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

By DerLaCroix

Chapter 6 – Pathfinding

"Hermione? You in here?" Ginny's voice rang out through the barely open door. Before the girl with the matching name had a chance to reply, Ginny had stuck her head into the room and voiced her triumph.

"Was this ever in question?" Margret quipped from behind her novel. A remarkably fireproof one, since her daughter was currently trying to set her ablaze with a death glare.

"The location, not so much," the petite redhead quipped back, making her way to the table. "Human shape or furry creature, quite a lot," she said as she dropped into a chair like a sack of flour, piquing Hermione's curiosity, and Crookshanks' ire as she jostled the seat he was sleeping in in the process.

Ignoring the evil eye from the miniature tiger next to her, Ginny slumped down and yawned, figuratively melting into the seat.

"Rough night?" Hermione teased.

"You try taking it up with a bunch of sailors, and see if you feel any better," Ginny replied without thinking.

"Merlin's beard! Can't you keep your mind above the waistline, just once!" She complained when Hermione had turned crimson for a moment and then had laughed out loud.

Ginny was looking for a sympathetic ally across the table, but just found proof that mothers and daughters are often quite alike. "I would complain to you about your daughter, but you are just as bad," Ginny continued ranting at a different target. Margret didn't reply, she was too busy biting down on her lips to prevent herself from laughing as well.

"If it wasn't for the hangover potion I need you to make, I'd kill you both, right now," Ginny sighed and rested her face on the cool table top.

"Rum?" Margret asked empathetically, while Hermione called Dobby to place the order.

"Yeah. 'To get started'. Then they switched us to 'something stronger'," Ginny replied into the table top, wincing when Dobby popped back in. "Dunno how, but somehow I was the only one not dancing topless on the table at some point of the evening."

"Two brothers playing guardian angels?" Hermione teased, handing the vial over for her friend to down it in one gulp, like she most likely took the shots last night.

"Sooo much better," Ginny sighed in relief when the potion took hold.

"And just so you know, they are not brothers, and I don't think their intentions can be described as 'angelic' - at least in most religions I know about," she added with an mischievous smirk, enjoying the brief flicker of confusion hushing over Hermione's face until realization hat set in. "But yes, they made sure that things did not get too far out of hand," Ginny continued once she saw that Hermione was on track with the situation.

"That explains why you didn't go to... them... for the potion," Hermione quipped with a knowing smirk.

"I figured I would face less questioning," Ginny shot back. "My estimation still seems to hold true, but not by much."

"Pish-posh, you were talking about their intentions – carry on," Margret prodded, casually tossing her novel aside, earning herself a bemused look from her daughter, and a perplexed from the girl they had pretty much adopted, by now.

"I think their intentions are obvious, and there isn't much else to it, so you better stick to the books," Ginny commented.

"I've read each and every novel I had at least thrice by now. I can pretty much give you an index and recap to all romantic or naughty scenes for each by memory," Margret ranted, given the opportunity." I'd really like some new material, so, give me that juicy gossip, now!"

"Sorry, but I did not come here to talk about my love life, potential, or lack of," Ginny replied.

"Well, why did you come here, then? No matter what, it can't be less interesting than a fourth reread of 'My wild, untamed heart'," Margret kept drilling.

"Actually, besides me really needing that potion, I was looking for Harry, and then found out he went on a shopping trip, so I went to look for Hermione."

"Glad to function as your secondary choice of conversational partner. How may I serve you?" Hermione quipped, a mocking frown on her face.

Ginny's voice took a distinctively whiny quality as she started recounting her plight. "It's about my ship, or pile of firewood, for that is pretty much what it is, right now - I had a talk to the guys trying to fix it, and they say that the masts can't be replaced. Something about bow and stern damage, needing to shore up keel, mast shoe, stability, leverage – they had quite a list of explanations, but all boils down to they can't fix it. Seems that if they tried to, they'd have to fix the keel and so many things that it would not be possible in a wharf their size."

"Didn't they offer any solution?" Margret asked.

"Not really," Ginny replied. "Didn't really ask, though. I don't really know that much about boat design, they could tell me anything."

"Want me to go and talk to him?" Margret offered her help. The reception to her offer was not quite as enthusiastic as she would have liked.

"Take that eyebrow down, right this instant, young lady," Margret chided Ginny. "I'll have you know that not only was I born and raised on an island, I'm also not just a housewife and mother only serving to fill in the blanks in other people's lives. I may not be of much use here without magic, and have a job that is completely unnecessary here due to the same reason, but I am a well-educated person with interests and a life. And one of the things I know a thing or two about is boats. Why did you think we got ourselves a boat – we were bored, and we both loved sailing in our youth. I have forgotten more about boats and sailing than you know!"

"Then you still know all about it, since I pretty much know nothing," Ginny replied with a disarming smile. "And I'd be happy if you'd be willing to translate for me and give me an opinion."

"Well, let's get going, then. Chop-chop!" Margret commanded, raising from her seat.

"Shouldn't we take dad, as well?" Hermione spoke up.

"He's busy doing the research, and doesn't know more than I do. He is better at sailing, but that doesn't apply. So I say let him be, and we'll solve the issue," Margret challenged her daughter to contradict her.

"Yay! Who needs men, anyway," Ginny cheered glumly, as she rose from her seat.

Hermione bit down on any comment on her personal view on male usefulness as she relented and joined the others for the excursion.


"Oh? Back again?" The man spoke up as he saw them filtering into his office, Ginny in lead. He hastily jumped to his feet when Hermione and her mother followed her in. "Good day, M'Lady! And Madam Granger! A good day to you, as well."

"And a good day to you, Mr. Lofter," Margret approached him and extended her hand, taking initiative in the talk.

"I told you it's William, Madam Granger," he replied, shaking her hand vigorously with both hands. "Good to see you again and in good health. Such a shame what happened, a shame. What leads you here? You want to have a new Gretty ?"

"Not today, William. I hope we are not interrupting your work too much," Margret spoke, waving her hand towards the papers on the desk, "but Miss Weasley notified us of the problems with the rebuild, and we wanted to inquire about the nature. Would you, perchance, be willing to lead us around and point out the problems to us?"

"Of course I will – this will be still here, later. Trust me, it will..." he said, inclining his head towards the lists and calculations, sighing in an exaggerated fashion. "But be warned, it's not pretty. We just got it up the beach full, this morning, and it's bad," he said, leading them out through the door and towards the leaning hull of the plucked Raven a bit off the site, where a few men were currently manhandling some beams, bending them over some rig. They were too focussed on their work to even notice them.

"That was a lot of work getting it up here, wasn't it?" Margret commented as she took the sight in. "Oh my... She looks really beat up," was her next comment, once she done so.

"It was indeed a chore, Madam. It's been a while that we had to beach something that size. The Pathfinder is easer to handle. But beat up is not even starting to describe it," William replied as he steered them towards a rickety looking ladder leaned against the leaning hull and started climbing.

Margret followed him up that ladder with nary a pause, just to lean her parasol against the hull to have both hands free. William and all his men had a stone or more on her, so she had no doubt it would hold her, despite the look.

William awaited her on the deck, extending a hand to her, and then to the girls as they followed.

"What is the more pressing concern, then? The frames?" she asked, trying to keep her balance on the askew floor.

"A good third of them is damaged or broken, that is part of the problem", William replied. "If you follow me down inside, I'll show you the real problem, it's easier shown than explained."

Stepping into the darkness of the hull, they were surprised that it wasn't as dark as expected. The fact that they could see really rammed the scope of the damage home. The sides were actually not that bad. Apart from the damage around the gun ports, it was mostly fine. The stern and bow, though, were pretty much gone, with only a few, chewed up timbers holding them together, letting light stream into the hull.

A brief shiver ran down Margret's spine when she remembered that she had been on board while all of these holes were punched.

"Yes, those were our exact words when we cleared away the wreckage," William commented on their silence. "Good thing we started clearing those sections, first. The remnants of the sides and the masts are pretty much all that is keeping this thing from collapsing onto itself."

"It looks even worse than what I imagined when you told me," Ginny spoke up, here eyes wide in disbelief. Hermione was still speechlessly taking the damage in.

"That's why I'm showing you this, now. It's hard to explain. We'd need to rebuild bow and stern, and in order to do that, we'd need to deplete the reservoir. But then, the whole thing would sag and split apart under it's own weight, unless we stiffen it, somehow. In a full wharf, you'd use cranes to support the deck and brace the sides against the dry dock walls, but we don't have that," William explained, pointing out some of the cracked, chipped or severed beams forming the hull.

"The only way to do it here would be to use the remains of both masts as support pillars, and brace everything to them, and then use runes and spells to fuse them with the keel and the frames."

"So you're proposing to reinforce it from the inside instead of from the outside?" Hermione inquired. "That would solve the issue, and you could rebuild the hull, right?

"Yes, but that also means we can't remove them, ever. The only spell that works on the boat while the reservoir is active is one to shore up the keel by fusing properly prepared and inscribed pieces of wood to it. The parts would become an integral part of the reservoir. After that, removing them is impossible, the keel would shatter if we do that."

This did not quite make sense to Margret, though. "The keel would shatter? Why? You're only cutting some parts off it. When depleted, it's only a piece of wood, right?"

"An enchanted piece of wood," William reminded her. "Drawback of the method – the ships are extremely durable while the reservoir is protecting it, and a normal boat once it is depleted. But if the keel gets any significant damage, it shatters like a piece of glass when the enchantment collapses."

Hermione turned to Ginny at that point, asking the question that popped up in her mind. "That's how you sank the ship?"

Ginny was not looking happy when mentally revisiting that time. "Yep. Brian brought it up and I went along with it. Shattering is not quite the word I'd use, though. Went off like a bomb!"

"Good thing I only painted runes on it, instead of carving them!" Hermione remarked.

"If it were down, you actually could, M'Lady. A couple of cuts won't harm it," William remarked.

"A couple of hits with cutlasses do, though," Ginny remarked. Margret briefly patted her back, supportively, before taking up the conversation, again.

"So you can't set up new masts? There's enough space here, isn't it?"

"To be honest, I doubt it, Madam," William replied, his embarrassment showing as he awkwardly scratched his neck. "Just not enough space to make new partners and still have the deck somehow sound. I guess we could set up a new one through where the cargo grates are, amidships. On that, we could rig a lateen, or maybe a full rig and a spanker, and then a jib or two."

Ginny perked up, noticeably, when she heard that. "So it can be fixed?"

"I wouldn't call it fixed, Miss, er... Captain Weasley," William hastily corrected himself, but did not look pleased with the explanation he had to provide. "She'll be down a good third or more of her sail area. Her fast days are over, sadly. Hauling cargo might be fine, still, so she'll certainly pay for the cost if you sell her off. Maybe even a profit..."


"There you are!" Henry welcomed them as they entered the Villa. "Where have you been?"

"At the wharf, having a look at the Raven", Margret replied, placing her parasol into the stand and removing her scarf. "Is there a problem with that?" She asked, pointedly.

Years of experience made Henry quickly realise the trouble he had stumbled into. "No, of course not!Why?" he asked, trying to sound calm and collected.

"Just so," Margret replied in a chipper voice, smiling at him as she crossed the room to give him a noisy peck on the cheek. "Done with your project?"

Henry shook his head. "Far from. But I think I have a new one."

"Is that so?" Hermione voiced her curiosity as she took a seat. Ginny followed her example only a few moments later. The rest of her question had to wait until they had relieved Winky of the drinks she was handing out.

"Don't you think we have enough of those, already?" she asked after properly rehydrating.

"Indeed – if we don't watch out, we end up like you last year – going crazy with the workload and needing a time-turner to manage," Ginny remarked, still nursing her fruit juice.

"That would be kind of handy," Henry replied. "We really could need some extra time, right now, couldn't we?"

Hermione frowned in reply. "Not worth the hassle. Nearly drove me nuts. Counting classes, homework, and extra study time, I was doing four or five extra hours each day, minimum, sometimes more. The lack of sleep was brutal."

"Oh yes," Ginny harrumphed. "You really were something, back then. Crankiest bitch in the tower, and we had Lavender to live up to."

"Why didn't you take extra naps?" Margret interrupted Hermione's attempt to glare holes through Ginny.

"What? Naps?" She rounded on her mother. "Didn't you listen? I was already lacking time for my studies. How should I have napped with that schedule?"

"You had a time machine, darling. You could have gone back a couple hours and taken a nap, right?" Margret clarified, grace- and mercifully ignoring her daughter's tone. Her smirk at her daughter's baffled expression was quite feral, though.

"Best be done at mealtime, I guess," her father added. "Leave for a loo brake after eating, go back and find a good spot for a nap. After waking up, go back far enough to allow yourself to slip back into the Hall after a plausible time away. Eat another helping, citing you now have space for more. Claim to have a nervous stomach due to stress if people question your behaviour, or occasionally leave a day out."

"Or sleep, twice," Ginny offered, joining in at the communal destruction derby this has become. "Set an early alarm spell, go back, slip into bed with yourself, and sleep some more."

"Or whatever you want to do to relieve stress," Margret muttered with a smirk that widened even more at her husband's pained groan when he caught up with what she meant. Ginny caught on even later, but her crimson blush was much more spectacular than Henry's.

"And that's where we are going to end the topic of how I am not able to adapt under pressure but to double down harder, and all related topics, OK?" Hermione commanded. "You were about to tell us about your new project, weren't you?"

"Yes, indeed," Henry replied as he took a long sip of his lemonade, relieved that they were changing topic. "And it is a sub-project. We can still portkey off the island, can we?"

"With the current restrictions, but yes, we can."

"Good. Are there any restrictions regarding to the United States, as well? It should be closer than Britain, so I guess it should be no range problem," he inquired.

"I guess not," Hermione replied. "I'm not quite sure about the rules for international portkeys, so we might need to ask about that, but technically - yes, it should be possible. Why?"

Henry was beaming all over his face. "Great! Can you do it? Or do we need to wake Remus? I'd hate to do that after change night."

"First, I'd not particularly want to use a portkey he'd make in his current state. Second, he can't. Remember, he ceded to Tonks when Harry wanted to bestow the ability to him," Hermione set him straight.

Henry frowned. "Well, let's try to wake her without disturbing him, then?"

"Won't work," Hermione replied with a smirk. "First, she's already awake, and second, she's unavailable."

"She went with Harry," Margret provided. "Wouldn't let Harry leave without a guard, and since there's no way Remus could handle open sea, right now, she went herself."

Henry slapped his forehead in anger at his forgetfulness. "Crap. So we need to wait till they are back? Bugger. When are they expected to be? The evening, right?"

"Yes, mid-afternoon till evening," Hermione confirmed. "Tonks wouldn't let him leave on his trip without a guard, and she did not think that me joining him would make the security situation any better. But we need the supplies, Harry needs to learn how these trades are made, and also more practice on open water navigation. And since Remus is in no condition to stomach open sea, right after his change night, her choice fell on herself. But once more -why do you want to go there, in the first place?"

"I want to get some reference material. There are so many gun shops there, we should be able to get something that we can tell Lenny to copy."

Ginny furrowed her brow in thought, voicing her problem with that statement. "I don't think I can follow you – he already has guns he could copy. Why would having more help?"

Henry seemed confused for a moment. "Oh – right! I should have been more precise. Hermione, remember when I told Lenny that we are trying to skip a couple of centuries in technological evolution? This morning I realized how right I was, and how stupid. We don't need modern guns – we only need better than what we have. That why I want to pick up antique guns. Something from when cartridges were still using gunpowder and lead. We had the Snyder, the Henry, or even the Lee-Metford, if that's not too advanced, already – certainly there are similar things available in the colonies, right?"

"And those would be an improvement over what we have?" Ginny inquired.

Henry nodded, enthusiastically. "And then some – easily ten rounds per minute, while accurate at a few hundred yards. And the best – the twins say they have something that is quite similar to fulminate, and can be brewed."

"It can?" Hermione asked. "Hard to do? Exotic ingredients?"

"Dunno – they said they asked Neville about his school potions, and that they only had to tweak a bit to make something that explodes under impact," Henry replied with a shrug. "What kind of potions did you brew in that school, by the way?"

"We were brewing perfectly harmless things. Neville wasn't. He had an uncanny ability to always do the worst mistakes when under stress. Which stressed him out, you see," Hermione replied, smirking at her parents' joint flinch. "I remember you claiming that I could burn water in the kitchen. Neville could most likely blow it up with nothing but tap water."

"Nasty. Impressive, though," her father replied with a low whistle. "Anyway, they still struggle with conjuring a functional bullet that fits. But with with this potion, we are set on all necessary components to make real bullets. Using those guns, we can make actual cartridges here and just take them with us, and don't need to rely on something that might produce mostly duds. All we need can be bought or made locally. We don't need hundred bullets for an assault rifle, which they only spray and pray to hit somebody – give each man a few dozen shots, times, say forty or fifty men, and you will see hundreds of hits. More than enough for what we want. If we hire some people in town to make them, we can easily stockpile a lot."

"Sounds good," Hermione agreed. "But won't we have the same sizing problems?"

"Not nearly as bad," Henry defended his idea "Back then, production tolerances were much worse, and the mechanisms less finicky to compensate for that. A suboptimal round will be fired, just fine. And since we make real rounds, we can make a real sizing jig to squeeze them into proper shape."

"Why not make rounds for the good guns, then?" Ginny asked.

Henry took a deep breath before answering. "We'd never make anything close to the numbers we would need that way. Also, these guns would still jam when used on board. The guns I am talking about are simple. A lever pushes a big block of metal at the end of a barrel, and a hammer hitting a pin. Open – slide cartridge in – close – fire. There are only a couple of moving parts, and none are near as tight-fitting. The trigger is the most complicated, and our flintlocks use pretty much the same."

"We need to test, but I am confident," he finished.

"Good. So – tomorrow, shopping trip, everyone!" Margret exclaimed with a giggle. "It's been ages we've been shopping for clothes!"

"Harry will be sooo excited," Ginny joined her.

"Poor boy," Henry muttered.


Said boy was currently rowing ashore with three other men also on the oars, and Captain Cobbs on the rudder pin. To be precise, there were only three men in total on the oars, as one of them was Tonks in disguise. Cobbs had carefully told her that it would be easier for them if they took Remus with them, as the sight of unknown men raised less suspicion than men travelling with a woman, and was in for the shock of his life as Tonks just smiled saucily at him while changing her shape right in front of him and the crew. It took half an hour of explanation and a round of grog to get the men pacified and ready to set sail. They didn't know yet that it would take Tonks a week to fully explain to all those who would ask her what she could do and that she couldn't teach it to them.

But that was a future problem. Right now, they were pulling as hard as they could to bring the small dinghy through the long cross swell, avoiding the scattered rocks that guarded that beach. Cobbs had dropped anchor in this bay because it was near the town, but had no line of sight to it. They manoeuvred the Pathfinder in, and launched the small boat to set a small group ashore, while their ship would submerge to stay hidden.

Landing the boat, they jumped out into the water and waded over onto the beach, where they used levitation spells to bring the dinghy ashore. They hid it between a couple of palm trees, disillusioning it, just to be sure. Their landing spot still didn't make good sense to Harry, since Kramer Gulf town was on the other side of the island, though.

"I might be asking a silly question, but why all this secrecy? Couldn't we just sail into the harbour and be done? They probably know that we are here and maybe even who we are, right? I mean, why this hassle of shrinking and carrying all provisions to this boat and then onto the Pathfinder?" Harry spoke his mind as they turned towards a well-worn path through the dense foliage. Frank, the sailor accompanying them, was already walking ahead, clearing away the few branches that dared hanging across.

"Some niceties have to be observed, Gov'nor," Cobbs replied amiably, fiddling around with his tobacco can, taking a bit of his chew. "You are right, they know, and we know that they know. But as long as we don't park the proof in their front yard, they can pretend they don't. Also, if a patrol happens to come along, it'd be better they don't spot us right away, and they don't care to go around the island to check."

"Plausible deniability, right?"Tonks inquired in the deep, booming voice she had adopted for this body, making the others jump a little. Harry knew that she was doing that on purpose, but said nothing.

"I couldn't spell it, but I think it's that word," Cobbs replied with a grin that lacked white, before spitting out some tobacco.

It took them about half an hour to reach the quite large village. One moment, they were in dense jungle, the next, they stood on an open plain, some fields of various crops stretching for a couple hundred yards, up to the buildings far beyond. On closer inspection, Harry noticed that it wasn't wheat or corn softly swaying in the wind, but various potion ingredients.

He had filed this away for later, when Tonks made him aware of some kids running into the town when they stepped out of the trees.

"'Ere's always someone out 'ere to notice strangers approaching, even if they dinna notice the ship coming. Fan out so they can count us, but walk naturally and dun pay them any attention, 'less you see them forming up, or taking aim at us," Cobbs commented, his tobacco giving him a noticeable slur.

"And if they do?" Tonks asked, eyeing the situation warily.

Cobbs chuckled, spitting another wad of scum. "We turn and run, lassie! Means they either are mad at us or a patrol is in town, commandeering them to fight us. We could talk ourselves out of the first, but it's not worth sticking around to find out which one it is."

Harry couldn't find a fault with that logic, but it didn't soothe his unease.

Fifteen not quite relaxed minutes later, they were in the town, approaching the harbour area, Cobbs greeting people left and right. The surprisingly few that were seen, anyway. Harry knew that the town had about three or four hundred inhabitants, but at first, he saw only a quarter that number, mostly young men, watching their every step. Only after a minute it dawned on him that these were people in, for lack of other terms, fighting age, and were armed. Harry just then realized he'd been among pirates for too long. He had just become used to everybody carrying weapons at all times. Only after a couple of salutations, people recognized Cobbs, and relaxed. A bit later, older people, women, and children emerged and filled up the town, again, the smallest children forming a gaggle following them at a safe distance, impersonating them. Cobbs made a point of occasionally spinning around and "Arr" at them, which sent them scampering for a moment, squealing, only to quickly reform, just like fish during a swim at the reef.

Arriving at the harbour, Cobbs made a point to sample the wares sold at market stands right next to the pier, buying a small trinket or two at each. Harry pretty quickly realized that this was how things were done, and bought a couple things, himself, namely a shawl Margret would like, a silver necklace with a Kraken talisman pendant he thought looked cool on him, and an only slightly dinged pull-out looking glass to present Henry with.

Having paid what Harry assumed to be their dues to the local people, Cobbs led them to the harbor warehouse, which wasn't quite as big as Harry would have expected. Entering, he found the shopkeeper and his wife arranging stuff on the counter, greeting Cobbs immediately as 'Captain'. Cobbs quickly handed over the list of stuff they needed – and could afford – mostly stuff they couldn't grow on the relatively small Black island, like sugar, rum, and linen. And potion ingredients. Lots of those. Taking a look around while bale after bale of merchandise was shrunk and stowed in a crate, Harry quickly realized that this island grew quite a lot of ingredients, but didn't cut much wood, other than others. That explained the size of the warehouse, but threw up other questions.

When they filed out of the store after paying a definitely above average amount for their merchandise, as Harry had come to expect, Harry found himself with just about a third of the gold he had taken with him. On Cobbs' command, they headed for the tavern, passing a building with a quite prominent red lantern out above the door. The colourful clad girls waving at them cemented the suspicion.

Briefly, Harry had worried that they'd also be expected to pay tribute to that business, as well, but as they passed by, Frank, pulling the wheelbarrow with the barrels and crates of shrunk merchandise, had their back and valiantly took on that particular task, parking the wheelbarrow around the corner and vanishing into the building.

Waiting for that last transaction to finish, they sat in the tavern, which allowed Harry to ask Cobbs some questions.

"You sure our stuff is safe where we left it?" Was the first one.

"Gov'ner, you could put a bag of Galleons on top of that pile and I'd guarantee you they'd still be there, tomorrow," Cobbs chuckled, waving the innkeeper over, who bustled over, quickly.

"They know better than take the stuff a bunch of pirates just bought. They know our next visit would be much less profitable to them," Cobbs replied with a feral grin. "Same reason they won't attack us unless we provoke them."

"So that's how business is done here?" Harry asked, ignoring the looks the innkeeper was giving him for ordering a butterbeer.

Cobbs nodded. "We come by, acting as incognito as possible and don't cause any trouble. We make sure we leave a lot of money in all hands, and they don't blab and don't overcharge us too heavily."

"Why isn't this town richer? I mean, these kind of ingredients sell for a really high price in Britain, and we also paid steep gold for it," Harry asked.

Cobbs took a long sip of his ale before he addressed that.

"Bloody trading fleets, that is why. You can't ship stuff to Britain, directly. Only they are allowed to, and they dictate the price they buy for."

"And why don't they just stop growing them, and grow something more useful?" Harry asked, his curiosity stirring.

"Shouldn't you be asking them this question?" Cobbs chuckled. "But well, they can still make some profit selling to other villages. This island has great soil for ingredients, would be a waste growing food. And not a lot of timber, makes it hard to keep Muggles from noticing if you deforest the whole thing. Also, growing ingredients means a lot of space, which means you can't grow a lot of food at the same time. Other islands don't have the soil for them, though. So every island does what it can do best, and we trade and barter for our needs. The excess goes to the trade fleets. It's like this... sym... bontic... stuff, you know, everyone profiting from sharing and stuff. Yeah, it'd be like that, but with them traders being less cooperative, pushing us around and buying for Knuts when they could pay Sickles and still make Galleons, and they set quotes for how much they need, meaning you need to sell most of your stuff to them, or they won't take anything."

"Bloody leeches," he cussed softly after finishing, concentrating on his drink.

Harry was silently pondering this while nursing his butter beer, only barely listening to a conversation between the innkeeper and Cobbs, until he got roused by a man rushing in.

"A patrol just entered the harbour," the innkeeper informed them after a hushed conversation.

"Well, we better take this outside, then," Cobbs sighed, handing the man some silver.

"Good. I don't like the idea of being trapped here inside, if it came to it," Tonks agreed, giving the cluttered room a last, disapproving glance.

They managed to take cover in a shrubbery in the perimeter near the tavern before the soldiers had disembarked. By the time they had started searching the town in groups of four, Frank had joined them, shirtless, which made Tonks raise an appraising eyebrow.

"Couldn't find it quick enough when they threw me out the back door," he grumbled as they watched two teams herding the visible townspeople together and addressing them.

"Probably looking for us. Havana's most certainly popping a vein after your stunt at Nassau, and Port Royal most likely isn't too happy, neither," Cobbs commented as they watched them shouting at the cowering people, some having children clutching to them.

"Let's get out of here, then," Harry proposed, trying to turn around, but held down immediately by Cobbs.

"No! We'd never make it across the fields unnoticed, and then both we and them pay the price. We sit and wait. I prefer seeing what happens. If need be, we can ambush them the moment they do rat us out," he explained. "Not that I expect this to happen. Now hush!"

Harry couldn't help but feel agitated when he noticed that one man had chosen to speak for the village, standing protectively in front of what seemed to be his teenage daughter cowering behind him. He could feel the situation was escalating when a team returned with the wheelbarrow of goods, Cobbs cursing softly as they did.

The questioning became a bit more intense after that, and soon, the commanding soldier backhanded the man, sending him to the ground. Harry watched with mounting horror as the daughter rushed towards her fallen father, only to be yanked to her feet by the hair.

When the commander pushed her at some of his men, who carried the screaming and kicking girl into a house, Harry moved. Or tried to. He briefly felt the magic wash over him as the darkness consumed him, and he knew no more.


Harry came to with an start as the enervate spell hit him.

"Wakey wakey, white knight," a strange man welcomed him, grinning at him.

He had a spell in his mind before he remembered that this was Tonks' current form smiling at him. Carefully letting go of it, he also realized that there was a roof over their heads. And he was lying on a table.

"Had to get you out of the sun and patched up before waking you," Tonks informed him when she noticed his eyes scanning the surroundings. "You banged your head on a tree stump when you went down. Was easier to sort this out before waking you."

"My hero," a woman in her forties giggled behind Tonks as Harry slowly sat up.

Looking around, Harry realized that he was inside the inn, again, with some people milling around. Among them Frank, who had recovered his shirt. He was still too hyped from the enervating rush to think clearly, but it told him that they weren't in acute danger if the man had bothered with that.

"Are they gone? How's the girl?" Harry asked, causing the woman to giggle once more. "And who ambushed us?" He added when his brain decided to work properly.

"Sorry, boss, but that was me," Tonks tweeted. "And Cobbs, both. You were about to rush out and get us all killed."

"What kind of bodyguard are you? Shooting your client in the back?" Harry blurted.

"The one keeping their client safe, even from his own stupidity," Tonks snarled back.

"But the girl!" Harry protested, with Tonks not having any of it.

"First, us charging out against a group of thirty, with innocent bystanders behind them and us on an open field would not have changed anything for the better. Second, it was just a ruse, and we fell for it just like them."

Harry was about to object until she brought up the second point. "A... ruse?"

"It was me," the woman in the background spoke up. Only then, Harry realized that she was wearing the same dress as the girl did. "Polyjuice potion. Lets me take up the appearance of anyone," she explained when she noticed Harry's disbelief.

"Maybe I should explain," an elderly man spoke up. "I'm Joaquin, the closest to a mayor of this village. You see, these thugs always act the same. It's pretty predictable. We came up with a plan for that a long time ago. For each visit, we have someone who will be the one confronting them, and Sally and her girls will pose as his teenage daughter or young wife, and some other girls milling around, while the others hide."

"Wait! You mean that this happens often?" Harry gasped.

More infuriating to Harry, the man shrugged, as if it was the most normal thing. "Usually, every few weeks. Right now, every other day. They come by, ask some questions, terrorize us. Occasionally, they ravage some girl, trying to cow us. They never go beyond that. They know that if they step too far beyond the line, we might fight back. "

"How can you allow this to happen?" Harry asked, not believing what was said.

"It's not that bad, compared to a fight. We would overrun them just by the numbers, but they'd kill a lot of us. And then, they'd send more when the ship doesn't return. The town would be burned to the ground, and everyone they'd get hands on, killed. It happened. This way is better. The one guy who speaks out gets roughed up, but we draw lots for who is to be the spokesman, each time... And I... I can handle it," Sally spoke up.

"And if they grab a different girl, instead? One that didn't manage to hide in time?" Harry growled at her.

Pretty sudden, Sally lost her happy composure. "That's a pretty high horse you are riding, for being one of the reasons these guys keep showing up in a bad mood," she snarled, her eyes narrow. The sudden change in demeanour took Harry by surprise, and kept him well cowed while she ranted at him.

"But you know, welcome to the Caribbean, English boy," she spat. "Me and my girls are all in the crowd, polyjuiced and with attention-seeking charms, and proper attitude to attract these bastards. Usually, they take us. Sometimes, some girl can't hide well enough. Well, she won't be the first, and won't be the last. There are many other islands out there, and all get the same visits - and none of those those can afford the stuff we use. But that's why every healer on these islands knows memory potions and charms. In the end, she'll live. Everybody lives, and that's the only thing that counts."

"Ok, he got it, calm down," Tonks spoke up as she stepped in between them, just in case, making Sally take a step back.

"Yes, indeed. See Maria about your compensation, Sally. And commend your girls for their effort. You all were great, as always. You still got stock for if they come again?" Joaquin interspersed himself, as well.

"It was a pleasure, as always," Sally replied, sweetly, her smile intensifying when Joaquin flinched. "I think we still got two batches, maybe a bit more," she added.

"I'll advise Julio and Norma, then. They should have some more ready, soon," Joaquin replied, a quite tacit dismissal.

Sally waltzed out, but not without pinching Frank in the butt and whispering something in his ear that made him flush.

"About the goods," Joaquin addressed Cobbs, his posture screaming that this was a topic he'd really rather not talk about.

"We'll pay for the replacement, of course. We do not hold you at fault for them confiscating everything. Next time, we'll be more careful," Cobbs replied, which made the man relax and release the breath he had been holding.

"I do hope the customary discount applies, though," Cobbs added sharply – just when Harry was about to interrupt them, reminding Cobbs about the current relative lack of funds.

The statement had the effect of making Joaquin jump, slightly.

"Of course!" He replied hastily. "Please remind Devon, to avoid any misunderstandings."

"Good. We will," Cobbs replied with a smile that had a definite shark-like quality. Joaquin mumbled some approximation of goodbyes and tried to politely evacuate the premises, but Harry held him back with a final question.

"Who were they looking for?"

"No need to worry," came the reply. "They were looking for someone else. Seems it was a powerful witch who lead that attack on Nassau. Hair red as fire, had two wizards as her bodyguards, they say. If you see a older model Galleon, be sure to avoid it. Rumour has it she is fond of using Fiendfyre. Might burn your ship right down," he advised them, and left, never noticing how Harry and the disguised Tonks exchanged some brief alarmed looks.

**** The beach below Black Manor ****

Remus briefly stopped when he turned the last bend towards the beach. In the gloom of the setting sun, you could see Harry sitting on the big rock that had fallen off the cliff into the sea, a long time ago. It was well exposed now, for the tides had just turned. If a few hours, high tide would only leave a hand's width of it above the waterline, waves threatening to topple everyone being careless while balancing on it for a jump into the sea.

Harry was a pitiful image as he sat there, occasionally reaching out into the air for some reason. Only when he had waded into the sea and approached him further, slowly, he could see that he was wandlessly accioing small fish and throwing them at Luna's dolphin friends.

"You heard?" Harry asked as he heard him wading through the still knee-deep water to reach his rock, only taking the briefest glimpse to identify the intruder.

"Tonks told me," Remus spoke up as he tried to climb the rock without the helpful buoyancy when it was well submerged, ignoring his own aches from the last transformation.

"Hermione wouldn't come?" Harry asked, bitterly.

"She's doesn't know, yet. I asked Tonks to not tell her until I had a talk with you, first, so you don't make this a mess," Remus replied as he plunked down next to Harry, sighing from the exertion.

"A mess?"

Remus sighed, picking on some algae that were exposed due to the lower tide. "Harry, I do know you pretty well, almost as good as Hermione does. And I don't want you to hurt her."

"Why would I hurt her?"

"Your grief. If Hermione sees you like this, she will be devastated. This will hurt you even more, which will make her hurt even worse, and so on. Then, you will you do or say something stupid, or she will say something you get wrong, and suddenly everything goes up in flames. I'd hate to see that happen, just because your hero persona is acting up for no reason."

"No reason? I am the reason for what happened," Harry replied, facing Remus for the first time. In the fading light, his face seeming haggard from all the grief the boy was shouldering.

"Yeah. There it is. You're being stupid, took you no time at all." Remus replied, sounding extremely annoyed. With Harry expression changing into shocked stare, he continued.

"You were the excuse. Thugs like that will always find an excuse to do what they want."

"Still, I am the reason that dozens or hundreds of girls will get raped this week, alone," Harry snarled back.

"Well then, go – turn yourself in and get executed. Will it change anything? No. Next week, it will be one of the other dozens of pirates operating here, or a missing bribe, or the weather, or just because," Remus replied. "I know that this is hard to stomach, but it was the same during the war against Riddle. People grabbing power need to keep the masses down. And the best way to keep people down is to show them they can't protect their loved ones. Happens in every war."

"This isn't a war, though," Harry attempted to split hairs. Remus didn't let that argument stand.

"Not? I'd call this situation a military occupation. The people have no vote on the Wizengamot, the military is also the police force, with no real rules to hold them in check, and constant oppression and exploitation of the locals. This may look like paradise, but the apple does have a huge worm in it. Still, it's a place where no one will sell us to them, mostly because they hate the police more than us, and know that the reward will probably never get paid out, anyway. Anywhere else, we'd be found quickly. I say we keep nibbling at the thing and try not to bite the worm, and we will be fine."

When Harry didn't respond, Remus reached out and touched his leg, squeezing it briefly. "Don't let it eat you up," the man advised him.

"And what am I supposed to do?" Harry challenged him in turn.

Remus took a moment to ponder, before shrugging. "Be happy that you are safe? That your loved ones are alive and safe?"

Harry sighed, deeply. "Sounds cheap."

This time, Remus huffed. "So it seems, but at the same time, it's the most precious. Trust me, when they take everything from you, life seems bland. But as long as you are still alive, you always have a chance to make things better."

There was a pause while Harry was processing that response. "And if you can't?"

Remus felt kind of helpless when Harry kept asking such defeatist questions. "Then you do your best. Sometimes, you did everything you could, and things still aren't working out. That's not your fault. That's life. Sometimes good things happen, sometimes bad things happen. But from where I've been, I can tell you one thing with absolute conviction. No matter how bad life was, it still beat being dead by miles."

Harry produced an agreeing grunt, but did not reply, keeping staring out into the sea, instead. His only motion was a quick Accio and catch when one of the dolphins – only Luna could tell them apart, or maybe not and was just claiming she could – surfaced, chattering. Harry tossed the fish to his cetacean friend, and went back to brooding.

"You want to talk some more?" Remus finally asked when the silence went on for longer. Harry only kept staring, with not even a hint he had heard him.

"Want me to stay?" Remus asked, still receiving no answer.

"Fine," Remus said after they sat like that for a couple more minutes, starting to raise. "I'll leave, then. Think about it, vent some steam, whatever, and then come home. Hermione will be waiting for you, maybe she'll be better at knocking some sense into you than this old wolf," he spoke, squeezing Harry's shoulder a last time before sliding back into the water to wade back ashore.

Fifteen minutes later, Harry's brooding and feeding was cut short, once more.

"They'll get fat if you keep this up," a melodic voice sang out, right next to him.

Surprised, Harry almost fell into the water due to his startled attempt to jump away from unexpected presence. When he had himself seated safely, again, he took a look at who had snuck up upon him, only to quickly turn back, his eyes staring out into the sea. If he were immersed in the water, it'd probably boil on contact with his skin, he reckoned.

Luna had never been an especially socially conscious girl, nor conventional, in any sense. She had fallen head over heels in love with the sea, and swimming, but not with the concept of swimming suits. The wizarding type was appalling, the same style as in these old photographs of beachgoers, covering from the knees to the neck, so she outright refused them, as any woman with a bit of a sense of fashion would. She felt the same for one-pieces. Bikinis were a strange concept to her. It was almost painful to watch the men's embarrassment when she had shown up in a string thong style bikini the first time she came to swim with them. Harry definitely remembered her flashing Neville, and everyone else who got caught in the blast, at least once that day, just to win a splashing war with him.

Once she became a resident and joined them on a regular basis, she one day had explained to everyone that it's strange to go and don underwear to go swimming, when you don't wear it normally, for heat reasons, and just dropped her dress and went skinny-dipping with them, instead, except for the dozen bead necklaces she never bothered to take off, ever.

Harry heard those chime and tinkle as Luna sat down right next to him, leaning into him for comfort, completely ignorant of his embarrassment.

"I think Persephone has gained some weight in the last weeks. I wonder if she might be pregnant. Galahad isn't leaving her side, you know," she chatted on, oblivious to anything. "Wouldn't that be wonderful?" She asked, curling up at his side, snuggling up even closer into him, making things even worse.

A moment later, she sat up when Harry still hadn't replied. "Is something wrong? You seem awfully tense," she spoke, slipping into the water, again, and moving in front of Harry, who was rather glad the sea had risen enough to reach her navel.

"Did you get bitten by a pringlefish? Their bite does cause muteness, you know. Although they usually only bite during mating season. You may have a fever, your face looks flushed," she mused, rising to tiptoes to stretch up, trying to put her hand on his forehead.

When Harry made motions to evade her, she giggled.

"Don't tell me it's my bits. They do arouse you, but no more than usual. When I arrived, you looked like someone had died, and Mister Cobbs did not mention any losses," she inquired, smiling at him as she swayed with the waves as if she were a part of the sea.

"You're, you're," Harry stammered as he realized what just had happened, laughing when Luna suggested her name as possible next word.

"Minx," he chuckled.

"Swim with me," she demanded, sinking into the water, her necklaces and hair dancing on the waves in the last bit of the setting sun.

"I don't have a swimsuit," Harry tried to talk himself out of it. Of course, Luna stood up when he told her this, presenting herself, again. "Neither do I."

"If you insist on talking up on that cold rock, I'll have to snuggle into you, again," she added. Harry took a moment to ponder the threat. A moment too long. "Ok, ok!" He hastily cried out when Luna made moves to climb back up on the rock, towards him. Quicker as he thought possible, he had tossed his shirt aside, and piled his weapons on it, before diving in, following her into the deeper water as she paddled away from the rock.

"Och poo," Luna scowled as he resurfaced. "I was hoping to ogle your bum a bit. Yours seems tighter than Neville's," she moped. "Sure you can swim with pants like that? I don't want you to drown just because you want to hide your erection."

True to her prediction, Harry almost drowned right then, out of shock.

"See? A stupid way to die," Luna said smugly as she was paddling by him as he coughed, in a lazy backstroke, of course.

"You won't stop until I drop them, right?" Harry inquired, treading water to stay afloat.

"Suit yourself. But it's fine. I don't mind, and you don't need to worry. It's not as if I'd have sex with you without asking Hermione and Neville for permission, first," Luna replied, proceeding to swim lazy circles around him.

This was the second time she almost made him drown. "Ask them?" He sputtered.

For a moment, Luna stopped circling him and looked at him as if he were daft. "Of course! It would be rude to not ask before we do it."

"And I'm not getting asked, at all?" Harry asked the least compromising question that came to his mind, flabbergasted.

"Oh Harry," she giggled. " If they were both ok with it, why would you refuse?" Luna quipped before diving with a jump that made her pale bum briefly surface and shine in the light of the quickly setting sun before Harry could reply. Harry was sure she did that on purpose.

He briefly wondered what she was doing when a lot of bubbles suddenly rose from where she dove down, until he realized he could hear her make squeaking noises.

"But you really should take them off. If we are pulled around by them, you will lose them, anyway, and then you'd need to walk back without pants. I wouldn't mind that, but it would be a shame. These pants are nice," she spoke after breaking the surface, again.

Harry was kind of confused until the dolphins suddenly broke surface, chattering as they circled them. Luna's grin was all the answer Harry needed. He did hesitate a bit, her watching him with her head at an angle like a puppy trying to figure out something, but then he muttered a curse and pulled his pants off, banishing them towards his pile. Luna applauding made it even more awkward.

"Hold on to Galahad's fin, don't shout, and don't let go," Luna prompted him, doing as she advised him, but with Persephone. The moment Harry had his hands in position, the powerful animal shot off, his flipper pumping like mad. Harry was just about to whoop with joy when Galahad made a slight jump, only to dive deep. Feeling the pressure increase as they went deeper, Harry forced himself to open his eyes a tiny bit, so he could see. They had been diving to the reef, but this was somewhat different to diving under your own power. Instead of serenely drifting by, the corals rushed past them, fish diving for cover as the dolphins twisted and rolled by, like two Seekers hunting an aquatic snitch. This went on for a couple of seconds before Harry could feel his lungs starting to cramp. As if he had sensed Harry's discomfort, Galahad did a sharp turn up and broke the surface, just long enough for Harry to gulp in some fresh air, before pulling him back under.

The next time they broke surface, Harry couldn't help but whoop with joy. Which earned him a good gulp of salt water as they smashed into the water, again.

"I told you not to scream, didn't I?" Luna chided him from somewhere, he couldn't really make out where due to his coughing fit.

"You did, but not why," he managed to croak between coughs.

"I didn't think it was necessary. Anyway, did you know that most male fish don't really mate with their partner, but simply ejaculate into the water over the laid eggs and hope for the best?" Luna replied. The surprise actually stopped Harry coughing as he stared at her, once more.

"Are you done? Good. They are waiting for us," Luna replied, smiling brightly as if she hadn't just made a deliberate attempt to gross him out.

Harry had lost sense of time when they finally were deposited on the shore by their mounts. Wading out of the surf in the light of the almost full moon, Harry let himself fall back into the still slightly warm sand relishing in the fact he was no longer holding on for dear life and how amazing the ride has been.

Luna stood next to him waving the dolphins as they swam away.

"That was brilliant," he gasped.

"It is. It made you forget that I am nude and all your problems, didn't it?" Luna quipped, reminding him of both.

"Why thank you," Luna said in her sing-song as the inevitable happened. "Don't be a spoilsport," she chided as he sat up and repositioned his hands to cover himself.

"Yours is longer, but a bit thinner. Neville's chest is more muscular, though. And more hair. I like that. Feels good to dig my fingers into it while we have sex," she commented her findings.

"What are you doing, Luna?" Harry managed to press through his gritted teeth, trying to suppress an awkward blush as he tried to avoid staring at her.

"Distracting you. You couldn't mope while you were riding Galahad or were thinking about sex."

"I realized that, already," Harry growled, rolling his eyes at his unfazed friend "But why?"

"Tell me, were things getting better while you were sitting there, depressed?" Luna asked, not really waiting for a reply. "Were they getting any worse because you were having fun?"

Harry couldn't honestly agree to either question, so he settled for a shrug.

"See – when both are roughly equal as far as to being a solution, you should rather have fun than be sad. Dad always says that tears don't do anything but make the ground wet. When you stop crying and start finding a solution, that's when things get better," Luna explained.

"I'm afraid I might turn into the next Dark Lord if I do that," Harry replied, downtrodden at a sudden when he slipped back into his original concerns.

"You did swallow more than just water, did you? Must be some kind of aquatic Nargle – only way for you to turn stupid that fast," Luna quipped, starting to shake the water out of her hair, making her chains and bits wiggle along.

"Luna, this is a serious topic. You know that I killed more people in that battle than everyone else, by a huge margin? Tonks used freaking Fiendfyre, and we shot at them with cannons and firing squads, and I still killed more people as the rest, combined. I'm pretty sure that I now have killed more people than Voldemort! I lost count, and worse, I don't even care!" Harry snarled as he felt ridiculed by her dismissal.

His fierce grimace quickly turned into a terrified puppy one when Luna quickly stepped in front of him and knelt down next to him, taking his head between her hands and staring him in the eyes. "Definitely aquatic Nargles. I wonder how to extract them," she said, smiling softly at Harry, who desperately tried to keep eye contact.

Suddenly, her eyes lost her usual dreamy state, and bored into his. "Now that I have your attention, I will tell you something, and you will never forget it, right? You are not like him, and you do care. You are sitting here, beating yourself up for killing them, especially since it made things a bit worse. You hate that you are just constantly fighting to keep things from getting worse, all your life, and can't keep up. You won't feel that way when you try to make the next fight about making things better."

Somehow, her words clicked with Harry. It did indeed bother him how his problems always were present due to some arsehole's actions. Whether with Voldemort or now, his foes were fighting to make things go their way, and all Harry had done so far was trying to counter their efforts, wherever he could. He usually won the battle he was in, but in the meantime, they made advances on three other fronts.

"You mean I should fight for a cause I believe in?" He asked. "Voldemort did the same", he quickly added, morosely. "How will I know that I'm fighting for the right one?"

"I should smack you with a boob," Luna commented, shaking his head in her hands, gently, while laughing, reverting to her dreamy state. "Neville usually comes to his senses when I do that. Now, if only we had a way to ask a group of people what their leaders should do. Something like giving them a piece of paper where they could tick off an option, and count the results," she said, before pulling him forward to give him a peck on his forehead, and then letting go of his head, rising from her spot.

Harry had to lean back to avoid her body brushing against his face as she stood up.

"You want me to have a vote?" He asked, confused.

"What better way to find out if people agree that your cause is a good one? But I have to go now. These rides through the reef are always so invigorating, I need to find Neville to have sex with him," she concluded, walking off to pick up her dress, making a point to bend over without bending her knees.

"For the love of Merlin," Harry growled, averting his eyes, once more.

"Be sure to say hi from me to Hermione before you have sex," she called back over her shoulder as she walked off, lazily dragging the dress through the sand behind her, her white skin reflecting the pale moonlight, leaving an even more thoughtful Harry behind.


About an hour later, when he had finally made his way back up to the house, he found most of his family in the sitting room. Hermione was kneeling on the floor, studying some papers she'd laid out, with Remus watching over her from a seat he had pulled closer, while Margret was relaxing with a penny dreadful in the seat near the balcony. He couldn't see Henry, so he assumed he was up in the bedroom, sleeping off the potions they still had to pump into him to make his leg heal properly. For some reason, they made Muggles drop like a sack, while wizards only felt drowsy.

Remus was still looking like crap, even though Tonks took great lengths to ease Remus pre- and post- transformation days. Dan had told him in private that Remus had admitted that he had already come to a point where he awaited the full moon almost as much as he dreaded it. Tonks wasn't around, though. Most likely sleeping ahead like she used to do during "those" days, to be able to accompany Remus when he couldn't sleep during the nights.

"There you are! I was this close to come and drag you up here and out of your moping," Hermione greeted him, looking up from the Animagus diagrams spread around her. He could see that she was worried, and about to say something else, but she stopped herself, looking at him, her head tilting first left, then right as she surveyed his face. "Something is off," she stated as a matter of fact.

"Off?" Harry echoed her.

"This isn't your mopy 'woe is me, the skies are falling' face. You look kind of confused, rather," Hermione expanded on her observations.

"Luna," Harry replied, explaining nothing and everything in just one word.

"That girl does have this effect," Margret quipped from her seat, having dropped her book on the side table. "What did she do to snap you out of it?"

"Forced me to go skinny-dip with her, and ride a dolphin," Harry gave her the brief version. "She told me to say 'Hi' to you, by the way," he told his girlfriend, who had started to giggle at the picture he just painted.

"She forced you to ride a dolphin?" Margret echoed, disbelieving, while her daughter was snorting in suppressed laughter, imagining the wringer Luna no doubt had put Harry through.

"No, that I did voluntarily. The skinny dip part was less so. But she had a point, I'd never been able to hold on with clothes dragging through the water. It was brilliant, like a broom flight, but under water," Harry set the records straight.

"I need to ask her about that," Margret gushed. "I'd even go along with the requirements for that," she giggled.

"Later, mum," Hermione sighed. "You're better now?"

"I'm fine," Harry replied with a boyish grin. "Knackered, though."

"So you're up for Animagus practice or not?" Remus asked.

Harry's face fell, immediately. "I've just snapped out of a depression, you want to put me right back into that state?" He growled.

Remus leaned back in his seat, hands lifted defensively, his smile betraying his intentions. "You had managed something hoof-shaped two weeks ago, on your last try," the man noted, putting some emphasis on the time since. "You certainly aren't going to get any better at it by sitting around, whining," he teased.

"What is it with you people," Harry asked, looking up as if he were complaining to the heavens above. "I was moping, not whining. At least get your terms right," he ranted, but failed to keep a straight face till the end.

"Yeah, I was being stupid," he confessed when Hermione and Remus were smirking at him. He didn't want to tell them that he had an even more stupid idea, yet, though.

"Dunno what she told you, but Luna has done a good job, I say," Margret remarked. Hermione could only agree to that.

"True. She has set a new record for snapping Harry out, I think."

Remus harrumphed, crossing his arms, as he turned in his seat. "Only because I softened him up for her." He proclaimed as haughtily as he could manage, looking like death, warmed over twice or thrice.

"Right." Margret shot him down, sarcasm dripping from her voice. "Doesn't she deserve a price for that?" She proposed in jest. Hermione did notice Harry flinching, briefly, adding proof to her suspicions that Luna had used heavy artillery to break down his walls. The girl had become a shameless flirt if she wanted to, and her act made her get away with anything she pulled off. If it was an act. You never knew with Luna.

"She'll have to settle for chocolates," she spoke up, keeping her face straight as she watched Harry wince once more, proving her guess beyond any doubt. Smirking, she watched Harry proclaim that he'd need to get his diagrams and fled the room.


"Harry! Look! Look!" Hermione called out when Harry returned, arms laden with parchment. Leaving Remus and Margret behind, she rushed at him, waving her hand.

At first, Harry was kind of puzzled by her giddy state, until he realized that her hand was tiny and covered in brown fur.

"I did it!" Hermione cheered as she almost crashed into him. Her lips did impact on his, though, as she threw her arms around him, crumpling his notes. Not that Harry cared the tiniest bit for anything but her lips on his for the moment.

"Look!" She gushed as she let go, bringing her hand up between them. Or better, her paw. "Looks funny," Harry commented with a chuckle as he examined the tiny furry appendage stuck on a human arm, with just a small transition for circumference. He briefly stroke over the fur, before gently touching the small pad of her paw with his index.

With a squeal, Hermione pulled away. "That tickles!" She complained, giggling wildly.

"Please refrain from tickling her beaver in front of me," Remus deadpanned, fully aware that Margret would slap him for that, calling him awful. He didn't even try to dodge the hand impacting at his arm.

"Otter, not beaver," Hermione corrected him, harrumphing sharply.

"Please refrain from tickling her otter parts, as well," Remus replied, in the same tone. Hermione groaned loudly, both for how bad that joke was, and that she walked into it.

"How long did you work on that one?" Harry inquired, rubbing his temples between the thumb and middle finger of his right hand.

"The moment Hermione was determined to grow fur," Remus replied, smirking as he received another round of groans.

"Oh come on!" Margret cried out in exasperation.

"I must try changing a foot," Hermione tried to get back on topic, her brain falling back into working mode as a default.

"First, you need to practice reversing that. Your handwriting would suffer when you have a claw," Remus commented the moment she had finished.

"Please stop," Harry groaned.

"If it behoves you, try and make me," was the quick reply.

Harry stared at the man, realizing that this was the Marauder still hidden inside the usually so reserved man – who was smiling at him with a almost feral grin – and then decided to not dignify it with a response. Without question, Remus had a retort planned for everything he could come up with.


"No, I definitely haven't seen anything like that, either," Remus commented as he inspected Harry's definitely noodly appendage. At least, that's was the most approximate term to describe it.

"And you definitely didn't prank him? On your honour as a Marauder?" Hermione asked Remus, for the third time.

"I honestly swear I am up to no good, but it wasn't me, this time," Remus replied. Remus' eyes briefly shot the only other suspect in the room, but immediately dismissed it. Hermione currently still had two tiny otter arms, and could not have used a wand properly until she reversed that. At her current proficiency level, it'd probably take her another fifteen minutes before her arms were reversed to human form.

"Hmm," he uttered as he again inspected the mess. From Harry's left wrist, well, sprouted, for no better term, a strange appendage. A quick glance at the diagrams confirmed their correctness, and told him that this should have been a deer's hoof. It could be one, but it was elongated to two tubular objects of about three feet length, horn-like, but all completely floppy like a bit of cartilage without bones.

"And you definitely didn't lose focus and overpowered it?" He asked Harry, who was still staring at his hand in a state of shock.

"Absolutely not," Harry denied, his arm wiggling as he moved. "The first time, the flip to the shift came easier and surprised me, so it grew out to a foot in diameter before I realized I was pushing too hard. The second time, I concentrated on the diameter, and only used the absolute minimum to make it flip, but it still ran away from me. I cut all power the moment it started growing out of control."

"Good job," Remus encouraged Harry with a smile. "Try to reverse it. Maybe you're just having a bad day and can't focus properly. This is very advanced magic, and unlike other spells you can't just force it to work with more power, it's a delicate process. Still, I believe I should go and get Tonks. Maybe she has an idea, or at least, she'll get a good laugh, as well," he continued, smirking at Harry before he made his way to the door.

Harry knew only one way to reply to that. "Great," he sighed, trying to ignore Remus sniggering behind him.

They spent another half hour with repeating the experiment a couple of times, hands and feet, using spells to force Harry back into shape. After they finished laughing, that is.

"Ok, that was fun," Tonks concluded, smiling brightly at Harry when he grumbled that she should only speak for herself.

"And? Do you have any idea what the problem might be?" Hermione inquired, first.

"Sorry. Not a clue. I've had a dormmate at the academy who struggled with the change, but she only suffered the problem of getting stuck. Since Harry can reverse it, he doesn't have this particular problem," Tonks replied, her hair dimming from pink to purple. Margret perked up when she noticed the change in her appearance, frowning thoughtfully in the way she and her daughter shared.

"You certainly have thought about it already, but could he have your abilities? You told me once that people like you can't be Animagi," she proposed her theory.

Tonks seemed surprised by that question. Blinking a few times to come to grips with the thought, she took some time to scrutinize Harry thoroughly before she finally spoke.

"I always wondered about your mop – did you ever get a proper haircut?"

"Aunt Petunia tried it once. Kept yanking my hair this and that way, hard, all the time. By the time she chased me off, I looked like a badly shorn sheep. Over night, it all grew back," Harry recounted a tale of his childhood, not noticing everyone scooting to the edge of their seat as he went on.

"Ever since, I have cut it once a week, myself, to avoid her doing my hair ever again," he concluded, deflating everyone.

"I hereby declare you a boring normal wizard!" Tonks intoned in an important voice. She caught the multiple raised eyebrows aimed in her direction, and quickly added "For a given value of 'normal'" to her statement.

"As if I could ever have anything normal in my life," Harry spoke after he had huffed, his voice practically dripping with sarcasm.

Everyone turned their head when Margret made a loud hissing sound. Acting as if she had just opened an imaginary can of soda, she offered the invisible beverage to Harry. "Here, have a can of pity, cheers," she told him with a brilliant smile that got even more radiant when Harry gave here a glare and drew a face at her.

"Did you just do a dad joke, mum?" Hermione demanded, fighting the smile that crept on her face.

"He's not here right now, and somebody had to do it. It's the way he would have wanted it," her mum replied, not missing a beat.

"Dad jokes? I must admit I'm curious," Remus spoke up, interested.

"Hello Curious, I'm Margret," Margret replied, instantly, under a loud protest by her daughter.

"As my dad used to say with a sad sigh, whenever he'd reverse his car into the garage - 'This takes me back home'," Tonks added her childhood's traumatic memories, getting a round of painful groans as reply.

"Horrible. Henry uses that one when we board the plane for the return trip after holiday," Margret added. "Just imagine, a pirate who continuously makes dad jokes – the true scourge of the seven seas."

"I rather believe his crew would scour the keel with him," Remus chuckled.

"Serves him right for such abrasive humour," Harry stated, calmly. Hermione's glare was withering, but he was willing to pay the price.

"I like this dad joke concept. Is there a thing like mum jokes, as well?" Remus inquired.

"No," Margret denied. "We get to use your baby pictures to embarrass you," she explained. "Speaking of," she spoke as she stood and made her way to a cabinet, smirking at her daughter.

Hermione finally had her fill and stood. "Ok, that's enough mental abuse for today, I'm off to bed," she huffed, stomping off.

"Me too, I'm knackered," Harry agreed, following her.

"You know," Hermione started once they were out of the room where Tonks had just started cooing over the album Margret had picked up. "I agree that you need more 'normal' in your life. As of today, when we go to bed, I'll first spend hours ignoring you, reading a book, instead, before claiming to have a migraine and go to sleep, pressing my cold feet on yours to steal warmth. Also, the sheets now belong to me, alone, to do as I please."

Hermione was smirking, quite pleased with herself, as it took Harry a couple of attempts, opening his mouth again and again, not unlike a fish on land, before he could reply. "You'll pay for this," he growled at her when he finally got his jaw unstuck.

"I hope so. I've been looking forward to see how much Luna has primed you for me," Hermione replied playfully in a mocking voice, scampering off with a squeal when Harry pounced at her.


"Hermione?" Harry asked the boneless witch cuddling into his side.


"I've been thinking," he spoke, hoping she would be conscious enough to listen. Her snort of laughter proved him right.

"If you can still do that while we're doing what we did, we'll need to get better at it," she giggled.

"No, I was sufficiently unable of higher brain function during that, especially when you got on top," Harry replied after a good laugh. "Not that I'd not want to try getting even better at this," he quickly added, flinching when her hand found what it was reaching for, in response.

"But I've been thinking about the thing Luna said to me," he continued, stopping when he suddenly felt a lack of Hermione around the very same spot she just had reached out for. Frankly, there was a huge lack of Hermione all over his body, just now, as she had sat up and turned her back on him.

"Are you ok?" He asked, wondering what just happened.

"I'm a bit surprised you bring it up, now," she replied, her voice quite sad. "We've been teasing you long enough, but neither of us thought you'd ever consider it," she replied, now definitely sounding hurt.

It took Harry a moment to realize what she meant. He had to laugh out loud when he did. He barely managed to wrap his arms around her to keep her from jumping out of their bed.

"Let me go!" She cried out, trying to fight him off.

"No chance," he chuckled. "Because you are getting me all wrong," he stated, feeling the fight leaving her at his words.

"I am?" She asked in a small voice.

"Twice over," Harry replied. "First, you thought I would ever let you go, and second, that I'd ever touch another woman. Luna is just a little sister to me, just like Ginny."

"Ok, a perverted, attractive and usually nude sister that constantly tries to get a reaction out of me, but just a sister," he admitted as he heard her short in disbelief. Turning her around in his arms and making her sit against him, his eyes sought hers. "But I'd never, ever have anything with either of them, not even if they had your permission. Because they'd never get mine, you understand?"

Hermione started crying, softly, as she buried herself in his chest. "I'm sorry. I kind of started this prank, myself, and now got hit by it. Serves me right. I'll tell Luna to back off."

"I'm sure I'll kind of miss seeing her nude, but it's appreciated," Harry replied, jokingly.

Hermione hit him with a feather light fist, not raising her head from his chest. "Prat," she mumbled with a teary voice, sniffling. "Not that she'd stop that, she'll just tease you a bit less. Or maybe not. With her, no one ever knows."

"True," Harry chuckled. "Anyway, I was thinking about something else she said. Right now, all we do is hide, and hope to be let alone as we just enjoy our days. And she's right, it's driving me mad. I need to have a goal. I kind of miss the days that we had dark and haughty or Dumbfart to deal with. While being stressful, it was something you could work towards, in a way."

Hermione had been listening, and found herself in agreement. They had busied themselves with the island life, and their Animagus studies, but there wasn't any perspective, right now. She had to agree, their life prior to their escape was stressful, but they had a purpose. It made things easier. Right now, she occasionally found herself wondering what she was studying for. Harry's recent slacking off in his studies might have the same reason.

"What kind of goal do you have in mind?"

"Actually, a couple, short and long term," Harry admitted. "I'm planning to get a vote on them, just in case, but I want to sound them out with you first, weeding out the stupid ones and finding a way to present them, properly."

"Ok, sounds reasonable," Hermione replied. "But let us get more comfortable before you start, my bum is falling asleep in this position," Hermione chuckled, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand.

"When you need help waking it up, I'm volunteering," Harry replied, moving back to his side and propping his pillow up against the headboard to sit comfortably. Hermione copied his move, but ended up using him as a backrest, mostly, as she cuddled into him.

"Go ahead," she commanded as she had found a comfy place.

Harry took a moment to compile his thoughts before he started. "Well, short to medium term, we need to stay safe," he started. "I'm sick of waiting for the other shoe to drop, and I think I have an idea that will permanently remove all sources of danger, so we finally can live kind of normal lives."

"Sounds good. It would be nice to be free to go wherever we want. There are a lot of colleges in the States that are nice, for example," Hermione mused, ignoring his chuckling at her predictability. "But how do you propose to achieve that?"

His response had her sitting upright.

"By going to war."

Hermione spent some time motionless but for a occasional shake of her head, trying to comprehend what she had just heard. "Okay, I already ran out on you for a misunderstanding once, today, so I'm giving you a chance to explain, but this better be good!"

"The way the islands are held under the British yoke is appalling. I've seen a glimpse of things that horrified me, and people told me they learned to live with it. While not as bad, by far, I've been in their place, once, and I feel that if we get them to stand up with us, we can end the Wizengamot's rule over the islands."

Hermione slowly settled back into him at his words, feeling a bit calmer than before, seeing that he had a good motive, at least. "A noble cause, but what then? I mean, given we manage to raise an army, and manage to win – a big if, if you ask me, even if we get better guns – what then? Happily ever after?"

"I thought about it, and I can see at least three options. Either each island becomes independent, they become one nation, or maybe more than one, come to think of it, or we might address the Americans to join them. Or maybe Mexico, but they are kind of sketchy, I was told," Harry started babbling in a stream of consciousness, before coming to a sudden stop.

"But to be frank, I don't feel like that's for me to decide," Harry stated. "I don't want to get them out from under one rule to impose another on them. I think what becomes of them should be put to a vote by the people, or each island, to be honest."

"Beautifully said," Hermione told him, giving him a smooch on the cheek. "I'm still not so sure about that going to war thing until you can show me that we could win, but you got the right idea for the aftermath, I believe."

Cuddling deeper into his side, she started trailing lazy runic patterns onto his chest and belly with her fingers. "So, going to war is your short term plan?Can't wait to hear your long term ones, then. World domination?" She joked, giggling at the frown that briefly replaced the serene expression on his face from her ministrations.

"No? Not even a continent? Good! What else? Children?" She tried to innocently probe a topic she had been thinking about, lately.

She could feel him briefly tense when the words registered with him. Much to her surprise, his reaction was not negative, though.

"You know, that never even crossed my mind, yet. I like that idea. I don't know about right now, but I'd certainly like to consider this for later," Harry said, planting a kiss on the top of her head and pulling her closer into his embrace she let herself melt into, happily.

"But my actual plan did include children, in a way. You see, I don't want to spend my life fooling around, and I'll never have to work a day in my life. I've got the Black fortune burning a hole in my pocket. And along with it, their library. Did you remember what Lenny said about trading spells and all that? I, and I think Sirius would wholeheartedly approve of this, would like to use the Black money and library, and create a school."

To say Hermione was surprised would be a huge understatement.

"Are you ok? Did I say something wrong, again? I mean, I shouldn't have assumed you'd want to be a part of this, if you want to do something different, then I'm all for it..." Harry began when he felt and heard Hermione start crying, softly.

Her response of hugging him even tighter confused him a bit. Thankfully, Hermione explained it to him.

"Everything is more than ok, love," she cooed as she gave him a tight squeeze. "Just let me cry a bit about how wonderful you are, and then I'll attempt to murder you by sex, later" she laughed, even though she was still crying into his side.

Harry was more secure than ever that he'd never understand girls, but was looking forward to be the happiest corpse, ever. After all, Malfoy had always prophesied that he'd meet a sticky end, some day.



Hy there. Still there, still stressed, still struggling.

Kid is doing fine, but the little tyke is the most efficient time-sink, ever. Now that I have kids, I finally understand the true meaning of the term "tired". It's not just a state or a word, it's a fifteen feet troll with a spiked club and a matching codpiece.

Between the kid, the job, the stable, house and other construction, and the blacksmithing, something had to give. I'm still writing and I will never abandon the story, but I still haven't gotten my time-turner back from service. I do have some more stuff written for this, and will post once I get far enough to not mess up my plot lines.

Hope you guys and gals can forgive me. Have fun.