A/N : I had an itch and it said DO THIS OR SUFFER!
Beta Love: Hollowg1rl, The Dragon and the Rose, Dutchgirl01, and the Flyby Commander Shepard
A "Short" Story by Corvus Draconis
Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory — Dr Seuss
Hermione looked out into the ocean watching the whitecaps. Her ears caught the sounds of the Weasleys yammering on inside Shell Cottage. Relatives had come to visit, and Hermione always made herself scarce ever since she and Ron had broken up.
It hadn't been a big, extended affair, no. He hadn't cheated on her. She hadn't felt like she had someone else either. They just— didn't love each other. Once the war was over, there was just this great thankfulness to be alive, and then they kissed. But all their passion had been in that one. single kiss, never to be recreated or even shadowed. They just weren't meant for love—
Molly had taken it the worst. She hadn't talked to Ron for months, and she hadn't talked to Hermione in less than Howler volume in years. Every conversation went up to shrill in about five seconds, and it always ended with Hermione leaving and taking the rap for being the "bad guy" who never made any effort— never gave Ron a proper chance.
Ron had tried in vain to explain it to his mum, but Molly Weasley was not the type to let go of anything she believed in. Ron said it was because his mum had found the ring he had planned to give her to propose before it all went to shite— and like the typical person who gets caught with their hand in the biscuit tin, Molly refused to admit that was why she believed they belonged together. He'd even tried to get Harry (bless him) to try and get Molly to see the light or at least the train coming straight for her, but no. Molly Weasley believed what Molly Weasley believed.
And right now and probably for next five hundred years into the afterlife, Molly Weasley would firmly believe that Hermione Granger was nothing but a man-eating tart. A shameless harlot. A black widow who devoured wizards whole after using them for sex.
Hermione snorted at the thought. They hadn't even had sex, thank you very much. That was one more hint as to why they realised they just weren't made for each other in a romantic way.
Molly's voice broke through her thoughts, and she heard Bill and Fleur sending out the warning by dropping "the vase" on the floor. They had specially enchanted it to sing like a mermaid ala the eggs from the TriWizard Tournament. It sent out a hideous, horrible screeching scream, and it told Hermione that it was time to make her escape.
Hermione slipped into the water, diving under the waves as she summoned the water-breathing spell that she had modified from the bubble-head charm. For the past few years she had perfected it, having nothing better to do in her free time after tutoring Bill and Fleur's children. She had perfected the water-repellant charm so her skin wouldn't turn all prune-y after hours under water, and she had made the water-breathing spell that gave her gills on her sides like a shark instead of trying to force water in and out of her throat. It was her secret joy, having her very own spells, crafted with nothing but her own will and desire. There was something almost forbidden in its allure— crafting spells without a book, without something telling her what she could or couldn't do.
Finally, she understood her old Potions Professor's scowl when he snapped at her, "Spewing what the books say to me verbatim is not learning, Miss Granger. Five points from Gryffindor for your sheer impertinence."
Now, she understood.
Over the years, she had started leaving her wand tucked away in a box near her bed. It housed the old Hermione— dependent on structure and the written word, the spells that required a voice, the will that required a wand to channel it.
She simply didn't need it anymore.
It had been a crutch that she hadn't realised she had depended on all those years, like training wheels on a bicycle that you never realised was the furthest thing to truly riding a bike… until you didn't have them anymore.
She dove beneath the surface and disappeared, hearing the song from the "screaming" vase that Bill had dropped to warn her. It sounded warm and happy here, down in the fathoms below.
She swam through the thick kelp forest into the great blue beyond, leaving behind the "safety" of shore for the utter peace of the fathomless deep. She let the undertow pull her further out, enjoying the feel of the water rushing her to where it wanted her to go. She didn't fight it. She had no desire to resist. She let it carry her where it willed, just as she let magic teach her as it willed. They were the same— forces of nature and pieces of the greater whole.
A dolphin swam beside her, clicking and curious. It bobbed its head to her in play, carrying a piece of kelp for her to grasp. She took it and swam off, knowing it would follow in chase. She smiled as it rubbed up against her and snatched it back, allowing her to grasp its dorsal fin as it took her for another ride— deeper, deeper and ever further from shore.
Eventually, the dolphin was called to rejoin its pod, and it swam away, whistling and clicking as it left. Perhaps it was saying farewell, or perhaps it was saying "See ya, two legs!" Hermione had no idea. She saw the play as a gift, and treated it as such.
A glinting caught her attention in the deep. The sun was still able to pierce the gloom just enough to see—
Human nets teeming with fish— but was that all it was?
She swam closer, her eyes just a bit blurry, and she willed her magic to help her eyes adjust to the water's refraction.
There was something large stuck in the net. She could see the dark of its tail thrashing in the manmade cording— as unnatural as the ships that trawled the oceans and stole the seas bounty for the land. She swam closer and realised this was no ordinary net. From above, you could but barely see it. From close, you couldn't see it at all— it was something new— something made to be invisible to those who navigated by sight.
What were they trying to catch? Divers?
Why the hell would someone be out to catch divers?!
She hurried, thinking that maybe a diver was caught in the net with the fish, and she summoned her magic with a sharp gesture of her fingers in the water and sent it out in a cutting wave.
A loud grinding came from above—
The nets were moving.
Something caught around her legs.
She felt herself being yanked upward.
She snarled, bubbles of her anger floating upward in a cloud. She reached for one of the cords, and she summoned her magic.
Disappear, she said in her mind, her anger traveling up through the cord and up.
A flood of fish schooled around her, fleeing the net's embrace. Now gone, they swirled around her and dispersed in a silvery blue cloud of fish-shaped missiles. Something dark brushed by her, like a shadow's shadow— passing before her vision like the shape of a great leviathan moving above her and blotting out the sun.
Nnnnnnnnnnggggggghhhhhhh, came the low song like the humpback whale. Eeeiiinnnnnnn. Nnnnnggggggnngggg.
A shiver went through her, shaking her to the core with its sheer awesome beauty. It filled her chest with an exquisite pain unlike anything she had ever felt. Her breath seemed to stop even with the water passing through her gills. The song, and she had no doubt it was a song, was imprinted upon her brain as the most beautiful thing she had ever heard.
As her eyes refocused, she saw—
A dark spectre, or so it seemed.
He floated in the water as if suspended, darker than dark scales making his body almost disappear in the murky depths. His tail was formed like that of an eel, silky smooth and round with sail-like fins that went across the ventral surface. There were small pits in the surface of his tail, much like the eel she compared it to.
The upper half of the body was humanoid, if but barely. Pale, pale skin covered in scales so fine it was hard to even tell they were there if not for the light shining off them. Hair like a mass of dark tentacles, swayed in the currents like the stinging anemone. Fingers tapered into talons, and dark webbing connected each finger into a swimming fins. Membrane stretched between the arm and the body like the sails of the manta ray. As he moved, his body seemed to emit light in a chain down his body like lights on a landing strip in a Muggle airport— flashing of color dancing so fast it was almost hard to say it was there at all.
Black, black eyes watched her, fathomless as the fathoms down.
"Nnnnnnnnnngggggh." She heard the song again, and she was drawn to it, her mind fuzzy and sleepy, calm. "Eeeeeoooooooonngggggg."
Her eyes fluttered as the song seemed to swirl around her and pierce her heart at the same time.
Say my name,
And join with me.
Escape the land,
And be truly free.
Say my name,
And become mine,
And I shall treat you
Like a shrine.
Say my name,
Into the fathoms deep,
A whispered promise
You wish to keep.
We shall travel
Where others fear.
We shall thrive,
And have no peer.
Sing with me,
And say my name.
I await in the darkness
For you to claim.
Hear my song,
And hear my plea,
Join with me,
That we may both be free.
Will hear my song.
Only to you,
Do I belong.
Hermione opened her eyes and saw his black eyes so close to hers. Her hand reached out and for just a moment, their palms touched. She shuddered as a jolt of energy shot through her. She could still hear his song, pulsing inside her heart as though it were trying to embed itself into the very muscle.
His hand reached to touch her face, and she felt the soft brush of scales against her skin just as the harsh sound of a boat engine screamed through the water above.
In a flash of movement, he was gone.
Down, down, in the fathoms deep.
Hermione felt a stab of pain inside her as he left, unsure what she felt or even how she could possible feel anything so soon after meeting him— the most alien, beautiful, monster of the deep.
Suddenly, feeling a cold creep into her body, she began the long swim home, trying to ignore the stab of so many small daggers into her heart with every stroke of her hands through the depths.
When she rose out of the water, her legs were shaking and wobbly, and she could barely stand. Gravity hated her, and she felt it pulling her back down into the water.
Safe in the water.
Hermione forced herself to exit, casting her charm to warm her body and strengthen her legs. She forced herself to dispel her gills and breathe the way she had been born to, even as her traitorous heart cried for her to go back out there and try to find the owner of that soulful song.
She felt the rough sand digging into her feet, and she told herself that was why she was crying. Nothing else was logical. Why would she feel anything for a chance encounter with a creature born to the sea?
You're just imagining things, Hermione, she admonished herself. Giving emotion and reason to a creature that is probably hunting for his real true love— and you-psh. You're just pathetic to think it could be you.
Hermione washed herself off in the shower quickly, retreating into her room at Shell Cottage where her familiar books and parchments waited along with her bed. Tomorrow, she would go back to tutoring the children, and her heart would soon get over itself. Just like it always did.
The next time Molly came visiting, she didn't bother to announce herself. She just walked straight out of the floo. Hermione, having never even asked Bill and Fleur what wards they had on the floo, found herself with a face full of Molly Weasley as the children huddled fearfully behind her, whispering to each other in frightened French.
Molly never liked that, either. She hated that the children could say things to her face without her knowing what they had said. But instead of learning the language in order to find out, she just scolded them, calling them lazy for not learning "proper" English.
Somehow she had ended up pressed against a wall with the Weasley matriarch reading her the riot act at top volume.
Why are you here?!
Why are you teaching these children in French when they should be learning English?!
You're trying to corrupt my family!
Hermione tried to block it out, but every word she was saying was starting to sound strange, distorted… wrong. She covered her ears in pain, tears pouring down her cheeks, but the screaming, awful screeching only got louder and more painful— like the mermaid's egg.
"What the hell are you doing here, mum?!" Ron's voice yelled as he jerked his mother by the apron back towards the floo.
"Not until I get a real apology from this two-faced, deceitful, little HOMEWRECKER!" Molly screeched.
"Go to your special place!" Hermione hissed, crying out in agony as the voices became too much.
The children ran for their special place— the place Bill and Fleur had drilled into them to always remember. They ran for it, their hands clasping the enchanted shell. The Portkey whisked them away to their parents— wherever they were… safe…. Safe… away from here.
"How dare you raise your wand at me Ronald Bilius Weasley!" Molly screamed.
"Run, Hermione!" Ron's voice yelled.
And Hermione ran… straight to the ocean and she hurriedly dove in, disappearing into the water.
The moment she was underwater, she could breathe again. Her ears stopped ringing, her pain eased, and mind began to work again. She swam— out into the deep, far away from shore, away from Molly, and away from the pain.
Suddenly, he was there, his arms wrapped around her like a cloak. The warmth of his body like the heat of the sun. His eyes seemed even blacker… but emotion flickered across it as he touched her hair, staring into her face as if she could tell him what was troubling her.
She cried into the water, adding the salt of her tears to the ocean, her body wracked with her frustration and her agony. She didn't understand what was happening. She didn't understand why Molly Weasley carried such a grudge against her. She didn't even understand how her only relief came from being in the sea.
He held her as she sobbed, her air bubbles carrying the sound upward to the surface, as if it didn't belong to the depths.
He sang to her, rocking her body against his as the current carried them deeper in the fathoms down. Deep into the darkness beyond the gaze of whatever human might have even tried to search for them.
She emerged from the water both weary and paranoid, her ears tuned in to hearing even the slightest note of Molly Weasley's voice. She knew now that nothing was ever going to help her restore the loving family feeling that she had once shared with her while she and Ron had been trying to build a lasting relationship. It could never return to that.
Ron was waiting for her on the porch with a large, fluffy towel. "I'm so sorry, Hermione," he said remorsefully. "Bill and Fleur sealed off the Floo and changed the wards to keep Mum out. The kids told them what happened. Bill and Fleur— I've never seen them so angry. Fleur was on fire. Like… honest-to-Merlin fire. They're in front of the Wizengamot to get some kind of restraining order placed on her so she can't come out here anymore. I don't know what's going on with her, Hermione. Ever since Fred died and she killed Bellatrix, it's like she's broken inside. Even Dad is tearing out his hair over it. He wants you to know he supports you, by the way. He doesn't believe Mum for an instant about you."
Hermione nodded silently. She tried to say something, but her voice was all scratchy. She bit her lip and then slumped. She scratched at her skin, her nails itching at her dry arms.
"Harry said he's going to try and get her under a scan. Maybe something happened to her when she killed Bellatrix— something about soul shattering something, something," Ron said.
Hermione looked up at him, scowling.
"You know me, Hermione, I never know what anyone is talking about when they starting using big words," Ron said rather sheepishly.
Hermione snorted, chuckling.
Ron rubbed her back. "I know we never worked out, but I still care about you, yeah? I'm sorry my mum makes it even harder for us to have a friendship."
Hermione nodded, patting his hand gently.
"Come on in, Hermione," Ron said. "Bill and Fleur aren't here, but I promised I'd stay here until they came back. None of us want you here alone just in case… well, I'll be here on the couch next to the floo and the door."
Hermione shook her head at him.
"Go get some rest, yeah?" Ron said. "You smell like the ocean."
Hermione threw a pillow at him, giving him a glare. He laughed and smiled at her, and she smiled back with a sigh before trudging off to shower off the salt and sand.
When the children got their letters for Hogwarts, Hermione was so proud of them, but a stabbing pain went through her heart as she realised her time sharing Shell Cottage with them was finally coming to an end. Her nightly swims in the ocean and her special friend— she would most likely never see him again. Land in Cornwall was pretty hard to come by; land by the ocean was either protected or taken by Muggles who wanted the kind of prices even the Queen would probably raise an eyebrow at. She'd tried to find some place— even if it meant being in a Muggle area, but the prices were just too high, and she was just a nobody in the Muggle world.
She had done her job well in helping raise the children, and she was happy for them— but now she felt as though her heart was truly being ripped out of her chest.
He probably wouldn't understand why she no longer came to him at night to sleep in his watery embrace as the seas rocked them both in its watery arms. He wouldn't understand why she had to move on, unable to live close to the sea— his sea, his home. He would never know her agony at the thought that once she left, he would simply go back to singing for the one his song had truly been meant for.
Some other female— one like him. Able to be with him under the waves— forever.
Maybe he would hate her, thinking her like Molly had always accused her of being: a heartbreaker, a homewrecker.
It hurt. Gods, it hurt. Did life hate her so very much that it kept torturing her— offering her joy in one hand only to have it turn into pain?
Even now, she had spent so much time in the water that her spell had become confused. Webbing was sticking between her fingers even out of the water. Her skin was trying to shed as if something was underneath that wanted out. Her vision was blurry more often, stuck with the lenses that allowed her to see underwater more easily. Her nails had become curved and almost transparent, shaped into tapered claws. Even her hair was clumping together like strands of seaweed.
It was like her body wanted to stay in the water.
But it was just a spell, right?
It was just her magic playing the ultimate cruel trick on her, and once she left the ocean and was away from it, all the symptoms would go away.
She'd be back to normal, boring Hermione.
Her heart would forever long for that song imprinted upon its strings, wishing it was meant for her.
The final night was a storm like her heart, but as they drifted into the fathoms down, it was warm and calm— dark as the Abyss.
But oh, he was there, the soft glow of his glow lighting the way for her to see him. He smiled at her, and it seemed so natural, even as his inhuman fangs glinted— rows upon rows of lamprey-like teeth hidden behind such human looking lips. His nose rubbed against hers as he closed the distance. She wondered if he ever went to the surface and walked on the land like mermaids in the stories did. She wondered, had they both been creatures of the land, what it would have felt like in his embrace.
The storm was easing above. They drifted close to the surface enough for the full moon's light to filter through the water. They stayed below, where the water was still warmer, the flood of storm water just a bit too cool for their aquatic cuddle— or perhaps it was just too cool for her.
Could he have known?
He rubbed his cheek against hers, his song in her ears, and it made her shiver and quake, longing, wishing that it was something meant for her. He touched her hair, brushing it back in the currents as his face came closer. His lips touched hers, and she gasped.
His mouth covered hers and his tongue teased into her mouth. As their kiss grew, she marveled at how he had folded his teeth away. She cried out soundlessly as his hand cupped her breast, releasing her from her annoyingly tight swimsuit. She shuddered against him, her entire body powered by electrical jolts, as his long tail wrapped around legs and body and provided just enough friction to press every button that lead straight to ecstasy. Her fingers wove into his anemone hair, and it did not sting her. Instead, she felt even more pleasure spread from her fingers up her arms and straight to her heart.
He wriggled against her, wrapping himself around her as he kissed and cradled her in his coils. She looked into his eyes and fell into them. She felt his desire— his attraction— his need.
Oh, how she wanted to be the one he sang about— to explore the vast blue depths and sleep in his embrace until the end of all things.
They were drifting up to the surface, and his kisses were heated and needy. Hers were desperate and hungry for his touch and the delicious wriggle of his tongue against hers. Even as she knew she shouldn't. Even as she knew she shouldn't allow him to think she could stay with him down in the fathoms below—
Her time was borrowed.
Her adaptations a mere spell.
She would always have to return to the land.
She could never be his.
With every movement agony beyond anything she had ever felt before, she pushed him away, her face twisting in her pain. Every cell in her body screamed for her to mend the rift and go back to his embrace. Every fibre of her soul cried out, begging her to reconsider.
He looked at her, his eyes—
He reached for her.
All it would take is a touch and he would forgive her.
It broke her to pieces as she saw another in his arms— in his loving embrace— the dark beauty of the ocean that truly belonged to him.
She longed to bridge the gap and feel his touch again, but she swam away.
His hand wrapped around her wrist, and their eyes met—
Iddle biddle Severus.
I have one last gift for you, Severus, for all these years of— devoted service to our lord.
She giggled even as she watching him clasp his throat to stop his own bleed out.
The witch shoved a potion down his throat and chanted an incantation.
Traitor to my Lord's cause
I curse you forever to haunt the sea
Oldest magic twist your body
So no woman shall ever love thee.
For only true love shall break this curse
True love alone can hear your verse
But if she cannot thrice say your name
And embrace you as if you are the same
Forever you will live alone
In the Fathoms Deep where you are thrown.
He clutched his head in agony as the memories flooded in, unasked for and unwelcome.
Hermione started to choke as the flood of memories disturbed her inner magic with her stress. Her spell began to break down, and her gills were closing. She gasped, choking, her face turning blue. She struggled to rise. She struggled to reach the surface to breath.
Suddenly, he was there, his arm around her waist as his powerful tail thrust through the water to pull her along with him. She convulsed as the water was drowning her, her body in too much shock to channel the magic where it needed to be. He swam harder than he had ever done before. He prayed, not for himself but for her.
As long as she lived, he could live with the pain of her not being able to love him— knowing who he was, knowing what he had done so many years of her life.
He surfaced, hoisting her to the surface, spinning her around to wrap his arms around her body and place his fist to her sternum. He jerked up with a powerful thrust, forcing the water out of her lungs.
The air was burning his gills, but he didn't care.
"Hermione!" he screamed, his voice sounding like grating gears being thrown into a blender.
She coughed, spewing water.
There was no land close by in which to take her, and paddled on his back, pulling her over his chest to give her a place she could cling and breath.
"Severus," she whispered hoarsely. Her hand reached to touch his face. Her heart was beating so fast, so very, very fast. She touched his cheek before she coughed, her body spasming, struggling. "I'm scared, Severus,"
He clung to her, panicking as her heart was no longer beating fast— instead it was beating slower. Her lips were blue.
"I'm sorry," she whimpered. "This is why we cannot be together," she said, tears running down her face and onto his scales. "My magic is not forever. One day it would fail— and this would be my fate."
Hermione gave frantic breaths, struggling to get air through the water still in her lungs. Her eyes began to drift shut. "I loved you, Severus. I would love you forever, if I could. Please, forgive...me."
Her arms wrapped around him, tightening as her warm tears splashed on his neck where she had pressed her face. Her last breath tickled his chin, and he gave a low moan of anguish as his arms wrapped around her as his tail coiled around her in the earlier embrace he wished only to show her the love she deserved.
He wrapped her in his arms, sinking his face into her hair as he let his body sink.
Deep into the Fathoms Deep.
She walked on land.
She entered the sea,
By her own hand.
She heard my song
And my sorrow.
She let me dream
Oh, my love,
What shall I do?
Without your smile
To pull me through?
I take you now
To the Fathoms Deep
Where you shall rest
And forever sleep.
His body quaked as his grief took him, and all his anguish and helplessness cascaded out of him in waves. He spasmed, shaking, twitching, convulsing and let out an agonising underwater scream, the electric crackling around his body like a storm as he sobbed into the Fathoms Deep. The lights of his body flashes rapidly over and over until his entire body lit up with a blue-green glow as the storm grew unbearably strong… and then abruptly winked out.
Severus opened his eyes to the soft glow of his bioluminescent body. His memory and all the pain of his entire life came with it, perhaps to mock him for having enjoyed a short time not even realising how special it had been until it was too late.
Would it have mattered?
He made a movement to readjust the body of the late Hermione Granger to take her to the grave she did not deserve.
Only her body was strangely warm, as if to mock him even more. He pressed her against himself, wondering what he had done in some previous life to have deserved an eternity of torture in the current one.
Arms wrapped around him as a soft yawn sounded off in his ear.
He froze in place as something— someONE— wrapped their arms around him and sighed happily.
He stared at her— her lower body had been fused to that of giant eel, the trail of the drape-like anal fin undulated down the ventral side of her body. Yet, much like his, it only resembled the body of the actual fish. It flexed and moved much like the tentacle of an octopus, its shape belying its function.
Her skin was covered in fine, shimmering scales that made her skin appear glistening, taking on an almost honey-like colour. Her hair, like his, had become like the tresses of an anemone. A fine webbing connected her arms to her body into a sail-like fin. She pressed against his body, the delicate webbing of her fingers spread to flash a rather stimulating red and gold as her ears— now shaped like a seahorse's pectoral fin, flipped in and out.
As his hands automatically reached to touch her sides, he felt the movement of her gills, slitted like those of shark, filtering water in and out across their surfaces.
"Severus," she sang, and it was like his name itself was a song under the waves, the water transforming it into feeling— love.
Love for him and him alone.
The moment his body touched hers again, he felt the pull— the need, the desire. He sang his soul into the seas, his voice transformed with his elation that she was alive, here, under the great expanse— here, in the Fathoms Deep.
As his body wrapped around her, sliding his scales against hers, she shuddered against him, and he coiled tightly around her, touching her skin any and everywhere as his mouth covered hers, their tongues met, their hands locked in each other's "hair" as jolts of electrical pleasure traveled down every nerve and set them afire in passion.
She sang, weaving the story of brave, tortured soul, whose body had been changed to become one with the ocean, but his heart remained in waiting for the one who could release him from his curse— but the curse was not what he had become. The curse had been the loneliness of a future alone.
There once was a man
Cast into the sea,
Whose body was changed,
To be rather beastly.
The top, you see,
He was still like a man,
Younger in age,
But greater lifespan.
The length of the curse,
A body cast to the fathoms,
His voice but a verse.
He called to the one,
Who could understand his song,
But she misunderstood,
And thought it was wrong.
Not that she didn't
Want his affection,
But she returned to the land,
After each bit of attention.
While her heart remained
Deep in the sea
Her mind did not believe
To her went the plea.
Stay with the one,
And say his name thrice.
Embrace him fully but once,
And pay the true price.
Leave behind land,
And join with the water,
Become his true mate,
And the sea's true daughter.
One life did end,
Through the power of love.
With farewell to above.
The end and the beginning,
Began with a touch,
A rescued beast in the net,
Whom none valued much.
One touch in the darkness,
And a song sang in the deep,
A promise made in the heart,
And whispered to keep.
Forgiven all sins,
And guiltless of blame.
She asks of him now,
Her true love to claim.
Severus, my Severus,
Please make love to me.
Let our children grow strong
In the heart of the sea.
Claim me as yours,
As I make you mine.
Share with me forever,
Let our souls thus entwine.
Severus wrapped himself fully around her as their bodies joined, every muscle spasming as their souls touched, wrapping around the others in their ecstacy. His scream was like the keening of the great whale, filled with all the things he had to live for and all he was letting go as the burden of his guilt was purged by the power of his mate's devoted, genuine love.
He savoured her cries, each sound stabbing him directly in the heart, tuning his heartstrings to her song alone— as it had always been and always would. They floated in the deep, bodies adrift under the ocean's waves, their embrace locked as their bodies refused to leave the other, even as sleep finally claimed them, rocked by the swirling currents of the Fathoms Deep.
"Mum! Someone is coming!"
"What?" Fleur and Bill stood on the porch of Shell Cottage as the familiar sight of a figure swimming in the water came ever closer, but that figure was not alone—
They rushed to the shore, dragging Ron along with them— he had never stopped looking since the day she had disappeared. They had not stopped feeling guilty since the day that an enraged Molly had cornered Hermione in their own home and driven her fleeing to the sea, over and over again.
But as they rushed to the shore, they realised the truth.
Hermione rose up from the water in a spray of salt water, the power part of her body still submerged. Beside her, her dark-eyed mate's gaze was both umbral and protective.
He seemed oddly… familiar, somehow, yet they could not quite place him. Any attempt caused only further confusion and the haze of an impending migraine.
Children surfaced, their tiny fishtails glinting in the water. Some of them had tails like eels. Others looked delicate as that of a Japanese Ryukin goldfish.
The children laughed, their voices small, and not so shrill, and Bill immediately recognised it for what it was. Casting the bubble-head charm on his family and Ron, they swam out into the water and submerged.
Hermione sang to them, joined by her mate. Even the children's tiny voices added to the song.
Fear not for me
For I am with my mate
My children are strong
Unburdened by fate.
This one is Meryl,
My daughter firstborn,
And this one is Murdoch,
To whom golden spots adorn.
This one is Coralyn,
Whose hair is like coral,
Who is as stubborn as her mother,
And like father does quarrel.
This one is Marisa,
Whose eyes are the sky,
Whose fins are like gossamer,
And whose heart is quite shy.
The last one is Firth,
The arm of the sea,
And none may compare,
If you'd just agree.
This is my family,
Born of my love,
With my true mate,
Whose arms fate did me shove.
I do not protest,
Or regret my choice either.
I made it willingly,
With many none the wiser.
Do not worry,
Or cry over me.
I shall be happy forever,
In the arms of the sea.
Fleur reached out, and Hermione swam to her, engulfing her in a watery hug of fins and tail and love. She swam around each of the children, tickling them with her tail, singing of her pride in their accomplishments and the future yet to be discovered. Bill hugged her tightly, silently wishing her well, the water having stolen his voice but not his heart.
And when Hermione took Ron into her finned embrace, he pressed a kiss upon her forehead, smiling at her with all the relief he could muster.
I love you, Hermione. Be happy, he mouthed silently in the water.
Hermione grinned at him with mischief, pressing a closed shell into his hands.
Ron eyed it suspiciously, opening it slowly.
A black pearl lay within, shimmering in a bed of sea kelp.
The blackest of pearls,
For the Fathoms so deep.
A gift for your mate,
With whom you do sleep.
Cherish what you have,
And think not who its with.
The heart loves who it loves,
And it wants it forthwith.
Tell him you love him,
And give him this pearl.
Be free of the guilt,
Within your heart it did twirl.
Think not of mothers
Who darken their hearts.
Think of your lover
With a new life you can start.
This is my wish,
May it come true.
Be happy in life,
For I have loved you.
The children played with each other under the waves, ignorant of the differences between land and sea. Bill and Fleur looked on proudly, and Ron looked content.
When it was time to leave, the children cried, but Hermione promised them in song that they would see each other again, should they wish it. Their children promised each other under the oceans waves— that they would meet every summer. Pinkies linked to pinkies, and kisses on the cheek, the children swore it would be so— and so mote it be.
As they all swam to the deep to return to their home, Bill gently touched the male's shoulder and then took his hand.
Clawed and webbed hand met with pink skin and smooth nails.
Thank you, Severus, he said without sound, his lips moving in the water. I remember you.
Severus stared at him, his body suspended in the water, unmoving.
You saved my life. I will never forget you, Bill said, smiling at him.
Severus stared back to where his mate was herding the younglings into a tight formation for the swim home. He looked back at Bill and nodded. You saved mine in return… by sending me her.
Bill pulled Severus into a hug, startling the creature who had once been a man, but his fins went around him along with his arms, returning the sentiment forged in water.
Be safe, Severus, and I'll start sending you waterproof books for your underwater library.
Severus' eyes widened in delight, a genuine smile on his face.
As the sea family swam back home, the family of land returned to it, wiping their tears but happy in the heart.
"I wonder if there's an owlfish," Bill said, pondering.
Fleur picked up a shell from the sand. "You are a wizard, my love. You can always make one."
Bill scooped his wife up and gave her a passionate kiss. His children groaned, covering their eyes. Ron looked into his palm where he held the black pearl— glistening with the promise of a future of his own making.
"Thanks, Hermione," he said, closing his hand around it.
The sun was setting, but they all knew it was not an ending. It would return again like the ocean waves. And in the years to come, he would realise that Hermione and her family would return every summer, keeping their promise to meet every year, year after year, even when his hair was no longer bright ginger, and his bones no longer young.
She and her mate remained unchanging, unmolested by time's cruelty, even as their many children grew up to find their way in the ocean's vastness to find their own mates and their own destiny. It was all thanks to a cruel witch's curse, one who believed beyond any doubt that no woman could ever love a monster.
Ron smiled. He hoped that good old Bellatrix was whirling and screaming in her empty grave, howling from the afterlife as she rolled her boulder up the hill only to have it return to the bottom each and every day.
Like the sun.
Like the waves.
Like Hermione and her mate.
Ron's hand curled around Oliver's as they sat together on the beach, watching the waves. On Oliver's left hand, the black pearl adorned the one ring that he never took off.
"Ready to go visit your mum, love?" Oliver asked. "It's getting cold again. We should probably take her something warm."
"Seems odd that we're bringing her sweaters now, yeah?" Ron said, ruefully. "But, it is her birthday, and—"
Oliver shook his head. "She's your mum. No matter what she did— well, you know she killed barmy old Bellatrix to save Ginny and probably the whole of the Wizarding world along with her. It's not her fault the evil bitch inflicted her with a death curse as a parting "gift", yeah?"
Ron nodded. "I try to remember her how she was, Ollie."
"And that's what matters, love," Oliver said with a smile.
"I just wish she'd stop calling you 'Mione," Ron said with a gusty sigh.
Oliver snorted at that. "I could always wear a long, curly wig, if you think it might help."
"Fins and an eel tail, maybe?"
"What about… "
"Merlin help me, Oliver, I will find a way to both snog and shank you at the same time!"
Oliver laughed, standing up and offering him a hand. "Come on, old man. Time we gave her a proper visit so we can go back to being grumpy old men shaking our wands at the children playing on our greens. Faster we get it done, faster we can go grab a pint or three at the Leaky and play a bit of fantasy Quidditch, you know?"
Ron instantly perked. "I feel better already."
Oliver laughed, looping his arm in Ron's.
They were gone.
Deep, deep, in the sparkling sea
Fathoms down, and further be
The greatest library ever beheld
Lies hidden beneath the waves, unparalleled.
Hermione squeaked happily, doing a loop-de-loop as she hugged the latest rare tome sent by Bill and Fleur.
Severus lifted his head up from the one he was reading, one eyebrow arched pointedly. "Must you be so insufferably happy?"
Hermione swam up to him and planted a kiss on his mouth. "Yes. You're here with me."
"I'm always here with you."
"That's why I'm so happy."
"Hn," he replied.
He said nothing else, but his body was already starting to flash different colours as he caught the changes of colour in his mate's fins— bright gold and crimson in an irresistible cocktail of desire and love. He placed his book down, shelving it inthe special bookcases that kept their prized collection from being borne away by the currents or eaten by random aquatic passersby. In a flash he had her in his embrace as she gave a squeal of delight as his body reminded her, yet again, just how much he desired her— year after year, decade after decade.
He latched onto her neck, allowing his teeth to extend just enough to create a delicious friction as his tongue lathed across her skin.
She shuddered against him, her body alternating through so many colours like an excited cuttlefish. Their tails entwined, their hands buried in each other's anemone-hair. She vibrated against him in her pleasure, joyously welcoming her beloved mate's attentions…
And then she was off, zooming out of their underwater palace under the sea. She sang out his name, daring him to catch her, love her, prove himself worthy.
Severus let out a roar of indignation as his flirtatious mate escaped his clutches, his tail slapping the water to propel him forward and after her—
She would lead him on the chase, as she always did.
He would catch her, as he always did.
They would love each other in whatever kelp forest suited them until sleep claimed them, rocking them in the sea's watery embrace, just as it always did.
Irwin and Seawald, the couple's youngest spawn, not yet ready to leave the safety of their parents' protection, sighed to each other.
"Ewww, mum and dad are at it again!"
"Ewww," Seawald replied, screwing up his face in distaste.
"I'm never going to let some girl have power over me," Irwin swore to his brother.
"Yeah, girls are nothing but trouble," Seawald heartily agreed.
"They want to touch your fins and groom your hair."
"It's soooo disgusting."
"And cuddle you, and hang out with you all the time."
Both brothers snorted at the thought and went back to their studies, utterly oblivious to the fact that they were both hiding a rather bothersome new sensation that made them want to… well, sing.
They continued to fume together in studious silence.
Later, as Severus and Hermione swam lazily together in the kelp forest, they couldn't help but notice their two youngest sons trying desperately to hide their songs from each other as they tested out their voices for the first time.
A group of young mermaids were "casually" swimming by, trying not to look unduly interested.
"Ah, young love," Hermione said with a giggle.
"Idiots," Severus said with a disdainful snort.
"How so, my mate?"
"If they had any sense, they would just sing and save themselves a decade's worth of pain of self reflection, doubt, and denial."
Hermione laughed. "I love you."
He turned, pulling her against him as he dipped his head to capture her mouth as his tail wrapped around hers. "And I you, my love. Always."
Hermione's eyes grew clouded, and he frowned. "What's wrong?"
Hermione shook her head. "Nothing, I'm happy."
"Why does happy look so sad?"
Hermione laughed as she cried. "Because I'm a woman! I'm contradictory!" She pressed her head to his chest, tucking her head under his chin. "I just realised that when you say always you really, really mean it."
Severus sighed, rubbing her hair with a chuckle. "You have the most oddly-timed epiphanies, wife. We have been mated now for how many seasons and cycles of the moon?"
Hermione hushed him with a seductive croon, rubbing her body up against his just so. His eyes rolled back as a low, predatory growl escaped his mouth. But this time, she did not flee.
She allowed him to swallow her up into his embrace and love her as he always did and always would— with all his heart and all his soul.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this little detour brought to you by the letter M and the twitchy desire for a HEA mer!Severus brought on by Story Please's Mer-story in progress, Thicker Than Blood. I blame her and her sodding cliffhangery-ness. (That is a word now, yup!)
Please let me know what you think.