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!