January 21, 1982

Malfoy Manor, Wiltshire

The new kitchens at Malfoy Manor were exquisite. Timeless in design and modern in appliance, the lofted basement space was now easily the grandest kitchen among the Sacred 28. Lucius was smug, Narcissa was pleased, and the Bulstrodes had once again been put firmly in their place. With the new ballrooms and the new gardens and the new courtyard well underway, it was doubtless that the remainder of the Malfoy family's minions- associations- dear friends- would soon be decidedly jealous as well.

As far as the high-aspiring couple was concerned, all was now right in the world.

And, most importantly- to Dobby and Draco at least- the Supreme Leader was satisfied with the progress being made. "Your Supreme Leader is being very pleased. Dobby is no longer looking like a stray elf, and Pip is even thinking that he is managing his little master very well. Missy's great-great-nephew did not have to sit on the naughty step even once today."

Draco straightened his thin back with pride, tucking his toes under the top rung of the stool that Pip had deposited him on after his playdate with Hermione. "Supreme Leader," he intoned dutifully, with a peculiar little head nod that would have been less out of place on a statesman's head.

(Lucius, busy bribing a Ministry official in London, felt a random cold chill go through his entire body.)

Dobby beamed, reaching out to pat his towheaded little master on the head once before saluting the Supreme Leader with such enthusiasm that he fell right onto his backside. "Yes, Supreme Leader, ma'am! Dobby is listening to everything the Supreme Leader is telling Dobby to do, ma'am!"

"Very good- Your Supreme Leader will now leave this House in Dobby's mostly capable hands for the day. We is seeing you tomorrow for the lady's tea. Don't be late."

"Ma'am, yes ma'am! Dobby is remembering the Supreme Leader's first rule: Schedules are life! Routine is most important! Stick to the calendar or chew nightshade!"

Pip's lips quirked upward, the expression entirely too smug for any self-respecting house elf. "Your Supreme Leader is wishing her next appointment had such a good memory."

Raising her hand, the Black family's vigilante house elf snapped two long fingers and popped away.


January 21, 1982

Longmoore Street, London

"Missy's nephew is late sending reports again."

Alphard Black froze behind his paper at the sound of the unfortunately familiar squeak. A pained smile plastered on his face, he slowly lowered the sports section to reveal his Aunt's increasingly terrifying house elf. "Ah, if it isn't Pipsqueak."

"Pip is going to make a very special tea for Missy Cassiopea's nephew one day." Pip scowled in displeasure, long nose pointed high in the air. "And in the meantime, Pip is going to be improving his health so he can remember to owl reports on time."

"Ha! As if I'd ever drink- wait. You're going to what?"

The house elf's vicious smile in response sent the hair on Alphard's arms standing on end. "Quod! Your naughty master is being ready!"

Alphard groaned. "Bloody hell-,"

Quod appeared with a loud crack!, a butler's towel over one arm and a silver serving tray balanced on the opposite palm. On closer inspection…

"What in Merlin's name are those?!"

Pip picked up one offending item between two fingers. "These, Missy's nephew, is being kale-carrot-brussels-sprout-green-bean biscuits. You is going to be eating the whole batch to improve your memory."

Alphard gagged. "Quod! Escort this barmy bat out of here- I can't eat those!"

Quod shrugged. "Quod must listen to the Head Elf- it is a shame Master was lazy and didn't bind Quod to himself so that Quod could just be listening to Master's orders only."

"Merlin- I thought you weren't mad anymore!"

"Quod is not mad at all."

"You just brought me kale-carrot- you just brought me veggie biscuits, Quod. Veggie biscuits! You are definitely still mad- mmph!"

Protests cut off by a bright green and orange biscuit being shoved into his open mouth, Alphard went through several shades of grey and green before finally swallowing in distress. "Bloody awful!"

"Pip has been saving this recipe for if her Mistress invites Patricia to stay at Chateau Black again. Pip is thinking these biscuits will definitely be helping with any memory issues you have," the elf smiled sweetly, eyes glinting in a particularly un-house-elf-like way. "Missy's nephew better start eating- he cannot have his wand back till he is done."

"Sirius! I've been kidnapped by elves!" Alphard attempted to shout as he realized that his one recourse had been alleviated from his person without his notice. House elves! Really!

"The young master is being in a legal session with Madam Granger," Quod informed him. "And since they is having a special visitor, Quod was sound proofing the entire house."

A bit weakly: "The entire house?"

With a good deal of pleasure: "The entire house."

Looking rather more like a sheepish child than the distinguished Black he was meant to be, Alphard groaned and ate another awful biscuit.


January 21, 1982

Invermoriston, Scotland

Pip snapped into existence outside of the whitewashed old parsonage with only the tiniest crack! of magic. Pulling her daybook from her pocket, she expanded the tiny leather journal to zoom in on her notes for this specific appointment.

"Stealthy. Missy Cassiopeia should have been sending someone else if they was wanting stealthy," Pip muttered, nose crinkling. "Not that Pip is thinking anyone else is being able to take care of her mistress correctly."

Ears pressed flat against her skull, the little elf snuck around the garden gate and tip toed slowly through the flower beds to approach the front window. Inside, an elderly woman in loose blue plaid trousers and a crisp white blouse was slowly moving her wand through the air to send a dust rag flying across the furniture.

Pip watched, pleased, as the woman took the time needed to clean the nooks and crannies of a couch's carved feet. (Cleanliness and attention to detail were two of any house elf's most highly prized values- even the non-self-respecting ones). After a moment of nodding approvingly from the window sill, the elf shook her small head as if to refocus on her original task, and crept around to the next window.

"No children there…. No children there… Pip is wondering if there is any children anywhere," Pip grumbled as she hopped down from the rather precarious ledge of the kitchen window. "And Pip is remembering that there was supposed to be a nanny kneazle too."

A loud, rumbling purr behind Pip's back sent her spinning around and- there was the nanny kneazle, as if summoned from thin air, and the child too- covered in mud, eyes wide and curious, both hands gripped in his nanny's fur coat.

"Oh dear," Pip frowned. "Pip was telling her mistress that subtlety was not her strongest point."

Neither kneazle nor child responded, both still staring at her patiently. Waiting, though for the life of her Pip couldn't think what for (and Pip wrote down everything, so the likelihood of her having simply forgotten was fairly low).

After a long moment's silence, the house elf took a deep breath and began her ordered inspection of the child. Physically, he looked fine- he'd gained back the weight that had been so obviously lacking in the photos that Minerva McGonagall had given to Isla. His eyes were bright, and the bruises from his (literally) cursed stay with the Dursleys had disappeared.

Consideringly: "Mistress' great-great-nephew is not looking at all like a Black."

The fat kneazle hissed reprovingly, one large paw stamping the ground in Pip's direction. The elf rolled her eyes heavenward, raising her hands placatingly.

"Pip is not insulting the small child. But Pip is guessing that the nanny kneazle is being right- you is not looking like a Black, but you is one."

Pip waited patiently, but child and kneazle both continued to stare. "Pip is checking to see if you are well and happy here."

Silence.

The house elf squinted. "Does Missy Cassiopeia's sister's grandson speak?"

Little Harry Potter (who did, in fact, speak, though not particularly frequently) shrugged and knotted both hands more tightly around his nanny's neck.

Pip sighed in defeat. "Pip is going to be going to report to her Mistress now. But we is seeing you very, very soon. Missy Cassiopeia's sister's grandson is to be a good boy until it is time to come home, and if he is being a very, very good boy, then there will be biscuits."

"Biscuits?"

The single word coaxed such a wide smile out of the elf that one would be forgiven for thinking she actually liked the disorganized little creatures known as children. "That's right- Pip is making all of the very best biscuits. Missy Cassiopeia's sister's grandson was liking his Christmas biscuits, wasn't he?"

The enthused nod was agreement enough.

"Very good. And Pip will bring a nice fat mousey for Missy Cassiopeia's sister's grandson's nanny, too." Pip paused in a fit inspiration. "Two mouseys if the nanny kneazle is not doing anything to suggest that Pip was ever here."

If it were possible for a house elf to lower themselves to bribery, then it was certainly possible for a highly trained nanny kneazle to submit to it- the positively plump creature purred with no small amount of enthusiasm, sending the child attached to his back into a fit of giggles.

Pleased with this more covert than expected outcome, Pip raised one hand and snapped! herself home.


January 21, 1982

Excerpt from a letter sent by Madam Agnes Granger, QC:

Cassiopeia,

I've heard from Helen that Hermione and Draco's playdate this morning went well. I find it quite interesting that you've got the house elves incorporating basic math and runology into simple fort building.

Making them work together already, are you? Testing the waters for the next phase? (Don't pout, your plotting is about as subtle as a brick in the face.)

The real reason for my note, however, is not to call out your current plotting. Instead, I have a particularly urgent request.

One Remus Lupin joined my strategy session with Sirius this afternoon. He had unique insight into the prosecution's mindset, a certain amount of charming insight regarding the players we are dealing with, and while unfortunately his testimony will not hold up in court- the Creatures Act absolutely must be overturned- he did have a wonderful idea for procuring the piece of evidence we've discussed in detail.

I've arranged for him to visit Professor Minerva McGonagall at St. Mungo's tomorrow. On a completely unrelated note, you should probably schedule your annual wellness visit for tomorrow morning at 10am. (Another brick in the face.)

On an additionally unrelated note, you owe me another case of wine. Today I had to listen to Alphard whine about being tortured by house elves.

With love,

Agnes

P.S. Have you got a monitoring charm on my office again? Your house elf appearing right as I sign off on a letter to you is about the least subtle thing I've ever experienced in my life. And you've met my daughter.