Author's Note: To those about to embark on this journey I offer the two usual warnings. One, this is a spin off of Lily and the Art of Being Sisyphus, however, you should be fine not having read the original but if you're wondering why the devil this is a Harry Potter story, that's why. Second, this is very NOT CANON to the motherfic. With that, enjoy.
Act I: The Little Mermaid
"Far out in the ocean the water is as blue as the petals of the loveliest cornflower, as clear as the purest glass, and yet deep, deeper than any anchor could reach, many steeples would have to be stacked one on top of another to reach the bottom to the surface of the sea. It is down there that the sea folk live."
The Little Mermaid, Hans Christian Andersen
Act I, Scene i
Since the very beginning of when she was herself, nameless and unwanted yet capable of thought and memory, she had held a distinct fascination for the world that was miles and miles above her head. There, beyond the surface of the sea, where the water faded and the cool crisp biting air would take over in an ever shifting blue that served as that separate sea they called the sky, was a world of endless possibility.
More, a world of sentient beings, mirrors of merfolk, who instead of wearing the tails and scales of fish on their lower halves had this replaced with strange stalk like limbs, bizarre mirrors of their arms and hands, which they then used to maneuver about the rocks of land and their floating islands.
It was a common, almost unacknowledged truth, that there was little of interest among humankind or the surface in general among her people. The great blinding star of the day, the sun, was far too bright and its sister the moon offered little more comfort. Land itself was unbroachable, a barren wasteland without salt or the sea and while pretty once or twice to view at a distance offered no true possibility. And humans themselves, well…
According to her aunt and uncle, her cousin when he opened his almost whale like gaping mouth to repeat whatever they said (as was his favorite pastime), history had not painted them or their floating islands in any kind light.
"That's how the king's wife went, you know, humans with their spears and their nets," her uncle, a great walrus of a merman his whiskers floated with each harrumph said, "Downright shame is what it is, but then, everyone knows nothing good ever comes of humans."
Here he harrumphed again, emulating again a great walrus of the north, while like eager seals her cousin and aunt barked in agreement. She herself was not a part of this discussion as she wasn't a part of any true discussion, it was a long acknowledged fact that she was an orphan, her parents long since vanished in some pitiful accident, and that her mother's sister's family had never truly wanted her to begin with.
Ever since she could remember she had acted as a servant for the family, hunting and preparing food when needed, often finding herself in fights for her life with little more than a spear to protect her from the great predators of the sea, and otherwise being told to keep to her own devices and out of their precious son's way lest she corrupt him.
Here her stupid baby whale of a cousin, flapping his arms and fins excitedly, parroted back what her uncle had told him at some point, "It's so funny when their islands crash into rocks because of singing!"
Cue more excited seal like barks of laughter while she had floated there, carving her own dinner from what remained of the catch, and wondering just what it was she was missing. What did they see that she couldn't? Or rather, what did she see, that they seemed utterly incapable of seeing for themselves?
True, there was violence between them and the humans. There was history of merfolk sitting upon the rocks and singing humans to steer their floating sailing islands into the rocks, casting their strangely shaped and garbed bodies into the sea to be devoured by the carrion fish. Similarly, there were tales of humans on these floating islands, hurling hooked javelins into the sea to hunt not only fish and whales but also the merfolk themselves.
None the less though, there was no true connection between them, the merfolk and the humans. They were, they were hunting parties, passing each other in the night, the sea dark and themselves silent, unaware that they had so close passed by another free thinking being.
Humans built themselves floating islands, covered themselves in a substance similar to the furred skin of seals, decorated their spears and javelins and shaped them into something new, and on the land itself they built palaces where they trapped dancing red stars in transparent stone so that at night their cities were colorful mirrors of the stars themselves.
And these were merely the wonders she could see from the edge of land, camped out on sandbars and staring into the cities by the sea. Strange towers built of the stone of the land itself, reaching upwards towards the stars and the sun, surrounded by towering kelp that was stronger and thicker and made of the same substance as their floating islands. More, she was certain that further inland, past where her own green eyes could see, were whole worlds beyond her imagining filled with captured stars, carved towers, and glittering stone.
Perhaps it was these tantalizing visions that made her wonder, even when her cousin seemed barely capable of wondering at all though they were close in age, whether the world she'd found herself born into was real at all. The sea, though vast, had a sort of cramped dullness to it.
The palace only a few miles in the distance, spires glittering in the distant sunlight passing through the waves, almost like their human equivalent yet not quite, seemed to support the same activities daily. The princesses always were singing, the king was always ruling, the people were always coming and going about their own repetitive and mundane business and none seemed to have any inclination to do or think anything else.
On the edge of the great merfolk city, where her own family of caricatures lived, it was even more so. Her uncle seemed to have only so many thoughts that he would repeat his fondest ones at his own leisure, her aunt similarly would always laugh at the same unwitty jokes and bark out the same commands to her, girl where is the supper, and her pitiful cousin was worse than the pair of them combined.
The point was, that the longer she lived and stayed and grew with these people, locked into a dark cove at night while they dreamed of the next meal on their plates, the less she could believe in their sentience. They were little more than fish dreaming they were merfolk, instilled with the belief that they were free thinking beings. In actuality they were like the human toys that would sometimes fall and then rust in the sea. These figurines of gleaming stone would be motionless, and then, with a handle on their back, you would wind them up and watched as their funny lower halves would move this way and that, in a repetitive motion, until the handle stopped turning and they jerked into an unnatural standstill.
Her aunt, cousin, and uncle reminded her a lot of these human oddities.
And in noticing that the humans had managed to create these things, so like her family in all the ways that mattered, she wondered if they hadn't known the truth of it from the start. That perhaps, perhaps mankind was like she was, alone and separate and always thinking and so very different from everyone around them. Perhaps, perhaps it was not the world above that was unreal, but the world below that was a dim and subpar reflection of the world of men. That the merfolk, themselves, were merely soulless replications of some greater fundamental idea.
This, at least, long before she was old enough to leave her family and fend for herself, or even old enough to take a mate and spawn children, was what she chose to believe.
And then she met the little prince, and everything changed.
It was twilight, the great red eye of the sun setting, the sky turning that orange color that reflected the water and the light shimmering off of its surface. Above her head, as she breached the surface and breathed in the cold sweet air that jarred her lungs, the gulls circled overhead crying. The waves, rough for the season, rocked her body as her eyes turned this way and that, searching for the shore and the human city and the great islands with billowing clouds that would sail them across the sea.
However, she was further away from the city than she had thought, she could see it, but it was leagues from where she was now floating, the current likely having carried her farther away than she'd expected. Instead there was a larger singular building with many towers, larger than anything she had seen in the city, decorated with spires as well as brightly colored sheets of fabric that billowed in the breeze.
It looked, though not truly, not really, somewhat like the palace where the sea king and his daughters the princesses lived. It was made of human stone, surrounded by symmetrically shaped and colorful plant life as well as that strange human polished stone that gleamed under the sun, but all the same no matter how different it looked it had that same feeling to it.
As if a land king, instead of a sea king, might reside inside of it with seven daughters of his own.
She considered that thought silently for a moment, the parallel ruler of the land rather than the sea, and what the inside of his court might look like. Though she herself, being an unwanted orphan, had no basis of comparison as she'd never been invited inside the palace or allowed anywhere near it.
Far too much of a possibility of embarrassing her relatives.
Her eyes then drifted further and there, off the shore, she spotted a little vessel, a brightly colored tiny little island wobbling off the coast, which had to be at least a tenth the side of the normal floating islands that men liked to ride upon. There, inside, a little dark-haired human, himself at least a quarter of the size of the humans she regularly saw on these sorts of vessels.
She watched him for a moment, the way his island rocked back and forth in the waves as he adjusted the billowing single cloud on the tower in the center, and then with raised eyebrows watched as the island overturned and its single occupant was tossed into the sea.
And though the island bounced up and down, before slowly filling with water and sinking to join its drowned brethren, the human himself did not come back up.
Now, she'd seen these island wrecks before but they were chaotic things, filled with the screaming of men, the cracking and sinking of their islands, and often times their captured stars would grow hot and spread wildly as they reached upwards towards their forsaken heavens. In other words, they were dangerous things, and to go too close was to risk her own death for humans who were no doubt soon for whatever world awaited them after death.
As a result while she'd seen humans at a distance, and sometimes close, she'd never truly gotten her hands on a body or really been able to inspect one or their strange lower halves. This tiny island, merely capsized and not splintering in two or burning bright, and this tiny human, were very non-threatening by comparison.
As a result, staring at the scene, she realized she had been granted a priceless opportunity that might never come again.
She wasted no time in ducking her head beneath the waves, searching, and finding the still form of the boy, his chest empty of air and filling with water by the minute, and dragged his pale and drowned form towards a nearby cave facing the sea.
There, hauling him up on the rocks, tilting his jaw this way and that, checking for movement of any kind, she then began to tear off his outer garb with her knife, casting it off to the side and revealing smooth pale skin beneath.
Though half-sized he didn't looked malformed, his upper half and lower half were roughly the same proportion as each other, more there was a symmetry and beauty to his pale face that she hadn't seen in any merfolk before, not even the youngest princess who was said to be the most beautiful of all the sea king's daughters. His fingers were long, nails gleaming in the light of the moon that shone through the roof of the cave, his chest like that not of a merman but rather a child who would one day grow into a man, perhaps marking him as a half-grown human rather than a stunted one.
His hair was dark, darker than the depths of the sea and the caves of the deep, his lashes and brows a similar color.
However, it was his legs, like all human legs, which held her interest. Like his arms they were twins of one another, the same shape and size, both with knobs of bone roughly in the middle serving as the elbow of his leg. Lifting one and moving it this way and that, bending it inward, she noticed that it didn't move like an arm, but rather, somewhat like one. It bent on this one hinge but it moved in different directions, was not as flexible, and seemed to have a purpose of pushing down, providing him balance on the earth.
His feet, the hands of the legs, were not quite hands for that matter. At a distance there was a clear similarity, but up close the thumb of the foot was in the wrong position, he could not grip anything with it, and the small misshapen fingers of his feet moved in only one direction and with less flexibility and dexterity than true fingers.
More, compared to the skin of his hands, these were worn, far more bruised and scuffed by the rocks and winds of land versus his fingers which were smooth and unblemished.
However, the one thing she wasn't certain of, and more uncertain of whether to call it a disfigurement or else some hidden part of human anatomy that had always been previously hidden by the fur they insisted on wearing, was a third misshapen leg that was nestled between the longer symmetrical pair. This one did not come nearly to the height of the others, was indeed, embarrassingly small, and was a pale squishy looking thing settled there like the head of an eel lying in wait.
Off the top of her head, eyeing it with raised eyebrows, she could think of no function that it could possibly serve him. Reaching down to touch it, moving it this way and that, it didn't even seem to have any real muscle to it but was instead this shapeless, formless, useless leg.
It was about that point, with one hand on the third leg, the other on the thigh of another leg, that the human spluttered into awareness and proved that somehow, her checking for life hadn't been as thorough as she'd thought, and he wasn't dead after all.
She immediately removed her hands, slinking back into the water and clutching at her spear, watching as he curled over, turned, and vomited sea water and bile onto the surface of the rocks. There, wheezing, shivering in the cold, he looked blearily across from her with a pair of startlingly pale blue eyes, like the color of the icebergs in the north.
Breathing, crossing his arms and curling into a ball, shielding his legs and himself from her view, he spoke. It was a strange tongue, his, she'd heard it before screamed by humans as they were sailing or else drowning, but she'd never heard it directly.
Still, as their words had been more or less understandable, so too were his.
Merfolk spoke in the language of the spirit, the soul, of desire and promises, this was why men crashed and drowned for their songs. If they could not speak or listen to the hearts of men, then this would not have been possible.
"Who are you? What do you want with me?"
"Ah," she said, feeling a little awkward about all of this now, finally she said in his tongue, "I thought you were dead."
"It's very hard to tell," she related now, a little annoyed at his own look of outrage, "When we die our bodies turn to sea foam, but you, oh no, you just seem to depart your bodies entirely, leaving them to sink to the bottom of the sea. It's impossible to tell one way or another!"
His eyes drifted to her knife by his side, seeming to realize in that moment that after inspecting his body she had meant to cut him open. In terror he clutched at it with all the expertise of a novice, earning her own raised eyebrows in turn as he threatened, "If you touch me I will kill you!"
"Well, murder doesn't really sit well with me anyway," she noted, brightening as she realized that this, in fact, was much better, "Actually, I've never gotten a chance to talk to a human before. Yes, it's much better that you're not dead."
She grinned, quite pleased with this new development. It was one thing to inspect and dissect the body of a dead one to discover all his secrets, the secrets of his lower half, quite another to actually converse with one.
Although, looking at him as he looked at her, took in her own red hair, pale skin, and bright green eyes as well as her green tail, she was suddenly struck by an acute sense of nervousness. No, nervousness wasn't the word for it, it was far worse than that.
Here wasn't just her first chance, but perhaps her only chance to make an impression a representative of mankind. More, she wasn't just representing herself here but her entire people, rectifying centuries of history that had come before now. Everything she had ever thought, wondered, or dreamed lead to this moment.
One might say that this was the climax of her entire existence, pitifully short though it had been thus far.
What if he found her disappointing?
What if he had already found her disappointing or else a threat?
Clearly, judging by his hardened expression, his wild eyes, the way he gripped the knife, she had already made some move that she'd been unaware of. Or perhaps he took to the idea of her cutting up his corpse far more personally than she would have, well, had she been capable. Merfolk did not leave corpses behind when they died, they merely returned to the sea, so it wasn't really an apt comparison.
Point being, this was her close encounter with humankind, and there was a very high possibility that she would ruin it if she hadn't already.
Abruptly she dropped her spear, sinking back further into the water, peering up at him and watching as he slowly, but surely, lowered her own knife but leaving it within easy reaching distance.
Finally, she sheepishly said, "I'm sorry about your island."
"My what?" he responded.
She floundered, attempting to explain with his words, "Your… floating island, the colorful one, you were in it and…"
"It's called a boat," he said, eyes lighting in understanding of what she was trying to get at, much to her own relief, "Or a ship and… It sank?"
She nodded and he seemed to wilt at that, pouting, and placing his head upon his knees with a sigh. After a moment's thought though, where he seemed to grow more dejected, he noted, "It's not like anyone will notice anyway, they'll probably just be upset I didn't really drown."
"Ah… Did they want you to drown?" she asked, uncertain herself, as she had always assumed that like the majority of merfolk, humankind would not be fond of ritualistically murdering their young, but one could never tell.
"It'd be convenient," he scoffed, which she took to mean that none of them would admit hoping for his death, but none of them were quite against it either. Now that, she dearly understood. Her own relatives, no doubt, would not be displeased if she were to one day fail to return from hunting or surveying the surface world.
They might even throw a party to celebrate.
Then, surveying her, with a quiet intensity that she had never seen on the face of her cousin, he asked, "Who are you? You never said."
She blinked, not quite sure what he was getting at, since he was clearly looking right at her and talking to her. Clearly, he could see who she was for himself. Or perhaps he meant something deeper than that, deeper than her skin, her eyes, her tail, or even her hair. Though what that might be, what he expected, was entirely beyond her.
"Your name," he prompted.
"Name?" she asked, truly lost now, looking down at her own hands then up at him as if they might reveal the answer. They didn't.
"What do others call you?" he prompted again, this time his look of annoyance fading into one of fascination as if her lack of answer was revealing in and of itself.
"They… don't," she finally said, and they didn't, they never had.
"You don't have one, do you?" he said finally, leaning forward and scrambling towards her, the knife forgotten as he sat on the edge of the water, grinning at her.
"My father," he said suddenly, eyes bright as he looked at her, "They say my real father was a nøkk, like you but he lived in the rivers and streams and waterfalls. He could take the shape of a horse or a beautiful fiddler. If you say the name of a nøkk, their real name, it kills them. Are you like that?"
She mused, nøkk, she'd never heard that term before but then she'd never really met a human before and had never heard their term for them. And a name… Perhaps she had one, but it was the single beautiful cry that would reduce her into foam, her own siren's song. If she heard it, or even knew it, likely it would kill her just as he'd said.
Finally, she said with a shrug, "I don't know."
"I bet you are," he assured himself with a smile, leaning back as he took the sight of her in full, strange blue eyes tracing every inch of her, "I bet you can do all sorts of magic."
"My name's Tom," he finally said, pale hand motioning towards himself, "I'm the crown prince of Denmark."
He paused at his own words, looking up at the sky, frowning, before darkly adding, "Or I should be crown prince of Denmark."
"What's Denmark?" she cut in, and a prince, the sea king had no sons so there were no princes currently but she wondered if this meant he lived in the land palace she had spotted earlier. His island, no, boat, coming from there would make quite a bit of sense. It didn't seem large enough to cover the vast distances that greater ships could navigate.
"Denmark is… Well, we're in Denmark now, it's the kingdom we're in," then, affronted at her lack of understanding he added, "We're speaking Danish, how can you not know what Denmark is?!"
"You speak Danish," she corrected, pointing to him before pointing to herself, "Therefore I speak Danish."
That seemed as much of a non-concept to him as names were to her. The idea that her words, her voice, was designed to reach to his very soul and beckon him closer towards treacherous waters didn't even compute.
"Well, that doesn't make any sense," he said crossing his arms but seemed to give up on this soon enough as he asked, "Anyways all the cities on the beach, the castle, everything is a part of Denmark. If you go to other shores they might be part of some other kingdom, but this is Denmark."
She wasn't quite sure she understood that, the naming of land, you couldn't name waters in the same way. The water moved in currents and changed daily, and sure there was the palace and landmarks around it, but the sea was vast and untamable. One did not simply name it and place borders around it.
Still, watching him, she could feel something bright and satisfied within her. He was young, true, but there was a spark in him, a kindred piece of light within him that beckoned to her. He, she was certain, was what she had been looking for. Everything light and dark, joyful are wrathful, contained within his small growing form was the promise of sentience that she had dreamed in mankind.
There was such… potential within him.
"What is it like?" she asked, "Being human?"
He blinked, somewhat unsettled, and then with a wry sort of mirth said, "I imagine it's a lot like being not human. I've only ever been human, I don't think I'd know the difference."
He looked down at her, considering then said, "I study, most days, with my younger half-brother, James. Economics, mathematics, kingship, all sorts of sciences that a king of Denmark will need one day when our father dies. Some days we practice fencing or go riding in the fields…"
He talked for what seemed like hours while she stared, overwhelmed by the strange terms he used, but unable to interrupt for her own growing enchantment in the world he painted of a human prince.
He was young for a human, he admitted this, long before the age where he would take a human wife or even be allowed to hunt on his own. However, like her, he was often left to his own devices for reasons having to do with his biological father (a story he seemed unwilling to get into the details of or even separate from the king, the other man he called father).
His days were filled with sunlight and nights with starlight, with riding upon great creatures called horses, through fields of the seaweed of land known as grass and golden wheat. He talked about the seasons, how the temperature of the water not only changed, but the landscape itself would transform and the animals of land would migrate and return for the warmer flowering months of Spring and Summer.
And in turn she, to the best of her ability, painted the life beneath the waves for him. Speaking of migrating whales, of the great vast kingdom of the sea without border, the merfolk and their oral histories dating back generations, and the palace beneath the sea with the seven princesses.
Still, how was it, that her words seemed to enrapture him just as his enraptured her?
How could he see so much in the world she lived in, in the false reality he lived in, when there was so much within his own?
Later, the dawn approaching and after they had long since run out of words and ideas to say, though no doubt there was far more left to be said, he turned towards her again, his eyes lingering on her hair, "You should have a name, a name between us at least, not your real name but… Something that has the spirit of you."
She liked the idea of that, something that contained the spirit of her, that he might use to warm her memory long since he'd returned to land and herself to the sea.
Still looking at her, eyes roving over her, he seemed to make up his mind as he said, "There's a story, from the forest of Tiveden, about red water lilies, nøkkerosen."
Then he began to tell the tale, one he seemed to have long since memorized, his human voice weaving it with all the grace and mastery of her own people, "At the lake of Fagartärn, there was once a poor fisherman who had a beautiful daughter. The small lake gave little fish and the fisherman had difficulties providing for his little family.
One day, as the fisherman was fishing in his little dugout of oak, he met the nøkk, who offered him great catches of fish on the condition that the fisherman gave him his beautiful daughter the day she was eighteen years old. The desperate fisherman agreed and promised the nøkk his daughter.
The day the girl was eighteen she went down to the shore to meet the nøkk. The nøkk gladly asked her to walk down to his watery abode, but the girl took forth a knife and said that he would never have her alive, then stuck the knife into her heart and fell down into lake, dead. Then, her blood colored the water lilies, nøkkerosen, red, and from that day the water lilies of some of the lake's forests are red."
He reached forward, grabbed a strand of her hair, held it up to the dawn and inspected the red and gold in each strand, and wistfully said, "Your hair is like that, I think, so you should be Nøkkerosen."
And in that moment, staring at him, she was tempted to take him with her back into the sea, to somehow preserve him so that he would not drown but could instead remain and grow into a human man.
Or else herself join him on land, to somehow remain as she was without withering and turning back into foam, somehow maneuvering without the legs that were so necessary on the surface.
But as a fish and a bird could not wed, so she herself, was tied to the waves and him to the shores of Denmark. So she didn't say anything, she just nodded, accepted Nøkkerosen for herself, to warm her hands as the sunlight did her skin, a silent token of his passing into and out of her life and, knocking him out and supporting him back to shore, she laid him and his ruined garments back onto the Danish beach by the land palace.
And as he laid there, eyes closed once again, the sunlight reflecting off his pale skin, she felt…
She felt as if there was a sun inside of herself, a bright glowing overbearing thing in her heart, and a certainty that all the faith she'd had in the world above, every dream she'd painted of them, had been more than met in him.
He, Tom the little prince of Denmark, was all the proof she needed that humanity was more than worth every gift bestowed upon them.
And with that thought, with the rising sun and shouts from the beach as the humans spotted the boy, she returned back into the depths of the sea and the flat, disappointing, reality that awaited her there.
Author's Note: A "The Little Mermaid" crossover with "Lily and the Art of Being Sisyphus" requested by the wonderful leonide9606 who deserves all the fanfiction.
Now, a few obligatory notes. If you can't handle weird pairings, homosexual, heterosexual,or polyamorous, of characters you might not necessarily ship, you will end up flaying me later in the story so you might as well leave now. I'm not tagging pairings as one, as Lily or Noekkerosen in this is really not Harry (indeed a more normal version of Harry shows up later) it would be misleading, and two it would reveal spoilers. However, I will note here, that the pairings are weird, and if you can't handle it, it's best not to get attached.
However, on the other hand we're talking about The Carnivorous Muffin type pairings/romance, which means romance is meaningful glances, unrequited, sex scenes that happen entirely off screen while imagery of dolphins, French poetry, or dragons eating people plays. So expect the usual non graphic things folks.
This is my last warning on this, take it as you will.
Carrying on, expect more Hans Christian Andersen than Disney necessarily, though I'm sure Disney will come up now and then. And with that I think that's all I had to say.
Thanks for reading, reviews are appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter