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Persephone jerked awake with the alarm and stifled a cry into her pillow. She’d fallen asleep! Oh, Merlin, no! She quickly sucked in a breath to make sure Valiant hadn’t killed her in her sleep. She looked around the halls, greeted by green curtains, stones, and her Weird Sisters poster. So she wasn’t dead or in the hallway again. Persephone checked herself over and was relieved to find herself dry and not mutilated. She seemed to be just fine. But she couldn’t have gotten off that easy, could she?

She glanced at the bed next to hers. Valiant still hadn’t stirred behind her curtain. Persephone continued to look around frantically, searching for what was amiss, until Tracey came over, nervously tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

“All right, Persephone?”

“Fine,” Persephone said, then added uncertainly, “I think.”

“Oh.” Tracey gave a small, uneasy smile. “I like what you did to your hair. I think it’s very daring.”

Persephone blinked at her. What was she on about? Persephone hadn’t done anything to her hair, and if this was some sort of joke about her bedhead, it really wasn’t funny. But there was only sincerity in her voice, not the biting sarcasm that might have been in Daphne’s tone.

“My hair?” she questioned. She touched the roots, finding nothing amiss. Then horror hit her, and she shrieked again, “My hair!” She flung herself off the bed and ran towards the mirror on the wall. What had that evil witch done to her hair?

Persephone looked at her own reflection, blinked, looked again, covered her eyes with her hands, and looked once more to find the same horrible image.

And then she screamed.

“My hair is pink! Oh my Greek gods, my hair is pink!”

Daphne only tossed a pillow at her, showing no sympathy. “Shut up, Persephone!” She rolled back over and hid under the pillow.

Persephone touched the long, pink strands of hair. There seemed to be nothing wrong with it; only the colour had changed. It really wasn’t horrible, Persephone decided as she studied it closer. It was unexpected, different, surprising, and daring, but definitely not horrible.

From behind her, Persephone heard a familiar laugh. She turned around, her eyes narrowing in a glare. Valiant stuck her head out of the curtains, her face alit with triumph. She thought she’d won.

Perhaps that’s what made Persephone do it. Unable to bear the idea of Valiant winning their little war, she beamed a smile and exclaimed, “I love it!”

Valiant nearly fell off the bed in surprise.

“I do! I absolutely love it!” Whether it was the truth or not, Persephone hadn’t decided yet, but at the moment, it scarcely mattered.

Valiant’s gritted her teeth and snarled, “What?”

Persephone snickered. “Thanks, Grumpy!”

Valiant only stared at her as she dressed for breakfast, clucked over her now-pink pillowcase, then skipped from the room, her pink hair bouncing around her shoulders. Before the room closed behind Persephone, she heard Valiant’s growl of rage.

Persephone grinned. Victory to me!

Of course, victory always came with a price. It seemed everyone had something to say about Persephone’s hair. Pansy told her it hurt her eyes. Professor Snape managed to insult her hair colour and her potion skills in a single sentence. And Demeter gave her a fifteen minute lecture on the propriety of proper appearance when she caught sight of her. The lecture ended with the most horrible words imaginable.

“You wait until Mum and Dad hear about this.”

Translation: my life is over.

By the end of the day, Persephone had tucked her hair up into a pink, knit cap and held her potions book on her lap, trying to look up a way to be rid of the colour. She had decided that Valiant must have done it with a potion, if she had stained her pillow when she’d done it. Now, she had to figure out a potion that would undo it. But after searching through her textbook not once, but twice, Persephone had nearly given up. She supposed she could go to Demeter for help. But then again, Persephone supposed she could have leaped off the Astronomy Tower. The latter was a much more appealing idea.

Suicidal options aside, Persephone was buggered. Completely buggered.

The door to her room creaked open and someone entered. Dark clothes. Dark hair. Dark expression. Looked like evil. It could be no one but Valiant Bloodmoon.

Persephone tried to shove her book beneath the blankets of her bed, but Valiant had already seen it. A smirk crawled up her face. “Still loving your hair colour?”

Persephone decided to act maturely. Instead of stabbing Valiant with her wand, she heaved the book at her head. Valiant ducked and began laughing so hard, she remained stooped over.

“I hate you!” Persephone shrieked.

Valiant stopped her laughing and glowered down upon her. “I assure you the feeling is mutual, Andreou.”

Persephone stood and whisked her curtain closed in Valiant’s face. She fell back into her bed, buried her face beneath her pillow. She could hear Valiant’s laughter, muffled but there, and Persephone wasn’t sure why she was still laughing.

It wasn’t funny anymore.

The Howler came the next morning at breakfast. Persephone saw it dangling above her head, held in the claws of a familiar Great Grey owl. Persephone prayed a silent prayer to God, Merlin, Zeus, whoever would listen to a desperate eleven-year-old that it wasn’t intended for her. Take it to Demeter, she begged. Just once, take it to Demeter.

But fate didn’t smile on her.

The owl landed, standing in a plate of eggs, and lifted the leg where the unholy red envelope was tied with a perfect, golden bow. Persephone fingers shook as she untied the bow and held the Howler in her hands. It began to smoke, and knowing she had no time to make a run for it, she reluctantly ripped it open.

The noise exploded from the Howler, causes the plates on the table to rattle. It was the normal rubbish; she was a disappointment, she never did anything right, and she had better start living up to their expectations...not that she could if she tried. When the last insult faded away, Persephone’s ears were ringing. But maybe it wasn’t ringing; it was the sound of housemates’ laughter.

Persephone fearfully turned her eyes to Valiant, but the girl wasn’t laughing. She was only staring with her dark blue eyes completely unreadable.

“Hope you’re bloody happy now!” Persephone shoved away from the table and stormed away.

She went to the nearest girl’s loo, her sanctuary. But there was no comforting sound of exciting gossip, no squeals of laughter, or giddy shrieks of disbelief. There was only the sound of water going through the pipes and the flush of the toilet. Persephone hurried into the nearest stall and locked the door. She pressed her palms against the cool metal door and lowered her head against it. Her chin began to tremble and she knew what was coming.

She was only grateful that no one was there to see her cry.

But the problem with no one being there to see you cry was it meant you were alone. And Persephone had never felt so alone. She’d waited her entire life to come to Hogwarts, to be free from her parents, to make friends, to be happier. But here she was, friendless and miserable, crying alone with the weight of her parents’ disapproval crushing on her shoulders.

So what exactly had changed?

Long after Persephone’s first class had come and gone, Persephone stepped from the stall, wiping at her tear-stained cheeks. She approached the sink, staring at her reflection in the mirror. Her pink hair clung to her wet face. She was a pathetic sight, wasn’t she?

The door to the bathroom swung open, and a group of Slytherin girls entered the room. Parkinson, Greengrass, Bulstrode, Delamb, and the little Davis tagging along. Yep, all of the demons spawned from hell coming to torment her. However, they were laughing at something else and didn’t seem to glance Persephone’s way.

“She’s so pathetic!” Parkinson barked.

Persephone turned pointedly away, heat rushing to her face. Did they really have to beat her when she was down?

“That’s not the half of it,” Bulstrode retorted. “Her father was a huge supporter of You-Know-Who.”

Persephone frowned. It seemed they certainly weren’t talking about her, after all. So who were they talking about?

“He didn’t try to hide it either. So when You-Know-Who fell, he was fired from his job at the Ministry and completely disgraced. He lost all his money, and his wife left him, with his little pathetic two-year-old. Now, he’s nothing more than an unemployed, washed-up drunk. According to my dad, they live above a shop in the wizarding square in York, because some old lady felt sorry for him. They’re horribly poor,” Millicent said, as though it was the worst thing in the world anyone could be.

“Obviously,” Parkinson said with a roll of her eyes. “Do you see the state of her robes?”

“Disgusting,” Annadel clucked.

Persephone had a sour taste in her stomach. It was true she loved gossip, especially the sort that was untrue and embarrassing. But she suspected there was a lot of truth in their words, and it was the sort that spread hurt. Still, Persephone couldn’t help her curiosity. “Who are you talking about?”

Parkinson rolled her eyes as though it should be obvious. “Valiant Bloodmoon, of course. The no-good excuse for a pureblood.”

Persephone felt blood drain from her face, and she looked pointedly away. She never thought she’d feel sympathy for Valiant, but if what Bulstrode had said was true, than Persephone did feel sorry for her. Persephone swallowed hard and bit her tongue to keep back a nasty retort until they left the room, their crackling laughs drifting behind them.

And Persephone was alone again...or at least, she thought she was. A few minutes later, a toilet flushed and the metal lock clicked open. The stall door swung open and a girl stepped out, wiping at her bloodshot eyes.

Valiant looked up, and their eyes met in the mirror, grey on blue. They stared at each other for a long moment, two girls with tear-stained cheeks and broken hearts and parents they wished could just love them better. They were two enemies made equals.

“Hi,” Persephone managed through her clogged throat.

“Hi,” Valiant said, stepping beside her at the sink. She twisted on the faucet and splashed cold water on her face.

Persephone watched her pat her face dry, staring at her as though she’d never seen her before.

Valiant looked up at her and snapped, “What are you looking at?”

“Sorry,” Persephone said quickly, looking away.

“About what?” Valiant hissed.

Now that was the question, wasn’t it? Was she sorry about the prank? No, not really. Valiant had had it coming, but really, Persephone was just sick of the entire thing. She was sorry it had even begun and sorry they were enemies, especially since of all the people in Hogwarts, she suspected that Valiant might have been the only one who might actually understand her.

“I don’t know,” Persephone said. “About everything I guess.”

Valiant stared at Persephone’s reflection in the mirror, then through gritted teeth, she said grudgingly, “Yeah, me too. But for the record, you started it.”

Persephone opened her mouth to protest, but it really wasn’t worth it.

There was a long uncomfortable silence between them, and Persephone felt as though she should say something more. “Valiant, about your dad...”

“Don’t mention it,” Valiant snapped. “Ever.”

“Okay,” Persephone said a little too quickly.

Valiant shifted uncomfortably and then sighed, lowering her chin. “And about the Howler...your parents...”

“Don’t mention it,” Persephone snapped back. “Ever.”

“Okay,” Valiant agreed.

And so they made an agreement that Persephone knew they’d stick to. They would never speak about the thing that hurt the two of them the most, but she thought they both finally understood each other, even silently. Or maybe it was just because she wanted a friend so much that she was imagining things. Either way, these few moments of sympathy in the bathroom were the closest thing she’d had to friendship since she got to Hogwarts.

But not with Valiant, no. They despised each other, didn’t they?

But Persephone didn’t feel anything close to hate for her. Not anymore. Strange how quickly it had faded away.

“Truce?” Persephone said, offering her hand.

Valiant glowered at it. Same old Grumpy.

“I mean, because I actually want to be able to sleep soundly for the next seven years, don’t you?”

Valiant shrugged. “I suppose you’re right.” She took her hand, gave it one shake, and let go.

Persephone turned back to the mirror. “Now, I just have to figure out what to do about my hair.” She frowned. “It’s a shame, though. I really do like it.”

Valiant shrugged apathetically. “Then keep it. It suits you.”

Persephone had to admit that it did. It scarcely mattered though. “You heard my parents.”

“To hell with what they think.”

Persephone turned to her, startled. “What?”

“I’m serious. They’re hundreds of miles away. You can do whatever the hell you want, so bloody-well do it. Who are they to tell you what you should be?”

Persephone stared at her, then turned to the mirror and gazed at her reflection, Valiant’s question echoing in her brain. Who were they to tell her what to be? Who was she to listen? They’d wanted her to be smart and well-behaved. She wasn’t. They wanted her to be Ravenclaw. She’d asked for any house but. They wanted her to be pretty, perfect Persephone. She wanted to be cool, crazy-haired Seph.

So why shouldn’t she be?

“You know, I hate to say this,” Persephone said as a grin crawled up her face, “but you’re absolutely right.”

Valiant shrugged again, as though to say, ’Yeah, I know.’

Persephone’s face fell. There was just one huge flaw in her plan. “But Demeter! She’ll tell on me, and then I’ll be buggered.”

Valiant rolled her eyes. “So tell on her.”

“Tell what?”

“You’re telling me she’s your sister and you have no rubbish on her that she would rather your parents not know about.”

Valiant raised her eyebrows, and Persephone suddenly understood what she meant. Oh, Valiant was good. She was scarily good. And of course, Persephone did have her information. Lavatories were, after all, extraordinary sources of information.

“Oh, you better believe I do!” And just like that Persephone’s grin was back. She felt bubbly excitement rise in her gut. She was going to defy her parents, she was going to break every expectation, and she was going to do it by being herself. She bounced up and down and giggled. “Hey,” she asked, “how do you think I would look in orange hair?”

Valiant cocked her head at Persephone and narrowed her eyes as though picturing it. “Bright and obnoxious,” she drawled at last.

Persephone frowned, and Valiant added with a grudging smile, “It would fit you perfectly.”

Don’t ask her how it happened; Valiant had no bloody clue. One day they were trying to kill each other, and the next they were friendly—no, no civil. She was not friends with crazy Persephone Andreou. They were...well, Valiant didn’t know what they were. Persephone drove her mental three fourths of the time, and the other few moments, she actually managed to make Valiant laugh.

Whatever they were, they set about to brew Persephone’s orange hair dye. Valiant wasn’t sure how she had gotten roped into doing it; she blamed temporary insanity half the time and masochism the other half. But whatever the reason, they spent hours looking over books in the library. Admittedly, their studies quite often turned into Persephone yakking about something and Valiant, eventually, grudgingly, joining in the conversation. It was not chatting. Valiant didn’t chat.

But then again, before she came to Hogwarts, she didn’t do much of anything, except help Old Lady Imogen in the shop to help make up for back rent and hide from her father when he got plastered. But that was, as she’d told Persephone, a hundred miles away.

So maybe she did chat.

In another session of insanity, Valiant showed Persephone her drawings. Valiant glared at her the whole time. “Don’t you dare laugh,” she growled warningly.

“Laugh?” Persephone said, as she stared at them wide-eyed. “Not blooming likely! These are fantastic!”

Persephone continued to praise the pictures, and Valiant fought not to blush. She’d never showed them to anyone, and Persephone seemed to love them. She even begged Valiant to draw a picture of her, which she did, with little demon horns and a Weird Sisters’ T-shirt. She even coloured in the pink hair. Persephone had begged her to give it to her and, with an uncaring shrug, Valiant had. Persephone had hung it in the place of honour beside her picture of Myron Wagtail above her headboard. Valiant felt something warm in her chest, but she quickly pushed it away.

She wasn’t touched. She wasn’t!

They eventually did figure out how to make the dye. It was a relatively simple potion, which led Valiant to believe that the fifth year had seriously overcharged her. She reminded herself to jinx him later, but for now, Persephone had her full attention helping her get the potion ingredients. They were all available in the student cupboards, so a little bit of thievery during potion class gave them all they needed. Neither of them were remarkably talented at potions, but they managed to brew it correctly in time for Halloween.

On October thirty-first, before dinner, Persephone found Valiant in their dorm and strode up to her, her long orange hair swaying behind her. She held something out to Valiant, and Valiant started when she realized it was a pair of scissors.

“Cut it,” Persephone said bravely.

Valiant stared at Persephone as though she had lost her mind. And she bloody-well had if she was willing to hand Valiant sharp objects! “You sure you want to give me those?” Valiant asked.

“No,” Persephone said, then shoved them into Valiant’s hands and turned around expectantly. “Not too short, just below the shoulders.”

Valiant stood up behind her, holding the scissors in one hand and Persephone’s orange hair in the other. Valiant realized that if ever there was a time to extract revenge, it was now. She realized in the next moment that Persephone trusted her. Chalk it up to her bad judge of character, or maybe just her good heart, but whatever it was, she was the only one in this entire school who believed there was some good in Valiant.

And Valiant, herself, wasn’t sure she believed that.

Valiant gnawed on the inside of cheek in indecision, then began to cut. “Whoops,” she murmured.

“Whoops?” Persephone repeated fearfully. She grabbed at her head, then shrieked again. “Oh, Merlin!” She ran to the mirror and pulled at the ends of her hair. Whirling about, she glared at Valiant and screamed, “You git!”

Her hair was even and perfect, absolutely perfect.

“You scared the crap out of me!” Persephone charged towards her, looking fit to kill, but Valiant was far from afraid.

“You should have seen the look on your face!” Valiant body began to shake with laughter and she fell down onto her bed, rolling with the laughter.

Persephone stared at her blankly for a moment and then she too began to giggle. She fell down onto the bed beside Valiant, and the two laughed together. Valiant’s laughter was deeper and Persephone’s was nasally, but the two mixed together like two strange melodies that somehow fit together in a sound so wonderful it surprised Valiant. She stopped and sucked in a deep breath. They’d laughed together, and it had felt nice. Amazing, in fact, because in those few moments, a deep, long-held ache within Valiant had faded away.

And she’d felt happy.

Maybe that’s what having friends was like. Maybe it was not feeling so empty. Maybe it was having someone who cared enough to drive you mental and who you cared enough about to let them. Maybe it was laughing at each other and picking fun at each other. Maybe it was the moments of happiness they found in between the mess that was their lives.

Maybe...friends were like Persephone and Valiant. Light and dark. Happy and Grumpy. Two girls so completely different and yet entirely the same.

But they couldn’t be, Valiant knew. People always left, and when they did, it hurt like hell. Valiant’s mother had taught her that. One day, Persephone would get sick of her and leave too. And Valiant just wasn’t ready to be abandoned again.

No friends, Valiant swore. Not ever.

Valiant stood briskly. “Let’s clean up your mess and get to dinner.”

Persephone bounced to her feet. “Okay.”

They swept up her orange strands of hair and made their way to the Great Hall. They nearly ran into a Ravenclaw prefect, and Valiant heard Persephone groan when she realized it was her sister. Valiant already had a glare on her face. She wasn’t sure why; all she knew was that Persephone didn’t get on with her older sister, and for some reason, that made Valiant not like her very much either. It was dislike that turned to hatred when Demeter scowled down at Persephone’s hair.

“Persephone, I thought we talked about your hair!” Demeter snapped.

Persephone beamed an impish smile. “Two words. Percy Weasley.”

Demeter’s eyes flew wide.

“Enough said,” Persephone said with a laugh. She grabbed Valiant’s arms and the two strode by without another word.

Valiant snickered. It seemed Persephone had followed her advice.

They ate in relative silence, only broken when Persephone started yakking with a dark-skinned girl in their year—Symone something—who had said she loved Persephone’s hair. Apparently, Persephone loved drawing out every juicy (and exaggerated) detail of the plan to dye her hair. Valiant tuned it out, trying to ignore the feelings of jealousy in her stomach at the idea that Persephone was making a friend. She had every right to. But still, Valiant spent the meal mentally drilling holes into Symone’s pretty head.

Of course, their ‘lovely’ evening was broken by a troll. Such a shame, Valiant thought sarcastically.

They were all shoved back to their common room. Persephone looked excited, as though this was the greatest thing that had happened to her since she came to Hogwarts. Her night got even better when two first years, Annadel and another girl Valiant didn’t recognize, got into a fight. Valiant, herself, found it quite enjoyable, especially when Annadel ended up being dangled above the crowd. The spoiled brat’s shrieks of terror were pleasure to Valiant’s ears.

“What’s the matter, Annadel?” Valiant yelled. “Afraid of heights!”

Persephone was laughing so hard, she fell of the couch and rolled around on the floor. The excitement ended with Annadel and her roommates running back to their room with their tails tucked between their legs like the little female dogs they were. Valiant found herself joining in to the laughter. She helped Persephone off the floor and the two of them made their way back to the room. They were still laughing, throwing hilarious insults at the girl and replaying what had happened when their two roommates entered the room.

“Shut up!” Greengrass spat. “It is not funny.”

“Yes, it is!” Persephone laughed back. “Not our fault God ran short on sense of humour when he was making you.”

Greengrass turned to her, her teeth bared. “No one, and I do mean no one, asked your opinion, you filthy little minger.”

Valiant felt her blood boil. Who was she calling minger?

But Persephone seemed unfazed. “Oh, sod off, Greengass,” she said nonchalantly. “Parkinson’s not around to see your show of loyalty. So why don’t you run off and kiss her—“

Greengrass snatched her wand from her pocket and pointed it at Persephone. “I’ll show you funny! Wingardum—“

Something within Valiant snapped, and she acted before any thought could enter her mind. Without drawing her wand, she pulled back her fist and aimed for Greengrass’s perfectly straight nose. “Wingardium Leviosa this!”

Valiant felt a satisfactory snap as Greengrass’s nose was remodelled. Greengrass screamed and clutched her face, pulling back bloody fingers. “You broke my nose!”

“Good,” Valiant said. “It’s an improvement.”

Greengrass screamed again, but it cut off into a moan of pain. Tracey rushed forward and tugged her towards the door.

“You’re pay for this!” Greengrass shrieked. “You’ll pay!”

Valiant supposed she would, but she really didn’t care.

Persephone was too stunned to do anything but stare with a silly, delighted grin on her face until the door closed behind them. The sound of the click revived her. “Oh, that is so being told in the lavatory tomorrow!”

She spun towards Valiant, bouncing. “That was brilliant! No really, that was bloody fantastic! Wingardium Leviosa this!” She punched the air to copy what Valiant had done with so much exuberance, she spun in a circle and then faced Valiant again.

Valiant stared at her, not sure how to respond to the praise. She still wasn’t even sure why she’d done it, not that she’d needed much to want to punch Greengrass. But the reasoning had little to do with the fact she hated the girl. She had thought she would hurt Persephone, and Valiant hadn’t been able to stand by and let her.

Valiant really was losing her mind.

Persephone’s expression sobered some and she swallowed, adding more solemnly, “Thank you, Val.”

“Don’t mention it,” Valiant said quickly.

But she did press. “No, it was great. You stuck up for me.”

“Is that what that was?” But of course, that’s what that was! Stupid me!

Persephone nodded and then she added hopefully, “It was like we were...friends.”

Friends. There was that word again. Persephone must have recognized the way Valiant’s face contorted, because she quickly added, “Or not!” She shrugged her shoulders and quickly began finding her pyjamas in a pile of laundry, as though it didn’t matter.

But it did matter, Valiant couldn’t deny that. She wanted to make the same old excuses that she always did...that she didn’t like Persephone as a friend...that she couldn’t have friends because people were untrustworthy gits...that she didn’t want or need anyone. But all that fell flat when faced with the truth.

Valiant was so sick of being alone.

“Seph,” Valiant said softly.

Persephone turned her head, and Valiant didn’t like the sad look in her eyes. She liked even less that she had put it there. It was time to remedy it.

“It was exactly like being friends.”

Persephone blinked at her in disbelief for a long moment. Then she gave a cry of excitement, flung the shirt she was holding in the air, and bolted towards Valiant. Jerking in fear, Valiant threw her arms up to shield herself, but it was too late. Persephone had assaulted her, flinging her arms about her in a hug. Valiant shoved her away, making a fuss about personal boundaries and a strict ‘no-hugging’ policy.

It was all rubbish. Deep down, Valiant didn’t really mind.

And deep down, she thought Persephone knew that too.

She guessed that was what it meant to be friends.

That night, both of their mattresses ended up in the hallway.

Persephone awoke in the middle of the night and gasped, startled by different walls than she had been looking at when she fell asleep. Merlin, not again!

She jumped when Valiant’s voice came from beside her.

“Don’t bother trying the door,” Valiant murmured sleepily. “It’s locked and Alohomora won’t work.”

Persephone sank deeper into her pillow and bit back a groan. Persephone really wished Valiant hadn’t taught their two horrible roommates this particular prank. But she should have known Greengrass would stay true to their word to get them back. It was worth it, she supposed. She wouldn’t have traded seeing Valiant break that girl’s nose for anything in the world.

“So what are we going to do?” Persephone asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” Valiant replied absently in a way that said she was already mostly back to sleep, quite comfortable with the idea of sleeping in the hallway. “We’ll get them back tomorrow. We still have some of that orange dye left.” And she gave a crooked smile, one that said she was absolutely seriously. Wonderfully, awesomely, hilariously serious.

And the best part: she said we!

“Valiant Bloodmoon,” Persephone said with a laugh, “you are the best roommate ever!”

“Yesterday brought the beginning,
Tomorrow brings the end,
And somewhere in the middle
We became the best of friends.”
Author Unknown

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