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.”