Sense of Belonging

Chapter 15

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

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Pumpkin-flavored ice cream. Sweet and creamy, just beginning to melt off the cone it was placed on. Izzy took another lick of the dessert, savoring its delicious taste and texture. She smiled and glanced around, trying to remember where she was.

Derry Hill. The Muggle town near Malfoy Manor. She was sitting in front of the ice cream shop, watching the streams of Muggle families and couples walk down the street. It was sunny and warm and Isabelle felt right at home.

Glancing across the table she saw Hermione struggling to eat her own ice cream cone, her chocolate chunk melting even faster. The two girls giggled with laughter at each other. Comfortable. And happy.

But then the wind picked up just as the girls were finishing their treats, dark clouds rolling in faster than could be really possible. Iz stood to get a better look, trying to decide what she was going to do. As she went to turn and ask Hermione something, screams filled the street and echoed off the brick structures. She stood up taller, trying to see over the Muggle automobiles parked along the street and down to wherever the screams had originated from.

Isabelle jumped as more screeches followed, her eyes wide with fear and concern. What was going on?!

Once more attempting to turn around and look for Hermione, her eyes caught on a familiar sight. Her brother was running down the sidewalk toward where Izzy was standing. He was grinning, an odd smile, and he did not stop as she expected when he reached her. Instead, all she heard as he ran past was a quick phrase:

"You'll be next, Mudbloods!"

The sound of some horrible creature echoed down the street and, without thinking, Iz turned and ran. She lost sight of other Muggles running with her. Stopping as she reached a crossroads and glancing back, she could only make out some shadowy creature the size of a house. It seemed to be eating the Muggles whole. Izzy didn't know what to do.

It was then she realized that the creature was not after her. She was safe – she was a witch, after all, with a wand. And she was a pureblood. It was only after Muggles and Muggleborns – Hermione!

Isabelle looked around frantically for the Gryffindor, terrified not for herself but her friend. The bushy-haired girl was nowhere to be found, having completely disappeared. Glancing back towards the ice cream shop once more in case Hermione happened to still be there, she watched as the shadowy creature smashed into the front of the simple store, now crumbling to pieces…

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!"

Izzy woke with a slight shock as she blinked her eyes awake. The room was brighter than when she normally got up and it took her a couple of seconds to adjust. When she finished rubbing her eyes and sat up, she found Daphne and Gemma on either side of her bed.

"Morning," Iz replied with a slight smile, remembering what day it was.

"Here, here! Open mine first – well, it's actually ours – me, Tracey, Pansy, and Millicent – here, look," Daphne came forward first, holding out a suspicious looking paper bag.

Isabelle hesitated a moment as if unsure that it was really a present or a prank – especially since Pansy had supposedly partook in it. Opening it slowly, there was a slight pop before rainbow bubbles floated out and surrounded much of the dorm room. Tracey and Millicent, who were both sitting on their beds, laughed and popped a few of the bubbles as they floated by. Pansy ignored the bubbles but glanced at her suitemate, as if waiting for her reaction to the rest of the present. The young Malfoy pulled out four different colored sweaters, each soft and breathable.

"Mine's the turquoise one!" Millicent called with a wide smile, proud that she had picked out that color. The other three sweaters were a rusty orange, a magenta, and a beautiful dark green.

"They're so soft – and I'm sure I'll get to wear them a lot. The weather has been /terrible/ this year," Isabelle joked, smiling to each of the girls and thanking them individually. She then turned to her sixth-year prefect friend.

"Here you go, Izzy. I know you like to journal a lot and I wasn't sure where you usually got your journals so I had one hand-made in Italy – because you and I had talked about going there for holidays, remember? – and anyways, I hope you like it." Gemma finished quietly, offering her cleanly wrapped present to the birthday girl.

Iz opened it to find a beautiful leather-bound journal. The pages on the inside were bare but glossy, reflecting the candlelight in the dorm room. The cover was Isabelle's favorite part – it was magicked to change between different scenes. As Iz shifted the journal one way, the brick house became covered with snow and a snowman appeared under one of its windows. She then moved it another way, finding an abundance of flowers and birds moving through the spring sky. Each of the seasons was represented and, when the Slytherin set it down on her bed to give Gemma a hug, it returned to the pictures of autumn.

"It's perfect – thank you!"

Quickly getting dressed, she told the girls that she would meet them down in the common room in a moment. Packing her bag and carefully wearing the Black family heirloom necklace her mother had given her the year before, she turned to leave when there was a pop by the doorway.

"Mistress," Dobby the house-elf had appeared, bowing to Isabelle.

"Uh, hello, Dobby?" Confused for a moment, she then remembered he probably was carrying her birthday presents. Smiling excitedly, she moved toward him to find out what they were.

"I come with a letter from your parents," Dobby said in his high, squeaky voice. He held the simple piece of parchment up in the air.

"Didn't they send anything else, Dobby? Any presents?" Izzy asked, taking the letter but still waiting expectantly for a further package. Her smile quickly dimmed as the elf shook his head, his large ears flopping around.

"No, mistress."

"Oh…alright. Thank you, Dobby," the dark-haired girl finished.

As she heard him pop away, she turned back towards her bed to be sure she had not forgotten anything. Making her way up the stairs to the common room, she stuffed the letter from her parents in her bag to be read later.

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Sunday brunch was as wonderful as ever – she had any choice of food she desired. The pumpkin juice tasted especially fresh that morning and Isabelle found herself in a completely contented mood.

Following the meal with her Slytherin friends, she joined her two Gryffindors in the library. Not sitting in their usual spot (so as not to disturb anyone else who wanted to be learning), the three girls huddled together by the corner fireplace.

"You're finally twelve! You know, I'll be thirteen in a couple of months," Jett said with a smirk, knowing how much it irked the Slytherin that her two friends were both almost a year older than her.

"Yeah, well, I'm already thirteen, Jett," Hermione replied, to which the French girl just stuck her tongue out at her.

"Hey, it's /my/ birthday today, isn't it?" Izzy interjected, and all three girls laughed. She had already shown them both the journal Gemma had gotten her and told them about the comfy sweaters.

"So now it's our turn." Hermione commented, reaching for her bag.

"I'm first!" Jett said, pulling out her present more quickly. It was obviously a book of some sort, its weight suggesting a heavy read. Izzy gave her a small smile and opened it to find, A Young Witch's Guide to Everyday Nonsense: Stories of Life, Love, and Learning.

"Um…?" Izzy was not sure what to say, still trying to make sense of the title.

"It was on the bestseller list at the bookstore in Diagon Alley. I had a look at it – its full of advice, but also cool pranks to use on boys, and even some spells and potions! It looked like something you might like. So my papa bought it and sent it to me so that I could give it to you." The blond-haired girl ended in a serious tone, somewhat concerned. "Do you hate it?"

"No, of course not! I just wasn't sure what it was. It sounds like fun," Isabelle said quickly, trying to reassure her friend.

"Here, open to a random page," Jett took the book and just flipped it open without reading anything. There was a picture of a witch with long, flowing hair sitting at a desk, a boy sitting behind her. Showing the other two, Jett read, "The hair in an ink well. Young wizards can be pretty mean – especially when they are bored in class. Get ahead of them by charming your ink well! All you need is your wand, your ink well – "

"One of the Ravenclaw boys did that to me last year! I was writing notes in History of Magic and he just took some of my hair and dipped it in my ink well." Hermione interrupted, looking closer at the advice and charm spell more closely. Iz rolled her eyes but smiled.

"Looks like it will come in handy then, thank you," Isabelle commented, giving Jett a quick hug.

"And my turn," Hermione said with a grin. Expecting a large box of somewhat-heavy Muggle books, Izzy had a confused look on her face as the bushy-haired girl handed her a small, wrapped present.

"…what is it?"

"You have to open it to find out, Izzy! Go on," the Gryffindor encouraged her friend.

The young Malfoy opened it carefully, still uncertain what it could be. The shiny outer wrapping came off easily and Iz uncovered a beautiful, square, lightly textured box. At Hermione's nod of encouragement, Izzy opened it to reveal – a mini library with tiny books.

"Did you get her a pair of glasses to read those books, Mione?" Jett jumped in before Isabelle could comment. The other Gryffindor didn't laugh but took out one of the books. This one had a blue cover and was barely the size of the girl's thumbnail.

"Watch. /Engorgio libello/." An icy-blue light shown from the tip of Hermione's wand as she tapped the miniature book in her palm. In a matter of seconds it had grown to a regular sized novel. As if to demonstrate that it was, indeed, a book, she ruffled the pages before handing it back to Izzy.

"Whoa. Are these all real books?" Iz looked closer at the collection, at least twenty novels within the small case. Flipping through the enlarged book now in her hands, she saw it was the beginning of a Muggle mystery series with a girl detective.

"I think you'll really like them. And this way, you don't need to be worried about someone finding them. I had one of the older Gryffindors help me. When you're done reading, you just, /Reducio libello/." This time a purple light emitted from her wand and the book shrank back down to the size of a thumbnail.

"Awesome. It's perfect, Hermione, thank you!" Isabelle smiled wide, giving both girls another hug. She sat back in her chair by the fire, carefully closing the box with her mini library after adding Jett's book to it as well. She glanced up as a group of Hufflepuffs walked by on their way into the library, overhearing part of their conversation.

"They're all still talking about what happened to Mrs. Norris yesterday." Izzy said, watching after the students, before turning to Hermione expectantly. "What happened after you went with the Headmaster?"

"Well, basically, Mr. Filch accused us of trying to kill his cat – which we didn't, of course, try to do. We were just coming back from the Deathday party for Sir Nicholas in the dungeons and happened upon it. Anyways, Professor Dumbledore said that Mrs. Norris wasn't actually dead, but petrified!"

"Petrified? Like stunned with a spell?" Izzy clarified, listening intently.

"Kind of – except Dumbledore said that it was with advanced Dark Magic. But anyways, Professor Snape kind of tried to defend us – "

"He /did/?!" Jett exclaimed, amazed. The potions master had always seemed to hate all Gryffindors, Harry especially.

"Kind of – he said we were probably just in the wrong place, at the wrong time. But then he was trying to figure out why we weren't at the feast and was still trying to get us in trouble… He even tried to get Harry taken off the Quidditch team!"

"No way!" Jett said, the first she was hearing of this. What if she had to play the first game because Harry couldn't?! She wasn't as good of a player as the Boy Who Lived – she would certainly lose her House the game!

"Of course, Professor Dumbledore wouldn't do something like that. So Harry is still playing." Hermione reassured the other Gryffindor.

"But what about Mrs. Norris? Is there any way to help her?" Izzy asked.

"They said something about the mandrakes, the plants we were repotting last month? But I'm not sure what else because Dumbledore said we could leave."

"Well, the whole Gryffindor common room couldn't stop talking about you three last night. I don't even think anyone went to bed on time – Percy was having a fit." Jett told Hermione, having already been asleep when she, Ron, and Harry had returned.

"The Slytherins were pretty much the same. Everyone is trying to figure out who the heir is." Izzy shrugged, leaning back again. It was then she caught sight of her brother near the front of the library, staring in their direction. The other two girls glanced where she was looking and turned back to their friend.

"You should just ignore him, Iz, it's your birthday. He's still a prat," Jett said, crossing her arms.

"Well, I tried to talk to him again last night because…well, I miss him, you know, but he kind of just blew me off and said we still had nothing to talk about." Isabelle replied, trying to act indifferent but it still really bothering her. She glanced toward the fire as if to distract herself.

"I'm sure it will blow over eventually, Izzy. You're family, it won't last forever." Hermione added positively, leaning forward.

All three girls turned at the sound of a cough near them. Draco was standing there, alone, playing with the cuffs of his Slytherin sweater as if nervous. He ignored Jett and, after a small gaze towards Hermione, met his sister's eyes.

"Hey, Iz. Happy birthday?" She made no movement or attempt to smile at his unsure birthday wishes, and he continued. "Can we talk for a second?"

Waiting a moment, Isabelle finally nodded. Hermione stood up to give them privacy, pulling Jett up with her. Glancing back to give her friend a hopeful smile, she pulled Jett in the direction of their usual table, determined to find out more information on the Chamber of Secrets. Jett purposefully hit her shoulder into Draco's as she walked by, giving him a warning look, as if saying, "Don't you ruin her birthday."

"So, I, uh, thought about what you said last night…" Draco looked up, having sat down across from his sister, hoping she would be giving him any look besides for her guarded, stone cold silence. She was not.

"Anyways, I wanted to apologize. For what I said – last night, and a few weeks ago. I don't think you're a bloodtraitor and… I guess, we don't agree on it at the moment, but that doesn't mean we have to stop talking." The blond-haired boy reached across the coffee table between them, as if asking for her hand. When she didn't offer it, he added, "I really miss talking with you, too, Izzy."

Seeing the honest, raw look on her brother's face, most of her built-up anger and embarrassment washed away. Isabelle had become used to him acting like their father, all haughty and proud and without a care in the world for anyone else. But she also knew how open and sensitive Draco could be, how childishly curious and even naïve he was. Taking a deep breath, she set her own hand on her brother's and squeezed it lightly.

"Okay. We can agree to disagree, and go back to siblings who have normal fights." Iz nodded.

"Good. So, happy birthday!" Draco said, pulling out an expertly-wrapped present from his school bag. The small tag on top had their mother's hand-writing on it, but it was signed from both her and Draco. Opening it carefully, she found a box with twelve new quills.

"It was my idea – I told Mother how much you liked the inkless quills we bought in Diagon Alley. She wanted to get you a whole set! So I said I would give them to you on your birthday. Tada!" The older Malfoy smiled confidently, knowing his sister would put the boring (in his opinion) writing utensils to good use.

The siblings talked for a little while longer before Draco left to meet up with his friends. Izzy joined the two Gryffindors at their table, confused to find Hermione searching the library for some book or other and Jett watching her with an amused smirk. She spent the rest of the day in their company, talking about the random and simple problems magical twelve-year-olds have.

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It wasn't until later that evening, after supper, that Isabelle remembered the letter Dobby had given her. She still found it strange that it had been sent with Dobby and not by Russet, their owl.

She opened the parchment to find, not the birthday well wishes she had expected, but a letter of reprimand from her father. He had somehow found out about her friendship with Hermione – and told her it was her final chance to cease embarrassing the Malfoy family name or there would be consequences.

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AN: And so went Izzy's twelfth birthday! In case anyone was interested, I was sort of basing Jett's present off of the "Chicken Noodle Soup for…Soul" books – but in a funnier (and obviously wizarding world) way. Hope you enjoyed the chapter! Read&Review :)