Harry and Draco were the first ones back from the dance. The common room was dark and Harry tiredly flicked his wand for some light. He immediately froze. Gregor, Dian and a few boys whom Harry didn't recognize stood in a half circle, facing them, wands raised. Draco went for his by Gregor turned his wand upon him.
"Don't," he warned.
Reluctantly, Draco stilled his hand. Harry kept his wand raised but had no idea who to focus it on. He had it pointed at Dian when Gregor said casually, "Stupefy."
Harry's wand snapped to Gregor as Draco crumpled. He had to strongly resist sending a curse his way for he knew that Gregor's friends would immediately retaliate.
"What do you want?" Harry demanded.
Gregor simply smiled in a horribly creepy way. "To make you regret it."
Harry swallowed hard. Gregor held out his hand. "Your wand."
"No," Harry replied immediately.
Gregor simply tilted his head as if he were interested and pointed his wand at Draco. "I know a hundred spells to wake him from his stun. Perhaps I will choose one of the...less gentle ones."
Harry could hear the violent insinuation in his voice and knew that he could cause Draco real pain. Nevertheless, he was reluctant to give up his wand.
Gregor twirled the wand in his fingers. "Hm. Perhaps a nice dose of the Cruciatus Curse?""You wouldn't," Harry breathed.
Gregor grinned. "Try me," he challenged, pointing the wand at Draco. Gregor's eyes were full of an icy fire and Harry had no doubt that he would do it.
"Fine," Harry said, tossing his wand. He felt that he should have tried to fight more but really had no options. Whatever he did would hurt Draco, similar to the situation in the Chamber years ago. Harry really needed to stop bringing friends to fights. Gregor caught it easily, looking pleased. He made an abrupt gesture and two of the boys stepped forward to grab his arms in their strong grip. Harry struggled more out of principle than of any hope of getting out.
Gregor pointed his wand at Harry and uttered a string of words with which Harry was not familiar. When he was finished, Harry felt odd, somehow. He blinked off the sudden heaviness in his eyelids and saw Gregor's face grow larger in his field of vision.
Gregor smiled down at him cruelly. "Obliviate."
And, for Harry, the world went black.
Harry woke to the sound of an insistent voice. He reached for his wand instantly without knowing why.
"Harry, come on!" Draco said as he shook him. "We're leaving in a half hour."
Harry blinked rapidly and opened his eyes. Recognizing Draco, he relaxed his grip on the wand. He looked around at his room and couldn't remember whether or not he had packed. Harry rubbed his eyes with his fists and looked at Draco. He opened his mouth to ask him if he had packed, then closed it with a snap.
"Harry?" Draco asked. "You okay?"
Trying again to talk, Harry opened his mouth. For some reason, he could not will the words to come out. He pointed at his throat and shook his head.
Draco blinked at him. "You lost your voice?"
Harry nodded, glad that had come across.
"Are you sick?" Draco asked.
Harry shook his head.
"Uh, well..." he seemed at a loss. "How about you just get packed. I'm sure Snape will know what to do when we get back."
Harry brightened at the prospect of seeing his guardian in a little over a half hour and pushed himself off the bed. He began packing with a vigor, his mind turning over the mysterious loss of his voice. Harry was certain it wasn't due to sickness; he felt fine. It was just as if his brain had stopped making the connection that allowed speech to flow normally. He frowned.
Picking up his trunk, he followed Draco to Professor Dumbledore's quarters where they had been told that the Floo would be established. Needless to say, it was a silent walk.
When they were almost there, Draco attempted conversation, as sparse as it was.
"Did you have a good time last night?"
Harry nodded and ginned, ducking his head slightly. He tilted his head and pointed at Draco.
"Me? Yeah, it was okay," Draco replied, coming to a stop outside Dumbledore's door. He knocked.
Professor Dumbledore answered the door, seeming as lighthearted as always.
"Hello there. Come to use the Floo?" he inquired.
"Yes, sir," Draco replied.
Harry nodded, not wanting to explain that he couldn't talk. Luckily, Draco didn't say anything either but instead stepped past the old professor and towards the fireplace.
"You're going to the Headmistress's office," Dumbledore told them. "Keep in mind that it is only six in the morning there."
"Thank you, sir," Draco said, gesturing for Harry to go first. Harry gave Dumbledore a smile and a wave and he didn't seem to think anything of it. Harry took a handful of powder and bit his lip. He let it fall back into the container and gave Draco a helpless look. Dumbledore had moved into the other room, mumbling something about tea.
"Here," Draco said, grasping the container. "I'll throw for you."
Unaware that he could do that, Harry handed the powder over.
"Headmistress's office, Hogwarts," Draco said, throwing the powder at Harry's feet.
Harry shot Draco a grateful look as he was whisked away. He stepped into the empty office and waited for Draco to follow. When he did, Harry picked up his trunk and headed for the door.
"I'll come with you to Snape's," Draco said.
Harry shot him a questioning look. From what he could remember, they had not been on the best of terms since the first task.
"To explain," Draco told him.
Harry understood and they made their way down to Snape's office. It was locked and Harry had no desire to be the victim of whatever alarm system Severus had instituted. He knocked loudly instead, hoping that it was loud enough to carry into Severus's chambers where he would presumably be at this time in the morning.
They waited for several moments. Just as Harry was raising his hand to knock again, the door opened, revealing a slightly disheveled Severus. Had he been able to talk and had it been more private, Harry would have given his guardian a better greeting.
"Harry," he greeted, seeming a bit surprised. "And Mr. Malfoy," Severus greeted as well. "Come in."
They stepped inside and Harry continued on to Severus's chambers through the door that was left open. He sat on the couch while Draco and Severus stood.
"I must admit, I am surprised to see you here, Mr. Malfoy," Severus said arms crossed casually.
"Uh, well, here's the thing..."
Severus's gaze sharpened as he looked between the two of them. "What is it?"
"Harry lost his voice," Draco explained hesitantly. "We're not sure how. He says he isn't sick."
Harry looked up at Severus with a sheepish grin and a shrug. Severus stared at him with concern, leaving Draco looking uncomfortable.
"Er, I'll just go now, that's all I know," Draco said, heading for the door.
"Thank you, Mr. Malfoy," Severus said before the door closed and they were alone. Severus moved to sit next to Harry on the couch. "It is good to see you... however incomplete."
Harry nodded vigorously, wanting dearly to talk to his guardian after so much time away.
"Do you know how this happened?" Severus asked, brows knitting.
Harry shook his head.
"Do you have any gaps in your memory?" Severus inquired, following a logical course of questions.
Harry frowned. He remembered saying goodnight to Rhea and leaving the dance then coming back to the dorm. The next thing he remembered was waking up. Harry thought that he was simply extraordinarily tired the night before but he couldn't be sure. Harry certainly couldn't figure out how to communicate this to his guardian.
Severus seemed to have realized the same thing. "Do you mind if I legilimize you?"
Harry thought that over for a moment. He hoped that he was good enough at occlumency to hide his thoughts and feelings at the dance; he wasn't sure he wanted Snape to see that. After a brief hesitation, Harry nodded, then shook his head, no longer sure which one meant that he was okay with it. Face reflecting his confusion, Harry pointed at his eyes, then Severus's hoping it was understood that he was giving his consent.
Severus looked into his eyes and Harry attempted to raise an inner block, leaving space for a conversation of sorts.
Hi, Harry thought simply, knowing that Severus would read the warmth in his thoughts.
Hello, Harry, Severus replied. His thoughts were softer than Harry imagined that they would be.
I can't remember anything after returning to the dorm last night. I woke up this morning and that was the next thing I can remember.
Harry saw Severus nod, the difference between reality and the mental world in which he was treading leaving him disoriented.
Was there anything else you needed to tell me before I withdraw? I would like to gather a few potions to try to restore your voice, Snape thought.
Thank you, Harry replied immediately. I guess anything else I have to say can wait. I trust you'll find a way to fix this soon. I'm glad to be back, Harry thought earnestly.
Severus severed the connection and placed his hand on Harry's arm. "We'll fix this," he said and Harry believed him without a doubt. Severus stood. "It is early yet; shall we endeavor to find a solution before your friends wake up? You could visit with them for a little while; the train doesn't leave until ten."
Harry nodded and jumped up to follow Severus to the small lab in his back room. In this room, he kept all of his rare ingredients and stock potions as well as several manuals. He selected a thick one and set it on the desk in front of Harry.
"If you would, look up spells that cause one to lose their voice," Severus instructed. "We can try each of the remedies until one works."
Harry nodded and set to work. Each time he found a spell that fit the criteria, he would wave Severus over and he would take a look at the remedy. Then, if he did not have it on hand, he would mix it with the stock solutions that he located expertly. When at last Harry had tired of looking through the book, he gestured impatiently that he wanted to try them. After all, it was almost eight o'clock and his friends would be leaving soon.
"Are you sure?" Severus asked him. "We could continue looking."
Harry bit his lip and attempted to legilimize Severus to get his message across. He immediately ran into an iron wall and Harry recoiled slightly. With obvious hesitation, the wall lowered slightly, allowing Harry in.
If these don't work, will they hurt me?
Severus replied in a slightly admonishing way, Would I allow you to do it if it would?
Tiring quickly from effort of establishing the unaccustomed connection, Harry broke it off with a small smile. He shook his head lightly to mean that he knew Severus wouldn't let him get hurt.
"Ready?" Severus asked.
Harry nodded and Severus handed him the first potion, an odd purple one in a decorative bottle. Harry uncorked it and stared at it for a moment before downing it, making a face at the bitter taste.
Harry waited a moment before opening his mouth to talk and found that he could not. With a sigh, Harry reached for the next bottle.
By the time he had taken about half of the row of potions, Harry had just about given up hope that one of them would work. Severus placed his hand on Harry's shoulder.
"Come on," he coaxed. "This next one might be the right one."
Harry sighed and drank it down. He waited for the sour taste to die down before looking up at Severus as if to say, "See?"
Harry's eyes widened. He hadn't meant to say that out loud but was supremely happy that it had come out. Severus moved in front of him, gripping his arms.
"It worked," Harry confirmed. Though it had not been a horribly long time since he had last heard his own voice, it sounded like music to his ears. He grinned. "Thank you, Severus." On impulse, Harry hugged his guardian, unsure of how he would react. Severus patted him gently on the back.
"I am glad," Severus said, seeming earnest. "We can visit later, how about you join your friends for breakfast? Taking so many potions on an empty stomach is not good."
"Right," Harry said, flashing another smile. "You're coming, aren't you?"
Severus almost smiled at his eagerness. "I suppose."
Together, they walked down to the Great Hall, Harry reveling in the relative warmth and comforting familiarity of Hogwarts. He had missed this so much. Stepping into the Great Hall gave Harry a rush of homesickness, followed immediately by excitement to see his friends. He hurried to the Gryffindor table and took a seat next to Hermione and across from Draco and Ron.
"Hi," Harry said brightly. Draco shot him a grin and a knowing glance as Hermione enveloped him in a hug.
"Harry!" she cried, pulling away to look at him. "I've missed you!"
"I've missed you too, Hermione," Harry said honestly, grinning. "You too, Ron."
"Good to see you, mate," Ron said, only the slightest bit awkwardly.
"Well, tell us everything," Hermione said hurriedly.
Harry gave her a look, serving himself a plate of food. His stomach was beginning to churn from all of the potions. "Hasn't Draco told you anything?"
"Well, yes, almost everything, really," Hermione admitted. "We've been pestering him all morning. But he didn't say anything about your date to the Yule Ball..." she teased with no small insinuation.
Harry tried not to blush as he rolled his eyes. "And?"
"Oh, come on, Harry," Ron cajoled, siding with Hermione. "Was she pretty?"
Hermione rolled her eyes at Ron's apparent shallowness.
"Yeah," Harry admitted, not succeeding in holding back a grin.
"What was her name?" Hermione asked. "Is she smart?"
"Yes, I think so. Her name's Rhea," he said, suddenly realizing that he didn't know her last name.
"That's an odd name," Hermione mused with a slight frown.
"She's Greek," Harry supplied. "Like our other friend Aris."
"Oh," she replied, seeming satisfied with that. "What's Professor Snape think?"
Harry made a face. "I haven't exactly told him the details yet."
Hermione laughed and Ron said, "Good luck with that one. That'll be an awkward conversation."
"You bet," Harry said with wide eyes. "Anything up around here?"
"Hermione beat Nott in a duel," Ron supplied.
"Really?" Draco piped up excitedly. "I'd have paid to see that."
Hermione blushed. "He thought I wasn't any good because I was a muggle born."
Ron grinned. "She sure proved him wrong."
"Good for you," Harry said, proud of his friend. She smiled at him.
"So did you figure out the clue for the second task yet?" Hermione asked.
Harry remembered mentioning it in a letter a little while back but for the most part, the egg had slipped his mind. "Er, not yet."
"Harry!" she said, punching him in the arm.
"Relax!" Harry told her, holding his hands up in mock surrender. "I brought it with me, maybe I'll look at it over break."
She gave him a glare but couldn't keep it up. Hermione sighed. "I really am glad to see you guys."
Harry and Draco both smiled. Fairly certain he was speaking for the both of them, Harry replied, "Believe me, we're glad to be back."