Chapter 37 : Mariner's Surprise
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Severus was already anxious and fearful for his children, not to mention the fact that he also didn't enjoy sea travel. His anxiety made his stomach churn worse than normal and add to that fact that the sea was not calm had him feeling nauseous within fifteen minutes of leaving the protected cove by Misty Mount. But he had long practice in controlling nausea while attending Death Eater meetings, where prisoners and Muggles were routinely tortured and occasionally raped before his eyes, and he put that into play now, using his powerful will to overcome the sick feeling in his gut. He grasped his medallion and whispered a brief prayer that both his sons be safe and tried to remain calm. He wished the ship could fly, wished as well that he had never let four teenagers go out alone without adult supervision. What the hell had he been thinking?
His hands gripped the sides of the single seat below the bridge platform and he concentrated upon breathing slowly.
"You all right there, Severus?" called Ed from his place at the wheel.
"Fine. How much longer?"
"Let me find out." The Captain said, then he made several high pitched clicks and whistles and grating noises that Severus swore could not have come from a human throat.
The dolphin replied back with a sharp squeak and whistle.
"About fifteen more minutes, if we keep to the current course," Edward yelled.
"Thank God," muttered the Potions Master.
The ship sped on, following in the wake of the merry dolphin.
Draco kept his eyes glued to the circling fin about twelve feet from them, wondering what the damn predator was waiting for. Surely it could tell they were no threat and decide which one it wanted to snack on first? Are you in a hurry to die? The cynical part of his brain asked. He clutched Hermione tighter and whispered, "Don't worry. If it tries to come for us, I'll kick the bastard right in the nose."
Hermione nodded, her eyes also riveted to the circling fish. For one moment, she wished she had remained unconscious. "Katie?" she called softly, her voice barely carrying, though the wind had died down to almost a whisper by then. "Can't you . . .drive it off with a spell?"
Her friend didn't reply for a moment, then she answered, "Right now it seems to be checking us out, and if I make any sudden moves to get my wand, it might decide it's hungry after all and attack. If we all remain quiet and still, it might decide to leave. Sharks usually don't attack people, especially four of them together."
"But people have been eaten by sharks before!" Harry argued.
"When was the last time that happened?" his girlfriend asked. "Ages ago, and never in my lifetime, or even my father's. Sharks are like wolves, they have a horrible reputation as man eaters, when the truth is, most sharks only attack people because they think they're seals or injured fish. That's why I told you to remain still and not thrash about, because that's what a dying fish does."
She eyed the shark worriedly. It had been circling them for at least ten minutes now and it was odd that it hadn't come closer to investigate by now. A little warning voice in her mind was telling her that this shark was probably not hungry or it was non-aggressive. She wondered if she should dare ducking beneath the waves and using her Sonar spell, which she could cast without a wand due to her sea witch blood. The spell would tell her how big the shark was and even what kind it was, since different sharks were shaped differently.
"I don't like the way it keeps going around and around us," Harry said nervously. "Why is it doing that?" he fought to remain perfectly still, all his nerves were on edge, and adrenaline began pumping through him, triggering the "fight or flight" reflex.
"Sharks have to swim constantly or they'll die," Katie informed him.
Harry wished this one would just commit suicide. The JAWS theme song was playing in his head over and over.
"Don't panic," Katie said suddenly. "I'm going to go below for a minute and check the shark out."
"How? You're crazy!" Harry nearly screamed. Had she lost her bloody mind?
"No. I'm a sea wizard's daughter. Trust me."
With that, she vanished beneath the waves.
Harry fought to keep from shouting at her to come back and diving after her.
"Phoenix, don't move," Draco called.
Harry checked the brief impulse. Think before you act. Severus' lesson during school rang in his head, and he remained still and quiet, despite the terror surging through his veins. Seconds felt like hours and he bit his lip, wishing he could put on his glasses so the world wasn't just a blur of colors and shapes. But he dared not trust the fickle sea.
Three minutes later, Katie surfaced smoothly. "It's okay," she cried. "That's a nurse shark out there, although it's the biggest one I've seen, about 15 feet, and they don't usually come this far north, they like tropical waters. Strange."
"Great! We've got a lost tropical shark here looking for a quick bite," Draco growled.
Katie shook her head. "No. Nurse sharks hardly ever attack humans, they like squid best, and people have been known to swim among them and even pet them without anything happening. Nurse sharks are very docile, like big boarhounds."
Draco gave her a skeptical look. "You telling me that we've got the fish version of Fang out there?"
"Just how do you know that?"
"I used a Sonar spell, something I can cast wandlessly because I'm a third generation child of sea wizards and witches. Some of the sea magic is passed down through the blood, you see, and it's almost like an innate ability, like having quick reflexes."
"Next thing you're going to tell me is that you can grow gills and breathe underwater," Draco said.
"Not me, I don't have the full gift, but my parents can become marine creatures for short periods. Mum's a beluga whale and Dad's a marlin. But the shift only lasts two or three hours. And it's very draining on your magical reserves, which is why most sea wizards don't use it very much."
"Then we don't have to worry about the nurse shark eating us?" Hermione asked, her eyes still fixing upon the fin.
Katie shook her head. The storm had almost passed by now, and the sky began to quit raining and the sun to come out from beneath the cloud cover. The sea had also calmed a little and the splash of the waves against the side of the capsized Sea Treasure was almost soothing.
As if the sudden cessation of bad weather was a signal, the nurse shark suddenly broke out of its circling pattern and swam a bit closer. The four teens all froze, their breath rasping in their throats. Harry, who couldn't make out much because of his poor eyesight, asked nervously, "What is it? What's happening?"
Draco hissed, "The damn shark . . .it's coming closer . . ."
"Bloody hell!" muttered his brother, shivering.
Then the shark dissolved into a million silver sparkles, making them close their eyes against the sudden flare of light.
When they opened their eyes again, they saw a tall angular boy of about sixteen swimming where the shark had been, his blond hair plastered against his head. He wore aqua trunks and his body was well-muscled and sleek. He bore a tattoo upon his right bicep of a curled wave and five stars. In his ear was a large polished green agate with a pearl suspended from it.
He had eyes the color of seaweed and he nodded and gave them a roguish smile before introducing himself. "Hello. Didn't mean to scare you, but my mistress sent me to keep an eye on you all till our ship could come in range. Mariner Will Beauregard at your service."
He gave them all credible bow, though Draco didn't know how he managed it without looking like a fool while treading water. His voice held the soft drawl of the Southern United States.
"You're a wizard!" exclaimed the last Malfoy, glaring at the newcomer. "Why didn't you change back then, instead of letting us all think we were in danger from a bloody shark? You like making fools of us?"
The sea wizard shook his head. "Not at all, but I can't force a change. Once I become my sea form, I can't shift back until two hours pass. That's the spell's duration."
"Then you're not like an Animagus?" Harry asked.
"No. Animagi can change at will."
Katie swam forward. "Greetings, Mariner Beauregard. Katherine Elise Bell, daughter of Captain Edward Bell, Sea Wizard. And these are my friends, Harry Snape, Draco Malfoy, and Hermione Granger." She indicated each one in turn.
Will grinned. "Pleased to meet you, Miss Bell. So you're the cap's youngest, are you? The one who plays Chaser on the Quidditch team at school, right?"
"Yes," she clasped his hand in hers. "Do you know my sister then?"
He nodded. "She's my Sea Mage, I'm her apprentice. We saw your flares about an hour ago and we were about two hours from your position, so Mistress Max sent me on ahead to do some surveying in my sea form, assess the situation, like. It's standard procedure with a distress call."
"How come?" asked Draco.
"To make sure it's a legit distress beacon and not a lure put out by pirates or wreckers," answered the Mariner. "We've lost ships and sailors before to that sort of thing, so it's a precaution."
"You mean, there're still pirates around?" Hermione exclaimed.
"Still? Girl, they never left. They've always been around and probably always will be. Damn sea wolves!" Will scowled, using the nautical term for a pirate. "Are you all right? I smelled blood in the water when I swam up."
"We're okay now." Katie told him. "Hermione was hurt, but I healed her." She knew from his title, Mariner, that he was in his third year of apprenticeship, most Sea Wizards started an apprenticeship at age thirteen, learning from a Sea Mage or Wizard, which was another name for a Sea Witch. The Sea Wizards were a law unto themselves, and those with the gift often did not attend Hogwarts, preferring to serve their magical apprenticeship near the water with a full master or mistress. Maxine had served under the Captain, and Amber with her mother.
"Good. Then I won't have to worry about any other predators coming to investigate." Will said. "What happened? You get swamped by a wave?"
Katie nodded, her face darkening in sorrow. "I didn't see the storm come up till it was almost upon us, and I'm not Sea Mage enough to calm the water, and a wave slammed us and flipped Sea Treasure. There was nothing I could do but make sure we all tied ourselves to the boat and then I called a dolphin. I sent him back to my father for help."
"Quick thinking." The Mariner said approvingly. "You kept your head. It could have been much worse, considering that was quite a squall we had."
"Aren't you cold?" Hermione asked, her teeth chattering slightly, even though the water was still warmed by Katie's spell.
Will shook his head. "Nope. Us Sea Wizards have a sort of immunity to cold water, most times. Helps us when we have to rescue passengers on shipwrecks." He touched his earring then said, as if to himself, "Aye, Captain, mark in five minutes." Then he looked back at the others. "Amphitrite's Pearl will be here in about five minutes, and we can get you all out of the water and into some dry clothes and give you some warm seaweed broth to drink."
"Seaweed broth?" Harry wrinkled his nose. "Yuck!"
"It doesn't taste half as bad as it sounds, kid," laughed the Mariner. "Keeps the blood warm and gives you some vitamins and minerals that ward off sickness."
"It's sort of like a salty vegetable broth," Katie said. "It's better than some of the potions you've had to drink."
"What's that tattoo on your arm?" asked Draco curiously.
"This?" Will swam closer, so Draco could get a better look. "It's my Guild tattoo. Every apprentice wizard or witch gets one after they've served a year apprenticeship. It signifies that you're a member of the Oceanic Guild, which is the most powerful Guild still in operation today, we're international, and once you're a full Sea Wizard, you pay dues to it and they give you protection and aid if you need it."
"Are they part of the Ministry? I've never heard of that branch before," Draco queried, his brow furrowing.
"No. The Guild operates independently of the Ministry. Always has." Will replied. "Politics and Sea Wizards don't mix."
"You're not answerable to the Minister?" Hermione looked astonished.
"That pompous ass?" snorted Will. "Not on your life, nor the Wizengamut neither. We Sea Wizards are answerable to the Grand Admiral Magnus Horatio Nelson. He's the Head of the Guild as well as the highest ranking Sea Wizard in the world. He can take apart a tempest with a whistle. We're answerable to the Guild alone, and we police our own. Our goal is to make the sea safe for everyone and to fight pirates wherever we find them."
"These pirates, are they Sea Wizards too?" asked Harry.
"Some of 'em were. But they broke their Guild oaths and went dark. Now they're outlaws and food for the sharks when we catch 'em," the Mariner answered, a fierce look coming over his friendly features.
Before they could ask any more questions, they saw a large ship coming through the water. It was much bigger than Katie's clipper, it looked almost like a warship, a three masted, three tiered frigate flying the wave and star banner of the Oceanic Guild and the Union Jack. "There's the Pearl, ladies and gents!" announced Will, and he waved at those on board as they glided over the waves.
Harry had to admit that he had never been so grateful to see anything as that proud ship in his life, except maybe his father and Sarai that time in the Deepwood when he had been trying to keep Draco alive during the Unseelie ambush.
"Ahoy, Mariner Beauregard!" called a deep bass voice. "Are all passengers accounted for?"
"Aye, First Mate! All present and accounted for." Will hailed the ship.
"Well done, Mariner. Stand by to receive lifeboat," called the first officer.
A boat was lowered over the side and it magically drew alongside them and Will assisted the weary youngsters into the boat, then he climbed in himself and the boat magically propelled itself back to Amphitrite's Pearl.
Katie was greeted by her sister, Maxine, or Max, as she preferred to be called, as soon as she set foot on the Pearl's deck. "Katie, what scrape have you gotten yourself into now?" she scolded good-naturedly before picking her little sister up in a bear hug.
Maxine Bell was a tall willowy woman in her early twenties, her long hair was a light sunstreaked brunette that fell in a braid down her back. Like her apprentice, she also bore a Guild tattoo and an agate earring. Her skin was a warm café au lait color from exposure to the sun and wind, her eyes a merry cerulean. She was not a raving beauty, but she was attractive. She was wearing loose fitting cotton trousers tucked into knee-high boots, a sailor's blouse and a short billowy robe that came to her knees tied with a silver sash. Upon the sash were five knots, indicating she was a full Sea Mage, tested and sworn to the Guild. All her garments were various shades of blue, from aquamarine to midnight blue. She had a large pearl ring on her third finger that served as a focus for weather conjuring.
"It wasn't my fault, Max!" Katie said, swiping tears of relief from her eyes. "The storm came out of nowhere and Treasure couldn't outrun it! Dad's gonna kick my arse from here to the Tortugas."
"Nah, kid. Captain knows how sudden a squall can blow up here." Max reassured her. "Sit down here, you and your mates, and let me get you some dry things and some broth. You all look like drowned puppies." She waved her wand and their soaking wet clothing was replaced by fluffy thick terry robes and cotton trousers and shirts similar to her own. "Will! Get them some broth!"
"Yes, ma'am!" her apprentice snapped to attention, managing to look presentable even in nothing but swim trunks. He made a gesture, and four steaming mugs of seaweed broth appeared before them, along with a tray of honey drizzled shortbreads.
"Any of you need to see the ship's surgeon?" asked Max.
All of them shook their heads no, even Hermione.
"Max, what about my clipper?" Katie asked, indicating the poor sailboat.
"Relax, I'll have her seaworthy in fifteen minutes. Has anyone contacted Captain Bell?"
"I did. I called a dolphin," Katie told her.
"Good. Then he'll be here shortly." Max rolled up her sleeves. "Meantime, before Old Huff n' Puff gets here and starts bellowing, let me see to your clipper." She winked at her sister.
"Old Huff n'Puff?" queried Harry.
Katie giggled. "That's our private nickname for Dad, because he huffs and puffs like a killer storm but never really hurts you."
The Sea Mage moved over to the rail and stretched out her arms. She chanted a phrase in Latin three times, tracing a strange pattern in the air with her wand.
Her arms began to glow and then suddenly the glow surrounded the capsized sailboat and drew it into the air.
As the young wizards watched in silent amazement, all except Katie, who had seen such magic before, the Sea Treasure righted itself and was set down gently atop the waves.
Max pursed her lips and puffed, and a soft warm breeze swirled about the small craft, drying it. The sails hung limp and torn, but she pointed her wand and said, "Mend," in Latin, and they repaired themselves.
Draco and Harry whistled in admiration. "Wow, she's really something!"
Will joined them, sitting upon a bench off to the side, he was now wearing a pair of blue trousers and a darker blue robe, tied with a black sash with three knots in it. He began to sip his own mug of broth, savoring the salty taste. "That's Mistress Max, she's one of the best Sea Mages there is!" Admiration and pride for his teacher shone in his eyes.
"She's a Bell, it's in her blood," Katie said proudly, saluting her sister with her mug.
Harry cautiously tasted his broth, finding it was salty and rather pleasant tasting, though an odd dark green color. But the first swallow warmed him considerably and by the third he was warm all the way down to his toes. He had shoved on his glasses just before Max had performed her charm on his clothes, and now could see everything clearly. Their clothes were spread out neatly upon a set of trunks, drying in the brisk wind.
The four castaways sipped their broth and nibbled upon the shortbread for about ten minutes before a dolphin was seen cutting through the waves. It gave a brief whistle and a clicking noise.
"Ahoy, Waverunner!" Will jumped to his feet and greeted the dolphin with a series of squeaks and clicks in its own speech.
"Do all Sea Wizards speak fish?" asked Hermione.
"Pretty much. It's one of the first talents that comes out if you've got the gift," Katie said. "Look! Here comes Sea Lady, with my dad at the wheel."
"Is ours with him?" Harry asked, standing up, his half full mug clutched in his hand.
"Yes, look!" Katie pointed to a tall man in black trousers and a blue chambray shirt, his hair blowing all over his face, standing at the bow of the ship.
Captain Bell's ship drew alongside Amphitrite's Pearl, and Edward dropped anchor and hailed the other ship. "Ahoy, Captain Turner! This is Captain Bell of Sea Lady, you've picked up some castaways of mine. Permission to come aboard?"
Captain Turner, a red bearded man in his fifties, bellowed back, "Permission granted, Captain! Mr. Stevens, lower the plank and make her fast!"
"Aye, aye, sir!" the first mate called out orders to a few more sailors, who weighed anchor and extended a plank from their ship to the Sea Lady.
Edward and Severus crossed to the frigate, and upon seeing their children, rushed over to inspect them.
Harry quickly set down his mug as Severus approached. "Harry! Are you hurt?"
"I'm fine, Dad," were all the words he managed to get out before Severus took him by the shoulders, looked him up and down, and then crushed him to his chest.
"You're sure you're all right?" his father asked after releasing him. "I saw you in the ocean, in the middle of that damn storm . . .!"
"The boat capsized, but Katie saved us all," Harry said.
Severus released him and went to Draco, giving his blond Slytherin son the same treatment he had Harry. "Are you all right, Dragon? You look a little pale, and why is there blood on your cheek?"
"Ah, that's not mine, Dad. It's Hermione's. She hit her head when the boat flipped over and I grabbed her and she was bleeding from a cut on her forehead. But Katie healed her before too much blood went into the water."
"Thank Merlin! I nearly went into cardiac arrest when the medallion warned me the two of you were in danger." He took a handkerchief from his pocket and scrubbed Draco's cheek.
The other winced. "Not so hard, Dad." He tried to draw away, for Severus was overzealous in his ministrations. "I'm fine, Harry's fine, Hermione's fine, and so's Katie. The only thing that's not fine is our catch of crabs and fish. I think they got washed away when the boat flipped over. And we had a great catch too!" He made a mournful face.
"Who cares about the bloody fish as long as you're safe?" muttered Severus, running his hands over Draco's hair.
Then he turned to Hermione, who had watched the family reunion with something very close to amusement. "Miss Granger, are you well? Is your head hurting? I can give you a potion . . ."
"Don't worry about me, sir. My head feels fine." She set down her mug and hugged him abruptly.
He hugged her back, patting her gently. "There now, you're safe and sound, no need to cry."
"It's just. . .I thought we were going to drown and then a shark came, only it wasn't a real shark, it was Will . . ." Hermione sniffled into his shirt.
"Excuse me? Who is Will and what do you mean a shark came?" Severus sputtered. "Sit down and explain yourself."
He gently pushed her back down on the bench and sat inbetween her and his sons. He listened while Hermione and his sons told him what had happened, the crushing weight in his chest starting to lift now that he was reunited with his family once more.
A few feet away, Edward was simultaneously hugging and scolding his daughter, growling in one breath, "Katherine, how many times have I told you t'keep a weather eye out for thunderheads?" and then in the next, "Be you hurt, lass? You're shivering."
Katie buried her face in his thick cable knit jumper. "I'm not hurt, Dad. But my poor Treasure is going to need a refit and I lost my Mirror of Communication in the sea and I'm sorry I was such an idiot and didn't pay attention and made you worry . . ." In spite of herself, tears began to leak out of her eyes and she started to sob, more from reaction and fear of her father's disappointment than anything.
Edward picked up his lanky daughter and sat down upon a barrel with her, holding her and murmuring, "Hush, Katie girl. I nearly died when Severus told me what he had seen . . .I thought I'd not be in time . . .thank goodness you remembered what I taught you . . .There now, I'm not angry, you silly goose! I can make another mirror and we'll fix Treasure, I'm just glad to have you safe and not . . ." he trailed off and made a sign to ward off ill luck. No one knew better than he how fickle a mistress the sea was.
"Then I'm not in trouble?" Katie asked, wiping her nose upon her sleeve.
Edward snorted. "'Twas bad luck, girl. Could have happened to anyone, even me. And I'd say the sea has punished you more soundly than ever I could. But you kept your head and you didn't panic like a silly landlubber, you did yourself and me proud, little mariner. Now, let's thank Captain Turner and his brave crew for hauling you outta the drink, and let me say hello to your sister and young Will, and thank them too. Then we can be off home, where I'm sure your mother has worn a hole in the floor pacing."
Both parents showered the Captain, Max, and Will with thanks, and Edward invited Captain Turner and his officers to his house for a clam bake as well Maxine and Will. They accepted, saying they would take up the invitation next time they made port.
Finally, they all boarded Sea Lady, tied up Katie's clipper to the stern and were heading back to Misty Mount. Katie and Draco went back on board Sea Treasure to see if any of the catch had survived, and found to their delight that the hold hatch had not unlocked. The fish and crabs were still safely stowed in their seawater compartments, and as a reward, Katie gave a bucket of fish to Waverunner for his help.
The dolphin gulped them down and whistled his thanks before leaping up in the air and then vanishing again into the waves. Farewell, little wizards! Smooth sailings!
"Well?" Harry asked as Draco climbed back onto the Captain's ship. "Was there any fish left?"
"The whole catch and the crabs too," Draco said happily. "We'll have a feast tonight, Phoenix. Crab legs and fried fish." He smacked his lips in anticipation.
"But no shark," Hermione commented, and for some reason that comment made them all laugh hysterically.
Severus looked over at them, relieved that they all seemed to be getting over their traumatic experience. He thanked Merlin that the Sea Wizards were so efficient and prompt in a crisis, the Aurors could take a few lessons from them. He rested his elbow on the rail and looked out over the water, finding the motion of the ship easier to bear if he was standing and focusing his eyes on the horizon, which was now clear and tinged with rose and gold and violet as the sun began to set. What a weekend this had turned out to be! Then again, he should have expected the unexpected, because trouble seemed to find his sons wherever they were. He caressed his medallion and thought how glad he would be when they were finally home at Prince Manor, for though he liked the Bells, he would never warm to the sea, his heart was forever tied to the land of his ancestors.
He heaved a silent sigh when they pulled up at the dock and the kids hopped out and fetched the chests of seafood and carried them up to the house, while Katie and Edward tied up their crafts.
"Do you need any help, Edward?" he asked for politeness' sake, for he knew next to nothing about ships.
"No, Severus. Katie and I can manage fine. You go on up to the house, we'll be along in a few."
Severus climbed carefully down the side and onto the dock. Then, because he didn't feel like walking up the twisty path to the house, he Apparated.
That night, they all feasted upon the fresh fish and crab legs, eating the fish with a special blend of cocktail and tartar sauce and the crab with drawn butter, as well as seasoned potatoes and warm yeast rolls. Over dinner, the kids related their experience over to Marissa, and if some parts of the tale grew a little in the telling, no one minded.
Hope you all liked the surprise!
I could probably do a whole side story about the Sea Wizards, now that I think about it. But that'll have to wait till this is finished. Would you be interested?
Next: The Snapes return home and Harry receives some lessons on manipulating time via the time clock and writes to Petunia and Ron. Plus Draco receives a letter from the Malfoy solicitor.
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