He shook his head, half his face hidden by his hand, as he smiled and watched his cabin boys picking a fight with each other while they were supposed to be scrubbing the deck. The red head was his own son, who had been fortunate enough to inherit his good looks from his late mother and his hair from his even later paternal grandmother, only getting his green eyes from his father, though he himself had gotten those same green orbs from his mother as well, so it could have been the dominant recessive gene or something. The other kid though... He'd taken him in when he spotted him by himself in a cove, building his own raft. They'd just left the town behind and were circling the island in farewell when he's spotted the brat. He was an orphan, and only three years old then, but the punk kid had already had a way with a blade that didn't automatically result in him spilling his own blood. Kid used his knife like it was a sword, though considering relative size, that was fair enough. When he'd seen this, he'd decided to teach the orphaned kid more about sword-craft, which lead to him teaching his own son as well. It proved to be a mistake though, as it had quickly become difficult to get them to do any chores near each other without a conversation turning into a sword fight. Still, at least it meant that they were practising.
"Oi!" he yelled down at them when he saw hands headed towards the hilts – even for kids, it was important that they be armed all the time when they were on the water. "No fighting until your chores are finished! I mean it!"
The two kids looked up in surprise before quickly dropping back to their knees and grabbing up their scrub brushes.
"Captain," a voice yelled down from the crows' nest. "There's land in sight, just off the port bough. Are we making for it or passing by?"
"Are you hungry?" the man, the captain, called back.
"Then we'll adjust our heading and make for their harbour, if they've got one," he answered, turning to the man at the helm and giving a nod.
"Aye Captain, we'll bring 'er in, never fear."
He chuckled. "My good helmsman of the hour, when have you ever known me to fear?"
That got the short, heavily muscled man to bark out a laugh of his own. "A fair point Captain," he answered with a smile.
There had been a time though when he had shown fear. A time that felt like lifetimes ago, and as his green eyes rested on his son and the kid he'd practically adopted, he supposed that in a way, it was lifetimes ago. Back when he was just a little bit older than those two were now. Back before he had found his way into the Blues, back when he'd been the Boy-Who-Lived. He still wanted to strangle whoever came up with that sometimes. Why couldn't they have just pretended that he'd died that night? Why did they have to paint him a bloody hero? Then of course, the last time he had shown fear was the day his son was born: the day his wife died. He'd been a pregnant father really, and the labour had left him so terrified he was had been swinging between unresponsive and hysterical. Suddenly becoming a single parent in a world where black and white were both so grey it was hard to tell them apart had really grounded him.
"Shanks! Mihawk! We're going to dock soon, so whichever of you finishes your half of the ship first gets a few extra Belli to spend when we hit the local town!" he called down to the kids, knowing that extra pocket money was the ultimate bribe to get those two to work faster and harder – because he did an inspection once they declared themselves done, and if they weren't up to his standard, then they had to start again, loosing precious time in their race.
The older members of the crew all laughed from their stations as the two boys started racing up and down the deck with their scrub-brushes, after the precious prize of extra money from their captain and father.
"The harbour is in sight Captain," a man with dark green hair and brown eyes called softly from where she was seated on the railing beside him.
"And you're telling me, why?" he asked, a little startled as he turned to look at her.
"Well, you were so lost in your own mind as you watched the kids down there, I thought I'd better tell you before I started screaming at the rest of the crew to start bringing in the sail, not that they need telling mind," the slightly younger man answered cheekily.
"Diego, my fascinating First Mate, would you do me the honour of screaming at my precious crew to do all those jobs that they know they need to do?" he asked politely with a suave smile on his face. They'd been teasing each other like this since they'd met. It was an old joke, they'd both thought the other was a woman when they first met, only to be corrected when they had finally gotten around to introducing themselves.
Diego laughed and swung himself off the railing, landing on the main deck with a thud before he started directing each crew member to their stations.
"We've only been doing this for ten years," the captain murmured to himself. "It's small wonder that anybody still needs telling, apart from the ones we've picked up more recently of course."
Ten years. Ten years they had been mostly honest sailors in a world of crazy pirates and the often-times even crazier marine forces of the World Government, sailing aboard the ship that he had personally commissioned the instant he had found himself on an island he was able to completely circle on foot in half a day. Thankfully, the people of the small town on that island in West Blue had been more than competent shipwrights, and had been very happy to relieve him of his money. It had been a very useful spell that the goblins had taught him just before they performed the rite to send him here – being able to convert his galleons, sickles and knuts into the currency of the world he found himself in. He'd been rich in England, but when he'd come to the Blues, he'd been shockingly loaded. Commissioning a ship had been a merciful use for a lot of that belli, though he'd still been comfortably wealthy even when he'd paid all of them with a generous bonus.
It was while his ship was being built that he'd met her, the woman who would die giving birth to his son. Bram Alice, who quickly became Potter Alice. She had soothed his heart of all the hurt that had been left by the wizarding war, all the hurt of seeing his friends being tortured or killed, and the burden on his own soul for having to hurt and kill others – even if they had been homicidal socio-paths. He had planned to sail this world with her, but she hadn't survived her pregnancy to see The Freedom's maiden voyage. It had just been him and his son for the first few weeks, until a pirate ship had found them. A pirate ship ruled by a young man, just his age, called Gol D. Roger. The pirate had been so shocked to see a ship with only two people on board, one of them a baby. He'd been so surprised that he'd ordered three of his crew to help him sail the ship to Logue Town, in the much safer waters of East Blue, where a crew could be gathered. Roger wasn't going to pirate himself on someone in such a situation, and they had become somewhat friends in the month-and-a-half it had taken to reach the port that was equal parts full of pirates, marines and fishermen.
It was in Logue Town that he'd really become a mostly honest sailor. He'd declared The Freedom to be a merchant ship when the marines had questioned him, but his crew had been selected from the cleaner patrons of the pirate pubs. After all, he didn't want anyone on the ship who would be a poor example for his son. As for being only mostly honest, they were certainly merchants, but they dealt in the goods stolen from the pirate ships that attacked them, and occasionally they would take a particularly uncouth pirate in and collect the bounty on their heads at the nearest marine base.
"Deck scrubbed Sir!" the two boys yelled eagerly, throwing a salute and him out of his thoughts.
"Is that so?" he asked, raising an eyebrow at his son and adopted son.
"Sir, yes Sir!"
"And the stairs?"
"Sir, yes Sir!"
"And have you rinsed off the soap suds?"
"Sir, yes Sir!"
"And made sure there aren't any puddles for the crew to slip in?"
"Sir, yes Sir!"
"And you've stowed your cleaning tools?"
"Sir, yes Sir!"
He smiled. "I guess then, that since you have both been so thorough, and both finished at the same time, I'm just going to have to give you both a bonus in your pocket money," he said.
"Thank you Sir!" the boys yelped, grinning broadly and rushing up the stairs to give their father a hug.
He turned and got down on one knee to accept the embrace from his two boys. None of the crew thought any less of him for being a caring parent towards the kids, and actually admired him for it, for not being afraid to show that he did care about those two kids. Most of the crew had left their own kids – if they had them – with family, back on land. These two though, their home wasn't an island, even Mihawk, who they'd picked up when he was three, their home was The Freedom, and it was a good home for all of them, even with the occasional pirate threat. Both of the boys, and all of the crew, had been given the chance to see their captain when the kids were under threat. In the general quarters, the men had agreed after their first time seeing it that someone would be assigned to keeping the kids out of trouble, since no one wanted to see their captain like that. Of course, Shanks and Mihawk, being Shanks and Mihawk, always somehow managed to get into the fray anyway. Still, they all tried to keep the kids safe.
"Captain, there's a couple of familiar ships already in the harbour!" the man in the crow's nest called down.
He and the boys looked up, and he smiled. "Looks like I'll be catching up with Roger and Zeff both today then," he commented to himself with a smirk. "Move lively boys!" the captain called to his crew, grinning. "The sooner we hit port, the sooner we celebrate with friends!"
The crew cheered and soon The Freedom was docked, the entire crew spilling down the gangplank and into Cocoyashi village. The town may not have been all that big, but with two pirate ships and a merchant vessel, their economy was about to get a serious boost – particularly since neither of those pirate ships were the 'raiding poor villages' types. Particularly Commi Island.
He turned and smiled at the little girl with the pink-ish red hair that was running towards him down the dock. He was also aware of his two boys hiding behind him when they heard the girl's yell as well.
"Belle-chan, how are you my little hell-raiser?" he asked, catching her before she could tackle him and swinging her up over his head. "Have you been good for Genzo-san?"
The girl laughed in delight at being swung around, and didn't answer until Harry set her on his hip.
"Of course I have Harry-Oji! I've been perfect!" Belle-chan answered brightly.
"The day Bellemere is perfect is the day I'll eat my hat," Shanks muttered to Mihawk.
Mihawk scoffed just as quietly. "Even if she ever were, you still wouldn't eat that thing."
Harry delicately ignored the banter between his boys and smiled at the little girl he cared so much about. He wasn't actually her uncle, but he had been somewhat adopted by the little girl the first time he had come here a half-year ago.
"How is your orchard doing Belle-chan?" he asked, walking towards the town with her, the boys trailing behind.
"It's great! All the trees have flowers right now, so the fruit won't be far away, will you still be here to try them?" the little girl asked eagerly.
"Maybe, but we're very busy with business my dear. Now, are you going to come with us into the bar and meet the pirates who are there, or will you go back to Genzo-san's?"
Bellemere screwed up her face. "I've seen enough pirates!" she said. "Before these two ships, our village was raided by a big ugly ship, with a big ugly guy in big ugly armour. I don't like pirates," the child declared.
Harry was surprised. "Not all pirates are bad people Belle-chan. Have either of these pirate ships raided your village?" he asked.
"No, they're paying for everything," Bellemere answered. "But I bet they don't always. Pirates are just thieves on water! When I grow up, I'm gonna do something about making East Blue safer!"
"Well, that's a fine thing to want if you want it, but what about your orchard?"
"When I've made East Blue all safe, I'll come back and the trees will still be here," Bellemere answered.
Harry sighed and put the girl down. "Alright then," he said. "I'm going to go and say hello to these pirates right now, so I'll see you later my little Belle-marine."
Bellemere nodded and, with a wave to Shanks and Mihawk, turned and ran off.
"She's a menace," Shanks declared, to which Mihawk nodded his agreement.
Harry chuckled and rubbed his son's hat into his hair fondly. They were boys and she was a girl, of course they didn't get along, yet. Someday, his sons would understand about girls, and someday, Bellemere would, in all probability, know how to take advantage of flirting and the male reaction – particularly if she grew into a body that could really back the attitude he just knew she was going to have. In the mean time, he had old friends to find.
Gently, he opened the door to the only pub of Cocoyashi village to find Gol D. Roger and 'Red Leg' Zeff sitting opposite each other, their crews behind them, and an array of shot-glasses scattered around the table between them, and a few of Harry's crew scattered around on both sides. Belli was changing hands as well, and he smirked.
"How much have they had already?" he asked Diego, who was acting as bookie.
"They've almost had a barrel of tequila between them," he answered with an eager grin.
Harry winced at the amount and their choice of alcohol, but knew that there was no way he'd be stopping it, and simply waved for Shanks and Mihawk to come and stand with him as the other two captains reached for their next drink.
"Pay attention," he said quietly. "This is how you poison your liver and set yourself up for possibly the worst headache of your life when you wake up the next morning."
The two boys watched as Roger and Zeff threw back another five shots each before they started to shift, bored of watching someone else drinking when they weren't allowed to taste whatever it was they were having.
Harry caught the movement and smirked to himself before reaching into his pocket for his wallet.
"I promised you two pocket money and a bonus," he said, counting how much belli he was carrying – most of it was kept in a safe on his ship – and smiling broadly before replacing his grin with a firm frown. "Now, you two promise to stay away from the blacksmith, he's got enough work without you two begging him to make you swords," he ordered.
"Sir, yes Sir!" the two boys answered smartly.
"Good," he said, smiling again before counting out the belli into waiting palms. "Be back at The Freedom by supper time," he added.
"We will Dad," Shanks answered with a smile. "Thanks Dad."
Harry however, waited until Roger and Zeff both had passed out on their thirty-second drink, and while the crews all cheered or groaned as their bets were won and lost, he took the two by their collars out the back and, once he was sure that nobody was going to see them, took out his wand and performed a very slight detoxification charm on the two. Just enough that they were awake again though, rather than sobering them or saving them from the hangovers that they had lined themselves up for. He was their friend, but he wasn't that kind.
"Hello my friends," Harry said with a smile as they both groaned and woke up.
"Harry!" Roger slurred when his eyes managed to get enough of a focus on him to be able to identify who was standing over him.
"Pott-er!" Zeff yelled in rejoinder, grinning his head off.
"Well, you're both still piss-drunk," Harry laughed, putting his wand away and holding out a hand to each of them, which they were eventually able to grab and haul themselves up on. "And I can't be the only captain in port who isn't, now can I?"
"Fab-no-lutty sot!" Roger agreed heartily with a grin as wide as his curling moustache.
Zeff also smiled as he swayed slightly, beginning to head for the door that would lead them back into the pub. "An' w-when you're as dr-unk as we is, Pott-er, then -"
"Then we'll be a trio of skunks," Harry interrupted.
"Skunk's good cookin'," Zeff remarked absently. "Bit sht-shtringy though."
Harry laughed and, with one of their arms over each of his shoulders, and him carrying at least half of their weight, they headed back into the pub to join their crews in carousing. It was just as well that having magic – and having been drinking butterbeer since he was thirteen – meant that he was better able to stabilise alcohol in his bloodstream, otherwise Genzo would be helping get all the pirates off the floor and back to their bunks by himself, and that just would not pass muster with Captain Harry Potter of The Freedom. Of course, Genzo was likely to come and join in the drinking as well, to help encourage the pirates to boost the small town's economy.
It was several hours later when he stumbled up the main street in the dark, heading towards the house he had paid for little Bellemere to have, and for himself and his boys to come home to when he was in the area. There were a couple of islands in East Blue that Harry had decided to build houses on, Commi Island here in Cocoyashi, and one on Dawn Island, in the centre of Fuusha Village. His home was really The Freedom, but sometimes he felt the need to unburden himself within four solid walls, a roof and a floor, sleep in a bed that wasn't rocking, or enjoy the opportunity to take some of the riches that he had acquired on his voyages and stash it in the rather large tunnels he had – with the help of magic – created beneath the properties. These places were his secret, and he had no intention of telling anyone, even his children who were all currently sleeping inside, about these places until he felt that there was a reason to, as there was altogether too much money for anybody. He had spent a hundred-thousand belli on each of the houses, as well as the initial million on The Freedom, and then had stashed roughly two-hundred million belli underneath each of the buildings, keeping another ten million on hand for expenses as he travelled – like food, and clothes as the kids had needed them, as well as pay for his crew when he finally had one. He couldn't be an almost-reputable 'merchant' if he didn't pay his crew after all. The small hoards had grown several times over in the ten years since his first deposits, though he avoided counting it. It was really more like a retirement fund, or economy booster should the villages he had chosen ever come into hard times – or blood money, if he ever needed it. He hoped he never needed it, and even more, he hoped that no one else ever needed it either. Not out of greed, but just because he didn't like the idea of anyone being in that much trouble.
Setting down the small trunk which had been the reason for his stumbling up the street, and lowering the large trunk that he had been levitating in front of himself, Harry rested a moment before he raised them once more and headed down, out of the dark and into the blackness. Moving to the side of the black stairwell, he tapped his wand against the earth twice, calling up a string of fairy lights he had stuck there when he had been making these tunnels, and with the small light they gave, he was able to go down the stairs without falling. When he reached the end of the tunnels, or more correctly, the front of the stockpile of riches, Harry set the two trunks down and stretched a little, groaning in satisfaction at the way his muscles creaked and his bones cracked. He may have only been thirty years old, but that he was wearing his body out so thoroughly, and sleeping well most nights on top of that, it made him feel so much better than anything else in his old life – except for maybe those few moments when he had believed that he would be escaping the Dursleys forever to live with his godfather Sirius, but that was the closest he had from then. The day he had become a father had far surpassed both of course, but that had been rather suddenly tempered by becoming a widower when his precious Alice died shortly after she had seen her son's face.
He did a quick check of the locks on all the trunks that he could reach, then headed back up, turning off the lights as he went before shifting the house silently back over the entrance to the tunnels and heading inside to sleep.
When the morning came, there were three young bodies moving through the house as lightly as they could on the very tips of their toes. Bellemere carefully oiled the hinges of the doors before opening them, while Shanks and Mihawk followed behind her. The three of them may not have gotten along, but when it came to waking up their captain, they were all in agreement. The best way to do it was to tackle him in his bed. They'd tried dumping water on him once, but he'd just made them air out the bedding. They weren't keen on a repeat.
"If I so much as think that I hear you bracing to jump me, I won't get any of you a present today, and I had planned to," Harry said, cutting the attack short even though he was facing the wall and the children had all still believed him to be asleep.
"Wouldn't dream of it Sir," Mihawk answered.
"Yeah Dad, you think so little of us!" Shanks added, a little fiercely.
Bellemere giggled. "I thought you liked hugs first thing in the morning Harry-Oji!"
Harry laughed and sat up. "Yes, I do like hugs first thing in the morning," he said, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and stretching his arms out for them to attack him.
Once they had finished laughing over being caught, and had their morning hugs from their favourite grown-up, the kids and Harry had a breakfast of pancakes and bacon before Harry went with them back into Cocoyashi Village, intent on buying them those presents he had promised.
Actually, he had organised these gifts just before they had left Commi Island last time, approximately six months ago. It broke his heart a little bit, but he knew that his precious ones were growing up, and as much as he loved them, and they loved him back, there was nothing he could do to stop them from choosing their own paths, only help them succeed in whatever it was that they chose.
Their first stop was for Bellemere's gift, a long nosed gun that had a clip near the nose for a dagger to be attached so that she could either shoot or use it like a spear. Even if she needed to fight, he wanted her to be able to have some distance between herself and whoever she was facing. He knew that she was still only nine, but really, he hadn't been all that much older when he had been facing a large three-headed dog and had his first encounter with a dark lord. Genzo would be able to supervise her training in this weapon when they left, but Harry at least was able to give it to her and start her off.
Their second stop was where Harry collected both Shanks' and Mihawk's gifts. Swords. Newer than the ones they had now, and larger as well, as he knew that both were going to hit their growth-spurts soon, and that what they were using would be too short for them. Not that either of these swords was particularly large or fancy, but they would the boys until they reached their late-teens at least. Unless they broke them before then, but Harry could only hope that wouldn't happen. Those two swords had been why he told the boys to stay away from the blacksmith's shop. He didn't want them catching sight of their presents before he got to see them after all.
"Shanks, Mihawk, Bellemere," Harry said softly, seriously, as the three danced around him while they walked back up the street towards the house, and the orchard that Harry had helped Bellemere plant there on his last stop-over. "I have something important I want to say to you."
The three children snapped to attention before him with a sharp salute and a "Sir, yes Sir!"
Harry chuckled weakly and got down on his knees in front of them.
"Mihawk, Bellemere, I may not be your real father, but I love you both just as much as I love Shanks, which is enough by my estimate to make you my children as well, which makes us a family. Do you all understand what I am saying so far?" Harry asked.
"Yes Sir," the three children answered softly but clearly. They hadn't expected this kind of gravity in whatever was going to be said to them, and they were humbled by it.
"So my children, you are brothers, and sister, and even if you don't always agree about things, you will always, always be there for each other, won't you?" Harry asked.
"If any of one you gets into trouble, the other two of you will help bail you out of it. Even if the whole world is against you, you three will stand together... unless of course you've become a raving homicidal socio-path of course," Harry added with a small half-smile. "In which case I should hope you would try and find an appropriate padded cell, and visit regularly."
"Yes Sir," the children answered, this time with a chuckle of their own.
"And none of you ever forget, however much of a grown-up you become, you can always, always come to me for help with anything you need," Harry insisted.
"Good. Now, you all know I'm far from the best with swords and guns, but Roger and Zeff agreed to lend me a couple of their men to help teach you how to use your presents here properly, and a few of my own crew are going to help as well. This is an excuse to show off to each other and get in some friendly practice as much as it is to teach you three some new tricks, so I don't want to hear any complaining, clear?" Harry asked, standing up with a smirk on his face and his hands on his hips as he looked down at his most precious treasures.
"Sir, yes Sir!" they chorused enthusiastically, even Bellemere who had just the day before said that she didn't like pirates and would go to join the marines when she had grown up.
"Then hop to it sailors, we're meeting them all down at the harbour. Most of them should have gotten over the worst of their hangovers by now, so it is our duty to be wretchedly cheerful as a lesson to them not to drink so excessively next time!" Harry declared with a wicked grin.
It didn't take long for the kids to show themselves capable of using their new weapons without damaging themselves, though the still slightly groggy crew members were occasionally a little heavy-handed or sloppy in their own strikes, but they were all properly sober and no longer suffering by the time lunch came.
"Harry," Roger called quietly to his friend, waving him over to the edge of the open space the three crews had been using.
"Something bothering you Roger? Beside the light of course," Harry teased with a small smile as he left off watching his children sparring.
"You're a funny man Harry," Roger said with a scowl before shaking his head. "No, I was just wondering how you felt about the idea of me stealing away your boy Shanks to be an apprentice on my ship."
Harry raised a dark brow at the suggestion. "I don't like it much," he confessed. "Shanks isn't even a teenager properly yet. Still," Harry continued with a resigned sigh. "I know he likes the idea of being a pirate captain someday himself, and I can't think of a better pirate than you Rog."
"Don't let Zeff hear you say that," Roger chuckled.
Harry smiled broadlly. "Nah, Zeff's a great fighter, a good captain, good sailor, but what he really is, really, is a fantastic chef. Cooking, more than anything else, that's his passion." Harry turned from Roger to look over all the men of the three different crews, all the good men, his green eyes coming to rest at last on his kids. On his son right there in the middle. The smile on Harry's face gentled, softened, and became wistful as he looked at his own red-headed child. He sighed and ran a frustrated hand through his messy black hair. "I'll talk to him about it. If he likes the idea, then you'll have another member of your crew when you head out."
When The Freedom left Cocoyashi Village three days later, Harry stood by the railing with Mihawk on his right and Diego on his left, his son Shanks on the dock with Roger's hand on his shoulder, grinning madly, and Bellemere waving farewell with both hands, Genzo standing behind her. Zeff had taken his ship out the day before, and Roger was planning to leave the next day.
"Sir," Mihawk asked quietly when only he and Harry were left waving goodbye, as the rest of the crew had gone to their tasks about the ship. "Bellemere wants to get rid of all the pirates in East Blue, and Shanks wants to be a pirate. Will they be able to still be family, like that?"
Harry looked down at the boy, a slightly sad look in his eyes. "Family is family. Nothing ever changes that," he answered, his own voice soft. "On the other hand, what will you do with your life Mihawk?"
"I'm going to be the most dangerous blade in all the Blues," the boy answered firmly.
Harry smiled. "Then you're going to need a better sword master than me," he said fondly, "or anyone on this ship for that matter." Harry's smile didn't falter, but his brows furrowed as he looked at his adopted son. It was his puzzling face, the one he wore when something had just struck him as odd, but he hadn't figured out what that something was yet. The look cleared up before long. "You should probably have an impressive hat of your own as well, if you're going to be the best blade in all the Blues," he said, a kind smirk on his face.
Mihawk turned sharply, his bright yellow eyes lighting up at the idea. Harry had given Shanks his straw hat, and Harry himself was always wearing a small, weather-beaten leather tri-corn. He may not have wanted a hat exactly like either of those, but having a fancy hat of his own did have a certain appeal.
"Ahah!" Harry exclaimed suddenly, snapping his fingers. "I know just the hat for you Mihawk, come," he said, gesturing for the boy to follow him below deck. This action served the double purpose of pleasing the boy, and getting him out of the rain that had just begun to lightly fall around them.
Eagerly, the ten-year-old boy followed his captain down and through the corridors of the ships bowels until they reached the locker where Harry kept all the spare wardrobe – any item of clothing that hadn't been immediately claimed by members of the crew when they raided a pirate ship, usually due to size, colour or simply appalling taste. There were a couple of good pieces in there as well though, pieces which no one in the crew had the natural looks to be able to pull off without looking like they were trying too hard.
Harry went directly to a large cupboard and unlocked the door, revealing rows upon rows of different hats. Some were old, some were plain, some were strange, some were small and some were big. There were at least a dozen with flowers. Harry was waiting until they reached Logue Town to sell them, as there were more people there inclined to buy flowery hats. The hat he reached for now, however, looked just like the sort of hat that he had associated with swash-buckling musketeers when he still had no idea about magic, and had only had the books from his school to keep him company when he was locked up in the cupboard under the stairs. Some of those books had even had pictures, and Harry could remember absently wishing that he had a hat like this one back then, but now that he was older, he knew that his old tri-corn was as fancy a hat as his face was really designed to take. This hat though... This hat... The brim was wide, but stiff, and curled closely and precisely along the sides to form a point at the font. The crown was slightly creased as if to make it easier to put on with one hand, and the thin band was the exact same black as the rest of the hat – though the underside of the brim was a rick, dark dusk-rose colour, and the single plume that was fixed into the band was pure white.
Harry looked from the hat to Mihawk and back a couple of times before he smiled and put it on the boy's head.
"It's the sort of hat that will dictate the clothes that you can wear with it," Harry admitted a little wryly, "but it looks good on you. It's a bit dramatic, and brings out that dangerous yellow glow in your eyes and emphasises your pale skin," he added with a smirk.
"Captain?" Diego called down.
"What is it Diego?" Harry called back, leaving the store room behind and heading back up to the deck. When he got a face full of water three steps from the door, he spluttered. "Never mind, I can guess. Stay below for this one Mihawk," Harry ordered absently before stepping out on deck and pitching his voice to be heard above the storm. "Get the sails in, I don't want to see where we end up if we let this storm take hold of us! I want everybody to be wearing a life-line, I'm not losing anyone to a fit of weather fit for the Grand Line that forgot this is the East Blue! If something isn't secure, secure it, if something is secure, check it! And make sure all cannon ports are closed! I don't want the rain getting into the powder again, or the cannons themselves to start rolling about below decks causing damage! Someone set the rain-barrels open to collect! The waves don't look like they're going to be too big, I want to get something positive out of this mess!" he yelled, moving towards the helm even as he gave orders. When he reached the raised platform, he tied his own lifeline, then reached to tie a line around the waist of his helmsman before grabbing onto the large wheel himself. They would maintain their heading, and if it took two men to hold it fast, then so be it.
"Everything and everyone is secure Captain!" Diego called from amidships.
"Good! Now I want those who can to get below deck and start pumping! We've got an engine on this ship for when we've got trouble, and I'd say this counts! We're getting out of this bloody squall as fast as possible!" Harry yelled back. "Get Mihawk on it too! It'll keep him busy where I don't have to worry about him getting washed away!"
"Aye Captain!" Diego answered with a quick salute before singling out a couple of the beefier crew members and ordering them below to the engine room. It had been used before, but normally when it was a problem of not enough wind to fill the sails, rather than in the middle of a storm. This situation was a bit more stressful to the crew than that however.
The storm lasted five wretched hours, but eventually the crew of The Freedom saw the end of it, a bit battered about, exhausted, and sopping wet except for the few who had been down in the engine room, who were a bit battered about, exhausted, and drenched with sweat.
"Gentlemen!" Harry called to his crew as they slumped where they stood, lines of rope still securing bodies to boat. "After that demonstration of your fortitude, I think you all deserve a holiday."
It got a bit of a laugh at least, tired and weak as it was, it was still appreciative.
Harry grinned around at all of them and gave a firm pull on the helm. "Our heading is Logue Town gentlemen!" he declared.
A grateful cheer went up. Most of them had family in Logue Town after all, and those that didn't have family at least had favourite pubs and/or brothels. It took a week to reach the island, but it was a welcome sight all the same. After that storm, the wind had been obligingly at their back, pushing them faster towards their intended destination.
Logue Town did, admittedly, have a fairly large marine base, as it was the last stop for anybody from East Blue who wanted to journey into the Grand Line, but the marines were less than stellar in their ability to capture pirates – on the sea or when they came into port. Still, as he had two very good friends who were pirates, Harry wasn't going to complain all that much, particularly as they still paid a bounty when he brought in pirates who had attempted to raid his ship.
"Your boy looks like a demon or something with that hat on," Diego commented, coming to stand beside his captain and drawing him out of his thoughts. "He's been trying on everything black we've got to go with it too when he isn't doing his chores."
Harry chuckled. "He's just a kid, he's figuring out his style. When he's found it, then he'll stop spending so much time with his clothes," he answered. Looking out the corner of his eye, Harry gave Diego's current clothing a quick appraisal. "And don't deny that you spent half an hour deciding your own clothes this morning either. How many children do you have all over East Blue my friend?"
Diego snorted. "You're the one with children Captain," he said firmly. "I have supposed offspring, who will claim the name of Roronoa if their mothers tell them to, but I won't be called a father by anybody," he added, and Harry wondered if he was a little sad about that.
"So you've probably impregnated a different woman every year we've been sailing," Harry quipped with a slight scowl. "And will continue at that rate."
"Oh I certainly hope so!" Diego laughed.
Harry shook his head despairingly. There was no talking to his first mate sometimes.
Mihawk left The Freedom in Logue Town, a wallet full of belli in his pocket, and a promise from an ex-marine to take him to meet the very best swordsmen in each of the four Blues, though the boy would have to find someone else to take him down the Grand Line if he wanted to go. Harry had talked to the old man before introducing him to Mihawk, a cautious parent to the very end. He didn't want to leave his child with someone who would be unnecessarily cruel to him. Firm, disciplining, maybe a little abrupt, but not cruel. It certainly helped the old man's cause that he was willing to go to piratical sword masters as well as the 'honest' ones.
"Mihawk," Harry called out to his son, stopping him just before he climbed aboard the small vessel that would carry him and the old man.
Harry chocked a little, just as he had when he had hugged Shanks goodbye when they left Cocoyashi Village. "The next time I see you, I'm going to buy you a sword to go with that hat," he said.
Mihawk smiled a little, his sharp yellow eyes becoming a little bit glassy with emotion. "That's going to be a very big sword then Sir," he answered.
Harry chuckled. "Yes. I suppose it will. I had better hear about what you're up to."
Mihawk nodded. "You will Sir. I promise. I'll find a den den mushi and call you even," he promised.
"You'll become so great that I'll read about you in the newspaper," Harry countered. "Where are you going first?" he asked, looking over Mihawk to lock eyes with the old man who would be taking care of his child.
"South Blue," the old man answered. "We'll have to cross the Grand Line, but I've done it a couple of times when I was serving, and I'd just as soon put off hiking across the Red Line for as long as I can."
Harry nodded in understanding and, with a last brief hug for Mihawk, bid them farewell.