A/N: Fourteenth chapter as promised.
“You want me to do what?!” Hermes stared at her in horror.
Demeter glared at him, rather offended. “Court my daughter,” she said as if it was obvious.
“Your married daughter.”
Demeter forced herself to stay calm. “In name only,” she assured him. “Besides, there’s nothing uncommon about pretty goddesses taking on lovers.”
Hermes stared at her as if she’d lost her mind. “Hades would kill me,” he said. “No, he’d throw me into Tartarus and let me tortured for all eternity. He seemed angry enough when I went to get her under Zeus’ orders.”
Demeter made an impatient movement. “Don’t be silly. Ares has already kissed her, and he’s walking around just fine.” And hadn’t that been hard to accept?
“Ares kissed her. You’re asking me to seduce the Lord of the Underworld’s wife.”
Demeter took a deep breath, trying to keep herself from shouting. She should have known that Hermes was too much of a coward.
“Kore is a beautiful girl, isn’t she?” she said, when she felt like she’d gotten her temper under control.
“Certainly, but a pretty face isn’t worth dying for.”
“And so kind as well,” Demeter continued as if she hadn’t heard him. “Cheerful and compassionate. Any man would be lucky to have her.”
“Yes, I’m quite sure her husband would agree with you on that note.”
“And everybody knows how much Hades loves her,” Demeter lied. “He adores her.”
Hermes looked suspiciously at her. “That is what the rumours say,” he agreed reluctantly.
“So clearly if you succeed in making Kore fall in love with you, Hades wouldn’t hurt you, knowing how much it’d hurt his wife.”
Hermes hesitated. “Well, I suppose there are laws against harming the lover. Zeus certainly made sure of that. And it would be ever so pleasing to piss of the Lord of the Underworld himself, without him being able to do anything about it. Still, I’ve might have had my fair share of married woman, but only after they’ve grown to despise their husbands.”
“Kore does despise him!”
Hermes grinned at her, a malicious glint in his eyes. “That’s not what the rumours say,” he reminded her somewhat gleefully.
Demeter forced herself not to strike him. “Consider it a challenge,” she said.
Hermes lit up. “I do love a challenge. Hmm. And what, pray tell, makes you believe that the lovely Persephone would fall in love with me?”
“I know her. I know every like and dislike that she has. She’s my daughter. Besides… she’s married to the Lord of the Underworld. Any other God would seem like perfection in comparison. Even you.”
Hermes rolled with his eyes. “Flattering as always,” he noted sarcastically. “But very well. I will try to make the lovely Goddess of Spring fall in love with me. I have been kind of bored lately. It’ll be a good diversion.”
Demeter felt it twitch in her arm. Diversion?! Her lovely daughter was no diversion! Still, she needed Hermes’ help and she supposed that beggars can’t be choosers.
“So we have a deal?”
Hermes grinned at her impishly. “Deal,” he agreed. “Now, tell me about the lovely Persephone.”
“Her name is Kore.”
“I’ve heard that she prefers Persephone. I should call her whatever she prefers. You do want her to enjoy my company, don’t you?”
“Then Persephone it is. Prettier name as well if you ask me. Suits her.”
“It does not!”
Hermes laughed. “Sure it does! Better than Kore! After all,” he said with a wicked glint in his eye. “She’s certainly no little girl any more.”
Demeter was beginning to think she’d made a mistake. Still, she had to do something. She took a deep breath and forced herself to help a man court her daughter.
“Kore likes flowers,” she started. “Her favourites are periwinkles. I’ll make sure that she visits me the day after tomorrow. Come by around noon and bring a bouquet. Make it seem that you’re only giving them as a way to apologise for being an inconvenience. She mustn’t suspect the truth.”
“And you don’t think that a male, whom she has hardly spoken three words with, is going to seem suspicious? It’s pretty common behaviour when courting.”
“Not for my Kore. I’ve made sure to keep her innocent. She won’t think twice of it. During dinner you will be charming. She likes animals. You can talk about them. Or dancing. Or the sun.”
“You want me to talk about the weather?”
“I want you to subtly remind her what she’s losing with Hades. What she could still have with you.”
Hermes lifted in inquisitive eyebrow. “I was rather under the impression that she was returning underground whether she liked it or not. I didn’t think she had a choice.”
Demeter made a dismissive gesture. “I’m working on that. Our first priority is to make sure that she won’t be tricked into thinking returning there won’t be so bad. If Hades is going to take her, he’s going to take her kicking and screaming. Not walking willingly into his cave as a lamb to slaughter.”
“It seems you’ve thought of everything,” Hermes said. Demeter missed the sarcasm in his voice. “But very well. I shall see you and your lovely daughter the day after tomorrow. I’ll bring flowers, and I’ll be everything charming. Persephone will be swept of her feet before she has even realised what’s happening.”
“Kore isn’t some little mortal twit,” Demeter warned her. “It’s going to take more than a few empty promises, and shallow compliments. She’ll be smarter than that.”
Hermes grinned at her. “My darling aunt,” he said teasingly. “You seem to forget exactly what you’ve done to your daughter.”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“You say that you’ve kept her innocent. What I hear is that you’ve kept her naïve. Trusting. She isn’t used to being lied to. She’s still new to the world of desire and sin.”
“There will be no sin!”
Hermes grinned. “There will have to be a little,” he grinned. “Imagine a courtship where the two parties never touch! But as I was saying. Persephone is naïve when it comes to the world of love. She doesn’t have the experience to see whether a man is being sincere or not. Every promise that I’ll make, she’ll believe. You may think that you have been protecting your daughter, dear sister, but you’ve only made her into a willing lamb yourself.”
“Then why worry about Hades at all? Why not trust that Persephone can see through his lies herself?”
Demeter hesitated, unwilling to admit that she had consciously kept her daughter naïve.
“That’s what I thought,” Hermes noted mockingly. “Don’t worry. I will only make promises that I intend to keep. Or at least I’m planning to. Who knows, though? Maybe I’ll change my mind. See you the day after tomorrow, dear sister. I’m looking forward to it.”
With these words the messenger of the Gods flew away, leaving Demeter with the sinking feeling that she’d made a terrible mistake.