Mystic Knight Online: All The World's Made Strange

Chapter 3: Ignore the Feelings of Doom and Reunite With Your Friends

December 26, 2024 - Nerima, Saotome-Tendo Dojo

Harry stared at the elderly woman who was balanced on her staff so perfectly that he could not see any signs of movement or her working to maintain it. Young Albus? He thought in shock. She called him young? Just how…?

"You're wondering how I can call him young," Cologne said in amusement. "I am older than him, but haven't lived half the time the Flamels have, if that helps."

Harry snorted. "Hardly, it just sets an upper limit," he said. "At the same time, it would be impolite to ask you your age. But where are my manners, I am Harry Potter. SAO survivor, wizard, and not yet in the phone book." He gave her a bow.

Cologne cackled at that. "I don't quite get what that last part of your introduction is supposed to reference, but I know there's a joke in there, young man," she said. "I am Khu Lon, an elder of the Jokokusetzoku Amazon Tribe. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

"The pleasure is mine, elder." Harry replied.

"Ah, such a polite one, especially for a Western youth," Cologne said looking him over. "You're recovering nicely as well, both of you are. Can still stand to put a bit of meat on your bones, but best not to rush it and borrow trouble from overdoing it."

"I'm not inclined to borrow trouble, elder," Harry said with a wry smile. "It does seem to find me, though- like an old schoolmate I'd rather avoid but can't help indulging."

"And I was there to make sure you didn't get yourself killed," Keiko noted. "Couldn't keep you from making an ass of yourself, though. Probably because you were too busy staring at mine."

Harry nodded. "Indeed I was," he said cheerfully. "Arse, hips, legs… there were plenty of things to stare at, especially when you were intentionally dressing to draw my eye to them."

"Shh, not in front of the doddering old woman who could hand us our heads," Keiko whispered in sotto voice.

Cologne shook her head. "You two do realize that this doddering old woman can hear you, right?" She asked, amused.

"Doddering my arse," Harry said.

"Now, now sonny boy, at my age, I would never dodder your arse," Cologne said.

"Why, what's wrong with it?" Keiko asked. Her voice sounded so innocently curious that Harry wasn't fooled for a moment. And from the elder's cackling laughter, neither was she.

"Ah, I see your wit has grown with you, Little Keiko," Cologne said. "Just don't be in too much of a hurry to become an adult. You've lost enough of your childhoods because of SAO, you don't need to throw what's left of it away."

Harry nodded. "There are reasons why we're not rushing to look for… loopholes… around the rules that were established for our relationship, elder." He said. "I don't know what conclusions you've reached, but I was informed about what Professor Dumbledore has concluded."

Cologne nodded. "That would make sense," she said. "While I don't share all of the same conclusions that Young Albus has drawn, I also admit that my knowledge of magic is far less than his. I know enough to know that whatever happened, you both had to want it, and you both entered into it willingly. What other reasons would you need?"

"In other words, we shouldn't worry about it?" Keiko asked. "Outside of some things, that is."

Cologne nodded. "Yes," she said. "There are some things that you know you are not ready for. Now, enough of this serious discussion." She looked at Harry. "You, young man, are probably wondering how I know Young Albus, right?"

Harry nodded.

"I haven't always been in my home village, even before coming here," Cologne said. "And seeing the world can give a needed perspective to a warrior who thinks that the world begins and ends with her home. I met him around a century ago, and saw with my own eyes this seemingly unassuming young man demonstrate his power and capability. Still, it is a shame that I didn't know he was here a few days ago. It has been some decades since we last talked. Well, I think I should let you two go on about here. I merely wanted to see you for myself, young man."

"And I hope that what you have seen meets with your approval," Harry said as he and Keiko then walked off. Keiko wanted to introduce him to some people, after all.

As they walked off, he could swear he heard the elder chuckle. "Oh it does, young man, it does indeed."

##

Gordon sat near the entrance of the Dojo as he drank a cup of tea that Akane had given him and watched Ryoga hand Ranma's sons their asses in a sparring match. Both were faster than the solidly built man, but he was tanking everything they threw at him as if their efforts were nothing.

Akira moved in to try and attack the man he had called uncle his entire life, only to have Ryoga move slightly and catch the elder of the Saotome brothers. Ko tried to distract him, only to be calmly and easily rebuffed by the older martial artist.

"I'm going to have to see where they're getting rusty in," Ranma said, watching the match. "P-chan rebuffed Ko too easily."

"... Keiko does that too. Not as naturally and easily..." A young man's voice said.

Gordon looked up at the speaker. "Gordon Shumway, New Melmac."

"Harry Potter, Politely Fascinated," the young man returned, shaking Gordon's hand. "Keiko mentioned you're also called Alf?"

"Actually, that was Gus," Keiko said.

"Right, should have remembered, wasn't feeling happily off kilter when I found out, just off kilter," Harry agreed, and smirked as she lightly smacked his shoulder.

Gordon laughed. "My American friends, and semi-adopted family, the Tanners, gave me that one." He said. "Brian, the middle- well, youngest at the time- called me an elf, I think? I was pretty out of it when I crashed here. Wasn't exactly in the best of places mentally for a while, too. Later, Willie- William Tanner, Brian's father- explained ALF was an acronym for Alien Life Form. Since it means 'Welcome Traveller' in my native tongue, I didn't mind at all, and the name stuck."

"Your accent- I'd assume you'd been American your whole life," Harry wondered, sitting nearby.

"Lucked out there," Gordon admitted. "The phonetics of our main language and English overlap a lot. We have a few ...'clicks' the brains call them and your nasals on Earth, no matter what we're speaking, sound weak to me... but my pod's survival protocols were able to start teaching me the language from media and such even while I recovered."

Harry chuckled. "So, you learned English from TV?" He asked.

"Hey! Talk radio helped too!" Gordon said in mock protest.

Harry held his hands up, still chuckling. "Sorry, sorry," he said in mock contrition. They heard a smack of flesh meeting flesh and turned back to see the spar. "Hmm, looks like… Akira?" He looked at Ranma, who nodded. "It looks like he overextended. Can't really say why he did, but his leading foot seems just a hair too far forward. And now he's flying… good tuck and roll there, though."

"Good eye," Ranma said with a note of approval in his voice.

Harry nodded, his eyes watching the match carefully. "Your sons are using their speed, but their blows lack the power to really do much against their opponent," he said. "And they either don't or can't get the momentum to compensate."

"Ryoga knows better than to let them," Ranma said. "He and I were fierce rivals when we were young, and it was my speed that usually allowed me to win. Not that he couldn't tank what I could dish out anyway, but I was also fast enough to not give him a chance to grapple me."

"Not a lot of movement on Uncle Ryoga's part here," Keiko said. "Just enough to throw them off or to keep a vulnerable spot protected. Uncle Ko is doing better than Uncle Akira, though."

"Ko listens to the crazy alien," Gordon said with a snort. He caught Harry's look. "Okay, look. The Saotome-Tendo style is a branch of Anything Goes. Now, I wasn't the best member of the Planetary Defense Force, but I was a soldier. And my... Drill Sergeant, that's the term... in Basic Training was big on tempering Melmac combat doctrine a bit. We were very much a 'do what works' force- not above guerrilla warfare or hacking an enemy planet's broadcasts to prank the leaders so the people lost trust-"

"Oh, you have to tell him the Regoglin story," Keiko said excitedly.

"Later, kid." Gordon said. "Anyway, so yeah, old Kosco told us- anything goes. But you better make damn sure what goes is in your ability. Akira keeps falling back on imitating how his mom and dad do things. Ko adapts it, tries to fit it into what he's able to do."

Ranma leaned closer to Harry. "And he's the goofy uncle around here."

Harry shrugged. "I knew you were martial artists."

"I'm more arts and crafts," Gordon corrected, and as the group groaned, he chortled. "HA! I kill me!"

"Ah, puns," Harry said. "Perhaps you are one who seeks to become a pungeon master? I know a pair of twin pranksters who would like you."

Hogwarts

"Am I being overly Slytherin again-" Severus Snape began.

"No," his charms teaching colleague said. "I felt a chill, too."

"It gets worse," Pomona Sprout said. "Look."

They turned to the head of the table where Minerva McGonagall looked vaguely put out by the grin on Albus Dumbledore's face.

"... I'll stock up the standard antidotes," Severus sighed.

"I should not need forensic charms deconstruction as often as I do on this job," Flitwick reflected, and Sprout made a small sad sigh of agreement to both.

Back in Nerima

"Hmm, I just felt a disturbance," Harry mused. "As if someone is expecting something, but doesn't know what and where." He shrugged. "Ah well, it doesn't seem to be focused on us."

"So you felt it as well," Keiko said. "And I thought our SA didn't come to the real world."

"SA?" Gordon asked.

"System Awareness," Harry said. "Two years in SAO made it so that many of us became aware of SAO's- rhythms is the best way to put it. Well, those of us who went out and fought, especially those of us on the Assault Team got sensitive enough to SAO's rhythms to be able to tell when something was about to happen. At most, it was an instant, but that was often enough."

Ranma gave a thoughtful hum. "So you all became able to sense things in there?" He asked.

"To a point," Keiko said. "Most of the time, it was just… there. We did live as digital life forms for two years. Made some places a nightmare to go through, though."

"The Glitchzone," Harry agreed. "That place just felt wrong on a fundamental level, and we didn't even need to be inside it to tell." He shook his head. "As I said, it didn't seem directed our way, so I'm not worried. Won't stop me from keeping an eye out, though."

"As if your instincts don't already go wild as they do now," Ranma said looking the two of them over. "You both still need to put some mass on and finish your physical therapy, but once you're recovered, I will be seeing to you two getting some training."

Harry looked at Keiko, who nodded, and then sighed. "Will this be training, or will it be 'sadistic bonding with your grandson-in-law'?" He asked.

"Yes." Ranma said before looking at Keiko. "And Keiko, I would like to meet the others you fought alongside."

"And that," Harry said. "Is the feeling of impending doom going down my spine. Been awhile since I felt that."

Kawagoe, Mitsui Hospital

Kazuto got off the elevator and made walked into the Hospital lobby when a chill went down his spine. Carefully looking around, he didn't spot anything that could be the cause, unless that vending machine over there was about to sprout legs and start attacking people. Shrugging it off, walked out of the hospital and made his way to the bus stop.

He had another physical therapy appointment next week, and he wanted to make sure that he continued to show some progress. It might keep Nurse Aki from riding his ass about putting some proper meat on his bones.

Fortunately, he wouldn't have to do another session with a counselor until he came back to the hospital for his physio. He was lucky enough to get both scheduled on the same day, if several hours apart. Easier to get all the suck over with.

His stomach growled and he considered whether he should go to the FamilyMart on the corner and pick up a snack or not.

Setagaya, Yuuki Residence

Asuna looked around for whatever made her sense danger before going back to her tablet and finishing up the assignments that her mother had set for the next couple of weeks. She was making good progress and wanted to get as ahead in her work as she felt reasonable so she could free up some time to do other things.

With Strea and Yui in ALO, as well as Harry and Keiko having already gone in, it was almost time for the Steel Phoenix to take wing once more. Her mother might not approve, but so long as she kept up with her studies to make some inroads to catching up, she shouldn't have much to say.

Well, outside of voicing her opinions of not seeing the point of it.

Alfheim, Swilvane

Lux stumbled as it felt as if her SA was going wild, warning of impending danger before parrying the attack that was headed her way. Harry had warned them all that taking their SAO names would result in some attention, and now she was having to demonstrate that yes, she was that Lux.

Perhaps she should have waited for Harry to be online. Especially as she could have then warned him that she was planning on playing as a Sylph, and had him back her up. Fortunately, there was this one Sylph, Leafa, who was watching and ensuring that no one tried anything outside of the bounds of the matches she was fighting.

She sighed as she sent her current opponent out of the ring, and another one stepped in almost eagerly. She had spent the last twenty minutes doing this, and it was beginning to get bothersome.

"That's my daughter!" She heard a voice call cheerfully from the crowd and shook her head with a wry smile. Her mother, who took the name Shirin, was willing to try ALO with her, even though she admitted that she wasn't precisely inclined to play it regularly. But seeing her reaction to her first sight of it all… oh yes, that was worth it right there.

Now if these idiots with more balls than brains would just let off for a bit. She wanted to explore the city and perhaps spend some time with her mother, if only to see her reactions to all the sights.

Chiyoda, Karatachi Residence

Nijika shuddered before shaking the feeling off. Being outside of SAO was nice, but her instincts would trip for the oddest reasons, of no reason at all. Still, better to make sure no one was peeping on the apartment, again, later.

"Sestra?" Nanairo asked.

"It's nothing," she replied. "Just my instincts tripping again for some reason. Better than how it was when I got out of the hospital, though. Anyway, you want to see the virtual world?"

Nanairo nodded. "I'll roll a character of the same race here, though I will probably re-roll when I head back to the States. But this can at least give me some time to get used to it all."

"And the fact that you get to see your sister being awesome has nothing to do with it, I'm sure." Nijika drawled.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Just be ready for me to be kept busy for a bit," Nijika said. "Harry's told me about how he had to straighten out some Sylphs, just to prove that he was exactly who he was." She smirked. "I'm looking forward to… correcting some assumptions that may crop up."

December 28, 2024 - Unplottable Location, Shiba Compound

Kaoru watched as Albus Dumbledore and his two guests let go of Fawkes' tail feathers after the phoenix flamed in. It had taken a bit of time to coordinate the arrival, as this was a personal visit, rather than the official one that Albus' previous visit had been. She looked at the two youths who had accompanied the Hogwarts Headmaster.

The girl, Hermione Granger, was very much like she had been when Kaoru had visited Hogwarts to report Harry Potter's slaying of Voldemort. She was looking around at her surroundings, eyes brimming with curiosity, and probable questions.

The boy, Ronald Weasley, was also looking around, but in awe. "Blimey, that was new," he said. "I mean, I've been carried by a phoenix before, but we're now somewhere else?"

"You are correct, Mister Weasley," Kaoru said in English, startling the two youths. "Please, allow me to welcome you to Japan." She bowed to them and saw copy her, while Ron had to be chivvied into doing so. Kaoru gave a small smile at that. If Miss Granger was worried about him giving offense, she didn't need to.

"Lady Shiba," Albus said, bowing. "It is a pleasure to see you today. Is Harry here, or on his way?"

Kaoru nodded. "He is en route right now," she said. "He was just disembarking from the Ginza line ten minutes ago, so he should be here shortly. Just to inform you, he will be accompanied by Miss Ayano, as we didn't inform him of this visit, and he was in Nerima when Kotoha informed him that his presence here would be appreciated." She gave a wry shake of her head. "Miss Ayano was quite insistent, apparently, in accompanying him."

Hermione and Ron nodded, accepting the explanation.

"Well, we get to meet one of his friends in person, right?" Ron asked.

"I think… wasn't she called Silica in there?" Hermione asked.

"That is correct," Kaoru replied. She was about to speak further when she heard several voices.

##

"Miss Hanaori, why is my presence requested here all of a sudden?" Harry asked as they walked through the gates to the compound. He and Keiko were walking around Nerima, being escorted by her mother… and others. He spotted several women who he was sure were Amazons, which Keiko confirmed. Whether they were there to be his minders, or Keiko's was something he didn't ask.

"You will see in a moment, Mister Potter," Kotoha said. "And you're at least better about this than you dog-, I mean, godfather."

Harry snorted. "No, you meant dogfather Miss Hanaori," he said. "And to be quite honest, I think Sirius needs to be sent back to obedience school anyway."

"So that would explain the collar and the leash you gave me on Christmas," Kotoha murmured in amusement.

"Harry, you know he will get you back for that," Keiko said with a giggle.

"Already saw him browsing through screenshots of the recorded footage," Harry said. "How much do you want to bet that he's going to plaster some of the more embarrassing ones around the apartment building and neighborhood?"

"Like that one time we had you and Kirito dolled up?" Keiko asked.

"Probably," Harry replied easily and then stopped as they entered the courtyard. "No way…" He said.

"Harry?" Keiko asked.

"Ron… Hermione?"

##

Hermione looked at Harry and barely restrained herself from rushing over to him. She could see him, and with how painfully thin he still looked, she might do more harm than good if she did. "Harry…" She whispered, taking a step forward.

"Harī-kun. dare desu ka?" The girl with him asked.

"What?" Ron asked, confused.

Hermione looked at him. "She was asking who we are, Ron," she said and then turned back to the pair. "Gomenasai," she said in halting Japanese. "Umm… Watashitachiha Harī no tomodachi desu. I hope I got that right." She muttered to herself

Harry chuckled. "Hermione, she understands English just fine," he said in English.

"Can speak a little of it, too," the girl said. "So, you're Harry's friends from England?" She looked them over. "I'm Keiko Ayano. Harry spoke of you in SAO." She then gave them a small bow.

"Hermione, Ron, how did you get here?" Harry asked and then got a suspicious look on his face. "Wait a tick…" He turned to the clearly amused woman with him. "Miss Hanaori, this is why I was asked to come here?"

##

"So, you two didn't even know about this until Dumbledore had you grab onto Fawkes?" Harry asked as they sat in the courtyard.

Ron nodded, looking at his friend. "Yeah mate, I think he wanted to surprise both us and you," he said. "And bloody hell, if mum saw you like this, she'd go spare."

"I can imagine," Harry said with a laugh. "Should have seen me three weeks ago." He heard Keiko giggle at that. "You didn't look that much better off, dear." He said to her.

Keiko stuck her tongue out at him. "Better than you did," she said in English.

"Of course," Harry agreed, chuckling.

Ron narrowed his eyes a bit as he looked at his friend. This wasn't one of Harry's false reassurances, but he could tell that there was something there. And Hermione probably...

"Harry, are you okay?" Hermione asked.

"As okay as I can be, Hermione," Harry replied and looked out across the courtyard. "None of us were really surprised at how we were when we got out. We all looked like we just got out of a famine and that was just Keiko and I. We were some of the better off ones in the hospital."

"That's not what I meant, Harry," Hermione said.

Harry gave her a sad smile. "Yeah, I know." He said. "But… what am I supposed to say? Professor Dumbledore already brought up that you, at least, have watched recordings that were taken through my Nerve Gear." He looked at Ron.

"I would come in and out every now and then," Ron said. "But watching and… analyzing it all, well, that's not my strong suit. I did watch a number of the battles against the bigger monsters you fought. But most of it, I was coming in to see for myself that you were at least still doing all right."

"With that project, I wasn't really helping him with homework," Hermione said. "So he had to do it all himself. And… with you gone, we kind of grew a bit more distant."

Harry nodded. "I see." There was a note of sadness in his voice. "I wish I could say I was surprised."

"Harry James Potter, don't you dare blame yourself for this," Hermione said fiercely.

Harry blinked. "Blame myself?" He asked and then gave Hermione a sharp look. "Hermione, I'm not blaming myself for you two getting distant. I do remember that I had to run interference between you two to keep you both from arguing often enough to know that it was your friendships with me, that allowed you to tolerate each other."

Ron winced at Harry's comment. It was true, but the fact that his friend recognized his role in keeping him and Hermione from being at each other's throats…

It stung a little. It was true, but it still stung.

"So mate, how have things been since you got out," Ron said, trying to change the subject.

"Good enough," Harry said. "I can't really put it into words. I mean, whenever we're out, we watch everything, my instincts keep telling me to draw my sword, and…" He closed his eyes. "Just because we left SAO, doesn't mean that SAO has left us."

"You should see it when all of us are together," Keiko said quietly. "We automatically get into a party formation, watching all angles. When one of us is looking at something, window shopping, or making a purchase…"

"And the crowds don't help," Harry said. "But we can't just stay inside and shut ourselves off from the world." He sighhed. "It's getting easier to not fall into those habits, but Sirius said that they'll be there for awhile. And... "

"What do you mean?" Hermione asked.

"Hermione, you know what shell-shock is, right?" Harry asked, to Ron's confusion. However, with Hermione's nod, it was clear that Harry decided to continue.

"Outside of physical therapy, every survivor of SAO is undergoing psychological counseling," Harry said. "For some, it's more to just make sure that we came out well-adjusted. But for others, especially those of us who were actively involved in clearing the game, as well as some other incidents, the counselors are also checking for that… and other things."

"Other things?" Ron asked.

"Ron, how much in the way of major events in SAO did you see?" Harry asked back.

"Well, there was your wedding," Ron said. "And bloody hell, that was awesome to watch. Oh, and when you fought and killed You Know Who."

"Umm, I don't know who," Keiko said.

"He's talking about New Year's, dear," Harry said absently. "And is everyone still referring to him like that? Bloody… He's dead, damn it. Ron, just call him Tom then, that was his actual name."

"You know, Ginny does that," Hermione said. "She calls him Tom, and… well, she watched that recording. She was the youngest of us who did, and we had students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang there due to the Triwizard Tournament who also witnessed it."

"Wait, tournament?" Harry asked.

Hermione nodded. "It was resurrected for some reason, and one of its main organizers was… lacking in many ways," Hermione said carefully.

"Lacking?" Ron asked incredulously. "Bagman couldn't organize a piss up in a brewery, Hermione. And Harry, someone tried to use it to basically force you to compete and possibly get killed. Didn't work, though."

"So that's why your scar hurt last year," Keiko said.

Harry smiled coldly at that. "And it's good to get confirmation that it was because things weren't going his way," he said with some satisfaction. "Just wasn't his year, was it? His plans failed, and he ended up losing a pointed argument with me."

"You were rather sharp with him," Keiko said.

Harry nodded. "Anyway, your sister watched it?"

Ron nodded. "Yeah mate, she did," he said. "And… I don't quite know how bad it was for her after the whole Chamber of Secrets thing, but I know she had nightmares for a while. And after watching you kill that wanker, she seemed… relieved, I guess."

Harry nodded. "That's good," he said. "That son of a bitch did a lot to her. If anyone besides me should be glad he's dead, it's her."

"Harry," Hermione said. "Language."

Ron snorted. "Bloody hell mate, she's usually doing that to me."

"Ron, language," Hermione immediately said.

Ron and Harry both started laughing, with Hermione following shortly after. Keiko sat back and watched it with a small smile on her face.

##

Albus smiled as he watched Harry begin the process of reconnecting with his friends, even if he wasn't going to be returning to England in the near future. It would help keep him grounded, though he had no doubt that Miss Ayano would help in that regard.

He wasn't foolish enough to believe that just this one meeting would be enough. It had been two years, and Harry's experiences had changed him in ways that Miss Granger and Mister Weasley would have a hard time understanding. They would know on an intellectual level, Miss Granger especially, but they didn't have the same experiences and perspectives. They had been observers to the experiences that Harry had lived.

And while it seemed as if there would be no problem with Harry reconnecting with his friends on the surface, all Albus had to do was remember how his experiences had changed him after he and Gellert fell out, or after he returned from Europe when he had confronted and killed his former friend.

##

"Oh you should have seen it," Keiko said, chortling. "Asuna and I had persuaded Ashley to prepare some dresses and we then conned Harry and Kirito into closing their eyes long enough for us to dress them up. Their reactions to what we did were priceless."

"No dear, Kirito's reaction was priceless," Harry said. "I saw that coming and simply ran with it. And remember how I reacted to Rain's idea of us going out like that?" He then straightened and got a haughty air. "Unacceptable, a proper lady should not go about in public unescorted or unchaperoned. Miss Ashley, if you could ensure that Sir Silica and Sir Asuna are properly attired? And while you are at it, please find something suitable for Miss Rain and Miss Lux, so that they may act as chaperones."

Both Hermione and Ron laughed.

"It didn't quite go exactly like that, but that's what he did, and both Asuna and I ended up modelling in "proper" clothing for the occasion," Keiko said. "Not that Harry was complaining, and he was probably very appreciative of the poofy skirt he was wearing at the time."

Harry shrugged. "What can I say?" He asked. "What you wore left nothing to the imagination. Anyway, after that, Kirito and I got back into proper clothing and left the girls to their shopping while we went to a tavern and drank away our sorrows."

"Please tell me you have pictures," Hermione said.

Harry pulled his cell phone out and made a show of checking it. "Sorry, but I don't," he said. "Keiko?"

Keiko had her phone out and was flipping through the photos stored on it before shaking her head. "If I had known we were going to meet some of your friends from England, I would have made sure to have some of the more memorable ones on it."

Harry snorted. "I can imagine," he said and then looked at Hermione. "So, you were a part of a project watching recordings of me being myself inside SAO?"

Hermione nodded. "Yes, I was," she said. "Not just me, but members from all the other houses, including the Slytherins."

Harry raised an eyebrow. "Slytherins?" He asked. "They were working with a muggleborn Gryffindor? Now that is something I didn't expect to hear about."

Hermione smirked. "The Headmaster did rather politely say that it would be appreciated if I did," she said. "And some of their insights were very useful and it gave me a perspective on how the more traditionally aligned wizards saw things."

"And what did they think?" Harry asked.

Hermione frowned. "I could tell that more than a few found it interesting," she said. "But whether they will influence their parents into looking into adopting more modern technologies… I can't really say. There are a lot of things that would need to be done, and those things take time."

Harry nodded and looked at Keiko. "Well, it's not like I can do much about it right now," he said. "I don't… I'll be staying in Japan for awhile."

"What?" Ron asked in surprise. "Why?"

Harry looked at his friends. "I'm too well known outside the magical world," he said. "That means that I can't simply fade back into it." He sighed. "They're going to want records of where I am and what I'm doing. Arrangements have already been made for my schooling." He reached out and took Keiko's hand in his. "But, let's get away from that, how long are you two going to be here? Even if you can only be here for the day, there's still plenty that can be shown to you."

"Umm, what about visas?" Hermione asked. "My parents sent me my passport by mail, and I could have brought it with me had I known, but…"

Harry looked to see Lord Takeru walking into the courtyard with Dumbledore right next to him. Seeing the current head of the Shiba Clan shooting the older wizard exasperated looks, he had an idea that the issue was being taken care of. Hell, even if they couldn't leave the compound, he could still spend a bit of time with them, and maybe introduce them to Gus, if he was up to it.

December 29,2024 - Unplottable Location, Malfoy Manor

Lucius growled as he read the report that one of his many informants on the seedier side of things. "He bought an 'untraceable' second wand?"

"Who was that stupid?"

Lucius turned and smiled sweetly. "Was I ranting loudly again, dear?"

"No, I was checking in on you. Who would invest money in something so silly as that?" Narcissa asked, coming up behind him and giving his shoulders a squeeze.

"Nott. And the problem is entirely what you think 'untraceable' means," Lucius reflected. "I mean, yes, you drop and snap, they can't link it to you. But I'm betting the fool thinks it means magic done with it can't be detected."

"Theodore Nott... Senior?" Narcissa asked carefully.

Lucius sat up straighter. "My flower, what have you heard?"

"Draco's last letter before he came home. Apparently Theo the younger mentioned a sudden business trip by his father to Asia."

"The absolute cunt," Lucius spat, then winced. "Sorry, darling-"

"I'm inclined to agree," his darling wife said, thought the firmer grip on his shoulders said not to let it be a habit. "So... subtle tip to the Department of International Cooperation?"

"Oh, I think we can afford to be direct on this one," Lucius said, standing. "Fetch me my flooing cushion!