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Weirdward

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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.

“Exactly.”

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.

And…

“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.

Almost.

“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?

“Danny!”

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…

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.