Summer. A time of rest and relaxation for school students, and a chance to wind-down before the madness starts back up again in September. The summer break was almost universally considered to be a golden opportunity to have fun and let go of school-related worries, either by going on holiday, visiting friends or family, or even just lazing about and catching up on some hobbies.
For most people that is.
Rose Potter was not so lucky in this regard. The young girl, who was also known by the title of ‘The-Girl-Who-Lived’, and also known – to a select few individuals – as the unwitting victim in a completely unprecedented accident involving the mysterious Veil of Death and an explosion of Time-Turner dust, was not so happy with this summer.
Time travel shenanigans aside, Rose had been anticipating a summer filled with travelling, hanging out with her friends, and spending time with her parents. Granted she had experienced some of those things, but the time of rest hadn’t exactly panned out as she had hoped it would. She certainly hadn’t expected this disaster.
“Oh do grow up brother, and stop whining about your lot in life. You are not the only person who’s had to deal with unwanted life experiences, so start acting like the man you claim to be and shut up!”
“Whining? I’ll show you whining, you old hag! And for your information, I was only expressing concern for the poor girl who now has to put up with your screeching banshee voice!”
“Hag?! Banshee?! You want to hear screeching? Well, why don’t we talk about that fact that you clearly have no idea how to contribute, and how I am the only one helping the child!”
“How, by deafening her? She might be a saint for putting with the crazy witch you are, but anyone would go mad after having you spout shit at them for hours on end!”
“Shit?! I …”
Apparently even with decades apart from each other siblings are still siblings, and rivalries will defy logic and stand the test of time. Marius and Cassiopeia Black were brother and sister, and while they had gotten on well enough as young children – for Blacks, that is – Marius’ disinheritance had changed things irrevocably. Cassiopeia had been unable to see her brother under threat of being married off against her will, and Marius had grown bitter towards his birth family and avoided them like the plague.
Their childish sibling rivalry had grown and twisted as they got older, though everything had reverted back to how things had been as children, as when the siblings – now in their seventies with well-established careers – saw each other again for the first time in decades, they completely disregarded any and all etiquette and descended into immature arguments and sniping comments designed to wind each other up for no apparent reason.
Rose sighed, idly watching the two Blacks bicker like children instead of lecturing her on how to use behaviour to provoke certain responses as had been their scheduled lesson of the day. Originally it was supposed to be Cassiopeia by herself, but Marius had somehow turned up – Sirius was the most likely suspect – and the conversation had taken a swift turn for the worse. She tried to discern if they were finishing their petty argument any time soon, but when she caught sight of Cassiopeia breathing in deeply she wrote the lesson off as a lost cause.
The past summer was supposed to have been fun for Rose, until her great-aunt had made it abundantly clear that the girl would be spending two days a week with her at her home in Paris while she was instructed on how best to represent The Noble and Most Ancient House of Black in public, as a young lady of her station should.
As far as she was concerned, the idea was utter bullshit.
Rose had not looked forward to these lessons at all seeing as she had already known much of what she was expected to do. In her future she may had cultivated a reputation of a recluse, however her family power had still been wielded in the Wizengamot by her faithful friend and proxy Neville Longbottom. The point was, just because she preferred to avoid public appearances didn’t mean that she was ignorant on how to act during them.
She had long since been educated on ‘proper’ pure-blood behaviour – thank you Andi – but she'd despised acting like a doll and being used as a Ministry tool, paraded around in front of hundreds of people who had simply cowered in fear when the Death Eaters had attacked, who'd sat back on their arses and allowed an entire war to be fought by untrained teenagers. Rose really hated Ministry functions. Bunch of idiots.
A couple of them a year – at most – had been the extent of her social appearances, but she had a sinking feeling that she would be unable to get away with the bare minimum of work where Cassiopeia Black was concerned. She took comfort in the fact that her dad seemed to be in the same boat as she was, what with his determined assertions to his family that he would better the House of Black. To a certain point that is – the Blacks were always going to be known as crazy bastards to some extent.
Rose would now be expected to build and maintain connections in the name of her House and whenever high-profile functions were held an appearance would be mandatory. She supposed being at school for most of the year for the next six years was the silver lining in all this. No fucking way am I dressing up like a bloody Barbie doll to parade around for a bunch of morons who like to run their mouths instead of actually doing anything. No. Fucking. Way.
For the past month she had been subjected to lectures concerning the various topics she needed to be apprised in as Heiress Black (and Lady Potter, but as the Lady of her own House she could honestly do what she wanted and nobody could really say anything). Things such as etiquette, 'womanly' pursuits like needlework, music and reading (which was bullshit), duelling, dancing, traditional magical celebrations throughout the year, the political climate of the different Houses …
Though that last one was actually rather important, as Rose’s actions in the last year had inadvertently caused a plethora of Death Eaters to wither away and die or get arrested, leaving their families to operate under new Heads and rules. This was a scene that her future knowledge would be unable to assist with, as her memories were based on facts which were no longer applicable.
Cassiopeia was also determined to develop her Metamorphmagus powers – and how it pissed Rose off how she knew, and that she hadn’t thought of being spied on in such a way – and insisted that the girl study people. How people moved, how they talked, certain tells and habits, all so that she could learn how to use her gift to covertly observe others to her own benefit. Rose wouldn’t admit it, but she did enjoy messing with people this way.
(Her dads hadn't liked it when she transformed into McGonagall and scared the crap out of them, though the look of fear on their faces made her parent’s portraits cry with laughter.)
She looked towards the seventy-something-year-old duo bickering like toddlers and decided to get on with her current ‘assignment’ from her aunt sooner rather than later, and quietly retreated to her room without the so-called 'adults' noticing. She had the delightful 'task' – and yes, that was sarcasm – of getting the young cousin of the Italian Minster of Magic to lose face in public. The arrogant prick was in his mid-teens, constantly flirted with every pair of breasts he saw, and was so utterly sexist he thought it was his inherent right to touch simply because.
Rose would get him to act out by being the perfect ‘gentleman’.
Morphing to the opposite gender was possible though exceedingly uncomfortable. The feeling of certain parts of her body just … growing was disconcerting, though she adjusted fairly quickly and changed clothes. In front of her was now a teenage boy with lithe muscles, lightly-tanned skin, messy dark red hair and hazel eyes. She now looked like someone who could have been her brother if her parents had lived long enough to give her siblings. Well this isn’t messed up in the slightest.
She changed into a vest top and swimming shorts before donning some sandals and sunglasses, then set off through the hallways of the expensive villa resort in St Tropez where she and her aunt were staying. The little prick she was going to annoy was here too, as only the wealthiest and most connected families could afford to holiday in this area. It was beautiful, ostentatious, and obscenely expensive even for a single day. Rose hated it.
Just because she could afford to stay somewhere like here regularly didn’t mean that she enjoyed throwing galleons around like they were going out of style. She enjoyed the comforts of her ancestral home sure, but she had always been frugal since growing up with her relatives and despised the way that some people spent money. Her parents – specifically Sirius – could get this way with spoiling her, but she knew that Remus made sure than Sirius was careful with the Black money. Not that the Blacks were in danger of being bankrupt anytime soon. Stupid rich pure-bloods.
Rose walked past a floor-length mirror in the hallway and stopped for a moment, running her fingers through her short hair and using magic to style it to something stylishly messy. She took in her masculine appearance and considered her body, what with the clearly-defined muscles of her arms and shoulders and the tanned skin.
Personally she thought that this entire situation was ridiculous, and if her dads found out that she was being made to flirt with other girls in order to ruin the Italian Minister’s cousin they would not be happy to say the least. She also thought that Cassiopeia didn’t give two shits what anyone thought and would carry on no matter what anyone said.
(She was a strict woman but Rose genuinely respected her strength. Not that she’d ever admit it to the crazy witch.)
She took a last glance in the mirror, straightening up with her shoulders back, placed her hands casually in her pockets and turned down the hall, sedately walking along with a genial smile on her new face. Well, here goes nothing …
Or here goes everything … Holy shit, that bloke’s mental, does he not realise what he’s done?!
Rose had been expecting her ‘assignment’ to consist of flirting with a few random girls for a short while before the young Andrea Ricci – her target – threw a hissy fit and caused a scene. She was more or less right, but the resulting trouble was a little messier than she had initially anticipated.
The girl-turned-boy had spent about four hours in the company of four teenage girls who had all been victims of the pervert’s ‘affections’ for the past week, and in that time Rose had found them all to be very interesting. The girls were all students at Beauxbatons and had described the school to her in detail. (A few subtle compliments and gracious smiles had been more than enough to flatter them into speaking.) She'd scored a few points by not letting her eyes stray from their faces, even if the hormones she'd been experiencing more and more in recent weeks had reared their ugly heads while in the company of several gorgeous girls. Puberty is going to be such a bitch.
Rose had spent the day regaling the girls with tales of England and being home-schooled, and after a while the Italian git had exploded and aimed an illegal cutting curse at the group without thinking, trying to hit her specifically. Rose had shielded them without thinking as the idiot had been bound by one of the other guests.
Soon enough the French Aurors had arrived and had been quick to arrest him. There was more than a little dismay when they'd realised that Rose had been in the line of fire as well as the girls. In her teenage male disguise, Cassiopeia had seen fit to provide her with a complete fake background as her ward in case it was ever needed. (Say what you will about the woman, but she got things done. Fast.)
Her current identity was that of half-blood James White, godson to the well-respected Cassiopeia Black, which made him a pseudo-adopted member of the House of Black as well as Cassiopeia’s personal family. The older woman was more well-known on the continent, the French Ministry being very much aware of her reputation and what repercussions would follow if her ward was attacked and murdered by someone within their country.
The annoying teen was quickly sent back to his country with a severe warning for the boy to stay out of France, and the Italian Minister had been mortified when they realised the extent of the international incident that they'd nearly avoided.
Rose had simply enjoyed the moment when the girls offered their thanks by kissing her on the cheek. She had to maintain her role after all.
“Well then, it appears that while Marius and I were … catching up with one another,” Cassiopeia glared at her brother here as he scoffed with incredulity, “you went ahead and carried out the assignment that I set out for you.”
“Yes, Aunt Cassi.”
Rose stared at the woman. “Forgive me Aunt Cassi, but I’m not sure what you mean by ‘Why?’ Do you mean why did I carry out the task you set?”
“Indeed, why did you do it?”
Rose eyed her incredulously. “Because you told me to.”
Cassiopeia simply raised one elegant brow in disdain. “So I did, but are you going to just do anything I tell you without considering the consequences of your actions? Did you even think about the result of what you did, or did you just charge in without using your brain? Did you even consider why I asked you to complete such a task?”
Marius rounded on his sister with a thunderous expression. “For fuck’s sake Cassi! You can’t just ask her to do something then get pissed when she does it, otherwise what’s the fucking point of you being here?!”
Huh, he’s calling her ‘Cassi’ now. Apparently progress can be made.
She cleared her throat. “It’s okay Uncle Marius, I’m well aware of why Aunt Cassi is asking me so many questions.”
Rose smiled at her uncle before turning to the woman who stood with an impressively blank look on her face. The (once more) blonde girl resisted the urge to smirk in triumph, instead she started speaking.
“Firstly, I am not the type of person who will do something just because you say so. You may be family, but I do not know you nearly enough to act without question where your orders are concerned.
“When you told me what to do, I considered first and foremost the situation: who I was supposed to be ruining, and my location. The annoying bastard is the cousin to the Italian Minister of Magic, and we are in a high-profile location of magical France.
“I am aware that as of this moment, the ICW is currently in talks over international policy concerning private businesses. It is extremely expensive to expand one's business and open another branch abroad. The possible competition with international trade isn't an attractive idea to some places, so a plethora of non-tariff barriers come into play. Some countries simply don't want the competition that would come from foreign businesses selling there. Italy in particular is digging their heels in as they're loath to allow a possible major competitor to outsell one of their own companies.”
Rose paused and grabbed her glass, taking a sip of water before continuing. “Sirius and Remus’ upcoming shop will likely be a popular business once it opens, and research on continental Europe indicates a large interest for the type of products they will be selling, particularly in Italy. A possible secondary shop there will be highly beneficial to them. However due to current policies, it simply is not feasible at this time as the Italians are being very hard-headed.
“The French are actually rather interested in such a business venture, and Sirius’ contacts in the French Ministry have indicated a strong desire to buy from him. The French representative of the ICW has been arguing with the representative from Italy, as Italy actually stands to gain a fair few international connections if they allow foreign businesses to sell,” she explained, internally scoffing at the idiotic pride of the Italians. Stupidity at its finest.
“The spectacle today has now ensured that the Italian Ministry is suitably cowed, as they have earned the ire of both the French Ministry and the House of Black, who are known to be politically powerful in Britain. Italy will most likely be looking for a way to pay restitution to the Blacks, and will be easier to convince in terms of allowing a British business to expand into Italy.
“With a simple meltdown, young Andrea has caused weakness in his country’s position, led to both France and Britain looking down on said country, and offered a way for the House of Black to benefit personally from such a situation.
“Did I miss anything?”
She finished her explanation by tilting her chin up slightly, and raising a thin eyebrow as she sank back into the soft cushions of her chair, all the while remaining impassive in the face of her uncle’s narrowed grey eyes and the blank face of her aunt, who then smiled at her.
It was terrifying.
“Well done, dear,” she purred, making the hairs on the back of Rose’s neck stand up, “we’ll make a Black of you yet.”
The commiserating glance from Marius wasn’t reassuring in the least.
She huffed as her aunt walked off with visible glee. Oh well, just another day in the shit-storm that is my life.