Skulls and Crossbones
Summary AU. Harry seeks revenge against Captain Tom Riddle, who killed his parents in a sea battle 19 years ago. But before he can avenge them, he must return a runaway Princess to her family and find his father's hidden treasure… before his enemies do
Disclaimer All characters belong to JK Rowling. Ideas are taken from Peter Pan, Peter Pan: Return to Neverland, Hook, The Adventures of Nate & Hayes, Disney's Shipwrecked, Captain Ron, Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the Princess Bride, Disney's Muppet Treasure Island, Cutthroat Island and The Three Musketeers
It was storming. There was the fresh smell of rain mixing with the salt from the sea; Harry could taste it on his lips. He could also taste his sweat, as it ran down from his temples to his lips, and his palms were sweaty. Everything, everything he loved and held dear, was hinging on this battle against Riddle.
He wasn't stupid enough to not realize that Riddle's minion crew would help out; pirates, the majority of them, were like that.
But Harry was special.
Lightning flashed across the dark sky, streaking against the gray clouds that were rolling over them.
Riddle's eyes were a deep blood red, unsettling Harry as he tightened his lips into a thin line. "I'm ready when you are."
Riddle smirked. "Well then, en garde Mr. Potter."
Without warning Riddle lunged forward, the tip of his blade parallel to the floor as he closed the distance between the two. Harry, almost shocked, did not move. Instead, he watched the blade come closer and closer, ignoring the sound of the waves crashing against the hull, the squalls of the seagulls and the laughing jeers of Riddles' crew.
With the blade inches from his chest, Harry pivoted on his foot and allowed Riddle to fly by him, tapping the pirates' ass with the blunt end of his sword as a jest.
Laughing, Harry held his arms wide open and sneered, "That the best you can do, Riddle? Honestly, I've seen three-year-olds with better footwork than you!"
The boat rocked up and down, but Harry barely noticed as Riddle's eyes narrowed and with a cry of fury, the two were suddenly engaged in a life-or-death sword fight.
With all his muscle strength Harry pressed his blade against Riddle's: parry, thrust, parry, block, thrust, thrust, defend.
A sheen of sweat was visible on Harry's face and his shirt had melded to his body, damp from the sea. Riddle darted forward, and Harry moved back; Harry moved forward, lightly on his right foot as he danced back and forth, while Riddle mimicked his steps, both avoiding each other.
The battle was a dance of wills and blood and memories; Harry couldn't lose, not with Hermione's life on the line, and not with his honour. This man had murdered his parents and his godfather, and it was time for Harry to collect Riddle's debt.
He was concentrating hard on Riddle that he failed to take notice of his surroundings and the pirates around him. It was Hermione's cry of "Harry!" that alerted him that something was wrong. That brief second of hesitation caused Harry to spin and face Lucius Mafloy and the end of his boot, which slammed into Harry's stomach.
Coughing, and now with his hands and knees on the floor, Riddle laughed and gaily asked, "Is that the best you've got, Mr. Potter? Tsk, tsk, I was expecting great things from you and you are now letting me down!"
Harry glared up at the pirate with barely suppressed anger. "If you'd fight fairly, then I could show you easily how good I am!"
"Then that's not much incentive for me to fight fairly, is it?
"I want to be the best pirate in all of the waters of Earth – and I don't need an upstart teenage boy beating me or tarnishing my record as you've been doing for years, boy!" Riddle snarled at Harry. "So get up! Get up and show me what the great Harry Potter has up his sleeve!"
Snarling, Harry jumped up, his feet slipping and slapping hard on the drenched wooden boards of the deck. Riddle offered a returning snarl, and raised the steel of his sword, glittering off the fading light.
Soon, it would be dark and all there would be to light the way were the few sparingly placed lanterns.
Harry's own sword was raised over his shoulder, swinging down against Riddle's with a loud clang of steel against steel. With a tiny laugh, Riddle stepped one booted foot forward, causing Harry to move back; another step forward and another back – soon Harry found himself at the foot of the stairs leading up to the quarterdeck.
Stumbling onto his knees with a well-placed blow by Riddle, Harry placed a hand behind him, holding himself upright and holding his sword weakly in the other.
Glancing back only briefly, Harry stumbled slowly up the steps to the quarterdeck, continuing to rain blows down on Riddle, who was forced to hold his sword directly in front of him with two hands.
A well-aimed kick to the older man's chest sent the captain of the ship down to the floor. With a roar of anger, the crew began to creep toward Harry, who took the opportunity to run up the stairs.
There, he met three of Riddle's crew who drew their own swords and began to advance.
"Oh, bugger," the teen muttered, raising his sword with a weak grin. Nott charged at him, a battle-cry issued from his throat. He swung heavily down on the teen, and Harry brought his sword up to parry the attack. Left, right, left, he swung his blade back and forth, only aware by luck that Crabbe had moved forward and was now behind him, his sword horizontal to the ground and ready to skewer Harry.
With a twist of his body, Harry grimaced as his shirt tore, but Crabbe's sword missed him. Nott snarled and deflected the other man's sword and together the two moved toward Harry, who was backing away from them and bumped into the stern's minder.
That man snarled and raised a dagger, but Harry deflected, grabbing the man's wrist and twisting it; it broke with an audible snap, and Harry jumped onto the quarterdeck's railing, swinging his sword back and forth, panting with exertion and pain. He couldn't keep this up forever!
Lightning crashed in the background and Harry took a deep breath, grabbing onto the rigging belonging to the main sail. Sheathing his sword, he maneuvered up the rigging quickly, out of harm's way for the time being.
"Come down here and fight, Potter!" screamed Riddle. "You coward! Are you willing to save your own skin over that of you bonny lass here?"
"You leave her out of this, Riddle! It is between you and me, but if you can't fight without your men getting involved, we ought to wait a few minutes!" shouted back Harry, glaring down at the pale man illuminated in the growing moonlight.
"A few minutes?" asked a suddenly perplexed Riddle, just as the man in his Crow's Nest shouted, "SAIL HO!"
"No!" the man screeched. "Potter! I'll have your guts for my dinner!"
Harry laughed. "Empty threats Riddle! Come up here and get your dinner if you want it so bad!"
"Harry!" shouted Hermione in horror, and then in pain as LeStrange backhanded her.
"And you!" Harry roared, pulling his sword out and pointing it at LeStrange, "You're mine!"
The man only laughed and Harry felt his blood boil. He lunged forward, letting go of the rigging and felt the sensation of flying through the air. It was like everything fell away: he no longer had any pressing concerns other than that mast to grab onto; he would beat Riddle and win, and avenge his parents and Sirius – he knew it for certain now.
Suddenly, everything sped up and the mast came at him quickly. Harry grabbed the loose ropes, burning his hands, but didn't drop his sword or slip too far down. He then reached back with his right hand and thrust forward, catching the sail with his blade and let go of the rope.
He could hear Hermione's shrieks and Riddle's yells; but nothing mattered as he kept his eye on Riddle, the two locked on each other as he slid down the sail, the two ends now flapping in the strong wind.
In the distance, a dull thud was heard; seconds later, a large splash threw water up high in the air as a cannonball missed the ship – it was a warning.
Harry's crew had arrived.
Within moments they were level with the Dark Mark and casting grapples onto the enemy ship, and letting out war cries. Soon, the sound of crashing steel against steel was all Harry could hear – his eyes however, saw nothing but Riddle.
"Mine," Riddle mouthed, and Harry nodded in agreement. A small circle had been made for the two.
Without warning, Riddle lunged and Harry brought up his sword to deflect; once, twice, three times and then Harry darted forward with a slashing motion and Riddle was clutching his left arm, blood bubbling up between his fingers and running down them.
"Lucky," murmured the older man. "Now, it's my turn."
Harry responded with a violent unleashing of downward slashes and clashes, his sword gleaming. Waves crashed against the side of the ship, and some men were unfortunately sent overboard. The water turned into a murky blue-black, with white frothing as the waves curled.
Harry blinked, forcing the salt water out of his eyes and ignoring the sting. Riddle seemed unaffected, but both were tiring. Their constant parade of slashes, parries and thrusts was leaving them panting and sweaty.
It was in a brief moment of reprise for the two when Harry spied Hermione, next to Draco who held a sword in his hands. He was fighting off his father and the LeStrange brothers – but it was in that moment that Riddle lunged forward and Harry barely managed to turn. He did, however, score a hit as his blade was covered in blood; Harry was bleeding by a shallow but long cut across his stomach.
Hissing, he raised his eyes and watched as Riddle gloated.
"Still a whelp of a boy, unable to fight back, unable to distance himself from his surroundings! You will never amount to anything, you will always be nothing!"
Harry gritted his teeth, slightly hunched over. He could see Ron's pale face against dark, wet red hair staring at Harry in horror and fighting his way toward his best friend.
Hermione was staring at him in despair, unsure if she should move from Draco's side or stay where she was.
Harry looked back at Riddle and moved; he did not think, he did not feel, he just moved and held his blade out.
"For my parents and Sirius!" he exclaimed loudly, over the roar of the waves and crashes of the waves against the ship, the lightning and booms of thunder.
Riddle's unnatural red eyes were wide. He had been so caught up in his tirade that he let his guard down and Harry took a chance – the blade was buried to the hilt in the middle of his chest, bloodied and sticking out of the other end. Warm, dark blood trickled down the hilt, onto Harry's hands, arms and shirt, staining it.
"I thought you were the Golden Boy?" muttered Riddle, coughing; a line of blood dribbled down his chin.
"Even the most perfect person has a limit," replied Harry harshly.
With a yank, his sword was pulled from Riddle's body, which collapsed against the wood, his blood pooling around it and running into the cracks.
Turning, Harry ignored the pain in his stomach and ran toward Draco and Hermione, his sword stained red in the moonlight. Fatigued, Harry knew what he had to do.
In the distance, he could hear the bell of the Royal British Navy, signaling their advance; his own crew, Remus's ship the Sea Wolf and what was Draco's crew on the Dragon had joined the battle and the Dark Mark was losing ground.
There was no mercy; all members of Riddle's crew had raped, pillaged and plundered ports for decades and retribution was at hand.
Joining Hermione and Draco, Harry gritted his teeth as Rabastian LeStrange's strength was pitted against his weakened form. His arm was vibrating with the force of the blow and his muscles protested – yet Harry continued on.
"Hermione," he called back to the woman, who was holding a discarded sword. "When you have the chance, run to Remus! He'll take care of you!"
"I'm not leaving you!" she shouted back, angry and determined. Seeing Harry distracted, she swung up and caught Rabastian's arm. The man hissed and snarled at the girl, but she just swung again and again, while Harry split the man's attentions with his own attack.
Draco, he saw, was matched with strength against his own father, but it was when the older Malfoy slipped on the wet blood of a fallen crewman that Draco took the chance, and without hesitation, stabbed his father through the heart. There was no lost love between the two.
All three turned their attention on Rabastian, but it seemed in vain; when he lifted his arm, a shot rung out and red blossomed on the man's white vest. He gurgled, dropped to the floor revealing a tall, dark-skinned man with the British Navy. Draco knew him at once: Kingsley Shacklebolt.
"Goddamn it, you're supposed to be dead!" muttered an angry Draco. "My shot wasn't that far off, was it?"
Harry and Hermione turned to him in surprise.
Draco looked back stoically. "What? He's a Bow Street runner; I have a history with them."
"That you do, Mr. Malfoy," rumbled Kingsley. "I also happen to be working undercover, and really am an officer in the Royal Navy."
Draco blanched. "Oh, bugger."
Kingsley grinned, his teeth white against his dark skin. "Oh, bugger, indeed. I believe that a warrant for you attempt on murdering me is out. Oh, how I'll love to be the one to bring you in!"
"Not if I get to him first!" snarled Harry, turning his sword on the blond.
"Potter, what the hell!"
Harry thrust at Draco, making the blond raise his sword in defense. "What the hell, indeed! You, you yellow-livered arse, have been bothering me since the day we met! You've been dodging my every step, making my life miserable – and you call yourself a pirate! You're a poor excuse!"
"Now, wait just a bloody minute here!" shouted back Draco, parrying and slashing at Harry, who jumped back to avoid it. Distantly, he registered Hermione shouting at him in the background.
"Stop it this instant!" shouted Hermione, moving closer but staying far away from the swords. "You're acting like imbeciles! Like complete and utter barbarians! I thought you two were friends!"
Draco ignored Hermione's screams and sneered at Harry. "You're the one who can't stomach killing people unless you need to! I'm just a deadlier version of a pirate! I'm cunning, ambitious, know what the term 'pirate' stands for – and I'm damn better looking that you!"
Harry forced Draco up the steps to the quarterdeck, but Draco, near the top, forced Harry back down, nearly tripping on his feet. He saw, out of the corner of his eye, Remus dragging a kicking and screaming (she was still screaming at him, for goodness sake's!) Hermione off the Dark Mark.
Harry really didn't know why he was fighting Draco, other than the fact that as a pirate, he goes against everything Harry ever stood for. He wasn't as bad as Riddle had been, but his lose morals and ethics brought another challenge to Harry, one that he was willing to fight against.
Either that, or he was just getting him back for all the shit Draco had put him through in the past.
"Better looking, ha!" offered Harry, turning back to Draco. "I have morals and codes! I am an upstanding British citizen without any deals with smugglers and cutthroats! I happen to be better liked than you!"
Draco snarled and shoved Harry forcefully, who landed on his back on the deck. Draco tossed a food crate left on the quarterdeck down. Harry brought his arms up and they exploded in pain as the wood shattered on impact.
"We're pirates! We don't have a code!" Draco raced down the steps, intending to pass Harry before he regained his senses.
Harry gritted his teeth and jumped to his feet, reaching and tripping Draco with his hand. The man sprawled to the deck on his stomach, Harry looming over him. Swords discarded, Harry lunged at the man, and two began wrestling.
Draco's hands were holding Harry back by the shoulder, and Harry was trying to land a punch to his nose.
The two were so engrossed in their fight that they did not notice Kingsley and another officer tear them apart and order roughly, "Shackle them! They're pirates. They're to be hanged a week hence!"
Sporting a split lip and bloody nose, Draco turned to Harry and grumbled, "Happy now? You'll see me hung."
Harry, having a black eye, cut stomach from Riddle and a few slashes on his forearms because of Draco, grinned. "Not really, but now I'm the better looking of us!"
"Harry!" Hermione screamed, leaning as far over the edge of the ship as she could. "Harry!"
She struggled hard against Remus's and Severus's arms as they held her back. Tears gathered in her eyes and the salt water stung the welts on her wrists.
"Calm down, Hermione!" cried out Remus, turning his head as a wave hit the side of the Royal Doubloon. Hermione completely missed the fact that he took her advice and finally called her by her birth name.
"Harry!" Hermione tried calling again, her eyes wide as she watched the English Royal Navy round up the remaining crew of Riddle's fleet, and then turn on their allies, shackling them and whisking them to their brigand.
She could barely make out Harry's blood-stained form, but she saw Draco's white-blonde hair and knew that if he was being led away, so was Harry. She could see Ron's shocking red hair as he jumped overboard of the Dark Mark and began swimming as fast as he could against the waves to Harry's ship.
Ginny and Luna stood nearby, watching in agony as their crewmates and friends were taking in by the Navy. Hermione, while being dragged away, spotted them on the deck of the Dark Mark and with a few quick words, they were following her back on to her family's ship. The only way for a woman pirate to avoid hanging was to claim she was pregnant, and Hermione knew that neither Ginny nor Luna was. The only option they had was to return to Richmondshire with Hermione and be granted clemency.
They weren't screaming as loudly as Hermione, but they felt her anguish. Harry was fighting for his freedom – he was a privateer, after all, paid by the King to attack enemy vessels –, and fighting to keep his inheritance. It was no secret to Hermione that when found by the Navy, pirates' gold was taken into the Royal family's vaults instead.
"Control yourself, Princess!" snapped Snape, tugging on her and finally managing with Remus's help to pull her away from the rail and toward her parents who were waiting below deck. "Lupin! Put yourself to use!"
Remus sighed and looked at Hermione's pale and distressed face. "I'm sorry, Hermione."
Then Hermione knew no more.
The Tuesday after Harry and Draco were captured was a sunny, warm day with a slight breeze. England didn't have many days like this, especially not near London where the London Fog was notorious – but in the eyes of the Brighton folk, today was the perfect day for a hanging.
Set for midday, Harry and Draco were stuck in tiny cells, counting bricks and listening to the dewy drip of collected rainwater as it slowly and steadily made a small puddle at their feet. The two were lucky; they were sharing a cell so it was easy to communicate, but a real hassle if they wanted to plan an escape instead. All they did was fight on escape ideas, routes, and how they would fight their way past the guards.
Draco wanted to kill them; Harry wanted to knock them out. Harry was all in favour for stowing away in the kitchens and being dumped out through the sewage while Draco thought it was too dirty.
Neither could agree and they were running out of time.
So, instead, they waited.
And waited some more, until finally, a guard dressed entirely in black arrived, jiggling the keys to their cells and whistling a fine tune.
He was tall and mean looking with several teeth missing, and had an overall cruel disposition.
He had already smacked a few petty thieves around a couple cells away – and neither Harry nor Draco wanted to know what he did with pirates.
The guard didn't actually hurt them, or treat them too well; instead, he did his job and with another, quiet and grunting guard, the two pirates were lead out of their cells, down many twisted and similar looking corridors, before settling in for a short ride to where the gallows were set up.
When they arrived, Harry was slightly disturbed to see such a large crowd had gathered to watch them hang. He was fairly sure his crew was not around – they all had bounties on their heads now and he wished for them to hide and start families if that was what they wished. He didn't have an escape plan, and since his crew was not around, they wouldn't be helping him out of this.
He inwardly sighed, knowing that he lost his chance to start a family. He never told Hermione that he loved her, and never got to say a final goodbye.
He could imagine, in great detail, the children they would have. There would be a little boy with curly black hair and chocolate eyes; a little girl with her mothers' brown hair but his impossible hair with his green eyes. He would teach his kids to sail a ship, read and write, dream and imagine their futures with bright eyes and hope.
Harry sighed out loud, and caught Draco scowling at him.
As Draco and Harry were led up the rickety wooden steps of the gallows, Draco glanced at Harry and sneered.
"What?" asked Harry, surprised.
"This is all your fault, you know!" The blonde stated clearly, half-snarling, half-laughing. He had dark circles under his eyes, and his hair was a mess. Harry was sure he didn't look too good either.
Draco continued, "I completely blame you for this, Potter." He fell silent as the guard who led them up there slipped the noose around his neck, and then did Harry's. "I expect the treasure to be split sixty-forty now, and nothing less."
Harry turned his head to face Draco and raised his eyebrows. "Do you, now? I hardly expect you to take your share of the treasure when we're about to be hung!" he finished his sentence in a slightly shrill voice.
"Oh, please," scoffed Draco. Both ignored the priest who appeared at their side and was reading them their list of crimes and punishment for each – it didn't matter anyway, as they were about to be hung.
"Have I told you lately how much I hate you?"
Draco grinned weakly. "Not nearly enough as you'd like to, I reckon." He then looked down at the rusting handcuffs and frowned thoughtfully. "Wenches like pirates because we're lusty, muscular cutthroats that wine, dine and live in fine style. Do you think that the wenches like criminals in handcuffs, too? It's very kinky, I heard."
Harry rolled his eyes. "Oh, shut up."
"You know you love me."
"I wonder why I kept you alive, God's above."
Both remained silent until the priest turned to them and asked gravelly, "Do either of you have anything that you'd wish to say?"
"Yeah," began Draco, "Cut the noose and let me go."
The crowd tittered and Harry just let his chin touch his chest, slowly shaking it back and forth.
"Very well," said the priest, "If there is nothing the pirates wish to say…"
Everything seemed to slow down, as Harry watched from the corner of his eye, the guard reached for the lever that would remove the trap door from beneath their feet. Just as his hand gripped the lever, a shout from the crowd made Harry look up – in time to see Ron let a carving knife fly and embed itself into the guard's arm.
The guard jerked back from the lever and Draco and Harry immediately began to remove the nooses from their necks while the crowd screamed and ran.
"Allow me," said an accented voice, and D'Orrylon's face appeared, smirking at Harry. "You silly Englishmen always get yourself into this kind of trouble, eh?"
"Oh, shut up, D'Orrylon."
Draco laughed. "That seems to be your favourite line today, Potter."
The noose was removed from Harry's neck, and D'Orrylon passed Harry a second sword attached at his belt. "Your sword is with your ship – beyond the fort wall."
"Beyond?" questioned Draco, taking D'Orrylon's other sword.
D'Orrylon smirked at the blonde – his favourite facial expression of the day – and nodded. "Yes. Beyond the fort wall. You'll need to follow Weasley. Oh, and jump. I hope you two can swim!"
Harry sighed but turned his attention to the large group of soldiers making their way through the crowd and toward them.
"Let's get a move on," began Harry. "We've got company."
Draco took up a fighting stance and launched himself off the gallows platform and into the crowd, where he disappeared for a moment. He reappeared a few feet further away, coming up to the soldiers with Ron at his heels. The two began to parry and thrust against the rifles and swords of His Majesty's Royal Navy.
"Shall we join them?" asked D'Orrylon with a raised eyebrow.
"Oh, yes," said Harry, almost wickedly. "But only 'cos Ron's my best mate."
D'Orrylon sighed and took to arms with Harry, moving down the gallows platform and to the lessening crowd of commoners.
Harry could feel his adrenaline pumping and his heart beating wildly, thinking that if he got away he might be able to recover his family's treasure and take it to their ancestral home.
And maybe I'll be able to see Hermione again, another part of him added. Harry felt his heart swell and the worry of dying fall off his shoulders at that thought; the thought of seeing Hermione again would make everything all right – he just had to make it through this one last fight.
Hermione's fingers wrapped themselves tightly around her silk gloves. She was worried, horrified and angry. Her breath caught in her chest as she spotted Harry slowly being lead through the crowd to the hangman's platform. He was dirty with dried blood and grime, and had a look of weariness and despair on his face.
A part of Hermione was angry that Harry did not want to believe in love and continuously pushed her attentions away – they could have had at least one night together. Instead, Hermione mostly felt a bone-aching sense of sadness, and a wedge of guilt. Had the Dark Mark never attacked Richmondshire and the castle, coming for the piece of the map, she would never have run. Sure, she wanted to leave, get away from the pomp and circumstance that was her life as the princess, but if she never got on Harry's ship… if she never met him…
She would never have been on the Dark Mark later, and Harry would have had a clear mind to fight both Riddle and Draco. He could have got away. He would never have been arrested, and now, being lead to his death.
Hermione breathed in, a deep, shuddering breath and felt Remus squeeze her hand. She couldn't even being to imagine how he was feeling: unable to interfere in his friends' sons' hanging. If he did, he would be hung alongside Draco and Harry for treason.
Sniffling back tears of guilt and angst, Hermione watched as the nooses were placed around Harry and Draco. She closed her eyes and held her breath.
I love you, she thought, desperately hoping that somehow Harry would hear her. I love you so much that it's a hole in my chest, a pain that is digging its way into my soul. You were my one true love, Harry. Without you in my life, I am nothing.
She bit her lip, eyes still closed and waited with the swish and snap that would accompany the release of the trap door and the sound of a heavy body falling to a short stop.
Instead, screams of surprise and horror reached her ears. Hermione's eyes popped open.
She watched in awe and in horror as Harry slashed his away across the dirty ground to the fort's stone walls, near where she was standing with Remus. Together, they watched in breathless anticipation as Harry, Ron, Draco and D'Orrylon came closer and closer to them, moving quickly and in a single unit that made them look like they were performing a dance: a deadly and quick dance where the pirates would come out top, by all means necessary.
Harry dodged a sword, jumped another's low swipe, and slammed the hilt into another's nose.
"To the wall!" shouted Ron, gesturing and running. D'Orrylon, Draco and Harry were fast behind. The guards were not fast enough to catch up with them.
Hermione withheld a gasp of horror as Ron jumped over the edge with a loud, "WOOO HOOO!"
D'Orrylon, Draco and Harry jumped over as well, without pause and without ever once looking her way.
Hermione wasn't sure whether to be angry, hurt, worried, or glad they escaped. She finally settled on worried, which turned into hurt and depression. She didn't know when she would ever see Harry again.
Racing to the edge of the wall with some guards, she leaned over and watched the four men as they swam toward the horizon, where she could make out the Marauder. It was waiting for them, ready to take them to safety.
Harry hadn't once glanced her way, hadn't once noticed her. Did he honestly think she wouldn't go to his own hanging, if only to say a final goodbye? She tried for days on end to see the two pirates in their cell, only to be constantly turned away. She left Harry a piece of parchment, hoping he received it. She guessed he had not, because his eyes never scanned the crowd or sought to find her.
It was at that moment Hermione realized Harry never really needed her anyway, and Hermione felt her heart drop out of her stomach, a painful ache beginning in her chest. She could barely breath and began to wheeze, but counted to ten and calmed down as best as she could.
"Hermione?" whispered Remus in her ear. "We should go."
She sighed, and close to tears, Hermione agreed with Remus. "Yes. There's nothing worth waiting for here anymore."
She didn't give Harry Potter the satisfaction of knowing that she cried silently the entire way back to the Palace.
Hermione frowned into her champagne flute, arching her back as she tried to unsuccessfully get the whalebone knots of her corset to loosen. She winced as it pinched her skin instead.
"Are you all right, Princess Hermione?" asked Remus, who she was standing with, talking about politics.
"Not really, Remus," answered the nineteen-year-old, as she continued to roll her shoulders. Under her breath, she began cursing and muttering about corsets and how they should be abolished.
Remus smiled bemusedly. "I still don't believe that that is entirely proper to say in my company, Princess."
He took a sip of his drink, glancing around the crowded ballroom. In the center of the circular golden room, couples danced to a minuet, the candlelight of the chandelier above them making them feel like they were under an open roof.
Splashes of reds, blues and blacks swirled around the room, while others stood in small groups, talking and eating; some men were off to one side, enjoying their brandy and cigars.
"Aren't you going to go out there?" Remus asked, smoothing down the dusty green waistcoat he wore over a gold shirt and matching pants.
Hermione snorted – a very unladylike and un-Princess-like thing to do. She twirled her fan around her fingers and shifted her weight. "I don't think so, Remus. I will not give my parents the satisfaction of knowing that they got me dressed up in some ridiculous garment and that I pranced in front of wealthy bachelors."
Remus sighed sadly. "I see. You look very beautiful tonight, Princess – but I must ask… are you still waiting for him?"
Hermione sighed. "No."
Remus raised a single brown eyebrow.
"I see," Remus answered, smiling softly as he glanced down at the younger woman. "You truly love him, and he loves you, Hermione. I'm sure that he'll come back for you."
"Please," Hermione started, in a quiet voice. "The last I saw of Harry Potter was of him and Draco Malfoy fighting their way through a group of armed officers and over the side of a fort wall." She shook her head. "He didn't once glance back at me, Remus. I'm sure that wherever he is, Captain Potter is not thinking of that stow-away Princess who helped him regain his family's secret treasure and defeat his greatest rival."
"Come now, Hermione," Remus scolded lightly. When she didn't reply, he gave Hermione one last pitying look before excusing himself to go talk to Severus, who stood brooding in a dark corner.
Immediately Luna Lovegood and Ginny Weasley attached themselves to Hermione's side, prattling on about nothing in particular to improve her spirits, and who was dancing with whom. Hermione endured the idle talk, allowing her two pirate friends to escort her over to the large floor-to-ceiling glass doors.
Hermione looked through the doors towards the courtyard and further to the sea. She wasn't paying attention to her friends, but was staring out the window, frowning.
Where are you Harry? Do you think of me as much as I think of you? she wondered, leaning closer to the windowpane until her forehead touched it.
Oblivious to Luna and Ginny's chattering, Hermione finally turned around abruptly and announced in a sotto voice so that no unwanted suitors would follow, "I'm going to the gardens."
Ginny and Luna broke off their dialogue and looked carefully at their friend. "It's dark out, Hermione. Are you sure?"
Hermione nodded. "The servants have lit candles around the garden and in the maze, I should be fine. Really!"
Luna nodded slowly. "If you think that is best for you…"
Hermione nodded. "It is, Luna. It really is."
Ginny sighed. "Then you ought to go. I mean, it's not like I'm not grateful that you managed to convince Luna and I to join you at your court – the food, the dresses, and the people! – it's all so amazing… but at the same time, while we still have contact with my brother and the rest of the Marauder…"
"Ginny," warned Luna slowly.
Hermione paused, paling, as she realized that in all the time that they were back in Richmondshire, Ginny was sending letters to the crew of the Marauder. If Harry was with them (which was obvious, it was his ship), then he would know where she was and potentially, how she was feeling. She wouldn't put it past Ginny or Luna to write that she was on deaths' bed if only to have Harry come to the castle.
But instead, Hermione shook her head, realizing that she was right that day of the hanging. Harry didn't need her, or care about her.
Unaware that her tiara was now crooked, Hermione addressed Luna and Ginny, "It's not that, Luna, Ginny. It's okay that you're sending letters to your friends and family. I just had hoped… well, I miss Harry, I suppose. I thought he would try to send word, especially after everything that happened. I hadn't thought he would just stop caring."
"It's only been two months, Hermione. Your parents are happy you are safe and that there is no war between England and against Riddle's fraction."
Hermione smiled wanly. "I know. But I still can't help…"
"Missing him?" suggested Ginny.
"No," Luna interrupted. "Can't help being in love with him."
Hermione smiled at the blonde. "Yes. I think I want to be alone, now."
"We'll make up excuses for you Hermione," offered Ginny. "But be careful."
Hermione wandered down the high walls of bushes in the garden maze; she knew her way around it like the back of her hand, having walked it every day since she returned. She could still remember the final moments she had with Harry – watching him gaze into the crowd, listening stoically as the priest asked him and Draco is he had any last requests or words to say (no declaration of undying love there! The romantic in Hermione sighed).
She still remember watching him in a mix of horror, awe and pride as he swashbucked his way through those opposing him. He never looked around to see her, but she saw him, and watched as he jumped off the edge of the fort's wall and plunged into the murky and cold Atlantic water.
Beyond, by the horizon, the Marauder was waiting.
Distracted, Hermione settled herself on the rim of a fountain, gazing into the water and trying to ignore her reflection: it was pale, with dark circles under her eyes, and unarguably sad. She trailed a hand through the picture.
"It's dangerous for a princess to be wandering all by her lonesome self on darkened paths, you know…"
Hermione jumped, startled; water splashed onto her gown and onto the cobblestones around the fountain.
"Who's there? What do you want?" she demanded, trying to sound as brave as she could. Unfortunately, she did not have a weapon to protect herself with and even if she screamed, it would take the guards wandering the grounds some time to find her. She could even be moved by then!
A low chuckle echoed throughout the small clearing, and, out of the shadows, Captain Harry Potter emerged.
"Oh," started Hermione coolly, sitting back down, trying to show to him that he did not affect her, "It's you."
"Me, indeed. How are you, Princess?"
Hermione sighed. "So we're back to formality then, Captain Potter?"
Harry winced. Hermione either didn't notice, or didn't care, because she didn't say anything further; her face was still calmly mimicking a carved stone.
"Hermione… I…" Harry paused. He didn't know what to say; he was never good with emotions anyway.
Hermione crossed her arms, deliberately turned her shoulder on him, and glared down at her reflection in the fountain. She did not want Harry to see that he did still have some sway over her feelings.
"You what, Captain Potter?"
"I knew you were trouble the minute I saw you onboard my ship!"
Hermione's jaw wanted to drop open, but instead a quick succession of emotions ran through her: hurt, betrayal, sadness, and then anger. "Trouble, pirate? I thought you lived for trouble. And if you're trying to tell me something maybe you ought to leave it unsaid – you're mucking things up royally!"
"You're the only royal around here, Hermione," defended Harry, slightly recoiling at the harsh tone of voice. He hadn't expected her to be hissing and fighting back. "Would you at least hear me out?"
With a huff, Hermione turned her back on him once more, but said nothing. She would listen.
Harry took a deep breath, and then sighed; he then ran his hand through his perpetually messy hair and frowned.
"When I saw you on my ship, I knew you'd be trouble," he repeated. "Not because you had hidden away and everyone thought you were kidnapped… but because you made me question myself – something I had never done since I was fifteen and Sirius passed away. You made me think about your feelings, about second-guessing battle tactics and if I would put my men – you – in danger. Did I want to risk that? Were the lives of my friends less important than my need for revenge?"
Harry began to pace, but still Hermione did not look up.
"You began to worm your way under my skin; you dug up past hurts and thoughts, things I thought I had put behind me when I realized I had no one else left in the world."
At this, she looked up, and correctly understanding her glare, Harry hastened, "Oh, I know the Weasley family loves me as their own… but they're not my blood family. And no matter how much Molly and Arthur include me, I never will be a Weasley. I am Harry Potter: pirate, brigand, heir, Lord, and most simply, a man."
Hermione glanced over her shoulder at him and watched as he shifted his weight on two restless feet, bathed in the silvery moonlight.
Harry looked up at Hermione then, smiling shyly, and continued.
"It was because of you, Hermione, that I changed. At first, I was scared and confused and even bitter that you were causing such havoc to me! I wanted to hurt you, punish you so you felt exactly what I was feeling. And I fear I succeeded all too well those few times I managed to coolly extract my vengeance."
Green eyes met brown and held.
"I didn't realize that all those muddled feelings in me had a name: the anger I felt to rethinking a set way of life, the hurt I felt when you'd not rise to my bait, the rush of pleasure from tasting your lips, the worry and overwhelming fear that you'd be hurt… it had a name that I don't think I ever fully understood – and probably never will.
"Love is such a complex emotion, isn't it?" Harry openly grinned at the now flabbergasted Hermione. "One minute you're basking in the glory and affection of your beloved, and the next you want nothing more than to grab them by their shoulders and shake them until they realize your point in an argument. You want to kiss them senseless: for pleasure, for domination, to just have them shut the hell up even – but deep down, a part of you recognizes that you cannot be without them.
"You would simply cease to exist."
Harry took a few hesitant steps toward Hermione, who stood, her hands slightly shaking and her lips tightly drawn shut; she was afraid she might do something, say something that would stop Harry's sudden cathartic release.
"I, Harry James Potter, would simply cease to exist if I did not have Hermione Jane Granger in my life."
With a strangled sob, Hermione launched herself forward and into Harry's arms, hitting his chest and grasping him tightly.
"Do you really mean it?" she whispered against his warm chest.
Harry leaned down and stroked a finger across her cheek. "Silly, of course I meant it. I wouldn't be here otherwise. I love you, Hermione Granger."
"I love you too, Harry, with my whole heart and soul," the young woman whispered back, squeezing tighter and enjoying the feel of Harry's arms wrapped around her waist.
"You do realize that I'm a Princess though? And that being involved with me could be… well, different than piracy?"
Harry chuckled; a deep, rumbling masculine sound that came from his chest. "I do know what I'm getting involved with."
The two enjoyed the silence and each others' company until a discreet cough alerted that they were no longer alone. A tall man and two other shadowy figures stood behind him. Hermione recognized him instantly.
"Father!" cried Hermione, jumping from Harry's embrace and turning to face him. Behind the King, Remus and Severus stood stoically, their arms crossed against their chests.
"Hermione," the man sighed. He nodded at Harry. "And Captain Potter."
"Your Majesty." Harry did not let Hermione wander too far from his embrace; instead, he held on to her waist with a tanned hand. He did not speak any further; what was about to happen was between Hermione and her father.
The King shrewdly looked at Harry's hand on her waist and asked, "Is there anything you wish to tell me, Hermione?"
Hermione took a deep breath. She looked up from the ground with a blush on her face and said to her father, "Yes, Father. I am in love with Captain Harry James Potter."
The man's facial muscles did not change. "I see. And does he love you?"
"Yes sir," replied Harry easily, "with all of my heart."
"And will you be taking my daughter from me, Captain Potter?"
"Father," chided Hermione gently, "Harry isn't taking me from you – but you also need to understand that I am nineteen years old. You have me dress up and wear gowns for available nobility and wish for me to marry one of them, with no complaints – but when the man I love arrives and he says that he loves me (a love match, father!), you complain."
"Hermione," murmured Theodore, King of Richmondshire, "You are, first and foremost, my daughter. Not a Princess, not the daughter of a King, not a part of nobility. You are Theodore Granger's daughter."
"Whatever makes you happy, my dear, makes me happy," continued Theodore, his eyes slightly misty. "And if Captain Harry James Potter, privateer and occasional swashbuckler makes you happy, then…" He took a deep breath. "That is all that matters."
"Oh, father!" cried Hermione, breaking from Harry's embrace to hug her father tightly. He hugged her back, just as tightly.
It was hard to see his only daughter grow up so fast before him, and take part in a pirate adventure.
"Now, my little princess," murmured Theodore, "I believe your pirate is waiting."
Hermione gave a watery smile, kissing her father lightly on his cheek. She turned and walked back to Harry, who stood with his arms open for her. She snuggled tight against his chest, sighing.
"So, where do you want our next adventure to be?" he asked her. In front of them, unnoticed by the two lovebirds, King Theodore motioned to Remus and Severus, and the three left the clearing in the maze quietly. Harry and Hermione were alone.
"Oh, I don't know," answered Hermione. She joked, "What haven't you pillaged and conquered yet?"
Harry grinned roguishly. "How about we head to the South Seas? I heard it's quite beautiful there."
"Is it? I doubt anything can be as beautiful as the Caribbean," replied Hermione, closing her eyes and listening to Harry's heartbeat.
"Well, there are some things: the South Seas, and especially, you," he said, leaning down to her forehead and kissing her gently.
Together, they walked through the garden maze and down toward the docks, where the Marauder waited. They boarded, with Harry shouting orders to his crew. Hermione was not surprised to see Ginny and Luna on board as well.
Hermione stood next to Harry at the stern, watching the twinkling lights of her childhood home as it slowly disappeared in the darkness.
"To the South Seas right away, Harry?" called up Ron.
Harry paused, unsure.
Hermione looked up at Harry, smiled, and asked simply, "What are we waiting for?"
"Absolutely nothing," replied Harry, and took her hand in his, smiling.
AN: July.25.06 I know, it took me so long to finish... but my baby is done now! I'm rather sad about this, and am tearing up slightly. Who knows if another pirate adventure will be on the horizon for the princess Hermione and her pirate, Harry. Only time will tell.
Thank you all, so much, for staying true to the story and being so patient with updates. Your kind words and gentle prompts have kept me going since I began. Without those who enjoy my stories, I wouldn't really have a reason to write (other than to amuse myself, but you'd never seen my work posted).
For those who want to discuss with me chapters or characters, or just say hello -- haha, title of another story coming on here -- you can find me at my Yahoo!Group page, with the link found in my profile. I hope to see you there!
With lots and lots of love,