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*Warning-you WILL want Kleenex for this one!*

Hermione had always thought of herself as a bright, resourceful, and courageous girl. After all, the Hat had put her in Gryffindor, which emphasized bravery. Her intelligence was sometimes daunting, but she had always prided herself on using her head and being a practical sort of person. Until now, she had always been able to solve any problems with her formidable brain, resourcefulness, and her teeth-gritting courage.

Until now.

Now she was helpless, undone, her magic bound, all of her courage and resourcefulness crumbled to nothing. Even her marvelous brain could see no way out of the trouble she was now in, and worse, she could not save those she loved best. All she could do was watch them die, and bear witness to the atrocity that was committed before her eyes. Her soul shriveled in horror, there was a terrible pressure about her heart that threatened to shatter it into a billion pieces, and yet she could not look away, or shut her eyes, no matter how much she longed to. She wanted to scream, to curse the evil wizards and witches who had torn apart her family, but her magic was trapped and her voice buried deep within her, where no one could hear the screams she uttered.

For the Dark Lord and his minions had come to Library Way, to her peaceful home, and proceeded to destroy her world. There had been no warning, no way that she could have prepared herself for what happened, the attack had been swift and deadly, like a pack of feral dogs attacking a herd of placid sheep.

She had been sitting down to dinner with her parents, Jeanne and Danny, serving herself a second helping of her mum's broccoli cheese casserole, the spoon buried deep in the vegetable dish when the bay window behind her shattered inward. She recalled screaming and her father shouting, "What the hell—!" her mother had cried out as well then asked her if she were all right.

"Are you hurt?"

"I'm fine, Mum," she had said, turning to see what had caused the window to break that way.

And she had come face to face with a grotesque silver mask worn by a tall figure in ash-colored robes.

She squeaked and backed away, calling her wand into her hand, but her reactions were too slow.

The Death Eater stepped through the window, boots crunching on glass, and casually disarmed her with a flick of his wand. "You dare raise a wand to me, Mudblood? I'll soon teach you the error of your ways," hissed the Death Eater, and then his hand clamped hard about her throat, silencing her.

Her father had cried something like, "Let her go, you bloody bastard!" and she had just enough time to marvel that her mild-mannered father had actually used foul language, which he almost never did, before her world went black as the hand closed off her airway.

When she came to, she found herself bound like a trussed pig by a silvery rope that glowed, tied to a tree in her backyard. The rope not only bound her physically, but magically as well, she discovered after trying to wandlessly Summon her wand. Before her in a semi circle were six Death Eaters and Voldemort himself. In the middle of the circle were her parents, bloodied and cut, eyes wide with fear and a sort of reckless eleventh-hour courage. They were not bound with ropes, but they remained on the ground, curled up, trembling with terror.

"Please, please, don't hurt my little girl," she heard her mother sob, and tears prickled her own eyes. She had never heard that particular tone in Jeanne Granger's voice before—a tone of utter defeat and terror, one that lacked any hope, reduced to begging for the mercy of those who had none.

"Do what you like with us, but let her go," her father spoke next, and in his voice was the same chilling despair.

Voldemort sneered. "A bargain, Muggle? You wish to strike a bargain with me?"

"I do," her father said, pushing himself to his knees.

"Fool!" Voldemort's boot shot out, kicking her father in the chin and knocking him flat. "I do not bargain with Muggles! I crush them!"

"Why? Why are you doing this to us?" asked Jeanne, helping her husband sit up, he was bleeding from nose and mouth.

"Because I can," laughed the other mercilessly. "Because Muggles are a blight upon the earth and need to be crushed like ants . . .or taught their place." He pointed his wand at Danny Granger and hissed something.

Her father began to writhe upon the ground, making horrible noises the human throat was never designed to render.

She tried to look away, but slender gloved hands wrenched her chin about. "Don't turn away, girl!" snarled a woman's voice. "You watch. This is part of your new education. Learn your first lesson well. Those who defy the Dark One shall suffer his wrath."

Then she released Hermione's chin, leaving red marks in her tender flesh and laughed—a high wild sound verging upon the edge of madness.

Hermione did not dare look away, and though she struggled silently to break her magical bonds, all of her anger and determination was useless. She hung her head, tears spilling down her cheeks, as Voldemort and his toadies had their sport with her parents. She would hear their cries in her sleep for years to come.

Desperate, she prayed silently—to God, to Selene, the Lady of Magic, to anyone who would listen. If anyone is out there, anyone at all, please help me! Help me and help my parents! Please!

She felt a kind of numbness creep over her, and didn't even flinch when the woman slapped her sharply across the face.

"Eyes front, girl! You ought to appreciate the Dark Lord teaching you this, it's not often he gives personal lessons this way. Now watch!"

Shaking, she looked again, and felt bile rise in her throat.

She glared fiercely at the wicked thing that called himself Voldemort and vowed silently that someday he would suffer the way she had suffered, the way her parents—may Selene have mercy—suffered. Someday, vengeance shall be mine! But then despair swept over her again and the hot flame of her courage withered in the frozen wasteland of fear. All was lost. She was alone and no one could hear her sobbing in the darkness.

Do not lose hope, little one. Help is coming. You are not alone, for I am with you.

She did not know where the silvery voice came from, perhaps from some last reserve of inner strength within, but it soothed and comforted her like nothing else. Though she was stiff and sore and paralyzed with fright, she felt a soothing warmth spreading through her, and phantom hands wrapping about her, holding her close.

I'm hallucinating. I must be. I'm so cold. In shock. And yet . . .I feel warm inside. Someone is coming to rescue me. But who?

Suddenly, figures in black and brown trench coats appeared at the edge of her backyard, shooting Stunning hexes and Impediment Jinxes and Blasting Curses from their wands.

Her heart leapt for joy.

Aurors!

But had they come in time?

The Death Eaters turned to face their ancient foes—a young woman with pink and purple hair, a tall black man, Mad-Eye Moody with his magical eye and even quicker wand, a youngish-looking man with a goatee who pointed his wand at her and chanted something she knew she ought to recognize.

The glowing ropes slithered from her and she felt her legs give way.

She crumpled to her knees, unable to speak, her mind still trapped in the nightmare of what had come before and what was still to come.

"Run!" the Auror was screaming as he dodged a Cutting Curse. "Damn you, girl, run!"

But she was frozen, her legs would not obey her, frozen in time, caught like a fly in amber, reliving the last awful moments of her parents' deaths.

She had seen the light leave their eyes, their bodies go slack as their souls departed, knew irrevocably that they were gone, yet a part of her could not accept it.

Spells were flying thick and fast all about her. She knew she needed to move, before she was struck by a misdirected curse, but she had no will to move. She heard Voldemort snarl "Avada Kedavra!" but could not see if the curse hit anyone.

Child, look up. Here is the help that was promised.

She felt the ground shake beneath her and then her eyes were drawn to the great horse that thundered to a halt before her, his satin midnight coat shimmering, the crescent upon his brow spilling a cool radiance over her.

A part of her shivered in awe.

Another part whispered—this is Harry's horse—the one he told you about—the moon stallion.

Moon Fire stamped a hoof impatiently and whistled sharply. On your feet, Granger! Now is not the time to go into shock. Get up!

The horse dipped his head, nuzzled her hair and her cheek, blowing softly into her ear.

The warmth of his breath tingled against her cheek, and she smelled the sweet scent of fresh grass and clover. He breathed out upon her again and suddenly she found herself on her feet, her arms about his muscular neck, weeping into his thick mane.

Moon Fire whickered sternly. Grieve later, child! Now is not the time. Up on my back! Hurry! The Death Eaters were distracted by the Aurors, but sooner or later he would be noticed and that he could not afford.

He turned his head around and fastened his teeth lightly in Hermione's shirt, kneeling down and then tossing her onto his back, as he had done to Harry at Hogwarts. He felt the girl scramble upright, sitting more or less astride him, and her hands fisted in his mane.

He turned to race back the way he had come, and so did not see the flash of the blue bolt that ricocheted off the tree where Hermione had been tied and slammed into the side of his head.

Hermione screamed and so did the stallion, as the spell stole away his awareness.

Panicked, Moon Fire knew but one thing.

He did not belong here. He needed to get back home.

He threw up his head, screaming in primal rage, and then he surged forward, running at full speed back along the silvery trail of moonlight, knowing instinctively where to go.

Hermione clung to the stallion as best she could, the wind stealing her breath and bringing tears to her eyes. She did not know where the horse was going but it did not matter, so long as it was far away from the wreckage that had once been her home.

She glanced back once and saw the distant flicker of magical fire and then she face forward and concentrated on staying astride her equine rescuer. The world raced by in a blur, she could not get a fix on where she was going, the horse was moving abnormally fast.

She could have sworn she had been riding forever, but when the horse thundered through a forest and across a pasture, she saw the moon was still up.

Moon Fire was sweating and yet he did not slow. He had one coherent thought in his mind—to get home and get the girl to safety. He took three strides, gathered himself and leaped over the paddock gate.

But Hermione's weight threw him for a fraction of an instant, and he misjudged his leap.

His right hind hoof slammed into the top rail of the fence, splintering it and when he landed, it was on his off fore, hard. He stumbled, went to his knees, and felt a hot shooting pain in his front leg.

Hermione tumbled off Moon Fire, and landed upon the grass, bruised but otherwise unharmed.

Moon Fire staggered to his feet, limped three paces, and stood still.

Hermione picked herself up and went to stroke the horse. "You poor thing! Are you hurt?"

Moon Fire shied violently, baring his teeth. He backed away, whistling a warning, his eyes rolling.

"Easy. I won't hurt you."

But the horse was plainly frightened and refused to allow her near. He backed away to the far corner of the paddock.

Hermione shook her head and turned to go up to the house. This place felt serene and peaceful, all was calm here. She wondered for a brief moment where she was and who lived here. She walked up to the house and stood on the porch, one hand raised to knock on the door, when it was opened.

Harry stood in the entryway, his emerald eyes peering drowsily at her. "Hermione? Are you all right?"

She took two steps and fell into his arms. "Oh God, Harry!"

"Hey. What happened?"

"Death Eaters. They came to my . . .house . . .and they . . .they k-killed my parents . . .!" She buried her head in his shoulder, her small frame shaking with sobs.

"Ah, Selene have mercy! Oh, 'Mione. I'm sorry . . ." he said, feeling utterly helpless and unable to say anything that didn't sound trite. He hugged her hard, pulling her into the house and letting her cry.

Somehow they ended up on the couch in the den, with Harry cradling the distraught girl in his arms. He said nothing, for he knew words would not mend this sort of hurt and just let her cry, all the while wondering where Severus was.

"Hermione?" he asked cautiously when the spate of sobs seemed to be slowing. "How did you get here? Did a . . .black horse with a crescent moon bring you?"

She nodded against his shoulder. "Yes. But . . .he hurt himself, jumping the paddock fence. He's out there now . . ."

Harry froze. Severus was hurt? Did that mean he couldn't shift back? Or did it mean that he had shifted back and was just taking his time mending whatever was wrong?

He rubbed Hermione's back, waiting until she had stopped crying before he offered her a vial of Calming Draught. "Here. It's a Calming Draught. It might help a bit."

She swigged the potion with the ease of one who had been taking bad-tasting medicine all her life. Then her face went sort of slack and her eyes took on a sort of dazed calm. She leaned back against him and asked, "Where am I?"

"Professor Snape's house."

"Snape's house?" she slurred her words a bit as the potion took effect, making her sleepy as well as utterly relaxed.

"Yeah. I've been living with him for weeks now, ever since the Dursleys were killed." Harry told her.

"You too? I'm sorry . . ." she sniffled.

"Shhh. It's okay."

"Where's the pr'fessor?" Hermione asked, amid a jaw-cracking yawn.

"He's away right now," Harry said quickly, the lie rolling off his tongue with ease. "He'll be back soon."

"'Kay." She murmured and then her eyes closed.

Harry tucked Severus' blanket about her and then rose to his feet.

He had to see to Moon Fire, or to Severus. The back door slammed as he went out to the pasture.

"Professor Snape? You all right?"

The white fence shone in the moonlight, and he could just make out a dark shape beneath the tree at the far end of the pasture. He walked towards it. "Moon Fire?"

A whicker. Soft and low.

Harry reached the fence and climbed over it. "Moon Fire? Can you change back? Sir, can you understand me?"

The brilliant crescent upon his brow gleamed and Harry could see the stallion's face. Sweat sheened his midnight coat and he stood awkwardly on three legs.

"Hey. You hurt your leg, huh? Can't you shift back?"

The stallion snorted, shifting backwards, neighing sharply.

Harry reached out a hand to stroke the velvet nose and Moon Fire half reared, snorting warningly.

"Moon Fire? What's the matter with you? It's me, Harry."

The boy looked up then and met the stallion's eyes for the first time that night.

In them he saw the fear and pain and wariness of a wild stallion, and there was nothing of the keen intelligence and otherworldly intuition that had been there before.

"Dear sweet Selene!" Harry cried in horror. "What's happened to you?"

The stallion trembled and screamed, his dark eyes wild, lacking any recognition of who Harry was, or anything to do with his former life as the Potions Master of Hogwarts.

Now the real fun begins, as Harry and Hermione try and heal the injured Moon Fire, and restore Severus to himself . . .if they can.

Hope you all enjoyed this! Some of you may be upset with the Grangers dying, but it was necessary for the plot line of the story, you will see why later on.

Thanks everyone for reading and reviewing.

I have also posted a new fic called Wizard's Luck set in my Prince Manor world, if you haven't read it yet, please do and let me know what you think!

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