“Miss Fenton, have you ever noticed anything odd happening around you?”
Jazz glanced at Danny, who was sitting beside her on the couch, but he just lifted one shoulder in the slightest of shrugs. Jack leaned forward from his chair to snag another chocolate chip cookie with his left hand while Maddie clung to his right from her perch on the armrest. The Scottish lady who’d turned up on their doorstep, introduced herself as Minerva McGonagall, and asked to meet with them sat primly in the chair opposite Jack’s, waiting for Jazz’s response.
“Anything you can’t quite explain,” prompted McGonagall. “Anything that doesn’t make logical sense or seem to fit with the rules of the world.”
“I mean…yes? But we’re Fentons. Odd things were happening all the time even before the portal started working.”
McGonagall’s brow barely creased, but Jazz noticed the change all the same. “The portal?”
“The Fenton Ghost Portal!” Jack announced proudly. “We still haven’t figured out how the ghosts are getting past the genetic lock, but Mads and I did what we knew was possible and built ‘er, even if no one else believed we could!”
“Ghosts,” McGonagall repeated in a tone of voice that told Jazz she hadn’t been in Amity Park for any length of time—nor, apparently, heard the stories about it before coming here. “I see.”
Jazz suspected that she did not, in fact, see.
“However,” continued McGonagall, “I suspect there was a very good reason these odd things happened even before you were successful in building this portal. Miss Fenton, as strange as this may sound, particularly given the, ah, scientific upbringing you seem to have had, you are in fact a witch, and much of what you have seen can be explained by accidental magic.”
Whatever she’d expected when this conversation had started, it had certainly not been that.
“Are you sure?” she asked before she could think about her words. “What if it’s not me? What if it’s…someone else?” Danny had tensed beside her, and she was very pointedly not looking at him.
“I understand your disbelief, but I can assure you, we are not mistaken.” She held out a folded letter on thick parchment, and as Jazz cracked the seal and stared at letter inside, trying to make sense of the words, she continued, “I would like to offer you a place at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry on a partial scholarship. We would cover half the cost of basic school supplies as well as your travel expenses to and from the school in September and June. You would need to cover the cost of travelling home for the holidays should you chose not to stay at the school over the break.”
“You’re offering her a scholarship?” Maddie whispered, exchanging a look with Jack. He’d paled at the mention of magic and had begun eating his cookie more slowly than Jazz had ever seen him do, considering it was usually gone in one or two bites. Now, it looked as if he were listening as intently as Maddie.
“It is an acknowledgement of the cost of international schooling as well as a bit of honey to sweeten the pot, I confess. Still, I daresay the fact that Miss Fenton’s name appeared on our rolls rather than those of Ilvermorny’s is further proof that she belongs at Hogwarts.” Perhaps catching Jazz’s expression, McGonagall elaborated, “Traditionally, you would attend a school of magic in North America—either Ilvermorny itself or one of its satellite campuses. While it’s certainly possible for students to venture further afield than the school nearest them, it is admittedly a rare thing.”
“And, what, because Jazz’s name never showed up somewhere for this Ilvermorny place, that means their magic isn’t as good or something?”
Jazz elbowed Danny, not liking the challenge in his tone when she wasn’t sure of this situation. It was far too early to be that combative! It was easier to accept that magic was real than that she herself had it; she knew enough ghosts to believe that magic wasn’t something that manifested in death alone. She herself, though? She thought of herself as positively ordinary, especially compared to the rest of the family.
Especially compared to Danny.
Which is why he needed to shut up and listen rather than speak up and challenge.
“I do not make it a habit of speaking ill of other schools of magic,” McGonagall said smoothly, “so no, Mr. Fenton. It is not a case of our enchantments being stronger than theirs. It is a case of where the student will do best. Transfer students are rare, and those cases aside, most schools do not accept those who are not or will not turn eleven within their first year, as it’s been determined to be one of the most effective ages to begin magical education. A good grounding in other subjects has already been established, and the students are young enough yet mature enough to effectively control and develop their magic. It is a skill as much as it is a gift.”
“But Jazz is sixteen,” interrupted Danny. “What do you want with her now?”
McGonagall smiled. “That is, I believe, the reason Miss Fenton would do well with us. Her situation is unique, and our coming year will be unique as well. She would have an easier transition to the Wizarding World through Hogwarts than she would at Ilvermorny.”
“May I ask why you foresee your coming school year as being, ah, unique?” Maddie asked, an echo of Danny’s suspicions in her voice.
“The last year was a tumultuous one, I’m afraid,” McGonagall admitted quietly. “The Wizarding World itself was at war, and scars do not heal overnight.”
Jazz eyed Danny again as he shifted in his seat, but at least he was biting his tongue as McGonagall explained—about the Wizarding World and the War, about the International Statute of Secrecy, about what being a witch meant. If this whole thing wasn’t a mistake—if she really was a witch, if she really did need to go to some magic school to learn how to control her powers so she didn’t have to fumble through it like Danny had after he’d become Phantom—then she needed to know as much about this world as she could.
“You’re not going alone,” Danny announced.
Jazz raised an eyebrow at him but didn’t put down her book. Usually, she was the one barging into his room, not the other way around. Still, she didn’t protest when he sat down beside her on her bed. “I haven’t even said I’m going.” She knew exactly what he was talking about, of course. If there were any chance of another topic, she’d have turned a page of her book in the last two hours.
“No, you have to go. If that McGonagall person is right, you’re safer if you go.”
“This isn’t your decision.”
“Technically, it’s not yours, either. It’s Mom and Dad’s. But they trust your judgement, so chances are good they’ll do whatever you want to do. Which is go. Because it’s you, and you’re curious, and you’d never pass up an opportunity like this.”
“You don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m still not sure I know what I’m going to do.”
Danny snorted. “Actually, we both know what you’re going to do. But what you don’t know is what I’m going to do, which is come with you.”
Jazz blinked. “What?”
“I don’t trust these people. Them being interested in you now? That’s weird. Even you have to admit it’s weird. Even if you think living in Amity Park is somehow messing with their magic system like McGonagall obviously thought it was, that doesn’t explain why it’s taken this long for someone to find you or discover your magic or whatever—especially if any interference that actually exists is caused by the portal messing with their magic radar stuff. And that’s assuming they’re right about you actually having magic and it not just being a portal thing or an ecto-contamination thing. Mom and Dad are safe because they always wear their HAZMAT suits, but they don’t always change into new ones when they leave the lab, and you’ve worn yours, what, twice? We know ectoplasm causes different reactions in different people.”
Jazz slipped the folded tissue she’d been using as a bookmark back into her book and closed it, setting it aside as she straightened up and rested her back against the headboard. “Yes, I remember being a head in a jar, thank you. But even if you’re right—and I’m not saying you are—what makes you think you could go with me? It’s not like your absence here or your presence there would go unnoticed.”
“I already checked with Sam, and she can forge me a fancy letter like yours.”
“Which wouldn’t be remotely suspicious, considering I got a personal visit and you weren’t mentioned at all.”
“No, you don’t get it. The letter’s not for Mom and Dad. It’d be for there, a fake transfer from this Ilvermorny place, in case I got caught.” Danny blew out a breath, and Jazz decided against telling him that he’d be found out in a heartbeat if he tried that. “Look. This is suspicious, even if you don’t think it’s suspicious because you can explain it away. I’m going to talk to Valerie tonight—she’s bound to come out to meet me if I fly by her apartment—and I’m going to tell her that I’m backing off. Tuck’s gonna fix the lock on the portal again sometime when Mom and Dad are out, so if I can get Vlad to agree to leave stuff alone, we shouldn’t be getting a ghost attack a day or anything like that. I mean, me not even being here will cut down on some of it. If anything, Skulker’ll have to come find me there.”
“You say all this like you’re thinking it through, but aren’t you forgetting that the ghosts are just as likely to attack because you aren’t here?”
Danny smiled. “That’s where Sam and Tucker come in. They’re gonna negotiate. It might be rough at first, but trust me, they’re more than capable of handling this, especially with Valerie watching their backs. And Mom and Dad should be able to handle anything they can’t get to.”
“And if Vlad doesn’t agree to leave stuff alone, since your plan is counting on it?”
Danny’s smile took on a feral edge. “Oh, he’ll agree. In fact, he’ll be the one offering to send me to a prestigious boarding school, and Mom and Dad’ll sign the paperwork without really reading it if he’s the one bringing it up. He wants me away from Mom and Dad to try to convince me he’s better than Dad, remember?”
“You can’t just completely ignore your own schooling. You’re not old enough to drop out.”
“Homeschooling programs are a thing, so if Vlad tries to pull that argument on me, I’ll tell him he can be my tutor since you’ll be too busy with your own stuff. Then I’ll be forced to spend at least a little bit of time with him, which is arguably what he wants. There’s no way he won’t see that as a win-win situation.” Maybe because he saw her open her mouth, he hastened to add, “And if Vlad doesn’t agree and you’re going to be a stick in the mud about my schooling, I can always talk to Clockwork. He can probably swing something for me so I can still keep up with my education without the Observants figuring out what’s going on.”
Jazz sighed. “You’re not going to let this go, are you?”
“Hey, you’re the one who’s going to go running off after you’ve had your world turned upside down. It’s my turn to play the overprotective sibling.”
Weeks later, Jazz finally admitted that Danny had a point. Not about being suspicious about every single little thing that happened, of course, but that they’d both known what she’d want to do the moment she’d heard about the opportunity. Now that she was at Hogwarts, she couldn’t imagine ever closing the door on this path entirely.
Well, okay. Danny might actually have reason to be as suspicious as he was. She was simply reserving judgement. She’d made too many snap judgements in the past to keep making the same mistake now. Still, she’d seen the toll this War had taken on the Wizarding World even before she’d ever laid eyes on Hogwarts.
She doubted getting overseas without simply jumping on a plane or a ship was ever easy, but the paperwork had not been insignificant, even after Jack and Maddie had agreed that it was best to say their goodbyes on American soil and leave her in the hands of another one of the Hogwarts teachers, Professor Sprout.
Saying the journey that followed via a series of authorized portkeys and eventually floo was tedious was an understatement, especially now that she knew what those things were. She’d nearly lost her lunch twice and her passport once—something she’d insisted on having just in case, even though it wasn’t strictly necessary by Wizarding standards—when she’d landed with a tumble and her backpack had flown open. Professor Sprout had been instrumental when it came to helping her survive the journey and walking her through everything and sorting out the scholarship payment, but it was a lot to keep straight.
Amazing as Diagon Alley was, changing money and getting her school supplies had been more of an exhausting whirlwind than an exciting adventure. By the time she was through (getting her wand had not been a short process, much to her discomfort and Ollivander’s delight), she’d long since missed the train. Professor Sprout had anticipated as much, so she’d taken charge of Jazz’s school supplies, saying she’d arrange for their delivery to Hogwarts, and had sent Jazz ahead to the Leaky Cauldron with a note for the barman and instructions to floo directly to The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade. Jazz had barely arrived in time to cross the lake with the first years.
The fact that Danny had successfully tagged along without having to travel in a Fenton Thermos, though? Considering how many protective wards they’d passed through? Considering he was still here at Hogwarts with her, despite the muggle-repelling charms that apparently saturated the land? It was a little unsettling, considering how many times she’d been told non-magical people simply wouldn’t see anything and would be prompted to turn away.
On their second night, she’d slipped into an empty classroom shortly before curfew and Danny had changed back to Danny Fenton to try to prove that he wasn’t here—seeing everything she was—just because he was also Phantom. Frankly, she couldn’t see where else his immunity came from if it wasn’t that. She’d given him her wand to make sure she really was the only one with magic, but Danny hadn’t felt anything holding it like she had, no warming of the mahogany or feeling of rightness. All he’d done by waving it was hit her arm; there’d been no shower of sparks, no gust of wind, nothing flying across the room or catching on fire or freezing into a block of ice.
Better than the wand exploding, at least, which she wouldn’t put past happening if Danny had tried casting a spell—especially if he’d tried forcing it to work by using his powers.
These days, she barely saw Danny, even as Phantom. He’d made it a habit of staying invisible unless they were alone even before he’d realized all the other ghosts in the school had heard of him. Granted, she was pretty sure they’d known him more by reputation than by sight; it was quite possible none of them had put it together until her name had been announced at the Sorting Ceremony. Aside from what seemed to be customary greetings, none of them had spoken to her at the time.
That hadn’t come until after she’d eaten her fill and been ready to crawl into bed and sleep for a week.
Danny’s whispered warning hadn’t been enough to keep her from jumping when the Fat Friar had caught her after the Welcoming Feast in the Great Hall and extended his welcome to both of them. The next morning, the Grey Lady had helped her find her way when she’d been caught on the wrong staircase, making a point of talking to both Jazz and Danny as she explained the tricks of the castle to them, and then Nearly-Headless Nick had asked to speak with her at lunch and proceeded to warn them which portraits they shouldn’t speak secrets in front of, and then—
Needless to say, it did not take very long for everyone to notice that the school ghosts treated her differently than they did everyone else.
Apparently, it was beyond rare for a ghost to take an interest in the living. This went further than mutual understandings or tentative friendships. The first time Jazz had had a conversation with the Bloody Baron, the entire school had known by lunch. Which meant she wasn’t only the American girl, the exchange student who was little better than a first year in most subjects; she was also rapidly becoming known as the ghost girl, despite her conviction that no witch or wizard in this school had an understanding of what the Fenton name truly meant.
She knew Danny didn’t mind it. He thought her being called the ghost girl was hilarious and consequently teased her at every opportunity. Plus, being immediately welcomed into a group of ghosts without any of them spoiling for a fight—even Peeves had kept Danny’s presence quiet after a few sharp words from the Baron—was a new experience for him, and she was glad he had the opportunity for it.
The joke that he was her ghostly guardian had stuck, though, and she thought he encouraged it.
Not that it mattered as long as it was only whispered among the dead.
At least it wasn’t weird that she had private lessons with all the professors to try to accelerate her education. Apparently, the previous year had been…lacking…compared to the usual high standards held by the school, standards it was clear Headmistress McGonagall intended to reinstate—because she was the headmistress, even if she hadn’t explicitly said as much in Amity Park. From what Jazz understood, few of the classes continued as they once had, with some years being taught together on an accelerated basis as they tried to build upon last year’s shaky foundation and strengthen it before ramping up the amount of material covered.
Two months in, Jazz was already starting to cover second year material in Potions, Herbology, Care of Magical Creatures, History of Magic, and—thanks to growing up with Danny and having him whisper in her ear every night as he double checked her work—Astronomy. (Danny found it fascinating how many of the constellations were the same but simply had different names; she was just grateful the math was familiar.) She had more trouble with Charms, Transfiguration, and the practical side of Defense Against the Dark Arts than she wanted to admit—those classes took more practice than mere memorization of facts or technique—but once she started to get the hang of it, she would be cleared to start Arithmancy.
Granted, Jazz was fairly sure she could take almost anyone her age in hand-to-hand, considering she’d picked up some martial arts from her mom and a fighter’s instinct from helping Danny back in Amity Park, but while Wizarding Duels were apparently a thing, physically sparring was not. She’d made the mistake of asking once when she couldn’t find anything on the noticeboard in the Common Room, and the looks she’d gotten in response…. She hadn’t been trying to hit a sore point, but it had most definitely been taken that way by the pair of boys nearest to her.
At the moment, she was getting up early on the weekends to practice with Danny, an arrangement he made it very clear he didn’t like, as he’d much rather be sleeping, but she wasn’t comfortable skipping curfew if she didn’t have to. (And, as much as Danny tried to argue the point, this was not something she considered absolutely essential, even if she didn’t want to be rusty by the time Christmas holidays rolled around. Sure, her parents had agreed to put their feud aside, but she’d believe it once she saw it. A bit of practice was necessary.)
Still, if she wasn’t studying or doing her homework in the library, she was in private lessons with her professors, shovelling food into her mouth while reading a book during mealtimes, practicing in an empty classroom, or off in a quiet corner of the courtyard or curled up on her bed in her dorm room (where it was far quieter than in the Common Room). In her opinion, she didn’t have time for friends when she had so much to catch up on.
She was sure some of the other kids might have teased her about this if she’d ever bothered to listen—or if Danny hadn’t taken the opportunity to freeze Peeves to the ceiling of the otherwise-empty Charms classroom the first time he’d started to loudly taunt her about it. That had been a nightmare. She’d stuttered out the pathetic excuse of accidental magic when others had come to investigate, but Filch wasn’t the only adult who didn’t believe her, going by their expressions, and that had only started more rumours about her.
In hindsight, she should’ve lied when someone had asked her what kind of wand she had. She’d known unicorn hair was a common enough core; she just hadn’t known that thestral hair wasn’t.
That debacle had gone better than her first flying class with the current crop of eleven year olds, where Danny had tried to coax her along by getting on the broom with her.
Her broom hadn’t liked that.
Or, more accurately, it hadn’t liked Danny.
She wasn’t sure why, unless the broom had somehow known he was there and that he didn’t belong. In any case, it had bucked them both off, and she’d have broken something if Madam Hooch hadn’t been there to catch her with a spell and an apology, setting her broom aside to be given a second, even more thorough inspection later. Jazz had been sent up to the Hospital Wing for a calming potion and returned the next evening for a private flying lesson. Danny had agreed to stay clear of that one, but he’d caught up to her at the second one and gleefully whispered about the joys of flying before someone else had come within earshot and forced him to back off.
Jazz still felt unsteady on a broom; her flight was never quite as controlled as she’d like. She felt more than a little trepidation every time she climbed on one, remembering that fall, but she could see the thrill of it. The wind whipping through her hair, the rush of adrenaline, the occasional illusion of weightlessness— It wouldn’t be quite the same as what Danny felt—it couldn’t be—but it would be similar enough that she knew why he enjoyed it so much.
Once she got better at it, once she had more time to practice and gain the confidence and skill she needed to be a half-decent flyer, maybe she could borrow one of the school brooms and take long flights over the grounds.
She didn’t practice as much as she should, though.
If she ever needed to fly somewhere in a hurry, Danny could take her faster than she could ever go on a broom by herself.
Maybe Danny had realized her reasoning behind this, as he’d stopped pestering her to practice and left her to her own devices.
Two months, however, was evidently all Danny was content to let her have in peace.
She didn’t look up from her Transfiguration essay, her pencil flying across the paper faster than she could write with a quill. Pens were finicky here, however many times Danny had gone off somewhere to get her new ones; they always seemed to run out of ink at the most inopportune times. She still had to use a quill and parchment in class and for exams, but pencils and paper worked well enough for homework, at least once she’d done the measurements to know the required length.
Not that she’d ever been short.
She wasn’t entirely sure all the professors would have agreed to let her use pencil and paper for her homework if the Baron and the Grey Lady hadn’t personally decided to escort her as she’d gone to ask them, though. The Baron’s reputation held sway even with the professors, and no one could match the wit Helena had sharpened over the centuries. Really, Jazz was fortunate in that respect; hers was not a usual case, and allowances had already been made.
“Jazz, seriously, look at me. Everyone’s down at the Halloween Feast. Except the ghosts. We’re supposed to go to Nick’s Deathday Party thing, remember?”
“Just give me five minutes to finish this.”
“That’s what you said ten minutes ago. Skip ahead to the conclusion already.”
“I can’t cut corners.”
“You’ve written ten pages, double-sided. That’s more than enough. Just take a break if you won’t call it good. Breaks are important for your mental health, remember?”
Jazz kept writing…until she suddenly buckled forward, scrambling to catch her falling papers and the pencil she’d dropped in surprise while Danny cackled above her.
“You can’t just turn stuff intangible on me like that,” she grumbled as she popped up with everything in hand. Danny, knowing her all too well, hadn’t stopped turning the table intangible, so she sighed and started to pack everything away. “Anyway, Nick invited you to his Deathday Party, not me. He explicitly said he thought I would enjoy the feast more than that.”
“He was giving you an out because he knew you’d be a party pooper,” countered Danny, “not because he was only inviting me. All the ghosts know we’re a packaged deal.”
“And all the professors know something’s up.”
“Yeah, because you’re on a first name basis with more ghosts than kids, which is on you.” Danny crossed his arms, looking like he was waiting for her to prove him wrong.
“Just because I haven’t gotten close enough to call someone a friend—in part because you’re talking to me half the time and making it seem like I talk to myself, by the way—doesn’t mean I don’t know anyone’s name.”
Danny raised an eyebrow. “Name someone in a different year than you. Heck, name someone in a different House than you.”
“Ginny Weasley,” Jazz said immediately. She’d been mistaken for the other girl a few times—they were about the same height, and from the back, their hair was too similar to be easily differentiated—and while Jazz didn’t exactly know her well, she felt they’d get along if they ever had a moment to exchange more than a few words. The other girl was clever and kind, someone with a sharp tongue and, by reputation, more than enough skill to back up any and all boasts.
Thinking on it, she might not be a bad person to reach out to when it came to trying to make friends. Inter-House friendships were rarer than Jazz had expected, even after the Wizarding War, but she’d seen Ginny hanging out with people outside of Gryffindor, so maybe—
“You’re not at the feast, either?”
Jazz froze in the act of closing her bag. Danny had become invisible again—possibly too late, with his luck—and she didn’t need to touch the table to know it was solid. She slid around it and shouldered her bag, grimacing at the weight and thinking she’d have to work on feather-light charms. “No,” she said as she faced the Ravenclaw girl who’d found them. Jazz had heard her called Loony Lovegood dozens of times, but what was her real name?
“Aren’t you going to go? It’s your first Halloween Feast at Hogwarts.”
Jazz shifted on her feet. “I might try to catch the end of it,” she allowed. “I’m supposed to go to Nick’s Deathday Party.”
Jazz’s response was a hum and a nod, and Jazz hoped that would be it, until— “Both of you?”
“What?” The word was out of Jazz’s mouth before she realized it.
“You and your friend are both going? Were you waiting for him to come before you left so you could go together?”
Crud. She had seen Danny.
Jazz dropped her bag onto the table. She was pretty sure Danny was still around, but he was more than used to playing the silent observer by now.
“I never thought you were talking to yourself or hearing voices, you know. Lots of people thought you might be, but most people don’t appreciate that there are some things others can’t see. You wouldn’t believe how many people still don’t believe in wrackspurts.”
Despite all her studying, Jazz had no idea what a wrackspurt was. “Right. Um, thanks. I’m Jazz, by the way.”
“Luna,” the girl said, shaking Jazz’s proffered hand, “but some people call me Loony.”
“They shouldn’t,” Jazz said. “You’re…. You’re right.” She glanced in the direction Danny had been and made her decision. “I’ve never been talking to myself. Luna, this is Phantom.”
When Danny materialized, he shot her a quick frown before offering his own hand to Luna. She only looked mildly surprised as she took it. “I didn’t know phantoms were solid like poltergeists.”
“I’m not like most ghosts.”
“But you are friends with the school ghosts. They all know about both of you, don’t they?” Without waiting for an answer, Luna looked back at Jazz and added, “The Grey Lady thinks you should have been in Ravenclaw. I overheard her telling the Fat Friar so once.”
“Jazz is better off where she is,” Danny said shortly. “It’s better that they don’t look at her twice. And, anyway, you guys have weird passwords. I overheard one once. What is sharp but cannot cut you? I mean. You know that every other House doesn’t have riddles, right?”
Luna smiled. “You wouldn’t need to know the answer to get into the tower.”
“Because there’s not only one right answer?” Jazz guessed, since she could think of a few things that might work already.
“Probably because I can phase through walls,” Danny said dryly. “Y’know, like a ghost.”
“I’m glad you’re friends,” Luna commented, smiling slightly as she took in their expressions. “I don’t think it would be very pleasant to be haunted by a ghost I wasn’t friends with.”
Jazz blinked and Danny looked equally surprised, but they could work with that excuse. From what Jazz understood, most ghosts in the Wizarding World didn’t exactly travel, instead sticking with a particular haunt once they took up residence, so that was really the best excuse for Danny’s presence at Hogwarts as far as the living might be concerned. They didn’t have to know how easy it was for him to go off and do his own thing.
“We met in Amity Park. Where I grew up. I…. I knew him before it happened.”
Jazz thought Luna would ask—who wouldn’t have questions?—but the other girl simply gave her a solemn nod and changed the subject. “I should let you get to the party. I’ll stop by the kitchens and let the House Elves know to make up a plate for you. I don’t think you’ll be back in time for dessert, and the food at the party won’t be to your taste.”
Danny elbowed Jazz as Luna turned away, hissing, “Go on, make a friend who isn’t a ghost.”
“Do you want to come with us?” Jazz blurted out, realizing she’d never asked why Luna herself wasn’t at the Halloween Feast. “I’m sure Nick won’t mind, but if you’re doing something else—”
“I’m looking for my shoes. They’ve gone missing again.” Luna didn’t sound as bothered by this as Jazz thought she ought to be. Jazz hadn’t noticed that the other girl was in sock feet until she’d mentioned it, but a quick glance confirmed that she was and that she seemed unfazed by the cool stone. “It’s just something a few kids in my year have done for old times’ sake, I think. It used to happen much more often.”
That knowledge, in Jazz’s opinion, didn’t help. Judging from Danny’s expression, he didn’t think much of Luna’s treatment, either. From what Jazz knew of Luna’s part in this Wizarding War, she was surprised anyone was still bullying her.
“I’ll help you find them,” Danny said, “and then we can all go, and maybe you two will have time to get back to the feast for dessert. Just…promise you won’t tell anyone about me? Please? Jazz is having a hard enough time adjusting as it is. Obviously.”
Jazz wanted to glare at Danny, but Luna could easily see her, so she settled for picking up her bag again. She’d have to drop it off in her dormitory before going to the party, anyway, so it wouldn’t be hard to meet up with Danny and Luna once they’d found her shoes.
“Don’t worry. I know how to keep my friends’ secrets.”
Jazz shrieked, clinging to the railing of the shifting staircase as the entire thing began to turn, and heard Danny’s voice in her ear. “Want me to just fly you down to the first floor so you’re not late for class?”
The offer was tempting—he knew it was—but she already stood out without having to pretend Danny’s abilities were her own. She was pretty sure flying unaided wasn’t something she’d be able to excuse as accidental magic, at least not when that flight had as much control as Danny would. Besides, for all that it felt like Danny had been hanging over her nonstop, she knew he wasn’t. She could get in hours of uninterrupted study time, meaning he was up to something.
Unfortunately, he wouldn’t tell her what, exactly, his agenda was.
“You know I can’t let you do that,” she hissed back at him.
“So you’ll agree to eat the nosebleed candy and skip out?” The candy in question appeared a foot and a half from her nose and didn’t waver.
Jazz let out a huff of exasperation that may or may not have sounded a bit too much like a growl as she batted the candy away, knocking it out of Danny’s hand and sending it over the railing and out of sight. She’d heard of Nosebleed Nougats, but she had no idea where Danny had gotten one—or why he was trying to convince her to skive off class when he hadn’t before. Couldn’t this wait?
“C’mon, it’s History of Magic. It’s not like it’s a subject you actually need to be there for. You could probably skip out even without eating the magic candy. If Binns actually notices that you’re gone, I’ll vouch for you. He knows what I’m doing.”
Maybe he did, but Jazz wasn’t convinced about that. Danny hadn’t exactly filled her in on all the details about what he did when he wasn’t with her or fetching her some much-needed supplies from the nearest muggle town. She doubted he’d tell the entire truth to a ghost he’d only met a few months earlier before he’d tell it to her.
Then again, this was Danny, on his new overprotective sibling stint. His not telling her could be his way of letting her settle in before he dumped all of whatever this was on her. That would be par for the course, considering what he’d pulled with Luna last week when those Ravenclaws had been gossiping about her.
Come to think of it, Luna was probably the reason he had magical candy in the first place.
“Why are you so intent on me skipping out on class when it’s the only time I have it this week?” True, considering she was learning History of Magic largely by independent study with only occasional check-ins with Professor Binns at this point, she didn’t have much of a leg to stand on, but it was worth a try.
“Helena told me about this Room of Requirement on the seventh floor.” Danny’s voice held a seriousness to it she hadn’t heard for a while, so Jazz didn’t move even though the staircase had slid back into place.
Not back into place where it had originally been, of course, but somewhere that would make it easier if she did what Danny clearly wanted and went straight to the seventh floor instead of to class.
“And?” Jazz prompted, trying to remember how long it would be before the staircase shifted again.
“I’ve got it cleaned up now. It caught fire last year, so some parts of the room don’t change, and I have to phase through the wall because the door won’t show up, which means everyone else thinks the enchantments are broken, but it’s there. And it’ll bring up a portal to the Ghost Zone.”
Jazz stared. “What?”
“I can show you.”
Fine. She’d let him get his way just this once—but only because he was right and would be able to talk Professor Binns around. Jazz hurried up the stairs before they changed again and followed Danny’s directions to the specific spot within the seventh floor corridor. She was studying a tapestry when she saw a flash of light from the corner of her eye and looked around to see him standing in plain view, looking every bit the muggle he supposedly was. “What are you doing?”
“It doesn’t change for me when I’m Phantom,” he said, as if that made any sense. He started pacing back and forth in front of the tapestry while she watched, and after a few rounds, he took her hand and turned them both intangible as he pulled her through the opposite wall.
The room inside was only slightly smaller than the average classroom, except that the entire left half had been cordoned off by a dark blue curtain; whenever it shifted, she could see blackened stone beneath. The rest of the room was lit with what looked like kerosene lamps along the walls, barring the ceiling, which showed a star-studded sky despite the daylight outside. Not the same enchantment as the one in the Great Hall, then, but she’d heard about Firenze’s Divination classroom….
Looking around, Jazz saw a desk along the wall by the door at her immediate right. It was topped with some haphazardly stacked books and a half-filled notebook. A captain’s bed—an unmade bed, she noted with a frown—was pushed up against the adjoining wall, a single sock caught in one of the drawers beneath. Nearby was a low bookcase with what looked like a math textbook next to a single model rocket sitting beneath the mirror on the wall above, though the lower shelves of the bookcase were full. Posters on the walls advertised everything from Dumpty Humpty to NASA. Nearer to the middle of the room, there were a few chairs positioned around a coffee table—also scattered with books and papers—over an area rug speckled with stars. Beyond that stood a small table with a single chair, a garbage can full of what looked suspiciously like the candy wrappers, a little kitchenette built into the wall, and an alcove that she suspected hid a washroom. At the end of the room was another curtain, this one black.
It swayed slightly in a nonexistent breeze.
When it did, she glimpsed glowing green beyond it.
Well, at least that explained why Danny always seemed to have news from home.
“It’s behind phase-proof glass,” he said, following her gaze. “The curtain’s just to keep the light out when I’m trying to sleep.”
“Have you been living here the entire time?” She knew the House Elves had been leaving Danny food even before either of them had found out what a House Elf was (which hadn’t been that long, since the Friar had shown Danny to the kitchens after he’d caught Jazz sneaking him food on their second day), meaning they had to know he wasn’t an ordinary ghost even if they hadn’t told that to any of the living witches and wizards as far as she was aware. Plus, she was pretty sure the House Elves must know he’d been living in this room or this place would be much more of a disaster. She knew he sneaked around to use the bathroom—he’d said as much a few times when he’d ducked out from tailing her—but she wasn’t aware that he regularly sneaked into the kitchens or broke into cupboards for cleaning supplies.
Danny rubbed the back of his neck. “Not the entire time,” he mumbled. “I was going to just hang out in classrooms and stuff until Peeves spooked me that one time, remember?”
Danny didn’t do well when caught unawares. He’d started ignoring his ghost sense since coming here—she thought he was supressing it somehow, or at least adapting it so that it didn’t go off around the Hogwarts ghosts all the time, but he’d shrugged it off when she’d tried to ask him about it, so she still wasn’t sure—and she hadn’t seen it go off around even Peeves since the first week or so. Consequently, Peeves had managed to sneak up on him.
The destruction of the stone wall at Danny’s scream-turned-Ghostly-Wail had been put down to a lingering curse that hadn’t detonated when it was supposed to, something left over from the War. Considering Jazz was certain Headmistress McGonagall had had the school combed for such things ten times over, she was pretty sure that was simply the story the students had been told. She had no idea what the professors really believed.
She didn’t think any of them had asked the ghosts, though she knew none of them would’ve given Danny up, even after that.
“I know I told you I was just going to be more careful when it came to the whole ‘sleeping in empty classrooms’ thing, but I was actually going to camp in the Forbidden Forest for a while until I could figure something else out. I was trying to steal supplies when Helena caught me, and then she told me about this place.” He hesitated. “I, um, thought I should show it to you before I showed it to Luna. And Ginny.”
Jazz raised her eyebrows. “Ginny doesn’t even know about you.”
“No, but Luna trusts her, and I’ve seen her spellwork. She’s good. Way better than you are with a wand.”
“Considering how long I’ve been doing this, everybody is better than me with a wand.”
“There are some pretty awful first years.”
“Not my point and you know it. Why do you suddenly want to tell more people you’re here when we’ve been so careful?”
Danny didn’t meet her eye as he muttered, “I think I know why you’re here.”
“I mean, not just why you’re here here, because I don’t think McGonagall was lying when she said you’d have an easier job playing catchup here than at Ilvermorny considering what happened last year, but…. I still think it’s weird they didn’t find out about you earlier, and I don’t think it’s just because we live in Amity Park.”
“So why, because my magic is so weak? Great pep talk, little brother. Real glad I skipped class now.”
He finally met her eye, and the fact that it wasn’t to glare at her and snippily point out that her weak magic wouldn’t matter one bit for History of Magic made her more uneasy than she wanted to admit. “No, I think Clockwork kept you hidden. I think he was trying to keep us from getting caught up in that War.”
“You’re not even supposed to be here, Clockwork doesn’t exactly care about me, and from the sounds of it, if we’d known earlier, I should’ve gone to Ilvermorny. Try again.”
Danny sighed and wandered over to one of the comfy chairs on the area rug and dropped down, gesturing for her to do the same.
She sat, but only because she wanted answers and he seemed to finally be ready to give them.
“Prophecy is a big deal in the Wizarding World,” he said, which was a giant understatement considering Muggle Studies was considered a lesser option than Divination when it came to elective classes. “I think…. Okay, look, when I haven’t been here, either going to your classes or doing my own homeschooling stuff, I’ve been scouting. I’ve found Wizarding London and their Ministry of Magic and everything and…. Don’t freak out, okay?”
“You know it never helps when you say that, right?”
Danny winced. “Good point. Just…. I’ve been talking to the ghosts I’ve found, and I’ve talked to a surprising number of chatty portraits, and it seems like a few years ago, they lost a whole bunch of records in their Hall of Prophecy.”
“Skip to the reason why you think I’m going to panic.”
Danny bit his lip. Then, “I think you were in one of them. I think we were in one of them.”
“I talked to Clockwork,” Danny said instead of clarifying, “and he wouldn’t give me a straight answer, which usually means I’m right.”
Jazz pinched the bridge of her nose. “What are the chances,” she asked without opening her eyes, “that this prophecy stuff doesn’t matter at all and I’m just here to make friends and help kids through the trauma of surviving a war, torture and all?” Dropping her hand to look at him, she added, “You must’ve heard more stories than I have. You know how bad it got.”
“Yeah. They had it worse than we ever did in Amity Park.”
“Why do you think there’s a prophecy about us again? Did a ghost tell you?”
“Then what, exactly?”
“It’s just a feeling,” Danny admitted. At Jazz’s withering look, he quickly added, “C’mon, think about it. You have magic and I have ghost powers? I know we’re Fentons and we’ve got Nightingale blood—that one witch hunter ancestor I told you about, remember?—but isn’t that a little much? A ghost and a witch from a family known for ghost and witch hunting? There’s gotta be something someone isn’t telling us.”
Jazz pursed her lips, not wanting to comment on the universe’s sense of irony where her family was concerned. “Have you looked in this Hall of Prophecy place to see if you can find anything to support your hunch?”
“I’ve only been there once. It’s not as easy to get to as it seems, because the magic interferes with my sense of direction if I’m not concentrating. There’s this one room nearby with this weird arch—”
“Did you find anything relevant?”
“Well, no, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.”
“It also doesn’t mean it does exist.”
“I’m not sure how it works. I don’t think they’d have a record of it if no one was around to hear it being made in the first place.”
“You know this is sounding less and less likely the more you talk, right?”
“Jazz, I’m serious. Something’s coming or something’s changing, and Clockwork won’t tell me what it is. I want to bring Ginny in on this because I think we’re going to need more living allies than just Luna, assuming either of them will agree to help us. You know the ghosts here are too weak to do more than pass information along.”
Jazz frowned. There was still something Danny wasn’t telling her; she was sure of it.
She looked up at the glittering ceiling again, chewing her lip, and then froze.
As her gaze dropped back down to Danny, she said slowly, “You said you were thinking of camping out in the forest earlier, right?”
Danny blinked at her. “Yeah? So?”
“Firenze is living proof that sentient creatures already live there. They’d have noticed you.”
She saw Danny swallow and shift nervously in his seat, which only served to solidify her growing suspicion.
“Firenze has already noticed you, hasn’t he? He’s the reason you actually think there’s a prophecy. Heck, he’s the reason you went looking for this Hall of Prophecy in the first place, isn’t it?”
Danny stared at the carpet and said nothing.
“Look, whatever this supposedly is, we don’t have to play along. Things will be fine if we don’t interfere.”
“Um. About that. I don’t think that’s the case.”
“Clockwork would’ve tried to stop me if I were barking up the wrong tree, okay? And he didn’t. Which tells me loads. It’s us, so it’s probably a ghost thing, maybe even something with the castle ghosts for all I know. Or maybe we need to work on integrating muggle tech into the magical world. Mom and Dad are inventors, and we know their stuff better than they do in some cases.”
“There’s also, um, this.” He dug something out of his pocket and held out his hand.
She arched an eyebrow at him but reached out, and he dropped a rock into her hand. It was cracked down the middle and had some kind of carving etched into it that she couldn’t quite make out even after a moment of careful study. “What is it?”
“I don’t know.”
Danny pulled a face. “I found it in the forest, okay? It…. It feels like the Ghost Zone. Like one of the rocks from the Ghost Zone. I think it’s important.”
“You think a random rock you found outside is important.”
“I found it after talking to Clockwork. He spit me back out into the Real World face first into that clearing and I almost broke my nose on that thing. Clockwork doesn’t do coincidence. He does little tweaks here and there to make things the way he wants them to be, the way the timeline is supposed to go, in a way that he hopes the Observants won’t notice. So, no, when he’s involved, I don’t think I’m reading more into this than there is.”
Jazz groaned. “What do you propose we do, then?”
“Talk to Luna and fill her in on the truth. Bring Ginny in on it if Luna thinks we need to. We need info, and neither of us has the time to do a whole bunch of research in the library.”
“Why Luna and Ginny instead of one of the ghosts?”
Danny grimaced. “Until I know what that thing is, I don’t really wanna tell a ghost about it. It hasn’t affected me in any way, but that could be because I’m not actually dead. Or magical.”
Jazz rubbed her thumb over the symbol on the rock, still contemplating the possibility that this was all some grand scheme of Danny’s to get her more friends. The stone had clearly come from something, but that didn’t mean anything; if Danny were trying to stage something, he’d use whatever he could get his hands on. She was sure he’d feel more comfortable if she had more friends—especially if it was someone he’d obviously vetted, like Ginny—and maybe if she did, he’d agree to go back to Amity Park for the next term, when the transition was easier, and claim that he was too homesick to continue at this fictional boarding school.
Or, if Vlad had his way, since he’d agreed to this scheme in the first place and would surely use the opportunity to hold this over Danny’s head, claim that Danny had been too much of a troublemaker or too much of a slacker and he’d been kicked out.
Her parents would probably believe it either way.
Still, she wouldn’t know unless she played along. Danny wouldn’t let this rest, so she’d be better off if she simply let him win this one. She didn’t want to believe in prophecies, even if this was the Wizarding World, but….
But her little brother had already done great things, things worthy of prophecy, and he’d given up so much just to follow her here—even if he had come unasked.
She could give him the benefit of the doubt.
“Okay, little brother,” Jazz agreed. “Do you want to tell them why you’re so famous even the ghosts who practically never leave this castle know who you are, or should I let Myrtle do that?”
Danny blanched, and Jazz laughed for the first time in months.