Pink and Purple Pigtails
All five sat on the cool, stone floor in a circle, like a Native American war council going over war plans. Shiloh and Jacob sat at the head of the circle, exchanging ideas at a rapid pace, and occasionally one of the girls threw in an idea, eagerly and excitedly. Jacob wore his smug smirk the entire time, and Shiloh could feel excitement bubbling deep in her gut. This was better than planning a battle; this was planning a prank.
Before too long, they had a plan, set step by carefully planned step, and finally they concluded that they needed one last thing to make the plan perfect.
“So,” Jacob addressed the group, meeting one set of eyes after another until he had looked at each of them in turn, “any of you know a prefect?”
The answer to it was so obvious that the question was almost rhetorical.
Three heads shook, and Shiloh pointed out, “It can't be just any prefect, though. Gryffindor and Hufflepuff passwords are chosen by the portraits, so their prefects might not know. Ravenclaws have to answer a question. We're the only ones where the prefects choose it.”
The four blinked at her for one long moment, then Jacob clucked his tongue. “Well, good to see someone has read Hogwarts: A History.”
Unsure whether it was a compliment or an insult, Shiloh only blinked at him.
“None of the Slytherin prefects will help us, though, will they?” Nicolette asked, quietly, forlornly, as though she already knew the answer, but wished for someone to contradict her suspicion.
“Nope.” Jacob leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and putting his chin in his hands. He stared past Persephone's head at the wall as though he was expecting the answers to display themselves there. For the first time in their meeting in Dungeon 16, the cockiness had fled from his face.
The five fell silent, struck suddenly by the difficulty of their situation. It was such a perfect plan, Shiloh knew. Simple, but sufficient. But it all centred on a prefect. If they were unable to find one, they would have to give up all together. That was something she wasn't ready to do yet.
Shiloh thought hard, discarding the few options that managed to make their way to her head.
Finally, Symone broke the silence. “Could a Head Girl do it?”
Shiloh gazed at her, seeing a thoughtful, hesitantly hopeful expression in her friend's eyes. She had an idea, but what was it?
“Yes,” Shiloh replied, at the same moment Jacob did. They exchanged glances, Jacob looking amused and Shiloh apathetic. She hoped, however, that they didn't make a habit of talking in unison.
“It would be near impossible to convince one it do so, though,” Jacob continued. “Unless, of course, you were bond by blood.”
Symone turned her head to gaze intensely at Persephone who was playing with a lock of her blood red hair, twirling it around her fingers, placing it in her mouth, as though she found the entire situation boring. She remained oblivious to Symone's pointed look for a second longer than she should have, and as though feeling its intensity suddenly, she dropped the strand and looked at Symone slowly.
She froze in horror. She stayed like that for a long moment, eyes wide and horror, and then she shook her head.
Shiloh's suspicion blared at the wordless exchange, and she glanced back and forth between the two girls. Beside her, Jacob did the same. Blaring turned to a roar as they continued to watch.
“Well...” Symone drawled out, making the word sound much longer than it actually.
Once again, Persephone gave a small shake, more urgently this time.
Symone ignored her less-than-subtle hint. “Persephone's sister is...”
Persephone threw a hand over Symone's mouth. “Shush, Symone.”
Symone glared indignantly, but didn't move her face away from the hand just yet. If it hadn't been clear that Persephone was hiding something, it would have been apparent now. She sure was going over-the-top in her attempt to keep things hidden.
“That's never going to work,” Persephone cooed in mock sweetness. “So why bring it up, hm?”
“What's going on?” Jacob finally asked, firmly.
“Oh nothing.” Persephone flashed a sugary grin, and Shiloh was sure that she was very aware of how fake it seemed.
“Right,” Jacob agreed sceptically, “then why don't you take you hand off Symone's mouth?”
Persephone hesitated, gave Symone a mistrusting sideways glance, then removed her hand, holding both up in surrender. “See...I've got nothing to...”
“Persephone's sister's Head Girl!” Symone blurted.
Persephone winced as though from a blow. Shiloh blinked in hidden surprise, and Jacob gawked unashamedly. It made sense though, Shiloh considered, placing together the events from Symone's question to her almost-revelations. She should have put it together, but she had been too confused by Persephone's melodramatic actions to think clearly. Shiloh could not imagine why she would want to hide her sister's identity. Especially when it was so perfect to their plan.
Perpsehone turned to Symone, eyes narrowed into a toxic grey glare. “I am so going to hurt you.”
The threat seemed unmeant. Shiloh didn't think she would follow through with the threat, but Shiloh's protectiveness reared. She tensed and kept her eyes placed upon Persephone to catch any movement.
Symone was unaffected. She sent Persephone an unworried and almost-apologetic smile. “No, you won't,” she replied. “You'll forgive me later.”
Persephone huffed, folded her arms over her chest, and pouted childishly. Her actions still made no sense, not when Shiloh was already making her plans.
“You're sister is Demeter Andreau?” Jacob questioned. There was a dazed look on his face and his voice was slow, stunned, as though this was an idea he couldn't quite wrap his mind around.
“As much as I hate to admit it...” Persephone nodded.
He looked Persephone up and down, before pausing to stare a long moment at her dyed hair as though this was the first time he'd seen it. “Demeter and Persephone,” he rolled it off his tongue slowly, as though just now making the connection.
Persephone wore a wry, little smile. “Our parents had a thing for their Greek heritage. Especially Greek goddesses.”
“Cute,” Jacob replied without seeming to realize for he was still staring at Persephone with that glazed expression. Finally it began to fade. “Wow,” he breathed in disbelief. Then he said it again, making it two syllables, “Wo-ow.”
“Thanks,” Persephone mumbled dryly.
Shiloh glanced between the two, knowing she was missing something. She sent Persephone a questioning glance, but she only shrugged as clueless as Shiloh herself.
“And how do you know my sister?” Persephone added.
Jacob shrugged, trying to look casual, though his eyes darkened just a bit as though he was remembering something he'd rather forget. “We are in the same year. I don't know her well, just enough to not want to.”
Shiloh recognized the lie, by that little flicker in his eyes and by his obvious stunned reaction. She suspected that he knew Demeter better than he was letting on, but she knew that there was more important things to discuss.
“So we go to your sister and ask,” Shiloh said. “Surely she'd help us.”
“Nope,” Persephone said shortly.
Symone frowned. “What do you mean no?”
“She means the opposite of yes,” Jacob answered the question for Persephone. His sarcastic tone turned quickly to serious. “There is absolutely no way that she's going to help us. Trust me.”
Shiloh marvelled at this. Jacob was always optimistic, always ready to fight tooth and nail, so why did this Head Girl change anything? She had her mouth open to hiss a reproving question at him, when Nicolette got there before him.
“Why not? What's so wrong with her?” Nicolette questioned Persephone, her eyes wide in their general state of wonder. “Personally, I think it would be awesome to have a sister who's Head Girl.”
Persephone pried open her taut mouth, but it was once again Jacob, ever Mr Know-It-All who answered for her.
“Wrong with her? There's nothing wrong with her. She's a goody-two-shoes who has never so much as toed the line.” Jacob shrugged a shoulder, and though he was as smug as ever, his dislike was evident. Shiloh wondered what history these two shared. “Plus, she's a b—“
“Hey!” Persephone snapped sharply, before he could get out the filthy word. “You listen to me. The only person allowed to bad mouth my sister is me!”
They all blinked at her in surprise, as she glared coolly at Jacob, until he held his hands up in surrender. Persephone gave a satisfied nod, and the tenseness left her, returning to her usual relaxed stance. A small smile curled up her lips.
“Though...she sort of is.”
Jacob laughed, but Symone scolded, “Persephone! She's your sister.”
“Well, she is!”
“It doesn't excuse such language.”
Shiloh agreed. Glancing at the incorrigible smile on Jacob's face, she thought of nothing but wiping it from his face. Turning to Persephone, she said smoothly, “Besides, you shouldn't encourage him.” He encouraged himself just fine without anyone's help.
“Oi,” he snapped. “It's not my fault if I tell it as it is.”
“Not my fault you have a filthy mouth,” responded Shiloh. She thought of other things to say—things like how cussing made him seem half as intelligent. Not that he had much intelligence to begin with. The orneriness startled her, especially since she'd considered insulting his brain, something she had no actual quarrel with. Still, after all the times he'd teased her, driven her crazy, the desire to dig herself under her skin was not easily repressed.
She paused long enough to lose her chance.
“I'm not up for a lecture, Shi,” Jacob said, annoyed. “Besides, we were discussing something else.”
As though on cue, Symone turned to Persephone and said, “She can't be as bad as you're making her seem, Seph.”
“Doesn't matter how bad she is,” Persephone mumbled, as though this was too tedious a subject to waste time talking clearly for. “She would never break school rules, even if she would help me—which she isn't going to.”
“But you're her sister,” Symone insisted.
“Siblings are always supposed to look out for each other.”
Persephone snorted. “We must have missed that rule.”
Symone shook her head, irritated and said nothing.
“What does she hate you or something?” Nicolette questioned.
Persephone pretended to think about that a moment, mocking a thoughtful purse of her lips. “What was the first option again?”
“Oh, come on,” Symone spat in frustration. “I'm sure that's not true.”
Shiloh caught her eye, wondering how Symone could be so sure. Shouldn't she of all people believe that it was possible for siblings to disagree? After all, Persephone wasn't the only one to be on bad terms with a sibling. Symone, however, pointedly avoided looking at Shiloh. She hadn't thought about Adrian; she didn't want too.
Nicolette was compassionate where Symone was failing to be, and she asked softly, “Why would she hate you?”
There was a hesitant silence before Persephone murmured, “Because I'm Slytherin.”
The four blinked at each other in confusion, but none had the answers that all were looking for so they looked back at Persephone.
“You're going to have to give us a bit more than that?” prodded Jacob.
Persephone sighed, not sadly, but like she was gracefully resigning herself to a fate she would have rather avoided. “I hate talking about this. It's too depressing.” She paused as though hoping someone would feel pity and rescue her. Four eyes bored into her, waiting for her to continue. She sighed again, and then spoke quickly, like someone ripping a bandage off a hairy part of their body—so that it would only sting a little.
“Because Andreau's have been Ravenclaws since Andreau's have gone to Hogwarts, and Andreau's are always supposed to be Ravenclaws.” She sounded almost like someone else, becoming strangely deeper, like she was faking the voice she had first heard this from. “And when we aren't Ravenclaw, we're a disgrace.”
Shiloh's speechlessness forged in with the silence of all those about her. She was aware that family tradition was strong—what with Annadel wanting to be Slytherin because her entire family had been. But never had she seen one who didn't live up to her family's expectations, who might be disappointed in the house that was chosen from them—well, except for herself. She empathized with Persephone and longed to seem something, but everything that came to mind was awkward and incomplete.
Symone rested her hand on Persephone's arm. Her expression had turned from one of frustration, to one of sympathy and sadness. On Persephone's other side, Nicolette mirrored her, both the touch and the expression.
“I'm sorry, Seph,” Symone whispered quietly.
“Me, too,” Nicolette breathed.
“I mean, you didn't choose your house, so why should they make you feel as though they hate you for it?” Symone insisted, passionately.
Shiloh shifted uneasily and looked away. She felt like she had stumbled into the scene of a play she wasn't scripted in, and she could do nothing but try to blend into the backdrop. Jacob, however, felt no shame and watched the scene with intensity. When Shiloh glanced back, she expected to see Persephone with the heartbroken face that was expected by someone who felt outcast by her entire family. Instead, Persephone was wearing a beaming, mischievous smile.
“Don't tell me you're sorry. Really, I don't care.”
Symone shook her head sceptically, and Nicolette tried to smile encouragingly.
“Besides,” Persephone said, squaring her shoulders proudly, “I'm too cool to be what they want me to be.”
She appeared so arrogantly sure, that Nicolette giggled and Symone followed suit, laughter of relief that their best friend had such a confident attitude that seemed so disparately out of place. Persephone glanced at the friends at her side and joined in with the giggling.
Jacob grinned. “That's the spirit, kid.”
Shiloh watched it all calmly, studying the giggling, red-haired girl, trying to fit this new information about her. She wasn't just a silly girl who dyed her hair—beyond the surface she was someone who believed her family hated her and was determined not to care. She remembered that strange comment Persephone had made when they had first met in the Slytherin common room.
My parents would hate it.
“So is that why you dye your hair?” Shiloh said, interrupting the laughter.
Still grinning, Persephone said, “At first, yes. My parents are always into what's prim and proper—which is why Demeter is such an ideal daughter for them. Dying my hair was a silent rebellion. Now, though, I do it for that—and because I love it.”
There was a moment of silence and smiles, the three girls grinning and clutching wrists. Shiloh felt suddenly cold, and she struggled to swallow the jealousy that was working its way up her throat. She looked pointedly away from Symone, gazing at the wall above her heads and struggled to find a way to get back to the safer territory of what they had been discussing before.
“So...um...” She trailed off in surprise when a hand squeezed her wrist. Not Symone and not Jacob, but a smaller hand with short fingers. Shiloh glanced up at Nicolette, who sent her a sweet smile, that almost seemed to say, “See, you're part of this too.” But she couldn't be sending that signal, because she couldn't possibly comprehend how Shiloh felt.
Shiloh removed her hand. Thinking about such things was ridiculous, especially when there were more important things.
“So,” she began again, more firmly, “are you absolutely sure that your sister wouldn't be able to help?”
“Able, yes,” Pesephone said. “Willing, no.”
“Even if you asked her.”
Persephone rolled her eyes and her smile became sarcastic. “Of course, after two years of not speaking to her, after asking her to put her Head Girl badge on the line to help us prank the Slytherins, how can she refuse?”
Shiloh bit her lip. It was the only way, but Persephone was still the key factor in all of this. If she didn't support them, how could they stand a chance? She looked to Jacob, who had the knack of being persuasive. Of all the times he could have chosen to be quiet, he had to choose the most inopportune of moments.
“We have to try,” Symone pressed, gently, kindly. “It's the only way.”
Persephone stared at her for a long moment, her smile slowly fading as Symone gave her a pleading look.
“After all,” Symone said, “imagine the look on Malfoy's face when he says the new password.”
A distant look appeared in her grey eyes as she imagined it and a delighted, twisted smile appeared on her face, then disappeared when she remembered what she would have to do to experience the real thing.
“Ugh.” Persephone threw up her hands. “Oh, all right. I'll go spend some quality time with my sister.”
Nicolette squealed in delight and threw her arms around Persephone in a hug. Symone pumped her fist in the air, but Shiloh wasn't about to celebrate. That was just the first step, and their were much harder ones left to come.
Jacob mumbled a groan, swore under his breath, before saying, “All right, all right. No celebrating yet.”
The two excited girls quickly sobered and looked at Jacob like soldiers snapping to attention.
Jacob sighed and rubbed his face over his hands tiredly, before squaring his shoulder. “All right, step one in doing the impossible.” He pointed a hand at Persephone. “Please, for the love of Merlin, do something with your hair? We're not going to get bonus points with your sister for that.”
Persephone glared and stuck out her lip, offended and pouting all at once. She was a vision of contrasts.
Jacob ignored her obvious displeasure and continued, “We'll meet her after dinner and somehow convince her to help us.” He spoke like he was talking of something impossible--somehow cross the ocean without a boat, somehow bring someone back from the grave, somehow convince the Head Girl to help them prank Slytherin.
“Somehow?” Symone repeated, almost scolding. She raised her eyebrows and gave him a disappointed gaze. She almost seemed to say, Is that the best you can do?
“Yeah,” Jacob insisted, “somehow.”
Shiloh was sure that that was, indeed, the best any of them could do.
Jacob pointed Demeter out as the Shiloh, Symone, and Nicolette made their way to their table at dinner. It was difficult to grasp which one of the people he pointed too, she blended so well into the crowd...unlike her sister who stuck out like a red flower in the midst of white. Finally, Shiloh glimpsed a brunette head amongst the sea of blue-accented robes.
Demeter Andreau sat at the end of the table, back straight and erect, her eyes glancing to and fro as though to capture everything. The resemblance between her and Persephone was clear. Not in hair or demeanour or even in wardrobe. They had the same angular, nondescript face and the willowy frame, differing only in the details of age, and the identical grey eyes.
That was where the similarities ended, and the difference stood out more boldly than the resemblance.
Demeter had straight, nondescript brown hair, braided in a respectable and simple plait. Her expression was sophisticated and serious, where Persephone always seemed to be laughing or making a silly expression. The Head Girl wore her robes neat and her badge straight, where Persephone's robes were always wrinkled and mussed as though she had slept in them. And as she ate, she chewed her food carefully. Shiloh's mum had once told her that she should chew each bite twenty-two times for proper digestion, but Shiloh had never had the patience for it. Shiloh was sure that Demeter, however, tallied every single twenty-two chews before swallowing. Shiloh could never imagine Persephone eating without joking and laughing between—or during—bites.
With all that Shiloh had seen and all that she had heard, Shiloh was sure that—despite the grey eyes and the similar faces and the shared surname—that there were never two girls so opposite as Demeter and Persephone Andreau.
“She doesn't seem too bad,” Nicolette whispered.
“Looks can be deceiving,” Jacob said glumly, looking pointedly away from Demeter. Shiloh was once again struck with the feeling that there was some history between them.
Nicolette frowned in concern, but Symone beamed a smile and said firmly, “But let's hope for the best.”
Jacob only shook his head slowly as he sat on the Slytherin table. Shiloh sat beside him. She wanted badly to ask him how he knew Demeter, but she hadn't had the chance. However, before she could pry her mouth open, Persephone came skipping into view.
Upon looking at her, it was clear she had followed Jacob's advice. She had done something with her hair. Shiloh knew things had just gotten even more complicated.
Persephone's hair was pulled into pigtails tied with pink and purple curly ribbons. It would have been girlish and cute had Persephone returned her hair to its original shade of brown. Yet, it wasn't brown or blonde or any other normal colour.
Her pigtails were pink and purple.
“Seph,” Jacob began, his voice strained as though he was doing his best not to wring her neck, “how exactly did you come to the conclusion that pink and purple pigtails was a good idea?”
“You told me to do something with my hair,” Persephone responded cheekily.
“I meant tone it down. Turn it back to brown. Bleach it blond or a natural hair colour. Put on a bloody bandanna! Don't make it worse!”
Persephone huffed, mocked a half-apologetic, half-annoyed look, though she didn't manage to hide her mischievous grin, and said, “Well, you should have been more specific.”
“Specific?” Jacob's hands went with to his hair, acting like he was going to yank out huge chunks. “How could you...”
Shiloh almost groaned, knowing that condescension was the last thing they needed at the moment. She quickly opened her mouth to interrupt. She never expected that the saviour of the situation would be Valiant.
“It's her hair,” Valiant snapped, glaring. “She can do whatever she bloody-well wants to with it!”
Jacob jerked his mouth shut, obviously taken aback by Valiant's protective response. Shiloh was surprised too, but Symone only nodded as though she'd seen that one coming.
Persephone stuck out her tongue at Jacob. “Yeah, what she said.” And with that, she locked arms with Valiant and skipped towards her chair.
Jacob shook he head and mumbled darkly at his plate words Shiloh didn't want to try to catch. She only calmly dished food onto her plate, praying that Demeter would be able to see beyond the pink and purple, though she was not illogical enough to believe that those prayers would come true.
They all ate in relative silence, except for Valiant and Persephone, and occasionally Nicolette, who chatted together as though something important was not hovering over them like a dark cloud, twisting Shiloh's gut in nervousness, making them fear the sickening thought of failure. Valiant ranted about something Malfoy had done, Persephone made a joke, and all three giggled. Valiant had a quiet giggle, that sounded almost like the sucking in of air, but it still surprised Shiloh that the girl who was all scowls and dark glances was actually capable of laughing.
Then Valiant noticed Shiloh looking at her, turned, and glared. Shiloh looked pointedly away.
As Nicolette finished her pudding, Demeter got to her feet as gracefully as a queen rising from her thrown and walked out of the door. Jacob sighed and began to push himself to his feet.
Shiloh made to follow.
“Wait,” Persephone protested. “I'm not finished with my pudding.”
Jacob's jaw tightened, and Shiloh wondered if he would yank Persephone to her feet before she had a chance to put her spoon into the piece of cream pie before her. Fearing this, Shiloh circled her hand around his wrist, hoping to calm him, and coolly sat back down. She was relieved with Jacob let out a tense breath and plopped back into his spot. Shiloh kept her hand there, around his wrist for a moment more. Her fingers were able to connect around it; he really did have skinny wrists. With that fleeting thought, she unlocked her hand hesitantly.
Jacob sent her a smile, now clearly relaxed, as though to saying, I'm fine now, thanks. Shiloh let her lips twitch, hoping he'd see that it was meant to say, It's all right. I trust you. She didn't think he'd strangle Persephone, as much as he might like too.
Especially since she seemed to be taking an extraordinarily long time to eat her pie. She slowly select a perfect sized bite—not too small, but not terribly large—and took her time bringing it to her lips. Upon taking a bite, she would leave the spoon in her mouth to eat the cream as though it was the greatest pie in the world and she wanted to savour every second of it. A luxurious smile was on her face, as though she had all the time in the world.
After three minutes—that seemed quite a bit longer—in which she had only succeeded in eating a quarter of the pie, Nicolette was frowning, Symone was glaring, Shiloh was eyeing her blankly, and Jacob was shaking his head in exasperation. Valiant, however, was giggling. She seemed unconcerned that Persephone's unsubtle stalling tactic was going to throw off their entire plan.
They needed to leave, Shiloh thought urgently, glancing to the door. And now, or risk losing their chance forever.
“Do you think you could eat any slower?” Jacob asked sarcastically.
“Yes, actually.” Persephone grinned. Her spoon inched towards her mouth even more slowly.
Jacob growled in frustration. “I will shove that spoon...”
Quite fed up with the cussing, Shiloh covered his mouth with her hand, only too aware of what he was about to say. He froze under her touch, shifted his eyes to hers, and dropped his shoulders, reminding her of a dog being reprimanded by its master—only she was not foolish enough to believe that Jacob would submit so easily. He made a gesture, like sweeping his hand at an open doorway. After you.
Good. At least Shiloh would be able to handle this calmly.
She reached over and pulled the plate away from Persephone.
“Hey,” she protested, “I'm not finished with that.”
“Yes, you are,” Jacob argued.
Before she could fight more, Jacob grasped Persephone's arm and hauled her to her feet. Persephone pouted, but realizing her game was up, followed as everyone but Valiant clambered to their feet and hurried after where Demeter had disappeared.
Valiant remained at the table and Shiloh made the mistake of glancing over her shoulder at her. She was scowling at her plate, her face wrinkled in anger...and another emotion that Shiloh couldn't quite place. Disappointment? Distress? Sorrow? Then, as though feeling Shiloh's gaze upon her, she cocked her chin up, turned about, and glared.
Shiloh whipped her head around and caught up with the others. She was convinced that what she'd seen had been an invention. Valiant was just bitter that her friends had chosen a path that she could not. Just like Shiloh had been.
She shook the thoughts away and fell into step with Jacob, and the other three who walked side by side, their steps both hesitant and determined. They were worried, but they were on a mission. Shiloh wasn't even sure where to look for Demeter, so much time had passed. There were so many corridors, but she continued to cast her eyes about until Jacob tapped her shoulder and pointed a finger up at the grand staircase that towered up an above. Shiloh spotted a figure on a staircase far above. She glimpsed brunette hair.
Demeter. She hoped.
They hurried up the steps, Symone taking the lead and Nicolette and Persephone falling behind as Shiloh and Jacob stood side-by-side in the middle. As they walked, Jacob rested his hand on her shoulder. She glanced up at him.
“This is it, Shi,” Jacob whispered down at her, that serious expression she was beginning to like so well on his face. “Doing the impossible.”
“Do you think we can pull it off?” Shiloh was proud that the nervousness that danced in her stomach didn't make its way to her voice.
Jacob hesitated, and his silence was disturbing. Then, he spoke, “One way or another we'll reach our goal. It's the beauty of being Slytherin. When you're a Slytherin, you don't give up easily.”
Shiloh felt like she was being taught a lesson, a class on How To Be A Slytherin. He was quite often doing that, but she wasn't annoyed. She was too anxious, worried, determined, even excited to be annoyed. That, and he was right. She wasn't about to give up, no matter what happened in the moments to come.
Jacob grinned and she smiled back, a small, sincere smile that fluttered away quickly as Jacob pointed a finger into a corridor they had almost passed and she saw Demeter at the end of the hall. Shiloh swallowed as the uneasiness lodged in her throat. This was it.
The five glanced at each other anxiously, and they approached slowly, a few almost stumbling over the own feet in their anxiety. Shiloh's heart hammered as she stopped and waiting for Demeter to turn. She, however, didn't.
Completely oblivious to their presence, Demeter stared at a portrait of a tall woman in powder-blue robes. Demeter's lips were moving, forming words, though there was absolutely no one to talk to.
“What's she doing?” Nicolette questioned, hissing in Persephone's ear as her brow knitted in confusion.
“Don't ask me,” Persephone replied, rolling her eyes in exasperation of her sister. “She's crazy.”
“She's talking to herself,” Jacob said, and when Shiloh glanced at him, he was wearing a smile that matched his amused tone. It was a sharp contrast to the disgust and dislike she had previously read on his face when it came to Demeter.
Shiloh turned away from him and listened closely to catch what Demeter was saying.
“...a gift from Mademoiselle Deamere, Headmistress of Beaxbatons, when the Tri-Wizard of 1891, the last tournament to ever be held.” She was talking at the painting—no, to the painting—listing off its history. Her voice, unlike Persephone's light-hearted tone, was solemn and scholarly, with just a note of unhidden fascination. “You are the portrait of Isidora Bonheur, the Beaxbatons champion that was tragically and accidentally killed in the Tournament.”
The painting stated babbling and jabbering furiously in a foreign language—French, Shiloh imagined. The panting pointed a pastel finger behind Demeter, right at the group, almost all who shifted uncomfortable. Still, Demeter did not turn, only continued to stare at the painting, ever more excitedly.
“Aw, French,” Demeter responded delightedly. “I'm practically fluent in that language. 'Vous êtes suivis.' That means: You are being followed.”
Shiloh swallowed and Jacob tensed, but Demeter only stared at the painting with that mixture of study, curiosity, and seriousness for a moment too long. Finally, as the words clicked, she spun around with a startled gasp. She stared at the group as though they were stalkers. They all gazed back with mixture of anxiety and bravado. But Shiloh just met those grey eyes filled with mistrust and surprise, her face blank and her heart racing with a mixture of terror and determination.
They stayed frozen like that for a long moment, as though they were mere statues with no other mission than that. Then Persephone smiled in a smooth way that barely hid her sheepishness and raised her hand in a wave that was more a wiggle of the fingers. “Hey there, sis.”
Like ice being thawed, Demeter pulled herself upright and collected her face so it was back in the regal, solemn expression of one who had power and knew it. The expression was tainted only by the disgust that showed in the wrinkled of her nose. “What have you done to your hair?”
Persephone grin turned earnest and mischievous. “Like it?”
“No,” Demeter said flatly.
Persephone wore a look of triumph and giggled under her breath. Demeter's eyes swept over the group, to Symone and Nicolette. When her eyes fell upon Shiloh, she squared her shoulder and centred her jaw, imitating Demeter's controlled atmosphere, but Demeter's eyes were quickly moving to Jacob. There, she froze, her eyes feeling with powerful recognition and horror. Jacob, much to Shiloh's surprise, was bowing his head as hoping that would keep Demeter from recognizing him. It was so uncommon of him not to have a smug expression on his face, let alone duck his head in what could almost be shame, that Shiloh soon found herself staring at him too.
“What are you doing with him?” Demeter spat in disgust.
Four sets of young eyes, from green to brown to black, bored into their older friend in surprise, confusion, and wonder. Shiloh had guessed that they were familiar with each other. This was simple confirmation and knowledge that the vehemence went both ways. She knew that Jacob hated Demeter because he thought her an arrogant know-it-all, but what put that burning hatred into her eyes?
“Jacob,” Shiloh whispered softly, though she knew everyone could hear, “how do you really know Demeter?”
His jaw tightened firmly, and in his eyes, was a dark expression that Shiloh couldn't quite place—anger, hatred...sorrow. She wasn't sure, but it disappeared quickly, so she forced herself to dismiss it as a trick of the light.
“It's not important,” he said.
He was lying, Shiloh knew. She could tell by the way Demeter's mouth puckered, as though souring with the desire to spew out the words Jacob would not.
As she opened her mouth, Jacob interrupted, “Is it, Demeter?” He glared at her, daring her press the issue.
“Yes, it is,” she insisted stubbornly.
Jacob changed tactics quickly, forcing a nonchalant into his voice, “Or I could just tell them. I mean, there's nothing remotely disgraceful about your part in it at all. I mean, the book...”
“All right,” snapped Demeter, and though her voice was firm, a bit of desperation appeared in her eyes. “But my sister still shouldn't be associating with the likes of you.”
Jacob opened his mouth to argue, but Persephone got there before him. “That's for me to decide, thanks.”
Shiloh studied both of them, her mind whirling. Jacob wasn't being honest – because their history was important—the fact that he avoided it was clear to that. Perhaps the event on just been embarrassing, but Jacob was the last person she'd expect to be abashed by something he'd done. But right now, she had no opportunity to ask. There were other more important things. Like what was happening here and now.
Later, she promised herself. I'll ask him later.
Demeter snapped her unhappy gaze at her sister, opening her mouth as though she wanted to argue.
Once again, Jacob would not allow her, “But this isn't about me. This is about them.” He nodded beside them at the four girls. “They've come to ask a favour and I'm not leaving here until you hear them out.”
Demeter stared at him for a very long moment, like one gazes at a complicated homework project they were not in the mood to do. Then her eyes flicked behind him to her sister. “Very well,” she submitted. “What do you want?”
Jacob nodded towards Persephone, whose usual smile wavered in anxiety. When she hesitated, Symone reached forward to give her a helping shove and Nicolette squeezed her hand. Persephone walked forward, forcing a skip into her step and confidence into her hold. She stopped in front of her sister and took a deep breath.
Then she told her.
She told her about the prejudice in Slytherin and about Nicolette's punched nose; Symone and Nicolette helped her out when she tried to glaze over the subject before she gave it justice. She laid out the plan to her, step by step.
Shiloh fixed her gaze upon Demeter's face as she calmly heard them out. Her expression was unreadable, making it impossible for Shiloh to decide whether or not she was going to agree or laugh in their face.
Persephone fell silent with an awkward, “And...well...that's it. Unless I'm forgetting anything?” She looked uncertainly at the others, who all gave her an encouraging nod.
Demeter only stared for a very long moment, as though she was slowly mulling over everything. It almost filled Shiloh with hope until she saw Demeter flex her fingers and her arms raise once again as though to cross them over her chest, but refusing to. Shiloh considered that it might not be her pondering that caused her to pause, but the desire to ensure she was perfectly calm.
“Allow me to get this straight,” Demeter said at last, her calm tone hiding something more incredulous. “You want me—the Head Girl—to break the very school rules I am assigned to enforce?”
“Well, not break exactly,” Symone replied, choosing her words carefully, pleadingly. “More like...bend a little.”
Demeter shook her head, and any of the hope that still remained in the group, burst like an over-inflated balloon.
“Absolutely not,” she hissed. “I should give you all detention for even plotting such a scheme. You're all willing to risk expulsion to what? Get revenge?” Mouths opened to protest, but she was continuing. “If justice is what you want, then discuss the matter with the professors. Allow them to handle it.”
“You don't understand,” Symone pressed, at the same time as Jacob hissed, “Now wait just a second...”
Far from listening, she interrupted them both. “And you, Persephone—“ She eyed her sister with disapproval. “Our parents would be very disappointed at such behaviour.”
“And that's different how?” Persephone asked, unimpressed by the threats. Looking at the others, she said, “See. I told you she'd say no.”
Her tone was as light-hearted and uncaring as ever, as though she was untouchable by anything anyone could do to her, but there was a sort of sadness, a dark disappointment deep in her heart. Despite what her head had told her, her heart had hoped that maybe, just maybe, her sister cared enough to say yes. Shiloh's chest burned with sympathy, but she didn't know what to say or what to do.
“Oh, Seph,” Symone whispered, her face twisting in pain for her friend. Nicolette reached out a comforting hand, but Persephone shrugged her off and faked a grin.
“But it's all right. It's all that can be expected from a valde amplus verto like her.”
Symone and Nicolette gaped in amazement as the foreign words escaped their friend's lips, and then, realizing the hidden insult in such a creative way, they giggled, knowing that was the response that Persephone wanted and that it was their own private revenge. Jacob chuckles deep in his throat, though his face remained serious, and Shiloh felt no amusement, only the crushing realization that they had failed.
Demeter, however, stared in surprise. “What did you call me?”
“Oh, like you don't know, know-it-all,” Persephone called over her shoulder, as she triumphantly skipped away, proud that she at the very least had a small victory to walk away with.
As she disappeared around the corner, quiet reigned and tension crackled about in the air like electrical currents that only increased when Jacob turned to face Demeter. She looked at him as one looks at a fly that refused to be shooed.
“What are you still doing here?” Demeter asked.
Jacob closed the distance between them so quickly that Demeter stumbled back a step and jerked her wand from her pocket, as though expecting a physical attack. He stopped a foot away from her and stabbed his finger behind him at the corner that Persephone had just disappeared behind, seething with passionate rage once more. “That was your sister, and you just brushed her off without so much of a second thought.”
Demeter took a deep breath as though she had been winded and thrust her wand back into her pocket, realizing she wasn't being attacked – physically at least. “You are all being preposterous. Did you actually expect me to agree?”
Jacob was far from answering questions. “She thinks you hate her, did you know that?”
As though someone had slapped her, Demeter stared at him in disbelief that it took her a moment to hide. “That's a lie,” she argued. “She would never...”
“How would you know?” Jacob replied vehemently. “It doesn't seem like you have much interest in your sister's life unless she's doing something that makes you look bad. She asked you to help her, and you accused her of being petty. You care more about your bloody badge than you care about your own sister.”
Once again, she looked as though she had been slapped. Shiloh understood; quite often that was how it felt when Jacob hit too close to the truth. This look didn't disappear off of Demeter's face so easily. It remained, showing hurt and confusion. For once, Demeter didn't look arrogant and regal. She looked...human.
“That's not true,” she breathed weakly in her defence.
“It sure bloody-well seems like it!”
Demeter let her grey eyes roam to the corner where her sister had disappeared around, her gaze growing distant and unreadable as though she had been transported a thousand miles away. Her gaze remained there as Jacob leaned forwards and whispered something that Shiloh couldn't catch into her ear. She jerked away from him and glared.
“My sister and I are none of your concern, Mr Osgood,” she said coldly. “I must ask you to leave, before I reconsider giving you all detention.”
Jacob took a step away, his face seething with anger and hatred. “Fine, but mark my words, Andreau. This isn't over. We'll convince you to help us.”
Before Demeter could respond, he whirled about and stormed away. She hugged and did the same, trying to appear collected as she did so. She disappeared quickly, and Shiloh watched her go, feeling their chances of following through with their plans narrowing considerably. Still, she found herself feeling how she had after she had failed to retrieve the Veritaserum the first time—the disappointment, yes, but the more overpowering urge to try again.
Jacob stopped before them, yanking at his hair as though he might tug it out from the roots and growling things under his breath that Shiloh was thankful were comprehensible. She glanced at Symone to see her expression. Sadness, yet, but not dishearteningly so. The determination was still there, just like it was engrained in Shiloh's heart. They'd taken a blow, but they couldn't give up now. Their mission was too important.
“So...what are you going to do now?” Nicolette asked, softly, uncertainly. She searched their faces with such worry that Symone squeezed her hand reassuringly.
“Find some way to pull our prank,” Jacob said firmly, ambition written in the narrow of his eyes, the lock of his jaw.
“But...how?” Nicolette asked, looking at them with a mixture of worry and desire and a pleading for a spark of hope.
All eyes turned to Jacob, for he had been the starter of all this and they would continue to follow his lead until they finished it.
“I don't know,” Jacob said honestly, though that did not rid his voice of determination. “We just...”
“Do whatever it takes,” Shiloh finished for him.
They were the same words he had said earlier, the same words that now rattled in her mind. The same words she would repeat to herself over and over until they succeeded. Failure wasn't an option.
Thinking of Jacob's earlier words--That's the beauty of being Slytherin. We don't give up easily.--she began to wonder if maybe, just maybe, she was a little more Slytherin than she gave herself credit for.
Perhaps he was responding to what she had said or perhaps Jacob had some eerie ability to read her thoughts, but as the thought crept through her mind, Jacob smiled and said, “Now you're catching on.”
This chapter was original supposed to be combined with Chapter Fourteen in a chapter entitled How To Be Slytherin, 101, but at the end of writing it I discovered it was 13,000 words. Yikes! So after some debate, I decided to split it into two different chapters: Pink and Purple Pigtails (thanks to Molly for the idea) and Love From the Heretics.
Thanks to my betas, Molly for listening to my whining. This truly was an evil chapter. And Sandy for her marvelous support and care. You guys rock.
Both Chapter Thirteen and Fourteen are dedicated to Sandy, Julie, KC, and Sammy and everyone else who stands up for what's right. *raises glass* Here's to the real Heretics!
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