A Side Trip
Mrs. Muir, the captain, and the children were all the living room, a warm fire dancing in the hearth, pushing back the cold of a storm. Mrs. Muir was sewing and sometimes stopping to help Jonathon with his homework while Candy and the captain played chess. A whooshing noise came from the fireplace, then green sparks, and two boys stepped out of the flames, brushing soot off themselves. The captain stood, knocking over the chess board, and demanded, "What's the meaning of this?"
The black haired boy with green eyes and a scar on his forehead pulled a broken stick from the back of his jeans and pointed it at the captain. The red haired boy hissed, "Bloody hell, Harry! You think there's a horcrux here?"
The captain bellowed, "Lads, language! There are ladies present!"
The black haired boy said, "Um, sorry about that." He lowered his wand. "We seem to have gotten a little lost. I'm Harry and this is Ron. We didn't mean to intrude; we'll just be on our way."
Mrs. Muir stepped forward, between the two boys and Johnathon, and hesitantly asked, "You'll go the same way you came?"
Harry whispered to Ron and Ron nodded back. Harry said, "No, ma'am. Sorry if we scared you. If you'd just see us to the door."
The captain waved her to sit down again and led the two boys the door. He asked quietly, so the others couldn't hear, "You're clearly alive. What manner of being are you?"
Ron said, "I never met a ghost that wasn't transparent before. It's almost like you were alive!"
"I asked you a question and you WILL answer me!"
Ron blurted, "We're wiz . . . ."
Harry interrupted, "We're just lost humans, sir. We meant to go elsewhere."
The two boys exited Gull Cottage and Carolyn came up behind the captain, standing so close she would've been pressed against him if he weren't a ghost. "Daniel, what on earth was all that?"
Jonathon was excitedly saying, "That was so cool! Whoosh, out of the fire! I wish I could do that!"
Candy was just staring at the front door, a small dreamy smile on her lips.
The captain said, "I guarantee I'll find out what those blasted trespassers are doing!"
Outside Ron and Harry shivered in the cold, trudging through the snow as flakes fell. Harry was telling Ron, "Ghost or no, I'm telling you the other three were muggles."
"Yeah, but where are we anyhow? We're just going to walk through this?"
"The bloody wand is broken and that was the last of the floo powder. Bad stuff, too, I think it had turned."
Ron chortled. "Did you see their clothes? Red plaid pants on the kid! Shortest skirts I ever saw! I wish we had a wand that wasn't broken. At least I could transform my shoes to boots so my socks wouldn't get soggy."
Carolyn watched the two coatless boys trudging along out in the deep snow and called for the captain. He appeared, telling her, "Madam, I'm attempting to ascertain if they might be a danger."
Carolyn responded, "Captain, they're just teenagers, out in the cold on a night like this. I don't think they're dangerous. Odd, yes, but dangerous, no."
"You don't want me to make sure they leave our property?"
"I want you to call them back and at least have them stay the night so they're not out walking in the dark and the cold." Both children happily agreed.
"And if the ghost of Blackbeard should happen to appear, should we invite him as a house guest as well?"
"Those two boys are hardly Blackbeard, and I feel safe knowing a powerful ghost like you is here to protect us."
"Very well, Madam. I shall, however, be keeping a rather cold and watchful eye on both troublesome boys."
The captain materialized in front of the boys and commanded them to stop. "If you wish, and I would suggest it, you may both bunk here for the night. The gracious lady of the house insisted I extend this invitation. Be aware, however, that I shall be watching you closely and I don't sleep."
Ron and Harry looked at each other and whispered back and forth. The captain thought he heard them compare him to a Snape, whatever that was. Harry then grinned at him and said, "Thanks. We appreciate it. It's cold out here."
When they entered Gull Cottage again through more conventional means, Mrs. Muir gave them each an afghan with a smile and told them to warm up by the fire. "You boys look frozen! If our housekeeper were here she'd cook up something hot and filling."
Candy chimed in, "I could make popcorn and hot chocolate. Would you guys like that?"
"Yeah, that would be good," Ron said.
Candy left for the kitchen while the rest of them sat in awkward silence, the captain grimly staring at the boys, Carolyn kindly smiling, and Jonathon silent but jiggling with unasked questions. Carolyn broke the silence by introducing the family, and Jonathon burst out with, "Can you guys show me how to go in the fireplace and jump out? I like to do magic tricks and that would be so cool!"
Harry looked at the young blonde boy, so eager and innocent, and couldn't help liking him. "Well, mate, you have to be a wizard to do tricks like that."
"Blast! Wait! You're a wizard? Like Gandalf in The Hobbit? You don't look like a wizard!"
The captain intoned, "If you're a wizard, show us some magic."
Carolyn murmured, "I think they already did," while Ron glumly said, "Broken wand."
Harry said, "Hang on." He murmured an incantation. The family watched expectedly. Nothing happened. "That should work with or without a wand. Hmmm. Is this house spell proof by any chance?"
At that point, Candy returned with the popcorn and hot chocolate and passed it around. She sat down on the floor, cross legged, right in front of Harry. "Does that scar hurt?"
Harry rubbed his hand over the scar on his forehead. He looked meaningfully at Ron and said, "It doesn't hurt at all."
Ron commented, "You lot sound American. I mean you three live ones," as Harry elbowed him in the side.
The captain sternly told them, "They are American, as am I." Carolyn excused herself to go make up the beds in the guest bedroom.
Candy asked, "Do you like the Beatles?"
Harry said, "They were good for old guys."
"Lads, what year is it?"
The captain appeared deep in thought while Candy cried, "It's 1971!"
"Blimey, Harry, you really screwed up. We're not even born yet!"
The captain said, "Harry, I wish to speak with you privately." In the alcove, he asked, "Is time travel common among wizards?"
"No, sir. This was unintentional. We used to have devices- time turners- but they were all destroyed."
"But currently, in 1971, these devices exist?"
"I think so."
"I need one, lad."
"I want to go back in time, prevent my death, and then move forward to now."
"I don't think . . . ."
"Where are the blasted things? Speak up!"
"Look, sir, I've lost a lot of people, family and what felt like family. You think I wouldn't have brought them back if I could? At least as a ghost, your kids can see you and talk to you even if they can't hug you."
"Lad, I died in the 1870's, but I've finally become part of a family. I want to be alive for them."
"The most evil wizard in my time has tried to overcome death and make himself immortal- at the cost of his soul."
The captain bowed his head. "I never wanted immortality- merely to right a wrong of fate. I want to be alive with the woman I love."
They came back out to find Jonathon and Ron laughing and cleaning up the empty cups and bowls while Candy sat dreamily watching the alcove. Carolyn came down and announced the guest room was ready and it was time for bed.
In the morning, the captain made bacon, eggs, and pancakes, then rang a ship's bell to wake everyone. Groggy, everyone descended the stairs and sat around the kitchen table to eat. Mouthful of food, Ron slurred, "A regular feast, this!"
Since it was the wrong era anyhow, Harry let down his guard and told the horrified family about his mission to destroy horcruxes that contained pieces of Voldemort's soul and then finally to destroy Voldemort himself. Carolyn said, "Oh, Harry, I don't think this Dumbledore meant just you and your friends should take on the whole task. There must be older more experienced wizards who could do it."
The captain said, "I think the lad's man enough, Carolyn, young though he is. I'm curious, however. My hearing is unusually sharp, and I'm wondering what exactly a Snape is."
Ron choked. "He's a bloke ugly and mean enough to kill the appetite! He's the filthy deatheater who killed Dumbledore!"
The captain gave Harry the evil eye and shouted, "You compared ME to a Snape?"
Both boys blushed while Carolyn soothingly said, "Daniel, you may have scared the boys a bit last night. I'm sure they don't think you're like Snape now."
Harry earnestly said, "No, I don't. I actually think you'd be a good man, um, ghost to fight beside us if you were in our time."
After breakfast they all cleared and washed dishes, Ron moaning about muggle work. The captain told the family, "We magical gents need to discuss matters in private."
Jonathon and Candy sighed, put on snowsuits, and went outside to play. Carolyn smiled fondly at the boys and told them, "I bet your mothers are very proud of how their boys have turned out." She saw Harry's eyes darken, and realized there was some difficulty regarding his mother. It made her want to baby him, but knew also it would be the last thing he'd want. She kissed both boys, Ron on the cheek and Harry on his lightening scar.
Harry told her, "Captain Gregg referred to you as the gracious lady of the house, and it's true; you are. I want to thank you for taking us in, taking strangers in, and treating us so kindly."
Carolyn blinked away any possible dampness in her eyes. These two young men were like soldiers waiting to go off and fight a crazy disorganized war in the future. She grabbed Harry and hugged him, then stepped back. "Be safe, please, or as safe as you can be." She went upstairs to work on an article, but her mind was on the boys, torn between the necessity of them returning to their time and the desire for them to stay here in peace.
"She's a looker," Ron whispered to Harry.
The captain turned to him, half amused, half disgusted, and said, "That she is, lad, but I'll thank you to keep such comments to yourself."
"I have a girlfriend! She's a looker too!"
Harry grinned. "Actually, she's the brains of our operation."
"She's the brains and she's this clod's girlfriend?"
Suddenly the boys disappeared in a green flash, and a tall gloomy looking man with long black hair in long black robes appeared where they'd been standing. "Ghost, Weasley and Potter are gone from here?" Thunder rumbled in the distance.
"I am not accustomed to being addressed so disrespectfully! Are you Voldemort?"
The man in black stepped threateningly toward the captain. "More poison spewing from their lips? The two are both inept and our only hope."
The captain stood erect, enraged, and bellowed, "WHO ARE YOU?" Harsh winds rocked the house.
"Professor Severus Snape, Ghost. And I would advise you not to bellow at me for your own safety."
"They compared me to you? YOU? You look like a blighted bat, you murderer!"
"I have no time for this display of your ignorance, Ghost."
"My name is Captain Gregg, and I'd advise you to address me as such."
Snape said the name as if it tasted of lemons. "Captain Gregg, were the boys unharmed?"
"Your spells went awry, you blackguard?"
Carolyn came down the stairs, saw Snape, and backed up. "Daniel?"
"I was preparing to clear the ship of vermin, my dear."
Snape bowed to her, and said, "Your ghost is rude, madam. Were the Weasley and Potter boys unharmed?"
"They were fine. Who are you?"
"Professor Severus Snape." Her eyes got wide. "I mean no harm. Call your barking ghost off."
Her eyes narrowed. "Professor Snape, you're not welcome here. I'll thank you to leave our home!"
He waved his wand, and she became as stone, the angry flash of her green eyes still. The captain attempted to throw Snape out Snape waved his wand; the two were equally matched. Snape sneered at him and then sighed. "I'm weary, Ghost, weary to death. She has green eyes just like Harry's mother did."
"Release her, you miserable shark!" Snape waved his wand and Carolyn crossed her arms, staring at him.
He said, "I'm not the villain you take me for. I don't know why I'm bothering with this, madam, but I will do everything in my power to protect those two idiots."
She looked into the grottos of his black eyes and nodded. "I believe you. They don't know you're helping them."
The captain sighed. "Perhaps, Carolyn, we should invite Voldemort himself to a nice tea party?"
Snape hissed, "Don't say his name, not even here, not even this far away in time."
Carolyn, feeling less and less frightened of this thorny man, asked, "Why were they here?"
"Bungling on their part. I've retrieved them at great cost to my cover. Did they have wands?"
The captain objected, "Don't give this scoundrel information!"
"How long were they here?"
"They arrived sometime around nine last night."
"I forbid you to say anything more to this man!"
Snape sneered at him. "I know what I need to now." He disappeared in a flash.
The captain thundered at her, "How could you risk those boys' lives talking to that scoundrel?"
Carolyn smiled wistfully, wishing she could put a calming hand on his shoulder. "Daniel, he's a twisted man, but not an evil one. There was something in his eyes, something I saw and trusted because it reminded me of you."
"I'm nothing like that walking morgue!"
Carolyn decided to take the easy route and told him, "Maybe it was courage and pride, my dear. He certainly wasn't dashing or suave like you." She didn't tell him what really reminded her of him in Snape's eyes- mingled love and pain.