Author Note: Surprise! I hate to say it, but this chapter has been on my computer for nearly a year (maybe longer? When did I last update?) Anyway, I thought I had posted this and was very surprised when I realized I hadn't. For those of you still around, I am still debating this story - there are many things I no longer like about my original outline that I want to change but to do so, I would have to rewrite some chapters. Like I said, still debating.
You can thank kycatsfan for this chapter. I hope you enjoy.
Oh yeah - this hasn't been beta'd, all mistakes are mine.
The sound of hushed voices buoyed him in the grey place between deep, abiding sleep and consciousness. He didn't really want to be awake yet, preferring the dark, peaceful and safety of sleep. The voices annoyed him; he wished they'd just leave him be.
"Darrius. Come on, sweetheart, wake up." A gentle hand combed through his hair. He felt the bed shift slightly and a warm, slightly sweet aroma filled his senses; the scent that has always meant home and love and safety to him, even before he really understood what those things were. A gentle kiss was placed upon his temple. "I know you are awake, Darrius. Please open you eyes and look at me." His mother's voice whispered in his ear, low enough so only he would hear.
With a groan, he shifted slightly, and rolled over. With a resigned sigh, he slowly opened his eyes, blinking the world back into focus. The process also cleared his mind of the lingering sleep-haze and, with another groan, he remembered all that had transpired the day before. With a surreptitious glance about the room, he could see his father seated with his back to the fire, the man's eyes locked in his direction. Ron, standing off to the side, was alternately watching him and glaring toward the top of his bed. With a slight shift of his head, he glanced in that direction only to find Livia and Draco standing close together; both looking exceedingly tired.
"What happened?" Harry asked, confused.
"That is what we would like to know," came his father's stern reply; his voice growing colder as he continued, "when are you going to learn..."
At the first sound of his father's cold tone, Harry looked back at him and was inundated by memories that flew through his mind with the speed of a snitch and the force of a bludger. He felt like he was a child again, reliving every dressing down he had ever received from his Uncle and later his most hated professor. He felt small. Alone.
And that made him angry.
With more force than necessary, he pulled himself away and rolled over, turning his back to the room. He barely noticed that the room had fallen deathly quiet; his attention focused instead on controlling his breathing, on not letting any know how much the words and tone had hurt him. He refused to cry. He accepted his father's obvious dislike of him long ago. Refused to let one burst dream destroy what else had been built. He reminded himself that he had plenty of people, with no blood relation to him that loved him and called him family. He didn't need Severus Snape. If Severus Snape didn't want him, Harry knew he could live with that.
He felt the bed move and heard sharp, low whispers before the sound of furniture scraping against the floor and the tell-tale swish of father's robes swirling around him as the man stormed from the room.
"Would you all please excuse us?"
Arabella's voice was soft, comforting but stern enough to avoid any argument from those remaining in his room. He waited while they quietly shuffled from the room, only turning over as the door creaked shut.
"You gave us quiet a scare, Darrius," she started gently, smoothing the covers of this bed and tucking them around him. "Draco came up to get you for lunch and found you on the floor in the bathroom. You had been quiet sick and would respond to him, even when he tried to shake you. We've all been very worried. What I would really like to know is how you concussed your head?"
"I, I think it happened when I fell down the stairs." He replied softly.
"You fell? Down the stairs?" She asked for confirmation, obvious not believing the statement, "Forgive me, Darrius, but what, may I ask, caused you to fall down the stairs?
For a while, he remained quiet, not really wanting to deal with another tongue-lashing like he had received from Snape, since he wasn't sure what Snape may have already told her
"Darrius, we can not help you if you won't talk to us," she said, brushing a few strands of wayward hard back from his forehead. "Severus said he saw you fighting with Professor Umbridge, did she have something to do with your fall? Does she have something to do with the argument between you and your father?"
Harry's body stiffened automatically at the mention Umbridge and Snape; he could guess what venomously things Snape had told Arabella. Not wanting to face more disappointment, he rolled onto his side, facing away from Arabella.
"I'm really tired. Can I go back to sleep?" He asked softly.
"I will leave you to rest then. I will send an elf up with some soup. I expect you to finish it or I will be right back up here, understand?"
Arabella rose from the side of the bed and walked softly toward the door. Before leaving, she said, "Your father loves you, Darrius. I know it's hard to see right now, just please don't shut us out."
It was dark when he woke again. The only light in the room coming from the gentle glow of the crackling fire in the fireplace. Harry lay there silently as his eyes adjusted to the dim light enough to see the old clock beside his bed – 2 AM. He sighed and sifted his legs over the bed.
"Darrius? Are you alright?" The voice was warm, smooth – his father's voice or the one he associated with "father" rather than "Snape."
Harry glanced around, looking for the source of the voice. In the arm chair off to the side of the bed, obscured in shadow was his father. Even with his eyes focused on the spot, he could barely make out his outline. He heard more than saw the flick of his father's wand before the room lit with a soft glow.
"Yes, sir. I'm fine." He responded hesitantly, "Just, um, need to use the loo."
His father nodded then leaned back in the chair, obviously planning to wait for him. Dashing cross the room, he entered the bathroom, closing the door behind him with a soft sigh. Having taken care of his body's needs, he found himself staring in the mirror. He couldn't stop the sharp shudder that whipped through him; finding his reflection suddenly unsettling. He remembered a similar moment when the first set of charms first wore off – yet, even at that time, while he didn't necessarily recognize himself in the mirror – he knew it was himself.
Now, he felt like he was looking at someone else – as if Darrius Snape and Harry Potter were different people, altogether. The worst part of it all was that he wasn't sure which one he really was – Harry or Darrius.
A gentle knock at the door and his – or rather Darrius' name being called – snapped him out of his reverie. With a deep breath, he opened the door and looked up at his father.
He's shorter than I remember.
The odd random thought ran through his mind causing Harry to snort softly, which in turn earned him a raised eyebrow from this father.
"I was just thinking that you seemed shorter than I remember," Harry said, " but your not. I know your not. It's confusing."
His father nodded, then, placing a gentle hand on his back, guided him back to his bed. Once Harry was back in bed, propped up on pillows and covers pulled up around him, Severus pulled the chair closer and sat down.
"I think I understand," he paused for a moment, his eyes seeming to lock in on Harry's. "I owe you an apology. I spoke rashly earlier. I should have allowed you a chance to respond. Professor Umbridge, Darrius, has her own agenda," Severus continued, putting a subtle emphasis on his alternate name. "Please be careful when dealing with her.
"Yes, Sir. I'll be careful." Harry replied to which Severus simply nodded and leaned back in his chair. The room fell quiet for a few moments before Severus cleared his throat.
"I would like to you consider working with me tomorrow. I have several simple potions that I need to produce for the infirmary and your mother and I would appreciate your assistance." He paused briefly before hurrying on, "I realize you don't particularly like potions and I know I have done nothing to encourage an appreciation of them, but I would be glad for the opportunity."
For a minute, Harry just stared at his father and once hated teacher. The potions laboratory was haunted by many a hurtful memory of his father. Harry suspected, if the read the look in his father's eyes at that moment correct, the memories were equally unpleasant for him. Was he offering them a chance to start over again? Harry could only hope.
"Will you teach me? I know I have been lousy at potions all these years, but I always kind of thought I was missing something."
Severus smiled, truly smiled and Harry felt his own lips curling into a smile involuntarily. He could feel some of the hurt and tension from earlier start to drain from his body.
"I would be proud to, Darrius," Severus responded.
Harry nodded his agreement followed quickly by a large yawn that seemed to drain much of the remaining tension from his body. Severus rose, pulled one of the pillows gently from behind Harry's head, allowing him to lay flat.
"Sleep, my son. I will wake you in the morning."
Harry's only response was to scout lower in his bed and yawn again before his eyes drifted shut again.