A.N: I was originally going to suspend this story until I finished at least one of my others, but since I had most of this chapter written already, and someone asked about it, I decided I'd finish it and put it up. It's a little short though, sorry. ^^
Disclaimer: I don't own the POT or HP characters, etc.
" . . ." = English
( . . .) = Japanese
The train ride was long and mostly uneventful. There was the short span of minutes during which a plump woman pushing a desert cart opened their compartment door, making Kaidoh and Momoshiro jump three feet off their seats as Eiji let out a yelp of surprise. She blinked at them for a moment, her mouth partially open as though she had been about to say something, apparently not used to getting such a welcome. But she collected herself and beamed at them.
"Anything off the cart?" she asked when no one moved. There was a moment of silence then Fuji stood up, smiling serenely. By the time the woman left each member of the Seigaku tennis team had some kind of strange snack none of them had ever heard of before in hand.
Munching on a frog shaped chocolate, Momoshiro glanced at the card that had been wrapped up with the candy. It looked like some kind of collectable card only the picture was blank. The word "Circe" had been written on the top of the card and there was a description on the back. He squinted at the words for a while but thought better of trying to read it. It felt too much like trying to puzzle out his English homework. When he turned the card back over the picture was no longer blank. There was a woman looking back at him—really looking back at him as though she could see him. He blinked. So did she. He dropped the card.
He bent to pick it up but a different had reached it first. Straightening, he found Ryoma looking quizzically at the card. Shifting in his seat, Momo waited for his friend's reaction. What he got was a raised eyebrow and a thoughtful look before the card was handed back to him.
(So . . .what do you think?) he asked finally, unable to keep the words behind his teeth any longer. he younger boy however only shrugged, making his companion frown. "Oh come on, don't tell me you're not at least a little excited! I mean—this could be magic we're seeing here. Real magic!"
Ryoma looked back at him with a raised eyebrow. Personally, he wasn't sure what the big deal was. So these . . .magicians could make pictures on a collectable card move around. It wasn't really all that different from watching a TV. The only difference was how the images got around to moving. But he could see the excitement dancing in his loud friend's eyes so he muttered an agreement and went back to munching on his oddly flavored jelly beans.
Okay, so maybe he was a little curious too, but there was no point getting all bouncy about it. What he really wanted to know was if this school had a decent tennis court.
Professor Minerva McGonagall waited patiently as the foreigners disembarked the Hogwarts Express. She had been hearing some strange rumors regarding the lot of them, but she had never been one for rumors. On the other hand she had been told that the man the Ministry had assigned to the Japanese children had reported that they might actually be muggles, but the man wasn't entirely sure all considered they had managed to find their way into Diagon Alley. No one knew how that had happened since there had been no witnesses, but they ha defiantly been there and no one who had been asked had reported opening the door for them. It was for this reason that she had decided not to take them up to the castle with the carriages. She needed to observe all of them, not just the few that would ride in the same carriage as her. If it turned out they really were muggles then, well, she wasn't entirely sure what would happen then since the Ministry guide had also mentioned something about failing memory charms.
Stepping forward, she introduced herself and explained that their luggage would be taken up to the school for them. The trip up to the castle was filled with the Seigaku students' excited chattering. Not having learned Japanese, McGonagall could only guess what they were talking about, but their enthusiasm made the corners of her mouth twitch up into a smile. Gasps of wonder filled the air as the lake came into sight, its deep, glassy surface filled with the pale, blue reflection of the sky. The water was so still that it looked almost as though it was the real sky down there—a piece fallen from the heavens themselves. Slowing her pace, the professor watched her charges carefully as they rounded the final bend in the road and Hogwarts castle came into sight. Eyes of all colors grew wide with wonder as the entire group halted momentarily in its tracks. This time there were no immediate exclamations of awe, but she could see clearly from their expressions that these children were seeing the castle for exactly what it was. Well, that was at least half the question answered then.
"Welcome to Hogwarts."
"Applications?" Harry repeated, staring blankly across the Weasleys' dining table at his friends.
"The ones for the competition of course. Didn't you read your letter?" Hermione demanded impatiently.
"I just went over the list of materials," he replied a little defensively. "I thought the rest of it was the same every year."
"It's usually pretty similar, but—"
"Oh just explain already," Ron cut in, his voice slightly muffled by the pancakes currently occupying his mouth. "I wouldn't have looked at it either if Dad didn't give us the heads up."
"You shouldn't talk with your mouth full Ron."
"So are either of you going to tell me what this application's for or not?" Harry interrupted before the redhead could respond. "And what do you mean by competition?"
Ron swallowed his pancakes. "Their holding the National NGW competition at Hogwarts this year."
"And that is?"
"It's a competition that takes place every ten years," the redhead explained. "You get representative teams from each major continent—so that's North America, South America, Europe, Australia, Africa, and Asia—and two guest teams. They get set a number of different types of contests and the teams score points depending on how they do."
"From what I read it sounded kind of like those science fairs where you have to build something that can accomplish a certain task the most efficiently," Hermione added. "Only in this contest everything is done on the spur of the moment and you're judged on how you apply your magic and knowledge to the task at hand."
"And Hogwarts was chosen to supply the European team this time 'round," Ron continued, grinning. "Apparently we had the highest average scores the last few years in the OWL and NEWT exams. The letter said everyone who's a third year or older can apply. There're eight slots on the team—and I think there might have been something about being allowed one reserve. We can get application forms from our heads of Houses."
"So it's like a game?" Harry hazarded, finishing his last piece of pancake and pushing the plate away.
That earned him a snort from Ron. "It's more than that. Do you have any idea what it means to be part of the team that wins? It's like—I don't know, being recommended by the Minister of Magic or something. The winners practically never have any problem getting their dream jobs when they graduate. Being picked to participate is no small thing either."
There was a long moment of silence as all three of them thought this over. Harry had never thought much about what he was going to do when he left Hogwarts. That particular part of the future still seemed so far away. It wasn't until now that he realized how little he knew about wizarding jobs. It was a rather disconcerting thought.
"Anyway, I think we should all apply," the redhead announced. "I mean, we've been through loads of stuff together. This should be a piece of cake."
"I don't think it's going to be that easy," Hermione sighed. "And remember, we might not even be picked. There are a lot of students in Hogwarts."
"Don't be such a downer Hermione," Ron complained.
"I'm being realistic. It doesn't mean I think we shouldn't apply."
"I think it sounds kind of fun," Harry said. Any further discussion on the matter was cut short however as the entire as a sudden explosion shook the entire house followed by Mrs. Weasley's outraged cry from where she had been cleaning the living room.
"Fred! George! That had better not be you two making more of those horrible sweets!"
A.N: Someone suggested I adopt this story out. I'm not really sure if I want to do that or not so I'm still thinking about it. Happy New Year's!