Sense of Belonging

Chapter 17

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

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"Find me something nice, Draco?" Isabelle pestered her brother, smiling, as they returned to the Slytherin common room to change back into their school robes for the Halloween Feast. After visiting the Potions and Herbology shops in the center of town, Hermione had left to go back to the castle early, leaving Iz to wander on her own for a bit longer. She happened to run into her brother as he and his two goons were just making the walk back to the magical school and tagged along with them, not wanting to be late for the spectacular food and decorations of their evening supper.

"I'm not telling," the older Malfoy sibling replied with a taunting smirk. "I don't know if you deserve a present for this year."

Izzy stopped and gave him a strange look, her first thought jumping to their shared secret that she was adopted. Was she not worth a present?

Realizing what she was thinking, Draco quickly added, "I meant because you've been breaking all of our parents' rules, Iz, nothing like that… Plus, I know what Mother got you. I think you'll really like it."

"Oh, really? I'll /really/ like it?"

"Uh huh. But you can't make me tell you, it's a surprise." The blonde-haired boy smirked before backing away towards the boys' dorm entrance, out of arms reach. When they were nine, Iz had wrestled the answer out of her brother and, though he was sure he could out-wrestle her now, Draco knew his younger sibling was not opposed to using magic to get her way.

"I guess I'll just have to wait and see," Isabelle rolled her eyes but smiled back at him, knowing he meant to cheer her up. Draco could be a real pain in the arse sometimes but he still had a soft side, for those people and things he truly cared about. Disappearing into her own dormitory to get ready, Izzy could not help but feel excited.

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The Halloween Feast was as magical as ever. The Great Hall was as perfectly decorated as the years before, the ghosts had joined once again to share a few of their many tales, and the food was positively scrumptious.

"I wish every night we could eat like this," Tracey said smiling as she closed her eyes and leaned back slightly.

"But then it wouldn't be so special." Iz pointed out before scooping the last spoonful of her pumpkin pudding into her mouth.

"I agree. Did you notice…this year is the first year that nothing's gone wrong?" Daphne pointed out, glancing around the Great Hall in case she was wrong.

"Huh. That's true… First Year there was the loose troll incident, right?" Millicent jumped in, leaning forward to see all the others.

"Right, where Granger was stupid enough to go after it. And last year was when Filch's cat was petrified because of the Chamber of Secrets." Pansy replied with a slight smile at the memory, as if it all amused her.

"Well, this year will just be a simple Halloween celebration, I think." Tracey opened her eyes and glanced up at the Head Table. "Even the professors are enjoying themselves!"

"I think Professor Flitwick may have drank too much Firewhiskey tonight," one of the girls laughed as the others turned to watch their tiny Charms professor do a small dance near the table. Isabelle's gaze wandered over to Jett's godfather, who sat next to the entertaining scene. Lupin appeared happy enough, obviously enjoying the festivities.

After applause ran through the entire Great Hall, Professor Dumbledore rose to announce the students should return to their House dormitories.

"I'm so happy," Izzy said with a grin, purposefully bumping into her brother on their walk back to the Slytherin dorms.

"Are you? I couldn't tell." Draco rolled his eyes, not even bothering to fake wince as she had hit his "bad" arm. Biting his lip for a second, he leaned closer and began to whisper, "About earlier, Iz, I didn't mean anything by it–"

"I know, I know. It's just been on my mind a lot and so I thought… But it's all good. Plus, the curse is broken!" Isabelle shook her head at him to tell him it was not a big deal before smiling wider again.

"The curse?"

"Yes, of Halloweens. Milly pointed out that nothing's happened this year, besides for Hogsmeade today."

"True, just don't jinx it. Now you get to just look forward to tomorrow's celebrations." The older Malfoy sibling glanced up ahead, where the other Second Year boys were walking, having heard someone say something about the Falmouth Falcons Quidditch team.

"Won't you give me just /one/ hint? Anything? Please?" Iz asked, knowing that she would not get an answer but trying anyways. She smiled as Draco shook his head and hurried off to rejoin his usual group of friends. Falling back to listen to the girls' recap of their days in Hogsmeade, Izzy started planning everything she needed to do before going to bed. Organize her Transfiguration notes, pick out a pair of comfortable robes for her birthday, write in her journal – she supposed that she could wait to start the Ancient Runes homework until tomorrow night. Translations were always a lot of fun. Plus, that would leave her time to play a round of Wizard's Chess tonight with someone! Iz had just turned to Daphne to ask her as they took their usual seats near the fire when –

"Slytherin House! Return to the Great Hall. Come on, per the Headmaster."

Following the horde of students back to their feast, Izzy was very confused as to what was going on. Had she jinxed the night? Or did one of her Housemates do some stupid prank that they would all get in trouble for? Entering the Great Hall and seeing the Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs gathered there just as bewildered as she felt, a bad feeling settled in her stomach.

As the Ravenclaws finished filing inside, Professor Dumbledore announced, "The teachers and I need to conduct a thorough search of the castle. I'm afraid that, for your own safety, you will have to spend the night here." The doors to the Great Hall closed with a definitive slam, emphasizing the Headmaster's point. "I want the prefects to stand guard over the entrances to the hall and I am leaving the Head Boy and Head Girl in charge. Any disturbance should be reported to me immediately – "

Iz lost the end of the Headmaster's sentence as he turned to speak to the Gryffindor who would be in charge – Percy Weasley. Still processing what exactly Dumbledore had said – "for your own safety" did not sound good – she blinked a few times in surprise as she found the room full of conjured sleeping bags. Without another word, the teachers left the room.

"Seriously?" Pansy commented in a whiny tone, looking down at the flopsy purple sleeping bag at her feet as the rest of the students began to talk animatedly.

"Does anyone know what happened?" Blaise asked around their group, curious to find out the answer. Starting to put the pieces together of what might have happened, Isabelle did not offer her ideas but rather walked to the other side of the room.

Jett had pulled her purple sleeping bag into one of the corners of the Great Hall, smoothing it out and obviously ignoring the others around her. As Isabelle approached her, she glanced up and sighed.

"Did he really –?"

"I think so. The portrait was completely destroyed, the Fat Lady gone to some other painting – it looked like a massacre. There were strips of the painting everywhere, like when Crookshanks finds a piece of parchment on the floor. It was…" The blonde-haired girl shrugged and continued to pat her already-flat sleeping bag down once again.

"I can imagine. And they think he's still here, then?"

"I guess so."

"Why didn't they leave a teacher with us then? I mean, at least Moony should have stayed with you –"

"I'm fine, Iz. Okay?" Jett shot a look up at her friend.

"You are," Isabelle agreed before sitting down cautiously, realizing how shook up her friend must be feeling. "It was lucky that we were all at the feast. Maybe he didn't realize what day it was…"

"I don't want to talk about him." Jett said with a final tone but also sitting down, pulling her knees up to her chest and laying her chin on them.

"Okay… Did you have a nice day here in the castle? Did you get ahead on your homework?" Izzy asked, trying to start an easy conversation.

"Eh. I did some homework because I was bored, you know, and it's gotta get done… I went to go and bother Moony but he wasn't at his office. I saw him later talking to Harry but I didn't want to interrupt them. Oh, and I worked on your birthday present." At this the Gryffindor offered a small smile to her friend. "It sucks that we're stuck here tonight – kind of ruins your birthday, right?"

"No, not really. I –"

"Everyone in their sleeping bags! Come on, now, no more talking! Lights out in ten minutes!" The Weasley boy shouted over the crowd of students.

"I guess you should go…" Jett glanced over to where most of the Slytherins had set up their sleeping bags but seemed a little unsure.

"I don't really want to." Iz glanced over to her house as well, seeing her brother obviously complaining to his friends. Making up her mind, she turned to her own best friend to ask, "Mind if I stay over here tonight? I can pretend to be a Gryffindor – see, watch!" Isabelle pompously set up her own sleeping bag, waving her wand for effect (even though she didn't perform any magic) and ended with a bow before plopping down.

"What was that supposed to be?" Hermione asked, an amused smile on her face as she, Potter, and Weasley dragged their sleeping bags towards the corner they were in.

"I was showing Jett how you Gryffindors act, you know, showing off and all." Izzy grinned, knowing it must have looked ridiculous. She glanced at the two boys for a second before settling down into her own sleeping bag, trying to stay positive and see it as a sort of sleepover opportunity.

"Ah ha."

As their conversation dwindled, Izzy listened in on others' nearby. All were asking the same question: How did Sirius Black get into Hogwarts? The younger Malfoy sibling had very little idea – and that unnerved her. She knew that no one could apparate into or out of the grounds, per their history textbook. Plus, there were Dementors guarding the whole castle! If Jett's father could get into the castle, why couldn't he break into the Great Hall that very minute?

"Jett? Do you have your – ?"

"The lights are going out now! No more talking!" Iz's Gryffindor friend gave her a quizzical look before the Slytherin waved her own wand silently at her. Understanding, Jett nodded and showed her own, already hidden with her inside the sleeping bag in case something should happen…

The Great Hall eventually quieted down but Isabelle found it impossible to fall asleep. Even after staring at the simulated night sky above her and counting the number of bricks there were on one of the pillars, the dark-haired girl was wide awake and restless.

It had to be at least three in the morning when Professor Dumbledore returned. A teacher had been in every hour or so to check that all was fine with the students, but the return of the Headmaster meant an update with the Head students. Izzy turned so that she could listen more closely.

"Any sign of him, Professor?"

"No. All well here?"

"Everything under control, sir." The Weasley boy said with confidence.

"Good. There's no point moving them all now –" Neville Longbottom began to snore only a few feet away from where Isabelle was. Moving slightly to figure out where exactly the Gryffindor boy was laying, she shot a silencing charm at him so that she could continue to listen in.

"All searched…" The voice of Professor Snape had joined the others near the entrance.

"Very well, Severus. I didn't expect Black to linger…"

"Have you any theory as to how he got in, Professor?"

"Many, Severus, each of them as unlikely as the next."

"You remember the conversation we had, Headmaster, just before the start of term?" Izzy noticed that her House professor's voice, though in a whisper, seemed somewhat angered. Was he so worried about the students' safety?

"I do, Severus," Professor Dumbledore replied, his tone also sounding strange. Iz turned towards the entrance to try and get a sneak peak at both but could not see much of anything.

"It seems – almost impossible – that Black could have entered the school without inside help. I did express my concerns to you –"

"I do not believe a single person inside this castle would have helped Black enter it." Isabelle was surprised at the conviction she heard in the old man's voice. How could he be so sure? It seemed one of the only possibilities… But then that would mean that Snape thought…

Iz turned to glance at Jett, who lay there with her eyes also open. Why would the Potions Master think that Jett would have let her father into the school? Wasn't Sirius Black trying to find her? To harm her? Or so Izzy had understood the situation. Then again, no one had specifically said anything about Black hurting Jett…simply finding her. Shouldn't everyone be afraid of a mass murderer? But Jett hadn't wanted to talk about her father earlier… No, it wasn't possible.

Glancing back up to give Jett one more reassuring smile before she would try to fall asleep again, Isabelle found her best friend with her own surprised look of contemplation, as if she had realized something. At the same time, the Third Year Gryffindor looked angry. Giving her one last small wave, Iz turned back around and pushed away the thoughts about Sirius Black. It was all too complicated during the middle of the night…

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AN: Hey all! Sorry for the long break. Trying to make updates work with my new work schedule and classes. Thinking it will likely become an every-other-week update for the time being, but reviews always motivate me to keep writing. Hope you enjoy! Next up, Izzy's 13th birthday and Hogwarts into November!