13 Days of All Hallows’ Eve: “The Slytherin & the Mermaid”
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The pebbles were cool on my feet; it was dark and deserted. Disconnected, I watched as tears dripped into the water pooling around my ankles.
I shouldn’t have reacted this badly; they were only a few pinches and slaps. Some of my things disappeared never to come back. But it was nothing. I was weak. Weak for letting them do that to me.
A disturbance in the water drew my gaze. A mermaid emerged, her long dark green hair swaying gently in the water.
I watched her, and she watched me. She was not beautiful – none of the Scottish Merpeople were. Her yellow eyes and broken teeth should have been frightening, but in the dim light, she seemed innocuous as if she were simply a part of the cave herself.
A few weeks later I again found myself weeping; the isolation of my situation sometimes took me this way. I found the secret passage I had stumbled across once before and climbed the slimy steps.
I sat in the cool damp cave and let my sorrow bleed away. The mermaid once again appeared, regarding me swiftly before she took to her own nook. Her hands brushed over white pebbles; she seemed to be counting them. Occasionally, her eyes would dart around the room, and our gaze would connect. Eventually, she left the cave. Her pebbles caught my gaze. I moved to examine them. They were the palest pebbles I had seen, and the roundest in shape. I stole one and kept it in my pocket.
I began to make a habit of visiting that place. Perhaps for the solitude and perhaps for the company of someone who did not actively dislike me. The presence of her seaweed hair, her silver tail comforted me, as nothing within the castle did. As she counted her pebbles, I began to look for more. When I was not in the cave or in class, I would wander the lake’s edge scouring the shore for the whitest roundest pebbles I could find.
I would leave the pebbles next to her collection. We said no word to each other, for I spoke no Mermish, and she spoke no human tongue. But she appeared to add the most beautiful to her pile.
Some nights I would sit by the window of our dormitory, watching the Grindylows, fish, and Lobalugs drift by. Occasionally, a Tadfoal or a school of merpeople would swim past, but this was a rare occurrence.
On one such night, the lake lit by a full moon, I watched her swim past. I had never seen her before from this vantage. But there she was. I drank in the twist of her shoulders and the flick of her fins. I thought for a moment her golden eyes met mine, but I could not be sure, as I watched her silver tail swim away.
I became more and more addicted to the cave. I found my feet treading that way every day. On the days she wasn’t there, I sat in morose silence, although the presence of the pebbles gave me some strange strength.
I sat at my dormitory window one night. I had grown thin and tired. I was watching for her again, and presently, she came. This time I knew she saw me, for she swam toward me with purpose in her countenance. She placed her gray webbed hand against the glass as if to touch me. I found myself holding my hand against hers, as I gazed into her golden eyes. Why had she not touched me ‘ere this? Why was it, when separated by glass and magics, she reached out?
I tore my hand from the glass and ran from the room, out into the halls, and down to the darkest place that hid the secret stair that led to the cave.
Chest heaving, blood pulsing, I burst forth. She was here! I ran to her. But she slid back into the water. I followed her. She spoke to me, for the first time. Her voice was light and lilting, drifting through the water like seaweed.
I couldn’t make out what she meant, but I was sure at this moment as I gazed upon her visage that she must love me as I loved her. She touched my face, my hands, my neck, her hands cold, and smooth. I kissed her then and drew her to the air.
I released her and gazed upon her face. At that moment I knew she was mine, her golden eyes, her seaweed hair.
I held her cheek in one hand, as I took her hair in the other and lovingly, carefully, wound it about her throat.
I strangled her, but her golden eyes showed no pain. Gently, I closed them and propped her head against my shoulder, smoothing her dark green hair. All night long we did not stir, my love and I in that dark cave.
As daybreak’s silver light dimly lit her pile of pebbles, I knew what had to be done. One by one I placed the pebbles in my robes. Then, holding her in my arms, I walked into the gray water. I kissed her once, twice, thrice, the water now lapped at my chest. I opened her eyes and gazed upon their beauty before I kissed her again. As the water closed above my head, her hair drifted around me like a caress. I looked into her golden eyes again and after, knew no more.
Author’s Note: This is based on “Porphyria’s Lover” by Robert Browning, with a pretty large helping of Virginia Woolf.
Today is Day 4 of our 13 Days of All Hallows’ Eve! Are you caught up on the post series?