hear you. And what an impression you must be leaving on the new students!”

“I don’t care about those stupid new students!” he snapped. “Are you seriously telling me that they have been staying here as well?!”

“They came with the ghost,” the first – Fred? – said dismissively. Then he held up a… something. A very long, flesh-colored string. “Anyway, Harry, you’re interfering with reception.” Seeing Harry’s raised eyebrow, he added, “Extendable Ears.”

“We’re trying to hear what’s going on downstairs,” the other twin – who must’ve been George then – explained.

“You want to be careful,” said Ron, staring at the Ear. “If Mum sees one of them again…”

“It’s worth the risk.” Fred shrugged off the concern. “That’s a major meeting they’re having.”

In that moment, however, the door opened. Ron’s younger sister, Ginny, entered the room.

“Oh, hello Harry!” She smiled, brightly. “I thought I heard your voice.”

Then she turned to the twins, and said, “It’s no-go with the Extendable Ears, she’s gone and put an Imperturbable Charm on the kitchen door.”

“How d’you know?” George asked, looking crestfallen.

“Tonks told me how to find out.” Ginny shrugged, unconcerned. “You just chuck stuff at the door and if it can’t make contact the door’s been Imperturbed. I’ve been flicking Dungbombs at it from the top of the stairs and they just soar away from it, so there’s no way the Extendable Ears will be able to get under the gap.”

Fred heaved a deep sigh. “Shame. I really fancied finding out what old Snape has been up to.”

“Snape!” Harry’s eyes flicked back to Fred. “Is he here?”

“Yeah.” George carefully closed the door, then sat down on one of the beds. Fred and Ginny followed. “Giving a report. Top secret.”

“And we won’t know anything about it without the ears.” Fred sighed again.

“We could always try asking Phantom again,” Ron suggested, but he didn’t sound very hopeful.

“Because that worked out so well last time.” Ginny rolled her eyes. “Phantom won’t tell us anything, and neither will his friends. That’s why we resorted to the Ears in the first place, remember?”

“What’s this about a special ghost, anyway?” Harry asked, noticing that the conversation was twisting to the Order instead of this far more interesting topic. “And the transfer students? I didn’t know Hogwarts did those.”

“They don’t, usually.” Hermione preened at the chance to share her knowledge. “It is a special exception, and I’m sure it was allowed now so that the Order could have access to Phantom. He’s so intriguing! Like a cross between a poltergeist and a regular ghost, fully solid except when he chooses not to be, and without the temperament of a poltergeist too!”

“I’m still not convinced he’s a ghost, anyway.” Ron scoffed, a frown on his face. “He might have human friends, but I don’t think he knows a damn about family. Pretty sure Mum’s trying to adopt him, but it’s like he’s immune to it. Completely unfamiliar with the concept, I bet.”

“So he’s like an all new sort of creature?” Harry frowned, ignoring the faint prick of jealousy he felt over hearing that Mrs. Weasley was acting like that to someone else. “Why’s he here, then? Won’t he draw attention to the Order? Surely the Ministry must be going crazy trying to learn more about him?”

“That’s the most incredible part!” Harry didn’t think Hermione’s eyes could get bigger, but apparently he had been mistaken. “He’s from America, from a Muggle town, but no one thinks he’s real! Sirius and Professor Lupin just talked him into coming along, and the only thing Phantom asked for was for his friends to be admitted to Hogwarts.”

“Well, what about them, then? His friends?”

Ron shook his head, looking a little disgruntled. “Well, they spend all their time in the boys’ room. It’s two boys, by the way, and one girl. But they spend all their time together, supposedly to catch up on their schoolwork up to the fifth year. And Phantom is there a lot, too.”

“They’re doing really well, considering that they haven’t had a formal education in magic.” Hermione looked hurt by the thought, which Harry honestly wasn’t all that surprised by. That would be the way to hurt her. “They haven’t told us how come, though. I’ve checked, but America has magic schools too.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter, does it?” Ron rolled his eyes. “They’re here now, and they must know more about the Order thanks to Phantom, but they refuse to tell. We’d be better off asking Bill at this rate.”

Harry sank down on the opposite bed, his thirst for more information finally overcoming him. “Is Bill here? I thought he was working in Egypt?”

And from there the conversation dissolved into the Order and its members. Mostly speculation, of course; they knew little beyond what their brothers were doing.

Then the conversation turned to the slander that the Magical World was spreading about him – about how he was crazy, and how Voldemort wasn’t really back, and all that. And then the hearing came back up, and Harry really didn’t want to think about that. But as he was casting about for a change of subject, the sound of footsteps coming up the steps saved him.

“Uh oh.”

Fred tugged the Extendable Ear back, then disappeared with a loud crack. Second later, Mrs. Weasley came through the door.

“The meeting is over, you can come down and have dinner now. Everyone is dying to see you, Harry.”

Ginny followed her mom out of the room, the two of them talking about… Dungbombs? and something called ‘Kreacher’. Or ‘creature’, maybe?

And now he was left with Ron and Hermoine, who eyed him apprehensively. Like they were afraid that he would start shouting again. Seeing them looking so nervous made him feel slightly ashamed.

He cast for a new conversation topic, and ended up asking after Kreacher. With the mood thus broken, they held a short and moderately pleasant conversation before moving downstairs – it was dinnertime, after all.


The basement kitchen was as gloomy as the rest of the house, unfortunately. A long wooden table still stood in the middle of the room, many chairs crammed around it. Littered all over it were rolls of parchment, goblets, empty wine bottles, and what appeared to be a pile of rags. Mr. Weasley and his eldest son Bill stood at the end of the table, their heads together while they were quietly talking.

Mrs. Weasley cleared her throat, and her husband looked up and jumped to his feet. “Harry!” he said, hurrying forward to greet him. “Good to see you!”

Bill was hastily rolling up the lengths of parchment left on the table. “Journey all right, Harry?” he asked, trying to grab twelve scrolls at once. “Mad-Eye didn’t make you come via Greenland, then?”

“He tried,” Tonks said with a snort. She strode over to help Bill – and immediately toppled a candle onto the last piece of parchment. “Oh no-- sorry--”

“Here, dear.” Mrs. Weasley repaired the scroll with a wave of her wand, sounding only slightly exasperated. Then, before Harry could really see it, she snatched it off the table and stuffed it into Bill’s already overladen arms. “This sort of thing ought to be cleared away promptly at the end of meetings.”

As she swept off towards an ancient dresser to start unloading dinner plates, Bill took out his wand. With a muttered “Evanesco!” the scrolls vanished.

“Sit down, Harry.” Sirius swept out a hand towards the pile of rags. “You’ve met Mundungus, haven’t you?”

The pile of rags – which was apparently actually a person – gave a grunting snore and then jerked awake. “Some’n say m’name?” he mumbled, his droopy bloodshot eyes unfocused. “I agree with Sirius…”

Harry ended up making conversation with Mundungus and Sirius for a bit while the others prepared dinner.

He felt something brush against his knees and startled, but when he looked down he saw it was just Crookshanks, Hermione’s cat. He brushed past Harry’s legs before moving over to Sirius, clambering onto the man’s lap.

“Heard you got to go to America?” he finally blurted out, in a poor attempt at conversation. “Got some transfer students for Hogwarts, did you?”

“Ah, yeah.” Sirius looked up from the cat he was scratching as he turned to Harry. “Sorry. Would’ve loved to tell you about it sooner, Harry. Has anyone told you about them already?”

“’s alright,” he said as he shrugged, pretending that it was, in fact, all right. “And yeah, a little.” He didn’t really know anything about them, still, only that they had come with Phantom. “I’ve heard more about about this ‘Phantom’ than them, to be honest.”

“Ah, yes, of course.” Sirius sighed, a strange mix of dreamy and grim. “See, Dumbledore asked me and Moony to go chasing some Muggle tales. And what would you know? There really were unknown magical creatures there. Phantom was the only one who seemed to be interested in working with humans, though, bit of a protector himself.”

“And he was okay with coming along if his friends could, too?”

“Yes, exactly. Not that it’s done a whole lot of good, of course, because he’s been put in the same bin as you and I by Dumbledore. The back burner, lest something happens to him before the grand showdown, or whatever Dumbledore wants him for.”

“How come? Isn’t he a ghost? What’s the worst that could happen to him?”

Sirius shrugged, a little jerkily. “Dumbledore wants to keep him a secret weapon, or so he says. Phantom ain’t too happy about it, but he can’t do much about it.”

“I know how that feels.” Harry huffed out a disgruntled breath.

“You and I both, buddy.” Sirius patted Crookshanks absentmindedly. “The Ministry of Magic's still after me, and Voldemort will know all about me being an Animagus by now, Wormtail will have told him, so my big disguise is useless. There's not much I can do for the Order of the Phoenix… or so Dumbledore feels.”

His tone was flattened, and Harry realized that Sirius wasn’t very happy with the headmaster either. A sudden surge of affection for his godfather came upon him.

“At least you’ve known what’s been going on,” he said, halfheartedly.

“Oh yeah.” Sirius snorted, voice sarcastic. “Listening to Snape’s reports, having to take all his snide hints that he’s out there risking his life while I’m sat on my backside here having a nice comfortable time… asking me how the cleaning’s going--”

“What cleaning?”

“Trying to make this place fit for human habitation.” Sirius waved a hand around the dismal kitchen. “No one’s lived here for ten years, not since my dear mother died, unless you count her old house-elf, and he’s gone round the twist, hasn’t cleaned anything in ages--”

He was interrupted by Mrs. Weasley, who shouted, suddenly, “Fred-- George-- No, just carry them!”

Then somewhere during the chaos that the twins caused during their attempt to bring dinner to the table, three new people joined the room. Harry hadn’t even noticed them – he had been a little too busy trying not to get decapitated by a bread knife.

It wasn’t until they had all sat down that he realized that they were there. He nodded at them, somewhat politely.

“Hey, I’m Harry. Harry Potter. And you’re the new transfer students, I’m guessing?”

“Yep.” The only girl in the group leaned forward, her strikingly purple eyes sharp. She tucked a strand of her black hair behind her ear. “I’m Sam Manson. These are Danny Fenton and Tucker Foley.” She pointed to each of them as she introduced them.

“Nice to meet you,” Danny said. He, too, had black hair. But his eyes were sky-blue – in a way that was both warm and cold simultaneously.

“Yeah, what he said.” Tucker straightened his red beret, making it impossible for Harry to see his hair color. But his eyes were a warm teal – even if they were hidden behind his glasses. “Nice to meet you, dude.”

Unfortunately, that was about as much as he learned from them. Like the others had said, the three friends refused to tell them anything. They wouldn’t even say if Phantom told them anything – even though the ghost must have.

After dinner was over, they made themselves scarce as quickly as possible. Had to get back to their studies, they said.

When he asked when he would get a chance to meet Phantom as well, they had shared a few glances and then shrugged.

“He’ll stick around all year,” Danny had said, without further explanation as to why Phantom would stick around for that long. “It would be hard not to see him.”

And after that, Harry hadn’t given it much thought. He had been busy enough catching up, and then the hearing at the Ministry rolled around and…


And he was cleared, thankfully. Was allowed back at Hogwarts.

So if he, in the middle of the celebrations, spotted a starkly colored ghost peeking through the doorway… Well, he might’ve waved at the ghost and left it at that.

Although he did commit the ghost’s appearance to memory. Green eyes so bright they seemed to glow and snow white hair? He was sure he could remember that.


The book lists for the new school year were late. None of them had realized this, of course, because they didn’t know when they usually arrived. But the other kids were all complaining about it.

But eventually, at the tail end of August, the letters came in. And Mrs. Weasley offered to take them along to Diagon Alley so they could pick up their last supplies – after all, their earlier shopping was only supposed to cover the first four years of catching up.

So they ended up in Diagon Alley again, emerging from a fireplace behind Mrs. Weasley.

“Alright you three. I will go and fetch all the books for everyone, and you three can get your other supplies, yes?” She looked them over. “You have money, right?”

“Yes Mrs. Weasley,” Sam said, tiredly. “We’ve got it, thanks.”

The woman nodded, then whisked herself away. Danny was glad that she would get the books – he couldn’t imagine how busy the store would be, with everyone having to get the books at the last moment.

“So… general supplies first?” Tucker asked, looking at the two others. “And then ingredients for Potions, and pets last?”

“Sounds good,” Danny agreed with a shrug. “Sam?”

“Yeah, let’s go.” She led the way, not because she was the most familiar with Diagon Alley – because she wasn’t, not really – but because that’s just the kind of person that Sam was.

Getting their actual supplies was fairly easy. They bought quills and ink and parchment, although they didn’t plan on using them much – they preferred their normal pens. But there was always a chance that the teachers would throw a fit over pen and lined paper, so. Better safe than sorry.

The potion ingredients also weren’t much of a challenge. They made a couple of faces over some of the ingredients, but for the most part they weren’t anything special. Potions was one of the subjects that Ida had always focused on – it was one of the few things she could teach the three of them that Danny could participate in, magic or not.

Also, they had seen far worse things among ghosts. Skulker regularly threatened to skin and/or decapitate Danny. How bad could dried ingredients really be?

When they got everything they needed, the three set out to acquire pets. They had already decided that they would get a single shared owl between the three of them, but they had held off on buying it. They didn’t want to force the poor thing to live in a tiny house until the school year started.

They stopped in front of Eeylops Owl Emporium, eyeing the owls stationed in and around the shop. The owls, in turn, suspiciously gazed at Danny.

“I don’t think any of these would work,” he said, hesitantly. Indeed, like most magical animals, the owls seemed to sense his ghostly aura, even in human form. And, like most, they seemed quite discomfited by it.

“Let’s try the general pet store,” Sam suggested instead, already turning towards that direction. “Maybe they’ll have weirder owls.”

Wordlessly he and Tucker followed her to the Magical Menagerie. They shared a look, shrugged, and entered.

Inside it was, well… chaotic was the only word for it. Danny wasn’t sure if it was because the animals were reacting to him, or if that was just how the shop was.

But, once again, the owls seemed to shy away from him.

“Do we really need to get an owl?” he asked uncertainly, looking at a tawny owl that was suspiciously eyeing the finger he had extended into its direction. “I mean, we use our phones for messaging anyway.” The owl snapped in his direction and he jerked his finger away, then left to check out a different bird.

“Owls can be useful to send packages though,” Tucker reminded him. The boy was watching him carefully, although Danny wasn’t sure if he was keeping an eye on him or just wanted to see him make a fool out of himself. “Which is, unfortunately, something technology can’t do quite yet.”

“What about this one?” Sam asked, standing in front of a peculiar type of owl Danny hadn’t seen before. It was mostly black, but with a yellow belly and a white band around its throat. Its yellow eyes blinked at him, white trailing around them.

He stepped closer, but the owl didn’t shy away. “Huh,” he said, eloquently. He stretched his hand towards the owl, and it nibbled his finger playfully. “Yeah. I think this one will work. What is it?”

“A spectacled owl, apparently.” Tucker stepped closer too, eyes moving from the tag to the owl itself. “This says that it’s a female, too. Are we taking her?”

“I think it might be the only damn owl on this street that isn’t afraid of Danny, so.” Sam shrugged, but the smile on her face told them she wasn’t actually annoyed. “Besides, she is a pretty owl.”

“And the fact that she’s a rare – almost unique – species helps, huh?” Danny laughed, turning away from the cage to find the shopkeeper. Sam jabbed him in the ribs as punishment, but his smile didn’t falter. Not even when she dove deeper into the store, clearly going to find the shopkeeper herself while he and Tucker waited by the owl.

“You do realize that we’ll have to come up with a name for her, right?” the other boy asked him, and Danny groaned.

“Can’t we just call her, like… Spooky?” He offered Tucker a shaky smile, holding out his hands like he was presenting a brilliant idea.

Tucker snorted, then said, dismissively, “No. But I’m willing to let that slide as a nickname.”

“Great!” Danny clapped his hands together cheerfully. “How about something else ghost-related for her actual name, then? So Spooky makes more sense?”

“Dude, as long as it’s not Phantom I don’t mind.” Tucker grinned, and Danny shoved him. The boy stumbled but caught himself, right before Sam returned.

She paused and raised a questioning eyebrow. The effect was ruined a little by the black cat in her arms.

“I bought the owl,” she said after a long moment of silence. “So we can go now.”

“What about the cat in your arms?” Tucker bent down to inspect it while Danny grabbed the cage with Spooky. “I thought we weren’t getting anything besides an owl?”

We aren’t.” Sam shrugged, or as much as she could with the ball of fur in her arms. “But I bought this one, yeah. The salesperson said that she’s been waiting to get bought for years, since Kneazle/cat hybrids like her aren’t very desirable or something.”

Then she held up the thing, and Danny had to admit that his original thought of it being an ordinary cat wasn’t that unreasonable. Because, really, it looked like a normal, if very fluffy, cat.

“This is Lilith,” Sam continued, “And she’s my cat now.”

Danny shook his head. “Sam, are you sure about this? Your parents are gonna hate that cat.”

She snorted. “That just makes me more determined to keep her and you know it.”

“He’s not wrong though,” Tucker tried as Danny heaved a sigh. “Your parents hate cats, and a half-magical one won’t go over well either.”

“Don’t care. Besides,” Sam shoved the cat in Danny’s arms, and he scrambled to take hold of Lilith while also passing the cage off to Tucker so he wouldn’t drop Spooky, “Look at her! Isn’t she the prettiest hybrid you’ve ever seen?”

Tucker’s eyes darted between the cat in his arms and Danny himself. Then the corners of his mouth turned up and his eyes crinkled. “Y’know, Sam? I think you might be right. That is a very appealing hybrid.”

“You’re awful,” Danny muttered, passing the cat back to Sam. Then he turned to Tucker and said, “And you thought I was bad, just because I wanted to call the owl Spooky!”

Sam clicked her tongue disapprovingly. “Yeah, no, I agree with him. Spooky is an acceptable nickname, but she’ll need a proper name.”

“Thank you!” Tucker flung his free arm up in the air, carefully holding the cage with the owl steady. “That’s what I said, too!”

“You two are the worst.” Danny rolled his eyes as the three of them left the store, making their way towards Flourish and Blotts to see if Mrs. Weasley was done yet. “If you’re both so clever, why don’t you come up with a name for her, huh?”

Tucker hummed thoughtfully, and Sam’s brow creased in thought.

“What about… Wraith?” she offered. “It follows the ghost theme, but it’s not, well. Phantom.”

“Wraith?” Danny repeated skeptically. He tried the name out a few times in his head, then shrugged. “Yeah, sure, why not. Wraith, and Spooky as a nickname.”

“Better than Lilith,” Tucker mumbled. Then he glanced over at Sam, cautiously. “Wait, isn’t that what you named the cat?”

“Yup!” she confirmed cheerfully.

“Oh.” And he sped up, racing towards the store like it would save him from Sam.

As if.

Chapter Text

Danny hit the carpeted floor with a groan. The hands that had rolled him off of his bed had left as quickly as they had come, but he was sure the owner was still close enough to hear.

“Get up, dude,” Tucker said, confirming this suspicion. “We gotta leave soon, and you’re not even dressed yet.”

“Where’s Sam?” he mumbled, pushing himself off of the floor. It wasn’t as dirty as most of the house, but it still wasn’t something he enjoyed in close proximity to his face. “She packing her own stuff?”

“We did most of our packing last night while waiting for you to finish up.” Tucker was pulling some clothes out of one of their bags and chucking them in Danny’s direction. “But apparently Fred and George almost murdered their sister so she’s making sure everything’s okay.”

“How did… Never mind, I don’t think I want to know.” He dressed quickly despite his exhaustion. Thanks to his ghost hunting experience, Danny was used to running on very little sleep. Most of the summer had been quiet and restful. Surviving off of only a few hours of sleep was easy in comparison to how most of his school year had gone.

Just then the door swung open and Sam entered. Seeing Danny awake, her moody expression lightened slightly. “Ah, you’re awake. Good. I need you to make a duplicate.”

“Why?” Danny asked, already shifting into ghost form. He could duplicate in human form, but it remained easier in ghost form.

“Apparently we’re short one guard because some guy didn’t show up,” she started explaining as she started checking their bags as well. “We can say Phantom will take his place, since he would be following us to Hogwarts anyway.”

“And since he can stay invisible, Danny can just re-absorb the duplicate almost immediately,” Tucker said, catching on quicker than Danny. “Sam, that’s brilliant.”

With a burst of power Danny formed the duplicate, then switched back to human form again. “In that case, Phantom should head down and offer himself as a guard, right? And then we’ll follow with the luggage.”

“I said Phantom could do it, but yeah.” Sam turned to face him – both copies of him. “That would probably be a good idea.”

The duplicate nodded. Then his colors washed away and he dove through the floor, going to follow the instructions.

Meanwhile Danny had stuffed his sleepwear into one of the bags, shoving his last stuff into his pockets. “We’re ready to leave, then?”

“Should be.” Sam looked the room over once more while Tucker checked his PDA – no doubt checking a digital list. “We did most of the packing last night while you were talking to your family.”

“Yeah, Tucker mentioned that as well.” He rubbed the back of his neck, shooting them an apologetic look. “Sorry, that took way longer than I thought it would. You didn’t stay up too late, did you?”

“I had to get back to my room fairly early, since I didn’t want to risk waking the others.” She shot him a scalding look. “But even so, it clearly wasn’t as late as you. You look like shit, Danny.”

“Thanks,” he replied dryly. Then, “Let’s get going before Phantom gets into trouble.”

“You mean before you get into trouble?” But Tucker grabbed some of the bags and moved to the door anyway. “Because you do realize that just because it’s a duplicate doesn’t mean he isn’t you?”

“I’m aware, thanks.” Danny grabbed some of the luggage as well, and Sam took their last things. “But he’s currently acting on his own, so.”

No one answered as they dragged their stuff down the stairs instead. The ruckus they caused in the process was overshadowed by the screaming from Mrs. Black’s portrait – the earlier shouting from Mrs. Weasley seemed to have quietened.

Or so they thought, until she bellowed “Will you lot get down here now, please!” just as they stepped onto the stairs. Danny barely caught himself so he wouldn’t fall down them – or call upon his powers to float instead.

“Oh kids, sorry, I didn’t see you.” Mrs. Weasley bustled over, already guiding them further into the hall to clear the way. “Do you have all your things?”

“Yes Mrs. Weasley,” they assured her, just as the last of the others appeared on the stairs. Hermione, holding a squirming cat in her arms, was followed by Harry. He, in turn, was holding a cage with an owl and a large trunk.

Seeing them appear, Mrs. Weasley turned to them. “Harry, you’re to come with me and Tonks,” she told them loudly, trying to be heard over the screeching portrait. “Leave your trunk and your owl, Alastor’s going to deal with the luggage. Oh, for heaven's sake, Sirius, Dumbledore said no!”

Sirius, in Animagus form, had appeared at Harry’s side. The two of them were clambering over the various trunks to get to Mrs. Weasley.

She sighed, despairingly. “Oh honestly… Well, on your own head be it!” Then she turned back to the three of them, still looking rather distraught. “You three will go with Arthur and Phantom, yes?”

They nodded in confirmation. Then Mrs. Weasley visibly steeled herself, wrenched open the front door, and left with Harry and the dog.

Getting bored of waiting around quickly, they ended up splitting up to help wherever they could. Sam disappeared upstairs to help Hermione and Ginny wrangle their bags, Tucker left to help Ron, and Danny ended up merging back with his duplicate and fought the covers back onto the portrait of Mrs. Black.

By the time all three had reunited downstairs, Mr. Weasley had appeared to take them – and Ron and Hermione – to King’s Cross.

Everyone tried to coax them into passing through the barrier to the actual train, but the concept of walking through a wall wasn’t all that foreign to them. Even for Sam and Tucker, simple association with Danny and his intangibility had made them rather fearless. That, and the walls in the Ghost Zone functioned the same to humans.

Behind the wall stood the actual Hogwarts Express in all its steaming glory. Sam made a face which both Tucker and Danny shrugged off – soot or not, it might be magical and thus not damaging to nature.

They found the rest easily; Harry, Mrs. Weasley, Tonks, and Moody were crowded around a very full baggage cart. It was almost unloaded by the time Lupin appeared with the last kids – Ginny, Fred, and George.

“No trouble?” Moody growled out the question towards Lupin. Danny was glad that he had remembered to create a new duplicate before they left. He wasn’t sure how Moody’s eye worked, but he hadn’t wanted to risk it.

“Nothing,” Lupin assured the other man.

“I’ll still be reporting Sturgis to Dumbledore.” Moody shook his head. “That’s the second time he’s not turned up in a week. We were lucky that Phantom could take over.”

“Well, look after yourselves.” Lupin shook hands all round, and even gave Harry a clap on the shoulder. “You too, Harry. Be careful.”

“Yeah, keep your head down and your eyes peeled.” Moody shook Harry’s hand too. “And don’t forget, all of you – careful what you put in writing. If in doubt, don’t put it in a letter at all.”

“It’s been great meeting all of you.” Tonks started hugging Hermione and Ginny, but halted at a glare from Sam. “We’ll see you soon, I expect.”

Before their goodbyes could continue, however, a warning whistle sounded. The last students started hurrying onto the train. Sam, Tucker, and Danny shared a short glance, then simultaneously scrambled to get on. They had no real bonds with any of the others, they could find them again later.

As they were making their way down a corridor the train jolted into moving. They stopped to watch out of a window, laughing when they saw Sirius chasing the train. Then they turned around a bend and lost sight of him.

The train picked up more and more speed, and the houses outside flashed past.

“We should… probably go find the others.” Danny looked back in the direction they had come from with a frown. “They might get worried that we got lost or didn’t make it.”

“And we probably won’t be able to have a compartment to ourselves anyway.” Sam looked at the crowded spaces and grimaced. “Might as well share with people we sort-of know instead of complete strangers.”

They ended up moving through the entire train to find the others, and even then only found Harry and Ginny – and two others they didn’t recognize.

“Hi Harry, Ginny, people we don’t know,” Sam said bluntly as she opened the door. “Mind if we sit here?”

The boy – round-faced and holding a toad, of all things – glanced at the two people addressed by name. The girl, with long blonde hair and a wand tucked behind her ear, looked up but didn’t seem very interested.

“If Neville and Luna are okay with it as well.” Ginny looked at the two of them. The boy shrugged, and the girl turned back to her magazine – which, for some reason, was upside-down.

Since none of them protested, Team Phantom pushed their way into the compartment and stowed their trunks and Spooky’s cage. Lilith seemed content to lie in Sam’s arms, although she did send an interested peek towards the toad in the boy’s hands.

Sensing the lack of introductions, Tucker held out his hand towards the boy. “I’m Tucker Foley, since we haven’t been introduced yet.”

The boy accepted it, uncertainly. “Neville Longbottom,” he ended up muttering.

Danny took his hand next. “Danny Fenton, and this is Sam Manson.” Sam nodded a greeting, her hands full with the extraordinarily-fluffy Lilith.

“Pleasure to meet you.” Neville frowned, looking between the three of them. “You seem… Are you…”

“They’re exchange students,” Harry explained, apparently taking mercy on the confused boy. “They’re from America, and they’re joining our year.” Turning back to Danny, Sam, and Tucker, he added, “Neville is in his fifth year, just like us. He’s a Gryffindor, just like me and Ginny.”

The girl – Luna, presumably – didn’t bother introducing herself. Ginny did in her stead. “And that’s Luna Lovegood. She’s in her fourth year, just like me, and a Ravenclaw.”

“How come you three knew Harry and Ginny already, though?” Neville asked, eyes flitting around. “If you’re new, that is.”

“We didn’t get any formal education back home.” Danny grinned sheepishly. “We kinda needed to spend the entire summer catching up to make sure we held up to Hogwarts’ standards.”

“So you didn’t have any experience with magic?” Neville’s eyes were wide with surprise. “How’s that possible?”

“Oh no, no.” Tucker shook his head. “We have plenty of experience with magic – Sam’s grandma taught us. And we don’t have a magic sensor thingy like you guys have, so there’s nothing stopping us from using it outside of school if we’re underage.”

“I don’t think you ever explained why you three didn’t receive any education, anyway.” Ginny frowned at them. “Surely America has Wizarding schools?”

“They do,” Sam confirmed with a nod. “But we slipped through the cracks, you know? We didn’t get picked up and didn’t receive any invitations, and we didn’t feel much for chasing it down ourselves.”

“That, and I didn’t want to give up the beauty of regular life.” Tucker dug through his pocket and pulled out his PDA. “Can you imagine if I went to a Wizarding school before I figured out how to make technology work around magic?”

Danny snorted. “I’m sure you would’ve been fine, Tuck.”

“But you don’t know that!” He grinned, pocketing the device again. Then he took notice of the wide-eyed looks of the others. “What?”

“You found a way to make Muggle tech work even around magic?” Harry asked, voice shocked. “I haven’t heard of anybody managing that yet.”

Tucker shrugged, casual. “Sure, and electrical devices still don’t work, not in magic-heavy areas. But we converted these to run on ectoplasm instead, and they hold up fine. Hold charge for a really long time as well.”

“Recharging them is a hassle though,” Sam complained, stroking the cat in her lap. “Since you need a ghost, and a decently powerful one as well. The weak ghosts most wizards know don’t have enough ectoplasm for it, which is probably why no one else tried it before.”

“You’re saying that there are stronger ghosts out there?” Neville grimaced. “And I thought Peeves was a problem.”

“Of course there are more ghosts,” Luna said, catching everyone off-guard – they hadn’t realized that she was listening. “They are simply better at hiding. The Quibbler has written about them before.”

“Right.” Neville turned back to Sam, still looking confused. “But there really are more powerful ghosts out there? Aren’t they dangerous, if they’re immune to magic?”

“That’s why ectoplasm-based technology exists.” Tucker patted his pocket, one which Danny knew contained a laser lipstick. “It’s the only thing that works against these ghosts.”

“You might get to see some soon enough.” Danny leaned forward, resting his head on his elbow, which in turn was settled on his knee. “Some have a tendency to follow us around. One in particular I can almost guarantee will be seen in Hogwarts.”

Tucker snorted, and Sam’s lips quirked into a smile as well. Harry just rolled his eyes, but Ginny grinned as well – she, too, had realized that he was talking about Phantom, even if she didn’t get the full joke.

After that, they chattered on about less important things for a while. Luna mostly stuck to her upside-down magazine – the Quibbler, Danny noticed – but occasionally added a remark or two to the conversation as well.

A food trolley came by and everyone bought some food – and ate it as well – before Ron and Hermione showed up. Ron stowed the cage in his hands – which contained a shrilly hooting owl – before stealing some of Harry’s food and throwing himself into a free seat.

“I’m starving,” he complained, leaning back with his eyes closed as if he had had a very exhausting morning.

Hermione – who held a cat as fluffy as Lilith but in orange – took a seat as well. “Well, there are two fifth-year prefects from each house,” she started explaining, looking quite disgruntled. “Boy and girl from each.”

They talked about the Prefects a little more – Danny tuned out most of the conversation in favor of making faces at his friends.

Then Hermione gasped, drawing everyone’s attention back to her. She turned to Danny – and Sam and Tucker – looking apologetic. “Oh, I’m so sorry! We’ve been completely overshadowing you three. Do you even know about Hogwarts’ houses?”

“We’ve been told, yeah.” Sam flapped a hand, dismissive. “Don’t worry about us.”

“But if you know about them, aren’t you curious?” Hermione shifted to look at the three of them fully. “To see what houses you’ll be sorted into, I mean.”

“I mean, maybe. But we were already sorted, so…” Danny shrugged. “Didn’t seem like a big deal to me, although it is kind of weird to split the school like that.”

“Wait, you were already sorted?” Ron looked between the three of them, frowning. “When?”

“Uh, when we first got here?” Tucker rolled his eyes. “They didn’t want us to deal with being transfer students and having to get sorted, so we got that over with already.”

“So then what houses were you sorted into?” Harry looked surprisingly enthusiastic, a grin creeping onto his face. “Any new Gryffindors?”

Sam stuck a thumb towards her chest. “That’d be me, yeah. Although apparently we all qualified.”

“I ended up getting sorted into Ravenclaw,” Tucker explained. “More brains than courage, apparently.”

“And I got Slytherin.” Danny shrugged, casual. “So yeah, we all got different houses, unfortunately.”

“Wait, hold up.” Ron shifted, brow creased into a frown. “You’re saying that you’re a Slytherin?”

“Uh, yeah? Why, what’s wrong with that? House of ambition, right?” Why was this a big deal? Weren’t all houses made equal?

“Don’t mind him,” Hermione said dismissively – although she, too, was eyeing Danny speculatively. “Slytherin is typically not seen as a good house. There is a strong rivalry between Gryffindor, which we are, and Slytherin.”

“And most evil wizards come from Slytherin as well!” Ron snapped.

Oh, great. Like he didn’t deal with people thinking he was evil enough. First for being a ghost, and now for being sorted into Slytherin.

“Yeah, well,” he ended up saying, trying to fall back to his casual attitude. “That’s not me. I’m friends with Sam and Tucker, and I don’t plan on giving up on that, house nonsense or not. Besides, we knew nothing except the basic qualities of each house when we got sorted – how was I supposed to know one house was considered evil?”

“You’re not, and you shouldn’t listen to Ron.” Hermione pushed the boy in question back into his seat proper. “There are certainly bad people among Slytherin, and they like to pick on Harry – and you might understand how that has impacted our view of Slytherin as a whole.”

“That’s still unfair towards us – towards Danny – though.” Sam sighed then, petting Lilith for comfort. “But I can imagine so, yeah. We were the same towards the bullies at our school.”

This seemed to pacify Ron a little, and he sat back fully. Still, he seemed rather unhappy about associating with a Slytherin without knowing.

And wasn’t that just a twist Danny didn’t want in his life?

Chapter Text

Thankfully, the rest of the ride to Hogwarts went over alright. Danny – and Sam and Tucker – took note of Harry’s disturbance at seeing the Thestrals that pulled the carriages. Did people not know they existed, that they pulled the carts? But they were too far away to involve themselves – they had planned to grab a cart of their own.

Slowly but surely the castle came into view, and the three of them grinned at each other. While they had been in Hogwarts earlier, they hadn’t had a chance to see it, not really. Now, however, they could see the enormous structure. Towers spiked from the building like thorns, dark even against the dimming sky, with the occasional window lit up bright. A massive lake, black as the coming night, laid in front of it, shimmering in the fading light.

The carriages came to a halt in front of the castle, stone steps leading up to giant oak doors. Danny, Sam, and Tucker got out, following the other students into the castle. They couldn’t see the others from Grimmauld Place – maybe they were inside already?

It was almost impossible to make out the Entrance Hall with all the students that rushed through it. Torches flared, lighting up the room, but the mass of teens blocked out the rest of the room. Team Phantom just let themselves be pulled with the crowd towards the double doors on the right, figuring that that was where they were expected to go as well.

Really, couldn’t anybody have told them what was coming? Some kind of planning, maybe? The rules, at least?

They followed the mass of people through the doors and then came to a complete halt.

Four long tables stood in the hall, all filling up with students – all color-coordinated. Sorted by houses, apparently. Another fifth table was set along the far wall, with teachers – or staff – sitting behind it. There were high windows set in the walls, displaying the dark skies outside. Candles floated in midair all along the tables, and silver Wizarding ghosts glided around as well.

Most notable, however, was the enchanted ceiling above them. Currently it was starless, a pure black. But it clearly matched the skies outside, and immediately Danny could imagine it on a brighter day – the stars sprawled above them.

“D’you I could learn how to do that?” he asked, quiet in awe.

“Stay and find out,” Tucker suggested, glancing around the room. He frowned, seemingly disappointed. “Looks like the tables are sorted by houses, so we’re going to have to split up.”

“And I don’t think we’ll get a chance to reconvene after dinner either, not if we want to figure out where the common rooms are. And I bet they’re not together.”

“No, I bet they’re not,” Danny agreed, dragging his eyes from the ceiling to look at his two friends. “Meet tomorrow when we get out schedules so we can see what classes we share?”

“Sounds good.” Tucker nodded, then split towards one of the closer tables. All along it, the students wore clothes lined in blue and bronze, just like Tucker.

“See you tomorrow, Danny.” Sam shot him a smile. “And don’t get in trouble, alright?”

“Me? Never.” He smiled back and watched as she made her way to one of the far tables, students dressed in red and gold. Then with a sigh he turned to the table on the other side of the room. Green and silver – Slytherin, just like him. The evil house, supposedly.

He trudged towards it, looking over the crowd. They seemed to sit without much organization – groups of friends, most likely. Great. Picking an empty spot, Danny sat down heavily, hoping he wouldn’t draw too much attention to himself.

“Who’re you supposed to be?” a haughty voice asked, and Danny looked up from the table he’d been staring at. A boy of his age was staring at him, gray eyes cold but sharp. His white-blond hair was sleek, swept into a neat model.

He looked like a stuck-up prick, honestly. Not the kind of person that Danny would like. But it wouldn’t do to make enemies on his first day, so he shot the boy a hesitant grin and introduced himself.

“I’m Danny Fenton. I’m, uh, new here. Nice to meet you.”

The boy nodded, a single inclination of his head. “American, hm? Are you familiar with British Wizarding families at all?”

“No,” Danny admitted easily, his grin turning a little more awkward. He wished the other would at least give his name – thinking of him as just ‘the boy’ was getting annoying fast, and he didn’t want to come up with a nickname if it wasn’t necessary – because it would stick and he would accidentally use it out loud. “I’m pretty new to the UK, to be honest. Got an offer to attend Hogwarts and didn’t want to turn it down – heard good things about this school.”

“Spoken like a true Slytherin,” the boy agreed, somehow looking both pleased and disgruntled. From a well-known family, Danny guessed, and displeased that Danny hadn’t known him. It was a lot like Sam’s parents whenever people didn’t recognize them.

Finally he offered a hand though. “I’m Draco Malfoy, although you clearly haven’t heard of my family as an American.” Then waved in the direction of four other students their age – two sizable boys, and two girls. “These are Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, Millicent Bulstrode, and Pansy Parkinson.”

They nodded their acknowledgments, but seemed more interested in continuing their own conversation. All four kept throwing glances in their direction, however, like they were keeping an eye on Draco. The boys especially, reminding Danny of some sort of bodyguards. Strange.

“Oh, well, um. Nice to meet all of you, then.”

Before he could embarrass himself further, the doors to the Hall swung open again. In the opening stood Professor McGonagall, who Danny recognized from meetings at the Order, and a bunch of scared-looking kids. First Years, maybe? Oh, right. The sorting business was a thing that happened. That made sense.

As the buzz of conversation faded away, the new students lined up in front of the staff table. McGonagall placed a stool in front of them, carefully, and stepped back. The ragged looking hat, which Danny recognized from when he, Sam, and Tucker had been sorted, sat on the stool.

Then the rip in its brim opened like a mouth and it burst into song. Danny made a face, and Draco, in front of him, laughed at his surprised expression.

In times of old when I was new
and Hogwarts barely started
the founders of our noble school
thought never to be parted:
united by a common goal
they had the selfsame yearning,
to make the world’s best magic school
and pass along their learning.

Together we will build and teach!’
the four good friends decided
and never did they dream that they
might some day be divided,
for were there such friends anywhere
as Slytherin and Gryffindor?
Unless it was the second pair
of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw?

So how could it have gone so wrong?
How could such friendships fail?
Why, I was there and so can tell
the whole sad, sorry tale.

Said Slytherin, ‘We’ll teach just those
whose ancestry is purest.’
Said Ravenclaw, ‘We’ll teach those whose
intelligence is surest.’
Said Gryffindor, ‘We’ll teach all those
with brave deeds to their name.’
Said Hufflepuff, ‘I’ll teach the lot,
and treat them just the same.’

These differences caused little strife
when they first came to light,
for each of the four founders had
a house in which they might
take only those they wanted, so,
for instance, Slytherin
took only pure-blood wizards
of great cunning, just like him,
and only those of sharpest mind
were taught by Ravenclaw
while the bravest and boldest
went to daring Gryffindor.
Good Hufflepuff, she took the rest,
and taught them all she knew,
thus the houses and their founders
retained friendships firm and true.

So Hogwarts worked in harmony
for several happy years,
but then discord crept among us
feeding on our faults and fears.

The houses that, like pillars four,
had once held up our school,
now turned upon each other and,
divided, sought to rule.

And for a while it seemed the school
must meet an early end,
what with dueling and with fighting
and the clash of friend on friend
and at least there came a morning
when old Slytherin departed
and though the fighting then died out
he left us quite downhearted.

And never since the founders four
where whittled down to three
have the houses been united
as they once were meant to be.

And you all know the score:
I sort you into houses
because that is what I’m for,
but this year I’ll go further,
listen closely to my song:
though condemned I am to split you
still I worry that it’s wrong.

Though I must fulfill my duty
and must quarter every year
still I wonder whether sorting
may not bring the end I fear.

Oh, know the perils, read the signs,
the warning history shows,
for our Hogwarts is in danger
from external, deadly foes
and we must unite inside her
or we’ll crumble from within
I have told you, I have warned you…

Let the sorting now begin.”

As it settled down again, applause broke out across the room. But Danny could hear muttering and whispers as well, and he frowned and glanced over at Draco. “Does it… always do that?”

“The Hat always sings before the sorting, yes.” But Draco’s brow was creased, and he looked vaguely unhappy. “But I cannot say that I’ve ever heard it speak of anything besides the qualities of the various houses.”

Danny wondered why it had deviated now. Was it because of Voldemort? Or was it, somehow, because of him and Sam and Tucker? Either way, it was a good lesson; united, the school would be strong. He’d done it back at Casper High as well, once. When Youngblood and Ember had kidnapped all the adults, he had led all his classmates into a fight to bring them back.

Of course, he had immediately lost all respect he might’ve gained in the process when he bailed halfway through to help as Phantom, but still. He couldn’t have done it without the others – and the divided nature of the houses already seemed troublesome to him. And not just because it had separated him from Sam and Tucker.

The muttering came to an abrupt halt as Professor McGonagall sent a scorching look at the students. Then she lowered her eyes to the long piece of parchment in her hands and called out the first name.

“Abercrombie, Euan.”

A terrified-looking boy stumbled towards the stool and put the hat on his head. The hat ended up sorting him into Gryffindor (with a loud shout – apparently that had remained the same from the private sorting he had done), much to the general disgruntlement of the Slytherins around Danny.

One by one the first-years were sorted as Danny grew increasingly impatient. He was getting really hungry, and the sorting still seemed wrong to him. He could understand grouping people based on their talents and strengths, but the way they were kept apart and encouraged to be rivals… He didn’t like it.

Then finally the last student was sorted, and McGonagall picked up the Hat and the stool and marched away. Professor Dumbledore rose to his feet, having previous sat on a high-backed golden chair at the center of the staff table.

“To our newcomers,” Dumbledore said, his voice strong and ringing and his arms stretched wide, a beaming smile on his lips. “Welcome! To our old hands – welcome back! There is a time for speech-making, but this is not it. Tuck in!”

The crowd of students laughed appreciatively and broke out in applause as Dumbledore sat down again. Then food appeared out of nowhere, across all tables. Bread and sauces and dishes of vegetables and who-knew what else was piled onto the table in front of Danny, and he eyed it appreciatively.

“Dig in,” Draco encouraged, shoveling food onto his own plate with the kind of vigor only starving teenagers had. “There’ll be more speeches after.”

Danny nodded, following the example his fellow Slytherins set, and dug in. Most of the food he didn’t immediately recognize – all British in origin, he assumed – but if he could survive ectoplasm-contaminated food then this wouldn’t kill him either.

As more and more students finished eating, the noise level started rising again. Danny continued stuffing his face longer than most others – in part thanks to his higher metabolism, and in part to avoid awkward conversations with the other students. But then the talking ceased and the food cleared away, and when Danny turned around, he saw that Dumbledore had stood up once again.

“Well, now that we are all digesting another magnificent feast, I beg a few moments of your attention for the usual start-of-term notices.” He gazed around the room, holding everyone’s attention without flaw. “First-years ought to know that the Forest on the grounds is out-of-bounds to the students – and a few older students ought to know by now, too.” Well, that was a good thing to know. Danny wondered why, though. What could they possibly hide in a forest that they didn’t want students to discover, but that wouldn’t endanger them if they didn’t seek it out?

“Mr. Filch, the caretaker, has asked me, for what he tells me is the four-hundred-and-sixty-second time, to remind you all that magic is not permitted in the corridors between classes, nor are a number of other things, all of which can be checked on the extensive list now fastened to Mr. Filch’s office door.” Another good thing to know. No magic in the halls? It made sense, he guessed, but he wondered if there were places where they were allowed to practice magic without supervision. Especially somewhere not limited by houses, so he and Sam and Tucker could train together.

He would probably have to explore the castle as Phantom later. They would need a secret spot anyway, so he could work on his ghost powers as well.

“We have had two changes in staffing this year,” Dumbledore continued, steadfast. “We are very pleased to welcome back Professor Grubbly-Plank, who will be taking Care of Magical Creatures lessons; we are also delighted to introduce Professor Umbridge, our new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.”

There was a round of polite but fairly unenthusiastic applause. “Finally got rid of that old dunce Hagrid,” Draco muttered under his breath, but Danny didn’t think he had expected anyone to hear it. It reminded him slightly of the way Vlad would talk about his dad, which was rather discomforting.

“Tryouts for the house Quidditch teams will take place on the--”

He broke off, looking at Professor Umbridge, who had stood up. She cleared her throat with a rather forced “Hem, hem,” clearly intending to make a speech of her own.

Dumbledore looked taken aback, but only for a moment, and sat down. The other teachers weren’t nearly as adept at hiding their surprise, which told Danny that this was not something that normally happened.

“Thank you, Headmaster,” she started, “for those kind words of welcome.”

Her voice was high-pitched, breathy and little-girlish in a forced way, and Danny hated it. She was clearly putting on a show, pretending to be some nice angelic person, and it reminded him too much of Spectra to be comfortable with. That, and her fluffy pink cardigan was awful – Sam must be 3 seconds away from ripping it off and burning it.

Umbridge cleared her throat again – another “hem, hem” – and then spoke again.

“Well, it is lovely to be back at Hogwarts, I must say!” She smiled, her teeth surprisingly pointed for a human. Danny probed with his magic sense, but nope, she was just an ordinary witch. Not a powerful one, either. “And to see such happy little faces looking up at me!”

Was she really the best choice for a Defense teacher? Her magic wasn’t very strong, and she didn’t look like a capable fighter. And DADA was one of the main subjects that the three of them had been looking forward to – the most useful one for them.

“I am very much looking forward to getting to know you all and I’m sure we’ll be very good friends!” She cleared her throat again, but when she continued her tone had gotten more serious. More businesslike, with a dull learned-by-heart sound to them.

“The Ministry of Magic has always considered education of young witches and wizards to be of vital importance. The rare gifts with which you were born,” the corner of Danny’s mouth twitched up, wryly, “may come to nothing if not nurtured and honed by careful instruction. The ancient skills unique to the wizarding community must be passed down the generations lest we lose them forever. The treasure trove of magical knowledge amassed by our ancestors must be guarded, replenished and polished by those who have been called to the noble profession of teaching.”

Professor Umbridge paused to make a little bow to her fellow staff members, and Danny’s face fell a little. This sounded bad. The Ministry, like most magical institutions, was very strict and against hybrids like himself. But DADA would be one of his riskier subjects, with the practical use of magic.

Umbridge gave another “hem, hem” and continued speaking before he could think too much about it. He made a mental note to talk about this later with Sam and Tucker, however, if he could find their common rooms.

“Every headmaster and headmistress of Hogwarts has brought something new to the weighty task of governing this historic school, and that is as it should be, for without progress there will be stagnation and decay. There again, progress for progress’s sake must be discouraged, for our tried and tested traditions often require no tinkering. A balance, then, between old and new, between permanence and change, between tradition and innovation…”

The crowd started getting louder, students putting their heads together to whisper and giggle. Danny tried to focus on the speech – he had to determine how much of a threat Umbridge was – but he still missed out on a bit.

“…because some changes will be for the better, while others will come, in the fullness of time, to be recognized as errors of judgment. Meanwhile, some old habits will be retained, and rightly so, whereas others, outmoded and outworn, must be abandoned. Let us move forward, then, into a new era of openness, effectiveness and accountability, intent on preserving what ought to be preserved, perfecting what needs to be perfected, and pruning wherever we find practices that ought to be prohibited.”

She sat down, and Dumbledore clapped, as did some of the other staff members. A few students joined in, although Danny only did because he saw some of the others at the table do the same and he didn’t want to stand out.

“Thank you very much, Professor Umbridge,” Dumbledore said, having stood up again. “That was most illuminating.” He bowed to her, briefly. “Now, as I was saying, Quidditch tryouts will be held…”

“Very well,” Draco said, after a moment longer. “Pansy and I have to go do our Prefect duties, but Crabbe and Goyle can show you our common room, Danny.”

Danny blinked, surprised at being addressed. “Oh, um. Thanks.” He looked over at the boys in question, neither of which seemed very enthused about Draco forcing him on them. Nonetheless the boy swept off, followed by one of the two girls. The other glanced over at him, then Crabbe and Goyle, and left as well.

Crabbe and Goyle stood up, and Danny scrambled to follow them. “We’re in the Dungeons,” the one with the bowl-like haircut started explaining. “There’s a password as well, so no other houses can get in.”

“Is that an actual rule or something?” Danny asked as he followed the two out of the dinner hall. “What if you want to talk with people from other houses?”

The other boy snorted, his small eyes crinkling. “Why would you ever need to talk with anyone from another house? Especially as a Slytherin, you will find no friends among the others, and definitely none that will support you like your own house.”

That, Danny highly doubted. After all, he already had Sam and Tucker, and he was sure he could count on at least some of the other Gryffindor teens he had spent the summer with. “What about family?” he asked instead. “Or do all family members always get sorted into the same house?”

The boys shared an uncertain glance. “I… don’t know,” the first boy finally admitted, hesitantly. “What do you think, Greg?”

Goyle hummed. “I think they still don’t visit each other in the common rooms, but usually families all go in the same house, anyway. Even if they don’t, they usually only meet in general areas. Or maybe they just don’t talk at all, throughout the school year.” He shrugged.

“That’s… That seems weird, I dunno.” Danny grimaced. He couldn’t imagine not talking to his friends, just because they had been sorted into different houses. “But there is no real rule against it, it just never happens?”

Another shrug from Goyle. “We’re warned not to, but I’m not sure if there’s an actual rule against it. Right, Vince?”

“Exactly.” The two boys started leading him down a staircase and into the Dungeons. “Why’re you asking though?”

Well, he didn’t even really have to lie for this one. “Just wondering about the rules,” Danny said. “No one really told me anything about how things go around here. Just been handed the material for the past four years to make sure I was caught up, got a list of everything I had to buy, and where to get on the train. And a short lesson in the qualities of the houses when I got sorted.”

“Oh yeah,” Crabbe said, his eyes lighting up in realization. “You must’ve gotten sorted separately. Why’re you a transfer anyway?”

“Was offered a chance to receive schooling here at Hogwarts.” Danny kept an eye on the two boys while also watching the area around him. The dungeon corridors were mostly empty, barren stone walls. “And it’s a school well-known for its high-quality education, so.”

Crabbe nodded approvingly, then suddenly both of them came to a stop.

“We’re here,” he explained, gesturing at a seemingly ordinary wall. “You just need to give the password, which changes every fortnight. The new ones gets posted on the noticeboard, so make sure to keep an eye on that. And, of course, don’t tell anyone outside the house. Slytherin only.”

They unlocked the passageway, and the three of them walked in to the common room itself. It was dungeon-like, which wasn’t entirely surprising, with greenish lamps and chairs. The green lighting was somewhat odd, but it actually reminded Danny not only of the Ghost Zone, but also of the ectoplasm many of his parents’ inventions ran on.

Despite being deep underground, windows were set in the walls. Danny was about to question what they looked out on when a giant squid swept by, leading him to realize that this must be the lake he had seen when he’d arrived.

There were leather sofas scattered all around the room, low-backed and black in color, which made Danny glad that Sam couldn’t see it – and hope that the Gryffindor common room wasn’t similar in design.

“The dormitories are off to either side of the common room.” Crabbe pointed towards one of the walls, where there was indeed a door hidden. “Those are the boys’ dormitories, and the girls are on the other side. We use the same ones every year, so I’m not sure where you ended up. Your bags’ll be there, though, since they’re transported from the Express to your bed.”

“Really? That’s convenient.” Danny stretched, badly hiding a – fake – yawn. “I’ll go look for my bed, then. Thanks for showing me the way guys, I really appreciate it.”

Crabbe and Goyle both nodded in acknowledgment, then wandered further into the common room. Danny left to find his dormitory, just like he’d said, even if not for the same reason. He was hoping to get a quick look at Hogwarts as Phantom tonight, and he really hadn’t counted on having to share a room.

But he had to check on the local ghosts. The exact knowledge Wizarding ghosts held differed, and he couldn’t risk getting outed just because he hadn’t expected any of them to know about him being a half-ghost.

Danny ended up finding his stuff in a room with four unoccupied beds, for which he was pretty glad. Some of the other rooms had already had students in them, which was not only awkward, but it also meant he didn’t have privacy while checking on his stuff.

The room itself was much like the common room, made with cold stone and decorated with Slytherin crests. There were four ancient four-posters with green silk hangings, each flanked by windows. Briefly, Danny worried about this – would the lapping of the lake water keep him up? But there was nothing to be done about it, anyway.

His trunk sat at the foot of his bed, with the rest of his stuff on top of it. A dresser sat next to it, however, so he could put it away when he was done with it. Overall, not too bad – definitely no worse than the Order headquarters he’d been in all summer.

As much as Danny had wanted to leave as Phantom, he ended up waiting for the boys he shared his dorm with. He figured that they would want to meet him, and he didn’t want to risk them finding him missing.

The first that entered the room, not long after Danny, had been a tall dark-skinned boy with high cheekbones and long, slanting eyes. He looked at Danny with a rather judgmental expression. After a few long moments, he gave a short nod.

“I’m Blaise Zambini,” he said, short and dismissive. Then he turned to his own stuff and stopped paying attention to Danny.

“Nice to meet you,” Danny muttered in response, but the boy gave no indication that he’d heard. At least he wasn’t directly dismissive, he supposed.

After that came another tall boy, this one thin and stringy. Unlike Blaise, however, this one actually came up to Danny to introduce himself.

“I’m Theodore Nott. Saw you at dinner earlier – you’re some sort of transfer student, right?”

“Uh, yeah.” Danny accepted Theodore’s hand and shook it. “I’m Danny Fenton, nice to meet you.”

“You as well,” Theodore said before he, too, turned to his own bed.

Wow. Were all his dorm mates reclusive loners? That would be really convenient, actually. Less of a chance of them noticing if he snuck out, or of them getting curious or worried and looking for him.

The last of his dorm mates came into the room when Danny had almost nodded off waiting. The boy, dark skinned like Blaise but not particularly tall, gave him a single short nod.

“Harper,” he said, before promptly throwing himself on his own bed and closing the curtain around it.

Honestly, had he wasted so much time waiting just for that? Disappointing. At least none of them seemed outright mean – Danny didn’t know what he would’ve done if he had to share a room with someone like Dash for a whole year.

And they likely wouldn’t come bother him, so he could go and explore the castle without worrying. He closed the curtain around his bed, lying down flat. Certain that they could barely tell if he was in there, he turned invisible and shifted to Phantom.

There was no movement, no indication that anyone had noticed anything off. Grinning, Danny zipped off, turning intangible along the way.

Once he was in the hallways proper he dropped both again, now floating aimlessly as Phantom. The first ghost he encountered was unexpected. Rather than entirely silver in color, this one was dressed in outlandish – and bright – clothes. When he saw Danny he gasped, zipping off without a word.

“That was weird,” Danny muttered to himself. Then his ghost sense went off again – the weak puff of a Wizarding ghost – and he whirled around to face another ghost.

“Ah!” the ghost exclaimed, startled so badly that his head made a questionable twist on his neck. “You startled me, young man.”

“Sorry.” Danny held up his hands, unsure of how to introduce himself. “I’m, uh, new to the school. I figured I should go and introduce myself to the local ghosts while I was here.”

The other ghost nodded, his head jiggling awkwardly. “Yes, yes. I must say, you are very polite for a poltergeist.”

“I’m, uh, not a poltergeist.” Danny rubbed the back of his neck with a sheepish smile. “I’m a different type of ghost altogether. A Ghost Zone resident is how most Wizarding ghosts refer to us, I think.”

“Oh.” The ghost’s eyes widened in understanding – and mild fright. “Yes, I see. But what are you doing here, then?”

“I was invited by your Headmaster,” Danny explained with a shrug. Then he offered his hand to the ghost, “Oh, I forgot to introduce myself, sorry. My name is Phantom.”

Eyes widening even further, the other ghost eagerly accepted the offered hand. “Sir Phantom! Yes, we’ve heard about you! I am Sir Nicholas de Mimsy Porpington.”

“You have?” His hand now released, Danny frowned at the other ghost. “I wasn’t aware that my reputation was this widely spread.”

“We haven’t heard much,” Sir Nicholas admitted with a shrug. “Only that you defeated the tyrannical King of all Ghosts, Pariah Dark.”

“And that’s all?” Danny asked, more insistent. It sounded like they didn’t know about his human form, but still. Better be safe than sorry. “Nothing else, about my hometown or anything?”

“No, although I’m sure many of us would enjoy hearing about that.” Sir Nicholas smiled pleasantly. “Nothing you don’t want, of course, Phantom.”

“I’ll… think about it.” He looked back to where he had seen the poltergeist before. “Who was that earlier, anyway? The poltergeist?”

“Oh, Peeves?” Sir Nicholas scoffed, clearly unhappy. “He’s been here since the founding of Hogwarts, unfortunately. He might be the most mischievous poltergeist in British history. We’ve tried kicking him out of the castle, but not all the ghosts agree.”

“Is he such a problem?”

Sir Nicholas nodded. “Unfortunately, yes. He’s a prankster, but he doesn’t seem to understand that his pranks regularly endanger the students. And we, the ghosts, are powerless to stop him.”

Before he could really think about it, Danny offered, “Want me to keep an eye on him? Since I’ll be around anyway?”

“Oh!” Sir Nicholas clapped his hands together, seemingly pleased. “Yes, that would be very nice, Phantom. I’m sure I’m speaking for all the ghosts of Hogwarts when I say that we would very much appreciate that.”

“It’s what I do.” Danny shrugged. “Protect people from potentially dangerous ghosts, that is.”

“Well, thank you, regardless.” Sir Nicholas clapped him on the shoulder. “I will tell the others that you’ve joined us, then. Only I ask you, if you plan on flying about a lot, to try and stay intangible.”

“So I look like a regular Wizarding ghost?” Danny asked, then he nodded. “Yeah, I can do that.”

“Very good, very good. I must return to my patrol. Have a nice night, Phantom.”

“You too, Sir Nicholas.” Danny gave a short duck as a bow, and the ghost returned the favor.

Looked like he had accidentally acquired another goal here at Hogwarts. Ah well.

Chapter Text

Sam emerged from her dorm with a less-than-enthused expression. She managed not to glare at anyone else, but man did she hate mornings. The dorm room, shared with several more girls including Hermione, didn’t help much either.

When she looked around the cozy common room, she realized that she would have to find the way to the Great Hall on her own. And while she could navigate just fine – and had paid close attention while walking to the common room with Neville – the castle was enchanted and had a bad habit of moving around.

She groaned, pushing her hands into her eyes. Why were wizards so annoying?

But then she spotted a small group of three people disappearing down the stairs at the entrance of the room. The big bushy hair, combined with shaggy black and messy red, must’ve been Hermione, Harry, and Ron. Thank god.

Rushing over there, she just managed to catch the tail-end of their conversation. “--because in case you haven’t noticed, Ron and I are on your side.”

A silence fell, then Harry answered in a low voice, “Sorry.”

Feeling increasingly uncomfortable at overhearing – and cutting in – Sam approached the three anyway. “Hey guys, sorry to interrupt but, uh, mind if I tag along to the Great Hall?”

“That’s quite alright,” Hermione said, looking from Harry to her – and Sam wasn’t entirely sure who she was talking to, exactly. Might’ve been both, actually. “We were just talking about how dumb Lavender was being last night.”

“Oh, the whole ‘Harry is lying about Voldemort thing’?” Sam snorted dismissively. “Yeah. I can’t believe people would lie about that. I can say a lot of bad things about the people back in Amity, but at least they weren’t stupid enough to accuse people of lying about the real threats that loomed over them.”

“You don’t think it’s a lie, then? Voldemort’s return?” Harry’s eyes were narrowed, somewhat suspiciously.

“Of course I don’t!” Sam rolled her eyes. Harry reminded her of Danny when he was being paranoid – and she didn’t like Danny when he was being paranoid. It was even less endearing on someone she barely knew. “Look, I’m friends with Phantom, right? And he wouldn’t be here, be involved, if this wasn’t a genuine threat. Besides,” she shrugged, faux-casual, “I don’t think you’re a liar, Harry, especially since you’ve got nothing to gain from it.”

He hummed, thoughtful. “I suppose I should’ve thought about that. Phantom, I mean.”

“We shouldn’t fall into this in-fighting, though,” Hermione said. “It’s as Dumbledore said, last year. You-Know-Who’s greatest strength is his ability to spread discord and enmity. He’s barely been back and already we’re fighting among ourselves. Even the Sorting Hat warned for it, that we should stand together and be united--”

“And Harry got it right last night,” Ron interrupted her. “If that means we’re supposed to get matey with the Slytherins – fat chance.”

“Then don’t,” Sam bit back with a frown. “As long as you’re not openly hostile. Let the rest of us, who don’t care about this dumb house thing, make friends and unite. Just don’t drive the others away and we will take care of the unification.”

They reached the foot of the marble staircase. Some other students were moving around the Entrance Hall, although they all seemed to avoid Harry.

“Yeah, we really ought to be trying to make friends with people like that,” Harry said sarcastically.

“It’ll be your funeral,” Sam bit back.

They entered the Great Hall, and while the other three seemed to look at the staff table, Sam instead sought out her friends. Both were already there, Tucker chatting with a bunch of other Ravenclaws and Danny sitting somewhat separated from the crowd. Still, a few other Slytherins sat near him, and they appeared to be speaking on and off.

Like the previous night, none of the houses seemed inclined to mingle. But she wasn’t sure how the magic behind the food worked – if she moved to sit with one of her friends, would she not get her share? Better wait until after, then.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione had started talking about something else, but Sam had tuned out the conversation. A tall girl joined them – black with long braided hair – and immediately started talking to Harry, who had greeted her as “Angelina”.

“Hi,” she said briskly, “Good summer?” Immediately she continued speaking, not giving anyone a chance to answer. “Listen, I’ve been made Gryffindor Quidditch Captain.”

Sam resisted the temptation to sigh. Oh, brilliant, sports. She wondered if Danny’s natural ability to fly would help or hinder him while flying on a broomstick, tuning out the Quidditch conversation.

When the other three sat down, she did as well. Ron and Hermione had chosen one bench, with Harry sitting opposite, so she joined him on that one. Apparently breakfast was a continuous activity, since the food was already present. Not entirely surprising, she supposed. Would dinner always be a group activity, or was yesterday just because it was the first day? Shocking, the kind of things people didn’t bother explaining to newcomers.

Then, with an enormous noise, hundreds of owls came soaring through the upper windows of the Hall. Even more annoyingly, they showered everyone in the room with droplets of water. Apparently it was raining outside.

A large and damp barn owl landed in front of Hermione, carrying a soaked newspaper. Oh, how thankful Sam was for modern ectoplasm-based technology.

“What are you still getting that for?” Harry asked irritably as Hermione placed a Knut in the pouch the owl was carrying. “I’m not bothering… load of rubbish.”

“It’s best to know what the enemy is saying,” Hermione answered with a dark tone. Sam has to repress a smile at that – it sounded exactly like something she would say. The girl unfurled the newspaper and disappeared behind it, remaining there for the rest of the meal.

Harry and Ron turned out to be unfortunately much like Danny and Tucker; they were too focused on their food to make much conversation. Normally it would bother her more, but it was still early and she wasn’t interested in talking with them either.

Professor McGonagall was already moving along the table by the time Hermione rolled up the newspaper.

“Nothing,” she said, looking at Harry. “Nothing about you or Dumbledore or anything.”

The professor stopped to hand them their schedules, and Ron groaned. “Look at today! History of Magic, double Potions, Divination and double Defense Against the Dark Arts… Binns, Snape, Trelawney and that Umbridge woman all in one day! I wish Fred and George’d hurry up and get those Skiving Snackboxes sorted…”

“Do mine ears deceive me?” Fred asked, appearing from nowhere with George by his side.

Sam, who was already planning to head over to her actual friends, stood up to make place for them. With a grateful nod the two squeezed onto the bench next to Harry and continued their conversation.

With the schedule in hand, Sam strode over to the table furthest from hers – the Slytherin table. Danny had finished eating and was holding his own paper, listening absently to one of the other Slytherin boys.

“Hey Slytherin,” she greeted amicably as she stopped behind him. Danny stirred awake, turning to look at her.

“Hey Gryffindor.” He smiled like she was a sight for sore eyes – which she might very well be, since she felt the same way about seeing him and Tucker.

But apparently the other Slytherins didn’t agree, based on the glares she was receiving. One of them, the stringy kid Danny had been listening to, spoke up. “Hey Gryffindor, what do you think you’re doing here? Shove off.”

“I’m comparing my schedule with my friend.” She rolled her eyes as she held up the sheet of parchment. “Danny, scoot over, will you?”

Grinning even wider, the boy did as asked. Sam sat down, and saw Tucker rushing over from the Ravenclaw table as well. She waited another moment for him to join her and Danny before she unfolded her schedule and laid it next to Danny’s.

“Alright, let’s see. Classes are held with two houses at the same time, so between the three of us we should share most classes, yeah?”

“Man, we need some kind of color marking for this,” Tucker mumbled, unrolling his own schedule as well. He glanced over the three sheets, brow creased in concentration. “Looks like the classes go in pairs. History of Magic and Herbology, Potions and Charms, and Transfiguration and Defense Against the Dark Arts.”

“Muggle Studies we all share,” Danny said, finger sliding over the paper to point it out. “But Sam and I have Care of Magical Creatures while Tucker has nothing and vice versa. Must be matched with some other elective, then.”

“Looks like I share Transfiguration and DADA with Tucker, and Potions and Charms with Danny. Besides the just-established Care of Magical Creatures, that is.” Sam leaned closer over the schedules, as if that would make them any more readable.

“That’s… unfortunate,” Danny muttered, frowning. “Charms, Transfiguration, and DADA would’ve been the best subjects to share. And Tucker and I have Herbology together, so we can’t even count on your expertise.”

“We can always study together, which we definitely should.” Sam looked up at him to emphasize the last word even more. “And you’ve got History together as well, lucky you. I heard that that class is awful. Like, the teacher is Lancer-bad.”

“Ugh.” Tucker made a face, looking back at their schedules. “And you’re starting with that, huh? Have fun, dude.”

“Yeah, thanks.” Sam grabbed her schedule again, getting ready to get to class. “We have a break after this first class, right? Want to meet up for it?”

“Of course. But apparently those short breaks are outside unless the weather is bad, so…” Danny shrugged. “Tuck and I will find you, or you’ll find us, right?”

“Sounds good,” Sam agreed, pushing herself off of the bench. “See you guys later.”

“Bye!” both boys chorused.

Draco watched the new Slytherin student from several seats away. He had considered joining the boy for breakfast, but Nott had already been with him. They shared a dorm, Draco thought, so he supposed it made sense.

Still, it was worth keeping an eye on this… Danny Fenton. Transfer students were exceptionally rare in Hogwarts. He knew this, had double-checked it for certainty. So why was this one here?

Two other students their age joined the transfer student, a Gryffindor girl and a Ravenclaw boy. Draco’s eyes narrowed further. He didn’t recognize either of them. Were they... also transfer students?

Yes, their chatter certainly seemed to suggest so. A group of friends, split across the houses? How… strange. What would bring three transfer students to Hogwarts? Especially now, of all times. American students coming to Britain while Voldemort had just risen?

From the moment he learned of Fenton’s existence, the day before, Draco had already decided to keep an eye on the boy. And the rumors he’d heard today, well.

They seemed divided, of course. Some mentioned a new ghost, silver and transparent as they all were. Others talked of a poltergeist. And, most bizarre, were those that suggested both; a hybrid of sorts, carrying traits of both ghosts and poltergeists.

And with this sort of timing? Surely it must’ve come along with Fenton. Him, and his other transfer students, more than likely.

It would definitely be worth learning about. He would just have to befriend this new Slytherin. Maybe teach him a little about how things worked around here.

Sooner or later his friends would abandon him, regardless. A Slytherin could not get along with a Ravenclaw, and definitely not with a Gryffindor. All Draco had to do was make himself a viable backup.

Easy enough, he was sure.

Sam rushed outside, spotting Tucker and Danny huddled together in a secluded corner of the yard. Speeding over there, she quickly ducked under the same cover – there was still a misty drizzle falling.

“Looks like you survived History of Magic alright,” Danny commented once she was close enough to hear.

“Yeah, but you won’t.” She pulled her cloak in tighter against the wet cold. “It’s such a shame too, because it definitely sounds interesting.”

“Was it really that bad?” Danny asked with a worried frown. “I mean, we survived Lancer, right? How much worse could this guy be?”

“A lot worse, for you in particular.” Seeing his confused expression, she rolled her eyes. “Professor Binns is a ghost. And he’s got this really droning voice, keeps on speaking without ever pausing. It might’ve been the longest hour and a half in my life.”

“He’s a ghost,” Danny hissed, incredulous. “At least Wizarding ghosts don’t set off my ghost sense so badly, but come on! They’re so stuck in the past, I can’t imagine that they make good teachers.”

“Sounds like he doesn’t,” Tucker agreed with a grimace. “I guess we’ll find out soon enough. We’ve got History of Magic tomorrow afternoon, last lesson of the day.”

“He even gave us homework! A foot-and-a-half on giant wars.” Sam shrugged, leaning back against one of the pillars holding up their cover. “Did the Herbology teacher as well, what’s her name, Sprout?”

“Yup.” Danny sighed, combing his fingers through his hair. “A nice long essay, too. But apparently that’s normal around here – copious amounts of homework, that is.”

“What, the lessons weren’t long enough yet?” She shook her head dismissively. “At least we can work on it together. Can’t be much harder than the improvising we’ve been doing, right?”

“Yeah, it’s a shame that we don’t share Astronomy with Danny, but nothing’s stopping us from copying his notes.” Tucker grinned and jabbed the boy in the side. “Right, Danny?”

“Duh. Plus, the more time we save on homework, the more time we can spend exploring the castle.” Danny turned to look at the massive structure, a small crease in his brow. “Apparently there’s a nasty poltergeist as well. Not inherently violent, but he goes too far with his jokes. I told the ghosts I would keep an eye on him, since they knew The Great Danny Phantom, and all that.”

“They won’t spill your secret, will they?” Sam asked, stamping down her worry. If there was a problem Danny would’ve told them sooner, right?

“Nah, they don’t know I’m only half ghost.” He shrugged, looking back again. “So we should be fine. But there’s a lot of secret corridors and passageways and such, which is how most people move around the school, so we definitely need to work on learning those as well.”

“And find a spot for you to practice your ghost powers?” Tucker grinned knowingly. “When do you want to do that, anyway? It feels like we barely have any time for ourselves with how long these school days are.”

“I dunno. The evenings, I guess.” Danny frowned, looking at the ground as he thought. “Pretty sure you’re not supposed to be out and about that late, but if they can’t see us they won’t catch us, right?”

“That’s the spirit!” Sam clapped him on the shoulder, then glanced at her watch. “We better get going if we want to beat the crowd to Potions. Do you know where the classroom is, Danny?”

“It’s in the dungeons, I think somewhere near the stairs.” He turned to Tucker, shooting him a short wave. “See you in the Great Hall afterwards?”

“Yeah. You guys have an hour and a half off afterwards, too, while I have Care of Magical Creatures.” Tucker made a face. “Might be best to get a head start on homework, it’ll be easier to explore the castle when it’s later.”

They both nodded, then strode off towards the castle. Right as they reached it the bell went, and they were allowed in right at the front of the crowd. The classroom was found easily enough, although they were unfortunately made to wait anyway.

She and Danny continued to talk in hushed tones, which drew a surprising amount of attention from their fellow students. Apparently Gryffindor and Slytherin students really didn’t mix. Luckily for them they were practically immune to peer pressure.

The dungeon door creaked open, allowing the students to file into the classroom. Immediately the students seemed to split, Gryffindors taking the tables in the back and Slytherins taking the tables in the front. Sam and Danny shared an uncertain glance, but already students from either house were gesturing at them, trying to coax them to split up.

With another glance and a shrug they followed the silent commands. Sam sat down in the back next to Neville, while Danny wandered over to the front and was pulled into a seat by a blonde Slytherin.

Neville looked uncertainly between her, Danny, and the boy next to Danny, but didn’t get a chance to comment; Professor Snape shut the door and the whole class shushed.

“Before we begin today’s lesson,” Snape said, sweeping over to his desk and staring around at them all, “I think it appropriate to remind you that next June you will be sitting an important examination, during which you will prove how much you have learned about the composition and use of magical potions. Moronic though some of this class undoubtedly are, I expect you to scrape an ‘Acceptable’ in your OWL, or suffer my… displeasure.”

His gaze turned – and lingered – on Neville, who gulped. Immediately, Sam glared back at the teacher. This was one of Hogwarts’ best?

“After this year, of course, many of you will cease studying with me,” Snape went on, finally looking away again. “I take only the very best into my NEWT Potions class, which means that some of us will certainly be saying goodbye.”

The man turned to rest his eyes on someone else – another Gryffindor, but Sam didn’t bother to look who – and his lip curled. She was starting to wistfully think back to her old magic lessons, taught by Ida Manson. She might not have been one of the ‘top wizards in modern Wizarding society at a very prestigious school’ but at least she was nice.

“But we have another year to go before that happy moment of farewell,” Snape continued at a softer tone. “So, whether or not you are intending to attempt NEWT, I advise you all to concentrate your efforts upon maintaining the high pass level I have come to expect from my OWL students.

“Today we will be mixing a potion that often comes up at Ordinary Wizarding Level: the Draught of Peace, a potion to calm anxiety and soothe agitation. Be warned: if you are too heavy-handed with the ingredients you will put the drinker into a heavy and sometimes irreversible sleep, so you will need to pay close attention to what you are doing.”

With a subtle movement Snape pulled his wand out of his robes. “The ingredients and method are on the blackboard,” he flicked the wand and they appeared there. “You will find everything you need in the store cupboard,” another flick of his wand as the door of said cupboard sprang open. “You have two and a half hours… start.”

The potion, as it turned out, was an incredibly fiddly and difficult potion. Order and quantities had to be followed exactly, stirring had to be done an exact number of times in the right direction, and the heat of the flames had to be tweaked to just the right temperature several times.

“A light silver vapor should now be rising from your potion,” Snape called with ten more minutes left to go.

Sam looked at her cauldron, inspecting the color. It wasn’t quite right – she would call it a shimmery gray, not silver – but it was overall pretty close. She risked a glance to the side, but found that Neville’s potion had the wrong consistency altogether – it was thick like just-mixed cement, somehow.

The professor swept past her, barely sparing her a glance. She watched him as he stopped by Harry, as a smirk crept onto his face. She had a bad feeling about this…

“Potter, what is this supposed to be?”

The Slytherins at the front of the class all looked up. Most of them seemed eager to watch, but Danny was frowning.

“The Draught of Peace,” Harry replied tensely.

“Tell me, Potter,” Snape said, his voice soft but still loud enough to carry in the now-silent classroom. “Can you read?”

A couple of people at the front of the classroom laughed. Sam was delighted to see Danny glare at the boy next to him, who seemed to be laughing the loudest.

“Yes, I can.” Harry’s brows had pulled together, and he seemed to be refraining himself from getting angry.

“Read the third line of the instructions for me, Potter.”

Sam looked away, tuning out the rest of the conversation. She’d seen enough. Danny caught her eye, a short nod, apparently agreeing. They would definitely be talking with Tucker about this. Maybe they could even find a way to report this, somehow. Surely this wasn’t an acceptable way of conduct towards students?

“Those of you who have managed to read the instructions, fill one flagon with a sample of your potion, label it clearly with your name and bring it up to my desk for testing,” said Snape, raising his voice again and thus catching her attention again. “Homework: twelve inches of parchment on the properties of moonstone and its uses in potion-making, to be handed in on Thursday.”

She did as tasked, quickly filling a flagon with her potion. Then she watched Neville struggle to scoop some of his own – its consistency hadn’t improved. Leaning over, she asked, quietly, “Is he always like that?”

The boy startled, glancing between her and then the teacher. “Professor Snape? Uh, yeah. Although he often rags on me as well, and the other Gryffindors if he finds an opportunity for it.”

“Not the Slytherins?” She looked over to where Danny was bottling his own potion – it was a slightly darker gray than her own. “Even if they’re bad?”

“Yep.” Neville looked at his flagon with an unhappy expression. “He’s got something against all houses but his own, but Gryffindor has it worst. It’s that rivalry between our houses, I think.” He shook his head, then looked at her. “Don’t think you’ll be safe from him just because you’re friends with a Slytherin – it won’t last, anyhow, with that house he’s in.”

“Danny and I have been friends since childhood. We’re not gonna let some stupid house feud tear us apart.” She packed her things, perhaps putting a little more force behind her actions than she’d intended in her anger. “I was gonna offer to help you with your potion, next time, but if you’re gonna treat my friends like that…”

“No, no!” Neville raised his hands placatingly. “It’s just… Never mind. I hope for you that he stays your friend. I’m just warning you that things might change.”

She snorted dismissively. “Change isn’t always bad, Neville. Maybe the change will be that this stupid in-fighting stops. Maybe the students will listen to the Sorting Hat and unite. Or maybe things will stay as they have always been, and Danny and I will stay friends despite the stupidity of our houses.”

Grabbing the flagon with her potion, she made her way to Snape’s desk and dropped it off. As she walked out of the classroom, Danny joined her.

“I can’t believe that my Head of house is like that towards other houses,” he muttered venomously. “Do you think he’s like this all the time?”

“Neville said so.” She shrugged as they entered the Great Hall. “Might be even worse, actually. Normally he rags on all the Gryffindors, and Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff too, to some extent.”

“Yikes.” Danny glanced over the tables, still split into separate houses. “Let’s grab lunch with our houses, then we’ll unite with Tuck afterwards and go look for the library.”

“Sounds good.” She nodded, and they separated.

Lunch was a lot like breakfast – students came and went, although they mostly went in big droves this time instead of appearing whenever convenient. She kept an eye on Tucker and Danny, and when all three of them finished eating she stood up and waved them over.

“So, library?” she asked when they joined her at the doors of the Great Hall.

“Sounds good. I don’t think that there are any non-house-restricted spaces for us to practice magic in, so we might as well work on the essays.” Tucker shoved his hands in his pockets with a small shrug. “We had to practice the Summoning Charm for Charms, by the way. Homework is to find a counter-charm for it.”

“Ugh, great.” She scuffed her shoe on one of the stairs they were climbing, disgruntled. “For a super-special school for magic, this place frigging sucks.”

“No kidding,” Danny heartily agreed. “Super-boring ghost teacher, crazy Potions teacher… who knows what else! And the homework, ugh.”

They paused in the hall, glancing around at the moving stairs.

“So, uh.” Tucker looked at Sam and Danny. “Do either of you know where the library is, or are we just gonna wander around in the hopes of finding it?”

“We could… ask someone?” Sam suggested, searching for someone to ask. But the hall appeared empty – everyone must still be at lunch. “Or, uh, maybe not.”

But Danny seemed to have spotted someone, because he sped off suddenly. “Excuse me, sir!” he called, waving a hand.

Sam and Tucker shared a glance, then raced after him. When they caught up to him, several steps away, they saw that he had found – and stopped – a Wizarding ghost.

The ghost, like all Wizarding ghosts, was pearly-white and semi-transparent. He held himself in a prim fashion, frowning at Danny with an expression somewhere between annoyance, confusion, and bafflement. Sam couldn’t place his clothing style – a large ruff, tights, breeches, and a doublet – but he seemed old anyway.

“Yes?” he asked Danny, his tone airy and delicate. “How may I help you, young Slytherin?”

Danny glanced over at Sam and Tucker, apparently only now realizing he had left them behind. Then he turned to face the ghost again, explaining himself. “We’re new to Hogwarts and we were looking for the library. Could you point us in the right direction?”

The ghost seemed even more confused now, eyeing the three of them. “Aren’t you a little old to be new to the school?”

“We’re transfer students,” Tucker explained hurriedly. “But can you help us, sir?”

He blinked, then nodded, his head wobbling strangely at the motion. “Ah, but of course. And please, call me Sir Nicholas de Mimsy Porpington.”

Grimacing, the three of them shared a quick glance. Tucker cleared his throat, then asked, carefully, “Um. Do you have something shorter we can call you?”

The ghost narrowed his eyes, then said, “Sir Nicholas will do as well.”

“Sir Nicholas.” Danny nodded towards the ghost, shifting like he was going to offer his hand but changed his mind. “Which way to the library, again?”

“It is right that way,” Nicholas said, gesturing with his hand. “On this floor, through that corridor, is the library. You can use it for your studies or for personal enjoyment, but make sure to follow Madam Pince’s rules. She does not allow eating, talking, laughing, whispering, sneezing, or scurrying in the library. Additionally, it closes at 8pm.”

Tucker frowned, ticking the rules off on his fingers. “Is that all, or…?”

“The books are also spelled to prevent students from defacing or stealing them.” Nicholas shifted aside so they could pass through the corridor without walking through him. “And the Restricted Section requires a signed note from one of the teachers. You can take out books, but only with Madam Pince’s permission.”

Sam nodded her thanks at the ghost. “Thank you, sir Nicholas. No one else has bothered to tell us about the rules so far, so we definitely would’ve broken some even if we found the library.”

“It is my job to help,” the ghost announced, tone light. “Now, you three best be on your way.”

They nodded and scurried off in the indicated direction. And indeed, there they found the library – an enormous room filled with thousands of shelves, sorted in hundreds of narrow rows.

“At least we can probably get away with talking,” Danny said, looking over the place. “There’s no way she can watch the entire thing.”

Tucker had to leave soon enough, but she and Danny had spent their entire spare period on the essays. They had decided to focus on Potions, first – it was shorter, and Professor Snape seemed like he would be angrier over unfinished work than Professor Binns.

As the bell rang she rushed over to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, where she would rejoin Tucker, waving goodbye to Danny as he headed off to Transfiguration.

Professor Umbridge was already in the classroom when she entered, wearing the same awful fluffy pink cardigan as the night before, but now with a black velvet bow on top of her head. It was, quite possibly, even worse than the clothes Sam’s mom suggested for her.

Since this class didn’t seem as divided as History of Magic and Potions, Sam and Tucker picked seats close to each other.

“Well, good afternoon!” Umbridge said when the whole class had sat down. The response was lackluster – only a few people mumbled a “good afternoon” back.

“Tut, tut,” she said, a small crease finding its way to her stoic face. “That won’t do, now, will it? I should like you, please, to reply “Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge”. One more time, please. Good afternoon, class!”

“Good afternoon, Professor Umbridge,” they chanted back at her. Sam rolled her eyes, catching Tucker’s chuckle in response.

“There, now,” Professor Umbridge purred. “That wasn’t too difficult, was it? Wands away and quills out, please.”

Sam exchanged a gloomy look with Tucker, and saw most of the class do the same. It wasn’t normal, then. Disappointing, but hopefully it wouldn’t happen too often – DADA was one of the most useful subjects to her, Tucker, and Danny.

Umbridge had pulled out her own wand, tapping it on the blackboard. Words formed almost immediately. ‘Defence Against the Dark Arts,’ it read, ‘A Return to Basic Principles.’

“Well now, your teaching in this subject has been rather disrupted and fragmented, hasn’t it?” Umbridge stated, clasping her hands neatly in front of her. “The constant changing of teachers, many of whom do not seem to have followed any Ministry-approved curriculum, has unfortunately resulted in your being far below the standard we would expect to see in your OWL year.

“You will be pleased to know, however, that these problems are now to be rectified. We will be following a carefully structured, theory-centered, Ministry-approved course of defensive magic this year. Copy down the following, please.”

Another tap on the blackboard, and the first message was replaced by a new one:

Course aims:
1. Understanding the principles of underlying defensive magic.
2. Learning to recognise situations in which defensive magic can legally be used.
3. Placing the use of defensive magic in a context for practical use.’

For a few minutes only the sound of scratching quills could be heard. When everyone had copied down the text, Umbridge asked, “Has everybody got a copy of Defensive Magical Theory by Wilbert Slinkhard?”

The class murmured assent, but Umbridge frowned like she didn’t quite like the answer.

“I think we’ll try that again,” she said. “When I ask you a question, I should like you to reply, “Yes, Professor Umbridge”, or “No, Professor Umbridge”. So: has everyone got a copy of Defensive Magical Theory by Wilbert Slinkhard?”

“Yes, Professor Umbridge,” rang through the room. Sam glanced at Tucker, making a face. He grinned back, barely stifling his laugh. Already she felt sorry for Danny; he would have to suffer through this alone. Hopefully he would make some friends among the Slytherins, despite Neville’s earlier fears. He just didn’t know Danny like she did, didn’t know how their friendship worked.

If they survived the supposed hatred between wizards and Muggles, they could survive a little house feud.

“Good,” Professor Umbridge said, gazing over the class. “I should like you to turn to page five and read ‘Chapter One, Basics for Beginners’. There will be no need to talk.”

She left the blackboard and settled herself in the chair behind the teacher’s desk, still eyeing them closely. Sam did as ordered, turning to the right page and settling down to read.

It was, simply said, boring. A quick glance confirmed that she wasn’t the only one feeling that way; most students seemed to blankly stare at the book. One stood out, however. Hermione hadn’t even opened her book, instead staring at the Professor with her hand in the air.

As Sam watched her fellow Gryffindor, the girl started catching the eyes of more and more of the students. When more than half the class was looking at the student instead of the book, Umbridge finally stopped ignoring her.

“Did you want to ask something about the chapter, dear?” she asked like she had only just noticed her.

“Not about the chapter, no.” Hermione lowered her hand but didn’t take her eyes off of the teacher.

“Well, we’re reading just now.” Umbridge smiled, all teeth and no kindness. “If you have other queries we can deal with them at the end of class.”

“I’ve got a query about your course aims,” Hermione insisted.

Professor Umbridge raised her eyebrows. “And your name is?”

“Hermione Granger.”

“Well, Miss Granger, I think the course aims are perfectly clear if you read through them carefully.” Umbridge’s voice was full of false sweetness. Sam had to stamp down her urge to fake-vomit.

“Well, I don’t,” Hermione said bluntly. “There’s nothing written up there about using defensive spells.”

A silence fell as many members in the class turned to frown at the blackboard. Had they really not noticed it earlier?

“Using defensive spells?” Professor Umbridge repeated with a little laugh. “Why, I can’t imagine any situation arising in my classroom that would require you to use a defensive spell, Miss Granger. You surely aren’t expecting to be attacked during class?”

“We’re not going to use magic?” Ron exclaimed loudly, apparently not having realized it either. Jesus, were they all this dumb?

“Students raise their hands when they wish to speak in my class, Mr.--?”

“Weasley,” Ron added, thrusting his hand into the air.

The Professor, smiling more widely, turned her back on him. Harry and Hermione raised their hands as well, and Sam and Tucker almost immediately followed suit.

Umbridge’s pouchy eyes glided over them, lingering on Harry for a moment. Then she addressed, unexpectedly, Hermione again. “Yes, Miss Granger? You wanted to ask something else?”

“Yes.” Hermione lowered her hand, eyes narrowed. “Surely the whole point of Defense Against the Dark Arts is to practice defensive spells?”

“Are you a Ministry-trained educational expert, Miss Granger?” Umbridge asked in her falsely sweet voice.

“No, but--”

“Well then, I’m afraid you are not qualified to decide what the “whole point” of any class is. Wizards much older and cleverer than you have devised our new program of study. You will be learning about defensive spells in a secure, risk-free way--”

“What use is that?” Harry snapped, interrupted Umbridge. “If we’re going to be attacked, it won’t be in a--”

“Hand, Mr. Potter!” Umbridge sang.

Harry thrust his hand in the air, but Professor Umbridge turned away from him again. More people raised their hands now, and Tucker managed to catch her attention – perhaps she hoped that he would be on her side, as a Ravenclaw.

“And your name is?” she asked him.

“Tucker Foley.” He, too, lowered his hand, apparently aware of the attention of the whole class.

“Well, Mr. Foley?”

Tucker cleared his throat. “I think Harry’s right. If we’re going to be attacked, it won’t be risk free.”

“I repeat,” Umbridge said, smiling at him, “Do you expect to be attacked during my classes?”

“Well, no--”

She continued speaking, talking over him like he didn’t even exist. “I do not wish to criticize the way things have been run in this school, but you have been exposed to some very irresponsible wizards in this class.” An unconvincing smile stretched her wide mouth. “Very irresponsible indeed – not to mention,” she gave a nasty little laugh, “extremely dangerous half-breeds.”

Sam’s fists balled immediately, and Tucker’s face fell into a deep frown as well. They should’ve expected it – a Ministry drone would, of course, follow their views on half-breeds. But somehow it still came as a painful blow, a harsh reminder that Danny wouldn’t be seen as human to people like her.

“If you mean Professor Lupin,” Ron piped up again, angrily, “He was the best we ever--”

“Hand, Mr. Weasley! As I was saying – you have been introduced to spells that have been complex, inappropriate to your age group and potentially lethal. You have been frightened into believing you are likely to meet Dark attacks every other day--”

“No we haven’t,” Hermione said, “We just--”

“Your hand is not up, Miss Granger!”

Hermione put up her hand, but Umbridge once again turned away from her.

“It is my understanding that my predecessor not only performed illegal curses in front of you, he actually performed them on you.” Oh my god, really? What was wrong with this school?

“Well, he turned out to be a maniac, didn’t he?” Ron said hotly. “Mind you, we still learned loads.”

“Your hand is not up, Mr. Weasley!” trilled Professor Umbridge. “Now, it is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be more than sufficient to get you through your examination, which, after all, is what school is about. And your name is?” she added, staring at another Gryffindor girl who had just raised her hand. Sam would’ve been pissed at being ignored in favor of someone else, but she was already overflowing with anger.

“Parvati Patil,” the girl introduced herself. “And isn’t there a practical bit in our Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL? Aren’t we supposed to show that we can actually do the counter-curses and things?”

“And long as you have studied the theory hard enough, there is no reason why you should not be able to perform the spells under carefully controlled examination conditions,” Umbridge said dismissively.

“Without every practicing them beforehand?” Parvati asked, incredulous. “Are you telling us that the first time we’ll get to do the spells will be during our exam?”

“I repeat, as long as you have studied the theory hard enough--”

“And what good’s theory going to be in the real world?” Harry asked loudly, unexpectedly, thrusting his fist in the air again.

Umbridge looked up, then said, softly, “This is school, Mr. Potter, not the real world.”

“So we’re not supposed to be prepared for what’s waiting for us out there?”

“There is nothing waiting out there, Mr. Potter.” Harry seemed to be fuming under her replies, and Sam honestly couldn’t blame him – she had been itching to do the same. She had only barely restrained herself – causing a scene wouldn’t help her or Danny. “Who do you imagine wants to attack children like yourselves?” Umbridge asked, voice dripping like honey.

“Hmm, let’s think…” Harry said, mock thoughtful. “Maybe… Lord Voldemort?”

Reactions among the students were varied – and extreme. Some gasped, but others uttered little screams. Neville even slipped sideways off of his stool.

Umbridge, however, didn’t flinch. She was staring at Harry with a grimly satisfied expression on her face. “Ten points from Gryffindor, Mr. Potter.”

Silence fell as everyone was staring at either her or Harry.

“Now, let me make a few things quite plain.” She stood up, leaning closer to the class, her stubby fingers splayed on her desk. “You have been told that a certain Dark wizard has returned from the dead--”

“He wasn’t dead,” Harry snapped, “But yeah, he’s returned!”

Mr.-Potter-you-have-already-lost-your-house-ten-points-do-not-make-matters-worse-for-yourself,” Umbridge said in a single breath, not even looking at him. “As I was saying, you have been informed that a certain Dark wizard is at large once again. This is a lie.”

“It’s not a lie!” Harry exclaimed. Quietly, Sam had to marvel at his stubborn fury – it was a lot like hers, a year ago. Nowadays she knew better. Had to know better. How to apply her anger best, when to stamp it down lest she needlessly endanger others with it. “I saw him, I fought him!”

“Detention, Mr. Potter!” Professor Umbridge declared triumphantly. “Tomorrow evening, seven o’clock. My office. I repeat, this is a lie. The Ministry of Magic guarantees that you are not in danger from any Dark wizard. If you are still worried, by all means come and see me outside class hours. If someone is alarming you with fibs about reborn Dark wizards, I would like to hear about it. I am here to help. I am your friend. And now, you will kindly continue your reading. Page five, ‘Basics for Beginners’.”

She sat down behind her desk, and Sam was ready for this discussion to be over. Harry, however, stood up, drawing everyone’s attention back to him. Hermione whispered something at him, tugging at his sleeve, but Harry jerked his arm out of her reach.

Ah, so he really was as bad as she had been. Righteous or not, anger wasn’t always the right answer. At least someone was shouting at Umbridge – it was easier to stop herself from doing it this way, even if Harry would now take all the heat for it.

“So, according to you, Cedric Diggory dropped dead of his own accord, did he?” Harry asked, his voice shaking.

A collective intake of breath from the class. Sam and Tucker might not know the context behind this, but it was hard to miss the meaning – Lord Voldemort must’ve killed someone, somehow, here.

Umbridge raised her eyes, staring without a trace of false cheeriness. “Cedric Diggory’s death was a tragic accident,” she declared, voice cold and hard.

“It was murder.” Harry shook, barely visible. “Voldemort killed him and you know it.”

Umbridge’s face was blank. For a long moment, nothing happened. Then, in her softest, sweetest, girliest voice, she said, “Come here, Mr. Potter, dear.”

Sam watched Harry kick his chair aside, striding past his friends and towards the desk. Umbridge pulled a small roll of pink parchment out of her handbag, stretched it out on her desk, dipped her quill into a bottle of ink, and started scribbling something. With how hunched over she was, Sam doubted that even Harry could see what Umbridge was writing.

After a minute or so of absolute silence, Professor Umbridge rolled up the parchment and tapped it with her wand – it sealed up seamlessly. “Take this to Professor McGonagall, dear,” she said, holding the note out to Harry.

Harry took the note without saying a word, turning on his heel without even looking at his friends. The door slammed shut behind him – he was gone.

Chapter Text

“So how’s homework going?” Tucker asked Sam, conversationally, when Danny dropped him in the corridor where she was waiting.

“Eh.” She shrugged, already turning to walk about. “It’s not too bad. We did most of it together already, and Hermione is a pretty good help if you, y’know, are willing to put actual effort into doing it.”

“That’s good.” Danny floated over them, eyes darting one way and another. “Where had we left off again, yesterday?”

“Couple floors down.” Tucker reached out a hand, as did Sam, and Danny grabbed hold of them. “Just phase down until we yell stop.”

Danny huffed out a laugh, turning the three of them intangible. “What, can’t keep count? I thought the Ravenclaw intellect was so perfect?”

“Oh, don’t even joke about that!” Tucker swatted at Danny, but couldn’t quite reach. “Or I’m gonna start saying Slytherin things about you as well!”

“No you won’t,” Danny retorted, dropping him a little more forcefully that he normally would. Then, in contrast, he gently put down Sam. “Anyway, this was the floor, yeah? I remember it now.”

Tucker huffed, crossing his arms. Then after a moment his stern expression melted again, and he laughed. “Yeah, yeah. Wanna start by circling around again?”

“That seemed to have worked best so far,” Sam commented, starting off towards the left. Tucker caught up quickly, Danny floating over them. “Although this castle is so chaotically organized that no strategy is foolproof.”

“I don’t think you can call this ‘organized’, Sam.” Danny darted through the wall while speaking, muffling his words a little. When he popped out again, he continued. “It’s so completely drenched in magic that I wouldn’t be surprised if they told me it just magically came into existence.”

“That must really mess with your magic sense, huh?” Tucker was keeping notes on his PDA, only occasionally looking up from the screen.

Danny shrugged. “Eh. It took a little bit of getting used to, but it’s alright now. Actual magic is strong enough to stand out still, and I can sort-of differentiate between magic types as well, so I can tune out the castle’s innate magic pretty well.”

“Really?” Tucker paused, looking up at him. “I’ll add that to our Phantom files, then.”

Rather than wait for Tucker to do so, Danny dove through another wall. Seeing a secret corridor, he dropped his intangibility to find its end. Pushing aside a curtain, he waved at his friends. “Here’s a hidden hallway. Let’s go see where it leads.”

“Sounds good,” Sam agreed, hurrying over. Tucker was a little slower, already adding the data to their digital map.

They kept it up for a few hours longer, once more sacrificing precious evening and night hours to explore Hogwarts. It would be worthwhile though. Besides helping them learn the castle’s layout, they were also still hoping to find a good spot to practice Danny’s powers. One where they didn’t have the risk of ghosts randomly drifting in, never mind the living teachers and students that patrolled the building.

Unfortunately, their good luck had to come to an end. Most of the week they’d been lucky; Danny heard – or felt – other people approaching and could turn the three of them intangible before they could be seen.

Tonight, however, a ghost caught him off-guard. Danny recognized him, but struggled for a moment to put a name to the face; the ghost was usually quiet and didn’t interact much with other people. It was Slytherin’s house ghost – the Bloody Baron.

“Phantom,” the ghost said, his voice low and near a whisper. “What are you doing with these students?”

“I’m just--!” Danny started to protest, but the ghost held up a silencing hand.

“Ghostly hero or not, Phantom, you must follow the school rules. This includes the rule that students are not allowed outside their common rooms during the night.” The Baron crossed his arms, looking about as terrifying as a non-corporeal ghost could be.

“I know.” Danny paused to see if the ghost would interrupt him again. When he didn’t, the boy continued, “But when else are they supposed to learn the layout of the castle? They barely get any time off between lessons and there are no maps. Am I just supposed to let them get lost constantly?”

The Baron narrowed his eyes, glancing between Danny and his friends. Then he relaxed a little. “Very well, I suppose that I will let it slide. This time. But make sure to return them to their common rooms as quickly as possible; it is late.”

“We were already on our way,” Tucker assured the ghost. “We kind of lost track of time, sorry.”

Nodding, the Baron floated aside to let them pass. “Forgive me for being worried. It is just, Phantom is still young, and mostly unknown to us. The only tangible ghosts we’re used to around here are poltergeists like Peeves, and I’m sure you’ve heard of him already.”

“Oh, I’m just waiting for him to try anything.” Sam patted her pocket with a grin.

“You are aware that magic will not work on ghosts, Miss Gryffindor?”

“Wasn’t planning on using my wand.” Sam’s smile widened, and Tucker’s lips quirked up as well. “But we’re from a town were tangible ghosts like Phantom are common. And since it’s just him against all the others, we’ve developed tools that allow us to fight ghosts, too.”

“Really now?” The Baron looked intrigued, quirking up a brow. “That sounds like a dreadfully useful thing.”

“It is, until someone with one of those decides that all ghosts are bad.” Danny frowned, but rolled his eyes at Barron’s confused expression. “Some of the people who make those tools think that all ghosts are bad, especially the tangible ones. So sometimes they try to shoot me down as well, even though I’m trying to protect them.”

“That’s deeply unfortunate,” the Baron agreed with a nod. “For similar reasons, I must ask you to please honor our request, Phantom.”

“What, the intangibility thing?” Danny’s frown deepened, now in thought. “I thought I was doing a pretty good job of that. I tried to stay out of sight while students were out and about, too.”

“I’m afraid that some students have seen you, regardless, even while tangible.” The Baron shook his head, morose. “It might have only been one or two students, but rumors spread fast in a school like ours. I ask you to please be more careful in the future, yes?”

“I’ll try my best,” Danny promised with a firm nod. “Sorry if I caused any trouble.”

“It’s quite alright. I’m sure that you will be the one troubled most by it.” The corner of the Baron’s mouth quirked up into something that was almost a smile. “But I’m keeping you. Go and return these students back to their towers before they have no time to sleep.”

Danny nodded again. “Yeah, I’ll get on it. And thanks for letting me know, Baron. I know people had seen me already, but I didn’t realize that they had seen me while tangible, too.”

“Yes, certainly.” The Baron gave a short bow. “Let us know if we can help you with anything, young Phantom. And you two as well, of course, as our beloved students,” he added, turning to look at Sam and Tucker.

“Uh, yeah, definitely,” Tucker mumbled, shoulders a little tense.

Pleased, the Baron drifted back through the wall he’d originally come from. The three of them waited for another moment, making sure he had really left.

“Man, I can’t believe I’ve been seen already,” Danny grumbled, pushing his hands through his hair. “It hasn’t even been a week!”

“Chill, dude.” Tucker patted him on the shoulder as the three of them started making their way back to Gryffindor tower. “If it doesn’t happen again they’ll just say that it was a lie or hallucination or something. And if it does happen again,” he continued, seeing Danny’s worried expression, “they’ll just think that you’re a poltergeist like Peeves.”

“But I don’t behave anything like a poltergeist.” Danny slumped mid-air, arms hanging loosely. “Ugh, whatever. We’ll deal with that when it comes.”

“Good boy.” Sam nudged him playfully. “But the Baron was right, we better get to bed. We don’t have anything in particular planned for tomorrow, but I bet they won’t let us sleep forever.”

“God, no, probably not.” Danny groaned. “And we gotta work on homework almost the whole weekend too, won’t we? Anything amusing we can use to break up that monotony?”

“I think that the Gryffindor Quidditch team has training after lunch tomorrow.” Sam stopped in the hallway before the Gryffindor Common Room. Danny would phase her straight into her dorm, so she didn’t need to go to the portrait. “We could check that out?”

“Sounds good,” Tucker agreed with a yawn. “I’m not too big on sports, but it would be interesting to see how their flying holds up to Danny’s.”

“Let’s continue this conversation tomorrow, alright?” Danny grabbed Sam by her upper arms, lifting her into the air easily. “I’ll get you to bed.”

During lunch, Danny quickly grew tired of Draco Malfoy. Not that he was ever not tired of the boy, but still. He was just… incredibly annoying.

But all of it was the way Draco was raised, Danny knew. He had spent enough time with Jazz to identify these kind of issues. So, since Slytherin seemed to lack nice people to befriend, he figured he might as well give Draco a shot. See if he could steer the boy – and his body-guard like buddies Crabbe and Goyle – into being the nice people they could be.

Of course, this was easier said than done. He’d mentioned it to Sam and Tucker, of course, and they agreed that it would be good. If more Slytherins could be seen changing, being nice, then the Gryffindors wouldn’t be so against them anymore.

And uniting the school would be good, certainly. The Sorting Hat warned them for a reason, and Danny intended to listen.

Still, it was hard to remember this while Draco was – loudly – discussing his plans to mess with the Gryffindor Quidditch players. They, too, had caught word of the team’s training session, and intended to come. But unlike him, and Sam and Tucker, they intended to mess with the players. Ron Weasley, most of all.

When lunch ended, Tucker and Sam glanced over to him. He waved them off, glancing at Draco. They understood his silent message; he would stick with Draco.

Danny followed his fellow Slytherins outside, into the bright sunlight. The Quidditch field was still empty when they arrived, the players probably in the dressing room. The others took seat halfway up the empty stands, and Danny could see Tucker and Sam doing the same fairly close by.

Admittedly, he did regret his decision a little. He could’ve been spending time with his friends, but instead he was putting up with Draco Malfoy. Yuck.

The Gryffindors emerged, dressed in bright red and golden. All the members in the team held brooms, although the quality seemed to differ greatly. Draco clearly noticed this as well, sneering.

“What’s that Weasley’s riding?” he called out, voice a nasty drawl. “Why would anyone put a flying charm on a moldy old log like that?”

Crabbe, Goyle, and Pansy all guffawed and shrieked with laughter. Danny, instead, grimaced. He would have his hands full with this, for sure.

Down below, Ron mounted his broom and kicked off, Harry right behind him. The boy caught up quickly, exchanging a few words, too quiet to overhear.

A dark-skinned girl Danny didn’t recognize joined the airborne team. She held a ball under her arm – the Quaffle, Danny thought.

“Hey, Johnson, what’s with that hairstyle, anyway?” shrieked Pansy. Danny frowned, instead. What was wrong with the girl’s braided hairstyle? “Why would anyone want to look like they’ve got worms coming out of their head?”

The girl ignored the jeering, however, sweeping her long hair out of her face.

Danny watched as the team split, spreading across the field. Johnson – and didn’t Danny wish he knew her first name too – raised the ball and chucked it hard to one of the Weasley twins. The twin caught it, then passed it to his other twin. Then it went to Harry, and then to Ron… who dropped it.

The other Slytherins, unfortunately led by Malfoy, roared and screamed with laughter. Ron dove to catch the ball, then returned to playing height, visibly blushing.

“Pass it on, Ron,” their team leader instructed, and the game continued on.

Not long after, however, Malfoy decided to continue his jeering.

“Hey, Potter, how’s your scar feeling?” he yelled, clearly audible across the field. “Sure you don’t need a lie down? It must be, what, a whole week since you were in the hospital wing, that’s a record for you, isn’t it?”

Tired of the boy’s behavior already, Danny nudged Draco. When the boy turned to look at him, Danny hissed, “What’re you doing?”

“What do you mean, ‘what am I doing’?” Draco asked, incredulous. “I’m messing with our rivals!”

“I think you mean ‘showing bad sportsmanship’.” Danny leaned back, crossing his arms. “I thought we were supposed to be the better people?”

“Well, yes, obviously.” Draco gestured at the Gryffindors, who were still passing the ball between them. “Look at that mess!”

“If you’re better than them, then can’t you beat them on fair grounds, huh?” Danny’s lip quirked into a smirk. “Because this looks like a desperate attempt to weaken the opposition. A real sportsman would acknowledge the skill of their opponent, so they can feel even more accomplished when they win.”

Draco frowned, then shook his head. “I don’t get it. How would not making fun of them make us better at Quidditch?”

“It would make winning more impressive, for one.” Danny relaxed minutely, glad that Draco was listening, even if for the wrong reasons. Ah well, as long as it worked, yeah? “What’s more impressive, winning from a well-respected and highly skilled team, or winning from a group of people who can barely fly?”

“Well, the first, obviously.” Draco glanced back at the team, where Ron had missed his catch again. He was clearly itching to make fun of the boy, but knew that interrupting the conversation would’ve been rude. “But how does that apply here?”

“The Slytherin Quidditch team is good enough to win, yeah?” Danny paused, and Draco nodded. “So then, if we’re gonna win anyway, why bring down the Gryffindor team down? If we can win while they’re at their best, then that will really show how good we are. And if we win on our own power, they won’t be able to blame anything but their own lack of skill for losing, too.”

The other boy hummed, thoughtful. “I see… But I don’t see what you’re doing here, then, if you don’t plan on messing with the Gryffindors.”

“I’m here to watch, Draco.” Danny rolled his eyes, stamping down on his desire to sigh. “It’s good sportsmanship, too, to watch and encourage other teams. You get to learn more about them and their skills, and if you praise them instead of insulting them, they won’t throw a fit if you win.”

“They’re Gryffindors, they won’t like it if we win anyway.”

“Maybe not,” Danny allowed with a half-shrug, “But the other teams might. And if you set a good example, either they will have to come along, or they will become the universally hated house. Imagine if, in the future, there will be game where other houses cheer for Slytherin, too.”

“Wouldn’t that be something…” Draco muttered, clearly imagining it. “Yes, I suppose you’ve got a point, F-- Danny.”

An enormous ruckus suddenly started around them, and their eyes snapped up to see that one of the Gryffindors had a bleeding nose. Ron hovered close by, anxiously watching over her. The noise was caused by their fellow Slytherins, who were stamping their feet and jeering.

Draco, brow creased, nudged Crabbe and Goyle and whispered at them. Danny couldn’t hear what, exactly, Draco said, but the other two quietened.

As the rest of the Slytherins calmed down, the Gryffindor team split. The twins and Harry flew off to a case, apparently going to grab the other balls, while the rest of the team settled in their positions on the field.

After his chastising, the game continued on. They had moved on from their warm-ups to a more normal game, but it still didn’t go well. More heartening, however, was Draco’s continued silence. Danny hoped that he had gotten through to the boy and that Draco would keep it up.

Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the rest of their house from starting a chant of “Gryffindor are losers, Gryffindor are losers,” which they gleefully maintained when one of the Gryffindor girls – the one who had a nosebleed earlier – grew chalk white and covered in blood.

The twins led her off to the castle, and Johnson sighed glumly. Draco nudged Danny, cocking his head towards the splintered team. “And I really shouldn’t comment on this?”

“Not meanly, no.” Danny shifted, getting ready to stand up as the training had clearly ended. “Right now you’re still on shaky grounds, but normally it would be polite to tell them that you’re sorry to see one of their team members injured, and that you hope it won’t hurt the game.”

“Really?” Draco huffed. “Not only am I not supposed to enjoy seeing them down, but I’m supposed to feel sorry for it, too?”

“Well, yeah. Like I said earlier, if they’re not playing at their best, then that reflects on your skill too.” Danny stood up, dusting off his robe. “Anyway, I’m gonna go work on homework with Sam and Tucker. I’m not gonna make you do anything, Draco, but think about it?”

“Sure.” Draco flapped a dismissive hand. “Go have fun with your non-Slytherin friends.”

“There’s something weird here,” Danny said quietly. Sam and Tucker paused in the middle of the corridor they were exploring, turning to look at him – and the wall he hung in front of.

“Like what?” Tucker asked, frowning. The wall that Danny had indicated was completely blank, yet somehow it still felt… off. His magic sense seemed to think it was different from the rest of the castle, somehow. “The only thing weird here is that enormous tapestry.”

Sam scoffed. “Wrong wall, Tuck. Although you’re right, that’s a very special tapestry.”

“Guys… wall?” Danny waved at it again, and the other two refocused. “It feels magical, but in a different way than the rest of the castle.”

“Maybe it’s a hidden room?” Sam suggested, patting over it with her hands. “Try phasing into it, Danny.”

He nodded, then flew at the wall.

And with a less-than-pleasant thud he hit it, despite being intangible.

Lying on the ground, he rubbed over his head and groaned. “If it is, it’s protected against ghosts.”

“So it definitely is special, then.” Tucker walked a few steps around, looking at the wall from different angles. “I wonder how you’re supposed to get in?”

Sam pulled Danny up, and the two of them ignored Tucker’s continuing pacing. “Dunno,” she said with a shrug. “A spell, maybe? A password, like the common rooms?”

“I wonder what’s in there, anyway.” Danny turned a hand intangible, pushing it against the still-solid wall. “What are they trying to hide from not only the students, but the ghosts, too?”

Tucker turned back around. “Who knows. Maybe we can use it to train, though.”

“Yeah, maybe.” Sam cocked her head. “But I’m not sure how we’re supposed to get in without knowing more.”

The boy made his third lap behind them, saying, “God, I wish it was somewhere we could train, though.”

And, like magic, a door appeared in the wall.

“What was different about that time?” Danny asked, incredulous, already reaching for the doorknob.

The door swung open, revealing a large room. A large room filled with training materials, outfitted exactly like Sam’s training room back in Amity Park. Or better, even.

“Wow,” she said, impressed despite herself. “It’s like it read our minds and provided exactly what we wanted.”

Tucker snapped his fingers. “Maybe it did. I asked it for a training room, and it provided, didn’t it?”

They shared a glance, then stepped out again. The moment the door closed it melted back into the wall, gone.

“So… what triggered it?”

Danny shrugged, and Tucker frowned in thought. “Maybe it was walking past it?”

Nodding, Sam strode off. Then she looped back. When nothing happened, she went back. On her third pass, the door re-appeared.

“Oh, duh.” Danny clicked his tongue as Sam went to open the door. “You need to pass it three times. Tucker did it too, earlier.”

“And that explains why it doesn’t just open for anybody,” he said, watching Sam open the door. “If you need to pass it three times thinking of what you want, it won’t happen randomly.”

The two boys followed Sam into the room, pausing in the opening. It didn’t look at all like it had before. Now the room was filled with large bookcases along the walls, with tables and cozy seats scattered around.

“Sam… What is this?” Danny asked, kicking a nearby beanbag.

“I wanted to see what else it could do.” She shrugged, wandering deeper into the room to explore. “So I asked it for a nice place for us to hang out and maybe work on our homework.”

“Looks cozy enough,” Tucker commented, pulling out his PDA. Then he frowned. “Huh. This room messes with my GPS, somehow. Must be some real special magic.”

“No food, unfortunately, but that is a normal restriction on magic.” She perched on the edge of a table, looking at the two of them. “Danny, you want to give it a shot too?”

He thought it over for a moment, then grinned. “Definitely.”

And so they left the room again. He walked past the bare wall three times, focusing on his idea for the room.

Shiny steel walls with well-stocked metal shelves. Large tables, immaculately cleaned and organized. Canisters of vivid green ectoplasm stored safely.

“A lab?” Tucker laughed, nudging him. “Man, you really are your parents’ son, huh?”

“Well, it could be useful, right?” he protested, raising his hands. “This way if we need anything we don’t have to ship the materials from Amity Park. Or if our phones or something breaks, or if you want to update our tech.”

Sam huffed out a laugh. “And we already knew the room could make a perfect training place. Good thinking, Danny.”

Thank you, Sam, for appreciating my incredible intellect.” He placed a hand against his chest, expression haughty. “And least someone knows how great I am.”

“Keep that up and you’ll blend in seamlessly with the other Slytherins.” Tucker chucked a small bit of tech at Danny, laughing as it passed through harmlessly. “Anyway, I was thinking, right--”

“Dangerous thing, Tuck,” Sam commented.

“--Shut up. Anyway, we could use this room to practice magic too, right?” He glanced between the two of them. “Since Umbridge won’t teach us anything practical during DADA, we might as well do it ourselves here, right?”

Danny nodded. “Yeah, that’d be a good idea. Might not be as good as with Ida, but it’ll be better than nothing, at least.”

“It’s still dumb that it’s necessary.” Sam sat down on the edge of one of the tables, frowning. “It’s a school. Why not teach us actual ways to use that magic we have, if it’s so great?”

“Heaven forbid we become a threat to the Ministry.” Danny scoffed. “They already have their hands full with all these dangerous half-breeds, you know?”

Around them, the room suddenly started to shift. Shelves melted back into the walls, steel floor becoming soft training mats.

“Uh.” He looked around, eyes wide. “I think the room might still be receptive to your wishes if you’re already in it.”

Nice.” Tucker tested the floor with his shoe. “Can you make training dummies appear, then?”

Danny blinked, then commanded the room to do as such. And indeed, several training dummies formed, as per his request.

“That’s fantastic,” Sam muttered, poking a nearby dummy. “This is brilliant. I’m so glad we found this – it solves all our problems!”

“Well, not all of them.” Danny shrugged under her glare. “But it does solve all the easy ones, at least. Not much we can do about the Ministry being sucky, or Voldemort’s stupid war thing.”

She sighed, then nodded. “Yeah, alright, fair enough. How is your mission to turn your fellow Slytherins into less horrible people?”

“Eh.” Danny made a face. “I think I got through to Draco about not being a dick earlier today. Or, well, regarding the sports thing. Made a big talk about how he’s making the Slytherin team less impressive and all that.”

Tucker snorted. “Dude, that’s brilliant. You manipulated him into doing the right thing.”

“Danny Fenton, always showing how to use bad things for good purposes,” Sam agreed with a smile.

“Ha ha.” He experimentally launched an ecto-ray at a faraway dummy, watching it blow apart with a satisfied grin. Almost immediately a new one popped up to replace it. “Looks like we won’t have to worry about running out of material, too.”

“God, this room is perfect.” Tucker plopped down in one of the chairs that had appeared, making notes on his PDA. “We just need a name to refer to it.”

“For now HQ or Training Room will do.” Danny extinguished his hand, feeling better now that he’d blown off some steam. “I’ll poke around to see if it has an official name.”

“Good idea.” Sam yawned, wide, then rubbed her eyes. “Let’s come back again tomorrow, during the day. We can test it further and work on homework at the same time.”

Chapter Text

“Have you heard?” Draco asked Danny the moment he sat down at the breakfast table. Harper, who had come along, heaved a dramatic sigh.

“Heard what?” Danny frowned, looking at the blonde boy. “Is it important enough to bring up during breakfast?”

Draco nodded energetically, and briefly Danny wondered how most of the Hogwarts kids could be so awake so early. Must be nice not to be tired all the time.

“Professor Umbridge has been appointed as the High Inquisitor,” Draco started explaining, and Danny quickly blinked back to attention. “It’ll be in the Daily Prophet today, but my father informed me early, of course.”

“Of course,” Danny repeated dully. Then, “What does that mean, High Inquisitor?”

Seemingly encouraged by Danny’s interest, Draco sat forward. “She will have power above regular teachers, straight from the Ministry! She can inspect the other professors, to make sure they’re doing a good job.”

“Okay.” He nodded slowly. In theory it sounded good, but not in the hands of someone like Umbridge. He, and Sam and Tucker, had already noticed that not all the Hogwarts teachers were up to snuff. But Umbridge was one of the worst present – not only was she a bad teacher, she was also a bad person. Prejudiced and hateful and unwilling to listen. “I guess we’ll see how that works out.”

“You don’t sound very excited.” Draco sat back, watching Danny eat. He was apparently already most of the way through his breakfast, himself. “How come?”

Danny shrugged, unsure of how much he could tell Draco. He wanted to try to nudge the boy into the right direction, but he was also very aware of how little he’d managed yet. Not very surprising though. It was only the second week of school, after all. “I’m just not sure if she’s the right choice. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have someone impartial, a neutral third party?”

Shaking his head, Draco took a bite of toast. “I don’t get you,” he said after he had swallowed. “Why is everything always so negative to you? Aren’t you excited to be here, in Hogwarts? Don’t you want things to be good?”

“Get used to it,” Harper grunted, seamlessly jumping into the conversation. “In the dorm it’s either constant complaining, or he’s pretending he doesn’t exist.”

“I’m not--” Danny shook his head, refocusing on Draco. He put down his slice of toast – one of the few light breakfast options, unfortunately – to come across more serious. “Anyway, yeah, I guess. Which is why I’m not convinced that Umbridge is the best choice for her current job, never mind the position of High Inquisitor. I agree that not all the teachers are fantastic, but I think that she’s gonna get distracted going after teachers she personally dislikes rather than the actually bad ones.”

He thought it over for a moment, trying to come up with a good example that would work for Draco as well. “Like, you can’t tell me that anyone thinks that Professor Binns is a good choice. Any of the students, at least. Barely anyone can pay enough attention to him to learn, yeah?”

Harper hummed thoughtfully, and Draco nodded.

“Sure,” he said. “But I’m not sure where you’re going with this?”

“Well, what do you think are the chances that Umbridge will inspect him, that he’ll get kicked out?” Danny took another bite of toast to give both of them a chance to think it through. “I think it won’t be anything impressive, because she’ll focus on teachers that are more strongly allied with Dumbledore first. Teachers like McGonagall and Flitwick, who do a good job, instead of ones like Binns.”

Draco frowned. “Yes, I suppose you have a point there. Still, she’ll inspect everyone, eventually, won’t she? That’s the point.”

“But a good High Inquisitor will focus on the worst ones first!” Danny flattened his hands against the table, resisting the urge to slam them. “They would ask the students which ones they find worst, and start there. And, all things aside, having a teacher be High Inquisitor is a bad choice because they’ve got a limited schedule. Umbridge teaches eight hours of DADA every week to our year alone, yeah? And tons of hours to all the other years as well. So whenever she’s busy with that, plus lesson prep and marking homework, the other professors have free reign, knowing they can’t be inspected.”

“Oh.” Draco frowned, fidgeting with some of his cutlery. “Yes, I suppose you have a point there. Still, they can’t base everything off of the students, or all the Gryffindors would get Professor Snape in trouble.”

“That’s why you go based on statistics.” Forcing himself to calm down, Danny relaxed his posture a little. “Binns, as one of the worst teachers, would get far more complaints than the rest. And from there you work down, eventually inspecting the teachers who get little to no negative comments.”

Draco nodded his understanding, but remained quiet. Harper, too, fell into silence. It even lasted when Tucker came over and sat by Danny, getting ready to head out to Herbology together afterwards.

“So, Umbridge sat in during Transfiguration,” was the first thing Sam said to Danny during lunch on Tuesday.

“Huh?” he managed, swallowing a bite of his lunch. Then, “How’d that go?”

“Not well for Umbridge.” Tucker sat down on his other side, grinning widely. “McGonagall destroyed her, it was absolutely brilliant.”

“Now I’m even more sad that we don’t all share classes.” Danny sighed dramatically, but the corner of his lips twitched up into a smile. “No but seriously, tell me more.”

“Right, well, first she started by not acknowledging Umbridge at all.” Sam leaned forward, one arm resting on the table and the other gesturing wildly. “Even when Umbridge did that little coughing thing McGonagall just ignored her. Then when she interrupted McGonagall, she barely responded. And when Umbridge tried again, McGonagall just totally shut her down.”

“Umbridge just spent the whole lesson sitting in a corner, furiously taking notes,” Tucker said, taking over so Sam could eat. “At the end she looked so annoyed. Just took a note of how long McGonagall has been teaching here and then she left.”

Nice.” Danny took a bite of his lunch, completely ignoring the looks the three of them were receiving. “That makes the replacement we had for DADA totally worth it.”

“Oh yeah.” Tucker snapped his fingers, now also leaning forward. “That’s right, you have DADA while we have Transfiguration. So you had a replacement huh? How was that?”

“They just got one of the ghosts to do it.” He laughed, shook his head. “It’s not like it matters much, since we only get to read the book anyway. But I don’t think the ghosts liked it much, either.”

“Not very surprising,” Sam said, frowning. “Most of them seem to want the best for the students, or at least to acknowledge the dangers of the magical world. Umbridge – and the Ministry’s – denial doesn’t exactly line up with that.”

“Not really, no.” Tucker scratched his cheek, made a face. “Still, not much they – or we – can do about it. Anyway, you guys want to go work on homework upstairs?”

Danny knew what he was referring to – moving the discussion to the room they’d found – but shook his head in denial. “Can’t. We both have Care of Magical Creatures after lunch, and if we go up we risk being late.”

“Damn.” Tucker sighed, wilting a little in disappointment. “Let’s go outside instead, then? I’ve got the next hour off anyway, and it’s still somewhat good weather.”

“Yeah, sure.” Sam pushed herself up, and Danny followed suit. “Although I gotta say, Tuck, that it’s a little scary to see you suggest going outside.”

“Ha ha,” the boy replied sarcastically. “You’re hilarious, Sam.”

“Oh, I know.” She grinned devilishly. At the edge of the Hall she paused to duck down, coming back up with Lilith in her arms. “And my favorite half-breed agrees, right, Lilith?”

Danny made an offended noise, but she ignored him to coo at her cat.

“Looks like you’ve been replaced, dude.” Tucker nudged him, also smiling widely. “Although I gotta agree. That is one fluffy cat.”

“I’d be more offended if you weren’t right about that.” He shook his head, patting Lilith as he passed her and Sam on the way out.

“I’m counting on her being cute enough for my parents to not immediately kick her out,” Sam admitted as Lilith clambered out of her arms and onto her shoulders. “I would keep her anyway, of course, but it would be easier if they were okay with it.”

“You could always not tell them that she’s part magical creature,” Tucker suggested with a shrug. “That’ll help, at least.”

“True, true.”

“Ah, young Phantom.” Sir Nicholas bowed his head briefly, making it wobble precariously. Danny wasn’t sure if it was better or not now that he knew that it was caused by a badly performed beheading. “It is good to see you again.”

“Yeah, hi.” Danny scratched the back of his neck. “Um. Sorry about not doing a good job with the staying unseen thing.”

“It was rather optimistic of us, I will admit.” The ghost seemed a little sheepish, briefly glancing over at the other ghost present – the Bloody Baron. “As the Baron has kindly pointed out to me.”

The Baron rolled his eyes in response, remaining silent.

“Right, uh.” Danny laughed hesitantly. “So I, uh, had a question. About the castle, or its layout, specifically.”

“Is this related to earlier, when you were exploring the castle with two students by your side?” Baron’s tone remained flat, but Danny could hear the unspoken chastisement anyway.

He blushed, bright green creeping up his cheeks. “Uh, yeah, kinda. We sort of… stumbled upon a room? It was really weird, I couldn’t phase into it and stuff, but walking past it would eventually form a door. Are either of you familiar with it, by any chance?”

Both ghosts shared a glance again, a long one, like a silent conversation. Finally Sir Nicholas turned back to Danny, expression cloudy.

“Yes, we are familiar with it. The Room of Requirement, also known by the house-elves as the Come-And-Go Room.”

“The Room of Requirement? Yeah, that sounds about right, I guess.” Danny hummed as he thought for a moment. “It’s not common knowledge around here, is it?”

“No, it is not.” The Baron narrowed his eyes, seemingly in suspicion. “I do hope you have no plans to use this knowledge for nefarious ends. You may be a corporeal ghost, Phantom, but you are not above the rules.”

“What?” Danny looked at him, wide-eyed, then vigorously shook his head. “No, no, that wasn’t what I was asking for at all! But my friends, they were sorted into three different houses, and they were hoping to find a spot where they could study together without being bothered too much. Ah, Sir Nicholas, I think they’ve met you?”

The ghost blinked for a moment. “Ah, the fifth year transfer students? Yes, they asked me for the way to the library, and thanked me when I told them. They were quite polite.”

“And two of them were with you when we met earlier.” The Baron still looked at him with suspicion in his eyes. “One of them, the Gryffindor, she mentioned something about inventions that could be used to hurt ghosts?”

“Oh, yeah, uh.” Danny scrambled for an excuse, quickly. He had no intention to let these ghosts learn his secret. “The third one, Danny Fenton, he was tired so he didn’t come along. But yes, the Muggle ghost hunters of my hometown have quite an array of inventions designed against ghosts.”

“That must be a break in the Statute of Secrecy, surely?” Nicholas’ hand reached for his neck, but halted before it got there. “Even if they were made by Muggles, for them to have the materials and the need for it…”

“It’s mostly ghosts like me, except they’re not just solid, but also malevolent.” He huffed out a breath. “Not like a poltergeist, but more like… someone who genuinely wants to hurt others, or cause chaos, or whatever plans they have. I fight them, try to stop them, but as I’ve said before… most people decide that if one ghost is bad, they all are.”

“How unfortunate.” The Baron’s eyes finally softened, but they were still not something Danny could consider soft by any means of the word. “How do they do now, then, while you are here? Are there no wizards that could help?”

Danny snorted. “We all know how well magic works on ghosts. That aside, the only magic-users in my own were the three teens I brought here, and an elderly woman. They could have fought ghosts, sure, but not without drawing unnecessary suspicion. The ghosts might’ve broken the Statute, but no one believes the stories anyway.”

“Hm. Well, I suppose I did ask for more information regarding your hometown.” Nicholas straightened his ruff, smoothing his clothes with a carefully neutral expression. “While it has taught me that you are certainly worth your title, it has also painted a rather sad image of your home.”

“It’s alright, really.” Danny shrugged. “You would be surprised by how quickly people get used to constant ghost attacks. I wouldn’t be opposed to having less attacks, honestly, but, well. It’s the way it is, y’know?”

“No, I am afraid I do not.” Nicholas once again looked over at the Baron. “The only troublemaker we deal with is Peeves, and there isn’t much we can do about him.”

“That’s fair.” Danny glanced around, briefly, making sure no one was around to see them. “I’ll see what I can do about Peeves, and maybe ask my friends about prepping their ghost hunting gear. Worst come to worst, we can try spreading some of that stuff to the student body, so they can defend themselves.”

Sir Nicholas brightened slightly, his body seeming lighter and slightly more opaque due to the glow. “Ah, that would be wonderful.”

“It would be much appreciated,” the Baron said, inclining his head slightly. “I fear that we are kept away even from that task by… functioning as stand-in teachers.”

Danny laughed at the distasteful tone. “Yeah, I picked up on that. Not a very exciting curriculum, is it?”

“Certainly not for the higher years, no.” The Baron heaved a deep sigh. “Still, there is little we can do to change it. Either way, Phantom, we thank you for any help you can provide.”

“With Peeves, or with Umbridge?” He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, but seeing their stern glares he settled down again. “Sorry, sorry, just a joke. I won’t bother her, I promise.”

“That would be for the best. After all, if the Professor catches wind of such a peculiar specimen in the school…” Nicholas trialed off.

“Yeah, I got it.” Danny felt his mood sink. “It wouldn’t be good for anyone involved.”

“Indeed not,” was all the Baron had to say.

It was the next week on Wednesday when Danny finally got a chance to follow up on his promises to deal with Peeves. It was early still, people heading to breakfast, when his ghost sense went off. Not very strong, but not as weak as with wizarding ghosts – and with a strange taste to it, a non-ectoplasmic spirit rather than a ghost.

He sighed, ducking into a nearby hidden corridor. After checking that no one could see him, he shifted into his ghost form and turned intangible.

Finding Peeves turned out to be easy enough. The poltergeist was messing with a high-up chandelier, and a quick glance confirmed for Danny that the students below couldn’t overhear them.

Approaching the poltergeist, he loudly cleared his throat. Peeves startled, whirling around. When he saw Danny, his eyes grew wider and his expression shocked.

“Phantom?” he asked, a tinge of fear to his voice.

“Peeves, right?” Receiving a shaky nod in return, he smiled. “Nice to meet you. What are you up to, Peeves?”

“Just a little prank,” the poltergeist replied with a shrug. “Getting the chandelier to drop on the next student to pass underneath it.”

Frowning, Danny glanced between the metal contraption and the floor – and the distance between the two. “I can’t approve of that, buddy.”

“Why not?” Peeves snapped, looking away from the chandelier again. “It’s just a little joke on the ickle students!”

“From this height it could seriously injure them.” Danny shook his head, gesturing at some of the students that had paused to watch them. He was glad that he had remembered to stay intangible. The last thing he needed was more rumors of him being weird, corporeal but not malevolent. “Maybe even kill them. And we don’t want that, do we?”

“…no,” Peeves answered after a slightly too long pause. “No, we don’t, do we?”

Sighing, Danny combed his fingers through his hair. “Look, Peeves, you’re allowed to joke and prank the students, alright? I’m not gonna stop you from doing that.”

Peeves brightened visibly.

“But,” Danny said, holding up a hand to stop him, “I won’t stand for people getting hurt. So things like dropping heavy objects on students, or sharp things or whatever, you can’t do that.”

The poltergeist sighed, lowering his hands again. “But how’m I supposed to know if something is dangerous to defenseless little students?”

“Try to picture the effect of your prank before you do it.” Seeing the spirit frown in thought, he added, “And if you really don’t know, you could ask a teacher or even one of the other ghosts. And if they tell you that it’s too dangerous, don’t do it.”

“Aw. Really?” Peeves glanced, disappointed, between Danny and the chandelier. “Can’t I just…?”

No.” Danny crossed his arms, a firm expression set on his face. “Seriously, Peeves, you know who I am and what I can do. I’m not afraid of taking you down and locking you away somewhere where you can’t hurt humans anymore.”

The spirit’s brow creased, and he suddenly looked thoughtful. Hearing the alarm bells ringing in his head, Danny added, “And I’ve got a few humans running around the school with ghost hunting equipment as well. Even if you somehow evade me and the other ghosts, some of the students can and will fight you if you try a harmful prank where they can see.”

Peeves wilted a little, sighing heavily. “But pranks are still okay? As long as the students are okay?”

“And the teachers, and any other living creatures in the school.” Keeping his expression unimpressed, Danny gestured at the chandelier. “Did you do any serious damage to this?”

“No, not yet,” the poltergeist admitted. “Was such a good prank, too.”

“It’s not funny if people are seriously hurt, Peeves.” Seeing the gathering crowd of students, Danny resisted the urge to make a face. Instead he gestured to them. “Imagine this, alright. If you had pulled this prank, people would’ve been hurt, and none of the humans would’ve thought it was funny, yeah? But if you do something harmless, that just makes a mess or something, that’s funny. The target probably won’t think so, in the moment, but everyone else will laugh and enjoy it. Isn’t that better?”

“I’unno.” Peeves shrugged, tugging on his clothes with an uncertain expression. “But I’ll listen and be a good Peeveesy, and Phantom won’t hurt me, yes?”

Rolling his eyes, Danny huffed out a reluctant laugh. “Yes Peeves, as long as you don’t hurt anyone I won’t do anything. Go on then, shoo.”

Peeves saluted, fading out of color as he phased through a nearby wall. Danny made to leave, but there really were a lot of students now, all clamoring for his attention.

“Sir, sir!” they started shouting, calling to him. “Who are you?!” and “Where did you come from?!” and “How did you get Peeves to listen?!”

So, with a sigh, he lowered himself slightly. Made sure he was still intangible, still as washed out and silver as the normal Hogwarts ghosts.

“Students,” he said with an inclination of his head, floating just over their heads. “How can I help you?”

With quite a bit of pushing and shoving, they apparently determined their first and most important question. “Who are you?”

“My name is Phantom,” Danny answered, doing a showy bow and twisting his hand as if he were saluting with a hat. “Pleasure to meet you all.”

The second question was apparently a little tougher to settle on, as the crowd asked, simultaneously and off-sync, “Where did you come from?” and “What did you do to Peeves?” and “How did you get here?”

Danny laughed, smiling disarmingly. “Well, I’m not from nearby, as you might’ve noticed. As for Peeves, I asked him to tone down on his pranks, so hopefully he will stop harming students.” His expression grew more serious, more stern. “I don’t approve of bullying. Poltergeists, regular ghosts, humans, or anything else.”

He looked around the group, dropping his tone into something warning. “So don’t bully, alright? If I catch you, there will be trouble.”

And with that said, he faded out of visibility. The crowd quickly dispersed, undoubtedly going to spread more rumors.

There was no doubt in Danny’s mind that by lunch the entire school would know of Phantom.

At the end of September, he had most definitely been proven right. More happily, however, his threat had spread as well, given strength by the old rumors of him potentially being a poltergeist instead of a regular ghost.

Well, joke was on them. He was neither, and very willing to follow through on his threats. He really did want the different students to get along better, to give up on that stupid house rivalry.

He was in the library with Sam and Tucker, working on homework. They would’ve ordinarily gone to the room they’d found – the Room of Requirement – but they needed some books that the Room apparently didn’t have. So, the library it was.

It also carried the additional benefit of the three of them visibly working together despite their contrasting houses. And it allowed them to keep an eye on others. Others, like Harry, Ron, and Hermione, in this case. Sam had told them of her suspicions that the three of them were up to something, so here they were.

It was for this reason that he overheard when Hermione said, suddenly, “I was wondering whether you’d thought any more about Defense Against the Dark Arts, Harry.”

“Course I have,” came Harry’s grumpy reply, “Can’t forget it, can we, with that hag teaching us--”

The corner of his mouth twitching up, Danny focused more on the conversation. He wasn’t sure if it was anything important, but it was more interesting than his homework, at least.

“I meant the idea Ron and I had--” she paused, then corrected herself with, “--Oh, all right, the idea I had then-- about you teaching us.”

Perking up at this, Danny glanced over in their direction. They were fairly close by – even Sam and Tucker could overhear from here – and both Hermione and Ron were staring at Harry. Harry, himself, was stubbornly looking at his book.

After a long silence, the boy said, slowly, “Well… yeah. I-- I’ve thought about it a bit.”

“And?” Hermione asked, eagerly.

“I dunno.” Harry looked up and at Ron, though Danny wasn’t sure why. Was he hoping that Ron would bail him out or something?

“I thought it was a good idea from the start.” Ron shrugged, looking only a little guilty.

Now knowing what the conversation was about, Danny nudged Sam and Tucker. Inclining his head towards the other three, he mouthed ‘DADA’. The other two nodded, and all three turned to listen to the Gryffindors.

“You did listen to what I said about a load of it being luck, didn’t you?” Harry asked, shifting uncomfortably in his chair.

“Yes, Harry.” Hermione sounded gentle, encouraging. “But all the same, there’s no point pretending that you’re not good at Defense Against the Dark Arts, because you are. You were the only person last year who could throw off the Imperius Curse completely, you can produce a Patronus, you can do all sorts of stuff that full-grown wizards can’t, Viktor always said--”

Ron whirled his head around so quickly that Danny could almost hear his spine snap. “Yeah? What did Vicky say?”

“Ho ho.” Hermione held up her hand. “He said Harry knew how to do stuff even he didn’t, and he was in the final year at Durmstrang.”

While Ron seemed distracted interrogating Hermione on this ‘Viktor’, Danny, Sam, and Tucker leaned closer to each other.

“What do you think?” he asked the other two, quietly so they wouldn’t be overheard.

“Well, the adults at the Headquarters seemed to think he was good at DADA too,” Sam replied, a thoughtful frown on her face. “I suppose it couldn’t hurt to try. Plus, right now we’re doing the same, right, but with just the three of us.”

Tucker nodded, agreeing. “That, and the Room would be helpful to them, too.”

They paused, listening as Hermione said, anxiously and hesitantly, “Well… now, don’t fly off the handle again, Harry, please… but I really think you ought to teach anyone who wants to learn. I mean, we’re talking about defending ourselves against V-Voldemort. Oh, don’t be pathetic, Ron. It doesn’t seem fair if we don’t offer the chance to other people.”

Silence fell as Harry seemed to think this over. “Yeah, but I doubt anyone except you two would want to be taught by me. I’m a nutter, remember?”

The three of them exchanged a glance, a nod, and simultaneously they stood up. Approaching the three Gryffindors, Sam leaned on the table next to Harry.

“I wouldn’t be so quick to judge, Harry. I can’t speak for everyone, of course, but the three of us would love some more useful schooling for DADA.”

The boy frowned, glancing between her and Danny and Tucker. “All of you? Even…” he trailed off with a telling look towards Danny.

“Yeah, Harry,” he confirmed, arms crossed loosely. “Look, I know what things are like between Gryffindor and Slytherin, and what most Slytherins are like. But I really do mean it. From what we’ve heard, you’re good at DADA. And if Hermione and Ron say you’d be a good teacher, well, I wouldn’t say no to the opportunity.”

Ron frowned, still not over his reflexive dislike of Slytherins, but he nodded approvingly nonetheless.

“And,” Tucker said, a grin on his face, “We know just the spot for you.”

“Oh?” Hermione looked intrigued, turning to face him. “Where would that be, then?”

They took the cue to sit down properly, all clustering around the table, the books on it forgotten.

“Well, there’s this room on the seventh floor,” Danny started explaining, hands raised and gesturing, “And it forms its contents based on the people in it. We’ve been using it as an easy place to meet up, an inter-house common room, but we’ve trained there as well.”

“How come we’ve never heard of this place then?” Harry asked, disbelievingly. “We’ve been here for four years, and you haven’t even been here a month.”

“Phantom found it,” Sam said with a conspiring tone. “According to the ghosts it’s called the Room of Requirement, and it only opens if you walk past it three times with a clear command on what you want it to be.”

The black-haired boy blinked dumbly for a moment or two. Then, “I think Dumbledore mentioned that, once.”

“He has?” Ron hissed incredulously. “And you didn’t remember that before?”

“Well, not so specifically, no.” Harry shrugged. “He mentioned that one time he needed to pee really bad, and then suddenly he came across a room filled with toilets. But later, when he tried to return, he couldn’t find it anymore.”

“Sounds like the Room of Requirement, yeah,” Tucker agreed with a nod. “But, like I said, it’s great for training and stuff. And if you’re gonna teach people actual DADA, we would love to be there.”

“Yeah, Harry, I think you might be surprised how many people would be interested in hearing what you’ve got to say,” Hermione added, serious. “Look, you know the first weekend in October is a Hogsmeade weekend? How would it be if we tell anyone who’s interested to meet us in the village and we can talk it over? And then we can do the actual training in this… Room of Requirement.”

“How about this.” Sam leaned forward, violet eyes sparkling in the torch light of the library. “Let’s go to the Room right now. You can see that it’s real, and that it’s perfect, and we can talk without being overheard.”

The other three exchanged uncertain looks, but nodded. And so the six of them set off towards the seventh floor, gathering in front of the bizarre tapestry of some guy training a bunch of trolls.

“Who wants to have a go?” Danny asked, gesturing at the blank wall opposite of the tapestry. “Just think of what you want and then walk by three times, and a door will form.”

“I’ll go,” Hermione said determinedly before either of the boys could answer. She paced by, three times, with her brown creased in focus.

And, like all previous times, a perfectly ordinary door formed. Hermione went through first, Harry and Ron right on her heels and Sam, Danny, and Tucker following further behind.

The Room of Requirement closely resembled the library they had just left. Enormous walls of bookcases littered around, tables interspersed regularly.

“You didn’t ask for a training room, did you?” Sam asked accusingly, her tone light.

Hermione shook her head, looking over the books in a nearby case. “No, I believed what you said before. I wanted to see if we could use this to access study materials we can’t easily get normally, like books from the Restricted Area and such.”

“Oh, good thinking.” Danny was eyeing up the books as well. “Honestly, you’ll have mixed luck with that. Some of the books are made by the Room, but others come from the Room of Hidden Things, which is a subsection that you can’t normally access.”

“We found it while testing the room,” Tucker elaborated, leaning against one of the tables. “It seems to store all kinds of things, although we’re not sure how they got there. Things people lost or stored there on purpose, it seems, over the entire existence of Hogwarts. It was too big for us to really explore, though, and Summoning Charms don’t seem to work. Getting the Room to parse out the things you want seems to be the only way to really find anything.”

“Oh, by the way, the person who set the room can alter it while it’s being used.” Danny gestured around. “If you want to reset training dummies, for example, or shift into a more comfortable setting. Only the Room of Hidden Things is inaccessible – you need to leave the room entirely to access it.”

“I can’t believe we’re still learning new things about this building,” Ron muttered.

“I can,” Harry admitted with a slight grin on his face, eyes wandering around the room. Clearly imagining what it could look like, what it could be, later on.

Chapter Text

“Excited to leave Hogwarts again?” Sam asked, playfully nudging Danny.

“Eh.” He shrugged, wrapping his cloak tighter around himself. It was windy, and October in Britain was cold and wet. “Mostly I’m interested in seeing how that meeting will go. How many people will show up and stuff.”

“How many people from non-Gryffindor houses will show up, you mean.” Tucker frowned, peering around the queue they had joined. “Is there really only one guy checking everyone who wants to leave? How is this school this understaffed?”

“Because wizards suck?” Sam suggested, grinning a little. “Did either of you see a good reception in your houses? I know we had to be careful about spreading the word, so no one bad caught wind of it, but still.”

They fell silent as they reached the janitor, who took their notes, checked the list, and then let them pass. As they walked towards the gates, Danny picked up the conversation again. “Wasn’t much I could do, to be honest. It’s kind of hard to tell which Slytherins genuinely suck, and which ones are just playing along. I think there were a couple of interested people anyway, but I guess we’ll see when we get there.”

“Ravenclaw overall was pretty interested. They all want to do well, and studying this way will help, hopefully.” Tucker hummed. “I don’t know how many will actually show up today, but they’re definitely up for it.”

Sam nodded, then frowned. “Where were we meeting up again, anyway? Hog’s Head, or something like that?”

“Believe so.” They passed tall stone pillars, topped with winged boars, entering the village itself. “From what I’ve heard from the other Ravenclaws it’s sketchy, more so than the Three Broomsticks where people usually go.”

“They picked somewhere quiet to meet, then.” She glanced around. “Better go looking for it. Let’s go down the main street, see if we can find it.”

In the end, it wasn’t the bar they found, but their fellow students. A crowd seemed to be gathering in a side-street, and when the three pushed themselves closer, they could spot a sign that seemed to suggest that this was the bar they were looking for; it depicted a severed boar head leaking blood onto white cloth.

At the front of the crowd was Neville, together with a boy and a girl who were also from Gryffindor. Sam greeted them, then asked, “What are we waiting for?”

“It’s not time yet,” Neville answered, glancing at his watch. “And we’re not sure the others are here yet.”

“Well, only one way to find out, yeah?” Sam looked back to share a look and a shrug with Danny and Tucker, and they entered.

Inside, the bar was small, dirty, smelly, and dark. The windows, despite being present, were so badly caked with grime that very little light came through. Instead small stubby candles were lit on every table, which were rough and wooden. The floor looked like compressed dirt, but when Danny walked on it, he realized that it was stone. Just… very dirty.

A couple of people were scattered around the room, most of them wearing strange clothing and covering their heads. And at the furthest table away from the bar were Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

They could hear the rest of the group streaming in behind them. Quickly they made their way further in, to let the others pass them by.

Danny could see Harry lean closer to Hermione, but he couldn’t overhear what they were talking about with the chatter. So instead he turned to watch Fred push his way to the bar, quickly counting the members of the group.

“Hi,” the teenager said to the bartender, who looked mildly shocked and who held a rag dirtier than most of the things that Danny had seen in the Ghost Zone. “Could we have… thirty-five Butterbeers, please?”

The bartender glared, but ducked down to start passing down bottles of drink from underneath the bar – Butterbeer, presumably.

“Cheers,” said Fred, handing them out to the other students. “Cough up, everyone, I haven’t got enough gold for all of these…”

The three of them paid as well, accepting the wizarding drinks, and went to find seats close to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. As soon as they settled down some other students sat down nearby – Slytherins sidling close to Danny, and Ravenclaws grouping around Tucker. Sam, luckily sitting in-between, barked out a single laugh.

“Wow, you didn’t tell me you two were so popular.”

“Ha ha.” Danny uncapped his Butterbeer, smelling it cautiously. He wasn’t sure what he was most suspicious of – the drink itself, or the bar it had come from. “Obviously it’s house solidarity. It’s an event by Gryffindors, attended mostly by Gryffindors. They want to stick closer to familiar faces.”

“Nah, maybe that’s the truth for you,” Tucker leaned closer, waggling his eyebrows, “But for me, these are obviously my groupies.”

One of the other Ravenclaws snorted out a laugh, and some of the others seemed to chuckle as well. Heartened, Tucker continued to wiggle his eyebrows exaggeratedly.

Eventually everyone seemed to find a seat, however, and chatter died down. Every eye settled on Harry, and briefly, Danny felt bad for the amount of attention the boy was receiving.

“Er.” It was Hermione who spoke up, voice higher out of nerves. “Well, er, hi.”

The students, as one, moved their attention to her instead. Regularly, however, eyes darted back to Harry.

“Well… erm… well, you know why you’re here. Erm… well, Harry here had the idea--” The boy in question shot her a sharp look, and she corrected herself, “--I had the idea – that it might be good if people who wanted to study Defense Against the Dark Arts – and I mean, really study it, you know, not the rubbish that Umbridge is doing with us--” She seemed to suddenly find her confidence, as her voice grew stronger, “--because nobody could call that Defense Against the Dark Arts.”

“Hear, hear,” a Ravenclaw boy cheered.

Visibly more heartened, Hermione continued, “Well, I thought it would be good if we, well, took matters into our own hands.”

She paused, looked sideways at Harry. Then she went on, steadfast. “And by that I mean learning how to defend ourselves properly, not just in theory but doing the real spells--”

“You want to pass your Defense Against the Dark Arts OWL too, though, I bet?” asked another Ravenclaw, different from the previous one.

“Of course I do,” Hermione answered at once. “But more than that, I want to be properly trained in defense because… because…” She took a great breath, then finished, “Because Lord Voldemort is back.”

The reaction was immediate, and kind of startling to Danny. People shrieked, flinched, shuddered, and yelped all throughout the bar. All of them, however, turned to look at Harry.

“Well… that’s the plan, anyway,” Hermione said, drawing the attention back to her. “If you want to join us, we need to decide how we’re going to--”

“Where’s the proof You-Know-Who’s back?” a blonde Hufflepuff asked, tone low and aggressive.

“Well, Dumbledore believes it--” Hermione began, clearly a little peeved at the constant interruptions.

“You mean, Dumbledore believes him.” The boy nodded at Harry.

“Who are you?” Ron asked back, irritably.

“Zacharias Smith,” the boy responded. “And I think we’ve got the right to know exactly what makes him say You-Know-Who’s back.”

“Look,” Hermione intervened, “that’s not really what this meeting was supposed to be about--”

“It’s OK, Hermione.” Harry seemed to steel himself. “What makes me say You-Know-Who’s back?” He looked Zacharias straight in the face. “I saw him. But Dumbledore told the whole school what happened last year, and if you didn’t believe him, you won’t believe me, and I’m not wasting an afternoon trying to convince anyone.”

The whole group seemed to have held their breath while Harry spoke. Still, Zacharias spoke, dismissively. “All Dumbledore told us last year was that Cedric Diggory got killed by You-Know-Who and that you brought Diggory’s body back to Hogwarts. He didn’t give us details, he didn’t tell us exactly how Diggory got murdered, I think we’d all like to know--”

“If you’ve come to hear exactly what it looks like when Voldemort murders someone I can’t help you,” Harry snapped. He stared straight at Zacharias. “I don’t want to talk about Cedric Diggory, all right? So if that’s what you’re here for, you might as well clear out.”

He cast an angry look at Hermione, and Danny took the chance to look around the room. Still, despite Zacharias’ loud protests, no one left their seats.

“So,” Hermione said, voice high-pitched again. “So… like I was saying… if you want to learn some defense, then we need to work out how we’re going to do it, how often we’re going to meet and--”

“Is it true,” interrupted a Hufflepuff girl, looking at Harry, “that you can produce a Patronus?”

There was a murmur of interest in the group at this, and Danny shared a glance with Sam and Tucker. Now this was interesting – a Patronus was a difficult spell that required high skill.

“Yeah,” Harry answered hesitant, defensive.

“A corporeal Patronus?”

“Er-- You don’t know Madam Bones, do you?” he asked, and Danny frowned at the non-sequitur.

But the girl smiled, and said, “She’s my auntie. I’m Susan Bones. She told me about your hearing. So, is it really true? You make a stag Patronus?”

“Yes,” Harry answered.

“Blimey, Harry!” an older Gryffindor exclaimed, grouped with Fred and George. “I never knew that!”

“Mum told Ron not to spread it around,” one of the twins said, grinning at Harry. “She said you got enough attention as it was.”

“She’s not wrong,” the boy in question grumbled, making several people to laugh.

“And did you kill a Basilisk with that sword in Dumbledore’s office?” demanded yet another Ravenclaw. Danny really started to wish that he’d spent a little more effort learning about students from Tucker’s house, too. Knowing a few more names would be really handy. “That’s what one of the portraits on the wall told me when I was in there last year…”

“Er… Yeah, I did, yeah.”

This seemed to inspire quite a bit of a reaction as well. Two boys exchanged awestruck looks, another whistled, and one of the Gryffindor girls quietly said “Wow!”. Harry seemed to get uncomfortable with the attention, however, awkwardly looking around the room.

“And in our first year,” Neville said to the group at large, “He saved that Philological Stone--”

“Philosopher’s,” Hermione hissed.

“Yes, that – from You-Know-Who.”

“And that’s not to mention,” a Ravenclaw girl said, “all the tasks he had to get through in the Triwizard Tournament last year, getting past dragons and merpeople and Acromantula and things…”

People all around the table seemed to agree, an impressed murmur going around. Danny shared an equally impressed glance with Sam and Tucker, glad that they had encouraged Harry. He certainly seemed to have the experience for this.

“Look,” Harry said, and everyone fell silent at once. “I… I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to be modest or anything, but… I had a lot of help with all that stuff…”

“Not with the dragon, you didn’t,” one of the earlier Ravenclaws insisted. “That was a seriously cool bit of flying.”

“Yeah, well--” Harry tried to protest, but before he could get any further the Hufflepuff girl broke in as well.

“And nobody helped you get rid of those dementors this summer.”

“No,” Harry said, “No, OK, I know I did bits of it without help, but the point I’m trying to make is--”

“Are you trying to weasel out of showing us any of this stuff?” Zacharias accused.

“Here’s an idea,” Ron said, loudly, “Why don’t you shut your mouth?”

The Hufflepuff boy flushed, but persisted. “Well, we’ve all turned up to learn from him and now he’s telling us he can’t really do any of it.”

“That’s not what he said,” Fred snarled.

“Would you like us to clean out your ears for you?” George followed up, pulling an unpleasant-looking metal instrument from one of his bags.

“Or any part of your body, really, we’re not fussy where we stick this,” the first twin said.

“Yes, well,” Hermione said hastily, diverting the conversation back to the original topic. “The point is, are we agreed we want to take lessons from Harry?”

There was a murmur of general agreement. Zacharias folded his arms, but said nothing. Danny, as well as Sam and Tucker, agreed more loudly, trying to encourage their respective houses.

“Right.” Hermione looked relieved that this, at last, had been settled. “Well, then, the next question is how often we do it. I don’t think there’s any point in meeting less than once a week--”

“Hang on,” Johnson – the Gryffindor Quidditch player – said, “We need to make sure this doesn’t clash with our Quidditch practice.”

Both the older Ravenclaw girl from earlier and Zacharias agreed, and Danny heard some of the Slytherins murmur that at least none of them were on the team, so it wasn’t a concern for them.

“I’m sure we can find a night that suits everyone,” Hermione said, getting impatient. “But you know, this is rather important, we’re talking about learning to defend ourselves against V-Voldemort’s Death Eaters--”

“Well said!” barked a Hufflepuff boy. “Personally, I think this is really important, possibly more important than anything else we’ll do this year, even with our OWLs coming up!”

He looked around, as if waiting for people to protest. When no one did, he went on, “I, personally, am at a loss to see why the Ministry has foisted such a useless teacher on us at this critical period. Obviously, they are in denial about the return of You-Know-Who, but to give us a teacher who is trying to actively prevent us from using defensive spells--”

“We think the reason Umbridge doesn’t want us trained in Defense Against the Dark Arts,” said Hermione, “is that she’s got some… some mad idea that Dumbledore could use the students in the school as a kind of private army. She thinks he’d mobilize us against the Ministry.”

Almost everyone looked stunned, but Danny was surprised to see that Luna, from Ravenclaw, didn’t.

“Well, that makes sense,” she piped up. “After all, Cornelius Fudge has got his own private army.”

“What?” Harry looked confused.

“Yes, he’s got an army of Heliopaths,” the girl responded, solemnly.

“No he hasn’t,” Hermione snapped. “Because they don’t exist.”

Before the two could dissolve into bickering, Sam cleared her throat. “Weren’t we trying to decide how often we’re going to meet?”

“Yes,” Hermione said, quickly composing herself again. “Yes, we were. You’re right, Sam.”

“Well, once a week sounds cool,” the Gryffindor with the twins said.

“As long as--”

“Yes, yes, we know about the Quidditch,” Hermione said, tensely. “Now, we’ve already found a place for us to practice, luckily. It is a secret room on the seventh floor, you’ll know it when you see it. We’ll have to decide on when we’ll meet, though, so we’ll send a message around when we’ve got a time for the first meeting.”

She rummaged in her bag, revealing parchment and a quill. But then she hesitated, steeling herself.

“I-- I think everybody should write their name down, just so we know who was here. But I also think,” she took a deep breath, “that we all ought to agree not to shout about what we’re doing. So if you sign, you’re agreeing not to tell Umbridge or anybody else what we’re up to.”

As one of the twins reached for the parchment and cheerfully wrote his signature, Danny glanced around the gathered Slytherins. None seemed thrilled by the prospect, and he nudged the nearest one – Harper.

“It’s fine,” he said, trying to encourage them. “It’ll be worth it, and I promise she won’t do anything bad with it, okay? If you don’t trust her, trust me.”

Harper grunted, but when the paper came around to them, Danny was pleased to see everyone sign it.

Once it had passed the whole group, Hermione carefully slipped it into her bag.

“Well, time’s ticking on,” Fred said briskly, getting to his feet. “George, Lee, and I have got items of a sensitive nature to purchase, we’ll be seeing you all later.”

And following them, the rest of the group left too, in twos and threes.

Sam, Tucker, and Danny were among the last to leave, sending encouraging nods to Harry. Then they emerged into bright sunlight, back into a village they didn’t know.

“So…” Tucker cleared his throat. “Want to try the other bar, see if we can get something else to drink?”

Danny entered the Great Hall with a stormy expression. The sheer intensity of the chatter, of the people flitting around the tables, told him that the sign he’d read earlier had appeared in all common rooms.

Not that he’d expected anything else, but still. It was a blow for the DADA training club, and he seriously wondered what Umbridge would consider a ‘student group’. Would inter-house interactions be judged? Where would the line be drawn?

He glanced over to the Gryffindor table, but Hermione was already frantically gesturing at some of the Hufflepuffs, and decided against joining them. Instead he moved over to the Ravenclaw table, joining Tucker. Sam could come to them, instead. Better not threaten the barely-formed training club, right?

“So it’s in the Slytherin room as well, huh?” Tucker asked before Danny had even sat down. “Shit. Must be real serious, then.”

“Real real, too,” Danny agreed with a huff. Some of the Ravenclaws cast him strange looks, but for the most part they ignored him – Ravenclaw had no real rivalry with Slytherin, unlike Gryffindor. “I’m just worried about what it’ll mean, exactly. When is a group of people no longer just unrelated students or, hell, friends? When is it worth banning?”

Tucker hissed out a breath, and one of the Ravenclaws – Danny recognized him from the Hog’s Head – leaned over closer. “You think she might try banning regular study groups, too?”

“I don’t know.” Danny shook his head. “But I think it’s a real concern, especially if you try to study with people from different houses.”

“That sucks,” the boy muttered, taking a bite of his breakfast. “So much for inter-house unity, huh?”

“And for those of us who already have friends in other houses,” Tucker agreed with a firm nod. “I bet that two people are okay – wouldn’t want to break up couples – but three or more? Better be careful.”

“You three really found an unfortunate time to join Hogwarts.” The boy glanced from his breakfast back to him and Tucker. “I mean, most years so far have been questionable, but this goes above and beyond.”

“Kind of agree, yeah.” Danny took a bite of his toast, grimaced, then swallowed it. “I mean, back home we got judged for a lot of things, but at least we didn’t have to deal with houses or people judging us based on them.”

The boy nodded, a thoughtful look on his face. “Yeah. I guess it’s especially dumb if you’re completely unfamiliar with it. Did you three even know anything about the houses when you were sorted?”

“Nothing beyond the basic traits.” Tucker took a loud, crunching bite of his own toast. “Nothing about the inner relationship and rivalries. Or about the house ghosts, the Head of House, etc etc.”

“We didn’t even have a system like this, back home,” Danny explained after swallowing a gulp of his drink – pumpkin juice, ugh. “Classes were split more or less randomly, so one year you could share a class with a friend and the next no longer. But then I guess that that wouldn’t work for a boarding school, anyway.”

“That’s certainly an interesting way of doing it.” The boy nodded, then grew wide-eyed. “Oh, I never introduced myself, have I? I’m Anthony Goldstein.”

Danny took his hand, shaking it. “I’m Danny Fenton, but I’m guessing you already knew that from Tucker?”

Anthony laughed, nodding again. “Yep. Pleasure to meet you, Danny. You Americans certainly have an interesting view on Hogwarts, that outsider’s perspective.”

“It’s certainly different,” Tucker agreed. “I’m honestly astounding by how much homework we get here.”

“It’s not so bad,” Anthony protested, feebly. “Yeah, okay, maybe it is. But it’s for a good purpose!”

“Still could’ve done with less,” Danny grumbled. “Hey, we’ve got Herbology first hour, right?”

“Yep,” both other boys chorused, after which the conversation dissolved into less important matters.

Then, finally, the message was sent that they were ready for their first gathering. When Danny, Sam, and Tucker came to the room, they were tailed by several other members from both Slytherin and Ravenclaw. At the door, already formed, they found several Gryffindors as well.

Sam rolled her eyes at the sight, pushing her way through. “Come on, let’s go in already. We’re wasting time.”

Danny followed her in, curiously glancing around, wondering how Harry’s training room would differ from Team Phantom’s.

It was, for one, much more like the rest of Hogwarts. Spacious, but lit with flickering torches instead of artificial lighting. Wooden bookcases lined the walls, and large silk cushions laid all over the floor. A set of shelves at the far end carried a variety of Wizarding instruments, although Danny didn’t recognize most of them.

Harry and Ron stood around, but Hermione was sitting on a pillow, reading a book. Danny, as well as Sam and Tucker, quickly moved over to join the two boys.

“Whoa,” one of the Gryffindors who came in with them exclaimed, staring around. “What is this place?”

They tried to explain, but more and more people kept coming in, forcing them to start over. By the time eight rolled around – the agreed meeting time – all the cushions were occupied and everyone was present. Harry moved to lock the door, and Hermione set her book aside.

“Well,” the boy said, visibly nervous. “This is the place we’ve found for practice sessions, and you’ve-- er-- obviously found it OK.”

“It’s fantastic!” a Ravenclaw girl exclaimed, and several others murmured their agreement.

“It’s bizarre,” Fred said, frowning around. “We once hid from Filch in here, remember, George? But it was just a broom cupboard then.”

Tucker opened his mouth to explain, but both Danny and Sam elbowed him. “Don’t say anything,” Danny hissed lowly, so no one would overhear. “We’re new, remember? If we know about it when no one else does, we’ll have to explain how we found it.”

The boy nodded quickly, although he grimaced at them. “Fair. Did you really have to hit me that hard though?”

“Yeah,” Sam said, grinning sneakily. “You gotta live up to your Ravenclaw intellect, remember?”

Before he could reply, Harry cleared his throat and continued speaking. “Well, I’ve been thinking about the sort of stuff we ought to do first and… er… What, Hermione?”

The girl in question had her hand raised. “I think we ought to elect a leader.”

“Harry’s leader,” the older Ravenclaw girl declared at once.

“Yes, but I think we ought to vote on it properly.” Hermione’s expression was blank, unperturbed. “It makes it formal and gives him authority. So, everyone who thinks Harry ought to be our leader?”

Everyone put up their hands – even Zacharias Smith – and Danny was pleased so see the few Slytherins look determined in their decision.

“Er… right, thanks.” Harry blushed. “And… What, Hermione?”

“I also think we ought to have a name,” she said brightly, her hand still raised. “It would promote a feeling of team spirit and unity, don’t you think?”

“Can we be the Anti-Umbridge League?” Johnson suggested hopefully.

“Or the Ministry of Magic are Morons Group?” Fred suggested, startling a laugh out of Danny. He agreed wholeheartedly, though, even for non-DADA related reasons.

“I was thinking,” Hermione said, frowning, “more of a name that didn’t tell everyone what we were up to, so we can refer to it safely outside of meetings.”

“The Defense Association?” the Ravenclaw girl said. “The DA for short, so nobody knows what we’re talking about?”

“Yeah, the DA’s good,” Ginny declared. “Only let’s make it stand for Dumbledore’s Army, because that’s the Ministry’s worst fear, isn’t it?”

A good part of the group seemed to agree, murmuring appreciatively and laughing.

“All in favor of the DA?” Hermione kneeled up on her cushion to count. “That’s a majority, motion passed!”

She pinned the parchment with their signatures on to the wall, writing across the top in large letters ‘Dumbledore’s army’.

“Right,” Harry said when she had sat down again. “Shall we get practicing then? I was thinking, the first thing we should do is Expelliarmus, you know, the Disarming Charm. I know it’s pretty basic but I’ve found it really useful--”

“Oh, please,” Zacharias said, rolling his eyes and folding his arms. “I don’t think Expelliarmus is exactly going to help us against You-Know-Who, do you?”

“I’ve used it against him.” Harry was quiet but firm. “It saved my life in June.”

The boy opened his mouth, even as the rest of the room was silent.

“But if you think it’s beneath you, you can leave.”

Zacharias didn’t move. Neither did anyone else.

“OK,” Harry said with a nod. “I reckon we should all divide into pairs and practice.”

Danny, Tucker, and Sam shared a glance. Then Danny looked over at the uncertain Slytherins, back to his friends, and sighed. Turning to the Slytherins, he said, “Why don’t you guys pair up with Sam and Tucker? I’ll pair with Anthony. If we work with other houses instead of just Slytherin, the others will trust us more easily, okay?”

The others nodded, and Sam and Tucker nodded encouragingly at both him and the other Slytherins. So Danny strode over to Anthony, explaining the situation.

“Yeah, of course,” the boy said in response. “Good thinking. I like what you’re doing, trying to follow the Hat’s advice to help us unite Hogwarts.”

“Thanks.” Danny huffed out an uncertain laugh, rubbing the back of his neck. “Let’s just get working on this charm, do our best.”

Performance at first was spotty, not just for Danny, but for everyone in the room. At one point Harry even blew a whistle, but said to continue trying.

Then the whistle blew again, and Harry said, “Well, that was pretty good. But we’ve overrun, we’d better leave it here. Same time, same place next week?”

“Sooner!” one of the Gryffindor boys shouted eagerly, a sentiment shared by a lot of nodding people.

But Johnson quickly said, “The Quidditch season’s about to start, we need team practice too!”

“Let’s say next Wednesday night, then.” Harry started digging through his robe, revealing a folded piece of parchment. “We can decide on additional meetings then. Come on, we’d better get going.”

Danny wasn’t sure what was on the parchment, exactly, but it must’ve been something magical. Based on it, Harry let them all leave in groups of three and four. He, himself, hurried back to the Slytherin Common Room with Harper and another housemate.

But he felt good. The training had gone well, and the future was bright.

Chapter Text

“Excited about the game tomorrow, Danny?”

He hummed noncommittally, not looking up at Tucker. “Yes, whoo hoo, sports. I couldn’t be more thrilled.”

Sam snorted, and the sound of scribbling quills quietened. “Not to speak of the tension. I mean, I get that they’re competitive, but the teachers should be above that, at least!”

“I don’t mind that McGonagall didn’t give us homework.” Tucker put down his quill, shifting in his seat. “We’re already drowning in all the other stuff.”

“But Snape should be stopping his Slytherins from attacking the Gryffindor players, at least!” she snapped back, hands balled into fists. “It’s ridiculous! He’s ignoring all evidence and witnesses!”

“I know.” Danny sighed, putting down his quill to look at the other two. “Whatever caused the rivalry, it runs deep. I might’ve talked Malfoy into not being as much of a dick, but he’s not gonna go against the others. And believe me, they’ve dug deep to make life hell tomorrow.”

“Oh boy.” Sam made a face, then twisted in her seat to face him fully. “How bad is it? Do I need to warn the others?”

“I tried to stay away so I’m not sure if I caught everything,” Danny confessed. “But I’m pretty sure they made, like, a song? A really insulting one, to throw Ron off of his game.”

“Yikes,” Tucker said, shaking his head. “I didn’t think I would ever say it, but it kind of makes me miss Dash. At least those jocks weren’t trying to assassinate each other.”

“You don’t know that. They might’ve tried if they stuck multiple hyper-competitive teams in one school.”

“They still wouldn’t have had magic to accomplish it.” Danny leaned on the table in front of him. “Or magical comets that get batted around the field at speeds of ‘fuck off’.”

She nodded, reluctantly. “Fair enough. I’ll tell the team leader, Angela, so she can be prepared. And Hermione, too. She’ll know if Ron should be informed or not, since it might make him more nervous.”

“Sounds good.” He glanced back down at the homework he was working on and grimaced. “So, guys. Who’s up for spell practice?”

“I am!” Tucker immediately answered, rolling up his sheet of parchment in one swift movement. “I am so done with all of this homework, forget about the fact that we have to use a quill and ink.”

“Hard agree. Stupid teachers and their mandatory parchment-and-ink rules.” Sam rolled up her homework as well, stuffing it into her bag. “What did you have in mind, Danny?”

“The Impediment Jinx? We’ve been doing it with the DA and I could use some work with it.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s one of the few spells we’ve worked on that I couldn’t somehow replicate with my powers, so I really want to nail it.”

“Makes sense.” Tucker put his homework as well, the room shifting around them as Danny prepared it for spell casting. “Have you had much trouble with slipping ecto-energy into your magic? We can’t really keep an eye on that while we’re working with your Slytherin buddies.”

“It’s been alright.” Danny slid his wand out of his pocket, rolling the piece of wood around in his hand. “I gotta focus on it a lot, so I mess up my spells more. But I can’t risk anyone seeing it, y’know?”

“We get it, dude.” Tucker rolled his shoulders and was rewarded with a series of loud cricks as his spine realigned. He positioned himself in front of the padded floor, bracing himself. “Alright, gimme your best shot.”

Danny nodded, swinging his wand around to point straight at Tucker. “Impedimenta!”

The light that emerged was, perhaps, more green than the turquoise it should’ve been, but it wasn’t overly noticeable. Tucker stumbled when it hit him, and was unable to catch himself due to the immobilization the spell caused. Instead he tipped backwards, landing softly on the pillows behind him.

“Looks pretty good to me,” Sam commented with a shrug. “A little green, but it’s not very obvious if you’re not looking for it.”

“Yeah, I agree with Sam.” Tucker wriggled his fingers to confirm he had full movement back, then pushed himself out of the cushion. “It worked, the light wasn’t very obvious, and the blow back isn’t abnormal for this jinx either. I think you’re in the clear, man.”

He huffed out a relieved sigh. “Well, that’s something at least. I’d like to train with it a little more though, if you guys don’t mind? We can take turns so you can practice too?”

“Sounds good to me.” Sam dug her own wand out of her pocket, the black wood shiny and well-maintained. “I’m not exactly jumping to get back into the corridors.”

“At least your common room isn’t in the frigging dungeons.” Danny shivered demonstratively. “I might have ice powers, but come on! It’s so cold in this dang castle that people are wearing their gloves inside. How is that not a problem worth fixing? Or looking into, at least?”

“Wizarding World has weird priorities,” Tucker agreed with a nod, pulling out his own wand. “But hey, what’re we gonna do about it?”

“Absolutely nothing,” Sam grumbled with a frown on her face. “Not any time soon, at least. We can’t risk drawing attention to the Ghost Zone. The Wizarding World would go nuts if they found out about that.”

“Which is also why I’m not gonna get involved at all.” Danny rolled his shoulders, moving closer to a pile of cushions. “That’s just asking to get caught.”

“We’re not good at blending in anyway,” Tucker pointed out, taking aim at Danny. “With the whole DA thing more people are crossing to talk to other houses, but Hermione told them to be wary so now we’re basically the only ones doing it anyway.”

Danny opened his mouth to reply, but Tucker called “Impedimenta!” and he immobilized. When, moments later, he could move again he shot the other a glare.

“As I was about to say, yeah, you’re right. But things are getting better, slowly but surely. And we’re only a couple months into the year yet, still plenty of time for people to change.”

“And even if it doesn’t get much better while we’re here, we might’ve made the first move towards better things.” Sam turned to aim at Tucker. “Even if things don’t change immediately, maybe eventually it’ll be better.”

“That’s such a long time off though,” Danny groaned, watching as Tucker was immobilized again, this time not being knocked over. “Ugh, it doesn’t even really matter. Why are we worrying about this when there are threats like Voldemort out there?”

“Because Dumbledore won’t let you help with that?” Tucker straightened his beret. “And also the magical hat said it was a good idea for the houses to unite, and apparently we’re following the advice of talking headgear nowadays.”

Danny snorted despite himself. “Yeah, I guess we are. But only because it’s obviously giving good advice; united you’re stronger than separated.”

“Preaching to the choir, buddy.” Sam patted him on the shoulder, then glanced at her watch. “Unfortunately it’s getting late, and I’m pretty sure that Quidditch game is early in the morning tomorrow, so. If we want to watch we’ll have to get up early.”

“Aren’t the seats for that separated by houses anyway?” Tucker joined them in a closer group, stuffing his wand back into his pocket. “We can dress neutrally all we want, but if we can’t sit together I’m not all that interested in seeing Gryffindor and Slytherin engage in an actual fistfight when things don’t turn out right.”

“Pretty sure it’s impossible for things to turn out right with those two teams on the field,” Sam pointed out. “And I’m fairly certain that the seating is, like most things, out of habit instead of rule. It’s a sport, so people want to sit with the people who want the same ones to win, so usually they end up grouped by house.”

“Well, that’s something at least.” Tucker visibly stifled a yawn. “Whatever, we’ll figure it out tomorrow. See you guys at breakfast?”

Danny nodded, opened the door of the Room of Requirement. “Yeah. I think I might sit with you, if you’re okay with that? Not too interested in dealing with the whole table jeering at Gryffindor.”

“Same, actually,” Sam cut in before Tucker could answer. “Gryffindor will probably be the same, or they’ll be too occupied pretending not to hear.”

Tucker shrugged. “Sure, why not? Most Ravenclaws are pretty alright with you two, and if not, they’re not fighty enough to protest.”


Danny plopped himself down on a bench next to Sam and Tucker. “Do you think all games are this loud, or is that just that damn rivalry again?”

“Sources say that it’s just Slytherin fucking with Gryffindor, and Gryffindor trying to drown it out.” Tucker straightened his beret, tactically swapped for a black one. “Sources being my fellow Ravenclaws.”

Sam sighed, shaking her head at the stands filled with Slytherins. “I warned the team captain, but there’s nothing she could do except warn the rest of the team. Apparently there are no rules against, well, this.”

“Sucks for Ron.” Danny glanced around warily, but no one seemed to protest against his presence. Maybe the fact that he didn’t have one of those anti-Ron buttons helped. “Sidney would have a heart attack if he knew about the state of bullying in this school.”

“Hmm.” Tucker nodded, then frowned at the field. “Looks like the Slytherins are coming out. Look at that, all on the same brooms as well. Someone must’ve bought their way onto the team.”

“Pretty sure it was Draco,” Danny said. “His dad is super rich, and he’s got all the right people bribed, I think. But allegedly he’s pretty good as a Seeker anyway.”

“Oh, look, there come the Gryffindors as well.” Just as she said it, noise around the stadium increased. Cheers and whistles, almost loud enough to block the singing from the Slytherins. “Not as brick wall-y as the Slytherins, but I’m not sure if that matters much.”

“I guess we’ll find out.” The captains stepped closer, apparently under orders of the referee. They shook hands, briefly, before the ref blew her whistle.

Then the balls went up, and so did the fourteen players. Both goalkeepers, Ron and an older Slytherin called Bletchley, whose name Danny only knew thanks to Draco, shot off towards the raised rings on either end of the field. Harry and Draco split from the group to start looping around the field.

Danny, admittedly, didn’t know much about Quidditch, but his attempt to guide Draco to better waters by keeping him company had taught him some, at least. He knew those two were Seekers, tasked with finding the Golden Snitch; a small golden ball with wings, which would instantly end the game if caught.

A speaker crackled to life, the enthusiastic voice of the announcer loud. “And it’s Johnson – Johnson with the Quaffle, what a player that girl is, I’ve been saying it for years but she still won’t go out with me--”

JORDAN!” Professor McGonagall yelled, and Danny watched as Sam elbowed a snickering Tucker.

“What?” the boy in question protested, holding up his hands before she elbowed him again. “You didn’t think that that was funny?”

No,” she hissed, barely audible over the resumed commentary from Jordan. “He’s putting her on the spot just because he has an eye on her!”

“Alright alright, jeez. No need to hit me for it.”

“Crowd’s loud, isn’t it?” Danny said, interrupting the fight before it could truly pick up. A few of the Ravenclaws around them quirked intrigued eyebrows at him, but didn’t comment. Apparently it was unusual behavior for a Slytherin to break up a fight, especially one between a Gryffindor and a Ravenclaw. “With all the singing and booing and stuff. I feel like the sports games back home weren’t this loud.”

“Smooth, Danny,” Sam commented, rolling her eyes but with a faint and indulgent smile on her face. “But no, not that it’s entirely surprising. There are more people here, I think, and the houses are extra competitive. Back home barely anyone cared whether our school won or lost, but here they feel like there are real stakes.”

Before they could get too far into this new discussion, however, the commentator pointed out the singing happening on the stands. “--And the crowd are loving this, just listen to them, what’s that they’re singing?”

“Oh no,” Danny whispered, hands on his face. “Here it fucking comes.”

Jordan paused to listen, and so the song rose loud and clear from the Slytherin section of the stands. All green and silver, and incredibly loud, they bellowed,

Weasley cannot save a thing,
he cannot block a single ring,
that’s why Slytherins all sing:
Weasley is our king.

Weasley was born in a bin
he always lets the Quaffle in
Weasley will make sure we win
Weasley is our king.”

The commentator resumed his speech, seemingly louder than before. But it wasn’t enough to drown out the words of the song, and neither would it stop Ron from remembering them. “--and Alicia passes back to Angelina! Come on now, Angelina – looks like she’s got just the Keeper to beat! She shoots, she – aaaah.”

Bletchley, the Slytherin Keeper, had caught the ball. It was passed off to another Slytherin player, who now sped off with it towards the Gryffindor side of the field. In response, the Slytherin’s song grew louder and louder.

He knew there was nothing that he could do, but Danny deeply wished that there had been something. He really couldn’t afford the risk of more wizards finding out about regular ghosts; he would’ve loved to set Sidney free on this school. Get him working on anti-bullying rules, at least. This was just… obscene. Absolutely ridiculous.

A scream of delight sounded from the Slytherins, and Danny peeked back at the field. The main ball, the Quaffle, was falling to the ground behind the Gryffindor rings. A point had been scored, more than likely.

“Slytherin score!” Jordan’s voice confirmed, the crowd cheering and booing. “So that’s ten-nil to Slytherin. Bad luck, Ron.”

And thus the volume of the Slytherins picked up even further, the same two verses repeated over and over. Jordan tried valiantly to be heard over their singing, but it was so deafeningly loud that Jordan’s voice was barely audible even to Danny’s sensitive ears.

As the game continued, it was unfortunately more of the same. Loud screaming and yelling and booing accompanied every single one of the four goals Slytherin scored. The singing remained loud, only drowned out by the roar of a lion when Gryffindor finally scored.

Danny’s eye caught on Harry, who suddenly dove. Draco was right on his tail, the green and silver blurring into Harry’s red and gold as they raced around the field. Feet from the ground, both boys reached for an almost-invisible blur of gold. Danny nudged Sam on his right, and her eye caught on the same blur of colors.

Then Harry pulled his broom upwards, one hand curled closed and raised. The fluttering wings of the Snitch were barely visible from where Danny was sitting – he doubted that anyone else could see it.

“He has it,” he said quietly, for Sam and Tucker’s benefit. Loud approving screams sounded from the Gryffindor stands.

Then suddenly Harry flew forwards off of his broom. He was only five or six feet above the ground, but he landed flat on his back and appeared winded.

Danny frowned at Crabbe, who had swatted the Bludger at Harry. He would have to remember that, make sure the guy got punished. He could’ve seriously hurt Harry, and for no reason; he had shot the Bludger after Harry had already caught the Snitch. It was pure spite.

The Gryffindor team leader landed, pulling Harry to his feet. The referee shot towards Crabbe, and Danny was glad to see that at least this was apparently a punishable offense.

As both teams started landing, one by one, Danny couldn’t help but notice that Draco was keeping away from both teams. As was Ron, who had landed close to the goal posts, but he didn’t seem interested in joining the other teams. Draco, however, was watching. Watching, and staying away.

Had he really taken Danny’s advice to not get involved with the jeering?

As the Gryffindor’s seemed to congratulate each other, hugging and shaking hands, one of the Slytherin players made his way closer. Danny couldn’t hear what he was saying over the noise of the crowd, but he could guess based on Harry’s expression.

The team captain jumped forward, dragging one of the twins away when they started shooting the Slytherin foul looks. Harry lunged for the other twin as the guy kept talking, though the point was lost on Danny.

One moment Harry was restraining one twin, the other held back by a pack of the Gryffindor girls. Then the next Harry had released his target, both of them sprinting towards the taunting Slytherin.

As the boy’s fist drove into the stomach of his taunter, the crowd started bellowing louder. Screaming and yelling and the referee’s whistle caused an enormous ruckus, but it didn’t stop Harry or the twin. Not until he was blown back by a spell, and even then it didn’t keep him down for long as he leapt back to his feet.

With a sinking stomach, Danny watched the Slytherin whimper on the floor, Crabbe cackling not far behind him. The twin that Harry had restrained had a swollen lip, while the other was still pinned down by three of his teammates. Both of the attackers were panting, turned on their heels, and promptly marched back to the castle.

“What’d you think are the chances that their punishment will be light?” Sam asked, not expecting an answer. “Because I’m pretty sure Umbridge is jumping in excitement already.”

“Oh, jesus.” Tucker groaned, rubbing his eyes. “Yeah, probably. I bet she would be thrilled to kick them off the team permanently.”

“Surely not?” one of the Ravenclaws around them asked, leaning forward as she gave up on the act that she hadn’t been listening along. “Usually they would just get detention for such a thing. No lasting damage, after all, nothing that a quick trip to the Hospital Wing won’t fix.”

“Except that Umbridge really really hates Harry,” Danny explained, twisting in his seat to talk more easily. “And even if she doesn’t have the power to do it just yet, I’m sure she’ll find a way.”

“But that would be ridiculous!” the girl protested, staring at him wide-eyed. “Not even Professor Snape would do such a thing, and everyone knows that he’s as Slytherin as they get, with that whole anti-Gryffindor thing.”

Sam huffed loudly, and Danny heartily agreed. “I can assure you that that won’t stop her. Just you watch. And she’ll kick both twins off too, for good measure. She already wanted to stop the team from reforming in the first place, and this was just the thing she needed to stamp them down.”

“Get fucked, Gryffindor,” Danny said, low and hopelessly, “As my fellow Slytherins would love to say.”

Draco watched the small group of Slytherins with a sinking feeling in his stomach. He’d done as Danny had asked, hadn’t participated in any of the jeering. And he’d… felt better, actually. Not very great – they had lost – but… not as bad as usual, at least. Danny had been right. They might’ve lost, but acknowledging the skill of their opponents made it easier.

But the rest had acted as usual, and… and it felt wrong, now. The jeering, the insults, and, Merlin, Crabbe launching that Bludger at Harry after the game was over already. Somewhere he wished that there was something he could do, but…

He wasn’t a Gryffindor. He couldn’t – wouldn’tstand up for such things. It would be reckless, and stupid, and wouldn’t achieve anything.

So why did he feel so bad about it?

The clearing of a throat snapped him out of his thoughts, and he looked around, trying to pinpoint the source. Dimly, he noticed the other Slytherins looking as well, before he realized that…

Draco looked up, and indeed, that seemed to have been the source. A ghost, one he hadn’t seen before, hovering over the group with narrowed eyes and a dark expression.

He might not have seen this ghost before, but, honestly, the rumors had done a pretty good job describing him. The clothing was distinct and stood out among the other ghosts. Draco didn’t even know what this ghost was wearing, how to describe it, but he didn’t have to.

“Phantom,” he said. And immediately the others caught on too, their eyes moving up.

The ghost inclined his head in greeting, but didn’t look over to him. He seemed focused on the other Slytherins instead.

“Gentlemen,” he spoke, and his voice was… odd. It echoed strangely, and he certainly sounded young. Not very intimidating, if Draco had to be honest. “I was hoping to speak to you guys.”

“Why?” Goyle seemed genuinely confused. “What’ve we done to attract your attention, huh?”

Phantom rolled his eyes, a sentiment Draco felt very strongly as well. “Are you boys familiar with my stance on bullying?”

“You… don’t approve of Peeves’ bullying?” Crabbe tried, hesitantly. “So? We’re not ghosts, are we? What does it matter to you?”

“I don’t approve of any bullying,” the ghost bit back, and Draco could’ve sworn killing-curse green sparked around his fists and in his eyes. “Poltergeists, regular ghosts, and yes, also humans. That includes you bunch.”

The group burst into laughter. Everyone, except Draco. He, instead, watched the ghost. He’d heard the stories, after Phantom had first reprimanded Peeves. He’d warned that he didn’t want to see any bullying, or else.

“You’re a pitiful bunch anyway,” the ghost said suddenly, voice low. “Can’t even win on your own power, huh? You have such low opinions of yourself that you need to bring down the Gryffindors, lest they beat you? How does that loss feel now, hm? They are trash and terrible and yet they beat you, didn’t they?”

Draco stiffened minutely. It sounded like… it was exactly like what Danny had told him, what had convinced him, except meaner. More Slytherin, incredibly. Phantom was trying to convince Draco’s housemates the same way Danny had convinced him.

“Hey!” Goyle balled his fists, brandishing them like he was planning to punch the ghost. “What’s that supposed to mean, huh? You saying we can’t beat Gryffindor, huh?”

The ghost snorted dismissively. “I don’t have to say anything. You’ve proven it already yourselves. Why else would you go to such ends to weaken them? Even if you had won, it would’ve been a shallow victory.” He narrowed his eyes, looking down upon them – and not just literally. “But I suppose it would’ve been the only way you could’ve won, hm?”

“What else should we have done, then, smartass?” Theodore Nott snapped back, looking rather aggravated as well. “Let Gryffindor get away with such a pathetic team? Congratulate them on being so sad that they had to bring in Weasley?”

“Well, you could’ve played fair, for starters.” Phantom gestured at Crabbe, a knowing glint in his eyes. “What was the point in batting a Bludger at Potter after the game was over, except to show that you refuse to acknowledge his skill? The only thing you accomplished with that was undermining your own Seeker. After all, Potter might be bad, but he beat your Seeker, so he must’ve been better in at least some way.”

The ghost turned slightly, his attention finally turning to Draco. “Speaking of your Seeker, however… He was a good example of what you could have done. He was polite, willing to acknowledge the skill and abilities of your opponents. Or at least he didn’t attempt to drag them down, and thus didn’t diminish his own team along the way.”

Draco puffed out his chest a little as the attention turned to him. He hadn’t wanted it, but he was a Malfoy. He wasn’t going to back down for such a little thing.

“Yeah? And what did that accomplish, then?” Goyle grunted at Phantom.

“He made his own team look better.” Phantom turned his attention back to the rag-tag group of Slytherins. “If you had all acted like him, you might’ve won against the full force and skill of the Gryffindor team. It would’ve been impossible to deny your own skill, had you beaten them like that. But instead you resorted to cheating and manipulating--”

“That’s what we’re known for, idiot,” Nott bit back, interrupted the ghost.

A transparent silver hand waved through Nott’s face, and he stumbled back and away from the unwelcome sensation.

“As I was saying,” Phantom continued, like nothing had happened. “You cheated and manipulated, and now everyone’s glad you lost. After all, you wouldn’t even play them fairly. Even if you had won, who could’ve said you really are better than Gryffindor? There would’ve been no proof, since you hadn’t really won.”

“So what? We’re supposed to just play against them, and let them be foul towards us?” Crabbe shook his head dismissively. “Gryffindor and Slytherin don’t get along. We would just turn ourselves into bloody targets.”

“Except that that’s not all true, is it?” Draco said, softly. He hadn’t meant for anyone to overhear him, but Phantom glanced over at him, a knowing look in his eyes.

The ghost hummed. “But that’s not all true, is it? I can think of a Gryffindor and a Slytherin right this moment who get along just fine.”

“Those transfers don’t count.” Nott huffed. “I room with Fenton, and let me tell you, he’s a strange one. Hardly a Slytherin, him.”

“Either way,” Phantom said, eyes narrowing at Nott, “you’re looking at this the wrong way. Currently, the house of Slytherin is hated, yes? Now imagine if you behaved yourself, yet Gryffindor continued to act as they do. Suddenly people will start to see you as the victims, while Gryffindor are the perpetrators – the villains – and punished for it.”

A few glances went around as the others seemed to consider it.

“Plus, consider this.” Phantom leaned back a little, looking far more casual now. Like the heat had been taken off, like he’d already won the discussion. “How much has this way of functioning really done for you, hm? How many times have you won in the end? Was it really worth all the hatred you’ve put up with along the way?”

Silence fell, briefly, before the ghost broke it again.

“And how many contacts of value do you think you’ve lost out on, just because other houses don’t approve of Slytherins?” Phantom’s mouth twisted into a smirk. “How many Purebloods worth knowing are in other houses? How many avoid you just because you insist on cheating in a sports game? How badly are you mangling your own future just because you don’t think you can win on your own devices?”

This was… an interesting tack for Phantom to take. And, after brief consideration, Draco had to admit that it was a good one. Slytherin might be known for their pureness of blood, but they weren’t the only house with valuable connections.

The ghost grinned knowingly. “That’s what I thought. And even if all of this didn’t leave an impression, how about this.”

He leaned down, and Draco was sure green sparked in Phantom’s eyes this time. “I scared off Peeves. Imagine what I could do to you.”

And before anyone could speak back, the ghost faded from visibility.

Well, Merlin be damned. Phantom sure knew how to leave an impression. Draco would have to thank Danny later, for saving him from this embarrassment as well.

He really had been right about this whole… being nice thing.

The DA met one last time before the winter holidays, and Danny, Sam, and Tucker made it there at the same time as most of their fellow students. The room filled up quick, everyone chattering about the upcoming break.

“OK!” Harry called them all to order, and the room quietened immediately. “I thought this evening we should just go over the things we’ve done so far, because it’s the last meeting before the holidays and there’s no point starting anything new right before a three-week break--”

“We’re not doing anything new?” Zacharias Smith asked in a disgruntled whisper, just loud enough to be heard throughout the entire room. “If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have come.”

“We’re all really sorry Harry didn’t tell you, then,” Fred answered loudly, before anyone else could say anything. Several people snickered, and Zacharias promptly shut his mouth.

“--we can practice in pairs,” Harry finished from before he was interrupted. “We’ll start with the Impediment Jinx, for ten minutes, then we can get out the cushions and try Stunning again.”

As everyone divided obediently, Danny sought out Anthony again. He was glad he’d practiced with Sam and Tucker earlier, because his spells went off without a hitch, the discoloration barely noticeable even to his own eyes.

Afterwards they moved on to Stunning, with cushions laid out over the whole floor. This, too, went well.

Harry called them to a halt at the end of the hour, beaming. “You’re getting really good,” he said, pride in his voice. “When we get back from the holidays we can start doing some of the big stuff, maybe even Patronuses.”

The room murmured in excitement, and Danny grinned at Sam and Tucker. Now this was what they signed up for; big magic spells that were too advanced to learn on their own. And maybe it wasn’t exactly like they had planned but hey, when did things in their life ever go as planned?

Chapter Text

Danny carefully put his overflowing bag down on the floor, then threw himself onto a cushion with far less care.

“You okay over there, dude?” Tucker asked, one eyebrow peaked behind his glasses. “Lemme guess, the talk with Dumbledore didn’t go well?”

“How’d you guess?” Danny groaned into the cushion.

“Eh.” Tucker shrugged, turning away from Danny’s dramatics. “To be fair, Dumbledore didn’t seem like he would’ve accepted anyway.”

“It’s stupid, though.” He finally pushed himself upright again, propped up on his elbows. “I mean, Ron’s dad got hurt real bad! Why would he go through such efforts to recruit a super-powerful ghost if he won’t let me help?”

“Based on what I’ve heard, it’s because he’s a bit of a bastard.” Sam sat down on the edge of a table, one leg folded under her. Unlike Tucker and Danny, she didn’t have a pile of presents – she didn’t celebrate Christmas, after all. She did, however, have a rumbling pile of black fur in her arms. “He’s smart and powerful, sure, but he’s also set in his ways. If he has an idea he doesn’t listen to anybody else. Or so Harry, Ron, and Hermione say.”

“That’s dumb.” Tucker rummaged through his bag of presents, starting to split it into two piles. One from home, and one from there. “Did he at least tell you why he won’t let you help, Danny?”

Danny shrugged, pulling his own presents closer to follow Tucker’s idea. “It’s still the same thing as this summer. Phantom is a secret weapon, so I’m not allowed to help. Just in case anybody picks up on my existence, I guess.”

“That sucks,” Sam scoffed. “But there isn’t really anything you can do about it, can you? We don’t know what’s going on or how to help, so you can’t even sneak off for it.”

“Pretty sure that it’s in London too.” Danny frowned at the presents in front of him. He had gathered a surprising amount of presents from fellow students. Maybe he should’ve bought some for them, too. “So I couldn’t just fly off to try and help, not if we’re not nearby.”

He finally finished splitting his pile of presents, and glanced over to confirm Tucker had done the same. Sam grimaced, eyes darting between the two of them, and said, “Poor Spooky, she had to drag all of this stuff here.”

“Yeah, it’s, um.” Tucker frowned at his presents. “More than I was expecting, to be honest. I guess people here just kinda go nuts with it.”

“I even got one for Phantom!” Danny dug out the present, soft and floppy, the paper around it rough. “From Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, apparently.”

“Wow, mine looks exactly the same.” Tucker plucked one of the presents out of his ‘Hogwarts’ pile, showing it off. Like he’d said, it was the same size, shape, and floppiness. “Wonder what’s in them, if they’re all the same. You got one of those for your regular self too?”

“Yeah,” Danny confirmed as he grabbed that one too. “Want to open them simultaneously?”

“Wait, hang on.” Sam put down Lilith and reached behind herself, revealing another identical present that she had previously hidden. “I’ve got one too. I guess she, and Sirius and Lupin, didn’t know I don’t celebrate Christmas.”

“So…” Danny held up his present – the one addressed to him, not Phantom. “On 3?”

Both of his friends nodded, all grasping their presents. In perfect sync they counted down. With a loud ripping sound they all shredded through the paper, revealing the presents.

“Um… wow.” Sam held up the sweater, deep purple but with a golden S on the front. “It’s… Oh, it’s hand-knit. That’s really sweet, actually.”

“Yeah,” Danny agreed, fingering his own navy blue sweater, the golden D glimmering in the light. “It feels really warm, too. That’s really handy.”

Tucker nodded, inspecting his own maroon-red copy. “And she tried to match them to us, not our houses. Hey, Danny, what color did she make Phantom’s?”

“Oh, good question!” He turned to grab the one addressed to Phantom, ripping it open. Then he made a face, showing the article off to Sam and Tucker.

“Wow, green, huh?” Sam grimaced briefly, but broke into a grin almost immediately. “Personally I would’ve gone with black, I think, but it does match your eyes.”

“And it stands out more against your jumpsuit, I bet.” Tucker fluffed his own sweater briefly, then shrugged and pulled it on over his regular clothes. Surprisingly, it matched well with his beret. “Come on, let’s all put ours on and take a photo! I bet she would love to see it.”

“We don’t have a way to take Wizarding photos, though!” Danny protested. Then he slammed his jaw shut again, as the room dutifully formed a camera capable of just that. “Well, alright, never mind.”

“Should’ve known better, buddy.” Sam followed Tucker’s example, pulling her own sweater on as well. Then she swatted a hand at Danny, gesturing at him to hurry up. “Come on, get a duplicate going already. We don’t have all day.”

“Yeah we do,” Danny grumbled, standing up from his cushion to shift into ghost form. “We have like 3 weeks off, Sam.”

“Christmas is wasting, come on.” She clapped her hands together to hurry him, jumping off of the table she was sitting on.

“What do you think I’m doing?” Danny countered, gesturing at himself as Phantom. For good measure he duplicated as well, instructing it to shift back to human form. “Do you want me to rush through duplicating again? You want to see that again, huh, Sam?”

“Oh god please no,” Tucker begged, slapping a hand in Sam’s face to quieten her. “Just take your time, I don’t want to see another of those monstrosities ever again, thanks.”

Danny laughed, pulling his bright green sweater over his head. Afterwards he mussed up his white hair to make it stand back up again, watching his duplicate do the same. “They weren’t that bad.”

“Are you sure we were looking at the same thing, dude?” Tucker quirked an eyebrow, then straightened his beret again. “Seriously, they were horrifying.”

“You’re just a baby.” Sam huffed out an impatient breath, gesturing for everyone to group up. She ducked down briefly to pick up Lilith again. “Do you think the Room can take a picture for us, or should we get another duplicate to do it for us instead?”

They paused, but the room didn’t answer. Danny shrugged, pulling on his core to form another duplicate. “Alright, guess not. Another Danny, coming right up.”

The Phantom duplicate took the camera from Sam. Then it floated a small distance away, peering at them through the old-fashioned device.

“Say cheese!” it instructed in Danny’s own echoing ghost voice, holding the camera steady and pointed at them.

“Cheese!” they all echoed back, followed almost immediately with a blinding flash.

Sam quickly hurried back to the duplicate, grabbing the emerging photograph in one hand, her other supporting Lilith as the cat clambered onto her shoulders. She waved the photo, quickly, then scrutinized it for a few long moments.

Finally, she declared, “Looks good to me! Let’s write a thank-you note and get Wraith.”

“I honestly can’t decide if she’ll be thrilled to fly a shorter distance for once, or if she’ll hate us for making her fly again.” Tucker scratched his cheek, moving over to look at the photo as well. “We really did make her go from never doing anything to suddenly flying absurd amounts and distances.”

“That’s just how life is,” Danny commented as he looked at the photo as well. It looked good, if one ignored the fact that he and his duplicate looked almost identical. But, well, if they got away with it in real life, why not on a photo? “You’re constantly bored out of your mind, wishing for something to happen, and then when it does you regret ever asking for it.”

“Wow, Danny coming in with the deep thoughts on our beautiful Christmas.” Sam took the camera back from the duplicate, allowing Danny to dispel both. “Hey, did we get more shared presents, anyway? I got some from Sirius and Lupin as well.”

“Me too.” Tucker ducked down, pulling out a heavy rectangular present. “Does yours look like this too, Sam?”

“Yep,” she confirmed, showing off her own. Danny revealed his own, identical to theirs. “Looks like we all have these. Feels heavy. Books maybe?”

“Let’s find out,” Danny suggested, setting his own package down on the table. Tucker and Sam followed suit, and once more they counted down in sync.

“Yep, definitely books.” Sam flipped open one of the books, an intrigued looks on her face. “Oh wow, with animated depictions and everything. These are really useful, actually. I bet they got some for Harry as well, and maybe some of the others too.”

“They’ll be good for the DA,” Tucker agreed, eyeing the series of matching books as well. “I mean, it’s right there in the title, isn’t it? Practical Defensive Magic and its Use Against the Dark Arts? If that doesn’t scream DADA then I don’t know anymore.”

“Y’know what?” Danny paused as both of his friends answered with “what?” in perfect sync. “I’m actually kind of glad that they came to Amity Park and that we met them. It was kind of scary at first, and sure, Hogwarts isn’t as great as we were told. But it’s still nice, to learn more about magic like this. And to get a better look at how the Wizarding World became the way it is now, because oof, what a mess of a system.”

“Amen!” Tucker cheered, raising his hand. Behind him, Sam did the same. “But seriously, we should really sit down at some point to figure out if we want to follow the rest of this magical education or not.”

“Yeah, probably.” Sam looked up from her book. “On one hand, knowing more about magic couldn’t hurt. But on the other…”

“They gotta have some way to get you into Muggle college afterwards, right?” Danny leaned over to pick up one of his Hogwarts presents, figuring he might as well get started on unpacking those. “With how many wizards come from partial or full Muggle origins, there must be some that want to follow a regular education afterwards. All we would have to do is figure out how to explain that we did part of high school in the UK.”

“I’m sure we could think of something.” Tucker shrugged, following Danny’s example to grab one of his presents too. “Wait, hang on, do you have one of these from Hermione too, Danny? They look the same.”

“Oh, I have one of those too.” Sam put down her book, laying down on her stomach on the table instead to watch them unpack their presents. Lilith easily shifted along with Sam, before curling up on the flat of her back. “She gave it to me ahead of time, said I could count it as a Hanukkah gift.”

“Wonder what it is, then.” Danny and Tucker shared a glance, shrugged, then ripped them open simultaneously.

“Aww, is it a homework planner? That seems about right for her, to be honest.” She sounded apologetic, but the grin on her face was anything but. “I’ll hold off on opening mine until the right time.”

Danny opened his mouth to reply, but the planner in Tucker’s hands – which he had flipped open – was faster. It spit out some sort of semi-motivational outcry, encouraging them to work on homework.

“I don’t think that there is a right time,” Danny managed after it had quieted again. “Come on, are these enchanted? That’s horrible, I hate it.”

“You know what? These seem exactly like Hermione’s jam, yeah.” Sam took Tucker’s from his hands, looking it over. “I’m sure she gave them to everyone she gives half a damn about. I bet there’ll be a burning party the day everyone comes back in the Gryffindor Tower, with everyone covertly getting rid of them.”

“No offense, but I bet most people would’ve gotten rid of them before then.” Tucker glared heatedly at the planner in Sam’s hands. “It would be way easier to do it sooner, before Hermione is around to see it.”

“Yeah, they might be useful if they didn’t talk like that.” Danny flipped his open, then immediately closed it again as it started spouting inspirational nonsense at him. “Maybe if they told you what you still needed to do, or offered guidance on your planning or something.”

“What, like ‘Hey, idiot, you’ve gone and planned 20 hours of homework on one day. Change it or you’ll probably cry and/or die’?” Sam snorted. She then handed the planner back to Tucker, who took it with a less than thrilled face. “I mean, she means well, but I think we’re doing alright, all things considered.”

“Eh, I guess you’re right. Let’s just get rid of these, then.” He chucked it to the side, then turned to the smaller pile of presents. The ones from home. “And I’m done with these magical things, let’s do the ones from home first.”

“I think we got another case of duplicates,” Tucker said, holding up a small rectangular present. “I’ve seen one of these in your pile too, Danny, and they’re from Jazz, so.”

“Oh yeah, I had one too, although I obviously haven’t gotten around to it yet.” Sam gestured vaguely with the hand that wasn’t propping up her face. “I bet she kept it small on purpose, so it wouldn’t bother Wraith too much.”

He hummed, tearing open the paper. Inside was a small gadget, designed exactly like all other Fenton appliances. “Huh, I don’t think I’ve seen one of these before. Must be something special, if Jazz bothered to send it to us.”

“Looks like it’s a battery for ecto-based electronics.” Tucker was twisting his gadget around, inspecting it carefully. “Must be so we can keep our phones charged. Thoughtful.”

Danny nodded, looking at the various presents that still laid in front of him. Then he frowned, pulling out a letter from the stack.

“Hey, guys?” he said, drawing the attention of both of his friends back to him. “This one is from Dani. How’d she even find me?”

“Maybe she visited Amity?” Sam suggested with a slight shrug. “It probably says in the letter.”

“Yeah, probably.” He carefully tore it open, eyes darting to read through the letter. Once he was finished he frowned. Then read it again. And a third time, just to be sure.

“What’s in it?” Tucker asked, looking up from one of his own presents. “You’re making a weird face. Is it good or bad?”

“Good, I guess,” he answered, carefully. “Apparently she dropped by Amity Park not too long after we left. And she’s just… been there, ever since. Took over for me in ghost hunting duty, although she works with Jazz and Valerie, too.”

“Wow, your parents must’ve flipped. Finally got rid of one Phantom, and then another shows up?” Tucker huffed out a laugh, leaning one elbow on the half-unpacked present in his lap. “Jazz would’ve had her hands full with calming them down, I bet.”

“Actually…” Danny stared at the letter still. “Apparently they’re… okay with it, now? Apparently Val, as the Red Huntress, went and confronted them. And she told them that both the Phantoms are okay, and that she is planning to work with them, and if the Fentons are too stupid to figure it out themselves then are they really ghost scientists? And I guess Jazz got involved too, because it worked, and they grudgingly admitted that maybe they were wrong.”

He grinned, ignoring the wetness in the corner of his eyes. “According to Dani they’ve even worked together a bunch of times since. They even complimented her once or twice, and asked with genuine concern and curiosity why she was there instead of me. Phantom me.”

Both Sam and Tucker blinked at this, surprised. Sam, finally, said, “Well, I guess something had to convince them, eventually. And this is better than the inevitable ‘oh wow, Danny is actually Phantom’ thing.”

“Yeah, no kidding.” He swiped a hand past the corner of his eye, blinking away the half-formed tear. Then he folded the letter closed, gently, with a huge smile on his face. “You know, I think that this might be one of the, if not straight-up the, best Christmas present I’ve ever received. I mean, my parents accepted Phantom, and were worried about him!”

Tucker hummed. “I can’t imagine any of these living up to that, yeah. Not even,” he grabbed a random present from the Hogwarts stack, which was closer to him, “this present from Draco Malfoy. Wow, you got that stuck-up Slytherin guy to send you one?”

“Wasn’t he the really annoying blonde one you were trying to reform?” Sam asked, taking it from Tucker’s hands before Danny could reclaim it. “You must be doing a pretty good job if he’s sending you presents.”

“He doesn’t hate me, at least.” Danny shrugged, then lunged to take it back from her. “Or it’s spelled to lay some kind of terrible curse on me when I open it. But my magic sense suggests not.”

“Aww, that’s sweet.” Tucker demonstratively gestured at his own Hogwarts pile. “I mean, I got a bunch from my housemates too, but they’re not, well. Slytherin.”

“Yeah, haha, I got it.” Danny drummed his fingers on the package, looking at Tucker instead of the shiny wrapping paper. “My house is the shitty one with the bad people.”

“You said it, not me,” Tucker chirped, his hands raised.

“Boys, boys, come on.” Sam gestured at the piles of presents that still remained, scattered around the room. “Focus, please. I’ve got better things to do than sit around and watch you squabble over gifts.”

Sam had been watching the Weasley twins demonstrate a new product of theirs when she saw Harry, Ron, and Hermione enter the Gryffindor Common Room. She’d been hoping to catch them soon, so she could thank Hermione for the present – and hopefully stop her from noticing that she had gotten rid of it already.

But instead she hung back. Harry looked miserable, pale and peaky. The three of them sat down, seemingly planning to work on homework, but Harry seemed to give up on it quickly.

Now slightly worried, Sam made her way closer.

“Hi guys,” she greeted them once she was close enough for them to hear over the exciting shrieking, “Everything alright over here?”

“’m fine,” Harry mumbled, rubbing the scar on his forehead. “Just feeling a little ill.”

“What, just out of nowhere?” Sam eyed him, worriedly. You didn’t just randomly get sick, not like this. “Didn’t you have remedial Potions earlier? Did Snape do something?”

“It’s fine, it’s nothing.” Harry shook his head, then grimaced as that apparently worsened how he was feeling. “We were just working on Occlumency.”

“That’s not Potions at all.” Sam frowned at him. Now it made sense; Snape was a terrible teacher towards Harry. Why would someone – Dumbledore, probably – pick him of all people to teach Harry? “But let me guess, it didn’t go well?”

Harry snorted, dismissively.

“Yeah, I figured as much.” She sighed. “Did Dumbledore arrange this? Does he not realize how shitty of a choice Snape is for teaching you, or…?”

“There were no other options,” Hermione informed her, haughtily. “Dumbledore made the right choice.”

Sam scoffed, shaking her head. “Maybe there were no other teachers, but clearly we’re not limiting ourselves to those, are we? You could always try learning it the same way Danny, Tucker, and I did, if this isn’t working for you.”

“How?” Harry asked, brow creased. “I thought it was a really rare skill, since so few wizards know Legilimency?”

“Oh, sure.” Sam shrugged. “But we got Phantom to teach us. Legilimency is really similar to the overshadowing of a ghost, apparently. So we had to learn anyway, to protect us from his enemies without having to rely on technology.”

“What’s this ‘overshadowing’?” Hermione leaned forward, intrigued and clearly curious. “Is it a special skill limited to ghosts like him?”

“I mean, I think so? I’ve never heard of a regular ghost doing it, anyway.” Sam shrugged. Wizarding ghosts likely didn’t possess enough strength for overshadowing, if she had to guess. Not corporeal enough, and all that. “It’s, um, possession, basically. A ghost can take control over a body, and a well-trained one can hide so well that they can’t be detected by anyone but other ghosts.”

“Bloody hell,” Ron exclaimed, before his eyes darted away briefly to make sure no one had overheard. At a quieter volume, he continued, “And any ghost like Phantom could do that? There aren’t many, surely?”

Sam made a face, then wiggled her hand. “Eh, it’s not a big concern, anyway. For most ghosts there isn’t much of a point, since hiding in a human body is just that – hiding. They’re weaker like that, and a protective spirit like Phantom could still find them. Plus they can’t hide from ghost hunting equipment, like detectors or anti-ghost warding.”

“And shielding from them works the same as shielding against Legilimency?” Harry’s brow was still creased, but Sam honestly couldn’t tell if it was in thought or just because he wasn’t feeling well.

“Yeah, apparently.” She shrugged, loosely. “We didn’t know at first, to be honest, but that’s what the Sorting Hat said. And it makes sense, since it all works based off of mental strength and stuff.”

“Oh yeah, supposedly that’s how the Sorting Hat works.” Hermione nodded eagerly. “Did that mess up your sorting, then? Or did you have to lower your shields to let it in?”

“The latter. The Hat was impressed by our shields, then asked us to please lower them so we could be sorted.” Sam made a face, playing with some of the bands on her wrist. “To be honest, if we realized how big of a deal these houses were, we probably would’ve messed with the Hat a little. Get him to sort us all in the same one, since we were all being considered for Gryffindor anyway.”

“Wait, hang on.” Harry flapped a hand, dismissing that discussion. “If Phantom taught you guys how to do Occlumency, could he teach me too?”

“Well, yeah, probably.” She cocked her head in thought. Or faux-thought, at least. If Harry was being forced to learn Occlumency, there probably was a damn good reason for it. And if that was the case, she would make sure he would learn it, one way or another. “I’ll ask him, but I’m sure he’d be fine with it, especially if you have a good reason for it. Which you do, I’m sure.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Harry immediately answered, expression turning far more grumpy all of a sudden.

Sam just nodded in understanding. He would probably tell Danny for the lessons, and then Danny could tell her and Tucker. “That’s fine, man. I’ll see if I can ask Phantom later this week. Do you want me to act as the messenger, or can he come to you directly?”

“Meeting me directly is fine.” Harry looked at the homework in front of him, then heaved a heavy sigh. He started putting it away with a desolate expression. “Thanks, Sam. Sorry to run off immediately, but…”

“Don’t worry about it, you don’t look good, I get it.” She shot Hermione a brief glare when the girl opened her mouth, no doubt to nag him about doing his homework later. “Just get some sleep or something, and I’ll talk to Phantom for you.”

“Thanks.” Harry waved a brief goodbye at them all, then trekked off to the boy’s dorms.

All three of them watched him go, then Hermione frowned and nudged Ron. “Go keep an eye on him, will you?”

“Why, he’s just gone to get some sleep,” Ron protested, gesturing at his homework. “Shouldn’t I be working on this?”

“Well, yeah, but…” She glanced back over to the entryway to the dorm rooms. “I think his defenses might be lowered now, after Snape’s lesson. You can do your homework later, together with Harry. Just… please, Ron?”

The boy heaved a sigh, but nodded. “Yeah, alright, if you say so. Goodnight, girls.”

They watched him go, then Hermione sighed. “I hope Phantom can help. I’m sure it’s useful, but if Harry can learn from someone who doesn’t seem to carry such a grudge…”

“It’ll be fine,” Sam assured her, patting Hermione on the hand. “If it’s so important Phantom will take care of it, okay? Don’t worry about it.”

“If you say so, Sam.” Her eyes remained locked on the doorway that Harry and Ron had disappeared through. “I’ll just have to trust your judgment on that.”

Chapter Text

“Thanks for helping me, Phantom.”

Danny turned to look at Harry, frowning slightly. “I mean, of course? Why are you thanking me now, specifically?”

“Well, it’s just.” Harry shrugged, then sighed, slightly despairingly. “I’ve still been going to Snape’s lessons, because he doesn’t know I’ve been training with you too, and it’s… not brilliant. And I realized, if you weren’t teaching me the same thing, I don’t think I would’ve ever learned Occlumency.”

“Oh.” Danny absentmindedly scratched his cheek. “I guess I see your point. He’s not a great teacher, at least not towards anyone who isn’t in Slytherin.”

“How would you know?” Harry narrowed his eyes at Danny, suspicion clear in his voice. “It’s not like it matters to you, does it?”

“Uh, I have friends in Gryffindor and Ravenclaw? Duh.” Danny rolled his eyes, folding his arms as he lounged in midair. “Also, what do you think I do all day? Of course I’m gonna watch some real magic lessons. Who’s gonna stop me? The teachers, the students? Nah.”

Harry eyed him for a moment longer, then nodded, dropping it. “I suppose you’re right. And you must’ve picked up on all the bullying somehow.”

“Yeah.” Danny rolled over, landing on the floor again, soundlessly. “You want to give it another shot, or are you done for the day?”

The other boy groaned, rubbing his eyes. “I think I’m calling quits, sorry. Still got homework to do and I don’t want to have to deal with Hermione’s nagging if I put it off any longer.”

At this, Danny laughed. “That’s fine! I’ve seen the homework planners she sent to the others. Sam says that one of the reasons why she spends so much time in the RoR with me and the others is because Hermione can’t find her there.”

“That’s clever.” Harry stretched, his spine popping loudly as he did so. “Well, goodnight, Phantom. See you soon?”

“Yep, of course. Friday, same time, and ask one of the others for me if you need me sooner, yeah?”

“Will do.” Harry waved a short goodbye, then wandered out of the room, leaving Danny alone. He waited a beat or two before calling on the Room, its appearance shifting around him.

The walls smoothed out, warm stone turning into shiny steel. Tables turned into the sharp cornered tables one could find in a lab, while bookshelves turned into metal racks which could be used to store both materials and weaponry. And, on the wall furthest from the door, a large metal arch formed, the space behind it hollowing out.

Slowly, Danny walked towards the inactive Portal, fingers brushing over the ON button on the outside.

There was no point. The Room of Requirement was an incredible piece of magic, but it couldn’t create a functional portal. The Ghost Zone, and its ectoplasm, was simply not compatible with magic. They canceled each other out.

Still, he couldn’t help but try it. He pushed down.

The Portal sparked, briefly, but only once. And, unlike the original Portal, it had lacked the otherworldly buzz of ectoplasm.

Danny sighed, then ducked down next to one of the lab tables. Stashed there was the one invention he’d asked Jazz to send him from home. It was a little inconvenient, the size especially, but unfortunately his parents hadn’t done much with portable Portal creators.

Still, the huge thing had been a pain to hide from Harry, especially since the Room had a tendency to suck items to its secondary storage room. And if that happened to Danny’s gadget, well. He would likely have needed several ages to find it again.

Luckily, though, it had remained right where it was supposed to be. The large metal gun gleamed in the artificial light, the green elements casting a steady glow. Fully charged and ready for use.

He heaved the enormous bazooka onto his shoulder, loosely holding it with one hand. In the other, he formed a large ball of ice. The bazooka needed to hit a target to form a portal, and Danny quite frankly didn’t want to find out what happened if it hit the walls of the enchanted room.

Satisfied that the ice was big enough for him to hit, he chucked it. With both hands on the Fenton Bazooka, he took aim. Then he fired.

With a loud ripping noise, a green tear in reality formed where the ball had previously been. Still holding onto the weapon, Danny dove through the portal, knowing that it wouldn’t last long.

The Ghost Zone looked as it always did. Green and dreary.

Still, something in Danny soothed. It was… nice, to see something so familiar. After months and months at Hogwarts, he hadn’t realized how homesick he had started to get. And sure, the Zone wasn’t home, but… it was close.

That, and the portal had spit him out somewhere fairly close to his parents’ actual Portal. Must be some sort of coordinates, he supposed.

Anyway. Focus, Fenton. Do what you have to do, then get back to the school. Time’s wasting!

“I still can’t believe no one in the Zone could help me,” Danny groaned during dinner, making sure to stay vague, just in case anyone overheard. Well, people definitely heard; the Great Hall was packed as always, and Sam and Tucker joined the Slytherin table so often they hardly worked as repellents anymore.

“Well, they were gonna look into it, no?” Sam took a bite of her own dinner, pausing the conversation until she swallowed it again. “You said Dora looked worried, too. It’s gotta be important, then, which means that it’ll be treated as such. Right?”

“Ugh, probably.” He pushed his dinner around on his plate a little. “I’m just worried. He’s been getting better, luckily, but it shouldn’t be necessary.”

“Just be glad you could help,” Tucker said, mouth still stuffed full of food. “Imagine how bad things would’ve been otherwise.”

Sam elbowed him, chastising. “Tucker, come on, at least swallow before you speak! And Danny, you’ve done all you can right now, okay? Worrying about it won’t help.”

“Yeah, you’re right.” Danny sighed, and the conversation stilled as they all ate in silence.

“Besides, things have been better, right? After that Quibbler interview?” Mercifully, Tucker had swallowed this time. “Even if Umbridge outlawed it.”

“It became such a big deal because she outlawed it, Tuck, and you know that.” Sam rolled her eyes but accepted the topic change. “It’s a little frustrating to see everyone get swayed so easily, but whatever. I’m okay with it for now, since it’s a good thing for once.”

“Yeah, glad that it’s used for good for once.” Danny took another bite or two from his dinner. “D’you guys want to work on homework tonight?”

“Sounds good to me,” Tucker agreed, finishing off his own dinner. “These teachers are crazy about that stuff.”

“It’s honestly a little concerning.” Sam scooped up her own last bite. “Seriously, can you imagine dealing with this when you’re like, ten? That’s gotta mess some people up, right?”

“Probably,” Danny agreed, cleaning off his own plate. “I was gonna suggest you talk about it with Hermione, but I’m pretty sure she’ll kill you if you dare suggest that homework is bad.”

Sam laughed, nodding her agreement. “Yeah, I’m gonna skip on that. Come on, let’s go.”

He and Tucker nodded, and the three of them headed into the Entrance Hall. Once there, however, they stopped in the massive crowd that had formed.

Danny, spotting Theodore Nott close by, nudged his dormmate. “Hey, what’s going on?”

Theodore squinted at Sam and Tucker briefly, but didn’t comment. Instead he turned to Danny, shrugging casually. “Professor Umbridge just fired Trelawney, but Dumbledore let her stay. Apparently he’s got a new teacher already, so--”

He stopped mid-sentence, and for good reason. The doors had slammed open, thick mist rolling inside. Faintly, a sound like hooves could be heard – or Danny heard it, at least.

While Theodore was distracted, Danny snuck back closer to Sam and Tucker. They had, simultaneously and without words, decided to stick around and watch the happenings.

Then the supposed new teacher entered through the open doors, mist whirling around him, and--

“Holy shit, he’s a centaur.”

And, well. Sam sure was right about that. The man that had entered through the doors and into the Entrance Hall was certainly a centaur. White-blond hair and sharp blue eyes, human to the hips, with a pale brown horse body from there on.

“Umbridge is gonna find a way to kill him,” Tucker whispered, barely audible over the clamoring of the crowd. “Either that, or she’ll kill herself, and she’s too obsessed with herself to do that.”

“Yeah, I mean. Wow.” Danny knew he was grinning, but he couldn’t quite stamp it down. “How cool is that, though. A real half-breed, just the kind that the Ministry hates the most? I love it.”

“Not to stamp down on your fun, Danny, but, uh.” Sam glanced around them. “Let’s head to the Room first, okay?”

Danny rolled his wand through his fingers, watching everyone else in the room practice. Most could form little more than silver vapor, but some others had managed to form corporeal Patronuses already. Besides Harry’s stag, he could also see an otter dart around, and a silver swan soared through the room as well.

Besides him, Sam and Tucker were struggling with getting their Patronuses corporeal. He, himself, was still sorting through his memories to find the best one. One not tainted by his half-ghostness, by his parents’ hatred, by…

The letter from Dani came to mind, suddenly. The sheer giddiness he had felt, reading that his parents had felt genuine concern not just for Danny, but for Phantom.

And with this memory in mind, Danny resettled his wand in his hand, waved it, and shouted, “Expecto Patronum!”

Bright silver flowed from his wand, the occasional green spark quickly stamped down by Danny’s focused will. It flowed into the room, drawing Sam’s and Tucker’s attention, and they both lowered their wands to watch.

Then the mist drew back into itself, thickening into a deep silver ball. A silver ball which then, suddenly, grew legs and a tail and, oh.

A semi-transparent and silver version of Cujo hung in the air in front of Danny. The dog-like Patronus wagged its tail, just as flame-like as the original’s was.

“Is that…” Tucker started saying, watching the Patronus.

“Yep,” Danny confirmed, knowing that the both of them saw what he saw.

“Do you think he can do the same trick?” Sam asked, an intrigued look on her face. “I didn’t know Patronuses could resemble animalistic ghosts. That’s pretty interesting. Or do you think it might be because of, y’know?”

“Maybe.” Danny shrugged, watching the Cujo Patronus bounce around. “I bet this one does way less damage than the original, though.”

Tucker laughed, nodding, and Sam grinned as well. But before either of them could say anything more, Zacharias Smith spotted them, wandering closer.

“Wow, Slytherin, should’ve known you’d get such a tiny Patronus. Really representative, innit?”

Danny rolled his eyes, turning to face Zacharias as well. “Sorry, what was it that you were trying to say?”

“Gotta use easy words, huh?” Zacharias grinned wide, all teeth and no humor. “It’s that small dog syndrome, yeah? A lot of bluster but nothing behind it.”

The Cujo Patronus perked its ears, drifting back over. Then it snarled at Zacharias, apparently offended on either its own behalf or Danny’s. In doing so, however, it drew the attention of several other members of the DA.

“Just look at it!” Zacharias continued, gesturing at the Patronus. “Not terribly impressive, is it? What Demontor’s gonna be scared of--”

He never got to finish the sentence, however, as Danny’s Patronus suddenly became twice as big as Zacharias himself. Still semi-transparent and silver, but now with giant drool-covered fangs, it towered over its taunter.

“I don’t know,” Danny said slowly. “I think he’ll do just fine.”

In the face of this towering behemoth – and his clear defeat – Zacharias quickly sped off again. Sam and Tucker both nodded appreciatively at the Cujo Patronus, looking him over.

“Looks just like the real deal, man.” Tucker reached out a hand towards the spiked collar, then thought better of it and dropped his hand again. “I wonder what Cujo would think of him.”

“I don’t think I want to know, to be honest.” Danny made a face, watching the Patronus shrink back to its original size. “One is enough, thank you.”

“What kinda memory did you use, anyway?” Sam leaned on him, a little too casually. “Must’ve been a pretty powerful one.”

“Honestly?” He laughed, sheepishly, as Tucker leaned in closer too. “The one from this Christmas, when I got Dani’s letter. Reading about all that stuff… It felt really good, y’know?”

“Ah, that makes sense.” Tucker nodded understandingly. “Guess I gotta do some more digging to find a good one myself, too. Can’t let you be better at this than me, man.”

Danny opened his mouth to quip back, but he heard the door of the Room open and instead whirled around to look. The door closed almost as soon as it had opened, a small house-elf wearing an absurd eight wool hats standing in front of it. Its eyes were wide and it was shaking, like it was terrified. But of what?

More people caught sight of the house-elf, all falling silent to watch as it made its way through the room. It didn’t stop until it reached Harry, tugging on his robes.

“Hi, Dobby!” Harry said once he’d spotted the house-elf. “What are you… What’s wrong?”

Now that Harry had pointed out the house-elf’s existence, everyone in the room fell silent to watch. The few Patronuses that were wandering about faded away, the room becoming marginally darker without their glow.

“Harry Potter, sir…” the elf squeaked, trembling badly. “Harry Potter, sir… Dobby has come to warn you… but the house-elves have been warned not to tell…”

Dobby then, without warning, ran head-first at the wall. Harry lunged to grab him and missed, but fortunately Dobby’s pile of hats cushioned him. He simply bounced off of the wall.

“What’s happened, Dobby?” Harry asked again, grabbing the house-elf by the arm. He even went so far as to drag the elf away from the wall – and anything else he could’ve used to hurt himself. Having seen Dobby in action, Danny didn’t blame the guy.

“Harry Potter… She-- She--”

The house-elf promptly punched himself in the nose with his free hand. In response, Harry grabbed that one too, then continued speaking like nothing strange was happening.

“Who’s “she”, Dobby?” The elf remained silent, but he must’ve either mouthed something, or Harry knew who he was referring to, because he asked, horrified, “Umbridge?”

Dobby nodded – or, well, it was a little hard to tell because he also tried bashing his head on Harry’s knees – and Harry made a fearful face.

“What about her? Dobby-- She hasn’t found out about this – about us – about the DA?”

The house-elf didn’t answer, too occupied with trying to kick himself. When he fell to the floor, Harry asked, quietly, “Is she coming?”

Dobby howled, startling some of the closer students, and began beating his bare feet against the floor. “Yes, Harry Potter, yes!”

Danny felt his heart sink to his shoes at the admission. Sam and Tucker, on either of his sides, stiffened as well. Without discussion, they started creeping towards the door.

Meanwhile, Harry stood up again, looking at the motionless people around him. Then…

“What are you waiting for?!” he bellowed, throwing a hand in the direction of the door. “Run!”

Team Phantom, having seen this coming, had already made their way to the door. They were among the first out, escaping the inevitable clog, and sped off. Danny relied on his magic sense to know if there were hidden wizards nearby. Thus assured of at least a short moment out of sight, he turned the three of them invisible, and phased them through a wall.

Once in the abandoned classroom he shifted to Phantom, never letting go of Sam and Tucker.

“Did you see the hidden Slytherins?” Tucker asked, his voice a low whisper. “They’re gonna check all the convenient hiding spots, I’m sure.”

“I’ll bring you two straight to your towers, then.” Danny lifted up again, his abilities stronger now that he was in ghost form. “And you won’t be out of breath since you haven’t run, so they have no proof.”

Both of them nodded. Danny turned all of them invisible and intangible, and so they all returned to their common rooms, like nothing had ever happened.

Danny paused, cocking his head slightly. Then he nudged Sam and Tucker. “Did you two hear that, just now?”

“Hear what?” Sam shook her head. “Nothing special, so probably not, no.”

“The twins said they were planning something to mess with Umbridge.” He glanced around, then grouped in closer so they could continue walking without being overheard. “And I think I know just the right person to help them with that.”

“You want Phantom to help them?” Tucker frowned. “I don’t know man. I thought you wanted him to stay hidden?”

“Yeah, well, it’s not like Dumbledore can really do anything right now that he’s been fired, can he?” Danny shrugged. “I would be helping, just… not the way he might’ve had in mind.”

“You know what?” Sam looked around, then nodded. “I’m usually not a fan of using your powers for this kind of thing, but for this? Go for it, Danny. Make her pay.”

“Guess I’ll go search for them after lunch.” They stepped into the Hall, and he heaved a sigh. “Better separate for lunch. Wouldn’t want to draw unwanted attention, and I’ll have to run off afterwards anyway.”

“Yeah, alright.” Sam split off first, wandering over to the Gryffindor table with an unhappy expression.

“Good luck, man. Don’t get killed.”

“I’ll do my best,” Danny assured him with a grin, and Tucker left for his own table too.

As it turned out, however, he hadn’t been fast enough. He was still only part-way through lunch when an enormous explosion sounded, the ceiling above them trembling under the force. People several floors higher screamed, and Danny could even faintly hear the sound of their running footsteps.

What on Earth had the twins done?

Several of the students in the Great Hall started yelling and pointing, and Danny followed their hands to see what was happening; outside, visible through the windows, enormous magical fireworks were going crazy. One enormous hot-pink Catherine wheel seemed to be ahead, but more went whizzing after it. As he watched, an enormous green and gold dragon compromised entirely out of sparks followed them, seemingly originating a few floors further up.

He quickly worked his way through the rest of his lunch, then fled the Great Hall. For once, he didn’t have to fear standing out; many of the other students were rushing out too, either to go outside and watch the show, or to try and hurry their way around them so they would make it to their classes on time.

Danny simply ducked into a nearby – and blissfully empty – corridor, shifting into his ghost form. He suspected that the twins were hidden somewhere near the origin of the fireworks, and surely that couldn’t be too hard to find?

And indeed, they were hidden behind a tapestry on that same floor, quaking with suppressed mirth.

Now, of course, he couldn’t let this opportunity slip. So…

“Boys!” he whisper-yelled from right behind them. “What is the meaning of this?!”

Both twins stiffened, then turned around in perfect sync. They took him in, wide-eyed and stammering.

“Phantom!” one yelped, dropping into a whisper almost immediately. “We were just--”

“--welcoming Professor Umbridge as our new Headmaster!” the other finished, lamely.

“Uh huh.” Danny quirked an eyebrow, his face smooth and unimpressed. “Interesting way of doing that, guys.”

Then he dropped the mask, grinning widely, his aura brightening. “You got room for a ghost in your clever plans?”

The two of them shared a brief glance, then nodded.

“I’m sure we--”

“--could find a spot!”

“Great!” He rubbed his hands together, letting his grin drop into a smirk. “So, how can I help?”

They frowned. “Are you sure you want to help?”

“We thought you were against pranking?”

“Is this about the Peeves thing?” Danny shook his head, then flapped a dismissive hand to drive the point home. “I’m against his harmful pranks. He was endangering the students, and that was a problem. No, no. As the others could tell you, I’m quite fond of pranking myself, even if I don’t do it often.”

“Why not?” they asked in perfect sync.

He shrugged. “Sam kept getting upset that I was using my powers against people who couldn’t defend themselves against it. That, and I was too busy to come up with clever new pranks to pull with my powers.”

“And everyone knows you can’t repeat the same pranks over and over.” The twin nodded as his brother took over.

“As for our plans, well. This was only phase one, right George?”

Following their usual logic of only referring to each other with the wrong name, that meant that the last one that had spoken was George. So the one that spoke up next was…

“Exactly!” Fred said. “They’ll get worse as she tries to hex them, too! Will last all day, we’re sure.”

“Nice,” Danny complimented, an excited grin on his face. At least he wouldn’t be too bothered by them when he went to bed, a clear advantage of the dungeons. “So, again, how can I help?”

Harry ran down the marble staircase, finding what looked like most of the school assembled in the Entrance Hall. For a moment, it reminded him of the night Trelawney had been fired, but then he noticed that a good number of students were covered in a substance not unlike Stinksap. Also in the ring were teachers and even ghosts. The only ones who appeared to be happy to be present were the members of the Inquisitorial Squad, all looking exceptionally pleased with themselves. Even Peeves hovered above the crowd, watching the same thing as the others.

And in the middle of the circle were Fred and George. Both had the unmistakable look of people who had just been cornered. Yet, for some reason, neither seemed particularly concerned about their predicament.

“So!” Umbridge exclaimed triumphantly, just a few steps in front of Harry. “So, you think it amusing to turn a school corridor into a swamp, do you?”

“Pretty amusing, yeah.” Fred looked up at her without even the slightest sign of fear.

Filch worked his way through the crowd, getting closer to Umbridge, almost crying with happiness. “I’ve got the form, Headmistress,” he said hoarsely, waving the piece of parchment Harry had seen him take just before this. “I’ve got the form and I’ve got the whips waiting… Oh, let me do it now…”

“Very good, Argus.” Umbridge turned to the twins, gazing down on them. “You two are about to learn what happens to wrongdoers in my school.”

“You know what?” Fred said, “I think we’ve outgrown full-time education.”

“Yeah, I’ve been feeling that way myself,” George answered lightly.

“Time to test our talents in the real world, d’you reckon?”


And before anyone could stop them, they raised their wands and said, together: “Accio brooms!”

Harry ducked just in time to dodge the brooms, which then stopped sharply in front of the twins.

Fred swung his leg over his broomstick, grinning at Umbridge. “We won’t be seeing you.”

“Yeah, don’t bother to keep in touch.” George mounted his own broom, the same impish smile on his face.

Then Fred looked out over the crowd, all silent, all watchful, and raised his voice.

“If anyone fancies buying a Portable Swamp, as demonstrated upstairs, come to number ninety-three, Diagon Alley – Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes! Our new premises!”

“Special discounts to Hogwarts students who swear they’re going to use our products to get rid of this old bat,” George added as he pointed at Umbridge.

“Stop them!” Umbridge shrieked, but it was too late. A transparent green wall formed between the Inquisitorial Squad and their prey, Phantom shimmering into view right behind it. He remained colorless like a Wizarding ghost, except that his eyes sparked bright green. He smirked as well, vibrant eyes locked on Umbridge.

“Sorry, not sorry,” he said, sounding entirely unapologetic.

Behind him, both twins kicked off from the floor, shooting a solid fifteen feet into the air. The iron peg that still hung off of George’s broom swung precariously.

“Give her hell from us, Peeves, Phantom.”

And, against all odds, Peeves listened. He swept his hat off, saluting Fred and George as they sped out through the open front doors. The entire way out, they were followed with a tumultuous applause.

Oh, there was gonna be hell to pay for this, Harry was sure. But for now he would enjoy the moment.

Chapter Text

After the sudden (but not unexpected) departure of Fred and George, Danny spent quite a bit of time hanging around in his ghost form when he didn’t have classes. Hiding Phantom had been an exercise in futility from the start, and it really was a lost cause now.

Besides, a ton of students were following the example set by the twins and pranking Umbridge. And, well. If Danny could prevent them from getting caught by Filch, then he should, right? A hero should prevent kids from getting whipped (literally!), and he was a hero.

He kept it fairly subtle, anyway. Most of the time he or Peeves would cause a distraction, so Filch would come after them instead of the regular students. In a few cases where it wasn’t possible, he turned students invisible or intangible.

And, yes. It was a bit of a risk, considering that he didn’t want word to get out about ‘his’ type of ghost. But all the students thought he was a poltergeist anyway, and he could blame his powers on that. When they asked why Peeves hadn’t done it before, he would huff and tell them “yes, because Peeves is known for using his powers to help” which would shut them up pretty well.

Really, Danny was just glad that no one pointed out that Peeves could absolutely use these powers for pranking, if he had them. Steal items and phase them into walls? Dragging people through a wall and forcing them to make enormous detours? That was definitely something Peeves would do.

Danny knew this with certainty, because the poltergeist had told him so. Multiple times.

At least Peeves was fairly busy again. He had become something of a nuisance, but he was more than eager to follow the twins’ last command and go wild with pranking again. Danny had nudged him a little, once or twice, to make sure none of the students would get hurt, but overall he seemed to have learned his lesson.

Good thing, too, because before they knew it June was upon them. And with June came the OWLs, the Wizarding exams.

Watching all the other students go crazy was, uh. It was certainly an experience. He, and Sam and Tucker, they hadn’t really realized how serious the OWLs were. It was really kind of hard not to get caught up in all, well, that. The examinations likely weren’t of any importance to them, since they didn’t even know if they were gonna come back for the rest of the school years.

“Better not to risk it,” Sam had eventually decided, and he and Tucker were quick to agree. Besides, after the DA was caught they had been using the RoR a lot less, and thus tended to get caught up in the larger study groups that formed under the stress of the upcoming OWLs.

The library often housed mingled groups of students working together; sometimes old members of the DA sticking together despite its dispersal, but sometimes they were just random housemates of Danny, Sam, and Tucker.

Turned out that the stress of examinations was better for house unification than the possible threat of Voldemort looming over them. Who would’ve thought?

Then suddenly McGonagall presented them the timetables – and details – for the examinations and, oh. They were starting that Monday. As in, after the weekend.

As in, they only had a few more days of studying. Oh boy.

The OWLs were spread over two weeks, of course. Only one subject a day forced it to be so. And they really could only do one subject a day, since they did the theory in the morning and the practical in the afternoon. The only exception was Astronomy, for obvious reasons.

Results would be sent to them via owl, somewhere in July. Danny wasn’t sure if this was good or bad news. Neutral, maybe? It just was, really.

After this announcement, the weekend was suddenly crammed full of studying. In spite of his earlier insistence that his grades wouldn’t matter all that much – he had no use for a magical degree – he couldn’t help but feel nervous. It was infectious, really, the anxiety of literally every other fifth-year student in the school.

So come Monday, he and Sam and Tucker were fighting their way through breakfast like everyone else. The fifth and the seventh-years stuck around as the rest of the students left for their lessons. Not in the Great Hall itself, of course, but in the Entrance Hall. And finally, at half past nine, they were called back in, class by class.

The set-up was actually pretty bog-standard, Danny thought. The large house tables had been removed, replaced by many small desks for the students. The staff table had remained, with Professor McGonagall standing behind it. On it rested an enormous hourglass (and wow, what a piece of antiquated technology, that), and spare equipment, like quills, ink bottles, and parchment.

Once all students were seated, all facing the staff table, the professor had turned over the hourglass and announced that they could start.

Danny fought himself through the exam, and felt… pretty good about it, actually. Charms was not his best subject by any means, but it was one of those major ones that he and Sam and Tucker had focused on a lot. He’d grown up with it, really, even if he previously had had no way of actually making use of his knowledge. If he was going to fail, it would be during the next segment.

So during lunch, he could feel his nerves buzzing, still. The house tables had reappeared so everyone could eat, but afterwards they had been forced into a small chamber next to the Great Hall. And from there they were summoned in groups of four, in alphabetical order.

He and Tucker shared a nervous glance and something between a grin and a grimace. Fenton and Foley would be close enough to be summoned together, no? At least Danny wouldn’t have to wait long alone afterwards, since Tucker would come right after him.

Overall, he didn’t think he had done too badly. Oh, sure, he had screwed it up a few times, but overall it was pretty okay. Not much worse than some of the others, anyway, and no obvious signs of ecto-energy, which was of course his real fear.

Afterwards they had hung around until Sam had joined them, they had dinner, and then there was more studying. Transfiguration was next, and while it was Danny’s best subject (besides Astronomy, of course) it was yet another of those tricky spell-based subjects.

Then after Transfiguration on Tuesday came Herbology on Wednesday, and Defense Against the Dark Arts on Thursday. All of which went surprisingly well, really. Danny had to commend Harry on his mentoring, because the training with the DA had definitely helped even beyond what he could’ve managed with Sam and Tucker.

Finally, to finish off the week, they had Muggle Studies. And really, what a joke that was! But then they had already known that, since the subject had been a laugh the whole year long. Which was why they had taken it, but still. They already knew how little wizards knew of Muggles, but this… oof. It was, uh.

At least it was an easy grade?

Monday started out pretty rough, again, with Potions. It was followed by Care of Magical Creatures (joy oh joy! Fire Crabs, Danny’s favorite!), and then Astronomy on Wednesday morning – and then again, that night.

Despite his enthusiasm for the Astronomy OWL, Danny found that it didn’t last. Partway through the examination the castle’s front doors opened, and no less than six people walked out. And while the darkness would prevent others from identifying them, Danny’s eyes were sharper thanks to his half-ghost nature.

And he really, really, couldn’t think of any good reason why Umbridge would be outside this late in the night. He still kept working on his exam, of course, but he kept an ear out for any odd noises.

Sure enough, there was a knock, then the barking of a dog. The group of wizards, led by Umbridge, entered Hagrid’s hut. Why?

He didn’t have to wonder for long. A roar came from the cabin, echoing through the darkness all the way to the Astronomy Tower. Several of the other students noticed as well, now, peering in that direction.

“Try and concentrate, now, boys and girls,” the supervising professor said, softly. Most people turned back to their telescopes, but Danny glanced over to see Sam and Tucker frown.

He wished, deeply, that he could send a duplicate to check it out. But despite his practicing, he still couldn’t make an invisible duplicate, and the tower was too crowded to get away with forming a visible one.

Of course, this wasn’t the end of it. A loud BANG sounded as the door swung open, Hagrid stumbling out, roaring and brandishing his fists. The six people from before whirled around him, threads of red light flowing from them and towards him – Stunning spells.

“No!” Hermione cried, and Danny could feel his fists ball even further. There was nothing-- there was nothing he could do, now. Not while he was here, not in the middle of a crowded examination.

“My dear!” the supervising Professor Tofty said, scandalized. “This is an examination!”

Nobody paid attention to him, however. Everyone was looking at the spectacle, Hagrid fighting off the five attacking wizards, their Stunning spells somehow bouncing off of him. And boy was he making a show of it, roaring in fury. When his dog was hit and fell down, Stunned, Hagrid went so far as to pick up the attacker and threw him a solid ten feet away. The wizard didn’t get up.

“Look!” a Gryffindor girl squealed, leaning over the parapet and pointing to the foot of the castle. The front doors opened again, a single person striding out. Professor McGonagall, Danny could tell. But what was she planning?

“Now, really!” Professor Tofty tried again, anxiously. “Only sixteen minutes left, you know!”

“How dare you!” McGonagall shouted as she ran. “How dare you!”

Then, again, “Leave him alone! Alone, I say!” Her voice cut through the darkness, clearly audible even as she rushed closer and closer. “On what grounds are you attacking him? He has done nothing, nothing to warrant such--”

Three of the girls on the Astronomy Tower screamed. The attacking wizards had shot four Stunners at Professor McGonagall, and halfway between the cabin and the castle they had collided with her.

For a moment, she looked luminous and glowed an eerie red, just like the spells. Then she lifted right off her feet, landed hard on her back, and moved no more.

“Galloping gargoyles!” Professor Tofty shouted, apparently also forgetting about the exam. “Not so much as a warning! Outrageous behavior!”

“Cowards!” Hagrid bellowed, his voice carrying back to the castle as more lights blinked on again. “Ruddy cowards! Have some o’ that-- an’ that--”

Hermione gasped as Hagrid took two massive swipes at his closest attackers; a success, based on their immediate collapse. Hagrid ducked down, then straightened again with the limp body of his dog draped around his shoulders.

“Get him, get him!” Umbridge screamed, but only one helper remained, and he seemed rather reluctant to engage after the failure of his colleagues. He made a lackluster escape, and while Umbridge tried firing off a Stunner of her own, she missed miserably.

Hagrid disappeared through the gates and into the darkness beyond.

Silence fell as everyone gazed open-mouthed into the grounds. Then, feebly, Professor Tofty said, “Um… five minutes to go, everybody.”

The last of the exam passed in a rush, everyone gathering at the stairs afterwards to talk excitedly – and loudly – about the events that had just transpired.

Danny shared a silent glance with Sam and Tucker, but they drifted off towards bed before sitting down to talk. There wasn’t much of a point, and they were tired. There was just one exam left. They could talk afterwards.

The final OWL, History of Magic, broke the pattern because it lacked a practical aspect. Instead the theory was tested in the afternoon, giving everyone a chance to revise beforehand.

It was, like the lessons, unbelievably boring. As he was fighting off sleep, Danny couldn’t help but wish for some excitement.

And then Harry screamed, fell off of his desk and onto the stone floor, and grasped for his scar. Danny watched as the boy was led out of the Great Hall.

He didn’t come back. The Professor that had guided him out came back in, took the paper from Harry’s desk, and turned it in. No word, except to coax them back to their own work.

With nothing better to do, and no way to track down Harry if he didn’t want to be found, Danny turned back to his exam. He would have to try following Ron and Hermione afterwards, he supposed. If anybody could find Harry, it would be them.

It was just… from what Harry had told him, as Phantom, his scar hurting was related to Voldemort’s trickery. And sure, Danny had taught him how to protect himself, but…

But had it worked? What if the weird scar-connection thing worked around it? No one had answered his question yet, in the Ghost Zone, and he hadn’t been able to find anything via other routes, either. He had no way of knowing if his lessons would do anything for Harry.

The bell rang, the exam over, and he tried to rush after Ron and Hermione. They met Harry on the marble staircase, but the boy swept his friends into an empty classroom. Danny shared a glance with Sam and Tucker, then shifted into ghost mode and slipped in after them.

“Voldemort tried to trick me,” Harry said, sweaty and pale and somewhat manic.


“He showed me,” Harry paused, briefly, to catch his breath properly. “He showed me a vision, of him with Sirius in the Department of Mysteries. A room full of shelves covered in these little glass balls and they’re at the end of row ninety-seven. But I could tell that it was fake. He wants me to come, for some reason.”

Harry’s voice was shaking, and so were his knees. He moved over to a desk and sat down on it, as Ron and Hermione were processing the admission.

Danny was just glad to know that apparently his lessons had worked.

“How’re we going to get there?” Harry asked his friends, suddenly, and Danny could feel himself tense up again.

“G-get there?” Ron asked, after a moment of silence.

“Get to the Department of Mysteries,” Harry explained, loudly. “We need to catch him!”

“But-- Harry…” Ron said, weakly.

“What? What?”

“Harry,” Hermione said, her voice clearly frightened. “It’s… it’s clearly a trap. He didn’t sneak in there, and we can’t, either.”

“Nonsense.” Harry shook his head. “It’s his trap, he’ll be there to catch us. I need to know what he’s after, and-- and--”

“And what?” Ron snapped back, clearly frustrated and worried at the same time. “And then what? We catch Voldemort?”

“Well, yeah.” Harry gestured impatiently. “We flip the ambush! He’s expecting me, but no one else! We’ll catch him off-guard, we’ll bring the Order, and then it’ll be over!”

Ron and Hermione shared a glance, making a few complicated faces as they tried to silently communicate.

“Harry,” Hermione said, carefully. “Why do we need to do this? If you plan on sending the Order, can’t you just not go? They’re trained for this, aren’t they?”

The boy in question shuffled a little, uncertainly. But Danny knew the look in his eyes, recognized it from himself; he was going to go, one way or the other.

He dipped out of the classroom, forming a duplicate to spy on the rest of the conversation while he landed back with Sam and Tucker.

Sam raised a questioning eyebrow, and Danny, blankly, said, “They’re planning on ambushing Voldemort in the Department of Mysteries.”

“Well.” Tucker cleared his throat. “Uh, damn. No chance of stopping them?”

Danny thought back of the look in Harry’s eyes, then shook his head. “No way. He looked like I do, when I’ve got a stupid idea about ghost fighting in my head.”

His friends nodded understandingly.

“So… drum up as many reinforcements as possible?” Sam asked, leaning back against the wall. “And contacting the Order as Phantom, I’m guessing?”

“Best so,” Danny agreed. “Come on, let’s hurry. I’ve left a duplicate so we’ll know when they’re leaving, but I don’t think they’ll wait for long.”

Chapter Text

“We have to hurry,” Danny hissed, dragging along Sam and Tucker. “They’ve assembled a whole dang group already, and they’re about to leave.”

“I thought they had no way of leaving?” Tucker asked, not fighting Danny’s hands in any way.

“Yeah, but they’re doing a dramatic thing about teaming up now.” He made a face, trying to keep enough focus on flying the three of them invisibly towards his duplicate while also following the input from said duplicate. “And they’re in the Forbidden Forest, with Thestrals nearby which they could take.”

Sam scoffed. “Do they realize that they can take them, though? Last time I checked most of them were convinced those weren’t real.”

“No, but Luna Lovegood is there.” Danny jerked as he had to turn them intangible as well, exiting the castle. “And she knows.”

“No one ever believes Luna, though,” Tucker pointed out. “She’s smart, but everyone thinks she talks complete and utter nonsense.”

Danny jostled them as he flew over the forest. “Shh, we’re almost there. Here’s my idea: we stumble out of the woods and tell them Phantom carried us. My duplicate can vouch for his presence, so no one will be confused if I help in my ghost form when we get there.”

“Sounds good to me.” Sam patted his arm in confirmation. Tucker nodded his approval as well, on his other side.

They landed quietly, Danny letting go of Sam and Tucker first. Still invisible he changed back to his human form, then let the power fade. They paused for a moment, listening to the heated conversation.

“--of course it wasn’t,” Harry’s voice sounded, impatient.

“Then we should come too.” Neville’s, now. “We want to help.”

“That’s right,” a third voice. Luna’s, Danny thought.

They shared a glance between the three of them. Then a nod.

With more noise than necessary, they broke through the brush and joined the small group of students. As they perhaps should’ve expected, startling this small group of weary wizards was met with several raised wands, incantations ready.

Danny raised his hands placatingly. “Chill, we come in peace. We want to help too.”

Harry shared a look with Ron. Danny, and Sam and Tucker, waited patiently. Or, well, he waited patiently. Tucker pretended he didn’t care, and Sam had her arms crossed and was scowling at the six students already waiting.

“Well, it doesn’t matter, anyway,” Harry finally said, through gritted teeth. “Because we still don’t know how to get there--”

“I thought we’d settled that.” Luna cocked her head, eyes large and shiny. “We’re flying!”

“Look.” Ron stepped forward, clearly struggling to contain his anger. “You might be able to fly without a broomstick, but the rest of us can’t sprout wings whenever we--”

Phantom cleared his throat, becoming visible above the group. “She’s right, you know.”

“How would you know?” Ron snapped at the duplicate. “You can fly on your own power, but we can’t!”

They can, though,” Luna said, voice soft and dignified as she looked towards the trees. “And Hagrid says that they’re very good at finding places their riders are looking for.”

Danny turned to look in the direction she was staring into. And, indeed, between the trees stood two Thestrals. White eyes gleamed as they tossed their heads, throwing their long black manes back.

“Yes!” Harry whispered, moving closer to them. He patted the nearest one on its neck, ecstatic.

“Is it those mad horse things?” Ron asked uncertainly, staring in the right direction but missing the Thestrals. “Those ones you can’t see unless you’ve watched someone snuff it?”

“Yeah,” Harry confirmed for him.

“How many?”

“Just two.”

“Well, we need three,” Hermione said, looking a little shaken but determined all the same.

“No offense, dude, but I count nine.” Tucker quirked a brow, unimpressed. “Ten, really, but Phantom doesn’t need a Thestral.”

“Don’t be stupid, we can’t all go!” Harry bit. “Look, you six-- seven,” he pointed at everyone but Ron and Hermione, correcting himself when he came across Phantom, “you’re not involved in this, you’re not--”

The other three all burst into protest. Danny, Sam, and Tucker just stood back. They would be going anyway, no need to fight about it. It was literally why they had been brought here. Or, well, why Danny was brought here, and where he goes, Sam and Tucker go.

“Okay, fine, it’s your choice,” Harry finally said, curtly. “But unless we can find more Thestrals you’re not going to be able--”

“Oh, more of them will come,” Ginny countered confidently. She, too, was squinting in the wrong direction, apparently also unable to see the horses.

“What makes you think that?”

“Because they’re attracted to blood,” Sam pointed out, rolling her eyes. “And you and Hermione are covered in it.” Why they were, Danny didn’t know, and he didn’t think he wanted to know.

“More are on their way already, anyway.” Phantom raised in the air slightly, peeking over the treetops. “See, there they come.”

And, on his words, a pack of seven Thestrals broke through the trees. Their eyes gleamed in the darkness, and Danny could clearly see the great leather wings folded against their sides.

“All right,” Harry said, still angry. “Pick one and get on, then.”

Following his own command, Harry wound his hand in the mane of the Thestral nearest to him, scrambling onto its back. In response, the Thestral twisted its head around, attempting to lick his robes.

Neville and Luna were quick to follow as well, but Danny, Tucker, and Sam waited. And indeed, as they had expected, Ron, Hermione, and Ginny failed to follow the others.

“How’re we supposed to get on?” Ron asked faintly, “when we can’t see the things?”

Danny rolled his eyes, stepping forward. “Here, we’ll help you. Sam, you get Ginny. Tucker, get Hermione.”

“Hold on--” the boy protested, but Danny had already grabbed his hand and placed it on the neck of the nearest Thestral.

He wound the hand around the manes, then helped Ron clamber on. “See, not that hard.”

The Gryffindor continued to grumble, but Danny ignored him. Tucker and Sam had been equally successful, it seemed. Thus accomplished, the three of them climbed onto Thestrals of their own.

“This is mad,” Ron murmured, using his free hand to pat the neck of his horse. “Mad… if I could just see it--”

“You’d better hope it stays invisible,” Harry countered darkly. “We all ready, then?”

Everyone nodded, although Danny couldn’t help but notice how many of them seemed to suddenly have strong regrets. Harry looked down at his Thestral, then said, uncertainly, “Ministry of Magic, visitors’ entrance, London, then. Er… if you know… where to go…”

For a moment, nothing happened. Then, suddenly, the wings of Harry’s Thestral swept open. It crouched, then rocketed upwards, fast and steep.

Moments later, the other Thestrals followed suit. In the confusion, Danny let his duplicate dissipate. No one would notice, anyway.

The group streaked over the castle, then past the grounds and Hogsmeade, and further and further. Darkness fell around them, the wind sharp but pleasant in Danny’s face; he hadn’t realized how much he had missed flying, really flying, until now.

Suddenly the group dove, towards bright orange lights and paved streets. Harry landed first, near a vandalized telephone box, sliding off of the back of his Thestral.

Then one by one the rest of them landed, the Thestrals graceful and silent as they made contact. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, and Neville were all in various states of shaking or relief to be on the ground again. Luna seemed unbothered.

“I’ve had worse flights,” Tucker said casually to him and Sam once he had hopped off. “Although it wasn’t much better than during that country-wide chase.”

“At least you didn’t have to fly on your own power during that.” Danny shook his head as they rejoined the group proper, where Harry was leading them towards the battered telephone box.

“Come on!” the boy urged, trying to get them inside. Ron and Ginny followed obediently, and Hermione, Neville, and Luna squashed themselves in after. His eyes settled on Danny, Sam, and Tucker, and he frowned.

“Phantom can turn us intangible?” Danny offered, pulling Sam and Tucker closer to himself so he could do so without needing a duplicate. “Since he came along?”

Harry eyed them for a moment longer, then nodded.

Danny turned the three of them intangible, phasing them through the other students, who grimaced at the feeling. Harry squished in after them. “Whoever’s nearest the receiver, dial six two four four two!”

Ron did so, twisting his arm awkwardly to reach the dial. A cool female voice sounded in response.

“Welcome to the Ministry of Magic. Please state your name and business.”

Harry took a breath, then said, very quickly, “Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Ginny Weasley, Neville Longbottom, Luna Lovegood, Danny Fenton, Tucker Foley, Sam Manson… we’re here to save someone, unless your Ministry can do it first!”

“Thank you,” the voice answered. “Visitors, please take your badges and attach them to the front of your robes.”

Nine badges clattered out of a chute, and Hermione scooped them up and mutely handed them to Harry.

“You missed Phantom,” Luna pointed out, serenely.

Harry opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by the voice again. “Visitors to the Ministry, you are required to submit to a search and present your wands for registration at the security desk, which is located at the far end of the Atrium.”

“Fine!” he replied loudly. “Now can we move?”

The floor of the box shuddered as it started lowering itself, and Danny had to focus on keeping himself – and Sam and Tucker – on its floor without becoming tangible. With a dull grinding noise it lowered them all the way to the Ministry of Magic and its empty Atrium.

“The Ministry of Magic wishes you a pleasant evening,” the woman’s voice said, and then the door of box burst open.

Harry toppled out, followed by Neville and Luna. Danny pulled Sam and Tucker a few steps away before releasing his intangibility – and their clothes.

Everyone straightened themselves, then Harry whispered “Come on” and led them in a sprint down the hall.

They passed a fountain and a desk, then came to a halt in front of some golden gates. Danny wondered if it was supposed to be this quiet at this time of night. Probably not, if Voldemort was here. He must’ve taken out the security.

Harry jammed the button to lead them down to the right floor, then through a corridor and towards a plain black door. He stopped some feet away from the door, turning around.

“Okay, listen. Maybe… maybe a couple of people should stay here as a-- as a lookout, and--”

“And how’re we going to let you know something’s coming?” Ginny asked, eyebrows raised. “You could be miles away.”

“We’re coming with you, Harry,” Neville said.

“Let’s get on with it,” Ron agreed, firmly.

The boy seemed reluctant, but turned back towards the door and opened it. They followed him in, the room circular and all black. Identical, unmarked, and handle-less doors were set at intervals in the walls. Candles with blue flames sat between them, their light reflected on the shiny marble floor.

“Someone shut the door,” Harry muttered, and Neville obeyed. The room became so dark that Danny doubted anyone but him could see, and he reached out to Sam and Tucker by reflex.

They stood there in silence, waiting for Harry to make the next move. But before he could, a great rumbling sound could be made out, and… the wall started moving.

It sped around so quickly that no details could be made out, too fast to track. Then, just as suddenly as it had started, the wall ground to a halt again.

“What was that about?” Ron whispered, fear lacing his voice.

“I think it was to stop us knowing which door we came in through,” Ginny replied, voice just as hushed.

“How’re we going to get back out?” Neville asked, uncomfortable.

“Well, that doesn’t matter now,” Harry said forcefully. “We won’t need to get out till we’ve dealt with Voldemort.”

“Where do we go, then, Harry?” Ron turned to look at their impromptu leader.

“I don’t--” Harry swallowed. “In the dreams I went through the door at the end of the corridor from the lifts into a dark room – that’s the one – and then I went through another door into a room that kind of… glitters. We should try a few doors,” he added hastily, “I’ll know the right way when I see it. C’mon.”

Under his lead, they tried several doors with… questionable contents. Then, finally…

“This is it!”

Onward they went, through that room and meeting another door. They stopped here, everyone readying their wands, suddenly serious and anxious.

Danny only hoped that he could get a moment during the fight where he could slip away and into his ghost form.

The door swung open, and they entered a whole new room. Enormously high, and filled with towering shelves covered in small, dusty glass orbs, glimmering dully in the light of the candle-brackets.

Harry peered down one of the shadowy aisles between rows of shelves. But even Danny, with his superhuman senses, could not hear or see any movement.

“You said it was row ninety-seven,” Hermione whispered.

“Yeah.” Harry looked up, as did Danny. Row fifty-three, the silver numbering read.

“We need to go right, I think.” Hermione turned her head, squinting in the darkness. “Yes… that’s fifty-four…”

“Keep your wands ready,” Harry said softly, unnecessarily.

As a single unit, they crept forward. Occasional glances were thrown back from where they’d come. Then they reached row ninety-seven, gazing down the alley beside it.

There was nobody there.

“He has to be here.” Harry started leading them between the towering rows of glass balls, some of which glowed softly as they passed. “Anywhere here… really close…”

They reached the end of the row, emerging into more dim candlelight. Still nobody was there.

Harry started wandering about, like Voldemort might’ve been hiding in one of the nearby isles. Danny shook his head, then shared a glance with Sam and Tucker, all wondering the same thing: now what?

“Harry?” Ron called, standing in the row and staring at one of the glass spheres. “Have you seen this?”

“What?” the boy replied, glumly, joining them.

“It’s-- It’s got your name on.”

“My name?” Harry said, blankly. Then he stepped forward, craning his neck to read the label.

“What is it?” Ron asked, increasingly unnerved. “What’s your name doing down here?”

The boy glanced along the other labels. “I’m not here. None of the rest of us are here.”

“Harry, I don’t think you should touch it,” Hermione said sharply, seeing the same thing as Danny: Harry reaching for the ball.

“Why not? It’s something to do with me, isn’t it?”

“Don’t, Harry,” Neville said suddenly.

“It’s got my name on,” Harry repeated, stubbornly. Then he closed his fingers around the ball, and lifted it from the shelf.

Nothing happened.

Danny shared a glance with Sam and Tucker, and saw his own curiosity reflected in their eyes. Their eyes, and those of everyone else that had come along. They crowded in closer, all gazing at the orb as Harry brushed it free of dust.

He’d been so occupied with the strange orb that he hadn’t even heard the quiet footsteps of someone approaching. Not until they said, voice drawling, “Very good, Potter. Now turn around, nice and slowly, and give that to me.”

Suddenly black shapes were emerging out of thin air all around them. Hoods up, with eyes barely glinting through, and blocking their way on the left and the right. A dozen wand tips were lit and pointed right at them. Ginny gasped, somewhere in the center of their crowd of students.

“To me, Potter,” repeated the drawling voice, one man holding out his hand, palm up.

“To me,” the man repeated once more, more patient than Danny had expected these Death Eaters to be. Because that’s what they were, right? Why had no one bothered to describe them to him, anyway? Too afraid he might go out looking to fight them?

“Where is he?” Harry asked.

A number of the Death Eaters laughed. One voice, harsh and female, triumphantly said, “The Dark Lord always knows!”

“Always,” the first voice echoed softly. “Now, give me the prophecy, Potter.”

“I want to know where he is!”

I want to know where he is!” the woman mimicked. She, and her fellows, had closed in so that they were mere feet away from the group, the light of their wands blinding in the darkness.

“He’s here. I know he is.”

“The little baby woke up fwightened and fort what it dweamed was twoo,” the woman said, her voice twisted in a horrible mock baby voice.

Ron stirred in their group, and Harry muttered, “Don’t do anything. Not yet--”

Now the woman laughed, a loud raucous scream of laughter. “You hear him? You hear him? Giving instructions to the other children as though he thinks of fighting us!”

“Oh, you don’t know Potter as I do, Bellatrix,” the man said softly. “He has a great weakness for heroics; the Dark Lord understands this about him. Now give me the prophecy, Potter.”

“I know he’s here,” Harry repeated once more. “He has to be!”

Again, the Death Eaters laughed, Bellatrix the loudest of them all. Danny felt his fists clench in anger. Had Harry really led them to this confrontation, hoping to fight a man that wasn’t even here?

“It’s time you learned the difference between life and dreams, Potter.” The man eyed them up. “Now give me the prophecy, or we start using wands.”

“Go on, then.” Harry raised his own wand to chest height. In response, so did the rest of their group. Even Danny, who was really hoping to rely on his ghost powers instead of the wand, followed suit.

The Death Eaters didn’t move.

“Hand over the prophecy and no one need get hurt,” the man said again, coolly.

“Yeah, right!” Harry laughed. “I give you this-- prophecy, is it? And you’ll just let us skip off home, will you?”

He had barely finished his words when Bellatrix shrieked, “Accio proph--”

Protego!” Harry shouted back, barely holding on to the ball.

They wanted the ball, for some reason. Whether it was a real prophesy or not, whatever it contained, it didn’t matter. This was their only protection against their enemies, their only way of getting out untouched.

“Oh, he knows how to play, little bitty baby Potter,” Bellatrix said, her eyes staring through the slits in her hood. “Very well, then--”

“I told you, no!” the first man roared back. “If you smash it--!”

The woman stepped forward, away from the other Death Eaters, and pulled off her hood. Her face was gaunt and skull-like, but alive with a fanatical glow. Bellatrix Lestrange, Danny thought; she’d been in the newspaper for breaking out of Azkaban during the school year.

“You need more persuasion?” she asked, breathing rapidly. “Very well-- take the smallest one,” she ordered the Death Eaters beside her. “Let him watch while we torture the little girl. I’ll do it.”

The group drew closer around Ginny in response. Harry stepped sideways until he was right in front of her, the prophecy clutched to his chest.

“You’ll have to smash this if you want to attack any of us,” he told them. “I don’t think your boss will be too pleased if you come back without it, will he?”

Bellatrix did not move. She simply stared at them – at Harry.

“So,” the boy said, conversationally, “what kind of prophecy are we talking about, anyway?”

Was he… trying to buy time? A valid tactic, but Danny honestly couldn’t think of a way to get out either, not with this many people. He could form a shield, but that would just nail them to one spot, even ignoring the fact that he didn’t want his powers linked to his human form.

“What kind of prophecy?” Bellatrix repeated, grin fading from her face. “You jest, Harry Potter.”

“Nope, not jesting.” Harry’s eyes darted around, and Danny’s did the same. No obvious weaknesses in the lineup, no open space to escape through. “How come Voldemort wants it?”

Several Death Eaters hissed, low.

“You dare speak his name?” Bellatrix whispered.

“Yeah.” Harry was clutched the ball so tightly that his knuckles turned white. “Yeah, I’ve got no problem with saying Vol--”

“Shut your mouth!” she shrieked. “You dare speak his name with your unworthy lips, you dare besmirch it with your half-blood’s tongue, you dare--”

“Did you know he’s a half-blood too?” Harry asked recklessly. In their crowd, Hermione moaned. “Voldemort? Yeah, his mother was a witch but his dad was a Muggle-- or has he been telling you lot he’s pure-blood?”



A jet of red light had shot from Bellatrix’ wand, but the first man had deflected it with a spell of his own. Instead it hit the shelf a foot or so to the left of their group, shattering a number of the glass orbs.

Two figures, pearly-white and smoke-like, unfurled themselves from the shards of glass. They spoke, voices layered over each other, making it almost impossible to distinguish them, especially with the shouting of the Death Eaters behind them.

Danny nudged Sam and Tucker, next to him, eyes on the figures that now melted back into nothingness. The shine in their eyes suggested that they had the same idea as him.

“You haven’t told me what’s so special about this prophecy I’m supposed to be handing over,” Harry said, clearly still playing for time. His foot started wandering, like he was searching for someone else. Had he had the same idea as them?

“Do not play games with us, Potter.”

“I’m not playing games.” Harry’s foot found Hermione’s, and she gasped.

“Dumbledore never told you the reason you bear that scar was hidden in the bowels of the Department of Mysteries?” the man sneered.

“I-- what? What about my scar?”

“What?” Hermione whispered, urgently.

“Can this be?” The man sounded maliciously delighted, and several Death Eaters were laughing again.

Under this cover, Harry hissed to Hermione, “Smash shelves--” confirming for Danny that he had had the same idea, indeed.

“Dumbledore never told you? Well, this explains why you didn’t come earlier, Potter, the Dark Lord wondered why--”

“--when I say now--” Harry continued, so soft that only Hermione should be able to hear him. Her, and Danny, thanks to his superhuman hearing.

“--you didn’t come running when he showed you the place where it was hidden in your dreams. He thought natural curiosity would make you want to hear the exact wording…”

“Did he? So he wanted me to come and get it, did he? Why?”

Hermione shifted, minutely, to start passing the message. Danny nudged Sam and Tucker again, cocking his head and whispering the message to them as well.

“Why?” The man sounded incredulous and delighted at the same time. “Because the only people who are permitted to retrieve a prophecy from the Department of Mysteries, Potter, are those about whom it was made, as the Dark Lord discovered when he attempted to use others to steal it for him.”

Danny blocked out the conversation, instead focusing his hearing on their group to make sure the message had passed them all. He only needed to hear Harry’s signal. The wand in his hand was growing increasingly warm from his own heat, and that of those crowded tightly around him.

“Now!” Harry yelled.

And, in almost perfect sync, eight voices bellowed, “Reducto!”

The curses hit in different places, the shelves exploding as they landed. The towering structure swayed, hundreds of its spheres bursting, the figures unfurling and floating and echoing their voices. Crashing glass and splintered wood rained down upon them.

“Run!” Harry’s voice commanded, more of the shelves swaying and more glass spheres falling.

Danny grabbed onto Sam and Tucker by their upper arms – making sure not to block their wand movements – and started dragging them away. Despite the circumstances, not wanting to be seen, he couldn’t help the occasional flicker of intangibility as splinters and glass crashed upon them.

They managed to duck into a dark corner, and Danny tugged on his invisibility. A group of Death Eaters, right on their tail, passed them by without even noticing them.

“Holy shit,” Tucker whispered, so quiet he could barely be heard. “This has gone all kinds of wrong.”

Danny let go of both of them, keeping himself invisible so he could shift without the bright light alerting anyone. The moment he had transformed he grabbed both of his friends again, fading them out of view in case anyone else came this way.

“What now?” he asked, voice low. “The Order is coming, but now there are Death Eaters hunting all six of the others.”

“Let’s move towards the exit, but along the same way as they might take,” Sam suggested. “We might run into them along the way.”

“And what if they ask where Danny went?”

She scowled. “We’ll figure that out if it comes to that.”


As it turned out, their impromptu hiding sessions had put them behind the others. When they found their way back to the spinning room, all six others were already there.

Harry looked scuffed up, but no clear injuries. Hermione was knocked out, Neville was pale and bleeding from his nose, and Ron was in a similar state; pale, but with something dark trickling from the corner of his mouth, and delirious on top of that. Ginny sat against the wall, holding her ankle. Only Luna seemed in a mostly fine condition.

Sam leaned in closer, then whispered, so quiet that only they could hear, “Let’s burst out of one of these doors as well, so they won’t question us.”

“Or we--”

Tucker didn’t get to finish his sentence as one of the doors burst open, three Death Eaters joining the room, led by Bellatrix Lestrange.

The three of them shared a glance, then saw the group fleeing through one of the doors and followed, invisible and intangible.

But they made it hard to follow them; good against the Death Eaters, but also against their unseen allies. The three of them caught up with some of the scattered students, but Harry and Neville were missing.

“Should we--”

“No.” Danny stared in the direction where he could hear Harry’s voice – and Neville’s. “The Order is coming. We should help Harry.”

“Right,” the other boy said, and then they were off again. They reached the other room just in time to see Harry holding out the sphere, and then--

Two more doors burst open, five people sprinting into the room, all Order members: Sirius, Lupin, Moody, Tonks, and Kingsley.

“There’s our cover,” Danny whispered, flying them down and away from the chaos as much as possible. “Let’s see if we can help. Drag out Harry, or something.”

They snuck in, watching the scrambled fight, trying to find a point to help. But Harry seemed to be surrounded by constant chaos, changing too quickly for them to jump in.

Danny’s eye caught on the opening door, and now Dumbledore stood there as well. He shoved Sam and Tucker forward. “You two see if you can help Harry get Neville out, I’ll join Dumbles.”

They nodded and snuck away, and he floated up, invisible. Right as he passed by the arch with the tattered veil, he saw Sirius get blasted towards him – towards it.

The man flew in a graceful arc, his eyes wide in shock, and laughter dying on his face.

Ice cold arms enclosed around his chest. The man disappeared as if he’d gone through, while Danny jerked the both of them upwards and away from the object.

Somewhere in the room, Bellatrix screamed triumphantly, and Harry yelled, distraught, “Sirius!”

In Danny’s arms, the man gasped, clutching onto his arms. “Holy shit,” he whispered, breathless, “holy shit.”

“I’ve got you,” Danny assured him, zipping back down. “I’m gonna put you down next to Harry, okay?”

“Yes, yes.” Sirius jerked in his arms, slipping away before they had even properly reached the ground. He landed awkwardly, scrambling over to catch Harry in his arms as the boy attempted to sprint towards the dais.

“It’s okay,” he assured the boy, who had stiffened immediately. “Phantom caught me, I’m here, I’m okay.”

Sirius started dragging the boy away from the chaos, and Danny saw that Sam and Tucker had gotten to Neville as well, calming his legs and separating him from the fight.

Lupin joined the three students, caught sight of Sam and Tucker without him, and then started looking around the room like he could find Danny.

He glanced back at Dumbledore, decided the man seemed to be doing fine, and flew towards Lupin.

“Looking for me?” he asked when he was close enough to be overheard.

“Where are the others?” Lupin turned to Neville to ask, but he must’ve wanted Danny here, too. Or at least be assured that he was okay, too.

“Back in the other room,” Sam answered for Neville, seeing his bleeding nose. “Ron got attacked by something, and the others are unconscious or injured, but they were somewhat okay when we passed by them.”

Lupin nodded, then twisted his head to look in a random direction – probably where he thought Danny was. “Phantom, stay with Harry and Sirius. Neville, Sam, Tucker, with me. We’re going back to the other room and getting the others out.”

A loud bang distracted them; Bellatrix Lestrange turned tail and ran from the room, deflecting a spell from Dumbledore as she ran.

Sirius growled under his breath, then chased after her. Before Danny knew it Harry had followed. Cursing both of them he sped up and flew after them.

They came to a halt back in the Atrium, Sirius and Harry both crouched behind the enormous fountain and its golden statues. He hovered over them, listening along; no footsteps, so Bellatrix must’ve stopped too.

“Potter, I’m going to give you one chance!” Bellatrix shouted, her voice echoing through the room. “Give me the prophecy – roll it out towards me now – and I may spare your life!”

“Well, you’re going to have to kill me, because it’s gone!” Harry roared back. Then he flinched, his free hand clawing over his scar. “And he knows! Your dear old mate Voldemort knows it’s gone! He’s not going to be happy with you, is he?”

“What? What do you mean?” she cried back, fear in her voice.

“The prophecy smashed when I was trying to get Neville up the steps! What do you think Voldemort’ll say about that, then?”

Sirius swatted at Harry, seemingly caught somewhere between getting him to shut up and thrilled at the taunting.

“Liar!” Terror underlied her anger as she shrieked. “You’ve got it, Potter, and you will give it to me! Accio prophecy! Accio prophecy!”

Harry laughed, almost maniacally. “Nothing there! Nothing to summon! It smashed and nobody heard what it said, tell your boss that!”

“No!” she screamed back. “It isn’t true, you’re lying! Master, I tried, I tried-- Do not punish me--”

“Don’t waste your breath!” Harry’s eyes were screwed close, expression clearly pained. Sirius hovered over him uncertainly, unsure of how to help. Danny knew the feeling. “He can’t hear you from here!”

“Can’t I, Potter?” asked a new voice, high and cold.

Harry’s eyes burst open, and Danny leaned over the statues to see the newcomer. Tall, thin, and wearing a black hood as well, he stood in the middle of the hall. His face was white, gaunt, and snake-like, and his scarlet slit-pupiled eyes were probably scary to someone not used to ghosts with exactly the same kind of face. His wand was pointed straight at Harry.

“So, you smashed my prophecy?” the man said, softly, staring at Harry. The man who must be Voldemort, the reason why Danny was here, the man responsible for such terror. “No, Bella, he is not lying… I see the truth looking at me from within in worthless mind… months of preparation, months of effort… and my Death Eaters have let Harry Potter thwart me again…”

“Master, I am sorry, I knew not, I was fighting the Animagus Black,” Bellatrix sobbed, flinging herself at Voldemort’s feet. “Master, you should know--”

“Be quiet, Bella. I shall deal with you in a moment. Do you think I have entered the Ministry of Magic to hear your sniveling apologies?”

“But Master-- he is here-- he is below--”

Voldemort paid her no attention. His wand was aimed at Harry, still. “I have nothing more to say to you, Potter. You have irked me too often, for too long. Avada Kedavra!”

The bright green spell shot from his wand, and before Danny could even think to shield Harry, it was too late; one of the golden statues had sprung from its place, landing on the floor between the two wizards, deflecting the spell.

“What--?” Voldemort glanced around, then breathed, “Dumbledore!”

Both powerful wizards started firing spells at each other, and Danny lowered himself back to Harry and Sirius. All three were watching the two fight, scurrying away at the same time.

Then Voldemort was-- he was gone. Defeated?

Harry stood up, as if he wanted to come closer, but Dumbledore bellowed out, “Stay where you are, Harry!”

The boy halted. For a moment, nothing happened, and then he crumpled in on himself, clutching at his scar and screaming in pain.

As soon as it had started, it ended. Voldemort was expelled from Harry’s body – when he had entered it, Danny didn’t know – and faltered. The man clearly hadn’t expected to find the boy ready to fight off possession.

Before Voldemort could make his getaway, the fireplaces lit in bright green, wizards streaming into the hall. Dumbledore spat out a spell, and the evil wizard was restrained, held back, chained up.

Sirius bent low over Harry, who sat on the floor, blinking numbly. “Are you okay, Harry?”

“Yes,” Harry said, shaking a little. “Yeah, I’m… okay. Thanks to Phantom.”

Sirius laughed, softly, shaking his head. “Good, good.” Then he started eyeing up the gathering wizards, and, quietly, asked, “Phantom, you here?”

“Yep,” Danny confirmed, hovering right over the two of them. “Why?”

“Any chance you could… get me out?” Sirius shifted where he hovered over Harry. “Dumbledore’s got Voldie under control, and I’m not jumping to get back to Azkaban, if you know what I mean.”

“Uh, yeah.” Danny laid one hand on Sirius’s shoulder, not letting his invisibility spread just yet. “You’ll need to guide me to Grimmauld Place, then.”

“No need, just get me out of here.”

“Alright.” He turned Sirius invisible, then said to Harry, “Sorry to steal him away from you like this.”

“That’s okay,” the boy said, still looking in the right direction. “Just get him safe.”

Danny hummed, then flew off with Sirius in his arms.

To be fair to Sirius, it was a good chance to rejoin the others in his human form, afterwards.

Chapter Text

Finding Sam and Tucker had been surprisingly easy, Danny found. His magic sense responded to pretty much the entire building, sure, but he could tell their specific magic apart from the rest of it.

The wizards of the Ministry were already hard at work arresting Death Eaters and straightening things up when he entered the right room. Thankfully there was still enough chaos for him to slip back in, and as he sat down with Sam and Tucker, they smiled at him, bright and knowing.

“We covered for you,” Tucker assured him, nodding at some of the wizards further in the room. “Said that you were hanging out somewhere and that you would probably find your way back without problems.”

“Thanks.” Danny glanced at the others, then leaned in a little closer and lowered his voice. “I brought Sirius away so he won’t get arrested, and Voldemort’s been caught, too. Just clean-up left, I think.”

Sam hummed, thoughtfully. “What about that link between Harry and Voldie? Is that something we need to deal with?”

“Probably, yeah. I dunno how it works, exactly, but…” he darted a look at the others again, before continuing, convinced they wouldn’t be overheard, “Voldemort tried possessing him during the fight. I think it only works over close distance, and Harry shook it off almost immediately, but…”

“A human tried to possess another human?” Tucker clicked his tongue. “That’s not… that shouldn’t be possible. Right? What the hell did he do?”

“I don’t know, but I’m gonna find out.” Danny shot a smile at the wizard who turned to look at them, assuring the man that they weren’t up to anything. When he seemed content and turned away, he said to Sam and Tucker, “I was already waiting to hear back from some of the others in the Zone. If they don’t know anything yet, I bet this’ll help with the search.”

Sam opened her mouth to reply, but the wizard came back and cleared his throat. “Kids, come along.”

“Coming already,” she grunted back, pulling herself to her feet. “We going back to school?”

He squinted at her, then shifted his eyes to look over the rest of them. “We’re gathering all the students in one place for easier transportation. You are Hogwarts students, yes?”

Tucker gestured at their robes, with their Hogwarts insignia still on them. “Uh, yeah? You asking just because we’re American, or…?”

“It is rather unconventional.” The man straightened his spine with a huff, like he was disgruntled at being sassed at by teenagers. “Come now, let us go.”

The wizard led them back to the elevator, which they took back to the Atrium. Their fellow Hogwarts students were already there, several other wizards and witches stationed around them to keep an eye on them. A few were crouched over the more injured of the students – making sure they were okay, Danny assumed.

“These the last ones?” their escort asked as they joined the group.

The witch he asked looked up from her clipboard, her eyes coasting over the three of them. Then she nodded at him. “Yes, that should be the last of them. The American students, yes?”

“That’s us.” Tucker shot her a grin which would’ve been charming if he hadn’t been 1. covered in dust, and 2. barely 16 years old. Also if it had been, in any way, serious. “You looking for us?”

She rolled her eyes, then made shooing gestures at them. “Go join the others. We’ll be right back with transportation.” She swept off before any of them comment, including the wizard who had brought them.

The man huffed. “Not sure how you kids got here, anyway. School’s all the way in Scotland, isn’t it?”

“Thestrals are good flyers,” Sam said, casually, not looking at him. She was inspecting the other kids, Danny knew.

Their escort grunted, but turned around to join the ring of watching wizards. Danny nudged Sam, and the three of them moved closer to the other teens.

“Danny!” Neville said, moving closer now that he’d spotted them. “You’re okay! I was worried when Sam and Tucker came to help me, y’know, without you? But they said you were fine. Where were you?”

“Ran a different way.” He shrugged, the lie slipping out smoothly. “Figured it would be safer to rejoin later, when you guys were less inclined to shoot anyone who startled you.”

“That’s fair.” Neville patted him on the shoulder. “You made it out okay, then?”

“Guess I wasn’t a very alluring target.” His eyes rested on the group of injured students. “Are they… gonna be okay?”

Neville followed his gaze, eyes softening. “They think so, yeah. Straight to Madam Pomfrey, of course, and she should be able to fix them up fine.”

“Good, good. I’m glad to hear so.”

The boy turned slightly, clearly eyeing up Danny without looking directly at him. “You’re… really different for a Slytherin.”

“Or maybe the other Slytherins are too afraid to stand out like I do?” Danny sighed, then turned to face Neville properly. “There are plenty of rude Slytherins, don’t take me wrong, but those people exist in all houses. But Slytherin’s reputation has turned into something of a vicious circle; people expect Slytherin students to be mean and evil, and so they can’t be anything but mean and evil. I thought it was worth standing out, but then I already had friends in Sam and Tucker, and we always were the odd ones out. Other Slytherin students might not have this, and thus not do the same.”

“Oh.” Neville tugged on the edge of his sleeve, letting the silence drag on for a bit. “I guess that that… makes sense. I understand, sort of. People expect Gryffindors to be courageous and brave, but…”

“But you don’t really meet that either. And that’s okay.” Danny blew out a breath, his eyes wandering over to Sam and Tucker, who were talking with the others. “I – We, really, all three of us – always thought the house system was kinda dumb. People change, and they should change. It’s a good thing. The only thing the houses do is divide the students and encourage in-fighting.”

“But what about classes, then? Housing and common rooms and… How do you guys do it?”

Danny shrugged, one hand raising to the back of his neck to rub it. “I mean, we didn’t… The three of us, we never went to a magic school, or a boarding school? So we were just with our parents. As for classes, they’re not… set? Just like your classes are taught with two houses together, and the set-up differs between class and year? Except all the students are individuals, so the entire composition could change. There is no guarantee that you’ll share all your classes with certain others.”

“Huh. But then what about competition and games? Is there any bullying if there are no houses to squabble?”

Danny huffed out a laugh. “Yeah, unfortunately. Sports are usually played between schools, so we’ve got our school team against teams from other schools. Bullying is based on social cred, so for example the top athletes and popular kids got to do all the bullying, and the rest of us just kind of had to take it.”

Neville made a face. “I don’t know if that’s any better than this, actually.”

“Pros and cons, really.” Danny’s eye caught on the circle of wizards shifting. “Looks like we’re going to have to wrap up this conversation for the moment. I think our ride is here.”

Just as he said it, the witch with the clipboard stepped forward. She cleared her throat, waiting a moment for them all to turn towards her.

“Kids. We are ready to send you all back to your school. You will all take the fireplaces back; we prepared one at Hogwarts for you all to arrive from. Simply take the Floo powder and ask to be transported to the Hogwarts Medical Wing. Failure to comply will be punished, of course. Do you all understand?”

“What about students who can’t walk or speak clearly?” Sam asked, crouched near Ron, who still seemed out of it.

“They will go paired with students who can stand and speak.” The witch narrowed her eyes at Sam, with very little effect. “Any other questions?”

Danny looked around the group, then shrugged. “I think we’ve got it. Did you have an order or grouping in mind, or…?”

“Yes. We will call your names, and you will step forward to the indicated fireplaces. One of us will stand nearby with the powder.” Her eyes darted down to her clipboard, and she cleared her throat. “If that was all, we will be starting with Mr. Fenton and Miss Granger. Mr. Fenton, we can carry her to the fireplace, you will only need to support her for the transportation itself.”

“That’s… fine.” He glanced over to where one of the adults picked Hermione up. She was knocked out, limp like a rag. “Madam Pomfrey knows we’re coming, right?”

“Indeed. She will be ready to take her from you once you arrive.” The witch gestured at one of the empty fireplaces nearby, where the other wizard stood with Hermione. “The Ministry has taken all the necessary steps, Mr. Fenton.”

Danny barely bit down his sarcastic reply. Because sure they did, just like they were oh so prepared for Voldemort.

He stepped up to the fireplace, taking the Floo powder in one hand before wrapping an arm around Hermione’s shoulders. His enhanced strength allowed him to easily carry her, but he didn’t want to stand out too much. This way it wouldn’t be too suspicious.

Taking a deep steadying breath, he threw down the powder, yelled his destination, and stepped inside the flaring green fire.

Danny met Sam’s eyes from the other side of the room, briefly flashing his eyes green. She gave him a curt nod of understanding, not even blinking when he faded from sight.

He phased through the wall he’d been leaning against, shifting to his ghost form in the same moment. The classroom on the other side was empty of life.

It wasn’t empty of un-life, however. Clockwork hung there, patient as ever, surrounded by a small crowd of far less patient Observants.

“Sorry to keep you waiting. What’s up?” Danny asked, floating up to roughly eye-level.

“Earlier this year, you inquired about a magical… possession… affecting a young wizard,” one of the Observants said, voice halting around the word ‘possession’. “This inquiry, of course, was not aimed at us. Regardless, we have been involved, and are here to answer.”

Danny nodded. “That bad, huh?”

“There are no words for it, young halfling.” The second Observant spoke with clear distaste, but for once it didn’t seem aimed at Danny. “This type of magic is looked down upon even by mankind. It is foul and dark beyond words according to them. To us, it is worse.”

An involuntary whistle escaped from him. “That bad, huh?”

A third Observant picked up where the other two had left off. “The wizard responsible, Tom Riddle, also known as Voldemort, has cast a terrible spell. The link, which you asked about, was the side-effect of him misfiring this spell. When we looked into it, however…” The Observant fell silent, sharing a look with the other two.

“We discovered this wasn’t the only time he used the spell,” the first explained. “In total, he has used it seven times.”

“Okay?” Danny frowned, considering this. “So… what did it do, then, if it was so terrible? And can we undo the side-effect so it won’t affect Harry anymore?”

The Observants shifted, the movement strangely aggravated. “What it did,” the second Observant bit out, “was split his soul. It was designed by foolish wizards who were so frightened of death that they would rather risk a permanent existence in limbo than die.”

Danny felt his eyes grow wide. “Oh.”

“Indeed, young Phantom.” Clockwork’s smile was kind, but sad. “The spell leaves behind part of the caster’s soul in a receptacle, to protect it. Voldemort’s failed casting left that shard in Harry’s body, hence the link between them.”

“So can it be fixed? Without damaging Harry’s own soul?” Danny’s eyes darted between Clockwork and the Observants. “Or killing him?”

“If you would ask a wizard, they would tell you that this is impossible.” The Observant, the first that had spoken, straightened up under Danny’s gaze. “But of course, we are not wizards. They only know how to destroy these Horcruxes, which destroys the soul piece left inside. As you know, there are ways for us ghosts to remove souls layered over one another in one body, or to remove souls from non-living objects.”

“I can remove the shard like an overshadowing ghost?” Danny asked. “Just like that?”

The second Observant nodded. “Of course, you cannot allow these shards to stray. They will need to be captured and brought in, so we can assure that they are destroyed correctly. Without them, the husk of a man that is left will regain his mortality.”

“Right, of course.” Then Danny paused, running over this last bit again. “Sorry, the shards, as in, plural? I thought there was only one in Harry?”

“Well, yes.” The third Observant shifted, clearing their throat. “But these other Horcruxes cannot be left to their own devices. One has already been destroyed, and one is with your… friend… But five others remain, and this cannot be allowed.”

“And I need to be the one to collect them?” Danny frowned, looking over the Observants and then at Clockwork. “Isn’t there someone better?”

“You are not expected to do this alone, of course,” the Observant quickly spoke up, drawing Danny’s attention back to their group. “But these are Wizarding objects, hidden deep inside the Magical world. We cannot risk, of course, the exposure of our kind of ghosts. We have been told that you understand this, yes?”

Danny huffed out a deep sigh, then nodded. “Yeah, I get it. I’ve been trying to be careful about it too. Sure, I mean… Can’t leave those out there to do all kinds of damage, right?”

“You can wait until school lets out to find them. Research will tide you over until then.” Clockwork’s mystic smile twisted into something closer to a smirk. “I will provide you with a list of the items. It will be up to you to find their hiding places and how to get to them.”

“Great. Thanks, Clockwork.” Danny heaved out another sigh, then straightened up. “Wait, but I don’t have to wait, right? I can go take care of Harry’s Horcrux already, right?”

“As long as you have a way to capture the soul piece.” Clockwork folded his hands together, clearly knowing that Danny did. “You are free to go, young Phantom.”

“Alright, thanks!” Danny turned to the Observants, waving them goodbye too. “You guys, thank you too! I’ll take care of it.”

“Very good,” the first Observant said, neutrally. “We will see you when you have succeeded, then.”

Danny nodded, then tugged on his intangibility and sped towards the Ravenclaw Tower. Harry was in Dumbledore’s office, he was pretty sure, so going to his own room would be a huge detour. But Tucker, Danny knew, had a Thermos as well.

With an empty Fenton Thermos clenched in his gloved fist, Danny hovered outside Dumbledore’s room. He didn’t want to interrupt any conversation that might be happening, but… it seemed silent inside. His magic sense detected both wizards there, though, so…

He knocked, dropping his invisibility.

Silence for a moment longer. Then, hesitantly, Dumbledore called out, “Come in!”

Danny phased through the door, immediately spotting Dumbledore behind the desk, and Harry sitting in front of it.

“Sorry,” he said, raising his empty hand to his neck. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything?”

“That’s quite alright, Phantom,” Dumbledore assured him, looking somewhat intrigued at his presence. “How can I help you?”

“Ah, it’s… It’s not how you can help me, but how I can help you.” He grinned somewhat uncertainly, suddenly awkward. How are you supposed to tell a person that they’ve got a piece of someone’s soul in them, and that you need to remove it?

“Yes, I’ve understood that you helped us in the Ministry today.” Dumbledore folded his hands together, nodding slowly. “Your help was much appreciated, even if we hadn’t had a chance to ask your presence. I am sorry that you had to wait so long for so little, however.”

“Ah, it’s, uh, no trouble.” Danny continued to rub the back of his neck, his eyes slowly shifting from Dumbledore to Harry. “But I uh, discovered that there’s something else I can do? To help, I mean. With, uh, Voldemort.”

“Like what?” Harry frowned, clearly noticing Danny’s eyes on him. “What’s it got to do with me?”

Danny made a face, then landed so he stood next to the desk. “It’s, uh, related to the lessons we’ve been doing? Remember that I compared Legillimens to ghostly possession? Apparently the, uh, link Voldemort has with you was closer than I thought, back then.”

“How so?” Dumbledore asked, apparently willing to dismiss the admission that it was Phantom who had taught Harry instead of Snape to focus on the matter at hand. “And how have you discovered this?”

“Ah. I, uh, asked some of the other ghosts.” Danny fidgeted with the Thermos, feeling the slowly rising tension. “It seemed odd to me, the possession thing, since that’s not how Legillimency works. I just heard back from my, uh, contacts, I guess you could call them? And they told me how to fix it.”

He huffed. “Actually they kind of ordered me to fix it. Apparently the guy went and split his soul into seven parts and went and stuck it in a bunch of objects. So I gotta go and take care of those for the Observants.”

“Horcruxes?” Dumbledore’s voice was quiet, almost impossible even for Danny to hear. His eyes turned to Harry, then back to Danny. “And you are… sure?”

“Very. That’s why they asked me to deal with it. Us ghosts, we can remove the pieces like an overshadowing ghost. We don’t have to destroy the receptacle, like a wizard would.”

“Destroy?” Harry repeated, slowly. “As in… kill?”

“Well, the receptacles are generally kind of… supposed to be inanimate objects?” Danny shrugged, trying to keep the air somewhat light. “The intention is that as long as the receptacles are fine and still hold the soul pieces, the wizard they belong to can’t die. So picking something that can die just as easily as you kind of defeats the purpose.”

“So then why…”

“Apparently it was an accident?” Danny scratched his cheek, shooting Harry an apologetic look. “We can’t know without asking Voldemort, of course, but apparently the spell was a misfire, hence the link. But yeah, uh. You’re a Horcrux, apparently. Got a piece of Voldemort’s soul stuck in your head.”

Chapter Text

“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.”