Come shout, come sing of the great Sea King
And the fame that now hangs over him
Who once did sweep o'er the vanquished deep
And drove the world before him...
- Wolfstone, 'The Sea King', -Year of the Dog-
Nineteen years later and still the ocean rolled.
The world turned and storms came down from the north; waves erupted across the decks of belaboured fishing boats and burst against the wheelhouse - ton after ton of water ripping into the air, drowning out the roar of engines as wrinkled-eyed men gazed ever onwards, into the rise and fall of the sea.
Nineteen years later and the diesels hammered on.
Props clawing at the sea; spray explodes across the bows as the breakers drain from the gunwales and the man at the helm casts his gaze to the wave-creased horizon in that eternal quest to wring a livelihood from the might of the ocean.
It's a lonely goal, but for as long as there are men and there is sea, there will be those willing to face the full power of the storm to bring home a catch, of fish and crab and lobster, of anything that'll face their nets and their pots – it's a life on the razor's edge, out where it feels like you can see forever.
Out where only the bold or the desperate will ever cast off the moorings, out where only the brave or the foolhardy will ever put to sea.
And, for a few, there is something more in the ocean's pounding roar; for the man at the helm of the F/V Hermione, there was all he had ever wanted, out there at the edge of the world.
Nineteen years is a long, long time to carry a torch - especially when you're the only one who's still carrying it, when you're the only one who hasn't given up.
Everyone knew how it had all ended. She'd made sure of that after Harry Potter vanished; for once it was someone who'd been there who wrote the history books.
The Wizarding World knew the truth about Harry. Hermione Granger had made certain of that.
But she'd been left with precious little. Her fling with Ron Weasley had ended badly when they fell out over her refusal to stop searching for Harry; she and he still weren't on speaking terms, even now, nineteen years later - though in some ways that was fair enough. She'd left him two hours before they were supposed to be getting married, after all.
Her parents had never forgiven her for the way she'd altered their memories - and she didn't really blame them either. It wasn't a nice thing to do, and was now one of her greatest regrets.
But not her greatest. Her greatest was that, after nineteen years, she still couldn't find hide nor hair of Harry Potter.
She didn't know why he'd gone; he'd just upped one day, six months after Voldemort's death, and walked away. Onto a jet to Australia and, via Perth and the outback, off the face of the Earth.
Nineteen years and she was still searching.
She'd looked everywhere she could think of, been everywhere he'd ever mentioned, chasing shadows - she'd thought she'd found him any number of times, but each and every time either she'd been chasing a false lead or, by the time she got there – enticed by a half-seen glimpse on a camera, or a rumour - he was gone like smoke on the wind, back into nowhere in the Australian outback.
And now, finally, after nine years of nothing, slumped half asleep in a chair in front of a TV set in a Brisbane hotel room, she was at long last contemplating giving up her search - and it was right then, as fate would have it, that she was jerked out of her reverie by a static-rich American-accented voice saying "Hermione, Hermione, Hermione, are you on there English? Over."
She was wildly casting around for the source of the voice when another staticky voice, this one in an achingly familiar Surrey accent she hadn't heard in nigh-on twenty years with the distinctive almost-East-Midlands twang picked up by most Hogwarts students, replied and she pinned the source as the television set;
"Yup, you're coming out the windows Andy, how's it going? Over."
Blinking the daze off, Hermione's head whipped round to stare at the television, just in time to see a wave explode across the bows of the fishing boat it was showing,
"Pretty good English, pretty damn good, how's it looking for you? Over."
"Bit of a cross-swell once you're in deep water mate, but nothing to call home about, we're steaming north-northwest at about twenty knotts and everything's Bristol fashion. Over."
Within the hour, Hermione Granger was aboard another aircraft, the latest of any number.
Her destination: Alaska.
Chasing a fleeting glimpse of a familiar voice on a program called Deadliest Catch.
Unalaska on the Aleutian Islands is not a big place, but can in some ways be said to be the capital of fishing in the United States of America – certainly by volume caught. It's also the home for what must be one of America's most dangerous jobs; fishing for king crab.
Although counted as a city it's not a big place at all; the total population is a little over four thousand, making it just a bit bigger than one of those places where everybody recognizes everybody, but small enough that everyone – absolutely everyone – knows the local heroes.
One such local hero wasn't from Unalaska, wasn't even American-born; he was in fact a Brit named Mark Black, known to everyone in town as English for self-evident reasons.
Once, that nickname had been slightly derisive, but not any more. Not since that desperate night nine years before when the F/V Northern Venture started taking on water nearly a hundred miles from shore.
English was a scrappy-looking little bespectacled guy, soft-spoken with that Limey accent of his, dark-haired and green-eyed with a hell of a scar on his forehead; the running joke round town was English got that scar by head-butting a leaking hull sealed, he was the kind of fella you'd expect to try that and make it work – he'd never confirmed nor denied the rumor, just smiled and shook
his head on the few occasions it came up
Nobody knew how English had got the Northern Venture's pumps to keep up with the flow of water coming into her bilges, and nobody gave a damn anyway beyond hoping he'd do what he did to their pumps too. There were eight local men who'd made it home through a storm hellish even by Bering Sea standards because English had worked his magic on the Northern Venture's bilge pumps, and these days the Unalaska fishing boats that didn't have pumps that'd been worked on by English were few and far between.
He was a quiet guy, hell of a camera-shy, and a bit of a loner; he lived out of town, didn't much like being out in public, only really came down from his cabin for the fishing – but that was only when he was onshore. As soon as his boots were on the deck and the engines roaring away beneath, he came alive; a lot of the younger kids round town half-believed English's heartbeat sounded like a
marine engine, that he drank diesel and pissed seawater, and a lot of the old hands would swear to God he'd been born at sea with his hands on the helm in a Force 11 storm.
He was that kind of a guy. The kind of guy whom a good few local kids still had dads because of.
He had a boat of his own for five years now, the F/V Hermione - Alaskan-built, a steel-hulled crabber ninety-five feet from bow to stern with two of the finest American-made Detroit Diesel engines in her bowels, and the old hands swore she was the luckiest boat in the North.
English was little, quiet, unassuming, always alone even in a crowd – until the spray was bursting across the gunwales in a cross-swell like the fist of an angry god, because it was times like that his eyes would go like flakes of jade and his voice fill with this quiet strong authority, and you'd know, oh God you'd know, you were as safe aboard English's boat as you were in your own home.
English had never, ever, lost a crewman at sea, and not through caution either – he'd take the Hermione off her mooring in the worst weather the Bering Sea could throw at him, and he'd bring home a good catch and every man or woman who'd dared put out with him.
He was a local hero, he was a legend in his own lifetime, he was one of their own now – and that was why they left him the way he wanted to be.
So when this Limey broad came around town asking after the skipper of the Hermione while she was at sea, folks paid extra specially close attention.
Some crazy broad indeed. Hell, she was certain that there boat was named after her.
Ever since the TV people came to town there'd been the odd crazy pop up – and it didn't exactly take a genius to spot the latest one.
When the F/V Hermione arrived in harbour, there was more than just the normal scattering of folks on the pier. The place was mobbed out, a small army of Unalaska worthies hell-bent on keeping Hermione Granger away from the boats – and this they were doing by sheer weight of numbers, disregarding what the boat's crew had to say about that.
What the F/V Hermione's crew had to say about that was pithy indeed; they had half a dozen damaged pots strapped to her decks near the bows and one of the deckhands' with a Chevvy pickup attempting to back down onto the pier to collect them.
The press of bodies on the pier was something else, as was the roar of voices; they drowned the engines out, the swarm of humanity; English was a popular kind of a guy round those parts, and when someone passed round word that the latest crazy T.V fan was chasing one of the skippers, well, there weren't many folks didn't come down to the piers, and over the uproar the only folks who could hear English shouting about getting that pickup into position to unload those pots were few and far between.
Becoming visibly irritated, English leaned in through the still-open wheelhouse window and cut through the bullshit by hauling down on the length of chain (with attached fuzzy dice) that actuated the Hermione's horn.
This, having been taking from an EMD SD40-5 railroad locomotive, was A) loud, B) loud, and C) LOUD. Jim Coates, the Hermione's first mate, had once asked why fit a railroad horn on a boat and the skipper had explained that, while road-tripping round the US of A, he'd happened to hear one at a crossing and liked the way it seemed to be bellowing 'Getouttatheway!'
The strident blare did a very effective job of silencing the crowd, all of whom turned their attention to the man at the side of the red-and-gold crabber's wheelhouse.
"Jesus, calm down you lot," the skipper said, heading for the gangplank, "I could hardly hear myself shout over the din you lot were kicking up. Here, open up a bit, we've got beers waiting for us down the pub and we won't be over there till we've got these gash* pots offloaded."
(The far side of the scrum of fishermen and Unalaska worthies, Hermione Granger had grabbed her chance and was pushing her way through the mob.)
"Christ, are you lot trying to get yourselves squashed? Can't you see Terry's trying to back that truck up? Let the man through, I reckon my lads want their beer sometime tonight."
(Hermione caught a glimpse of the skipper of the boat that bore her name, and froze for a moment as she recognised him on the spot – despite how much he'd changed.)
"Mind out, here, toss that rope over to Church – thanks mate. Yeah, back her up, back her up, WOAH! Spot on."
(He had a beard. A big, scraggly, black, beard. And he was walking like the king of the world. And he had lots of smile and frown lines round his eyes – but the eyes were just the same, so was the shaggy jet-black hair, so was the jagged scar on his forehead, and so was the wry half-smile.)
"Sorry about the scrum Terry, I'll have the-"
The Hermione's skipper cut off mid-word as he came nose to nose with Hermione Granger.
"... Hello, Hermione. It's, um, been a while." Said Harry Potter.
She let out an inarticulate noise that may have been meant to be 'Harry', and latched onto him like a limpet – and he had a very sudden flashback to something that'd happened just over twenty years before as he found his vision entirely eclipsed by bushy brown hair.
A moment later and he was making a warding-off gesture at the large Texan who'd been about to try to get the woman off him. "S'alright, Tex. This is the girl I named my boat after. Hey Terry, get those pots onto the back of the truck, I've kinda got my hands full. That rope won't secure itself, Church!" Realising Hermione wasn't going to let go any time soon, he lifted her off her feet, turned, and headed back up the gangplank onto the boat named after her, to a rousing round of applause from his crew.
"Yeah yeah, we're here all night, or we will be until those gash pots are on that truck – c'mon you lot, you know how to do this, howsabout getting it done?"
"On it, boss man – who's the chick?" Jim Coates asked.
"You deaf? She's who I named the Hermione after. Hey, last time I checked I wasn't paying you buggers to stand around on deck – look lively there, haven't you lot ever seen a feller with an armload of woman before?"
"Not when he's you we haven't, English!" Tex shouted from the direction of the pier.
"Aw, go fuck yourself you old grease-monkey!" and the wheelhouse door crashed shut behind the Hermione's skipper and his unexpected cargo, blocking them off from the mob on the pier.
Tex caught Jim Coates's eye; Jim Coates caught Stef Church's eye; and a moment later the harbour was echoing with wolf-whistles and applause.
"About those damaged pots?" Terrence O'Donnell, the pickup driver caught along with his Chevvy in the middle of the mess, hopefully pointed out.
Now she was at least fifty-percent certain that she wasn't dreaming and yes, Harry was really here, Hermione spent a long moment scanning her surroundings – a habit she'd picked up during the endless camping trip from Hell and never really got out of.
She was surprised to say the least when she realised the boat's wheelhouse was absolutely littered with mementoes from Harry's time at Hogwarts.
The Sword of Gryffindor, in a scabbard made to fit it, was hanging on the wall above the radar screen just above a military-looking rifle; there was a set of metal clips to the left of the wheel with three wands she immediately recognised – Draco Malfoy's wand, Harry's somewhat-decrepit phoenix-feather wand, and the Elder Wand of all things, hooked into them right alongside a neat rack with a trio of pistols clipped to it; a silvery cloth she recognised as Harry's invisibility cloak was slung on the helmsman's seat, his Firebolt was sat in a corner doing a remarkable impression of an ordinary household broom and held in place by a leather strap, and his old Hogwarts trunk was strapped to the wall beside the wheelhouse door; there was a Wizarding Wireless set bolted to the dashboard between the radar and sonar screens.
And at the back of the wheelhouse, on the wall above a single bunk-bed, was a glass-fronted cabinet containing a book with an acid-burn-like hole through it, a bent and twisted amulet, a ring with a cracked black stone – hadn't he lost that in the Forest? - a battered formerly-fancy goblet, and the stuffed and mounted body (with head mounted separate) of a snake formerly known as Nagini, along with a jam-jar full of ash with a handwritten note reading 'Diadem' attached.
"... I thought the Elder Wand was in Dumbledore's tomb." Hermione eventually said.
"So do most people." Harry told her. "After the third time someone attacked me about it, well, that was that, I sneaked up there late one night, swapped it for a transfigured stick – it was a right bugger making that transfiguration permanent, but whatever – and, well, twenty-four hours later I was getting off a plane in Australia."
"Was that why you left?" She finally let go of him and stood back.
"It was a part of it." he said, and she spent a few moments looking at how he'd changed. It wasn't just the beard or the weather-beaten cast or the multitudes of wrinkles round his eyes – she'd never imagined she'd see Harry wearing cargo trousers with pockets crammed full of stuff, a broad canvas belt with a big shiny buckle, a thick navy-blue military-style jumper, and welly boots, but somehow he looked even more perfectly at home dressed like that.
"But not all of it?"
"Far from it, Hermione. Far from it... so, who put you up to it?"
"Finding me. Why?"
"Finding... Harry, why do you even need to ask that? I made you a promise twenty-odd years ago. I promised I'd always be there, and Harry James Potter, if you think I'll EVER break my promises then you obviously don't know me as well as I'd thought!"
"... Wasn't that promise 'until everything was over'? Hang on, I thought you and Ron were about ready to settle down together?"
"Me and... Harry, that, that fling I had with Ron, that was a dumb school crush I nearly went way too far with, I mean me and Ron just weren't cut out for each other. And when you took off into nowhere it obviously wasn't all over after all!"
"Hermione, it was all over all right – you've wasted your time coming here. That, that, that world just wouldn't let me alone, if it wasn't some nutcase attacking me over that bloody Elder Wand it was some reporter shoving a camera and a Quick Quotes Quill in my face or some Ministry clown getting on my case about how to do this that and the other from cauldron-bottom-thickness on up – there just wasn't any room for the real Harry, the stupid kid from a shitty town in the arse end of nowhere, Surrey, who didn't know his arse from his elbow and was only alive because of dumb luck and a friend with way more sense than I've ever had. I mean, I had everyone in Wizarding Britain getting in my face about everything and the cat, if it wasn't some Quidditch team wanting me to go pro it was someone wanting business advice, of all things, out of ME, it got so bad I couldn't eat anything that'd been anywhere near the Wizarding World what with the legions, legions I'm telling you, of crazy girls – and some guys even – trying to feed me up to the eyebrows with love potions, or the lunatic purebloods trying to off me. There wasn't any peace and quiet anywhere in Wizarding Britain, hell, Europe. Back there I didn't have anything, Hermione. I could count my friends – and I mean people I knew weren't trying to get something out of me – on my fingers and I didn't even need to use all of one hand, I could hardly walk out the front door without cameras in my face, I had to fill my fireplace with cement to stop all the nuisance Floo calls, I couldn't walk into a shop without being singled out for having dead parents – if I'd stayed there one more day I'd have gone crazier than Bellatrix LeStrange."
"I've got the idea you're famous here too?"
"It's different here and I'll tell you why," Harry pointed out the wheelhouse window, "See the big guy in the overalls pushing on the right side of that crab pot? His name's Steve Gibson but everyone calls him Tex. He was aboard the Northern Venture when I may just have used the Elder Wand to charm her pumps into keeping up with the flow of water that was coming into her, she'd have sunk for sure if I hadn't. The guy working the crane, that's Terry O'Donnel, he's Mark O'Donnel's eldest – Mark's the Northern Venture's skipper. That short woman in the dungarees, the one standing on the roof of Terry's Chevvy, she's Emma Watson – I pulled her out the sea with my own two hands after the Ocean Queen capsized two years ago. Brian Denver over there, leaning on that bollard, the one the Time Bandit's bow rope's tied to, he's the Maid of Anchorage's skipper, I towed his boat back to harbour after she lost her engines in a gale four years back – when we got to her, she was being hit broadside and Brian reckons she'd have foundered if she'd had to take much more than that, there was five feet of water in her bilges by the time we got her turned round. Matt Mitchell, standing on the forklift, he was skippering the Ocean Queen the day she sank and this is the boat that rescued her crew – we got all of them off, thank God. The guy leaning on the damaged pot near the bows, that's Jim Coates, my first mate, he's another of the guys who was aboard the Northern Venture that night. Danny Radcliff, he's the guy in the forklift's cab, he went over the side of the Sevenoaks eight years ago and I'm the guy who threw him a rope and pulled him out of the drink. We fish king crab, Hermione. This is the most dangerous job in America. One fisherman dies every week on average during the king crab season – and I am not exaggerating when I say, nobody has everdied aboard the same boat as me."
"You've still got your saving people thing, haven't you Harry?"
"If Hogwarts taught me one thing for certain, it's, if I don't, who the Hell will...? Emma there's got a husband and two kids; you're bloody right I wasn't leaving her in the water, not while there was anything I could do about it, and I guarantee everyone on that pier feels exactly the same. Out here, I'm not the ooh-aah-la-de-da Boy-Who-Didn't-Die, I'm the guy you get on a boat with and you knowyou're going to make it home. Everything I'm famous for among these people, it's something I actually did. With my own hands. After you've stared down a Hungarian Horntail that thinks you're breakfast a swinging crab pot isn't half as scary; when you've been up to the eyeballs in Dementors a gale is just a bunch of air moving around. About one in ten of everyone in that crowd, I'm why they're still here today. Them that I didn't save myself, they've got family or friends who're still with us because of me. And none of it was because of some bloody prophecy, or because my mother got herself killed in the process, or because of something some meddlesome old bastard set up and didn't expect me to survive, or because of some stupid coincidence, or because of Volde-fear-me-my-name-is-a-stupid-anagram-Mort being a moron. It's because... Hermione, I spent thirty-odd years of my life trying to find a place where I belong, and I found it. This," and he slapped the wheel, "Is my home. Once I thought Hogwarts was home, but it was a lie, it was smoke and mirrors and a twisted bastard called Snape. This is where I belong, right here, in this wheelhouse. Back in the old country I was a victim of circumstance. Here? Hermione, here in this wheelhouse, aboard this boat, MY boat, I'm the king of the sea."
"Why'd you name your boat after me?"
"When you're naming a boat... look, everyone who fishes king crab believes in luck. Luck is how we get the catch to processing; we run out of luck, we're never coming home. And when you're naming a boat, you try to think of the luckiest name you can; you don't want to jinx yourself from the start with a bad name... I gave my boat the name of someone who'll stick with a body through Hell and high water; it's a name that belongs to the only person I could think of who'd never given up on me, I may not have been top of the class but I'm not fool enough to pass up on using a name like that for my boat."
Hermione spent several long moments staring at him, completely gobsmacked, before she exploded.
"Harry James Potter! Twenty years and you're still just as transparent a liar as you ever were, you sentimental IDIOT!"
And then the emotional rollercoaster of the last twenty-four hours came crashing down on her and she burst into tears.
When Jim Coates stuck his head into the wheelhouse to report the damaged pots successfully offloaded and on their way to the shed for repairs, he found his skipper of five years just standing back from where he'd tucked the girl named Hermione into his own bunk; she was now fast asleep and as relaxed as a child at home.
"Everything okay, English?" Jim asked, keeping his voice quiet.
"No, but it will be, Jim. It will be." English shook his head and stroked Hermione's hair away from her eyes. "She's had a rough time, and in hindsight I can't say I was helping."
"What's with the name game?"
"You heard all that?"
"The volume that girl got up to they could probably hear her in Washington DC, man."
"It's a long story, Jim, and it goes something like this..."
When Jim Coates walked into the Anchorage Bar and Grill, he looked positively shook up.
"Alright there Jim?" Terry O'Donnel asked; Jim wasn't the sort of guy to get worked up about nothing.
"Yeah, yeah, just... geez. Some heavy shit, man."
"Yeah? English tell you what all that yelling was about?"
"Yeah, he did... We'd better put the word around town, make sure everyone knows what to do if anyone else comes looking for him. Seems English was involved, heavily involved, in counteterrorism operations back in England before he was even out of school – some maniac wasted his parents when he was a little kid, he got that scar of his the same time, then the damn terrorist came after him a few years later, and that Hermione woman was along for the ride, he reckons she saved his ass more times than he can count... After they took down the worst of the bad guys, it seems there's a lot of bad blood after them, especially our English. That's why he had to get out of there, that's why he changed his name; there's some mean motherfuckers out there want the man six feet under even after twenty years."
"Jesus... no wonder he's as cool as ice no matter how rough it gets."
"That's what I thought, Terry." Jim swept a stern gaze around the bar. "Everyone got it? There ain't nobody in this town named Harry Potter, just a seaman who looks a bit like him, and we make sure he knows if anyone comes around town looking for him."
Nineteen years later and there's a place at the edge of the world...
A place between ocean and sea – a place where there's warm food and good cheer waiting onshore, a storm-battered but unbowed town perched out where you feel like you can see forever; a small town, an island town, the capital of American fishery.
That ain't just some industry. There's mothers, husbands, children, grandparents there. Them people ain't just some union – they're family.
And out there is a boat called the F/V Hermione, run by a husband and wife, both of them English expats, both of them good people, true people, people who used to hunt terrorists in this terrorism-conscious post-9/11 world, and if you were to ask anyone from that place they'll tell you that those two are the King and Queen of the sea.
Even them that fish the king crab have legends, and they don't bother ageing them first.
Course, there's an untold side to it. There's a handful shallow graves in the hills just outside of town that'd attest to that if anyone who was telling knew what the guys who hang out at the Anchorage Bar and Grill know – if they knew what Tex and his .357 Magnum know, if they knew what Jim Coates and his LAR Grizzly know, if they knew about how young Betty Conner screamed like a stuck pig when that blond bastard Malf Oi or whatever the hell he thought he was pointed his stick at her, if they knew what a Colt Python sounds like when a six and a half foot tall Texan mechanic shoves it in some creep's ear and squeezes the trigger – but, hell, there ain't nobody but Malf Oi and his pair of heavies can tell you about that, and they're taking a dirtnap someplace on Tex's property.
But you didn't hear about that from me, cause we who fish the king crab, we look after our own.
Nineteen years later and the Sea King has at long last regained his queen.
Nineteen years later and still the ocean rolls.
AN – This fic is a mix of my memories of crabbing off the northwest of Scotland, clips and snatches from 'Deadliest Catch', and my personal theory of how to do a 'nineteen years later'.
* - 'Gash' in this context is a term I first heard used by the manager of the fishfarm in Diabaig in the northwest of Scotland roundabout 1995, a guy called Colin Tulip, to describe damaged-beyond-usability waterproofs.