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.
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--”
“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.