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Amicus studied the sleeping human that Moon Fire had brought to his glade curiously. He could smell the innate magic upon him and knew this was one of the young human mage foals from the school beyond the forest. He snorted at his herdbrother and asked, Who is this youngling that you risk your neck to bring him to me instead of relying on your human healers to make him well?

He is destined to fight one of our greatest dark wizards, and I am pledged by magic and a promise to protect him. Moon Fire answered. He blew softly into the sleeping Harry's hair. And to love him as well, as you love your foals. He swished his tail uneasily.

Amicus blew gently into the dark horse's nostrils in comfort. You seem . . .conflicted, my brother. Is it so difficult to love this foal?

I . . .in my youth, this one's sire hurt me very badly and I have never forgotten nor forgiven it, Moon Fire said heavily. This foal reminds me too much of his sire and I . . .have resented him for it, may Selene forgive me.

Ah. The old quarrels are often the hardest to forget, Amicus said wisely. Selene knows we unicorns have them too.

I have allowed my temper to dictate my actions and now I do not know if I can ever make amends. I did not watch as closely as I should have, and the ones raising this youngling hurt him, not just in body, but in spirit. He needs Selene's Touch, Amicus, but I fear She shall not grant it to me after what I have done.

You know She is a merciful goddess, at least the Aspect we worship, Amicus reminded him, stamping a gilt hoof upon the ground. Have you asked, Moon Fire?

The black stallion shook his head. No.

Perhaps you ought to do so. I shall watch over the human foal.

Moon Fire tossed his head in assent, then trotted a little away from the herd to commune privately with his goddess.

Amicus stood over the sleeping Harry, gently shooing away his curious foals when they came too near. The young unicorns had never seen a human so close before and they wished to know how he had gotten there, why he was there, and what he was doing taking a nap in their grove.

He is Moon Fire's guest, you can meet him later, once he has awoken, now be off with you! the Lead Stallion ordered firmly, pointing with his horn that the foals should go and play or graze next to their mothers.

A unicorn was not considered mature until they were six years old and had shed their golden coat of youth for the pure white coat of an adult and their spiraling horn had grown to at least a foot. Until then, they remained with their birth herd, under the authority of their sire. But once they were adults, they left to seek another herd or to form one of their own or to be a solitary, as they chose.

Amicus' herd was unusual in that it counted a non-unicorn as a member, but Amicus had long ago silenced the outraged protests of other unicorn leaders by stating simply, Moon Fire is Selene's Chosen and such is Her will. That had quickly made any protestors be still.

Amicus snorted softly and peered down at the human sleeping inbetween his hooves. And you, young wizard? What shall you be to me and mine? Has Selene set Her Mark upon you as well?

He breathed in Harry's scent and sensed the wizard was slowly coming around. Contrary to popular belief, the unicorn had nothing against young male humans. Male or female, they could accept human adolescents so long as they remained virginal. Afterwards, however, the human male became a threat, for it was then that their urge to hunt unicorns began to awaken. A grown human male was not to be trusted, they had too long and bloody of a history of tracking and killing unicorns for their horns and tails and blood, and no unicorn of any age would ever permit such near him. The only exception to that rule was a Chosen of Selene, such as Moon Fire.

Harry woke slowly, cautiously opening his eyes. He saw tall trees and grass and wondered blearily where he was. The last thing he recalled was riding the big black horse and then he couldn't remember anything more. He must have passed out, but now he didn't feel sick anymore. He turned his head and saw . . .a pair of shimmering golden hooves and then the delicate yet well-muscled legs of pure white that were attached to them.

Oh Merlin, what is this? Could it be a . . .unicorn? He was unsure because the only unicorn he had ever seen had been dead and getting its blood drank by a half-dead Voldemort. The memory made him shudder and would have made him queasy as well, save there was nothing left in his stomach.

He breathed in the sweet scent of grass and the curious faint musky odor of the unicorn. It was not unpleasant, but it was unlike anything he had ever smelled before, a combination of warm animal, grass, and some subtle floral hint, like honeysuckle. The unicorn hide, he could see, was of a white so bright it seemed to glow and dance with myriads of rainbows.

Almost, he reached out to touch it, but then he stopped. He recalled reading in his Fantastic Beasts that unicorns didn't like boys touching them. Besides he was filthy with dirt and there had been blood on his palms from scratches as well. But when he examined his hand, he could find no scratches on it, though it still bore some dirt.

He did not know if he should move, he was afraid to make any sudden motion, just in case he startled the unicorn that was standing above him. He didn't know why the unicorn was doing so, but he didn't want to find out the hard way just how hard and sharp those hooves were!

So he remained quiet, listening to the faint thump of the foals running and the soft nickers of the mares, but most of all he heard the great beating of the unicorn's heart and then he wondered what had become of his black moon stallion. Where was he?

Amicus was very aware that Harry was awake. He exhaled softly and very cautiously lifted his hooves and stepped gracefully away from the prone boy before turning and facing him.

Harry gasped in wonder as he met the eyes of the majestic animal, the awesome creature of legend come from the pages of myth to a living breathing reality. The unicorn's mane was like the finest silk, it flowed down his neck in a shimmering swath, and his tail was so thick and long that it nearly touched the ground. But the most awesome sight was the horn, a pearlescent spiral that seemed to glow with magic, over a foot and a half long.

Slowly Harry sat up, wincing at the soreness in his thighs and bottom. Slowly he climbed to his feet. "How did I get here?" He asked, looking about at the pristine glade and the other unicorns within it. He smiled in delight at the playful foals, some of whom started to approach him, only to be summoned back by their mothers.

Suddenly he heard soft footfalls and turned to see his moon stallion coming towards him. "Hey," Harry held out a hand, and the great horse blew gently at him. "Thanks for saving my life. They would have gotten me for sure if you hadn't let me ride you."

Moon Fire whickered softly, and shoved the boy gently with his nose. You seem mostly in one piece, child, thanks to Amicus. Still, I would not think the Death Eaters will give up so easily, so we must rest here for awhile longer.

Harry dug in his pocket, finding a half-crushed donut and offering it to the stallion.

Moon Fire pricked his ears before accepting the treat graciously. This really is not necessary, but I thank you anyhow.

The boy cautiously stroked the stallion's thick mane, it was silky and yet strong, he could recall gripping it quite hard during their flight through the forest. "I guess this place is safe, isn't it? Hagrid told me once that any place a unicorn dwells is sacred and no evil can come there. It's only when a unicorn is alone that it becomes vulnerable, like the one I saw as a first year . . .the one that You-Know-Who was . . ." he paused, searching for a word. " . . .defiling . . ." He didn't wish to speak the dark one's name aloud for some reason, not in this place.

Amicus snorted angrily at the mention of the Dark One and the sacrilege he had committed against the unicorns and Selene Herself. One day, he vowed, that one would pay for his foul deeds. All hooves and horns were turned against the dark sorcerer and Selene had turned her bright face away from him, showing only the dark visage of Vengeance.

Harry shrank away for a moment from the angry unicorn. "Sorry, I didn't mean to upset you," he apologized, pressing up against the black stallion's shoulder. "I sure hope that wasn't a relative."

Amicus shook his head. Not a relative, but we are all kin, mage child. And for one of us to be murdered that way, their life force stolen to feed a wretched undead thing . . .instead of being returned to the earth and the sky, it is a great tragedy.

Moon Fire whistled softly, and at that signal, the young foals were allowed to come forward and meet his student.

At first they were shy, approaching within a foot of the boy, peering at him curiously, then drawing away. But gradually, they approached closer, until they were breathing softly on Harry, who stayed very still, having learned from his half-wild stallion that if he did so, the unicorn would be less likely to run from him.

Starblaze sniffed the strange visitor and whickered, My, but he sure is funny looking! And he smells . . .strange too . . .

He's got no horn! cried a filly.

The others whinnied in alarm.

Where is it?

Did it get cut off?

Oh, how horrid! To be hornless. How does he heal?

Another filly squealed, Selene's Grace, he has no tail either! Hornless and tailess!

And look at his fur! It's so strange . . .all different colors.

Harry got the distinct feeling he was being sized up by the small foals and they found him very amusing. He blushed.

Moon Fire whickered sternly, Settle down, you lot! This is my guest and he has no tail or horn because he's not a unicorn, but a human. Understand?

Humans are weird, remarked a small filly, her name was Amber. She gazed up at Moon Fire fearlessly. Can you race with us, Moon Fire? Please?

The other foals and yearlings joined in, clamoring for Moon Fire to run with them.

To quiet them and because he needed to feel the wind in his mane, the big stallion agreed.

Stay here, he ordered Harry, then he moved over to the foals and they began to race and leap and spin all over the clearing.

Moon Fire showed the foals how to do all kinds of maneuvers, ones that could someday save their lives if they had to fight an enemy. He was in a much better mood now than he had been previously, since he had felt Selene's gentle whisper in his mind. The goddess had forgiven him his pride and stubbornness and told him to watch over the boy and when he trusted his mentor enough, to introduce him into the Mysteries. Severus had never done so before, though he knew the way of it.

But before he could heal the child fully, he had to gain Harry's trust. And that meant getting the boy to open up about his relatives and confronting Dumbledore with the abuse and removing the boy from Privet Drive.

Harry watched the foals and the moon stallion frolicking and wished suddenly he were a unicorn, or a beautiful stallion, so he could join them. They spun and leaped like thistledown upon the wind, their hooves barely scraping the grass, their manes flying. The stallion danced among them, moving like a streak of light, and none of the foals could keep up with him.

Finally, after twenty minutes, the foals were tired out and they went back to graze and nurse off their mothers, while Amicus watched indulgently.

Moon Fire trotted away through the trees and Harry started to follow, afraid the stallion would abandon him here. "Wait! Come back! If you leave, how will I get back to Hogwarts?"

He was about to step beyond the ring of trees when the Lead Stallion moved like a comet in flight and barred the way.

Amicus half-reared. Halt, youngling! Moon Fire goes to check the boundary. He will return. Back into the grove with you. Go!

He lowered his horn and gently shoved the boy back into the safety of the grove.

Harry backed away, not wanting to tangle with that horn, but he was impatient to get back to school. There was no telling what points and new detentions Snape would assign him for not returning with his ingredients. Still, it couldn't be helped. He hadn't asked to be attacked by Death Eaters.

The wizard moved over to where a pure stream trickled from a series of rocks and knelt, cupping a handful of water in his palm and drinking it. The water slaked his thirst immediately. Then he stood, waiting, for the stallion's return.

Moon Fire investigated the perimeter of the boundary thoroughly, listening for any rustle in the trees above or sound of voices but there was silence. He carefully backtracked and returned to the place outside the greenhouse where the attack had begun.

There was the pungent coppery scent of blood on the ground and the grass was crushed where he had trampled it and where Pettigrew had fallen. But the Death Eaters were gone. Relieved, he turned and galloped back to the grove.

Five minutes later, Harry was once more atop the black stallion, who bid goodbye to his unicorn brethren and promised to return as soon as he could. Then he turned and glided from the grove, Harry trying to both sit and not sit upon the smooth back.

Harry soon discovered that riding when you were already sore was horribly uncomfortable. But he endured the discomfort stoically, knowing this was the only way he could get back to school.

Moon Fire, for his part, tried as best he could to travel smoothly and quickly, knowing Harry was in pain. It can't be helped, boy. I am sorry, but you must grit your teeth until I am back at school, then I can give you a salve for it.

Harry hissed and winced at every other footfall, because though the stallion was being careful, he was still jounced and banged.

At last, Moon Fire halted in front of the greenhouse. The moon was nearly sinking below the trees and it had grown chilly.

Harry slid from the stallion's back, whimpering in relief.

But before he could do anything else, Moon Fire threw up his head and raced away into the night.

Harry wondered why, until he heard the familiar sharp tone of his professor, calling for him. "Potter! Where are you!"

For one moment, Harry was tempted not to answer, but then he realized that would only get him in more trouble. "Here, sir!"

He walked unsteadily towards Snape's voice.

In another moment he saw the professor, black robes billowing, coming down the path.

"Potter! What did you do, take a nap out here? I have been waiting for two hours . . .surely it doesn't take you that long to gather a few bunches of yarrow and milk thistle?"

"Sorry, sir, but I was attacked," Harry said, somewhat defensively.

"Attacked by what?" Snape demanded irately.

"Death Eaters, sir. They tried . . .to kidnap me."

Severus looked utterly flummoxed. "Death Eaters, here?" He gave Harry a searching glance. "Are you utterly certain that's what they were?"

"Yes. They wore gray robes and white masks and they were the same as the ones I saw at the Quidditch World Cup and the graveyard. And they wanted to . . .to take me to Vol—"

"Don't say his name, Potter!" Severus snapped. "Names are power and he has an enchantment attached to his."

"An enchantment?"

"Later. How did you manage to escape them?"

Harry hesitated. Should he tell Snape about the horse? He peered at the teacher and something in the other's gaze warned that lying to him would be a bad thing. "Uh . . .this is going to sound totally mad, professor, but . . .a horse saved me . . ."

"A horse?"

"Yeah, a big black stallion with a crescent moon upon his forehead. I . . .got on his back and he took me into the forest. We hid there from the Death Eaters and then I rode him back here. He . . .ran when he heard you coming, but I swear, I'm not making this up." Harry said. "Look, you can see the hoofprints in the ground." He pointed to the crescent shaped marks that were lit up by Snape's wand.

Severus examined the marks and nodded. "Only you, Potter, could be rescued by a mystery horse. Come along, if Death Eaters have penetrated the grounds, the Headmaster must be warned. We will go to him immediately."

He spun and urged Harry ahead of him with a firm hand on his back.

Harry tried to walk without limping, for he did not want to show any weakness to his professor.

But Snape had eyes like a hawk. "Problems, Mr. Potter?"

"No . . .sir."

"Lying again?"

"No . . .it's just . . ."

"Did the Death Eaters hurt you?"

Harry shook his head.

"Ah. You are not, I would imagine, accustomed to riding." Snape said, his voice smooth and matter-of-fact. "Novice riders often are sore after riding."

Harry gritted his teeth. His thighs and buttocks were burning. "I'm fine."

"Of course you are," drawled the professor. "Don't insult my intelligence, Potter."

Harry did not bother to answer, he just concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other.

The walk back to the castle never seemed so endless.

Once they reached the Entrance Hall, Snape halted. He snapped his fingers and Fetched a small earthenware jar of Abrasion Soothing Salve and handed it to Harry. "Potter, take this into the restroom and apply it where you need to. I trust you don't require my assistance?"

Harry went red and stammered, "N-no!" Then he gave Snape a suspicious look. "What is it?"

"A salve to heal you," Severus replied shortly.

Harry fled into the restroom as quickly as he could, locking himself into a stall.

He hissed as he peeled off his jeans and underwear, he was sore in places he never would have imagined and he feared it would be even worse tomorrow morning.

He bit his lip hard to keep from yelling as he rubbed the salve on, his skin was raw and at first the stuff stung like hell. But then it began to numb the skin and he quit biting his lip and sighed in relief.

After he had applied the salve all over, he went to pull up his underwear and jeans. It was then he realized his jeans were too stiff for him to wear comfortably. Damn! He swore and then he transfigured them into a soft pair of sweat pants. Those his abraded skin could tolerate. He finished fixing his robes and then walked out to where the Potions Master waited.

Severus eyed the boy up and down, noting his changed attire.

Harry felt himself go red at the scrutiny. "I had to change into these, I can use my robe to hide them, I know they're not proper—" he began, waiting for the sarcastic comment.

Snape merely raised an eyebrow. "Potter, you could show up in pajamas at this time of night and I doubt the Headmaster will care, once he learns the news. Come along, up the stairs now."

He spoke the password that would open the stone gargoyle, "Honeycomb Heart Treats."

The gargoyle slid aside and Harry and Severus stepped upon the revolving staircase, Severus wondering what Albus would have to say about this latest development and if it would lead to Potter's removal from the school early. If it did, would Severus then be asked to escort him home?

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