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Harry remained frozen, looking at the injured stallion in horrified disbelief. The horse was frightened and angry, he could tell by the way the stallion had his ears back and the eyes were rolling. Froth spilled from his mouth and Harry was certain that if the horse had had four good legs he would have bolted away by now. As it was, he could only stand there, teeth bared, looking as threatening as possible.

"Oh, Moon Fire! How did this happen? Why can't you remember?" Harry asked, stricken. "It must have been some kind of curse. I'll have to ask Hermione." He looked down at the stallion's left foreleg, which he was favoring, and saw that it was swollen, he had probably torn tendons or ligaments. "You need that leg looked after too, but I don't how I'm gonna do that without you kicking me to kingdom come."

He extended a hand towards the horse, moving slowly and carefully.

Moon Fire tossed his head and snorted, but made no move to thrust his muzzle into Harry's hand as he usually did. It was then that Harry realized that the great horse truly had lost his memory of who he had been and that Harry could be trusted. He recalled Snape telling him that when he became Moon Fire a part of him was still a half-wild stallion, untamed and unbroken, and sometimes the stallion instincts took over his thinking human brain. Now it appeared that Moon Fire was all wild horse and no human whatsoever.

It scared Harry to pieces. Was Severus trapped inside the horse's mind somewhere, unable to break free? Or was he just . . .gone, subsumed by the horse? No, that can't happen. Selene wouldn't let that happen, and She was the one who gave him the gift in the first place. He went to rescue Hermione on Her orders. I think . . .I think maybe he's just lost for a time and maybe there's a way to cancel the spell or maybe it'll wear off?

He prayed that was the case, for he found that he could not bear to lose his guardian. The man might be a strict pain in the rear sometimes, but he was also fair and he was the only thing standing between Harry and a foster home. Over the weeks he had been with the professor, Harry had developed a fondness for the man, and had been looking forward to learning more about wandless magic, and potions, and being initiated into the Mysteries. It was the first summer he could ever remember actually enjoying, and now it was ruined.

Tears stung his eyes and suddenly he was furious. Rage rose in the back of his throat, thick and hot, and he longed to go and kick all the Death Eaters' arses back to hell where they belonged. Must they pollute and destroy everything good in his life? Or the lives of his friends?

But then he looked at the exhausted stallion and remembered the man he had been and suddenly all the rage drained out of him. "I'll find a way to heal you. I promise." He told the horse. "Hermione can help, she's smarter than I am. There has to be a way to restore you. I know you're in there somewhere, professor. I won't quit until you're back to the way you should be. Selene as my witness, I swear it." He placed a hand over his heart in a silent pledge.

Moon Fire eyed him warily.

Harry sighed and then made his way back to the barn. He left the barn door open and a stall door ajar, with the water trough and hay net full, just in case Moon Fire desired to come into the warm and dry barn and sleep with Jasmine in the next stall. For now, that was the best he could do.

Tomorrow he would try again, he knew the horse had to be in considerable pain, but was too stubborn to accept help, much like his human self. Harry shed his sneakers beside the back door, as was usual, and went inside.

Hermione was still asleep on the couch. Harry crept upstairs to his loft on cat's feet, even though Hermione was probably so deeply asleep she wouldn't have woken if a bomb had exploded. Still, he had become accustomed to moving silently from his childhood, and he probably would never lose that habit. He quietly pulled on his pajamas and slid into bed. He closed his eyes and prayed to Selene. Moon Lady help me, please. Help me to help my guardian. Please, if you truly love all of Your children the way he says, then help Severus Snape.

He fell into a troubled sleep, and dreamed of the black stallion racing away from him and then falling off of a cliff into the sea.

Hermione woke with a stiff neck and her eyes felt gritty and sore. For one instant, she did not remember where she was, she glanced around the unfamiliar den with its huge fireplace and the beautiful framed portrait of the unicorn. Where am I? This isn't my house. It's beautiful, but . . .She clutched the blue blanket to her, overwhelmed by icy chills running up and down her spine.

The house was warm but her heart was cold. Cold and shattered by visions no one should ever have to see, or to remember. She squeezed her eyes shut. I don't want to remember. I just want to sleep forever and forget. Oh God, how I wish I could forget!

Tears were falling from her eyes to drip upon the blanket. She felt that she had cried an ocean of tears last night, but there was a well of bitter agony deep inside her that would never be healed. She had watched her parents die, and for all of her brilliant mind and all of her magical power, had been helpless to prevent it. Some witch she was! They call me brilliant, but what's the use of that when I can't use my so-called brilliance to save what I loved best? The first time I was truly tested, I failed.

She crushed the blanket to her mouth and began to sob helplessly.

She lost herself in misery until she heard stirring from upstairs and recalled that she was not alone in the house. Harry was here and so was Professor Snape. She hastily wiped her eyes with a corner of the blanket. She was a wreck, but she still had her pride. Her hand went up and clasped the silver unicorn charm that she always wore about her neck. It was a beautiful piece, exquisitely detailed down to the spiral horn and the flowing mane and tail. She breathed in and out sharply, combating the nausea that threatened to choke her. She had had the charm since she was a small baby and wore it always. She considered it her good luck talisman. Her mother had said it had been a gift from some distant cousin, sent to her on the morning of her christening.

Thinking of her mother made the tears come again.

She wiped them away when she heard the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs. Looking up, she saw Harry. He looked rather rumpled and untidy, like he hadn't slept well. "Hi. Good morning."

"Hey. You all right?" he asked, then immediately wanted to smack himself in the mouth. Of course she wasn't all right, she had just lost her home and family. "I . . . I mean . . ."

"I know what you mean," she said sadly. "I'm not, but . . ." She glanced up behind him. "Is Professor Snape home?"

Harry started. "No . . .but he did say he might be away for a few days," he said quickly. "So it's just us for now. And the two horses."

"Two horses?"

"Yeah. There's a white Arabian mare named Jasmine boarding here for awhile, she belongs to Andromeda Tonks. And there's Moon Fire, the stallion who rescued you last night."

"He belongs to the professor?" Hermione surmised.

"Yeah . . .kind of. He's half-wild and he doesn't really have a master."

"He was hurt." She recalled. "He hurt his leg jumping over the fence."

"I know. I'm going to need your help to fix him."

"Me? But I don't know the first thing about doctoring a horse, Harry. I'm not a vet."

"Neither am I, but we're all he's got," Harry said, his face tight with worry.

"Why don't you call a Magical Creatures vet?"

"Because nobody's supposed to know I'm here and I don't have any money to pay one."

"Can you call the professor?"

Harry shook his head. "No. He's sort of . . .gone incognito right now."

"Oh. Well . . .maybe he has a book on veterinary medicine?" Hermione suggested, at a loss. "I can't believe he actually owns a horse. I never would have thought him the type to be a rider."

Harry smirked slightly. "Yeah, me either. But he's . . .different than he is at school. There's more to him than the potions professor, Hermione. A lot more. He was the one who . . .rescued me from the Dursleys. And now he's my guardian." Who's now trapped in the form of a stallion.

Her eyes widened. "Really? That's . . .surprising. But I'm sure it's better than living at Privet Drive."

"It is. Believe me." He told her how Severus had gotten revenge upon his relatives before they had left and how Dumbledore had informed them of the Dursleys' deaths at the hands of Death Eaters.

"I'm sorry, Harry. They were terrible people, but nobody deserves to go . . .that way . . ." she sniffled sharply.

"Yeah." He put an arm about her and hugged her. "I couldn't stand them, but I feel bad that they died that way."

She leaned her head on his shoulder. "I'm glad. Because . . .it shows that you have a good heart. I wish . . .I wish I had thought to put up wards, or some kind of magical alarm, maybe then—"

He put a finger to her lips. "Shhh . . .don't. Don't go there. There was nothing you could have done. You're only a student, how could you expect to fight grown killers?"

"I didn't even have time to draw my wand, Harry! I'm supposedly the smartest witch in our class and when it counted I totally screwed up!" Her voice was filled with self-loathing.

"Stop," he ordered, sounding very much like his mentor, had he known it. "You couldn't have known they were going to come and attack you. Hindsight's always twenty twenty. And if you had attacked them, who's to say you wouldn't have been killed too? They don't care that you're a kid, 'Mione. They live to murder. They're monsters wearing human form."

"I know, but . . ."

"They wouldn't want you to feel guilty. Any more than my parents would want me to feel guilty that they died protecting me. I'm sure they're looking down on you from heaven right now and are happy that you're safe."

"You think?" she wiped away more tears. "Harry, do you think the professor will let me stay here? I . . .I don't have anywhere else to go. My parents were only children and my grandparents passed away when I was too little to remember them."

"I don't see why not," Harry said calmly.

"Do you think anyone's looking for me?"

"Probably. But you should lay low for now. You're safe here. Nothing can get past Snape's wards. Not even Dumbledore can break them. He had to get a special key in order to come over here."

"That's good. I . . .I wonder what they did with . . .with their remains? The Aurors, I mean. I hope . . .they give my parents a funeral at least."

"I'm sure they will." Harry said comfortingly. He knew the Aurors would see to it that Muggles didn't find out about the attack, and they would probably do something with the bodies as well. "Uh . . .how about some breakfast?"

"I'm not really hungry . . ."

"I know, but you need something in your stomach," Harry said. Selene's Grace, but I sound like Professor Snape. "How about some tea and toast?"

She nodded and slid into the window seat. The sun was shining and it looked like it was going to be a gorgeous morning. She twirled the unicorn pendant between her fingers and tried not to think about her parents.

Meanwhile, inside the stable, Jasmine woke and sniffed the air. She smelled another horse, a stallion, and hung her head over her partition, which was low enough for her to see into the neighboring stall, whickering a greeting. Normally, she was never placed with a stallion alone unless she was breeding, her stablemates were normally mares, geldings, and fillies. The Arabian could smell that the stallion lying upon the straw was injured, he reeked of fear-scent and hurt-scent.

But when she blew softly at him, as she would have a scared foal, he started up from the straw with a squeal, his hooves scrambling for purchase upon the stall floor. Where am I? Who are you?

Jasmine gave a soft snort. Easy, warrior. You're safe here. No one will hurt you. The boy and the man who live here and take care of me are very good to horses. My name is Jasmine. She sensed that he was unused to being inside a closed space, he sidled and rolled his eyes about once he gained his feet. She gave him the appellation "warrior" out of respect, for she instinctively knew that he was a veteran of many conflicts. Might I know your name?

The black stallion hesitated, for his mind was all in a fog, and for one terrifying instant he couldn't recall his own name. I . . .I am . . .Moon Fire. Yes, that sounded right. He lifted his head proudly. I am the Bright Lady's Chosen.

Jasmine did not have to seem impressed, for she had seen the Mark upon his brow, and knew already that here was no ordinary stallion. I know. You must have traveled a long way. How did you hurt your leg?

Moon Fire nibbled on some alfalfa and hay before replying. I hurt it jumping over that fence into here. I was on a mission for the Lady.

I see. Were you successful? She stretched her neck out and touched noses with him in greeting.

I . . .believe so. I brought the girl back here. He blew into her nostrils, getting her scent. She was a middle-aged mare, one that had borne a few foals, though she was not in season at this time. She smelled well-fed and was calm and peaceful, clearly she enjoyed being here, wherever here was.

He chewed some more of the sweet dried grass, it was very good, and eased the pangs of hunger in his belly. What is this and where does it come from? He asked after finishing his entire portion.

That is hay with alfalfa twists. The people bring it every morning and evening. Have you never been in a stable before?

The stallion shook his head. I . . .do not believe so. I am used to running free through the woods and fields. I . . .seem to remember racing some unicorns.

She quirked her ears at that. You have run with unicorns? Oh, you are so lucky! I have never even seen one, only heard stories from my dam when I was a foal. Are they as beautiful and magical as the tales?

Moon Fire bobbed his head. Very much so. If one of them were here, he could heal my leg. He dipped his head and sniffed the injured foreleg.

You ought to let the humans see to it. They can put medicine on it to heal it.

Moon Fire laid back his ears. No human touches me without my consent! I am nobody's pet!

Jasmine whinnied softly. Settle down, silly horse! You have naught to fear from the boy and the man. They can help you. Why suffer if there is no need?

I don't trust people. I will not submit to them like a tame lapdog and permit them to treat me like a slave. I am not like you.

Jasmine's ears went flat in anger. I am no slave, but a free horse who chooses to work with humans! No one beats me or locks me in a stall for days on end. My ancestors ran wild in the desert and were worshipped by our human companions. I would never shame them by becoming a slave, a broken down nag. Do not be arrogant and assume when you know nothing! She swished her tail angrily against her flanks.

He dipped his head briefly in an apology. Forgive me. I meant no insult. But all of this is strange to me. Something happened to me while I was retrieving the girl . . .and I cannot remember . . .there are large holes in my memory . . .things I should recall but do not and it . . .frightens me. He admitted very softly.

Perhaps you shall remember in time, she whickered encouragingly. The boy should be coming soon with some oats and carrots. You'll like them, Moon Fire.

The stallion lowered his head down to his knees, he was feeling very woozy and his leg throbbed terribly even though he was careful to keep it off the ground. He leaned against the side of the stall, and tried to focus past the pain and dozed.

After breakfast, Hermione asked if she might take a shower, she felt grungy and dirty after all that had happened.

"Sure. You can use the bathroom upstairs in the loft. While you're doing that, I'm going to turn out the horses and feed them their oats."

"Turn them out?"

"Yeah. Put them out in the paddock for the day."

"Uh, Harry? I wouldn't put them together if I were you." Hermione said.

"Why not? Jasmine's a mare, so Moon Fire won't fight her."

"No, but . . .he might decide to get frisky and do . . .other things with her."

Harry felt a slow blush crawl up the back of his neck. "No! He wouldn't do that! He's not . . ." He caught himself before he said, He's not really a horse, he's Professor Snape! Except he wasn't any longer, and as a horse, might he not find Jasmine attractive?

"Harry, I might not know much about horses, but one thing I do know is that if you put a mare and a stallion together, eventually the mare will have a foal. Simple biology. So, unless you want that to happen—"

"No! That would be a terrible thing to happen," Harry said quickly, shuddering. Who knew what kind of offspring would result from an Animagus and an ordinary horse? Harry didn't even want to think about it. He shuddered again.

"Then you've got to keep them apart. Put them out at different times or something. You can't leave them alone together. And maybe you should keep Moon Fire in his stall, so we can examine his leg easier?"

"All right. I'll do that. And I'll look through the library and see if the professor has any veterinary books." Harry agreed hastily. Then he tugged on his shoes and hurried out to the barn while Hermione climbed the stairs to the loft.

He found that Moon Fire had made his way to the open stall and was dozing inside. But the stallion's head jerked up when Harry paused outside the stall, and he put his ears back and whistled in warning.

Harry held up his hands, afraid the stallion might charge him, until he recalled Moon Fire's injured leg. The black horse's eyes were showing white around the rims, a sure sign that the stallion was frightened and angry. "Easy. Easy, big fellow. I'm not going to hurt you. Calm down or you'll hurt yourself."

Stay away from me! Moon Fire neighed.

Jasmine thrust her head over her stall door and whickered a greeting. Then she whinnied to her stablemate, Relax, Moon Fire! It's just the boy . . .Harry, they call him. He's come to bring us oats and clean our stalls. He won't harm you.

Moon Fire shivered. The boy's scent was not threatening, but some age old instinct was screaming at him that he couldn't trust humans, and coupled with his vulnerable leg, the stallion was wary. I don't like him. You can't trust humans.

You can trust this one, Jasmine argued, and when Harry came and unlatched her stall door to put the oats in her feeding trough, she nuzzled him.

"Hey, Jazzy. Got a new friend, huh? Move over, so I can feed you." He threw some of his weight against her shoulder, and the Arabian stepped back so he could get to her feed trough.

After dumping in the oats and giving her more hay and water, Harry turned to Moon Fire.

The stallion was in the far corner of the stall, standing on three legs, still looking like he wanted to trample Harry into the ground. Harry swallowed, only then realizing just how big the horse was and how much damage he could do with a single kick or even a bite. He had never thought about that before, because Moon Fire had always had Severus' consciousness within him. But now he could see plainly how dangerous and unpredictable the wild stallion was.

"Hey, Moon Fire. You must be hungry." Harry said, speaking softly and easily. He remembered the professor saying that the stallion couldn't understand words, but could understand tone. "Let me come in and give you some oats."

Harry moved carefully into the stall, pretending this was another ordinary horse. He tossed the oats in the feed trough and then replenished the hay and water.

Moon Fire stayed where he was, watching him.

"There, see? Breakfast," Harry told him. He turned back to Jasmine, who was calmly eating and drinking. "Might as well groom you now, before I turn you out."

By the time he had finished with the Arab's coat, Moon Fire had moved two steps from the back of the stall and was smelling the sweet scent of oats. But he waited until Harry had clipped a lead to Jasmine's halter and led her from the stable before approaching the feed.

Cautiously, he took a mouthful, and discovered it was delicious. Nutty and sweet and crunchy. It tasted as good as grass, if that were possible. And he was hungry, though he kept one ear out for the boy returning, and one eye fixed upon the open stall door.

Harry returned after a few minutes to put away the lead and clean out Jasmine's stall. He walked right past the stallion and ignored him, figuring maybe the stallion just needed to get used him being around. As he forked out the dirty straw into the wheelbarrow, he said softly, "I was hoping whatever curse hit you would have worn off by now. But I guess it was a strong one. I really wish you'd come back to us, sir. Hermione's an orphan too and we could really use an adult around here. And it would make it so much easier to treat you if you could remember who you are and change back. I haven't told Hermione about you yet because you wanted it kept secret, but something tells me I'm going to have to soon, and I hope you won't get mad and kick my arse once you find out."

Moon Fire kept one ear pricked towards the boy and continued eating. The boy's voice was low and soothing, it did not grate upon his sensitive ears. Funny, but it almost sounded . . .familiar. He didn't comprehend the words, but the way the boy spoke calmed him a little. He decided he would tolerate the boy's presence, so long as he didn't try anything like trying to touch him.

Harry finished up Jasmine's stall and left Moon Fire alone, shutting the barn door so he could not enter the paddock.

After washing his hands in the feed room sink, he went back to see about the vet book.

Rather than waste precious time searching, he Summoned the book with wandless magic. "Accio veterinary book!"

A large thick volume bound in red leather flew off a high shelf in Severus' bedroom, which was where he had his personal library, and into Harry's outstretched hands.

"Oh!" He heard a gasp behind him. "I didn't know you could do wandless magic!"

Harry turned, clutching the heavy book in both arms. "Professor Snape taught me a little bit. So far all I can do is Summon objects and return them and do a Cleaning Charm."

"That's more than I can do," she said, a slight hint of envy in her tone.

"Hermione, when you were rescued, did you see . . .I mean did the horse get hit by a curse or something while he was running away? Sorry, but it's important for you to remember."

Slowly she nodded. "Everything was chaos, spells were flying everywhere. I remember an Auror screaming at me to run, but I couldn't move. Then the horse came, and I somehow . . .he threw me onto his back, I think. And then a blue flash of light hit him in the head. I thought . . .I thought he was going to die, but then he started to run and I figured whatever spell it was hadn't hurt him. Why do you ask?"

"You're sure you saw a blue bolt hit him?"

"Yes. Positive. I remember almost everything about that night . . .even though I want so badly not to."

He saw the grief return to her face and regretted asking. "Sorry. But I had to know." He drew in a deep breath. "Hermione, how much have you read about Selene?"

"I've found references to Her in some of my textbooks. She's the Moon Lady, goddess of magic, and a lot of wizards follow Her. Or at least they used to."

"Yes. What would you say if I told you that Professor Snape was Her follower?"

"That wouldn't surprise me. Most of those who follow Her are secretive and private. And very strong in magic and dedicated to protecting children. He saved your life, Harry. And he might be strict, but he makes sure nobody ever gets badly hurt in class, and he always is prepared with counterdrafts and antidotes if someone does. How do you know that?"

"Because he told me. Sometimes . . .sometimes Selene grants Her initiates, like Severus, special powers and spells. . . what? Why are you looking at me like that?"

"You called the professor Severus."

"I . . .did? I didn't even realize . . .I guess . . .I sort of started thinking about him that way in my head and I just . . ." He frowned, not wanting to get off topic. His growing bond with his guardian was not something he wished to discuss right then. "Anyhow, Selene granted him the gift of an Animagus form. He's the stallion who saved you. He's Moon Fire."

Hermione felt her knees go weak and she quickly sat down on the couch. "The black horse in your barn is . . .Professor Snape?"

"Yes, and I think he was hit with a Memory Charm or something, because he doesn't remember who he really is." Harry said quickly. "I don't know what we can do to help him."

"Oh, Harry! Then he's trapped in horse form. How awful!"

"Yeah. But you can't tell anyone, 'Mione. He needs it to be kept secret."


"Because if the Death Eaters found out they'd kill him. He's working for Dumbledore as a secret agent. A spy. And you have to promise not to tell anyone that either. Swear it on your immortal soul."

"Okay." She put her hand over her heart. "I swear. I was right. I told Ron he wasn't what he seemed."

"The professor wanted everyone to think he was a nasty git. That was his cover. But now . . .we need to find a way to restore him if we can. And to heal that leg of his, I'm sure it's hurting him really bad. When a person is hit by a Memory Charm, how do you reverse it?"

"I . . .I'm not sure. I think you can use a potion—a Memory Restorative, but I don't know how it'll work on a horse. Sometimes . . .sometimes you can't restore them and they just . . .drift about in a fog, like Professor Lockhart."

"There has to be a way! He can't be lost forever, Mione! He just can't."

She placed a hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry. I can research ways on restoring lost memories. But we also need to fix that leg."

"Right. Let me see what this says." He opened the large veterinary handbook and began to flip through it.

Some ten minutes later, he cried, "Here! I've found something." He began to read slowly, " . . . Horses carry about 70% of their body weight on their forelegs. This makes them very prone to foreleg injuries. Racing and jumping add additional stress to these muscles, tendons and ligaments which increase the occurrence of injury in these disciplines . . . Suspensory Ligament Desmitis (sprain): This injury is the same as a bowed tendon except that a ligament is strained or ruptured-not a tendon. Ligaments have less elasticity than tendons and can therefore be injured easily. The suspensory ligament is located behind the cannon bone beneath the flexor tendons and connects to the sesamoid bones. This condition is caused by excessive strain on the area and can be aggravated by poor conformation. Treatment: Lower leg treatments to relieve inflammation/pain, and rest."

Hermione looked up at him. "You think it could be a ligament sprain?"

"It sounds likely, since he fell pretty hard after he jumped over the fence and injuries like that can happen in seconds."

"How do we treat it?"

"Let me see. Lower leg treatments, see page 345 . . . Liniments are used to increase heat, circulation and healing and are usually used under wraps . . .Epsom salts will also help reduce inflammation and fight infection in wounds or sprains . . .both hot and cold therapy should be used . . .Cold water treatments such as hosing leg down and wrapping a bandage soaked in ice water about the injury will help reduce inflammation and pain, should be used twice a day, for 40 minutes at a time. . .Sounds like what you'd do if a person sprained their ankle."

"It is very similar," Hermione agreed. "But how can we do any of that if we can't get near him?"

"I don't know." Harry sighed. "I don't know if we could knock him out with magic."

"You mean like a Stunning Hex?"

"Yeah, but what if he hurt himself worse falling down? We can't risk that."

"If we knew an equine vet, he could come and give him a sedative."

"Yeah, but one, we don't know any and two, we have no money to pay for one. Three, we can't leave the property. I have potions here that can put a person to sleep, but what if they can't be used on horses?"

"They could poison him, since a horse's body isn't exactly like a person's. I guess we could try and . . .and lasso him or something?"

Harry started to chuckle. "Lasso him? Hermione, this isn't the Wild West and I'm not a cowboy! I'd probably end up tying myself up."

"Then what can we do? Drug his feed?"

"Hmm . . .that's not a bad idea, but again, I don't know what's safe to use on a horse."

"Maybe we could try making friends with him?"

"It's worth a try. If I can get him to trust me a little, he might just stand still while I put a halter on him and tie him to the fence."

"Yes, and then we have to hope he doesn't go crazy and break the fence down," Hermione sighed. "But first we need to get him to trust you. You'll need to spend time with him, Harry. Let him get to know you. I'll try and read up on Memory Charms and see if there's anything on magical potions for animals."

"Okay. Snape's library's in his room."

"His room?" Hermione coughed. "Harry . . .I don't think he'd want me in his . . .err, bedroom."

"The library's not in his bedroom, just his . . .sitting room," Harry elaborated. "Look, I'll show you." He led the way down the small hallway and into Severus' room, which he'd only seen twice before.

The sitting room was wood paneled and had floor to ceiling length bookshelves all over it and a cherrywood end table, plus a large floor lamp and a green leather upholstered recliner. The floor was covered in a Celtic knotwork patterned area rug. A door at the right led into the bedroom.

"Nice place," Hermione said appreciatively. She looked at all the books, there had to be over three hundred, in awe. "I hope they're organized by some kind of system."

"Knowing Severus, they're organized better than the library at school."

"You did it again," she murmured.

"Did what?"

"Called him Severus." She peered at him searchingly. "I think you're starting to become comfortable around him."

"I'm what? Hermione, I don't call him by his name when he's in front of me. He never said I could."

"Then maybe you ought to start." She moved into the library, her hands itching to touch all the books.

"You're crazy. It just slipped out. He's my guardian, not my father." Harry just shook his head. "Have fun. If you need me, I'll be in the barn."

When he reached the barn and cautiously opened the door, he found Moon Fire standing hipshot inside the stall. The stallion pricked his ears when Harry entered but otherwise did not move. Harry moved slowly over to the stall door.

"Finished all your food, huh?" The hay net and oat box were empty, as was the water bucket. "I guess that's a good sign."

He peered at the stallion's injured foreleg, which was swollen and misshapen. Moon Fire was holding it gingerly, the tip of his hoof not even touching the floor. "Poor boy. Bet that hurts like a bitch." Moon Fire snorted. "I'm so lucky you're a horse and can't understand what I say, otherwise you'd be making me chug that gross cod-liver oil for talking to you this way."

Harry sat down upon an upturned bucket. He sat there and looked at the horse for a long time.

Moon Fire stiffened when the boy—Harry, Jasmine had said he was called—came in. He watched the boy warily, but he did not enter the stall. Neither did he leave, however. He simply sat there, and that made the stallion irritable. He did not like being shut inside this dark place, he longed for the open air.

He pawed the straw with his good hoof and whickered sharply.

"It's okay, Moon Fire."

The stallion tossed his head.

Harry leaned against the stall door, wishing that the stallion could remember him, even a little bit. He inhaled the scent of straw and oats and the musky smell of horse. Dust motes floated in the air and sparkled as they fell across the floor. The stallion remained quiet, his breathing a soft hush in the still air. Harry recalled how he had ridden the magnificent horse across the pasture, how the great stallion had seemed to fly across the ground, barely touching the earth, like a creature of air and mist.

To see him now nearly broke his heart. In pain, scared and wary, like a falcon with his wings clipped, or a hippogriff chained to a post. He belonged running free across the meadows and forests of Hogwarts, not languishing in a stall. "You have to let me help you. Please. I don't want to keep you in here, away from the sun and the wind and grass. But I need you to let me help you."

Moon Fire flicked his ears at him, and Harry hoped he was listening. Cautiously, he extended his hand towards the stallion, letting him catch his scent again.

Moon Fire wrinkled his lips at him, shifting uneasily.

Harry held his hand still.

Moon Fire's breath was warm upon his skin.

Emerald eyes met black ones, but Harry saw no flicker of recognition in them. He hung his head. Selene, please help him. He needs You more than ever. I need You more than ever.

He kept his eyes on the floor, wishing he knew someone to call. If I don't return in two days, contact Andromeda Tonks. She is another Selenian. She will help you. Severus' last words of advice echoed in his memory. It was then Harry remembered that Andromeda owned Jasmine. Surely she would know how to help an injured horse. He had to write her a letter right away.

He sprang to his feet, in his eagerness he knocked over the bucket, which rolled against the open door and made a loud clank!

His sudden movement coupled with the loud noise, startled Moon Fire.

The stallion shied violently, slamming his hindquarters against the side of the stall, which in turn jostled his injured leg. He screamed in pain and lunged forward.

"Whoa!" Harry cried, lifting his arm instinctively to cover his face.

But the raised hand appeared aggressive to the distrustful horse and he snapped instinctively at it and half-reared, screaming in fury. Back off, boy! Now! His hoof lashed out, and Harry toppled backwards, barely avoiding the kick.

He landed hard on the ground and froze, not daring to move. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to scare you. Easy, boy."

Moon Fire loomed above him, all blackness and size, then he came down, landing in the straw with a thud. Once more he neighed in warning. His leg was hurting even more now and suddenly he could not bear being inside for another moment. He gathered himself and hopped over the prone boy, just managing to clear Harry with an inch to spare. His hooves echoed upon the concrete as he started moving towards the half-ajar barn door.

Harry cautiously rolled over and started to get to his feet. "Moon Fire!" he called softly.

The stallion ignored him, and started to limp towards the barn door.

Harry stared after him in dismay, his heart pounding crazily in his chest. He had been certain he was going to end up smashed into the floor. He had not realized just how fast the stallion could move.

Harry climbed to his feet, then watched as Moon Fire shouldered open the barn door and limped out into the sunshine.

Jasmine lifted her head and whinnied as the stallion appeared. She lowered her head then and cropped the grass.

Moon Fire limped into the center of the paddock and began to graze, switching his tail. The sun felt good upon his hide, and he breathed in great gulps of fresh air.

Harry walked over to the barn door and sighed. You really screwed that up, Potter. Now what?

He whistled for Jasmine, and the mare came over to him. He scratched her ears. "Come on, Jazzy. Time for you to go in. I'd leave you out here, but Moon Fire's out here and he might . . .misbehave, so . . .come on, old girl." He took her by the halter and led her into the barn.

Once he got her stabled, he walked outside and stood beside the mounting block.

The black horse nibbled at the grass, then lifted his head and stared challengingly at Harry.

Harry scowled at the big horse. "You think you've won, huh? But you haven't. I can outsmart and outstubborn you. Wait and see." Then he turned and climbed over the fence.

He had a letter to send.

Well, what did you think?

Please forgive any typos, I've been battling a nasty head cold and sneezing all over my keyboard. Not fun!

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