Disclamer: Once again this is not beta-ed and I do not own anything that JKR already owns, obviously.
Chapter Four: Of Jeans, Green Fires, and Odd Hair
I missed Jack.
Sure, I would never admit it to anyone in a million years, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t true. I hadn’t seen him since I had run out on him two days before. I guess he took my warning to heart. Well, I meant it, I didn’t want him treating me so disrespectfully and I didn’t want him watching me in ignorance anymore, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t want to see him. And I was lonely. I never saw any of the professors. They had stayed out of sight for the most part before, but now that Jack wasn’t around I seemed to feel their absence more keenly. I cried a couple of times. Tears tasted odd. I didn’t like it.
But that didn’t matter. Jack was gone. I’d ordered him away and there was nothing to do about it now. But I couldn’t help but notice that my routine had changed now that Jack wasn’t with me. I avoided the kitchens at all costs and only picked at my lettuce in the Great Hall, the only cave—room—that I felt truly at home in. I avoided the common room at all costs, and shied away from any place where the red-yellow fire could be found. Jack’s not the reason for that though. Tomorrow other students come to the castle, so my routine was bound to change. Of course.
I hope my walking’s good enough to fool them. I generally have to have one hand on the wall when I walk, but I can walk across areas like the common room without clinging to things. I kind of stumble and I seem to have too many fins, wait, feet, but it works.
“Hey Jack, do you think . . .” I stopped. Jack wasn’t here. Right.
The next morning I woke early, surprisingly early. I don’t generally like the early morning. I much prefer to sleep in until the sun was a third of the way across the lake. But something about this warm castle and having that awful bright sun come through the window at six made me get up a lot earlier than I was accustomed to. Of course, I also went to bed around when the sun did too, but that was generally because walking around the castle was so tiring. Air would be so much better if it was heavier.
Today though it was good that I woke early. I had to get to London to catch the train to Hogwarts. This was rather ridiculous, I thought, because I was already at Hogwarts and I live here, but Dumbledore had insisted.
“It’s part of the experience.” He had told me, and that had ended the matter. I was to take floo powder to the Leaky Cauldron in London and from there take a taxi to King’s Cross station. Then I was to go to platform nine and run through the wall that was next to platform ten. Thankfully I didn’t have to take my trunk with me. I didn’t have much, just the books, clothes, and quills that the professors had given me but they had spread around the cave that I slept a lot more than I would have thought possible. I managed to contain the mess on the bed the day before though. Jack had always been pretty strict on cleanliness, and even though he was gone I felt like he was still watching. I never slept on the bed. I suppose I’ll have to do that from now on. The things I do for my people.
I came downstairs in the clothes Dumbledore had given me on my first day, only to find Professor McGonnagal waiting for me just so that she could tell me that I couldn’t wear wizarding robes out into the muggle world. I stared at her blankly for a bit. Muggles wore something different from wizards? They were all humans, weren’t they? What’s the difference? I didn’t dare ask her though, just turned around and headed back up the stairs.
To my great surprise, she followed me. With her she brought some weird fabric like I’d never seen before. She said that it was jeans. She also brought a shirt that looked a lot more like a shirt should, at least in shape. It was still made out of odd, smooth fabric like the robes, but it would have to do. The jeans were terrible though. They clung to my legs and made them stiff. They were hard to move in, they were uncomfortable, and I hated them. They looked dumb, they didn’t lie flat, and you couldn’t feel the air around you. Basically they were a terrible reminder that I was out of the lake and into the world of humans.
Jeans took more time to put on than shoes did. That includes shoes with laces. It was terrible. Professor McGonnagal was too . . . proper, ashamed, scared perhaps . . . to help me at all. So I struggled alone. They were tight, very tight, and they sucked all of the moisture out of my legs. I thought I would die after they had been snapped on like they were supposed to be. I squirmed around in them trying to find a way to get comfortable, but there was no way.
I sat down on the bed, but that was even worse. They slipped down lower and felt so tight! But McGonnagal looked at them and nodded her head briskly.
“They seem to fit alright.” She said before motioning down the stairs.
She was joking. She had to be joking. Jeans were supposed to be like this? Why would someone ever ever wear these voluntarily? I dug my fingers into my hair to prevent them from ripping the jeans right off of me. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop me from screaming. Long and loud. Professor McGonnagal looked at me in shock.
“Are you all right Ms. Walker?” she asked, sounding surprisingly worried.
I put my best happy face on. It was very useful whenever my father had asked how my lessons with Jack had gone. It was my, no-I’m-not-all-right, -but-I’m-going-to-pretend-I-am-anyway-and-fool-you face.
“Perfectly.” I said, grinning falsely at her.
“Alright.” She said slowly, clearly not convinced. But she turned around and headed out of the dormitory. I followed slowly, streams of curses running through my head as the rough, coarse, tight jeans rubbed against my legs. My now dry legs. They were already itching.
I felt a strange sense of satisfaction when I saw what floo powder did to the fire. I had studiously avoided fire the last few days, but I remembered clearly the red-yellow color it was supposed to be.
Floo powder turned the flames a brilliant emerald green color, the exact shade of my father’s eyes. Ha! Take that Jack. Green fire does exist. Try laughing at me now. I thought smugly. But even thinking Jack’s name brought a ripple of pain throughout my body. My smirk turned into a wince, but McGonnagal was facing the other way and didn’t notice.
By the time she had turned back to me I had plastered a smile on my face. Jack had called me selfish, but I was a good actor. Most of the time. I didn’t hide surprise or shock very well. Anger and frustration I was much better at, when I want to be. I was very practiced in the art of fake smiles. After all, isn’t a princess always supposed to be happy? Maybe that’s why Jack thought that I was spoiled . . . I’m not thinking about him, remember? I told myself. Just concentrate on being a happy, slightly nervous student on their way to a new school. However that feels.
“Are you ready?” Professor McGonnagal asked me.
“Alright then. You have some money for a taxi, right? And don’t forget your bag with your Hogwarts clothes in it. You’ll need to change once you’re on the train. And here’s your ticket. It’s probably best not to show it to anyone, or mention Hogwarts. You’ll just get the Muggles confused. No talk of magic at all until you’re on the platform, got it?”
I nodded again. She sounded like a flobber-fish. Flobber-fish were unique to the lake. They went around worrying and whining. They mostly stuck to the rushes at the bottom of the lake. I guess it made them feel safer. But they’d swim around and worry in this melancholy voice. It looks like a strong current. Maybe the giant squid will eat me today. What if mermaids decide that they don’t like seaweed anymore and eat us instead? Here comes a grindylow, hide! I forgot to clean my gills this morning. Now everyone will think that I don’t care how I look. If I live long enough for them to see me. Jack used to laugh at them a lot.
McGonnagal sighed. “Just to let you know, most professors, myself included, prefer students to answer aloud when they’re asked a questions. You can address the professors as sir, madam, or professor. Just a little etiquette rule.”
I glared at her, but she didn’t seem to notice. Jack was my professor, and the only person I had to show respect to was my father. The princess of mermaids didn’t have to humble herself for anyone. Except Jack . . .
“Well, here’s the floo powder. When you arrive you can ride in the carriages. Although you’re a first year, you’re also a seventh year, so you can go with the main student body. You’ve already been sorted, so you can sit at the Gryffindor table. Just look for people wearing red and gold.”
I nodded once more. Then I sighed, gritted my teeth and snarled, “Yes sir.” I couldn’t help adding, “I’ll be leaving now. I’ll be back in a few hours.” And I snatched some floo powder from the jar. I threw it into the fire, changing it to a beautiful green color and stepped in. “The Leaky Cauldron!” I ordered. The last thing I saw as I swirled away was Professor McGonnagal shaking her head in disbelief. She must have liked me calling her sir. She did give me that option. Oh well, she can’t hate me. I’m in her family. Or, what did he call it? Right. A house. I’m in her house.
I decided that I like traveling by floo powder. The fire feels like violent waves swirling around me, and the entire spinning sensation feels just like a whirlpool. Whirlpools are great fun. Sometimes Becca and I would beg my father to create one in the middle of the night in the lake. Then we’d go nearly up to the surface and get caught in it and spin round and round and round. We’d be dizzy for hours afterwards. It was the greatest thing ever. Other times if I was lucky I could persuade the giant squid to create a small whirlpool and I would spin around and forget all of my troubles. I most definitely like floo powder. Sure, I had to brush a bunch of ash and soot off of my hair and my annoying jeans when I crawled out of the fireplace, but it was definitely worth it. If I had more powder with me, I would jump in and travel between Hogwarts and this pub for hours. But alas, no more floo powder.
So I had a real smile on my face as I turned around and surveyed the wizard pub.
I loved it.
I don’t know what it was. Maybe it was the diversity of people and creatures, the darker atmosphere, it just seemed so much more like home. I saw a couple of hags and I could sense a werewolf or two nearby. It’s kind of like having a sixth sense; it comes from being a mermaid. Briefly I wondered if they could sense me too, but I was soon distracted. They had salt water here! I could smell it! I wanted to stay and have some. Fresh water was good and all, but salt water. Salt water was my dream. To swim and live and dance and drink salt water.
See, merpeople aren’t really supposed to live in fresh water like the lake. Merpeople are supposed to live in the ocean, in the beautiful sweet salt water. But a long time ago, many centuries, before Hogwarts was founded, we were attacked. The humans decided that they didn’t like Poseidon controlling the waves and crashing their ships. So somehow they trapped him and banished all merpeople to the lake. The lake used to be a lot bigger; it covered all of Hogwart’s grounds and much of the surrounding countryside. But as the population of merpeople shrunk, so did the lake. I imagine that if all the mermaids left then the lake would be just a puddle. We’ve been drawing off of it to sustain our magic. But our magic is still very weak. Very very weak. Fresh water isn’t good for us.
But salt water! Maybe if I drank just a little bit . . . but I didn’t have enough money. I couldn’t buy salt water and get back to Hogwarts using the taxi. I was torn. It was the dream of all merpeople to have salt water. Surely just a little, a small glass. What if drinking salt water helped us escape? There weren’t any merpeople in the ocean, but if we could just find a way to get back then surely we could grow . . . Yes. It would set us free; we would be back to our original selves. Once again we would control the seas. We could have space to live, space to breath. Neptune’s curse would be lifted. What did our relations with humans matter if we could return to the ocean? I started forward towards the counter. Salt water.
Just then somebody barreled into me and knocked me to the floor.
“Neptune, watch where you’re going!” I said angrily as I shook my hair out of my eyes. I glared up at the boy-man in front of me. He had dark shaggy hair that was cut irregularly. Like the top grew at a different rate than the bottom. I had never seen anything like it before. His dark eyes were flashing mischievously. And he was tall. He seemed even taller because I was below him, but even so I could tell that he was taller than Jack was.
He tossed his head and laughed. “Sorry. I . . . wait, did you just say Neptune?” He asked incredulously.
I crossed my arms and glared and him more fiercely. “So what if I did? You just knocked me to the floor, what do you expect me to say?” I spat.
“Neptune?” He asked again.
I just glared.
He started laughing. Loudly and obnoxiously and enough that I wanted to punch him and send him tumbling to the ocean floor.
I pulled myself up using a chair from a nearby table. I glared at him more when I finally stood up again.
“Shut up.” I told him. But he didn’t quiet. He just laughed even more.
I could feel myself heating up. My temper was rising. Jack’s words echoed in my head. People aren’t going to obey your every whim; they’re going to laugh at you when you’re ignorant. I hated it. What right did this boy have to laugh at me? What’s wrong with saying Neptune? What’s to keep me from bashing his head into the ground and shredding his fins so that he could no longer swim and he had to spend the rest of his days lying on rocks? Oh wait. Human. Right.
Anyway, his laughter was grating on my nerves really badly. So badly I apparently did magic by mistake, because he stopped laughing abruptly.
His whole body jerked and the sound cut off. All trace of a smile was erased from his face and he now looked as though his best friend had died. It apparently wore off because then he looked at me with a very surprised and shocked expression.
“Whoa.” He sounded awed. Much better. Much much better. That was how he was supposed to look at me in the first place. I couldn’t help it. I smirked. Then I turned and walked out the door. I still wanted salt water, but my exit wouldn’t be as effective if I had stopped to get a drink. That made me more irritated at him. I would have to come back sometime. It was a great excuse to use floo powder again too.
Taxis were rather interesting. Well, cars in general I suppose. They looked kind of like carriages, but they were entirely different. And nothing pulled them. Not thestrals, not unicorns, not even centaurs. As if centaurs would ever condescend to pulling anything or anyone in any case. But cars. How could they move all by themselves? How would you rein them in?
Dumbledore had instructed me to find a car that had the word taxi on the top. It took me a while, mostly because I was still fuming over having a complete stranger laugh at me and because I was watching the stoplight. Professor McGonnagal didn’t know what she was talking about. Clearly Muggles did know how to use magic. That was a simple recoloring charm on the stoplight. It was a code to tell the cars when to start again. If flashing green lights controlling the actions of hundreds or thousands of Muggles wasn’t magic then what above the ocean was?
Well, finally I decided that it was about time to find a taxi. One with an empty backseat is what Jack had told me. I winced. I needed to learn to not use his name for a while. It wouldn’t be that long. He would realize what he had done and come begging for forgiveness soon enough. I hope.
I approached a yellow car that had a sign with the letters TAXI above it. I figured that it was a taxi. As near as I could tell, that was how taxi was spelled. Luckily, the only person in the taxi was in the front seat. That was just what I wanted. I grasped the handle on the back door and pulled. Amazingly enough, it opened.
“Take me to the train station.”
The man in the front seat looked up in shock. I guess he didn’t expect someone to actually need his services.
“Er, all right,” he said. “Can ya pay?”
I glared at him disdainfully. “Of course.” I said smoothly.
He nodded and jerked into action. The taxi started to move, but then jerked to a halt. “Ain’t ya gonna close the door?” He asked. He had an odd sound about his voice. His vowels weren’t pronounced quite like they were supposed to be. But I suppose he had a point. All of the other cars had closed the doors. So I grabbed the edge of the door and pulled it shut. It was a lot harder than it should have been, because there wasn’t a door handle I suppose.
“King’s Cross?” The man drawled.
“There isn’t another train station, is there?” I asked a bit nervously. If Dumbledore had forgotten to mention this I would be in major trouble.
“No’ in London.”
“Then that’s the one I want.” I said authoritatively. What was London? I didn’t dare ask. I needed this taxi to get me to the train station. Gosh, this was worse than trying to learn how to find my way back to Gryffindor Tower.
Then man grabbed a bottle and took a sip of something. It wasn’t water; it was much dirtier than that. I didn’t like the smell of it; it made me uneasy. But I didn’t say anything. I needed this man to get me to the train.
The taxi moved very fast. Much too fast for comfort. I gave up looking out the window and instead studied my shoes. They were a bit scuffed and rather ugly. But then again, I thought all shoes that I had seen were ugly. Merpeople didn’t cover up their beautiful fins with anything. Maybe because our water was clean. Maybe the air was dirty or something and that’s why humans covered just about every part of their body.
The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, except for the part where I tried to get out too soon. I guess one of the stoplights had used their magic to stop the taxi. I figured that we were at the train station, which was odd I suppose because there were still cars all around us. The man in the front seat looked at me like I was crazy when I asked him how I was supposed to open the door.
“We ain’t there yet missy.” He had said, and then he had laughed. It wasn’t a laugh like Jack’s, and it wasn’t Dumbledore’s laugh. It wasn’t like the laugh of the boy that had thought saying Neptune was weird either. This laugh was cold, rather leering. It made me a bit scared and I shrank into the corner of the taxi and gripped my bag tightly.
When we finally got to the train station the man got out of the car and came and opened the door for me. I thought that this was a stoke of luck, as I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to open the door. As I said before, there was no doorknob, so him opening the door was rather convenient because then I didn’t have to lower myself to ask him a question.
I handed him the money that Professor McGonnagal had given me, then turned to leave.
“No’ so fast missy.” The man drawled slowly. His words seemed to have slurred.
“What? I gave you your money.” I told him. “That’s all I’m supposed to do, right?” There might have been some part that McGonnagal forgot to mention. Maybe the money wasn’t enough.
“You’re a pretty ‘un.” He said slowly.
“Can’t just let someone like yourself wander off without getting a kiss or two out of you.” I stared at him. He couldn’t be serious, could he? Humans were very odd. Merpeople never kissed until they were sure they were going to marry that person. Maybe I needed to clear things up.
“I’m not going to marry you.” I told him.
“No need for ‘at.” He said, grinning wickedly at me. His teeth were yellow and his breath stank horribly. “All I want is a kiss or two, maybe a bit more and then I’ll let you go. Just get back in the car and I’ll be quick.” He laughed that laugh I didn’t like again. I shook my head.
“No thanks.” I told him, and I took a step away from the car.
He lunged at me.
I tried to run away, but instead I twisted and fell. Then man slammed into the door of the car. He grabbed his head with both of his hands and screamed a word I had never heard before. Probably the human way of swearing. I hoped he would forget me, but he didn’t. He aimed a kick at me, and I rolled away.
“Git back here!” he demanded.
“I only take orders from my father and Jack.” I told him from my position on the floor.
He swore again and lunged again for me. I scrambled backwards, but he caught my ankle. He pulled me towards him and brought his face close to mine.
“You’ll be sorry missy.” He said. He yanked me to my feet and pushed me back towards the taxi. “I was going to be nice and quick about this, but you said no twice. I’m gonna have to keep ya a little longer. Ya hear me?” He demanded.
He had grabbed both of my arms and twisted them behind my back. It hurt. I didn’t know what he was planning on doing, but I was fairly sure that this was an aspect of human culture I didn’t need to learn about. This was definitely not in the job. So when he threw me on my back into the taxi I kicked at him, really really hard. It was just like the game Becca and I used to play. We’d start at one end of the lake and then swim to the other side. Whoever got there first got first pick of the seaweed for that day. So we always made sure that we had a nice hard kick off of a rock so that when we started off we’d be going fast.
It worked a bit differently when I kicked off of this man though. I didn’t go shooting out the other end of the cab like I thought I would. Instead the man howled and doubled over against the ground. In a matter of seconds he was writhing on the ground worse than that werewolf was a few years back. I smiled triumphantly. He wasn’t writhing from respect, obviously he was in pain. I wasn’t sure why, but what did that matter?
I used my arms to push myself upright and stepped out of the taxi. I would have stepped on the man’s head, but I was afraid that I would fall over if I tried. I contented myself with a kick at his nose, which made a sickening crunch. Even with just one leg I was pretty strong. I felt strangely pleased by this. It must have been all the walking I’d been doing over the last few days. And my balance was better too. I didn’t even come close to falling over.
I was bending to pick up my bag when I heard his voice for the second time that day.
“Whoa, what’d you do to him? He looks like he’s in serious pain.”
I straightened up to find the boy with odd hair looking at me in shock. There was another boy besides him, this one slightly taller. He wore glasses like Professor McGonnagal and his hair was all over the place, like it should be under water.
“Kicked him.” I said proudly. I grinned and walked away.
There was a momentary pause of silence before one of the boys called after me.
“Wait up!” It turned out it to be the second boy, because he caught up to me just very shortly after. “Are you alright?” he asked me in a concerned voice.
“Yes. Why wouldn’t I be?” Is kicking someone too strenuous for humans to do? Or maybe just human girls. Professor McGonnagal had said that human girls were viewed as weaker than boys were, which was just plain dumb in my opinion. If I was capable of taking over a kingdom I was certainly able to beat up some crazed man.
“Well,” the odd hair boy had caught up with me and pushed his way into the conversation. No one asked him to show up and start laughing at people again. “You were almost just assaulted by a lunatic and only barely got away by giving him a lucky kick in the right spot. I don’t know, if I were you I might be just a tad shaken up.” He said sarcastically.
Oh. That was what that man had wanted. He wasn’t just going to kiss me. He was going to go a step beyond that. Poseidon, I wasn’t even engaged to him, certainly not married to him. He must have been majorly confused. But that didn’t really matter. Cause the laughing boy had just insulted me.
“It wasn’t a lucky kick.” I told him coolly. I was in much better control of myself than I had thought. I wasn‘t sure what was lucky about my kick either, but no matter. I‘d have to ask . . . not Jack. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a train to catch.” Then I turned and tried to walk away. Tried being the key word. It appears that the laughing boy hadn’t recognized me from before, but as I was walking away he must have noticed. He ran up to me again, the second boy right behind him, and said,
“Wait, you’re that Neptune girl. Right?”
I stopped walking and turned to glare at him.
“Neptune girl?” The boy with glasses asked.
“No.” I said snidely. “Good-bye now.”
“Yes you are.” The first boy was sure persistent.
“Fine, I am. What’s it mean to you?” I asked angrily. I hated asking questions. I wanted to punch this annoying boy in the face. I was very very tempted to.
“Nothing in particular. I just thought that it was funny.” He grinned. “Do you have a real name?”
“No.” I told him flatly. I sure wasn’t going to tell him my name when I’d barely met him.
He held up his hands in front of him as if warding off an attack. “Sorry. Jeez, no need to be so touchy. Maybe it would be better if I introduced myself.”
“No, it wouldn’t.” Why didn’t they just go away?
“Do you want us to make sure you get on your train okay?” The glasses asked. Apparently persistence rubs off on people.
“No.” I said angrily. Apparently it came out a lot more powerful than I had meant, because the boy with glasses drew back a step.
“Okay. Sorry to have bothered you. C’mon Sirius, let’s just go.” He grabbed Mr. Odd Hair’s arm and tried to pull him away.
“James, we can’t just leave her wandering around the train station. What if she ran into somebody worse like my parents? She’s a muggle, so she won’t be able to protect herself.” Odd Hair said smugly. What was his problem? Didn’t he know to leave already? I didn’t want him around. Glasses had the right idea. And wait, did he just call me a muggle? That was insulting!
“I’m not a muggle.” I said stiffly. “Thank you very much. And I’m sure that I would be able to handle your parents as well as I did that man back there if they’re anything like you. Getting them to let a person take care of herself might be a different matter.”
Glasses looked shocked.
“You’re a . . . you’re a . . .” He lowered his voice to a whisper, “ . . . a witch?”
“Would Odd Hair here have knocked me over in a wizard pub if I wasn’t?” I asked, my voice heavy with sarcasm.
“I didn’t know that.” Glasses said.
“My hair is NOT odd!” Odd Hair screeched. Glasses laughed.
“Yes it is.” I said impatiently. I hated being drawn into arguments, but honestly these boys refused to leave so they might as well get it. “It’s all different lengths. Nobody’s hair actually grows that way.”
“Well, that’s the point!” Odd Hair pouted. “It’s called layers, and plenty of girls think that it’s attractive.”
“Go let them see it then. I for one don’t really care for unnatural things.” I realized at once that my very standing there talking to him was unnatural, as I was a mermaid with legs. That just made me angrier.
“It looks perfectly fine and it looks perfectly natural! I would know, cause I cut it myself.” Odd Hair proudly proclaimed.
“Well that explains it.” I said nastily. I could be quite nasty. Comes with being a princess. A spoiled selfish . . . I turned away. I didn’t need Jack invading my thoughts right now. I looked around for a distraction and was greeted by a large sign with the number nine on it. At least, I was pretty sure that it was a nine.
“Well . . . well I don’t even care that you’re pretty!” Odd Hair yelled.
Wait, that was a ten. I knew that one cause it had two different numbers right next to each other. This must be the wall to get to the train.
“Pads, your insults are getting worse.” Glasses said, smirking.
“You won’t amount to anything in life if you keep insulting people’s hair and stuff!” Odd Hair tried to taunt me.
“Just goes to show that you know nothing. I’ll be more than you can ever dream of becoming.” I shot back over my shoulder. It was true. He would never rule a kingdom, and a kingdom as great as that of the merpeople's, never. Then I walked with as much dignity as possible through the wall.
A/n: Once again this is not beta-ed, so I'm still looking for a beta if you've got time to help me out. And again, if anyone wants to make a chapter image that would be fantastic! Let me know what you think about this chapter, I wasn't as sure about this one, so please review!
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