Sense of Belonging

Chapter 18

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

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Even though it was supposed to be a secret, the whole school quickly learned of the events that had transpired under Hogwarts – Hagrid's three-headed dog, Professor Quirrell's disappearance, and the stone. Harry Potter was still unconscious in the Hospital Wing, it having been two days since the incident. Hermione was quite concerned for him and spent most of her time visiting him with Ronald Weasley. Izzy had gotten to talk to her the day after, hearing she had also been in the Hospital Wing recovering from the ordeal. Jett had joined her, not knowing what had happened when the three Gryffindors had disappeared the few evenings before.

In the commotion of the events and the circulating rumors about what had transpired, Draco's birthday had been somewhat forgotten. Although the spoiled eleven-year-old now twelve-year-old woke up to an abundance of presents and surprises in the morning, his birthday became quickly overshadowed by Harry Potter's adventures and the disappearance of Professor Quirrell. Isabelle had not forgotten her brother's present, of course, and got a handsome-looking Slytherin-crested robe for him to laze about in (as he always did). But by lunch time on June 5th, even his sister, like the rest of the school, had become fixated on what happened to the three Gryffindor First Years.

By the End of Year Feast, things had begun to calm down. Exam results had been posted, with very few surprises. (Izzy, as expected, had received the top marks for Potions, while she was beat out by Hermione for Transfiguration and History of Magic. They had practically tied in Charms, and Izzy had only barely beat Neville Longbottom in Herbology. Jett proved herself the best in Defense Against the Dark Arts, though the other two girls said it didn't prove anything.)

All of the students sat expectantly as the End of Year Feast began. The entire Great Hall was decked out in silver and green, celebrating Slytherin's winning of the House Cup for the seventh year in a row. Behind the High Table with the professors hung Slytherin's serpent. Harry Potter was awake and well, now sitting with his fellow scarlet-red-clad Housemates, though many of the other students were trying to get a good look at him. The rumors had gone so far as him facing off against Lord Voldemort, though Izzy couldn't believe that. He was dead, of course, everyone knew that. Only a few moments after Potter's entrance, the Headmaster appeared at the front to offer a few closing words.

"Another year gone!" Professor Dumbledore offered cheerfully. "And I must trouble you with an old man's wheezing waffle before we sink our teeth into our delicious feast. What a year it has been! Hopefully your heads are a little fuller than they were…you have the whole summer ahead to get them nice and empty before next year starts…" Izzy rolled her eyes, already excited to get ahead on next year's material. Though she was happy to be done with exams and writing papers for the moment, she would never give up the chance to learn more or read another book.

"Now, as I understand it, the house cup here needs awarding, and the points stand thus: In fourth place, Gryffindor, with three hundred and twelve points; in third, Hufflepuff, with three hundred and fifty-two; Ravenclaw has four hundred and twenty-six and Slytherin, four-hundred and seventy-two." The whole of Slytherin House cheered, Isabelle smiling along with the rest of them, proud of the amount of points she had contributed to their winning streak. Draco also joined in, banging his goblet on the table and smirking at the rest of the houses because he had won.

"Yes, yes, well done, Slytherin," said Dumbledore. "However, recent events must be taken into account." The room went very still and concerned whispering swept through the Slytherin tables. Izzy had a bad feeling, the Headmaster's tone suggesting they may not actually win the House Cup. She turned to listen closely to what Dumbledore said.

"I have a few last-minute points to dish out. Let me see. Yes… First, to Mr. Ronald Weasley – " Iz glanced over to the Gryffindor table, the red-headed boy now purple in the face from embarrassment. "…for the best-played game of chess Hogwarts has seen in many years, I award Gryffindor house fifty points." The scarlet-clad House cheered almost as loudly as the Slytherins had moments before. Draco turned to his friends to complain, saying that wasn't fair to give the blood-traitor points for a bloody game. What did it even mean?

"Second – to Miss Hermione Granger…for the use of cool logic in the face of fire, I award Gryffindor house fifty points." Cheers rang out again as Izzy's bushy-haired friend buried her face in her arms. Jett patted her shoulders and it almost appeared that Hermione was crying tears of joy.

"Third – to Mr. Harry Potter…for pure nerve and outstanding courage. I award Gryffindor house sixty points." Gryffindor went crazy once again, while the Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws joined the Slytherins in their confusion. What was actually happening?! The Gryffindors now tied Slytherin house with four hundred and seventy-two points. They were tied for the House Cup. The room gradually fell silent as the Headmaster waited to speak once more.

"There are all kinds of courage, of course. It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. I therefore award ten points to Neville Longbottom." The whole of Gryffindor stood up to cheer as the colors in the Great Hall changed to scarlet and gold. Professor Snape forced a smile and shook Professor McGonagall's hand, obviously feeling cheated out of his house's deserving House Cup title. The rest of the feast continued with good food but hurt feelings, as Gryffindor bragged about their four star First Years. Izzy was disappointed but knew that her house had really won (and deserved) the House Cup, so it didn't really matter.

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Packing up her trunk, taking the extra time to organize all of her belongings so that it would be easy to unpack and store her school things when she returned home, Izzy sat on the bed to reflect over her first year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It definitely hadn't been what she had expected.

Glancing around the silver and green, ornately decorated dormitory room for First Year Slytherin girls, the young Malfoy couldn't help but be a little nostalgic. Sure, she was only eleven years old. She had been at Hogwarts for barely a year. And yet, she knew the school felt like home. She had learned so much from her professors, made a good number of friends – even a few extremely close ones, and had more than succeeded in her classes. She was no longer just a pureblooded witch or the youngest Malfoy, she was Isabelle: a First Year Slytherin who excelled at potions and loved learning, found she enjoyed reading Muggle novels, and was beginning to discover that the world may work a bit differently than how she had been raised. Yet at eleven years old, this dark-haired girl wasn't concerned with her family history. She was happy to have met Jett and Hermione, to have explored (even a little outside her comfort zone), and to be able to look forward to another year at the magic school with a bright future.

"Izzy?" Daphne's voice shot through her trailing thoughts as she had sat there on her bed, staring at nothing. "Ready to go?"

"Oh, yes. I'm all packed. Just…I can't wait to come back." Isabelle smiled, the two Slytherin girls the only ones left in the dorm room. Iz grabbed her bag and her wand, glancing back to be sure her trunk was properly locked and everything was all set. Following her friend down to the common room, the partial group of First Years made their out into the corridor. Draco bumped into his sister playfully, a bright smile on his face.

"I'm so ready to go home. I don't want to read /ever again/ and I'm definitely skipping exams next year." Izzy's blonde brother joked (mostly), truly happy to be returning to the Manor for the summer. He had a lot of Quidditch games to catch up on. Plus, he was determined to get on the Slytherin House team in his second year.

"Yeah, well, at least you passed all your exams and you don't have to repeat any classes. Mother and Father won't be too happy with some of your grades, though," Isabelle kidded back. Walking up from the dungeons into the space outside the Great Hall, the students could already hear the roar of goodbyes. "We'd better grab some food for the train ride back."

Draco followed Crabbe and Goyle as they stuffed their bags full of muffins and other sweet treats to tide them over on the Hogwarts Express. Izzy grabbed a few things here and there, having snuck down early to eat a full breakfast before most of the other students were awake. She had even been able to say goodbyes to the professors for the long break, gaining a few ideas on "light" summer reading.

Sneaking away for a few moments to get to the Gryffindor table, she cautiously plopped down next to Hermione…