Moving Forward

Soft, wispy, white stretched on as far as the eye could see. A blanket of clouds tinted with warm colors by the summer sun, and in an inverted position underneath the blue sky. The view looked like a sea of cotton, and the tops of the clouds were swirled upwards into phantasmal shapes.

A small girl with chin-length, messy black hair was seeing all this as she gazed out one of the airplane windows. She seemed to be around the age of eleven, and had a short, skinny frame even for that age. The girl formerly known as Heather Potter was currently flying towards the opposite side of the planet, to her new life in Japan as Kitamori Akira.

Akira , and shifted in the tiny airplane seat, trying to find a more comfortable position. At least being in this smaller body meant that she had more room. At the end of the last battle in the war against Lord Voldemort, the remaining Death Eaters were either surrendering, as they knew they had no chance without the Dark Lord, or running away towards the gates of Hogwarts, hoping to get a chance to apparate away.

Then there were those who struggled. They were the more loyal and spiteful ones, and started to fire of hexes and curses from their wands with great abandon, hoping to take down some members of the winning side.

Her only friends having died in the battle, Akira had been walking rapidly towards the gates underneath her invisibility cloak, also looking for a chance to apparate away unseen, and maybe get away from the Wizarding world completely, when she had been hit with a curse in her back.

From what she had researched after that, the curse was designed to de-age the victim in a very painful fashion, and keep on shrinking them until there was nothing left. It was a nasty experience to feel your bones cracking and your muscles shrinking, and then to see the world from a much shorter level. Apparently, being under the cloak, had effected the curse, and it had thankfully not killed her.

It had just made her look like an eight-year old. Going on nine, that is.

Now, she was cunning. She had had to be to survive the war with the psycho Dark Lord after her head. So when she learned her body had turned into a child's, she had found many pros to a situation where many would see only cons.

First and foremost, she was a child again. In body at least. She now had a chance to live a childhood and into her teenage years without having near-death experiences yearly. Secondly, since no one had known she had been hexed in the first place, she was free to skip out on the Wizarding World. That meant no fan-mail to the Vanquisher of the Dark Lord, or hate-mail from those who thought she'd become the next great evil of the magical community. Most of all, it meant no one trying to manipulate her (like a certain twinkle-eyed old codger) and she could live her new life as she pleased. Thirdly, it meant that she could catch up on her non-magical education that she had only time to study briefly during her years at Hogwarts, what with the attempts on her life and trying to keep her grades up in the magical areas of study. Plus it also gave her the pleasure of being the smartest nine-year old she had ever known.

So, she had gone to America and spent three years doing just that. She had poured herself into her studies. Hermione would be proud of her, she thought sometimes. Akira genuinely enjoyed learning though. She had found an aptitude for muggle subjects that she had never really had for the magical. Sure she had been very powerful and whatnot, but she had had to work very hard for every ounce of ability. With the non-magical subjects, it just seemed to come naturally.

The things she had gotten into the most however, had been chemistry and tennis. Chemistry had been a bit of surprise, as she had been horrible at Potions. Then again, the Potions Master, Severus Snape, had had a grudge against her the first day she walked into the classroom because he had hated her father and didn't know how to let go of his problems. So without him looming over her shoulder and criticizing her constantly, she had found a great joy in the subject. Learning how different chemical had effected each other and how to counter the effects had been very enjoyable for her. Especially the ones that exploded. She had always had a great love of explosions after she had hit Bellatrix Lestrange, the murderer of her godfather, with a Blasting Curse and completely blew away her lower body and watched as she bled to death.

Tennis, on the other hand, had been the closest thing to Quidditch, a wizarding sport, in America. Sure, she had known about the sport years ago; but when she had seen some teens playing street tennis, she had been entranced. The speed, power, reflexes, and stamina needed for the sport was so fascinating to her. After that she had started to learn about the sport and trained constantly. She had even played in a few minor tournaments, but never the ones covered by the media. After Rita Skeeter, she had disliked reporters with a passion.

Her body now looked nothing like it had when she was eight the first time around. Instead of the slightly starved looking, tiny frame, she had lean muscle all over from running marathons and hitting tennis balls every day. Her skin, instead of being covered with a fine dusting of bruises, had a light tan from spending time outdoors. Her almond-shaped, emerald eyes, instead of being dull and hopeless, shone with a pleased, yet calculating glint.

Tennis was also the main reason she was on the airplane. She was on a flight towards Tokyo, Japan. She had always been interested in Japan after learning many languages, because Japanese had been her favorite one to learn. So now she was going to Japan, not only because she was interested in the culture, but because it had a great reputation in the tennis world.

Suddenly, there was a clicking noise on the overhead speaker. The stewardess' fake-happy voice rang out a second later. "Excuse me everyone! We will be landing shortly in the Tokyo Airport, so please return to your seats, buckle up and turn of all electrical devices. Thank you for flying with this airline, and have a great day!" she chirped.

Akira rolled her eyes slightly behind her thick, black bangs and buckled her seat belt, before putting away her electronic chess game. She had picked it up in the last airport, as it reminded her of Ron. She then sat up straighter in her seat, and looked out the window, watching as they went down through the clouds, and seeing the city from a birds eye view.

Soon, they were ushered off the plane in a jostling, fussing group. Akira looked around her, reading the directional signs and studying how the people interacted. Soon, though she had found the right sign, so she hitched her carry-on bag up higher on her shoulder and immediately made her way to the baggage claim section of the airport.

She walked to the section where her luggage should be, only to find an airport attendant running after a fluffy Himalayan cat while a boy with a white cap and a tennis bag over his shoulder watched with amusement. Akira tilted her head slightly as the cat streaked in her direction, the airport employee chasing after it almost manically.

The cat jumped, and on reflex, she caught it. It looked up at her with its brown face, before it started to purr. The employee gawked in disbelief, and the boy started to walk towards her, but was stopped by someone yelling for him.

"Ryoma! Do you have Karupin yet? We should probably get the rest of our stuff." It was a rather scruffy looking man who said that, gesturing to the baggage claim. He was talking in English, she noticed, despite the fact that they were in Japan and he seemed to be Japanese himself. He also looked vaguely familiar.

"I'm coming, oyaji." The boy, Ryoma, said in a bored voice, also in English except the Japanese term. "Karupin wanted to stretch his legs."

The scruffy man, apparently the boys father, blinked a little, before noticing the black-haired girl holding his sons cat.

"Ah! Who are you? And why are you holding my sons cat?!" He cried, still in English though he didn't know that she knew the language. She noticed the boy rolling his eyes slightly, indicating that it was common behavior for the man.

She debated on whether to answer or not, but decided it really didn't matter because there was no guarantee that they would ever see each other again.

"My name is Kitamori Akira. I'm holding this cat because it jumped into my arms, and if I didn't catch it, it would probably have dug its claws into my skin, trying to stay in position." she said in a lazy voice.

The man finally seemed to notice that they were speaking in English because of the fact that she fluently spoke another language even with her young age.

"You speak English?" he asked curiously. It wasn't everyday that you met a bilingual little girl. She gave him a 'what-do-you-think?' look.

"Yes. I speak English. It would be hard not to considering I grew up mostly in America." Well, the second time around anyway.

The man ignored the dry tone of her young voice, and started to talk again. "Oh really! We're from America too! We just came over to Japan so little Ryoma here could go to my old Middle School and join the tennis club!"

Ryoma looked disgruntled at being called little. "Can we get going oyaji? I'd like to unpack and get used to the new house. Plus mom should be waiting for us."

Reminded that she had, in fact come to the baggage claim for a reason, Akira looked down at the Himalayan cat happily nested in her arms and walked to the Ryoma kid and handed it to him. His cat-like eyes widened slightly in surprise, but she ignored him for the moment.

Soon, she had spotted her suitcase and her tennis bag coming towards her on the revolving carousel. A quick jerk of her arm and she had them in hand. She slung the sports bag over the shoulder that wasn't occupied by her carry-on bag, and popped out the handle of her suitcase so that she could roll it along behind her.

She noticed the two she had just met briefly also grabbing their luggage in her peripheral vision, but she didn't notice the cat anywhere. That is, until she felt something soft winding between her legs. She looked downwards and saw Karupin rubbing his fluffy head against her leg.

She blinked in surprise. Usually people avoided her; especially during her second childhood. She was the creepy girl who knew everything to the kids, and the teachers were unnerved by her intelligence. Then again, she was never sure if it applied to animals.

"Karupin! Come on kitty-cat!" the scruffy man was back again, trying to coax the cat back over to him and his son. She still couldn't tell why that guy seemed so familiar.

Akira gave a small sigh, before scooping up the long-haired cat. She walked over to them and held the cat out. Karupin purred and tried to nuzzle her hand, but she handed him to his owner.

"Karupin seems to like you, Kitamori." Ryoma said, looking at her with hidden curiosity.

She tilted her head slightly, about to answer, but then a tag caught her eye. On the tag was written 'Ryoma Echizen' in English.

'Echizen?' she thought. 'Where have I heard that name- ah! Nanjiro Echizen… The Samurai.' she looked at the scruffy man and imagined him with long hair in a topknot and a headband. 'Ah. So that's why he looks familiar.'

"I have no idea why. Most people don't like me, so I have no idea why a cat would." she said bluntly, getting over the revelation that the scruffy man was a famous tennis player rather quickly. He was also a pervert, if the magazine with a lingerie-clad woman on the front peeking out of his carry-on bag was any indication.

There was an awkward silence after her comment, at least of Nanjiroh's part. Ryoma just smirked, and Akira didn't really realize that she said anything odd. She hadn't really had any human interaction in the past three years, so… yeah.

"So… you play tennis?" Nanjiroh said awkwardly, noting the racket-shaped bag slung over her shoulder.

"Yes." she said. "For almost four years now."

Nanjiroh looked slightly surprised. That would mean she would have started at around age eight.

"How good are you?" he asked almost excitedly. "Maybe you and Ryoma could play a few games."

Akira glanced at her watch, before looking back up at them. "My mother never told me to not talk to strangers, but I hear that it's good common sense." she said dryly.

Nanjiroh looked at her in surprise for a moment, before giving a sheepish smile. "Well, I'm Echizen Nanjiroh, and this is my son Ryoma."

Ryoma nodded in greeting and Akira reciprocated. "Do you even want to play a game?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.

Ryoma shrugged, absently petting a squirming Karupin. Akira peeked into his mind and interpreted that as 'not really'. She really loved legilimency when it wasn't being used on her.

"Well then, since I have no reason to stay here, I have things to do. Perhaps I'll meet you again. Goodbye." and so Akira walked away, navigating her way through the crowd of people.

Soon, she had reached the exit, and called a taxi. As she waited for the driver to pull up, she noticed that it wasn't very cold out considering it was January. Perhaps they had gotten their nasty weather done with early in Japan. She got in the back,, shoving her suitcase into the seat next to her. She wrinkled her nose slightly at the scent of cigarette smoke, before telling the driver her destination.

Watching the scenery go by, she wondered which school she should go to. The schools she was considering were Rikkai Daigaku, Seishun Gakuen and Hyotei Gakuen. She wasn't sure which one would be the best.

Sure, Rikkaidai (a nickname for Rikkai Daigaku) had won the Kantou championship for the past fifteen years, but that could change at any time. Hyotei had less students than

Rikkaidai, and only used regulars when it mattered. Seigaku (shortened from Seishun Gakuen) happened to be the school that her new acquaintance, Echizen Nanjiroh went to.

Her eyes widened slightly behind her bangs. Didn't Nanjiroh say that his son, Ryoma, was going to his old middle school?

'Well, that decides it. I'm sure Ryoma is a good tennis player, growing up with a father like that. All the excitement will be happening at Seigaku!' she thought with amusement.

She reached over to her carry-on bag, and stuck her hand in, searching for her Seigaku brochure. She soon found it, and pulled it out, looking for its' address, but the taxi had stopped at her new house. With a hint of a smile on her face, she tucked in in her pocket for further perusal at a later date.

Akira carefully opened the door on her side of the car, pulling out her luggage behind her. Then she reached into her pocket for a wad of bills, and peeled off the correct amount and handed it to her cab driver.

She turned towards her house and started the trek up the small stairway towards the front door. The house was nice, a bit on the large side and surrounded by cherry trees, soon to be blossoming, and other foliage. It was one out of around a dozen such homes in same area, mostly occupied by rich families. The only difference was the fact that there were some magical enhancements to her house and a tennis court out back. Though, she did think that one of the others had some sort of shrine in the back yard.

When she got to the front door, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a gold key, courtesy of the goblins, and opened the door. She was about to go in, but noticed another taxi coming up the street out of the corner of her eye. She watched its course curiously, as it looked like it was slowing down, only to have her eyes widen in surprise when she saw a scruffy-looking man with brown hair and a kid with a white cap get out of the back seat of the car.

'I'm neighbors with the Echizens?' she thought in surprise as two women ran out the front door to greet them. There was a small pang in her heart as she saw them all hugging happily, or embarassedly on Ryoma's part, but she shook it off. 'This will be fun.'