Thank you again for all the reviews! This is the last chapter of Water from a Stone. I hope that you've enjoyed it.
Chapter Twelve—Now That Harry Knows What He Wants
Harry knew there was pain waiting just outside the tight little bubble of darkness and silence enclosing him. He refused to wake up and face it. No one could make him. He was tired of being a hero, and so people could forget trying to force him to be one and just leave him alone.
But someone prodded his shoulder with a thin, bony finger, and kept prodding. Harry groaned. He couldn't believe it, but they were waking him up. He had slept through Dudley pounding down the stairs at Privet Drive. Obviously, he had lost his tolerance for things like that as he grew up. Harry wasn't sure that increased maturity and magical power was worth the loss.
"Potter," a voice breathed into his ear, and the bony finger came into play again.
Harry recognized the voice. And it triggered reflexes in him that he had almost forgotten.
He rolled over, his arms flailing. The finger came back, joined by a whole ring of them, closing around his right arm as if it was imperative that he keep still. Harry grunted in satisfaction and cast the spell that was at the top of his mind. He didn't know if he still had his wand in his hand, but as long as he didn't know that, then he could pretend he did, and the magic would probably still work.
The voice cried out, startled, but Harry didn't care, because by that point his spell had worked and the handcuffs had manifested. One cold metal bracelet closed around his wrist and the other closed around the other person's wrist. Harry smiled stupidly into the pillow and wriggled his face deeper into it.
"Potter, let me go." The voice was upset. Harry liked hearing it that way, though he couldn't remember why at first. Then he remembered, and nodded. It was because the voice's owner had upset him so often in the last week.
"No," Harry said. "Not until you stop ignoring me."
"I can't understand what you're saying when your face is buried like that," the voice sneered in disgust, and Harry had to admit that it had a point. He braced himself to encounter the pain and rolled over.
The pain was waiting and pounced on him. Harry gasped. His skin on his face and his chest throbbed and felt tight and stretched and hot, as though the oath-scar had been duplicated everywhere. He blinked, and winced when the light seemed to cut into his eyes. But he could still see things at close range, so he focused on the person standing beside his bed.
Malfoy glared at him. His left wrist was chained to Harry's right one, though the chain had got messed up and twisted around when Harry rolled over. There was a heavy redness around his eyes that pleased Harry immensely. It meant he had been crying or angry, and so now he knew how Harry felt.
"You can't do this," Malfoy said flatly. "You have no right to keep me prisoner. Let me go."
"And you have no right to act as though I've permanently offended you," Harry retorted. "If you expect me to wait six years for you, then you're out of luck. But you kept running away like the cowardly little bitch you are before I could say anything. So I'll keep you here until you make up your bloody mind. And if you decide not to have me, the first thing I'm going to do is go off and fuck a blond bloke who looks like you, but has a much better temper."
Malfoy's face wavered between several different expressions. Harry watched him critically, wondering which one would turn out to be dominant.
"Mr. Potter, what are you doing awake already?" said a shocked voice behind them, which rather interrupted the moment. Madam Pomfrey swooped down on Harry, and then paused when she saw their handcuffed wrists. "Is this a joke?" she asked suspiciously.
"No, just a precaution," Harry said, and sat up, ignoring the way that it pulled on Malfoy's shoulder. "What happened, Madam Pomfrey?" Talking was starting to hurt, and Harry licked his lips. They were broken and bleeding, and he blinked, surprised that he hadn't noticed that before now.
Madam Pomfrey paused, looking back and forth between him and Malfoy as though she still hoped for an explanation that made sense, and then too obviously gave up and settled for a headshake. "Your attacker—whose identity we still don't know—" Harry started to open his mouth and then decided he could say who it was after the catalogue of his injuries "—burned you. The spell was meant to burn the skin off layer by layer, and thus inflict permanent damage. Luckily, thanks to the quick actions of Miss Parkinson and Mr. Zabini, it only burned off one. You'll have some pain for a while, but it's nothing that can't heal."
Harry nodded. "Thanks. And I did see the attacker's face, by the way. It was Theodore Nott."
"What?" Malfoy snapped. "But he's a Slytherin! He would have no reason to attack you! You must be mistaken."
"Oh, dear," Harry said softly, turning to him. "It sounds as though someone is choosing House loyalty and House blindness over seeing the truth of attacks that were happening right in front of him and that he could have stopped."
Malfoy turned a lovely shade of red. Really, with the way his hair was clinging to his forehead, Harry thought, and the sweat running down his face, he might just have rolled out of bed or the shower. Harry didn't even care if Malfoy saw his erection this time. They might not be able to do much about it when they were in hospital, but they would later.
"You're sure, Mr. Potter?" Madam Pomfrey asked. "Using this curse is a very serious offense, and will probably result in Mr. Nott's expulsion from the school."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I don't care if his cowardly little arse is expelled, to be honest. And yes, I saw him up close. Zabini and Parkinson could probably confirm the same thing, if they weren't keeping silent out of loyalty to their Housemate." He turned to Malfoy and gave him another hard stare, one that he didn't really have to feign. If Zabini and Parkinson had beaten Nott off but still didn't want to tell anyone, then that meant Harry's actions in their defense really didn't matter after all. "I think the handcuffs were a mistake, don't you? I think this whole bloody thing was a mistake, if you still prefer to think that Slytherins can never do any wrong."
"It just doesn't make any sense," Malfoy said, a plaintive bleat that Harry wanted to laugh at. Malfoy lived in a world where people would randomly attack Slytherins and a Dark Lord could arise and be practically ignored by the Ministry, and he expected things to make sense? "Why—why would he attack someone who was helping us? And why couldn't you have stopped him in time?" he added, seeming to recover some of his superiority.
"Hermione's been doing some research on the oath for me," Harry said, never looking away from Malfoy's face. "The oath prevents me from moving as fast as I should or casting too many nasty spells at the people I'm sworn to defend. With someone else, I probably would have managed to catch the curse in time, but not when it's a Slytherin."
"That's—ridiculous," Malfoy said, and his face worked as though someone had just forced him to swallow a large lemon.
"Yes," Harry confirmed, with a sad nod. "I'm ridiculous. The oath I swore is ridiculous. It's ridiculous that I should have to defend you lot, when I'm only the one who ends up in the hospital wing again and again."
"Mr. Potter," Madam Pomfrey interrupted, with a warning look at Malfoy. "You're sure it was Mr. Nott?"
"Yes," Harry said. "He's probably also the one who cast the curse that caused my internal bleeding and the huge bruise in the middle of my back." He didn't look at Malfoy, but he felt his flinch through the chain. "As for why he did it, you'd have to ask him. But I'm willing to give testimony that it was him, and Zabini and Parkinson should be as well." If they weren't, Harry thought, he would go around and "persuade" them that they should.
"But the other attacks were really Gryffindors and Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs against Slytherins," Malfoy said, as though he had to convince himself.
Harry stared at him impatiently. "I never said that they weren't. This has nothing to do with the other attacks. We only thought it did, which is why it made it hard to figure out in the first place. But I'm sure Nott was behind both of the most dangerous attacks on me, the only ones where I didn't come along and intervene in some other situation that was already happening." He watched Malfoy's face closely as he added, "Tell me, does Nott have an Invisibility Cloak?"
Malfoy's lips twisted. "I can't tell you that."
"But you'll tell the Headmistress," Madam Pomfrey said threateningly, and then began to bustle in the way that meant she wanted the visitor out of the hospital wing. "Take off the handcuffs, Mr. Potter."
"No," Harry said. "Where he goes, I go, until he makes up his mind about what kind of stupid arse he's going to be about dating me."
Malfoy stared at Harry with his mouth open. Harry looked back, bored and impatient. What else did Malfoy expect from him? They had already settled it that Harry wasn't going to chase after him forever, and that Malfoy had been stupid for ignoring Harry's attempts to talk to him in the first place. Why would he expect things to change after this little conversation, except in a direction that more favored Harry's way of doing things?
"Mr. Potter, you're in no condition to get out of bed," Madam Pomfrey began, predictably.
"I can't look that bad," Harry said. "Otherwise, Malfoy would have been fainting and screaming about being chained to such an ugly creature, rather than getting upset because I want someone who tried to kill me expelled."
"What," Malfoy said, as if he thought those two things weren't at all comparable. Harry looked at him, but he said nothing interesting, so he went back to Madam Pomfrey.
"I want Nott charged, or whatever it is that they do, and expelled as soon as possible," he said. "Are you going to conjure a stretcher for me to get there? I think it would be more comfortable for me, and that way Malfoy could walk beside me and go exactly as fast as the stretcher does, without having to readjust his pace to mine."
Madam Pomfrey opened her mouth, peered at Harry, and then seemed to decide—correctly—that he wasn't going to be persuaded otherwise. She nodded, waved her wand, and conjured the stretcher.
"This is an outrage," Malfoy said loudly. "I demand that you release me from this humiliating imprisonment, right now."
"She can't end the spell," Harry said. He knew he sounded smug. He didn't care. There was still a sharp ache in him, which he wasn't about to admit even under torture, that Malfoy cared more about his Housemate than he did about Harry. But then again, that made Harry have more of an incentive to keep him close, because an answer that confirmed that would still be more of an answer than he had now. "Only I can. A little charm that Hermione taught me last year ensures that."
"Best to put up with it for right now, Mr. Malfoy," Madam Pomfrey murmured, floating Harry from the bed to the stretcher. The chain between the handcuffs pulled tight, and Malfoy came along, stumbling. Harry smirked at him and stretched out full-length on the stretcher, so that he could relax and still give Malfoy room to move. "When you see the Headmistress, she may come up with a better solution."
"No, she won't," Harry said. "The charm will still hold."
Madam Pomfrey's sigh followed them out the door of the hospital wing and got lost somewhere among the corridors and steps as they headed to McGonagall's office.
Malfoy didn't say anything for the first part of the journey. He still had that sour look on his face. Harry considered him for some time, his head tilted to the side on the pillow, and then said, "You know, you can be free of me easily."
For some reason, Malfoy didn't spring at that chance. He walked a few steps before he asked in a flat voice, "How?"
"Tell me that you care more about Theodore Nott than you do about me," Harry said. "Tell me that a Slytherin who attacks a Gryffindor is still a Slytherin and so a friend, and that matters more than anything you like about me or anything I did for your House. Tell me that, and the chain is severed."
Malfoy spun around to face him, then staggered because the handcuffs had interfered. "You know I don't feel that way," he said. "What the fuck else can I do to show that I want you and you're important to me?"
At last, Harry thought, his heartbeat making his chest vibrate, but he maintained his calm, cool gaze and his stern frown. "Well, it sure seems like that. I saw Nott's face clearly. I told you about the fact that the oath slows me down if I try to fight a Slytherin. And Zabini and Parkinson must have seen him, since they were the ones who stopped him. But they still didn't say anything. That makes me think their loyalty to a fellow Slytherin outweighs everything else, even their desperate appeals to me to save them from your whinging."
"I do not do that," Malfoy said.
Harry snapped the fingers of his free hand in front of the git's face. "Priorities, remember? All of you turned your backs on me to protect Nott—well, you might not have done it in the same way, since you didn't know it was him, but it's roughly in the same way. You don't want to tell me about the Invisibility Cloak that I think he must have, since I couldn't spot the attacker who hit me with the first curse. You don't want to admit that he must have some motivation. You'd rather think I was lying. Admit it, Malfoy. You might want me, but that's always going to give way to House loyalty. God forbid, though, that Gryffindor House loyalty be the biggest force in my life. You were jealous when I spent time with my friends. But that's different from your desire to protect Nott from any reprisal, isn't it? Because you're you, and I'm me, and I'm just inferior to your precious Slytherins, that's all."
Malfoy stared at him, breathing fast. "You take that back," he said. "Do you know how much they've ridiculed me because I wanted you? Do you know how much fear I've endured over the last few years that someone would kill you because they knew you were important to me?"
"No," Harry said, and folded his arms. That also made the handcuffs tug in satisfying ways, and pulled Malfoy closer to him with a wild expression on his face. "You never showed it. If I was really important to you during third year, when you did your best to have Hagrid sacked, and during fifth year, when you joined the Inquisitorial Squad, I sure as fuck couldn't see it. But you want me to acknowledge all these feelings now, without acknowledging me. Simple question, Malfoy. Do you want me enough to support the expulsion of one of your friends who actually tried to kill me, or not?"
"It's more complicated than that," Malfoy said, running his hand through his hair. "It has to be."
"And the way that the Gryffindors bullied you was more complicated than just hatred, too," Harry responded. "That didn't make it less wrong." He paused, but Malfoy still stood there with his precious little conflicted expression. Harry snorted. "Maybe I was wrong. Maybe Nott is the one you like to fuck, that you've been fucking." Bile caught in his throat, but he went on, because Malfoy's face was darkening, and that could only be a good thing. "Maybe I was only a diversion, and you wanted to see me humiliated and begging for you. Well, thanks for the education, Malfoy. The next time a bloke begs me to be his boyfriend, I'll know better. I think I'll try women again and see if Ginny wants—"
Malfoy made a complex, wordless sound, rather like a combination of a growl and a scream, and then climbed on top of him in the stretcher, kissing him furiously. Harry dissipated the handcuff charm with a thought, but Malfoy didn't seem to notice. He pinned Harry beneath him with his body and bit his neck fiercely.
Good, Harry thought, and arched his hips to meet Malfoy's assault, grabbing his neck and biting, too, at the place where he could see the collarbone poking through Malfoy's shirt. He's started now, and he's not going to stop. That's the Gryffindor way: irritate your enemies into declaring themselves.
"You have no idea how fucking mine you already are," Malfoy said, looking, horror of horrors, ungroomed with his hair hanging in his eyes, and reached down to grab Harry's cock. Harry felt his eyes roll back into his skull and took a deep breath, but he wasn't going to be outmatched. He grabbed Malfoy's cock, too, and squeezed painfully.
Malfoy hissed and rocked into his grip like it was the best thing ever. Harry grinned up at him. "Pain with your pleasure, huh?" he gasped out. "That'll be useful to know."
"Shut up," Malfoy said gutturally, and bit Harry's ear. Harry rolled his head helplessly to the side, his mouth working open and shut, and Malfoy sneered and laughed at the same time. "You w-were saying?"
"Shut up," Harry retorted in turn, and then began to grip and slide and squeeze, hardly able to move his hand at all because of the weight of Malfoy's body and the way he squirmed on top of Harry, all elbows and knees and fierce eyes and fiercer hands, pinching and prodding and exploring along the curves of Harry's hips and arse.
Malfoy laughed at him, flecks of spit flying into Harry's face. They were as warm as the kiss Malfoy gave him a moment later, tongue sliding along his, then pulling back and mingling with his teeth as he bit at Harry's lips.
"Better like this, isn't it?" Harry asked, and brought his legs up around Malfoy's hips, squeezing and clamping down at the same time as he gripped the head of Malfoy's cock and twisted sideways.
Malfoy groaned like—well, like someone having sex, Harry had to admit, since no other good comparisons occurred to him—and then Harry felt him shuddering more deeply than he had so far, his bones shaking in his skin. There was wetness on his hand a moment later, and Harry shouted in victory.
Not for long, though. Malfoy drove his hips down and rubbed them sideways, on top of Harry's hand and groin and his own rubbing hand, and somehow combined that with a long, languid, slow stroke at the same time.
Harry had never felt so good as he did when he came. He was half-sobbing, but it didn't matter, because no one could hear it when Malfoy was kissing him again, his teeth and tongue driving deep, and he was humping Malfoy's fingers, but no one could see that because he was beneath Malfoy, and there was cloth and skin and pressure all around him, and it was good.
Malfoy kissed him when he finished and wrapped one possessive arm around his shoulders. Harry closed his eyes. He didn't think he'd need the handcuffs again.
But he resolved to keep the spell at the top of his mind, just in case. You never knew.
"Do you have anything to say for yourself, Mr. Nott?"
Just like Harry had thought, Nott had shriveled up when the Headmistress confronted him, and had stared at the floor as Harry recited his suspicions about the attacks and about Nott having an Invisibility Cloak that had allowed him to get away for the first one. Zabini and Parkinson, called on to describe what they'd seen, had reluctantly agreed it was Nott, appearing from beneath an Invisibility Cloak. He had aimed his spells mostly at Harry, but some of them might have hit his Housemates if they weren't under the Shield Charm, which was why the oath had alerted Harry to them being in danger.
Malfoy—or Draco, as Harry supposed he had to call him now—had cast several spells that made sure they didn't look freshly shagged when they finally reached the Headmistress's office. He leaned forwards now and shook his head at Harry. "You could have cast a Shield Charm that covered all three of you," he whispered.
"I thought it was someone who wanted to harm Zabini and Parkinson, not me," Harry whispered back. "And I was slower with my spells because of that oath, remember."
Malfoy pursed his lips. "We will have to do something about that," he murmured, and then returned his gaze to Nott.
"Well?" McGonagall repeated now, rising to her feet as if she thought that would encourage Nott to confess. Who knew, maybe it would, Harry thought. Her face was white with rage and maybe disappointment, too. "Do you deny the accusations?"
Nott looked up and let his gaze travel slowly from face to face. He looked at Harry for the longest time, and then, as he stared, cracks seemed to break out in the witless mask he'd worn so far. He gritted his teeth, and his words emerged as though someone was pulling them out of him.
"How long did the bullying go on, before you noticed it? If you were such a bloody hero—" he ignored McGonagall's attempt to scold him for language "—you would have noticed before it got as bad as it did. You should have either left us alone to solve our own problems or jumped in as soon as they started. Coming in late just makes it look as though you want to be the big hero again, saving the poor Slytherins. Well, we can take care of ourselves, and we don't need you to save us. This was about making you look good, not about us."
Harry sighed. "That's not true," he said, "but I don't even want to argue with you, Nott. Yeah, it's complicated and all that shite." This time, McGonagall tried to let Harry have his share of the scolding, but Harry ignored her and continued talking, since it had worked so well for Nott. "Yeah, you have the right to feel pain and anger. But instead of talking to me about it or denouncing me or hexing me, you tried to kill me. Excuse me if I don't feel that much sympathy for you."
Nott bared his teeth, but didn't answer. McGonagall intervened again. "You claim responsibility for the attacks, then?" she asked sternly. "Both the earlier attack on Mr. Potter that resulted in his near-death and this one that left burns on him?"
"Yes, of course," Nott said, clasping his hands behind his back and lifting his head as though he was a soldier facing execution. "I did it. Why should I deny it? I hate Potter and all he stands for, this Gryffindor do-good philosophy that always shows up too late to help the real victims. Where were you last year, Potter, when we were being tortured and forced to torture? Where were you when Death Eaters took over the school? That was the real point we could have used a hero, and you didn't show up until the end, when it was safe and you could claim the credit for defeating the Dark Lord."
Harry rolled his eyes. "You would succeed a lot better at making me feel guilty if you hadn't tried to kill me," he said. "I'll be happy to continue repeating that until you take it in, but I don't think that it will take."
Malfoy put an arm around his shoulders and leaned forwards. "Yes, Theo," he said. Nott looked at him immediately, and Harry was reminded of the way all the other Slytherins seemed to jump to obey Malfoy, too. "And if you thought we'd thank you for getting rid of Harry, might I remind you that he's my boyfriend now? Imagine what the atmosphere would have been like for you in Slytherin once I found that out."
"Blaise and Pansy would have defended me," Nott muttered.
Harry looked at Parkinson and Zabini, both of whom looked uncomfortable. "I can forgive them for that," he said nobly. "After all, they were caught between loyalty to a Housemate and loyalty to someone they thought might take a problem off their hands. And they didn't try to kill me."
Zabini gave him a faint smile. "Thanks, Potter," he said. Parkinson nodded, looking sober.
"And thanks for the reminder that not all Slytherins are spotless," Harry continued in a sweet voice, returning his attention to Nott. "I'll need it as I try to figure out what to do about this oath and the friends I'm making in Slytherin." Malfoy leaned on him heavily when Harry said the word "friends," but Harry figured he would just have to put up with the emphasis on the word rather than a full-blown snogging session.
"I believe we have enough evidence," McGonagall said briskly. "The Aurors shall be summoned to deal with Mr. Nott, since he is of age, and he shall be expelled." Nott just gave her a sullen dog's look and said nothing.
The rest of them left the Headmistress's office when she'd taken Nott's wand and his Invisibility Cloak—still tucked up in a pocket of his robe—and firecalled the Aurors. Harry expected Malfoy to let him go once they were out in the corridor, but he gripped him more firmly and turned to face Parkinson and Zabini instead.
"Now," said Malfoy. "If I ever hear that you've plotted to conceal harm against Harry again, I'll close you up in a room with only a recording of my voice that will play over and over the words I spoke to you the first night we came back this year."
Both Zabini and Parkinson went pale. Harry didn't think he wanted to know why. But then Parkinson coughed, nudged Zabini, and said, "Remember, he'll be quieter now that he has Potter."
Zabini brightened, nodded, handed Harry a look of pity, and then turned and led the way down the corridor, Parkinson striding at his side. Harry watched them until they were out of sight, then glanced at Malfoy.
"You can let go of my shoulders," he said.
Malfoy turned Harry around to face him instead. Harry became very aware then of how quiet the corridor was and of how alone they were. He licked his lips and tried to meet Malfoy's bright, fierce gaze, not sure what would happen when he did. It was one thing to grope each other on top of a stretcher, and quite another to have a discussion.
"I don't plan ever to let you go," Malfoy said softly. "You know that, don't you?"
Harry blinked. That wasn't hard at all. "What part of chaining you to me with handcuffs implies that I disagree with that?"
Malfoy blinked, and gave him a tentative smile. "It took you a while to understand. I wanted to say the first point now, clearly, so that there's no confusion."
Harry shook his head. "I know what I want and what you want now, and what we need. But I still want to know why you avoided me for the past week and acted as though you didn't want to date me anymore."
Malfoy looked at the ground and shrugged. "I wanted more chasing, more of your attention. I wanted to make sure that it wouldn't fade the moment I looked elsewhere. I wanted—maybe I did want you to suffer for six years. I don't know."
"Fine," Harry said. "I don't mind you doing something stupid as long as it's in the past and you won't do it again."
"I wouldn't say that," Malfoy said, glancing up. "There's still your oath and the fact that our Houses don't get along. That makes for a lot of conflict."
"Your friends seem to be relieved at the idea, and mine will be by now, too," Harry said dryly. "As for others, they can object. I draw the line when someone tries to hex or kill me."
"Yes, you made that very clear with Theo." Malfoy gave him a wistful look for a moment. "You understand why we might have stood by him? But I honestly didn't know that he'd attacked you in the corridor yesterday, I swear."
Harry nodded. "I can't understand everything you went through last year," he said, and squeezed Malfoy's hands. "I just object to people taking it out on me physically."
"That's right," Malfoy said. "I'm the only one who should be able to do that." He stepped closer, and Harry was aware of both his own quickened breathing and Malfoy's predatory gaze. "I think I'd like to do it again right now, in fact."
Harry smiled and said, to test it out as much as because he wanted to hear what it would sound like, "Draco."
Draco kissed him hard enough to make Harry's head spin and forced him down to the stone, hands already prying back his robes.
He was the one who chose the location, which meant he was the one responsible for the detention they received when McGonagall came out of her office and found them rolling around on the stones, horribly sweaty and mostly naked.
Seeing how long the glaze took to disappear from Draco's eyes even when McGonagall yelled, because he was too busy looking at him, made Harry certain he would be able to bear harder things than detentions, as long as Draco was there.
And if Draco tried not to be there, or someone tried to drag him away…
There were always the handcuffs.