Chapter 24

I had tried. Honestly, with exams just around the corner I had tried to study – but it was hard when every night I had dreams of the dead unicorn and the blood that seemed to stain my skin, even after I washed it off.

There were literally a week left until exams, and the teachers were giving us mountains of work, along with new quills that stopped us cheating. I didn't know how we would cheat, we were first years. Still, I guess they could never be too careful. They had probably learnt a lesson with Fred and George.

We also had practical exams as well. Professor Flitwick called them us by one into his class to see if we could make a pineapple tapdance across a desk. A stupid task if you asked me but we did it anyway.

Professor McGonagall watched us turn a mouse into a snuffbox - points were given for how pretty the snuffbox was, but taken away if it had whiskers. Snape was the worst. He would hover over us, breathing down our necks as we tried to make the Forgetfulness potion. Poetically ironic that this made us forget how to make it.

And as if that wasn't bad enough – with exams, revising, sleepless nights and nightmares, my scar had been hurting too. Little prickles of pain that – while hurt – I was able to ignore them. Most of the time.

Blaise had told me to try and figure out what it was but I didn't know how. And it wasn't like I could go to the Hospital Wing and get a cure. Madame Pomphery would ask questions. And besides, I had work I had to give her but I had forgotten to do it and that woman was a harpy when it came to deadlines.

But when the final exam came, there was a universal sigh of relief as the whole First Years made their way out of the hall. It was over and we were done for the year. I literally couldn't have been happier.

"What did you think about the question?" Blaise asked me. We had found a quiet place by the lake and sat under the shade of a tree.

"I don't know. It was kinda straight forward…but I don't want to jinx anything." Blaise nodded, agreeing with me. It was going to be hard to get a good grade with Binns teaching I could just feel it.

"Still, it's over." He told me.

"Yeah – until we get our results." I said frowning. There was nothing I didn't like more than knoiwing the grade I had. Hated it in primary school, hated it now.

"Nothing to worry about till then though." I couldn't help but disagree internally. I didn't know what but something felt a bit off. It was like something bad was going to happen but I didn't know what.

"I guess so." I muttered to myself.

~~Crossroads at Every Turn~~

Something had woken me out of my sleep and told me that I needed to go to see Harry. I had to clue what it was and honestly it was bit odd but I listened to the thing anyway. It felt like something was guiding me out of my bed and through the halls and it was creepy. Not only that, but it was also creepy that I was walking around school at night.

Things looked different. They sounded different.

I clutched my wand tightly in the pocket of my jumper and tried to make sure that I didn't wake up any of the paintings…or run into Peeves. That would be the last thing I needed. The poltergeist would make so much trouble for me it would be horrible.

And I really didn't need any more detentions in the forest. I shuddered at the memory of the last one and clutched my wand even tighter. I tried to think of other things. Like how Malfoy had comforted me.

It was weird. Like uber weird. For a split second, Malfoy hadn't been the annoying, frowning spoit brat that he always was; he had been…nice? No not nice – but also kind of nice at the same time and I didn't know what to make of it. It was just weird.

Then I realised that whatever this weird pull thing I had had brought me to the third floor. More specifically, it was brought me to…Fluffy. What are you up to Harry?

-No good if he's here. I jumped. Stupidly. I had jumped at a voice in my own head. Boy that was embarrassing.

Haven't heard from you in ages.

-Mmm. That was all it said from there on out. It was like a quick pop in to say hello and to remind you that I'm still here and that you may still potentially be mad but now I'm gonna leave you. Bye. It was actually a bit rude.

I could hear Hermione tell Harry that they were coming with him. Of course they were. They were best friends and Bonded and if she didn't try to go with him, I would think something was wrong with her.

"Don't forget me." I said quietly. They all jumped and I smiled. Sometimes it was fun to get that reaction from people.

"What are you doing here Bella?" Harry asked me.

"Making sure you don't get into too much trouble." I told him honestly. Why else would I be there. Harry seemed to pause for a moment then nod before pushing the door open.

As the door creaked, low, rumbling growls met our ears. All three of the dog's noses sniffed madly in our direction, even though I assume it couldn't see us. Otherwise it would probably try to eat us.

"What's that at its feet?" Hermione whispered.

"Looks like a harp," said Ron. "Snape must have left it there." So they stil thought it was Snape? It was a good guess and he would be the most obvious suspect –which was why I didn't think it was him at all.

"It must wake up the moment you stop playing," said Harry. "Well, here goes..."He put a flute to his lips and blew. I didn't know where he had gotten the flute from; Harry wasn't the most musically inclined. But as he blew it, the dog's growls stopped. It fell to its knees and then it slumped to the ground, fast asleep.

"Keep playing," Ron warned Harry as they slipped out of the cloak and crept toward the trapdoor. I could feel the dog's hot, smelly breath as we approached the giant heads. "I think we'll be able to pull the door open," said Ron, peering over the dog's back. "Want to go first, Hermione?"

"No, I don't!" I amost laughed at her tone. She sounded so much like Mrs Weasley.

"All right." Ron gritted his teeth and stepped carefully over the dog's legs. He bent and pulled the ring of the trapdoor, which swung up and open.

"What can you see?" Hermione asked anxiously.

"Nothing - just black - there's no way of climbing down, we'll just have to drop. You want to go first? Are you sure?" said Ron. I snapped my head up at Harry and frowned. Stupid hero thingy that people in movies had. What was it? A complex or something?

"I don't know how deep this thing goes. Give the flute to Hermione so she can keep him asleep." Harry handed the flute over. In the few seconds' silence, the dog growled and twitched, but the moment Hermione began to play, it fell back into its deep sleep.

Harry climbed over it and looked down through the trapdoor. He lowered himself through the hole until he was hanging on by his fingertips. Then he looked up at Ron and me and said, "If anything happens to me, don't follow. Go straight to the owlery and send Hedwig to Dumbledore, right?"

"Right," said Ron. I made no promises.

"See you in a minute, I hope..." And he let go. A jolt of fear rushed through me as I saw my brother fall into what looked like a big hole with no end and I began panicking when I didn't hear his voice.

"It's okay!" He finally called."It's a soft landing, you can jump!" He was okay. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Ron followed right away. And then Hermione.

The music stopped and I didn't want to jump. Like I really, really didn't want to jump and not know where I was going to land. But I could feel the dog's head start to shift and it was wither be eaten or jump.

So I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and jumped. I landed on something soft and I felt something touch me. I squealed and pulled my hand back when I heard Hermione giggle a little. Okay. I was alive. Good.

"We must be miles under the school." She said. Yeah, lucky.

"Lucky this plant thing's here, really," said Ron.

"Lucky!" shrieked Hermione. "Look at you both!" She leapt up. I felt something curl around my stomach and I froze. What was it that we had landed on? Because I was pretty sure that it was moving.

I began to panic, moving, trying to get the thing to stop crawling up my leg but it just got tighter and tighter around my waist until it was squeezing me so tightly I couldn't breathe.

"It's Devil's Snare!" Hermione cried out. "Stop moving."

"Oh, I'm so glad we know what it's called, that's a great help," snarled Ron, leaning back, trying to stop the plant from curling around his neck.

"Shut up, I'm trying to remember how to kill it!" said Hermione. I couldn't breathe. It was curling around my neck and was really panicking. A small part of my mind was laughing. A plant was going to kill me. Not Voldermort, a plant.

"Well, hurry up, I can't breathe!" Harry gasped.

"Devil's Snare, Devil's Snare... what did Professor Sprout say? - it likes the dark and the damp."

"So light a fire!" Harry choked.

"Yes - of course - but there's no wood!" Hermione cried, wringing her hands. If I wasn't on the verge of suffocation I would have rolled my eyes at her. But I was. So I didn't.


"Oh, right!" said Hermione, and she whipped out her wand, waved it, muttered something, and sent a jet of the same bluebell flames at the plant. In a matter of seconds, I could feel it loosening its grip as it cringed away from the light and warmth. Wriggling and flailing, it unraveled itself from us and I could pull free.

I collapsed on the floor and began coughing, trying to get as much air into my lungs as quickly as I could. I was never going to take air for granted again.

"Lucky you pay attention in Herbology, Hermione," said Harry as he joined her by the wall, wiping sweat off his face.

"Yeah," said Ron, "and lucky Harry doesn't lose his head in a crisis - 'there's no wood,' honestly. You alright Bella?" He asked, as if I was a passing thought. From my place on the floor a raised my hands giving him the thumbs up sign without looking at him.

"This way," said Harry, and I picked myself up and followed him through the door. All we could hear apart from footsteps was the gentle drip of water trickling down the walls. It reminded me of Gringotts.

"Can you hear something?" Ron whispered. Sure enough I could. A soft rustling and clinking seemed to be coming from up ahead.

"Do you think it's a ghost?"

"I don't know... sounds like wings to me." Harry said. Really? He was going to think of Quidditch now?

"There's light ahead - I can see something moving."We reached the end of the passageway and saw before them a brilliantly lit chamber, its ceiling arching high above them. It was full of small, jewel-bright birds, fluttering and tumbling all around the room. On the opposite side of the chamber was a heavy wooden door.

"Do you think they'll attack us if we cross the room?" said Ron.

"Yes" I said instantly. Why else would they be there?

"They don't look very vicious," Harry said. "But I suppose if they all swooped down at once... well, there's no other choice... I'll run."

Before I could stop him he covered his face with his arms, and sprinted across the room. I was waiting for something to happen but it didn't.

I breathed a sigh of relief and followed him. We tugged and heaved at the door, but it wouldn't budge, not even when Hermione tried Alohomora. I groaned. Nothing was simple was it? I looked up at the birds and saw something glint.

I frowned and squinted. They were glinting. They werent birds, they were keys.

"They're keys!" I shouted. "Winged keys - look." They all did.

"So that must mean..." Harry looked around the chamber while the other two squinted up at the flock of keys. "... yes - look! Broomsticks! We've got to catch the key to the door!"

"But there are hundreds of them!" Ron examined the lock on the door.

"We're looking for a big, old-fashioned one - probably silver, like the handle." We all looked around until I saw it.

"There." I pointed in the direction it was flying. "You need to get it Harry. You're the best flyer out of all of us." He nodded but looked a little worried. Hermione grabbed hold of his hand and squeezed it and he looked a little bit calmer as he got on the broom.

"Good luck." I told him grinning. He rolled his eyes and rose off the floor. He looked around for a moment before he seemed to have found the key. He moved towards it and reached out to grab it.

As soon as his fingers touched the key the rest of the keys flew towards him in perfect synchrony. I felt my heart leap into my throat as he flew away from them but they kept following him. I could hear the yelps of pain over the flurry of wings.

He flew towards us and chucked the key at me. I caught it and ran to open the door as soon as I could because soon the keys were flying towards me. I struggled to unlock the door but was through it as soon as I opened it.

I chucked the key through the door as Harry flew through it and slammed it shut. I heard all they keys hit the door. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

I slid down the door and breathed a sigh of relief. "You Gryffindors are dangerous to be around." I complained. They looked at me as if I was mad but I wasn't. You never saw Slytherins trying to fly after a magical key. Nope. Never.

The chamber we found ourselves in was so dark I couldn't see anything at all. But as soon as we moved, light suddenly flooded the room to reveal an astonishing sight.

A chessboard.

A life sized chessboard. With chessmen, which were all taller me were carved from what looked like black stone. Facing them, way across the chamber, were the white pieces.

"Now what do we do?" I whispered. Because it looked like those pieces were going to come alive and eat us.

"It's obvious, isn't it?" said Ron. No not really. "We've got to play our way across the room."

"How?" said Hermione nervously.

"I think," said Ron, "we're going to have to be chessmen." He walked up to a black knight and put his hand out to touch the knight's horse. At once, the stone sprang to life. The horse pawed the ground and the knight turned his helmeted head to look down at Ron.

"Do we - er -have to join you to get across?" The black knight nodded. Ron turned to the other two. "This needs thinking about" He said. "I suppose we've got to take the place of three of the black pieces..."

Ron was in his element. If there was nothing else, he was good at two things; eating, and chess. And because of that he told us what to do, where to move - everything. But sometimes he got so into the game that he didn't notice when Harry, Hermione or I were in danger and only just saved us.

To say I glared at him was an understatement. I was so glad I couldn't kill people just by looking at them.

"We're nearly there," he muttered suddenly. "Let me think let me think..." The white queen turned her blank face toward him.

"Yes..." said Ron softly, "It's the only way... I've got to be taken."

"NO!" Harry and Hermione and I shouted.

"That's chess!" snapped Ron. "You've got to make some sacrifices! I take one step forward and she'll take me - that leaves you free to checkmate the king, Harry!"

"But -"

"Do you want to stop Snape or not?" He shouted.

"Ron -" I tried but he stopped me.

"Look, if you don't hurry up, he'll already have the Stone!" There was no alternative apparently.

"Ready?" Ron called, his face pale. "Here I go - now, don't hang around once you've won." He stepped forward, and the white queen pounced. She struck Ron hard across the head with her stone arm, and he crashed to the floor - Hermione screamed but stayed on her square - the white queen dragged Ron to one side. He looked as if he'd been knocked out.

Harry looked like he wanted to run to him but I stopped him. "We have to finish the game first." I reminded him. He swallowed and nodded.

Shaking, Harry moved three spaces to the left. The white king took off his crown and threw it at Harry's feet. They had won. The chessmen parted and bowed, leaving the door ahead clear.

We ran to Ron and I checked to make sure he was unconscious and not… I shakily pressed my hand against his pulse point and sighed in relief as I felt his pulse, strong and humming.

"He's fine." I told the other two and they both looked relieved. I looked towards the door and then back to Ron. "You guys go on ahead. I'll stay behind and make sure he is actually okay."

"What?" Harry said.

"I've been training under Madam Pomphrey so I know a couple of spells to make sure his life isnt in danger." They nodded and with one last look at Ron they charged through the door.

As they did I ran the needed checks and waited with Ron for about ten minutes. By that time Hermione had walked back and I looked at her anxiously.

"I don't know," she said timidly. "He went through and told me to go back." I nodded and didn't say anything for a moment.

I prayed that Harry would be okay. That whatever was through those next doors didn't…well didn't kill him. I don't know what I would do without him. After a moment I stood up and got Hermione to help me fashion something that would help us lift Ron easily because for an eleven year old boy, he weighed a lot.

All the while getting Ron back up to the Tower and getting him to the Hospital wing I wondered what Harry was doing.

When we dragged Ron into the Hospital Wing we were met by a shocked squeal by Madame Pomphery. "What happened?" She asked, half stern half shocked - already moving onto treating him.

Hermione and I looked at each other not knowing where to begin. "I think that you should get the teachers to check on the Philosopher's stone first." Hermione whispered. "Someone's been trying to steal it all year."

Madame Pomphery looked more than shocked when she heard the words Philosopher's stone and stood frozen for a moment. "Please Madame Pomphery - I think Harry might be in danger."

That snapped her out of her stupor quickly enough and she muttered words under her breath. As she did, a silvery wisp in the shape of an Eagle flew out of the edge of her wand. "Tell Professors McGonagall and Dumbledore that there is a student in the third floor corridor who must be retrieved as quickly as possible."

The Eagle flew off without a word and Madame Pomphery turned to us. "You both have a lot of explaining to do."

I've Always wondered how they got out - like how did the teachers find them if no one knew they were there. Did Neville eventally get out of the body bind and go to tell the teacher? No clue.

Anyway, hope you liked it.

Oh - the end of the book is coming soon -do you guys want to me continue with COS in this story or create a new one? Up to you guys. DOesnt make much of a difference to me.

As always, i hope you review. Bye :)