Time doesn't exist. It's merely a figment of our imagination...
Is that convincing anyone? Bueller?
Yeah, so I'm sorry this took so long. I was having severe writers block with one particular scene, and coupled with the exhaustion of work, my motivation was running low. But yeah, hey, I have a job now! So that's exciting :) I love it, but it comes with a lot of hours and sometimes some late nights, so writing time has to compete with that.
I stand by that I have the full intention of continuing and completing this fic, and if that ever changes, I will be sure to let you all know.
Last time: Harry was cleared of his charges (shocker), and Danny and Harry try to learn to deal with each other.
Though Danny had finished his fourth year readings, he was still a bit behind on his spellwork, which is why he found himself in the study that night with Sirius and Remus working on hex-deflection.
"Keep your opposite palm steady," Remus instructed. "I know it goes against natural motion, but that's part of the strength of the spell. When you palm drifts in and downward, you're weakening the protection."
"Channel your inner mime," Sirius added with a smirk.
"I thought nonverbal spells were sixth year?" Danny threw back, but nonetheless he held up his left hand, palm facing outward. He raised his wand and said, "Salvio hexia," while moving his wand down below his outstretched hand in a diagonal motion. A distorted haze followed the wake of the wand.
"Well done, Danny!" Remus praised. "Ready to try blocking a spell?"
"As long as it doesn't result in bats flying out of my nose," Danny said warily. Danny had heard from George that Ginny was highly proficient in the Bat Bogey Hex, and he was not in a hurry to be on the receiving end of that.
Sirius laughed, "No, I think we have enough unwanted living creatures in here, let's keep the bats to a minimum."
"We should probably avoid any hexes that will require a wait between attempts," Remus suggested.
"So Mutatio Skullus is out," Sirius grinned.
"Yeah, no thanks," Danny agreed quickly. He grew extra heads enough as it was whenever he tried to overexert himself when cloning.
"Let's try the Stickfast Hex," Remus decided. "That's nothing a Finite can't fix quickly. Ready, Danny?"
Danny nodded, raising his arms. "Salvio hexia," he said, and as he casted the spell, he noticed a little belatedly that his opposite hand had drifted again. He tried to reposition the hand just as Remus casted his hex.
Danny dropped his arms, having completed his spell. He looked around him and didn't notice anything wrong with his body. "Did it work?" he asked.
"Take one step back," Sirius instructed, but as Danny went to do so, he found that his shoes were stuck to the floor. He was unable to catch himself in time and he ended up falling backwards, his wand flying out of his hand as he used both of them to catch himself.
Danny scowled when Sirius began laughing. "You're hilarious," Danny intoned as Remus cast Finite on his feet, a barely concealed smile on his own face. Immediately the soles of his shoes popped up and Danny quickly pushed himself back to his feet.
"Sorry, couldn't resist," Sirius grinned, retrieving Danny's wand for him. "You know why that happened though, right?" he added, moving back into instructor mode.
"Yeah, my hand drifted again," Danny said, making a mental note to pay more attention to it.
"Think of it this way," Remus said. "The placement of your hand is the base for the protection. So if you move your hand before you finish applying it, it won't apply evenly and correctly, and you'll be left with holes in your defense."
"Got it," Danny nodded.
After a few more attempts, Danny got the hang of keeping his hand immobile, and he was able to avoid having his feet stuck to the floor. Sirius suggested that that would be a good place to stop for the night and he decided to delve into another topic.
"If you don't mind me asking," he started, "why don't you want to go to Hogwarts?"
Danny's mouth twisted as he thought over the question. "A few reasons, I guess."
"I hope it's not because of Harry, because despite the awkward footing you're on right now, that's not going to last forever," Remus reminded him gently.
"I know," Danny acknowledged. He let out a long sigh. "Jazz pointed out that I've been a little homesick this summer, and I can only imagine that would get worse if I was gone for the whole year. It's better now that I have my phone to stay in touch with my friends, but it's still weird."
"Well, I can't tell you I know what you're going through," Sirius said, a tad bitterly. "For me, Hogwarts was my home, and coming here for the holidays was nothing short of awful. But being here made me homesick for Hogwarts, so I guess there's a little carry over there."
"It's not just that though," Danny said. "I mean, this is Jazz's last year before she goes off to college, and she's dead set on Princeton, so she'll be pretty far most of the time. And I have," Danny paused, looking for something to explain his ghost activities, " responsibilities back home. I'm already kinda slacking off on those this summer," he added guiltily, rubbing the back of his head.
"Please tell me you're not turning down magic school for chores," Sirius drawled mockingly, and Danny had to smile at the comparison.
"Uh, they're a tad more intensive than chores, but yeah. And I'm actually kinda looking forward to sophomore year of high school," Danny said. "I've been waiting for Chemistry for a while."
"Ah, c'mon, we've got Potions, that's close enough," Sirius said before pausing. "Blimey, I just promoted Snivellus's class. Remus, I'm ill."
"Danny, I hope you don't mind me saying this, but it sounds to me that you're trying to convince yourself," Remus said carefully, ignoring Sirius's comment.
Danny frowned. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I'd love to learn more magic stuff, I've really liked everything so far. I just..." Danny paused. Once again, Jazz's words floated to the front of his mind. 'I'm just saying, you shouldn't let the ghost problem be the only thing that stops you.' Maybe Remus was right, and he was just making excuses to convince himself that going to Hogwarts wasn't what he wanted. But the fact remained that he was the leading line of defense for Amity Park, and he would feel beyond guilty if he wasn't there and something awful happened. Like another invasion. "I'm having a really hard time picturing how things would go back home if I wasn't there," Danny said finally. "And I don't know how I'd react to being away from home for that long.
Both Remus and Sirius nodded at his response. "Danny, I hope you know we're not trying to force you into a decision," Sirius said, raising a hand to clap Danny on the shoulder. "We just want to make sure you're deciding for yourself and not for whatever outside factors may be influencing your choice."
Feeling conflicted, Danny nodded before leaving for his room. He hoped Jazz wasn't busy because he had a lot of thoughts to sort out.
'You already know what I'm going to say but I'm going to say it anyway. Don't let the ghost problem affect your decision. You deserve to decide based on what you want to do, not based on whatever you think is holding you back.'
'It's kinda hard to ignore the ghosts, though,' Danny wrote back glumly. 'Ghost activity is only gonna increase once it gets colder.'
'It's not that big of a difference, let's be real.'
'Sure, you don't notice because I'm up at 3 in the morning taking care of the problem.'
'Fine, easy fix, lock down the Fenton Portal during the night. Automatic shutdown. I'm sure Tucker could program it, but maybe Mom could do it too, I could just let slip that I don't feel safe at night when a ghost could come out and attack me.'
Danny snorted. 'I don't know if that would work completely, but that would probably stem the flow a bit.'
'Progress! But seriously, it hasn't even been that bad recently. We've been handling what does come through pretty easily. If you don't believe me, ask Sam and Tucker, they'll say the same thing.'
'It helps that half the load has followed me out here,' Danny responded. He was still nursing a sore shoulder from the night before after a nasty collision with a dumpster. Thank you, Technus. Now that he thought about it, that might have been why his hand kept drifting during his lesson.
'Well, the same will hold true if you go to Hogwarts, right?'
'And we haven't needed to call Frostbite for help yet, so he's always an option if things get out of hand.'
'Fair enough. Okay, I won't let the ghosts decide for me.'
'So you're going, aren't you?'
'I didn't say that!'
'You've been pushing the ghost issue so much it was almost as though you were trying to convince yourself going to Hogwarts was a bad idea. Now that you don't have that to fall back on, it's kinda an easy choice, right?'
Danny frowned, leaning away from his desk. He glanced over at Harry and Ron, who were bent over Charms books working on their summer assignments. Sure, he'd enjoy Chemistry class, and he'd definitely miss his friends and family, but he'd proven this summer that he could get by being away from home, and one class wasn't keeping him from attending magic school. He had been putting a lot of focus on Amity's ghost problem. For so long, being Danny Phantom and dealing with those responsibilities had been a part of him he hadn't been able to skirt. This summer had been a rare reprieve from such responsibilities, and while he enjoyed it, he felt guilty for ignoring his duty to Amity Park.
In his silence, Jazz had continued writing. 'Remember that this exact same issue is going to come up when you go off to college. Now is a good time to try it out and see how the year goes. And again, you've got Sam, Tucker, me, Valerie, Mom, and Dad to deal with the ghosts. That's a lot better than a few years from now when it's just gonna be Mom and Dad.'
'That is totally not reassuring if you're trying to give me a college pitch,' Danny joked, but he realized Jazz had a good point. A one year trial run would be a good way to prepare for college.
'I'm biding my time ;P' Jazz returned. 'By the way, I think I have an answer for your deadly disease problem.'
'And you criticize me for bad subject changes.'
'Har har. I've been doing some research, and I think your best bet is to claim you have an aneurysm.'
Danny cocked an eyebrow at his journal. 'An aneurysm? You mean something that old people get when they're stressed?'
'I think you're thinking of an ulcer, and no. Kids can get aneurysms too, it's just a lot rarer. Or at least, it doesn't usually get diagnosed. Usually, people go to the hospital for other ailments, and an aneurysm will be spotted while they're looking for other things. You can easily claim something like this because of the amount of tests you had to have run after the portal accident. If anyone really wanted to dig into it, you'd have hospital visits on file, but the actual content would be classified. Pros of doctor/patient confidentiality.'
'Okay, so the background works. But what about the actual aneurysm, what does that mean?'
'Basically, an aneurysm is a distended blood vessel. Like a bulge or pocket that's formed on the vessel wall. The size and location of the aneurysm determines how much of a threat it is. Like, a 2mm aneurysm in your arm really isn't a big deal, versus a 6mm aneurysm near your eye which would be super unpleasant. Having the aneurysm isn't really a big deal, it doesn't affect you much. The danger comes when an aneurysm bursts. So again, your arm would be treatable, but your eye may result in vision loss.'
'And I'm assuming you have a plan on where my 'aneurysm' is?'
'Dr. Jazz is diagnosing you with a pediatric brain aneurysm. It's an 8mm fusiform aneurysm at the base of the basilar artery, and a rupture results in a 50% chance of death.'
'That's morbid, Doctor.'
'Well, if you're gonna be half dead, it's gotta be dramatic ;)'
Danny couldn't argue much with that logic. 'Fair. Okay, so what does half of that mean? Fusiform? And where's the basilar artery?'
'There are three types of aneurysms: saccular, fusiform, and dissecting. A saccular aneurysm is basically a bulge or sack that forms on one side of the blood vessel wall. It's easily treated because you can just remove the sack and seal up that side of the vessel wall. A dissecting aneurysm is similar, but rather than bulging the vessel wall itself, blood gets in between the vessel wall layers. These are the most likely to rupture, but again, since it's only on one side of the vessel wall, it's easier to treat with surgery. Fusiform aneurysms bulge the entire vessel wall in one location. Like the balloons you use to make a balloon animal.'
'And where's the basilar artery?'
'Pretty much through the center of your brain.'
'So, what's the deal with treatment? Does it just stay there or am I supposed to be on medication?'
'Nope. That's another reason I decided on aneurysms. There's really no treatment for them, you're just supposed to avoid being overly stressed.'
Danny snorted loudly, drawing vaguely interested looks from Harry and Ron, but ultimately their summer work demanded more of their attention.
'Ha. Ha. Ha.'
'Yeah, I know, luckily you don't actually have one. Technically, the only treatment is surgery, but the location of yours makes it inoperable, so you just have a waiting game on your hands with nothing you can do about it. So you don't have to change your lifestyle at all to fit the lie.'
'And that would be why I'm bordering life and death without actively dying.'
Danny leaned back in his chair, mulling the 'diagnosis' over. This could work. It was probably their best bet as far as faking an illness was concerned as it required minimal follow up, and like Jazz said, there'd be no issue with lifestyle changes. No medication, no hospital visits (well, maybe one or two that could be easily faked), no medical alert bracelets or anything; this could work.
'Well, Dr. Jazz, I'm impressed. If psychology doesn't work out, fake diagnosis would be a great fallback.'
'Not to mention illegal.'
'I'm gonna look up some material for symptoms of a burst aneurysm and send that over to you, so when you inevitably have to fess up, you can give them an accurate list of things to "look for" in the event of a burst aneurysm. It will look bad if you don't know the warning signs of your own illness.'
'It's not even an illness, it's basically a...' Danny paused, unsure of how to categorize it. It didn't sound like a disease at all, it just sounded like a...hell, he couldn't think of anything.
'An internal wound?'
Bingo! 'Yeah, close enough. I mean, it's not like it's gonna spread, right?'
'No. They grow in size sometimes, but they don't spread in location. Not like a tumor would.'
'Okay, this will work. You're a lifesaver, Jazz.'
'More like I'm spelling out your fake demise ;P'
'You know what I mean!'
'Yes, I do, little brother.'
"Okay, I'll go," Danny said abruptly during dinner the next day.
Conversation ceased around him, and Danny quickly regretted making such an outburst. He hadn't meant to really, he just wanted to make the decision known before he changed his mind.
"Oh Danny, that's wonderful!" Mrs. Weasley said after a beat of silence. "Here, I'll go grab your letter—" she said before rushing off from the table. Danny was glad she seemed to have already finished her meal.
"What changed your mind?" Sirius asked, a hint of smugness in his gaze as if he knew all along what Danny would decide.
Danny shrugged. "I talked it over with my sister, and she brought up some really great counterpoints to the problems I had with going, and...well, it worked out."
"You're gonna love it, Danny," Ginny said earnestly.
"Yeah, if you got through four years over the summer, you're gonna breeze through classes," Fred winked, seemingly noticing that he'd successfully riled up Hermione with his comment.
"I really doubt that," Danny said hastily. "I just had to read the textbooks this summer, I'll have assignments at school, those'll take a lot longer to work on."
"They sure will," Hermione mumbled with crossed arms, and Danny shared an almost grin with Fred (who had no quarrels hiding his own).
"You've talked to your sister about this, but do your parents know?" Mr. Weasley asked.
Whoops. "Uh, not yet," Danny said guiltily as Mrs. Weasley bustled back into the room. "I was gonna call them tonight when the timing was better for them," he fibbed lightly. He was definitely going to call them, but he hadn't actually thought out the reasoning for waiting until that moment.
"Here you are, dear," Mrs. Weasley said, handing him the letter.
The table was all watching him expectantly, and Danny huffed a bit. "You can all go back to eating you know," Danny said lightly. "I'm sure the letter says the exact same thing yours all said." Gently chastised, the group slowly returned to what was left of their meals and Danny thumbed open the letter.
Dear Mr. Potter,
We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Please find enclosed a list of all necessary equipment. A booklist will be sent to you at a later date. Term begins on September 1. We await your owl no later than August 17.
"Wait, that's today!" Danny said, looking at Sirius in confusion. "Did I really have until today to decide?"
"Technically they look for responses by the end of July," Sirius explained, "but since you didn't even get your invitation until later, the date is probably different. I wouldn't be surprised if the date is spelled to change to whenever the letter is opened."
"And it says I'll get my booklist at a later date," Danny said, reading from the letter.
"Well, none of us have gotten our booklists," Ron said, carrots just barely swallowed as he spoke. "It's actually quite late, we usually have them by now."
"I bet they're having trouble filling the Defense post," George said. "They won't be able to send out lists until the professor decides on their textbook, and if there's no professor to decide yet—"
"I'm sure Dumbledore will have it all sorted out," Mrs. Weasley said placatingly, seemingly trying to stop their speculations.
Danny almost asked what happened to the last Defense professor before he remembered the events of the past year, and how a Death Eater had been impersonating Moody the whole time.
"I wonder what house Danny'll be in," Fred said idly, taking his mother's unspoken advice to move on in the conversation. "My money's on Ravenclaw."
"Put me down for Hufflepuff," George chimed in. "He's got the hardworking part down—"
"Or he's just crazy smart to bull through his schoolwork—"
"Definitely a Gryffindor," Ginny interrupted. "He—"
Danny let the table dissolve into discussion about his potential house, stealing a glance towards Harry. Danny wondered what would be worse for their relationship: ending up in Slytherin or in Gryffindor. On the one hand, he'd constantly be at odds with the whole house, and he wondered how that would affect his relationship with the Weasleys, Hermione, and Harry. On the other hand, being in Gryffindor may feel like he's stepping on Harry's toes all year. He'd have to wait and see.
"Wait, so you're actually staying?"
Danny rolled his eyes as he drifted in the London sky. This was the third time Tucker had asked, as if he was expecting Danny to say 'Psych!' if he kept it up.
His phone call to his parents (and Jazz, who already knew) had gone much smoother than he expected, almost as if his mom had known he'd be going to Hogwarts for the year all along. Danny wondered if Dumbledore had brought it up to her when the invitation was being formally extended, or if she just had a feeling ever since he left. Regardless of her prior knowledge, both his mother and father had been very supportive of his choice to attend Hogwarts.
Sam and Tucker on the other hand, while not unsupportive, they weren't as willing to move on from the conversation. And they had a good reason. From their point of view, it looked like Danny was just going to a plain boarding school in Europe to stay with his brother, and being honest, Danny would've been on their side with that argument. From what they'd heard from Danny so far, his relationship with Harry was nowhere near good enough to warrant staying with him for a year, and they were having a hard time seeing Danny's justification for staying.
Unfortunately, the main justification was that he would be studying magic for a year, and that wasn't a reason he could give Sam and Tucker.
So all in all, they were rightfully suspicious.
"Yes, Tucker, I'm staying," Danny answered again, looping through the London Eye to vent some frustration.
"I just don't get it though, I thought you and Harry hated each other," Tucker continued.
"We don't hate each other, we just don't see eye to eye all the time," Danny explained. "And we're getting better, he hasn't glared at me all week."
"Wow, what an improvement," Sam's sardonic tone filtered across the line.
"So our relationship isn't the best, so what?" Danny shrugged. "Maybe that's all the more reason to stay. If I left now while we're on the rocks, we might never recover from that and we'd never talk to each other again."
"Tissue paper," Sam replied shortly. She was right, it was a flimsy excuse, and they all knew it.
"Look, he's my brother, okay?" Danny snapped, a little more harshly than he intended. "You guys are both only children, you don't get it. Now that I know he exists, I don't think I could stand to leave him alone. You guys don't know what he's been through, it's not just that I'd feel weird leaving him, but I don't want to be just another family member who abandoned him again." Wow, he was really laying it on thick.
"Okay, okay, we get it," Tucker said placatingly. Yup, definitely might've pushed it a bit too hard.
"You know that's not on you, right?" Sam said, exasperation clear in her voice. "Whatever's happened to him isn't your fault, and you're allowed to think for yourself."
If only Sam knew that that had been the exact struggle he'd gone through to decide to stay abroad.
"If I leave now, it will be on me," Danny said firmly, sticking with this story now that he'd committed to it.
"Alright," Sam sighed finally. "I can see you're not gonna budge on this. You and your hero complex," she added fondly.
Danny rolled his eyes with a smile now. He did not have a hero complex—okay, maybe.
"Well as long as you keep in contact with us, it won't be too bad," Tucker allowed. "The phone's been working great so far, and you could probably use computer labs for video chat and some Doomed sessions—"
"I...don't think they'll have any computer labs," Danny said.
"What kind of school are you going to that doesn't have computer labs?!" Poor Tucker sounded distraught at the idea.
"A poorly funded one? I dunno," Danny shrugged nervously. "It's kinda in the middle of nowhere, they probably don't run internet lines out that far."
"Will the phone be fine then? Cell towers?" Tucker asked, sounding almost hysterical.
"The phone should work fine," Danny chuckled placatingly. If it had worked so far, it should theoretically work at Hogwarts too.
"How about a mailing address so we can send you stuff?" Sam asked. "Your parents worked out alright for your birthday present, but what if we need to send you ghost supplies?" Uhhhhhhh... "If what you say is true, the ghost problem on your end is gonna get worse too."
"Right, uhh...you know, I'm not really sure what the address is," Danny said, racking his brain to come up with excuses.
"No problem, give me the name of the school, I'll look it up," Tucker offered. Shit. "They should at least have a website, right?"
"I...it's private?" Danny tried.
"Private schools have websites too, Danny," Sam mocked lightly.
"Yeah, but this one...it's...isolated. Like, private as in they don't like being talked about," Danny tried. That was the truth, kinda. "Look, I'm pretty sure they said there's a post office by the school—"
"How do they keep enrollment up if they don't talk about it?" Sam asked incredulously.
"It's pretty family oriented," Danny said, trying to build a solid reason to keep the school secret. Where was Jazz when he needed her? "Harry and my parents both went there, our dad's parents went there—"
"Not your mom's?"
Damn it. "No, she was a...special case. She got...recruited or something." Nice, that's kinda true...
"That's weird, dude," Tucker said blatantly. "You sure you're not going off to a secret government spy school or something?"
"It wouldn't be in Europe, Tuck," Danny laughed, glad the conversation had taken a humorous turn.
"Hey, international cooperation and all, you never know—"
"I'm not gonna be a spy," Danny said, still laughing a bit. "You really think I'd get involved with any secret government agencies with the Guys in White on my ecto-tail?"
"Okay, yeah, that's true," Tucker said, sounding almost sad that his spy theory didn't pan out.
"Danny would be a terrible spy anyway," Sam joked.
"Rude! Heh, probably true though," Danny agreed after a thought.
The rest of their conversation revolved around ghost updates, both from Amity and London, Doomed updates, Amity gossip, parental woes (mostly from Sam), and Danny shared some of the more hilarious cleaning stories, censored to be muggle-friendly. Danny could tell they were still a bit sour at his decision to remain in Europe for the school year, but luckily they had let the secretive topic drop.
For the first time, Danny really let it hit him that he'd be attending a magic school for the next year. He couldn't wipe the grin off his face for the rest of the night.
The next couple weeks passed in a bit of a blur. After making his decision to attend Hogwarts final, Danny met with Professor McGonagall to discuss what elective classes he wanted to enroll in. Deciding to stick with the subjects Hermione had lent him, and they were definitely interesting to Danny anyway, he chose Ancient Runes, Care of Magical Creatures, and Divination for his electives. McGonagall seemed pleased that he had opted to take an extra class beyond the required two.
McGonagall also let him know that he'd be exempt from summer assignments, much to the other kids' chagrin. According to McGonagall, he'd be considered a transfer student moving from homeschooling, thus he wouldn't have been expected to complete work assigned to students wrapping up the year at Hogwarts. This reminded Danny that he hadn't done any of his Casper High summer work, so it really worked out that he wouldn't been returning for the year.
Cleaning continued steadily, and it almost seemed as though they'd have the house relatively livable by the time the school term started. There'd been a couple more instances of the house fighting back with various pests and magical items, but nothing too extreme. Danny had needed Remus to change his hand back from turning blue at one point, and Mrs. Weasley had rescued Ginny's hair from an unwanted haircut, but otherwise everyone was fine.
One thing Danny had noticed was Sirius's mood had taken a turn for the worse. His fourth year spellwork had finally been completed, and ever since then, Danny would almost say that Sirius had been moping. He spent a large amount of his time with Buckbeak, and during meal times he'd hardly said a word.
Danny was worried. It was clear that Sirius was starting to feel some premature loneliness. He already had a fairly severe case of cabin fever, but at least there had been people in the house at all times, namely the kids with whom there was never a dull moment. With the kids going to school, Sirius would be alone barring the constant traffic from the Order, but that was hardly a stable sense of company. Maybe he'd have to borrow a school owl to keep in contact with him, or maybe Harry would let him borrow Hedwig...or maybe he'd just stick with the school owl.
On the very last day of the summer break (Danny still couldn't believe he'd be attending magic school tomorrow), Danny and Harry found themselves cleaning their room and packing. Ron was helping his mother with something as Harry cleaned owl droppings off the top of the wardrobe and Danny cleaned ink smudges off his work desk from Hermione-imposed quill-writing lessons. He was getting better...not that he'd had a high bar to beat.
Danny decided this would be a great time to try and start a conversation.
Or at least, there were certainly far worse times to try and start a conversation.
"What's it like?" Danny blurted before he could lose his nerve.
Harry didn't even pause in his scrubbing. "Gross. She hasn't even been here a month—"
"No, I meant—" Danny flushed; he could almost hear Tucker snickering at him. He hadn't exactly been specific, what else would Harry have thought he meant? "How do you go from living as a muggle to attending magic school?"
Harry paused in his motions but didn't respond, nor did he turn to face Danny.
Danny decided to press on, "I mean, you grew up without magic and then one day you're at a school in the middle of nowhere learning how to levitate things and it...I dunno, it just seems so sudden. It doesn't sound like there's any kind of transition for people entering the Wizarding World for the first time." Danny knew he was babbling at this point, but Harry had yet to say anything to stop him. "It's like throwing someone without any prior knowledge of the Spanish language into an advanced class with people who've been living in Spain their whole lives and expecting them to just...figure it out."
Harry still wasn't looking at him, but Danny noticed that his face had taken on a heavy pondering look. "You're not wrong," Harry said finally. "There really isn't any type of support system for muggleborns. In my case, Hagrid just sorta showed up and whisked me away to shop for my school supplies. And then I got dropped off at Kings Cross on the first with no idea how to actually get onto the right platform. You try asking a conductor where Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters is and see what they tell you," Harry said wryly, and was that—was Harry grinning at him?
"So I'm assuming they didn't help you find the platform," Danny said, returning the grin.
Harry snorted, returning to the owl droppings. "I'd still be stuck there if Mrs. Weasley hadn't come along."
Danny found he had no trouble visualizing Mrs. Weasley spotting a lost eleven year old in a crowded train station and immediately mother-henning them.
"Hogwarts was— is —my home away from home," Harry said after a moment. "I never really found the transition from muggle to wizard life difficult because everything was just so new and... better. I just ended up embracing it as a new part of me and moved on. Ron and Hermione helped a lot. Ron had the benefit of growing up with it and Hermione was learning everything just like I was, and she's a sponge for knowledge. You've already been learning magic the past month, right?"
Danny merely nodded, unwilling to say anything else about his time at Grimmauld Place lest he ruin the rare companionable atmosphere he was currently enjoying with his brother.
"Going to Hogwarts as a school won't be much different than that," Harry said, stepping down from his bed and tossing his soiled rag into the trash bin behind Danny; the bin swallowed it and belched loudly. "Ultimately, you're taking classes like you would at a muggle school, but the subjects are different. Everything else is just...magic." Harry shrugged helplessly, seemingly unable to explain beyond that. "It'll feel surreal at first, but eventually it just becomes a part of your life and it's not weird anymore. Well," Harry grinned again, "magic can be inherently weird."
"I'm already very used to 'weird' being a normal part of my day," Danny said, not for the first time thinking he'd simply be trading paranormal weirdness for magical. "I don't see that being a problem."
Before Harry could respond, Ron entered the room carrying a stack of envelopes. Danny recognized them as the same stationary his invitation letter had been in.
"Booklists have arrived," Ron said, throwing one of the envelopes over to Harry, and handing another to Danny. "About time, I thought they'd forgotten, they usually come much earlier than this..."
Danny looked over the letter; it had the same font and address as the first (this time addressed to the second floor bedroom), but this time contained only his supply list. He noticed his list was substantially longer than Harry's and Ron's, but he quickly noticed his list included all the items a new student would need, many of which he'd already purchased. It looked like the only new things he would need would be a restock of potions ingredients, a robe and matching hat, and two new books.
"Only two new ones," Harry noted aloud. " The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 5, by Miranda Goshawk, and Defensive Magical Theory, by Wilbert Slinkhard."
"What's your second paper?" Danny asked.
"Hmm? Oh," Harry blinked, looking down. "Just a reminder that term starts the same day it always does."
Danny snorted just as a crack! echoed in the room, announcing Fred and George's arrival. Danny hid his flinch fairly well as they had apparated right beside Harry. Danny was mostly impressed Harry didn't jump again as he'd had significantly less time to get used to it. Ron had had the most practice of the three, so maybe that's why he hadn't reacted at all; he was still staring at one of his papers...why did he have three?
"We were just wondering who assigned the Slinkhard book," Fred said, drawing Danny's attention.
"Because it means Dumbledore's found a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher," George said.
"And about time too," Fred said.
"What d'you mean?" Harry asked.
"Well, we overheard Mum and Dad talking on the Extendable Ears a few weeks back," Fred told Harry, "and from what they were saying, Dumbledore was having real trouble finding anyone to do the job this year."
"Not surprising, is it, when you look at what's happened to the last four?" said George.
"One sacked, one dead, one's memory removed, and one locked in a trunk for nine months," said Harry, counting them off on his fingers.
"Yeah, I see what you mean."
Danny blinked, looking back and forth between the three. " Why is that normal for you?"
George shrugged, "That's Hogwarts for you."
Danny shook his head bemusedly. "The worst thing that happens to our teachers is they get chased by ghosts sometimes. Actually, they got possessed one time too, but most of the city did as well—"
Danny was spared from elaborating by Tonks' timely appearance in the doorway.
"Ready for school shopping part two?" she asked. "We gotta leave before Molly so we don't arrive at the same time."
"Why's he gotta go again?" George asked.
"Now that he's officially gonna be a Hogwarts student he needs the frills," Tonks explained, gesturing at Danny to get moving. Danny obediently moved towards the door. "School robes, hat, potions restock, the works. We can get his new books while we're at it and it'll be one less thing for Molly to worry about. She'll be up in a tick to collect your booklists, I 'spect. Ready, Danny?"
"Yup," Danny nodded, checking that he still had his supply list in hand. "You changing your hair again?"
Danny waved goodbye at the other room occupants, noting that Ron was still standing stock still looking at his letter. He didn't know what the fuss what about, but he figured the others would deal with it.
Despite having already visited Diagon Alley, the magical shopping bazaar was another experience entirely when packed with students and parents. The downside of booklists going out the last day before term was that it only left everyone one day to get their supplies. Danny mostly felt sorry for the first years who needed to stop everywhere.
"Oh, Merlin, look at that line," Tonks muttered as Flourish and Blotts came into view.
"You guys really need to have a book pick-up option at Hogwarts or something," Danny suggested, following the line with his eyes; it seemed to wrap around the corner quite a bit. "Have people order books via owl and then pick up the books at the school library. Flourish and Blotts would still be the book provider and make money, but the lines would go down a ton. Maybe just charge a little bit more for the convenience."
Tonks blinked. "That's honestly a great idea, Danny. I'd suggest that to McGonagall next time you get a chance, or maybe even to the store manager. Listen, why don't I wait in this line and you can get your robes and potions ingredients and such. By the time you've done that, I might've reached the door."
"Sure," Danny agreed, looking down the busy street again. He remembered where the apothecary was (right across the street, hard to miss), but the robes... "Where do I get the robes again?"
"Oh! Sorry, we didn't stop there last time, did we? Let's see," Tonks paused, looking back down the alley. "If you start heading back towards the Leaky Cauldron, it'll be on the right just past the Owl Emporium. And just in case—" Tonks dug her hand into Danny's coin pouch and pulled out a few galleons. "I doubt I'll make it to the front before you get back, but better safe and all." She handed the pouch back to Danny with a grin.
Danny found the robe shop—Madam Malkin's—easily enough, despite the overcrowded streets. Actually buying the robes had been more of a production than Danny had been expecting. It turned out that extra small through triple-XL sizing wasn't a thing in the wizarding world, and Danny ended up getting fitted for all of his robes. Madam Malkin herself expressed the oddity of someone his age (and thus size) needing plain first year robes, when Danny explained that he hadn't been Sorted yet. She explained that upon being Sorted, the robes were designed to transfigure themselves into the appropriate class colors and fittings (the inner lining and matching tie). Badges would be provided by the house. Danny refrained from asking her more questions because the poor woman seemed rather flustered by all the first years flooding the shop at once.
As he made his way back towards Tonks, Danny found himself distracted by the crowd around Eeylop's Owl Emporium. Danny noted that most of the crowd seemed to be first years and their parents, and he remembered that his supply list had indicated he would be allowed to bring a pet.
Danny had thought about it, but a toad really didn't sound very appealing, and he was more of a dog person than a cat person thanks to Cujo, which left an owl as an option. He'd mostly convinced himself against getting one; he really wouldn't have the time to care for a pet (Harry's comments while cleaning that morning certainly didn't help), and he didn't need the mail-carrying services of an owl when he could check-in with his phone and journal whenever necessary. Not to mention, a standard owl wouldn't be able to make constant treks across the Atlantic as often as he'd like to keep contact.
That being said, there was a beautiful, short and pudgy snowy owl that seemed to be staring right at him, and Danny was sorely tempted to ignore the responsible voice in his head that sounded suspiciously like Jazz. I could name them Spooky, Danny thought before shaking his head of the thought. Sorry buddy, gotta be responsible here.
After getting his potions supplies, Danny made his way back to Tonks without further issue, and after purchasing his books, they made their way back to 12 Grimmauld Place. It was far later than he'd been expecting to be out, and he suddenly found himself starving for dinner.
Danny wasn't quite sure what he was expecting to find when he got back, but Mrs. Weasley decorating the basement and preparing for a party was not it. Danny squinted at one of the banners, which read 'Congratulations Ron and Hermione — New Prefects' in scarlet and gold.
"So what's a prefect?" Danny asked, sipping on a butterbeer as people enjoyed the party; he felt a little guilty, he still needed to finish packing after all.
"You don't have prefects?" Ginny asked curiously.
"Is this a magical thing or a boarding school thing?"
"Boarding school, I'd imagine, but not everywhere has them," Tonks explained; she'd changed her hair to a waist-length tomato red immediately after returning from Diagon Alley, shifting from looking like Danny's faux-cousin to looking like Ginny's older sister. "Basically they're upper-year students that are chosen to help uphold the school rules. They've got a few different roles, like welcoming first years, patrolling for curfew, et cetera."
"Soo...glorified hall monitors?" Danny asked.
Ginny snorted. "Basically. But don't let Hermione hear you say that," she said, dropping her voice.
"Wouldn't dream of it," Danny grinned.
After a brief toast from Mr. Weasley congratulating Ron and Hermione, the party-goers descended upon the food table in earnest. Danny found a spot in line behind Ginny and Tonks and helped himself to some stuffing as conversation continued around him.
"I was never a prefect myself," Tonks said brightly. "My Head of House said I lacked certain necessary qualities."
"Like what?" Ginny asked.
"Like the ability to behave myself," Tonks said.
Danny snorted loudly over Ginny's only slightly more polite laugh. Beside him, Hermione looked as though she did not know whether to smile or not and compromised by taking an extra large gulp of butterbeer and choking on it.
"What about you, Sirius?" Ginny asked, thumping Hermione on the back.
Sirius, who was right beside Harry, let out his usual bark-like laugh. "No one would have made me a prefect, I spent too much time in detention with James. Remus was the good boy, he got the badge."
"I think Dumbledore might have hoped that I would be able to exercise some control over my best friends," said Remus. "I need scarcely say that I failed dismally."
"I mean, none of you were expelled, right?" Danny asked, grinning. "That sounds like a success to me. Partial success at least."
Sirius snorted, clapping a hand on Danny's shoulder. "Where were you when we were trying to talk our way out of trouble? See, Remus? Partial success. It means we should get a portion of our house points back. You should talk to McGonagall about retroactively awarding Gryffindor house points..."
Danny found himself wrapped in a discussion about house points and the fierce rivalry for the House Cup every year, watching in amusement as Ginny, Sirius, and Tonks dissolved into banter defending their respective houses. Danny didn't quite get it; Casper didn't have a rival team at all and with the disaster that was Casper High Spirit Week, he didn't really understand the house pride. Maybe the feeling would change when he was Sorted; he had a feeling he'd start steadfastly rooting for Princeton in whatever capacity demanded it once Jazz ended up there.
The group broke up eventually to mingle with other party guests, and Danny found himself awkwardly shuffling around to various discussions. He stayed far away from whatever motherly argument Mrs. Weasley was having with Bill, and Hermione seemed to be on a SPEW rant with Remus so he kept away from that as well, and Ron was raving to Tonks about his new broomstick...
The longer Danny spent at the party, the more awkward he felt surrounded by people he barely knew. He'd made as many more trips to the food table as was socially acceptable to keep himself moving in the room, but as time passed, he couldn't help but feel as though he was intruding on the party as he hovered on the outskirts of conversation. The house occupants he saw on a daily basis, and barring Remus and Tonks, there weren't really any other Order members that he was close enough to sustain conversation.
Danny had seen Harry sneak out of the party unaccosted a couple minutes earlier, so Danny decided he should do the same; maybe he'd get one more flight in over London before leaving for the Scottish countryside. After he finished packing, of course...
As Danny ascended to the first floor landing, he noticed a muffled sound from the nearby drawing room, one that didn't sound familiar to any of the other odd noises the house produced. Danny quietly trudged closer, and upon further inspection, he identified the sound as sobbing; a woman by the sounds of it.
At first, Danny was hesitant to intrude, but when a loud CRACK! prompted a heavier bout of sobs, Danny shook his head and barged through the ajar door.
The first person Danny noticed as he entered the drawing room was Harry, standing stiff as a board just steps beyond in the doorway. The second person he noticed was Mrs. Weasley, sobbing hysterically, her back glued to the wall for support, wand in hand. The third person Danny noticed was Ron, lying sprawled on the floor, eyes unfocused, pale and unmoving.
Danny's breath caught in his throat. He's dead, he's—
But Ron was still bragging about his new broomstick to Tonks, Danny had just seen him. So how...?
"Mrs. Weasley?" Harry croaked, clearly affected by the sight of his lifeless best friend. Danny tried not to think of how he would react if he saw Tucker or Sam's inert body on the floor as he slipped into the room next to Harry.
"R-r-riddikulus!" she cried, her shaking arm pointed at Ron's body.
Ron's body was replaced by Bill's spread-eagle body, his eyes staring blankly at the ceiling. Mrs. Weasley's sobs increased, and she cried, "R-riddikulus!" once more. CRACK! Now Mr. Weasley appeared on the ground. Mrs. Weasley kept screaming the same spell, and each time a new body would appear, dead on the floor.
CRACK! As the twins appeared, Danny remembered that he had read about boggarts weeks ago, and the Riddikulus spell was how to deal with them. In theory, getting rid of a boggart was easy. CRACK! Dead...redhead Danny hadn't met yet; Percy maybe? Danny remembered Remus mentioning that being put in the situation of dealing with a boggart was much more difficult than the actual spell. CRACK! Dead Harry.
The sight of his brother lying dead on the floor in front of him, despite their differences, finally propelled Danny into motion.
"Mrs. Weasley, look, Harry's right here!" Danny tried to reason, moving closer to the dead Harry.
"Mrs. Weasley, just get out of here!" Harry insisted as Danny moved between the hysterical woman and the corpse. "Let someone else—Danny, get back!" Harry suddenly yelled, as if just noticing Danny had arrived.
The urgency in Harry's tone caused Danny's head to snap towards him. Danny had just enough time to register Harry's pale face as another crack sounded, signaling the disappearance of the dead Harry. Danny expected to turn around and see another dead body, but he never had the chance. As a wisp of icy-blue mist escaped his mouth, Danny remembered with dread that a boggart takes the form of what the closest subject fears most.
"I'm still here, I still exist! That means you still turn into me."
Danny couldn't breathe, his evil version's words from the last time they met ringing painfully in his mind. Clockwork had said everything was as it should be, his evil self was supposed to exist outside of the timestream, his friends and family were still alive... how could he be here!?
"You can't be here," Danny whispered, trying to deny what he knew was behind him.
Danny turned, and he could almost fell the blood drain from his face as he made eye contact with his evil, older self. The older ghost leered at him, Dan's face set in a malicious smirk. He was exactly as Danny remembered him: a spinoff of his ghostly hazmat suit, a white cape draped over his shoulders, sickly pale blue skin, and flaming white hair. Dan's blood red eyes pierced Danny's gaze as they widened in what seemed like vicious excitement. He stalked towards Danny, and Danny stumbled, falling onto his back as Dan advanced upon him. Danny could not function; he could not call upon his ghost powers, he could not stand up, he could not get over the fact that his evil self was standing in front of him!
"You're time is up, Danny. It's been up for ten years," Dan whispered, his hand glowing green as he leaned closer to Danny.
"Riddikulus!" With a CRACK! Dan disappeared just before he could release an ectoblast on Danny, turning into the glowing silver orb that was the Moon. Another moment passed, and the orb vanished in a puff of smoke.
Danny remained on the floor, his eyes staring blankly at the spot where Dan had disappeared. It was a boggart, he remembered faintly. Dan can't be here. I can't...turn into him...can I?
Danny jumped violently at Sirius's voice. It was then he noticed the rest of the adults in the room. Remus seemed to be comforting a hysterical Mrs. Weasley while Moody stood at the door, watching him with a calculating look that he did not like at all. Sirius was kneeling in front of him with Harry hovering behind him, shooting concerned looks towards Mrs. Weasley.
"Are you okay?" Sirius asked softly, as if trying to avoid spooking him further. Danny tried to answer but his voice failed him, and he felt himself shaking. He wished that Harry was not in the room to witness this. "Boggarts can be nasty if you've never dealt with them before, it's okay—"
"I knew it was a boggart," Danny whispered, still staring at Dan's previous location. "I knew what it was, I knew how to get rid of it, but I wasn't thinking. I got too close, and it changed into him ..." the words died on Danny's tongue, leaving a bitter aftertaste in their wake.
"What was that?" Harry asked.
Danny closed his eyes, his head falling into his hands. Images assaulted him of the destruction of Amity Park in the future, an exploding Nasty Burger, dead friends, dead family...
Sirius gripped his shoulder reassuringly and whispered, "You don't need to explain."
Danny looked up at Sirius, seeing without really seeing. He glanced at Harry quickly before letting his head drop once more.
"He was a mistake...a bad future."
Guys, I've been waiting for that boggart scene since the beginning. I hope I did it justice!
So last time you guys heard from me, I was still looking for a job. Well, I got one! It's basically my dream job, and the work is fantastic. Unfortunately, work also comes with a lot of weird and late hours, which can leave me exhausted and with less motivation to write. And real talk, Pokemon Go takes up a lot of my time too :) So yeah, that's why this took so long.
As always, any and all feedback is appreciated. I love hearing from you guys, both about the good and the bad. I always want to improve to continue to send out a quality fic to you guys.
Thanks for reading!