Toeing the Line: (by timydamonkey)
Disclaimer: I own neither Harry Potter nor Danny Phantom, and am purely writing this as a fan of both series.
Author's Note: Look, I exist! Yeah, guys, I'm sorry. I've had exams whose results count on me getting into uni, had to write a creative writing portfolio to even get considered by one of them (I'm taking English and Creative Writing) and have come back with two conditional offers out of three (one being the one I required the portfolio for), of which I am proud.
My issue with this fic, if I can be blunt, is this: I have not seen Danny Phantom since I started writing this story, and this chapter is very Danny-centric. I try and pride myself on decent characterisation, and when things like this happen it becomes harder to characterise. It doesn't help that in this fic, Harry's narrative has a tendency to slip into dry humour. But I figure a chapter I consider sub-par is better than no chapter at all... and this sets up some of the things to come.
Because I forgot to say it earlier... There is a space of a week between chapters one and two. Even the Wizarding World can have slow mail, sometimes. :P
Can you spot what Danny, Sam and Tucker have forgotten later in this chapter?
They were leaving.
Hedwig had returned with a letter from Ron and Hermione. Apparently the Order were debating over his fate and how safe it'd be, but they'd supposedly been appeased by a suggestion from Hermione. It felt good that he wouldn't have to argue it out with them – he had to admit, he would like to see the outside of the UK, and he didn't have the energy for reasoning.
He knew Dumbledore couldn't keep his family from going, anyway, and while Harry knew little about wards, he suspected the ones Dumbledore had described wouldn't work as they should do were his relatives not around with him – or at least not in the country.
It was a bit depressing, feeling like he was chained to his relatives, but he could live through it. He'd been through worse, after all. If he could live through more than a decade of Voldemort trying to kill him, he could survive a summer holiday that would only last a few weeks. It'd be fine. Really.
Danny was hiding on the roof of the Op Centre, hoping nobody would see him. As odd as it sounded, there was actually a perfectly rational explanation. Danny felt this was best summed up as 'and I got out of bed the wrong side this morning', but, as Sam demanded through the Fenton Phones which seemed to be his constant companion these days, that was not a good enough explanation considering everything.
"Yeah, dude," Tucker said, "I'm sort of expecting you to say there are a heck of a lot of ghosts around and they've learned how to merge into some sort of super ghost."
There was a long pause. "It's nothing that bad," assured Danny, "or at least I hope that won't happen. I was just having a little… flashback… to the time the town became filled with ghost hunters trying to capture me."
"…Do I really wanna hear this?" asked Tucker, but nobody deigned to give him an answer.
"Flashbacking wouldn't explain why you've just said you're hiding on a roof," pointed out Sam, and then paused for a minute. "Wait. Maybe it would. Why were you flashbacking?"
Danny sighed. His friends always knew how to ask the right – or wrong, depending on how you looked at it – questions.
"Well," Danny started, "It was like this…"
When Danny had woken up, he hadn't had the impression it would be particularly different than any other day. Due to his parents deciding to go lab-hijacking the previous night, he'd been unable to release the ghosts from the thermos into the Ghost Zone, and he knew he needed to go and do it. Sighing, he grabbed the container and, going ghost, dropped through the floors and into the basement.
Almost immediately, he flew back up through the ceiling. "What the…!" His voice was a strangled yelp. Unfortunately, his mother heard, but she seemed to recognise it as him rather than the 'ghost boy'. She called up the stairs for him, and he flew back up so he could go down the stairs the normal route.
He was glad to see his mother, anyway. She had some explaining to do, and he figured she would make more sense – and need less bribing – than his father.
Entering the kitchen, Danny decided to go for the more direct approach. "Mom? Why are there people in the lab?"
Blinking, his mother asked, "How did you know that?"
Danny felt a sudden need to kick himself. He'd almost forgotten it wasn't a valid excuse to have floated through the ceiling and saw people poking around volatile equipment. It had made him incredibly nervous, too, given the record his parents' inventions had for zoning onto him. He was beginning to run out of excuses, and felt lousy when his parents were dejected that they 'didn't work' when really they were working almost too well…
"I… saw one of them by the door!" he said, vaguely recalling one of them had been somewhere in the vicinity of there. "I thought you didn't like letting people down there?"
His father, who was looking rather miserable, said, "They don't like our portal. Cutting-edge technology, an entrance to another world and they don't like it." He sounded highly offended at the thought that there could be people who didn't find this wonderful. Still, he had put a lot of work into it…
"Why wouldn't they like it?" Danny asked, curious. If they were scientists, he'd have thought they'd be delighted… and why would anybody else be in his parents house anyway?
"There are various agencies that track ghost sightings, Danny. There are a lot in Amity Park and, well, we are the resident ghost experts!"
His father didn't appear to be listening to his mother, as he didn't seem to realise she was talking when he said, "They said they come from here. From the portal! The portal is only open when we're down there, and I'd notice if there were ghosts!"
Danny shifted slightly, well aware that he was guilty of opening the portal on more than a few occasions, and that he was responsible for a fair few ghost appearances… although he tended to solve them, too, so that surely absolved him from blame?
"They only want to examine the portal, Jack," Maddie said wearily.
"And dismantle it if it doesn't meet quality assurance! Well, I assure them, it's quality; we built it ourselves, right, Maddie?"
"Of course, Jack, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll think it's all that useful…"
Danny stopped listening to his parents' argument and got himself a bowl of cereal, thinking about the new development. Now he was stuck with a ghost in the thermos he couldn't empty, unable to get into the lab, and more than aware that he was a homing beacon to far too many devices in the room below. It wasn't a good feeling.
Suddenly, there was a slight whirring noise and a thud from underneath where he was sitting. The floor shook slightly, and the noise continued persistently, sounding as if was trying to break through the floor. A voice from downstairs yelled, alarmed, "The boomerang's got a life of its own!" Danny choked on his cornflakes and lapsed into a coughing fit.
Meanwhile, a voice from downstairs replied with, "Probably a ghost in its own right!" Jack scowled, looking like he was considering going down to the basement and making the people down there suffer with one of his ghost equipment lectures, which made Danny all the more eager to leave.
"I've got to go meet Sam and Tucker," he managed to choke out, before turning and fleeing from the room.
"…And then I thought it was like being hunted with Vlad's ghost hunters all over again, what with the machines going crazy and trying to catch me, and, oh yeah, weird people in my house watching the portal. And I decided that even my dad's equipment wasn't crazy enough to take on the Op Centre, and here I am."
Danny paused to get his breath back, and the pause became thoughtful.
"Well… maybe they have a point," offered Tucker, and even without being there could interpret Danny's silence as one of incredulity. "Hey, listen – without the portal, the ghosts wouldn't be able to get into town, right? Then you wouldn't have any more issues."
"One small problem, Tuck, what about me? I don't live in the Ghost Zone, so how does that explain my presence? Or Danny Phantom's presence, I guess?"
"Tucker has a point," Sam conceded. "I mean, there'd be no need for Danny Phantom – unless you wanted to, I suppose – if there were no ghosts to fight. So you wouldn't have to be in plain view, and…"
She trailed off. Danny shook his head. "It just… it sounds too neat. If it happens, something's going to go horribly wrong… I'm sure there's something we're missing here, but I can't quite put my finger on what it is…"
"When did you become the pessimist of this group?" question Sam. "Seriously, Danny… I never thought I'd say this, so you better thank me later, but sometimes you have to take the good as it comes." If this sounded like a suspiciously cheerful piece of advice coming from Sam, it was rebutted somewhat by her replying, "In fact, don't thank me, I'll just strike this moment from my brain, and let's never speak of this again."
Danny grinned slightly. "What moment?"
"Thank you," she replied.
"I know it'd upset your parents, man," said Tucker. "But you know them, they'd just figure out a way to build a new improved portal or something, and until then, the ghosts would be stuck. It'd be inconvenient for them to get here, and…" Here there was a pause, before Tucker burst out with, "…it's the only registered working ghost portal in the world."
"How do you even find out these things?" Danny asked. "I thought Sam was the one with the contacts…"
"I didn't devote my life to technology for nothing, you know," Tucker said, sounding disturbingly serious.
"Anyway, you two are getting ahead of yourselves," Sam said. "They might consider it to be okay and leave the portal alone."
"Sam, you haven't seen these guys. I think they were trying to accuse my dad of disguising ghosts as equipment or something…"
"Was Technus hiding in the lab again?"
"I think he's still in the Ghost Zone…" Danny certainly hoped he was, anyway. "It sounded like it was just everything being normal... I mean, this morning, I'm pretty sure the Fenton boooomerang was latching onto me; that's what it's supposed to do, after all…"
"And seeing as nobody can see a ghost around… I get the point. But you can't stay up there forever, Danny. When are you planning on staying there until?"
Danny grinned sheepishly. "…I didn't actually think that far ahead."
A sound suspiciously like laughter emitted from the earphones.
Harry Potter did not like aeroplanes – or so he decided several hours into a flight to the US. He thought they were boring, overly long, and there was nothing to do. Not to mention, he didn't like the feeling of not being able to control the plane, especially given how much he enjoyed broomstick riding – he figured some Wronski Feints or even good old-fashioned loop-the-loops would at least relieve some of the monotony.
He glanced at his watch. Four hours before they were due to arrive.
The aircraft was thankfully small in comparison to the airport, however, which had not only been busy but filled with shops. The Dursleys had thankfully avoided them – Harry had never been a fan of shopping, especially for Muggle commodities – probably due to the fact that Harry was with them, but he didn't really mind.
He was beginning to regret it, now – maybe he could have distracted himself with a book. It would have even been a great time to do his schoolwork, but the Dursleys seemed to go a bit faint upon seeing anything associated with Hogwarts in the house, let alone in public. He figured if he did try it, they'd probably pass out from horror (Aunt Petunia) or rage (Uncle Vernon) or a mix (Dudley). As tempting as it may have seemed, he supposed it would look a bit suspicious.
At least flying had made sure he didn't have a fear of heights, thus he stared out of the window. He supposed it was quite interesting to be above the clouds, somewhere even he wasn't crazy enough to attempt to get to on his Firebolt… After an hour of seeming them, though, the experience was starting to wear thin.
Harry stole another glance at his watch. Three hours fifty seven minutes to go.
It was going to be a long journey.
Author's Note: Again, can you spot what Danny and co. have completely forgotten about? And, from the prologue, you know that whatever happens, ghosts are still around...
Reviews are very much welcome, and I'll take this opportunity to thank all my reviewers, and my readers too - you're all amazing.