Sense of Belonging

Chapter 32

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

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"Isabelle, you're adopted."

"What?" Draco said in a confused manner, his forehead scrunching up, thinking he did not hear his mother correctly. "What does that mean?"

"It means that she isn't actually your sister – by blood, that is. I've raised you as my own, Isabelle, since we took you in, you were barely one year old and I promised – " Narcissa paused a moment, making a quick decision, before continuing, " – your parents that I would take care of you. You are as much my daughter as if I had borne you myself. Sweetie – " The blonde-haired woman reached out to take her daughter's hand, to reassure her of what she was saying. But Izzy moved away slightly, still processing the information.

Adopted? Meaning she wasn't actually a real Malfoy? What was she then? Was she even pureblooded? (Though realizing that was a stupid question, knowing her parents would never have taken in a Muggleborn or anything.) But if she was, then what happened to her real parents? Who were her real parents? Was she still related to the Malfoys? Or was she from some distant family member outside of Britain? Who was she really?

"Izzy, sweetie, listen. I didn't want to burden you with this information – that's why I told your father that you didn't need to know. It doesn't matter to us, you are still our daughter. I will always care for you – love you…" Narcissa added as she reached out once again, finally making contact with Iz's hand. The girl simply looked up.

"But I'm adopted?" Isabelle whispered, still in shock. "I'm not actually yours…I'm not really a Malfoy? A…a part of the family?"

"Of course you are! You're my sister, Izzy," Draco chimed in, taking the secret information a lot better than his sibling.

"You have always been part of the family. It doesn't change anything that you are adopted. Your parents…they're gone, that's why we took you in. So that we could make them proud. And you have made me so proud." Narcissa tried to reason with Iz, squeezing her hand slightly. There wasn't the usual sappiness in the older woman's tone as one might expect in such a confession. And yet, there was a level of sincerity that Izzy rarely had seen in her mother. Or adoptive mother. Or whoever she was.

"But I'm not yours." Iz repeated, still trying to understand.

"But you /are/ mine. Ours. I have cared for you since I first laid eyes on you, before…before it all happened. Don't ever doubt it." Narcissa whispered strongly, moving to gently brush a strand of Izzy's hair behind her ear. Should she tell her the rest? Who her real parents are? Was she ready?

Narcissa was not given the chance. The common room door banged wide open making a loud cracking sound as if some of the wood had been broken through with force. All three looked up in surprise to find Lucius striding in, looking murderous.

"We are going. Now." The obviously-angry man growled in their general direction, not in any mood to argue.

"But you can't go now!" Izzy suddenly found her voice, having a million questions to ask.

"Or maybe we can just go with you – the school's closing, Snape said – " Draco offered, trying to be helpful. He also wanted to know more from his mother and knew that they would need time to ask the right questions.

"Change of plans. The Potter boy caught the culprit. Lost me my bloody servant, the wretched – " Lucius turned back to Narcissa, his eyes still wild with rage. "Going. Now." He ground out as if trying to control himself.

"But – " The two second-years protested together.

"I just told them the secret, Lucius, that Isabelle is adopted. We can wait a few moments more? They surely have questions." Narcissa countered, not wanting to leave the conversation as it was. At the same time, however, part of her was suddenly glad for the interruption. She might be able to get away with just what she had said and no more. Nothing more to ruin the girl's image of herself or the family…

"Well, congratulations, Isabelle," the man commented sarcastically as if he did not care, glancing slightly at the dark-haired girl sitting on the couch. "Now, Narcissa." Lucius moved forward and went to grab his wife up from the chair. She was quicker than his reaction, however, and stood on her own with a disapproving look in his direction. Using her husband's behavior as an excuse, she turned back to the two second-year Slytherins.

"We must go… I'll try to answer your questions when you are home for the summer holidays. Take care of each other." Narcissa leaned down to kiss them both on the forehead, wanting to add a maternal note of courage or not to worry but expecting it would be useless. Leaving Draco and Isabelle sitting there dumbfounded, the two adults quickly disappeared through the common room entrance without further word.

The Malfoy siblings sat together in silence for a couple of minutes, neither knowing what to say.

Just as they were finding their voices, having met each other's eyes at last, the prefects announced that the Headmaster was throwing some sort of feast in the Great Hall and for all the students to head down at once. As the first students streamed up from the dormitories in confusion, Draco and Izzy continued to sit there simply staring at each other. They eventually filed into the crowd of their Housemates, soundlessly following them down to the feast.

It turned out to be a one-of-a-kind celebration. All of the students were in their pajamas, it was way past the normal curfew, and the festivities lasted all night. It had been announced that Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley had caught the culprit behind the attacks and that the school would, in fact, remain open. The newly-reinstated Headmaster announced that Professor Lockhart would be unable to return as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, owing to some accident about losing his memory. Even some of the professors joined in as the students cheered at the news. But they all cheered the loudest at Professor McGonagall's announcement, that the school exams had been cancelled as a school treat.

Despite all of the excitement and energy buzzing around her, Isabelle felt it difficult to authentically join in the celebration. Her mother's words hung around her like a dark mist full of unanswered questions and further ponderings. And yet, the dark-haired girl still found herself able to participate in her Housemates' happiness and disappointment at the various pieces of news. She had even momentarily forgotten her quandaries when Hermione appeared just past midnight, along with the other petrified students.

"You're alright!" Isabelle exclaimed upon seeing the bushy-haired Gryffindor.

"I am! And I just heard all about Ginny – why didn't you tell anyone what we had found out?"

"Because I didn't think it was important! Professor Snape said they had sent a culprit to Azkaban so I assumed the attacks would stop. And then when Ginny was taken, well…" Izzy shrugged, feeling a bit guilty at Hermione's accusatory look.

"It's alright, Harry and Ron figured it out anyways. You'll have to meet me tomorrow at the library early to help me study – do you think they might let me take my exams a little late?"

"Didn't you hear? McGonagall cancelled all school exams."

"What?! No! You're kidding, right?" Hermione looked devastated and ran off towards the professor's table, as if to convince them to change their minds.

Izzy smirked after her and shook her head, realizing she herself was a little upset at having no exams but was overall relieved. And so, having seen that her best friend was alright and hearing that Ginny would not be coming to the feast, Isabelle left to return to the Slytherin common room for what would not be her last night at Hogwarts after all.

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With only a few weeks left of the summer term, everything went by so swiftly that almost none of the students realized the time passing. That is, except for Isabelle Malfoy. Not that that was supposed to be her name, she was sure.

The burden of her mother's confession weighed on the twelve-year-old's mind the remaining days of the school year. Izzy refused to talk about the subject with Draco, who had tried the morning after the feast to sympathize with her. He quickly learned not to bring it up and pretended to carry on as before. (To him, she was still his sister. But at least he now knew that he was the favorite /real/ child.) Iz also did not mention it to any of her friends. She did not want to tell the other Slytherins, for fear that Pansy might use it against her. And she could not admit it to Hermione or Jett or Ginny, for fear that it would become the factual truth. Iz was not ready to really face it yet.

And so, having put the issue from her mind (or really pretending nothing had happened at all) as much as she could so as to last until the summer holidays, Izzy found herself enjoying much of the warm, sunny weather the Scottish Highlands had to offer. Or maybe it was just the magic of the Hogwarts grounds.

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The last day of her second year at the magic school had come unexpectedly. Isabelle was not ready to say goodbye to her friends nor the freedom the magical school gave her. She did not want to return to the Manor to face her new reality. And, without knowing the reason why, Hermione and Jett found it strange that their friend did not want to go home.

" – just feel that I miss out on everything when I go home for the summer holidays. I can't practice magic and I don't have an owl of my own to send either of you letters," Hermione sighed as she walked with Jett and Izzy to where the carriages were waiting on the Hogwarts grounds.

"Why don't you just get the Daily Prophet delivered to you? They send the owl with the paper every issue, it isn't too expensive, I don't think," Iz suggested a bit absent-mindedly, glancing back at the castle once more. Did she really have to leave?

"You can do that? Oh, wonderful!" The bushy-haired Gryffindor looked especially excited at the news.

"And we'll send you letters like last summer, Mione, no worries. Maybe you can even come and visit me and my godfather at his cottage? It can get pretty boring being alone there. I think I've watched all of his Muggle movies three times each." Jett interjected, sitting back and putting her feet up on the empty spot in their Thestral-drawn transportation.

"I'll see what I can do, my family's going to France on vacation near the end of July." Hermione responded, finishing with a shrug, having realized that it might bring up feelings of her friend's abandoning mother.

"I'd love to come for a bit, Jett, if I can get permission." Isabelle chimed in, finally turning around to face her two friends.

"After last summer, I wouldn't doubt your parents won't let me come to the Manor at all." The blonde-haired Gryffindor smirked, remembering their adventure to Derry Hill once again.

"Yeah…"

"Any plans for your summer, Izzy?" Hermione asked curiously, having figured out that she got a bit distant any time Iz's family or home were brought up. Something had happened since she had been petrified but her Slytherin friend would not talk about it.

"Not that I know of. I haven't really talked to, uh, Mother and Father in a couple of weeks. But I'm sure we'll travel somewhere and it will be great," Iz ended positively, giving them both a smile. "I can't wait to come back next year."

"If only the professors hadn't given us so much homework…" Jett complained as the carriage came to a stop on the outskirts of Hogsmeade.

"Well if you need help, I'm only an owl away – and no, you can't copy my essays." Isabelle added quickly at her clever Gryffindor friend's knowing smirk. She followed the two girls out of the carriage, carrying Russet's cage as they made their way towards the steaming Hogwarts Express.

"You both take care – and don't forget to write!" Hermione said with a serious look before hugging them both.

"Mione, I'm coming with you," Jett reminded her friend, waving at the two Weasley twins to tell them they would be there in a minute.

"Oh, right. Good luck with your brother, Izzy," the bushy-haired girl smiled apologetically at her. "I'm here for you if your family's giving you problems – or if you need a Muggle book or two!"

"Thanks, Mione. Have fun in France! Bye Jett!"

Iz walked in the opposite direction towards the Slytherin carriages near the back of the train. She joined her classmates in their usual booths and sat down, scratching Russet affectionately.

As the train began to move and she lost sight of the magical world of Hogwarts, Isabelle realized that she still had a lot to do that summer. Though she did not want to go home and face certain facts, the twelve-year-old found she had a long list of questions still to be answered. First and foremost, who were her birth parents? She would have all of the holidays to get an answer, expecting that Narcissa would not be so forthcoming with the desired information.

Concluding that she was finally ready to go home, Izzy smiled. She glanced up to meet Draco's questioning gaze and offered a simple, silent yet confident message.

Summer holidays, here we come.

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AN: And there's Year 2! Onto Year 3, based on the Prisoner of Azkaban book (and movie, maybe). Hope you all are enjoying the story so far!