Chapter 46 : Relative Surprises
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A Serpent's Heart
Before Harry knew it, the week had flown by, and suddenly it was time for Ghost to return to America and the "wilds" of South Dakota, as he put it. Harry knew he would miss the older wizard dreadfully, for he had come to rely on the shaman as a guide on the astral, even though Ghost had been allowing him to go into the Place Between Worlds by himself for an hour or two these last sessions. He felt comforted when the shaman, Shriek, and Skull were nearby, even though he could Travel, and had, alone.
For their last session, Ghost and Harry traveled out on the moor, where a large twisted tree grew and there were no people for miles in either direction. "You asked me once whether I could shift into the form of another animal," the shaman began, striding up to the tree. "I told you my other form is a raven. Would you care to see it?"
"Sure!" Harry said, watching as his long-legged mentor climbed up the tree as easy as a squirrel. "What are you doing, Ghost?"
"Getting some height," he called down as he reached a large branch. "I hate shifting on the ground. Ravens are supposed to be creatures of the air." He walked easily out onto the gnarled limb. "Now, kid, don't try this alone or at all in front of Sev, he might have a heart attack. You have no idea how many times I hit my head before I got the hang of this."
The shaman balanced perfectly on the limb. Then, in a movement so swift Harry could barely follow it, he somersaulted off the branch.
For a single minute he hung suspended in midair. Then a white smoke drifted about his form, obscuring it from view.
A black raven, slightly smaller than Skull, soared out of the smoke and flew circles about Harry's head, cawing.
The boy laughed. "Wow! That was awesome! Wish I could do that."
The raven fluttered down until he was hovering at eye level. "Ah, I was showing off a little. Shifters are a dime a dozen where I'm from. Any wizard worth his salt can shift into some form, it just depends on what it is. I've known shamans who become bears and some who become lizards. Even insects, if they aren't too great and powerful."
"Could you . . . maybe . . . teach me?"
"Another time, Harry. Shifting and finding your spirit shape takes time, more time, unfortunately than I have right now. But tell you what. Maybe I can arrange something with Sev for next summer or the one after it. It'll take you that long to even develop the concentration necessary to maintain a shift. I usually don't teach shapeshifting until my apprentice is twelve or over."
Harry sighed. "Oh. I didn't realize . . ." He had hoped he could learn quickly, but it appeared not.
"Don't look so down in the mouth. You have your Traveling talent to practice on, that's enough for now. By this time next summer you should be relatively comfortable with it." Ghost said, flapping large midnight wings. "I may even see you sooner than that, if Shriek and Skull are any indication."
"You mean . . . they might become mates?"
"If I know my raven, she'll have him pledging his eternal faithfulness before we leave tonight," the shaman chuckled.
"Is that how they do it? Ravens, I mean? Shriek said they mate for life."
"They do. And mating critters aren't really my specialty, so I can't say exactly. But she sure does like him and I think he loves her too. And with birds, along with most other species, that's enough." Abruptly, the raven transformed back into the Mesquakie shaman again. He sank crosslegged to the ground beside Harry. "How about we take one more trip into the astral, then we can call it a day and do something fun."
"Like play cards?" Harry suggested. "Poker?"
Ghost snickered. "I'll go a few hands with you, boy. Long as you keep it quiet. I have a feeling Sev would get mighty riled if he found out I taught you how to gamble. Might skin me and hang me out to dry."
"What he doesn't know won't hurt him," Harry snorted. He settled his back against the tree trunk and closed his eyes, trying to find his center.
Fifteen minutes later they were seated on the ground with a blanket between them and Ghost was laying out a deck of cards, showing Harry the hands and what beat what and how to bet. Harry was having the time of his life. He wondered if Severus knew how to play poker and if he might sometime, if Harry asked him nicely, when he was in a good mood. This was a fun game, especially when played for Knuts or sweets, which was what they were playing for.
In a few minutes, Harry had almost mastered the hands and suits, and inquired spunkily, "When are you going to teach me strip poker, Ghost?"
The shaman almost choked. "When you're married and Severus is senile. You think I've a death wish, kid? Get your mind out of the gutter, brat!"
Harry smirked, then added, "Just kidding. Dad would have croaked if I'd said that to him."
"I almost did, you wretch! Taking after old Skull now, are you?" Ghost waved a chiding finger at him.
"No. Skull could say that and get away with it. Not me. I'd be scrubbing cauldrons till my fingers fell off. Or something worse." Harry said, studying the cards.
Ghost nodded. Teaching Severus Snape's son how to play strip poker was up on the list he kept of how not to piss off volatile wizards and keep breathing. He shuffled the cards and began to deal.
They returned from their lesson (and card playing) in time for lunch. They found Severus taking a break from brewing some extra healing drafts for the Hospital Wing at Poppy's request. He was fixing a salad with grilled chicken and other toppings, like dried cranberries, walnuts, and grapes. There was also a raspberry vinaigrette dressing on the side and some warm wheat rolls. A pitcher of water with lemon and another, smaller one, of pumpkin juice sat on the table. The professor looked up as he tossed the salad as the two entered.
"Looks like you're just in time," he remarked.
"Yeah, we followed our noses home," Ghost laughed. "And I'm starving. Haven't had a bite since breakfast this morning."
"Me too," said Harry, his stomach was growling.
"Have a seat. I'll be done shortly," Severus said, waving them to the table, which was set for three.
Harry sat, noticing abruptly that Severus was no longer dressed in his school robes. Instead he wore an ivory shirt with a button undone on the collar, sleeves were rolled up slightly, and his trousers were a dark grey with casual gray half boots. His belt was of black leather, with a Slytherin crest buckle. The man's hair was drawn back with a leather tie, and though there was a tiny frown of concentration on his face, he wasn't at all the forbidding instructor he used to be. In fact he seemed rather relaxed.
Severus floated the food to the table and they began to eat. As Harry was lifting a forkful of chicken to his mouth, Shriek and Skull arrived via the kitchen window and landed on the table.
"Ah, lunchtime!" Skull crowed. "What a perfect wedding meal."
"Cranberries!" Shriek cawed. "My favorite!" she helped herself to some on Ghost's plate unashamedly.
"Just eat my food, why don't you?" Ghost muttered, sounding slightly put out. "It's not like you can hunt your own."
Shriek paused with a cranberry in her beak. "Of course I can, but it's more fun to do this." She gulped the cranberry down and fished out another before Ghost could eat a second forkful.
Harry drank some pumpkin juice and carefully wiped his mouth before querying, "What was that thing about a wedding meal, Skull?" Since coming to live with Severus, Harry had learned to display good table manners, at least while his father was there, or else risk a quick reprimand. Table manners and teenagers were one of Snape's pet peeves.
Skull looked up from where he was gobbling a piece of chicken, given to him by his master, who had cut up a strip along with some greens and walnuts for the raven to eat. "Hmm. Oh, that. Well, Shriek finally convinced me to marry her."
Severus almost choked on his salad, saving himself at the last second by taking a drink of water. "You're what? For a second there I thought you said you were married." He stared at the raven.
"We are," purred Shriek. "I asked and he accepted. Then we had a short mating flight. But I flew his wings off anyhow," she said coyly, ducking her head into her wing for a moment.
"Did not! You're exaggerating," Skull protested, his crest standing up.
Shriek glared at him. "Would I do that, dear?"
"You'll do whatever you can get away with, lady," Ghost remarked, his blue eyes glowing. "Don't let her boss you around, Skull. Otherwise she'll be impossible."
"Says the man who invented the word," returned the raven saucily. "Besides, Skull likes sassy females."
"So do I, but you're unbelievable," Ghost snorted.
"Ha! I'll be sure to mention that to Susan Sly Fox at the next Fourth of July gathering," Shriek sniffed.
Ghost scowled. "You do and I'll buy you a one way ticket across the Atlantic."
Shriek hopped on his shoulder and began to preen his hair. "Oh, don't get into a snit, Ghostie. You know half the women there won't be able to resist you, sassy or otherwise."
Ghost rolled his eyes. "Heaven help you, Skull. But . . . congratulations."
"Thank you," Skull was puffed up with pride. "Sev, aren't you going to say something? Or will you just sit there like a lump?"
The Potions Master gathered himself and said, "Be quiet! It's not everyday your mouthy raven picks a mate. I wanted to savor the sudden quiet. Of course, that won't last long. Not unless I stuff you."
Skull nipped Severus' ear. "Be nice! You wouldn't want me to leave orphaned fledglings behind, now would you? What would my kids think if they saw me mounted on a wall?"
"How to behave," grunted his master, but a slight smirk curled up one corner of his mouth. "My sincerest congratulations, Skullduggery." Then he turned to Shriek. "And for you, my lady, my deepest condolences for putting up with such a reprobate."
Shriek emitted a high-pitched squawk, a raven's version of laughter.
"Reprobrate!" Skull cried indignantly. "Severus Snape, what a thing to say!"
"If the shoe fits . . ."
"One of these nights I'm going to lose it and bite off the tip of your big fat nose!" threatened the raven.
Severus ruffled the indignant avian's feathers. "Quit being a drama queen. You know what I mean."
"You're an insensitive idiot," huffed the raven.
"And you're my familiar, so what does that say about you, Wise One?"
"Merlin help me!" the raven said, sounding exactly like Madam Pomfrey.
"Are you going to stay with Shriek now?" Harry asked, afraid that now Skull would leave them.
"No, bran-boy. Not till the chicks are hatched. Shriek can manage the nest and all without me, right, sweet one?"
Shriek winked at her mate. "Not a problem. Ravens don't need partners until after the little ones are born, Harry. Though we like others of our kind, we don't need to be dependent upon our mates to bring us food, like songbirds. My eggs will be safe in Ghost's lodge in the rafters and no predator would dare enter there. I'll have to incubate them most of the time, but Ghost will give me food and water and I should be fine."
"Um . . . . have you . . . laid eggs before?"
"No. But it's instinct, so it should be easy. We'll write as soon as the babies are born." Shriek said.
"How long will it take? For the eggs to hatch?" Harry clarified while eating a roll.
Shriek replied, "The incubation period is anywhere from twenty to twenty-five days. On average, I might have five to seven eggs. Of course, some may not hatch. It all depends."
"You mean, some of the babies could die?" Harry gasped, thinking how horrible that would be.
"Well, that's a possibility, especially if I was in the wild, but no, sometimes all the eggs laid don't catch, and there could be one or two without any offspring inside. Like your infertile cluck me chicken eggs."
"I'll write you as soon as the babies are here," Ghost promised.
"And I'll send Skull over to help for about a month or so," Severus agreed. "Is that sufficient?"
"If it's not, we'll let you know," Ghost said. "Mmm. You make a mean salad, Severus."
"Thank you. Will you still be here for dinner? I'm making a roast with gravy, mashed potatoes, and string beans with oregano, garlic, and olive oil," Severus asked.
"With that menu, my friend, how could I pass that up?" Ghost laughed. "You've spoiled me, Snape. At home I have chicken or venison stew nearly every night. Unless some poor widow takes pity on me and brings me supper."
"Yeah, he just has to give them the old puppydog look and they line up outside his lodge," Shriek informed them. "It's pathetic!"
"Liar. Only Wintergreen feeds me on a regular basis, and that's because she's hoping I'll put a ring on her finger."
"I wish you would. She's becoming annoying."
"No way, bird. She's no Anne, and I won't settle for anything less."
"Humph! Being too picky will ensure you remain alone for the rest of your life," the white raven sniped.
"Hey, not everyone's as eager to pledge their heart and soul as you are, lovebird," Ghost pointed out. "Some of us just want to be left alone. Right, Severus?"
"Sometimes," the Potions Master replied, for a part of him did enjoy Lena's company.
"You're just scared you'll lose your heart again," Shriek accused.
"Maybe and maybe not. Now get off the subject, pretty bird," ordered the shaman tiredly. "Creator, but I pity you, Skull, dealing with a mouthy piece like her."
"He's just as bad," Severus said wryly, earning a black look from the raven.
After dinner that night, Ghost made preparations to leave, promising Harry that he would write as soon as the baby ravens were born. "And if you need me, Harry, for anything, don't hesitate to write me or call me into the astral. I wish I could stay longer, but I have duties that are rather pressing back home and you're as trained as I can make you, enough so you won't sleepwalk or endanger yourself without knowing." He slung his pack over his shoulder and gave Harry a hug and shook Severus' hand.
"You are welcome in my home any time," Severus said. "And of course, so is Shriek. We look forward to hearing from you."
"And I look forward to writing you, my friend," Ghost grinned.
Shriek and Skull were making odd noises, sort of like purring and then they curled their necks about each other, almost like lovebirds. Shriek said something in raven speak and Skull responded, then the two flew together into the air for a moment before Shriek came down to settle on Ghost's arm.
"Goodbye, Shriek. Good luck with the babies," Harry said, and gave the white raven a final scratch. He would miss the flippant bird and her master something fierce.
"Thank you, Harry," Shriek warbled. "Come on, Ghost. Time's flying."
"Keep your feathers on, bird," Ghost ordered. "Until we meet again, Sev, Harry." He tossed down some Floo Powder and called out, "Ministry of Magic, London" before stepping into the green flames and vanishing. From there he would go home using their Floo Network.
Harry stared at the empty hearth forlornly until Severus put a hand on his shoulder and turned him about. "Dishes, Harry. And after, we can play chess if you'd like."
Actually, Harry would have rather played five card stud, but he knew better than to suggest that to Severus. He hurried over to the sink to scrub the plates, wishing that Shriek would have the baby ravens soon, so he could see them and the shaman again.
About two weeks after Ghost's return to America along with Shriek, there came a knock at the door of the Snape residence one early morning.
"Sev, we've got company," Skull called as he flew in the kitchen window and landed on the table, which Harry was setting for breakfast.
Severus half turned from the stove where he was making vegetable and cheese omelets with a side of bacon. "Do you know who it is? Harry, wait before you open the door." Severus was wary because of past acquaintances with Death Eaters, even though none of his former "friends" knew where he lived now. Still, one could never be too sure and his cautious attitude had saved his life in the past.
"A certain meddling old man of our acquaintance," Skull warbled.
"Dumbledore?" Harry guessed.
"Got it in one!" the raven praised. "I saw his moon and stars robe from forty feet away coming up the walk. Man's like a carnival gypsy, or an ostentatious parrot."
Severus hid a smirk as a firm knock came at the door. "Harry, invite the Headmaster inside."
Harry went to answer the door. Sure enough, he found Dumbledore waiting on the mat. "Hello, Professor."
"Good morning, Harry! I hope I didn't wake you."
"No, sir. Come in. I've been up for ages, Dad doesn't let me sleep in unless I'm dying," Harry informed the old man, standing aside so he could enter the house.
"Ah. Yes, Severus always was an early riser. Must be a thing with Potions Masters. Horace was like that too." He entered the home and followed Harry into the kitchen. "Hello, Severus!"
Severus gave a short nod. "Hello, Albus. Have a seat. Breakfast will be ready shortly, unless you've already eaten?"
The Headmaster seated himself, smiling jovially. "No, I didn't come here to eat, but if you're offering . . ."
"Don't ever pass up Sev's cooking. You'll insult him," Skull chirruped. "Besides, he makes a mean omelet."
"Hello, Skull," Dumbledore laughed. "How are things with you?"
"Fine. Better than fine, actually, since I tied the knot. Got mated last week with Shriek and she's expecting soon. Before I know it, I'll be a father like Sev." The raven preened himself.
Dumbledore looked a little startled. "Oh, that's wonderful, Skull! Congratulations."
"Yup. Couldn't happen to a nicer raven, eh?"
Before Dumbledore could answer, Severus cut in. "Nothing like getting a swelled head."
"You're just jealous," Skull snapped.
"In your dreams," snorted his master, flipping an omelet over.
Harry snickered at the banter and Dumbledore eyed him and said, "It seems you and Professor Snape are getting on well, Harry."
"Yes, he hasn't had to scrub my lab floor in a week," remarked Severus.
"And he only beats me on Sundays," Harry added with a cheeky grin.
Dumbledore looked alarmed for a moment before he realized Harry was kidding. "That's mighty nice of you, Severus."
Severus cranked his head around to glare at Harry. "But I think I just had a volunteer to go over the floor with a scrub brush, vinegar, and water to make it shine."
"It was a joke, Dad!" Harry objected. "Merlin's foot!"
"I've got the bucket by the stairs," Severus warned.
"Um . . . sorry," He turned to the headmaster. "I was only kidding, sir. My relatives took a swing at me more than Professor Snape ever did."
Dumbledore coughed uncomfortably at the mention of the Dursleys. "Actually, they're the reason I—"
"Don't let Sev fool you, Headmaster," Skull interrupted. "He might act like a stern hardass but he's actually a mushy gushy teddy bear at heart."
"I also heard a raven volunteer to become a paperweight," Severus snarled, turning a rather interesting shade of red.
Harry had clamped a hand over his mouth, but giggles were emerging despite that, and Dumbledore seemed to be having a coughing fit until Snape swatted him on the back.
"Breathe, Albus," Severus muttered before setting down the plate with omelets. "And have some breakfast before some of it ends up all over a certain mouthy raven."
"Forgive me, Severus," Albus said, wiping his face. "But you do have a certain reputation."
"Humph! If you believe Skull, I have a monster in Loch Ness to show you," the professor said sarcastically. He scowled at the raven. "Just for that comment, you ought to go without breakfast."
Skull pretended to look chastened. "Aww, Sev! You're so touchy. But I love you anyway." He made smooching sounds at the professor, who just rolled his eyes.
"Harry, sit and eat. He wasn't that funny."
Harry obeyed, muttering under his breath, "Yeah, right. I love it when he calls your bluff." He helped himself to an omelet and some bacon along with some pumpkin juice, tea, and toast with jam.
Severus shot him a Look, but then sat down as well to eat. Skull perched between him and Dumbledore, who fed the bird from his plate and ignored Snape's glowers.
For several minutes there was no sound except for people eating. The omelets were first rate, though Harry expected nothing less from a potions perfectionist who regarded cooking as similar to putting together a solution. Plus, Severus had been raised, as he had, in a Muggle household, and learned to cook fairly early on in life.
"Delicious, Severus," Dumbledore praised as he finished what he had taken and went back for seconds. As he leisurely ate the second portion, he said quietly, "As I was saying, I know you paid a visit to the Dursleys a week or so ago. And I was wondering . . ."
"If they're dead?" Severus inquired bitingly. "Unfortunately, no. They're alive, though they probably don't like what is happening to them right now."
"What did you do to them?" asked Dumbledore.
"I gave them precisely what they deserved. They aren't dead, hung, drawn, or quartered, if that's what you were wondering."
"Are they still human?"
"Yes. But hopefully a little more humble than they were before."
"Ha! That'd take a miracle," Harry said.
"You can see for yourself next week," said the professor. "By then the lesson should have sunk in deeply."
"You hope," Harry shrugged.
"Some people are like idiots," Skull commented. "They never learn, no matter how much you correct them."
"Well, at least I don't have to live with them anymore."
"And I don't have to bail Severus out of prison," Dumbledore added with a naughty twinkle in his eye.
"Did you think otherwise, Albus?" Severus inquired testily. "I'm a man of my word."
"Of course you are," soothed the old wizard. "I didn't mean to imply otherwise. But there is always temptation."
"And save for once, I have always avoided it," returned the Head of Slytherin. "But if you don't trust me, feel free to look in on Privet Drive."
"No, Severus. Your word is good enough for me," Dumbledore said apologetically.
"But what did you do to them?" asked Harry.
"That is for me to know and you to wonder," replied the Potions Master enigmatically. "Now finish your breakfast."
"I'm done. Can't eat another bite."
Severus surveyed Harry's half-full plate. "Oh?"
"I'm full. Honest."
"And how many donuts did you share with Skull this morning at five AM?"
Harry blushed. "Err . . . how'd you know . . . I mean . . ."
"The empty carton was a dead giveaway," Severus answered.
"Oh, Severus!" Albus laughed. "You sound like an old woman! Let the boy live a little."
"And drop dead of a heart attack?" inquired Snape icily. "Not on my watch."
"A little sweet tooth never hurt anyone," the Headmaster protested.
"Says the king of all sweet tooths," Severus said acerbically.
"He's just a boy, Severus."
"But he's my boy, Albus. Therefore he follows my rules." He looked over at Harry. "Don't come whining to me later that your stomach hurts. And no sneaking drafts out of the remedies cabinet either."
Harry made a face. "You're mean."
"And it's your own fault," Severus returned.
Harry sighed. He'd have to pray he didn't get sick, or else he'd suffer for it. Until Dumbledore nudged him under the table. Harry peered down and saw a small vial near his foot and hid a grin. He mouthed a thank you to the old man before pretending to tie his trainer and palming the vial. The Headmaster was as sneaky as a Slytherin sometimes.
Not too long after Harry paid a visit to the Dursley residence with Severus, he received letters from his friends asking if he could come visit. So he spent a few days, namely two, at the Burrow, Malfoy Manor, and the Longbottom residence. Hermione was in France so she couldn't have him over, and then Severus received a letter from Ghost, saying that Shriek had just laid six eggs and was laying on them.
Skullduggery was so proud he strutted about telling anyone who would listen about his impending fatherhood until Severus told him to shut up before he made his fledglings orphans because their father was so bloody annoying.
Harry was about to beg Severus for a trip to America when another envelope came, postmarked from Manhattan. It bore the logo of the American branch of Wizarding Child Services.
Severus frowned before he opened the envelope and Harry asked, "I didn't know you had any relatives in America."
Severus did not reply, but slid out the sheet of parchment and began to read.
"So . . . he's dead."
"Huh? Who's dead?"
"My uncle, Sulla Antonius Prince. He was my mother's younger brother. He inherited the Prince estate upon the death of my grandparents years ago, but instead of remaining to take up his responsibilities and title, he took off and ended up in America, New York City, I think. He became some big political businessman over there and married an American heiress whose ancestors dated back to Salem and the witch trials over there."
"Really? Did you ever meet him?"
"No. He was gone right after my mother married. It seems there was big scandal or some such with him, I never really cared to dig any deeper, but my grandparents cut him off without a cent for a time, though they never really disowned him. I think it had something to do with the wrong people in the wrong circles," Severus answered. Meaning that his uncle had been hobnobbing with unsavory criminals, like Death Eaters, or so Severus suspected. "Years after I was born, my Prince grandparents died and the estate came to Sulla, as the nearest male relation besides me. My mother had to come to the funeral in secret, her brother didn't want her there. He inherited, stayed long enough to assume the title and the money and then he left. We never heard from him. And now he's dead and so is his wife."
"Wow. Like . . . they just died or was it something else?"
"His wife died soon after having a child. Sulla had a son, a boy. Sulla himself died of natural causes, it says. His heart stopped. It's a common ailment in the Prince men, though I don't have it."
"So does this mean you've inherited the estate?"
"No, because my cousin, Sulla's son, Dante, is still living and the line continues with him."
"How old is he?"
"A minor. Thirteen, they had him later in their marriage. Which is why this letter came to me. He's too young to inherit anything and needs a legal guardian. Since I'm his next-of-kin—"
"What about his mother's people, Sev?" Skull asked.
"Gone. They died in a fire when she was a young girl and she lived with an elderly aunt until she was old enough to inherit in her twenties. The aunt passed on before she married Sulla and she was the last of the Prestons. When she died she made my uncle a very rich man. And now my cousin is a ward of New York state until I assume responsibility for him."
Harry's eyes widened. "You mean, like him coming to live here?"
Severus set his jaw. "I have no choice, Harry. It's my legal and moral responsibility. He cannot be left on his own, not so long as he has family living, and I'm certainly not going to relocate to America, in spite of what Ghost says about it being wonderful."
"Maybe you could pretend you're dead," Harry blurted without thinking, feeling a small irrational surge of jealousy.
"Harry!" Severus reprimanded. "Do not make me treat you like an eight year old. I know it's natural for you to be jealous and afraid of your cousin—"
"I'm not afraid of him, Dad! I just don't like the idea of you being his guardian too." Harry said, then he could have kicked himself. Why had he said that?
Severus sighed. "Look, this will not be easy for any of us. But . . . we simply have to keep calm and carry on. Having my cousin here will not change things between us. You are my son, he is my cousin."
"And you like me better, right?"
"Harry, you know I . . . love you like my own. I don't know enough about Dante to say anything right now and prefer to reserve judgment. But one thing I do know is that there will be no contest between you for my affections. You are my son and he is my cousin. There's a difference."
"You mean because you have to like him because he's related to you and me you chose?" Harry clarified. He didn't mean to be a pain, but suddenly felt rather insecure.
"Yes and no. As I told you, you are my son now and I shall always love you. Never doubt that." He knelt and put his hands on Harry's shoulders. "Am I understood?"
Harry looked into the obsidian eyes and nodded. He could see Severus meant what he said and inwardly he drew a sigh of relief. Whoever this Dante Prince was, at least he wouldn't take Harry's place. Then he scolded himself a bit for acting so dumb, the way Dudley had when somebody showed Harry some attention.
"I know this is difficult for you," Severus sighed. "It is for me also. I never expected to be a parent to two boys at once, or at all. I suppose I could refuse . . ." Then he shook his head. That would be wrong. As wrong as it had been for his uncle to refuse to acknowledge Severus as his nephew after Eileen died. Then again, Severus had been an adult, but if he hadn't . . . the Potions Master wondered if Sulla would have taken him in. "Never mind. I suppose we ought to book a flight to America."
"Book a flight?" Harry echoed.
"We certainly aren't going by broom," Severus answered. "And I don't have a Portkey or International Floo Network access. I also don't care for boats so flying on a plane is our only option."
"They could drop him off here," Skull suggested.
"Skullduggery, would you drop off a thirteen-year-old boy alone in the Ministry of Magic to wait for some relative he doesn't even know?" demanded Severus.
"If I didn't like the damn kid, I would," answered the raven saucily.
"I need to find the number to Heathrow Airport," sighed Severus. "And if you don't behave, Skull, you'll be riding in the baggage compartment."
Skull stuck out his tongue at Snape, then crooned over to Harry, "Maybe we can stop over by Ghost while we're there and see Shriek and my eggs."
"I don't think we have time, Skull," Harry said. "Plus, it's too early for them to hatch."
"We could see," Skull argued. "On second thought, maybe I better stay here and watch over the place. You never know what could happen while you're away."
Harry said nothing. While he wanted to see the shaman and Shriek again, he wasn't sure he wanted this other kid tagging along. He hoped this Dante wouldn't be like Dudley, a spoiled brat. What if they hated each other? Then what? This was so typical of his life. Everything was going great and then—bam! Something happened to upset it.
He prayed things would go smoothly. Nothing was worse than Severus Snape in a serious snit and Harry didn't want to be the one to put him there. He quickly thought about the plane trip there. It would be his first time on an airplane anywhere, since he'd always been left with Mrs. Figg on the Dursley family vacations.
The plane touched down at Kennedy airport with a gentle thump. Harry woke up, he'd slept most of the way and spent the rest of the time staring out the window or talking with the flight attendant.
Harry was wearing his usual Muggle attire, jeans, trainers, and a green and white striped T-shirt. He knew his hair was mussed from sleeping, but didn't want to take the time to fix it in the restroom. It wasn't as if he needed to impress anyone, and Severus was supposed to meet the WCS director here after they got off. They carried small satchels, for they weren't going to spend a long time here. The director was supposed to meet them at the airport with Dante. Severus was wearing his usual black slacks, shirt, and shoes.
After going through a long boring line at customs, Harry and Severus emerged on the other side. A rather tall man in his middle forties in a conservative gray suit and tie waved to them.
"Hello, are you Mr. Snape? I'm Gary Martin," the man said. He was blond and slender. He held out his hand for Snape to shake.
"I'm a professor, but I am Severus Snape," Severus corrected, shaking the hand offered. "This is my son, Harry."
"Pleased to meet you both." Martin shook Harry's hand as well. "If you'll follow me . . . right this way . . ." He shoved between several people carrying suitcases and duffles. "I hope you had a good flight . . ."
"Adequate," replied Severus, walking swiftly after the other wizard.
Harry was nearly trotting to keep up. He wanted to stop and look about, there were so many stands and people, it was like a small city and he wanted to soak it in, but he had to keep up with the adults. They were led past kiosks and escalators and restaurants. Harry's head spun.
Finally they were led to a door painted blue with a sign that said Management Only.
Martin pushed it open and they stepped inside.
The room was large, with a bank of windows overlooking the street and blue fluorescent couches and a gray carpet. A can of soda lay opened on the table and so did a plate with a half eaten sandwich. At the window stood a medium sized boy with shaggy hair, dark, wearing faded jeans and a white shirt that said Def Leppard on the back. He wore black Converse.
Harry had never seen anyone who looked less like a rich kid. Or a wizard either.
Dante turned about and faced them. He had a face with high cheekbones and a sharp chin and hazel eyes. His hands were shoved in his pockets.
"Dante, these are your cousins, Severus and Harry," began Mr. Martin.
The boy's eyes widened. Before anyone could say anything, Dante looked them up and down and said, "Holy Merlin, are you like into the Addams family? Or going to pay respects to my father? Because you look like an undertaker."
Harry remained with his mouth slightly open. He waited for Severus to respond. If there was one thing he, and every other student at Hogwarts knew, it was to not give Severus Snape cheek. He had a feeling Dante would learn that lesson all too soon.
A/N: So here's part two. I didn't want to split it up because I wanted to do first and second year together, unlike many fanfics. Dante Prince is my own character and you can like or dislike him as you choose. He is not there to displace Harry, but there to give him another aspect of family-an older sibling . . . sort of. And yes, you will meet Skull's offspring soon. What do you think Severus will do?
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