AN: This was written for the Quidditch League Fanfiction Competition. My prompt as Seeker was to write a story inspired by the fairy tale "The Little Mermaid."
"How long has she been working at the Ministry, Severus? How long have you worked there?"
Severus sighed and sat back in his chair, eying Lucius suspiciously. "We've both been working there for over ten years."
Lucius leaned forward. "And you're just now coming forward with this? You poor, unfortunate soul."
"Look here," Severus growled, sitting back into his booth at the Canteen. "I'll not have any of that, thank you. Your pity or your help, Lucius. Not both." He carefully inspected his fingernails. "You wouldn't want me to discuss the noodle incident with Narcissa, would you?"
Gasping, Lucius Malfoy put down his drink. "You bastard! You swore you'd never tell! You took an oath, even!" The blond man peered at his raven-haired companion. "Unless you found some way of subverting oaths."
Severus simply stared at his fingernails. "What I do for a living is unspeakably brilliant, Lucius, and I have no idea what you're talking about."
"For Merlin's sake, Severus, don't be so coy about all that business. You're not very good at it." Lucius took a drink and spelled his hair back into place. "Now, why did you ask me to lunch in here of all places?"
Severus shrugged. "It was the best place to get you alone, without all the trappings of the Manor. Also, I need a favor, and if you can do it, I'll call null and void the life debt you owe me for saving Draco's life."
Lucius made a face. "Gods, man, where's your subtlety? It's so...common...to get right to the point." He leaned forward. "Would this have something to do with the little Gryffindor witch who works here? You always did have a taste for them."
"She's hardly little, Lucius. The woman is thirty years old and is quite accomplished in her own right. She's researching partial transfigurations at the moment, and I wish to help her."
"Ah," sighed Lucius, finally understanding why he had been summoned. "You wish me to create a transformation spell for you so that you can swim with the fishes."
"The amount of glee you are obtaining from this is unholy."
Lucius preened. "Flattery will get you everywhere, Severus. Now," he stated, dropping his napkin onto his plate and rising out of the booth, "when shall we commence changing?"
"You will commence nothing. I will be the one changing, thank you very much." Severus led the blond man over to a large round window. "Look through here, and you will see why I need your help."
Intrigued, Lucius did as he was asked. He saw nothing but water at first, but then he beheld a sight that took his breath away.
A mermaid, dressed only in her tail, swam through the water. Her hair flowed about her like seaweed in a strong current, and her scales were a gentle blending of silver and green. Her breasts were bare and floated upwards, their heaviness negated by the water's buoyancy. Lucius was about to ask Severus who on earth this was when the seductive creature turned to face them.
Hermione Granger made quite a beautiful mermaid.
Lucius sighed. "Well, there's no time like the present. Where's the top of this tank so we can drop you in?"
Severus blanched. "What, now?"
"Yes, now," Lucius said, pulling out his wand to begin the spell. "I want to go shopping to celebrate being released from your debt."
Severus took them upstairs to the top of the tank. He stripped bare as Lucius had indicated and then sat on the edge with his legs dangling into the tank. "Alright, I'm ready."
"You will have to kiss her within two hours, or the spell will backfire."
Severus was appalled. "You can't make a spell without a backfire clause?"
Lucius nodded. "For something like this, I have to use one of the spells from an old Slytherin by the name of Anderson. All of his spells had nasty backfires, which I assume is why no one ever used them very much. There is precedence for this one, though; a mermaid was given legs but didn't fulfill the clause. She ended up dissolving into sea foam."
"You inspire such confidence, Lucius," Severus drawled. "How do you do it?"
"It's a talent, Severus. Now hold still while I twist the curse."
"You're cursing me!? Screw you, Lucius, I'm getting out of the tank."
Lucius stopped him. "It's no good, Severus, I've already started. Besides, what sort of form did you expect a spell done to fool a potential lover to take? Of course it's a curse. Intent matters, brother."
Severus grumbled at Lucius's reference to their Death Eater past. "No need to pile it on."
Several minutes later, Lucius had the spell ready. He raised his wand and intoned:
"To catch the love you desire,
You must first taste the fire.
Since in water you will be
It thwarts the darker destiny.
So time will be your price
For indulging your baser vice.
Kiss the girl and take her hand
Or spend your years as a merman."
Severus felt his lungs constrict until a heavy weight settled on his chest. Lucius pushed him forward into the tank when Severus developed gills. It wouldn't do to have the one person who could relieve him of his debt die.
Severus wanted to scream as the transformation ripped through him, but he couldn't form proper speech. His legs locked together and fused, and scales burst out from his delicate skin. He was in so much pain that he blacked out.
When he came to, he was staring at an angel, or that's what he thought for the barest of moments. It was Hermione herself coming to check on him.
"Goodness, Severus, are you alright?" Her voice was warbled and distorted by the water, but still Severus could hear her clearly. "Severus, answer me!"
"I'm fine, Hermione," he coughed out, his throat not wanting to accept the water pouring in. "I'm just having a bit of time adjusting."
She frowned. "I saw you talking with Lucius, and I saw what he did. He used an old Hans Christian Anderson curse, didn't he?" She leaned forward, her floating breasts distracting him. "Didn't he!?"
Severus felt lost. He had done this to get Hermione's attention, but it looked like it was in the opposite way he had intended. He struggled with the very real possibility of being stuck a merman for the rest of his life. "Hermione..."
Tears floated out of her eyes and salted the water. "I can't believe you would do something so reckless. Why would you put yourself at risk? Why?"
Figuring he was buggered, he fell back to a tactic seldom used by any Slytherin: the truth. "I wanted to get your attention, Hermione." He looked anywhere but at her semi-naked form. "I wanted to stand out so I'd outshine all the other men trying to get your attention."
Hermione sighed dejectedly. "Oh Severus, you silly man. You've had my attention for the last two years. Why didn't you just say something instead of pulling a dangerous stunt like this?"
Severus blinked. "I didn't think it would work."
"Well, there's nothing for it now. What do I have to do to keep you from being a merman forever or dissolving into sea foam?"
He smiled; his girl always was the brightest little know-it-all. "I have to kiss you and take your hand."
"A kiss and an engagement, eh?" Hermione stopped smiling when a look of abject fear crossed his Saturnine features. "Don't worry, Severus, you won't be stuck like this forever." She reached over and pulled him to her, locking her lips to his.
Stunned, all Severus could do was kiss her back. Her lips were warm and wet, and when her little tongue gingerly made its way into his mouth, he moaned and deepened their contact.
They pulled back at the same time, both of them gasping for water through their gills. "Also, Severus, I will indeed marry you. I've wanted to for such a long time anyway that it's no hardship."
Pain ripped through Severus. His fish tail was sundered in half, and he felt every scale rip away from his skin. Instantly recognizing what was occurring, Hermione swam them both up to the top of the tank.
Severus gasped for air as his head broke the surface of the water. Lucius was there to greet them and help Hermione lug the dark wizard out onto the deck.
Hermione turned to Lucius. "There, now we are even. You got your debt to Severus wiped out, and I got myself engaged. Care to remove this blasted curse now, you bastard?"
"It was truly an accident, Miss Granger, I swear on my wand." Lucius did his best to look innocent.
Sighing, Hermione summoned a towel and began drying Severus's hair. "Yes, well, the less said about the noodle incident the better."