Sense of Belonging

Chapter 12

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

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For weeks following Isabelle's prank, most of the second-years now called Pansy Parkinson "Pretty Pansy" in a sing-songy voice. Even Draco had taken part in the fun. The students could not forget the prank – nor the fact that Professor Lockhart's pixies had once again gotten lose (in yet another failed DADA exercise) and had decided that the pansy atop the poor girl's head was an exciting place to call home.

October arrived quickly, and with it, a cold, damp, and depressing weather. Izzy had volunteered to help Madam Pomfrey with her Pepperup Potion as a plague of colds seemed to descend on the Hogwarts grounds.

"Thank you very much, Ms. Malfoy, excellent work. I must get these potions to a couple of the professors – I will let you know if I need more help!" Madam Pomfrey smiled in a friendly manner at the second-year Slytherin before shooing her out of the Hospital Wing. Though tricky at first, Izzy had found the potion to be easier to make the more she practiced it. She enjoyed being productive, knowing that she was spending the time to make something that would be beneficial to someone else. Thankful to not yet have developed a cold, Iz headed back towards her commonroom.

The young Malfoy was especially glad that the Slytherins lived under the lake. The loud pounding of rain drops on the windows in the classrooms was extremely distracting – and honestly annoying. Jett had complained after the first week of nonstop rain that she couldn't even sleep. (Hermione proceeded to put a quieting charm on the window near their beds, which seemed to at least dull the noise.) Isabelle still could not believe how much it had rained! Despite the coldness of the dungeons, she appreciated the warmth from the commonroom and the silent lake outside her windows.

By this time in mid-October, Izzy had still not received anything but cheerful words from her mother (as her father never wrote her letters). She became comfortably assured that Draco had not sent the letter about Hermione and she doubted he would send it now. Though they had barely spoken since their fight during the first week of classes, Izzy found herself missing her brother more and more. He seemed to be getting busier, too, serious about training for Quidditch and determined to beat Potter in the first match coming up. She always hoped that he would be out practicing or doing his homework elsewhere – she still did not want to run into him if she could help it.

Planning to grab her things and head to the library to get ahead on a History of Magic essay (and meet up with her friends, per usual), Iz was surprised to find Professor Snape waiting outside the entranceway. Perking up, excited to tell him how many more potions she had finished for the Hospital Wing, she was surprised when he turned towards her, as if waiting for her specifically.

"Hello, Professor Snape."

"Good evening, Ms. Malfoy. May I have a word?"

"Of course, sir." She followed him into the commonroom, which was only about half full of students, all avoiding their homework.

"I have a request of you." He said ambivalently, raising his hand to brush the long, somewhat oily hair back from his face. Izzy just nodded, unsure what that could mean.

"Yes, sir?"

"There is a first-year student who has found potions to be a…troubling subject. I was contacted by one of her parents and it was suggested that I arrange a tutor for her. I would ask one of the older students, but as you are closer in age and are talented enough to help this girl, I thought to ask you first."

Isabelle was both confused and flattered. Tutoring? She had always kind of informally tutored Draco, but that was not because he was stupid – just lazy and did not want to learn the material. And she had heard of other students tutoring their classmates or helping them prepare for tests. Would she be a good tutor?

"I would be glad to. How, or…what is the best way to tutor? Is it just in preparations for examinations? Or should I help her with her homework as well?"

"However much you feel you have the time for. This is on a voluntary basis and, if it is too much or does not seem to be working out, you need only inform me and I will find one of the older students to take over. Understood?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. Then I will arrange for you to meet her tomorrow afternoon at four o'clock. You may use the extra potions chamber – just stop by my office first so that I may unlock it for you."

"Thank you, sir." With that, the potions master swept back through the doorway and disappeared into the underground hallways.

Isabelle was so excited! She could help someone else learn how to make potions. She wondered which student it could be. Maybe that one first year who sat at breakfast always talking about her jewelry? Or the one who seemed to always be doodling pictures? All of the Slytherin first-years seemed pretty nice – and so she could not wait until their first session.

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"This is your student. Ginevra, Isabelle. She is one of my top students in potions, I hope you will take this all seriously."

Izzy stared in surprise at the doorway where Professor Snape had just directed a small, red-headed and familiar girl into the spare potions room. Ginny Weasley looked much paler and even thinner than when the two had met on the train. She seemed particularly unhappy about being there, then, and had not yet looked up to see her tutor.

"Hi, Ginny. I'm Isabelle. I think we met on the train?" Iz added the last part, as if unsure. She was certain that this was Ronald Weasley's younger sister. Professor Snape left as quickly as he had appeared, seemingly having better things to do than supervise the two girls.

"Hi," Ginny glanced up for a moment, recognizing Izzy, but then staring back down at her feet.

"Here, come take a seat." Ever since Snape had asked her to tutor a student, she had been planning how to start the lesson. But Iz had planned for a Slytherin first-year – not a Gryffindor who seemed to barely want to say a word.

"Thanks."

"…how have classes been going? Are you starting to feel at home here?"

"I guess so," Ginny shrugged, still staring down, now at her hands. Isabelle hesitated, unsure whether to just jump right into learning or taking the time to let the girl become more comfortable. Deciding on the latter, the Slytherin gave a small, encouraging smile and recalled,

"Are your brothers' still being as annoying as the first day?"

"Yeah." There was a pause and Izzy thought that was going to be it, a short answer. Preparing to start talking about potions, she was surprised when the girl continued, a bit more impassioned. "Fred and George keep getting in trouble for stupid pranks and my mum isn't happy with them. Ron broke his wand but is pretending that it isn't broken, but he won't tell our parents. And Percy keeps bossing me around and telling me what to do. He made me take one of those Pepperup potions or something, because he thinks I'm getting a cold!"

"Oh, wow. I'm still glad I only have one sibling. Well, I haven't really spoken with my brother since we got here. I think I prefer my family problems – he at least hasn't been that annoying to me." She gave a small laugh and could see a quaint smile on the Gryffindor's lips.

"Alright, but anyways… Professor Snape said you needed some help with potions?"

"Not really. I'm doing fine, I just get confused with some of the directions… It isn't as easy as learning spells." Ginny shrugged as if it was not a big deal, but seemed embarrassed once again.

"I felt pretty similar last year," Izzy lied easily, trying to make the girl feel more comfortable. "It's really just about repetition and reviewing what exactly you should be doing. Do you have your book with you?"

Ginny opened her bag and pulled out her worn copy of Magical Drafts and Potions. While doing so, however, another book fell out and onto the floor. Izzy recognized it as the journal the girl had been writing in on the train. The Slytherin reached down to pick it up for her –

"Don't!" Ginny said suddenly, jumping from her chair.

But Iz had already laid a hand on the bound book. A strange feeling, like the stinging jinx Pansy had pranked her with a few weeks before but not painful, spread through her hand and up her arm. It was not really familiar, something new, but she still seemed to recognize it. Seconds later, the Weasley girl had snatched her journal back and held it protectively against her chest.

Still distracted by the odd feeling, she met eyes with the Gryffindor, who wore a cautious look on her face. After a moment, Isabelle offered, "Sorry, I was just trying to help. I understand though – I wouldn't want anyone touching or reading my personal journal either." She tried to put on a friendly smile, pushing away her distracted thoughts about the journal.

"It's okay…I just…don't want anyone else to see it." Ginny tucked it back gingerly into her bag. Once that was done, she seemed a bit more relaxed and opened her textbook to the last lesson Snape had assigned them.

And so, the two girls spent an hour or so going over the first-year potions class, how to read the textbook, and even attempting to make one of the example potions. Though Isabelle was surprised at how easy tutoring came to her, she still felt like Ginny left more confused than before. The Gryffindor seemed to have a bit more energy, though, which Iz was glad to see.

They planned to meet weekly, so the Slytherin could help with homework or prepare her for tests. It only still bothered Izzy how tired the girl had appeared and wondered if she should suggest going to the Hospital Wing. Deciding it was not really her business (and that her brothers seemed to be doing enough of a job annoying her), Isabelle settled into the feeling of a new, successful accomplishment for her time at Hogwarts.

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AN: Next up, Halloween – and almost Izzy's birthday! Hopefully it will go better than last year…only time will tell. Read&Review :)