Chapter 47 : A Yankee in Yorkshire
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A Yankee in Yorkshire
Severus' first instinct was to snap at the thirteen-year-old to mind his mouth. But as he eyed the rumpled boy keenly, he smothered that first instinct. Perhaps the boy was under stress, almost certainly he missed his late father, so maybe being a smartass was his way of dealing with it. Not that that excused his comment, but . . . perhaps he'd been trying to be funny? Severus didn't have much of a sense of humor, not after the things the Marauders had done to him, but he also didn't want to get off on the wrong foot with his cousin.
He cleared his throat, recalling vaguely that The Addams Family was an old Muggle TV show with all of the classic monsters in it, like the wolfman, Frankenstein, a vampire, and witches. He raised an eyebrow and said, "Dante, my name is Severus Snape, and I have never starred in any TV show. As for wearing black, I figured it was appropriate to do so considering the circumstances. My condolences on your loss. Did you wish to visit your father's grave before we left?"
"No. Did that already," the boy said shortly. He stuck his hands deeper into his pockets. "I guess we'd better leave."
"We have about half an hour before our next flight," Severus answered. Then he added, "We can get something to eat and stretch our legs before then. Oh, and one more thing. In the future, you may address me as sir while we are at Hogwarts or Severus at home, but never without respect. Is that clear?"
Dante looked slightly alarmed. "It was just a joke."
"He's not the sort you do that with," Harry interrupted. "I'm Harry, your cousin too." By adoption, he thought, but didn't want to say that aloud yet. He went to shake Dante's hand.
"Dante. No relation to the author," Dante replied, shaking Harry's hand politely.
"I shall gather your things, Dante, while you and the Snapes have a snack," said Mr. Martin, relieved that things had gone over well.
"Sure, whatever," Dante answered, getting an uneasy feeling in his gut. So he said, "Did you know my father well, then? Because he never mentioned you at all." Not that his father would have. Sulla Prince kept secrets close to his chest and preferred to not acknowledge people he didn't like. Dante wondered if that were the case here.
"We shall be back soon." Severus told Mr. Martin. "Come, let us see what they have to eat."
"I'm starving," Harry said, following his father from the room.
"I'm not very hungry," Dante muttered and went with them.
Severus ignored that. Instead he answered the boy's previous question. "No, your father and I did not know each other well at all. He left for the States before I was born. My mother was disowned, you see, for marrying a Muggle, what you would call a Normal, and we had no contact with anyone on her side of the family until now. We are the last of the Prince line."
Dante sighed. "Great. What's the big deal about marrying a Normal? It's done here all the time."
"You don't have a Statute of Secrecy?"
"Well, sort of, but it's not forbidden or anything for a wizard to tell the person he or she marries about us. Most Normals don't even believe in magic unless you show them several times and as long as you don't act like a total nutcase, we can live right next to them and they'll never know. It's called blending. Don't you do that in Britain?"
Severus frowned at the boy's tone, which was slightly condescending. "We do things differently there. Most of our world is hidden from Muggles. Only a few us "hide in plain sight" and that because we grew up that way. Like I did and Harry."
"Oh. Seems sort of . . . backward."
"Whether it is or isn't, isn't your concern. While you live with me, you shall be expected to abide by our rules, including the Statute of Secrecy, which means no underage magic performed outside of school, unless it is in the presence of an adult wizard," Severus said in a low tone.
"What? I have to ask your permission everytime I cast something?" Dante hissed. "That's crazy! I'm not a baby."
"It is the law. And as long as you live under my roof, Mr. Prince, you will follow it."
Dante thought about saying to hell with that and bolting, but the fact was he had nowhere to go. All of his money was in the hands of this Severus Snape person until he came of age, according to his lawyers. He didn't have a dime to his name and nowhere to go now that the New York apartment and the ranch in Wyoming had been sold. "Fine!" he said shortly. Great, another one like Dad, with a rulebook up his ass! He thought rebelliously, then considered that no one could beat Sulla Prince when it came to rules. His own rules, that is. Sulla didn't give a damn about anyone else's.
"Mind the tone," Severus ordered. "I do not tolerate mouthy teenagers, as my son can tell you."
Dante glanced over at Harry. The kid was small for his age, but didn't seem scared of his father. Maybe he was one of those goody-two-shoes kids who never got in trouble, Dante thought with a half-sneer. Probably the worst he'd ever gotten was a scolding. Dante bit his lip and nodded his head quickly, not saying anything. He'd learned a long time ago to be silent, because silence turned away anger. Most times.
Severus found a snack bar where they sold hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, chips, and some sandwiches. Harry got two slices of pizza and a soda, Severus a hamburger with onions and mushrooms and some chips. Dante would have refused, but the hot dog smelled so good, he ordered one and an iced tea. He figured he'd better eat now, airplane food was notorious for being terrible and he had a five hour flight or so to England.
They ate at one of the tables and then Severus took them back to the small room. Martin had gathered Dante's trunk and suitcases, including his backpack and had them piled in a corner, waiting for them to be picked up.
"I don't know what your solicitors told you, but in Britain magical children attend a school called Hogwarts until they are seventeen or eighteen. I am a professor at that school, I teach potions," Severus said calmly. "You are how old? Thirteen?"
"Just this past month," Dante answered.
"And how much magical training have you had?"
"My dad hired teachers for me when I was little. But the past three years, he trained me himself." Dante answered.
"I shall give you a test when we are home to determine your aptitude in certain subjects. Though you should start the term in September as a third year. Have you a wand?"
"A wand?" Dante repeated, puzzled. Then he recalled something one of his tutors said about wizards in Britain using wands for everything. "We only use them for focusing, or for spells that are really advanced."
"In Britain, we use them for most everything, especially when you are in school," Severus said. "I shall purchase one for you before you start school."
"But . . . I can do magic without it," Dante protested.
"But you will learn to do magic with it," Severus answered.
Dante said nothing, but scowled and threw himself into one of the lounges. What was this, the Dark Ages? Everyone knew that you only needed your will to use magic, not some outdated tool.
"So you can do magic without a wand?" Harry asked.
"Sure I can. Can't you?"
"No. Not yet. Except accidentally."
Dante turned away, looking out the window. He wasn't looking forward to this at all. It sounded so backwards, being forbidden to associate with Muggles and using wands to cast spells. What did people do over there, wear charms all the time so they weren't seen? Pretend their wand was a stick so ordinary people didn't notice? Dante had to be careful here too, but at least he could go out and mingle with other people and not worry about being thought of as some kook. He thought wistfully of the apartment they'd had here in the city. Sometimes he'd hated it, but at least he hadn't been trapped inside it day after day. Though the ranch in Wyoming had been better, because he could find places on it to be alone, to practice charms or brew and ride his horse, which he'd had to give away to a neighbor once Sulla had forced him to move to New York three years ago. Dante hadn't wanted to go then, anymore than he did now, but he had no say in the matter. One did not say no to Sulla Prince. Unless you wanted to get your ass kicked. Was it the same with his cousin Severus?
Harry sat down a little ways from the other boy and tried to make some conversation. If h was going to be spending the summer with Dante, he might as well try and get along with the other boy, though at the moment, the kid didn't strike him as very friendly. "Do you play Quidditch?"
Dante glanced at him. "No. Why?"
"You don't? Because almost everybody I know does at Hogwarts." Harry blurted.
"Well, I don't. And yeah, I know what it is. My father said it was a waste of time. He said flying was for transportation or for impressing some dumb country hicks, not for chasing a ball around."
"Oh. Do you have a broom? When we get home, we can go flying."
"Yes. Do you need to fly everywhere over there? Or can you walk? In the city you can walk all over. Or catch the subway or a bus."
"No, not everywhere. I just like flying a lot. Don't you?"
"It's okay," Dante shrugged. "A horse is better."
"You had a horse?"
"Yeah. Awhile ago."
"Do you still have it?"
"No," Dante said and turned away. The last thing he wanted was to discuss Flyaway with this kid. He didn't need any reminders of what he had lost after coming to New York.
"Did you always live here in New York?" asked Severus.
"No. I moved here three years ago. Before that I lived in Wyoming, on a ranch. That's where I had my horse. But then my father decided I'd be better off over here, so we moved." Dante said, thinking of how he had disliked it here at first. It wasn't until he'd met others like himself that he'd started to enjoy it. And now his life would change once again. Damn you, Dad! Damn you for dying and damn everything else you did too!
"Did you ever have a familiar?" Harry asked.
"No. I just had a horse. Do you?"
"I have Hedwig, my snowy owl. And my dad has a raven named Skullduggery."
Dante's eyes widened. "You have a raven? Ravens don't choose any but the best." He stared at Severus.
"He is one of the best," Harry said loyally, before Severus could say anything. "Even Ghost said so. He was my tutor, he came from here too. From a place called Windfar, and he had a raven named Shriek, only she was white. Do you know him?"
"Know him?" Dante gasped. "You had Ghost Walker for a teacher? That's like being taught by Merlin over here. How did you manage that? Was it expensive?"
"Uh . . ." Harry glanced at Severus.
"Ghost is a member of the Society of Ravens," Severus put in smoothly. "So he agreed to help Harry free of charge, as I am a member also."
"Hot damn!" Dante whistled. For once he was impressed.
Severus frowned. "You will refrain from using bad language in my presence, Dante. Or else you'll be scrubbing my dungeon."
Dante gaped at him. "Are you for real? I say that all the time."
"Not anymore. Unless you want to be acquainted with a scrub brush."
"Okay. Chill." Dante snorted. "Holy Merlin, it's not like I used the f-word."
"If you did, you would have a session with a bar of soap and some time scrubbing," Severus interjected firmly. He would not tolerate a child with a mouth like a sailor.
"What are you, the language police?" asked Dante insolently.
"Your new guardian. Would you like to begin washing the floor tomorrow?" Severus demanded, his eyes hard. He fixed the boy with his obsidian gaze.
Dante met his eyes for about a minute. Severus saw defiance and a bit of fear before the boy dropped his gaze. "No, sir."
"I thought not. We shall discuss other rules later on when we get home."
Dante just nodded, thinking rebelliously that it wasn't his home, just a place to stay. Until he came of age and was free to go where he liked. And say what he liked too.
He caught Harry's sudden warning look. Don't even go there, it seemed to say. Unfortunately, Dante had never been good at taking advice.
Harry and Severus slept for most of the plane ride home, despite the stiff airplane seats. Dante, in contrast, stayed awake for over half the trip. He couldn't sleep, all he could think about was how the plane was taking him further and further from his home and all that he had known. Granted, some of the stuff he knew wasn't good to know, but still it was familiar. Now he would be the proverbial stranger in a strange land, even if his ancestors had once come from here. It was not a comforting thought. The Prince name was a byword in the magical community of the States and everyone had known Dante's father. Some had loved him, some had hated him, but all had known who Sulla Prince was, and what he was capable of. There were times when Dante had hated his father's reputation, hated knowing he had to be worthy of being a Prince, but sometimes it had come in handy. He wondered if Severus knew what his father had been and done. Then again, why would he bother with Dante if that were the case?
The boy stared out the window at the low lying clouds. He wished that his father hadn't been so secretive about his relatives. But Sulla had often said that his life had begun soon after setting foot in America, and that was how he preferred it. Thus Dante knew nothing about his relatives and he wasn't sure he wanted to ask either. Asking questions brought trouble. And Dante already had enough of that.
He couldn't wait for this plane ride to be over. He felt exhausted.
Two hours later, Severus had to shake Dante awake to get off the plane. Once the boys were awake and paying attention, Severus led them to the Ministry and used their Floo Network to get home to his cottage in Yorkshire.
Severus levitated Dante's trunk and suitcases into the spare room he had set up for the boy and said, "This is where you'll be sleeping. If there is something you'd like to change about the room, let me know. Otherwise I'll leave you to get unpacked. We shall have supper in an hour or two."
Then he departed, leaving Dante alone to stare at the light blue walls and the thick dark blue carpet, with the double bed and cream colored duvet on it. There was a closet, desk, chair, and chest of drawers all done in creamy oak. Dante tossed his backpack on the bed and went to look out the window. He saw some trees and a long green strip of lawn.
It wasn't bad, though the ranch had been bigger. A bird alighted on a branch, a small brown sparrow or thrush. It reminded him of his housekeeper, an Oglala Sioux woman name Blue Sparrow. Sparrow had done more than just cook and keep house, he thought. She had been like a mother to him, or at least someone who cared enough to look after him. His father had been away on business and rarely home with his son. They had communicated mostly by letters delivered by Sulla's owl, Spartacus, a black great horned bird.
Dante scowled. Spartacus had never really liked him, the bird was ornery and had bitten him as a child for trying to pet him after a delivery. But Sparrow had hugged him and put medicine on the cut and since then Dante and Spartacus disliked each other. When he had written his father about the bite, all his father had said was leave the bird be, Dante. It's not a pet and you ought to know better. Spartacus had been sold along with a lot of other things from his father's estate, not that Dante would have kept the nasty thing anyway. Let someone else deal with him.
But now, gazing out on an unfamiliar landscape, Dante would have taken the curmudgeon bird over staying here. If he'd had the money, he would have disappeared into the alleys of New York after hopping a plane back there. How ironic, he thought, he was the son of a rich man and yet he didn't have a dollar or a Galleon to his name.
He threw himself on the bed and sought solace in sleep. Screw unpacking. He could do that later.
Harry knocked tentatively on the door to Dante's room. "Dante? It's Harry. My dad says it's time for supper. Hey, are you awake?" He turned the knob and went in when there was no response.
He saw the older boy sprawled across his bed, asleep. In sleep, Dante looked more vulnerable than he had when Harry had first seen him, sullen and sarcastic. Harry wondered if that were a front for Dante's true feelings. Was he scared or just mad about coming to live here? Harry knew he'd probably be both if it were him. He just hoped Dante tempered his attitude around Severus, for the last thing anyone needed this summer was a ticked off Severus.
Suddenly, Skullduggery flew into the room and landed on the bed beside Dante. "Rise and shine, little cowboy! Up an' at 'em!" Skull warbled, sounding like a bad cowboy from a B-rated movie.
Dante bolted upright, his hand sparking with greenish flames. "What in hell!" he cried, and then he saw the raven. Slowly he exhaled and lowered his hand, the green fire dying. "Bird, you nearly ended up fried chicken. Don't ever wake me like that again. And don't call me cowboy."
"What was that spell?" Harry asked. "If you'd hurt Skull, my father would kill you."
Dante sat up. "It's a defense spell to send any annoying little creatures away from me. And I'd never hurt a raven, they're sacred. Sparrow taught me that when I was a little kid. Do you think I'm stupid?" He tossed his hair out of his eyes.
"No, sorry we scared you. Who's Sparrow?"
"Blue Sparrow is—was—my cook and housekeeper growing up. But she returned to her own people when my father sold the ranch."
"Her people? Was she an Indian, like Ghost?"
"Oglala Sioux. Her white name was Marian. But she preferred Blue Sparrow." Dante yawned. He looked at Skull. "So you're Skullduggery, huh? Would you mind if I petted you? Or are you going to chomp my finger off?"
"Not unless you annoy me . . . cowboy," Skull replied impudently, and remained still when Dante's fingers stroked his chest.
"Don't call me that," Dante said automatically. "I was never a cowboy, even if I rode a Quarter horse. There were no cows on The Golden Prince. My father didn't like them. He said they were useless animals." Sulla had said a lot more than that, both about cattle and those who made their living from them. He had forbidden Dante to ever learn about being a cowboy, said it was a job for yokels and not for heirs to a great house and empire.
"Your father sounds like a stuck up ass," Skull remarked with his usual disdain for personal feelings.
"Skull!" Harry reproved. He looked guiltily at Dante. "Sorry, sometimes he just . . . says things."
"I've heard worse," Dante said. "Besides, he's right. My father was an arrogant ass. Sometimes." He swung his legs over the bed. "What's this school of yours like anyhow? What's it called again?"
"Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, if you want to be proper."
"Hogwarts? What a funny name."
"It got its name from a flower that grew all over there in the beginning," Skull put in.
"I never knew that," Harry said, shocked.
"Well, you never read Hogwarts a History either," the raven said smugly. "Tell Dante about the house system, Harry."
"There are four Houses that you can be Sorted into—Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff," Harry named them. "Each of the houses has their own sigil and crest and qualities. Like, my House, Gryffindor, has red and gold colors and a lion banner and we're known for bravery, for the most part. My dad's House is Slytherin, whose colors are silver and green and they have a snake banner and they're known for their ambition and cunning. My dad is Head of that House, that's a teacher who runs the House, he's sort of like a fill in parent . . ."
Harry went on to explain the other two Houses and then paused.
"How do you get into these Houses? Does someone pick you or do you have to pass a test or what?"
"No, you get Sorted."
"By the Sorting Hat. It's a magical hat that can talk and read your mind, well, sort of, and it tells you what House best suits you when you first come to school. Your House is sort of like a family, and you work with other members to gain points and win the House Cup—"
"Hold it! You mean some old hat is going to tell me where I belong?" Dante cried incredulously. "How long's that been going on?"
"Since the Founding. Centuries," answered Harry.
Dante crossed his arms. "Well, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard, Harry! We have stuff like fraternities and clubs, but no hat's gonna tell me what to do or where to go."
"But . . . but Dante . . . you have to be Sorted. Everyone at Hogwarts is."
"So? I don't like it. I hate being put in a box and told this is how you're going to be. I'm an American, we don't label people that way." Dante said angrily. Well, unless you were a member of a powerful organization, like the Hellfire Club or the White Knights. "I'll be damned if I'm going to let a hat tell me what to do."
"You don't understand. It's tradition . . ."
"And maybe it's time someone broke it," Dante snorted. "No hat controls my destiny. You should decide for yourself where you belong."
"You won't have a choice," Harry tried again. "The Sorting's not so bad, you'll see."
"Uh huh. And you'll see too. Me walking away. I told you, nobody forces me into a box." Dante's mouth firmed into a stubborn line. "If they want me to join one of those Houses, they'll let me choose. End of story." He hopped off the bed. "Coming? Or aren't you hungry?"
"I could eat a cow!" Skull squawked, and fluttered from the room.
Harry chuckled at the raven's wit, then sobered. If Severus ever knew about Dante's attitude . . . there would be trouble. He couldn't understand why something like the Sorting bothered the older boy so much. Unless Dante was just a contrary cuss after all. Maybe he could convince Dante to change his mind. Because not even cousins of professors were exempt from the Sorting Hat.
Harry hurried down the hall to the kitchen, licking his lips. Tonight Severus had made shepherd's pie, a favorite of Harry's, and he couldn't wait to taste it. He'd worry about Dante later.
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