Sense of Belonging

Chapter 15

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

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The start of the year came and went by quickly. The first few months followed in the same pattern. Everything seemed to be routine, with only a few moments that were out of the ordinary.

Jett's twelfth birthday came on January 15, only a couple days back from winter break. The Gryffindor received almost as many presents as Isabelle, with the exception of any from her parents. Neither her mother (who had forgotten) nor her father (who she still refused to talk about) had sent Jett any gifts or notes. Besides for the expected presents from Izzy and Hermione, she had also become friends with Fred and George Weasley (receiving materials for pranks, of course), Harry Potter, Seamus Finnegan, and Dean Thomas. Her interest in Quidditch had created these last few friendships, giving her bonding time outside of her "prison sentence" within the library with the two girls.

In February and after midterms, the next change occurred. Cygnus Black, Isabelle's and Draco's maternal grandfather, died after battling a short illness. Narcissa had come to pick the two up from Hogwarts the night he died, both able to say their short goodbyes. In fact, Izzy had been with her grandfather when he passed, the eleven-year-old girl refusing to leave his side. He had always been kind to her, despite calling her Bella occasionally, and never treated her as if she were anything but his intelligent and wonderful granddaughter. Returning to Hogwarts after that loss, it took a little bit to get back into the routine of things. It wasn't until around Easter Break in 1992 that the young Slytherin had re-settled into her regular library and studying pattern.

Much of the school had looked forward to more rounds of Quidditch. As Slytherin didn't play for another few weeks, Izzy had very little interest in the Gryffindor-Hufflepuff game. Draco was quite excited about it, though he seemed to get excited about anything with Quidditch. What he told his sister he was looking forward to, however, was watching Potter finally fall off his broomstick. Professor Snape, their House leader, was the one who would be refereeing the match and Draco was sure he would give Gryffindor plenty of fouls.

Finally able to get some quality work done with the library mostly cleared out (but still too busy for her liking), it was there the young Slytherin was told to go to the Hospital Wing.

"What did you /do/?!" Izzy asked in both concern and annoyance, knowing he must've picked a fight with someone. Draco sat on one of the hospital wing beds, a hand still over his black eye. Madam Pomfrey was concerning herself with one of the Gryffindor First Years who was knocked out cold.

"It was nothing, Weasley jumped me at the match, the blood-traitor git," Draco spat, obviously upset he had let the red-haired boy even slightly best him. He smirked, "I gave him a pretty good bloody nose though, might've even broken it. And that one – " her blonde-haired brother nodded toward the unconscious Neville Longbottom " – tried to take on Crabbe /and/ Goyle by himself. It's nothing, really, sis. We won, obviously."

"Wait until Mother and Father hear about this. They won't be happy, you know, you shouldn't go picking fights! What if he had actually hurt you?"

"I would've cursed him, but it doesn't matter. You're not going to tell them, anyways," Draco said, getting a little defensive at his sister's concerned remarks. He glanced up with a scowl, a glint in his eyes holding back some sort of secret.

"And why not? You could get into so much trouble if you keep picking fights with those two stupid Gryffindors – "

"If you think Gryffindors are stupid, why do you talk to that Mudblood Granger?" Isabelle stopped to give her brother a confused look, feigning any guilt. "I saw you two in the library, Izzy. Moreau might be a pureblood and Mother might have accepted her as your friend at Christmas, but that know-it-all Granger – "

"Her name is Hermione. And so what if I talk to her? She's just as intelligent as I am, and maybe I don't see why I can't be friends with her – "

"Because she's a Mudblood!" The two received a disapproving look from Madam Pomfrey, with Draco continuing in a lowered but still annoyed tone. "She's not smart, she's just lucky. She shouldn't even have magic, you know what Father's said." Isabelle pursed her lips, holding back her retorts. She didn't care what her parents thought, Hermione had proven herself a good and loyal friend and an even more talented witch. Draco, able to read her like a book, sighed and offered more gently, "Look, I don't want you getting into trouble. But you know you can't be friends with her or even talk to her, Mother and Father wouldn't approve."

"Yeah, well, they wouldn't approve of your fighting and getting detention either. So I won't tell them about this if you don't tell them about Hermione." Isabelle crossed her arms, still unhappy.

"No. You won't tell them, and I won't tell them, as soon as you stop talking to Granger." Draco, knowing he had the upper-hand with this conundrum, stared his sister down. Not really wanting her to get in trouble (or himself, knowing what Narcissa would say about him fighting another First Year), he truly wanted to keep Izzy safe. Why couldn't she just be friends with some of the other Slytherins? Why did she have to choose a stupid Mudblood?

Begrudgingly, the dark-haired girl gave a small, "Fine," before moving out of the way for Madam Pomfrey to fix her brother's eye. Leaving the conversation where it was, the two headed back to the Slytherin common room among the sounds of triumphant cheers by the Gryffindors at winning their second Quidditch match of the year.

~:~

By post-Easter Break, Isabelle had created and color-coded a final exam schedule to be sure she stayed on track. She secretly wanted to beat Hermione in every class, even those that her Gryffindor friend had proven to be superior in. Draco and Izzy had stayed on campus for the spring break, their parents traveling to mainland Europe to visit family. Her brother had complained about missing the trip at every turn but Iz didn't mind – they had plenty enough stuff to catch up on and study for at school that the extra time came gladly.

The downside, Izzy realized, as the exams and the end of the school year neared, was the increase in people in the library. Not just people, but /undesirables/. Those students who had never stepped foot the entire year into the library now took it over in full force. Those catching up on homework assignments, group projects to be finished, and working on poorly-written final papers became the talk of Iz's once quiet and personal space. Some nights she found herself not even leaving her silver-and-green common room, finding it more peaceful and quieter there than the overcrowded library.

Part of this resulted in the loss of quality time with Hermione, as well. The young Slytherin could not risk sitting with her Muggleborn friend, especially if her parents were to find out. After Draco had caught her talking with the bushy-haired Gryffindor, Iz believed him when he said he would tell their parents if she wasn't careful. And even if she really wanted to, she would be forced to join Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley, who seemed to be taking over the rest of their library table with Hermione by the History of Magic section.

It was one of those busy days after Easter Break that Isabelle found herself listening to the trio's conversations.

"Hermione, the exams are ages away." The red-haired Weasley complained, barely opening his books and just staring out the window they sat nearby.

"Ten weeks," Iz's bushy-haired friend snapped back at him. "That's not ages, that's like a second to Nicolas Flamel." Hermione had told Jett and Izzy what they had found out about the extremely old man, with the latter correctly guessing about the Sorcerer's Stone. That had been just after Winter Break, when they were still allowed to talk. Yet, the Slytherin had no idea why they were so interested in it or the wizard.

"But we're not six hundred years old. Anyway, what are you studying for, you already know it all." Ronald replied, leaning back in his wooden chair.

"What am I studying for? Are you crazy?" Hermione glanced over at Izzy, who gave her a small encouraging smile at the thought of not studying. Idiots. Potter and Weasley were two of the dumbest people she had ever met. "You realize we need to pass these exams to get into the second year? They're very important. I should have started studying a month ago, I don't know what's gotten into me…" The young Gryffindor returned to reciting the twelve uses of dragon's blood, while the two boys yawned as they slowly made their way through their piling work.

"Ow!" Izzy stated, not really hurt but rather surprised as someone knocked into her chair. Glancing over to give them her stereotypical Malfoy glare, the dark-haired girl found the half-giant Rubeus Hagrid working his way into the library. He was obviously trying to move back towards the front of the library, his moleskin overcoat looking very out of place, holding some sort of book behind his back. Rolling her eyes, the Slytherin returned to memorizing her charms before eavesdropping on another conversation.

"Hagrid! What are you doing in the library?" Weasley, who was continuing to avoid his work, had peered up and noticed the groundskeeper.

"Jus' lookin'." He had responded with such a nervous tone that even Izzy glanced over to see what he was hiding. "An' what're you lot up ter? Yer not still lookin' fer Nicolas Flamel, are yeh?"

"Oh, we found out who he is ages ago. /And/ we know what that dog's guarding, it's a Sorcerer's St – "

"Shh! Don' go shoutin' about it, what's the matter with yeh?" Isabelle had already turned away to pretend she wasn't listening but was still very much doing so. Guarding? Hermione hadn't told me the three-headed dog in the Third Floor Corridor was guarding anything. And they thought it was a Sorcerer's Stone? How preposterous, Isabelle thought. She continued to eavesdrop.

"There are a few things we wanted to ask you, as a matter of fact," Potter chimed in, "about what's guarding the Stone apart from Fluffy – " Fluffy what? Cotton balls?

"SHHH!" said Hagrid again. "Listen – come an' see me later, I'm not promisin' I'll tell yeh anythin', mind, but don' go rabbitin' about it in here, students aren' s'possed ter know. They'll think I've told yeh…" The half-giant attempted to shuffle off inconspicuously out of the library, a feat unattained with his size. Potter wished him well, and the Gryffindor First Years continued to their own discussion about what book the groundskeeper had been hiding. Izzy quickly lost interest, something about dragons, and returned to practicing for their upcoming exams.

With only another small smile from Hermione an hour later as the trio left, the young Slytherin was feeling less and less motivated to continue her studying.