A Fowl Problem
Disclaimer: The characters are not mine. They belong to Disney.
Note: This is my first attempt at a crossover between Harry Potter and Pirates, without actually using any HP characters. I'm not exactly entirely happy with it, but thought I'd post it anyway.
"I must be going insane."
James Norrington stared at the complete set of fine China proudly displayed in the carefully crafted cherry wood China cabinet in the Swann household. He counted each teacup again, his finger stabbing the air just before the glass. He had to be miscounting them somehow, as he clearly remembered one of the teacups falling off of his desk yesterday and smashing on the floor, brittle pieces and hot tea flying in all directions. It had been during one of the rare but terrifying earth tremors that Port Royal suffered on occasion. Even after living in the tropics for years, he still was not used to the very ground moving under his feet. But to his dismay, he got the same number each time he counted the teacups.
Yes, there was a complete set in the China cabinet.
It simply wasn't possible.
But there it was, right before his eyes.
Since he had married Elizabeth and had moved into the Governor's mansion, he had started to notice a lot of odd things, things he had never noticed during the short visits to see Weatherby on official matters or to visit Elizabeth to court her. He was beginning to think the house was haunted. After seeing undead pirates, it was far easier to believe in haunts and other supernatural things. Still, a part of him insisted that there must be a logical explanation. Perhaps the Governor had purchased extra dining sets in case a few were broken and the extras were stored away somewhere to be pulled out as needed?
Of course, that didn't explain the other things…
Like the evening he had heard Weatherby talking in his home office and when he went in to see him, the room had been empty. That had puzzled him for a long time until he figured out the voice must have been coming through the thin plaster walls. It was perfectly logical, nice and normal. And he really didn't want to think of that odd fire he has seen for a split second in the fireplace, a fire that had burned the wrong color and had gone out by itself. When he had hurried around the desk to the fireplace to examine it, the hearth had been cold with no ashes in it at all. And there had been that odd little clay pot attached to the bricks of the fireplace, held in place by a curved metal holder. It had contained some strange powder, something he had never seen before. It was peculiar how he had never noticed it before on his prior visits yet there it was.
James turned away from the China cabinet, frowning slightly as he made his way to the front door. He stepped outside to see that the carriage and driver was already waiting to take him to Fort Charles. Of their own free will, his green eyes drifted upward to the top of the carriage where a snowy white owl was perched atop of the luggage rack. He stared at the bird for a long moment, pondering if it truly was there or if he was seeing things, but it looked real enough. He could clearly see how its talons gripped the long metal bar, how its golden eyes followed his every move and how its feathers gleamed in the tropical sunlight.
Owls did not live in Jamaica. It was simply too hot for them. Nor had he seen one all of the years he had lived here.
But there it was, gazing at him in that owlish manner.
"I definitely must be going insane…"
Deciding to ignore the imaginary bird, James climbed into the carriage and soon found himself at Fort Charles, his mind heavy with the odd problems. How can marrying the love of his life cause such unrest? He was joyful beyond belief that Elizabeth had married him. He truly wished he could ignore the weird things that he noticed, but his training in the Royal Navy made that impossible. As Commodore, he was expected to know the big picture and to make the correct decisions and that required to know what was going on. Turning a blind eye was simply not possible, especially when the events intrigued him so.
Shuffling the paper about on his desk, he decided to turn his mind over to normal Navy affairs, dreadfully boring things. Being Commodore sounded good, but in reality it was a glorified desk job and required a lot of grunt work involving endless reams of paper and tons of India ink. No wonder his mind kept drifting back to the mystery at home. If only he had a pirate to chase to take his mind off it, even a rum-runner would do. Where was that drat Sparrow when you needed him for a diversion?
There was a knock on his office door and his two best friends entered. James had been expecting reports from them and was pleased to see the pieces of parchment in their hands. Still feeling troubled about the odd sightings, he decided to ask them for their opinion on the matter. "Tell me, have either of you ever seen owls about Port Royal?"
"Owls?" Andrew Gillette asked with a surprised expression on his face.
"Yes, owls." James repeated. "I saw one this morning sitting on top of the carriage and thought it very odd. I swear it was staring right at me, watching with those huge golden eyes. It was snowy white and very noticeable I might add, especially since the carriage was black."
"No, I haven't seen any owls." Theodore Groves admitted after a moment of thought. "There certainly are a lot of birds here, far more than in England I believe, but they are of a tropical nature. How do you think an owl got here? Besides, are they not night birds? I mean, what's it doing up during the daytime?"
"Those are very good questions." James had to admit he hadn't thought past the fact that he had seen it. Still, he felt uncertain if it had been real. What if he had imagined it for some unknown reason? The more he thought about it, the stronger his doubt grew. Theo was right. Owls were night birds that hunted small rodents like mice in fields. If the bird was real and not imagined, then why had it been awake and staring at him? Surely it should have been scared of an approaching human and have flown away? But the bird hadn't acted frightened at all. If anything, it had been bold! Besides, how would it have gotten here? It certainly couldn't have flown across the Atlantic Ocean. No, that was way too far and even ships took months to cross it. Unless someone brought the bird here, but who would do that? Owls were not pets. Why go through the trouble and expense of hauling the creature on a long sea voyage? It made no sense, but then none of it did, did it?
And what about that odd fire you saw for that split second? A voice whispered in the back of his mind. The fireplace had been stone cold!
James sighed and ran a hand over his face to massage his forehead, which was starting to ache. "I fear I'm going mad. The owl could not possibly be real, yet I saw it. Sometimes…"
"Sometimes what?" Andrew prompted.
The Commodore was uncertain if he should proceed with the sentence, as it didn't seem proper to be saying these things. He certainly didn't want the word to get around the Fort. If sailors loved one thing, it was gossip as the Navy practically ran on scuttlebutt. Besides, he truly saw his father-in-law as a friend and didn't want to say things about his lovely home. But there were just too many odd things going on. James' green eyes darted towards the office door and satisfied that it was securely closed, he leaned forward and spoke in a low tone that only his two officers could here. "I think the mansion is … haunted."
Theo's brown eyes grew wide at the statement. "Really?"
"There's just a lot of weird things I've noticed while living there. Either the place is haunted or else I'm losing my mind." James sighed, as he just didn't know what to think anymore. "For example, yesterday a teacup broke during that tremor and this morning I noticed the Governor's set is complete once more, as if the cup had never been broken. I just don't understand it…"
"Well, teacups certainly can't repair themselves…" Andrew agreed, "But how can the house be haunted when no one ever lived there before the Governor and his daughter? I thought it was always old houses that had that, umm, problem? And why would the ghost make an owl?"
"Maybe it's a ghost owl?" Theo leaned forward and placed his hands on James' desk. "You know, there's an obvious solution to this. If Andrew and I see the owl, then you're not imagining things or going mad. And you certainly don't sound mad. The very fact that you're questioning it most likely means you're not."
That was the best thing James had heard since Elizabeth agreed to be his wife and it meant a lot to him. He hadn't been brave enough to ever ask Elizabeth about the odd things, as she had lived there since a young age. What would she think? Either she knew about it and thought it all perfectly normal or else it was all in his head. Of course, he knew he probably should discuss the matter with her, but that took bravery of a different nature. Wanting the matter to be done already, James stood and smoothed out his uniform. "Let us go now and get to the bottom of this perplexing mystery. The paperwork can wait."
The three headed outside and within a short time were standing outside Governor Swann's impressive mansion. The thought suddenly occurred to James that he was always gone at this time of day and had no idea what Elizabeth did while he was gone. He had always presumed she worked on her needlework, as each evening he saw more of it was finished, but he found it hard to actually picture his wife sitting patiently while working with colored thread. She was a bit too wild for that, but that was why he loved her: that wild spirit.
Andrew gazed up at the towering mansion before him, a slightly puzzled look on his face. "How exactly are we supposed to find an owl? It could have flown off to anywhere."
"I have a feeling it'll stick around here…" James stated dryly as he headed around the side of the house. The view of the ocean was stunning from this vantage point, one of the reasons that Weatherby had chosen this location for his home. The crash of the waves against the rocks was soothing as was the fresh ocean air that blew in from offshore; it was preferable to the stink of humanity that filled the poorer areas of town. The Governor also had a lot of privacy, with the huge backyard filled with tropical greenery. No wonder he had never noticed the odd bird before. Glancing up at the side of the house, he saw that the windows to the bedroom he shared with Elizabeth were open wide, the thin draperies blowing in the stiff breeze.
And there it was, perched on the windowsill as if it belonged there!
"Look! Up there!" James pointed towards the white owl.
"That certainly is an owl." Andrew admitted as he stared upward at the bird. "If it goes into the house, it'll poop everything up…"
James frowned at this fact, not liking it one bit, especially since it was in his bedroom. What if it had messed all over the room already or on Elizabeth's gowns? He would never hear the end of it.
"Maybe we can scare it away." Theo suggested.
"We'll have to do that from inside so it'll fly out the window. I hadn't thought it would be so bold as to actually sit on a windowsill." James hurried around to the rear of the house, where he knew the back door was located. While he had never actually gone in that way before as it was mostly used by servants, he certainly knew where it was and at the moment it was closer. Every moment counted, as he could imagine the horrid white mess the bird could leave all over the room far too easily. The door opened easily enough and he saw the kitchen, the cooks nowhere in sight. Something must be cooking, though, as the air smelled sweet from fresh bakery in the oven. A plate of fresh scones sat on the table and James snatched one as he hurried past, his officers following suit. He had never actually seen Weatherby's mysterious cook, but whoever it was certainly beat the usual Navy fare.
James soon found himself in the front room and wasted no time hurrying up the staircase. He came upon the door to his bedroom and opened it, hoping there wouldn't be a huge mess to deal with. His eyes darted automatically towards the open window, praying that the feathered creature would still be perched there, but of course it wasn't. No, that would have been far too easy. Instead the owl was now sitting atop of some odd wooden gadget that he had never seen before and was shaped like a large "T". Worst, it was busy cleaning between its feathers and wouldn't even dignify him with a glance. Without even glancing behind him to see if his officers were following, he issued orders. "Make certain the door is closed and then we shall run at the bird. Perhaps we can scare it enough so it will fly back outside…"
"Uh, James, I think we have a more serious problem…." Theo's voice sounded from just behind him.
"What could that be?" James turned and followed his friend's pointing finger towards the neatly made bed, where Elizabeth's needlework rested … except that it hovered in the air by itself, the needle darting in and out of the piece of stiff white cotton as if guided by invisible hands and the colorful thread following it. The Commodore's mouth fell open and he just stared at it, uncomprehending what he was seeing. He mutely watched as a pair of sheers lifted off from the bed and cut the tread, the thread neatly tying itself off. Then the needle was threaded with a new color and it set to work again, following the design neatly drawn on the cloth.
"Is that … real?" Andrew finally asked, his face pale and his eyes wide.
"Well, we all see it, I think." Theo guessed as he nervously watched the needle embroider by itself. "I guess this is the sort of thing you've been seeing?"
James found his mouth was dry and he had a hard time grasping the situation before him. The undead pirates had clearly been a threat and his training had taken over, but this…he didn't know what to make of it at all. He tried to form some sort of reply, only to find his tongue sticking to the roof of his mouth, the bit of pastry forgotten in his hand. He tried to work up some spit to moisten his mouth. "Yes, but nothing so obvious."
Truthfully, it was frightening.
And it spoke loudly of one thing: witchcraft.
He had been fooling himself when he had thought it had been a haunted house. Ghosts didn't repair broken teacups or have owls. And he certainly couldn't imagine a ghost doing his wife's needlework. The more he watched the needle working by itself, the more unsettled he grew. His heart pounded in his chest and his stomach bubbled nervously, the portion of the scone he had eaten turning into a hard lump of lead. Worst, his mind had gone blank and he had no idea what he should do. The Navy hadn't trained him for this.
The owl let out a loud cry and took to the air with flapping wings, soaring right over his head. James spun on his heel only to discover that neither Andrew nor Theo had bothered to close the bedroom door and he watched helplessly as the bird flew out into the hall.
"Perhaps we should go back to the Fort?" Theo hopefully suggested.
His two friends looked as nervous as he felt and James couldn't blame them. At least he knew now he wasn't going mad or seeing things. Of course, knowing that he had married a possible witch, well, he wasn't sure if that was any better? He had thought she had been only interested in pirates, but clearly that wasn't exactly true. She clearly was more than dabbling in the occult, which was not a good sign. Getting caught here would not be a good thing. Who knew what might happen if she realized they had discovered her little secret?
Feeling numb and still in shock, he exited the room and entered the hallway. The house was silent and he winched as their loud footfalls on the polished floor. Unfortunately, there was only the single staircase that led downward from the second floor and as he feared they would get caught there. But perhaps if they were quick enough, they could sneak out the front door without anyone being the wiser.
James just stepped downward onto the top step, his two lieutenants right on his heels, when Elizabeth appeared down below. His foot froze in midair, his hand on the railing. She held her arm out stiffly before her, crooked at the elbow and the white owl was perched on her forearm. She was gazing at the owl and hadn't noticed them yet. The owl twisted its head then, the large golden eyes staring right at him. For some odd reason James felt as if the bird was telling her that they were there, which was crazy as birds couldn't talk. But then thread couldn't embroider itself into designs either and yet it was.
Elizabeth turned her head them and spotted them frozen at the top of the staircase, but she seemed to make nothing of the odd expressions plastered to their faces. "Oh, are you home, James? I was wondering how Scalawag got out of our room."
Somehow James managed to keep his voice a normal tone when he replied. "Scalawag? Is that bird yours?"
"Of course he is." Elizabeth replied as if it was perfectly normal to have a pet owl. Still holding her arm out before her, she started up the stairs towards them. "Really, you need to be more careful. He has this awful habit of chewing on the drapery cords and makes them very ragged, with the threads poking out in all directions. Father really hates it when that happens, as it looks utterly horrible. Why don't you bring home some rope for him and make him a chew toy?"
"Rope…" James repeated, still unsure what to think. Didn't she realize they had seen the needle embroidering by itself or didn't she care? Then again, he noted the fact that she was standing in the very center of the staircase, blocking it. "I didn't realize you had a pet."
"Oh, I've had him for years." Elizabeth smiled up at her husband, the owl between them. "He's very smart, you know and useful. And he knows everything we're saying."
James smiled at the last one, forgetting somewhat how nervous he was feeling. "I doubt that."
"Well, it's true." Elizabeth stated as she continued to easily hold the large bird. Her brown eyes shifted to Gillette and Groves behind him, who still looked nervous and doubtful about the entire situation. "Let me guess, you've noticed a few odd things so you've decided to investigate it and in the process, you've discovered more than you can deal with. That made you feel uncomfortable and so you decided to dash out the front door before you were discovered."
She grinned then, appearing very smug.
The Commodore's mouth dropped open, surprised how clever his wife truly was. But then he realized she had to be in order to survive the kidnapping by the pirates and the ability to keep the owl a secret for over a month. Perhaps she had been letting him discover a few things at a time to slowly let him know that things were not exactly normal. He firmly closed his mouth and steeled his courage to ask the big question. "What exactly is going on?"
"Oh, I think you most likely have figured it out by now." Elizabeth said as she stared into his green eyes. "I'm a witch and father is a wizard. You married into a magical family."
"You truly are a … witch?" James asked, sadness tingeing his voice. He really hadn't wanted to accept that, as he truly loved Elizabeth and to think of her performing weird acts out in the jungle somewhere…well, that was too much to take. It was what witches did, wasn't it? They cast evil spells on people and formed dark covens. But surely she wasn't like that, was she? And Governor Swann had done nothing but good for Port Royal and was the fairest Governor he had ever known.
"It's not a bad thing!" She protested, hotly, her brown eyes sparkling. "We only do good magic. And yes, magic is real. You've seen it for yourself. It's very real here in the Caribbean and knowing how to deal with it can be useful. But there are two sides to everything, magic included. "
James was unsure what to say, as he felt like his head was spinning about in a wild and unpredictable hurricane. How could his darling Elizabeth, the love of his life, be a witch? How had she managed to keep that sort of thing a secret? But clearly she had. She must be far smarter than he thought, yet he could not believe she was bad.
"You know you can't tell anyone…" She informed them. "They won't believe you. And if they do, well, it won't be good."
"No, I suppose it wouldn't…" James had heard of what had happened in the town of Salem back in 1692, of course. It had been horrible, even if he had only read about it. Were the people that had been accused real witches? He had no idea, but some feeling in his gut said that it wouldn't be that easy to catch a real witch. He certainly wouldn't want his beautiful wife burned at the stake. He would do anything for her, even now knowing what he did. And so he began to see her with new eyes, pondering exactly what she could do. If a person could make thread embroider by itself, what else was possible? "What exactly can you do?"
She grinned. "The question is, what can't I do."
"Don't people notice?" Gillette asked from behind Norrington.
"Regular people are blind. They don't see what they don't want to see, most of the time anyway." Elizabeth explained as she tickled Scalawag's chin. The owl hooted softly, pleased by the attention he was receiving. "And if they do, the Ministry makes them forget with a simple charm. Some people are exempt, of course. We do have rules we live by. We can't do whatever we want, but there are dark wizards who try that."
James frowned, not liking the idea of a dark wizard becoming a pirate. How could he ever catch and arrest such a person if that happened? But then he realized that he had Elizabeth to help him with that, didn't he? His thoughts turned to one particular thorn in his side, the one man that had incredible good and bad luck. He pulled off impossible stunts, escaped from jails on a regular basis, vanished from under the eyes of numerous EIC agents and possessed an incredible amount of nerve. If any pirate was a wizard, it had to be him. The thought was enough to make him sick. "Please tell me that Sparrow is not a wizard."
"Of course he is. He's a pureblood."
James groaned. "And how exactly am I supposed to catch him then?"
"You caught him numerous times. He could apparate at any moment out of the cells but he doesn't. It is how he gets off the island that Barbossa strands him on though, as he enjoys driving the other pirate mad."
"And if I would hang him?"
"I think you would find that the rope would mysteriously break at the opportune moment and Jack would be declared innocent of the crimes."
James realized he had learned more about his wife and Sparrow in a short amount of time than he had in years and all he had to do was let go of his fears and open up to her. He could have spent years secretly thinking about the odd things he was seeing and yet be no closer to the truth, but thankfully he had bravely asked the questions he had been wanting to ask. And living with a witch might truly be interesting and eye-opening.
Elizabeth stepped closer to James, holding the owl up. "Now say hello to Scalawag. He can carry messages and even small items."
James reached out towards the owl and it affectionately nibbled at his finger with its sharp beak, being careful not to break the skin. Then Scalawag fluttered his wings and hopped onto his forearm where it started to pry at a golden button on his cuff. The bird weighed more than he expected and he was amazed at it being so tame, as he had never been this close to a bird before. Suddenly the Caribbean was a lot more enchanting than before.
An insistent loud clinking against the window panes awoke James Norrington from a deep sleep. Long years in the Royal Navy had him instantly awake, the sleep gone from his mind. Faint morning sunlight was already shining through the crack between the pair of draperies that covered the windows, the light promising another scorching Jamaican day. He glanced over his shoulder to see his wife, Elizabeth, still fast asleep and curled against his side. Her long locks spread over her pillow and he admired it for a few heartbeats, some part of him still amazed that she had married him. Then the odd clattering sounded again and he sighed, knowing he'd be forced to get up and go see what was causing it when he'd much rather stay in bed with Elizabeth.