Continuing to Vent
Summary: Slices of life from the world of "A Vent Comes to Haunt"
Feel free to leave suggestions. I can't promise that your idea will fit my vision, but I'll see what I can do.
Some of the chapters will be seriously lighthearted fluff. You have been warned.
Disclaimer: I do not own Danny Phantom, Harry Potter, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", The Hobbit, or Lord of the Rings.
Ghosts' First Date
Sydney sighed as he touched down. "I'm pretty sure she'll like flowers. I'm not sure what else she likes yet, but most girls like flowers. At least, I hope she will." This island in the Ghost Zone was filled with ghostly flora and fauna. "These don't even grow in the Real World."
The whine of guns priming made him freeze. "What do you think you're doing? What are you doing on my island?"
Sydney trembled and turned slowly to face the hunter. "Skulker… Ah… You remember the Christmas party?"
Skulker furrowed his electronic eyebrows. "Of course. I don't think I'll ever forget completing a decapitation, completely submitted to – no, actually requested." A shiver shot through him. "Correcting a mistake or no, a ghost speaking from a head held in his arms is just creepy."
The ghostly teenager snickered. "Yeah, but not as creepy as the game of catch he started with it. I preferred the more civilized game of catch Myrtle asked Danny to start with the ball of ectoplasm." He gulped. "I guess they'll have to let him join the Headless Hunt now, huh? Like something out of 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow'."
Skulker covered his eyes. Poindexter wasn't worth the effort of hurting. As prey, he was far too easy to catch, he couldn't really fight back – he was no challenge, and Poindexter didn't annoy him enough to waste the fire or other power it would take…
The hunter uncovered his eyes. "So, what about the Christmas party?"
Sydney clasped his hands in front of him, holding the flowers he picked so far as low as his arms would allow. "Well, Myrtle said she'd like to get together with me."
Skulker raised an eyebrow. "You're going on a date?"
"That's the general idea, Skulker. Myrtle might not be as flashy as Ember, but she's really sweet. And more importantly, she likes me."
The bigger ghost's green eyes widened at the heat in Sydney's tone. "Indeed."
Sydney sighed. "She said that it would be far easier for me to visit her than for her to visit me. But the thing is, I don't know how to get to Hogwarts. And besides, I don't know where any portals that would let out in Scotland are. Do you?" He looked up hopefully.
Skulker frowned. "I don't know. I've pretty consistently used Vlad's or that of the Ghost Child's family." Sydney raised his eyebrow – he himself was a ghost child. But he knew Skulker referred to Danny the Halfa.
The hunter ignored the teen's ironic expression and stroked his chin. "I heard that the Box Ghost found his way there, the nuisance. The Bloody Baron, as he likes to be called, was rather… displeased with the chaos that insignificant pest caused the humans in his vicinity."
Sydney looked thoughtful. "The Box Ghost, huh? Fair enough; I'll ask him. But, um…" Skulker raised an eyebrow. "Can I finish picking to complete a bouquet?"
Skulker shook his head, contemplating adolescent romance. "Fine."
Sydney found the Box Ghost in the warehouse full of Real World items, sulking disconsolately. "Box Ghost?"
The blue ghost looked up half-heartedly. "What are you doing in the demesnes of the Box Ghost, the most frightening…"
"Down-hearted ghost who is down in the dumps. What's giving you a case of the blues, and I don't mean your color?"
The Box Ghost floated in front of Sydney. "My favorite place to obtain new and more interesting boxes, and even bubble wrap, is in Amity Park. But Plasmius expressly forbid ghosts from going there. I haven't found a suitable outlet elsewhere, yet." Not that he checked too many places; ghosts had a hard time breaking habits, and haunting Amity Park was a serious one of his.
"And," Sydney perked up at the blue ghost's change in tone. "There is a certain someone I'm…" He shook his head. "Never mind."
Sydney threw an arm around the Box Ghost's shoulder. This poor ghost suffered the wrath of bullies more than most. True, he also went out of his way to bother them, but even the Box Ghost didn't deserve to be as sad as he appeared to be.
"There, there. Don't feel so bad. I'm not sure if it helps you, but I haven't been back to Amity Park… Well, the Ghost King incident doesn't count. That was a matter of afterlife or permanent death. But besides that, I haven't been back there since Danny Phantom broke my mirror."
The Box Ghost looked up. "Broke your mirror? Isn't that supposed to be bad luck?"
Sydney sighed. "It was bad luck… for me. It was hard enough for me to use it as a portal when I needed to protect helpless students from bullies. But now… it's gone, and well… I suppose I shouldn't have misjudged Danny like that." He stared off for a moment. "Myrtle told me that he arranged for her to get a mentor, and that he protects people from bullies. But when… I never gave him a chance to explain himself."
"When was that?"
"When I, um… overshadowed him. His friend Sam tried to do something with mechanical frogs…"
The Box Ghost grinned. "I remember. I almost became the Mechanical Frog Ghost, but I decided it was better to stick to what I know." Sydney looked askance at him. The Box Ghost remained oblivious. "But that was years ago. What brings you to the warehouse today?"
The sepia ghost adjusted his grip on his bouquet. "I heard that you know the way to get to Hogwarts."
"I do. I found my way there, and they had some of the nicest boxes down in the kitchens… But Phantom and Plasmius are there. They…" The Box Ghost shivered and gulped. "Phantom said to leave them alone."
"I'm sure he did. But I don't intend to bother the humans there…"
"Or other people. They've got lots of people who aren't human."
Sydney furrowed his brows. "I met some of the ghosts at the party, Box Ghost."
The blue ghost shook his head emphatically. "No, no… they have Elves and other things…"
"That type of jive's not on the square, you know. And I do think I'm old enough to not believe in Santa."
The Box Ghost shook his head. If Poindexter didn't want to learn about the magical denizens of Hogwarts, that was his own problem. "So, you want me to show you how to get to Hogwarts, huh? You ready?"
"I'm ready when you are."
Spring break was over, and classes were back in session. Hannah Abbot headed back to her dorm after dinner when she saw a ghost slide out of the wall. "Oh, hello! You must be new here."
Even though Myrtle told him it would be like this, Sydney found it rather surreal to be visible in a Real World school and have humans not freak out. The girl was taller than he was, but why should he be shy? "H-hello, there. I don't know that I'm new, but I'm just visiting."
Hannah nodded sagely. "The Fat Friar says that ghosts visit all the time. We have lots of resident ghosts, but the House Ghosts seem to be the most important." Sydney blinked. "But you are dressed like a Muggle. I didn't know there were Muggle ghosts. Well… that's not entirely true. Susan's Auntie Amelia told me that there were several well-known ghosts in the Tower of London."
Sydney felt out of his depth. He knew plenty of the ghosts that usually haunt Amity Park, but he hadn't thought of the more famous ghosts that haunt historical sites. He knew there were lots of ghosts all over European-influenced America, but Europe had a much longer, bloodier history. There were bound to be more ghosts. (There might have been others, but he didn't spend enough time studying Native American lore to know about ghosts in their culture.) Sydney felt rather provincial, as he failed to think of all those other ghosts, besides the few he saw most regularly.
But there was that weird word. "What is a Muggle?"
Hannah smiled gently. "If you have to ask, you probably started as one. A Muggle is a non-magical person. Hogwarts is a school of witchcraft and wizardry."
Sydney took off his glasses and rubbed them with a handkerchief as he considered this. When Myrtle started telling him about school, he thought it sounded more like a finishing school. Charms is what tipped him off in the wrong direction. He figured Potions and Herbology were simply British names for Chemistry and Botany. "Um… Does that mean you're a… witch?"
Hannah laughed merrily. "Of course I am."
Sydney considered. "I guess that means Myrtle was one, too. I wonder if she can do magic."
Hannah blinked. "Of course she can't. She's a ghost."
Sydney put his hands on his hips indignantly. "Look here, you. I don't see that being a ghost should stop someone from doing magic, or anything else. Desiree is a ghost I know who has genie-like magic, and she uses it to grant wishes. Ember McLain is a ghost who does some type of music magic. Different ghosts have different powers, and I see no call to disparage them for it."
Hannah took a step back. "I… don't know what to say. I certainly meant no offense, and I apologize for giving any. It's just that… what you've said goes counter to my – most of the Wizarding World's – experience with ghosts. I mean, if Professor Binns could do magic, he wouldn't need the Headmaster's spell to mark papers. He can't even touch anything in the physical world." She thought for a moment. "Moaning Myrtle can touch the water and the pipes, but… The only ghost I know that could affect all manners of physical stuff is Peeves, and he's not a real ghost, but a poltergeist."
Sydney frowned. "Moaning Myrtle? That's not very nice." He was caught up in too many paradigm shifts to address anything but that, at present.
The Hufflepuff was brought up short. "I suppose you're right. I never really thought about it. It's just what everyone always calls her."
He raised an eyebrow. "She couldn't have liked that, much."
"No. You're right, again. I'm sorry for offending you, and I apologize for any disrespect on her behalf."
Sydney frowned again, this time in concentration. "Alright. Just… don't do it again."
Hannah thought this through, like the prefect she was. "Of course. And I'll spread the word. No one should have to spend all of eternity with a nickname they hate."
The ghost's expression softened. "That would be swell." She smiled. "Now, can you tell me where I can find her?"
"Absolutely. She haunts the girl's lav on the second floor. We're one floor beneath the ground level."
"Thanks for all your help."
Hannah was about to wave, but said, "Wait – there's one more thing. She rather enjoys telling the story of how she died. It might impress her if you asked."
Sydney pulled one of the flowers free from his bouquet. "Thank you again, Miss."
The girl widened her eyes as she accepted the flower. Their fingers touched, and she noticed that the ghost's hand was cool to the touch, but not freezing as the local ghosts were. "Good luck."
Sydney wandered two floors above where he met that girl. "She sounded so helpful, too. But there is no girl's restroom on this floor. Golly gee willikers, that's just not right!"
A gasp from the staircase to his left drew his attention. "Sydney Poindexter? What are you doing here?" Danny asked.
Sydney saw both Danny and Plasmius in human form, wearing… robes of the sort he rather suspected Gandalf would have worn. Sydney was a fantasy geek (as he was constantly reminded, among the other things for which he was picked on), and The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings were amongst his favorite. "Danny? And P-p-p…"
Danny helped him out. "Professor Masters and I are headed up to a class."
Sydney trembled, but said gamely, "At the Christmas party, I heard it said that you were here. I just, uh…" He looked around and they seemed to be alone. "You halfas don't really have magic, do you?"
Vlad raised an eyebrow. "No, Mr. Poindexter, and you would do well to keep that to yourself, hmm? However, since it is Saturday, Daniel and I have a special lesson on Defense Against the Dark Arts, before we enjoy a pleasant evening together."
Syndey's eyes went wide. "Defense against them, Pl-, er, Professor?"
Vlad smirked. "Good boy. Yes, defense against them. Daniel's hero complex has only grown since we came here. You don't truly think Daniel would use his skills for Dark purposes, do you?"
The sepia ghost grimaced and blushed, as he distinctly remember accusing Danny, '…and you're using those powers for EVIL?' The fact that he was proven seriously wrong on the 'using powers for evil' embarrassed him; Myrtle told him that when Danny explained his side of the story, he was getting back at the fellow who bullied HIM. It was hard to imagine, because Danny was so much more powerful than the guy he used his powers against, but… Danny WAS a little guy, and if he didn't use his powers, he might indeed be considered an easy mark for a bully.
Further, Danny APOLOGIZED for abusing his power, even though he was further bullied for his trouble for it.
Ashamed of his prior judgment, Sydney gulped down his guilt. He coughed. "I suppose not, sir."
Danny covered his eyes and thought about what Sydney's appearance in Hogwarts could mean. Uncovering his eyes, he asked, "You're here to see Myrtle, aren't you?"
Once Sydney realized that Danny wasn't going to take him to task for his prior bad judgment call, he squared his shoulders. "Yes. She said it would be easier for me to visit her than for her to visit me."
"You're probably right." Danny smiled. "Have a good time, and tell her I said hello, and I'll try to see her some time this week."
Poindexter couldn't believe his luck. The two fearsome, powerful halfas practically gave him their blessing to be here. (Well… Danny did, and Plasmius didn't object.) "Sure thing. But, um… A girl near the portal told me that Myrtle was in the second floor girls' bathroom. But there's nothing like that anywhere on this floor!"
Vlad smirked again, and Danny elbowed him and sighed. "I see the problem. For some reason, floors are numbered differently in America and in Europe. The Main Hall is on the ground floor. The first floor up is the first floor, even though at home, we'd call this the second floor. To find Myrtle's bathroom, you want the next floor up from here."
Tension left the poor, confused ghost. "Thanks a lot, Danny. I knew that girl sounded too sincere to send me on a wild goose chase."
Danny smiled. "Enjoy, and good luck."
Sydney found the proper door and knocked. Myrtle stuck her head out of the door. "Who is it?" Her eyes brightened. "Sydney! You came!" She glided out and… she didn't know him well enough to hug him the way she wanted to. Yet.
The boy straightened and swallowed his nervousness. "Of course I did! And these beautiful flowers are for a beautiful girl."
Myrtle's eyes sparkled. "For me? Thank you! No one's ever given me flowers before!"
Sydney grinned. He did something right, and he was proud of himself. That is, until Myrtle's face fell. "Myrtle, what's wrong?"
The girl's eyes welled with tears. "I… Sydney, I'm not… I can't…"
"I'm sorry to have hurt you. What did I do wrong?"
Myrtle's tears spilled. "I can't touch anything but the pipes and water. The flowers are physical and tangible, and I can't… Oh!" She hid her face in her hands and sobbed.
Sydney peaked his eyebrows. With all the interaction he and the other ghosts had with humans, this wasn't a difficulty he in any way anticipated. "Um…" He had to think fast, or she might think he was teasing her.
He figured it out. Putting a hand on her shoulder, he smiled gently as she lowered her hands. Her breath hitched, and he nodded. "Myrtle, you're the same kind of ghost as Sir Nicholas, right?"
She wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her robe. "Uh-huh."
"Well… Skulker was able to use his very tangible blade to, um, finish cutting off Sir Nicholas's head, remember?" He cringed at the memory, but it made the former knight happy.
Myrtle sniffed away her tears and smiled. "Oh, yes. Sir Nicholas is much happier now, and Sir Patrick can't tease him about not joining the Headless Hunt anymore."
Sydney made a face in dismay, thought better of what he almost said, and continued his initial train of thought. "Er, right. Well, Skulker's blade worked, 'cause it's a ghostly object meant to be used on ghosts."
Myrtle nodded, hanging on his words. "Yeah."
"Well, these flowers come from the Ghost Zone. So I would think that even if I didn't turn them intangible, you could hold them without a problem."
Myrtle flew forward and hugged him. "Oh, Sydney! You thought of everything!"
Sydney felt smug, enjoying being hugged, and he blushed. "I try."
She released him, and he gave the flowers to her. "Wow. Sydney, I haven't touched flowers since my last Herbology class since before I died."
The American ghost smiled. "Care to tell me about that?" If this worked, Sydney would forgive the human girl who gave him confusing directions completely.
Myrtle glowed with pleasure. "Absolutely. Let me just put these…um…"
"You'll put them somewhere you can see them." Sydney hoped to encourage her to continue her good mood.
"Um, Sydney, where will I… I mean, while I have a shelf to put a vase, I don't have a vase. And even if I did, I couldn't touch it."
"Oh, fiddle-sticks! I didn't think of that." Who knew that something as simple as giving flowers to a girl he liked would be so complicated? This could only be a ghost issue. Sydney didn't think humans had these kinds of difficulties. He sighed. "I wish Desiree were here. If she were, we could wish for a vase, and she could conjure one for us."
Myrtle perked up. "Sydney, that's it! You're brilliant!"
She giggled. "Yes, you are. We don't need Desiree to be here. The witches and wizards here could conjure one for us!"
Sydney put a hand on his forehead. "Heh, heh. Right. This is a school of witchcraft and wizardry. So who would do this for us?"
Myrtle put her hand to her mouth in thought. "We could ask any of the professors, except Professor Masters and Professor Binns, of course."
"The two ghosts who are also professors," Sydney observed.
"Well, yes. Professor Masters is a Muggle and doesn't have magic. And… Sir Nicholas and Danny explained this to me: no one is quite sure why there is a difference between your kind of ghost and my kind of ghost. Desiree is your kind of ghost, so she has no problem interacting with the physical, and can even use magic. Professor Binns is my kind of ghost. He remembers all of the magic he used to do. But he can't even touch the physical, never mind work magic on it." She sighed. "Neither can I. And I was only a First Year when I died."
Sydney grabbed her hand unoccupied by the flowers. "And you'll tell me all about it once we get this taken care of." She brightened and smiled at this. "So which professor should we ask?"
Myrtle's face fell. "I really don't know. I, um… Headmaster Dumbledore is a very busy man. He used to be my professor in Transfigurations, but…"
Sydney shook his head and interrupted. "That's the second time you've said that word – the first was at the party. What is 'trans-figure-ations'?" he cautiously enunciated, hoping he pronounced the unfamiliar word correctly.
The girl brightened at the chance to impress her Muggle friend. "Transfigurations is the ability to change things from one thing to another. We start out changing pins into matchsticks and back, to changing gerbils into pincushions. When witches and wizards are advanced enough, they can transfigure themselves into animals. That talent is really rare. Professor McGonagall, the current professor of Transfigurations, is an Animagus who can turn into a cat. James Potter used to be able to turn into a stag, Sirius Black could turn into a big, black dog, and Peter Pettigrew could turn himself into a rat."
Sydney, wide-eyed, murmured, "No kidding. Hmm… I wonder if that's anything like Bertrand, who can take any form he likes. Except, when he's anything not resembling human, he's standard ghost green. And the halfas can transform from their human to ghost form and back."
Myrtle met Bertrand at the Christmas party, and he seemed like a thoroughly unpleasant ghost. Ms. Spectra could be nice when she felt like it, but Danny didn't care for either of them. "Well… Maybe something like it. I mean, Danny and…" She thought for a moment. "Professor Masters can change because human and ghost are their natural forms. Bertrand," she sniffed disdainfully, "can become whatever he wants because he's only a blob of ectoplasm. He has no set form. But the Animagi, well, they are completely human. But with enough skill, they can become the animals."
Sydney furrowed his brows in thought. "So the skill is practically the same, but the method is all different."
Myrtle thought about this. "That makes sense, I guess."
"Myrtle, who were those guys you mentioned?"
The ghost girl's face darkened. "They were three bullies." Sydney jerked his head. "They, with a fourth fellow called Remus Lupin, used to call their gang 'the Marauders.' They weren't very nice, and they picked on a fellow who… um… reminds me of you a bit. His name is Severus Snape."
Sydney stewed for a few minutes. Bullies picking on anyone were never a good thing, but four-against-one odds were beyond unfair. When he calmed down enough to speak rationally, he asked, "So what happened to them?"
Myrtle shrugged one shoulder uncomfortably. "Well, they all graduated. But Tom Marvolo Riddle – the student responsible for my death, but that's a longer story – killed James and his pretty wife, who was Lily Evans. She was a very nice girl who was best friends with Severus. But something happened in their Fifth Year… I think you would call that 'tenth grade'. Lily wouldn't talk to Severus anymore. But Severus… I don't know. It was complicated."
Sydney put an arm around her shoulder. She didn't seem to mind. "It sounds like it would have to have been.
Myrtle furrowed her brows and tried to explain. "Well, Tom became even more evil than he was when I died, and like I said, he killed James and Lily Potter. The whole story is too long for right now, but Sirius and Peter are dead, too."
Sydney peaked his eyebrows. "Bullies deserve to get put in their place, but killing them is a bit much."
She nodded sagely. "Tom was a bigger bully than all of them put together. Even as an adult, he only got worse. I hear they finally did away with him last February. I heard that Danny and... Plasmius were involved."
Sydney reflected on the fact that the story of what exactly happened might be quite a bit longer and more complicated than he was prepared to deal with. But Myrtle even said that it was too long for right now. "So, what happened to Severus Snape?"
Myrtle smiled brightly. "He's currently the Potions Professor, the Head of House of Slytherin, and he adopted James and Lily's son, Harry Potter. He's also really good friends with Professor Masters, and they both get along with Remus Lupin."
Sydney smirked. "Well, you know what they say: the best revenge is living well. And adopting the orphaned boy of his tormentor… That sounds like the best way I can think of to show that gang who was the better man. And even becoming friends with…"
"No, no, no. I won't have you say a word against Remus. He was a fellow who had a tough time making friends, and James and Sirius – while they tormented other students, they were good friends with Remus. He tried to stop them, sometimes, but he was afraid to lose such friends as he had."
Sydney had quite a time keeping this story straight. "So… Let me see if I got this right. James and Sirius and Peter were the bullies. Remus had a tough way to go, and they were nice to Remus, who unsuccessfully tried to stop them."
Myrtle nodded. "Sometimes. Sometimes he tried harder. Sometimes he tried to discourage them by ignoring their tricks."
Sydney sighed. "It's hard to stop a bully and not become a victim. And Severus was clearly a victim." Reflecting a bit, he realized that someone seemed a bit left out of the story. "So what's up with Peter?"
Myrtle frowned. "He was a bit pathetic, to tell you the truth. He wasn't as clever as Sirius and James, so he laughed at a lot of their pranks. Peter was the kind of bloke to cozy up to the biggest bully around, and hope that by picking on the bullies' victims, and laughing when the bigger bullies were cruel, he hoped he stayed safe from the teasing."
She smacked her leg in frustration. "When he was out of school, he was the same way. He joined Tom, and I hear that Peter passed on the important information Tom used when he found and killed the Potters."
"Yeah. And I understand that Harry had to deal with his uncle, aunt, and cousin, who were also bullies. Not that Severus was much nicer to him."
"Hey, wait a minute. Then why would Harry and Severus…?" The situation was too complicated, and he lost the thread of who, what, and why.
Myrtle nodded knowingly. "Everything changed last October. Professor Masters and Danny were doing better, and Professor Snape decided to be nicer to Harry. It was a long process – it took all the way from October to February to figure things out. But it all worked out in the end."
Sydney said, "Well, that's all right, then. All's well that ends well."
Myrtle smiled. "You know, Harry's as big a hero to the Wizarding World as Danny is to ghosts."
Sydney raised his eyebrows. "Is he? Maybe you'll explain that later. But… is he the kind of guy to help out the little guy? You know, Danny's helped to save the world, but also to help people in need. At least… That's what I heard."
"You heard right. Danny is the one who said that I'd be happier if I had a mentor. Harry is the one who asked why no one WAS my mentor." Myrtle smiled proudly. "Harry teaches a practical class… Defense against the Dark Arts, and he's really a very patient student teacher."
Sydney lit up as the thought came to him. "Well then, why don't we ask him to conjure a vase for us?"
"That's a great idea. Let's go!" She adjusted the bouquet in one hand, grabbed Sydney's hand in the other, and soared up to the entrance of Gryffindor Tower.
Harry had just finished a specialized tutoring session with Slytherin. No matter how many times he worked with them in DADA, it never ceased to be vaguely surreal. The same characters who used to give him such a hard time, well… Some of them figured out that he was worthwhile as a person, and as a tutor they admired him. Others grudgingly respected him as a 'mini-Snape.' Harry found the new epithet amusing. But as long as it meant that he wouldn't be ambushed in the dungeons, Harry was for it.
When he got back to Gryffindor Tower, he saw Myrtle and a new ghost who appeared to be a Muggle. He gulped as he thought that this is exactly what Hermione must have encountered the first time she saw Danny in his ghost form. Harry was determined not to repeat Hermione's faux pas.
He took a breath. "Hi there, Myrtle. Who is your friend?"
She smiled, delighted. "Hi, Harry! This is my friend Sydney Poindexter. I met him at a Christmas party in the Ghost Zone. He knows Danny from Casper High, and everything!"
Sydney peaked his eyebrows and looked around nervously. "B-but Plasmius said not to… to…"
Harry cleared his throat "No worries, Sydney. I know all about Danny – I'm one of the few. Uncle Vlad knows that I know."
"Did you just call Plasmius 'Uncle Vlad'?" Sydney froze in fear and disbelief.
Myrtle covered her mouth with a hand. "Oh, dear."
Harry realized his utterance put this poor ghost into a tailspin, so it was his job to try to calm him down. "Listen, Sydney – it's complicated, but Danny and Professor Masters helped…"
"To defeat Tom, like I told you," Myrtle clarified.
Harry shook his head. "Right. But, hmm. I guess the easier way to do this is… Danny and I became friends. We have a lot in common, including our bizarre but growing relationships to our respective adoptive fathers. I told you it's complicated, and it didn't happen overnight. But yes, I now call Professor Masters 'Uncle Vlad.' What I find weird is that Danny calls Professor Snape 'Uncle Severus,' but we had an interesting Christmas and New Year's celebration."
Sydney put a hand over where his heart used to be. "Thank goodness. Thanks for straightening that out for me. It's never a wise thing to upset… Professor Masters."
Harry tried to keep a straight face. It was all he could do to not laugh in amusement at this poor, nervous ghost. Dad said that Professor Masters was (or maybe still IS, by the way this ghost was reacting) a bit of a villain, and Sydney was having trouble digesting the fact that a serious relationship of mutual affection could happen with Uncle Vlad.
"Danny said as much. But I've seen him in action, both as a ghost and as a human. Uncle Vlad is not a man a person wants to cross. It's good to agree, but something tells me that this discussion isn't the one you mean to be having." Harry thought for a moment. "While I understand that Danny and the professor are special, I have to ask: are you closer to their type of ghost or Myrtle's type?"
Sydney tilted his head. "In what way? Departed from the living or tangible?"
Harry shrugged, glad Sydney gave over his panic. "Either or both. My question was about your tangibility, though."
Sydney nodded. "Yeah. Well, I guess in that way, I'm more like Danny. Which brings me to why we came to see you in the first place."
Harry put a hand on his chest. "You came to see me? Cool, I think. How can I help you?"
Sydney took a deep breath. "Well, you see, Harry, I brought Myrtle a bouquet of flowers, but I didn't take her, ah, situation and difference from me into consideration. I wanted to ask… if you wouldn't mind…"
Harry noticed an almost hunted look in the ghost's eyes. Harry recognized that look from when he had it, rather often when he was in school with Dudley. Sydney was worried that he would reject his request out of hand, and the fear of further teasing was almost palpable.
Harry put a hand on Sydney's shoulder, and realized it felt much like Danny did when he was Phantom. "Sydney, go ahead. Whatever it is, ask me."
Sydney blew a relived breath. "Alrighty then. Could you conjure a vase so Myrtle has somewhere to put her flowers?" Myrtle looked hopeful.
Harry smiled kindly. "Sure thing. Myrtle, what color would you like it to be?"
Myrtle peaked her eyebrows. "Really? Oh! If you could make it Professor Dumbledore's favorite shade of purple, but with a Gryffindor colored ridge at the top of the lip, please?"
With a valiant effort, Harry didn't cringe at the color combination. "Absolutely." He waved his wand and visualized the vase to Myrtle's specifications. When he was finished, the vase stood on the floor between Harry and Myrtle. "There you go. And one more touch." With a quick, whispered Aguamenti, the vase was full of water. "But I don't know what to do to make it intangible."
Sydney smiled. "That, Harry, is where I come in." He cracked his knuckles, a very human gesture, which surprised Harry. Sydney picked up the vase and turned it intangible. "Myrtle, if you hang on to it, it'll stay intangible for you. Otherwise, it'll become tangible when I let go."
"Thank you, both of you!" Myrtle put her flowers in the vase and then took the vase from Sydney's hands. "It's perfect!" She put it down and hugged Sydney. Harry crouched down to touch the vase, and now it had that same cold-as-ice-water intangibility as the Hogwarts ghosts did.
"That's a neat power. Can Danny do that, too?"
Both ghosts stared at Harry. Myrtle said, "Of course he can. And lots else, besides."
Harry shrugged uncomfortably. "He doesn't usually show off, so I didn't know. I didn't mean to offend." Harry knew about the intangibility, but this whole, weird interface with the Hogwarts ghosts just never came up.
Sydney and Myrtle smiled at each other and then back at Harry. Sydney gave a half-smile. "Harry, you seem to be more mindful of ghosts' emotions than most humans I encounter."
Harry returned a shy smile. "Danny has that effect on people."
Sydney snickered. "Tell that to the folks in Amity Park." Harry raised an eyebrow, and the ghost realized it was time to change topics. "So, I understand Hogwarts is a boarding school. Care to show me around your Common Room, Myrtle?"
She stammered, "I… but… It's not my… um, it hasn't been my Common Room in over fifty years."
Harry tapped his chin. "You know, I don't know why it wouldn't still be your Common Room. From what I understand, Myrtle, your kind of ghost doesn't need the accommodations found there, but I don't see why you couldn't hang out if you wanted to."
Myrtle stared at Harry with wide eyes. "I… um… Really?"
"Unless you have specific restrictions, or something, but seriously…"
"No, no!" Myrtle protested. "My confinement is to the Hogwarts grounds, and I was told not to bother the students anymore."
Harry raised an eyebrow, thinking of when Myrtle invaded his privacy in the prefect's bath in Fourth Year, chuckled, and smiled gently. "Visiting isn't bothering, if you're civil."
Myrtle's eyes brightened. "Oh, thank you, Harry! I wonder why the Grey Lady never said anything about it, though."
Harry frowned in thought. "Like you, she might not have thought about it. As you know, different people – um, different humans have different reactions to ghosts. I guess if there had to be a choice, the living students who don't have a choice of where to go after curfew get preference. I mean, Danny told me that he's been all over and through parts of the castle I've only seen once or twice in the sub-level dungeons, behind walls, and other places living humans simply couldn't go, or have very little if any access."
Myrtle nodded. "Makes sense."
"So why don't you come in with me?" He smiled as the ghosts looked pleased with the offer, but then he thought of something. "But Sydney, only two others besides me know Danny and Uncle Vlad's secret in here." He murmured to himself, "At least I don't think Ginny knows…"
The three of them came in to see a crowd around Colin Creevey. Ron said, "You know, I've known you a long time, and this is the first time I've really looked at your pictures. These are really good."
The ever chipper Colin grinned. "I'm glad you think so, Ron. Ginny showed me her pictures from when you lot went to the Slytherin victory party, and I was inspired. Seriously – when was the last time, before the game on March 8, have you ever seen Slytherins even touch Gryffindor red and gold, never mind every last one of them wearing it?"
Ron snickered. "Operation 'Make Zach Pay' didn't die – it just…"
"Requires Slytherin subtlety," Ginny supplied. "I don't know if Danny would appreciate it, but what he doesn't know won't hurt him. I mean, it's not overtly painful or embarrassing to Zach (at least, I don't think so), but anyone paying attention knows…"
Hermione lost patience. "How come people give Zach a hard time but Tracey is given a pass by everyone?"
Colin furrowed his brows. "You'd have to ask the other Slytherins involved." He brightened. "Regardless, these pictures of Slytherins in our Common Room at our victory party are priceless."
"You mean worthless, Colin." The growl came from a party unheard from until now. Cormac McLaggen got up to look at the pictures. "You've got lots of Gryffindors, fine. But what do you think you're doing with these? These are all lousy, stinking Slytherins; that's who they are! Maybe you've forgotten all the cheating, the unfair point advantage, the pranks, the tricks, and every other blasted thing they've ever done to us, but some of us haven't lost our minds."
Colin shrugged uncomfortably. "I haven't forgotten. But sometimes it's worth it to just get along. Danny started a trend. Well, no. Danny did his own thing. Draco seemed to follow his lead, but Tracey started the…"
Cormac swiped his hand at the pictures on the table, sending them to the floor. "Malfoy was a ringleader for over five and a half years. His mindless bodyguards Crabbe and Goyle acted as muscle, so the three of them could get away with whatever. And Fenton! Don't get me started.
"All kinds o' people were makin' a fuss over a prank Smith played on Fenton. No one made this big a deal when they picked on Potter, or you, or anyone of us. But no – it's that precious Slytherin who seems to have Confounded the lot of you."
Ron crossed his arms. "McLaggen, tell us how you really feel. You're just annoyed that Danny, a Slytherin, was present when you didn't make the Quidditch team.
"I've never seen you give a Shrivelfig before about Slytherin pranks against Gryffindors. As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember that two years ago, you were the Gryffindor supplier for the 'Potter Stinks!' badges. So you don't have too much trouble working with Slytherins giving Gryffindors a hard time. And Danny never DID anything to give Gryffindor a hard time."
Dennis Creevey piped up. "No – you just want to pick on Danny, who's a good bloke, as far as I can tell. He also happens to be no bigger than I am."
Harry, Myrtle, and Sydney observed all of this from just inside the entrance to the Common Room, but Sydney had enough. Myrtle might have been adjured to not bother humans, but he wasn't.
Sydney drifted between Colin and Cormac, crossed his arms, and glared at the larger Gryffindor. "I don't know what you think you're playing at." He wanted to rip into this creep for targeting Danny, but Harry said no one knew about Danny, who was pretending to be a wizard. So he tried a different tack.
"What are you doing, bothering this photographer? Everyone else seems to like his pictures. I think you're just picking on him, 'cause he's a little guy."
Everyone but Harry, Ron, and Hermione stared in wonderment at a sight they had never seen: a ghost reprimanded the living for their behavior to each other. What was more, this ghost was in the Common Room. No one present could remember when a Hogwarts ghost entered a Common Room, and Myrtle brought back-up.
Cormac opened and closed his mouth to no good effect for a few seconds. This whole situation was too weird, and his mouth responded before his brain caught up. "Well… What if I am? And…" Whoa – a ghost was challenging him, of all things. "What are you gonna do about it? 'Newly' Headless Nick can't do anything, and I've never seen Moaning Myrtle do anything but cry."
Harry opened his mouth, but Sydney pushed Cormac away from Colin, and Sydney put himself between Myrtle and the hulking idiot called Cormac. "You are nothing more than a bully," the pugnacious ghost announced.
Cormac's eyes flew wide open. "How did you…"
"Bullies should have no quarter." Sydney's eyes flashed red with anger, and all the photos on the floor stacked themselves neatly in his hands. He nodded at Colin. "Here you go."
Cormac's jaw dropped. "But you're a ghost! How can you… How did you…"
"Don't underestimate the little guy, you bully." Sydney was amazed at the bully's reaction – he didn't seem to care about the fact that he was much smaller than McLaggen was; he was more than terrified of a ghost that could touch him.
Myrtle was so proud of Sydney, she put an arm around his waist. "That's right. And you leave Danny alone, or Sydney will deal with you later. Come, Sydney, we've got better people to meet."
Cormac started to stammer, so Sydney continued to use the bully's fear to his advantage. "And don't call Myrtle 'Moaning Myrtle' anymore."
Colin ignored the gibbering McLaggen. "Thanks, Myrtle, and… Sydney, was it?"
Both addressed ghosts beamed at him. Sydney puffed his chest out with pride. "That's what I'm here for, to use my afterlife to stop bullies, like him."
Colin smiled. "Excellent. Do you mind if I take your picture?"