Erm… sbakar, I appreciate that you have corrected my grammar and spelling mistakes, but did you realize you made each review six or seven times? Maybe that was just your computer screwing up… It was kind of weird because it was the same like five reviews repeated over and over again… Oh, and sorry, I don't have a beta and I never really have time to edit, so that's why there are so many mistakes… oh, and the disclaimer is in my profile.

Right, so thanks for all the cookies, kids, and sorry about the really short chapter last time.

Chapter the Seventeenth

Draco Malfoy had come to the disturbing realization that Phaedra was up to something. She was noticeably distracted, which was incredibly odd; Phaedra was rarely noticeably—or perhaps recognizably—anything. She always seemed amused, as though she knew something others didn't, except for now. Now Phaedra was staring contemplatively into space, ignoring her two sweaty students.

Harry had been working on his physical fighting for far too long, in his opinion, at least. It simply wasn't fair that Draco got to sit composedly in the clearing, meditating and practicing reading minds, while he had to hit conjured spirit-fighters with metal poles. Usually Phaedra watched him carefully, making constructive (though rather emasculating) observations, but today she hadn't spoken beyond the basic orders. He glanced over at Draco as he dodged under the swing of his opponent's ax. Draco, the spoiled brat, wasn't even meditating anymore. He was simply watching Phaedra with an interested look, obviously waiting to see if she would notice his inactivity.

Unfortunately, that glance also showed Draco fiddling with the waist of his trousers. Harry's mind immediately shifted to things other than the spirit fighter, which resulted in Harry flying across the clearing. Phaedra, on reflex, dodged the falling body of her student.

Harry lay, slightly stunned, on his back until the sound of Draco's laughter broke through to his mind. Phaedra's face appeared directly over him.

"Still alive?" She asked with smirk. "I would hate to have to bring the news of your demise to the headmaster."

"Shut it, prat." Harry said flatly to Draco, who was still laughing. He accepted Phaedra's offered hand to climb painfully to his feet. Harry rubbed his chest, where he knew he was going to have a vicious bruise come morning. "What if I'd gotten internal trauma to the chest and died? Then how would you feel?" Harry said waspishly to his unrepentant mate.

"I would die as well, so I don't think I would feel much of anything." Draco supplied cheekily. Harry cast him a half-hearted glare.

"Neither of you are paying any attention today, are you?" Phaedra asked, resuming her seat on the stump.

"Yes, I was!" Harry said defensively. "I just…er…got…um… distracted is all." He blushed slightly, remembering why exactly he got distracted at such a crucial moment in the fight. Draco gave him a sexy grin, and Harry blushed again. Quit that! He thought to his mate.

Phaedra shook her head. "Oh, well. It's not like I haven't already taught you what you'll need to know for the battle anyway. Go shag or something, as long as you don't wear each other out."

Draco grinned with a suspicious glint to his eyes. "No worries, there, teacher-mine." Harry shivered at the sound in his voice.

Draco barely waited until they were out of Phaedra's sight to pounce on Harry. "Did I tell you that you're wearing my favorite shirt today?" He hissed at his husband as he licked a line of fire on Harry's proffered neck. Harry answered with an unintelligible moan of agreement.

Phaedra rolled her eyes with exasperation at their antics in the snow. Honestly, couldn't they wait until she got out of earshot? She really didn't need to hear Harry moaning like that… Plus, she had some major work to do. I wonder whether I can con Severus into making his own potion…

Hermione Granger lay in wait for the elusive Chimera to appear. She had an entire list of questions, a Quick-Notes Quill, a stack of parchment, extra ink, and several reference books all stacked neatly in her bag; she was just waiting for the opportunity to pounce. Unfortunately, Phaedra was nowhere to be found. Hermione sat, determined not to be swayed from her purpose, in the middle of the Great Hall.

Ron and the other Gryffindors had been trying unsuccessfully to convince the girl to go back to the common room, or Hogsmeade, or anywhere other than where she had been sitting for the last four hours.

"Ron," Hermione snapped. "If you are really that bored, go along without me."

"I can't leave you here alone." Ron said, plopping down beside her. "Why are you even waiting anyway? She's not going to tell you interesting."

Hermione shot him and annoyed glance. "The traditions of a completely foreign country may not be of interest to you, but they are to those who actually read sometimes."

"I read!" Ron said defensively. Seamus snorted rather loudly. Ron cast a dark glare in his direction. "Besides, it's a beautiful day. Not too cold… Come on, 'Mione!"

"Ronald Weasley, I am not moving from this seat until I get my interview! She promised to answer my questions in exchange for the favor, and we have already agreed on that. If I am to get enough information for my book, I am going to need a great number of interview sessions, so do leave me in peace!"

"You're going to write a book? On Phaedra?" Dean asked skeptically. "Why?"

"Because there are no reliable sources of information on Suruga or Chimera. Phaedra is the expert at this point, after all."

"I am, aren't I?" A bright voice came from behind them.

Hermione turned towards the newest arrival with relief. "Finally! I thought you were never going to resurface."

Phaedra flashed a smile. "Never fear, I try not to disappoint." She handed Hermione a piece of parchment. "Here is one of the potions I need made. I have come to the conclusion that now isn't the time for me to debut in the glorious world of potions making."

"Wasn't there a second potion?" Hermione asked absentmindedly as she scanned over the directions and ingredient list. She automatically tilted it away when Ron tried to crane his head over to read it.

"Three, actually. I plan to trick Severus into making the second potion. I wouldn't want to overburden any of my helpers."

"What about the last potion?" Hermione asked, folding the parchment and placing it securely in the breast pocket of her robe where Ron wouldn't dare try to steal it.

Phaedra smiled slightly at the exasperated look on Ron's face when he realized that Hermione knew him a bit too well. "The prodigal duo is making it. Out of intense curiosity, I suspect, but I doubt they will be able to figure out the purpose."

Hermione nodded thoughtfully. "You seem to almost be covering your tracks. Is this illegal, by any chance?"

"It breaks about fifteen wizarding laws." Phaedra said nonchalantly.

"Wait, what?" Dean piped up. "What are you going?"

Hermione and Phaedra didn't seem to notice. "Will it take long?" Hermione asked.

"It shouldn't take more than an hour or so." Phaedra answered, waving her hand at the table. A plate of apple pastries glazed with sugar appeared. She took one and devoured it in very neat, quick bites, like a cat.

"'Mione, I really don't think that whatever you're doing is such a good idea." Ron put in. He, too, was ignored.

"Mm… lovely pastries. Care for one?" Phaedra offered, pushing the plate closer to Hermione.

"Stop ignoring me!" Ron all but shouted.

Hermione and Phaedra sent him affronted looks. "Well, obviously this is not the best location for our interview." Hermione said.

"Indeed. Shall we adjourn to a more conducive location?"

Hermione nodded primly. Phaedra extended a hand with the grace of a dancer, which Hermione took with equal poise. They turned to look at the four boys with calm faces and promptly disappeared.

There was a moment of complete silence.

"Wish I'd known how to do that during Potions last year." Neville said glumly.

Lord Voldemort sat in his iron throne in his heavily fortified castle and allowed himself a moment of quiet self-pity. It was bad enough that his most powerful general, Lucius Malfoy, had disappeared from the face of the earth, but now to have a plan fail at the very last stage! The Guardian that Dumbledore had flaunted had been wearing the portkey and was, in fact, still wearing the portkey, but the damn thing had been faulty!

Now the creature was training the filthy Potter boy, and something was going on with Malfoy the younger. Draco, Voldemort mused, would have been a perfect heir to his father's rein of power within the ranks of the dark side. Now, however, all the training and conditioning Lucius had drilled into him was going to waste. The boy had apparently betrayed Voldemort, but the Dark Lord couldn't get his hands on him without Lucius, and no one knew where Lucius was.

Voldemort was in stalemate at the moment, and he hated being in stalemate. Perhaps he should have Bella organize a raid.

Voldemort sat forward suddenly. He really did astonish himself with his own genius, sometimes.

"Wormtail!" He bellowed shrilly. The cringing little rat entered the room. "Bring me Bella. I have a target for her."

It was Saturday night and Harry had had to promise numerous sexual favors in order to get Draco to spend it in the Gryffindor common room. Draco didn't really mind the dorm room upstairs with only Harry's immediate friends, but he hated being amongst the hoi polloi of Gryffindor house. However, Draco had found that Harry could be very persuasive sometimes when he found something he really wanted.

Draco, Harry, and several others were sprawled on conjured cushions in the middle of the common room floor laughing, talking, eating, and playing various muggle board games. Draco looked rather pained, but he accepted Neville's invitation to join in on Monopoly and promptly began amassing a gigantic fortune in true Malfoy style.

Harry grinned at the sight of the pureblooded aristocrat running roughshod over the Gryffindors and continued to listen to Ron's rant about Hermione's actions that afternoon.

"I mean, honestly! Who introduced her to rule breaking, I ask you? We did! I can't believe she would shut me out just like that. What's so special about this Phaedra bird anyway? I mean, sure she's got some new information, but what about her friends?" Ron's rant had begun to repeat itself from the beginning, so Harry began to tune him out.

Harry pasted an interested look on his face and instead studied the pale face of his beloved. It was odd, really, that they never truly fought. Up until a few months ago they couldn't stand in the same room without attacking each other, and now they couldn't even imagine spending a night alone without the other. Harry wondered if something had changed, or if the seeds of their happiness had been there the entire time. Harry sometimes felt that he had accepted this a little faster than was normal, but Harry knew that he had never felt as happy as he did in Draco's arms.

He smiled as someone opened the shutters of the window and moonlight filtered through the room to gild Draco's face. Harry reached out and smoothed a piece of silver hair back behind Draco's ear. Draco flashed him a quick smile at the touch before concentrating his considerable attention on ruining his fellow Monopoly players.

"Harry! Are you even listening to me?" Ron demanded, catching Harry's attention again.

"I'm listening!" Harry said immediately. Ron gave him a suspicious look.

"You were thinking about Malfoy again, weren't you?" Ron said accusingly. "You are supposed to be consoling me about Hermione."

"Ron, I don't see what all the fuss is about anyway. Why don't you just ask her out?"

Ron turned red. "I…um… that wasn't what I was talking about!" He said defensively. "I was talking about her ignoring me today and—"

"You're obsessing because you're sexual frustrated." Harry said calmly.

"Harry!" Ron said, shocked.

"And she's probably ignoring you because she is too." Harry finished.

Ron stared at him without speaking for almost a full minute.

"Hey, look, you managed to make him shut up!" Draco said with amusement. "Did you bring up Hermione like I told you to?"

"Yeah." Harry said, ignoring Ron's impression of a fish. "He seems very touchy about the subject."

"I told you." Draco said triumphantly. "No one knows how to push buttons better than a Slytherin."

"Buttons, eh?" Seamus said with a sly look. "Just which buttons are we talking about?"

Dean threw a pillow at Seamus' head.

Ron opened his mouth to yell something insulting at the lot of them, but he was interrupted by a loud bang.

The common room door had slammed against the opposite wall and someone flew through it and headed for the stairs. Hermione sprinted through the common room, leaping over the various cushions and obstacles as though she were being chased by demons from hell.

"Hermione?" Harry called. She didn't even slow down, but rather began to take the stairs three at a time.

The boys looked at each other. "What was that about?" Dean asked. They all shrugged their ignorance. The boys went back to their various activities, knowing well that they couldn't get up to the girl's dorm to ask.

Less than a minute later, Hermione practically fell back down the stairs wearing a silk kimono-style green robe. Her hair was braided in the style she had worn for the Guardian-summoning ceremony, and she was barefoot.

"Hermione!" Ron called out questioningly. She ignored him and tore through the common room door again.

The boys looked at each other for about two seconds before they all scrambled to their feet and sprinted after her.


Ok, so this one is short too, sorry. I just wanted to update because someone emailed me and sounded rather resigned to the fact that I was never going to update. Well, never fear, I am neither dead nor tired of this story. I just got back from New York City (yay shopping!) and have been super busy with school (we missed a bunch of school because of Hurricane Katrina so the teachers are trying to pack it all in) and am trying to finish applications, so I haven't had a whole lot of time.

Anyway, I will try to update more often. Sorry.