Sense of Belonging

Chapter 8

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

.

.

.

Isabelle settled right in to her usual seat in the comfortable Slytherin carriage on the Hogwarts Express. She had just said goodbye to her parents, who had already disapparated away from the crowd, and yet felt little sense of regret or even anxiety as she had in the two years previous.

Draco was already talking with the other Third Year boys at the table across from her, something about the new Firebolt broomstick or other. Her fellow suitemates had just entered the carriage and took their customary places near her, greeting each other happily.

"I had the /worst/ family vacation ever. Can you believe my parents made us go to the Caribbean for the /entire/ summer? Sure, it was warm, beautiful, sunny almost all the time – but they wouldn't let me near any boys – Muggles, mostly – and we were stuck in these luxury resorts /day after day/!"

"You beat me. We just went to Spain this year, and /only/ for a month. Plus I had to spend time with my second cousin, you remember him, right? Lorenzo?"

"Well /I/ had the best summer. We traveled all over Europe before coming home for a week for the Ministry Ball. And guess who I got to dance with!"

Izzy quickly tuned the other girls out, not particularly wanting to hear Pansy's account of her crush on Draco or how the others complained about their wonderful holiday trips. The Malfoys had not gone away at all that summer, which had really disappointed both children. As such, Iz felt she had nothing to share nor any story worthy to compare with her suitemates. Taking out her collection on Shakespeare, the dark-haired girl waited approximately twenty minutes before getting up to do what she really wanted to: find her best friends.

Slipping out of the emerald-and-silver-decorated train car, Isabelle made her way through the narrow corridors of the train looking for any of her other friends. About halfway through, she spotted a familiar head.

"Jett!"

Turning towards her name, the blonde-haired French girl made her way through a crowd of Second Years to meet up with Iz. "Hey!"

"You made it! Did you get any of my letters? Russet wasn't bringing them back so I thought you must have gotten them, but I never got any response and I was getting worried and – "

"I'm fine, Iz. See? I just wasn't allowed to write back, it was too dangerous, I guess. I don't know – Moony's been acting so weird still." Jett sighed, shaking her head. "Have you seen Hermione? Or Harry?"

"Neither, sorry. Do you think it's because of the whole father situation? I mean, if others knew – "

"Shh! No one else is /supposed/ to know. You pinkie swore, remember?"

"Yes, I remember. I haven't told anyone – Draco doesn't even know. But they're bound to find out, right? Especially if everyone is so worried – does Moony think he's trying to find you?" Izzy leaned closer, speaking more quietly but sticking with the subject.

"He wouldn't tell me, even when we were in France. He doesn't want to 'scare me.' I got to meet my mother's new husband, though, which was just /amazing/, you can imagine," Jett replied bitterly as the two continued through the cars searching for their bushy-haired friend.

"Oh no. Is he nice at least? Did your mother drive you crazy?"

"She left me alone mostly, thankfully. Actually, she seemed a little worried even, about the whole you-know-what situation. That, or something with her travel plans. But Hogwarts is the safest place, I guess, and it definitely beats being stuck back in France."

They found a few familiar Gryffindors and others in the next train car and stopped to check in with them. Izzy spent a good half hour talking to Ginny about Egypt, admitting how jealous she was and curious to hear what the red-headed girl had seen. The trolley cart with snacks rolled by soon after and the two Third Years had bought copious amounts of treats to share with the whole compartment. Jett was just finishing a story from her time in France when the door slid open.

"What a sad sight this is, did you buy them this whole feast, Izzy? Must be more food here than you see in a whole week at home, Weaslette." Crabbe and Goyle laughed from behind the thin, blonde-haired boy standing in front of them. Draco smirked at the other students, all a mix of halfbloods or Muggleborns and younger than him.

"Shut up, Malfoy," Jett retorted in annoyance but not giving him the satisfaction of looking up from unwrapping her pumpkin pastie.

"And nice to see you again, Moreau. I heard you ran away and back to France for the rest of the summer."

"I didn't tell him – " Isabelle started at Jett's look.

"Just saw the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher – he looks worse than Quirrell and Lockhart combined! Another year we won't be learning, I guess. At least I know I can already best you in a duel." Draco sneered, trying to pick a fight with his sister's best friend. He had been unsuccessful with Potter due to said professor, but he didn't mind getting into a little skirmish here.

As expected, Jett stood up in anger, her wand slipped out and ready to challenge him. But Iz had already stood as well to block what she had foreseen might happen.

"Enough, Draco. Go bother someone else, I'm enjoying time with my friends – " Isabelle started, blocking Jett's ability to aim at her brother while trying to keep Draco's attention.

"Friends? These aren't your friends. Don't you remember what happened last year, Izzy? What Father said?" The blonde-haired boy leaned forward threateningly, hands on his hips, knowing he had the upper hand like he had the previous two years. His sister hated getting into trouble.

"I remember." Izzy admitted and Draco smirked in triumph. "But I don't care anymore. Go ahead and tell them who I'm spending my time with – better than picking stupid fights on the train before we even get to school."

"What?"

"You heard me. I don't care. Now go bother someone else." Biting her tongue to not go on a rant again about the sibling inequality and such, Izzy stared her brother down until he gave in with a surprised look on his face and closed the door.

Returning to the snacks and Jett's story, the two Third Years stayed a few minutes longer before heading to find Hermione.

"Where could she be? We've searched the entire train." Isabelle sighed, knowing it was only a couple hours journey longer until they reached the school. Though she had meant what she said to Draco, it still unnerved her to risk breaking her parents' rules and such. Talking with Hermione would make it all the more worth it, she knew. No one seemed to understand her love of books as much as Mione did.

"I don't know. But I have that Muggle map you were asking for. I put my stuff in the last compartment, all the way at the end. Maybe we'll find her on our way?" Jett offered, leading the way to the last train car.

"Oh right, thanks. I had forgotten about that – you'll have to show me where Moony's cottage actually is and see if we can find Derry Hill to figure out where the Manor is, but – found them." Izzy cut herself off as they reached the compartment. Glancing through the glass door, it was clear that the trio of Gryffindors had somehow found the section with Jett's belongings.

"Jett!" All three of the students seemed to warmly greet the blonde-haired girl as she entered, with only Hermione acknowledging Isabelle's presence. The two boys simply gave the Slytherin girl a wary look.

"Izzy! How are you?" The bushy-haired Gryffindor had stood from her seat by the rainy window to give her friend a hug.

"Hi, I'm good." Iz replied easily but did not add anything else. She was now staring at the man who was curled up, asleep in the corner of the compartment. "Is that –?"

"Yes." Jett quickly responded, glancing towards her godfather's sleeping form before handing Isabelle her promised present.

Guiding the dark-haired girl back out into the hallway, having seen the unhappy looks on the two boys' faces as well as trying to avoid two certain topics which Isabelle was sure to mention, she said quickly, "I'll explain later. But I don't want them to know he's Moony yet, you know? It's weird. We can talk at the feast tonight or maybe tomorrow at breakfast. Okay?"

"Yeah, I guess. But what about Hermione?"

"Later. Please? I don't want them to know…"

"…alright. Later then. Bye." Izzy gave in, feeling a little upset that Jett seemed to be choosing her Gryffindor friends over her. But realistically she knew that wasn't the case – Jett had just spent the last few hours with her wandering the train, talking with their other friends. And she could understand not wanting other students to know her godfather was on the train. But why was he coming to Hogwarts with her? And why was he asleep, looking so exhausted?

Pondering the possibilities of the answers to that question, Isabelle was about halfway back up the length of the Hogwarts Express when the train stopped suddenly and the lamps went out all at once, plunging everything into complete darkness.

Quickly picking herself up from the floor before she could be stepped on, she heard other students' panicked voices. A few compartment doors slid open and Izzy was bumped by at least a few trying to make their way through the narrow corridor in the dark.

"Ouch," Iz hissed as someone stepped on her foot.

"Sorry!" A familiar voice answered.

"Ginny?"

"Izzy? Have you seen Ronald?"

"He's in the compartment with Jett and Hermione and such at the end of the train. That way." Assuming the red-haired Second Year was trying to find her brother for answers, Iz thought to her own annoying sibling. She wondered if he was worried.

Starting cautiously through the dark corridor towards the front of the train where she knew the Slytherin carriage was, Isabelle was sure she had almost reached it. That is, until an abrupt stillness came over the car she was in. Everything had gone completely silent, none of the other students moving. Freezing as well, unsure why her instincts were telling her to, she suddenly heard someone or something make a noise: a deep, slow, rattling breath. And everything turned ice cold.

Izzy felt herself begin to panic, fear spreading throughout her body. But it was not the same kind of fear she got when flying – the response usually being adrenaline pumping through her veins. This was a different kind of panic – a slow, ebbing chill that had already reached her fingertips and to which she thought there may never be an end.

But then it had passed. Though the corridor was still plenty dark, and the feeling of cold and despair remained with her, the intenseness had swiftly disappeared. Finding the will to move again, Izzy took out her wand and cast a silent "Lumos" before making her way as quickly as possible back to the Slytherin compartment. She reached her House carriage just as the lights in the train came back on.

Draco was not there when she first returned. Checking on Russet and her alarmed suitemates, she turned towards the door as the glass slid open. Meeting her brother's eyes, she made her way towards him. Giving him a quick hug of relief, still a bit rattled as to what had just happened and simply forgetting the earlier incident, Iz sat back down in her seat with the other Slytherins. Joining them in conversation as to whatever that had just been, Izzy tried not to dwell on that awful feeling of panic that had so overwhelmed her. What had happened? What had it been?

With the train moving again, the lights on, and everyone beginning to joke to make themselves feel better, Isabelle had settled down a bit with the others. Mid-conversation with Daphne, she noticed Remus Lupin move through the carriage towards the front of the train. Meaning to catch him when he came back through, Iz had already forgotten that Jett's godfather was there by the time they arrived in Hogsmeade. It was only in her Thestral-drawn carriage ride up to the castle that Izzy learned what had truly happened with the dementors. And that Potter had somehow fainted.

.

.

.

AN: Sorry for the unexpected break! I had the opportunity to travel to London (which I highly recommend if you are able to go) and am back with lots more ideas. Hope you are enjoying Third Year thus far – reviews are always welcome :)