Selkies and Sparrows

Summary: When Jack Sparrow sailed into Port Royal that sunny day, it was his intention to commandeer one of those ships, pick up a crew in Tortuga, raid, pillage, plunder and otherwise pilfer his weaselly black guts out. What he ended up with was a young Selkie who used to go by the name of Harry Potter, but is currently in hiding from his friends, his enemies, and, most importantly, his destiny.

Parings: Jack Sparrow/Harry Potter (in other words, Slash. Non-slash people, ye be warned.)

Disclaimer: Harry Potter isn't mine and neither, sad to say, is Pirates of the Caribbean, in any shape, form or manner except the one with blue and green polka dots on it.

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"For all at last return to the sea – to Oceanus, the ocean river, like the ever flowing stream of time, the beginning and the end."

Rachel Carson, 'The Sea Around us'.

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Prologue: The Choice

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Harry stood by the edge of the lake again, kneeling carefully by the water. He dipped his hand in, and smiled. It was a bitter, painful smile, but filled with yearning never the less. The water was sweet and fresh when he tasted it; it lacked the tang of salt or the taste of freedom he longed for. But still.

"Harry!"

Harry stood up jerkily, whirling around to meet an exasperated pair of brown eyes. The smile vanished from his face to be replaced by a dark scowl, though the longing remained in his eyes for those who cared to look. "What?" he all but growled, causing Hermione to stop in her tracks and look at him in surprise.

"Harry?" she said again, less sure this time and more questioning.

"Come to lock me back up again?" he continued. "Come to trap me inside stone walls and tell me to stop dreaming again?"

She sighed, tugging her cuffs straight in exasperation. "We're not locking you up, Harry, we're just concerned about you, and –"

"So let me go," Harry interrupted her, running a hand through his hair in agitation.

"Harry, every time you come to the water, you get this weird spaced out look! It's like you're –"

"Peaceful?" Harry interrupted her again. "Free? Oh, but wait, that must be wrong – after all, everyone knows the Boy Who Lived must never be happy, right?" By this time Harry had begun to pace, his feet kicking up plumes of water as he splashed through the lake.

"Harry, listen to me!" Hermione finally shouted. Grudgingly Harry paused, ankle deep in the water. "We feel like we're loosing you, Harry! Like you want to go away, but if you did, you'd never come back!" Tears had swelled up during her tirade, but Hermione angrily dashed them aside in favour of crossing her arms and glaring at Harry. There: she'd said it. The fears that had been plaguing not only her, but Ron and the Weasleys and who knew how many others. She waited for Harry's reaction, for him to come to his senses and see what everyone else could see, that by keeping him away from the lake they were only trying to save him.

"Why shouldn't I?"

"What?" Hermione blinked. This wasn't how it was supposed to go; she must've misheard.

"What's holding me here, Hermione?" Harry continued, his voice quiet and subdued. "A prophecy, a duty I never asked for, expectations from people that I can never live up to."

He turned and, without waiting for an answer, began striding through the edge of the water back towards the castle, seemingly not caring that it was coming up to his knees now and his robes must be sticking and clinging to his skin uncomfortably. Hermione could only stare after him in shock.

"What about us?" she whispered after him, though he didn't hear.

Strong arms wrapped around her from behind, and she leaned back into a familiar embrace gratefully.

"Harry being moody again?" Ron asked. Hermione nodded.

There was a pause, then, "I wish he'd never become an Animagus!"

"It wouldn't matter either way," a third voice spoke. The pair turned, and Hermione nodded a greeting to Remus. "His Animagus form only reflects what's already there, it can't create anything new," the werewolf continued.

"I still don't understand how being a bloody seal makes Harry act this way," Ron complained.

"He's not a seal," Remus corrected absently.

"Yes he is! He walks like a seal, talks like a seal –"

"Huh?" Ron broke in. "Seals don't walk or talk, Hermione."

She waved a hand dismissively at him. "Muggle phrase. Of course he's a seal, what else can he be?"

"He's a Selkie," Remus said, as if that explained everything. Hermione gasped and Ron looked to her for an explanation.

"I didn't know they existed! I thought wizarding Selkies were Merpeople, or similar. Is he really a Selkie? Where does he keep his skin?"

"'Mione! That's disgusting!" Hermione turned to Ron with a confused expression. "Harry keeps his skin on him," Ron elaborated.

"Oh, not like that – Ron, do you know what Selkies are?" Without waiting for his reply, Hermione continued, much to the amusement of Remus. "Selkies are seals that can turn into people. They keep their sealskin, and turn back into seals by putting the sealskin on again."

"Very good, Hermione," Remus broke in. "In this instance, however, Ron is right. Harry keeps his skin with him; he simply transforms out of his Animagus form to return to a human again. But to answer your earlier question, Ron…" Remus sighed. "Freedom and the sea are the two most important things to any Selkie. Apart from the occasional brief visit, they only stay on land when forced – when they somehow can't access their skin to return to the sea."

"But if Harry has his skin with him, then why isn't he free?"

"Because Harry is still Harry, and has more things tying him to the land than and Selkie will ever have," Remus explained patiently.

Hermione suddenly gasped, her eyes going wide. The other two turned to her questioningly. "That's what he said, just now – that there's nothing keeping him here, except his duty and the prophecy!"

"What about us?" Ron asked, echoing Hermione's earlier question. She sighed in the particular way that Ron immediately recognised as the 'you-should-already-know-this' sigh. Personally, he didn't think that was very fair, seeing as Hermione herself didn't know before a minute ago.

"Haven't you ever read the Selkie tales, Ron?" Yep, there it was. "Even if a Selkie was forced to spend time on land, once they find their skin, they'll leave without a backward glance – even if they've been married for years and have children on the land. They never see their land friends or lovers again, no matter how close they were. The sea is more important than anything to them."

Remus nodded. "It's lucky the lake is fresh water, not salt – I doubt anything could hold Harry back if it were."

Ron swore, his face paling. Hermione glared at him disapprovingly, while Remus gestured for him to elaborate. He swallowed, then croaked out, "What if there was a place where Harry could get at salt water inside the school?"

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Harry paced angrily outside the blank wall on the seventh floor corridor. His thoughts were so muddled and jumbled that when the door finally appeared, he half expected it not to open.

He knew what he was, or at least, what his Animagus form was. And he suspected that Remus knew as well, seeing as the man had caught Harry researching Selkies after curfew in the library. Hopefully no one else knew; he'd been careful to let them think he was just a plain old Monk seal.

What he didn't know was what he wanted to do. When he was just going through his normal day, it was pretty clear – how could he even think of leaving his friends behind to face Voldemort alone? The whole bloody world seemed to be relying on him to stop the Dark Lord, if Dumbledore's predictions about Voldemort's plans were accurate. As much as he hated it, it was his responsibility, and no one else could do it.

But then again, when he stood by the water, everything changed. Who said he had to defeat Voldemort? The prophecy merely said that one must die at the hand of the other – not that no one else could kill them. Harry himself had certainly come near enough to dieing on several occasions, only a few of them by Voldemort's hand directly.

And his friends… His friends could cope without him. It wasn't like he was the centre of their universe; they'd survive if he left, but sometimes it seemed like he wouldn't survive if he stayed.

Harry stepped through the doorway with his mind elsewhere, not paying attention to what the Room of Requirement offered him. It was a shock, therefore, when barely a pace into the room he ran into a wall. He looked around in surprise, leaning against the wall so that he could lift up his foot and rub his painful toes.

The room was small, barely bigger than a closet, with walls of smooth black stone. Opposite him, the door took up the entirety of the 'wall', though even as he watched it the door melted away to become seamless stone, with no handle or hinge to open it with.

Harry was trapped.

My child.

Harry jumped, spinning round in the cramped space in an attempt to see where the voice was coming from.

I offer you the choice that resides within yourself, the choice that if you ask, I can enforce.

Harry paused, then said tentatively, "What choice?"

Only you can make it.

"But what are the options?"

Only you know.

"But –" Harry paused, ignoring his frustration briefly. The choices… Wasn't that what he was worrying about just a second ago? Chose his freedom or his friends. Chose the sea or his duty.

But if he had heard correctly, then the mysterious Choice Offerer would make sure that once he made his choice he couldn't go back. Could he do that? Give up his friends forever? Give up his freedom forever? Unbidden, an image came to his mind of the person he had been barely a year ago. It was why they'd encouraged him to achieve his Animagus transformation in the first place, the only way they thought he'd be able to keep his sanity after the deaths of his sixth year, and before that, Sirius in his fifth. He'd thrown himself into his training, in both weaponary and magic. He'd been constantly exhausted and drawn, he couldn't eat, he barely said more than two words to anyone. He'd felt empty, and relished it; if he didn't care about them, he had reasoned, then their deaths couldn't hurt him.

It was McGonagall who'd taught him the Animagus transformation. At the time he'd agreed, thinking of it as merely another weapon in the war, merely something to keep his mind occupied and away from the pain. But as he continued and progressed further with the transformation, the simpleness and peace of the Selkie's mind began to influence him. Calm him down, bring him out of the shell he'd been hiding in. For almost six months he'd been happy, laughing with his friends on land and chasing the Grindylows for fun in the lake. But then, he'd done the final stage of the Animagus process – the merging of the two minds, so that as a human he'd be able to access and pull up his Selkie form without a wand or a potion as he'd needed before, and so that as a Selkie he needn't wait for the time limiter on said spell or potion to run out before he changed back into his human form.

Since then, the sea called to him. He'd become scared of the power it held over him, scared of what would happen if he gave in. It hadn't mattered before; even if he'd lost his mind completely to the Selkie, he'd be brought out of it when his time was up. In the last two months though it had gotten so bad that he dared not enter even the shallowest bath in his Selkie form, for fear that he wouldn't come back. But he couldn't stay away from the water forever.

Someone began pounding on the door, and, from the sounds of it, frantically rattling the handle. "Harry? Harry!"

"You have to picture the room he's in, Ron!"

Harry tried to ignore the voices of his friends and focus on the choice he had to make. But still, the thought came into his mind – they cared about him. Even with the way he'd been treating them recently with his temper short and his mind on the sea, they were worried for him.

"How do I know what room that is?"

"The sea, you dolt! Imagine the sea!"

Imagine the sea… Harry closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall, blocking out Ron's frantic chanting on the other side of the door. Without access to his Selkie form, cut off from the sea, he'd only get worse. Treat them worse. He knew that. He needed the sea.

Imagine the sea… The smell of salt on the wind, the raucous cry of a seagull above the crashing sound of the surf on the rocks, the blessed coolness and warmth and all encompassing safeness of the water, and the freedom, the freedom of an empty horizon as far as the eye can see…

Hogwarts nodded mentally. Her child had made his choice. She opened the door for her other children, and even forgave them for slamming it so strongly that any other door would have come off its hinges, or at least dented the wall behind it.

But they were too late. Her child had made his choice, and she had given him the sea he dreamt of, and freedom from the prophecy that came only with a distance of years and miles…

And far away, a dark shape curved and arched and whistled joyfully as it danced through the Caribbean Sea.

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A/N: If you're wondering what Selkies are, this is the explanation given by the Encyclopedia Mythica shy Selkies are marine creatures in the shape of a seal. They can be found near the islands of Orkney and Shetland. A female can shed her skin and come ashore as a beautiful woman. When a man finds the skin, he can force the Selkie to be a good, if somewhat sad, wife. Should she ever recover the skin, she will immediately return to sea, leaving her husband behind. The male Selkies are responsible for storms and also for the sinking of ships, which is their way of avenging the hunting of seals."

This is Harry's Animagus form, though he may be slightly different due to the influence of his human form and magic. Also, bear in mind that legends on the Selkies vary, and in some the males can also shed their skins.

And yes, I know that the Caribbean is a long way from Orkney and Shetland, but hey. I claim artistic licence. Harry's seal form while a Selkie is also slightly different from the traditional Grey Seal – he's a Monk seal, adapted to warmer waters. The Caribbean Monk seal actually became extinct in the 1950s, but Pirates of the Caribbean is set long before that, so it shouldn't be a problem.

Please review and tell me what you think!