A/N: Hi there! This work is heavily inspired by the Black family tree as seen in the movies (blast marks and all), and Cassiopeia Black and Hermione Granger will be the stars of this story. If you enjoy, please review! It's been years since I've picked up a pen (or keyboard) and I'd love to hear your opinions or hopes for the story.
Disclaimer: All rights to the Harry Potter universe belong to JK Rowling
November 2, 1981
Chateau Black, France
When Cassiopeia Black moved out of Black Manor, the Black family house elves spent hours arguing over who would accompany her. No self-respecting elf wanted to give up serving the prestigious Black estate in favor of an academically minded spinster.
Pip thought it was a very good thing that she was not a particularly self-respecting elf.
Pip had waited until every other Black house elf was well and truly terrified that their straw may be drawn to go with Miss Cassiopeia before stepping forward, ears flat against her skull, and volunteering. Her kinfolk's palpable relief paled in the face of her own hidden glee as she set about packing.
Life with Miss Cassiopeia had quickly proven not to be the quiet, steady existence that Pip had planned, but 49 years later and she was still perfectly smug when she remembered the day that she and her mistress had arrived at Chateau Black in France.
"I'm really only interested in my research, Pip- you can take care of the rest, can't you?" Cassiopeia had said, waving her hand around airily.
"The rest, Missy Cassiopeia?"
"Oh you know, all of the house of course, and maybe you could keep track of my calendar, and I suppose you'll need to manage the mail, and-," Cassiopeia shrugged. "I can just leave it to you to figure things out, can't I?"
And Pip had. By the end of their first year together, Pip had confidently taken control of the entire household and was scheduling nearly every waking moment of her mistress's life. Cassiopeia wanted no part in making decisions outside of her research labs.
The most sacred of the routines Pip had established? Breakfast.
At exactly 8 am each morning, Pip pulled back the heavy brocade curtains in Miss Cassiopeia's bedroom and began the rather laborious process of getting the now 66 year old woman into her robe and tucked in front of the drop leaf table in her en suite. There, artfully arranged according to a book Pip had found on elegant dining, sat two perfectly soft boiled eggs with soldiers, a rather large cup of Lady Grey, the day's correspondence, and the Daily Prophet.
Pip would then settle onto a tiny chair near the window and watch with hawk-like intensity as her mistress first skimmed through her homeland's newspaper, then alternated between eating and opening any owl post she'd received.
Today was no different than the day before, and the day before was no different than a year before. Routine was the linchpin of the pair's existence, and Pip was quite sure that nothing could possibly interrupt their routine.
"Morgana, Pip- the British Dark Lord is apparently dead."
Pip squinted at her Mistress. "And Missy Cassiopeia feels?"
"Oh, mildly indifferent I suppose. Sweet Dorea never did support his cause, but I suppose that Pollux was rather invested." Cassiopeia shrugged dismissively, then frowned. "Pip, remind me the name of Dorea's boy?"
"Missy's sister's son is called James."
"Oh dear. Pip, the paper claims that young James and his wife- he was old enough for Hogwarts already? Goodness!- this paper claims that he and his wife were murdered before their son stopped the British Dark Lord."
Well, that wasn't good. Great nephews in diapers defeating dark lords seemed like the sort of the thing to send Cassiopeia into a researching frenzy for days. "And Missy feels…?" Pip asked carefully.
Tossing aside the paper in favor of a long handled spoon, Cassiopeia shrugged once more. "The boy is at least part Black through my sister- I'm sure Pollux will handle it."
November 4, 1981
Chateau Black, France
Pip winced as Miss Cassiopeia spit tea across the table, the newspaper, and herself. "Is the tea being too hot for Missy Cassiopeia?"
"No, no, Pip. Sirius Black- that is the name of Pollux's grandson, isn't it?"
"Missy's brother has two grandsons, he does. Sirius and Regulus."
"And there is no other Sirius Black right now, is there?" Cassiopeia looked rather hopeful as she stared back and forth from the paper to her house elf.
"No, Missy." Pip was rather confident of this fact- she had not only memorized the entirety of the Black family, but also their birthdays and anniversaries in order to send gifts on behalf of her mistress.
"They're saying he betrayed Dorea's boy's family, was involved with the British Dark Lord, and that he blew up 13 muggles and a school friend yesterday. Oh, Pip, can you imagine the sheer lack of subtlety?"
Pip had served the Black family since birth, so indeed she could not. But… "Missy's great nephew was a Gryffindor."
"Tosh, Pip- frankly, that just makes it even more unbelievable- what Gryffindor betrays their friends? What Black betrays close family?"
Pip shrugged. "And Missy feels?"
The rapid tap-tap-tap of Cassopeia's egg spoon on the table lasted several long minutes before she responded. "Increasingly distrubed, Pip. Increasingly disturbed."
Pip was relieved when Cassiopeia continued eating breakfast- the normal routine would, she was certain, make the mistress feel better.
November 8, 1981
Chateau Black, France
At 8 am sharp, Pip pulled apart the heavy brocade curtains in her mistress's room- only to find Cassiopeia sitting up in bed.
"Oh, everything is fine, Pip. I suppose I just woke up on my own today." Cassiopeia smiled encouragingly at the little house elf and swung her feet out of bed without a word of complaint or censure for the bright sunlight.
Pip was fairly confident that everything was NOT alright if her mistress was breaking their morning routine after 49 years, but said nothing. She bundled Cassiopeia up in the new robe she had purchased the day before, selected for seasonal warmth and trimmed in Pip's favorite mint green, and settled her in for breakfast. As per usual, the Daily Prophet was the first thing Cassiopeia picked up.
"Morgana! You have got to be kidding me!"
"Bellatrix Lestrange- wasn't she a Black?" Cassiopeia's storm grey eyes flashed and her dark curls sparked with magic as she continued through the paper. "And Narcissa Malfoy- wasn't she?"
Pip groaned internally. More family members in the paper? This was a rotten month for it apparently. "Missy's brother had three granddaughters, he did. Two are being called Bellatrix and Narcissa."
"And tell me Pip, my cousin who married a Longbottom- did she have a sprog called Frank?"
Pip ran through the list of names in his head. Callidora had Harold and Calanthia. There were no male Longbottoms of their line afterwards. "No Missy, none called Frank."
"Still! The Longbottoms are part of the Sacred 28 and the Blacks have now- oh Pip, this is disgusting. Not to mention entirely unambitious."
"Bellatrix and her husband used an Unforgivable to torture the Longbottom heir and his wife into insanity while their baby watched- a Crouch was involved too. Hopefully not one of Charis's line."
"What was the Crouch being called Missy?"
The expression on Pip's face was apparently enough to confirm for Cassiopeia that yet another Black relative had made an idiotic choice.
"Lovely," the older witch said drily. "Comparatively, it's almost a relief that Narcissa's husband is the one in trouble."
Cassiopeia stood, moving to stare out the window at the grounds of Chateau Black. Pip had always ensured they were flawlessly manicured, if rather deadly- the elf had a long running obsession with poisonous plants.
"Frankly, Pip, I am perfectly horrified. We are going to have to do something."
Pip promptly toppled out of her chair. Miss Cassiopeia wanted to get involved in family politics? This was new- and new was never a good thing.
"And what will Missy be doing?" Pip demanded, crossing her long arms over her toga. "Missy has a schedule, and Pip must be knowing if things need changed around for today!"
Cassiopeia glanced over her shoulder to grin at the elf. "Pip, I think we may need to move around the schedule for more than just today."
"It'll take more than a day to handle the family's biggest PR nightmare in three centuries, Pip. This new project could take years- it could be the biggest experiment we've undertaken yet!" A rather manic gleam appeared in Cassiopeia's eyes as she snatched Pip's quill off the floor and began scribbling notes in the margins of the Daily Prophet.
Pip stared at her mistress in shock. "Years, Missy?
"I may not always be the most active family member," Casseiopia said seriously, oblivious to her house elf's impending panic attack, "but I do refuse to let the Black name go down in history as just pawns of some British Dark Lord- and I know exactly how to do it."
As her Mistress swept out of the room, muttering about old magic and the importance of good PR, Pip found herself staring at the uneaten meal on the table in horror.
Breakfast was ruined, and if Pip was a betting elf (which she was- she'd nearly doubled her mistress's fortune after the last Quidditch World Cup) then she would wager that this was just the first of many routines to be turned upside down.