Here you go guys, another chapter in celebration of getting great scores on my GCSE's today. I'm so happy!

Chapter 21

Bella's POV

Something was up with Harry and his friends. With exams coming up I hadn't really been all that focused on knowing their every move as I had in the beginning of the year. I was too busy helping Blaise with Montague and making sure that Parkinson didn't kill me with her hideous singing every morning. But even still, I could tell that something was definitely up.

Whenever Harry passed Quirrell these days he gave him an encouraging sort of smile, and Ron had started telling people off for laughing at Quirrell's stutter - which was quite frankly ridiculous because he had done nothing but tease the man.

I tried not to look at Quirrell too often because I would still get that sharp tinge in my forehead. I hadn't told anyone about what had happened apart from Blaise, and he only knew because he had been sitting next to me the night of the sorting.

Hermione, though, had apparently more on her mind than the Sorcerer's Stone (which they were still trying to find). She had started drawing up study schedules and colour-coding all her notes. They were helpful when they came to HOM but it was getting a bit annoying.

"Hermione, the exams are ages away." Ron had voiced his complaints on a daily basis, and every time I sat with them to study, they were always the same ones. Evidently, even when I wasn't studying with them - like I was now - they were still the same arguments.

"Ten weeks," Hermione snapped back. "That's not ages, that's like a second to Nicolas Flamel." My head perked up at the mention of Flamel. I hadn't found him - not that I had been looking too closely - but I had a Potter's curiosity.

"But we're not six hundred years old," Ron reminded her. I frowned and moved closer to their table. I suppose I should have felt slightly bad that I was eavesdropping but I wasn't made a Slytherin for nothing. "Anyway, what are you studying for, you already know it all."

"What am I studying for?" Oh no. That was getting them off topic. Hermione was going to give them the finer points of studying now.

"But not even Bella is studying as much as you are." Ron whined. I groaned. I was being pulled into this and I wasn't even there to defend myself.

"And how would you know? You haven't even seen her for more than two minutes." I could imagine it now. Her hands were on her hips and she looked slightly like Mrs. Weasely. I rolled my eyes and began making my way towards the desk.

I gave the books and my wand to the librarian and waited while she used it as a library card. All the while I was wondering about Flamel. How did they manage to find him? I had looked in all the same books they had.

When she was done I took my books on potions and transfiguration in my hands and made my way to the front door. I was met there by Hagrid.

"Bella. 'Ow are yah?" He asked, his gruff tone comforting. I gave him a warm smile.

"I'm fine Hagrid, just studying is all. Sorry I haven't been to see you for a while but with exams around the corner…" Hagrid just grinned at me happily, as if he didn't mind at all that I had been practically ignoring him.

"S'lrigh' Bella. Why don' ya come dow' tonigh'? I'll invi'e Harry and the others." I gave him a huge smile at the invitation, happy to be included in it.

"Alright then. See you tonight." I manuvered around him so that he could get into the library and give him a two fingered salute as a goodbye. He gave me and answering wave and I made my way back to Slytherin Common Room. I seemed to be spending a lot more time in there than any other place but I was finally beginning to feel comfortable there. Like it was my home.

It wasn't long till I saw Blaise sitting in one of the seats by the silver fireplace. It was amazing; when the fire was lit, the entire thing shone like a golden bronze. It made the snakes on the mantle look alive.

"Hey Zambini. What's up?" I plonked down into a chair next to him and took out a potions book. Snape was going to make my life hard because I was doing well so I would have to up my game a little.

"Nothing Potter." Well, he apparently doesn't like that I use his last name. He did this every time I called him Zambini and I had the same response to it every time as well: grin like an idiot.

"Good. You can help me with this bloody History homework." I said, pulling out the plain parchment and quill. Oh I hated quills, they annoyed me and much as Malfoy did. "4 inches on the history of Cormac the Cleaner!"

Cormac was apparently this big time wizard back in the 1800's. He helped wizard-kind develop better cleaning spells and though I'm sure cleaners and women like Mrs. Weasely were thankful to the man, it was an incredibly boring topic to write about.

"You're going to have to help yourself Bells. I don't even know where to begin." Well I had absolutely no clue. I had actually fallen asleep during Binns' monotone voice. It was like the lullaby I never had.

It really wouldn't have been so bad, if it wasn't for the fact that every teacher was piling so much homework on us that it was hard to relax at all when we had the twelve uses of dragon's blood to memorize or wand movements to practice.

Trying not to think about the mountain of work I would get for the rest of the term, I began working on the essay that Binns wanted but I wasn't even half way in when my quill snapped and all the ink dribbled out of it, onto my hands and the paper. It was messy and it spread everywhere.

"Ohh." I groaned. That was it. The next time I went home I was buying a but load of fountain pens and was using those. They were less expensive than quills anyway and they made less mess. "Scourgify." I muttered. The ink was instantly cleared from the parchment and I no longer had it on my hands.

"Where'd you learn that spell? We don't learn it till next year at least." Blaise toId me with a raised eyebrow. I looked at the paper and once again groaned. I couldn't be bothered.

"I heard Madame Pomphery say it to clear up a mess." He nodded in acceptance and I cleaned my things away. "I cont be bothered with homework tonight. I'll meet you before dinner okay?" I didn't wait for a response just walked up to my dormitory.

What I would have wanted to do was fall asleep but I knew that wasn't possible, not after what I had found out the night before.

I couldn't believe who the candidates were for a Bond. Candidates. It made the whole thing sound like a game where I was the prize. But then maybe it would be easier if it was a game. I could just forfeit. I snorted. I hereby forfeit on the principles of the fact that I can't deal with this anymore or my head will explode!

But this was real life and in real life there was no forfeiting. None that didn't lead to death anyway.

Why couldn't my life be a little bit easier? Harry had it easy. There was one name on his paper and you could already tell that him and Hermione were a good match for each other. She wasn't as know-it-all-ie and he didn't slack on things like work. But me? Nope I had to have to hard choices.

There was Edward - who I had no idea would be a good match. Sure we were best friends but I didn't really think he would be anything more to me than a brother or a best friend. He seemed sort of like a push over. And then there was the fact that he was a vamp. He would live forever and I wouldn't. Unless of course he changed me. But did I want to be changed?

Then there was George. George. I never would have thought it. Sure he was kind of cute, and he had a penchant for raising Cain which I appreciated in a guy - especially with the fact that I could cause trouble alongside him but I just didn't know. I suppose we could be a good match. I loved him - I didn't know what kind of love it was but I did love him.

And then there was...Malfoy. Eww.

I couldn't imagine myself with him - that smug prat. He was annoying and bigoted and self-righteous and annoying. The parchment must have gotten it wrong because there wasn't even a snowball's chance in hell of anything in the region of even civility!

But then why was his name on the parchment?

My head fell into my pillow and I let out a strangled scream of frustration. I wish you were here mum. I wish you could tell me what to do because I have no idea of anything.

~~Crossroads at Every Turn~~

I had been so busy thinking about that stupid bit of paper that I hadn't realised what the time was. It wasn't until Ruby Davies - a girl that shared my dorm room - had called for me saying Blaise was waiting for me downstairs.

I quickly got up and straightened my robes; they had become crumples while I had lay in bed, and then made my way down the stairs. Just as Davies had said, Blaise was waiting for me at in the Common Room.

"What took you so long?" He sounded a little frustrated at me which I suppose was sort of justified. I was twenty minutes late and dinner had started.

"Sorry," I mumbled. "I lost track of time." Blaise looked at me oddly. I had to assume it was because I wasn't myself, not really. My head was still back in my bed looking at that bit of paper.

"What's with you Potter?" He asked.

If I wanted to get him off my back I would have to stop wallowing. Blaise seemed to have a sort of sixth sense when it came to problems – which is a shame because he wasn't the most loyal out our pit of snakes. "My life is a huge ball of complicated mess Blasie. I cannot be bothered with it."

He stared at me for a minute but he must have decided that I was back to my usual self because he sighed and rolled his eyes at me. "Oh come on Zambini, you know you love me."

"Far from it Potter." But then he smiled and pulled me along. "Come on Bells, were already late as it is." By that time we were already outside the doors to the Great Hall.

I could smell the unmistakable smell of roast chicken in there and it was good. I didn't need Blaise's hand to pull me because all too soon I was the one pulling him.

I sat myself in between Ruby Davis and Blaise. The girl wasn't so bad for a Slytherin. She was a Pure Blood but not a well known one so she didn't share the same prejudices that some people cough Malfoy cough – did, well at least not to the same extent. She was very much like Blaise in that respect.

Ruby was tall for our age, a good two inches taller than me but she didn't let that stop her. From what I could tell she was good at Charms and an excellent flier. I suspected that when the time came, she would try out for the Slytherin Quidditch team.

"Potter," she greeted me with a stiff nod. I gave her a grin and nodded back. I didn't want to upset the delicate balance of the Slytherin mind – well not yet anyway. I had seven whole years to worm my way into their brains and make them more sociable - well that was if I didn't turn out just like them.

"Davis." I greeted back. I didn't give either her or Blaise much thought after that; I was too busy trying to savour the taste of the lasagne I was eating. It was superb.

~~Crossroads at Every Turn~~

I managed to snatch a few cookies before leaving Blaise with a 'see you later.' He nodded; I had told him before that I was going to see Hagrid tonight but I hadn't realised that he had invited the other three as well.

"Bella!" Hermione exclaimed with surprise as I caught up to them, making their way out of the castle. "What are you doing here?"

My sarcastic response: I'm just going to have a frolic in the Forbidden Forrest, maybe get eaten by a wolf. My actual response, "I'm visiting Hagrid, just like you guys."

"Oh." Oh, just oh. I didn't know how to take that so I just ignored it.

"Long time, no see Harry, Ron." Ron just nodded but Harry smiled and walked next to me and put a arm around me which was slightly difficult while we were walking on bumpy ground.

"We've missed you Bella." Yeh it didn't seem like that. "Were have you been?" He asked.

I shrugged. "Eh, studying, working with Pomphery, saving Blaise, you know, the usual." It didn't take long before we got to the door of Hagrid's hut. When they knocked on the door of the gamekeeper's hut, they were surprised to see that all the curtains were closed. I assumed this wasn't normal from their surprise but I wouldn't know. Hagrid called "Who is it?" before he let us in, and then shut the door quickly behind us.

It was stifling hot inside. Like there was a furnace inside the small hut – and there may as well have been as Hagrid's fire roared in the grate, which was why I politely refused the tea and sandwiches. I was hot enough already.

"So - yeh wanted to ask me somethin'?"

"Yes," said Harry. There was no point beating around the bush. "We were wondering if you could tell us what's guarding the Sorcerer's Stone apart from Fluffy." Hagrid frowned at him. I frowned. I had almost forgotten about the whole thing quite honestly. I hadn't even realised they had figured out what the dog Fluffy was guarding.

"O' course I can't, he said. "Number one, I don' know meself. Number two, yeh know too much already, so I wouldn' tell yeh if I could. That Stone's here fer a good reason. It aas almost stolen outta Gringotts - I s'ppose yeh've worked that out an' all? Beats me how yeh even know abou' Fluffy." Hmm, how about the fact that he almost bit our heads off?

"Oh, come on, Hagrid, you might not want to tell us, but you do know, you know everything that goes on round here," said Hermione in a warm, flattering voice. Oh she was not doing that. No way was she…I didn't even know but whatever it was, Hagrid's beard twitched in a smile. "We only wondered who had done the guarding, really." Hermione went on. "We wondered who Dumbledore had trusted enough to help him, apart from you."

Hagrid's chest swelled at these last words. Harry and Ron beamed at Hermione and I was barely able to stop my mouth dropping in shock. "Well, I don' s'pose it could hurt to tell yeh that... let's see... he borrowed Fluffy from me... then some o' the teachers did enchantments... Professor Sprout - Professor Flitwick - Professor McGonagall -" He ticked them off on his fingers, "Professor Quirrell - an' Dumbledore himself did somethin', o' course. Hang on, I've forgotten someone. Oh yeah, Professor Snape."

"Snape?" Ron asked.

"Yeah - yer not still on abou' that, are yeh?" It looked like they were but I don't know why. For some reason it was Quirrell that I disliked intensely. I could barely look at him during DADA because it hurt my head too badly.

"Look, Snape helped protect the Stone, he's not about ter steal it." The look on their faces told me that they all thought that was exactly what Snape was about to do.

"You're the only one who knows how to get past Fluffy. aren't you, Hagrid?" said Harry anxiously. "And you wouldn't tell anyone, would you? Not even one of the teachers?"

"Not a soul knows except me an' Dumbledore," said Hagrid proudly. I wondered how long that would last. Don't get me wrong, I adored the guy – he was like a bear but he was bad at keeping secrets.

"Well, that's something," Harry muttered to the others.

Okay, it was too hot. I couldn't take it anymore and with all this accusing I was getting restless. "Hagrid, can we have a window open? I'm boiling." I asked, fanning my face with my had but it wasn't helping at all.

"Can't, Bella, sorry," said Hagrid. He was looking towards the fire as he said this so I looked there as well. There was something definitely in there but I couldn't tell what it was. Harry seemed to notice it as well.

"Hagrid - what's that?" By then I could tell what it was. In the very heart of the fire, underneath the kettle, was a huge, black egg.

"Ah," said Hagrid, fiddling nervously with his beard, "That's er..."

"Where did you get it, Hagrid?" said Ron, crouching over the fire to get a closer look at the egg. "It must've cost you a fortune."

"Won it," said Hagrid. "Las' night. I was down in the village havin' a few drinks an' got into a game o' cards with a stranger. Think he was quite glad ter get rid of it, ter be honest."

"But what are you going to do with it when it's hatched?" said Hermione.

"Hagrid you have a dragon Egg in your fire place." I whispered moving forward to get a closer look. It suddenly made sense why Hagrid had his curtains closed and was being a bit shifty.

"Well, I've bin doin' some readin' , said Hagrid, pulling a large book from under his pillow. –Well that explains why he was in the Library Izzy said. "Got this outta the library - Dragon Breeding for Pleasure and Profit - it's a bit outta date, o' course, but it's all in here. Keep the egg in the fire, 'cause their mothers breathe on I em, see, an' when it hatches, feed it on a bucket o' brandy mixed with chicken blood every half hour. An' see here - how ter recognize diff'rent eggs - what I got there's a Norwegian Ridgeback. They're rare, them." I'd say.

"Hagrid, could I borrow the book." I asked him. He nodded and I promised to return it to him as soon as I had finished reading it. "See you later guys." I told them. They didn't even seem to be paying attention. Ron was looking at the egg, Hermione looked upset and Harry was trying to calm her down.

I kind of felt a little sorry for them; they seemed to have so much to deal with – whatever it was they were dealing with but now they had to worry about what might happen to Hagrid if anyone found out he was hiding an illegal dragon in his hut. Well I had to worry about it as well but maybe if I dealt with it, it wouldn't be as hard for them.

I did go back to see Hagrid and the egg every couple of days. I couldn't go as often as I would have liked because of school work but Hagrid seemed to appreciate it none the less. I helped out with little tidbits like making sure the fire was the right temperature, making sure it's nest was decent. I wasn't too big of a help because Hagrid thought I should be careful but it was still fun.

Then one morning, while I had skipped breakfast to see Hagrid, the egg began to crack. "Hagrid!" I squealed. "The egg." I couldn't help jumping up and down in excitement; it was finally happening.

"Woul' yeh look at tha'" Hagrid said. I could see the tears in his eyes and patted him. He must have felt like a father to that egg, but I knew that he would eventually have to let it go.

I had talked to him about it. At first he wouldn't hear of it but then once I explained to him that eventually the dragon would be bigger than his hut and that it would need the space to be free, he listened. We decided that it would be best to send the egg to Charlie; Ron's older brother.

He was studying dragons in Romania and when I had sent him a letter via Layla, he had replied enthusiastically. Hagrid begrudgingly agreed to sending him there a week after the hatching.

This was also partly why I suspected he had tears in his eyes. "Go on Bella, yeh go' classes ta go to." He said. I nodded, knowing he was right but I promised I would be back at break to see the egg again. Hagrid nodded and with that I left the hut and made my way to Charms.

When the bell sounded from the castle at the end of their lesson, I dropped everythink and booked it out of the grounds. Luckily, Herbology was closer to Hagrid's hut than anything else so it wasn't long before I was there.

I was met with a flustered and excited looking Hagrid."It's nearly out." He looked behind be and I turned to look where he was. Harry, Ron and Hermione were out of breath and standing there. He ushered us inside. The egg was lying on the table. There were deep cracks in it. Something was moving inside; a funny clicking noise was coming from it. We all drew their chairs up to the table and watched with bated breath.

All at once there was a scraping noise and the egg split open. The baby dragon flopped onto the table. It wasn't exactly the prettiest thing ever; I thought it looked like a crumpled, black umbrella. Its spiny wings were huge compared to its skinny jet body, it had a long snout with wide nostrils, the stubs of horns and bulging, orange eyes.

It sneezed. A couple of sparks flew out of its snout. "Isn't he beautiful?" Hagrid murmured. He reached out a hand to stroke the dragon's head. It snapped at his fingers, showing pointed fangs. "Bless him, look, he knows his mommy!" said Hagrid.

"Hagrid," said Hermione, "how fast do Norwegian Ridgebacks grow, exactly?" I was about to answer, to tell her we had it all figured out, when the colour suddenly drained from Hagrid's face - he leapt to his feet and ran to the window.

"What's the matter?" I asked worriedly.

"Nothin'. I jus' thought I saw somethin'." Hagrid said. I didn't quite believe him but he didn't seem to be too worried.

~~Crossroads at Every Turn~~

Through the rest of the week, Malfoy was doing odd things that were starting to make me nervous. It wasn't obvious but he said small things. The day after the egg hatched, he had said something about the fact that Hagrid better make sure he kept a count on his pets.

It hadn't been too bad – Malfoy said things like that all the time but then he had mentioned dragons and their rarity. Again, we had a lesson on dragons the day before but it was making me nervous. He also would go around with a smirk on his face which wasn't the usual arrogant one. He was happy about something.

So now, whenever I would go to Hagrid's I would make sure the curtains were properly closed. "I've decided to call him Norbert," said Hagrid the day before we were sending the dragon off to Charlie. "He really knows me now, watch. Norbert! Norbert! Where's Mommy?"

"He's lost his marbles," Ron muttered in Harry's ear. I elbowed him in the gut.

"Shut up Ron!" I mumbled. He groaned his protest but didn't say anything after that. "I think that's an awesome name but…maybe naming him is just going to make it harder to say goodbye tomorrow."

"I - I know I jus' I'm goin' ta miss 'im." I smiled at him and patted him on the pack – which was hard to do considering how big he was.

"I know." I said gently, "but it'll be better for him if he's with his own kind later on. And who knows, you can probably get Charlie to send pictures."

"Yeh think so?" He asked. He had stopped sniffling and looked at me with hopeful eyes.

"Of course. Ron can ask him cant you Ron?" When he didn't respond I nudged him a couple of times. That jolted him a little bit and he stammered an answer.

"Uh…yeh – sure." I rolled my eyes at his lack of sympathy.

The next night everything was almost set to go. Hagrid was packing Norbert up and Harry, and the rest of them were going to see them off. I was going as well, only, there was a slight hitch; the people that were taking Norbert were coming at midnight and I had no invisibility cloak.

It wouldn't be too big of a problem, nobody was up at midnight except the Sixth and Seventh years who were studying for exams. They were mostly asleep by midnight anyway. It seemed that this was the case when I made my way down the stairs.

It was surprisingly hard to get out, considering that I was new to the sneaking out thing and I didn't have a handy dandy invisibility cloak. Still, I managed to get out to the forest. By the time I got there, Hagrid had Norbert packed and ready in a large crate.

"He's got lots o' rats an' some brandy fer the journey," said Hagrid in a muffled voice. "An' I've packed his teddy bear in case he gets lonely." From inside the crate came ripping noises that sounded to me as though the teddy was having his head torn off.

"Bye-bye, Norbert!" Hagrid sobbed, as Harry and Hermione covered the crate with the invisibility cloak and stepped underneath it themselves. "Mommy will never forget you!" How they managed to get the crate back up to the castle, I would never know – there was no space for me but I followed them anyway .

Midnight ticked nearer as they heaved Norbert up the marble staircase in the entrance hall and along the dark corridors. Up another staircase. It seemed they were having trouble because I could heart hem."Nearly there!" Harry panted as they reached the corridor beneath the tallest tower.

Then a sudden movement ahead of them made them stumble.

Suddenly I could see Professor McGonagall, in a tartan bathrobe and a hair net, had Malfoy by
the ear. She noticed me and her face went slightly red. "Detention!" she shouted. "And twenty points from Slytherin! Each!" Crap, that was forty points from Slytherin and we were having a bad enough time as it was. "Wandering around in the middle of the night, how dare you both -"

"You don't understand, Professor. Harry Potter's coming - he's got a dragon!" My eyes widened and then I frowned. So he had seen Norbert.

"What utter rubbish! How dare you tell such lies! Come on - I shall see Professor Snape about you, Malfoy and Potter!" I slumped. There goes seeing Norbert off. I walked with Malfoy and McGonagall to Snape's office.

I knew she wouldn't have taken as many points off her Gryffindors if they had been caught but all that mattered at the moment was that Norbert was safe and that was enough for me. I really would miss the little guy.

Then another thought came to me. "Professor, why are we going to his office? He's probably in bed already. It is midnight after all." McGonagall went red in the face and from the corner of my eye I saw Malfoy's lips twitch into the beginnings of a smile. I smiled at the sight of it. So Malfoy could smile. Good to know.

"Ten points Miss Potter!" Well. That dropped my smile.


Thank you all who reviewed my last chapter...it meant so much to me. Some of you want to know why it was the three who were on the paper. I hope this cleared it up for you. But i have a question, Who do you think Bella with end up with?