Sense of Belonging

Chapter 16

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

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It was already the middle of October and the weather was just beginning to turn. There had been reports of a few more sightings of Sirius Black near Hogwarts and, though she really wanted to ask more about her friend's father, Izzy refrained from bringing up the subject so as not to upset Jett or Professor Lupin.

This became especially difficult on the day after October 15th. The night before, Isabelle had returned to the Slytherin commonroom to a space filled with excited students. A sign had been posted setting the date for the first Hogsmeade trip of the year: Halloween. Joining her suitemates in exchanging expectations for their first time to the all-magical village, it had not been until the next day in the library Iz realized what that would mean for one of her best friends.

"But you have to go! I don't want to see Hogsmeade without you, Hermione and I alone are no fun." Izzy joked, sitting at their usual table with Jett while they waited for the other Gryffindor to show up.

"I can't, Moony said – " Jett replied bitterly, her arms crossed and her feet up on the chair next to her.

"Sorry I'm late! I had to stay after class and ask Professor Vector about Arithmancy. Did you see, Izzy? About Hogsmeade?" Hermione came rushing in towards the other two.

"I did, I'm very excited." The Slytherin nodded with a smile as Hermione sat down next to her.

"Great. We have to start planning what we want to do and see – we'll only have limited time, as you know, so we have to determine what is the most important first and then what we can put off to the next Hogsmeade trip. I hope it's before Christmas, I would love to buy my parents something special as a present." The bushy-haired Gryffindor took out a piece of parchment and started making a list of what she remembered hearing about and reading about the village shops.

"Don't forget Honeydukes – the candy store is supposed to be one of the best in all of Britain. Or so Mother told me." Iz suggested, glancing through their list.

"Is there a Quidditch store or anything, Jett? Where do you want to go? I don't want to leave your ideas out." Hermione looked at her suitemate expectantly before poising her quill, ready to write down whatever the girl's suggestions were. After a moment of silence the Gryffindor glanced up and saw the look on Jett's face.

"I can't go."

"Why not?"

"I don't have my form signed."

"But…just take it to Professor Lupin, he can sign it. He's your legal guardian at the moment, isn't he? We can go right now, I just saw him heading towards the staff room." Hermione stood, confused but finding an easy solution.

"I can't go, Mione, I'm not allowed to."

"Because?"

Jett glanced at Izzy as if to try and get her help but the Slytherin was at a loss for any good excuse except for the truth: the danger that her father, Sirius Black, would be there.

"I just can't…"

"But you can't just /not/ go, it's Hogsmeade! Why would you not be allowed to go? Is it your mother?"

"No. I haven't seen her in weeks, just once in the middle of summer."

"Just once? But weren't you in France for most of the summer holidays? Didn't you go to visit your mother?" Hermione asked in confusion, remembering the excuse Jett had given her at the beginning of the school year as to her odd return to mainland Europe.

"I didn't particularly want to see her, no. And she's not the reason. I'm simply not allowed to go, okay? No signed form, no permission."

"Then it must be Professor Lupin's doing." Hermione looked to Isabelle as if to help her with the puzzle but her Slytherin friend was busying herself pretending to read through her school planner. What was going on? "Do you know something, Izzy? What are you both not telling me?"

"It's Mione, Jett, she'll understand – " Iz finally looked up, directly at Jett. Her Gryffindor friend had been so accepting of her secret about being adopted, Izzy thought to herself, though of course Hermione did not know that yet either. The dark-haired girl had been meaning to tell her other best friend, there just had not been the right opportunity…

"Shush, Iz, it's not your secret to tell."

"What will I understand? What secret?" The bushy-haired girl leaned closer, trying to catch what the other two were whispering about. Even after Jett had admitted that Lupin was her godfather, the two would still talk in hushed tones with each other when they thought Hermione was not listening. It irked the Gryffindor to no end – what were they hiding?

"I'm not saying anything! But you told me, you can tell Hermione too. It'll just make things so much easier…" Isabelle encouraged, motioning slightly towards their friend.

"Is this what you two have been whispering about?" There was no answer to Hermione's question, just a staring match between Jett and Isabelle. "I thought it was just about Professor Lupin being Jett's godfather but there was something more, wasn't there?" Still silence. "Come on, Jett, you can tell me. I promise I won't tell anyone else. Why can't you go to Hogsmeade?"

"Because Sirius Black is my father! Okay? Okay." Jett finally blurted out, a mix of uneasiness and annoyance evident on her face as she crossed her arms and looked away from the other two girls.

"Sirius Black…is your father? The mystery father? That makes so much sense!" Hermione glanced first at Izzy, who nodded in agreement, before back to her blonde-haired friend. "That's why you would never tell us his name. And that's why you can't go to Hogsmeade with us – why Professor Lupin won't let you go – that's why you were in France for the summer. Merlin's beard, how did I not guess that?"

"I've kept it pretty much a secret. Only you, Izzy, Lupin, and the other professors know. No one else." Jett shot a glance in their direction to answer before turning away again as if trying to compose herself.

"Is Black coming after you, too, then? Because you know the whole thing about Harry and such, of course – " Hermione started to wonder aloud.

"I know, Harry's mentioned it. I don't want more people to know yet."

"And how come Izzy got to find out first? Did you guess it?" The bushy-haired Gryffindor turned with a slightly jealous look to her Slytherin friend who looked all but happy about being the first to know this information. It was not a fun secret to keep.

"No. Jett was having a sleepover at the Manor when /he/ escaped and so her godfather came to take her to France, so I found out why." Iz explained quickly, not wanting Hermione to feel left out that Jett had decided to tell her first. It had all simply been about circumstances, that was all.

"Oh. Well, at least you're safe here in the castle." None of them said anything for a few seconds, all sitting in silence and keeping their thoughts to themselves.

Packing the list away, not wanting to rub Jett's nose in their Hogsmeade plans, Hermione said with a shrug, "We should get back to studying." She would just have to bring chocolate back for Jett as well as Harry.

As she took out her books, Izzy glanced at the short Gryffindor. Jett seemed fine, relieved in fact, to have told Hermione and not have her freak out about the truth. And yet, her best friend still seemed somewhat frazzled about the situation. Hopefully Sirius Black would be caught sometime soon and all three of them could enjoy the all-magical village together. At the moment simply glad that their bushy-haired friend had not made a big deal out of the secret (as she knew her brother and some of their other classmates would have), Iz opened her book and got back to work, putting Hogsmeade planning off for another day.

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Isabelle followed Daphne along the High Street, glancing in all of the shop windows as her Slytherin suitemate decided whether or not the store was worth her time or money. They had just ran into her brother and his friends, where she had subtly teased Draco about a potential birthday present. She was turning 13, you know, a very magical number. In any case, the older Malfoy sibling had pretended to forget his sister's birthday and gave no clue away as to what Iz might expect the next day. Now she was following her closest Housemate through the all-magical village on that cool autumn afternoon.

"Are you going to pick something, Daphne? I'm getting kind of cold." Izzy complained slightly, having dressed lightly because of the sunny weather earlier that day. She had not been expecting the afternoon clouds or wind.

"Nothing's good enough. Maybe I'll just head back early, I can always go shopping with Mother and Astoria over Christmas… Ooh, wait! Look at this one!" The blonde-haired girl hurried down a small side street, her interest caught on a pink, frilly sign. As Iz got closer, she read: "Madam Puddifoot's Tea Shop"

"It looks kind of – " Iz started to comment, her nose crinkled in disgust, the color and lacey bows everywhere reminding her of what Narcissa had always tried to dress her in when she was younger. She blamed her distaste of the color pink on her mother.

"Cute! I think so too. I wish we could see inside…" Daphne moved closer, trying to rub at the steam-covered windows. Both Third Years moved out of the way as the door opened and a happy pair of Sixth Year Ravenclaws emerged smiling. Iz gagged slightly on the overdone perfume smell, glancing after the two Hogwarts students as they returned to the High Street. Just as she was about to return her focus to Daphne, the Slytherin noticed a familiar bushy-haired girl march past on the main street.

"It's darling! I'm going to go in, Izzy, won't you come?"

"I'll wait to hear what you think of it, Daph. Meet you back at the dorms?" Receiving a quick nod of agreement, the dark-haired Malfoy rushed off to follow her Gryffindor friend. It took a few minutes until she caught up to her and now both Hogwarts students were well off the beaten path.

"Hermione! Finally, you walk really fast, you know that? Where's Weasley?" Their plans had been waylaid when the red-haired boy had decided to hang around his classmate rather than with other friends or his brothers. Isabelle stopped, slightly out of breath before looking back up at her friend. She frowned, seeing the bushy-haired girl's tears. "What's wrong?"

"I don't care where Ronald is. He and his /stupid/ rat can – " The Gryffindor did not even finish, turning and kicking a stone further up the forest-like path they were now on.

"What did the idiot do now?" Izzy conjured a handkerchief and offered it to her friend.

"Insulted Crookshanks again. Thinks my cat is a 'bloody menace,' his words, and that I should never have gotten him. The poor thing, though, Izzy, when I saw him in the shop…" The bushy-haired girl sniffled as she dabbed at her eyes with the piece of cloth. "And he's super intelligent!"

"If you need it, I'd be happy to look after Crookshanks for a bit. He can come to live in the Slytherin dorms – we always have plenty of mice that need catching down in the dungeons."

"Thank you… But it's not just that. Ron keeps acting like a jerk about the whole situation /and/ Divination?"

"He can be a jerk sometimes, I'm sure – most boys are. Even my brother, you know, world class jerk there. Jett gave me a prank the other day for him and it worked perfectly!" Explaining the elaborate joke to her Gryffindor friend as they started walking the path again, hoping to distract Hermione as she had no other solutions to her friend's problems, she had just finished her story when they reached the end of the path.

"I would have loved to see Draco's face. I'm sure it – whoa."

"Is that…?"

"The Shrieking Shack. The most haunted place in Britain, I read. One of the shopkeepers, Madam Rosmerta at the Three Broomsticks, she told me that the screams and howls have started again. It was fairly silent for a lot of years but…"

"It looks nothing like I expected. It's so…run-down. Old." Izzy moved up to the picket fence, glancing at it curiously. Something about it made her feel even colder than she already was.

"Want to…want to go closer?"

"Uh, maybe next trip? I'm okay for today…" Not feeling brave enough to approach the building, it honestly giving her the creeps, the Slytherin shook her head. She did not need to spend the night before her birthday in the Hospital Wing for running into some dangerous creature in the Shrieking Shack.

"Okay, me too… What did you get to see already?" Hermione nodded, turning around.

"We passed the Three Broomsticks but didn't go in, but I saw Honeydukes, a little bit of Zonko's – oh, I really wanted to see Pippins Potions shop!"

"Me too! I think we've got enough time, let's go!" The two girls ran off back up the path towards the center of town, leaving the creaking doors of the Shrieking Shack behind them.

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AN: Hey all, sorry for the delay in posting. It has been a weird couple of weeks – might not be back on schedule until July. Hope you are enjoying the fic!