Sense of Belonging

Chapter 9

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

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Jett, Hermione, and Izzy rushed to their combined Slytherin-Gryffindor DADA class. Hoping that it would be more exciting and engaging than last year's with Professor Quirrell, the girls sat down near the front of the classroom and glanced up at their brightly-dressed professor waiting. Daphne took the seat on the other side of Iz, a look of adoration on her face – similar to Hermione's. Shaking her head slightly but amused at both of her friends' reactions, the young Malfoy looked back to the front at the sound of Lockhart clearing his throat.

Reaching for the desk of Neville Longbottom, the professor picked up a copy of one of his own books and held it in the air. Opening to his winking profile picture, the two Gilderoys smiled with dazzling charm at the second-year class.

"Me," he started, winking in sync with his portrait. "Gilderoy Lockhart, Order of Merlin, Third Class. Honorary Member of the Dark Force Defense League and five times winner of Witch Weekly's Most-Charming-Smile Award – but I don't talk about that. I didn't get rid of the Bandon Banshee by /smiling/ at her!" He glanced around the room as if expecting laughter, but a few students only smiled weakly.

"I see you've all bought a complete set of my books – well done. I thought we'd start today with a little quiz." There was a general sound of panic as students rushed to take out their heavy books from their bags. A quiz? On the first day of classes?! "Nothing to worry about – just to check how well you've read them, how much you've taken in…"

"We were supposed to /read/ them?" Tracey leaned forward to whisper to Daphne, who seemed a little nervous but more confident than usual. She simply nodded and took out a quill and ink as Professor Lockhart came around with the test papers.

Izzy glanced over the papers – fifty-four questions? For a quiz? She had had very little interest in reading his books and had simply scanned them before returning to Hogwarts. She hoped she would remember something… This was not how she wanted to start off with the new DADA class!

The professor returned to the front of the classroom and said, "You have thirty minutes. Start – now!"

Isabelle looked back down at the test paper to read through the questions. They were beyond ridiculous – maybe he thought this was a joke. Another chance for his students to laugh? She glanced up to his desk where he sat watching them all eagerly, smiling as he held his chin in his hands like a small child waiting for a treat. Glancing to her left and right, both Hermione and Daphne were seriously focused on their questions. The former seemed to be writing an essay while the latter kept crossing out her answers and rewriting the same words. Still confused as to whether or not this would count for her grade, Iz decided to answer them as much as she remembered from her skimming…

"And, time! Hand your answers in here, thank you, thank you – ooh, very nice penmanship," Professor Lockhart commented as he drifted through the class a half hour later. Sifting through the answers, he shook his head, obviously a little disappointed.

"Tut, tut – hardly any of you remembered that my favorite color is lilac. I say so in Year with a Yeti."

/Isn't purple close enough?/ Izzy thought to herself, but returned to listening as he continued through the questions.

"And a few of you need to read Wanderings with Werewolves more carefully – I clearly state in chapter twelve that my ideal birthday gift would be harmony between all magic and non-magic peoples – though I wouldn't say no to a large bottle of Ogden's Old Firewhisky!" Lockhart gave the class what could only be described as a roguish wink. Hermione sat straight and attentively listened as the professor rambled on. Daphne appeared much the same. A pair of Gryffindor boys down the row to Iz's left were laughing silently to each other while much of the rest of the class looked as befuddled as she felt. Isabelle stared at her professor in confusion – he was completely serious about the quiz! The quiz she had just surely failed!

"…but Miss Hermione Granger knew my secret ambition is to rid the world of evil /and/ market my own range of hair-care potions – good girl!" Re-focusing back on her professor, who was now standing in front of her Gryffindor friend, Isabelle listened in stunned silence. "In fact – " Lockhart flipped the paper and looked up at the students, "full marks! Where is Miss Hermione Granger?"

Hermione raised her hand, which was slightly trembling in nervousness.

"Excellent!" beamed the brightly-dressed professor. "Quite excellent! Take ten points for Gryffindor! And so, to business…" Hermione seemed almost besides herself with glee, not at the points but at the fact that Professor Lockhart had singled her out and called her "excellent." Izzy, on the other hand, watched as he returned to his desk and pulled something out from under it. A large covered cage was set lightly on top and Lockhart's mouth twitched with an amused smile.

"Now – be warned! It is my job to arm you against the foulest creatures known to wizardkind! You may find yourselves facing your worst fears in this room. Know only that no harm can befall you whilst I am here. All I ask is that you remain calm." His performance enthralling the Second Year students, Isabelle could not help but lean forward more to see what was inside of the cage. The room was silent as the class watched on, only Neville Longbottom cowering a bit in his front row seat.

"I must ask you not to scream… It might…/provoke them/!" Lockhart began softly as the class held its breath before ripping the cover off the cage. A few dozen small creatures zoomed around angrily inside the cage. Izzy recognized them easily as Cornish pixies, an annoying and somewhat tricky species but not very dangerous from what she had read. She sat back in her chair and folded her arms, further disappointed in this first Defense Against the Dark Arts class. Somewhere to her left, Seamus Finnegan snorted once in laughter.

"Yes?" Professor Lockhart smiled at the Gryffindor boy, a small flicker of annoyance in his eyes.

"Well, they're not – they're not very - /dangerous/, are they?" Seamus choked out, trying not to laugh.

"Don't be so sure!" Lockhart waggled his finger at the boy as if he were a small child. "Devilish tricky little blighters they can be!" The electric blue-colored pixies continued to make noise, rattling the bars on their cages and making faces at the students nearby. They were maybe eight inches tall at best and seemed more of a pest than a hazardous creature worthy of the class' attention.

Expecting that Lockhart would first explain where the pixies could be found or the best spell to use against them, Isabelle jumped in surprise as their professor did just the opposite.

"Right then. Let's see what you make of them!" And he opened the cage to let the pixies loose on the class.

Diving beneath her desk and reaching for her wand from her bag, she had just managed to grab it as two pixies took off flying in the opposite direction, spilling her books and parchment papers all over the classroom. This seemed to be the worst of her worries as a few of the devilish creatures had grabbed a student – Neville Longbottom, it appeared – by his ears and hung him by the back of his robe off the candelabra in the ceiling. Other students had also cowered under their desks as pixies spilled ink everywhere and shot quills like darts at one another. Glancing towards her fellow Slytherins, she found Crabbe and Goyle being pelted by quills as her brother tried to whack them away with one of Lockhart's books. It was sure pandemonium.

"Come on, now, round them up, round them up, they're only pixies…" Instructions came from Professor Lockhart at the front of the classroom. Realizing the situation was getting out of hand, Iz watched him roll up his sleeves dramatically, brandish his wand and shout, "Peskipiksi Pesternomi!"

Nothing happened.

One of the nearby pixies dove at the professor and seized his wand, throwing it out the open window to the grounds below. Lockhart's eyes grew large before he dove under his own desk to avoid the pixies' mischief. Hearing the sound of something cracking, Isabelle realized the candelabra above them was breaking under Neville's weight. Meeting Hermione's eyes, they both sprang into action as the light fixture gave way. Together, Izzy and Hermione were able to keep the plump Gryffindor from crashing too hard into the ground and saving a couple of students, still cowering under their desks, from being crushed. Neville landed safely enough, the remains of the broken candelabra now in pieces at the front of the classroom near the board.

The bell rang to dismiss the class. Most of the students grabbed what was left of their belongings and dashed toward the door to escape the pixies. One Gryffindor girl, Lavender Brown, yelled in surprise as her hair was doused with black ink before escaping out the doorway. Iz ran around the room as quickly as she could, collecting her notes and books and stuffing them back into her bag. Picking up the last book, one of Hermione's borrowed Muggle novels, and stowing it back in her bag, she made her way towards the door, careful to watch for the tricky pixies. She had almost escaped, Jett, Hermione, Potter, and Weasley just behind her at the door as she heard her professor's call.

"Well, I'll ask you bunch to just nip the rest of them back into their cage." Glancing back to watch as Lockhart zoomed past the group and out into the hallway, she turned to look at her two friends incredulously.

"Can you /believe/ him?" Jett verbally expressed Izzy's internal thoughts. She looked ready to just leave without listening to him but Hermione held her hand out to block them both from walking away.

"Come on, he just wants to give us some hands-on experience. Here, watch," the bushy-haired Gryffindor defended Lockhart before demonstrating the Freezing Charm she had been trying to remember. Meeting eyes once more with Jett, Isabelle sighed and copied Hermione's techniques in getting the pixies back into their cage.

Potter and Weasley, who either had not seen what charm Hermione was using or were too stupid to think to use magic, were jumping up into the air to try and catch the pixies in their hands. The three girls had caught most of them before turning to see Harry climbing on top of a desk for one pixie dancing just out of his reach.

"Hands on? Hermione, he didn't have a clue what he was doing!"

Izzy, though amused at the famous boy's "heroic" attempts, walked forward and froze the pixie as it was sticking its tongue out at Potter. Grabbing it and returning it to the cage, she listened as her friend continued to defend their obviously-unqualified professor.

"Rubbish, you've read his books – look at all those amazing things he's done!"

"He /says/ he's done…" Jett added quietly as the group walked from the classroom. The three girls headed for the library, claiming their usual table from the previous year. Hermione got right to work on reading ahead in their History of Magic textbook while Jett and Isabelle passed notes back and forth about how awful the Defense Against the Dark Arts class and Lockhart were.

/I don't even think what he said was a spell!/ Izzy wrote, glancing up at Hermione to be sure she was not watching them. She knew that the Gryffindor was still enamored by their professor – and also knew she would not listen to reason despite all the evidence to the contrary.

/It sounded like gibberish to me. Bloody hell, he's got to be worse than Quirrell./ Jett scribbled back, shaking her head. Iz simply nodded before feeling guilty complaining about a professor, returning to working on real homework. As she attempted to start her Transfiguration essay for the third time, Isabelle finally gave up and accepted that she was too distracted.

Taking out a new piece of parchment, Izzy began to write her own letter to her parents. She would send it before dinner so that she would beat Draco to it – whatever it really was that he would tell their parents. The courtyard incident had unsettled her. Draco had finally chosen to talk to her again – but only to threaten her with their parents' disapproval. But what was /she/ going to write that might convince them otherwise? That she was friends with a Muggleborn? That she did not agree with her parents? That she wanted to learn more about Muggles? Any of those things could get her disowned, she was sure.

Unable to come up with anything convincing to write to her mother, Iz left when the bell rang for evening supper. Jett had already escaped when seeing the other two work on actual homework. (Iz had to wonder when she got her work done, as she never wanted to complete it in the library with her friends…) Parting ways with Hermione once they had reached the Great Hall, she sat down at the Slytherin table still lost in her own thoughts.

Dinner went by quickly and Isabelle left early to return to the common room. Thinking it through a couple more times, the young, dark-haired Malfoy decided that she would confront her brother to see if he had sent the letter yet. If he had, there was nothing she could do except wait. If he hadn't…she would convince him not to.