Sense of Belonging

Chapter 28

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

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Isabelle's eyes widened in surprise. What was a secret doorway doing in the Upper Tower? Reaching forward, she cautiously pushed the metal door open, as if afraid she would unleash some sort of monster.

"Thanks for opening the window, Izzy." Draco's voice sounded in a sarcastic tone from the other side of the room but she paid it no attention. Creating light with her wand, the twelve-year-old took a step forward into the newly-discovered space.

It was larger than could possibly have existed in a Muggle's view of the Upper Tower. The room had to be at least half as big as the whole room outside. It was dark and somewhat dusty, but Iz could tell that things had recently been moved into the space. Taking two more steps forward and holding up her wand, she found most of it taken up by old-looking artefacts.

"Whoa. What is this?" Draco said from the entranceway in surprise.

"I'm not sure. I found it by accident." Iz replied, glancing back at him. Her brother took a few steps in before reaching for something lying on top of a pile nearby. "Wait! We don't know what any of this is. It could be cursed or something." Coming closer, she used her wand to levitate it into the air. She leaned forward, trying to figure out what it was.

"A mask?" Draco was right. It was some sort of metal mask, mostly black with white markings. Honestly, it looked somewhat scary.

"What is it?" Izzy wondered aloud before moving on to the next pile, lowering the mask back to its former place. Skipping over some evil-looking pots and jewelry, she came to a pile of books. Gingerly lifting the first (as if afraid it would somehow possess her or attempt to eat her arm), she tried to determine what they were. Photo albums?

"Hey, Draco. Come here. I think I found some clues – come hold this, there are pictures inside." As he took hold of the light book, a piece of parchment fell out. Iz leaned down to pick up the paper while Draco opened the album.

Standing back up, Iz brought her wand closer with the light to read the printed words. It was part of a newspaper clipping.

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LUCIUS AND NARCISSA (NEE BLACK) MALFOY EXONERATED OF ALL CRIMES

AGAINST THE WIZARDING WORLD.

The wealthy, pureblooded husband and wife are absolved of all charges against them. Twelve wizards brought charges against the couple, claiming that they had carried out the deeds of You-Know-Who as some of his most loyal followers. One witch claimed to have seen Mr. Malfoy murder two Muggles only this past summer.

Both argued that they were under the Imperious Curse and, if they had done any of the things they were accused of, it was beyond their knowing or desire.

"I have given the past decade of my life in servitude to the Ministry of Magic and the safety of the Wizarding World for those of magical blood. My wife and I were used, cursed beyond our control. We regret these unfortunate actions and have hope that wizards and witches may return to an era of peace."

Mr. Malfoy continued on, promising the security of rightful witches and wizards as he resumes his position within the Ministry.

When asked about her sister's actions and attacks on Aurors Alice and Frank Longbottom, Mrs. Malfoy offered no response.

No further accusations have been reported at this time.

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"Whoa. Draco, look at this!" Izzy held it up but Draco was distracted by the photo album. Moving closer to be able to see, she became just as mesmerized as her brother.

They all looked so young. Iz could spot Narcissa right away, her poofy white wedding dress matching her hair full of bouncing curls. Their mother smiled at the camera as Lucius leaned in to kiss her, both looking the happiest Iz had ever seen them.

Glancing to the left, she thought she could recognize her two paternal grandparents. She had seen them in enough photographs and, though she had never met them, it only made sense that they would be there. A group of five well-dressed men stood nearby – Lucius' groomsmen. She was not sure who they were exactly – not realizing Narcissa had written the names under the picture – but continued on to look at the right side. There were more faces she recognized. She knew her maternal grandparents, Druella and Cygnus Black. She thought she recognized one of her mother's friends who always came for tea (and whom her mother always complained about). And then there was this one woman right next to Narcissa. She had long, flowing, curly black hair, full lips, heavy-lidded eyes, and was smiling politely towards the camera lens. She did not seem to be enjoying the wedding as her smile was obviously fake. But Iz found herself unable to help but stare at her – she looked just like her!

"Let's see what else there is," Draco said when his sister looked up in amazement. He quickly flipped through a few other pages, all pictures from Narcissa's and Lucius' wedding.

"Wait, stop. There." It was a picture of just the two sisters. Narcissa and Bellatrix. Reading their names under the photograph, Izzy looked back up again at her mother and aunt.

"I guess you inherited the Black family looks then," Draco joked, finally taking the piece of newspaper Izzy had in her hand.

As Draco shifted the album back to his sister, Iz caught a photograph as it almost fell out of the back. Holding it up to her wand, she became confused. Now there were the three sisters – and Narcissa definitely seemed the odd one out. Her blonde hair was nothing compared to her two older sisters' dark heads. Andromeda looked a lot prettier than Izzy expected, having never actually seen her picture as she had been blasted off the family tree. The picture was a lot older, Narcissa looking around her children's current age. All three looked so happy.

"What do you think this is all doing here?" Draco asked, placing the article back on top of the pile of books.

"Maybe they didn't want the Ministry to find the stuff during the raids? I'm not sure." Izzy looked away from the pictures, glancing back around at all of the other piles of things. She wondered what her parents had to hide. "Did you read the article?"

"Yeah." Draco replied nonchalantly. At Izzy's questioning look, he shrugged. "It was just about the war, with the Dark Lord? Father already told me. He and Mother were cursed and made to do all those things."

"He told you?" Iz said, slightly hurt at, once again, missing out on important information. Why did Lucius tell Draco everything and not her?

"I asked him about it and he told me. Now what else do you think they have hidden up here?" Draco smirked, glancing towards what looked like a pile of swords.

"Nothing that concerns either of you." The sharp tone split through the air and both children knew they were in some sort of trouble. Looking to the secret entrance, they saw their mother standing there, frowning and with her arms crossed. "Out. Now."

Draco slinked away first, offering a quick, "She made me," to Narcissa before exiting. Izzy stayed where she was, not yet wanting to leave.

"Isabelle – " Her mother started with a warning.

"Why do you hide all of this away? Aren't these your wedding pictures?" Iz asked, holding up the photo album, hoping to distract Narcissa or get some answers.

"Yes, they are. And we're not hiding them away – they're here for storage. It's merely an extra room your father built. Now come." Her mother's cool tone had a slight tremor of panic, leading Izzy to sense that her story was not all true.

"But you kept a picture of your sisters? Even with Andromeda? I thought Grandmother forbade it." Iz did not move an inch, still standing near the pile of books.

"A foolish notion of my younger self."

"And Bellatrix?" Narcissa did not answer, staring down her disobedient daughter. "All you have ever said is that she's in Azkaban. Why?"

"For committing a crime. Now I swear, Isabelle – "

"Because she supported the Dark Lord. Right? Did you, Mother? This news article says – "

"That we were acquitted. Yes, your father and I are innocent. It's a time I don't like to think about – including my sisters. Out, or you'll be grounded the rest of the holidays." Taking a step forward, Narcissa looked the angriest and most frightened Izzy had ever seen her mother. Deciding she had asked enough questions, Iz set the photo album down and walked towards the exit. Hesitating in the doorway, knowing that her parents would hide the stuff someplace else once they left, she stopped and turned to her mother.

"You said you didn't know anything about the heir of Slytherin when I asked in November, but I heard you and Father talking back in July. And you were talking about the Dark Lord and whether or not He might return and that Father had to hide someone's belongings from the Ministry. Did you really not support the Dark Lord?" Holding her ground, recognizing that it was her best chance for an answer, Isabelle stared her mother down.

"…it's a complicated answer, sweetie. Your father and I believed in what the Dark Lord wanted – what we have always taught you and Draco, about protecting the best of the magical world. We agreed with his ideas, perhaps, but whether we /supported/ him or not – " Narcissa attempted to continue, more rambling than an answer, hoping to confuse her daughter out of any sort of confession.

"It can't be that complicated. But fine. Then what about this secret that you were supposed to tell me when I turned eleven? That you promised Father?" Staying where she was, Iz waited for a response.

"…there is no secret, Isabelle. You've known since you were little." Her mother sighed, seeming a bit like she was overacting but Izzy ignored this. She might finally find out what the secret was!

"I have?"

"Yes. And you still know it. Your father didn't want you to know – nor Draco – " Narcissa glanced quickly at her son, as if unsure, before saying, "that you are more powerful than he is."

"What?" Isabelle replied in confusion, wondering what that meant.

"We had you both tested around five years old – it's very routine in ancient magical families like ours. Draco performed better than average, but you, sweetie, you had real talent at such a young age. So the secret that wasn't really a secret is that you've got more magical power than your brother." With the mix of confusion and shock still clear on her daughter's face, Narcissa shooed her out of the extra room and shut the entrance, transforming the Upper Tower back to its usual state.

"So that's why I'm better than him at Hogwarts?" Izzy asked, now starting to smile, a bit prideful to learn that it was not just because she was more studious.

"So what if she has more magical power. I'm more skilled than she is – I can perform more spells than her!" Draco shot back in an almost-whiny tone, feeling a bit neglected.

"Yes, Draco, I know that," Narcissa smiled at him, stroking his hair. "And I didn't want to tell you both so that you wouldn't react like this. Your Father and I love you both equally, you know that." She kissed Izzy's forehead, pulling both of her children in for an unusually-affectionate hug.

At the pop of a house elf's entrance, their mother was called away for some business or another, leaving the two siblings alone after a stern promise of punishment if they went back into the room. Isabelle said nothing further but continued to smile to herself, enjoying the evidence that she was, in fact, better than Draco. On the other hand, her brother practically stomped away in a pout, unhappy that his parents believed him magically inferior to Iz. Both had easily forgotten their mother's unconfident answers about her family and beliefs.

Relaxing back onto her favorite couch with the sought-after bright blue book, Izzy could not wait to get back to Hogwarts and prove herself better than her brother once again.

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AN: And so reveals the secret. Or does it? Now back to Hogwarts with the Chamber of Secrets mystery…how will Book 2 end? Keep reading to find out! Enjoy :)