Chapter Twenty

"I hate them."

"Hate's a strong word, Danny."

"You're totally right. I need to go stronger. Loathe? Despise? Abhor?" I grinned, spinning in the air to float backwards and clicking my fingers a few inches from Hagrid's flushed face. "That's it! Abhor. I abhor them. Good word. Totally underused."

Hagrid gave a sharp roll of the eyes as he continued the downhill march. The deep grazes on his hands and burns in his overcoat looked eerie in the glow of my ghost form. There was a distinct look of battlefield about him which was actually a pretty accurate description of what we'd just emerged from.

"Yeh don' mean tha'. They're jus' feisty is all."

Feisty was certainly one word for it. The burn on my cheek from the explosion of the rear of one particularly agitated Skrewt twinged in protest.

"Hagrid. They literally ate each other."

"On'y 'cause they don' know any better. Misunderstood, they are." His gaze slid to mine, sly glint in his eye. "You should know a thing or two abou' tha'."

I blinked disbelievingly, singed body stinging all the more with his words. "Did… Did you just compare me to a bunch of exploding slug-crabs?"

The mischief in his face was undeniable. I shot him a light glare before turning back to face the fast approaching lake.

"If I ever decide to go cannibal, you're the first on my list," I bit, shuddering at the memory of the half-eaten Skrewt corpses.

When I'd left that morning, the Skrewt population had been at thirty-six. Twenty-one remained. The battle to separate the survivors had been an intense and fiery one and I was pretty sure the mental images would stay with me forever.

I eyed the lake as our descent continued. All students had been herded inside by now meaning that I was free to be as opaque as I wanted. It made a refreshing change, my glow lighting the way as the sky painted itself an inky black. I was getting sick of not being able to see my own hands.

"Jus' down there, see." Hagrid's arm appeared beside my head, pointing out a grassy area that had previously been blocked off by trees. What seemed like a hundred lanterns lined the lake, looking almost like the lights of an airport runway. I blinked as my gaze caught on a large shadowed ship resting on the water.

"That's a boat," I murmured blankly. Hagrid gave a light chuckle.

"Well spotted," he mocked, annoyingly unbothered by the impossibility of it being there.

There were no waterways in or out of Hogwarts. Whoever had arrived in it couldn't have just sailed. I frowned as my brain fought to come up with a reasonable answer. "Is it… a flying boat?"

Youngblood's ship flew, why couldn't magic make a wizard ship do the same?

"Don' think so. Looks like one of them ones tha' goes underwater, ter me," Hagrid replied, revelling in the confusion on my face.

"You realise that's, like, the opposite of what a boat is supposed to do."

"It got 'em here, didn' it?" he countered.

I sighed.

Hagrid wasn't the best person to talk to about the oddity of wizard stuff. It was all just everyday to him and his explanations never really went past 'it just works like that'. Maybe I could just ask Dumbledore about it when I met up with him after the feast.

My stomach dropped at the memory of the scheduled meeting. The Triwizard Tournament meant that the school was about to play host to a small number of Ministry workers. With my release being only three days away, Diggory had decided that he might as well add himself to that number and watch the opening events. To make it look like he was here solely for work, he'd decided tonight would be the perfect time to go over what was going to happen on Monday. "Best behaviour," Hagrid had warned. Not that I needed it. With the finish line being so close, I wasn't prepared to do anything that might put my escape in jeopardy.

I gave my head a sharp shake. There was no point worrying about it now.

My gaze drifted from the ship and settled on a large blue carriage nestled a short distance away from the school's main entrance. My shoulders dropped in awe as I took in the twelve horses tethered to it.

It wasn't the first time I'd seen a Winged Horse. Fright Knight's Mare danced through my head like a distorted reflection of those before me. The ghost creature was impressive in a deadly fiery glory kind of way but the spell cast by the ones across from me was one of life. My eyes locked onto the mass of muscle under their skins and I watched as they stretched and flexed in time with the stomping and head flicks.

I didn't realise I'd stopped moving until Hagrid's voice reached me from what felt like a mile away.

"Somethin' wrong?"

I flicked my gaze to meet his and found that he'd already reached the carriage. The frown on his face held a hint of concern. I shot him back a reassuring smile and slowly closed the gap between us.

"They're beautiful," I announced. I was close enough now to see the heat and power of their breath as it clouded the air around their nostrils.

Relief flooded the half-giant's face as he realised I didn't have a paralysing fear of ponies.

"Indeed they are. Fussy creatures, Winged Horses. S'pecially Abraxan like these. Like on'y the finest things in life, they do." Hagrid's voice dripped with admiration as he gazed at the creatures. With lumbering steps, he made his way to stand between the front two horses. I hung back, watching as he patted the neck of the one to the right. Its palomino coat rippled where his hand hit, lamp light reflecting in a way that turned it gold.

It was disorientating seeing Hagrid stood between creatures that were impossibly taller than him. Each Abraxan was easily elephant sized, swamping him in both height and breadth. The one to the left lowered its head to give Hagrid's mangle of hair a greeting nibble.

"Hello, you." A fond smile crept onto the half-giant's face as he turned to give the creature a welcoming shoulder rub.

Hagrid's obsession with Magical Creatures reminded me a little of my dad and ghosts. They were both overtly passionate about their individual interests and dedicated a large portion of their lives to them. It was oddly nice to see an obsession that wasn't in any way dark. Where Dad's revolved mostly around hate and destruction, Hagrid's was built on a desire to care for and protect. The warmth and affection was almost intoxicating.

It was one of the things I'd miss most.

"What're yeh doin' all the way over there? Come say hello, come on!"

I jolted as Hagrid waved an insistent hand in my direction, his face alight.

"Uh…" I rubbed my fingers across the back of my neck, sparing an anxious glance at the creature closest to me. "I don't think that's such a good idea. Animals and I… don't tend to get along. It's something to do with my ghost energy, I think."

"Nonsense. Look at 'em. Yeh really think these fellas care abou' a bit of energy?" He gave a very deliberate shake of his head before he sidestepped towards me, arm reaching out to catch my own. I grimaced as he pulled me forwards.

"Hagrid, I don't think-"

He pushed the palm of my hand against the neck of the Abraxan he'd been petting. I flinched, waiting for the inevitable stamp of rejection or powerful headbut.

Seconds ticked by. Nothing.

My face set in a gentle expression of surprise as I gazed up at the creature. Rather than pull away from my touch, it pushed itself closer. Its head twisted to sniff mine and its heavy breath ruffled my hair.


"What did I tell yeh? Nothin' to worry abou'," Hagrid chirped, patting me on the shoulder before turning his affections to one of the horses further back.

I let out a gentle laugh of wonder as I lifted myself higher into the air. I pulled off a glove and wrapped my fingers through the horse's mane. It snickered slightly in response, clearly enjoying the attention.

"I don't get it," I admitted. Hagrid grinned an all knowing grin, an expression I'd learned was often followed by his teaching voice.

"See it like this," he started. He drove a hand into his pocket and pulled out a bottle that looked suspiciously alcoholic. "The creatures yeh're used ter dealin' with are creatures that've been bred by muggles mos'ly, yes?"

I frowned, watching as he pulled out a bowl from another pocket that really shouldn't have fit.

"I guess."

"Their instincts'll pick out a creature like you and because yer 'energy' is somethin' they sense is abnormal, they'll see yeh as a threat. Yer a danger 'cause yer unknown."

He poured a part of the bottle into the bowl and held it up for the Abraxan he'd been tending. The creature was quick to lower its muzzle into the liquid and start lapping it up.

"And that's different for magical creatures?" I probed, distractedly twisting silky mane around my fingers.

"Magical creatures are bred 'round magical energies, an' with the amoun' o' wizard-ghosts out there, they're a lot more accustomed ter ghost energy. I'd say it's a safe bet ter guess yer energy is similar but a lot stronger."

It took a second for the words to sink in, but as they did, I found myself shaking my head. "That doesn't explain the owls. Owls fly in and out of Hogwarts all the time and there are ghosts everywhere. When I was in the Owlery, there wasn't a single one that looked like it didn't want to impale me." My previously injured wrist ached in agreement.

"Ah, but owls aren' inherently magical. They weren' a part o' the wizarding world until certain witches and wizards decided ter bring 'em in. They've gotten used ter ghost energy over the years but, as I said, yers is prob'ly a lot stronger. I don' reckon they know what ter make of it. Same with Fang, bless 'im." He pulled the bowl back and refilled it, moving onto the next Abraxan.

Catching the scent of whatever Hagrid was passing around, the horse I'd been stroking twisted in its reins. Its eyes locked onto the bowl and its leg gave an impatient stamp. I drew back, watching as the rest of the Abraxan focused in on Hagrid.

So did animal instinct work like my ghost sense? A ghost like Skulker sent a sharp blast of ice from my lungs but the Hogwarts ghosts were about as icy as a breath-mint. I guess it made sense.

"I think Fang's warming to me," I announced eventually, pushing aside all thoughts of being some kind of animal deterrent. The slobbery thing had actually sat by the armchair I'd been resting in that morning. He hadn't even whimpered when I'd given his head a gentle rub.

"Said it'd on'y be a matter o' time!" Hagrid gifted me with a grin before the head of an impatient horse lodged itself in his back. "All righ', all righ', yeh'll get yer turn. Plen'y o' whisky ter go aroun'."

Whisky. They really did like the finer things.

Hagrid's brow furrowed as he juggled the bowl and bottle to pull out his pocket watch.

"Blimey, we're runnin' far too late. At this rate we'll miss the unveilin'."

Ah yes. The unveiling.

I glanced across at the main entrance. While I was curious to catch a glimpse of the visiting schools, the last thing I felt like doing was going to some big feast to celebrate the start of the Tournament.

"What exactly is it that they're unveiling anyway?"

Hagrid lowered the bottle he'd been pouring. There was a distinct look of excitement in his eyes as he stared up at the castle.

"The Goblet o' Fire," he whispered lovingly.

I froze.

"The… what?"

"Goblet of Fire," he repeated significantly louder as he offered another horse the alcoholic beverage. "It's what they're usin' to select the champions."

"I didn't put my name in. You know I didn't."

Cold seeped into my core as the voice swam in my mind.

"I didn't put my name in the Goblet!"

"Oh, no," I groaned, pressing a hand to the back of my head.

It had been over a week since I'd heard the voices in the crystal ball. As the days passed, I'd been able to brush them off as a glimpse of some childish prank gone wrong, or a student blowing up the potions classroom like I'd often done to the science labs in Casper High. But this? This was so much worse.

"What's wrong?" Hagrid's voice seemed eerily distant compared to the memory of the shout in my head.

I didn't answer. What exactly was I going to say? That I had a really strong suspicion something was going to go wrong with the Goblet? That someone was going to get tied into a Tournament of Death that they didn't volunteer for?

"Danny?" Hagrid tried again, appearing in front of me with his deeply furrowed eyebrows.

"It's nothing, sorry I just…" I moved my hand from my neck to my temple and gave it a gentle rub. "I remembered something Dad wanted to do with me before Halloween and, well. Halloween is tomorrow so… I obviously screwed that one up."

It was scary how easily the lie came.

Guilt flooded through me as Hagrid rested his palm comfortingly on my arm.

"Yeh'll be home in no time, just you wait," he told me, soothing optimism thick in his voice. I let out a sigh before smiling up at him.

"Thanks Hagrid."

"Don' mention it." He grinned before turning his head to look back at the Abraxan. "I think these fellas deserve a rest, don' you?"

"Lead the way," I replied, replacing my glove and folding my arms as I waited for him to grab the reins of the front horses. He glanced back at me, checking that I was definitely okay before nodding and moving away.

The smile dropped from my face as I gazed at the castle doors.

Hearing panicked voices from the future was bad enough. Knowing a little about what caused the panic somehow made it a whole lot worse.

This was going to be a long weekend.

Amos Diggory was an idiot.

I'd had inklings before. Our first encounter in the Hogwarts dungeons hadn't painted him in the best of light. The second meeting had been a little better - he hadn't felt the need to poke his wand at me that time which I counted as a distinct improvement.

It took the third time for me to fully understand the extent of his stupidity.

Twenty minutes I'd been sat there. Despite Dumbledore's numerous probes and polite redirections, Diggory's mind was on one thing and one thing alone.

"Brightest boy of his age, Ced is. The Goblet simply has to pick him. Not only a whiz at his studies but also the greatest Quidditch player in the school! I tell you. If the Goblet is as good of a judge as you say it is, tomorrow night we'll be cheering my boy as Hogwarts Champion."

I felt my eyes roll. What parent in their right mind would want their kid to sign up for something like the Triwizard Tournament? Either Stubble needed to read up on parenting, or magic folk were more messed up than I'd thought.

"I admire your enthusiasm, Amos. If you wouldn't mind, however, perhaps we ought to focus on the task at hand," Dumbledore gently prompted, cutting in before more words could waterfall.

It took Stubble a second to register what the Headmaster had said, bemused frown creasing his forehead.

The seating arrangements placed me by Dumbledore's side and the Ministry worker opposite. I guessed it was supposed to show that he thought of me more as than just an accessory, which I figured I should probably be grateful for. Mostly, I was just happy there was a desk between Diggory and me, as though a measly block of wood could protect me from whatever bad news he'd inevitably throw at me.

Dumbledore's eyes drifted very deliberately to meet mine and Stubble slowly followed his gaze. Despite the fact that I was sitting pretty much directly in front of him, his eyelids flew to his brows as though seeing me for the first time.

"Oh! Of course. Terribly sorry. I do have a habit of rabbiting on. I'm just so proud, you see. Cedric has always excelled in everything he's put his mind to and I just know, given the chance, he'll do Hogwarts proud." He gave Dumbledore's desk an enthusiastic slap before nestling back into his padded chair.

The smile on the older wizard's face was a picture of kindness and patience, two things I felt I was lacking in right at that very moment.

"Cedric has always done Hogwarts proud, Amos. Tournament or not, I believe he shall continue to do so."

Cue the gag reflex.

I tucked my feet behind my chair's front legs in an attempt to stop myself from making some snide comment.

"It is good of you to say so, Dumbledore. Truly."

"Of course. Now about Danny's case."


"Yes. The Phantom case," Stubble murmured. He held up a halting finger before diving into the briefcase he'd discarded at the foot of his chair the second he'd walked into the room. He placed a hefty-looking green file on the desk and began to gently leaf through the first few pages. "Sparked a great deal of interest, this has. There's been war between the Being and the Spirit Division as to who the case belongs to. Even the Beast Division has been desperate to be a part of it, though it has been agreed that The Phantom in no way fits their usual category."

"Danny," I grunted.

"What's that?" Stubble spluttered, eyes twitching anxiously as they lifted from his file to sweep over me.

"It's Danny Phantom. Not 'The Phantom'. That's like me calling you 'The Diggory'. It's stupid."

"Ah." His eyes did a brief scan of Dumbledore's as though hoping to find some kind of support or rebuke. The Headmaster's expression remained politely passive. "Yes. Of course. Of course, it's just… For the case, you see, we had to come up with a title for your… uniqueness. You're hardly a ghost, or even a poltergeist…" He caught the narrowing of my eyes and hastily lifted a placating hand. "And by that I mean with your differing traits and abilities we could not possibly register you under the same category. Paperwork, you see. So… for the purpose of the case, you have been labelled 'The Phantom'. It fits so well, you have to admit."

The pride on his face diminished slightly as my eyes became slits.

"Wait. So. You're basically using my name in the same way you'd use 'The Dog'? You realise that's way worse?"

"Danny," Dumbledore warned softly.

Right. Best behaviour. I let my glare drop and folded my arms in annoyance. This Triwizard Tournament was messing with my head and the timing couldn't possibly have been worse.

Stubble gave Dumbledore the most indiscrete nod in thankful relief.

Three days. All I had to do was swallow my pride for three measly days and play along as the docile 'magical creature' whose obedience knew no bounds.

I felt sick just thinking about it.

"As I was saying," Amos began with renewed confidence. "The Ministry has invested a lot into monitoring and evaluating the case and they are impressed, if not concerned with the results the testing has produced. The Minister himself has called for a hearing this coming Monday to meet The Ph- Danny and decide upon where things go from here."

I tensed.

"A hearing? I thought… I thought this was it? Spend the month here and then I'm free to go. That's what you said." My gaze snapped between Stubble and Dumbledore. Neither seemed willing to meet my eye which made my frustration all the stronger.

"That's not entirely true. I did say I'd speak to my supervisors and, given the… powerfulness of your particular abilities, they believe that further investigation is required. This month will definitely help your defense, no doubt about that but… well it wouldn't really look good if we set a high level magical creature such as yourself loose without properly evaluating the risks."

"Properly evaluating- Dude. That's insane. I'm not some… dangerous animal out to consume the first thing I see. I'm a person. The only difference is that I'm dead and have a few powers you haven't seen before. You guys have spells that can kill a person in one shot. If we're talking about dangerous-"

"I believe what Danny is trying to say is that judging him on what he can do rather than what he has done could be considered unfair," Dumbledore interrupted, clasping his hands and letting them rest on the desk before him.

"No, what I'm trying to say is-"

The sharp look the Headmaster sent me was enough to kill the words in my throat. Hagrid's earlier warning rang through my head like an echo in an empty hall. My eyes flared.

"Right… Well…" Stubble stammered, unsettled by the sudden increase in tension. He cleared his throat a second time and fixed me with weary eyes. "Monday morning. I shall call on you at Hagrid's cabin. You shall bring with you all of your belongings and we shall make our way by floo network to the Ministry. Your hearing is at half ten. As I said before, the Minister for Magic shall be present and it shall be there that we will evaluate whether or not further steps will be taken."

I felt my stomach sink more and more with every word he said. A hearing. With the very people Dumbledore claimed wanted to utilise my abilities for their own defensive purposes. The Minister for Magic sounded pretty high and mighty. Even after this last month of hiding from students and 'keeping myself out of trouble', all I had to do was screw up once in this 'hearing' and it'd all be for nothing.

My glare had melted completely, replaced with apprehension. I let my gaze land on Dumbledore once more and as he looked back, I could see him reading my anxiety.

"I hope you have informed the Minister that I shall be in attendance," the Headmaster spoke up suddenly, the slightest twinkle in his eye as he continued to stare at me. It was obvious on Stubble's face that this was news to him.

"You shall? I… No disrespect, Dumbledore, but you haven't exactly been called for." The man rubbed his hands together nervously as though the idea of challenging Dumbledore terrified him. The older wizard's face simply morphed into a sharp smile as he finally turned from me and pinned Stubble with his iron gaze.

"Alas, I feel that my presence is somewhat required, don't you? After all, it is I who has housed the boy for the last month. If anyone should be called upon to speak in his defence, I think it makes the most sense for it to be myself." The challenge was obvious in his voice, a note of warning threaded through polite reasoning. His ability to cut off an argument before it really ever started was something that never failed to amaze me. It was like a spell in its own right.

It was a kind of magic that Amos was very clearly not immune to. I watched with the slightest hint of satisfaction as the man melted under Dumbledore's stare. A hand rose to scratch nervously at the stubble on his cheek.

"Well, of course. When you put it like that. I'll alert the Minister." He ducked his head to peer back down at his folder. It was hard to tell if he was actually reading anything or if he was simply hiding from the older wizard's piercing blue eyes.

"Perfect. Is there anything else you feel the need to discuss with us, or are we all caught up?"

I smirked at the clear dismissal. Watching the Ministry worker squirm helped distract from the swirling nerves in my stomach. Stubble glanced from Dumbledore to his file and then back again.

"I… think that's about it, yes. Is there anything either of you want to ask me?" His eyes flicked to mine. There were a million questions I wanted to ask, but something told me I wouldn't be able to do so without potentially biting the guy's head off.

"I'm good," I announced instead, false confidence flooding my voice. I didn't miss the slight upward flick of Dumbledore's lips as he stood more majestically than a man his age should have been able to.

"Should we think of anything, we shall let you know. Allow me to show you out?"

Stubble hastily stashed the file back in his briefcase before staggering into standing. "Yes. All right. If I don't see you before, I shall see you Monday, Danny," he blurted, trying desperately to cling to the professional demeanor he'd lost a while back.

"Monday," I repeated as way of farewell. He gave a short, sharp nod before turning on his heel and allowing Dumbledore to lead the way out of his office.

And then I was alone.

Anger and fear surged within me - two emotions I'd grown all too familiar with as of late.

I'd done almost everything they'd asked of me. Other than the trio and Luna, I hadn't overtly interacted in any way with the students of Hogwarts. Other than the occasional prank, I'd steered clear of trouble. I'd even put up with Snape's poking, prodding and blasting on a near daily basis. How was this in any way fair?

I growled, forming a large ball of ice and throwing it across the room. A perfectly aimed ectoblast shattered it before it could hit a dozing portrait and I watched heatedly as shards of ice and glowing green embers fluttered to the stone floor.

What made it worse, was that it sounded like they were using their tests as an excuse to complicate things. As though going through them hadn't been bad enough, now they were being used against me. They were 'concerned' with the 'powerfulness' of my abilities? Maybe they should focus their concern on something that actually posed a threat to people. Like the freaking Tournament they were hosting in a school.

"Gah. I hate wizards," I declared, not caring that the shout seemed to echo across the room.

"It seems there are plenty of wizards who feel the same about you," a painting behind me grunted, entirely unsympathetic. I turned and shot a glare over my shoulder before groaning and rubbing a hand across my forehead.

It didn't matter. The hearing wasn't at Hogwarts which meant travel would be required and if things went south, I was confident I'd get the chance to slip away. Still. I'd have prefered it if I didn't have to pull some kind of great escape and managed to get the wizarding world off my back for the rest of my half-life. Would have been nice for things to go right for a change.

"Care to talk about it?"

I flinched, pulling my hand away from my face as Dumbledore's voice reached me from the centre of the room. I gave him a tired sigh before shaking my head.

"Not really."

The man nodded slowly, bright eyes fastened to my own. I took a minute to properly look him over.

We hadn't really spoken much since he'd given me the schedule for my sessions with Snape. The conversation I'd had with the Potions Master a while back about the Triwizard Tournament and Dumbledore swam in my head as he stood before me. After what had just happened with Diggory, I was more confused than ever about the old guy's intentions. He'd just declared himself my defence and seemed pretty set on getting me out of whatever trouble the Ministry was apparently eager to put me in. While it could all be some clever ruse to get me on his side, I couldn't help but feel an odd sense of gratitude. This world sucked and it was getting harder and harder to know who exactly I could trust but the more time I spent around Dumbledore the more I wanted to trust him.

Even if he reminded me eerily of Clockwork.

"There is something you wanted to talk to me about though, is there not?" He asked calmly, carefully making his way back to his desk chair and taking a seat.

There was.

"How did you-"

"I work with children, Danny. I can tell when there is something playing on one's mind." The small smile helped ease a little of my anxiety.

"It's…" I started, straining to think of the best way to explain that didn't make me sound crazy or give away the fact that I'd been in the Divination classroom. I wrapped a hand around the back of my head and let out another sigh. "It's this whole…. Triwizard Tournament, Goblet of Fire thing. I just… get the feeling that something is gonna go wrong."

Dumbledore's eyes narrowed slightly in curiosity. "And why is that?"

I let my gaze fall to my hand as it dropped onto my lap. "It might sound insane. I don't really know how to explain it but… I had this… dream?" I winced at my own lie but forced myself to continue, knowing that if I didn't say something now, I'd regret it.

"There were voices. I think… I get the feeling that somehow, they were from the future."

"And what did these voices say?"

I blinked at the serious tone in the wizard's voice and peered carefully across at him. His eyes were no longer narrowed but his brow was furrowed in a way that told me he believed everything I was saying. I swallowed, hands balling into nervous fists.

"There was the voice of a boy, I think. He didn't sound very old. He said… well, more like shouted something about not having put his name in 'the Goblet'. I didn't even know what the Goblet of Fire was until a few hours ago, but… the kid… he sounded kinda… scared. Scared and angry." I knew what that felt like.

Dumbledore's expression became all the more grave. I cringed as he leant closer to me, staring into my face like he expected to find the voices etched into my eyes. "This boy. Did he have a name? Did you hear anything that could possibly identify him?"

Unnerved, my hand bounced back up to my neck. "Uh… I heard… It sounded like Snape? He said something like… This is no one's fault but Potter's, and then another name that sounded weird. Like… Carcroft or something?"

It was obvious the name 'Potter' meant something to him as his face grew dark. He leant back in his chair, pressing his hands together across his beard as he took in my words.

Seconds stretched on and the back of my neck began to protest the amount of anxious rubbing I'd been doing. When I'd heard those voices, I'd never intended to tell anyone. I thought, maybe if I ignored them, it'd all just go away and I wouldn't have to worry about it. The deep concern on Dumbledore's face however, set me on edge more than I'd admit. I felt like somehow this was a lot bigger than I knew.

And a frustratingly large part of me wanted to know.

"Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I shall monitor the situation closely," Dumbledore spoke up eventually, voice holding a gravelly deepness that I hadn't heard from him before.

I lifted ever so slightly from my chair as I looked him over. "You think something is wrong then?" I probed. His fingers twitched but his expression didn't change.

"It quite possibly could have just been a dream," he remarked, though it was obvious he didn't believe it. My fingers trailed down to my chest as I nodded distractedly.

"But if it wasn't?"

Dumbledore didn't respond right away. The tension between his eyebrows left uncomfortable shadows that appeared to age him more than should be possible. He finally moved his hands so that they rested gently on the arms of his chair and lifted his head slightly to peer at me through his semi-circle spectacles.

"I wouldn't concern yourself with it, my boy. If all goes well Monday, you shall be free to leave and the problems of the wizarding world will be yours no longer."

The big 'if'.

"Right," I murmured, unsure as to whether I was supposed to be agreeing or dismissing. He was right. I wasn't a wizard, I didn't belong to this world. Any problems they had were theirs and theirs alone. I'd done my part by warning him. Anything else was down to them.

So why did I feel so guilty?

The voice of the boy rang through my head again and I grimaced.

"Am I free to go?" I asked, suddenly eager to get away from anything wizard. Apparently I wasn't the only one desperate for a little alone time as the Headmaster gave a sharp nod.

"Of course. I shall send for you if there is anything else we must discuss. And Danny," his gaze softened, losing a lot of the darkness it had held before as he looked me over. "If there is anything at all that you wish to talk to me about, you know where I am. I've been told I'm a superb listener." His mouth twitched into a kind smile.

I forced my own smile in response and lifted fully from the chair, floating backwards towards the office exit.

"Sure thing. Catch you later." I gave a small salute before passing through the door and pulling up my invisibility.

Rather than head for the hide-out like I'd originally planned, I made my way up to the Astronomy tower. I needed a place to clear my thoughts that wasn't potentially occupied by a certain probing trio.

I tried to imagine the faces of my friends and family when I finally managed to get home.

Three days.

So long as nothing dramatically bad happened in the next sixty hours, three days I could totally manage.

AN: YO. So I know I said I wouldn't be updating until next month but then I remembered that the 29th of January is the day I posted the first (very different) chapter of Spellbound. Fun fact - it was originally titled 'Challenges'. I like Spellbound better...

Goblet of Fire time! Things are moving rapidly now! Danny's time at Hogwarts is potentially coming to an end, but the Ministry aren't that eager to let him go. Why would they be? Things are never that simple, Danny-boy. I feel like the tone is different in this chapter. Does anyone else get that feeling? I dunno. I think I like it?

Bittersweet news, my dearest friends! I have just been accepted for the job of my ten-year-old dreams which is... terrifying and wonderful and so many things, but also means that when I start up, I'm not going to have as much writing time. I'm currently working on chapter 22 so I have an update for February and will likely be finished with 22 for March, but don't hate me if I can't keep up with the monthly postings. Life is about to get a whole lot more hectic!

That being said - I hope you enjoyed the early chapter 20! Til the 17th, my lovelies!