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Title: A Talisman toward Silver and Blue
Author: iulia_linnea
Characters: Daphne Greengrass, others
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 2411
Summary: Daphne learns that she is her own mistress before returning to Hogwarts as a student.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers, including, but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: Written under the sub-pseudonym of oolsock for hp_gen_ch's Back to School Challenge.

Daphne was not fond of green, and this was something of a problem because her pale green eyes appeared gray unless set off by one of the green jumpers her mother persisted in having knit for her. Green jumpers, green robes, green dresses—never in the same shade as her eyes, always in the same green of Slytherin house—these were the articles of clothing that her mother found suitable for Daphne to wear. Her mother's sartorial torture of her, aside, it wasn't Daphne's wardrobe that was the problem: it was her fear of not actually being sorted into Slytherin.

After all, her father hadn't been.

No one talked about her father's having been sorted into Hufflepuff. Proper breeding, and the thought of the Greengrass galleons, stopped the injudicious wagging of Daphne's maternal relatives' tongues. The gist of their whispers was that "Dear Diana" had been clever enough to secure the fortune of "poor Roger" for the Yaxley family's use so soon upon her leaving Hogwarts. Daphne had overheard her Aunt Aurora saying as much to her mother on the last of what had become their yearly pilgrimage-cum-Yule visits to see her at the school, where her aunt taught Astronomy for not, apparently, much of a salary.

Ever since Daphne had received her letter, however, the thought of disappointing her mother's hopes had weighed heavily on her mind. She knew that she wasn't pretty or gifted. She was further certain that, if she were to return to Hogwarts as a student only to be sorted a Hufflepuff, herself, her mother would have no further use for her: her mother had never seemed to have any particular use for her "Hufflepuff of a husband."

As Daphne stood uncharacteristically mute among the witches in Madam Malkin's—it had been a long day that had begun at the office of a smelly old solicitor who'd made her sign endless rolls of parchment, and she was tired—she wondered if the Sorting Hat would be kind to her if she begged. The memory of every hex she'd ever suffered for provoking her mother's anger rose in her mind while she planned what she would say to the hat when the time came. All too soon, however, she exhausted her creativity and found herself listening to the adults' conversation, wishing for even Millicent's company.

"—wasn't three seconds on my head before it announced, 'Slytherin!'" her mother said, gazing at Daphne as if in triumph at the memory.

It's like she's warning me not to fail her, Daphne thought, smiling fixedly at her mother. Her mother looked away first, which gave Daphne her own slight thrill of success and made her bold enough to consider asking her, "What if I end up in another house? Won't I look a fool decked out in Slytherin green then?"

"Are you excited to be attending Hogwarts?" Mrs. Malfoy asked Daphne, while admiring herself in one of the shoppe's many mirrors.

It wasn't a complete lie, so Daphne answered, "Yes, I am. Thank you for asking."

"Such a sweet girl."

"She is," Mrs. Bulstrode agreed, "if a bit shyer than my Milly."

Smiling sweetly, Daphne thought, There's nothing shy about Monstrous Millicent.

"Tell me, Narcissa," asked her mother, "just how did you persuade Lucius to allow Draco to attend Hogwarts? Wasn't he set on sending the boy to Durmstrang?"

"Oh," Mrs. Malfoy replied, her eyes hardening even though her mouth remained soft, "there was no persuasion. You know how devoted my Lucius is to me."

Mrs. Bulstrode laughed in her familiar, coarse manner. "So you're always saying."

"Elvira, that's enough."

Daphne didn't understand why her mother seemed to find Mrs. Bulstrode's comment rude, but she didn't have to wait long for an answer after returning home.

"Send for tea, and have one of them put away our purchases," her mother ordered.

Right, thought Daphne, because I wanted all this shi—

"Elvira really was too much, goading Narcissa. She might have just come out and said it."

"Said what?"

"Said that we all know how rare it is that Lucius shares Narcissa's bed."

Daphne wrinkled her nose in disgust.

"Oh, don't look so shocked. You're a woman now and old enough to begin to understand these sorts of truths."

Daphne didn't understand—just as she didn't know what starting to bleed had to do with her being a woman—but she also didn't want to encourage her mother in what had become her favorite topic of conversation since she'd discovered that Daphne had begun her monthly courses.

"Well? Aren't you going to display some interest? This is important."

Daphne widened her eyes and inclined her head toward her mother, which she knew would do the trick. She never lied out loud if she could help it because doing so meant having to keep her lies straight.

The tea appeared, and her mother waited until Boppy had poured it and departed before speaking.

Her mother had been raised among human servants, in front of whom, apparently, one did not speak about private matters, and she had never been able to break herself of the habit of discretion in front of the Greengrass family house elves.

Privately, Daphne damned her mother for this, as she'd been taught to do by her paternal grandmother, but she never dared let on that she did. Of late, her mother had seemed out of patience with Boppy, Biddy, and Botty, leaving their instruction to Daphne, which suited her because, since the house elves had become her responsibility, she hadn't seen them in bandages.

Grandmother says it's wrong to allow one's house elves to hurt themselves unless they're very disobedient, Daphne thought, aware that her mother didn't know any better.

"It's so important to marry well, Daphne, to marry well and produce sons."

"Mrs. Malfoy has a son."

"I said 'sons', and I'm amazed that Narcissa managed to conceive even her precious Draco."

"Doesn't Mrs. Malfoy like her husband?" Daphne asked, dimly aware that "liking" one's husband had something to do with the getting of sons and coloring a bit at her mother's derisive titter.

"Oh, you're still very young, aren't you, dear. My point is that, in marrying well, one should marry someone one likes, oneself, so that there can be sons—good Slytherin sons who'll grow up to look out for one."

Daphne was confused and full of hatred for her mother's talk of sons and boys. She despised boys—Slytherin or Hufflepuff, Gryffindor or Ravenclaw, it wouldn't matter to her what kind of boys she met at Hogwarts.

I'm not marrying any of them, she thought, forcing herself not to frown. Boys go away. Daddy did.

"I've told you before," her mother continued, "that you must be vigilant in securing your future."

"My future with boys?"

"With one boy, Daphne. Honestly, the things you say! I won't have you making a slut of yourself. The damage slatternly behavior would do to your marital chances is incalculable."

"What's a slut?"

"A girl who doesn't listen to her mother," her mother replied sharply, before clearing her throat and asking, "have you been studying your list? There are seven Slytherin boys in your year who would do very well for you, and—"

"I should only pick one."

"Yes, only one. Don't interrupt. You're to seek each one of them out, discreetly, and attempt to befriend them once you're settled at school. It's never too soon to start, you know."

"Starting" had been the theme of the summer, and Daphne still had no real idea about what her mother wanted her to do or why. Sipping her tea, she thought of all her new, useless green outfits and wondered what to make of the fact that her mother didn't seem to find it odd that she, unlike Mrs. Malfoy, hadn't given birth to any boys.

And Sabine married a Ravenclaw, so there! she thought at her mother, too late realizing that she'd lost control of her expression while thinking of her older sister.

"Hmph. I think you need the cream. You're going to develop wrinkles, scowling like that. I won't have you developing wrinkles, Daphne. A Yaxley woman never develops wrinkles."

I'm eleven, you silly cow! Daphne inwardly raged. I'm eleven and a Greengrass and I don't want your damned facial cream!

Soon enough, however, Daphne was covered in the horrid stuff, watching Biddy carefully packing for her. It didn't make her feel any better to know that Millicent would have to pack her own trunk. The Bulstrodes weren't well off, no matter how pure-blooded they were. Her mother referred to the Bulstrodes as 'the genteel poor' and seemed to think their poverty a disease.

Which it is, I suppose, Daphne told herself, looking at her comfortable surroundings.

Her walls were hung with green silk, and there was a green carpet covering the floor. Her curtains were green, as were her bed linens, and her stuffed toys were, as well. In all the house, there was not a trace of yellow, and her mother never wore black.

Considering this overabundance of green and total absence of the Hufflepuff colors, Daphne came to a realization.

Mother's charmed me with color as a talisman against my mis-sorting.

Daphne had known about talismans since she'd turned six-years-old; her father had given her one on that day in the form of a stone key. It had been blue and opalescent and odd, but her father had told her that it would open a very great treasure—"if you're patient and avoid snakes," he had said. The key had been his last gift to her before he'd died and abandoned Daphne to her mother and all the green, and Daphne hadn't wanted it after that; she'd slid it into his funereal robes—his green funereal robes, for her father, too, had not been able to escape the color even in death—before the men had come to take him away.

Daddy was the only boy worth knowing, too, Daphne thought, sniffling. "It isn't fair!"

"What isn't being fair, little mistress?" Biddy asked, pausing in her packing.

"I miss Daddy. I don't want to go to Hogwarts! I wish my new clothes would burn to ashes! I HATE GREEN!"

"Is you wanting Biddy to burn your—"

"NO!" Daphne roared, throwing herself down on her bed and sobbing. "I, I, I want my key. I want my key, and I want it, now!"

"Biddy is—"

"Nothing but a bloody stupid house elf, yes, yes, I know," Daphne cried, feeling stupid and mean and "Mother-ish" but also too overwhelmed to care. "I just want Daddy ba—Daddy's key back."

"Is you meaning your stone key? That isn't being lost," Biddy said, holding out a corner of the green rag in which she was dressed.

"What do you mean?" Daphne asked, sitting up and grasping the offered cloth to wipe her nose with it because she knew that making house elves feel useful at all times was a duty; her grandmother had taught her so.

"Biddy means she is knowing where your key is, little mistress."

"Then get it!" Daphne yelled. "Right now! Please," she whispered, after Biddy had popped from the room.

Her grandmother had also taught her never to say "please" to house elves. "It upsets them, you know," she had said. "They want to be told how to serve."

"You're just a stupid girl, aren't you?" Daphne asked herself, while waiting for Biddy to return. "The key's gone. You gave it—"

Biddy appeared before Daphne then and held out the blue opalescent stone key. "Here is your key, little mistress. Biddy is remembering that Boppy was taking it from Mrs. Greengrass when—"

"'Mrs. Greengrass'?" Daphne interrupted, "not 'mistress'?"

Biddy's ears lowered until they were hanging slack against her head. "Biddy is making you angry!"

"No, she—you haven't," Daphne replied, reaching for Biddy's hands before the house elf could succeed in punishing herself. "I told you that I don't like you doing that."

"Yes, little mistress. Biddy is sorry."

Grasping the key tightly in one hand, Daphne asked, "Why did Boppy take the key from Mother?"

"The late master said the key is being yours, and your things is always being put away in the old nursery or your chambers, little mistress," Biddy replied, pressing the key into Daphne's hands. "Biddy is sure that Mrs. Greengrass was forgetting this."

Of course she was, Daphne thought, as the cold anger spreading through her stomach began to calm her. "Well done, Biddy. It was well done of you to remember the key—and of Boppy to put it away where it belonged."

Biddy's face lit up with a rosiness that Daphne hadn't seen on it since her father had been the master of the house.

I'm a good "little mistress," aren't I? Daphne thought, feeling unusually clever for once as an idea took shape in her mind. "Yes, and you must tell Boppy I said so. In fact," she continued, wanting to test her nascent theory, "you should do that now before you ask Mother about tomorrow's breakfast. When I go to Hogwarts, she'll be your big mistress again, won't she?"

Biddy's ears quivered. "But, but you is being the mistress of this house. The late master . . . ."

To think I believed that Mother was using that "you're a woman, now" line to avoid running the household! Daphne thought, proud of herself for at last having puzzled everything out. I know why Mother's been so desperate for me find a boy! It's because she doesn't have one—not a husband, not a son—she only has me. "And if I get married, she'll have my money."

"Little mistress?"

"Yes, Biddy?"

"Was Mrs. Greengrass not telling you about the late master's will?"

"Stop speaking like an imbecile! I've heard how you talk to Boppy and Botty when you think you're by yourselves."

Biddy hung her head. "It's tradition, little mistress."

"Well, I want to start a new one for the Greengrass family house elves, you hear? Speak properly—please," Daphne added, feeling justified. A mistress should be able to speak to her servants however she chooses, she told herself.

"Yes, mistress," Biddy replied, her ears standing straight and still. "Shall I continue packing your trunks?"

"No. I'll finish my own packing." And none of it will be green, Daphne thought, suddenly excited by the thought of returning to Hogwarts. School's going to become my silver—my silver and blue—paradise, Daphne promised herself, rubbing her key for reassurance, and Mother can stay here and rot in her own green hell.