"Why is her hair pink?" asked Petunia in a whispered aside a half hour later to Lord Black now seated next to her. At the same time, she cautiously wiggled her fingers in greeting at the small girl wildly waving in turn with tremendous enthusiasm to the muggle woman from the animated photograph lying on the airport lounge tabletop.
Chuckling, Sirius explained, "Nymphadora's a metamorphmagus. That's a very rare magical talent where someone gifted with it is able to change their body and physical appearance without a wand or potions. They can grow taller or shorter, look like an entirely different person, what have you. Right now, my little niece can't do anything but turn her hair in different colors, which tend to match her mood. Pink hair means she's happy to meet you."
"Oh. That's nice," faintly said Petunia. A rather uneasy smile remained on the woman's lips while she tentatively met the intent gazes of those other strange…people staring at her from out of the rest of the half-dozen pictures produced several moments ago from an aristocrat's wallet. Noticing this, Sirius courteously gathered up the pictures and he put them back into his wallet. During that, the older wizards and witches shown inside these magical items craned their heads to continue keenly observing Petunia as long as they could.
In her picture, Nymphadora stuck out her tongue at Sirius.
Watching the young man at her side replacing his wallet taken earlier from his suit, Petunia frowned slightly. She mentioned what had just occurred to her, "From what you told me, those were your close relatives - grandfathers, aunts, cousins. Don't you have any pictures of your own family?"
This innocent question caused Sirius to immediately take on a remarkably bleak expression. Nevertheless, he answered civilly enough, "My father and brother both died a few years ago. As for my mother…well, let's say it wouldn't be wise to show her to you."
Feeling it'd be pressing things to actually inquire further, Petunia did allow herself a raised eyebrow, indicating she'd like to know more if this was possible without offending the person sharing her company.
Discerning this, Sirius acquiescently shrugged, before going into additional reluctant detail. "Your previous…reaction to magic was because of what you considered good reasons. Unfortunately, my mother has her own nasty opinions about muggle people. She's also perfectly willing to deliver these at full spiteful volume to anyone in range. To put it bluntly, she absolutely loathes muggles and all the rest of the non-magical world. According to her, only pureblood wizards and witches have any right to exist, and everybody else should have the proper manners to die off just now and leave our kind as masters of the world."
Petunia felt the corners of her mouth promptly turn down in utter disgust, intermixed with a hint of shame over once harboring thoughts akin to what she'd just heard. The Dursley aunt then listened to Lord Black admit, "After putting up with that load of rubbish ever since I learned to walk, it's no wonder I was more than willing to leave for good as soon as I could. My mother's still living at our London house, but we don't speak to each other. Don't worry; under no circumstances will I ever have Harry meet her."
"Good," decisively stated Petunia. She glanced over at the seated man dressed in his luxurious Savile Row suit fashionably cut in hues of deepest midnight. Reassured by his steadfast expression, Petunia tried again, "But the rest of your family-?"
Nodding firmly, Sirius broke in to repeat his guarantee. "They're all looking forward to seeing him. My grandfathers knew James and his parents and grandparents. Same for my aunts and cousins, with Aunt Cassiopeia being Harry's direct great-aunt. She's met him several times at Potter family gatherings, though of course he won't remember her."
"I don't know if my mum and dad ever did before they passed away," confessed Petunia sadly. "Oh, probably, but they never mentioned it to me. I wish now I hadn't been so stupid!"
Tears of real chagrin brimmed in the regretful woman's eyes, and she hung her head in mortification. In this shamed posture, Petunia now felt a wave of ultimate exhaustion overwhelm her. Swaying in her chair, the head of Harry's aunt fell further, so that her chin brushed against her upper chest.
"Mrs. Dursley?" Hearing no answer to his anxious question, Sirius reached out to catch Petunia by her slumping shoulders.
Jerking up in her seat at this unexpected touch of another's hands, Petunia turned her head to wearily gaze through sagging eyelids at the man there. She sighed, "I'm so sorry. It's been such a very long day, and I can't stay awake a minute more!"
A truly sympathetic look appeared on Sirius' face, who then suggested, "Shall we go over to the couch with your husband? You can stay there while I collect Harry from Ms. Davis. Don't worry about falling asleep; I can use a spell to wake you up for a short while, long enough to explain to Harry what's going on."
Despite her full-blow fatigue, Petunia had to wince at the disagreeable prospect of this coming affair. It had all the likelihood of turning into a genuine disaster, what with a little boy who'd already experienced the most traumatizing event of his short life suddenly told he was being put into the care of yet another complete stranger. Even so, an air of resigned determination formed around Petunia, who tiredly dipped her head in silent acceptance. Staggering up onto her feet, the worn-out woman held onto the strong arm of the young aristocrat guiding her in the short journey to join a still-slumbering Vernon and Dudley on their couch.
Setting down with a gusty sigh of relief upon the cushions next to her husband, Petunia allowed her eyes to fully close. Without looking up at the man standing before the couch, she next mumbled to him, "Lord Black, it'd be a good idea to wake just me. I'll talk to Vernon afterwards about everything."
"Quite right," agreed Sirius, who then watched Petunia slump back against the upholstery while instantly falling asleep, without showing any signs of whether she'd actually heard him. Putting his fists on his hips (which, if he'd somehow been there, would've caused his muggle tailor in London to cringe at the severe rumpling of Sirius' splendid suit this action did to that clothier's masterpiece), the Black heir now pensively studied the slumbering woman, whom he'd been fully prepared to despise less than an hour ago.
In another lifetime, what Petunia Dursley, Vernon Dursley, and to a lesser extent, Dudley Dursley had all done to Harry Potter while that boy had been growing up in their home at Privet Drive was totally unforgivable. It'd been both physical and mental abuse inflicted for more than a decade against this child, who'd thought himself worthless and fit for nothing but to slave for his relatives. And when he'd finally learned the truth about magic and the wizarding world, Harry still had to suffer through the Hogwarts holidays in living with people who now considered him a dangerous freak who also brought deadly peril to them every second in his unwanted residence with his aunt, uncle, and cousin.
Ever since escaping from Azkaban and regaining most of his sanity, Sirius Black had been keeping a little list of those he was going to destroy. Voldemort was first on the list, of course, and then all of his Death Eaters, with a special spot reserved in Hell for Peter Pettigrew. Next came the ones who'd been responsible for sending an innocent man to prison for twelve stinking years, consisting of most of the Ministry of Magic, followed by Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape, both of whom shared a good part of the blame for this injustice. Lastly, all of the other bastards who didn't already fit in the above categories yet were guilty of harming those specific persons Sirius cared about, and were still going to pay for this.
Which definitely included the Dursleys.
During the rare times Sirius managed to talk with Harry, either in person or by written means during the period between escaping from Hogwarts with Buckbeak the hippogriff up to falling through the Veil, this teenage wizard had been extremely reticent about his entire unhappy childhood spent with those muggle relatives. Sensing it wasn't prudent to purse the matter too forcefully, Sirius had backed off, only to try his luck elsewhere. Discreet questioning by a Marauder determined to find out the truth had been conducted among those people Sirius could get to without exposing his location and identity as a fugitive. This consisted of Harry's friends Hermione, Ron, the Weasley twins Fred and George, along with those older members of the Order of the Phoenix who were visiting their headquarters at 12 Grimmauld Place when the Black heir was forced to live there.
Though he'd never shown any signs of it, Sirius felt more than a bit of evil amusement over an unforeseen consequence of being stuck in his detested home due to Dumbledore's orders. This confinement meant he had the perfect excuse to corner any stray caller and eagerly ask them for any word about Harry. Naturally, this didn't include dear Snivellus or a Headmaster remarkably adroit at avoiding Sirius, but everyone else was fair game. In all the chatting an utterly bored Padfoot carried out with his guests, several nuggets of coveted information always came Sirius' way, and only years of pulling off pranks while appearing totally innocent during this kept the gaunt wizard from exploding with absolute rage at what he'd soon put together.
Offhand descriptions of Harry forced to work around the house and gardens at Privet Drive from an incredibly early age, an undersized and frail appearance compared to other children in the neighborhood, always clad in ill-fitting hand-me-downs, numerous episodes of bullying by his cousin and that obese lump's cronies, and so much more…
The Dursleys were progressing up Sirius' list at a truly astonishing pace.
Indeed, it wouldn't have turned out well for this muggle family at all, if Sirius had been able to arrive sooner at their house in his Grim form after his Azkaban escape, and personally witnessed just how the Dursleys treated their detested nephew. Around then, a starved but still massive dog with matted black fur had been skulking around the vicinity, desperately trying to find his Harry-pup. The long-remembered scent of James and Lily's son at last led Sirius to a house reeking with bleach, furniture polish, and window cleaner, just in time for a despairing animagus to catch a mere glimpse of Harry making a run for it due to losing his temper and magically inflating Aunt Marge into a life-sized balloon. After seeing the Knight Bus depart with his godson, the Black heir left behind Privet Drive without a second thought, traveling overland once more all the way to Scotland in his canine body.
Following his somewhat successful reunion with Harry at Hogwarts amid all the resulting upheavals - finding and losing Pettigrew, confronting Snape, flying off with Buckbeak - Sirius hadn't thought much about the Dursleys. Mind you, there'd been the very amusing letter from his pup about threatening them with a visit by his murderous guardian. When the Azkaban escapee finally returned to the wizarding world, only to wind up immured at his hated family home, Sirius had no chance to act upon his growing outrage over what Harry had evidently gone through at the hands of his relatives. Then, there'd been the frantic rush to the Department of Mysteries to save Harry, and a fall through the Veil. Which in the end, resulted in Sirius Black somehow going back in time.
Well, he was here now, fifteen years in the past, and with the Dursleys, too, all three of them. So what was he going to do about it?
Continuing to stand with his arms akimbo, Lord Black glowered at the sleeping muggles before him on their couch. He personally considered Vernon Dursley to be a total waste of space, and that man's chubby son definitely appeared to one day develop into an exact copy of his bumptious father. Petunia Dursley, on the other hand…
Relaxing into a less moody posture, Sirius straightened up, and he rubbed at his chin in faint perplexity. This wizard still held a modicum of resentment against that woman there for her lifelong rift with Lily Potter, which had forever made his Hogwarts friend truly sorrowful at being estranged from her sister. Not to mention this same older sibling's intense abhorrence regarding magic. Yet, however he tried to deny it, Petunia had some justification for acting as she'd done over the years up to now.
From bitter experience, Sirius knew just how families could fracture among themselves when one sibling was favored over the other, whether intended or not. His own younger brother Regulus had become their parents' preferred son after Sirius openly showed and acted upon his filial disdain, leading into the tragedies which then nearly wiped out this ancient wizarding line. As for magic itself, Sirius had to admit even for wizards and witches, living in a magical world wasn't always wonderful. Having the ability to use a wand didn't automatically bring happiness to you with a simple wave of a wooden stick. There was indeed a reason for the word 'curse' to mean a source of harm also in the muggle world, and Petunia had directly suffered from this, giving her good cause to hate magic.
Yet, what was infinitely more important was something else, which had never occurred at all, however things might turn out in the future. In all the short time Petunia Dursley had been the guardian of Harry James Potter under the secret observation of Kreacher the house-elf, this unaware woman had never been abusive to the toddler newly arrived at her home. Brusque, yes, and clearly resentful over having to care for another's child, but after using his magic to remain hidden from anyone's notice at Privet Drive, Kreacher reported to his master that this muggle mother had given what comfort she could to an upset little boy in her feeding, changing, and bathing of him. Furthermore, Sirius had seen with his own eyes, while standing in the doorway of the airport lounge just before announcing his presence, of how Petunia allowed Harry to cuddle up against her when this aunt and nephew had been seated together on their couch.
It was a great deal different from the sour-faced lady Sirius had barely registered at the suburban muggle house in another liftime a dozen or so years away. Staring ahead, the Black heir abruptly developed an enraged snarl on his features, during again considering the likely cause of Petunia Dursley's slow development from someone who was grudgingly prepared to accept her sister's son, into a spiteful woman willing to either overlook or contribute to the household abuse of this same Potter child.
Sirius' fingers twitched, as if they were yearning to grasp a double handful of whiskers and then viciously loop this beard into a deadly garrotte around the scrawny neck of a certain Headmaster. What in the name of Merlin had Dumbledore been thinking? It was bad enough if the elderly wizard had simply erred in his spell to create the blood wards around the Privet Drive house just after Halloween. That unfortunate blunder could've been credited to mere senility. More appalling was the prospect of this imperfect concealment spell having within it the actual intention to affect the muggle residents of this home, making them gradually regarding with contempt and loathing the sole magical person there. Regrettably, while Kreacher could detect the wrongness of the blood wards, the little house-elf had no idea if this was due to a faulty accident or deliberate, callous calculation.
A very sinister suspicion was forming in Sirius' mind, tending him in the direction of the latter outcome. True, it was entirely possible for Dumbledore to just make a mess of things and fail to recognize his mistakes. Except the schoolmaster's apparent blindness to it all was damned shifty, to the maximum possible extent. From what Sirius understood, at no point anytime before his godson received an invitational letter to Hogwarts had Dumbledore ever bothered to make one single confirmed visit back to the Dursley home to see if Harry was getting on with his new family. Or to check on the blood wards, purely to find out how they were doing. Or even, however inconceivable it might seem, dropping in to have a nice cup of tea from Petunia and chat with Vernon over how Arsenal was doing this year.
Fine, Dumbledore was a busy man, running the entire magical government of Britain (including all too many other things) in between dueling Dark Lords and popping down the occasional lemon drop. There still remained the minor detail of the hope of the wizarding world, a young boy uniquely suited to defeat Voldemort, then traveling to Hogwarts and showing up there looking like an overworked house-elf with an even worse taste in clothing than the entire castle's workforce combined of these magical creatures. This should've concerned the Headmaster a trifle.
But, no. Despite what Harry Potter let slip about his joyous home life at Durzkaban, a twinkly-eyed bastard would unfailingly send him back there at the end of every term, with a hearty clap on the shoulder and the vague promise of, "You'll understand when you're older, Harry."
At that point, an infuriated Black heir became aware he was grinding his teeth fiercely enough to send scraping noises resounding throughout the airport lounge. In spite of this, the Dursleys seated together on the couch remained joined in their deep slumber in front of the wizard glaring at this trio of muggles, until his face relaxed. Right, he'd made up his mind. Back in the other time, Petunia and the rest of her Harry-hating family might've been under the magical influence of those same wonky blood wards for the last decade and a half. If other-past Sirius who'd escaped taking an unexpected trip through the Veil had found out this was indeed true, present-day Sirius at the New York airport halfheartedly supposed this would sway his counterpart's irate opinion a bit concerning those bloody Dursleys. Even to the point where fifteen-years-forward Sirius would modify his horrendous punishment of that unlovely family, to just transform them into floppy-eared, twitching-noses, cute-as-the-dickens furry bunnies and set them free in a nice pasture somewhere out in the country, with lots of juicy grass for them to nibble on.
Instead of magically turning every one of that vile group who'd tormented Padfoot's pup into a bunch of snails still retaining their human intelligence. And then tossing these shelled creatures into the back yard of the Privet Drive house. Just before another wave of Sirius' wand changed the ground there into a slab of salt a solid yard thick.
But…these Dursleys, they were different. Fifteen years younger, to be precise. That wasn't just a flippant remark. All of them on the couch were currently innocent of whatever abuse they might've done in the future to Harry, and since Petunia, Vernon and Dudley were on their way to a new home in another country without this Potter child, there was no way these cruel acts would ever happen now. This last thought made Sirius turn away from the couch holding three sleeping people, and return to the corner table in the lounge which he'd been sharing with Petunia just a while ago. The Black heir now contemplated the stack of papers left out on the tabletop, and at this moment, he couldn't decide whether to feel triumphant or regretful over what these papers represented.
Bernard Ackroyd, the lawyer from Flint, Gannet, and Lochwell had done a fine job. From his bottomless suitcase, he'd produced every possible legal document for any contingency which might come up in either the wizarding and muggle worlds, and both Sirius Black and Petunia Dursley had signed these until their fingers cramped. Given how this splendidly-attired aristocrat also willingly made a tiny cut against a fingertip with a small silver knife provided by the lawyer and let several drops of his blood fall onto a particular set of documents, Petunia did the same, even though a pinched-shut mouth clearly signified her thorough disapproval of this specific magical experience. Fortunately, this had been the culmination of the transfer of Harry's guardianship from the Dursley aunt to Sirius, and after meticulously checking everything, Mr. Ackroyd politely took his leave of the pair remained seated at the lounge table.
Briefly ignoring his companion in the other chair, Sirius watched the legal representative head out of sight from the detainee lounge, with this door swinging shut behind an exceptionally professional lawyer. That man hadn't shown a flicker of curiosity about the entire night's events, much less ever displayed any knowledge about being seated next to a dead wizard and telling this vanished-at-sea murderer of a dozen muggles just where to initial. It looked like the New York City branch of FGL had indeed sent their best attorney, as promised to the Black family by the senior partners of the home office in Diagon Alley. In fact, these British wizards running a centuries-old legal firm had been a lot more shocked several weeks ago over being introduced in absolute secrecy at Black Manor to Sirius Orion Black, alive and well and not looking about to massacre anyone at the moment. On the contrary, he was eager to tell all (save for a few inconsequential particulars, like being from the future).
Still, things had remained quite delicate between the lawyers and the Black family, until a carefully-presented veritaserum interrogation and pensieve memories fully proved to the latest vistors at the ancient manor of Sirius' complete innocence regarding the charges laid against him by the Ministry of Magic. The total lack of any trial for this same wizard just before being sentenced to life in Azkaban also utterly infuriated FGL's senior partners. The youngest of these, a mere ninety-year-old witch, then sardonically pointed out an interesting wrinkle concerning Sirius' present existence in a legal limbo. Even though he was genuinely blameless in any criminal accusations up to his ferry journey to a hellish prison, these charges still hadn't been formally withdrawn even though Sirius was considered to be drowned along with the accompanying guards on this boat lost in a storm. So, once Lord Black showed his face in public, the Ministry might actually be stupid enough to arrest him again.
There were also some disturbing legal aspects over what Sirius had done right after his disappearance from wizarding notice. Even if he'd just been about to have his face kicked in by an Azkaban guard, the prisoner's extremely violent reaction to this which resulted in everybody else on the ferryboat perishing could possibly be defined under the law as manslaughter, rather than in self-defense. But since nobody in authority knew what happened, there'd never been any official charges over this against Sirius in the first place. It all wound up with FGL cheerfully accepting the Black heir as their newest client, if only for the opportunity to work on such a fascinating case.
An additional reason contributed to this, though, once the specific facts of the matter had been brought to FGL's attention. The senior partners all developed identical dangerous expressions of suppressed wrath when the decidedly inappropriate actions of Albus Dumbledore regarding the guardianship of Harry Potter had been laid out in full detail. This also included Sirius producing his copy of James' will given to this wizard's best friend after the ceremony making him Harry's godfather. A quick international floo to Canada ensured that all the lawyers could see for themselves the effects of the Headmaster's Confundus charm upon the will. A further explanation of just where Harry was now, in the hands of a possibly unfit muggle, quickly brought FGL aboard in helping with the details of restoring that child into the custody of his proper guardian.
It was soon agreed by all there at Black Manor to maintain the greatest secrecy regarding everything, as long as necessary. The senior partners left in thoughtful silence, ready to get to work, and the Blacks went back to their plotting. Eventually, it was arranged by a wizarding family and a law firm to lure the Dursleys entirely out of the country. Once well away from any possibility of interference by Dumbledore and/or the Ministry of Magic, a muggle aunt would be persuaded to hand over a desperately-sought child. As had indeed been done by Sirius Black over the last hour, with the job finished by the most discreet attorney practicing in the local jurisdiction.
During the introductions of their first meeting, Bernard Ackroyd had been polite but taciturn, merely mentioning to the unfamiliar English aristocrat that he'd been told nothing but what was needful by his wizarding superiors at FGL's New York office. Anything else learned in due course of his handling of tonight's custody case would be part of their lawyer-client confidentiality, never to be mentioned again. After some wary reservation, Sirius accepted this provided lawyer, and he explained to the calm man his strategy of holding a one-on-one confrontation with the target, a certain Petunia Dursley. Ackroyd was to wait at a distance until it was all over. The composed attorney consented to Sirius' wishes, and he acted equally unflustered when Olivia Davis of the New York Wizarding Children's Protective Services joined them. The trio of magical humans had then headed for the airport lounge where an exhausted woman was about to receive a totally unexpected surprise.
Well, the lawyer had obeyed his orders, ignored everything he'd learned from the pair at the other table, and then he provided all the required documentation for the custodial transfer of one Harry James Potter (without even blinking at this name), guiding both Sirius and Petunia in crossing the t's and dotting the i's throughout. After it was all done, Sirius had watched with real appreciation while Mr. Ackroyd had left. Until, a moment later, there was a worried clearing of her throat by the neglected woman gazing at the pile of signed documents before her. Looking up from the copies she'd been given of the legal conveyancing of his godson to Lord Black, Petunia was clearly beginning to have second thoughts, as shown by the anxious question, "Er, are you planning to take care of Harry all on your own?"
Glancing over in mild surprise, Sirius hesitated for a moment, before reaching inside his suit front. Pulling out his wallet and opening it to remove several animated photographs there, the younger man firmly declared, "Oh, certainly not! Look, here's my family…"
And that brought Sirius back to the present, standing before the lounge table, with Petunia Dursley fast asleep among her family in their shared couch behind the man wearing an obscenely expensive muggle suit. Bringing up a hand, Sirius absently pressed his fingertips at a certain point on the cloth of his jacket, feeling in the pocket beneath there a crinkle of paper which indicated his own copies of Harry's transfer were still there, all magically shrunk and warded against any harm or loss. Turning around to stare at the back of a woman's head now leaning against her slumbering husband's shoulder, Sirius felt his heart beginning to burst in gratitude. His mind became instantly made up: the Dursleys, even that bugger Vernon and his little snot of a son, were free to go, and the best of British luck to them all. Hopefully, they'd live a more happier life in Los Angeles, with no trace of magic coming anywhere near them ever again.
However…there was one niggling detail which couldn't help but persist inside Sirius' mind, and it had to do with family. Assuming the coming discussion with an awakened Petunia saying goodbye to Harry didn't deteriorate into a horrible scene, that might be the best time to bring up a tactful request. If all went well in the future, a several-years-older Harry would definitely want to know about his parents. And Petunia Evans Dursley was now the only person on earth who knew and could tell her far-off nephew exactly what Lily Evans had been like as a little girl. Surely, it wouldn't do any harm for them to write to each other about this…?
Mulling it over, Sirius glanced at his slim Patek Philippe wristwatch, and he eyed this ultra-expensive timepiece in sudden puzzlement. This was odd. Ms. Davis had earlier assured him that her medi-witch examination of Harry wouldn't take more than twenty minutes or so, and it was already well past double the promised time. Walking briskly away from the lounge table, Sirius passed without looking at the couch filled up with the dozing Dursleys, and he then left the room in seach of his godson.
Two minutes later, Petunia didn't even stir at the deafening bellow coming from another room close by, which roar of rage still managed to effortlessly penetrate several walls:
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU WON'T LET HARRY GO WITH ME?"