Sense of Belonging

Chapter 31

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

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Isabelle listened as Snape explained the situation though she already knew most of it. The school was going to close. They would all need to pack their things and be ready to leave first thing in the morning. All of their parents and guardians had been contacted to pick them up at King's Cross.

The Potions Master did nothing to quell the growing fears of his students and offered little consolation. He left them quickly, having been told that Dumbledore would be returning to secure the castle.

As soon as their Head of House was gone, the common room exploded into conversation. Most were frightened, realizing that if a pureblooded Weasley had been taken, none of them were safe. Then again, they weren't blood traitors, a few of the older students pointed out…but that did little to quash their anxiety. Other students were upset at the news of the school closing. Where would they go for an education? What about their O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s? What about their friends? Instead of these fears, Draco seemed to be complaining about the fact that Dumbledore was returning. No one paid him much attention at this point, however, as they all had their own, more important things to worry about.

Izzy found it hard to accept that Ginny Weasley was likely dead. The poor first-year girl had been nothing but nice and sweet, especially compared to her older brothers. The image of the red-headed Gryffindor lying dead somewhere, the Basilisk's stare having immediately killed her, haunted the young Malfoy's thoughts.

" – coming to pack? Hey, Isabelle?" Daphne shook her suitemates shoulders as if to wake her from her daydream.

"What?"

"We're going downstairs to pack. Are you coming with?"

"I, uh…no, not yet. I have to tell Professor Snape something first." Iz replied, suddenly sure of what she had to do. Running up to her friend, Gemma, one of the prefects, she informed her that she had vital information for their Head of House. Though annoyed that the second-year had not told Snape when he had been there minutes before, something in the dark-haired girl's demeanor convinced the sixth-year girl that it was imperative.

Within minutes the prefect had led her to the staff room where they found many of the professors, including the suspended Headmaster. Professor McGonagall looked greatly perturbed at being interrupted and at the fact that the students had left the safety of their dormitory.

"What could be so significant?" The Transfiguration teacher finished before turning her gaze to the second-year. Professor Snape looked similarly sour at one of his students being so bold.

"I think I know what the monster is." Izzy blurted out without context before biting her lip, realizing she could have been more graceful with her answer. She glanced towards Dumbledore, unsure if she should continue.

"And?" One of the other professors in the room asked, their attention on the young Slytherin student.

"And I think it's a Basilisk. Hermione Granger and I – the day she was attacked – we were looking in the library because she had realized something and we came across this passage in a book on magical creatures and it fit the description."

"But Basilisks kill upon sight, dear," Professor Kettleburn informed her.

"Right, and no one has died – but they didn't see the snake itself. The cat saw its reflection in the water, the Gryffindor boy through his camera, the Hufflepuff through the ghost, and Hermione and Penelope in their mirror…" Iz trailed off, unsure if what she was saying made any sense. Most of the professors still seemed to doubt her story and were looking to McGonagall and Dumbledore. The latter met the student's eyes with a quiet but clear question.

"If it is a Basilisk, how does it travel throughout the school?"

"Mione had the same question but she figured it out, I think – the pipes. All of the magical plumbing there goes through the school. I…I just thought you should know, in case it helps…" /Find Ginny or keep the school open/, Izzy added in her thoughts.

"Thank you, Ms. Malfoy." There still seemed to be some doubt but the Headmaster appeared intrigued at her hypothesis. As the adults began to argue about what to do with the information, Professor McGonagall instructed the prefect and one of the professors to accompany Isabelle back to the Slytherin dormitory.

Once she had arrived back in the common room, Iz felt somewhat relieved. She had finally told the secret she had been keeping for weeks. And Hermione could confirm her story later that night, if the mandrakes were really ready to revive the petrified victims. If only there was some way to help her friend Ginny…

"Where did you go?" Blaise Zabini came up to her in a sort-of abrupt fashion. He had a curious look but was glancing back towards where Draco, Crabbe, and Goyle were sitting. Did her brother send him over to ask? She had almost forgotten about their earlier fight, overshadowed in her mind by the afternoon's events.

"I had to tell Professor Snape something." Iz replied simply, glancing past him to meet her sibling's grey eyes.

"And?" The second-year boy continued, crossing his arms.

"And it's none of your business, Zabini. Shouldn't you be packing?" Izzy met the other boy's eyes once more with her eyebrows raised before stepping around him and making her way towards Draco.

"What." Her brother said curtly at her approach.

"You could just come and ask me yourself, you know, no need to send these goons to do your bidding."

"Oh really? And risk upsetting 'thou who art greater than me'?" The blonde-haired boy replied angrily.

"Fine then." Isabelle responded, not wanting to continue their earlier fight at that moment. There would be plenty of time to do that back at the Manor, supposedly, since Hogwarts was closing. She turned around and went to the girls' dormitory to put her mind on something else.

It was oddly silent in the second-year's room when Iz entered. All of the girls were quietly packing their trunks, no music playing nor any speech even from Pansy. The spiky-haired-girl seemed upset, perhaps realizing the small kingdom she had built for herself at the school was disappearing. Unsure what to say or do to make the others or herself feel better, Isabelle moved to her bed at the back of the room and followed in their movements. What was she going to do without Hogwarts?

~:~

It was much later that evening, after the supper the Slytherins had eaten together in the common room instead of going to the Great Hall. The somber mood continued, none of the students ready to leave the castle or their friends. Izzy's mind had remained on her friend Ginny practically the whole rest of the day and, now sitting in her pajamas on her bed for her last night ever at the school, she did not want to fall asleep.

"Do you think they'll ever catch the real heir of Slytherin?" Daphne asked quietly from her bed, sitting with her chin resting on her knees and arms wrapped around her legs.

"No, I don't think so. And now that we're all leaving, we'll never know who it was." Millicent chimed in, stroking her cat for comfort.

"I think I'm going to miss the food the most," Pansy offered suddenly, glancing around at the other girls in a friendly way. "Especially stealing the pumpkin pie from you, Malfoy," she added in Iz's direction, a slightly guilty smile on her face. Was Pansy Parkinson trying to joke with her like they were good friends?

"Yeah, well, it won't be the same going home and being stuck with Draco all the time again. I'm going to miss the castle the most, I think…" Izzy mused aloud, leaning against one of the bedposts.

"No you won't. You're going to miss the library the most and all the classes. Don't lie," Daphne accused her dark-haired friend with a small smile. Iz shrugged but smiled in response, realizing she had been caught.

"I'm going to miss you all the most," Tracey said with a sniffle, trying to cover her tears. She looked around at each of the other girls pitifully, not wanting to return home yet.

"Oh, Tray – " Millicent started when there was a knock on their door. One of the prefects opened it slightly and the girls braced for the lights-out warning.

"Isabelle? Your brother's at the top of the stairs. Says he needs to talk to you." Leaving the door open so that the younger Malfoy sibling could get through it, Iz stood with a confused face and headed up towards the common room. What could he want now?

"Draco? Is something wrong?" Izzy asked as soon as she pushed through the curtains, taking in her brother's strange demeanor. He looked both guilty and sad, with a bit of regret in-between.

"No…yes…kind of. Look, I don't want us to go home fighting again… I'm sorry for what I said earlier, I was acting like a jerk. I just didn't believe Mother when she told us that lie at Easter and I thought I'd ask Father and… I just don't want our last night at Hogwarts to be like this." Draco shrugged as if uncomfortable at the end, not used to admitting his faults. He stared at the floor, his hands in his PJ pants' pockets.

Taking a deep breath, Iz responded, "Well, you are a prat. But you're also my brother. I was feeling the same way…" She whispered the last part, not entirely wanting to admit it to him but also feeling the need to be honest. Before he could look up and see the guilt on her own face, she gave him a quick hug.

"Really?"

"Yeah, whatever. If I'm stuck with you for the next, like, six years then I guess we'd better try to get along." Izzy smirked at him slightly before breaking off the hug, not used to being so touchy-feely with him.

"Now this was not a scene I was expecting to see from you two." A voice rang out from near the entrance to the common room. Both Malfoy siblings turned around in surprise to see their mother standing there with a proud yet surprised look on her face.

"Mother! What are you doing here?" Draco turned excitedly, hoping it was some sort of good news. Maybe Lucius was there to get rid of Dumbledore permanently? He took a few strides toward his mother to give her a welcoming hug.

"Your father received word that Professor Dumbledore had returned and had business to deal with as governor. I thought I might come along – I may have some answers you might be interested in." Narcissa replied, kissing Draco's forehead before glancing up pointedly over his head towards Izzy. The dark-haired girl remained standing where she was by the dormitory entrance, her face a mix of emotions. "Isabelle?"

"You /may/ have some answers or you do." Iz retorted clearly, still not moving from her spot across the common room. Her eyes had narrowed in distrust, bracing herself for more lies or excuses.

"I do have some answers. But only some. If you would like them, that is." Their mother pulled away from Draco and kept her focus on her daughter. When there was no further response to this, Narcissa continued, stepping further into the familiar House space. "I got your letter."

Isabelle stood there with her arms crossed, trying to look as distrustful and unhappy as she felt. The emotions from writing the impulsive letter came flooding back to her. The confusion and betrayal at being lied to. The doubt she had in her parent's culpability during the War. The secrecy, the lying, the suspicions… And finally the fear that she and Lucius loved Draco more. She let Narcissa cross the room to her, not moving an inch and keeping her mother's gaze.

"I read the entire thing, sweetie. I understand how you must be feeling…"

"I don't think you do." Iz snapped back at her, letting some of her pent-up anger flow out.

"Then maybe you can explain it to me?" Narcissa spoke softly, almost in a sweet tone, like she used to when Draco and Izzy were younger.

"Not if you're going to treat me like a child. I'm twelve years old. And I deserve to know whatever it is."

Another pause, this time from the blonde-haired woman deliberating her choices.

"You're right. You're both right – you deserve to know." Narcissa sighed for real this time, not like the act back in the Upper Tower. She motioned for both Draco and Izzy to take a seat near the fireplace. Draco went immediately, plopping into his usual chair with an obvious enthusiasm to find out whatever it was their mother was going to tell them. Iz, on the other hand, waited once more near the dormitory. After reflecting on the situation and realizing that her desire to know outweighed her anger, she moved to join her brother and mother at the seating arrangement.

"Now…where to start. I believe your greatest concern, Isabelle, was this supposed secret your Father and I have kept from you both." Narcissa looked between the two Hogwarts students in front of her as if checking to be sure she had picked the correct topic. In truth, she had no intention of discussing her involvement in the Great Wizarding War or anything she might know the Chamber of Secrets or the Dark Lord. She hoped that she could distract her children long enough with their other worries that she would not need to explain that part for a few more years.

"Yes. What's the secret?" Draco leaned forward eagerly. With a slight nod of approval from Izzy, their mother continued.

"As you know, I made up the story about the test. I have no idea which of you has more magical power or whatever nonsense I said. You each have your own strengths and your father and I are very proud – "

"Equally proud?" Isabelle interjected with a slight frown.

"I can only speak for myself, but yes. I am very proud – equally proud – of you both in different ways. But that is not why I am here," Narcissa added quickly, seeing Izzy's drive to interrupt her again with some comment or another.

"No. You're here to tell us what the secret really is. And why Father wanted you to tell us. Me." Iz's eyes flashed slightly in annoyance, believing her mother to be avoiding her questions once again. Arms still crossed, the dark-haired girl leaned back into the couch and watched Narcissa carefully.

"Right. But before I tell you, you must know how much we love you – both of you." The youngest Black sister seemed entirely uncomfortable, having dreaded this moment for many long years.

Focusing all of her attention back onto Iz, Narcissa confessed simply,

"Isabelle, you're adopted."