The Price of Change
On a Jetplane
Black Family Estate, England
September 8, 1982
Sirius, not wanting to spend any more time than absolutely necessary at Godric's Hollow, immediately returned to the Black Family Estate after the funeral, a sprawling expanse of land tucked away deep within a thick forest and surrounded by all manner of enchantments and wards.
The mansion itself was at the very heart of the forest, a three acre large clearing that consisted of the mansion, the well-kept grounds, and a pond complete with a dock and a small boat that never got used. The mansion was grand and ancient, made of old stones and dark, thick woods that have stood through many generations of Blacks.
At the edge of the property, the enormous trees older than the mansion itself stretched and twisted up high into the sky, far taller than even the massive three-story mansion that the Blacks called their home. What was peculiar about these trees however was that the ones closest to the mansion were dark, as if stained by soot and ash. No living member of the Black family could recall why those trees were darkened.
Even with the wide clearing the air was heavy and unmoving, though whether it was because of the forest surrounding the place and blocking the wind or some magic that stilled the moving airs, Sirius didn't really know. Add to all that the fog that seemed to permanently blanket the surrounding forest and it was a rather eerie and dark place to have a home; that was just the way the Blacks liked it, or at least most of them.
Sirius, as soon as he was old enough, spent as much time as he could away from it. He hated the dark halls and cold stones of the mansion, which had a regal dungeon-esque interior; the stifling, heavy air that clung to his skin with a staleness that was almost unnatural; and most of all, the deplorable people he had to call family. He simply could not really stand to be there longer than absolutely necessary. That often meant staying over at the Potter's or any of the other Marauders, his best friends. Or, sometimes, that meant going to Grimmauld place, which was only slightly better than the Estate.
Of course, not all was bad with the family. His brother, Regulus, was actually half-decent; half, because he still held many of the prejudices and ideals that the Blacks were notorious for, but at the same time he was not as severe and he had some semblance of a conscience, something the rest of his family lacked. He could not count the number of times his parents had scolded him or expressed their disappointment in him for not following the Black way, and when the patriarch of the family died three years ago his mother made sure to remind him of how his father thought of him as a failure.
That all but reaffirmed his decision to break from family history and tradition. He wanted to chart his own path instead of tracing the dark footsteps of his kin.
The black suitcase with silver accents had the Black Family crest on it, beneath which was engraved in fine silvery lettering "SBIII", and at the moment Sirius was throwing his clothes and anything else he needed for his extended voyage into it. He did not keep much in his room at the mansion, mostly clothes, many of which he realized he had rarely if ever actually worn, but he threw them in the ever-expanding suitcase all the same.
"I'm guessing you won't be coming back then, brother?" A familiar voice from the doorway made him stop packing, though he did not turn around to look at the speaker.
"Not for a while, I'm afraid," he replied neutrally, staring into the near emptiness of his sizable closet.
"Hmm," the voice contemplated, "If I had to guess, This has something to do with that Potter boy, doesn't it?"
Sirius remained silent.
A light chuckle emanated from the doorway. "Oh, don't worry, I won't tell mother. Not that she'd care anyway, but it would save me the trouble of having to listen to her drone on for a few days about how much of a disgrace you are to the family name. If she asks though..."
"Tell her whatever you want, Regulus. The truth. A lie. It doesn't matter," came the reply from the older brother who stood stiffly in front of his open closet.
Regulus sighed, as if suddenly tired. "Take care of yourself, Sirius. There are dark times ahead. Very dark."
Before Sirius finally turned around to ask what he meant by that, the younger Black was no longer in the doorway, his footsteps barely discernible as he walked away down the hall.
Within another ten minutes he had everything he needed packed, somewhat haphazardly, into the magical black suitcase; he would sort it out later with magic once he unpacked. Taking one last look around to make sure he did not forget anything he wanted to bring, since he truly did not expect to be back for a long time, if at all, he hefted the suitcase with his left hand and proceeded to head downstairs.
A house elf suddenly popped into existence right next to him as he reached the first floor, but he walked right past it as it bowed low in its worn black pillowcase with the Black Family crest emblazoned on it.
"Master Sirius, sir! Excuse me, sir!" called the house elf as it tried to get his attention, scurrying after the young man.
Sirius spared a glance at the house elf as he neared the front door. "What is it, Bludger?"
"A delivery, sir! For you. It just arrived, sir," replied the house elf quickly, sensing the urgency in Sirius' tone and actions.
That made the young Black stop for once and turn slightly to face the small house elf, with his large black eyes and dry, wrinkled, and grayish skin. Half of his left ear was missing, though his right ear was complete and pointy like a normal house elf.
"What delivery...?" He could not recall having ordered anything so he was rather confused by the what the house elf was saying.
"It is a hippogriff, sir! And a rather nasty one too, if this one may say. He was most difficult to handle, but is now in one of the stables." Bludger did not meet his Sirius' eyes, having been taught never to do so by the older members of the Black family. It was not wise to look up to his superiors in such a manner after all.
"Ah." He remembered now. James had left him a hippogriff and he had completely forgotten about the beast. He chuckled briefly before saying, "Thank you for letting me know, Bludger. Now please bring the hippogriff over to the Potter Estate and tell them to secure it. Immediately. And watch out for its beak."
"Of course, Master Sirius, sir!" with that the little elf popped away, leaving Sirius alone in the entrance hall.
Reaching the front door, he grasped the old and ornate silver doorknob with his free hand. He swung the heavy door open and was about to step outside when he halted in his tracks because someone stood on the doorstep, blocking his path.
"Headmaster!" Sirius said with a start, taking a step back in surprise.
"Ah, young Mister Black, I was hoping I might find you here. You left quite abruptly after the funeral, I had been meaning to speak with you," said one Albus Dumbledore in a sky blue and purple robe that went all the way down to his feet with a gray cloak wrapped over it, his twinkling blue eyes darting for a brief moment at the suitcase before resettling his gaze upon the young man who held it firmly in his grasp. "Ah, going somewhere?"
"No... well, yes, headmaster," he replied quickly, still unsure of what the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was doing at his doorstep. Well, at the Black Family doorstep, actually. He did not consider this place to be his own.
"Where to, if I may ask?" the headmaster looked at him with a trace of curiosity.
"Overseas," was all Sirius responded with, his left hand gripping his suitcase tighter. The less people that knew of where he, and by extension Harry, was going to be, the better. At least until he could get properly settled and Harry got older. Even though he trusted Dumbledore, a veritable living legend and hero, he did not trust him as much as he used to. Then again, he did not trust anyone as much as he used to since Peter's betrayal.
"I see." Dumbledore tucked his hands behind him. "And for how long...?"
The young man looked to the side and shrugged, "A few years, maybe. Need to get away from England for a time."
There was a long silence, made more awkward by Sirius shuffling outside and closing the door behind him so that they both stood outside on the doorstep, the movement causing Dumbledore to take one step aside.
"I'm sorry, what was it you wanted to talk to me about?" Sirius asked, wanting to leave already as the stagnant air outside began to press down on him, or at least it felt that way to him.
"Ah, yes. Forgive me, I seemed to have gotten lost in my thoughts." Dumbledore apologetically bowed his head a little. "I simply wished to ask what you plan for young Harry Potter, particularly when it comes to his future, his education," replied the elder wizard, "I do hope that you will be enrolling him at Hogwarts when he gets his letter."
"I will consider it, definitely, although that's something far off into the future," replied Sirius, confused that Dumbledore would want to talk about this right now. He was indeed going to consider it, but he was ultimately going to let Harry decide. It was his education after all, and it would be his money paying for it to boot. Though he would be sure to put in a good word about Hogwarts, having studied there after all. He would not hold it against the young boy if he were to decide to study elsewhere though.
A flicker of emotion passed through Dumbledore's face, so brief that Sirius had almost missed it, and afterwards he wondered if he had even really seen it or simply imagined it. Was it displeasure? Was Dumbledore expecting a different answer? He was not sure, Dumbledore's face having returned to the gentle and slightly bemused look that he usually had.
"Good, good. Well, I shan't keep you any longer. It appears you have places to be," said the old wizard, "I wish you a safe and enjoyable journey." With that the tall, white-haired wizard began to walk away.
Sirius headed for his motorcycle, parked off to the side of the driveway circle in front of the mansion. He was strapping in his suitcase, tight against the bike, when Dumbledore called out to him over his shoulder.
"Oh and by the way, Sirius, if you ever need counsel, please know that I am at your disposal. You know where to find me." With the briefest of winks the old wizard disappeared with a slight pop, having found the "special visitor" apparition point of the estate.
Potter Estate, England
September 8, 1982
Sirius paced back and forth in front of the large fireplace as he went over the departure plan with Remus, who sat a few paces away on a large, comfy-looking sofa with one leg crossed over the other. The young professor was looking much better, having almost completely recovered from the effects of the full moon several days prior.
"You're not using the motorcycle, Padfoot. I don't care if you think it's safe; I don't think it's safe and I will not allow you to take little Harry Potter onto that flying contraption. Not to mention the distance you'd be flying is tremendous," Remus said sternly with an expression to match, "So that's definitely off the table."
"Alright, alright, I can see your point. Apparition then?" Sirius shook his head, answering himself. "No, no, that's too far to apparate. At least for me. I also haven't done much two-person apparition. I wouldn't want to chance it with the boy... perhaps a portkey?"
"Remember the whole bit about trying to keep it a secret? And not leaving an easily traceable trail?"
Sirius nodded, "Oh. Right. So no portkeys." In order to use a portkey, you needed to register it first with the Ministry, which supposedly could monitor portkey activity throughout the country. The rate at which they catch unauthorized portkey activity is very low though, but it was still not worth the risk. Furthermore, portkeys leave a distinct magical trail for some time, a trail that could be followed directly to the destination with a little effort, should anyone want to. And there was probable cause to believe that someone, perhaps Peter himself, might attempt to finish off the Potters.
Remus asked, "Well, what about Kyuzo? Has he tandem apparated before?"
The black-haired man shrugged his shoulders and said with complete honesty, "I'm still not entirely sure of what exactly that butler is truly capable of. For all I know, this young butler is the Albus Dumbledore of Asia."
Before any of them could say anything further, Kyuzo walked in holding the little Potter. "What was that about the butler, sirs?" he asked as he sat across from Remus on an identical couch.
Sirius and Remus looked at each other. "We were just noting that you're a very skilled butler and that we have yet to know fully just how skilled you really are," Sirius told him truthfully. "Have you ever tandem apparated before?"
Kyuzo bowed his head. "I hope my skills will help me to serve Lord Potter as best I can, sir. As for tandem apparating, I have indeed done it before, but never with a child, and it was never too far a distance."
"How far is not too far a distance?" Sirius wanted to know.
"Hmm.. well the farthest distance that I can recall is roughly forty miles. If you are thinking of doing that anytime soon, I would advise against it, sir. It is quite difficult to successfully do it and it's been a while since I've tried."
"Damn. Forty miles isn't anywhere near far enough, and he's not even confident about his ability to get that far safely. There aren't a lot of options left, Sirius," Remus noted with a sigh, leaning back and rubbing his chin.
Sirius continued to pace, trying to think of another way to do it.
The young butler looked from one man to the other, one pacing and one sitting. Both wore troubled looks on their faces. The young Potter, who was currently enjoying smacking and pushing on the soft cushions of the sofa, always at the edge of his vision. "Are we talking about traveling to America without being easily traced there?"
The two young men nodded at the perceptive teen.
"Ah! I got it. Why not try muggle means? I mean, don't they have those loud flying things with massive wings?" Sirius asked aloud. He had stopped pacing again and was staring squarely at the young butler.
"Wouldn't that leave a paper trail?" Remus leaned forward, elbows on his knees and arms clasped together as he also fixated his gaze on Kyuzo.
The young butler responded to that, "From my experience so far, and from what I have read, European wizards and witches are rather archaic and deem non-magical people to be inferior. They would not think to look through muggle means of transport. It might not even be a possibility for them."
"Still..." Remus was unconvinced.
"We could use fake identities?" offered Kyuzo. To him, muggle transportation was the ideal choice.
Remus nodded slowly. "That might work. How thorough are muggles with identity checks though?"
Kyuzo thought for a moment. "I am not sure, but if it comes to it we could always use a little magic."
Sirius crossed his arms across his chest. "Wouldn't that leave a magical signature then...?"
"I have ways of covering my tracks. But, I can see your point there..." Kyuzo trailed off, thinking hard, and then a slow smile crept onto his face.
Remus noticed it first, as he continued to look at the butler while Sirius restarted his pacing. "What is it?"
"We could use the house elves to manipulate their magics, should the muggles scrutinize our false identities or any other unexpected hindrances arise."
"Wait, don't house elves have some form of apparition as well? Why don't we just use that?" asked Sirius.
Kyuzo shook his head, "Still too far of a distance, sir, even for house elf magic."
"So. Airplane then?" responded the newly-appointed Potter guardian after a moment's pause.
"It would seem to be the best option we've thought of thus far, sir," remarked the young butler as he watched as Harry crawled across the length of the couch, making baby sounds as he went.
"It's settled then. We'll be using those muggle aeroplane things," Sirius clapped his hands together, happy that the had a plan of action.
"Sir, what about the guards?" asked Kyuzo, tilting his head.
"The... guards..?" Sirius had not thought about them at all. It was only "How many are there, again?"
It was only in recent years that James and Lily had gotten bodyguards, and Sirius barely knew them so he could not really be faulted for forgetting about them. Now their mode of transportation to the states was a problem to think about too. Bringing them along on the plane would not be wise, he figured, but he also needed them to help protect Harry from whatever dangers were out there so he could not simply leave them here. Not that they'd even accept being left here either.
"Suggestions, Kyuzo? Remus?"
"No one really knows their identities so they should be able to find legitimate magical ways to make it there. I'd suggest separating them and staggering their arrivals though, as well as their destinations, just in case someone knows about them," said Kyuzo.
Remus looked agreeable on the matter, so Sirius went along with it as well.
London Heathrow Airport
September 9, 1982
"Okay, so remind me again what the plan is?" Sirius asked as they got out of the cab.
Kyuzo led the way, more familiar with these muggle surroundings than Sirius and less liable to attract attention by doing something abnormal.
The butler recounted the plan quickly as they made their way to airport security, "Well, sir. We were in England visiting relatives. You are my adoptive father and this baby is your other adopted child, my step-brother. That should explain our... differences in appearance. Your name is Gary, my name is Kevin, and Harry's name is James. Our last name is Evans. We're traveling on American passports so we're simply returning to our home in the state of New York. The house elves will use their magic on the muggle security to ensure that this all goes smoothly. All in all, a fool-proof plan."
Sirius repeated the plan again in his mind to cement it further and make sure he had all the details. "Okay, good."
They passed through security without incident, though there was a moment when the person patting him down nudged the wand that was strapped in its holster, invisible, to his right forearm. That made him do a double-take towards his forearm. One of the hidden house elves shot some spell that made him forget about it though and Sirius, much to his relief, was waved through.
"That wasn't so bad," said Sirius as he sat down at the waiting area for their gate.
Kyuzo proceeded to hand baby Harry over to him, who was still dozing.
"What is it?"
"I'm going to buy us some things - snacks and drinks. And I need to go to the restroom. I'd rather not bring him in there when I don't have to," Kyuzo explained.
Sirius nodded in understanding, looking down at the peaceful toddler. He noticed that a good number of people were looking at him, or more specifically at little Harry, and they often had smiles on their faces. Little Harry did look very cute after all, as did most toddlers. Very cute indeed.
"Are you sure these things can fly?" asked Sirius as he checked for the fifth time that his seat belt was secure. He also checked to make sure his wand was still in its magically concealed holster on his right hip. Thankfully, airport security had not needed to pat him down because they might have felt the wand and its holster there, invisible though it may be.
"The answer has not changed since the last eleven times you have asked, sir. Yes, these airplanes were engineered to fly," the young butler replied, showing a hint of irritation although he was mostly bemused by the antics of the new patriarch of the Potter family, patriarch at least temporarily until Harry came of age that is.
"But can it fly safely? That's my primary concern at the moment."
"If you would like, sir, I can safely render you unconscious so you may sleep through the whole flight."
"And I'll violently render you unconscious for being so irritatingly calm and muggle-knowledgeable about all this," Sirius muttered under his breath so quietly that it was hard for the young butler to understand, especially since the flight attendant chose that moment to speak over the PA system, although Kyuzo was sure it was some comment aimed at him.
The term 'muggle-knowledgable' further underscored for him the fact that beyond motorcycles and automobiles, Sirius knew very little about the muggle world and its technological wonders; catching up with all of that was one of his top priorities once they made it to the Potter Mansion in America. And as he thought about it, he begrudgingly figured that he would need Kyuzo's help in that endeavor.
The toddler Potter was surprisingly quiet, dozing in Kyuzo's arms as the plane readied for takeoff, and for that peacefulness the two young men were grateful. Several hours in cramped quarters with a wailing two-year-old child was something they would much rather avoid, and it was not something that Sirius had even thought about until Kyuzo brought it up, at which point he began to eye the sleeping infant warily. There were a lot more than muggles that he did not know about, raising a child being at the forefront in importance.
"Remind me again why we're doing this?" Sirius said as the plane lurched forward, the fuselage shuddering, pushing the passengers back into their seats as the aircraft accelerated down the runway.
Kyuzo glanced at him with his same impassive look, accustomed to the movements and sounds of aircraft. "It was your decision, sir."
"That didn't answer my question!"
"But it being your decision, you should therefore logically know the answer to the question you posed," the teen proceeded to attend to little Harry Potter as the baby stirred. It began to let out a few cries, having been physically jarred from his sleep thanks to the shuddering of the plane due to turbulence. He shushed the toddler quietly and soothingly.
Sirius shook his head and rubbed the bridge of his nose, letting out a long sigh and resting his head back. His eyes shut as the plane continued its ascent. If he did not fall asleep, it was surely going to be a long flight. "We should've just taken the motorcycle," he grumbled as he adjusted himself to a more comfortable position.
Some time later, Sirius was barely awake when Kyuzo spoke to break the silence that had fallen between them. "You know, sir. I just thought of an even easier and better solution that we had originally missed."
"Mmm.. and... what's that?"
"We could have used house elf apparition, or whatever they call it, and 'hopped' our way to America instead of going the full distance in one go."
"Hopped...? I don't follow."
Kyuzo quickly explained the concept that had come to him right then and there. Basically, instead of moving in one go from England to America, they would hop to a closer destination, and then the next closest, and then the next after that. They could have gone to the northernmost tip of England, then the Faroe Islands, then Iceland, then Greenland, then Canada, and then America.
"Is it too late?" asked a tired Sirius, yawning and blinking slowly as he had found a comfortable position and was beginning to fade.
"Well, the house elves are on board, and I think we're not too far from shore..."
Sirius closed his eyes, reclining the seat back after having been shown how to do so earlier by one of the flight attendants. He was even more comfortable as he threw over himself the complimentary blanket that had been placed on his seat along with his pillow. "Bugger it. Let's just stay on the plane and enjoy the rest of this blasted ride..."
Kyuzo's lips twitched into the slightest of smiles.
Author's notes: And there's an update for you. Short, I know, but things shall pick up soon enough.