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Moon Fire cropped the grass in the paddock, nibbling gently, while trying to keep his weight off of his hoof. The leg had grown more swollen and was inflamed as a result of the second knock it had had while Moon Fire was in the stall and had startled. The big horse wished there was a pond in the paddock so he could soak his foot in it. He knew that would relieve some of the pain and swelling.

He ate another mouthful of grass.

Jasmine came and grazed close by, daintily ripping up mouthfuls of the sun-ripened grass. Harry hadn't latched the stall properly, enabling her to flip up the latch and come out. She lifted her head and observed the injured stallion quizzically. You really ought to allow one of the humans to look at your leg. They can help you. It looks quite painful.

Moon Fire whinnied derisively. I'll live. I don't trust humans. I have always managed to take care of myself.

Jasmine switched her tail, brushing off some annoying flies. Humans aren't that bad. And if you don't get some help with your leg, it may get so bad that you'll have to be . . .put down.

The stallion raised his head. Put down? As in killed?

Well, yes. Though people only do it to horses who are in agony or suffering too badly to save. Like when a horse gets irreversible colic or breaks a leg too badly to heal.

And what gives people the right to decide whether or not a horse should live or die? Only Selene has that right. Moon Fire declared angrily.

Jasmine snorted, edging closer to him. True, but if you were going to die anyhow, and were in agony, which would you choose? A quick death by a magical injection or potion or to suffer until you passed from this life? I know which I would prefer.

Moon Fire ambled a bit further, wincing as pain shot up to his shoulder. Hmm. Perhaps you're right. I do not enjoy pain.

What animal does? Let the humans help you, silly horse! You'll feel better and so will they. They haven't hurt you yet, have they?

No. The stallion sighed. He nosed his leg, which felt tight and hot. He was not stupid, he knew that his leg was badly injured. He just had a hard time being dependent upon anyone or anything. He had always been independent and proud of it.

Jasmine came up and nuzzled him gently. There are good as well as bad people in this world, Moon Fire. The ones who live here and those whom I live with are decent ones, they obey the Old Ways and worship the Moon Lady. They consider us part of their herd and would willingly help us.

Moon Fire ate some more grass. For what price? Our servitude?

No. I have never seen Harry or Severus compel a horse to serve them. They would most likely wish to make friends with you.

Friends? Humph!

Do not be so quick to judge, Jasmine rebuked. Sometimes a human can be one of the best friends you could have.

Moon Fire snorted. He doubted that. But he considered Jasmine to be a wise horse, for all of her prattle about good humans. He would consider her words carefully.

Meanwhile, Harry wrote a note to Andromeda and explained that he could really use her help caring for an injured stallion that had wandered onto the Snape property. He told the woman that he was staying with the professor for the summer, but Snape was called away on an emergency for a few days and Harry couldn't get in touch with him. He asked if she would be willing to help, though he didn't have anything to dismantle the wards.

She wrote back that she would be happy to help and told him not be worrying over the wards, Severus had long ago given her a special Portkey. She told him to expect her and her apprentice within the hour.

In the meantime, you might want to try running a hose over his leg, if he will allow it. I shall bring some heat compresses with me as well as some head restraints, I don't like using magic on an animal unless it's absolutely necessary. The restraints bind without harm.

See you soon.

Sincerely,

Andromeda Tonks

Dueling Mistress and Equine Healer

PS: May you walk always in the light, child.

Harry smiled and then went to see how Hermione was doing.

He found her in the den, curled up on the comfy sofa, reading through the book on magical transformations, trying to find a way to turn Severus back to a human being again. "Find anything yet?"

Hermione looked up at him. He saw to his dismay that her eyes were red-rimmed and sore. But she responded gamely. "Not yet. Although the book does say that it's possible for a new Animagus to get trapped in their animal form if they remain in it for too long. But so far I haven't figured out what to do to bring them out of it." She stared up at him, worry creasing her face. "Oh, Harry. What if . . .what if there isn't a way to bring him back?"

"There has to be a way, Mione! There just has to." Harry said determinedly. "One way or another, I shall find a way. If . . .if it were me or someone else . . .he wouldn't give up till he found a way to bring us back. I don't know how I know that, but I do."

She clasped his hand in hers. "I believe you. And I'll help you however I can. Because . . .because nobody should ever have to lose a parent or a guardian twice." She blinked away tears and set the book down to blot her eyes with a handkerchief.

Harry hugged her. He felt guilty asking her for so much when she had just suffered a terrible loss. But he had no choice. He couldn't handle this by himself. "I'm sorry."

"For what? It wasn't you who destroyed my family. Do you need me to do anything?"

"Yeah. See if you can try and calm him with apples and oatmeal biscuits while I get a hose and try and run it over his leg. Andromeda Tonks is going to be here soon to help us treat him, but she told me to do that first. Said it would help the pain and swelling."

Hermione nodded and Summoned the required treats from the cabinet and fruit bowl. "Okay. I'm ready."

"Go on. Go out and make friends with him," Harry urged.

Hermione pulled on her sneakers and then walked out to the paddock, her hands cradling an apple and some oatmeal biscuits. Moon Fire raised his head as soon as she approached. His ears pricked at her and her eyes met his. She saw a sharp intelligence in them, though nothing uncanny like Harry had said he possessed before. She felt terribly guilty then, for he had been injured saving her.

"I'm sorry, Moon Fire. If you hadn't come for me . . .maybe you would have never gotten hurt or cursed. I'll try my best to help you. If you'll let me." She came and stood by the fence, holding a hand out with an oatmeal biscuit on it. "Please, let me help, Moon Fire. I know you're hurting. So am I. Maybe if . . .I can help you . . .it'll help me too."

Jasmine nickered and bumped her fellow herd member gently. Go and take the treat, Moon Fire. She's brought it for you. I heard her call your name. Go!

The stallion hesitated. He could smell the sweet aroma of oatmeal mixed with sugar and molasses, it made his mouth water. He could also smell the sharp pungent scent of grief that clung to the girl. It made him uneasy, but also protective. He discovered he didn't like the girl feeling that way.

Cautiously, he limped forward, stopping a scant foot away from the fence.

"Hello, Moon Fire. I brought you a snack," she whispered.

He extended his nose, whuffing into her palm. Very gently, his lips skimmed her hand and lifted the oatmeal biscuit and ate it. It was delicious.

She smiled sadly. "Like that, huh? They're my favorites too. My mum used to make them for me all the time . . ." Her eyes misted with tears.

Moon Fire breathed soothingly in her face. He could guess that she had lost her mother, her reactions were very much like his own when he had lost his own.

"Want some more? You can't eat just one." She proffered him another one.

Again he lipped it off her hand.

She sighed but made no attempt to touch him. "Easy, boy. No one's going to hurt you. Not here."

She continued talking to him, trying to get him used to the sound of her voice. Gradually, he relaxed and reached for the apple as well. He was crunching it, his mouth filled with the juicy sweetness, when Harry appeared around the corner of the barn, carrying the hose.

Immediately, the stallion's head swung about and he laid back his ears.

"Easy, boy." Hermione soothed. "Harry won't hurt you. He's here to help. Now just stay still, okay?" She wished she dared put out a hand and stroke his lovely satiny coat, but didn't dare. Moon Fire was very skittish and she didn't want to frighten him.

Jasmine trotted over and breathed into the stallion's nostrils. Remember, they only wish to help you. Cool water comes out of that snake thing in his hand.

Are you sure it isn't a snake?

Positive.

Moon Fire forced himself to remain still, though every instinct he possessed was shrieking at him to run away. A shudder swept through his mighty frame and his tail smacked hard against the fence post in protest. But he did not flee.

Harry dragged the hose through the grass and almost to the place where Moon Fire stood before he realized that the hose wasn't long enough to reach the horse. "Damn!" he swore under his breath. Then he dropped the hose and pulled his wand. He knew how to cast a Water Spell, and he pointed it at the injured leg and muttered the spell.

Water squirted from his wand in a steady stream, Harry aimed it at the big horse's shoulder first so he could determine how the horse reacted.

Moon Fire flinched but didn't move.

Gently, Harry lowered his wand until it was trained upon the injured portion of the leg.

The icy water felt wonderful upon Moon Fire's hot leg. It numbed and soothed. He bent his head and drank the water flowing onto his leg. Then he lifted his head and whinnied imperiously. That feels good. More, please.

"I think he likes it," Hermione declared. "Here, Moon Fire. Have some more biscuits."

Moon Fire ate the others eagerly, sighing in pleasure.

Harry continued to bathe the leg in cold water for several more minutes.

The white mare came over and poked Hermione in the shoulder, asking for treats. Hermione fed her the other pieces of apple in her hand, which she accepted graciously.

Moon Fire lowered his head and leaned upon the fence, his ears flicking back and forth, allowing the soothing water to work its own brand of magic upon him. Bees buzzed about the bluebells and cowslips and birds sang in the trees. It was a beautiful afternoon, not too hot or too cold, but just right.

Jasmine touched noses with him. See? Doesn't that feel good?

Yes. Don't gloat, mare. This is no more than what I would do for myself were there a stream about.

Jasmine sighed. He was such a stubborn and aggravating stallion! But then, so were most stallions. Proud hot-tempered creatures, though this one seemed to be able to have sense talked into him. Miraculous.

Fifteen minutes later, Harry was about to cancel the spell, his arm was beginning to ache from holding it straight, when there came a slight shimmering in the air and then two people appeared just beyond the paddock. One was a tall woman with short dark hair touched with premature silver, she was wearing casual riding breeches and boots and a cream colored lawn shirt. She had a narrow face with deep blue eyes and a wry smile. Her hands were full of a soft rope and a sack. She looked about forty.

But it was the other wizard behind her who nearly caused Harry to drop his wand.

For there, holding what looked like a soft halter and lead, was none other than Harry's school rival, Draco Malfoy.

Harry stared at the other boy, who was dressed very similarly to his aunt. "Malfoy! What are you doing here?"

Draco's lip curled in his trademark haughty sneer. "I could ask the same of you, Potter. Since when do you live with Professor Snape?"

"Since his relatives died and the professor said he could live here," Hermione spoke up then.

Draco spun on her. "Granger. Come to share the charity?"

Hermione flushed and she bit her lip.

"Draco Antonius Malfoy!" snapped Andromeda. "Is this how I taught you to behave? Insulting a girl who has just suffered a terrible misfortune? Your mother would be ashamed of you."

To Harry's astonishment, Malfoy blushed and looked down at his polished boots. "Sorry, Aunt 'Dromeda."

"Apologize to Miss Granger, not me. I had thought you had grown out of Lucius' teachings, but I suppose not."

"No, I have, Aunt." Draco said quickly, looking terribly embarrassed. He looked over at Hermione. "I apologize. What I said was rude and uncalled for. My condolences upon your loss." He said, stiffly formal, but somehow managing to sound oddly sincere.

"Apology accepted," Hermione responded softly.

"And?" Andromeda prompted. "You owe Mr. Potter an apology too."

"What? But Aunt Dromeda—" Malfoy looked as if he would rather eat toads.

"Now, young man. Or would you like to muck out twenty stalls after we finish here?"

"No, ma'am." Draco said respectfully. He gritted his teeth. "I apologize, Potter. Sorry for your loss as well."

Harry nodded, still eyeing Draco warily. "Why are you here?" he repeated his earlier question.

"Draco is my apprentice," answered Andromeda. "Didn't Severus tell you he's a student at my academy?"

"No, Mrs. Tonks."

"Andromeda, please. Mrs. Tonks makes me feel very old," she chuckled. "Now then. I see my Jasmine is managing to keep this wild one from bolting. She's always been a good one for that, aren't you, my girl?"

Jasmine whinnied a greeting at her mistress.

Andromeda turned to look at Moon Fire and her breath caught in her throat. "Lady Bless! This is one of Her favorites. He bears the Mark."

"He's beautiful," Malfoy said, naked admiration in his voice. "Better than any stallion I've ever seen, even your Pharoah, Aunt Dromeda. But then, he would be. The Lady only chooses the best."

Harry froze. "The Lady? You know about Selene?"

Draco snorted. "Please, Potter. Of course I know of Her. I was raised in a wizarding household. My mother told me stories of Her from the time I could talk."

"But your father is in league with You-Know-Who," Harry protested.

Draco's mouth twisted into a bitter line. "I never said anything about him worshipping Her, now did I?"

Hermione's mouth dropped open. "You worship Selene? But you called me a . . . Mudblood!"

"You called her a Mudblood?" Andromeda growled, glaring at her nephew.

Draco flinched. "I . . .I had to, there were other Slytherin Death Eater kids around. Ow!" He yelped as Andromeda's hand connected with his ear. "I didn't really mean it."

"Then you shouldn't have said it," declared the older woman in a clipped tone.

"Okay. Selene's Grace, Aunt!" Draco rubbed his ear. "That was two years ago!"

"This is the first I'm hearing of it. You know how I feel about that word, boy."

Draco sighed and grumbled, "Thanks, Granger. Now I'm in for it."

"How do we know you're really Her worshipper?" demanded Harry suspiciously.

"This." Draco reached under his shirt and withdrew a silver chain upon which hung a silver crescent moon. "Only an acolyte of the Path of Mysteries can wear this. Or didn't Professor Snape tell you that?"

Harry bridled at Malfoy's faintly condescending tone, but had to admit that the other boy was right. Only a true follower of the moon goddess was given Her holy crescent.

"I don't get it. If you're Her follower, why do you act like a pureblood arsehole at school?"

Malfoy rolled his eyes. "Two words, Potter. My father."

"Oh." Suddenly Harry understood a great deal.

"Enough, you two. You can discuss this another time," Andromeda said briskly. "Right now our first priority is this horse. Moon Fire, is it?"

"Yes. Professor Snape said that was his name." Harry told them. He couldn't believe Malfoy, of all people, was a Selenian. But the proof was unmistakable. He could feel the familiar aura of the goddess.

"Is he Snape's horse?" Draco asked.

Harry shook his head. "Not . . .exactly. He's half-wild and he comes and goes as he pleases. He hurt himself jumping over this fence. And neither of us could get near him to help him until today."

Moon Fire eyed the newcomers warily, stepping back from the fence. His ears were half back and he plainly did not feel comfortable with more people.

Andromeda examined him with a practiced eye. "That's a bad sprain, fellow. You need my poultices and potion wash. Of course, you're not going to make it easy on me, are you?" her voice was low and even, speaking to the horse as if he were another person. She quickly made herself a loop out of the lightweight silvery rope in her hand. "If you trusted me, or if I had time, I would use an easy approach. But I don't, so . . ."

Moon Fire whinnied and bared his teeth, his eyes rolled white. What is that? What do you think you're doing? He started to back away, whistling angrily in challenge.

Andromeda flicked her wrist and the loop sailed through the air, landing neatly about Moon Fire's neck.

Moon Fire half-reared, and Andromeda pulled the loop tight and snubbed it about the fence post.

Harry expected the black stallion to go ballistic, but before Moon Fire could fight, Andromeda said, "Amici equus."

The silvery rope shimmered and sparkles fell about the stallion's head like rain.

Moon Fire inhaled the odd silvery sparks and felt a peaceful lassitude flow over him. He came down and lowered his head docilely.

"Wow!" Harry exclaimed. "What kind of rope is that?"

"A Rope of Calming. It lets me treat stubborn and frightened horses without resorting to a twitch or hobbles," Andromeda replied. She opened the gate and stepped through into the paddock. "Draco, activate the heat packs."

Draco took a white pouch like cloth and whispered a word and it began to glow softly.

She moved over and took a soft halter-like headstall and wrapped it snugly about Moon Fire's head. She attached two lead lines to it and wrapped them about the fence as well. "This is a restraint halter. It holds the horse without harm, and doesn't let him get enough leverage to pull free." She knelt and felt Moon Fire's leg over. "Easy, boy. As I thought, a bad tendon tear."

"Will he recover?" Harry asked nervously.

"Yes. But he'll need some extensive physical therapy and treatment. It might take a month or two. First, however, we'll see if we can't get the swelling down. Draco," she held out her hand for a pouch. "These are heat wraps. Designed by me to ease strained tendons and ligaments." She slipped the wrap over Moon Fire's hoof and then wrapped it snugly about his leg. "We'll keep that on for twenty minutes. Then I'll rub on some special potion that will reduce the pain and heat in the leg. You'll have to do that twice a day, morning and night. Same thing with the packs."

"Should he be allowed to move around?" asked Hermione.

"He can have some exercise during the day. It's not good to let a horse stand too long in a stall, they could develop thrush." Andromeda said. "Put him in his stall at night, however."

"Can you leave Jasmine here?" asked Harry. "I think she's a good influence on him."

Andromeda nodded. "Yes. My Jasmine is a good mare, she has a calming influence on nervous horses." She scratched Jasmine behind the ears.

"I noticed. But how can we bring him in and out of the barn? He doesn't trust us," Hermione said. "Can we keep that rope?"

But Andromeda shook her head. "This rope is not to be used on a horse more than two times in a month. I shall show you how to tie the leads on his restraining halter. As for trust, that is something you must work on with him on your own. This is a smart horse, if he knows you will help and not harm him, he should allow you to tend to him. The first thing a good horseman or woman needs to do is establish trust with your horse. You can do that by spending time with him and letting him get used to you and never ever shout at him or try and grab him, that will frighten him and make him very wary of you."

Harry winced, recalling his mishap with the bucket yesterday.

"You need to keep that leg treated with hot and cold therapy for a week and after that I shall come back and look at it. Then you can start him on a spa regimen."

"A spa regimen?" Hermione asked. "For a horse?"

"Yes. Water massage treatments work wonders upon injured horses. With that and my potions, we'll have him running around again in no time."

"My aunt is the best horse Healer anywhere," Malfoy declared. He gave Harry a look, as if daring the other wizard to refute him.

Andromeda coughed slightly. "Draco, you're a bit biased," she said modestly. "If you like, I can send Draco back here tomorrow, he is familiar with dosing sick horses and can show you how to calm one without the rope."

As she spoke, she undid the loop and slipped the rope off the stallion, as well as unsnapping the leads on the halter. She handed the leads to Harry. "Did Severus say when he would be back?"

"Uh . . .no, ma'am. He said it was . . .an urgent mission and he might be away for several days."

Andromeda looked worried. "I hope he will not put himself in too much danger. The man risks his life too much." She looked thoughtfully at Harry. "I trust he has told you to stay upon this property, Mr. Potter?"

Harry nodded.

"See that you obey him. I have never seen any wards like the ones he has over this place. Not even my brother-in-law can breach them."

Moon Fire shook his head, coming out of his mild serene state. He sniffed at the wrap about his leg, finding it did not hurt, and his leg felt much better. He blew softly and walked slightly away from Andromeda, moving a bit easier across the ground.

"There are two potions that I have that will speed up healing and decrease inflammation," Andromeda continued. "Right now I only have these to give you. I need to brew more. I shall send Draco over with them tomorrow morning." She handed Harry two large vials, one containing a milky blue solution and the other a green one. "Give him the blue one in his drinking water and the other mix in with his oats. Do you know how to make a bran mash?"

Harry shook his head, feeling like an idiot, especially because Malfoy was smirking at him behind his hand.

"Draco, fetch what we need and then show Miss Granger and Mr. Potter." Andromeda ordered. "And quit acting like a superior little snot."

Draco's face fell. He muttered, "Yes, Aunt 'Dromeda," then headed into the barn to the feed room.

Harry was impressed. Apparently, Andromeda either knew Malfoy really well, or she was like Snape, and had eyes in the back of her head.

Andromeda sighed. "Please forgive him. He's not truly as stuck-up as he pretends, he has learned to dissemble because of Lucius, may the Lady blast him. Lucius wishes no taint of the goddess to stain his heir and forbids Draco to learn about the Lady. He wants him to be like he is—a sly slick-tongued bigot, who serves a wicked master and favors torture and destruction. Cissy and I have done our best to teach Draco otherwise as best we can, but Lucius must never suspect, or else he may force Draco to become a Death Eater. So Draco must act the part of the supercilious pureblood."

Hermione and Harry exchanged glances. Neither would have suspected Malfoy to be anything other than the shallow rich boy he acted. The Lady works in mysterious ways, Harry thought. Despite his new knowledge, he still wasn't sure he could trust Malfoy.

Draco returned and showed both Hermione and Harry how to make a warm bran mash with hot water and molasses and mix up the potion into it. "See, it's not that hard," he said, his tone implying that only an idiot wouldn't remember how to do this. "Just make sure he eats it all."

"We will, Mr. Expert," Harry said sarcastically.

Draco glared at him.

Andromeda frowned. "Boys, for the sake of this horse, I strongly suggest that you set aside your foolish schoolboy rivalry and learn to work together."

The two looked away from her and did not speak. Setting aside that rivalry was easier said than done.

"Very well. Have Severus contact me when he returns. If you have any problem with Moon Fire, you may call me." Andromeda said.

"Andromeda? Is it . . safe for Moon Fire and Jasmine to be together like that? I mean . . .wouldn't he try and . . .umm . . .you know, breed with her?"

"Not unless he wants to be kicked to pieces. Jasmine isn't in season and so she'll reject him, even if he was well enough to try. So have no fear on that score. I shall see you next week then."

"Thanks, Mrs. Tonks. I-I mean, Andromeda," Harry said, relieved that at least the horse was going to be okay. Eventually.

" You are most welcome. Come, Draco. You still have chores and lessons today." She took her nephew's arm and then they Apparated away.

Harry lifted the bucket and carried it back into the barn and dumped it into Moon Fire's feeding trough. Hermione remained leaning on the fence, watching the stallion as he grazed, happy that at least he would heal and the injury was not a permanent one. She could still recall that quicksilver ride through the night, desperate and scared as she had been, that sensational feeling of flying without wings would never leave her.

Oh, Moon Fire. I hope I can help restore you to yourself. We need you, Professor, so much. More tears came to her eyes and she sneered at herself for being such a weepy baby. She wasn't even crying for her parents, but for poor Moon Fire, the gallant wizard who had sacrificed himself and now did not even remember it.

The big stallion raised his head and looked at her, and for a moment, just a moment, she thought he recognized her. But then he turned away and began eating again and she was uncertain if she had seen anything at all.

Harry returned and leaned on the fence as well, watching Moon Fire. "Can you believe that Malfoy—of all people—is an initiate? It's enough to blow my mind. After the way he acted . . ."

"But you heard Andromeda, Harry. It was all an act. He had to pretend because of his father."

"And you believe that?"

"Harry, why would she lie to us? And didn't you tell me that the Lady only accepts those as Her initiates who are worthy? It would be a simple thing to prove them wrong, all we would have to do is ask Draco to touch something blessed by the Lady and if he wasn't a true follower, the item would burn him or something."

"Well, I still don't like him. Or trust him."

"You don't have to like him in order to work together with him," Hermione said practically.

"Right. Well, it's been a long afternoon. How about we go and eat some lunch or tea or whatever? I make a mean grilled ham and cheese." Harry offered.

"All right. I am kind of hungry. I can make a salad."

The two headed back to the house, leaving Jasmine and Moon Fire alone in the paddock, with the barn door open so that Moon Fire could enter and leave it as he chose. It was a rather unorthodox arrangement, but it worked for them.

Hermione couldn't help thinking that it felt odd to be living in Snape's house by themselves. It was almost like they were playing house and just waiting for their parents to get home.

Well, I guess that was a bit of a shock, huh?
 

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