Written by request as a birthday gift for Cordelia V., this story (possibly the first known example of MerPreg in the fandom) refused to stay crack!fic as it had was meant to be. And yet somehow? I'm not sorry.)
The Heart of the Sea
part i: in the air
"I'm sorry we couldn't find somewhere for you to stay that you wouldn't have to share," said Tonks, as they approached the nondescript detached house at the end of Pebble Mill Lane. "It's just...you know how things were at the end of the war."
He nodded, but it was a lie. Remus didn't know how it had been then, not for anybody on the outside. He knew what it had been like to be held prisoner by a pack of increasingly frustrated and desperate Death Eaters, but during that last month of the war, he had been far too distracted to concern himself with what might have been going on with any of his fellow Order members. All his attention had been focused on keeping himself alive and sane.
And after the war, well...once again, Remus had more important things to worry about.
"It shouldn't be that bad, sharing the place with Snape," Tonks said, pulling a Muggle house key out of her jacket pocket. "I know the two of you never really got on, but most of the time he sticks to the lab he set up in the basement. He doesn't even show his face when I deliver the supplies. Of course..."
"...it's not that we really had much of a choice. The other safe houses were seized by the Ministry. Scrimgeour said they...."
"You don't have to worry, you know. Everything will be fine," said Remus, patting her arm in a comforting manner. "I know you all tried your best."
Crossing her arms over her chest, Tonks leaned back against the door jamb and lowered her head.
"I'm sorry, Remus."
"Tonks, you don't..."
"We thought you were dead," she said quietly, then squeezed her eyes tightly. "We couldn't...too many of us were already gone when we heard you'd been captured. The headmaster. Moody and Kingsley...."
Remus nodded. His captors had made sure he heard the celebrations on the day they'd finally been able to do away with Mad-Eye.
"I know there wasn't anything you could do to rescue me or...well, anyway, it's all in the past now, isn't it?"
"I could have waited longer," Tonks said. "Charlie and I...."
"Like you said, you thought I was dead," said Remus, interrupting her before she could say more. "It's really all right."
And it was all right, he thought, as Tonks wiped her eyes then turned away to unlock the door. Remus had never lied to himself, and he wasn't about to start now. He had thought, for a while, that he and Tonks might be able to make a go of it, but even if he hadn't been missing for all those months, the changes the Ministry had made to the Werewolf Control laws in the wake of Greyback's acts of destruction would have made it impossible for Remus to have a realistic chance at a relationship with anyone, least of all a young Auror. Add to that the new edict about Werewolf offspring...well, he just hoped Tonks and Charlie Weasley would be happy. Lord knows somebody should be.
"Remus? Are you coming?"
He nodded, then picked up his bag and followed Tonks into the small entryway.
"Your room's over there," she said, pointing to an open bedroom door to the left of the kitchen. "Snape's room...well, I don't know if he actually uses the other bedroom. He may just hang upside down from the rafters."
Remus grinned, then shook his head. It was almost reassuring to know some things never changed.
"So...you'll be able to settle in all right?" Tonks looked out the window. "The kitchen's fully stocked, and the wards are...."
"I can feel them," Remus said. "Were they just reset?"
Tonks nodded. "Finding Snape has become priority number one for the MLE, so those of us who are left from the Order have been resetting the wards here every week. Personally I think Robards is worried that his job will be on the line next if he doesn't come up with some information about Snape fast." She sighed, then shook her head. "I don't know, Remus...I'm afraid there are still too many old Order members who'd just love to turn Snape in, reward or no reward."
"I didn't think you liked him that much."
"I don't really, but we all heard Professor Dumbledore say...we all heard Dumbledore's portrait tell us why Snape did it." She shook her head. "Anyway, if my Ministry colleagues are ever able to find this house, they're going to find you too, and you, I definitely like. There's no way I'm going to let that happen. No way in the world."
After Tonks left, Remus spent the rest of the afternoon getting his things settled in his new room. He didn't really have much in the way of possessions - the peripatetic life he'd been leading over the past few years had seen to that - but it was good to have a place to keep what he did still have safe, at least for the time being. No matter what Tonks thought, even this place - the last of the Order's unplottable houses - wasn't going to be safe indefinitely, but Remus was bound and determined to give himself at least a bit of a holiday from worrying.
By the time the sun began to set, Remus had everything in order in his room. He wandered into the kitchen and put on the kettle. When it had boiled, on a whim, he made two cups of tea instead of one and went off in search of his missing housemate.
He opened the basement door and went down the stairs, a cup of tea in each hand. There Snape was, at one of two long tables that had been pushed against the wall at the back of the room. He was bent over a cauldron, his long, lank hair hanging over his face as he stirred methodically.
"Don't you ever worry about getting hair in one of your Potions?" Remus asked.
"Don't you ever wait to be invited to somebody's private workspace?" Snape answered, not looking up from his task.
Remus smiled to himself; Snape was still easy to goad.
"Actually, Severus, I thought you might be ready for a cup of tea."
Still stirring, Snape looked over at Remus, his eyes narrowed.
"If you wanted the larger bedroom, you might have just asked. Bringing me hemlock wasn't necessary."
"Sorry. All out of hemlock," Remus said. "You'll have to make do with Sainsburys' tea."
"Put it down on the counter."
Always the gracious recipient, thought Remus as he crossed the room and placed the cup beside Snape.
Remus's eyes widened in surprise. If pressed, he might have admitted that he believed Severus Snape to be familiar with the words that expressed gratitude in the English language, but he was damned if he could ever recall Snape saying thank you for anything ever before.
Not waiting for the invitation he was certain would never come, Remus sat down on one of the stools at the far end of the table at which Snape was working and quietly drank his tea. His cup was almost empty before Snape stopped stirring and put his spoon down, then cast a re-heating charm on his own tea.
"Bored are you, Lupin? I can't imagine any other reason you'd be sitting down here watching me stir for twenty minutes."
"Actually, I am, a bit," said Remus. "I don't suppose there's anything you'd like me to do."
Snape gave Remus a look of disbelief, which really came as no particular surprise. Everybody in their year at school had known exactly how adept Remus was at Potions making, which was to say 'not much.'
"Not unless you'd care to clean out a cauldron or two," Snape said. "That ought to fill up a minute or two of your free time."
"Oh, it would take a bit more time than that, I'm afraid," said Remus. "I'm wandless, for the time being."
"Why don't you have...ah, never mind," said Snape, obviously remembering exactly where Remus would have lost the use of his wand. "Apart from that, no, there's nothing you can do. My resources are limited enough without you making a dog's dinner of the ingredients I do have. In any case, I've finished what I can do for the day."
Snape took another sip of tea, then put the cup down on the counter and covered the still-simmering cauldron with an opaque glass lid. Remus watched as, one after another, the ingredients which had been set out beside Snape's notebook were put away in various bottles and bags, then placed in a nearby cupboard.
"What have you been working on?"
"What I have been brewing is none of your business, Lupin," said Snape as he spell-locked the cupboard shut. "All you need to know is that the ingredients are not volatile, neither on their own nor in combination, in case you were worried about being blown up while you slept one night."
Remus shook his head. "No, if there's one thing I know you're not likely to do, it's blow up a cauldron. I was just wondering about all the fins and scales you were using in that potion. And...that last ingredient you put in, that was Mermaid's hair wasn't it?"
The look Snape gave to Remus was murderous.
"I'll thank you to mind your own damned business from now on, Lupin!" he hissed, before storming up the stairs, leaving Remus sitting alone in the cold basement, an empty tea cup in his hand.
Figuring out the mystery of why Snape had been so touchy about the Potion he was working on seemed as good a project as any to fill up Remus's copious free time, but for over a week, Remus couldn't come up with any answers. Snape absolutely refused to discuss what he was doing, and after that first day, whenever he was working in his makeshift lab, he made sure to put privacy wards on the basement door. Remus was able to sneak downstairs one night while Snape was sleeping and take a look around, but there wasn't anything out on the counters and the cupboards were locked tight.
The only time Remus was allowed down into the basement while Snape was working was the afternoon of the full moon. Or perhaps "allowed" was the wrong word, given the way Snape had bellowed his name. For a moment, Remus considered just turning a deaf ear to the summons, but then he shrugged and went downstairs, carrying an old ragged blanket in his hand and trying to ignore the sneer on Snape's face.
"Most of us had given up our security blankets by the time we were two, Lupin."
"It's cold down here, Severus," Remus said flatly, glancing at the door to the empty storage room. "If I'm to spend my transformation down here, I...."
"You thought I was going to lock you in the back room?"
"That's exceedingly stupid, even for you," he said dismissively. "For one thing, the door wouldn't hold five minutes against you in your Werewolf form. And for another....oh here, just drink this."
Remus frowned as Snape held a familiarly smoking goblet out to him.
"What are you waiting for? I don't have all day."
"Severus? Is this Wolfsbane?"
Snape snorted. "No, it's a magical diuretic which I thought I'd give you to amuse myself. Of course it's Wolfsbane, you imbecile. Now drink it before it gets cold."
"Thank you, Severus." Remus took the goblet in his hand and lifted it his mouth, but put it back down on the worktable before drinking any.
"Oh for fuck's sake, Lupin. Just drink the damned thing. You know there's nothing to be done about the way it tastes, and...."
"I can't drink it."
"I can't drink it. Or rather, I don't think I can."
"Whatever are you talking about?"
Remus shook his head and looked away from Snape. "It's not important. I'm sure I'll be perfectly fine in the back room."
"It took four hours to brew the Wolfsbane, Lupin," Snape said, his arms folded across his chest. "The least I would expect is that you do me the courtesy of telling me precisely why you won't drink it."
Privately, Remus thought the idea of Snape attempting to lecture anyone on courtesy was rather amusing, but he said nothing, just picked up the ragged blanket and headed for the back room.
"Stop!" Snape said, and Remus could tell that he was just itching to cast Imperio on him.
"I've been cursed."
"When? And what the hell has that to do with whether you can drink the Wolfsbane or not?"
"The answer to 'when' is just before the Aurors broke in and Bellatrix and Rodolphus were hauled off back to Azkaban."
Snape frowned. "What was the curse?"
Remus sighed and turned back towards Snape. "Let's just say the phrases Uterius Novus and Geminus Foetus were each repeated numerous times."
"My sentiments exactly."
"You're...oh fuck." Snape sat down heavily on the stool that Remus had just vacated.
"You can say the word, you know," said Remus. "Pregnant. I'm pregnant."
"Why in the name of heaven didn't you just...."
"Get rid of it? You know, I think I probably would have if I'd known what that bitch did to me when I arrived at St. Mungo's, but by the time the healers were able to bring me back to consciousness and I could remember what she'd said, well....the Ministry had already issued the new Werewolf directives."
It was Tonks who'd told him what the MInistry had decided. Any Werewolf not registered with the Ministry would be sent immediately to Azkaban if caught. No Werewolf was allowed employment that involved contact with the public. All Werewolves would - from three days before the full moon until three days after the full moon - be required to wear a metal collar and manacles on their arms and legs. The list went on and on, but what it boiled down to was that nothing Remus had done in service to the Light mattered one bit; for the rest of his life, he was going to be treated as little more than an animal.
"So what you're saying is that you've decided to carry on with a pregnancy that is the result of a curse to...what? Thumb your nose at the Ministry?"
Remus glared at Snape. "I was angry, Severus...and I wasn't thinking particularly clearly."
"As if you ever do," Snape muttered.
"And then Werewolf Directive 17 was issued."
Snape frowned, then his eyes widened. "The Anti-Werewolf Breeding Law."
Remus nodded. "Who knows what I might have decided if I'd been given a choice. Maybe I would have kept it and maybe I would have terminated the pregnancy. I just don't know. What I do know is that if the MInistry is going to order me to destroy the small life growing inside of me, then I'm damned well going to keep it."
"And so I've gone into hiding, just like you. Five months, Severus. It's starting to show, and...maybe I've started to think of it as mine."
Snape tried unsuccessfully to look anywhere but in the direction of Remus's stomach, but Remus had seen this same kind of failed attempt too many times in Tonks' eyes to be deceived.
"Do you want to touch it?" Remus said, grinning suddenly.
"God, no!" Snape said, drawing back in horror as if from a poisonous adder. "Keep your parasitic clone to yourself."
"Are you sure? You can feel it kick."
"You're going to feel me kick in a moment."
"Why, Severus...I do believe you're afraid of an embryo."
Snape glared at Remus and pointed at the goblet. "Shut up and drink that."
"It will have no effect on the foetus."
"You're absolutely certain?"
"Yes," Snape said. "I'm absolutely certain."
Remus drank the potion.
When Remus woke the following morning and stumbled out from his bedroom, Snape had yet to go down to his lab. He was sitting at the kitchen table, staring down into his coffee cup.
Snape looked up, then took a deep breath.
"Sit down, Lupin. We need to talk."
Remus poured a cup of coffee for himself and sat down at the table. "What is it?"
"You've been trying to find out what I've been working on since you got here, and today is your lucky day. I'm going to tell you. However, there's a condition attached."
"And the condition is?"
"That you agree to let me Obliviate you after I tell you, if you refuse the offer I'm about to make."
Remus frowned. "But..."
"Yes or no, Lupin."
Snape sat impassively across from him, waiting for Remus to make up his mind. On the one hand, the thought of anybody fiddling about with his memory was abhorrent to him, but it was clear that he was never going to find out what Snape had been working on if he didn't agree. And of course, there was always the chance that he'd end up accepting whatever odd offer Snape was about to make, in which case, worrying about an Obliviation was a moot point.
"What do you know about Serrae?"
"The Merpeople?" Remus said. "Very little, actually. I know that there had been a small community of them living in the lake by Hogwarts but that they're most often found in the ocean. I also know that Albus was quite friendly with some of them and that he spoke Mermish."
Snape nodded once, then steepled his fingers together in front of him.
"When the headmaster was al...the headmaster asked that I also learn Mermish. At the time, I couldn't think of any basis for his request, but I agreed to do so, as I agreed to do his bidding...always."
Snape's countenance was expressionless, but Remus could hear the slightest waver in his voice when he spoke of Albus Dumbledore.
"Shortly after I...left Hogwarts, Fawkes delivered a note to me. It was unsigned and said only 'When all is done and all seems lost, safety shall appear in Neptune's realm.' I believe that the note was from Albus - that he was telling me to seek refuge with the Merpeople."
Snape paused, as if waiting for Remus to say that he was mad, but Remus had seen too many strange things in his life - many of them having to do with the late headmaster - to doubt Snape's word.
"You might be right," Remus said finally. "But...how can the Merpeople protect you? It isn't as if you can live underwater."
"And so we come to the crux of the matter," Snape said. "For the past two months, I have been developing a potion that would allow me to do just that - in effect, to become a Merperson. I believe I have finally come up with the solution."
"But this would be a phenomenal achievement, Severus!"
Snape inclined his head. "Perhaps."
"After forty years, you've finally decided to give modesty a try?" Remus laughed.
"For one thing, there appears to be no way to reverse the effects of the potion. In fact, I have every reason to believe that the changes would be permanent."
"But surely you could keep working on the Reversal potion, even after taking refuge."
Snape snorted. "Are you really as dim as you seem, Lupin? Explain to me, if you would, precisely how that would be possible."
Remus frowned. "Are you telling me the potion would take away your magical abilities? That you would no longer be a Wizard?"
"Not in the least. However, I would not be able to spend more than the briefest periods of time in the air, and potions work requires something which is in very short supply underwater."
Only Snape could make applause sound so damned sarcastic.
"Very good. A million points to Gryffindor."
For a moment, Remus said nothing, just stared at his own coffee cup. When he finally looked up, Snape was looking out the kitchen window.
"But you'd be safe, Severus."
"Yes. I would be safe, well beyond the MInistry's reach. However I would be unable to do the work which I trained a lifetime to do and I would be alone amongst...well, I don't suppose that part is really so different from my life thus far."
"And the offer you were going to make?" Remus said quietly.
"I had thought that you might wish to take the potion, as well. For one thing, if it works as I expect it to, you would no longer transform into Werewolf each month. Rather a drastic cure for your Lycanthropy, but in this case, I thought it might have been worth it. However, your situation isn't quite the same as mine. I am under a death sentence, while you..."
"My prospects aren't much better than yours, Severus. And this child I carry...he's under a death sentence as well, if I stay."
"It's a boy?"
Remus raised an eyebrow. "The spell is, in effect, a cloning spell, Severus."
Snape shook his head and got up to pour himself some more coffee, while Remus considered what he'd been offered. Leaving behind everything he'd come to know was...it was a frightening prospect, but what was there really that was left for him in this world? All his friends from childhood were dead, his mentor was gone, the boy he had thought of - if only briefly - as a son had abandoned the Wizarding World entirely and hadn't been heard from since the day he killed Voldemort. And then there was Tonks. Tonks who had believed that he was dead and had started to build a new life for herself with a nice, normal guy who wouldn't have to wear iron manacles one week out of every month.
In fact, the truth of the matter was that the only person left that Remus actually had any history with was Severus Snape - and he was about to turn himself into a damned Merman and disappear.
"I want to do it."
"What?" Snape asked.
"I want to take the potion with you."
"You don't know what..."
Remus shook his head. "You made me the offer, Severus. Don't take it back now. My life's worth nothing here...and I have a baby to protect."
Snape just looked at him for a moment.
"This is probably a terrible mistake, you know."
Remus smiled. "We've made them before, and somehow we've survived."
"Are you sure you don't want to touch my stomach?"
"Shut up, Lupin."
For two weeks, Remus and Snape had spent every waking hour down in the lab, working on the transformative potion that would allow them to live underwater with the Merpeople. For the first few days, Snape had not let Lupin do anything but slice the occasional Shrivelfig, but it didn't take long before Snape realized that not being able to brew Wolfsbane didn't equate to total incompetence in potions work.
Tonks had been over three times during that fortnight, just to visit - twice on her own and once with Charlie and Bill Weasley. She brought supplies with her, including a new wand for Remus, and she seemed interested in how they were getting on, maybe a little too interested, Remus thought. The last time she'd come by, Tonks had all but taken out a Quick Quill to take notes when she asked Remus what his plans were. They might not be lovers any more, but it was obvious that Tonks was still able to read Remus like a book.
"You know, Tonks," he said, when the two of them went out to sit in the back garden for a bit. "if there was something I was keeping a secret from you, there'd probably be a good reason for it."
"Like to keep yourself safe?"
"And to keep...the baby safe?
For a moment, Remus couldn't think of anything to say; he just stared down at the knuckles on his hands.
"How did you know, Tonks?"
"I didn't, not at first," she said. "But I knew something was wrong, which is why I asked Bill to come along when I visited last week. When we left, he told me he could practically see the marks of the curse on you. Are you...are you going to be all right, Remus?"
"I'm going to be fine." he said, smiling at her. "Just fine."
"Does Snape know?"
Remus nodded. "He knows. And Tonks? Don't be surprised if...Severus and I aren't going to be here much longer."
"You're leaving England? Both of you? But I thought the international Apparation points were...."
"We're leaving England, but we're not Apparating...."
For a day or two, Remus was able to actually convince himself that maybe Tonks had meant it when she said she'd carry his secret to the grave, but after Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger 'just happened' to drop by for a visit two days after Tonks had last been there, followed by a surprise Floo call from Poppy Pomfrey the following evening, Remus went down to the lab and confessed to Snape that their plans were no longer quite as secret as they had been this time last week.
To Remus's surprise, Snape didn't shout at Remus or even insult him.
"I'm rather impressed by how long you were able to control yourself, to be honest. I predicted all the remaining members of the Order would descend upon this house over forty-eight hours ago."
"You knew I'd told Tonks about the potion?"
Snape looked down his long nose at Remus. "I was a spy for the greater part of my adult life, Lupin. Do you honestly believe I wouldn't pay attention when an Auror was in this house, asking questions that could affect my future?"
"Tonks isn't just an Aur..."
"She's just an Auror, as far as I'm concerned. You may have feelings for her, but..."
"I don't have feelings for her. Not any longer," said Remus.
"You'll excuse me if I say I don't believe you." Snape sneered.
"We're still friends, Tonks and I," he said, "but that's all."
"Hmm. So you say."
This was not the way Severus typically argued a point, Remus thought to himself. He was stubborn and he was usually more than willing to drag debates out until his opponent - namely Remus, these days - gave in from sheer exhaustion, but with something this trivial...Remus would have expected Snape to just roll his eyes and get back to work. Instead, though, he still going on about it, almost as if...as if it wasn't trivial to him.
"You can 'hmm' all you like, but it's true." Remus said, leaning forward on the worktable. "Oh, hmm..."
"What are you 'hmming' about now?" Snape said, turning to look at Remus with his own brand of narrow-eyed concentration. "Is there a problem?"
Remus pushed back from the table and lay his hand on the front of his robe. "No problem, not really. It's just not as easy to lean against the table as it was a few weeks ago."
Snape glanced down at Remus's stomach. He opened his mouth as if he meant to say something, but then closed it again and turned away from Remus.
"I trust you don't mind if I return to work," Snape said, still not looking at Remus. "One of us has to."
Remus stood shivering on the shore, hidden from the sight of any early-rising Muggles by a Charm Tonks had cast a few minutes earlier.
"I d-don't suppose you'd be willing to cast a heating Charm , T-Tonks," Remus said. "It's bloody freezing."
Tonks shook her head. "I'd do it, but Professor Snape said...."
"Lupin knows perfectly well that a heating Charm - or any other internal magic - would interfere with the potion's efficacy." Snape turned to Remus and raised his eyebrows. "You do realize if you drink the potion before removing those denim trousers, you're going to find it very difficult to take them off."
"You told me I was still going to have fingers," Remus said in an accusatory tone. "I am going to have fingers, aren't I?"
"Yes, you're going to have fingers," Snape said, rolling his eyes. "But the webbing is going to take some time to get used to and...oh, for god's sake, Lupin. Stop being such a child. You won't be putting anything on display that Miss Tonks hasn't already seen."
"Maybe it's not me he's concerned about stripping in front of, Professor Snape," said Tonks
"I have no interest in whatever Lupin happens to be hiding beneath that Muggle clothing," Snape said indignantly. "None whatsoever!"
Tonks giggled. "Oh look, Professor...now you've gone and hurt Remus's feelings."
Remus quickly unbottoned his shirt, then unbuttoned the fly of his jeans and let them drop in the sand at his feet.
"Where's the d-damned potion?" he said, reaching behind and rubbing the small of his back.
Snape smirked, then he reached into the pocket of his robes and extracted two sealed vials. He handed one to Remus and took the stopper out of the other.
"Bottoms up," Snape said dryly, then he drank the contents without pausing either to breathe or to grimace, both of which Remus was certain he'd have to do.
When Remus unsealed his vial, the smell was just as foul as it had been when it had been brewing. Snape had told him that the disgusting smell was actually all in his mind - a product of the hormonal changes brought about by the curse that had given him both womb and foetus - but Remus thought Snape was talking out of his arse and he'd wasted no time telling him so.
The potion smelled no better now.
Shrugging his shirt off and still shivering, Remus lifted the vial to his lips and drank until the last drop was gone.
At first, Remus was concerned that the potion might have been a failure. Apart from the lingering aftertaste of sour milk in his mouth, he felt no different than he had an hour before. However, it didn‛t take very long before he realized that the reason he hadn‛t noticed the changes that were taking place was because he‛d had a lifetime of going through major physical transformations. Compared to turning into a Werewolf each month, this was a walk in the park.
He shivered once more from habit, although he had to admit he wasn‛t really cold any more, then sat down in the sand and watched Snape as the potion started to take effect.
When the first of the physical transformations began, Remus almost missed it. Instead of watching out for the first hint of gills which would show that the potion was working as Snape had believed it would, Remus‛s eyes kept straying a little lower than Snape‛s neck.
Had Snape always been that well endowed? Remus could remember wondering what Snape looked like under those voluminous robes all the way back to when the two of them were little more than boys, but, no...he‛d never seen Snape dressed in less than at least his underwear. If he had, he definitely would have remembered.
Interrupting his thoughts, Remus felt a strange tingling on the side of his neck. He lifted his hand and stroked the skin, feeling a slight indentation where his gills would soon be and an unfamiliar, though not unpleasant, slippery coating on his skin.
Remus slid his hand over his rounded stomach and along his thighs, smiling a little to himself at the thought that he was now self-lubricating. Severus appeared to be no less fascinated by the feel of his own skin than Remus had been; his eyes were closed and he was absent-mindedly rubbing a little circle around his nipple.
"Oi!" Tonks said, trying to stifle a laugh. "Do you two need to get a room?"
Snape flushed, but Remus grinned back at Tonks.
"Whatever do you mean?" he asked, trying to sound innocent and failing completely.
Instead of the answering grin he expected to see, Tonks clapped her hands over her ears and grimaced.
"What‛s the matter?" he asked, but Tonks just shook her head.
"It would appear that we have now begun to speak in Mermish," Snape said.
Remus frowned. "What are you talking about? I‛m still speaking in English."
"No, you just think you‛re speaking English. Long before you began to collaborate on the development of the potion, I imbued it with a rather strong language-altering component."
Under other circumstances, Remus might have given more thought to the sheer magical power Snape must possess to be able to make a potion that would change the speaker‛s natural language to a non-human one, but at the moment, he was more interested in the fact that Snape characterized their work together for these past weeks as a collaboration. At best, he had been certain that Snape thought of him as nothing more than an assistant - and not a terribly skilled one at that. Apparently he had been wrong.
"Does that mean we won‛t be able to speak English any more?"
Snape shook his head. "No, I‛m certain we‛ll be able to after some time passes, but it‛s no longer going to be automatic, and to be honest, I can‛t imagine we‛re going to have many opportunities to use our native tongue."
Remus couldn‛t help but snicker at the mention of ‛tongue,‛ earning him a shrug from Tonks, who clearly didn‛t understand a word either of them was saying, and a roll of the eyes from Snape, who obviously understood him, at least, all too well.
"If you would like another source for your puerile amusement," Snape said, a hint of a smile on his own face, "might I suggest you take a close look at your extremities?"
Instinctively, Remus looked between his legs, which drew a snort from Snape, but then he looked at his hands, the fingers of which were lengthening and which now had odd, opalescent webbing halfway between the first and second knuckles. When he glanced down, Remus could see that both his feet were almost twice as long as they had been when he woke that morning, and they too were webbed, although in the case of his feet, the webbing extended all the way up to the tips of his toes.
"Oh God," Remus moaned, closing his eyes.
Snape frowned in concern. "What is it, Lupin? Are you experiencing some kind of reaction?"
"Of course I'm experiencing some kind of reaction, you damned greasy...I'm turning into a bloody fish!"
Snape raised one eyebrow. "Greasy? What an original sobriquet. I gather you've noticed you're becoming rather slick yourself, or has that slipped your notice?"
Remus shook his head. "I'm sorry, Severus. I'm just...I think the fact that this is really going to happen just hit me."
He looked at Tonks, but she was still standing there with her hands over her ears. Remus sighed. He knew she had been as supportive as she could be through this whole debacle, but at a certain point, there really wasn't any more Tonks or anyone else could do. In fact, Remus thought, at this point, Tonks couldn't even provide an understanding shoulder, since the language alteration meant that she literally couldn't understand.
Nobody could understand. Nobody but Snape.
Remus turned to Snape and felt the breath catch in his chest. Was it something about Snape that was making him react this way or...no, he truly couldn't get his breath.
"Severus," he gasped, grabbing at Snape's forearm.
Snape nodded. "And so we reach the final stage," he said, his voice sounding uncharacteristically thin. "Miss Tonks? It's time we said farewell. I'd like to say it's been a pleasure, but you know how I dislike mendacity."
Tonks scowled at Snape. "You know, I didn't have to hear anything you said to know that it was something nasty. Maybe I'm developing my latent powers of Divination."
Snape smirked, then tugged at Remus's shoulders. "Wave goodbye to the young woman and come along."
Remus nodded, then turned to Tonks and kissed her. He would have liked to have thanked her for everything she had done, but there was no way to do so, and he really had to get into the water before he stopped breathing entirely.
"All right," Tonks said. "We'll make sure that an owl - or some kind of bird anyway - shows up here early every Saturday morning, just in case you need to reach us. And Remus? Be safe."
He smiled at her for what might be the last time, then he and Snape walked down toward the sea.
part ii: under the sea
"Now listen carefully," Severus said slowly. "A bezoar is a stone taken from the stomach of a goat and it will save you from most poison. Actually, a bezoar is a hairball, but you needn't worry about such distinctions yet. Tomorrow, I will begin to explain to you what a goat is."
Just starting to wake from his afternoon nap, Remus smiled. Severus was sitting cross-legged beside him, his head bent, his forehead practically touching Remus's stomach, as he spoke to the baby. After more than a month of acting as if he didn't notice Remus's growing stomach, he had done a complete about-face, apparently deciding that while Remus was, of necessity, responsible for the physical development of the growing fetus, he would take on the task of ensuring that the child, when born, was not a complete dunderhead.
It was surprising, Remus thought, how quickly he had been able to go from feeling sheer panic as the physical transformations began to feeling complete contentment with his new life. One of the things that had made the transition so easy was how welcome the Merpeople had made him and Severus. Remus knew Severus believed that they owed their welcome entirely to the memory of Albus Dumbledore. It was true that Murcus, the Merchieftainess of the Merpeople, had said that the continued existence of her people was due, in large part, to the late wizard, and that in his name, there would always be a home for Remus and Severus with the Merfolk, even now that they were no longer living in the lake at Hogwarts but had moved into the greater sea beyond. However, privately, Remus knew it wasn't just the memory of the headmaster that allowed the two of them to feel so comfortable.
The Merfolk, who had a reputation for being a wild and savage people, turned out to be nothing of the sort. In fact, Remus found them to be more gentle and caring than most humans he had encountered in his life - and certainly more accepting of differences. Neither he nor Severus had ever been treated with suspicion or fear - and he knew that Severus was particularly grateful that the Merfolk never expressed an interest in anything to do with Remus or Severus's pasts. All that interested the Merpeople was that the two wizards were able to contribute to the community of which they were now a part - and since Remus and Severus both retained the use of their magic, contributing to their new community was easily accomplished.
However, Remus knew that it was not the Merfolk's acceptance alone which had made the transition to his new life so simple.
It was Severus.
A cynical observer might have suggested that if it hadn't been for their enforced proximity and the fact that they were the only two of their kind for a hundred miles, Remus and Severus would never have become involved, but Remus knew that in the end, none of that mattered. Ninety percent of the relationships in England's Wizarding World came as a result of the enforced proximity better known as Hogwarts, and most marriages took place between pairs of students who'd had almost no chance to meet witches and wizards (or Muggles) of different ages or from different parts of the world. Nobody said those marriages shouldn't have been allowed to exist.
When you find the right person - even if that person turns out to be somebody you've disliked for most of your life - you needn't look further afield...and as far as Remus was concerned, Severus Snape was the right person.
Currently, the right person, his long black hair streaming behind him in the water that surrounded him, had ceased his conversation with the baby and was swimming in slow circles around Remus.
"I see you've finally awoken," he said quietly, swimming closer and closer to Remus with each pass.
Remus nodded, then closed his eyes again and smiled as Severus finally touched him, his slick body sliding over the curves of Remus's stomach. He took a deep breath, the oxygen from the water making its way through his gills and into his lungs.
Still circling, but much more slowly now, Severus hummed softly as he moved around Remus once again, then stopped just behind him and wrapped his legs around Remus's hips. How amazing, Remus thought, to be able to support the weight of both their bodies so far along in his pregnancy...yet another thing for which he thanked the sea. Out of the corner of his eye, Remus could see Severus's hands moving gently back and forth in the water, then felt Severus move up behind him, sliding up and down, up then down again, his erection pushing softly but insistently between Remus's buttocks.
Remus tilted his head back and pressed his mouth against a spot just under the base of Severus's jaw, then sucked softly at the soft skin he found there. He could feel Severus shudder behind him, saw Severus's hands flutter almost imperceptibly. It looked like trembling. Remus reached out - first to one side and then to the other - then took Severus's hands in his own and pulled them around his body until he was held fast in Severus's embrace.
When Severus, shuddering and holding Remus tightly, finally came moments later, Remus could feel the fierce rush of his lover's orgasm echoing through his own body.
"Why are you dressing?" Severus asked.
Since settling into their new life, neither Remus nor Severus often bothered with covering their bodies unless they were having a rare meeting with an air breather or if they had been asked to attend one of the even more rare formal gatherings of the Merpeople. Above the water, Remus's motto had been 'the more clothes, the better,' appreciating the protection and comfort that layers of clothing had given him, even during those years when all his clothes were second-hand and shabby. But below the sea, clothes were constricting and awkward and...well, honestly, Remus thought, they just got in the way when he and Severus wanted to make love. Neither of them had been even a little spontaneous in their former lives, but they'd been making up for that with a vengeance.
"The Healer asked to see me later today, so..."
"Is anything wrong?" Severus asked immediately.
"I don't think so," said Remus, shaking his head. "I still feel Johnny kicking around inside, and to be honest, I've never felt as healthy in my life. I think these past three months out from under the yoke of Lycanthropy have agreed with me. Thank you, Severus."
He leaned forward and kissed Severus on the mouth. If they'd still been living above in the air, Remus was certain that Severus would have been blushing right now, but either the potion had made it impossible for either of them to blush or the odd light that suffused the world of the Merpeople didn't allow Remus or Severus to distinguish between colors very easily.
One hour later, he wished he could remember what it felt like to think it mattered whether he or Severus were able to blush.
"What are you trying to tell me?" Remus asked sharply, the panic he was starting to feel bubbling to the surface. "Is there something wrong with the baby?"
The Mer Healer shook his head. "No, not at all. All indications are that he's a perfectly healthy little boy."
"Then what is the problem, dammit!"
"Remus," Severus said, as he took Remus's hand in his own. "He's saying that Johnny is a healthy little boy."
"I heard him say that," Remus said. "Am I supposed to understand his riddles when...."
"A boy, Remus. Not a Merchild."
Remus stared at the Mer Healer, then turned back to Severus. "But...how is this possible."
Severus shook his head. "I don't know. If...if the pregnancy...if you had been a woman, the child might have been Mer, but since both the preganncy and your ability to carry the child were the result of a curse..."
"He'll be a healthy boy," the Healer said again, less brusquely than he had before in deference to Remus's feelings. "But no fins, no protective coating on his skin, no webbing between his digits, and no gills. If you don't know a trusted Healer amongst your own kind, I can...."
"We know someone," Severus said, then turned to Remus. "We need to contact Poppy Pomfrey, and we need to do it now."
Remus just nodded.
The next two weeks passed in something of a blur, with messages going back and forth between Remus's old world and his new one three or four times each day.
"Ronald Weasley is an idiot!" Severus fumed as held the lastest waterproofed note they'd received and waved it in front of Remus's face. "I cannot believe that you are even considering letting Johnny...."
"Let me see that, Severus."
Severus handed the note over, but a scowl was still on his face. "He can't even spell!"
Remus read the message, then looked up at Severus. "I think 'Sea Section' was supposed to be a joke, Severus."
"Oh. A joke," Severus muttered. "He's still an idiot."
Remus took Severus's hand in his own and smiled sadly at him. "I don't want to have to give Johnny up either. But we can't keep him here, and Ron and Hermione Weasley...neither of them have dangerous jobs and they both love children. You know they'll protect him, Severus."
"Yes, yes...of course they will," Severus snapped. "Do you know what that moronic Seahorse was thinking yesterday?"
Remus rolled his eyes. Once Severus learned that he could use Legilimency to read the thoughts of the various underwater fauna, he had picked up quite a circle of acquaintances. Each one was, according to Severus, more stupid than the last, but Remus noticed that Severus continued to meet with them on a regular basis. "What was the Seahorse thinking, love?"
"You've got to let them go sometimes! Just because his bloody offspring all swam away directly after being born is no reason for him to think he can offer unsolicited advice about our child."
As unhappy as the thought of having to give his baby away was making Remus, he smiled a little at how possessive Severus sounded. 'Our child.' Remus shook his head. A pity it would never be true.
"They'll be waiting for us. We have to go."
part iii: epilogue
Swimming through the water toward the sun beside the man with whom he'd shared the past twenty-five years, Remus thought that his life could certainly have been worse.
He had found love in the most unlikely form of Severus Snape, he'd found respect and friendship amongst a people with whom he'd never even imagined being able to speak, the work he did teaching rudimentary Defense techniques to the more magically adept of the Merfolk was satisfying...and if he had not been able to raise the unexpected child of his body, he and Severus had both been able to spend a great deal of time with Johnny over the years, thanks to the work Hermione Weasley and Neville Longbottom had done with Gillyweed.
He and Severus both broke through into the air at the same instant. They kept their mouths and noses below the surface of the water, but opened their eyes above as they waited for Johnny to appear. Moments later, Remus heard the no-longer-familiar crack of Apparition and there was Johnny, smiling and waving at them from the same beach where Remus and Severus had taken their last steps as men so many years before.
Unself-consciously, Johnny pulled his robe over his head and dropped it on the sand, then - shivering a bit - he walked into the sea before popping the Gillyweed gum into his mouth.
Sinking beneath the surface of the water, Johnny hugged both men in turn, but before they could as much as greet him, Johnny uncurled the fingers of his right hand, and there, resting on his palm, was a small stoppered vial.
"Johnny?" Remus said. "What is that?"
"Something Mum's been working on. It's to reverse...it's in case...you know the Werewolf Laws have been rescinded, right? Mum thought just in case you two missed walking on dry land...."
Johnny bit his bottom lip and held the vial out between the two of them, an expectant look on his face.
Remus glanced to his right and saw Severus's blank expression. He gave him a reassuring smile even as he took the vial from Johnny's hand.
The Werewolf Laws had finally been overturned.
He could hardly believe that such a thing had happened. If the Laws hadn't been in existence twenty-five years ago, Remus would never have even considered taking the original potion. but...things change.
What would returning to the world above be like at this point? Would Remus find a more satisfying job? Would he have more friends? Would his life with Severus be happier?
He couldn't imagine any of those things being true, at least not now.
Remus closed his fingers over the glass vial and smiled at his son.
"Tell your mother how very much we appreciate all the work this must have entailed. We'll discus it later. But...enough about us. Tell me what's been happening with that Peruvian witch you started seeing in the summer...Elena, right?"
Johnny nodded, then grinned as he started to tell them about his and Elena's plans to buy into Fred and George's business.
Remus didn't even have to look at Severus to know that he was rolling his eyes.
He'd have to find some way to help Severus recover from the trauma of being reminded that his son-by-choice really was a Weasley.
When they returned home.
FIN (heh...she said "fin")
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