Disclaimer: My house belongs to the bank, my work belongs to my boss and my money is always confiscated by my wife. And Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling... Damn...
In enemy waters
Chapter 1 – Catching up...
August, 6th, somewhere south of Grand Bahama
„Captain, she won't stand this much longer. We'll sail down the spars!" James Hitch, Second Mate of the Revenge addressed the man on the poop deck.
Captain Harry Potter-Black was an impressive sight. His fine black leather boots came up to his knees and covered the dark green tight trousers. A red sash doubled as belt and hold for his battle wand in its holster. His customary wide belt across the chest held his trusted rapier with the thick golden wires woven into an ornamental hilt. Only the usual fancy wide-brimmed hat with the ostrich feather to provide the shadow needed in these waters was missing, as it would be sent flying by the gust of wind occasionally coming off the storm that raged above their heads, directed only at the sails.
Harry gave the rigging a searching glance. He examined the spars and their strained rig connecting them to the masts. He could see the masts actually bending slightly, the strained ropes of the backstays singing like harps in the wind. If they gave way first, the spars would hold, but the mast would break like a twig.
Sailors had already started to manually hold fast the ropes of the sheets and braces to keep them aligned. The strain had started to noticeably bend the belaying pins. All hands were struggling to keep the ship on course, but the crew of sixty was not complaining. They knew what was at stake.
"She must!" he spat, while he still held his battle wand raised and the magical hurricane pushing the ship like a leaf. He was practically bludgeoning the Revenge across the open sea.
"They have at least two hours lead. If they reach Nassau before we do, we are out of luck. They will only need hours to identify Henry and Margret and only Merlin knows what they will do to them once they know!" he stated forcibly.
"Aye," Second Mate Hitch confirmed. All the men on board knew what the stakes were. While they were concerned about the fate of the two members of their small society, they were far more concerned about the risk that the governor's minions might make them spill the secret of the island's position. Only the risk of their safe haven in peril had made the men follow Harry onto this mission. They would rather have had the Captain prove himself in an easier setting, first, but fate had decided in favour of a trial by fire.
"So let's hope Neptune is on our side," the man said gravely as the First Mate stepped over to them. James took a step back and averted his eyes a bit. He knew that she normally didn't mind being ogled, but he trusted neither the Captain, nor his girl, to be reasonable in their current state.
Hermione had taken a liking to her pirate outfit, and her clothes mirrored Harry's, just her trousers were red, and her v-cut was much deeper and revealing. During her stay at the island, Hermione had earned herself quite a reputation. And not the kind one might think of. People had a healthy respect of her.
At first, there was resistance when Harry proclaimed Hermione to be his first mate in ship's way; even though Hermione was qualified for the post, she was a woman, and they were a superstitious bunch. The men huffed but didn't want to cross the Captain. In the end, they used tradition to solve the problem. They challenged Hermione to a duel for the position. The chosen opponent was about 40 years old, strong and agile. He was not the preferred man to lead, but by far the best dueller in town.
Naturally, the man underestimated the teenage girl blatantly. He assumed that he was far better than this not even fully qualified witch, but at the same time, he didn't want to piss of the Captain by hurting his girl.
So he decided to simply out-draw the girl and stun her. Granted, he was faster, but he didn't expect Hermione to read him that easily. Nor did he expect her to retaliate that fiercely.
Hermione had expected the man's tactic and planned accordingly. She just let herself fall to the ground and incanted "capillus evello" while keeping her wand pointed at the man's groin. Given that she started falling the same time her opponent had cast his own spell, he was unable to shield, and wasn't fast enough to dodge.
To this day, people still cringed at the memory of the resulting scream. Hermione's position was certainly never, ever, again in peril of being questioned.
As a funny after-effect, the nickname "Baldy" stuck with Chaviér ever since, although he had a luscious, long mane of brown, wavy hair.
Hermione carefully stepped up to Harry, not to startle him. When he was in that state, he could easily lose control over his magic. His wand was busy, but even though he couldn't concentrate on two spells at once, his wandless magic was still responding to his instincts if he was scared.
"Harry..." she softly whispered and gently stroke his cheek. "You know I want it as much as you, but if we snap a mast, we lose any chance to get them. I've checked the reservoir; it is rapidly depleting and rather low already. Even if it holds until we catch up - while we certainly out-gun them, they still have their shields."
"Harry..." she started anew when he didn't respond.
"I can't!" he yelled. "If we go any slower, they'll escape. Your dad reported the name as Raven, and according to one of the crew, that vessel can achieve about 10 knots, and even with that wind, we can't get more than about 12 knots out of this boat without breaking it. Do the maths!" he nearly screamed at her.
Hermione cringed at this. She knew that they had still hours to go until they reached the estimated intercept position.
If everything went perfect, they would reach Nassau only half an hour faster than their prey. That would put them right into visible range of the harbour. And then they would have to board and rescue quickly before reinforcements could arrive. Nassau held at least 6 ships, two of them with more guns than the Revenge.
With the current state of their reservoir, they couldn't fight them. Heck, they probably won't even be able to dive!
So even if they could avoid fighting those, they would risk leading them to Black Reef. Tears were welling up in her eyes. There were so many ifs. And most of them would make her lose her parents.
Harry had been quiet, very quiet. He was creating a serious storm for three hours straight by now. The magic didn't strain him. He had lots of reserves, but the ship didn't. The reservoir was low, and in a few hours, the unbreakability runes would fail, and so would the mast. If he increased the wind, he would catch up, but the ship would fail sooner. And if he stopped the wind, they were too slow.
"If only there were a way to refill the reservoir," he thought desperately and jerked as the solution hit him.
"Hermione!" he barked, as if she weren't right next to him. The woman in question jumped scared at the sudden call. "What?" she asked, a little annoyed at his tone.
"What do you need to bind me to the boat?"
"What?" this time, she yelled her response.
"Bind me to the ship's reservoir! It's the only way to quickly charge it!" Harry insisted.
"Are you crazy? Why do you want to do that? You know how bad that can be!" she bellowed.
"It's different! It's a reservoir!" he growled.
That response threw a spanner into Hermione's mounting rage. For a few moments, she actually considered his request, pondered the facts, and came to one simple conclusion.
He was right. Oh how she hated it when he did that! While she was able to retain even the slightest bit of knowledge, she was methodical. She could combine parts and use principles, but Harry was a natural user of stuff. While she would always find or create a perfect solution, no matter how complex the result, she needed to go from A to B to C. Meanwhile, he sometimes would come up with a simple, not overly efficient, yet practical shortcut that she never had thought of. These wild guesses out of the blue drove her crazy.
The difference was small, but significant. The wards at Privet Drive, the ones that the Headmaster had bound him to, had no reservoir. They were just a field, storing the magic in the air and ground. It just hung there, strengthening more and more, causing even Voldemort, himself, to not even think about going there.
But this ship was moving, so it needed an anchor and a 'battery' for its wards - a reservoir. That meant that he would only charge that, which had a defined maximum capacity. It would then only need the power that the enchantments drained from it, a mere trickle, except for battle, while soaking up all ambient magic it was exposed to.
"That's actually a good idea!" she mused. "It would recharge at a very high rate. You would feel some drain, but only until it's full. Depending on what the actual rate you can charge it turns out to be, it is very much possible that our shields will be seriously boosted, giving us some extra protection."
"What do you need? How long does it take?"
"I need a bit of your blood, that's all. It's not that hard to do if you know how - fifteen minutes, half an hour tops, not including preparation. If I had some people to help me with the ritual, another five minutes or so," Hermione said, going through the requirements in her head.
"Take Remus and Tonks with you, and hurry!"
Twenty minutes later, Harry was back on the poop and conjuring up a veritable storm again, while the ship's reservoir was rapidly filling even with the strain on its enchantments. Harry still felt a bit light-headed as the reservoir was sucking on his core like, well, like Hermione on a good night, but he was growing accustomed to it, again. It was much better than the blood wards; those were vicious in their greed.
The ritual itself was rather easy, they needed a chalk pentagram around him, some more symbols painted over the keel to allow for a connection, and a long incantation, spoken by Hermione of course, who then sliced his thumb and smeared his blood on the keel, over one of the new charging runes. When Harry's knees buckled at the sudden violent draw on his magic, the Hell's Carrots of course had some lewd comments about getting sucked off by a boat they needed to be heard.
'Hell's Carrots' was the nickname the Weasley twins had earned themselves among the crew. Given their natural affinity to all things going boom and their exceptional ability to predict trajectories they had shown as Beaters, it took them only a few days to out-class nearly every other gunner on the island. After the review of their memory of the Hogwarts bombardment , they were unanimously declared to take over the position as gun deck officers, each responsible - ok, accountable was probably a better word to use in combination with them - for one of the two gun decks, holding 18 guns each. And in charge of the once-a-month reshowing of that memory during comedy night.
Only Hermione could put one over them at long range, as she was able to calculate the trajectories in her head, and while taking more time than the trigger-happy twins, she almost always hit on the first shot, as long as she knew the gun. She had taken over the deck guns, as this was a position that kept her close to Harry.
While the keel-hauling didn't put much of a dampener on the twins' pranks, they had mellowed a bit with their pranking after a sound beating when they had spiked the food on board, which was an absolute no-go. Ever since, they were a cherished part of Harry's crew. Originally, they had planned to create an owl-order shop for their pranks, but realized that this would be too much work to make ends meet, since they were a wee bit too far from Britain for owl post and only Harry could activate the portkey.
They decided that a pirate life was enough fun for now and to save money to open their shop later. And boy, they did take their fun serious. It took weeks to understand their new-acquired pirate-snarling. The casual shouts of the enchanted rubber-parrots they had stuck to their shoulders didn't help, at all. Even Molly had switched over to just ignoring anything they did nowadays.
This thoughts made Harry ponder about how the Weasleys had followed him into his new life.
Dumbledore had died late in April, bed-ridden ever since Harry stunned him, finally succumbing to his cursed hand, and to his death he had proclaimed that the Dark Lord Voldemort would return unless Harry Potter dies, too.
In a political landslide, Lucius Malfoy had bought himself enough votes to get Fudge booted out of office, and getting himself elected for next Minister of Magic. One of his campaign points was making sure that Dumbledore's warnings would be heeded under his rule, unlike his predecessor did and thus had contributed to the mess of Voldemort. Lucius proved able to charm the sheep called citizen in jolly old Britain, and soon, they all bleated his tune.
Naturally, he instantly started changing the way the Ministry dealt. Halfbloods were culled, Purebloods took over and some restrictive laws concerning the life of Muggleborn were made. Nothing too sinister, that wouldn't have gone over with the population, but a noticeable tightening of the screws.
Soon, the Prophet started implying that maybe Potter himself, after all he had done, could be the next Dark Lord, and was waiting somewhere in the colonies to create an army to overthrow the Ministry, maybe resurrecting Voldemort as his aide. Harry knew that all hope for Britain was lost when people started to believe that.
Henry had the most fitting analogy for what had happened. Something about Malfoy pissing down their collective backs, and they believing him that it was raining. Harry would have to ask him how it was worded properly, later.
Arthur Weasley, the proud nail standing up, was one of the first Ministry workers that were given the sack, and when he heard rumours about political motivated charges were being fabricated about prominent light families a few days later, the Weasleys had promptly packed and headed for Grimmauld Place.
Shortly after that, they finally migrated to the island - Harry held contact to all his friends by Floo once a week at least, portkeying over to Grimmauld Place - and was shocked when he heard the news and their plea for asylum.
By next week, Luna and her father were already waiting in Grimmauld Place, informing him that their house, as well as the Burrow, had been burned to the ground, and all of them were now officially wanted for conspiracy against the Ministry and Wizengamot, their escapes seen as proof for their guilt.
Thus, Black Reef now possesses its very own newspaper, the Wharf Bubbler, which was currently more of a social gossip tabloid, but with a promise by the editor to have a section about fantastic beasts of the oceans as soon as possible. Of course, he had taken every single one of the cock-and-bull stories yarned at the harbour at face value.
Molly had compensated for her loss of children to feed by opening a restaurant, which had a smashing success with the townsfolk, while Arthur now worked with one of the dealers who specialized in importing muggle equipment, enchanting it and protecting it from magical damage if necessary.
Ron, of all people, had tried to join Harry's crew, but it turned out that his ease on a broom didn't translate to the water. After a trial run on board of the Pathfinder, and being sea-sick for a record breaking span of days with no potion able to settle his stomach, he retired from his short days of privateering. He would never let anything get between his stomach and him.
He currently helped Molly with the restaurant, actually liking to be around the family and making money that way. He was especially fond of the job since it meant that he never missed a meal.
On the contrary, Ginny had taken to this life like a fish to the water. Although she was petite, her upbringing with 6 brothers, and especially the twins at that, meant that she wasn't taking any lip from anyone. The ability to control these two terrors translated directly into keeping a bunch of pirates under control, especially once she started to channel her mother, if needed. Her bat-bogey hex took care of the rest. Much to Molly's chagrin, she had kept the left side of her head shaven, and her right side long.
She was currently aboard the Pathfinder, acting as second mate and communications officer, about two or three hours behind them, updating them about their position. It had taken a while to refit the Pathfinder for battle, but Mister Cobbs, the current Captain, had managed to arm and provision the vessel in only shy over two hours. It had just thirty men for crew and only carried 12 guns in total, but those could make the difference if they were noticed by the harbour. Everyone else in town was preparing for battle, in case the rescue mission failed.
Harry felt safer knowing that help would be available to cover their retreat. Although the Pathfinder was a slender and shallow built boat, her short waterline made her slower than someone would expect. She was able to reach a veritable twelve and a quarter knot with good wind, but at that point, she would start to ride her bow wave, making further acceleration an uphill trip, thus impossible without a mean wind blowing. Like Harry currently provided.
This thought made Harry snap out of his reverie. "Hermione!" he called out, causing the witch in question to hurry over to his side. "Get a Patronus to Ginny and tell her to get four or five volunteers to be bound to their ship and the rest to conjure wind. Tell them about the pain that waits for them, and offer them a lost-limb compensation share of the prize. That should make them catch up nicely, wouldn't it?" he asked his advisor, and also gave Remus and Tonks, his acting guards, a questioning glance.
Hermione bit her lip and made a few quick estimations. "It should make them catch up about an hour later than we arrive."
"Better let them cease the wind and cancel the bindings as soon as they see our mast tips," Remus commented. "Unlike you, they would be somewhat exhausted and need some rest before battle. With some Pepper-up, that would delay them ten to twenty minutes, but make then reasonable useful in a battle. Four men could be just what it takes to tip the scales."
Harry made some short estimates about the expected battle, the planned distance to the harbour and the reaction time of the fleet at anchor. It would be enough. It had to.
"Make it so! And hoist fake colours, I want them to be fooled for as long as we can," he said, before upping his magical wind another notch, making the whole ship groan and shiver and the draw on his core increase noticeable.
By mid afternoon, the man on the main top spreader sang out "Sail ho! Ship ahead!"
Harry called for a report and 3 minutes later, they had the confirmation. It was the Raven. Their prey was found.
It was a barque rigged ship, three masts, with the mizzen only carrying a gaff sail. It seemingly had a gun deck and was about two thirds of the Revenge's length, about a hundred feet. This would mean anything from 14 to 18 guns on the gun deck, and about half as much on deck. The Revenge carried easily twice as many guns, and most probably much heavier pieces.
They knew that the Revenge was currently making about 14 knots, and was probably 10 miles astern of the Raven. Estimating the other ship to make 10 knots, as reported, Hermione made a quick calculation.
Two and a half hours.
It would take them two and an effing half hour to catch up to them.
Casting a quick navigational positioning charm, she barked for a map and did some more charms while Mister Hitch sent a man to get one and a folding navigational table to place it on. Consulting the map and using some rulers and dividers, Hermione drew a line, and then a second one, finishing in a cross about five to ten miles off the harbour.
"That's going to be a tight one," Tonks quipped as she saw the markings. "That's not even an hour from the harbour. There's no way that they won't notice us. If they are quick on their feet, they'll depart half an hour after we make contact with the Raven. That's much too close for comfort."
"We have no choice. Get the Carrots up here for a briefing." Harry commanded and Tonks ran off, snapping a smart salute and an "Aye, Sir!" before departing.
When she herded the twins out of the hatches and all of the ship's officers were present, Harry started briefing them without letting his wind spell slip.
"I'll be blunt. We can get them, but we will certainly be noticed by Nassau. I don't have to tell you what that means, do I?"
George, who was wearing a see-trough eye patch today - one of their newest inventions, gave a low whistle. "That means at three or four smalls, and at least two heavy galleons. That's a whole bunch of barrels aimed at our pretty necks, Captain. This' better be done quickly or it will blow up in our faces, literally."
"This is where you two clowns come into play." Harry growled. "I want you and your best men on the Chasers."
"Can do, Harry…"
"You know how we liked…"
"To be on Chasers…"
"Hardy-har-har. I want you to use ball-and-chain. Bring a spar down or whatever - just slow them down. If we harass them enough, they might make a stand. The closer they get to the harbour the worse for us. Can you do this?" Harry asked.
"As soon as the guns carry," Fred said and spied ahead.
"We won't bother with a shot across the bow, Captain; we'll put it right through…" George replied with his trademark ear-splitting grin.
Meanwhile, they had closed in to about seven or eight miles, and from the look of it, the other ship was still clueless. That flag they hoisted had been procured from a merchant that had been captured a few years ago and proved invaluable to their pirate friends ever since. Harry nearly had a fit when Molly pointed out that it bore a slightly modified Malfoy coat of arms.
A short survey later, he knew the five predominant flags of merchantman fleets and the coat of arms they sported. Malfoy, Bulstrode, Parkinson, Crabbe and Davis. Four public Death Eaters and one probably closeted one.
All qualms he had with the pirate business ended once he knew whom he would be robbing. To his surprise, Hermione mirrored his decision without any argument.
By the time they had closed up to about a mile, the Carrots were done with their preparations. Harry wondered if the other vessel had the slightest inkling what was going on behind them. They might have noticed the Revenge approaching fast, but with a Malfoy Merchant Fleet flag flying proudly, they probably attributed it up to better quality shipyards than their standard vessel.
Just to be sure, Harry had cut the wind at one and a half mile to keep them from noticing and giving the ship and him a breather, spending it driving the Carrots mad by watching them getting their guns in order.
"Permish'n to shivver dem timbers, Cap'tn," George snarled as he approached Harry.
"Don't you dare!" Harry growled. "You guys can strip them down to a hulk, if you want to, but leave the hull alone. I'd love you to take their mizzen off, but I'm glad for whatever makes them slower."
"Aye Capt'n, we'll get choppin'," George said, snapping a salute.
Five minutes later, the twins sent their first salvo downrange. Fred's ball and chain went short, falling into the water, more than 50 yards before the ship, while George's ball went straight through their sails, punching holes.
"Raise the flag, maybe they are clever enough to yield," Harry barked, while the twins yelled at their crew to reload their guns.
Before the confusion on the other ship could subside, they sent another charge out of their barrels. One ball went far to port, passing the boat, the chain whirring, while the other went through their running rigging, with no way to tell if it caused damage at this distance.
Meanwhile, Harry could see flags being hoisted up on their prey. "Cease fire! I need a readout!" he yelled, his cries getting relayed up at the man in the mast. "Are they yielding?"
A few moments later, he got his reply. "Flags read: Negative. Stop carrying out your intentions and watch for my signals," Higgs reported.
Harry was baffled. "What? Really?" he asked, staring over at the boat, to make sure it hadn't doubled in size, spontaneously, while another message was handed over to Remus. "Next sign: You are running into danger. You should stop your vessel instantly," he read out.
"I'm not sure captain, are they telling us to give up and prepare to be boarded?" George asked, scratching his head, as they watched the vessel fall off the wind to come about.
"Are they insane? They are attacking!" Harry gasped.
"Pureblood superiority complex," Remus quipped.
"How the heck are they still afloat with balls this size," Fred laughed. "Should we still get their masts?"
"Hell no! Get to your batteries and get your men ready for battle!" Harry cursed, taking off back to helm with Hermione and Remus in tow.
"Higgs! These blind moles believe they can fight us. Win us the windward!" He ordered his Second Mate at the wheel, who took a brief look at the ship ahead while the twins took off.
"No problem, Captain. They are in no position to get there, or we will cross them astern. They won't be that crazy, that'd be suicide. You'll have the wind on your side," he answered calmly, reaching out to change course slightly. "We should pass in about ten to fifteen minutes, depending in how well they come around. How far do you want to pass?"
"How many guns do they have, again?" Harry asked in return.
"No more than eighteen under deck, most certainly 18 pounds apiece, maybe half again on deck, probably 9 or 12 pounds," Higgs replied what he knew.
"So it's about twelve guns against our two dozen for a broadside," Harry replied, thinking about his options. "I like these numbers, but I don't want this to be a drawn out battle where the hostages could get harmed."
"No problem, Captain. I'd eat a hat if they last two 'sides from us," Higgs replied. "They tacked well, ten minutes till we're alongside, so better come up with a plan, quickly. If it includes riddling them with holes and trimming their masts, I'm all for it."
"Keep us a really close, Mister Higgs," Harry commanded, taking the advice in stride. "Make them a nice target for us, alright?"
"Tell the Carrots I want ball shot to reduce splintering!" Harry instructed Remus, who acted as the runner between the gun decks and the helm due to his never-ending stamina. "Both decks target their guns, I demand each ball sitting in one of their gun ports, upper deck is to fire apiece and aimed, after lower deck has softened them up. Fire when the ship is on upswing. I don't want any shots below their battery deck, or that crew will answer to me," he finished his instructions, and the man set off at a mad dash.
"Hermione! No canister - load your deck guns with ball and chain shot, fire a rolling salvo aimed at their mizzen mast when we pass. We need to stop them to board!" he concluded his instructions, having nothing left to do than watch his wife run off and instruct her men, and wait for the battle to be joined.
Five minutes later, the Raven had completed its pass and was lying on reciprocal course. With a few small corrections, the Revenge had gained the windward position, and both ships were only a minute or two away from contact.
"Tonks, have all men duck behind the railing on the pass, I don't want to lose anybody to a stray shot," Harry sent Tonks off, while Remus returned and snapped a cheeky salute. "Aye captain, the Carrots confirm and promise to let the pieces spit as loud and unerring as possible."
"Fine," Harry replied with a smile and turned to look at their opponent, who had finished the turn and had closed in to less than half a mile. "BRACE FOR IMPACT! HOLD FAST!" he yelled his final instructions, be fore he took a last look at Hermione standing thirty feet ahead on the middle deck. "Merlin help us," he whispered softly.
Less than two minutes later, the ships' bows were passing each other in opposite direction, both crews holding their breaths as the two wooden hulks slid into the optimal position to discharge their full weaponry at the other. At the distance of less than 200 feet, they were too far apart for spell casting, but it was nearly impossible that they would miss each other with the guns. The Raven, being smaller, had the advantage of having their guns all lined up to the bigger target first.
Harry's men all crouched behind the reeling as the guns in the flanks of the enemy ship released their load with a series of bangs and bright flashes.
As soon as the last gun had discharged, they felt the shudder of multiple impacts in their hull. To Harry, it felt like a bout of nausea as the ship greedily drew on his core to replenish the lost energy. He gasped and shuddered, but pushed Remus' helping hands away. "I'm alright. I just need to get accustomed to this."
The light shot and small number of pieces of their enemy proved to be insufficient. They had failed to hit a gun or a gun port, and the Revenge's shielding was much too strong to allow the hull to be damaged by their small calibre. The deck guns had used canister shot, as he had expected, but all of it rushed useless over the heads of the well hidden crew. Only a few men took bruises by ricochets bouncing off the masts, but nothing noteworthy. About the time the metal hail rushed over their heads, the first battery of the Revenge bellowed their answer as the crew raised from behind their cover.
Much to their joy, their own salvo was a success. Most of the lower deck guns had found their target, more than half of them breaking apart on the other ship's planks as the last remains of their reservoir's charge were expended into the unbreakability warding, before it failed. Each of the following massive iron balls punched a hole in the planking and rushed through the deck behind, before exiting at the other side, destroying everything in its path.
Some balls managed hitting an open gun port, smashing the gun behind it to smithereens, the pieces ricocheting through the deck, maiming and killing. Harry could only imagine the carnage this was causing among the men in these decks. Although there was no way he could possibly hear it above the din of guns and the splintering wood, he could swear that he had heard people scream in pain. Much to his concern, a few shots had gone errant and had hit lower than the gun deck. He hoped that the prisoners had taken cover and were well.
Their second deck discharged when their lee side rolled up again in the tide. The lighter guns found their targets and punched straight through the hull, leaving head-sized holes in the sides of the hull and nothing between the walls standing. A few stragglers, the astern guns, sounded later, when their guns finally lined up with an intact gun port, or something else worth poking a hole into. When the noise ceased, about half of the men under deck on the Raven were dead or dying, the others wounded and only every third gun still operational.
While the straggler guns had opened fire, just as the Revenge's helm passed the stern of the Raven, he heard Hermione yell from the middle deck, and another ear-splitting rolling cacophony of bangs sounded, followed by the whistle of chain shot as one gun after the other discharged at the sight of the assigned target. Most shots were off, as they madly whirled across the small gap between the gun and the target, the chain whistling as it spun between to two small iron balls at either end, ripping the rigging and blowing a few profoundly unlucky men into the sea. But when the they passed the mizzen, they could see that at least one of these hit the mizzen mast about four feet above the deck, cleaving mostly through, and got stuck in the remaining third.
As the Revenge pulled clear, her unscathed hull stomping in the stern wave of the other vessel now resembling a plucked chicken instead a proud raven, a loud moaning and creaking was heard from the other ship as the mast started buckling and swaying under the pressure of the sail. Had either the standing rig or the mast survived unscathed, it might have held up, but as the mast leaned forward, with a series of snaps, the damaged starboard let go and the mast slowly dropped overboard, still mostly connected by the leeward rigging, forcing the ship to careen and swing off course before coming to a stop, under the loud cheers of the Revenge's crew members.
"Helmsman! Change tack, veer for boarding! Mister Hitch - have them back-brace the canvas once we've come around! Bring us alongside!" Harry yelled, and the ship exploded into action as everybody started pulling on various ropes under the commanding voice of Hitch and the group leaders. It took only a minute for the Revenge to careen into the turn.
"All hands prepare for boarding; I want the deck guns loaded with canister shot, tell them to fire as soon as we are along, and then throw the hooks. No one leaves cover until the guns have spoken," Harry told Hermione as they approached the now motionless ship. Hermione quickly relayed his orders to the men. Harry didn't want to make any concessions.
"Tonks!" Harry shouted, causing the woman in question to appear. "Get all hands on deck for boarding and tell them that I offer triple prize money out of my own chest if no hostage is harmed. And a first boarder share for those who reach the prisoners first."
"Will do, Harry - that will surely motivate the guys," Tonks smiled before she set off to talk to the men assembling. Tradition demanded that the first man to set foot on an enemy vessel received a double share and first pick. Extending that privilege to the first to reach the prisoners would certainly be helpful to set their priorities. Also, with a triple share, Harry had practically told them that he would add half again the value on the whole ship and cargo before dividing up the plunder only among the crew. This alone would make them do their best; normally they would only receive half the plunder to share.
While the crew was informed by Tonks, and according to the roars of glee, very happy about the Captain's decision, Hermione had returned to Harry's side. When the turn manoeuvre was completed and they were on course, Harry addressed Hermione softly.
"Hermione, you'll take the helm during boarding. I'll give you five men to keep the others from sneaking over and damage the Revenge. You are also tasked to do sniper duty from here."
"I'll come with you," Hermione stated, making Harry frown at her.
"Honey, this is a fight, a real battle, and quarter neither given nor taken. I know you want to rush for your parents the moment you see a gap, but you also know the rules. No one leaves the main fray to go scavenging until the fight is over. If you turn from the fight, you will dance under the whip, just like anyone else," Harry stated coldly, causing Hermione to gasp. The usual punishment for that were forty lashes with the cat-o'-nine-tails, and it was quite possible to die under that punishment. Hermione gasped in shock when he told her this.
"Darling, this is real, if one of us runs, others might follow, and could cause the whole line to break. That could cause a lot of our men to die. The rules are for that reason alone. If you chose to fight, you are in till the bloody end. I can't have you under different rules than the others!" Harry told her. "I know you want to help, but this is serious, and you are no front line fighter - you duel just fine on your own if you can concentrate on one target, but you have tunnel vision. This will be a mass slaughter, shooting, hacking, stabbing, and biting. Anything to kill everyone in sight," he said as he embraced her in a hug. "You're not made for that, and I'll be damned if I don't do my best to keep you that way."
"And I can't focus if you are in harm's way. I need you somewhere safe." he whispered in her ear.
With a small sob, Hermione nodded. "You're right, but they are my parents. I'll join you," she insisted stubbornly.
"Alright, my little Amazon, it's your decision," Harry sighed as he caressed her cheek. "I give you special orders. Tonks, Remus, you take her under your wings. Take care of her and go for their helm. Give us suppression fire from up there. Use banishers and other non-lethal things - I don't want one of our own guys hurt if someone dodges. You are free to go for the hostages as soon as they are down; I'll join the main group. Good luck and most of all, stay safe. Your parents would never forgive us if one of us dies to save them," he gave his orders. Tonks nodded her understanding, knowing very well that this was also to allow Hermione to go for her parents as soon as possible, while simultaneously putting her furthest away from the fight and any entry to the ship's hold.
When they moved off to their position, Harry held Remus back for a word.
"Remus, please watch over Hermione," he asked his mentor in a whisper.
"With my life, Harry," Remus replied as he grabbed Harry's shoulder and squeezed it.
"I know, I meant something else. You know how she is - if she even thinks about rushing it, stun her, bind her, whatever, but don't let the men see her break rank; I couldn't stand to see her get punished, but the men won't stand for it," he pleaded.
"You can trust me," Remus said with another squeeze of Harry's shoulder. "If I have to sit on her, I will," he told his godson.
"Thanks," Harry said, hugged the man, and then left for the middle deck, where the deck guns had just spread their deadly hail over the Raven's decks and the first hooks started flying, sealing the fate of the plucked Raven.
With a loud roar, the crew of the Revenge exploded into motion, wands blazing, raining spells and gunfire onto the defenders behind their shields. Harry was among the first to enter the ship, Rapier in his right and battlewand in his left. He immediately discharged a reducto curse into the wall of defenders, blasting one man apart despite the shielding, creating an opening for another man to slip in a cutting curse while everyone rushed into melee range.
The sailor ahead and to the right of Harry aimed his wand at the approaching Harry, but with a quick swipe, Harry's blade had cut the wand in two, and a second later a spell from behind Harry threw the man back, his face covered in burns. One of Harry's men to his left fell with a painful yell from a cutting curse to the chest, and Harry reacted instinctively, casting a shield to reflect some curses and drove his blade into the attacker's chest, as everybody started hacking and casting at closest range.
Meanwhile, Tonks rolled back to her feet on the Raven's upper deck, sending a piercing course into the back of the helmsman that fought from that position. Sending a cutting curse into the fallen man to be sure, she re-casted the cushioning charm on the ship's deck, and signalled Remus to throw Hermione over from the slightly higher poop deck of the Revenge. While Hermione crossed the six meters with a screech, Tonks took a perimeter near the deck railing, assessing the situation.
The battle had come to melee range, the defenders had felled some of the boarders, but they were outnumbered about three to one. Also, most of them were already shaken and wounded from the bombardment they had received, and their morale was low. Their line was steadily moving backwards, and the middle, where Harry was smiting them like an angry god, the line was nearly broken, and only a wonder would stop the forming wedge being driven through their defence.
Confronted with a force of nature like Harry, whose spells felled the target and sometimes even the man behind him, the men in the centre either gave ground, or tried to push towards the flanks, out of Harry's line of fire.
If they had held their line, they might have had the advantage of bottlenecking the attackers, but with having their middle destabilized within mere seconds into the attack, they were currently in progress of being split into two groups and thus surrounded, allowing even more of Harry's men to join the fray.
A second later she heard the thump of Remus landing on the deck, and both of her companions joined her. The defenders had already been split, with Harry driving the larger force in their direction. "Bludgeoning hex barrage, aim short, they are constantly giving ground. We don't want to hit our own," she said, pointing at the group of enemies backing into them, giving ground to their men. "Now!" she bellowed, and all three of them started to rain their hexes into their unprotected backs.
When the stern group came under fire from the helm position, the group collapsed within seconds under the cross fire. The remaining group of attackers split up and began swarming the deck, about half of them reinforcing their comrades in the fight avast, while a handful started to tend to their wounded. The bow group of defenders buckled under the increasing pressure and surrendered soon after. By that time, Hermione's group had already slipped down into the ship's belly.
Harry didn't know about that when he descended down into the ship's bunt, behind some other of his men. The light filtering in through the huge number of holes in the hull left nothing of the gory detail invisible as he waded through the dismembered parts of the gun crew casualties. Ignoring the moans from some still barely alive men and keeping his urge to get sick under control, he continued to look for the captives, occasionally slipping on the blood soaked wood, while his men took care of the survivors, administering mercy.
Finding the stair down to the bilge, he carefully climbed down into the area, which was already half filled with water. 'The impacts must have shaken the plank seams loose, or maybe they had scored an underwater hit for it to fill that fast,' he thought as he climbed down into the murky water.
Losing no time, he waded into the direction of the stern, where the brig should be located, following after his men.
Getting there, he was immediately greeted by a sobbing Margret wrapped around Hermione, while Henry and fifteen other men were being freed by his crew members.
When Henry was freed, he came over to join the hug, while some more crew members arrived to help with the prisoners, who were freed from the chains, but their hands were kept in irons until they could be questioned on deck.
"I know you are a dentist, but maybe you want to close your eyes while we lead you up," Harry told Margret with a short glance at Henry. "You really don't want to see this."
Back on deck, Harry left the adult Grangers in the teary hug of her daughter as he went to collect reports.
A quarter of the men had been hurt in some way, five of them were seriously wounded, one dead. The tally would have been worse if not for Remus and Tonks. Their healing skills were way beyond the crew's abilities, and the had managed to stabilize these five, and patch up a lot more who would have been off just as bad without their help. Of the defenders, only eleven out of a crew of forty five survived, four wounded heavily, the others to some degree. Mister Hitch advised Harry to execute them, but Harry refused to kill harmless people, and decided to maroon them on a small boat from the Raven. One was still mostly intact, and could be fixed with a few spells. It would be a tight fit, but then, they were in visual range of the coast. Having had enough killing for a day, Harry gave orders to patch them up, stun them and obliviate them of the whole last week before letting them drift away. The crew grumbled about the new Captain being too soft, but complied, which Harry took as a sign that they started trusting his lead.
"Send a man up into the Revenge's top nest; I want a running commentary on the harbour!" he told Higgs, and left to return to his girl and friends, while the other crew members started levitating the dead overboard and dealing with the still living.
When he had approached the group and joined the hug, the man on the mast top sang out. "Activity in harbour, ships are manning!"
Harry cursed as he heard that. He hoped that the brief battle might not have been noticed by the lazy harbour guard, but they had been too close to escape notice. He had to make a quick decision.
"Take helm of the Raven," Harry told Hermione, squeezing her hand. "Take your parents and 10 men with you. Select them for repair abilities and take the injured, as well. Use freezing charms to stop leakage, and conjure plugs for bigger holes. Get some guys to sew up the sails and reparo the remaining rigging. Bring that damned mast back up or cut the rigging and go without, I don't care, but get the hell out of here and meet with the Pathfinder. They are about an hour or two away. They will get you to Black Reef. You should be able to meet them in under an hour if you hurry."
"And you?" she asked, knowing the answer already. She knew the facts as well as he did. And she knew that his stupid people saving thing was acting up again.
Harry glanced over at the harbour. By now, it could be seen from deck that there was increasing activity aboard the ships there, men crawling in the rigging like nits in an orphan's mop. It would take only twenty minutes, thirty tops, before the first one would push off and start chasing them. Then maybe fifteen minutes for each to get out of the harbour and set full sails.
He couldn't outrun them, not under the current conditions, even with his magical wind, since some of them were considerably faster than the old hulk that the Revenge was. They would stall him long enough for the heavy hitters to arrive. They would then proceed to make mincemeat out of them.
"I'll block the Harbour and try sinking one of the ships in the harbour's mouth to trap them."
"I'll stay," she said, more out of stubbornness than conviction. Harry just shook his head and gave her cheek a caress, which she leaned in, her eyes closing.
"No, you're not. This is no place for you. I haven't risked everything just to lose it now. Even with the boost to our reservoir and our strategic better position at the bottleneck, it will be a bloody massacre, double so if we get boarded. We will cope and hold the position, by hook or by crook, but I want to know you are safe."
"I know. Stay safe," she said with a hitch in her voice, before they gave in to a heated kiss that was drawn out longer than it should be, but not long enough to say all they wanted to, before they separated, each going to attend to their duties.
Yes, yes, I'm back... Stop that... No more applause... Thank you...
After acting like a prude for a couple of months, my muse finally gave in and not only kissed me, but celebrated a veritable orgy, with a couple of her friends joining in. Thus, I now did not only write a bit for this, but also for a couple of other stories, which means that right now, every other day, I'm following some different lewd enticing muse into her lair, hoping it may be worth my time.
It may or may not, but I do expect offspring.
A merry Christmas to all of you.
Enjoy it, read slowly, for I don't know when I'll post the next one, yet.