Title: Water from a Stone
Disclaimer: J. K. Rowling and associates own these characters. I am writing this story for fun and not profit.
Warnings: Violence, sex, some angst. "Eighth-year" fic.
Summary: Harry decides to do something about the mistreatment of the Slytherins in Hogwarts after the war. And then discovers that he could have chosen an easier task than the one he did. Such as climbing Mount Everest.
Author's Notes: This will be a short WiP, probably eleven or twelve parts. While it is angsty in some places, it's also very fluffy, and not epilogue-compliant. The title refers to the saying, "Easier to get water from a stone."
Water from a Stone
Chapter One—Hogwarts Is Always Listening
When the rumors first reached Harry, he didn't care that much. Yes, it would be better if the idiots in Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff—Harry didn't think anyone smart was doing it—would leave the Slytherins alone, but on the other hand, the Slytherins had chosen to come back to a school where they knew they were discredited. They should have expected insults and loud comments about how they would have been perfectly happy to live in a world dominated by Voldemort. They could put up with that or they could go whinging to the professors. It wasn't Harry's problem.
But then things changed.
It was on a September evening when he was coming back from Quidditch practice, and had stopped to stare up at the moon and just think. He did that a lot now, not that he was thinking about anything in particular. He would let vague thoughts pass through his mind about how he had never expected to be alive to see that moon, and how it was wonderful he was.
A muffled sound came from behind him.
Harry jumped, his wand in his hand as he whipped around. Despite the fact that the war was over, and everyone sane agreed on that, there were people who might not agree. Such as Death Eaters who could sneak through the schools' renewed wards.
The sound didn't come again, but this time Harry saw a flash of movement behind a slender tree that had been planted in memory of the dead. He went towards it, checking warily behind him and to the sides to make sure that he wouldn't fall victim to an ambush.
The muffled noise came again when he was closer to it, and this time it sounded like a grunt of pain. Harry jumped around the tree, his wand held up, expecting to find Death Eaters or maybe Slytherins tormenting a Gryffindor.
Instead, it was Pansy Parkinson looking like she was fighting for her life with Michael Corner and Terry Boot.
Harry hesitated. Parkinson was the one who had decided that they should throw him to Voldemort. She still looked at him with a sneer when they passed in the corridors, as if to say that she wouldn't back down from her beliefs and the world would be a better place with Harry gone.
But her face was covered with bruises, and even though she planted an elbow in Michael's stomach now and made him bend over, wheezing, Harry was pretty sure that she hadn't started the fight.
Besides, if Harry wanted to duel her for that, it would have been one thing. But it was unfair for two people to attack her at once.
He aimed his wand at Terry's feet and snarled, "Reducto!"
The way he'd aimed the curse, it tore the ground at Terry's feet apart, but not anything else, not him or Parkinson's arms where he held them. She went flying in one direction, Terry in the other, and Harry quickly cast a Cushioning Charm so that she would land safely. Then he stalked towards Michael and Terry, trying to make sure that he looked as menacing as possible.
Michael was the first to recover, since he hadn't actually had a Blasting Curse fill his mouth with flying dirt. He took a quick gulp and said in a hiss to Harry, "What are you doing?"
"Removing some rubbish," Harry said. He discovered he was shaking, and didn't know why. Was he really that angry? But he'd known this was happening. "What did you think you were going to do to her, Corner? Was a little torture on the schedule next? How about some rape?"
Michael flinched, the way Harry had meant for him to do. "We wouldn't do that," he said. "Death Eaters did that." His voice faltered, filled with memories, and he looked away, twisting his fingers together.
Harry felt the little stab of guilt that he always did when he thought about what the people who had been at Hogwarts last year had suffered, but he did his best to forget about it. As Hermione had said, he couldn't have been here to protect them and gone on the Horcrux hunt. "So beating her up is an acceptable activity?" he demanded. "You're telling me that Death Eaters never did that? Neville's showed me the scar where they broke his ribs with their kicks."
Terry, scrambling back up, shook his head impatiently. "But they didn't do it to Slytherins," he said. "That's important. We're trying to pay the Slytherins back for what they did to us."
Harry really wanted to bang his head against the sapling, but it was just a baby and didn't deserve that. "I thought I had the monopoly on stupid arguments around here," he said. "How much did Slytherin students help the Death Eaters? I know they got favored sometimes, but they were really just as much victims as anyone else."
"Sometimes they helped," Terry said, folding his arms. "Why do you think there were no Slytherin students with Neville in the Room of Requirement?"
"Because Neville and the others distrusted them," Harry said. "Don't try to confuse me, Terry. I know the answers to your questions as well as you do, probably better. Remember that I went through the damn war fighting Voldemort. And why does that name still make you act as though he's going to come around the corner?" he added impatiently, a moment later. "I thought it was only Slytherins and cowards that flinched like that." Then he paused meaningfully.
"We're not cowards!" Michael said, his face turning red.
"Beating up a Slytherin, two on one?" Harry asked. "Yes, you are. And you didn't follow proper dueling procedure, either, so it's not like it was a fair fight. Did you take her wand away?" He'd got good at seeing guilt on people's faces, and cast the Summoning Charm with a roll of his eyes. "Accio Parkinson's wand." Michael's pocket let it go, and Harry tossed the wand in Parkinson's direction without turning to see if she picked it up. "Cowards," Harry repeated.
"You can't hold us to Gryffindor standards." Terry still had his arms folded, apparently because he thought Harry lived in terror of that. "We're not the House of bravery."
"No, you're the House of intelligence," Harry said, "and so I would have expected you to think about whether you can really punish Slytherin students for what Death Eaters did, and whether it was a good idea to do this in case someone found out about it. Besides, Gryffindors are the ones who are supposed to beat up Slytherins. We have a rivalry. If you're doing things that Gryffindors do, it's no surprise that we hold you to the same standards."
There was a snicker. Harry looked around suspiciously. He didn't think anyone was waiting nearby to help Michael and Terry or they would have shown up already, but still.
"Oh, fine," Michael said, turning and stomping away towards the castle. "But we'll tell everyone that you're a Slytherin-lover, you know."
"You're not that good at making up insults!" Harry called to his back. Terry glared, but Michael didn't turn around. Harry watched them until they were out of sight, balancing his wand in his palm and feeling excitement pulse through his veins. Then he turned to Parkinson.
She was standing up, arms folded in a far more intimidating way than Terry had managed, face cleared of bruises. She'd probably cast Healing charms while he was busy, Harry thought. She said, barely moving her lips, "If you did that to earn the gratitude of Slytherin, you ought to remember how much pain you've caused us in the past."
Harry sneered at her. "Yes, I absolutely need the gratitude of Slytherin, which is in such a subordinate position to the rest of the school right now."
He'd thought that would make her angry, but instead a thoughtful look flashed across her face. In a minute it was stone again, but she went on staring at him until Harry shrugged and turned away.
"Try to stay away from them," he told her over his shoulder. "And next time, use a Patronus to call for help."
"I don't know how to do that," Parkinson said, voice cool and precise.
"Get someone to teach you." Harry hurried on his way, trying not to think about how few people in the school, other than the ones he had instructed in Dumbledore's Army, knew how to form one. Even the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Professor Meadows, might not know. He was more a research wizard than a fighter, and Harry was learning a lot about how spells came to be, but not much about how they worked.
It wasn't his problem, he told himself. He had saved Parkinson once, but there was no way that other Slytherins needed saving.
Even if they did, let someone else be the bloody hero for once.
Except that other things kept happening, and it seemed that no one else was willing to be a hero.
Harry noticed some people looking at him at breakfast the next morning, but he mostly ignored it. He knew Terry and Michael would have told their friends, but that was fine. Those friends could come and talk to Harry if they wanted. He really didn't think he'd get ambushed and beaten up, not when they still felt a kind of awe around him.
He didn't understand the stares that he was getting from the Slytherins, though. From what he knew about Slytherins, Parkinson wouldn't have told them about Harry rescuing her because it would make her look weak.
But there they were. Harry ignored them as best he could and dug into his eggs, listening to Hermione with half an ear.
"It really never is too early to start studying, Ron," she said, and spread a parchment out on the table, miraculously clearing a space for it among the toast, marmalade, eggs, omelets, and half-a-dozen other things that the house-elves thought people required to eat well in the mornings. "Look. I have a schedule for every day of term, and for every day of the holidays—"
"The holidays are supposed to be times when we can relax," said Ron, groaning around a mouthful of toast. Crumbs sprayed the table. Harry grinned. After the complexities he had faced last night, it was good to be in a world that he understood so well, with his best friend who talked with their mouths full and another best friend obsessed with studying. "You can't have study schedules during them. It's immoral."
"This is the series of exams that will determine the rest of our lives," Hermione said. She had acquired a trick since the war where she lowered her voice instead of raising it when she wanted to make a point. Harry had discovered her studying rhetoric books during the summer, where he thought she'd got it. She leaned towards Ron, her face grim. "Do you really want to give up the chance to do well?"
Ron caught her hand and kissed it. "I know at least one thing I'll be doing for the rest of my life," he murmured. "So I'm not as worried about it as you want me to be."
Hermione blinked, and a sharp blush made its way up her cheeks. Harry hid his grin in the eggs. Hermione had a bad habit lately of turning around, catching him smiling, and asking what was so funny, in a carrying tone that said she expected him to share the joke with the entire Gryffindor table.
Maybe because his best friends were both silent for once instead of chattering, Harry heard the crash when it happened. He turned his head.
Malfoy was sitting at the head of the Slytherin table, staring at the broken plate in front of him. A Hufflepuff seventh-year—Harry knew from seeing him in the corridors that he was a prefect, but not what his name was—had apparently dropped something on the plate, and Malfoy's face and robes were covered with splatters of his food.
"Ooh, sorry," said the Hufflepuff, eyes wide and innocent. "I reckon I didn't see you there." He paused, then added, "But I don't have to say sorry, do I, because how can you see that food in the middle of all the filth that already covers you?"
Laughter came from the Hufflepuff table, with the others, except Slytherin, a beat behind. Harry also saw that some of the others, including Hermione, looked disapproving, but no one spoke up against it.
Malfoy, his face absolutely stone, lifted one hand and wiped the back of his sleeve across his cheek, removing some of the marmalade. Then he bent down and began to clean his robe off with a napkin that Parkinson handed him. Harry wondered why he didn't use his wand, and then realized the prefect was still hovering near the table, staring expectantly at Malfoy. The moment Malfoy tried, Harry thought, he'd probably take it as a challenge.
It was exactly the same way Dudley had bullied Harry. It was obvious, it was nasty, and it was stupid.
And no one had ever spoken up for Harry, either, even when they could clearly see that something that had happened was Dudley's fault and not Harry's.
Harry was on his feet and moving across the Great Hall before he thought about it, although Ron said something that sounded like, "Malfoy brought it on himself, mate. Just think about all he did!"
Both Malfoy and the Hufflepuff glanced up to watch him come. The prefect looked mildly interested. Malfoy gave him the same stare that Parkinson had last night. Harry thought they probably practiced it together and wondered idly who had won the Slytherin All-Comers Glaring Championship.
"What you just did," Harry told the Hufflepuff, who was tall and handsome and looked like Cedric. Well, that just made it worse, then, didn't it, Harry thought, clinging stubbornly to his anger instead of giving in to the temptation to sit back down.
"Yes?" The boy grinned, obviously thinking Harry was going to praise him.
"That's the best you can come up with?" Harry said, and snorted at him. "And in front of the professors, too?" He glanced up at the High Table, and then realized that none of the professors were paying attention. The shattering noise and the taunt that had seemed so loud to him hadn't reached their ears. Or maybe they ignored it, too, because they were content to watch the Slytherins get tormented and Slughorn, the current Head of Slytherin, didn't care about anyone except people with connections.
The thought made Harry sick, and he took a deep breath and tried to remind himself that some of the teachers in his primary school really hadn't known he was being bullied, either.
"You should have heard some of the things he said to me last year," the Hufflepuff muttered, turning red. "You should have heard some of the things he said to my sister."
"And you never thought that maybe he did that because it was the only way to survive with Death Eaters listening?" Harry gave him one pitying glance. "You never did anything that you weren't proud of last year?"
The Hufflepuff gave him a cool stare back, having some time to recover his balance now. "No. Not like that."
Harry shook his head. "But you didn't stand up for someone every time you saw them beaten up, either, did you? You looked away and kept walking and were just glad that it wasn't you." He knew all about that, because he had seen other kids do the same thing when Dudley was beating Harry up. It didn't really make them good or evil, the way Harry saw it, but it did mean that they didn't get to say they were purely good.
I could do without all the flashbacks to my childhood this morning.
"Like you did." There was a sneer on the boy's face this time. "You weren't even here."
Someone shifted behind Harry, at the Slytherin table, of all places. He ignored it. He was pretty sure they weren't going to cast a curse at his back, and that was all he cared about at the moment. "But I know what it was like," he responded quietly. "And I can think about it more rationally because I wasn't here. Yeah, it hurts to see Slytherins getting away with less pain from the Death Eaters. But I know that they were hurt, too, if not as much. And if you really think things would have been a lot better for them if Voldemort survived—oh, for Merlin's sake, stop flinching!"
"You don't know anything," said the Hufflepuff, when he'd recovered from his apparent attempt to sink into the floor just in case Voldemort's ghost came back to eat him. "And you haven't done anything so far when we got our revenge. Why are you doing something now?"
Harry turned and looked at the Slytherins for the first time since he'd started lecturing the Hufflepuff. They stared back at him with that stony look, except for two. Parkinson had her eyes narrowed as if she was trying to figure out what game he was playing.
And Malfoy was glaring at the Hufflepuff now. Harry wondered if he was actually more angry at him than at Harry.
Ridiculous. I'm the one who fought with him all these years. Harry turned back to the Hufflepuff and shrugged. "Because you did it really blatantly," he said. "And because I wanted to. Go away."
The Hufflepuff's face was bright red with frustration now. "No," he said, folding his arms. Why do people do that? Harry thought. It doesn't intimidate me. "You don't get to just march in like this and stop it. You didn't care. Leave us alone and let us get our revenge the way we want."
"You're not war-hardened people getting revenge," Harry said contemptuously. "Or you would be trying to find the remaining Death Eaters. You're a bunch of children beating up on other children."
More scuffles behind him, but if the Slytherins stabbed him in the back over that, they weren't worth defending anyway. Besides, it was more fun to watch the Hufflepuff look like Uncle Vernon. "Do you know who I am?" he said.
"Yes," Harry said. "Someone who hurt someone who didn't hurt you."
"You can't know that!"
"But it sounds like it, and you haven't contradicted me." Harry started to walk back towards the Gryffindor table. "Tell anyone else who wants to do something like you did that they'll have to deal with me—not because I'm suddenly a Slytherin sympathizer, but because what you're doing is wrong, and someone has to stop it."
"You're taking the Slytherins under your protection, then?" That was a girl leaning over from the Ravenclaw table, her eyes big and bright under flyaway dark hair. Harry glanced at her and wondered if she was one of the ones who had felt bad about the Slytherins being taunted and was now glad that someone else was taking over the duty so that she didn't have to.
"Yes," Harry said. "Why not?" He smiled, thinking about how much it would annoy Malfoy and how Hermione would nod gravely in approval and how Ron would ask him if he'd gone mad. "From this moment forwards, all the Slytherins in Hogwarts are under my personal protection, and anyone who hurts them deals with me."
The torches on the walls roared to life, lifting pillars of white fire into the air and arching them all over the Great Hall to meet in the middle of the ceiling. Harry, staring with his mouth open, saw them collide and begin to shower sparks down. He lifted his wand without thinking to cast a shield that would protect people. Maybe this was another attack on the Slytherins.
The tip of his wand caught on fire, though Harry would swear that none of the white sparks were anywhere near it. The spark sizzled towards him, and Harry tried to react, but his fingers seemed to have clamped down on the wand, the way they would if it was metal a lightning bolt had run through.
The fire touched him.
It didn't hurt, but wound about his neck and arm like chains, and then burned away his robes and shirt down to the level of his heart. There, it pressed in heavily, so it was like being touched by solid sunlight, and then vanished.
Harry, looking down in the ringing silence that had filled the room, noticed with annoyance that he had yet another scar, this one shaped like a sword, over his heart. Just for once, I'd like to encounter mysterious magic that doesn't scar me.
The professors at the High Table were on their feet now. McGonagall held out her wand and chanted something. Harry looked up, but the white fire from the torches had already dimmed, and McGonagall's spell didn't appear to do anything.
Hermione was by his side then, of course, and she carefully cast a Healing Charm on his chest. Harry heard an angry sizzle, and then he felt a stinging pain that made him hiss and swat her wand away. The scar, though, remained.
"What did you do?" Hermione asked him, as though it was his fault.
"I don't bloody know!" Harry whispered back, which made Hermione scold him for language.
Ron, who was next to him, looked at the scar and said, "Um, Harry, that looks like an oath-scar."
"A what?" Harry demanded, wondering if it was fate that wanted him to collect all these scars and what it was going to do once his skin was so covered with them that he didn't have room for any more. Maybe it would begin layering scars on top of scars. Harry had a mental flash of himself looking like an etched piece of parchment.
"A scar that you get when you make a binding oath," said Ron, who by now was turning green. "Usually, it's a deliberate brand and you need witnesses for that sort of thing, but your magic is so powerful, and the torches reached out and ran a branch of fire over each table…I think everyone in the Great Hall was your witness."
"My magic is not that powerful," Harry began, patiently. He wasn't going to let Ron get away with that sort of thing when he had defeated Voldemort because of the Elder Wand and dying for everybody.
Harry turned his head. Malfoy stood next to him, wearing a big, nasty smile. He bowed when he saw Harry looking at him, his eyes bright.
"You made an oath that the powers of Hogwarts heard," he said. "The Great Hall is the heart of the castle, and the castle's always been a place of concentrated magic. Now you're oath-sworn to protect us."
"But I didn't mean…" Harry said, and then buried his head in his hands as he heard McGonagall asking questions and Hermione clucking her tongue like Mrs. Weasley and people at the other tables starting to react.
Malfoy patted his elbow. "Don't worry," he said in a cooing tone. "We're all quite impressed by your bravery and your dedication to making sure that none of us come to harm in a school where almost everyone is determined to harm us. And binding yourself with an oath that means you'll burn up if you break it, no less!" He leaned in and added, so close to Harry's ear that probably no one else heard him, "Harry."
Harry groaned aloud.
Things like this always happened to him.