Author's Note: Beware of bookmark-eating books.
=Chapter 8: Look Out!=
The windows were clean now, but the morning fog clung to the glass like Spellotape, determined to obscure the ocean view. Hermione was loitering in the side cabin doorway, bobbing impatiently on her toes. "Harry!" she said, spotting him.
"Where's Will?" Harry asked, peering past Hermione's shoulder into the dimly-lit side cabin. "Off finishing his overachiever chores or something?"
"Yes- he's replacing candles in all the lanterns, and Captain Wentmark's busy with charts again- I just managed to slip away- Now come on, get in already!" Hermione ordered, grabbing Harry's shoulder and pulling him into the cabin.
Malfoy came in next, edging past Hermione in a glarey, suspicious semicircle, like he expected her to grab him too if he got too close.
"I thought we'd never get a moment alone!" Hermione exclaimed dramatically, while kicking the broken piece of anchor in front of the side cabin door, like Will had showed them earlier.
"It's nearly 9:00! I've been wanting to talk with you all since 5:00 a.m.. That's four hours I haven't found the chance to talk."
"Oh, what a tragedy," Malfoy scoffed. "However did you manage?"
"I've been wanting to talk to you longer," Harry said. "I was up all night."
"Would you two stop talking about talking?" Malfoy groaned.
Ignoring him, Hermione added chattily, "It is surprisingly hard to have a private conversation on a ship."
"Tell me about it," Harry agreed. "So- Hermione-"
"That's why we should be getting off this ship," Malfoy snarled under his breath, falling backwards into his hammock with crossed arms, and a moody glare.
Hermione rolled her eyes, and Harry noticed her jaw clench, just a little. "Malfoy," she said crisply, obviously putting significant effort into not snarling, "the ship is already headed for land, we'll be at Jamaica in nine days. Which is much faster than it would take rowing a rowboat."
"Not if the rowboat's enchanted," Malfoy shot back carelessly, not even bothering to look at her.
"So now you know how to enchant rowboats?" Hermione asked, highly skeptically.
"I could figure it out."
"Speaking of 'figuring things out'..." a small voice prompted suddenly, interrupting the emerging argument. It was Ginny, standing in a patch of shadow, with flickery specks of lantern-light glinting off her hair and necklaces.
"Ginny! We didn't see you come in!" Hermione said in surprise. "Which is actually rather impressive, considering I shoved the anchor fluke in front of the door- maybe just sit in front of the door so that nobody else walks in on us, alright?"
"Oh- right-" Harry added abruptly, before Ginny could answer, "Also Ginny- you're not dreaming, and the Malfoys didn't drown."
"Well thanks for telling me now, after I've only been fretting all morning!" Ginny exclaimed crossly.
"I didn't get the chance earlier!" Harry protested.
Ginny spun to face Malfoy. "Your parents really didn't drown?" she asked him fretfully, like she still needed reassurance.
"No, already," Malfoy drawled boredly, like she'd asked him this a million times, instead of just this once.
"Oh, okay," Ginny replied, sighing in relief. "Good."
"Well-" Harry said, "Now that the sailors can't hear us, you can ask us any other question you want, Ginny. Just- whatever you're most confused about, go ahead and ask."
"Oh- okay... um-" Ginny looked embarrassed, but at last squeaked out, "...How did I get in these clothes?"
"You... dressed yourself. I think," Harry said, glancing at Hermione.
"Yeah," Harry continued.
"Don't you remember?" Hermione asked in concern.
"Does your head hurt at all?" Harry asked, glancing at Ginny's greenish hair. "Do you think you hit it or something?"
"So- how did our- um- ship... explode?" Ginny asked, conspicuously changing the subject. "Why were we on a ship again?" She paused, glancing down at the mismatched gold necklaces around her neck. "And- why am I still wearing the astronomy head-aligner apparatus?"
"No we weren't-" Hermione began- "-look, there was no ship- not our ship anyway-"
"You honestly don't remember what happened?" Harry cut in in disbelief. "With Troth and everything?" Harry's neck hurt just thinking about Troth and those stupid gold necklaces.
Ginny looked blank. Not zoned-out blank like earlier, just- regular blank.
"Alright," Hermione prompted, "clearly you remember the uh- 'head-aligner apparatus', so you must remember our substitute astronomy teacher, right?"
Ginny's face scrunched up. "You... mean the man in the funny red robe who tried to drag me out of Flourish and Blotts?"
"What?" Hermione exclaimed.
"And you didn't think to give anyone the heads-up he was a deranged kidnapper?" Malfoy hissed, finally sitting up in his hammock, and fixing Ginny with an incredulous look.
"A kidnapper?" Ginny repeated with a worried little gasp. "Who did he kidnap?"
"Us!" Malfoy snapped. "What is wrong with you? How could you not have noticed someone dragging you out of a book shop was a kidnapper? Oh, I get it- it's because the thought of anyone wanting you is so unlikely it just didn't register!"
"Malfoy!" Hermione scolded sharply. She put a comforting arm around Ginny's shoulders, as tears welled up in Ginny's eyes. "It's alright Ginny, go on."
"I thought he was just trying to cut line to get Lockheart's book!" Ginny whined. "But- then he dragged me to a corner- then he just ran off. It was really- um- weird."
There was an empty pause that was just as incredulous as Malfoy's face. "Again," Malfoy snapped, "you didn't think to-"
"Oh leave her be, she didn't know!" Harry retorted.
"It's your fault we're here!" Malfoy accused, getting sharply up out of his hammock, and storming up in front of Ginny. "You- you Weasely, and your stupid- not-big mouth, just, just not telling anyone about an obviously insane lunatic prowling around the Wizarding World, out to kidnap students for no reason!"
"You were all standing right there in the bookshop too!" Ginny shot back, swiping a sleeve over her damp eyes.
Malfoy scoffed. "Oh, as if anyone pays any attention to you."
"I pay attention to you, Ginny," Harry said supportively. "I mean-" he added, realizing that sounded weird.
"Hear that Weasely?" Malfoy said gleefully. "Your crush pays attention to you! Too bad he can't be bothered to say anything when he sees you getting kidnapped. But you know- there were a lot of books that still needed autographing, and being a celebrity means one must prioritize-"
"I didn't see her then!" Harry retorted defensively."And Lockheart dragged me up there, it wasn't my idea!"
"Enough, you two!" Hermione snapped. Releasing her protective hug, but still keeping one hand on Ginny's shoulder, she asked gently, "What was the last thing you remember, Ginny?"
"I can't remember!" Ginny whined.
"Good thing we're not stuck in Weasely's memories," Malfoy scoffed.
Hermione gave him an exasperated look. "You can't still think we're in your parents' memories."
"Not so much anymore," Malfoy admitted reluctantly. "But that doesn't mean we 'time traveled'," he added sharply. "We're just- somewhere in the Muggle world."
"Time-traveled?" Ginny echoed shakily.
"Yes," Hermione said, starting to pace in a very small circle, and distractedly pushing a few loose hammock ropes out of her way. "Troth stranded us two hundred and seventy-five years in the past with a Time-Turner, which is a device which can drag you backwards and forwards through time- and Ginny, I'm really worried I'm having to explain this twice. Are you sure you didn't hit your head?"
"Yes- no- I..." Ginny trailed off in confusion. "We're in the past? But- I thought these were just Muggle sailors!"
"Oh- Ginny..." Hermione began.
"No, go on," Malfoy said patiently. "Tell her how stupid she is."
"She is not!" Harry snapped, just as Hermione said,
"They are Muggle sailors- just- at a very different time. It's the year 1717."
"Says some Muggle," Malfoy retorted.
"And all the Captain's log books!" Hermione retorted. "Honestly, you think an entire ship full of Muggles you'd never met would come up with an elaborate prank about it being the past, specifically to fool you?"
"Well what else do Muggles have to do?"
Hermione gave him another look.
Malfoy rolled his eyes, like it was a bother having to come up with a second explanation. "That newsie could have put them up to it..." he said dubiously.
"That 'newsie' had a Time-Turner!" Hermione yapped.
"Fine then," Malfoy drawled finally, "if time-travel does exist, why haven't I heard of it?"
"You have heard of it, I told you!"
"I mean from reputable sources."
"Hermione is a reputable source!" Harry argued.
"Maybe according to a dunce like you."
"Says the dunce who tried to fly off the ship with a mop," Harry retorted.
"He did what?" Hermione shot Malfoy an aghast look.
"Mops don't fly," Ginny said with a tiny smirk, like this was something she had personal experience with.
"Of course they don't fly!" Hermione exclaimed, a bit too loudly. In a hushed voice, she added, "Did anyone see you? What were you thinking?!"
"I was thinking- just how much I'd rather be anywhere else than stuck on a ship with you," Malfoy retorted primly.
"How were you planning to fly to land?" Hermione demanded. "Do you have any idea how big the Atlantic ocean even is? How were you planning to stay awake for nine days?"
"Unlike fake witches, mops float," Malfoy retorted carelessly. "I could've landed in the water every now and then and took a nap while holding onto the mop, and then-"
"No!" Hermione snapped quietly. "Absolutely no! I can't believe you!"
"I can't believe you'd rather slave away for Muggles than take your chances escaping. Call yourself a witch," Malfoy sneered. "And you call yourself a wizard!" he added sharply, turning toward Harry. "Honestly, am I the only one here with any dignity?"
"Dignity?" Hermione echoed, in almost a laugh. "Oh- yes, you've been just so dreadfully dignified, yelling and throwing fits and making a complete spectacle of yourself!"
"-Don't keep talking to me."
"Harry and I keep on having to cover for every stupid thing you say! Just because you can't manage to be civil!"
"Civil?" Malfoy scoffed. "With Muggles?"
Malfoy gave her a sinister look. "If they knew, what you are-" he said, taking two menacing steps toward her, "they'd burn you alive and you know it. Don't act like they're 'civil'."
"I don't think these sailors would burn us," Ginny cut in softly. "They seem nice."
"Oh shut up, Weasley, it's your fault I've been stuck watching Potter scrub dishes all morning," Malfoy growled. "It's your fault any of this happened!"
"It's nobody's,fault, Malfoy!" Hermione snapped back. "No wait- I mean- it's Troth's fault. But not Ginny's. So just stop."
"So- is Australia not a place yet?" Harry asked Hermione abruptly. It definitely wasn't the most important question swarming his mind, but somehow, it just jumped out first.
"Well- it's a place," Hermione said, "but it won't be called Australia until 1824- up till then, it'll be known as Terra Australis Incognita, New Holland, or New South Wales, and is mostly undiscovered, mostly a name on a map."
"Right," Harry said."Also- which book did you read that one passage about Time-Turners in?"
"It didn't actually have a title- all I remember is that it was teal, and kept eating my bookmarks. I lost a very nice silvery one, and I still miss it..." Hermione added wistfully.
"So- did this book mention when Time-Turners were invented?" Harry wondered. "I mean- do any of them exist now? Could we find one and go back to our time on our own- rescue ourselves?"
"No, it didn't say when; and no, I don't think we can just 'find' one, Harry," Hermione sighed, in the same way she did when he was drastically behind on his homework.
"How do Time-Turners even work?" Ginny chimed in.
"You attach it to something gold- in our case, necklaces- touch the gold, and spin the hourglass part," Hermione explained. "As for how it works logically, I've no idea."
"Oh," Ginny said, lightly touching the four necklaces. "So these aren't for Astronomy?"
Hermione sighed again. "No. Those are what Troth used to kidnap us."
"Oh," Ginny said again, frowning at the necklaces. "Did the astronomy teacher-"
"Troth," Hermione corrected.
"-Did he strand other students in the past too?"
"No- I don't think so," Hermione replied thoughtfully. "He specifically targeted the four of us because we'll try to arrest him in the future- oh- and he said something about you being a parakeet-"
"What?" Ginny yipped.
"Did that teal book say who made the first Time-Turner?" Harry asked.
"No one knows, really-"
"Well do they at least know how many were made?"
"Look, I told you, I only read one passage on them!" Hermione exclaimed. "And yes, it had a few run-on sentences, but it can't have been too accurate, since it said Time-Turners could only bring you one hour into the past! Which clearly isn't true!"
"So did the book say anything useful about Time-Turners?" Harry asked sourly.
Hermione hesitated. "It said they're sometimes inscribed with little poems-"
"Oh, so useful," Malfoy scoffed. "Do the poems say where to find the damn things?"
"So- if we can't find a Time-Turner- what's our plan?" Harry asked. "Do we just wait for someone from the future to find us? How does that work?"
Ginny raised her hand like she was in school, and added nervously, "What if we can't get back?"
"Oh, I wish you would all stop looking at me like I have all the answers!" Hermione exclaimed, suddenly looking awfully distressed.
"But Hermione, that's what you do," Harry said. "You have all the answers!"
"Well this time I don't, alright?" Hermione closed her eyes briefly, took a deep breath, and then resumed pacing around edgily- this time in a wider circle, around the perimeter of the side cabin. "Alright," she said, ducking under her hammock, "I don't think we've changed anything too badly yet- this ship is still heading for its same destination, rescuing us only delayed them a few minutes- one rooster died prematurely, but that probably won't significantly affect the timeline- I think, and no one's been stabbed or thrown overboard."
"No thanks to Potter," Malfoy griped.
Hermione pushed Ginny's hammock sideways as she meandered past it. "Troth said he was going right back to 1992, right?" she said to no one in particular.
Harry had missed this detail earlier, but he nodded anyways.
"So he'll try his ridiculous 'takeover', and then he'll be recognized, because- well, obviously, and they'll-" Hermione paused. "-No, but Veritaserum is illegal- then again, this is a special case- oh, I suppose they could always-"
Malfoy scoffed. "It's only illegal if underage wizards or wizards with revoked wand rights use it- Aurors use the stuff all the time."
"Right," Hermione said, a bit twitchily, "Anyway, they'll get him to say where we are, then they'll time-turner back in time and retrieve us-"
"Who d'you think they'll send?" Harry wondered.
"Definitely at least one Obliviator, since I'm sure they'll want to Obliviate anyone who's seen us- also at least one Auror, since they're the best at tracking- possibly someone from the Major Investigative Department too," Hermione speculated, tapping the dangling lantern out of her way. The flickery candlelight shifted crazily around the room, casting strange shadows. "They won't send a large team, since they'll want to keep this contained- just a few elite specialists. And- well, I'm not sure who the specialists for time-travel cases would be- they're probably top secret- but my guess would be they work in the Department of Mysteries."
"Or T.J. Torridan's Timepieces, Talismans, and Topping Trinketry," Ginny suggested.
"Oh, that does sound promising," Hermione said curiously. "Who are they?"
Ginny shrugged. "It was on the back my family's locator clock. I saw it one time Fred knocked it off the wall. He was trying a charm to make Scabbers sprout wings- but he made the tea kettle sprout wings instead- then it went mad and attacked the clock. I told him not to. There was tea and clock parts everywhere."
"No surprise there," Malfoy scoffed. "I'm surprised it didn't shatter to pieces all on its own without the botched kettle, if it was from Torridan's. Cheap knockoffs and junky clutter is all they sell. If you want clocks that'll last, it's 'Perennis and Chime's' or no one."
"My Dad fixed it, so it's working fine now!" Ginny argued. "And it's lasted in my family for three generations, thanks!"
"A clock from Torridan's is your family heirloom?" Malfoy mocked. "Oh, Weasley- that's just sad. I'm thinking of starting a charity fund for you when we get back."
"Malfoy-" Hermione began sharply, but instead of snapping at him again, she asked- "how long-lasting are the clocks from Perrenis and Chime's? Has Perennis and Chime's been around very long?"
"Oh, they're known for it. Been in business five hundred years- the Perennis family goes way back."
"Then that's actually a really good lead!" Hermione said, breaking into an excited little grin. "An upscale clock shop that's been around forever might have at least heard of Time-Turners! They could even have one! Maybe we shouldn't get off this ship at Kingston after all- I could ask Captain Wentmark if we could sail back to England on the return voyage- oh, but I promised Will we'd help him find his father-" Her grin dropped. "Oh- no, stop- forget everything I just said- that's the worst idea I've had all morning!"
"All your ideas are the worst ideas, Granger," Malfoy drawled. "Really, who cares about that runt's father?"
"No- I mean- We can't just walk into a shop which might invent Time-Turners someday!" Hermione said shrilly. "What if we mess something up- knock into a display case, or accidentally get someone fired? What if Time-Turners never get invented? What if we inadvertently take the exact same Time-Turner Troth will end up with someday, and then he never does?"
"But- wouldn't that solve our problem?" Harry asked.
"Or it could create some sort of time-destroying paradox!"
"Now you're just making up words," Malfoy sighed.
"Just because you don't know what a paradox is doesn't mean it's made up!" Hermione shot back.
"Wait-" Harry said suddenly, "-I know someone we know back now!"
"What?" Hermione said, just as Ginny said,
"Nearly-Headless Nick! Bet he'd help us!"
"No!" Hermione argued. "Look, I'd like to visit Sir Nicholas too- but we can't go to Hogwarts either! We can't go anywhere that might result in altering our personal histories! It's too risky!"
"Well- what can we do?" Harry asked, feeling a bit defeated at having his idea shot down so fast.
"Nothing," Hermione said decisively. "We can do nothing. It's really the most sensible thing. We find some quiet place to camp out until someone comes back in time and finds us, we don't talk to anyone, and we don't change a thing."
"What are you so scared of changing?" Malfoy asked snidely.
"History," Hermione snapped. "And if you had even a speck of common sense, you'd be scared too."
"Ooooh, history! Scary!" Malfoy mocked.
"Couldn't we just explain things to the old Ministry of Magic?" Ginny asked dizzily.
Oh right, I said I pay attention to Ginny- "Good point Ginny!" Harry said, smiling at her in an attempt to make her feel more comfortable.
Ginny's eyes dropped sharply to her socks, and Harry got the distinct impression he was making her feel less comfortable.
"Harry-" Hermione began warily. "I don't think the Ministry-"
"No, listen-" Harry cut in, "We don't say a word about the future- we don't even have to tell them our names- we can just explain we're some students who got lost in the wrong time and ask if they know how we can get back. Who's the current Minister of Magic?"
"Ulick Gamp," Hermione said automatically. "He's the first ever, of course. But Harry- the Ministry of Magic has only been around ten years, who knows if they've even heard of time magic yet! I don't think they'll be as helpful as you think. They're really not pulled together yet. I mean, the Auror Office won't even be founded until 1733, and the Unforgivable Curses won't be made Unforgivable until later this autumn-"
Ginny gave a sharp little gasp.
"Oh, I knew there was something familiar about this year..." Malfoy drawled.
"Don't get any ideas, Malfoy!" Hermione retorted fiercely.
A chill crept into the back of Harry's mind. "What are the Unforgivable Curses?" he asked slowly.
"Um-" Hermione said, looking a bit dodgy, "-never mind, Harry- I'll- tell you later."
"Or I could show you later..." Malfoy offered pleasantly, with an ominous smirk.
"You wouldn't dare!" Hermione snapped.
"Wanna bet?" Malfoy said sleekly.
"You don't even know how!"
"It isn't just the words, you know!" Hermione informed Malfoy sharply. "And- look- we have to be extra careful right now- we can't just trust the first wizard or witch we see, either. This is a dangerous time- practically lawless, and the wizarding government as we know it is still in its infancy. There's entire libraries of dangerous spells and half-spells that haven't been perfected yet, there's all sorts of deadly and disfiguring potions that haven't been banned-" She paused, then added brightly, "At least dragon breeding was outlawed eight years ago-"
"Publicly," Malfoy cut in. "Went on in secret for years after the ban. Also, dragon eggs only hatch under very specific conditions, so you've got all these people claiming they acquired their egg pre-ban, and not from a current breeder. Not to mention dragons live ages- especially some of the Gatewarden varieties of Hebridean Blacks- best guard-dragons there were, so they say."
"I heard it was Catalonian Fireballs," Hermione retorted instantly.
"Oh, don't even try, Granger. You don't know more about dragons than me."
"Which year did the Ilfracombe incident occur?" Hermione quizzed.
"1932; Devon, England, thwarted by the Toke family, and everyone knows that," Malfoy sneered. "Who was the first dragonologist?"
"Wrong, his sister, Daiyu Shen. He stole her work."
"Rumors aren't facts."
"Your 'facts' aren't facts," Malfoy shot back. "What's the favored prey of the Australian Opaleye?"
"Kangaroos. What's the twelfth use of dragon's blood?"
"Oven cleaner, not like you'd know," Hermione snipped. "Who was the first dragonologist to catch a Peruvian Vipertail?"
"Harvey Ridgebit, using an invisible net trap coated with Irukandji jellyfish venom," Malfoy answered neatly. "Which pureblood family has a mummified Luxor Lapis-wing mounted to their foyer ceiling?"
Hermione opened her mouth, then closed it. She looked thoroughly stumped, and thoroughly irritated. "Yours?" she guessed sarcastically, but Harry could hear the defeat in her voice.
"Wrong, the Periweathers," Malfoy said, with a gloating smirk. "What type of music puts any juvenile dragon into a trance?"
"Distilled Mermaid song. Keep up, Granger. Which dark wizard of the nineteenth century liked to drown people in a swimming pool full of dragon's blood?"
The door pushed open suddenly, and the chatter went dead.
"Good afternoon!" Will said, wearing his usual ever-friendly smile, and giving a small, awkward wave. There were candles in his hands, and candles poking out of his pockets.
"Oh- hi," Hermione said blankly. "You um- haven't- er-"
"Been eavesdropping outside the door like a lousy sneak, have you?" Malfoy accused.
"I- just got here," Will stated, slipping into the room. "Why.. so... jumpy?" he asked, as he replaced the nearly burnt-out candle stub in the lantern with a fresh candle. "What are you worried I'll overhear?"
"None of your business. Clearly," Malfoy drawled.
"So how'd the swabbing go?" Will teased.
Not bothering to reply, Malfoy brushed past Will and stormed out of the side cabin.
"Malfoy- Malfoy!" Hermione hissed. "Where are you storming off to! It's a ship! There's nowhere to go!"
Will started after him.
"No- wait-" Harry said, lightly grabbing Will's shoulder, and stopping him in the main cabin's doorway. "-I'll talk to him. And Will, um- friendly warning- just- stay away from Malfoy."
Harry found Malfoy by one of the ship's rails, clutching the top of it, and glaring off into the ocean.
"Not thinking of jumping ship still, are you?" Harry asked.
"Maybe," Malfoy retorted.
Harry sighed, and dragged his fingers backwards through his black hair. "You know Hermione's right about the flying a mop thing, right?" he asked irritably. "And about the rowboat thing. And about everything, really. Staying here, together, on the Avalon, is our best bet. When we get to land, we'll- we'll figure something out. By which I mean Hermione will figure something out. We're so lucky she's with us."
"Lucky?" Malfoy echoed in disbelief, glancing back at Harry. "You call any of this 'lucky'?"
"Well- yeah. We could have all drowned, but we got rescued. Troth could have just killed us, but instead he just- stranded us in the eighteenth century..." Harry trailed off. "...I still don't get that."
"What's there to get? He was insane," Malfoy said, looking away again.
"Yeah," Harry agreed.
Malfoy just kept glaring out into the foggy waves.
"It's nine days, Malfoy."
Malfoy didn't respond.
"You sink like a rock, you can't swim, mops don't fly, the rowboat didn't work, and I'm not helping you petrify anyone, so you might as well just give up already," Harry snapped.
"Spoken like a true loser."
Harry turned away from Malfoy quickly, biting back at least a dozen counter-insults, and bristling with annoyance-
-and just then, Harry spotted the lookout, lounging against some ropes on the opposite side of the ship. This is my chance to thank him for saving Malfoy! Harry thought. Okay, mostly it's an excuse to get away from Malfoy before I push him overboard...
"So, I didn't see you at breakfast..." Harry said with forced brightness, wandering up next to the rigging ropes.
"Hmm. Likely just missed ya," the lookout said, shrugging lazily. "We eat in shifts."
"Yeah, I heard. Well- er- that is- thanks, I mean, for- for saving Malfoy from falling."
"No worries!" the lookout said, with a casual half-smile that made his narrow eyes look narrower. "Not sure why he was up there in the first place- with a mop of all things-"
"Seawater. He's insane."
"Ah. Name's Ollie," the lookout said, sweeping off his cloth cap in a slight bow, and then smushing it back atop his wavy, wind-tousled hair.
"Nice to meet your aquaintance." Ollie glanced up through the fog. "Ever been up in a crow's nest, Harry?"
"Can't say I have."
"Scared of heights?"
"Actually, I rather like heights," Harry said, smiling at the happy little memory of the first time he zipped into the air on a broom.
"Really?" Ollie looked surprised. "Want to see what it's like being a lookout then?"
"After you then," Ollie invited.
Harry started climbing. It was like those climbing ropes on fake wooden ships on playgrounds- the type which Dudley played on while Harry sat in the car and watched, since he was 'too clumsy for playgrounds'. Whatever that meant. Harry knew the Dursleys only ever took him along because they were afraid he'd burn the house down if left alone. Or spin the house upside down. Or turn all the doorknobs into poisonous mushrooms. Or worse. But anyway, climbing these ratlines was like how Harry imagined the playground climbing ropes would have felt like, had he been allowed on them.
Ollie was hovering close below his heels, Harry noticed. The lookout looked wound up, and at the ready, like he was expecting Harry to fall any second now.
"Don't worry, I won't slip," Harry called down through the wind. "Or jump. I'm not Malfoy."
"Good ta hear!" Ollie called back.
The wind only got brisker the further up they went, tugging at Harry's clothes and whisking through his hair. The sea air felt fresh, and salty, and powerful, and once he reached the top, all Harry could think about was Quidditch.
"Wicked," Harry breathed, as he climbed up over the circular rail, and into the crow's nest. "The view from up here is brilliant! And so disorienting... especially with all this fog." It was dancing everywhere, in soft grey-green spirals, shrouding the horizon with mesmerizing secrecy.
"You should see it through a spyglass," Ollie suggested.
"Yeah, I imagine that would be- oh," Harry said, realizing that Ollie was handing him a fancy brass telescope through the railing bars.
"Nice, isn' it?" Ollie said.
"Yeah!" Harry agreed, taking the telescope, and twirling it between his fingers to get a better look at it. It had a piece of black leather wrapped around the main barrel, tied on snugly with twine, and stamped with little star-shaped cutouts, so you could see the brass underneath. Tiny brass stars in a black leather sky...
"Won it off a Persian pearl diver in a duel," Ollie said proudly, as he swung over the rail and joined Harry up in the crow's nest. "Never seen a prettier. Spyglass or lass."
"Wait- the pearl diver was a girl?" Harry said, surprised. "You dueled a girl for a spyglass?"
"Well, it's a nice spyglass! Course, she won the next round and stole my favorite dueling sword and my heart, so I'd say that makes us even."
A quiet, swaying moment passed, as the ship rolled in the waves. "Think you'll ever see her again?" Harry asked teasingly.
"Nah," Ollie said dismissively, but Harry caught a trace of a smile on his face as he looked away. "It's not in the stars."
"So how do I work this?" Harry asked, holding up the spyglass.
Ollie tugged the collapsible cylinders of the spyglass out to full length. "You twist the eyepiece here, an' slide it in or out to adjust it, see?" Ollie demonstrated. "You try."
Harry peered through the tiny lens, and suddenly his view became a circle of sky, framed by black. He played with the focus some- surprised by how crisp the view was for such antique lenses. "It's like- the crow's nest is the only thing that exists in this swaying sea of fog," he said at last, gazing out into the spirals. "You could forget about all sorts of things up here."
"Ah, but the point of the job is to pay attention," Ollie warned. "Danger could be lurking on any horizon. Reefs, shoals, sharks, typhoons,"
"Pirates?" Harry asked, spotting a black-sailed ship sailing ominously out of the seafog.
"Aye, pirates, will o' the wisps-"
"No- I mean, look-" Harry handed Ollie the spyglass, and pointed.
Ollie snatched the spyglass from him, and peered through it into the mist-
-It's a trick of the fog- it's trick of the fog, Harry hoped desperately, but he knew it wasn't. He'd seen the same symbol on countless vials of Snape's poisons in potions class. The skull and crossbones. Except- those had looked more like crossed swords.
A dark look crossed Ollie's face, and he grabbed Harry's shoulder, tugging him roughly down onto his knees, below the rail. "Stay low, an' stay quiet," he ordered, in a hushed tone which Harry could barely hear through the wind. "Sound travels farther asea. Could be they haven't yet spotted us through the fog- could be, but not likely..." He plunked the spyglass back in Harry's hand. "Keep watch. I need a quick word with the Cap'n."
"Wait-" Harry whispered, but Ollie was already swinging and sliding down from rope to rope as nimbly as a spider monkey. With shaky fingers, Harry slid the spyglass back out, and peered through the spaces between the rail bars, back out toward the pirate ship-
"Potter!" Malfoy's voice shouted out suddenly, from down below. "Potter, get down here!"
"Malfoy, be quiet!" Harry hissed, but he knew Malfoy couldn't hear him from this far up. Rolling his eyes furiously, Harry climbed back out of the crow's nest- keeping his head as low as he could- and started climbing back down the ropes, fast.
"You'll want to see this!"
"I already have seen it, now be quiet!" Harry snapped, as loudly as he dared. The rough ropes scratched into his bare feet as he climbed down even faster, recklessly fast-
"See that? Nothing could sail with that many holes in it- and just look- it's got it's own personal malignant mist cloud following it everywhere! It's clearly a magic ship!" Malfoy clambered up atop a wood crate near the rail, stood up tall, and started waving his arms around wildly, like a manic windmill. "HEY!" he shouted out into the mist, "OVER HERE!"