Sense of Belonging

Chapter 7

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

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It was at least a week before Jett was able to write. Besides for it turning out to be the longest letter Jett had ever written Isabelle, the latter was glad to receive it for two other reasons. First, it let Izzy know that her friend was alright. (Her mother's reaction and Lupin's behavior at the Manor had scared the twelve-year-old, who still did not fully understand what had happened.) Second, Jett tried to explain the situation as best she could, which made it easier for Izzy to pretend to understand what was going on.

Isabelle had been reading the Daily Prophet newspapers avidly for the entire last week. Nearly every issue contained some sort of article or opinion piece about the mass-murderer Sirius Black. There had been supposed sightings all over the island and beyond, by both the wizarding communities and the Muggles. (Lucius had publicly criticized the Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, for informing the Muggle Prime Minister, as well as adding a few choice comments here and there about Black's ability to elude capture.)

Outside of the newspapers and the few conversations Iz happened to overhear about the matter from her parents, the youngest Malfoy still felt she was missing something. And she really wanted to know – he could be her uncle! All she had was the barest details of the crime he had committed murdering thirteen people that sent him to Azkaban, the idea that he was a follower of the Dark Lord, the supposition that he was mad and dangerous, and the fact that he was Jett's father. Even Draco seemed to know more than this (minus that last part), though Izzy suspected this was because Lucius was telling him more than he would ever tell her. In any case, Isabelle was curious for more information on this mysterious wizard.

Writing a reply to Jett as soon as she got the owl, Iz had just sent it (along with a copy of her History of Magic essay) when Draco came bursting into her room.

"She just sent me a picture of us /dancing/ at the Summer Ball! Gah," the blonde-haired Malfoy spat in disgust, throwing the afore-mentioned picture at his sister before dramatically falling back on her bed.

"Who?" Izzy asked, closing the window and turning around to face Draco just as he threw the photograph. Holding it up to the sunlight from outside, she made out two forms dancing in the familiar setting.

"/Pansy/," Draco lamented with a loud sigh. Why was the girl so obsessed with him?

"Ah," Iz replied, now smirking amusedly at the moving image from the weekend before. Her brother looked dashing as ever in his fancy dress robes but was dancing awkwardly with the spiky-haired girl in his arms, as if the two were fighting over who was leading the dance. Pansy had been dressed in a gorgeous dress with a black, lace base decorated with brightly-colored summer flowers and, honestly, Isabelle had been a little jealous of the girl's looks.

After the incident with Jett and Narcissa's punishment for lying to her, Iz had not been allowed to shop for a new dress for the summer ball as planned. As she was forbidden by wizarding community standards from wearing a dress previously worn to a Ministry-affiliated function (basically all of them), she had been forced to wear whatever her mother picked out for her at the shop. Which was a complete disaster in the daughter's eyes. (Isabelle hated the colors yellow and orange, how could Narcissa think a sunflower-inspired dress would work out well?) Thankfully no pictures of her from that evening had magically appeared yet.

"She's been sending me these letters the entire holiday, saying how excited she was for us to meet up at that stupid ball. And then she had someone staked out to take our picture. She told me she has ten more copies!" Draco complained, sitting up and looking pleadingly at his sister. "Make it stop."

"Sorry, I can't help. I'm stuck here, remember? And even if I could try, I haven't found a solution for Pansy yet…you might just need to pretend to like her or something. Maybe she'll lose interest then?" Izzy suggested absent-mindedly, tossing the picture back towards her brother before rummaging through her desk drawer for something.

"You really think that'll work?" No response came from the dark-haired girl and so Draco moved on to his next point. "So…ready to tell me yet the real reason why Moreau left so quickly?"

"Mother already gave you an explanation." Iz huffed, focused more on her coloring book (not where she last left it hidden away) than on what he had been saying.

"A lousy explanation. Did you make her mad again?" The older sibling pushed.

"No, I did not."

"Did I scare her off? She was afraid I'd best her, wasn't she – " Draco smirked, though he knew that that could not be the actual answer.

"Seriously –?"

"Alright, alright… Did something happen back in France?" The boy asked, taking a shot in the dark.

"France? Why do you think she's in France?" Izzy stood up then, momentarily pausing her search to glance back at her brother.

"So she /is/ in France? Something with her family?" Draco sat forward, curious and determined to get the answer out of his sister.

"I can't tell you, I promised not to. She had to leave and we'll see her again on September 1st. Just drop it," Isabelle gave him one final look before returning to her search. She had just been using it yesterday, where could the book have gone?!

"At Hogwarts? Damn, I was hoping she was being transferred to Beauxbatons if she's back in France. Shame." Recognizing that Iz was now ignoring him and the game was no longer entertaining and fun, Draco gave in and stood up. "Still want to practice again later? I've been working on my Carpe Retractum spell."

"If Mother lets me. I don't think she would be very happy if we practiced in here or the Tower…" Izzy's voice trailed off, still feeling a little guilty over lying to Narcissa but also irritated that the punishment was lasting so long. If Draco had lied, he would have been allowed to go to his friend's house the next day without a second thought from their parents.

"So you lied to her, so have I. She'll get over it, it's just because it messed with her planning." Draco shrugged, not admitting he was surprised his mother's resolve had lasted that long as well. Groundings usually just lasted one day, two at most – it had now been over a week and it seemed there was no sign of loosening. Both siblings still had little idea why Narcissa had punished Isabelle so severely.

"Yeah, we'll see. Maybe it's because I'm not even her real child – Ugh, I give up!" Isabelle slammed the desk drawer shut in a frustrated manner and grabbed that morning's issue of the Daily Prophet, the mugshot of the Azkaban-escapee plastered on the front page. Moving to her seating area, she plopped down and opened up the newspaper as if to block her brother out.

"Don't say that, Izzy, you know that's not true. Just because you're adopted –"

"I don't want to talk about it, Draco. Go back to your only-child freedom. Bye." Iz responded bitterly, her feelings having morphed over the last week from curiosity and doubt to resentment and sullenness. In some ways, she was jealous of Draco. But that did not mean that Isabelle did not instantly regret what she had said.

All her brother had done for the entire vacation had been to support her (minus their pranks, of course), to reassure her that she was still his sister in every way that counted, and that no one could say differently. Pausing a moment to reign in her temper, knowing it was not Draco's fault for the predicament she was in, she set down her paper with the intent to apologize. Instead, she found herself alone in her bedroom once again.

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Narcissa had made it quite clear that she did not want Isabelle to be communicating with the daughter of an on-the-run mass murderer. Despite this, and the repetitive warnings from Lucius about her alleged friendships with "undesirables," the twelve-year-old continued sending owl post to her two closest friends for the remainder of the summer. Jett had yet to send another response since her first explanation, so Izzy was left with just Hermione. Iz had desperately wanted to invite the bushy-haired Gryffindor over to the Manor after the younger Malfoy sibling had regained her freedom but knew the disastrous effects that would cause. She had considered inviting Daphne, or even Tracey or Millicent, but all were still away on vacation. Her occasional interactions with Draco seemed to be enough to keep her sane. Thus, for most of August, Isabelle returned to her usual routine of alone time with reading, practicing magic, doing homework, and brewing potions.

The last point on her daily schedule brought the dark-haired girl the most joy. Having already mastered at least three new potions that Third Years would learn at Hogwarts, Izzy had begun experimenting. At first, this had gone terribly wrong. She had begun from scratch and was simply adding ingredients by guessing which might go together to create something new or useful. Instead, she felt like that Gryffindor boy Finnegan – practically blowing up every other potion she made.

By the third week of August, however, Isabelle had stumbled onto something. She had quickly figured out that combining random ingredients got her nowhere. Instead, she began tweaking a few instructions from Jett's birthday present from First Year about useful, everyday potions. And on a certain Wednesday afternoon, Isabelle had banged open her brother's bedroom door to announce her success.

"Draco, I did it! I created something!"

The blonde-haired thirteen-year-old boy shoved whatever he was looking at under a pile of papers on his desk and turned to face his sister, looking a little exasperated. She had been testing out a few of her experiments on him (the non-exploding ones, of course) and he had been stuck burping fire on more than one occasion. "Uh huh?" Draco replied in a doubtful and disinterested tone.

"Yes, didn't you hear what I said? I was trying to mimic the effects of the Invigoration Draught Gemma was telling me about last year, but then also mix it with one of the Focus potions to make a new one. And guess what?" Izzy bounced onto her brother's bed, appearing the most excited she had since the incident with Jett.

"You did it?" Draco guessed with a sort of sarcastic tone, getting up to accumulate some of his Quidditch gear rather than pay his sister any direct attention.

"I did! I'm not sure what I'm going to call it yet, but it gives you more energy while also allowing you to have better attention to detail. For a limited time, of course. Want to try it?" Iz held out a vial of the light green liquid, smiling.

"Not particularly. How do you know it even works? I told you, I'm not your guinea pig." Draco shook his head, grabbing his Quidditch bag and shoving his belongings into it.

"Please? And I know it works because I tried it myself. I got through an entire novel in just an hour last night." Izzy proclaimed proudly, still holding out the draft to her brother.

"You've done that before, you know, without the potion. Plus, I'm heading over to Crabbe's for a scrimmage Quidditch match. I don't want to throw up in the middle of the game – " The elder Malfoy sibling protested, not looking at Iz but trying to discreetly sneak the magazine he had hidden under the pile of stuff on his desk into his bag to show the other boys.

"I promise you won't! I bet you two dozen biscuits that you'll play better. Come on, Draco," Izzy finally stood up and moved toward her blonde-haired sibling, now with a knowing smirk to use a little harmless blackmail. "Just try it. Plus, I won't tell Mother what magazine you were reading."

The dark-haired girl had basically cornered Draco near his desk and he momentarily panicked. He knew his father would not care what he was reading or where he had gotten it, but Narcissa would surely not be happy…he was supposed to be her sweet, innocent son.

"Fine." Draco finally caved. Dropping the bag, he took the vial and downed his sister's experimental potion in one gulp. "And three dozen. With chocolate."

"No problem. I'll have them ready when you come home later. Thank you!" Izzy smiled happily, taking the glass container back from her brother. She would make notes later on any side effects Draco complained about. Leaving him in piece to return to her other brews down in the makeshift potions' lab, Isabelle tried not to notice the slow passage of time.

In actuality, when Draco returned later that evening, he had boasted about beating the other boys three to one in scoring as a Chaser (his preferred position). Iz did not even mind giving him the biscuits she had made in case something had gone wrong with their bet. She was simply content that the potion had been a success! Now something else to keep her busy for the remaining days until school…

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Isabelle had a hard time filling her days with anything exciting. This was the point in summer holidays that she desperately itched to return to Hogwarts. She had read all of her books (many at least twice), Draco was getting on her nerves as siblings do, Narcissa was still not happy with her daughter, and Lucius had never paid her much attention even when he was home. With no possibility of going to Moony's cottage or even visiting Hermione, the last two weeks of August dragged.

The Malfoy's went shopping in Diagon Alley earlier that summer than usual so as to avoid the back-to-school crowds. Narcissa had announced quite unexpectedly that the family would be going out that day and had not given her children any time to arrange visits with friends. Or perhaps that had been the point.

Draco was in need of new robes again this year, meaning stopping at Madam Malkin's. Isabelle had already visited the apothecary several times that summer to replenish her potions ingredients and found herself pondering over a few new, more expensive options to buy. (Ultimately, Lucius had ruled that there was no need for the extra supplies.) They had made an unplanned yet expected stop at the Quality Quidditch Supplies shop, where Draco ogled over the newest, fastest broomstick, the Firebolt. After a few other side trips, the Malfoy family arrived at Iz's favorite destination: the bookstore.

Flourish and Blotts seemed a little more run-down than usual, a bit chaotic even. Usually the well-organized bookstore had all of the schoolbooks well-organized into sections and years. Instead of the usual table up front with the more expensive, gold-tinted spell-books Iz loved to gaze at, a large, metal cage now stood in its place. At least a hundred copies of some kind of monster book were fighting, attempting to rip each other to shreds.

"Hogwarts students?" A wizard called from behind the desk up front, looking a little afraid of the answer.

"Yes. Third Years, here for their new books." Narcissa replied in his general direction, giving an unhappy glare at the aggressive behavior of the monster books.

"Either of you taking Care of Magical Creatures?" The man sighed, already supposing the answer and slipping on two very thick gloves.

"Both."

The Malfoy family watched the poor wizard fight his way with a crooked walking stick to free two of the books from the throng. Just as he was getting the pair out, a third had lunged itself at the man's arm, obviously intending to bite. Izzy winced, now unsure she really wanted the book (despite it being required) but also intrigued by its behavior.

The rest of the books were easily assembled and Draco made his way hastily towards the exit, wanting to go back to the Quidditch store once more before they went home. Narcissa, having made sure that all of the books were paid for, started to follow him but turned at her daughter's voice.

"Wait. While we're here, I was hoping…could I get these novels too? I've already read through the ones at home. Please?" Isabelle held up a stack of four wizarding novels for her mother to see and approve of. They were all standard series, some of which Narcissa had begun reading as well.

"Fine. But only those. Meet your brother and I at the shop across the way. No dawdling, we must be home to meet your father." The blonde-haired woman instructed, glancing once more through the novels in her daughter's hands before walking after her restless son.

Iz smirked, setting down the stack on a nearby table. Checking to be sure her mother and brother had left, she plucked the first book off the top of the pile and grabbed a different pair of books she had set on another table nearby. Home Life and Social Habits of British Muggles: her informal introduction to Muggle Studies. Plus, Izzy had grabbed the complete collection of William Shakespeare's works, which Hermione had recommended to her to understand a bit more of Muggle literature. Checking once more to be sure her mother had given her enough money to buy those books, Isabelle stowed the copies away in hopes of sneaking them home. No one would even notice which books she had with her – she went through so many and so quickly, none of the rest of her family bothered to pay them any attention.

Somewhat blaming Jett for her contentedness, as she had rarely broken the rules before meeting her Gryffindor friend, Izzy made her way back to the others, feeling oddly satisfied with her deception. Only thirteen days, eighteen hours, and thirty-four minutes until she would be back on the Hogwarts Express…