Disclaimer: Usually I write out this very specific disclaimer explaining exactly what it is I don't own but I find myself not really interested in doing so as it is very tedious. Suffice it to say I own nothing that was created by anyone else and I am making no money whatsoever from the writing of this FanFiction.
Warnings: Mild to moderate violence, character death, foul language, alternate universe (i.e. kiss HP canon goodbye), angst, drama, starts pre-Hogwarts Era, and who knows what else.
AN: This story is self-beta'd; so there may be occasional grammatical or spelling errors that crop up every now and then and for those I apologize in advance.
Chapter Forty-Six: Trainwreck
Saturday July 26, 2025 06:21 PM
Harry absently gnawed on a skewer of yakitori as he struggled through several worksheets on Japanese History in the corner of the Dicey Café that was furthest away from the door where he was currently seated in the booth that he pretty much claimed for himself each time he hung out with his adopted parents at their café. He was half tempted to light the entire stack of worksheets on fire but refrained from doing so since he didn't want to disappoint his adopted parents by doing poorly on the academic assessment tests that he was scheduled to take on the thirtieth.
There was also the fact that his new mother had gone out of her way to purchase the various study guides, text books, workbooks, and worksheet packets that he needed in order to revise for his exams and he wouldn't want her to think that he didn't appreciate her efforts to help him – because he did appreciate her willingness to help him.
Harry let out a gusty sigh of suppressed boredom and brought the skewer of grilled meat in his hand up to his mouth so he could tear off another bite of chicken. As he thoughtfully chewed the grilled meat, he contemplated the next question on his worksheet. He then glanced towards the small stack of history books that he had brought with him and wondered how useful they would be in helping him find the answer. He highly suspected that they'd be about as useful as Binns when it came to any subject that wasn't the Goblin Rebellions and probably twice as dry as the Sahara Desert.
Textbooks in Japan were no different than textbooks in England and not all textbooks published accurate information or even published the same information even if they were on the same subjects; hence why he had multiple textbooks for each subject.
Another sigh filled his small corner of the café as he reluctantly abandoned the now empty skewer, cleaned his hands off with a napkin, and reached for the pile of books despite his lack of faith in their ability to provide him with the facts he needed. He picked up the book on the top of the stack and flipped to the reference index at the back so that he could determine if that one covered the question's topic. He'd just started to run his pointer finger down the page of 'm's when the bell above the door sounded and, eager for a distraction, Harry glanced up to see who it was that had entered the café.
The moment he recognized Kikuoka Seijirou, Sasaki Naoki, and Watanabe Daisuke (the magicist that had examined his magical core and tested his magic just two days earlier), Harry blanched and ducked beneath the table to avoid being seen by the three men. It was an instinctive reaction to their presence and his firm belief that the trio showing up here and now could only be bad news for him. Sasaki had told Harry that he wouldn't see the man again until the results of his various health assessments (both mundane and magical) had been collected and analyzed unless there was an emergency.
So, either they had all of his results (doubtful since the results for some of the muggle medical exams that had been done on him could take weeks to process) or there was a bigger problem that he was going to need to worry about.
His right hand was already in the process of opening his Player's Menu so he could equip his Invisibility Cloak before he realized what he was doing. Just before he could follow through on the unconscious action, Harry froze as he recalled that he was sitting in the middle of a muggle café and that there were at least six muggle customers currently eating at the tables or drinking at the bar. The chances that one of them might see him opening his Menu or vanishing into thin air were far too high for him to risk doing either right that second.
It would be very stupid to break the Statute of Secrecy right in front of a representative of Japan's magical government.
Pursing his lips, Harry contemplated his options as he watched the feet of the three men he was currently hiding from move from the door to the bar. Based on the direction their shoes were facing, the three men were either talking to Agil at the moment or they were waiting for Agil to acknowledge them since it was possible that Agil was in the middle of serving a customer. That meant that it wouldn't be long until Agil pointed the three men in his direction since there were only three possible people they were here to see; Harry, Agil, or Mayumi.
And there was no real reason for them to see either of his adoptive parents unless it was to speak to them about him.
The door chime rang out again shortly after Harry's aborted attempt to disappear when someone else entered the café but this time Harry ignored it as he kept his eyes glued to Kikuoka's shoes (because he didn't like the man) in order to keep track of them. He knew that the shoes he was staring at were Kikuoka's because they were the only pair of normal shoes in the group; Watanabe was wearing a pair of ivory geta that were made from bone (most likely from a dragon given the fact that each sandal had been carved from a single piece of bone) and Sasaki was wearing a well worn pair of dragon hide boots (after four years of working with dragon hide gloves, it was hard to forget what dragon hide looked like).
Harry's fixation on the trio of men he silently thought of as walking headaches would be shattered just seconds later when he heard Kirito's… or rather, Kazuto's familiar voice call out, "Oi, Gil; is the gaki here or am I going to need to go fetch him from your house so that he can join us for the impromptu meeting that Kikuoka had demanded when he phoned me earlier?"
"He's here; he should be haunting his usual booth in the corner," Agil replied from the other side of the room; a clear indication that he hadn't been at the bar when the trio had arrived (and had most likely been politely ignoring their presence while he tended the needs of a paying customer). "If he's not there, then he's probably in the kitchen helping Mayumi with the dirty dishes again."
Harry slumped in the shadows as his options for avoidance or escape were summarily cut down to zilch in response to his father all but giving away his position. He supposed he might as well climb back up into his seat and face the music since he obviously wasn't going to get out of dealing with the harbingers of doom (no, he wasn't over exaggerating as far as he was concerned) that were even now heading in his direction. At least he'd have Kir… Kazuto for company.
"How soon will you be able to join us, Mills?" Kikuoka inquired as his shoes paused and half turned back towards the bar.
"It's a slow night; so, give me fifteen minutes to finish setting up the rest of my customers and then I'll join you."
A silent sigh of resignation slipped through Harry's lips as he reluctantly slipped back up into his seat just as Kazuto reached the table with Watanabe and Sasaki just a few steps behind him and Kazuto gave him a funny look before he asked, "James, what were you doing down under the table?"
"I dropped my pencil," Harry deadpanned as he very carefully didn't glance at the utensil in question where it was sitting on top of the worksheet he'd been in the middle of completing when his three least favorite adults on this side of the world had entered the café.
Kazuto glanced at the pencil that had obviously been on the table all that time before he returned his eyes to Harry's face and frowned at him in concern. Harry gave him a strained smile in return before he blanked his face and glanced passed his friend to stare at Kikuoka as the annoying man rejoined the group at the table. Kazuto followed Harry's gaze and promptly let out a soft sigh before he nodded; the teen had obviously understood the silent message – Harry had been upset about Kikuoka showing up at the café without warning.
"Potter-kun," Sasaki murmured as he bowed shallowly in greeting. He then lowered the volume of his voice as he calmly added, "Please do not be alarmed; I'm going to draw my wand to place a few privacy wards around your table so that the other customers present won't be able to eavesdrop on our discussion."
The wizard then suited action to words and Harry took careful note of which spells the man cast; paying particularly close attention to those spells that he didn't recognize. He also noted that both Kikuoka and Watanabe had positioned themselves in such a way that they blocked Sasaki's casting from the customers that were in the café. Sasaki tucked his wand back in its sheath the moment he had set the final ward and as if that was the signal that they had been waiting for, all four men sat down at Harry's table with Kazuto sliding in next to Harry while the other three sat across from them.
"While we're waiting for Mills to join us, I'd like to finish your interview," Kikuoka stated as he immediately pulled out the familiar recorder, his laptop, and a thick file that contained the man's notes and research on Harry.
"I'm not answering any questions about Hogwarts," Harry flatly informed him as he rescued his plate of yakitori from Kazuto before the teen could steal one of the three remaining skewers.
"Very well, I shall keep that in mind," Kikuoka replied with a trace of annoyance that said he was rather displeased with Harry's refusal to speak of the past four years.
"I'll be sure to remind you if you forget," Kazuto drawled as he slouched back in the booth and draped an arm over the top of the booth above Harry's head; the teen effectively reminding Kikuoka that he was once again there to protect Harry's interests. His second attempt to steal part of Harry's supper using the arm that was slung over the booth was then derailed when Harry elbowed him in the side before he moved his plate even further away.
Kikuoka's face briefly tightened in displeasure in response to the reminder before he cleared his face, turned on the recorder, and focused on Harry as he asked, "Just before your original interview was cut short, you'd mentioned that you still had access to your SAO Game Log but that you weren't accessing it through a virtual world; will you please tell me how you are accessing your Game Log?"
Harry wrinkled his nose in distaste over the reference to the seed worlds that he'd heard mentioned on more than one occasion over the past week and a half before he turned away from Kikuoka to address Sasaki, "Ano, Sasaki-san? How much privacy did the wards that you raised around this booth give us? Will tousan's customers be able to see us?"
"The non-magicals present can still see us but they will ignore any blatant uses of magic inside of the wards since the wards will prompt them to believe there's nothing of interest going on at our table. So, you're free to perform the demonstration that you obviously wish to give in response to Kikuoka-san's question."
"Arigatou, Sasaki-san," Harry replied before he returned his gaze to Kikuoka and promptly opened up his Player's Menu so he could send his revision materials to his Inventory to keep them from getting misplaced. A small smirk curled the corners of his mouth upwards when Kikuoka's chin nearly hit the table as the man gaped at him in surprise in response to the display of casual wandless magic and Harry savored the moment for several seconds before he asked, "Did that answer your question, Kikuoka-san?"
Kikuoka immediately snapped his mouth shut in response to the question before he opened the file he'd pulled form his briefcase and made several notes on the legal pad that had been inside of the folder. He then reached over to turn his laptop on before he returned his attention to Harry.
"Do you know how to export your Game Log to a file?"
"Kazuto, could you walk him through the process and have him send his Game Log to my e-mail account?"
"I can try; not sure if it's going to work or not seeing as how he's not exactly hooked up to the internet," Kazuto agreed as he shifted so that he could read Harry's open Menu. "Go ahead and start by paging over to your Game Log, James."
Harry complied as he absently slapped Kazuto's hand away from his food when his new position once again brought the teen into range of his plate of yakitori. Once he had his Game Log Menu open, Harry toggled it over to his SAO Log from the MaM Log only for Kazuto to reach out to try and toggle it back but the teen's finger failed to affect the Menu has his hand passed right through the mostly transparent window.
After his second failed attempt, he prodded Harry with his finger and instructed, "Chotto matte, James; switch it back!"
"Nande? It's just my Game Log from MaM."
"Just switch it back, please."
"Em eh em…? What's em eh em?" Sasaki inquired as he leaned across the table in order to get a closer look at Harry's open Menu (a difficult task given that he was trying to read it from the backside of the partially opaque window) while Watanabe just frowned and impatiently drummed his fingers on the table.
"MaM stands for Magic and Madness; it's what I named the wizarding world when I first woke up in Hogwarts because I thought I'd been trapped in another game," Harry answered before he twisted to the side to frown up at Kazuto. "Why are you so interested in looking at my MaM Log?"
"Don't be stubborn, gaki; just switch it back already so I can see it."
Harry huffed but obligingly switched the Game Log back to his MaM Log before he left Kazuto to look it over while he snagged a skewer of yakitori to munch on while he waited for the teen to quit messing around. A quick glance in the direction of the bar revealed Agil prepping an order; though Harry couldn't say which customer it was for from this distance. He was just turning back to his Menu when he saw a skewer of yakitori floating in front of him and he reached out to deftly pluck the skewer from Kazuto's hand and returned it to his plate before he kicked him under the table.
"Chikushou; stop kicking me, gaki," Kazuto huffed in response to the kick.
"If you don't want me to kick you, stop trying to steal my supper, baka."
Kazuto completely ignored Harry's snarky retort and the warning to stay away from his food as he gestured to the open Game Log and inquired, "Did you know that your MaM Game Log is actively recording everything you do? Including making a note of the fact that you just kicked me?"
"Well, yeah; it's been doing that since I woke up in Hogwarts."
"Send me a copy of that Log too," Kikuoka automatically commanded in response to hearing Harry's remark about the magical 'game log' as he looked up from his laptop to briefly glance at Harry and Kazuto.
"No," Harry and Kazuto both countered in perfect sync and Kikuoka twitched with irritation; though whether it was because he was being denied information or if it was because the two friends had rebuffed him in unison without even a second's hesitation was uncertain.
Harry then toggled his Menu back over to his SAO Log and looked to Kazuto for instructions on how to export the 'defunct' Game Log (it had ceased working the moment Aincrad had fallen). The next six minutes would be an exercise in frustration for Harry as Kazuto had him flipping back and forth between his SAO Game Log and the Options Menu in an effort to export a copy of his SAO Game Log to Kikuoka's e-mail account as requested. Kazuto was also slightly irritated by the lack of success even though he was the one that had originally believed the attempt might fail.
"I have access to the recalled Nerve Gear equipment as well as the AmuSphere equipment; I'll call one of my underlings and have one of them deliver one of each device so that Potter-kun can use one of them to hook into my laptop to borrow my internet connection for the transfer since it appears that it can't been done without it."
Harry shot the man a heated glare as he hissed, "If I so much as see one of those bloody helmets, I will shatter it and then you can kiss any information you want from me goodbye because I will never speak to you again."
"Kikuoka; would you kindly cease antagonizing my son when I know perfectly well that you're well aware of how he feels about going back online for any reason or I will throw you out of my café," Agil ordered in an annoyed tone as he set the loaded tray he was carrying down on the table a little harder than strictly necessary when he arrived in time to hear that last exchange. He then began passing out the mugs of coffee that he'd brought with him as he turned to Harry and lightly chided, "You can relax, gaki; no one's going to force you to use the Nerve Gear or the AmuSphere for any reason if you don't want to use them."
Harry shot one last scowl in Kikuoka's direction before he closed out his Menu and reached for his yakitori only to find the plate empty; Kazuto had managed to steal his last two skewers of chicken while he'd been preoccupied with glaring Kikuoka into submission. He turned in his seat to give the teen the stink eye for stealing his supper and found the teen smirking at him in return as he held out a crinkled paper bag with a few faint wet spots and almost immediately, Harry was hit with the scent of freshly baked cinnamon rolls.
It only took him all of three seconds to accept the peace offering and forgive Kazuto his theft; something that amused all five of the adults sitting in the booth with him. As soon as he had the bag in hand, Harry happily ripped it open to reveal a quartet of palm-sized spiral rolls loaded with raisins, chopped walnuts, and a sugary cinnamon spread that had been liberally coated in icing on a flimsy cardboard tray. Harry immediately claimed one of the rolls and brought it up to his face so that he could inhale the scent of warm sugar and bread before he took a large bite of the treat.
The pint-sized wizard let out a quiet hum of appreciation in response to the heavenly taste of cinnamon, raisin, walnut, icing, and pastry and he closed his eyes as he slowly chewed the bite while completely ignoring the fact that Kazuto had just lifted him up and over his lap to switch places with him so that Harry was no longer tucked into the corner of the booth. Harry then felt Agil slide into the open space on his other side just two seconds later and Harry automatically leaned against his father as he continued to slowly work his way through the cinnamon roll in his hand.
Agil draped his arm around Harry's shoulders in response to his snuggling (not that Harry was snuggling, mind you) and relaxed back into his seat as he inquired, "Now, would one of you mind telling me what was so important that the three of you had to show up at my café without warning during business hours instead of contacting me to set up an appointment after hours?"
"We have the preliminary results of Potter-kun's medical, magical, and mental assessments and some of the results are more than a little concerning," Sasaki promptly answered in a grave tone that immediately put Harry off his desert as the bite in his mouth turned to ash. "Even more concerning is the fact that our British counterparts had either not noticed the problem or they had not recognized it as a problem in the first place. Arrangements are being made for me to visit Hogwarts in order for me to personally get some answers from those involved with the initial diagnosis."
"And what exactly was it that you learned that has you so concerned?" Agil demanded as he reflexively tightened his hold on Harry and pressed the undersized teen more firmly against his side.
Sasaki inclined his head slightly in acknowledgement of the concern in Agil's voice before he stated, "I know that you're fully aware of Potter-kun's lack of physical growth but the issue goes even deeper than a lack of growth; his body is not aging period. His body is, for intents and purposes, stuck at age nine."
"How is that possible?" Kazuto inquired as he frowned at the elderly wizard.
"Magic, despite its ability to defy both logic and physics, has a very specific set of rules that it must follow," Watanabe answered in Sasaki's place. "In order for a wizard to successfully cast a spell, the caster must follow those rules or the spell just won't work. Or the spell could potentially blow up on them instead."
"What does that have to do with my son not aging?"
"Stasis spells were never intended to be used on the living," Sasaki gravely announced. "Stasis spells were designed to preserve food and potion ingredients in order to keep them fresh. The entire family of stasis spells was designed to freeze the 'target' in time to prevent it from aging. Freezing a person using a stasis spell would essentially kill them because it would freeze their entire body; including their brain, heart, and lungs. It would be like flash freezing a person in ice and expecting them to still be alive once you thawed them out."
"Yet, somehow, your son not only survived the initial 'freezing', he's been walking around for four years in a body that is essentially still frozen in time," Kikuoka interjected as his gaze locked on Harry.
Harry refused to meet the man's gaze as he slowly returned his half-eaten cinnamon roll to the tray with the rest of the sugary pastries. He then let both hands fall into his lap as he stared at the table without seeing it while he very carefully tried not to think about he'd just learned. He wasn't very successful in his endeavor and it wasn't long before he was trembling with suppressed emotions. It was only Agil's grounding presence that kept him in his seat when what he really wanted to do was run away as far and as fast as he could.
"What will that mean for James?" Agil inquired as he ignored Kikuoka and focused instead on Sasaki.
"So long as his body remains trapped in the half-stasis state it is in now, his body will never age and he will physically never grow; meaning that he would essentially be trapped in the prepubescent state he's currently in for the rest of his life," Sasaki answered. "Unfortunately, the amount of physical and magical stress that such a state has placed him under will only continue to grow with each passing day until his body or his core breaks under the strain."
"On top of that, his body is steadily producing but not voiding waste and while his magic is obviously eliminating a significant portion of that waste, the toxicity levels in his body are slowly but steadily rising according to the blood and tissue samples that were taken over the course of the two days he spent in the hospital for testing," Kikuoka added as soon as Sasaki had finished speaking. "That basically means that Potter-kun's body is literally poisoning itself a little more each day."
"And then," Watanabe seamlessly interjected, "there is the corrupted Blood Magic that clings to the child like a second skin; a strong, blood based protection that had been cast on the child before it was inexpertly twisted from its original purpose into a blood based ward tied to a physical location. That isn't even touching on the way the child's ridiculously strong affinity for Soul Magic was forced into an early awakening that ended up twisting his own magic in such a way that it is barely recognizable as magic."
Harry frowned when the man made a reference to blood magic clinging to him since the only person he knew of that could have cast blood magic on him was his mother; at least according to Sirius, anyway. The fact that the man had also said that the Blood Magic used on him had been corrupted bothered him too because he knew from what little he'd read of his mother's book on Blood Magic that corrupting the purpose of Blood Magic almost always ended very messily for all those involved. And by messy, he meant bloody; in that there'd be blood all over the place.
The moment the magicist brought up his affinity to Soul Magic though, Harry flinched sharply; no one was supposed to know about that! The blood drained from his face a split second later as he recalled what his godfather had said would happen if anyone outside of his family and those he trusted explicitly were to learn about his affinity for Soul Magic. Or worse, what would happen if anyone knew he had an affinity for both Soul Magic and Blood Magic – though he hadn't yet learned if he actually had both affinities since he'd never used any blood magic as far as he knew.
Unwilling to allow these men to take him away from his father, Harry reached up to reopen his Menu so that he could do something (anything) to defend himself and his father from the two magicals present. Kazuto reached out to snag hold of his hand before he could open his Menu though and Harry turned to glare at the older teen only for his attention to be drawn back to his father when Agil addressed the three men seated across the table from them.
"Who told you that James had an affinity for Soul Magic? I know it wasn't me or my son."
"No one told us," Watanabe promptly answered before his voice shifted into a lecturing tone as he continued. "As a fully trained Magicist, I am more than capable of testing and identifying a wizard's magical affinities, determining if those affinities are active or latent, and establishing whether an active affinity had been awoken naturally or if it had been forced into an early awakening. I have also been trained to analyze and identify any external magics that have attached themselves to my patients."
"What do you plan to do with that information?" Agil tightly demanded as he glanced (more like glared) between all three of the government officials that were seated across the table from them.
"Aside from making note of his affinities, regardless of whether they are latent or active, in his file and arranging for him to be trained in how to use them responsibly in the case of his active affinities and how to safely awaken and use his latent affinities (should he wish to), nothing," Sasaki calmly answered as he calmly met Agil's gaze. "Unlike the magical enclaves throughout Western European, most notably in Great Britain, we don't condemn people for the talents they are born with; we only condemn those who use their talents to commit crimes or cause harm."
"So you need not ever fear that your adopted son will be hunted or harmed simply because of his birthright," Watanabe assured Agil without taking his eyes off of the still slightly panicked Harry. "If you can not fully trust our word, you need look no further than the profession of 'magicist' for evidence that we are telling you the truth; since an affinity for Soul Magic is one of the many requirements necessary to be trained as a magicist due to the inherent connection between magic and the soul. I personally have what is known as a moderate affinity for Soul Magic."
Harry frowned in response to learning that Watanabe also had an affinity for Soul Magic; it seemed rather convenient that the man claimed to carry the same affinity as he did. At the same time, it didn't sound like the man was lying about having an affinity for Soul Magic. The man's quasi confession was just enough to get Harry to stop panicking even if it wasn't anywhere near enough to completely eliminate his mistrust. Though, the fact that neither wizard had their wands in hand and that all of their hands were in clear view made it easier for him to ignore the urge he felt to flee.
"Just how many people will have access to the information in James's file; including his known affinities?" Kazuto inquired as he finally released Harry's wrist now that the pint-sized teen was no longer panicking.
"Due to Potter-kun's status as an underage magical coupled with his celebrity status, his file and all of the information that it contains is considered classified for his protection," Sasaki replied without any hesitation. "The only people allowed to read his file outside of those of the six of us would be the healers assigned to his case, the instructors that will be hired to train him, and those individuals that Potter-kun chooses to inform. Aside from those persons that Potter-kun personally informs, all individuals who are granted permission to view his file will be required to sign confidentiality contracts that will prohibit them from speaking of what they learn to others without Potter-kun's express permission."
"Does that mean that the three of you also signed confidentiality contracts?" Agil asked in a much calmer tone that told Harry his father had been relieved by Sasaki's answer.
"Yes, all four of us signed confidentiality contracts," Kikuoka stated as he gestured to the two men seated beside him before he gestured in Kazuto's direction. "That was on top of the release forms that both you and your son signed that allowed us to share our findings with each other in order for us to work together to get Potter-kun the help he should have had four years ago."
"Did you have any other pressing questions regarding the information we derived from the various medical exams and tests that your son underwent, Mills-san?" Sasaki inquired when Agil didn't immediately follow up on Kikuoka's reply with yet another question.
Agil let out a contemplative hum before he replied, "Aa, I have one or two more questions." His father then focused on Watanabe and asked, "Now that we've cleared the air regarding your knowledge of James's magical affinities, could you please explain your earlier statements regarding Blood Magic and Soul Magic and what your concerns for each will mean for my son?"
"Of course, I will start with the Blood Magic. First, whoever tied the blood based protection to Potter-kun, tied it to his blood and to his latent affinity for Blood Magic Affinity. Based on how strong the remnants of that protection is even now, I can deduce that the person who cast the protection on Potter-kun had a very strong affinity for Blood Magic, was directly related to him, and powered the blood spell with their life and magic. Had the blood based protection not been twisted, it would have been strong enough to protect him from an unnatural death for the rest of his life."
"Unfortunately, some nitwit meddled with the protection that had been cast on him and that ahou twisted the protection into a blood based ward that was anchored to a physical location. The full extent of the consequences resulting from that tampering have not yet been cataloged as I've not yet had a chance to exam the property that the wards were tied to. I have, however, compiled a rudimentary list of Potter-kun's physical and magical issues that have either been caused by or exacerbated by the corrupted blood magic."
"The most serious issue caused by the corrupted magic is his inability to age; it was the twisted blood based wards that locked Potter-kun's body in stasis. Resolving that issue will require extensive research and a thorough investigation of the actual blood wards so that we can map and catalog the full extent of the damage that the corrupted Blood Magic caused from the moment the protection was twisted into a ward until the moment his body was frozen in stasis and any damage that was caused from the moment the stasis was partially released and is potentially still causing him now."
Watanabe paused for a moment to let the seriousness of that revelation sink in before he stated, "In order to conduct the necessary research, I will need the address of the property that the blood wards are tied to."
Harry's breath caught in his throat as he immediately realized that the man wanted to know where the Dursleys lived since the wards had to be tied to the Dursleys' house since that was where he'd been at the time his body had been placed in stasis. That was one bit of information that Harry didn't want to give anyone for any reason; the last thing he wanted was for someone to talk to the Dursleys about him.
"James…?" Agil prompted when Harry didn't offer up the requested information.
"I can't, tousan," Harry hoarsely replied in English to the unasked question.
"If it wasn't your health on the line, I'd be more than willing to let you keep that information to yourself, James; but it is your health on the line and Mr. Watanabe needs to know their address in order to research the wards. And while I could get their address from the legal paperwork I have at home, I'd rather not waste the time it'd take for me to do so when it would be far easier for you to just hand it over now. If it will make you feel better, you have my word that you will not be forced to visit your relatives in person for any reason."
Harry didn't want to cooperate and he fully intended to keep his mouth shut right up until he realized that his doing so would likely annoy his father. Upset and frustrated, Harry scowled at the table before he reopened his Menu in order to pull out a blank sheet of paper and a pencil out of his Inventory. He might be willing to give up information on the Dursleys because his father had asked him to but that didn't mean that he was going to let Kikuoka have their address too when he see didn't any reason for the jerk to have it.
After writing down the Dursleys' address on the paper (all the while keeping one hand covering what he was writing so no one else could peek), Harry folded the paper several times and pulled out his wand to seal it shut with a temporary Sticking Charm to keep Kikuoka from snagging it and opening it. Harry then leaned over the table and handed it directly to Watanabe just to make doubly certain that no one else got their hands on it.
"Was that absolutely necessary?" Kikuoka irritably demanded as Watanabe tucked the address in his pocket without bothering to unseal it; the man obviously annoyed at being denied access to the Dursleys' address.
"Yes," Harry replied in a flat voice as he threw a stubborn glare at the man. "No one else here needs to know where those people live."
"Arigatou, Potter-kun; your cooperation is appreciated," Watanabe supplied when Kikuoka didn't say anything further in response to Harry's insistence that no one else learned where the Dursleys lived. "Moving on, the next issue stemming from the corrupted Blood Magic has to do with Potter-kun's affinity for Blood Magic. Before I explain further though, it is important for you to understand the five known status states as they apply to magical affinities. Those status states are latent, dormant, active, null, and shattered."
"A latent affinity refers to an affinity that has not been awakened. A dormant affinity refers to an affinity that has been awakened but is not in use and a status state that is most frequently seen in untrained affinities. An active affinity refers to an awakened affinity that is being used. A null affinity refers to an affinity that has been 'smothered' by a stronger or conflicting affinity. And a shattered affinity refers to a latent affinity that has been damaged to such an extent that it is no longer possible to awaken the affinity and attempting to force an awakening of a shattered affinity is… unwise."
"Potter-kun's affinity for Blood Magic was shattered at some point after the blood based protection was twisted into a ward. The current theory is that the alteration of the original protection shattered his affinity for Blood Magic due to the fact that the protection had been partially tied to that specific affinity. The exact cause of the shattering is unknown but suspected to be one of four events; the actual twisting of the protection, the first time Potter-kun's blood was spilled inside of the blood wards, the day his body was placed in stasis, or the day his body was released from stasis."
Harry didn't quite know how to feel about learning that he'd never be able to use the affinity that he'd inherited from his mother. On one hand, Blood Magic sounded rather gross and creepy. On the other hand, it would have been something else he could have had in common with his mother aside from his green eyes. Then again, it was probably best for him to just be thankful that the twisting of his mother's protection had only shattered his Blood Magic affinity instead of killing him outright.
The young wizard's attention was drawn back to Watanabe at that point as the magicist continued, "The last confirmed issue that is being affected by the corrupted Blood Magic is actually closely linked to Potter-kun's current inability to physically age. The issue in question is his body's inability to pass waste; specifically, the corrupted Blood Magic that is tied to his blood is currently responsible for filtering out the waste produced by his body. And while that sounds like a good thing on the surface, it is a potential disaster in the making."
"The reason for that is due to the constant risk of the corrupted Blood Magic suddenly ceasing to filter out the harmful waste products in his blood. As Kikuoka-san said earlier, there's already evidence that the process is not infallible since the corrupted Blood Magic is not able to keep up with the level of waste produced by Potter-kun's body. What we've not yet determined is if that failure is due to a slow degradation of the Blood Magic's ability to 'clean' his blood or if the process has been inadequate from the moment the Blood Magic was corrupted by the twisting of the blood protection."
There was a heartbeat of silence in the wake of Watanabe's dire pronouncement before Harry let out a strangled whine as the underlying message in Watanabe's verbal report hit him with the force of a speeding train; his days were potentially numbered. Kikuoka had hinted at it earlier (when he'd brought up the rising toxicity levels in his blood) but Watanabe had just spelled it out in such a way that there was no mistaking his meaning.
"Will it be possible for any of those issues to be fixed?" Agil demanded as he lifted Harry up onto his lap.
"Is it possible?" Sasaki repeated as he spread both of his hands apart and turned his palms upwards in a gesture of supplication. "Theoretically…? Yes, it is possible to fix or mitigate the damage done. The problem lies in the fact that we essentially lost four years because of the insular attitudes of the British Magical Community and as a result of that loss, find ourselves scrambling just to find the time necessary to research the magics involved; time that Potter-kun may not have. The fact that he's only two years away from reaching what should have been his magical majority doesn't help. Nor do we have any idea of how the half-stasis his body is trapped in will affect his magical maturity."
"There has to be something you can do or you wouldn't have demanded to meet with us today," Kazuto interjected as the older teen leaned forward in his seat. "The three of you obviously have an idea of how to find the time you believe you need or you would have put this meeting off longer until you had exhausted all avenues of potential research."
"You are correct, Kazuto," Kikuoka admitted as he reached into his briefcase to withdraw three manila folders that he set on the table in front of Harry, Agil, and Kazuto. "However, in order for us to even outline the idea we came up with, let alone act on it, all three of you would need to sign a number of confidentiality contracts, non-disclosure agreements, and a couple of legal wavers."
"This madcap idea of yours isn't going to involve the stupidity that was Project Alicization is it?" Kazuto demanded as he eyed the folder that had been set down in front of him with obvious distaste.
"No," Kikuoka sourly replied; the man obviously unhappy with the reminder of whatever project it was that Kazuto had just referenced. "The idea comes from the magical side of the fence and it involves a specific type of magic that is highly regulated by the government due to the high risk of the magic being misused. If you want specifics, then you're going to need to read and sign all of the documents in those folders. And yes, Mills, Potter-kun will need to sign his own forms and you will need to countersign them as his legal guardian."
"You will also need to sign them with Blood Quills as those documents are binding magical contracts," Sasaki added as he pulled a trio of raven feather quills from his hitatare and set one down on top of each folder.
Harry unconsciously reached out to snag hold of the closest Blood Quill and used the Item Inspection function that was part of his 'game skills' in order to read the description and instructions for the Quills. He wrinkled his nose in distaste when he learned that the Quills drew upon the user's blood for 'ink'. He also noted the warning that stated prolonged and repeated use of a Blood Quill could cause scaring on the back of the hand. Agil read through the information over his shoulder before he picked up one of the two folders in front of them and went over the documents with Harry.
Father and son would both sign that document (Harry as the signee and Agil as his guardian) at the end of that review once it was clear that there was no reason for them not to sign. Agil then snagged the second folder to confirm the documents inside were identical to the ones they'd already signed before he signed those ones as well. Beside them, Kazuto reviewed the documents in the third folder before he too signed the various contracts. The originals were then passed back across the table where Sasaki and Kikuoka both signed them as witness and server respectively.
Sasaki then produced two copies of each contract and handed the originals to Kikuoka, kept one copy of each document for himself, and passed the final copies over to the signees for their records. Agil calmly passed his copy to Harry as he quietly requested, "Hold onto this for me, musuko; I don't want to lose it."
"Hai, tousan," Harry readily agreed before he dropped both copies into his Inventory.
"So, what's the big secret?" Kazuto lazily inquired as he stole one of Harry's abandoned cinnamon rolls before he slouched back against the back of the booth and took a huge bite of his purloined treat as he glanced between Kikuoka and Sasaki several times.
"In order to make the time we need to conduct the necessary research in the shortest amount of time possible, it was suggested that we use the Magistrate's network of Spatial and Temporal Transport Portals (or STTP for short) to send Potter-kun four months into the past once per day for the next four days; giving us a full year and a quarter's worth of time to work all crammed into four months' time."
Kazuto immediately choked on the cinnamon roll before he spat out what was in his mouth into a napkin and incredulously gasped, "Time travel…? The magical government has a fucking time travel device?"
"If you think for one minute that I'm going to allow you to just take off with my son for sixteen months…" Agil growled with a trace of irritation before he was cut off by Sasaki.
"We have no intentions of separating you from your son, Mills-san. At the same time, it is not safe for you to personally travel back with your son all four times as your status as a non-magical leaves you vulnerable to the revenges of time due to not having any magic of your own to protect you. The amount of temporal damage you'd receive from a single trip is negligible though and treatment of any health related issues you develop as a result of that damage would be treated by our healers at no cost to you."
"We also anticipated that you would not be willing to send Potter-kun off on his own; which was one of the reasons why we included Kazuto in this meeting," Kikuoka added as he dug into his briefcase to pull out another two folders that he set down on the table in front of Agil. "All you need to do is select two more individuals that you trust to make the jumps for the last two remaining days and have both of them sign the same contracts that the three of you just signed."
"Okay, let's say I believe that you actually have the ability to travel through time and I theoretically agreed to your insane plan; exactly how would your little time traveling jaunts work and how would you use the time you gain through this insanity?" Agil asked as he palmed the folders offered and silently passed them to Harry for safe keeping.
"The STTP network is connected to seven secure facilities spread throughout Japan allowing a traveler to jump through time and space in order to avoid any chances of the traveler encountering their past or future selves," Sasaki easily explained. "Once the traveler has arrived at their destination, their movements are restricted to further avoid crossing paths with themselves while their days of departure to each region are staggered to avoid any chance of them run into themselves as they return to their point of origin once the timelines have merged once more."
"Each trip into the past would have a very specific list of goals to accomplish during that four month period. Based on the preliminary results of Potter-kun's medical, magical, and mental tests and the observations we've made during the time we've spent in his company, the first trip back will focus entirely on his physical and mental health. As such, he will under go further medical testing, receive medical treatment for those issues that are easily dealt with, and meet with a qualified therapist to help him work through the mental and emotional trauma he's experienced over the last six years."
Harry couldn't quite suppress a flinch response to the way Sasaki had flat out stated that he needed mental help. Part of him knew he needed the help but he was far from happy admitting that to himself. He also didn't like hearing it said out loud because of how many negative memories it stirred; particularly his memories of Dumbledore accusations of him being mentally unbalanced because he treated life 'like a game'. Agil gave his shoulder a squeeze to remind Harry he wasn't alone and Harry drew strength from his father's presence as Sasaki continued speaking.
"His second trip back will then focus on his magical health and he will have his magic further tested to determine the full extent of the damage that had been done to it from his exposure to the corrupted Blood Magic, the two years he spent locked in SAO while his body was in stasis, and from the forced awakening of his Soul Magic affinity. We will also study the changes that were made to Potter-kun's magic by his Soul Magic in order to determine if the changes are in any way detrimental to either himself or others. His counseling sessions would also be continued as needed."
"During Potter-kun's third trip, we'd focus on filling in the holes in his both his mundane and his magical education while we are waiting for the results from the tests that were run during the first to trips. We would start by administering a round of assessment tests to see where he currently stands and then work to correct any misconceptions he has been taught, shore up his knowledge of the basics, and introduce him to those subjects that were neglected during and after the two years he was trapped in SAO."
"We currently have James scheduled to take an academic assessment of his non-magical education on the thirtieth," Agil informed Sasaki with a slight frown. "Will we need to cancel or reschedule those tests if we agree to your proposal?"
"No, that won't be necessary," Sasaki replied with a shake of his head. "The initial assessments we take of his academic standings will be unusable for his official records due to the fact that it has already been established that Potter-kun has not been assessed prior to his potential trips into the past; meaning that he will still need to sit for those tests so that a public record can be generated for future reference. The results of the tests we administer can then be compared with his public results to determine how effective our efforts have been at catching him up to his peers education wise."
"The extra time preparing for those public assessments would also help reduce some of the pressure that we both know James is currently feeling to do well on those tests so he doesn't disappoint you with a poor showing," Kazuto pointed out when Sasaki had finished answering Agil's question.
"I'm going to tell beautiful to sit on you the next time she sees you," Harry mock threatened as he twisted around to pout at his friend for voicing his [Harry's] insecurities like that.
"No, you won't; we both know your little snake-bird likes tormenting Ryoutarou far too much to bother the rest of us."
"Pfft, beautiful doesn't torment Tarou-baka; she teases him. She only torments bullies and idiots and even then Hedwig only torments them when they're pestering me."
"Did any of you have any more questions regarding our plans to address Potter-kun's educational needs?" Sasaki inquired before Kazuto could make another retort; the elderly wizard wearing a pained expression on his face in response to hearing Harry casually threaten a person with his familiar (the man unable to wrap his head around the concept of treating a dangerous magical creature with such flippancy).
"Not at the moment," Agil replied after exchanging a brief glance with Kazuto to see if the teen had any questions.
Sasaki inclined his head in acknowledgement before he stated, "Moving on, the fourth trip Potter-kun will take to the past will then see his medical treatments continue using the results generated from his first two trips and focus on his physical health once more; treating those issues that couldn't be handled during his first trip to the past either because there wasn't time or because we didn't have enough information to treat them at the time. We'd also put him through another series of medical assessments to determine how effective the past treatments were during the interim months of his second and third trip."
"What happens if those four trips don't allow you enough time to fix everything?" Agil asked once it was obvious that Sasaki had nothing further to add.
"We'd allow Potter-kun to have a week to rest before we initiated another three trips to address the most pressing issues and if that still didn't provide enough time, then we'd have to wait a minimum of four months to purge the timeline of his extra presences before he could take an additional seven trips to buy us an additional two and a quarter years to address those issues we are having trouble resolving."
"Are you going to lock me up in labs and classrooms the entire time?" Harry quietly demanded when Sasaki's talk about purging the timeline reminded him of the man stating that his movements would be restricted each time he traveled back into the past.
"No, we won't be locking you up; the travel restrictions placed on you during each trip are there to prevent you from visiting those places you have already been during the course of the four months that you will be reliving. Any free time you have between examinations and treatments can be used however you see fit and if you wish to use that time to go sightseeing within the designated regions you're restricted to during that four month period, then you are free to do so."
Harry nodded sharply in response to hearing that; he was never going to allow anyone to lock him up again. And he'd feel far less guilty about razing some stupid lab to the ground than he would about razing Hogwarts to the ground and he was perfectly willing to raze Hogwarts – even if he'd feel guilty as hell for destroying the castle because of how much he knew Hermione liked going to school there.
"Do we have your permission to start making arrangements for the first trip?" Kikuoka prompted when no one else immediately asked another question.
"I will need to consult James's godfather before I make any decisions on your proposal since, as a wizard, he is far better equipped to understand the magical risks involved in your plan."
"Did you want to message Padfoot now, tousan?" Harry inquired as he automatically brought his Menu back up so that he could open his Friend's List to send a message to his godfather.
"You can not discuss the STTP with Black unless he signs the same confidentiality contracts, non-disclosure agreements, and legal wavers that the three of you signed," Kikuoka hurriedly interjected in a firm tone before Agil could respond to Harry's offer.
"Allow me to send one of my men back to fetch Black-san from England so that he can be briefed on the matter," Sasaki offered and Harry strongly suspected that the man would be using the STTP Network to save time based on the man's use of the word 'back' when he'd talked about sending someone to get his godfather.
That little deduction would turn out to be correct when Sirius and Remus were escorted into the Café less than twenty minutes later; both wizards looking far too calm and relaxed to have been rushed over from England on such short notice. Ryoutarou and his adopted mother would join them around the same time while one of Sasaki's aides and a pair of house elves (what the Japanese called domesticated brownies) handled the Café's customers to prevent any loss of revenue while Agil and Mayumi were otherwise occupied.
The next two hours would then be spent rehashing everything that had been discussed since the three officials had turned up earlier that evening (once the four new arrivals had signed the required contracts). By the time the discussion wound down, it was decided that the benefits of using the STTP to reclaim some of the time lost over the last four years far outweighed the risks. Sirius and Remus would both be traveling with Harry for all four trips while his parents, Kazuto, and Ryoutarou would each be joining him on one trip in order to allow him to spend time with his family and friends.
As soon as the decision had been made, Harry was given a very specific list of rules he'd be required to follow as well as a detailed list of what he was and wasn't allowed to take with him to the past. The aging impaired fifteen year old was slightly irked that one of the restrictions was that he was not allowed to take Hedwig with him on any of the trips due to the fact that his exotic pet license hadn't been approved because he hadn't finished filling out the forms and his familiar still needed to have a medical assessment completed.
He also wouldn't be able to call on his elves while in the past for the same reason. Nor could he send any messages to his friends because it would potentially create a paradox if multiple versions of himself were all communicating with the same group of people at the same time. It would also raise far too many questions that would be considered a violation of the contracts that he'd signed earlier.
The only reason he didn't complain too loudly about those restrictions was because he wouldn't be making any of the trips alone and the chance to spend four months straight with each of his parents was appealing.
Translations: Japanese to English
Ano – um/uh/er
Arigatou – thank you
Bugyou Tokoro no Mahoujutsu – Magical Magistrate (Derived from Bugyou Tokoro meaning Magistrate's Office and Mahoujutsu meaning magical arts)
Chikushou – damn/damn it
Chotto matte – wait a minute!
Gaki – brat
Hitatare – a short jacket type garment
Otousan/tousan – father
MaM – Magic and Madness (Harry's name for the Wizarding World)
NerveGear – equipment created by Kayaba Akihiko (Argus); allows the user to enter FullDive
NERDLES – Nerve Direct Linkage Environment System (a surgically implanted chip that allows the FullDive system to interface with the brain – the surgically implanted part may or may not be canon as it was something I thought seemed more logical than it just being part of the interface helmet)
NPC – Non-Player Character (basically a computer generated character)
Player – an in-game character that is 'played' by a human
Player Menu – the interface through which a player interacts with the game
SAO – Sword Art Online
AN: Oh, well this is embarrassing. I'm a day late in posting this. No real reason for it either. I was all set to post it yesterday, have even edited it twice this last week to get it ready, and then just... forgot. *sigh* I think my brain took an early vacation yesterday because I forgot a lot of things. *shifty eyes* No, that doesn't happen every day. *starts attempting to whistle casually*
ANYway, I came to post this as soon as I realized I'd forgotten to do it yesterday... after editing my little note down here that is. This coming weekend's posted should be on time and will be the next chapter of Rise of the Archer. I've already got it edited and prepped I just have to upload it and double check the format before I post, so no worries there. Not sure what I'll be updating after that as I've been working on both Hunter x in the x Making and Epic Adventure in an attempt to get one of those updated after all this time. I've also been beating my muse for Banished Destiny in the hopes that I will FINALLY get that monster of a story finished.
Moving on, the reason this chapter took so long was because I had issues writing out the scene about exactly what was wrong with Harry magically; I'd always known I was going to blame misappropriated Blood Wards as the culprit but it was very hard to present that information in a way that explained exactly what I wanted it to say. I also hemmed and hawed for months over whether or not to introduce the STTP since any form of time travel was NOT in my original outline as it can be too much of a hack.
Unfortunately, I'd boxed myself into a corner with my time constraints and commissioned my muses to design a limited time traveling device that was different than time chambers, advanced time turners, or a time traveling trunk and the STTP was born. Please take special note that the amount of time that a person can travel backwards , the amount of freedom they have while in the past, and the amount of things that can be done during that time are all limited. The time traveling is also highly regulated and it took three government officials to authorize the use of the STTP and even then it was only due to the circumstances surrounding Harry's physical and magical health.
So no, time traveling won't solve everything for out pint-sized gamer-hero.
Next chapter will showcase brief moments from each of the four trips to the past and potentially the rest of Harry's time in Japan; it depends on how wordy I get when writing it out. I also need to add a chapter detailing Sasaki's trip to Hogwarts to lambast the English for mishandling Harry in the wake of his ordeal due to their isolationist policies. After that will be the chapter on the DE Trials before we get the gang back to Hogwarts for Harry's 5th year. So, 3-4 chapters left in the summer arc and then we move into the yr 5 arc - the latter of which will need to be heavily edited (since a good portion of it is already written) to reflect the changes I made to the plot by inserting the STTP.
So, I've still got lots of work to do before I post the next chapter of this story. I'll work on it between my efforts to update my other stories though and will do my best not to let it take another year before I post on this one again.
As always, thank you for your patience and for your reads/reviews and adds. ~ Jenn