Sense of Belonging

Chapter 22

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

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The entire school exploded with the story of Potter's Parseltongue skills and the likelihood that he was, in fact, the heir of Slytherin. No matter where Izzy went, there were students whispering to each other about the Chamber of Secrets, about who the Gryffindor would try to kill next, or about their fear of snakes. She could not even escape the talk in the Slytherin common room, where the students were more interested to know if Potter's bloodline really went all the way back to Salazar Slytherin.

With the blizzard snowstorm that had seemingly appeared overnight cancelling any classes outside, Iz found the common room to be more crowded than usual for her quiet morning. Knowing that the Gryffindors' and Hufflepuffs' Herbology lesson must have been canceled, Isabelle hoped at least Hermione might travel to the library. (She enjoyed that the Slytherin second-years did not have class until third period on Mondays, so she could sleep in – or really get extra work done – if she wanted to.) She had to meet Ginny at the library for a tutoring session about a half hour later anyways.

After a quick wave to her brother, who sat moping near the fireplace, Isabelle was off to the library. Not finding either of her Gryffindor friends in the cozy room of books, Iz sat down in one of the back corners of the library, ignoring a group of Hufflepuff second-years who were gossiping nearby. Ginny, who still appeared to be suffering from some sort of illness, did not seem to like others knowing that she was being tutored – nor by a Slytherin. Izzy could understand the embarrassment and tried her best to make the meetings as comfortable as possible.

As it was to be their last session before the Christmas holidays, Isabelle had brought a small gift for her Gryffindor friend. Even though she was a Weasley, Ginny had proven herself to be the most level-headed one Iz had met. All the others were incredibly annoying – save Percy, the eldest sibling still at Hogwarts. He was at least an accomplished prefect and seemed to understand rules and order. The twins, Fred and George, whom Jett liked to hang out with, annoyed Isabelle a lot with their pranks and idiotic laughter. But it was certainly Ronald whom she hated the most. Besides for being, as Draco described him, "Potter's lapdog," the youngest Weasley boy just seemed to be overall stupid. He was not particularly good in any class that she knew of. He had broken his wand, of all things! And yet Hermione seemed unbothered by him, even fond of him at times, and Izzy could not understand why.

The young Malfoy did not hate the Weasleys because they were poor. That would be cruel and somewhat ignorant. They were poor, of course, because they were stupid to have all of those children, or so Isabelle's parents had said. Nor did she hate the pureblooded wizarding family because of their views of Muggles. That was why her father and brother certainly detested the family. But in the last year, Iz had learned so much about Muggles and about Muggleborns that she had begun to agree with the view the Weasley family held. (At one point, instead of studying potions, Ginny and Izzy had had a discussion about Muggles and Muggleborns which both had thoroughly enjoyed.) Nevertheless, she knew publicly that she could not agree with nor show any sort of sympathy for the Weasley family.

Having gotten lost in her own thoughts and catching herself staring blankly out the library window into the dense snow flying by, Izzy realized that her tutee should have been there already. Putting the small gift of a bracelet and chocolate into her backpack once more, the Slytherin stood up to move to her usual table. Subconsciously she wondered where the first-year could be. But it did not really matter, she had heard that the Weasleys would be staying at Hogwarts as well during the winter holidays so they could meet to study at some point then. /Maybe Ginny has finally gone to the Hospital Wing to find out why she never feels well?/ Iz thought to herself as she began to move back towards the History of Magic section.

She paused on the way, however, near the Invisibility volumes to eavesdrop on some sort of confrontation.

"What do you want with him?" A voice squeaked from the group of Hufflepuffs Iz had passed on her way into the library earlier.

"I wanted to tell him what really happened with that snake at the Dueling Club." Harry Potter stood in front of the group, his arms crossed but his face not visible to Izzy. It seemed, though, that he was scaring the Hufflepuffs, as the boy who had answered the first time looked like he had seen a ghost.

"We were all there. We saw what happened," the boy offered, his eyes wide still with fright.

"Then you noticed that, after I spoke to it, the snake backed off?" Potter challenged. Iz tried to remember – was that really what happened?

"All I saw was you speaking Parseltongue and chasing the snake towards Justin," the Hufflepuff finished, his voice quavering.

"I didn't chase it at him! It didn't even /touch/ him!" The Gryffindor's voice was beginning to rise, in anger or in an attempt to frighten the others more, Iz could not tell.

"It was a very near miss," the boy sniffed, but then added quickly, "And in case you're getting ideas, I might tell you that you can trace my family back through nine generations of witches and warlocks and my blood's as pure as anyone's, so – !"

"I don't care what sort of blood you've got!" Potter interrupted the boy in a fierce tone. "Why would I want to attack Muggleborns?"

"I've heard you hate those Muggles you live with," one of the others spoke up in defense of their friend.

"It's not possible to live with the Dursleys and not hate them, I'd like to see you try." Harry finished before stomping away, storming out of the library. The Hufflepuffs returned to their discussion in lowered tones.

Iz moved to sit at her usual table but her curiosity had peaked. Was Potter heading to work on whatever truth-telling potion Hermione and Jett had told her about? Maybe the two were there instead, since their class was canceled. Still curious about which potion they were attempting to make, and wanting to offer her help again if they needed it, Isabelle followed after Potter as he whisked out of the library.

"…It's nothing, Hagrid. I'd better get going, it's Transfiguration next and I've got to pick up my books." Potter said to the large gameskeeper at the end of one of the halls. Iz had just caught the end of their conversation, finding it hard to keep up with the boy-who-lived. Realizing that Hagrid would be moving in her direction, the Slytherin hid around one of the corners for him to pass before continuing down the hallway after Potter.

/Where is he heading?/ Izzy thought as she went up the stairs, now only ten or so paces behind the Gryffindor. He turned down a dark corridor – maybe a shortcut up to Gryffindor Tower? It was extremely cold, wind blowing in through a loose window pane a third of the way down the passage. All of the torches had been blown out and, as Iz passed the window, she stepped around the line of spiders escaping outside through the small hole.

Hurrying to catch up to Potter lest he disappear on her, she had just reached the curve in the hallway as she heard some noise ahead. It sounded like the boy had tripped over something. Some feeling telling her to be careful, Isabelle cautiously continued forward.

Peaking around the corner, Izzy could not believe what she saw. Her eyes grew wide at the sight. A body lay on the floor, obviously dead or petrified, unmoving. The messy-haired Gryffindor was just picking himself up, his face showing his own confusion and horror at the scene. What disturbed Iz more, however, was the motionless form of a ghost staring off into the distance. Unsure exactly who the ghost was, the mere fact that whatever had killed or petrified the student had also affected the ghost troubled her more. A spirit who was already dead. What kind of creature held such a power?!

Jumping as a door opened to Potter's left, Isabelle watched as another ghost – very familiar to her – entered the darkened corridor.

"Why, it's potty wee Potter!" Peeve's voice cackled and echoed off the walls. He knocked into the Gryffindor boy's glasses as he shot past him with a smirk. "What's Potter up to? Why's Potter lurking – "

The annoying ghost was half-way through a mid-air flip when he stopped. Spotting the forms of the student and the other ghost, he turned back up right and screamed, "ATTACK! ATTACK! ANOTHER ATTACK! NO MORTAL OR GHOST IS SAFE! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! ATTAAAACK!"

The doors of the all of the classrooms nearby slammed open as students poured out into the corridor. Even with a crowd full of people now surrounding her, Izzy could not help but feel scared out of her mind. She watched as professors came running from their classrooms and saw Professor McGonagall's face turn to shock as the older woman took in the sights. Students had begun screaming and chaos was beginning to ensue. More kept running in from down the hallways, as if Peeve's voice had permeated the entire school.

Once again, Izzy jumped at a loud sound – this time originating from the Transfiguration professor's wand as a means of silencing the students. McGonagall ordered all of the students to return to their classrooms and wait for further instructions.

Unsure where to go, as she had not come from a classroom, Iz started back down the hallway towards the library. Almost running into one of the Hufflepuffs who had encountered Potter earlier, she hurried her pace as she found herself alone in the corridor.

"Oof! Watch it – " A familiar voice started as Isabelle rounded the corner closest to the library. She glanced at the ground to find her short, blonde-haired friend, who had bounced off of Iz and fell to the ground.

"Hey, Izzy! I just beat Ronald at a game of Wizard's Chess, your moves worked – What's wrong?" Hermione started, smiling proudly at her accomplishment before noticing her friend's demeanor.

"I, uh, there was another attack, that way, I don't know…" Izzy attempted to say, trying to reign in her panic.

"Another attack? Is someone…?" Jett's eyes grew as big as her Slytherin friend's, standing back up.

"I don't know. But Harry was there and a lot of students and the teachers…" Iz explained.

"Merlin's beard!" Hermione exclaimed before running off in the direction Izzy had just come from, quickly followed by Jett.

Without thinking, Isabelle took off running but in the opposite direction – to get back to the Slytherin common room. What if what attacked that student and the ghost was not being controlled by an heir of Slytherin? What if it just happened to be Muggleborns that were being attacked? Was no one safe? Peeve's voice rang in her head as she ran as fast as she could, terrified that some monster would pop out of the shadows and attack her.

Slamming the ornate doors closed to the Slytherin common room, Iz took in a few gulps of air after sprinting all the way back. Glancing up once she had her breathing under control, she found most of the other students staring at her in bewilderment.

"Izzy? Are you okay?" Draco appeared suddenly in front of her, a look of concern on his face. He led her over to their usual seats by the fire and sat down, at least half of the common room listening in to their conversation. "What happened?"

"There…there was another attack. Just now. By the library." Iz whispered, still remembering the look on the petrified ghost's face. "Potter was there – "

"See! I knew it!" A voice called from across the common room and an explosion of conversation followed, leaving the two siblings to talk on their own.

"Potter was there but I think it was just by accident." Izzy shook her head, looking up to meet her brother's eyes.

"Is…is someone dead?" Draco asked, assuming that was why his sister was so freaked out. Subconsciously he was angry about the fact that Potter was at the scene – of course he was, and now the whole school would be talking about him again. He refocused on Iz.

"I don't know… But it wasn't just a student, Draco. The monster attacked a ghost, too," Isabelle finished, glancing back down at her hands. What were they all going to do?

"A ghost? But a ghost is already dead."

"I know. But it petrified him. He was just floating there, frozen…" The elder Malfoy sibling looked stunned, realizing what that could mean, but then shook his head.

"So what? The monster is still only going after Muggleborns, sis. We aren't in any danger."

"We aren't in any danger?" Izzy repeated, looking back up. "How can you say that? Didn't you hear what I said? The monster /petrified/ a freaking ghost!"

"I know, I know, calm down," Draco tried to soothe his sister, taking her hand. "But /we/ aren't in any danger." Glancing around, he took out an envelope from his bag and handed it to Izzy. "Here."

"What is it?" Isabelle responded, confused. The seal had already been broken and the letter obviously read.

"It's from Father. He sent it to me last week. I asked him what he knew about the Chamber and he told me what happened fifty years ago. Before he and Mother were in school." Iz opened the envelope and read through the details quickly. "See? It only attacked Mudblo– Muggleborns then too."

"But a girl /died/?" Izzy whispered, feeling better now that she knew they would not be targets but still surprised that that had actually happened.

"Yeah," was all Draco responded. He got caught in another conversation with some of the older Slytherin boys. Iz, drifting away still holding her brother's letter with many of the answers she had been searching for for months, went down to her dorm room for some quiet. Arriving there, she laid down on her bed and thought about all she had just experienced.

/What is going on at Hogwarts?/

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AN: What is going on at Hogwarts? Next up will be Christmas! (Perfect timing for the moment, right?) The next few updates may be a little irregular due to traveling for the holidays, just as a heads up. Please read&review :)