A fixed stare and the use of a charm that suspended breathing fooled Harry Potter, but Severus Snape was far from dead. He merely waited for the trio to stop hovering over his "corpse" and leave him to rest in peace. It didn't take long. Voldemort's threats against the defenders of the castle overrode the need to gawk at a fallen professor. The Boy Who Lived and his sidekicks rushed back down the secret tunnel to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Once the sound of footsteps faded, Snape took the vial of Phoenix tears hidden inside his wizard robes and poured the milky-white liquid onto bites made by Voldemort's giant snake. The wounds healed instantly.
He rose and climbed the stairs from the cellar to the attic of the house known as the Shrieking Shack. In a dusty corner, he lifted the lid of a trunk and withdrew what appeared to be a simple black rucksack and an hourglass. The rucksack was a Capacious Bag, enchanted to hold numerous potions-making supplies, books, and personal belongings while remaining compact and featherlight. The hourglass was a Time-Turner.
Snape had come across the magical device in the Headmaster's office on his first day as the new Head of Hogwarts. He took one look at the engraving on the top of the three-legged stand and wondered: was Rona, Scotland 1518 the year and location where the Time-Turner was made, or the place and time to which it would bring a user? Testing had revealed spellwork far more complex than necessary for a Time-Turner alone. Armed with the knowledge, Snape began to plan.
He was tired of living in the same world as Harry-Bloody-Potter, and yet was not so obliging as to leave it by dying. Let everyone puzzle over his body's disappearance. He would be past caring.
Snape put on the rucksack, adjusted the straps, and carefully turned the hourglass. Magic made red sand glitter as it trickled from one glass bulb into the other. Heat scorched his fingers. He released the Time-Turner, but instead of crashing to the floor, it spun in midair at dizzying speed, glowing ever brighter. Snape closed his eyes as the enchantment jerked him forward, into the light.
A rush of wind filled his ears, followed by the sound of breaking glass and words that would have been a challenge to decipher even if read on parchment. Snape cast a spell. Middle English became intelligible speech.
"Wot think ye, Duncan, be he loaded t' th' gunwhales or havin' th' sickness?"
"Neither, loony. Swatch at his robes. Looks like a priest wot's bin fastin'. He be near faintin' frae hunger."
Snape opened his eyes to behold two men standing on a rocky grey coastline. From their attire—buckled shoes, striped socks, linen shirts, and an assortment of weaponry—the men were pirates. "Is this Rona?" he asked.
"A Sassenach priest," muttered the brawnier man, whose voice identified him as the one called Duncan. He answered, "Aye. Whaur else?"
The second pirate made the sign of the cross. "Did th' Pope send ye t' excommunicate us fer our piratin'?" He sniffed. "It would break me mam's heart."
"No." Snape curled his lip. "I am not a priest." He glanced around. "Is there a pub—a public house—nearby?"
"An inn." Duncan pointed.
Snape nodded brusquely and strode off. A private room, a tankard of ale, and he would be set to decide his next course of action. He could go anywhere; do anything.
"Beggin' yer pardon!" The pirate concerned about his mother's heart—although not enough to stop pirating—ran after him. "We nere got 'round t' bein' introduced proper like. I be Red Legs."
"Snake? Interestin' name. Yeh'll never guess hoo I got mine."
"You used to wear red-striped socks instead of blue."
The pirates sniggered.
"Nay," said Red Legs. He rolled up his trousers and rolled down his socks. Both gangly legs were discoloured by eczema or some sort of dermatitis.
"What have you used to treat this condition?" Snape asked, idly curious.
"An elixir." Red Legs held out a bottle.
Snape removed the cork and sniffed. "Full of piss and vinegar. Do you drink it or apply the...medicine...topically?"
The two pirates exchanged a baffled look.
Red Legs smiled uncertainly. "Drink it?"
"At least it's sterile," Snape said. "Although a balm of beeswax and olive oil infused with calendula flowers would better serve."
While Red Legs repeated the list of the ingredients to himself, Duncan asked, "Are ye a surgeon, come t' sign on with Cap'n MacLeod?"
"No." Snape resumed walking.
The two pirates followed. Red Legs cleared his throat. "Be ye a cap'n in need o' crew, then?"
"I am not a pirate."
Duncan's brogue thickened like treacle as he demanded, "If ye're nay a pirate, an' ye're nay a priest, why in th' seven seas be ye headed fer th' Port o' Robbers an' th' gatherin' o' every scurvy dog that sails these waters?"
"I'm on holiday." Snape quickened his pace, eager to reach the inn. He needed a drink.
The sight of the port stopped him in his tracks. Duncan had not been exaggerating. A flotilla of ships anchored in the harbour, while on the shore, pirates milled around a stone building thatched with straw. Snape's gaze flickered to the sky. No storm clouds gathered, thankfully. The thought of squeezing into a verminous hovel with unwashed, lice-ridden pirates did not appeal.
"That be...th' New Inn," Red Legs said between gasps of air. The young man—who on closer inspection appeared the age of a seventh year at Hogwarts—had sprinted to catch up.
"What happened to the old one?"
"Was nay old one. Jist th' new one."
Duncan lumbered over to join them. "Buy a couple o' rounds an' ye'll have hearties fer life, I'll lay t' that."
"If I had the gold, I would not waste it currying such dubious favour."
A scowl furrowed Duncan's brow, and then his expression cleared. "I didna mean all them dogs," he said with a chuckle. "I be talkin' o' me an' Red Legs."
"Ah." The cost of a few drinks was a small price to pay in order to blend in and avoid trouble. "Very well. Lead on."
The closer he neared to the inn, the more pronounced became the stench of body odour, primitive latrine, and fish. Snape used a charm to desensitise specific receptors in his upper nose and took in the scene. Gathered around crates used as tables, or circles drawn in the dirt, men jeered and laughed as they played cards and dice. The attire varied from practical to fashionable, new to tattered. Likely, each piece of clothing revealed from where and how long ago the wearer acquired it in a raid.
Duncan and Red Legs returned shouted greetings and continued toward the inn. Snape figured since he was paying, they looked forward to a drink even more than he did.
The ground floor alehouse swarmed with pirates who clustered around the three women at the bar.
"Alewives," Red Legs said over the din. "Free from husbands, living or dead. They brew th' grog an' run th' inn fer Macleod, bless 'em." He stuck a hand into the air. "Mam! Mam!"
A buxom woman that had just cuffed a pirate's ear craned her neck in their direction. "Albie!" she shouted. "Two?"
Red Legs waved the appropriate amount of fingers. "Three!"
The young pirate caught Snape's questioning look and said, "Mam be free, right enough. Deadlights Dumbledore bin feedin' th' fishes in Davy Jones' locker fer seven years, God rest his soul."
Snape fought to keep his jaw from dropping. The lad was tall and lanky, with blue eyes and reddish hair, but a Dumbledore? Could he really be the ancestor of the greatest wizard who would ever live? "You—" He swallowed and tried again. "Your name is Albus Dumbledore?"
"Albion, until I chose me pirate name. I be Red Legs now."
"Yeh'll always be me bonnie lad," said the widow who managed to hug her son without spilling a drop of beer. "Who's yer matey, dearie?" she asked, giving Snape a warm smile along with his tankard. "Introduce us proper like, Albie."
"Mam, yer embarrassin' me!" Red Legs hurriedly mumbled the introductions.
"Puir thing," she said, her eyes on Snape. "Call me Nellie," she invited with a wink.
It was slightly disturbing for Snape to realise that despite the grey in the woman's auburn hair and a missing lower bicuspid, Nellie was younger than he was—and she was making eyes at him. "Too kind, madam." He took what research had determined was proper coinage from a pocket and held it out. "For your hospitality."
Nellie adjusted her tartan scarf in a way that drew attention to her curves. "Thank ye."
When she reached for the coins, Snape noticed her chapped hands. "The oil of sweet almonds will soothe your skin," he said.
"Listen t' him, Mam. Snake knowed a balm better'n th' elixir." Red Leg's eyes lit up. "Mebbe tha' would help yer puir hands!"
"Couldna hurt." She looked Snape over. "Be ye an apothecary?"
"Potions Mast—yes, an apothecary," he said, annoyed with himself over the near slip.
The door to the inn slammed open, drawing all eyes to the pirate hollering, "Th' Revenge be in th' harbour! Macleod's come ashore! Make way fer the captain!"
Snape edged closer to Nellie. "Is there a private room to let? I have no business at this gathering."
"Only a common place t' spread yer pallet on th' floor." She stared at him intently for a moment and then said, "Make tha' balm fer Albie an' ye kin have me room in th' attics."
He nodded curtly. "And a salve for you as well."
"Yer a gentleman, t' be sure." She hooked her arm around his and led him to the stairway, using a jab of her elbow or a push to a back or shoulder with the flat of her hand to clear the way. Not a single man protested her cavalier treatment.
"The pirates respect you," Snape said, as he followed her up the battered steps.
"Lord love me! They'd better. Without me, Agnes an' Elspat couldna brew gnat's piss."
Upstairs, Nellie fished a chain with an iron key out of her bodice and unlocked one of the three attic doors. "I be trustin' ye with me worldly possessions," she said. "Don' go makin' me a soft-headed lubber."
He looked down his nose at her. "Whatever else I may be, I am not a thief. I desire only a place to rest and get my bearings."
When he did not elaborate further, she said, "Well, I canna tack about. There's work t' be done. I'll send Albie up with bread an' cheese." She bustled downstairs before he could thank her.
Snape entered a room that was smaller than a broom cupboard at Hogwarts. The only furniture was a narrow bed, a stand to hold a pitcher and wash basin, and a chair. Clothing, a fringed shawl, and a few ribbons hung on pegs. Unless there was a stash of trinkets under the bed, what he saw was all of Nellie's "worldly possessions."
He closed the door, shrugged off the rucksack, and placed it on the mattress. A spell opened the enchanted bag. As echoes of voices and cheers rose like heat through the cracks in the floorboards, Snape located the required ingredients and added them to the small cauldron set to heating by magical fire in the washbasin.
While he waited for the beeswax to melt, Snape contemplated the map brought 480 years into the past. He traced the vellum with a fingertip. The laws of magic required a wizard to visualise his destination in order to transport from one place to another. He would have to travel by boat.
The smell of hops in beer—the scent of calendula flowers—brought Snape's attention to the cauldron. He doused the fire; carefully poured the still-liquid balm into apothecary tins brought in case need dictated he ply the trade; and methodically cleaned and repacked his equipment.
Only after he secured the rucksack and placed it on his back did he sit in the chair and attempt to relax. It was an odd feeling. He had schemed, fought, and been on guard practically his whole life. Snape turned his gaze to the window. The hills were green, but gave no clue as to the exact month. It didn't matter. The room was warm, and he was free from the obligations of his past. Lulled by the rumble of voices below stairs, his eyes grew heavy.
Sometime later, the click of a door handle awakened Snape. "Identify yourself," he said.
"Calum MacLeod, Lusty Malcolm to the wenches, Captain to the crew of the Revenge, fastest caravel afloat."
A young man—no more than twenty—came into the room. He dressed like nobility: wide brimmed hat with a feather plume, a doublet, embroidered shirt, and long breeches. His smile revealed a full set of white teeth. "Nellie said ye talk like an English gentleman. I say ye sound like my old Potions teacher, Professor Gaunt." His smile thinned. "If Father sent ye to bring me home, tell him I prefer the title of Captain to Wee Calum, and if that shames the mighty Chief of Lewis, he can burn my name off the family tapestry."
"You're a wizard."
"Pirate, since I left Hogwarts." Macleod put a finger to his lips. "The non-magical have peculiar notions, so don' be bandyin' the wizard part about." He smirked. "Canna have folk thinkin' witchcraft be the secret of my success. They might burn down my castle on Raasay—a bonnie island, not far, with a dungeon fit for a Potions Master," he said meaningfully.
Snape arched an eyebrow. "What are you offering?"
"A share equal to the quartermaster if you act as surgeon and apothecary, brewing potions for the medicine chest on ship along with the one at the castle. The carpenter's tended the crew since our surgeon died of fever, and he's capable with the saw more than healin'."
"I have no desire to sail the Caribbean."
"Neither do I. There's enough profit to be gained off these waters. English merchants, Flemish, Dutch..."
"And my laboratory?"
Macleod grinned. "Whatever ye need I'll buy or steal. Do we have an accord, Mister Snake?"
A vision flashed into Snape's mind, of playing pirates with his best friend Lily, newspaper used to make hats, and sword fights with sticks. He pushed up his left sleeve to reveal the Dark mark Voldemort had branded into his forearm. The skull with a snake slithering through the eye sockets looked like a tattoo.
Snape's lips curved wryly as he said, "Aye, Captain."
Thanks, Kerichi, fer sharin' ideas and beta'in' me story, matey.