Interlude -- Advance Endgaming

"I understand now, after what happened this past year. No fading into obscurity, my enemies won't let me. Sirius Black came for me, and Voldemort, when he returns, will do the same."

"Harry, at least you'll have extra time as he pulls himself together." Consoled Jenny.

"Only a few months." Harry sounded sullen.

"Oh woe. Oh angst. Oh get over it. You aren't the center of Voldy's twisted universe." Said Jenny.

Amanda brought a loaf of fresh baked bread over to the dinner table, and set it next to the steaming corn and hot mashed potatoes. The food rested in white dishes with green and gold trim. Then Amanda sat and smiled.

"This summer is going to be great!" Said Amanda. "So how was your flight out Harry?"

"Long, boring, and filled with dull. Unlike some people who took the international port key because they are ditching the United Kingdom forever."

"Won't miss it." Jenny cut the bread into slices for everyone, using an enchanted ever-sharp knife. "It's your own fault for being such an attractive target with heroic ancestry. So much trouble over a simple squib named Potter." Jenny rolled her eyes.

"People hold grudges." Harry took a piece of bread, and started putting butter on it. "You two witches did promise to train me this summer."

Amanda's Mom came from the kitchen and set the steaming oven baked turkey on the table with a flourish. Pausing and smiling for complements, she acknowledged the exclamations before carving.

Conversation resumed.

"You'll be busy while Jen and I rock Las Vegas." Amanda gave Harry a 'thumbs up' gesture. "Yeah, your magic powers might suck, but you can be dangerous in other ways. We'll teach you. Now pass the potatoes. You don't rush hell."

Amanda's Mom frowned, and she shoved the fork into the turkey extra hard. "Dear, what have I told you about proper behavior in this house?"

"Sorry for the maniacal laugh at the table." Amanda sounded a bit guilty.

"You can torture the poor boy later, this is a celebration of Jen's move away from those bigoted maniacs." Amanda's Mom was pretty cool, but didn't care much for the Wizarding World.

-----------------------------

The promises made at the dinner table were kept, in spades.

By the end of the summer, Harry was as magically skilled as a sixth year Durmstrang dropout. He couldn't out power a determined House-Elf, but he knew how to fight. By Jenny's estimation, he had moved up from Squib to below average, not that she told Harry that.

Then came the farewells.

Harry hugged Amanda and Jenny at the same time, and held on tight, not letting go.

"Thank you, both of you. You've shown me bravery, loyalty, and ability by example. I may be a squib, but now I understand. My most powerful weapon isn't magic. It isn't a neat spell, a secret and mysterious wizarding power, or even my lineage. My greatest weapon and gift is my mind tempered by my will."

Jenny was crying. "If it gets bad, real bad, we'll help you. It's what friends are for."

"Kumori will accompany you, though I have also given her tasks. She's grown far beyond what I've envisioned, and you'll need her. Under no circumstances expose her to high magnitude magical creatures like basilisks, dragons, or nundus. They can easily destroy her."

"Shove it you weird old hag. I'll take on all comers!" Kumori assumed a fighting posture atop Harry's head, messing up his hair. She looked slutty aggressive because her outfit had been stolen from Malibu Barbie.

Amanda laughed and blasted the doll off with a wandless telekinetic bullet. Kumori flew fifty feet into the air, before popping out of the trajectory and settling down. The pecking order had been well established during summer training.

"Don't worry, kid. You've already defeated the Dark Lord Amanda Hawking in the best way – by turning a potential enemy into a devoted ally. Now go rock the pureblood incestuous British Wizarding World."

"I will." Harry looked into the distant blue sky through an airport window, resolve etched into his posture. Kumori saluted her commander from atop his head, and nodded in resolve. Without looking back, Harry boarded his plane, first class all the way, and left for his fourth year at Hogwarts.

He wore an odd metal button on his black souvenir Vegas polo sweater. An inch and a half in diameter, the button was made of Stainless Steel etched with an unusual flickering hologram. Small pink letters hovered in the air with a star field backdrop, like the introductory parts of the Star Wars movies. The enchantments on the trinket prevented muggles from realizing the technology required for creating such hologram did not yet exist. The hovering pink message scrolled through a downright sadistic saga of hardship and suffering, that ended with the phrase 'Harry Potter is now graduate of the Hawking Institute of Asskicking, may his enemies beware.'

"I'm not getting in the baggage carrier, so don't even try." Kumori sounded determined from her disillusioned perch as Harry sat in his roomy leather airline chair. International Portkey might be easier, but the Wizarding World happened to track them.

"As long as you don't crash the plane or make me late for England, I don't care how you handle yourself. Jenny and Amanda may have you leashed, but you've always been good with me. You aren't a doll, you're a person."

"I love you Harry!" Kumori kissed his forehead, hovering. "See you later." She zipped off.

During the flight back to America, Harry spent a long time in reflection. Amanda had started his training off with an American legal version of the Imperious Curse; legal only because Harry agreed with the instructions beforehand. While she was living it up in Vegas, Harry was getting in shape and training his magic.

It mainly consisted of exhausting his magic over and over again. This physical conditioning was important too, but the Exercitum Corporeus spell took only six minutes. Fifteen seconds of casting, three minutes of agony, and then the recovery. Harry could understand why cramming a day's exercise into such a short time wasn't a popular Wizarding pastime. Ripping up your own muscle tissue and letting the body build itself really hurt.

The summer had been exhausting, and the airplane flight was Harry's first long quiet period since his graduation from the Hawking Institute. During his fourth year at Hogwarts, his schedule included Ancient Runes II, Arithmancy II, Care of Magical Creatures IV, Defense Against the Dark Arts IV, Herbology IV, and Charms. What type of Charms, Harry wasn't really sure of, since he'd been in the remedial class last year. He planned on dropping both Transfiguration and Potions. Severus and Minerva were both unpleasant people. Harry briefly wondered what their children might be like.

Regardless of his classes, the reason Harry had chosen to continue with Hogwarts and not transfer into an American magical school was entirely mental. Amanda and Jenny had verified the hole in his mind surrounding his first year was beyond their abilities. Thelma Devareux, the fussy American Medi-witch specializing in memory recovery that Harry visited in late July, confirmed it. In her professional opinion, the only one who could restore his memories was the one who had taken them.

The one who took them away was Dumbledore, the Headmaster of Hogwarts, Supreme Mugwump, and Hero-in-his-own-mind. They'd learned that much from careful probing and analysis.

Harry looked at his fourth and possibly final year at Hogwarts as a coming battle, and not just against Dumbledore. Without his older friends to protect him, Harry expected the other students would try and make him find a new clique. Amanda warned him the Squib-Who-Lived as a trophy servant appealed greatly to the Slytherin worldview.

Before Harry expected it, the aircraft landed in London. He picked up his luggage, and took a taxi into the heart of London. Kumori performed a discrete shrinking charm, and Harry pocketed his belongings and headed for Diagon Alley. He did his school shopping quickly under a low profile.

No one commented on him being fourteen. Harry kept his face and distinctive forehead scar hidden under a Carolina Tarheel's visored cap, and he had grown several inches over the summer. While he did recognize several of his schoolmates and their families, Harry was more interested in beating jet lag than having a chat.

After buying his school list, Harry returned to the normal side of London, and took a room at a six star hotel for the next three days. At least he had a credit card that tapped his Gringot's Vault. Kumori bewitched the perky and flagrantly gay hotel clerk into happy compliance, since a fourteen-year-old kid having an upper level suite was unusual. The magical world might have its wonders, but it wasn't as comfortable as 24/7 room service with optional massages.

After Harry had settled himself in, Kumori left on the Vance Mission. Harry thought she was doing some advance scouting, and didn't care. When Kumori wasn't there the next morning, Harry wasn't surprised.

He spent this free time in the most constructive way possible. The massage from a very attractive brunette woman with soft hands was first rate. He couldn't help thinking that house elves had nothing on professional sexy masseuses. Because, well, flirting with a house elf? That took a sad and desperate man. Like Filch, according to malicious Hogwarts gossip.

Soon enough, the respite passed.

Kumori showed as he entered the platform for the Hogwarts Express, cracking Harry's neck by landing on his head.

"You've gotten heavier again. I take it the mission went well."

"Fine, fine. I'm nearing the size limit for elf-apparition, so I decided to become denser for now. I'll probably transform again near Christmas. If you want a report, get us privacy on the train."

Harry never did end up asking for a report, but Kumori was proud Emmaline Vance, formerly of the Order of the Phoenix, would never threaten another young magical child again. She disillusioned herself with a sigh, and settled in.

"Stop squirming. If you get too much heavier, my head is off limits." Harry boarded the Express, passing and ignoring the crowd of fashion impaired wizards and witches saying goodbyes and spouting happy nonsense.

"You don't really mean that."

He meant it. Right now though, Harry didn't feel like an argument. He felt lost. He was so used to sitting with Jenny on magical trains, that he didn't know where to go. Taking a deep breath, Harry shrugged.

So he was on his own? Big deal. He had a degree in asskicking from the best.

"Hey! I'm comfortable up here, stop it." Kumori directed a kick at his forehead.

"Whatever, I'm deciding where to sit." Harry rolled his shoulders back and forth slowly, because he could. This jiggled the passenger on head around, and ruined her comfort.

"Stop the whiny girlish angst you stupid Squib, and grab us an empty compartment." Kumori kicked his forehead harder.

"Quit it you crass violent caryatid, or I'll use the Medusa curse on myself and snakebite you off." Harry started walking. He found the first compartment he checked empty, and sat by the window.

"Feel better yet?"

"A little." Harry watched platform nine and three quarters, as more wizards and witches arrived. He could make out a faint reflection of his face in the glass, offset slightly by the pinkish light from Amanda's enchanted graduation button. That thing was destined for his school robes, same place as a prefect's badge.

"When you see Luna, let me know. I'll grab her." Kumori gestured at the compartment door, and it closed, magically locked and sealed.

Twenty minutes later, Harry spotted one of the strangest things he'd seen in the English wizarding world – a wizard who looked like he blended in perfectly with normal people. Right next to him was Luna, dragging a flashing plaid trunk on a little pink wagon.

Kumori left to collect her, unlocking the door.

Thirty seconds later, Draco Malfoy and his goons stepped inside.

While he had anticipated dealing with them, Harry didn't think it would be so soon. He'd been counting on having back-up and initiating events which hadn't happened yet.

Crabbe and Goyle blocked the door while Malfoy flounced inside, already in his black Slytherin school robes. His arrogant smirk wavered slightly when Harry didn't speak or looked pleased to see him.

"Harry Potter, the famous Boy-Who-Lived. Slytherin house has gotten used to your obedience and support over the past few years. You'd do well to continue your mentorship under my protection."

Harry sighed, and readied himself for confrontation, shifting his weight. If Malfoy or his goons got physical, or even magical, they had a ruder surprise coming than they expected to deliver.

"Malfoy, you aren't Amanda Hawking. She's the only Slytherin I know who is worth a damn. You aren't even Jenova Hecate, the only good-for-something Hufflepuff. This year, bets are off. I don't need anyone's protection. I am not a political tool or prize."

"Are you rejecting my friendship?" Draco sounded displeased.

Harry spoke slowly, as if talking to a young child in diapers. "What you are offering isn't friendship. It's an influence ploy. If you were interested in friendship, you'd approach differently, which is why it is easy to reject you."

Crabbe and Goyle began cracking their knuckles behind Malfoy. Draco looked angry; what he'd thought a sure thing had spectacularly backfired. His expression settled into a sneer.

Before he could snarl threats or insults, Harry interrupted. "Now what you need to do is leave this compartment and rethink your approach. Because I guarantee if you are stupid enough to try something now, there is no chance of us ever being more than a normal Ravenclaw and Slytherin with the standard house animosities.

Malfoy was that stupid. He reached for his wand. Even as his hands lashed out in a practiced kung-fu throw, Harry rolled his eyes.

Before Draco could finish a syllable, he got thrown into Crabbe, and both fell into the hallway outside the compartment. Goyle started forward, but his punch turned into a painful joint lock. Harry marched his walking shield outside in front of him, with the thug on his tippy-toes. The expect hex from Malfoy stuck his own minion, and as Goyle legs started moving in the Jelly-Legs curse something popped near the goon's shoulder joint. Goyle screamed like a little girl.

This attracted the attention of someone with more authority than a bunch of fourth years, and Harry took the opportunity granted to retreat back into his compartment and close the door.

"Mr. Malfoy," stated a venomous female voice from the Hallway, "you are giving our Slytherin house a bad name by attacking your underlings in a public forum. As this year's Head Girl, I have a number of unpleasant tasks for you to undertake when we arrive at school. Daddy won't be saving your ass this time, spoiled twat."

---------------------------

Five minutes later Kumori came along with Luna in tow.

"Did you know Draco Malfoy was crying in the hallway?" Said Luna. "It must be a Widdershins Grimalkin acting up, I hear they cause a person's fingers to lock backwards. It looked like Goyle was helping Draco out of his predicament by bending back his hand. How nice of him!"

Harry smiled, his button flashing brightly on his Hogwart's robes. "So tell me about your summer, Luna."

----------------------------

After the feast, Harry made his way toward the Headmaster's room, not Ravenclaw tower. When he reached the stone gargoyle guardian, he scratched it under the chin, and whispered "Amanda says nice doggy."

The statue turned aside, revealing the staircase upwards. Without hesitation, Harry climbed and pushed open the door into Dumbledore's Office. He was pleasantly surprised to find the old man in residence, having half-expected him to be in his private warded chambers.

"You aren't denying me this, Headmaster. It is time we have a little chat, just the two of us." Harry fingered the silver Celtic cross that hung from his neck, dangling outside his black robes.

"A necklace designed to absorb mind invasions, and oh my, that is an interesting technique." Dumbledore sounded proud and impressed. "Do you believe such dark measures are really necessary?"

"It's called the Deathlock, you sanctimonious bastard. If you try forcing yourself into my mind again, it'll kill us both. I want my first year memories back!"

Dumbledore wasn't upset by the outburst; rather he smiled, looking very much the chiding grandfather. "I don't think you're ready for the truth of what those memories contain yet. While you've gotten into lots of trouble these past years, it's always been someone else who has gotten you out of it. I do feel your heart is in the right place, but you aren't ready."

"That's an empty justification." Harry watched Dumbledore closely, and the older wizard just shook his head at the hot-blooded impatience of youth.

"Harry, I'm honestly concerned you won't take the contents of those memories well. I know you think unkindly of the Wizarding World right now, in part because you've suffered discrimination based on your magical capacity."

"That's not it at all." Harry took a calming breath, and kept his body language steady. "You took what you had no right to take, for an agenda I can only speculate on. The only reason I'm here instead of the Skystar Institute in San Francisco is because I thought there was a chance of you returning my memories. If I find that chance doesn't exist, an International Portkey with my name on it is in my Gringott's Vault."

Dumbledore's brow crinkled. Inwardly he was cursing Arabella Figg, who took his monitoring money and always gave the same report. Obviously the Squib-Who-Lived hadn't spent his summer isolated in Petunia Dursley's smallest bedroom.

"Harry, I've only been thinking of your own good. If those memories mean that much to you, I'm willing to return them under certain conditions." Dumbledore sighed, knowing he'd been too complacent over a situation he'd thought appropriately delegated.

"Are you willing to swear a proper Wizarding Oath over that?" Harry put as much rancor and disbelief into his voice as he could.

"I am." Said Dumbledore. "However, if you decide Hogwarts is no longer the school for you, any unrecovered memories will be forever lost."

"I expected that." Harry nodded. "So what sort of hoops I am jumping through? You know I dropped Transfiguration and Potions from my schedule through all the official channels, and they still showed up there? Let me tell you right now, dropping Potions is non-negotiable."

"I'll let Minerva know to expect you then. It wouldn't do for a Ravenclaw to take less than seven magical subjects. I do wonder how much of this you've staged just for the purpose of avoiding Severus?"

"I don't dislike Professor Snape anymore than the average student, Headmaster. Now, I'd like your oath to be very explicit about the conditions for my memory return. Here is a rough draft I've prepared in advance, do look it over." Harry removed a scroll from his robes, and handed it over.

Dumbledore didn't even glance at the scroll, just placed it on his desk. "I'm sure it's very well thought out Harry, but I don't have the time for searching a long meandering document for loopholes. I'll look it over, and maybe next month we can have another get together?"

"Actually Headmaster, it's remarkably simple. One paragraph. No tricks. You'll read it, and perform the oath now, because I know you want me here, under your thumb."

Several portraits of former Headmasters started berating Harry for trying to dictate terms to a man who was his better. Dumbledore could have silenced them, but chose not to. Phineas Nigellus was proud of the amount of tears his words caused; one waterworks per three lectures was his average.

Dumbledore slowly reached down and opened the scroll, enjoying how his predecessor kept calling Harry Potter a 'Damned Dumb Squib lucky to have magical education.' He was pleasantly surprised.

"That's enough Phineas." Said Dumbledore. "Mr. Potter, while I do object to the manner you've employed for the result, I cannot find fault with this oath. I will swear it."

Harry didn't smile, and drew out his Holly wand. It had been too easy.

"I Dumbledore do swear to return to Harry Potter the memories missing from the start of his first year. I will return them when he graduates from his seventh year here, or when he performs a solo action of extreme heroism or difficulty, showing his mettle as a true wizard."

"I Harry Potter do swear to continue attending Hogwarts as long as Headmaster Dumbledore holds my memories hostage."

The oaths were sworn, and Harry had his proof of heroism planned -- winning the Tri-Wizard Tournament. However he really didn't like how Dumbledore told him he should have been sorted into Gryffindor. Member of that house were foolishly stupid in the face of overwhelming odds. Harry knew he'd miscalculated.

As Harry Potter left, Dumbledore smiled. The damaging memories revolved about what happened before Harry began his first year. He no longer had to worry about The-Squib-Who-Lived becoming so dangerously independent that he abandoned his proper Hogwarts education.

------------------

AN: This chapter was sitting on my hard drive, almost complete. I finished it, edited, and here it is. I have very interesting plans for the fourth year, provided I ever get around to writing it.