Sense of Belonging

Chapter 20

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

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The weeks continued much the same, minus the petrification of any more Hogwarts students. It was cold and rainy, almost turning to snow. Hermione continued to study with Isabelle in the library. Jett continued to pull pranks. Both girls continued to whisper about their secret truth potion despite Iz knowing what they were doing – or so she thought. And Draco continued to avoid his homework. Izzy's brother still seemed outraged at Slytherin's loss, even as the month turned to December.

"Stupid Potter and that stupid bludger. I would have caught the Snitch!" Draco grumbled at the Slytherin table in the Great Hall at lunch. Ravenclaw had beat Hufflepuff in their recent Quidditch match, which had re-ignited discussions about Slytherin's loss and Gryffindor's win.

"I know you would have, Draco," Pansy offered, scooting closer to Iz's brother. "It's just because Potter cheats."

Glancing up from her History of Magic textbook, Izzy watched her brother simply nod in agreement before taking one of the biscuits the spiky-haired Slytherin offered him.

"Did you see what that Hufflepuff Hannah Abbott has got? She's wearing it today too, look!" Tracey offered as a start of a conversation, pointing to the other House's table as the unaware blonde-haired girl sat down. Isabelle turned with the group, unsure where the conversation would be leading. All that Iz could see, besides for the fact that the girl seemed to really enjoy scrambled eggs, was some weird amulet-like necklace around her neck.

"What /is/ that ghastly thing? Is it supposed to be pretty?" Pansy commented loudly before turning back to her suitemate.

"Maybe her mum sent it to her." One of the other girls offered.

"I don't know, but I heard her talking to one of the others in the hallway yesterday. Supposedly all the Muggleborns and even some half-bloods are buying those trinkets to protect them from whatever lives in the Chamber of Secrets."

"…do you think maybe we should buy one or two?" Millicent asked cautiously.

"Of course not. You're a half-blood, and you're going to marry a pureblood someday, and you're in Slytherin, so you will be fine, Milly." Daphne chimed in to reassure her friend.

"Where are they even getting them from?" Izzy wondered aloud, glancing back towards the other Houses to see more students wearing something similar to the ugly necklace Hannah Abbott wore.

"Flint was showin' me his collection the other day. He's been sellin' 'em, sayin' they're from his family so they have a magical pureblooded energy that keeps 'em Mudbloods safe." One of the third-year Slytherin boys leaned in to join the conversation, smirking.

Pansy leaned forward as if to say something to the boy, her interest peaked, when the owls began to arrive with the mail. Russet, the Malfoy siblings' owl, flew straight to the table where both Draco and Isabelle sat eating their breakfast. The former basically ignored the bird, not wanting to see what letters the owl had brought. (He had already received two the week before, one from each of his parents, berating him for his slipping grades. Didn't they understand he had more important things to worry about than stupid school?!) He missed the days his father would write to him with interesting Ministry news.

Petting the owl softly on his head and taking the letter in his beak, Iz offered a small pile of treats to Russet as a reward. "It's from Mother," she informed her brother before opening the letter to read its contents.

"I don't want to hear about it, Izzy," Draco frowned, focusing on eating his food.

"It's not about your grades again. Mother and Father are traveling to visit family somewhere in Europe." Isabelle read with a hint of confusion. She silently re-read the letter from the beginning as her brother commented,

"Good. Then they can leave me alone about the stupid classes and we don't have to be dragged along."

"No, you don't understand. They are traveling during Christmas. Meaning we have to stay here, at Hogwarts, for the holidays." Iz held the letter out for Draco to read, who snatched it out of her hand. The other second-year girls looked at her with a mixture of pity, as none of them would want to be left behind at the castle.

"That's great! Then I don't have to hear them the entire break complaining about how I should be doing better, or Father and the Quidditch team." The blonde-haired boy smiled wide, this some of the best news he could have hoped for. Turning to Crabbe and Goyle, he added, "You two blokes are gonna have to stay too. Then we'll have the school all to ourselves!"

"You're /happy/ about this? Don't you want to go home? What about opening presents under the tree like we do every year? Going ice skating on the pond?" Izzy asked, making herself slightly homesick. She enjoyed being at school, with her friends and classes, but she also loved going home to see her Mother and, especially during the holidays, to celebrate traditions together.

"Not really, no. I'm sure Mother and Father will send the presents here. There's a tree already in the commonroom. And we can always go ice skating on the lake, if we want to." Draco shrugged, not understanding his sister's hesitancy to stay at Hogwarts for the Christmas break.

Packing her bag and standing, determined to find one of her friends who might have sympathy for her predicament, Izzy was just about to leave when Blaise Zabini ran up to the rest of the second-years. He seemed overly excited about something.

"What's up, Zabini? Was Herbology cancelled? Charms?" Pansy asked hopefully.

"No – they just put up a sign at the notice-board. The professors are starting a Duelling Club! First meeting tonight, after supper." Blaise sat down to grab some breakfast as the others chimed in excitedly.

"Oh, I can't wait! I've always wanted to learn how to duel properly!" Daphne replied, smiling eagerly. "I hope Professor Lockhart is there to teach us some of his moves."

"My Father showed me a few tricks this summer." Goyle offered with a stupid grin as Crabbe cracked his knuckles in response to the news.

"Think we'll actually get to duel each other?" Pansy glanced around at the others, as if sizing them up to choose who she could beat the easiest. She met Isabelle's eyes and smirked, silently challenging her suitemate.

"Sure. I'm just glad there's an opportunity for us to learn some /real/ spells for once." Iz added before heading off to the library. She got caught behind a group of Hufflepuff first-years and couldn't help but listen to their conversation.

"…can't even go to the bathroom alone anymore! What if I end up like Colin? What if the monster /eats/ me?" A curly haired girl said quietly, her lower lip quivering slightly from fright. She strove to stay directly in the middle of the group.

"Charity, you have nothing to worry about! So what if your parents are Muggles? We're your friends, we'll protect you." One of the others replied confidently. "But…I think it's best for us to stick together for now. We don't know who or what is roaming these halls… You got one of those talismans, right?"

The Hufflepuffs and Isabelle reached the safety and warmth of the library within minutes. Still thinking about the worries of the first-years as she approached Jett and Hermione, she walked up to catch the end of their conversation.

"…going to take until at least Christmas, I think, we got the Bicorn horn too late." The bushy-haired girl whispered.

"Then we'll just have to wait until they get back. Two weeks still?" Jett asked before glancing behind her, sensing someone there.

"Hey," Izzy offered as she took that moment to set her books on the table and sit down. She gave them both an innocent smile, trying not to let on that she had heard some of their chat.

"Morning, Iz. Can you believe it's only two weeks until Christmas?" Hermione offered brightly while Jett gave her a slightly suspicious look.

"Not really. I still have at least two papers to write before break and I feel like I haven't even started them." Izzy pulled out a piece of parchment and one of her automatic quills.

"Yes, you have, I saw you working on it the other day. You're at least half-way done with the Charms one."

"I am not! It was all wrong so I'll have to start over. Maybe I'll just have to learn a few tricks from Jett, since she always gets them done without either of us knowing how." Izzy smiled at the blonde-haired girl, who shrugged in response.

"It's a gift. So, what are you and your family doing for Christmas this year?" Jett leaned back in her chair, trying to act nonchalant.

"Oh. Well, actually, Draco and I just got a letter from Mother. I guess they're going to be traveling or something, so we have to stay here for the holidays…" Isabelle frowned and sighed, still upset that she would not be able to travel home.

"Really? They're traveling without you both?"

"Yeah, unfortunately… I just, I don't want to be stuck here for that whole time! It's going to be boring, there aren't any classes. I'm sure most of the professors leave to visit their own families. None of my friends will be here so I'll be stuck with just my stupid brother and his stupid friends. There won't be anything to do!" In a semi-dramatic fashion, Iz collapsed her head into her arms on the table with a slight huff, her long hair sprawled around her.

"Aww, Izzy, you won't be alone! I'm staying for Christmas this year too. My parents wanted to do a little traveling and I thought I could get more work done being at school." Hermione put a hand on her friend's shoulder, having made up her excuse on the spot. The one Gryffindor looked at the other with a certain look.

"Actually, I'll be here too, Iz. Mo- My godfather wants me to stay and I sure as hell am not traveling to see my mother. We can have lots of fun! We'll be some of the only students in the entire castle. We can play pranks on Peeves, or play in the snow whenever we want. We get to sleep in every day." Jett offered with a smirk.

"That's right. Plus, Madam Pince always stays for the holidays. So the library will be open just about every day – I already asked her to be sure." At that, the Slytherin glanced up from her woes at her friends' encouragement.

"Really? You both are staying? And the library will be open? Even on Christmas?"

"See, it won't be so bad."

"No, I guess not."

After a brief pause to collect her thoughts, now almost looking forward to the break, Iz smiled again. "Did you both hear about the Duelling Club tonight?"

And so their conversation continued away from plans for the upcoming winter break, the Slytherin having momentarily forgotten her friends' secret potion which would be done in time for the holidays.