Sense of Belonging

Chapter 13

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

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Izzy was counting down the days to her birthday. She always hated that she was the youngest in her class – she had even met a Ravenclaw first year student in the library who was a month older than her!

Classes were finally in full swing and Iz worked extra hard to be ahead on her homework so she could enjoy her birthday. She and Draco were still barely talking and she was considering writing him a note to apologize and ask for them to start communicating again. She didn't know if he would even read the note or just continue to ignore her, and she had certainly not forgiven him for calling Hermione or her names, but she missed her big brother.

The rest of the students were, of course, excited for the Halloween feast. There was a rumor going around that the Headmaster was arranging special entertainment for this year. Every day the Great Hall had new decorations, including simulated bats flying overhead or floating jack-o'-lanterns with scary faces. Izzy truly loved this time of year.

As the 31st finally arrived, Isabelle had been successful in getting ahead in all of her classes except for DADA. (She would always leave this class' homework for last. It frustrated her how idiotic the assignments were, always focusing on the professor's accomplishments rather than learning anything the students would fine useful.)

Ginny had not shown up to their tutoring session the day before, and the week before that the young Gryffindor had seemed even more withdrawn. Iz wasn't sure if the girl was sick with something or just not adjusting to Hogwarts well, but she was kind of worried. By mid-afternoon, she had already forgotten to ask her two Gryffindor friends about her tutoree and was eagerly packing up her bag in the library so that she could head down to the feast early.

"You're in such a rush today, Izzy," Hermione commented, finishing the last of her Herbology assignment. Jett had her feet up on the table, blowing bubbles from a stick of Muggle chewing gum her godfather had sent her.

"I'm just excited for the feast. Aren't you? It's Halloween!"

"Yeah…" Hermione replied unenthusiastically. Last year, she had been trapped in a bathroom and attacked by a troll after being called friendless by Ronald Weasley. This year, she had promised – and now partially regretted doing so – to go with Harry Potter to a Deathday party. Though she was intrigued by the idea, and it was Sir Nicholas' 500th, she still wanted to see the Great Hall lit with all the candles and the huge feast.

"I didn't think last year was so exciting. I mean, sure, the food was good. And we all had a good scare because of the troll… But it's just a holiday." Jett shrugged before popping another bubble.

"But it /is/ a holiday. And I think it is some of the best food we get all year! I love the taste of pumpkins and cinnamon and apples. Plus, Professor Dumbledore is supposed to have something really awesome planned, I heard. Something with dancing skeletons," Izzy replied, slinging her bag over her shoulder.

"We'll see." Jett shrugged again before practically falling over, the chair she had been sitting on tipping farther backwards than she expected. The three girls laughed a little, the short Gryffindor somewhat embarrassed. They waved goodbye as the dark-haired girl took off.

Iz rushed to the Slytherin dormitory to drop off her books and assignments before heading back towards the Great Hall. (She only semi-noticed the eerie blue candles leading the way down one of the dungeon paths. Maybe another party?) Her brother and his two goons, as she now preferred to call them, were already sitting at the Slytherin table when Izzy came in. Pretending to be distracted by all of the decorations – the thousands of floating candles, the exquisite punch bowls on each of the tables, the cobwebs lining the walls – the youngest Malfoy took a seat without paying the others any mind.

Isabelle was glad that she had arrived early. There were plenty of appetizers and snacks already on the tables, the delicious smells wafting through the air. She watched as the group of First Years from Slytherin House made their way into the hall, eyes wide in amazement at the decorations and overall atmosphere.

Glancing over at the Gryffindor table, she found Jett now sitting next to the red-headed Weasley twins, laughing about something. They appeared to be racing apples, their wands pointed in the air – only their game had become interrupted by some bats who were now trying to eat the flying fruit. Shaking her head but amused, Izzy turned back to the table as the other Slytherin Second-Year girls sat down.

"Why can't they just kick her out?" Daphne said in frustration, her arms crossed across her chest.

"Kick who out?" Iz asked in concern. Daphne Greengrass was almost always in a good mood, the peacekeeper of their dorm room, and she had never gotten into any sort of trouble with anyone, that Iz knew of.

"Stupid Moaning Myrtle! She's flooding the first floor girl's bathroom again. I had to go to the /other/ side of the castle this morning just because she was having a temper tantrum! I don't know why the teachers don't just kick her out. I mean, she's a ghost, right? She can probably haunt wherever she bloody wants."

"I agree," Tracey chimed in, frowning. "I tried to go there last year and Myrtle yelled at me and splashed water at me – from the toilet!" The other girls made a disgusted face. "I've never tried to go in there again."

Just then, the Headmaster rose to welcome the students to the Halloween feast. After making a few jokes, Dumbledore opened the feast as the main course of food appeared on the tables. All the students ate hungrily, laughter heard all-around and conversation easy to make.

"And then the werewolf howled at the moon as it lumbered toward the group of lost students – " Theodore Nott continued to tell his scary story as their part of the table listened closely. Izzy had heard it told before, or had read it somewhere, she could not remember, but enjoyed watching the others react to the mystery and horror. She also realized that she had yet to see any familiar ghosts at the festivities that evening. She wondered where they all could be.

As dessert appeared on the tables, Iz found herself deeply enjoying the holiday feast. It had been everything she had hoped – good food, simple laughter, little drama (even from Pansy). She had already wrapped a few pumpkin treats to take back to the dorms with her as snacks. Reaching for the last piece of pumpkin pie (already on her third slice), she found herself grabbing the serving utensil at the same time as another person.

Isabelle let go, recognizing that she should probably let the other person have the slice, but then realized it was Draco who had gone for the final piece. Meeting his gaze, which became the guarded glazed-over look any time the two siblings had met the entire last month, Izzy just stared at him, waiting to see what he would do. The blond-haired boy hesitated a moment, not breaking eye contact, before putting the slice of pie on his sister's plate. He quickly turned away, starting a conversation with Goyle about some nonsense or other.

Enjoying the piece of pie and knowing that Draco had only given it to her because it was her birthday tomorrow (and he probably didn't want to make a scene), Iz decided she would try and get him to talk to her again.

~:~

"…no, the pecan swirls tasted /way/ better than the apple bars!" Izzy argued with Daphne as they left the Great Hall. One of the first out to beat the crowd of students, they were heading towards the corridor when a few Hufflepuffs had stopped suddenly in front of them.

Trying to see over them to figure out why the students had stopped, Isabelle's eyes widened in surprise. The first thing she saw was the still, hanging figure of the cat – Mrs. Norris, the caretaker's cat. The poor creature was suspended by her tail and was too still to be alive.

The second thing the Slytherin saw was the message written on the wall. The bright red letters, looking as though written in blood, stood each at least a foot tall.

THE CHAMBER OF SECERETS HAS BEEN OPENED.

ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE.

The words made little sense to Izzy but she knew it had to be nothing good. Refusing to look back at the poor animal hanging from the lamppost, the young Malfoy finally noticed the third significant thing: a trio of familiar students stood directly in front of the heinous display.

Hermione, Ron, and Harry stood alone in the middle of the corridor, all three with a mix of shock on their faces. A few of the older students pushed forward to get a look at what was happening, but Izzy found another opening so that she could see what was going on. She nearly jumped as a voice rang out only a couple feet to her left: her brother, looking almost happy at the display.

"Enemies of the heir, beware! You'll be next, Mudbloods!" Draco's face danced in the torchlight, but Izzy could see his grin at the grisly image in front of them.

"What's going on here? What's going on?" A weary old voice rose from behind the crowd of students, and Iz moved out of the way as Mr. Filch worked his way through. She shot her brother a surprised look for his comment, but by then everyone had turned their attention back to the scene in front. The caretaker caught sight of his faithful companion, Mrs. Norris, and fell back in horror.

"My cat! My cat! What's happened to Mrs. Norris?" he shrieked. He looked around wildly as if searching for the culprit but not seeing anyone. His eyes finally fell onto the three Gryffindors in front and he pointed accusingly at the messy-haired boy.

"You!" Hand still pointing at Harry Potter, he started toward the boy, screeching, "/You!/ You've murdered my cat! You've killed her! I'll kill you! I'll – "

"Argus!" The clear, steady voice cut the caretaker off as the Headmaster arrived at the scene. He stepped through the crowd of onlooking students, followed by most of the other teachers. Within seconds, Dumbledore had swept past the three Gryffindors and detached Mrs. Norris from where she was hanging by her tail.

"Come with me, Argus," he said to the caretaker. "You too, Mr. Potter, Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger."

"My office is nearest, Headmaster – just upstairs – please feel free – " Lockhart stepped forward in an eager manner, his bright orange robes twinkling in the torchlit corridor.

"Thank you, Gilderoy," Dumbledore replied and turned to head to the DADA classroom. Fixing his eyes on the crowd of students still standing by, silently watching, he added in a serious tone, "The rest of you, back to your dormitories. The feast has finished."

The students allowed the Headmaster through, who was quickly followed by Mr. Filch, the three Gryffindors, as well as Professor McGonagall and Professor Snape. The other professors repeated Dumbledore's instructions, directing the students back towards their respective House common rooms.

Whispers followed the Slytherin students as they made their way back to the dungeon dormitory.

" – where is the secret Chamber – ?"

" – really believe Potter killed Filch's cat – ?"

" – probably just a prank to scare the Muggleborns – "

"Do you really think Mrs. Norris is dead?" Tracey whispered to the other Second Year girls. Millicent looked like she was already crying, her own pet cat her favorite thing in the world. Pansy looked ready to say something with mirth and, to keep her suitemate from crying harder, Isabelle jumped in to answer.

"She could just be stunned, she was so still, or some other type of curse." Izzy tried to infuse as much optimism into her voice as she could, even though she did not believe what she had just said. Millicent glanced up at her and gave a small nod, wiping her eyes on the sleeve of her uniform.

"What about the writing on the wall? Do you really think this secret chamber has opened?" Daphne asked, glancing around as if a magical door would appear all of a sudden and lead them to the chamber.

"It's the /Chamber of Secrets/, Daphne, not just some secret chamber. And I don't think it really exists. Someone just wanted to make Halloween exciting and so pulled a prank on Filch and is trying to scare us all." Pansy answered quickly and surely.

"But what about the heir? What are they an heir to?" Daphne mused again as they reached the entranceway.

Izzy merely followed the other students in and sat down in the common room, listening to everyone's energetic conversations. She almost agreed with Pansy, that the whole thing could have been a stunt. But the Headmaster had seemed too concerned and also too serious for it to have been a simple joke. The young Malfoy also had a feeling she had heard of the Chamber before and something stuck with her about the heir… Why did it all sound so familiar?