Sense of Belonging

Chapter 23

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

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Isabelle was still carrying her father's letter (now in her bag) when the last morning before the holidays had arrived. The school had gone berserk, no longer simply anxious about the attacks but rather full-on panicked. As expected, nearly all of the seats on the Hogwarts Express were booked for travel away from the castle for the Christmas vacation. Even at that last breakfast in the Great Hall, there was a tenseness in the air, as if the students could not wait to be free – not just from the school work but from the school itself.

" – and Mother promised to take me shopping when we get to Paris, she said that the stores there are /so/ much better than in London." Pansy was rambling about her plans for the break to the other girls while Iz listened in out of boredom, pushing her scrambled eggs around her plate. What had happened to Nearly Headless Nick really worried her. What kind of creature could do such a thing? And so what if it was /only/ going after Muggleborns, she certainly didn't want anyone being killed.

Reaching for her bag, Izzy opened it to grab the letter once more and reread Lucius' words. He had not given very many details – their father had used the excuse that it would be suspicious if Draco knew too much. He wrote that the incident had happened fifty years before either of the Malfoy siblings were in school, that the Chamber had been opened and some creature unleashed, and that a Muggleborn girl had died. There were little details on the culprit after they were caught or a description of how the incident had happened or what the creature was. Isabelle reviewed the words once more, skipping over the part about the Ministry's raid on the Manor or their father's continued disappointment in Draco. How could such a crime be covered up at Hogwarts? How could there not be any more information?

"…better get going." Iz was brought back to focus on the present as the group of girls all stood at once. Setting her bag back down, the young Malfoy stood as well to hug her suitemates goodbye.

"Be careful, Izzy," Tracey offered with a slightly nervous tone.

"Don't get eaten by the monster," Daphne joked with a smile as she hugged her classmate.

"I'll try not to," Iz replied back, knowing the girl was joking. She smiled also, trying to reassure them and herself that nothing would happen. "Don't forget about the Charms project!"

The Slytherin had just sat back down to finish her breakfast as a parade of voices came into the Great Hall. /Not again…/ she thought. Turning to see, Iz sighed in annoyance.

The red-headed Weasley twins were pretending, once again, to have trumpets in their hands as they led a certain Gryffindor boy into the hall.

"Make way for the Heir of Slytherin, seriously evil wizard coming through…"

Potter did not seem to mind the increased focus or the fact that everyone thought he was the heir. The messy-haired boy followed Fred and George to their breakfast table and sat down with them, laughing and joking. Hermione looked disappointed at their antics but went back to reading her book while drinking her tea.

"…all he wants is the attention. See how he's smiling? Potter is just an idiot." Draco plopped down next to his sister, once again aggravated with the amount of attention his Gryffindor rival was receiving.

"Yes, Potter is an idiot," Crabbe offered in agreement, echoing his friend. Goyle simply nodded before both boys began accumulating their large breakfast meal.

"I actually agree with you, Draco," Izzy offered, folding her arms. "Potter seems to be liking this a lot more than I thought."

"They should just go back to thinking it was me again. And those stupid Weasleys! God, I wish Father would make that bloodtraitor family pay." Her brother finished with a grumble before digging into the food himself.

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As much as Isabelle had wanted to be home for Christmas, she could not argue that Christmas at Hogwarts was disappointing. The Great Hall decorations, the smell of delicious food wafting through the hallways, the presents under the tree…

"Wake up, wake up!"

Draco had pulled his bedcovers over his head, hiding from the shining light of his sister's wand. "It's too early, go back to bed…" He complained in a sleepy tone.

"Get up or I'll make you," Izzy replied in a playful tone, knowing her siblings' weaknesses. Draco's only response was a huff of annoyance. His sister smirked as she conjured a water balloon, having memorized the spell Jett had given her, and held it over his hidden head.

"Last chance," Iz said in a sing-songy voice, smirking. There was a little movement but it did not appear that her brother would be heeding her commands. She took a step or two away and prepared to throw the balloon –

"Fine. What time is it, anyways?" Draco finally pulled the covers off and sat up, just in time to get a face full of water.

"About quarter after seven. Sorry, by the way," Izzy smirked further, tossing him a towel as she noticed the other two boys waking up. Not particularly wanting to see what Crabbe or Goyle slept in (or slept without), the second-year Slytherin rushed back upstairs to the common room to wait for them. There was only one other Slytherin who had chosen to stay at Hogwarts for the break, a sixth-year girl. (Her name was Sarah and she had made it perfectly clear that she was there to study for the break and nothing else.)

Plopping into her chair by the fire, Isabelle looked excitedly at the pile of presents waiting for them under the tree. Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle joined only a few minutes later, the latter two still rubbing the sleep from their eyes. The former seemed mildly upset for the wake-up call but quickly forgot his grudge upon seeing the Christmas presents. They unwrapped them together, leaving a small pile for Sarah under the tree.

"That's it?" Draco said in surprise, leaning back in his throne-like chair surrounded by his opened presents. He had gotten a handsome new jumper from their mother and a new pair of Quidditch goggles from a family friend. Izzy had bought him a new set of Quidditch team flags to decorate his room, hoping that she had bought the correct set. There was also plenty of chocolate and sweets from his classmates, from which his two friends had already begun to eat. An unopened letter sat on Draco's lap as if forgotten but Iz had watched her brother purposefully set it there, seemingly afraid to open it.

Izzy, on the other hand, was satisfied with her Christmas gifts. Her parents had bought her a new wand-polishing kit that should last her through her time at Hogwarts. Draco had given her a set of finely-made German chocolates. Jett had found her a multi-colored scarf that was the perfect blend of green, silver, and black. Ginny had even gotten her a small hand-made gift, an origami cat which was charmed to prance around in one's hand before "falling asleep." But the best (she would later discover) and last was from Hermione, who had given Iz a copy of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Quickly hiding the Muggle novel from sight, the Slytherin could not wait to start its long adventure.

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"Just open it, Draco! It can't be that bad, the last letter from Father only mentioned the Quidditch game for a couple of lines. Maybe he just wanted to say Merry Christmas?" Izzy offered as she plopped another piece of chocolate into her mouth. She was watching her brother pace in front of the fire, holding the letter. They had spent the day outside in the snow and were now warming up before the large dinner.

"Then why does it feel so thick?" Her blond brother held it up in the air in front of the fire, as if trying to read what it said inside without opening it. "What if it's a Howler?"

"They almost always come in a red envelope. And even if it is, it's better to open it now and face it than let it blow up later and yell through the whole castle. Go on," she finished with an encouraging note, trying to be supportive but also extremely curious to know what it said. Iz hoped there would be more information about the Chamber of Secrets.

"…okay." Draco sat down on the couch and, after one last moment of hesitation, ripped it open. There was no explosion nor any sort of yelling. He pulled out a piece of expensive parchment, fancy handwriting visible in the flickering firelight. Some other type of paper had been stuffed in-between, like a newspaper or magazine article.

Waiting a couple of minutes for her brother to finish reading both the letter and the article, Izzy could be patient no longer. "What does it say?"

"Here," Draco was smiling as he handed his sister the letter, staring at the article. Iz took it, always having trouble reading Lucius' overly elaborate script. It seemed to be a congratulatory letter about the elder Malfoy siblings' success with his midterm examination in Charms. Their father wrote how proud he was of his son, for him to keep practicing Quidditch, and if there was anything he should need to simply ask. He also reassured Draco that his room had not been touched during the Ministry's raid and to look at the included article for a good laugh.

"What is the article about?" The dark-haired Malfoy held out her hand expectantly. Draco handed it to her and leaned back, now smiling. Isabelle read the piece of newspaper:

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INQUIRY AT THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC

Arthur Weasley, Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office, was today fined fifty Galleons for bewitching a Muggle car.

Mr. Lucius Malfoy, a governor of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where the enchanted car crashed earlier this year, called today for Mr. Weasley's resignation.

"Weasley had brought the Ministry into disrepute," Mr. Malfoy told our reporter. "He is clearly unfit to draw up our laws and his ridiculous Muggle Protection Act should be scrapped immediately."

Mr. Weasley was unavailable for comment, although his wife told reporters to clear off or she'd set the family ghoul on them.

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"Huh," Izzy commented, handing Draco back both the letter and the article. She smiled for her brother's benefit but found the situation odd. Of course, Mr. Weasley had directly violated his own laws and the Ministry office he was supposed to be in charge of. To Isabelle, the punishment fit the act. But to bring in the Muggle Protection Act? Hermione had been reading the Daily Prophet's coverage of the idea and had gotten Iz interested in it as well. But she knew, now that Lucius had become involved, that the law had very little chance of passing. Maybe she would mention it to Hermione and see what the Gryffindor's opinion was.

"Isn't it hilarious? I hope he does get fired." Draco smirked, stuffing the letter in his robe's pocket. Glancing up as his two friends came into the common room from the dormitory, he stood. "We had better get down to the dinner."