Sense of Belonging

Chapter 9

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

.

.

.

The Great Hall was decorated in all its usual Opening Feast splendor: thousands of floating candles, each of the House colors decorating the walls between large windows, and a mostly-cloudy enchanted ceiling with a few stubborn stars trying to poke their light through.

Izzy followed her Slytherin classmates towards their table, all dressed in their school robes. Taking her normal seat across from Draco and next to Daphne, she continued their easy conversation from the carriage. This was soon interrupted, however, by her brother's animated tone which usually promised a good story.

" – and Longbottom told me the /whole/ thing. There were those creatures on the train, searching for Black, you know, the Azkaban prison guards – "

"Dementors?" Izzy offered, having already realized what had happened during their journey.

"Yeah, whatever. Anyways, they were checking to be sure none of us were trying to sneak the /murderer/ into Hogwarts or something. But when it got to Potter's compartment, Longbottom told me he /fainted/! Potter took one look at the stupid thing and fell off his seat! Like a frail old lady!" A chorus of laughter followed the boy's retelling. But before Draco could continue with what he had learned, the students' attention was drawn up front for the Sorting.

Glancing over to the Gryffindor table, Iz noticed that neither Potter nor Hermione were seated there. Wondering if the train incident had caused the Boy-Who-Lived to go to the Hospital Wing (and knowing Hermione was nice enough to take him there), she scanned the scarlet-clad table once more just to be sure. Why had Hermione gone instead of Weasley? Refocusing on the Sorting to welcome another new Slytherin First Year, Izzy made a mental note to ask her friend later.

Just as the Sorting ended, Professor McGonagall entered the Great Hall to take her place at the front. Glancing towards the Gryffindor table again, sure enough Iz noticed Hermione Granger and Harry Potter making their way to sit by Ronald Weasley. Obviously Longbottom's story had already made somewhat of a circulation as a few students turned to watch the messy-haired boy take his seat. Without another moment's pause, Professor Dumbledore stood to speak.

"Welcome, welcome! Another year at Hogwarts! I have a few things to say to you all, and as one of them is very serious, I think it best to get it out of the way before you become befuddled by our excellent feast…" The Headmaster cleared his throat before continuing,

"As you will all be aware after their search of the Hogwarts Express, our school is presently playing host to some of the Dementors of Azkaban, who are here on Ministry of Magic business." At this, Isabelle glanced towards Jett, supposing the real reason why the Dementors were at Hogwarts.

"They are stationed at every entrance to the grounds, and while they are with us, I must make it plain that nobody is to leave school without permission. Dementors are not to be fooled by tricks or disguises – or even Invisibility Cloaks. It is not in the nature of a Dementor to understand pleading or excuses. I therefore warn each and every one of you to give them no reason to harm you. I look to the Prefects, and our new Head Boy and Head Girl, to make sure that no student runs foul of the Dementors." Dumbledore's eyes made the rounds throughout the Great Hall, their usual spark somewhat lacking in the graveness of his warning.

"On a happier note," the Headmaster continued, "I am pleased to welcome two new teachers to our ranks this year." Motioning towards the table full of professors, Izzy once again recognized Jett's godfather sitting among them. In fact, the familiar man was just standing as Professor Dumbledore introduced him as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. Lupin nodded his head towards the Headmaster and smiled slightly at the meager applause, in which Izzy took part. So he was going to be the new DADA professor? Iz had little time to dwell on this fact as the Headmaster carried on in his introductions.

"As to our second new appointment, well, I am sorry to tell you that Professor Kettleburn, our Care of Magical Creatures teacher, retired at the end of last year in order to enjoy more time with his remaining limbs. However, I am delighted to say that his place will be filled by none other than Rubeus Hagrid, who has agreed to take on this teaching job in addition to his groundskeeping duties."

This second announcement was met with louder applause, especially obnoxious from the Gryffindors. Isabelle did not have a very strong opinion on Hagrid but, over the past two years at school, her only interactions with him had not been the most pleasant. She especially remembered his opinion of the Malfoy family – though this was not an uncommon judgment, she knew. And the groundskeeper had been sent to Azkaban the year before, believed to have opened the Chamber of Secrets with one of his magical beasts. Plus, she thought she had heard that he was not even a fully qualified wizard. In any case, they would have to see how the class went…

With that, the scrumptious feast began and conversations abounded. Draco continued to retell what he knew about Potter and the Dementor on the train. A few other Slytherins were debating what "Ministry business" the Dementors could really be at the school for. Others were commenting on the two new professors. Glancing up at the High Table, Iz could not help but notice how absolutely exhausted Moony looked. Perhaps he had been up all night stressing about the first day at Hogwarts. The young Slytherin was nevertheless excited to see how the DADA classes would go, as their brief morning conversations at the cottage had proven to the twelve-year-old that Lupin was, at the very least, an intelligent man.

Quickly finishing her second slice of pumpkin tart, Isabelle stood with the others when they were dismissed for bed. Instead of following her suitemates per usual, Iz fought her way through the crowds of students to get to the Gryffindor table. She had plenty of questions in her mind – had Jett known that Moony was going to be the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor? Did anyone else know who her father was? And for Hermione, wondering where she had disappeared to before the feast as well as a long list of questions from the summer that she had saved. Overall, she mostly wanted to catch up with her two best friends.

By the time she reached the table, however, the girls had disappeared. Nearly everyone was out of the Great Hall and headed for their House dormitories. Turning to glance towards the professors table in case she could wave to Lupin, she found the four Gryffindors congratulating the new half-giant professor at the front. Jett's godfather had disappeared and, seeing McGonagall shooing the lingering students away, Izzy decided she could catch up with the others at breakfast the next morning. Having overheard the new Slytherin password at the table, the younger Malfoy sibling hurried down to the dungeons so as to not get in trouble for being out after hours.

It was like returning home. The common room looked and smelled the same – the wonderfully furnished chairs and couches, the roaring fireplace, the green light. The two now-Sixth Year boys were even sitting at their usual table playing Wizard's Chess like always. And Draco sat in his throne-like chair near the fireplace, a small group of students still surrounding him, Pansy sitting on the arm of his chair, as he told some sort of story – probably Longbottom's tale once again. Iz also noticed one of the new First Years, Daphne's sister Astoria, listening intently to what the elder Malfoy sibling had to say. Smiling at the sight and the feeling this normal scene brought her, the dark-haired girl moved towards the stairs that led down to the girls' dormitory.

"Hey, Izzy! How was your summer?" A familiar voice said as she passed one of the dorm rooms. Pausing and glancing in, she smiled at Gemma Farley, now a Seventh Year Slytherin and prefect.

"Hi Gemma! It was good. Long, I ran out of books to read. And we didn't get to travel anywhere, but it was pleasant enough. And yours?" Iz went in and hugged her older friend.

"Wonderful, really. I'm not surprised you ran out of books, though. Is your brother still causing trouble?"

"Always. But I hope he's maturing a bit now, we're Third Years after all."

"Don't be too sure. Wow, you're already Third Years – I can't believe I'm a Seventh Year! I honestly can't wait until I'm done with school, which sounds strange at the beginning of term and all." Gemma commented with a sigh.

"I don't think I'll ever get tired of school. Exams, maybe, and homework. But not Hogwarts." Izzy mused aloud, glancing around the Seventh Years' dorm room. How would she be feeling when she was a Seventh Year?

"Anyways, maybe we can get together at lunch or something to catch up. I think I heard you get to start with electives tomorrow. Okay?"

"Yeah, sure. See you," Iz nodded and left Gemma to finish unpacking. Still thinking about what her friend had said, she wondered what her life would be like in four years. She hoped she would be Head Girl.

Cautiously entering her dorm room, Izzy somewhat expected Pansy to have moved her belongings like she had tried to their first year or some other drama. Finding her trunk at the usual four-poster bed all the way at the back of the room, there was little response from the other three girls as Iz walked in. They had all already greeted each other in the train and they were distracted. Daphne was telling them about a cleaning spell she had learned over the summer that automatically made her bed.

"That would come in handy, since my family doesn't have a house elf." Millicent commented, hiding her diary in the drawer next to her bed.

"It's really simple. I can show you tomorrow morning, if you want." The blonde-haired girl offered with a sweet smile, already in her pajamas and sitting on her bed.

"What classes do you think we have tomorrow?" Tracey asked, working on her school bag and trying to decide what she should put in it.

"Gemma told me that Third Years will have their electives tomorrow first." Isabelle offered, unpacking her trunk and using her bed as a way to spread out all of her belongings in order to properly organize them.

"Awesome. I'm taking Divination and Arithmancy." Tracey replied, picking out those two books.

"Arithmancy and Ancient Runes." Daphne glanced up to see what the other two girls had chosen, even though they had discussed it after their spring holidays the year before.

"Divination and Care of Magical Creatures – though this book is completely mental." Millicent pointed to her trunk, where her copy of the Monster Book of Monsters was currently snoozing, a belt keeping it closed.

"I know, I didn't know what to do with it. But I'm taking Care of Magical Creatures and Ancient Runes. I was thinking about adding Arithmancy if there was time and space, but I'm not sure." Iz said, smirking at Milly for her observation of the dangerous book still in her trunk. The young Malfoy was not going to touch it unless she had to.

Just as Izzy was about to start a new conversation, Pansy returned to the dorm room with a wide smile on her face.

"What's up with you, Pansy?" Tracey asked, confused at the girl's demeanor.

"Nothing," the spiky-haired Slytherin offered mysteriously and went to her bed, unpacking her night clothes.

"No, something happened," Tracey walked over to her and then started to giggle a little, realizing something. "Did he –?"

"Not yet! But he was super sweet. And he even said he had put our picture on his bedroom wall." Pansy sighed contentedly, sitting on her bed. Suddenly glancing over to where Iz was standing, a confused look on the Malfoy's face (as the girl was more often than not in some sort of mood), the spiky haired girl smiled at her. In a friendly, non-joking way.

"That's so cute! He must really like you." The other girls offered, obviously all caught up in something that Iz had missed. About to return to unpacking, it getting late, Izzy stopped at her suitemate's voice.

"I hope so. Oh, Isabelle – I really like your hair. Did you do something new with it?" Pansy was still smiling at her, making Iz suspicious. What was going on? Panicking suddenly that the girl had found out about her being adopted, her hair so different from the other Malfoy's, she stared back at her.

"Not really." Self-consciously feeling her hair, which was a bit more frizzy than normal but nothing else, Iz waited to see what Pansy's next move would be.

"Oh, well it's nice tonight." Pansy shrugged and went to change for bed.

"Lights out, five minutes!" A prefect's voice called from the stairwell. Each of the Third Years returned to their own beds to finish getting ready for their first night back at Hogwarts. Closing the curtains around her bed, still on edge for Pansy to have pulled some sort of prank (and having twice inspected her hair brush in case it had been tampered with), Isabelle fell asleep wondering what this new school year might bring.