Summary: Daphne sorts out her sister's best friend and finds one of her own on the day that she first leaves for Hogwarts.
Sorting Things Out (PG; Daphne and Astoria Greengrass, Mrs Greengrass, Professor Snape; 2000 words): The prompt was Knarl.
Daphne Greengrass is eleven-years-old and soon bound for Hogwarts—to Ravenclaw House, she hopes. Her sister, Astoria, is almost nine-years-old and scared: her pet Knarl has been declared a "pest"; Carl is destined for death.
"You can't let her, Queenie!" Astoria begs, her grimy, tear-streaked face only inches from Daphne's. "I love Carl. He's my best friend!"
"Oh, honestly," comes a faint protest from the other side of the window, just above them.
Daphne coughs and wrinkles her nose in response to her little sister's custard-heavy breath even as she stiffens to discover that she and her sister are being watched. "I don't see what I'm expected to do about it. Knarls are destructive creatures," she says, lowering her book.
She knows that if she were to agree to intercede on Carl's behalf, her mother would expect something from her in return, something to do with "appropriately feminine" attire, no doubt.
"You shouldn't interfere with Mother's gardening, Tori," Daphne continues, using their mother's irritating pet name for Astoria. "She wins prestigious awards."
Astoria blinks rapidly, catching on. She knows perfectly well how little Daphne cares for their mother's efforts in the garden. Still, she sniffles sadly.
Daphne waits a moment until the sounds of her mother's footsteps grow lighter and then unheard before pocketing her book and winking at her sister. Taking her hand, she leads Astoria to Garden House, a rustic structure that appears much smaller on the outside than it does on the inside, the inside being rather grand and the location of many an afternoon tea for Mrs Greengrass and her "gardening" club. Daphne has never seen her mother's hands dirty, and she knows very well how accomplished Mopsy, her mother's favourite house-elf, is at coaxing life from the dirt. Sighing, she looks around to see if she and her sister are being observed; noting that they aren't, she draws her wand and uses its narrow end to pick the ancient, massive lock upon the door. Useless, she thinks of the lock, and not for the first time.
Once they're inside, Daphne says, "We need Carl."
"Because I'm going to make him spe—even more special than he already is so that Mother won't have him killed."
Astoria's lower lip trembles, presumably at her choice of words, but Daphne's never been one to mince them. "But I'm sure he's sleeping now."
"Which should make it easier for you to manage him. Accio gardening gloves!"
Given the plush furniture and conspicuous absence of gardening equipment, Daphne is surprised when a pair of gloves float towards her.
Passing them to Astoria, she gestures impatiently for her to get on with it and then picks up where she left off in her book. The tome is concerned with silly, decorative charms; Daphne took it from her mother's sitting room. She is forbidden to enter that room, but it's where her mother keeps Daphne's books locked away when she feels that her daughter has been reading too much. As far as Daphne is concerned, it's not possible to read too much, and the charm book was too tempting to ignore; one never knows when a simple, apparently pointless spell might be put to good use.
The difficulty for Daphne in what is to come isn't in performing the charm; she can perform charms of similar kind easily and has many times during her tutoring sessions—but those ended when Mrs Greengrass sent Daphne's tutor away for that lady's inability to persuade her charge to sit for a new school wardrobe. There is nothing wrong with the clothing that Daphne has, except that it was purchased for her by her father on a recent, unplanned outing to London and is, therefore, not impractical. Mr Greengrass has yet to be forgiven for this misstep, but given his illness, Daphne suspects that he doesn't care. There are other reasons why her father might not care about his wife's refusal to speak to him, but Daphne is still too young to understand them, or so she's been told. In any case, because she's without a tutor, for her to perform magic would be to run afoul of the Ministry's rules about such matters, and even for her little sister, Daphne isn't going to risk her place at Hogwarts. It's a vexing problem, but one that might be sorted out by her mother's ridiculous book and Daphne's favourite house elf.
"Little mistress, you is not supposed to be being in here."
"Mipsy," Daphne says, in the tone that earned her "Queenie" as a nickname.
The house-elf's ears dip. "Yes, little mistress?"
"I'm going to teach you a charm, and then I want you to perform it."
Mipsy's ears stand straight up and tremble violently.
"Oh, do calm yourself, Mipsy. I want to surprise Mother. It will make her happy. You want to make Mother happy, don't you?"
Her ears stilling and eyes widening—presumably because of her history of failing to please Mrs Greengrass—Mipsy nods. "But you is not allowed to—"
"I'm not going to cast the spell, you are," Daphne says brightly, smiling encouragingly at Mipsy as Astoria enters the room with a curled up Carl cradled in her arms.
Astoria is excellent with magical creatures, and Daphne encourages her in this because it deeply disturbs their mother. This is petty behaviour, but Daphne doesn't care; her mother frequently disturbs her. It's lovely to be able to return the favour.
"Place him on the table and wait a moment while I teach Mipsy a charm."
It only takes a few tries for Mipsy to get the hang of it, but Daphne's not sure if the throw pillows upon which she's practised will ever be the same; Mipsy only seems to be able to remove the charm from one side of them, and the charm doesn't mesh well with the room's décor. There is, however, no time to worry about such things.
"Please stop smacking your head against the table leg, Mipsy. I'm sure that Mopsy will set things to rights soon enough. Let's move on, shall we? I want Mother's surprise in place before her guests arrive."
Astoria is still squealing in delight as the party dishes begin to arrange themselves on low tables in the room, and she and Daphne are forced to exit via a back window. They circle back around the side of Garden House, depositing Carl in the bushes next to the door before dashing across the lawn towards the main house.
"I have to leave, now, Astoria," Daphne says, as they enter the front hall to find Daphne's school trunk set to one side of it.
"So you'll have to write me with news of Carl."
"Can't we go back? I want to see if—"
"No, we most certainly cannot. You know why."
"She wouldn't, not in front of guests!"
Daphne sighs. There is no doubt in her mind that her mother would kill Carl in front of her guests; gardeners hate Knarls as much as gnomes, after all, but she's done all that she can.
"She's going to do what she's going to do, Astoria. You just stay out of her way. Is that clear?"
Her sister nods before throwing herself at Daphne and hugging her tightly. "I'll miss you. I wish that I could come with you!"
For not a few reasons, Daphne wishes the same—especially as it's just occurred to her that she left Prettifying and Presentational Charms on the table where she had Mipsy bespell Carl. "You'll be fine. You'll need to keep Father company, and that's an important job."
Daphne's already made her goodbyes to their father; she wishes that he'd been awake when she'd made them, but there's nothing for that, either.
The pop-pop! of Mipsy and Mopsy entering the room ends Daphne's conversation with Astoria, who straightens bravely in the face of Carl's uncertain fate and their parting.
"I'll write, Queenie. Every day!"
Daphne's startled by Professor Snape's address. She's sitting with some other newly Sorted girls and trying to reconcile her assigned House with the one for which she wished; in her consternation and disappointment, she missed his approach.
"A word," he says, before striding off.
That's two words, she thinks, rising and smiling slightly at the other girls as if she'd been expecting this summons.
"I've received a letter from your mother," Professor Snape says, when she finds him just outside the Great Hall.
He pauses, as if he expects her to reply, but Daphne merely gazes silently at him in her concern about what her mother's letter could possibly contain. She's not sure about it under the inconsistent light of the torches, but the professor appears to be smirking.
"To be more specific, I received, in care of you, a Howler."
"Mother would never wish to embarrass me publicly, I suppose," Daphne says without thinking.
Swallowing her nervousness, she explains, "Mother is . . . conscious of appearances, sir. I apologise for her—I mean, I'm sorry that she disturbed you."
"You haven't asked about the contents of the Howler."
Daphne swallows again. She has no answer to that.
"It seems that your mother is now in possession of a rainbow-coloured Knarl, and while it was greatly admired at her garden function, she wishes you to understand that she's well aware of your 'interference'."
"So he's still alive?"
Daphne is mortified as her voice echoes loudly in the antechamber, but she doesn't flinch under Professor Snape's gaze; flinching, she's long known, simply makes a bad situation worse.
"So it would seem."
It's bizarre, the way the man just stares at her, his eyes boring into hers. Daphne's got no idea what he wants her to say—but his stares aren't nearly as piercing as her mother's. Stubbornly, Daphne refuses to look away from the professor and proceeds to wait him out by feeling glad about Carl for Astoria's sake.
I only hope, she thinks, narrowing her eyes at Professor Snape in her determination not to be cowed, that Astoria didn't get punished for my trick.
Definitely smirking now, Professor Snape reaches into his robes and withdraws a book, which he holds up with two fingers as if in disdain. "Your mother insisted that you were to find a more reasonable way of applying these charms. However, here at Hogwarts, parents are not permitted to dictate the curriculum, and so . . . ." With a sudden flourish of his wand, Prettifying is nothing more than a falling rain of ash. "See to it that you give your mother no further cause to disturb me."
"Yes, sir, of course."
"I do not approve of pranks. Is that clear?"
Professor Snape's smirk is gone now, and he appears almost angry; she tries not to be scared of him. He did burn that awful book, and he hasn't taken points. Still, he is rather more unsettling than the Head of Ravenclaw House.
"Y—yes, sir, of course, sir. N—no pranks, sir." And that's too many sirs, Daphne thinks, which is just as bad as flinching.
Professor Snape sighs and rolls his eyes upward before regarding her again. "Five points to Slytherin for your having begun your studies early. The application of knowledge in useful ways is one of the hallmarks of our House."
"Thank you, sir!" Daphne exclaims, abruptly losing all fear of the man and repressing the urge to hug him in her joy at having received points.
The professor raises an eyebrow and snaps, "Dismissed," before turning on his heel and gliding back into the hall at a stately pace.
Daphne follows him, her gratitude complete; she's no longer vexed about having been Sorted into her mother's House instead of her father's. Ravenclaws aren't the only readers in the world, after all, and her Head of House appears to prize the activity. He's rather more understanding than frightening, it seems—she can't wait to write Astoria about him.
The Sorting Hat was right: her future does hold a Slytherin destiny.