Sense of Belonging

Chapter 3

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

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Isabelle woke the next morning at the cottage right at dawn. The sunlight had come streaming in through the skylight and, ever the morning person, the dark-haired girl had practically popped right out of bed. Careful to not wake her host (who spent most mornings sleeping in, as far as Iz knew), Izzy snuck out of the poster-clad bedroom with just a book in her hand. Though it took a little bit of time for her to remember how some of the Muggle bathroom functioned, the young Malfoy eventually found her way down to the living room.

The sunlight which had woken her now came flooding in to fill the largest space in the cottage. Deciding that the sit-in window looked the comfiest (and least in disrepair), Isabelle settled in to read her book until the others were awake and ready for breakfast. (Iz had checked last night with Jett, just in case, but was not surprised to learn that they had no house elf of any sort. She would just have to wait until Mr. Lupin was awake.)

It was only minutes later that the twelve-year-old was lost in the pages of her newest wizarding novel, having already read through all of Hermione's presents. /But I will get more today at the bookstore/, Iz thought to herself happily. Imagining the winding, narrow streets of Venice where her book's characters currently were, Izzy did not notice the sounds of another person awake in the house.

~:~

Lupin had briefly forgotten that Jett had a guest at the cottage. He had been slightly reluctant when she had asked, especially finding out whose child Isabelle was and wondering how she ever got permission from her parents to come. But knowing how bored his goddaughter already was only about a third of the way through the summer holidays, he had relented with a strict reminder of his rules. (No magic, no rule-breaking, no dangerous pranks.) Thus, when the already-tired man had woken up that morning and began walking down the wobbly staircase, he had slightly panicked upon seeing someone in his living room.

Now, momentarily watching the young guest reading her novel with such a look of awe on her face, Remus could not help but smile a little as well. Jett had told him about Isabelle – she had been mentioned in a few of his goddaughter's letters from school and she had been the first who Jett had asked to invite over. Iz appeared shy but kind enough, very different than his dealings with the Malfoy family in the past. And Jett had told him that she was one of the top of her class at Hogwarts. He silently wondered to himself if that would also be so in his DADA class the upcoming year…not that he had revealed that particular secret to his goddaughter yet.

Making his way silently to the kitchen so as not to disturb the girl's concentration, Lupin flicked his wand at the appliances to start making some breakfast. Deciding that Jett could handle waking up early to join them for one day of her summer vacation (she slept in nearly every other day), the light brown-haired man went back out into the living room.

~:~

Hearing a couple of the floor boards creak and assuming she had accidentally woken Jett up when she left, Iz looked up from her book to see her friend's godfather coming out of the kitchen. Wondering if he had been awake before her or if he had somehow snuck by, she sat up a little bit, a finger holding the page in her novel, and smiled slightly at Moony.

"Good morning."

"Good morning, Isabelle. I'm sorry to disturb you – it looked like you were enjoying your book. I'm going to go and wake up Jett, breakfast will be ready in a few minutes – "

"You don't have to do that, sir– I mean, Mr. Lupin. I don't mind waiting, she always sleeps in at school, too." Iz offered, now wondering if she had actually woken him up. She had tried to be quiet but the house was so noisy… Adding quickly, "Hermione tried to prank her awake one time but Jett had heard us talking about it the night before and Mione's charm actually bounced back onto her instead of Jett. It was a disaster…so I wouldn't try waking her up."

"I see." Remus had a slight smirk on his face, a memory coming back of a joke he had played on one of his best friend's when they were at school to wake him up. Refocusing on the guest in front of him, he said, "Well, would you like a cup of tea to tide you over?"

"That would be wonderful, thank you." Iz nodded politely before following him into the kitchen. Taking a seat at the table, she watched the tea pot boil the water before magically pouring it into two mugs. She thanked Moony once again as he handed her a cup and joined her at the table.

"So, Jett sleeps in at Hogwarts as well. Anything else I should know?" Lupin asked, curious to learn more about his goddaughter when she was not with him at his home.

"She sometimes comes to study with Hermione and me in the library," Iz offered, thinking that that would make Jett's godfather proud. Instead, the man had a slightly confused look on his face as if he did not entirely believe that. "But usually she just comes to distract us. We've had lots of fun because of her, though, and she's a really great friend."

"That's good to hear. And what do you think of Hogwarts? You've just completed your second year there, correct?" Lupin leaned back in his chair, sipping his hot tea and musing how different the school could be.

"I love it there. It's like a second home, really. I miss it," Izzy finished in an almost-whisper, a sad smile on her face as she stared into her mug.

"Anything specific? Places? Classes? People?"

"I guess some of my suitemates, and Hermione and Jett, of course. And I really miss Potions class – Mother won't let me practice too much at home. I think she's worried one of my trials will explode or something." Iz said before remembering that she was not technically supposed to practice any magic at home during the summer holidays. Trying to cover it up swiftly, the dark-haired girl added, "But I miss the library the most. Definitely one of my favorite places in the castle."

"Interesting. It was one of mine when I was a student there too, a few years back. Is Irma Pince still the librarian?" With a nod of affirmation from Izzy, he continued, "Still as strict as ever? One of my best friends in school used to get kicked out all the time after she became the librarian. He never liked the place and would sneak in food or try and jinx some of the other students studying – it would always be such a show to see her throw him out."

"That still happens all the time. I never understand why some students just can't follow the rules." After a pause, Izzy glanced back up curiously and asked, "Was your friend Jett's father?"

Moony paused, almost affirming it too quickly before remembering that Jett had not told her friends who her father was yet. Not that Lupin disagreed, after what /her father/ had done… Taking a breath to pause a moment, he replied diplomatically, "It was. But I won't tell you about him – it's something Jett should tell you when she's ready."

Iz frowned slightly, obviously having hoped to finally get the real answer.

"Having friends that support you, even if they don't know all of your secrets – those are some of the greatest people you can meet. Because that usually means, when the time is right, you can trust them with your most valuable confidences." Lupin added, leaning back with a reflective look on his face. If it had not been for his friends at school, he was sure that he never would have graduated from Hogwarts. He could only hope that Jett would have her own friends one day who might also understand.

Izzy repeated the man's advice in her own head. Friends and support and secrets…

"Why is the sun so bright?" A voice asked in an annoyed tone from the doorway to the kitchen followed by a yawn. Jett moseyed on in with half-closed eyes and took a seat at the table, frowning.

"This is how it looks normally, this early in the morning. If you ever actually got up before lunchtime you would see it." Lupin replied with an amused smirk, getting up to begin making breakfast once again.

"It's good that it's sunny, though, isn't it? Because then we can go to the Muggle town today!" Iz said excitedly, poking Jett to try and help her wake up more.

"Yeah, yeah…" The blond-haired girl replied sleepily, hiding her face in her arms on the table. With the presence of food and continued conversation between the two "annoying" early birds, Jett gradually woke up to enjoy the morning.

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"I understand now why Muggles like their automobiles…" Izzy commented as the girls were walking the dirt road towards the town center. It had been nearly a half hour and they were still a few kilometers away.

"It's not that far. Plus, there's all the farms and open land and the cute animals," Jett replied, swinging the umbrella her godfather had made her bring with her. (Iz had asked what she needed an odd-looking walking stick for, not understanding the function of a Muggle umbrella. Her parents just used their wands or had the house elves cast a drying spell to keep the rain away.)

"Yeah, sure, cute," Isabelle echoed, glancing over to the herd of cows that were just grazing the grass or lying down lazily. The only animals they had seen so far that she thought were even mildly cute were some baby sheep closer to Moony's cottage and a family of cats near a barn they had passed as they walked up the road.

"What? Aren't you taking Care of Magical Creatures? If you don't like animals, how are you going to like that class?" Jett pointed out, turning around to walk backwards while grinning at her friend knowingly.

"I'm taking the class because none of the others were going to help me in the future. Plus, it will help me maybe with potions if I can understand what some creatures are. For example, the other day, I was reading about how certain types of scorpion venom that might help with memory potions – " Izzy defended herself before starting on one of her tangential stories. Jett rolled her eyes and turned around, walking beside her friend and pretending to listen until they nearly reached the village.

"Do I really look alright, Jett?" The young Malfoy asked as soon as she could see the dozen or so brick buildings that designated the town center. A series of bells had begun to ring from somewhere in the distance.

"You're fine. Maybe we can see if there are any clothes shops, then we can buy you a pair of Muggle jeans!"

"Oh, I just remembered! Here's the wizarding money – I only brought a couple Galleons because you said they were worth a lot of Muggle money. Think it will be enough for the books and maybe some ice cream?" Iz asked as they stopped just outside of the town, purposefully leaving out her friend's recommendation of jeans. If Narcissa ever found such Muggle clothing…she could not imagine the consequences.

"More than enough, Izzy. I told you to just bring /one/ Galleon, we aren't buying that much." Jett quickly exchanged the money that she had in her purse before the two girls made their way into the middle of the town.

It appeared similar to Derry Hill, the Muggle village near Malfoy Manor, Isabelle thought, but was much smaller. All of the buildings looked the same, pale brown color and two stories except for the first one they passed. This had people walking out dressed in nice outfits and also carrying weird Muggle walking sticks like Jett's. The sound of the bells was coming from the steeple at the top and as they walked by, Iz caught the name "St. John the Baptist." Before she could ask Jett any questions, they had arrived at the bookstore and all was quickly forgotten.

Emerging about thirty minutes later with a bag full of books, Izzy was especially happy. "Wait until I tell Mione!"

"Yes, I'm sure she'll be proud. Now let's see if they've got a clothing shop hidden somewhere," Jett replied, pulling her friend along with her. Out of the twelve structures in the town, there were only three public shops: the bookstore, the grocery store, and a café-like restaurant that (thankfully) served ice cream.

"Guess no jeans for me," Iz smiled, joking with Jett as they sat outside the café in the sunlight. A car drove by and the dark-haired girl watched it curiously, still uncertain how they exactly worked.

"We'll see. Maybe I'll just buy you a pair for your birthday. We can get some ice cream but then Moony said to be home by 3pm, it's supposed to start raining again." Jett informed her before they ordered their afternoon snacks.

"Rain? It's so sunny." Iz remarked, looking up at the sky. Sure, there were a few more clouds and the wind had picked up but it could not possibly rain anytime soon. "But if Mr. Lupin says so…your godfather seems really nice."

"He is. I like living with him a lot better than with Mother or my grandfather." Jett nodded absentmindedly, staring at a couple of Muggle kids kicking around a football out in one of the fields nearby.

"I'm not sure I could go the whole summer without doing any magic, but…it's still really nice…" Isabelle's voice tapered off, following her friend's gaze to the Muggle sport but thinking again about Lupin's advice that morning. Inspired by his words, Izzy said suddenly, impulsively, "Hey Jett?"

"Yeah?" The thirteen-year-old girl replied but, when there was no response, she turned back to face Iz.

"Um…never mind."

"No, what is it?" Jett continued, eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

Izzy shook her head again, biting her lip as if unsure. Taking a chance, she started slowly,

"…I have a secret. And I've known since…well, for a month or so now, and I really wanted to tell you and Hermione at school but I just didn't want you to find out and I didn't want to think it was real, but it is and I – " Isabelle finished in rapid fire, speaking as if she did not need to take a breath. She was interrupted by the arrival of the two girls' ice creams and Iz immediately stopped talking again, her cheeks slightly red in embarrassment.

"A secret? About what?" Jett asked, ignoring the dessert.

"Nothing."

"Izzy. Obviously it's something or you wouldn't have brought it up. You can tell me." With no further response from the girl sitting opposite her, Jett sighed and started eating her ice cream. Was she still mad about the whole Polyjuice Potion thing from December? Jett didn't think that Iz had really forgiven her or Hermione for it yet. Or maybe it was something with the Chamber of Secrets at school and Ginny?

"…Draco knows too." Iz offered, as if saying her own thoughts aloud without any context. What was that supposed to mean? Did Iz tell her brother about the switching bodies incident from Christmas?

"Knows what?"

"The secret."

"Which is?" Jett, who was not usually very patient, held back her tongue. She could feel that her friend had something important to say and did not want to push Iz away before she could tell her secret. After another minute or so eating their melting ice cream in silence, the dark-haired girl spoke up once more.

"If I tell you, please promise not to…to judge me or something…" Iz said quietly, thinking about the potential reaction of her suitemates, especially Pansy, if they were to find out…

"Of course not."

"…I found out that I'm adopted. So, so I'm not really a Malfoy. And Mother wouldn't tell me who my real parents are and I couldn't find anything at the Manor to prove anything exactly. But I think I have to be related to them somehow, I look like Mother's sisters and I don't think they would have taken me in otherwise, but I just don't know how…" Izzy ringed her hands together, glad to finally have told someone else but now unsure what would happen.

"Well…that's great! I mean, it's not, because you don't really know who your real family is, but that means that you aren't really a Malfoy. Which can be a good thing!" Jett answered with a surprised smile.

"Really?" Iz responded, now confused. A good thing? How could it be a good thing? It was devastating!

"Absolutely! You don't have to pretend to be like your parents – or your adopted parents. They act all stuck up and all, but instead you can just be…you."

"But they're still my parents? And I want them to be my parents," Iz continued, not following her friend's enthusiastic ideas.

"Yes, but they aren't /really/ your parents. So you don't have to go along with everything they tell you to do! Like, didn't they say you aren't allowed to be friends with Hermione?"

"Yeah, but – "

"Then what does it matter? You can be friends with whoever you want. You can do whatever you want!"

"I guess so," Isabelle acknowledged with a nod, now beginning to understand Jett's point.

"You don't have to full-out rebel, you know, but just the little things. Who cares if you like to read Muggle novels? Or that you secretly love jeans?" Jett smirked before taking another large scoop of her almost-puddle of an ice cream.

"I do not secretly love jeans – I've never even worn any. They actually look really uncomfortable…but you're right. If I'm not really a Malfoy, I don't have to follow the stupid Malfoy rules all the time." Finishing her ice cream, Iz was glad that she had told Jett. She was actually feeling more positively about the secret, rather than the negativity that had engulfed her the last few weeks. She would find out who her birth parents were eventually. For the moment, she just knew that she was not a "real" Malfoy.

The two girls were able to enjoy the rest of their afternoon, making it back home before it did start to rain (as Moony had predicted). Isabelle settled back in in the sit-in window starting one of her Muggle novels while Jett continued playing video games on her GameBoy. Jett had promised not to tell anyone else, her godfather or Hermione, about Iz's secret but reassured her friend once again that it might actually be a good thing. Putting the worries from her mind, Isabelle enjoyed her small vacation away from the Manor and found her second day at the cottage much better than the first. Now to see how the third would go…

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AN: Hey all! Thank you for continuing with into Year 3. Hope you are enjoying Izzy's summer adventures – and the longer chapter. The next couple of updates may be a bit irregular due to traveling, but I hope to get back on track by the end of the month! Till then, read&review :)