A/N Apologies for the changes; I'm rather terrible at formatting, and this is my first time here. Anyway, credit must be given where credit is due: the characterization of Daphne Greengrass is entirely from user Relic of Elegance, a good friend and an incredible writer. We've RPed the sisters, and she was kind enough to allow me to incorporate Daphne into this fic. Daphne is her baby.

"State your name for the Wizengamot."

"Astoria Hélène Greengrass, sir."

"State your age."

"Sixteen, sir, as of last April."

"Your registered wand is…?"

"Ten and three quarter inches, dogwood, unicorn core."

"Astoria Greengrass, you are charged with six counts of dark magic of the highest degree, including taking the Dark Mark, four counts of use of Unforgivable Curses, specifically, the Cruciatus Curse, and one count of going into battle against the Ministry of Magic and its allies during the Battle of Hogwarts on the evening of 2 May, 1998. If you are found guilty of all counts, you will face six consecutive life sentences. How plead you?"

It all happened so long ago.

Beauty, poise, ambition, and strength. They were the four most important traits of a woman, Veronique would say, stroking her youngest daughter's hair back. When Astoria had frowned and asked about cleverness and loyalty, and why they weren't more important, her mother would laugh and take the girl's face in both hands.

"Beauty is a weapon, more than anyone wants to have to admit," Veronique would explain, her voice deadly serious. "You will be judged on it, valued because of it, and dismissed due to it. That's where your power lies—allow the world to make its judgments. Make the world so enamored with you that you can take whatever you want, whenever you want it. When you learn poise, you learn the art of remaining. You will weather any storm which comes your way without mess, without fuss, and stand tall while everyone around you has fallen. Ambition will not allow you to be content with anything but greatness. And strength will keep you held together through it all." Here, she would lean forward to kiss her daughter's forehead. "You have the makings of a fine woman, Astoria. Promise yourself to no one until they are promised to you, and always keep the upper hand."

It was an incredibly flawed explanation, but Astoria accepted it, as her mother before her, and as her grandmother before them both. It was the D'Argentcour way.

Her father, always wrapped in blankets on the few occasions he ventured out from his study or his bedroom, would laugh and tell Veronique that she was too old-fashioned, but as her father had never bothered to teach her anything worth keeping with her, Astoria placed her trust in her mother before anyone else.

Perhaps it was some deep-rooted difference in the sisters, but Daphne and Astoria never found common ground outside of their own blood. The elder Greengrass seemed to find genuine enjoyment in others' suffering, even her sister's. Later on, when Astoria discovered the works of the Muggle Oscar Wilde, she would say that Daphne was a rather tragic heroine who had yet to recognize that her actions had consequences, and that those consequences would be forever etched into every inch of Daphne's being.

There was only one person for whom Astoria suspended her mother's rule. She was Daphne's, mind, body, and heart, before she was her own.

Until the year she was nine, Astoria spent as much time as she possibly could following after Daphne, trying to learn everything she could, skipping lessons with her mother whenever possible and sometimes just sitting, watching her older sister, trying to understand. Daphne's mind was one that both fascinated and terrified her; how the girl could go from the kindness and devotion she showed her father, to the cruelty she flung at her mother, to the simple disinterest and careless neglect she bestowed upon her sister, made Astoria cringe, but still she sat, watching, learning, knowing that Daphne would be the one, out of all of them, to survive, even if it meant destroying them all.

Daphne Greengrass not only walked the fine line between sin and self-destruction, she mastered it.

The night before Daphne left for her first year at Hogwarts, Astoria climbed onto her sister's bed and held out a small, ornately carved wooden box. Daphne eyed her with contempt but took the gift, shooing Astoria out of the room; Astoria never saw her sister open the box and take the necklace from inside. She didn't know that once it fastened around her sister's neck it was rarely, if ever, removed.

By the time Daphne came back for the holidays Astoria had become her own person. What a change it must have been for the older girl, now that her annoying little sister was spending hours reading and practicing archery in the gardens with Mother rather than following after her. Even Father seemed impressed by Astoria's growth, though when Daphne was around, he only had eyes for his first and favorite daughter. Astoria noted with some shame that Daphne's conversations with her mother were even shorter now, generally involving a simple critique from Veronique that would have brought tears to Astoria's eyes, but only seemed to bring a sort of steely anger to Daphne's.

When she burst into Daphne's room, nearly shaking with excitement, on Christmas day, Daphne ignored her, and she set her gift down on the foot of Daphne's bed before slinking out of the room to sit and wait outside her door. It was almost a full hour until Astoria, filled with a somehow desperate hope, peered into the room, only to see the gift untouched and Daphne as disinterested as ever.

As Astoria's education continued, her self-worth blossomed. By the time her Hogwarts letter arrived she could speak and read in two languages fluently, she could ride almost as well as her mother, and she was the best archer of her age in the county, if not the country. The seemingly endless hours of practicing piano left her tolerable at best, and her sewing was more often than not a disgrace, but even Veronique admitted, when she kissed her youngest daughter goodbye at King's Cross Station, that she'd grown into a fine young woman, and that she'd become even finer as she grew.

Daphne did not allow Astoria to sit with her on the train, and so instead Astoria took a rather loud and excited compartment nearer to the back, sitting quietly with a group of third-years until one of them asked her about her book. By the time they arrived at the school Blaise Zabini and Astoria Greengrass were damn near inseparable, and Blaise clapped the hardest when she was sorted into Slytherin.

Blaise and his friends were all the type of people whom Astoria had assumed would like her sister better, but instead, Blaise seemed to make it his mission to bring Astoria out of her shell. She made friends easily enough, even if she wasn't very fond of most of her classmates, who did little besides talk about Sirius Black's escape.

Some of Blaise's friends were wonderful, while some were decidedly not. She met Theodore Nott once before deciding that, after Blaise, she liked him best. He was quiet, quieter than even her, and she enjoyed the silence his company brought. Then there was Pansy Parkinson, a rather pretty and rather bold young woman who seemed to find Astoria a positive delight. Of the Slytherin girls, she was closest to Millicent Bulstrode, a thickset girl with a mess of sandy brown curls and an easy smile. Millicent liked that Astoria was kinder than her sister; Astoria liked that Millicent didn't feel the need to inject some nonsensical Pureblood prejudice into every damn discussion.

"I rather like Granger," Millicent commented quietly one night while the two were working on their Potions homework together. "She's not as bad as everyone says, you know. She's a bit of a know-it-all and she's a little insufferable sometimes, but she's always been nice to me. She helped me with my potion today; I think I'd have blown my cauldron up without her." Millicent was hopeless at Potions, but more than made up for it in Transfiguration; she and Astoria were constantly helping one another, Millicent patiently explaining how to move her wand or pronounce the spells, and Astoria reading Millicent's textbooks and helping her measure out ingredients and explain why certain reactions were occurring. "Everyone thinks that because she's Muggle-born she's no good, but they're wrong."

It was one of the longest things Millicent had ever said to Astoria, and Astoria just looked up at the older girl and nodded, smiling. "They are," she agreed quietly, and the two returned to their work.

Draco Malfoy was a bit insufferable. He was constantly going on about his father, or his family in general, or Potter, or Pureblood supremacy, or… it got to be simply too insipid for Astoria to have to listen to all the time, and so she ignored him whenever possible. When Pansy started abandoning Astoria to follow after Draco, Astoria's already low opinion of him plummeted.

Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle were generally brutish. Astoria hated making snap judgments but in this case she found them both useful and accurate; Crabbe barely spoke to her except to grunt, and Goyle was downright crude. Neither of them were interesting enough to make up for it, and so Astoria avoided them as well.

There was another girl, Tracey Davis, who didn't seem to like Astoria much, and another couple of boys, one called Adrian Pucey and another pale, dark-haired boy who seemed to fluctuate between being afraid of his shadow and snarling at everyone, and she didn't know any of them well enough to make a judgment of any kind.

But she and Blaise had an unrivaled friendship, and Astoria couldn't imagine that anything would change that.

When Draco Malfoy decided that antagonizing a hippogriff was a good idea (honestly, what had he expected would happen?), Blaise brought Astoria with him to see the blond boy in the hospital wing. While Blaise and Draco talked, which quickly became Blaise listening while Draco railed loudly against Hagrid, Dumbledore, and the school in general, Astoria wandered around the wing, her eyes wide with fascination, before going up to Madame Pomfrey and asking the nurse if she could do some work there on occasion.

Draco fell silent in surprise as Madame Pomfrey flashed her a warm, matronly smile and asked if she'd like to watch while she cleaned Draco's wound. Blaise watched them proudly, seeming inordinately pleased with Astoria for finding something about which she was passionate.

Sirius Black's second escape shouldn't have excited her as much as it did, but Astoria liked prisons best when they were empty.

In Astoria's second year she saw her first dead body.

She'd spent most of her time in the hospital wing patching up scrapes and cuts, sometimes even helping Madame Pomfrey with boils and burns. The Triwizard Tournament had given her plenty of opportunity to work on smaller wounds, and she'd gotten quite good at them. She rather liked Cedric Diggory. He showed her a kindness that only Blaise and Millicent had shown her before; he always seemed to know when she was tired, or anxious, or simply sad, and all it took was one comment from him to brighten her day.

He would even call out a hello to her in the hall, and she'd flush with excitement that the Hogwarts champion thought her important enough to remember her when they passed each other.

It had become nearly impossible for her to treat Viktor Krum. More often than not she mumbled and dropped everything she was holding, too flustered about being around an international Quidditch star (it was unbelievable! The World Cup had been so amazing, and here she was, dabbing antiseptic on Viktor Krum's cut arm…), until finally, Viktor asked if she'd like him to sign anything and she nearly dissolved in a puddle of admiration for him.

Fleur Delacour reminded her so much of her mother that it got harder and harder for Astoria to keep from slipping into French. When Fleur discovered that she was fluent the two sat and talked for over an hour about their families and their family histories before discovering that they were rather distantly related.

And Harry Potter… how did she describe Harry Potter? He was quiet. She'd not expected that. He seemed to be tired, no matter what the day was, tired down to his bones in a way that she recognized from her father. It seemed a great struggle for him to smile, but his smiles had a way of making her own face light up.

So when Harry Potter came into the castle, followed by Cedric Diggory's lifeless body, Astoria thought back to her mother's instructions on poise and cleared her throat. How strange it must have looked to Cedric's family, the thirteen-year-old girl bent over his body, cleaning him up as best as she could without moving a muscle in her face. Mr. Diggory thanked her with a hollow voice, before asking for some time alone with his son. They had no way of knowing how violently she sobbed when she got back to her dormitory, or that even Blaise couldn't comfort her, or that the feel of death never quiet left her fingertips. Even she didn't know that the feel of death would never leave.