Sense of Belonging

Chapter 13

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter (that magic belongs to J.K. Rowling).

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The winter holidays were right around the corner – and Isabelle was excited to go home for a few weeks. She was already ahead on all of her homework (but had saved a few essays for the break, in case she got bored). She missed sleeping in her own room and seeing her parents every day. Plus, she couldn't wait for all of the presents she /always/ got under the Christmas tree.

Still doubtful that Professor Snape was doing anything wrong (and also a bit distrustful of Hermione's stories and accusations), the Slytherin First Year continued to help search for the mysterious Nicolas Flamel. It was the third last day before the holiday break and the three girls – two Gryffindor, one Slytherin – were searching book after book for the wizard's name.

"I give up," Jett said, sitting back in her seat, having searched maybe half a dozen of the books. "He doesn't exist."

Iz glanced over her piles of books she had already searched, at least 25, with her eyebrow raised. "He has to exist. I just don't think it is going to help you all any if we do find out who he is." Sighing, she looked at Hermione, "Why can't we just ask Madam Pince to help us?"

"I already told you, Izzy, we don't want to make her suspicious. What if Snape finds out? Harry and Ron don't want to tip him off – " Hermione replied, still searching her pile of books. She appeared annoyed and a little exhausted, having wanted to solve this mystery before they were to go on break.

"Well, if they're so worried about it, why aren't they up here with us, searching through books too?" Izzy commented, never having intended to help Potter and Weasley. She had hoped, when Hermione had first told her, that it would be a simple search in the Great Wizards of the Twentieth Century or Notable Magical Names of Our Time. Maybe even a little more difficult, just for the fun of the mystery. But this was just plain stupid and she had no motivation to continue the search except to help Hermione, who was her friend.

"Why don't we just take a break for a little bit, then, okay? We can study for the Potions exam or practice a few charms spells. Or we can do something fun, anything you can think of, Jett? Jett? Hello?" The bushy-haired Gryffindor suggested before noticing her blonde-haired friend wasn't even listening. Jett was staring down at a piece of parchment. Izzy could read the fancy script on the one side with Jett's name, obviously a letter from someone – probably her mother.

"Are you alright, Jett?" Both Isabelle and Hermione moved to sit next to her, trying to read what the letter said or get a clue as to why there were tears forming in her eyes. The note was in French but it was pretty clear that the news was upsetting to the young Gryffindor. "What is it? What happened?"

"Nothing. It's just…stupid." Jett sighed, a mixture of upset and anger obvious in her tone. Wiping away a couple of the tears, she went to stand up and leave but the two other girls held her down.

"No, don't go. Tell us. What's stupid?" Hermione asked quietly, wanting to be sure she was okay.

"…my mother. She says I have to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas. She – " The usually-joking girl's voice cracked as she tried to keep it together. Izzy, unsure how to handle Jett's emotions, gave her a hug.

"Oh, Jett – " Iz started to say sympathetically, but the Gryffindor pushed her away slightly and continued, now more angry than tearful.

"No, it's not just that. She says I need to stay here because she's going to visit some new boyfriend in Merlin-knows-where. She does this .time/ to me. She never even cares to think about what I want. She just…" All of a sudden, the short, blonde-haired girl stood and threw one of her quills against a bookshelf. Hermione seemed startled but Izzy was used to dealing with Draco's and her own temper, and so didn't even flinch.

"Shh. Why don't you come and stay at the Manor with me for Christmas? Then you aren't stuck here. And your mom doesn't even need to know, as you said, she doesn't care anyways." Jett glanced at her, still crying angrily but listening, so the Slytherin continued. "We'll have lots of fun. We have a pond in the back, and our house is super big so you'll have your own room and everything. It'll be great!"

Hermione chimed in, "That sounds like fun, Jett! Who cares about your mom's new boyfriend or where she'll be? You should go to Izzy's house, or you can probably come to mine too, if you want. We won't have as much space though…and we don't have a pond… But my parents are really nice and there are plenty of things for us to do in the neighborhood. I think. I usually just stay at home and read, honestly," the Gryffindor shrugged, rambling. Glancing at Iz, she added, "But go to Izzy's, that'll be way better than staying here alone."

Jett glanced at the two of them, wiping away tears and then glancing down at the parchment still on the desk. She quickly crumpled it up and also threw it before plopping back down in her seat, arms crossed. After a couple of moments, she glanced over at Isabelle and asked quietly, "…can we prank your brother?"

"Absolutely. I've still got those water balloons from my birthday. But we can also go ice skating, or play in the snow, or whatever you want to do!" Izzy smirked back, already excited at the idea of having a friend in the house besides her brother.

"O…okay. Okay, if it's alright with your parents, I'll come to your house for Christmas." The Slytherin nodded, excited to send a letter to be sure it was alright for Jett to join them. Returning to easier conversations, including about Nicolas Flamel and how Draco could be such a prat, the three girls expressed their growing excitement for the upcoming break.

~:~

As for the latter of those conversation topics, Draco Malfoy proved himself obnoxious the next day following potions. It was cold throughout Hogwarts, especially where there weren't fires to keep the students warm, like the hallways. Even in the dungeons for Potions, with their small cauldrons boiling, a few First Years shivered as their breath rose like smoke in the air. Isabelle was used to it at this point, never minding the cold weather and always excited for her double period of Potions with the Gryffindors. They had finally reached the point where Professor Snape entrusted them to make potions on their own, and Jett and Izzy's previous partnership was only minimally required. That didn't keep Jett from cheating off of Iz's potions or techniques and definitely didn't help the rivalry of the Gryffindors and Slytherins in the room.

"Leave your potions, labeled, at my desk in the front of the room. Enjoy the winter holidays." Professor Snape instructed from the back of the classroom, not seeming particularly jolly. Izzy put out the fire under her gold cauldron and put it back in storage before filing out of the room with Jett.

"Library? Before we leave tomorrow?" Narcissa had written back that morning, confirming that Isabelle could bring a friend home for Christmas break. Jett had seemed relieved and even a little excited about going to Malfoy Manor, but it was also obviously not her preferred choice. She had wanted to go back to France, to go home, maybe not to see her mother but to at least be somewhere familiar.

"I don't really want to…we've been searching for this Flamel guy for a couple weeks now, I'm tired of it. Can't we just start up again after break?" Jett replied, giving Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle an annoyed glare as they hurried past everyone to be up front. Iz glanced around for Hermione, finding her next to Potter and Weasley as they turned the corner. The Gryffindor and Slytherin First Years all came to a halt, their way out of the dungeons blocked by a large fir tree. Up ahead, she could hear some conversing between the red-headed Weasley and her brother. Knowing that this couldn't be good, she tried to push forward to keep Draco from getting into any more trouble, catching the end of his sneering comment back to the Gryffindor.

"– extra money, Weasley? Hoping to be gamekeeper yourself when you leave Hogwarts, I suppose – that hut of Hagrid's must seem like a palace compared to what your family's used to." Draco smirked at the red-head, not expecting Ron to jump forward and grab the front of the blonde-haired Slytherin's robes.

"WEASLEY!" The other First Years jumped at Professor Snape's disapproving voice. The Gryffindor let go of Draco's robes and Izzy pulled her brother away, looping her arm around his while glaring at Potter and Weasley defensively.

"He was provoked, Professor Snape, Malfoy was insultin' his family," Hagrid defended the red-headed boy. He stuck his huge furry face out from behind the tree to make sure the boys were alright.

"Be that as it may, fighting is against Hogwarts rules, Hagrid," Snape said silkily. "Five points from Gryffindor, Weasley, and be grateful it isn't more. Move along, all of you." Draco pulled his arm from Izzy's grip and cockily strode forward, followed by Crabbe and Goyle. Not even glancing back at his sister, the young Slytherin smirked and pushed roughly past the tree, scattering needles everywhere.

Following the other students as they tried to squeeze by the giant and his tree, Isabelle glanced at Hermione and Jett semi-apologetically and semi-annoyedly. She caught Weasley's and Potter's threats just as she got past the tree, overhearing them say,

"I'll get him one of these days, I'll get him – "

"I hate them both, Malfoy and Snape."

Sighing, Izzy followed her brother to the Great Hall for lunch. She felt torn, not wanting to defend Draco when he was so obviously acting like that just to be mean, but also wanting to support him because he was family. She hoped Hermione and Jett didn't think she condoned his comments and behavior and wanted to be able to defend the Gryffindors (not Potter or Weasley, as they were both idiots, from her perspective) if necessary. Too afraid to take a stand, especially if someone found out that Hermione and she were good friends, Iz merely sat down at the Slytherin table to enjoy her meal and move on with her day. She still had a lot of packing to do, unsure what she really wanted to bring home and what she could keep at school. All of the other Slytherin First Years were going home for the holidays as well, so it would surely be quiet in the dormitory for the next couple of weeks. Not having a chance to wish Hermione a good break, Isabelle looked forward to finally going back to the Manor.