"That'll be a detention, Mr Thomas," McGonagall said in class two days after the passing of the latest decree. Thomas, a Gryffindor, frowned and made a face.
"I'm sorry professor, what did I do?" he asked.
"The knot of your tie is non-regulation," McGonagall said with a dignified tilt to her chin. "In fact, Finnegan, Longbottom, Potter, and Greengrass, I'm afraid all of you are wearing non-regulation double Windsors. That'll be detention for each of you."
"Yes, ma'am," Harry said dutifully, and the others echoed him mutinously. It was clear they hadn't caught on to what the professors were doing just yet.
McGonagall gave them all a nod, the faintest hint of a smile turning up the corners of her mouth.
Later, in Herbology, Professor Sprout handed out detention to eight different people for incorrectly measuring the fertilizer for their Tentacula.
"It's moderately important, you know," she scolded them all. "I have noticed that many of you haven't been measuring at all. Handfuls will simply not do, Fawcett. You must measure."
The widespread student outrage over all these detentions reached a peak at dinner that night, the usual murmur of conversation ascending to a dull roar. "It's utter rubbish!" Harry heard one of the older Slytherins down the table telling his friend. "I have N.E.W.T.s to study for! I can't waste my time with detention for running in the courtyard! I've been running in the bloody courtyard for seven years, and no one's ever stopped me before! What's Flitwick's problem?"
"He didn't give you a slip," the friend pointed out. "You don't have to go without a slip."
"No, he just filled out one of those forms, like Filch always does." The two boys looked at each other, frowning.
"Guess the professors hate Umbridge as much as we do," Pansy said, taking a bite of her chicken.
"Sinstra gave me a detention for being out in the halls after curfew after Astronomy last night," Blaise said, frowning. "Her class doesn't even start until after curfew. She was laughing the whole bloody time she filled out the form."
"That sounds about right," Harry said, shrugging. "Since I don't have detentions with Snape every night anymore, thanks to Umbridge, I'm going to head over to the library after dinner. Does anyone want to come?"
The three of them turned him down. Once he'd finished his food, he said his goodbyes and walked up to the library alone, planning to catch a friend in residence. Hermione and Anthony had both left the Great Hall before Harry, and he hoped at least one of them had the library in mind as their goal.
On the way, he was waylaid by Padma, who called his name as he rounded a corner. He turned around and gave her a small smile as she caught up. She didn't return it, her expression serious and irritated.
"What's wrong?" he asked, once they were walking together toward the library. She hooked her hand around his elbow and he took a second to be thrilled before schooling his face into concern.
"I can't go to Hogsmeade this weekend like we'd planned," she said apologetically. "I know we put it off because you had detention, but now I've got detention."
"What for?" Harry asked, glancing at her. She adjusted her bag and looked back at him, her brow wrinkled with bafflement.
"Improper attire," she explained. "Madam Hooch disapproves of non-regulation scarves, apparently. Parvati got one, too." Her dark eyes narrowed, and her grip on Harry's elbow tightened. "This is almost as absurd as the detentions Snape was giving you for a while there, Harry," she pointed out. "What's going on?"
"Nonviolent resistance?" Harry offered, lifting his eyebrows and shrugging. "You won't have to go unless you actually get the detention slip before Saturday. And, it's just a hunch, but I don't think Hooch will mind us going to Hogsmeade instead, even if you do."
They'd reached the hallway that led to the library and met Ron, storming half-heartedly toward them.
"I'm not spending all my free time in a bloody library if the rest of it's about to be spent in detention," he explained as they stared at him.
"What did you get it for?" Harry asked, as Padma stood quietly next to him, watching the interaction with fascination.
"I was late to class," Ron grumbled. "And you know what McGonagall said? She told me I 'actually have to serve this one', whatever that's supposed to mean. I don't skive off. That's Fred and George."
"Bad luck, mate," Harry said, shrugging.
"Nonviolent resistance," Padma repeated, comprehension dawning on her face even as Harry and Ron said their goodbyes and Ron continued past them toward the staircase, still bristling with offense. "This is about the newest decree, isn't it?"
"Er," Harry said, pausing outside the door to the library. "Yes. Basically."
"Right, I'm not going," Padma decided, an unexpectedly devious smile lighting her features. "Eight o'clock on Saturday, Harry, just like we planned." She squeezed his elbow and let go. "I have to run, but I'll see you soon, okay?"
"Yeah, okay," Harry said, grinning back at her. "See you, Padma."
Harry stepped into the library, still smiling, and made his usual circuit to check Anthony and Luna's usual spot. Some Hufflepuffs were sitting there, and Harry's steps and good mood faltered. That had been Anthony's table since first year. No one else sat there when he was likely to show up, especially now that they were fifth years.
Then again, it had become harder and harder to find Anthony these days by just going to the library. Harry resorted to the Map more often than not, if he really wanted to talk to him. He wanted to say it was bizarre, how Anthony was almost always surrounded by people these days, but wasn't that supposed to be a good thing? Harry's other friends were always trying to make him socialize more. Maybe Blaise was right and Anthony was just growing up.
Harry tried to convince himself that he wasn't completely offended by the idea, and detoured through the stacks to avoid passing the Hufflepuffs. He arrived at Hermione's usual table with frown lines firmly etched on his forehead.
Hermione, at least, was reassuringly normal, surrounded by her books and parchment, with Dudley and, in another surprise, Luna for company.
Luna noticed him first and shifted her books so that he could sit next to her. They shared a smile of greeting and disquiet. If Luna was over here, she was obviously aware of the Hufflepuff intrusion at their other table.
"No one's said anything, we would've noticed," Dudley was telling Hermione, brandishing a well worn bit of parchment at her. "We all signed it, even the Slytherins, and they don't even go."
Harry caught a brief glimpse of the parchment and caught on immediately. "Even Draco and Blaise signed, and they didn't even come to the first meeting," Harry agreed, glancing at Dudley in greeting when he seemed surprised by Harry's presence. "Everyone who's aware of your group is on that list. What's wrong?"
"Umbridge has an informant," Hermione insisted, rubbing her temples wearily. "There's no other explanation. She managed to figure out our last three rendezvous points practically before we even arrived. We haven't had a successful meeting since January."
"If anyone had said anything to anyone else, we'd know," Dudley insisted. "It'd be written all over their faces, Hermione, remember? That's what you said."
"So how is she doing it?" Hermione asked, slumping back in her chair. She looked exhausted, and Harry felt a wave of pity for her. She had way too much on her plate this year.
"Maybe she's found a way to use nargles as a spy network?" Luna suggested, to Hermione's bewilderment. "There's more mistletoe up this year than last, have you noticed?"
"I hadn't," Hermione said slowly, and Harry interrupted quickly before she could ask what a nargle was and completely derail the conversation. Hermione couldn't handle Luna on her best days, and today didn't even approach 'good'.
"Right, or maybe she's got some of the other students spying? Someone or something," Harry allowed, nodding at Luna, "Could be listening in on conversations, Luna's got a point."
"We've been trying to keep things as quiet as possible," Hermione responded, her mouth twisting with frustration. "Should I just tell everyone to never talk about it out loud?"
"It's worth a try, isn't it?"
Hermione chewed on her lip as she thought about it. "I suppose that is why we have the galleons."
Dudley looked up from the parchment, eyes wide. "Has anyone's galleon gone missing?"
"We can check, but I doubt it," Hermione said, frowning and scribbling something down on a scrap of parchment. "Everyone's been showing up, and if they'd given their galleon to someone outside the group, the spell on the parchment would've kicked in. Harry, you can't imagine what last time was like." She shook her head, eyes squeezing briefly shut. Dudley cut in to explain.
"We got there early, and Neville spotted Umbridge waiting for us inside the classroom," he explained in a whisper, as though he was back in the corridor, still hiding from the High Inquisitor. "The four of us ended up having to guard both ends of the hallway and send people away before she could spot them."
"She knew, then," Harry said, his eyes widening. "She knew exactly where you'd be, and probably exactly what you were doing."
"Too right, she did," Dudley said gruffly. "And we can't figure out how."
Harry jogged back to Slytherin not an hour later, on a mission. They'd talked it through backward and forward, but since no one had triggered the spell Hermione had placed on the parchment, it was obvious that Umbridge had other means.
The plan they formulated was simple. Harry had offered the use of his Map, and the three of them would watch it while Hermione updated her galleon to set the next meeting time and place. They'd track everyone in the group and check to see if anyone else was nearby when they received her message. If Umbridge knew about the next meeting, they would have narrowed their list of suspects considerably. The logistics of keeping watch over that many people on the Map at once were a little complicated, but they'd all agreed that it certainly couldn't hurt to try.
Harry spoke the password to the familiar stretch of wall and hurried inside once it opened. He glanced around the room, but Pansy, Blaise and Draco were conspicuously absent. They were usually here at this time of night. Maybe they had detention, Harry thought, smiling at the thought of any of his three friends actually showing up to one of the farce punishments professors had been handing out recently.
The corridor to the boys' dormitories was quiet aside from the faint murmurs he could hear from inside each room. When he reached the fifth year dorm, a sharp, female voice made him pause.
"I can't believe you didn't tell us! Draco, it's been weeks!"
A split second was all it took to recognize Pansy's voice, put two and two together, and realize this was a conversation he should probably be part of. He pushed the door open and stepped inside, taking stock. Blaise, Pansy, and Draco were all crowded together on Draco's bed. Pansy had turned to look at the door and appeared entirely unsurprised to see him. Blaise's attention was torn between Harry's arrival and Draco, who didn't react. He sat slumped against his headboard, his face downcast.
"What's happened?" Harry asked, closing the door carefully behind him and looking between the three of them. Blaise and Pansy shifted over on the bed, a clear invitation for Harry to join them.
Harry settled into the open space, his curiosity blending into concern as Draco shifted to give him more room, but still didn't speak or otherwise acknowledge him. "What's wrong? Draco?"
"We aren't going to say it for you, Draco," Blaise said, his tone milder than Pansy's had been, but no less firm.
Draco exhaled heavily and pushed both hands through his hair before looking up. His eyes were dry, though from the expression on his face that indicated little. Harry met his gaze with building apprehension.
"I didn't want to say it," he said finally. "I don't want to say it again."
"Then you should have waited for Harry to be here before you told us," Pansy said promptly. Draco scowled, which was a welcome change from the hopelessness that had been etched all over his features before.
"You wouldn't bloody let me wait for him. I said, 'Let's wait for Harry,' and you said, 'Yes, okay, but tell us now anyway'. You're a bint, Pansy."
Pansy dismissed the insult with a flick of her hand. "Don't think we're going to get into an argument and you'll be able to get out of saying it." Her voice softened. "If this is really how things are going to be now, Draco, it's going to be a lot harder if you haven't come to terms before everyone finds out."
Draco nodded, his eyes dropping again, and Harry cleared his throat when he seemed ready to fall back into a contemplation of the pattern of the bedspread. "I still don't know what happened," he pointed out.
"I was disowned," Draco muttered, not looking up. Harry's stomach dropped.
"You were—what?" he asked, clearing his throat again, this time out of necessity. He willed Draco to look up.
"Disowned," Draco repeated, his voice firming. "As in, I'm no longer a Malfoy. As in, my parents don't want me anymore. As in-"
"I know what it means!" Harry said, his voice breaking. He pushed himself back until he nearly staggered off the bed. Pansy and Blaise stared at him, but Harry's eyes were fixed on Draco, wide with horror. "You—but—this is… Draco!"
"Harry, he's not completely ruined," Blaise said, unfolding his legs and standing up to follow Harry as he backed away. "He's got an inheritance from his grandfather, and his parents can't take back the vault that's in his name. He has options."
"Who bloody cares about the bloody vaults!" Harry exclaimed, swallowing hard around the lump in his throat. He pulled his eyes away from Draco, who'd looked up and was watching him with an unreadable expression. "He—" He turned sharply, looking at Pansy now. "You said it'd been weeks! When did it happen?"
"I found out at the end of January, when my mother visited," Draco admitted.
"Your mother—did you know she visited?" Harry asked, still looking at Blaise and Pansy. They both shook their heads mutely. "Draco, why didn't you say anything?"
"I don't exactly want to spread it around," Draco pointed out, hunching his shoulders and glaring at nothing. "If my parents want a discreet disowning, I'm perfectly willing to play along."
"A discreet-" Harry stopped and just paced for a long, silent minute, feeling something that was either panic or bile rising up the back of his throat.
"Harry?" Pansy asked cautiously. Harry shook his head. The room felt close; he took up too much space in it; he couldn't breathe.
"This is awful," he said, folding his arms over his chest and then letting them drop when that made getting enough air even harder. The feeling didn't go away. "This is horrible, Draco, I'm so sorry, this is—my fault, this is-"
"Think awfully highly of yourself, don't you?" Draco commented, his voice deliberately light. Harry didn't even have to look at him to picture the expression on his face.
"Did you have a fling with a muggle over the holiday?" Harry challenged, turning around and meeting the disdain anyway. Draco's anger made it easier to ignore his own panic. "Or maybe you've decided to transfer to Gryffindor? Or are you a squib and just never thought to mention it? Draco, I know what you're likely to be disowned for, and I know where I stand in all of it."
"I was disowned because of the choices I made," Draco snapped, standing up and sidestepping Blaise, who backed quickly out of the line of fire and rejoined Pansy on the bed. "You don't get to make my family's issues about you, Harry."
"If we weren't friends-"
"If I hadn't pushed so hard this winter," Draco corrected, poking Harry in the chest and making him fall back a step. "We were friends for years, you prat, and we hardly have been lately. This wasn't about us being friends. It was about me. Not you, you—you arrogant arse!"
"This is about your family's loyalties—"
"Harry—" Blaise cut in, but Draco was already sneering, cold with fury.
"They're not my family anymore, are they?" he asked, arching an eyebrow. "Maybe now you'll shut up about it."
Harry swallowed again and fell into a guilty silence. Draco watched him with narrowed eyes. Pansy started to speak, but Draco was already talking.
"You are not allowed to be more upset than I am about this," he demanded, his every word curt and unyielding. Harry nodded, looking away. "This is about me, not you, understand? You're allowed to be sympathetic." He paused, pursing his lips, and his next words were less offensive and more thoughtful. "You're welcome to beg my forgiveness for how you've treated me-"
"Shove off," Harry said, his mouth curving up slightly. "I'm not retracting anything."
"Of course you aren't," Draco said darkly. "You've only gone and gotten me disowned."
Harry's heart fell to his shoes, and all his horror returned instantly. "But you just said—! Draco, I'm—"
"That's going to come in handy," Draco commented, glancing at Pansy and Blaise, who were frowning at the pair of them. "Oh come off it," he exclaimed, gesturing at Harry, who glared. "You can't fault me."
"Draco, I swear," Pansy warned, and Draco huffed.
"Fine. I was only joking."
Harry folded his arms and tried to pretend his heart wasn't still thumping uncomfortably hard behind his ribs. "You're a prick," he said.
"Don't care," Draco said, tilting his chin and looking superciliously down his nose at Harry, who held his gaze and frowned.
"I am sorry," he said in a low voice. Draco blinked at him. His bravado and anger slowly seeped away, replaced instead by something small and sad.
"Yes, I know," he said, turning back to the bed with Harry following right behind him. "Thank you."
Later, after they'd all gone to bed, Harry woke from another strange nightmare, this time of pacing in one of the hallways near to Gryffindor Tower, trying to remember how to get into the storage room. He got up to get a glass of water and bumped into Draco again.
"Harry, er, hello. I was just—"
"Getting a glass of water?" Harry asked, lifting an eyebrow. It was dark, but this time Harry had put his glasses on and could tell that Draco wasn't carrying anything with him at all.
"Something like that," Draco muttered sheepishly. Something about his tone and how quietly exhausted he'd looked since the return from break connected, and Harry frowned.
Draco trailed him to the bathroom and shut the door behind him, flicking his wand to ignite one of the torches furthest from the door to give them a bit of light. "Do you just not sleep at all anymore?" Harry asked.
"I sleep." Draco rubbed at his temple, squinting in the low light. "Just not very much."
Harry turned off the tap and leaned against the counter, sipping his water slowly and looking more closely at Draco than he had in a while. Draco leaned against the door with his arms crossed loosely against the cold, his forehead lined with stress and the corners of his mouth tipped permanently downward. They didn't speak until Harry finished his water. Then:
"She wanted me to leave the country," Draco said, his hushed voice loud in the silence of the dungeons. "Father mentioned Durmstrang again on Boxing Day and I said no, but she told me she didn't care where I went. Beauxbatons, Durmstrang, Christchurch. Bloody Salem." He laughed, one low gust of air, and looked away toward the showers. "Just not Hogwarts. I said no."
"This was when she visited?" Harry asked, his glass forgotten in his hand. Draco nodded.
"I got the letter less than a week later."
"Merlin," Harry murmured. Draco sighed and rubbed at his eyes with one hand. Sympathy and guilt saturated Harry's chest, weighing his words down with inadequacy and tugging at him even after Draco looked back up and abruptly changed the subject.
"What're you doing awake?" It was cold in the bathroom, and Harry set his glass down on the counter and pulled himself up to sit as the chill started to seep through his slippers.
"Nightmare," Harry explained, frowning. "Or, I dunno. A dream, I guess. I think it's the headaches that make me think they're nightmares."
"Headaches?" Draco repeated, moving closer. He snagged Harry's empty cup and filled it at the tap next to where Harry had perched, and took a sip. "That sounds alarming."
"No, I don't-" Harry sighed and pulled one of his knees up, balancing himself with a heel on the counter. "The dreams are harmless. Sometimes I'm talking to another student, or wandering the corridors. Once I was just… doing homework, I guess. It was even the homework we'd been assigned the day before in class. But then I wake up with these awful headaches and... just a really bad feeling, I suppose. I don't know what to make of it."
"You talked to Snape about your headaches last year, didn't you?" Draco finished the water and pulled himself up to sit next to Harry on the counter.
"Yes, but I don't think this is the same thing," Harry explained, shifting to make space. "That was about Occlumency and someone trying to break into my mind. I've been Occluding."
"You should tell him anyway."
"I don't know when I'm going to get to see him these days, now that Umbridge is controlling detentions," Harry argued, lifting his scarred hand as evidence. He was waiting for the first detention slip, now that she'd gotten her way. He suspected that the only reason he hadn't already been summoned was because of the sheer volume of paperwork Umbridge was now having to sort through. Draco grimaced at the sight of the words carved into Harry's hand. "I'm not wasting time telling him about stupid nightmares that don't even have anything to do with what we're working on."
Harry looked up to see that Draco was watching him. "If they're so harmless and stupid, why do you keep calling them nightmares?"
Harry looked away, understanding better the set of Draco's shoulders when he'd suddenly asked after Harry. He didn't want to talk about this anymore. "They're just… unsettling, that's all," he muttered. "Look, we should get back to bed."
"You should talk to Snape, that's all I'm saying," Draco said, pushing himself off the counter. Harry followed, yawning.
"If I get a chance, I will," he allowed. Draco flicked his wand at the torch, extinguishing it before he pulled open the door. Harry followed blindly, his eyes adjusting slowly to the dark. He found his bed by memory rather than by sight, and fumbled the curtains open as quietly as he could manage.
"Good night, Harry."
"Draco, can I borrow your shoes?" Harry asked in a quiet voice, tiptoeing toward the bed next to his own. Draco was fully dressed and ostensibly reading, sitting propped up on his pillows against the headboard with a book open in his lap, though any idiot could see he was really just napping in the calm atmosphere of Saturday morning. Harry didn't blame him, but he still needed those shoes.
He dropped down to look under Draco's bed, reasoning that asking out loud was almost the same as having been given permission, especially since he'd probably be back before Draco woke up, anyway.
Harry heard the blankets shifting. Something heavy fell on his head and he yelped, sitting back on his heels and rubbing his ear.
"I'm awake, Harry," Draco told him, sitting up and retrieving his book. "Why were you trying to steal my shoes?"
"Because Pansy told me Padma would break up with me if I ever wore mine in front of her," he explained, his ear still throbbing with pain. Draco rolled his eyes.
"Pansy is a drama queen," he explained, ignoring the incredulous lift of Harry's eyebrow. "Shut up, Harry, you are too. It comes with being in Slytherin."
Harry grinned at him, wide and pleased. Somehow, Draco shouting at him after Harry had tried to take responsibility for his disowning had made things better. A lot of the painful uncertainty and awkwardness had vanished, not to say that Harry didn't still feel guilty. In his head. Privately. Out loud, he said,
"Ambition, cunning, and melodrama, is that how the school song went this year?"
"My point," Draco said, pointing at Harry to emphasize that he should stop talking, though there was a hint of a smile as well. "No, my point, Harry, is that she's definitely already seen your hideous shoes. You have classes together, don't you? And yet here you are, going to Hogsmeade with her."
"So she likes me despite my shoes," Harry concluded, nodding. Draco yawned and shook his head.
"Not at all. She's clearly in it for the notoriety," he said, leaning back against his pillows and closing his eyes. "They're in my trunk, don't scuff them or I'll have the first years burn you in effigy in the common room."
"Thanks," Harry said, pulling himself to his feet and prodding open Draco's trunk cautiously with his wand. "You're a true Slytherin, Draco."
"Are you saying I overshot a realistic threat?" Draco asked, his eyes still closed. Harry retrieved the shoes safely and tugged them on as he spoke. "Just having them trip you up in the halls seemed boring, and fire was the first thing to come to mind."
"Naturally," Harry said dryly. "I'll bring these back in a few hours. Thanks."
"Bring me back chocolate too," Draco muttered in response, the book open on his lap again. "The good kind that you get at the back of the shop, none of that rubbish they make chocolate frogs out of."
"Chocolate frogs, got it," Harry said. He waited a moment for a response, and realized Draco had fallen asleep again when none was forthcoming. Worry ate at him as he left the dormitory, trying to think about Hogsmeade with Padma rather than the fact that Draco had looked miserable even while he carried on the most normal, cheerful conversation they'd had in longer than Harry cared to think about.