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That night, Harry dreamed that he rode Moon Fire through Sherwood Forest, and the stallion brought him to a secret glade in the heart of the wood, where there was a vast clear pool of water. The pool was overshadowed by mighty oaks and ash, but shone mirror bright in the light of the full moon.

Harry slipped from the stallion's back and knelt to drink at the pool, for he was hot and thirsty from his ride, but as soon as his hand touched the water, it began to glow with a silvery radiance. As he stared, the water rippled and then became still and the face of a beautiful woman with long silvery hair twined with amethysts, moonstones, and opals appeared.

'Hello, Harry.'

Harry knew in an instant who she was. "Gracious Bright Lady, how may I serve You?"

She smiled genially at him, her violet eyes dark with sorrow and wisdom and the knowledge of what was, is, and what may yet be. 'You have been Chosen by me to right a great wrong, child.'

"Do you mean fighting You-Know-Who?"

'No. Though that is important, the task I have given you is more so. But you cannot do it alone. Seek help from my initiates, and the Girl-Who-Is-Not, to complete this task.'

"What is my task?"

'You shall discover it anon, my son.'

"Would You grant me a favor then, Lady?"

'Perhaps. Ask.'

"Can you restore Moon Fire to himself?"

The goddess shook her head sadly. 'Alas, that is one thing you must do on your own. What magic did, magic must undo.'

"But how? I don't even know what spell he was hit with."

'The answers are within you, child. Seek and you shall find.'

Harry sighed impatiently. "Well then can You at least tell me how to gain the trust of a half-wild horse?"

Selene laughed softly. 'Harry, you already know that answer too. To trust is to love. Remember that. And when all seems lost, look up to the moon and let the light guide you. I am always with you, my beloved son.'

Then she vanished and Harry was left staring at water glistening with refracted moonlight once more.

"Why must they always speak in riddles?" he muttered, then cupped his hands and drank from the pool. The water was cool and refreshing and he immediately felt all his aches and weariness dissolve into nothing. Then he turned and mounted Moon Fire, and the stallion carried him away, following the path limned by moonlight to a sacred temple . . .

Harry woke to the moon shining in the window upon his face. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, reaching for his glasses a moment later. He could still hear the echo of hoofbeats in his ears and as he stared out the window at the rolling sweep of lawn, he felt compelled all of a sudden to go down to the barn and check up on Moon Fire.

Without really thinking about it, he crept downstairs, past a sleeping Hermione, who was curled up on the couch, wrapped in Snape's favorite blanket. He made his way to the back door, put on his shoes and coat and walked down the path to the barn. In the pasture, Jasmine dozed on three legs, leaning against the tree.

Harry did not see the stallion anywhere and so he headed into the barn. He turned on the lights and saw Moon Fire in the stall, lying on his side with the wrapped leg resting on the straw. "Hey, fellow. How are you feeling?"

Moon Fire raised his head and gave a soft nicker. Then he laid his head down again, his silky forelock nearly covering the vivid white crescent.

Harry came and stood looking at the horse, noting that he seemed to be either very tired or in pain, since he wasn't making any attempt to stand up. Harry unlatched the stall and said softly, "Easy, boy. Let me see how your leg is."

He knelt in the straw and felt the stallion's leg. It felt hot and looked swollen when he unwrapped the bandage. "This doesn't look too good. Looks like you might need some more hot and cold treatments and maybe a pain reliever too. Stay here and I'll be back."

He left the stall to fetch a bucket of very cold water and some soft cloths, plus another of the heat wraps Andromeda had given him. He also refilled Moon Fire's water bucket with some tepid water and added the pain reliever to it, mixing it well.

When he returned, Moon Fire was still lying in the straw. He whuffed when Harry knelt and started putting the cloths soaked in cold water over his leg. "How's that? Better, huh? This ought to take the heat out of your leg and numb it." He gently ran his hand over the stallion's satiny coat, stroking the big horse's shoulder and neck.

He knew that horses were most responsive to touch and voice tone, and made sure to move slowly and gently, and speak quietly. The last thing he needed was a repeat of that other time, and to have Moon Fire try and get up and hurt himself. He placed the bucket of water beside the stallion's feed trough, hoping Moon Fire would drink after he put the hot wrap on his leg.

He switched out the cloth after a few minutes, replacing it with a fresh one. He did that for twenty minutes, all the while talking to the stallion, who seemed to be listening, for he had an ear cocked towards the boy, though his eyes remained shut. "I'm sorry you were hurt so badly, Moon Fire. I wish I knew more about healing so I could fix you, but I don't. I wish I knew what that dream meant. Selene came to me tonight and told me that I have all the answers within me to break the bloody curse over you, but I don't know what She meant. She also said that I was Chosen to right a great wrong, but it's not killing Tom Riddle like I thought. She also said I could make you trust me. But I'm not sure about that either."

He began to run his fingers through the stallion's thick mane, not plaiting it, just untangling the snarls. "You know, things were so much easier when you knew exactly who you were. I knew you'd never hurt me, but now . . .now I have to watch out for your hooves and teeth. And I can recall you running across the paddock, like a great black Pegasus soaring. You were magnificent, like the wind made flesh, freedom given breath and a body . . ."

Harry closed his eyes, envisioning the way Moon Fire used to be, wild and free and yet still very much his sarcastic professor. He could picture the stallion in his mind, racing about the paddock, the wind swirling through his mane and tail, the thunder of his hooves beating a sweet tempo.

His hands fisted in the horse's mane abruptly. Then he opened his eyes and whispered, "Some way, somehow, I'll make you whole again. I promise. We need . . .I need you too much to just let you stay this way, half of yourself forgotten. I don't know what they cast on you, but I'll find a way to reverse it. Meantime, I guess I could do worse than to tell you about yourself." He cleared his throat. "Once you were my teacher, you taught potions at Hogwarts, and at first I thought you despised me. But then I came to realize that was just a front to mask the real you . . .you were my protector, my savior, and now you're my guardian. Your name is Severus Snape . . ."

He paused twice more in his narrative to replace the cool cloths, and after the fourth one, felt the leg again. It was cooler and much of the swelling had gone down. "Good. Let's try a hot wrap now." He carefully slid the sock-like wrap about the stallion's leg and wrapped it tight, then activated it.

Moon Fire sighed in relief when the warmth infused his leg.

Harry remained with the stallion long past midnight, until Moon Fire heaved himself to his feet and began to drink the water in the bucket. Harry wanted to cheer, but he was too sleepy. He waited until the stallion had finished the water, then he put his head in the straw and dozed. A part of him was screaming, Potter, are you crazy? This is a wild horse, you can't fall asleep in his stall like he was some kid's Shetland pony! He could kill you quick as blinking. Crack your head open with one blow if he wanted to. Get up, you idiot!

But somehow he knew Moon Fire would do nothing to harm him. He was the Moon Goddess' Chosen, after all, and surely She would not allow a horse to trample him. To trust is to love. He felt Moon Fire snuffle his hair and he opened his eyes and looked the stallion in the eyes. I trust you, Moon Fire. And love you too. I hope you can do the same. Then he yawned and closed his eyes, he was so tired, and he fell asleep with the big stallion's breath wafting over him. It smelled of sweet grass and alfalfa.

He woke to Moon Fire snorting nervously and shuffling a hoof in the stall and cautiously sat up. The stallion was peering over his door, curiously at Hermione and Draco, who held a leather case in his hand.

"Potter, are you insane?" asked Malfoy, his eyes wide. "That horse could kick you and split your head open like a ripe watermelon."

"Harry, please be careful!" Hermione cried in alarm. She held out a hand with an apple on it. "Here, Moon Fire. Come and taste the apple."

Moon Fire smelled the fruit and slowly eased his head over the door to snuffle her hand before taking the treat.

Harry climbed to his feet, brushing the straw off him. "He could. But he won't." He said, sounding more confident than he felt.

"Oh, and now you're some great horse expert?" Malfoy snorted. "Since when?"

"I never said I was a horse expert, Malfoy. But I know this horse. He won't hurt me. Not deliberately." He laid a hand upon Moon Fire's shoulder and petted him.

Draco rolled his eyes. "Yeah, sure you do. I've been around horses since I could walk and studied with my aunt since I was old enough to see over a stall door and even I wouldn't take a nap in a stall with one. That's just plain asking to get your brains bashed out."

Harry shrugged. "Whatever, Malfoy. Did you bring the potions?"

"No, I just strolled on over to chat," drawled the other sarcastically. "They're in here. Fresh batches, enough for two weeks. Make sure you follow the instructions exactly. My aunt says overdosing a horse can be fatal."

"I'll be careful." Harry promised, caressing Moon Fire's nose.

"Harry, tell me you didn't sleep all night in there," Hermione chided, frowning at him. "You look like a haystack."

"A walking one," Malfoy sniggered.

Harry ignored Malfoy and answered Hermione. "No, not all night. I had a kind of . . .vision from Selene and when I woke I just felt like going down to check on him. It was a good thing I did, 'cause his leg was hot and hurting him and I gave him some more pain reliever and redid the compresses."

He unlatched the door and stepped out of the stall. "I need to feed him and Jasmine."

Hermione sniffed and wrinkled her nose. "Ugh! Harry, you need to take a shower. You smell like . . .well, a horse."

Malfoy tittered, finding endless amusement in the two Gryffindors' conversation. Harry glared at him. "If you're going to be hanging around here for long, Malfoy, you might as well make yourself useful. Put the potions in the tack room and feed the horses, why don't you?"

Malfoy stiffened. "Who died and made you the stablemaster, Potter? Last time I checked, the owner of this farm was named Snape."

"And he's not here, but I am," Harry retorted. "And since I live here too . . ."

Malfoy set his jaw and looked all set to argue the point when Hermione said, "Draco, will you please help me feed the horses and do whatever else you do with them, since I don't know what I'm doing and could use your advice?"

Malfoy sniffed and nodded. "Sure, Granger. Come with me." He turned and made his way to the tack room.

Harry gaped at her. "That was just . . .amazing."

Hermione rolled her eyes. "You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Haven't you ever heard that saying? Go and take a shower, Harry! You reek."

Harry sniffed at himself. He didn't think he smelled too bad. Then again, his nose had gotten used to the smell of the stable.

"Harry! Ugh!" Hermione gave him a disgusted look, then she turned about to follow Malfoy, murmuring, "Why are boys so disgusting?"

Harry chuckled. "Girls!" he said to Moon Fire, then he headed back to the house.

As soon as he had showered and changed into fresh clothes, Harry returned to paddock, where Draco had tied up Jasmine and was giving Hermione a grooming lesson. "See, you don't want to brush too hard, since an Arabian's skin is usually ticklish and sensitive. You want to make grooming feel good, so the horse enjoys it and so do you." He demonstrated, running a soft body brush over Jasmine's withers. The mare sighed and looked ridiculously happy.

Hermione watched the other boy avidly. "I never would have guessed that you liked horses from the way you act at school. That day with Buckbeak . . ."

Draco winced. "I was an idiot. I hadn't meant for it to get so out of hand, I just wanted to . . .well, show off a bit. But I forgot how touchy hippogriffs are."

"Did he really hurt you?"

"Some. But not too much. I only acted like that because Crabbe and Goyle were watching. See, they report back to my father sometimes, they're kind of like his watchdogs." Draco grimaced.

"That's . . .awful!"

Malfoy shrugged. "That's my father."

"How did you manage to . . .err . . .become a Selenian if your father's always watching you?" Harry asked, leaning on the fence.

"My mother is one and so is my aunt. Together they devised a plan to trick my father. Every year, I was sent to a dueling camp, but what my father didn't know was that the camp was actually run by my Aunt Andromeda, who was disowned by my grandmother for marrying a Muggle. Grandmother forbid her daughters to speak to my aunt, but my mother ignored that rule and she saw Aunt Dromeda in secret. When I was born, she knew Father would try and make me into his clone—a Death Eater like him—and so she resolved to prevent that by teaching me Selene's Way in secret and Andromeda helped. To this day, Father has no idea what really goes on at the dueling camp, except that we learn equestrian studies as well as magical ones. All he knows is that a lot of reputable purebloods send their kids there and it's exclusive and expensive."

"Do all the students follow the Mysteries?" Harry asked.

"Mostly. But those that don't, at least tolerate our faith and don't look down on us or anything." Draco began to rub down Jasmine with a soft cloth, polishing her white coat to a satiny finish.

"What would happen if your father ever found out?" asked Hermione.

Malfoy shivered. "He would . . .I don't even want to think about it, but he would probably thrash me with his cane and then make me take the Dark Mark."

"What an evil man!"

"Yeah, well, look who he worships. You won't find any followers of He-Who-Kills-Children winning a Father of the Year award," said the younger Malfoy. He untied Jasmine and released her with a gentle slap on the rump. "You're good, Jazzy."

The Arabian nuzzled him before trotting away across the paddock.

Draco looked over at Harry. "You want to go and try to lead your brilliant stallion out here, so you can groom him while Granger and I clean out his stall?"

"Yes, all right." Harry went into the barn, where Moon Fire was just finishing his bran mash. "Malfoy, did you put the potion in this?"

"Yes," the other answered, going to grab a large rake and a shovel.

Harry retrieved a lead from the hook beside the stall and snapped it on Moon Fire's halter. The stallion whistled a protest, but when Harry spoke soothingly to him and clucked his tongue, he followed where the boy led with only a token toss of his head and pawing of a hoof. "That's a good boy," he said, grateful that Severus was not aware to hear how Harry was speaking to him, like a dumb animal. "Come on now. I'm going to groom you and rub some magic salve on your leg. Come along, Moon Fire, you crazy stallion you."

And Moon Fire did.

Harry almost couldn't believe how changed the horse's behavior was from a day before, when he had been intent upon fighting everyone and everything. Clearly once he was not in agonizing pain, the stallion was able to grasp certain key concepts, like the fact that Harry was a friend, and it appeared that Harry's night in the stall had proven beneficial for both of them. Moon Fire had developed a kind of trust in Harry, no longer seeing him as a threat or an enemy.

Slowly but surely, Harry was winning him over.

The boy tied Moon Fire to the fence and began to groom him, being extra careful, since he already knew that the stallion had sensitive skin. Once he had finished the grooming session, making Moon Fire's coat gleam like living ebony, he rubbed on the magical liniment Andromeda had given him, which would speed the healing process. Then he re-wrapped the leg and just remained there for a few long moments, leaning slightly on the horse's shoulder.

"Someday you'll return to me," he whispered into one pricked ear.

Moon Fire snorted, then slobbered all over his shirt.

Harry made a face. "Thanks ever so much, sir. If you wanted me to take another shower, all you had to do was say so."

Moon Fire's lips wrinkled up, revealing huge teeth, and Harry could have sworn the big horse was laughing at him.

"Figures. Even as a horse you have a damn weird sense of humor."

He wiped off the sticky drool with a cloth from the grooming kit and went to put it back, thinking as he did so about what Malfoy had revealed about his home life. He still didn't particularly like the other boy, but at least he comprehended the reasons behind Malfoy's actions better now and could actually feel sympathy towards the other. No one knew better than he did what it was like to live in a house with people who you had to watch your step with every hour of every day.

So began the long process of recuperation, with Harry and Hermione and Draco taking care of both horses, though Harry insisted on working mostly with Moon Fire, since he was the only one the stallion tolerated on a daily basis. Malfoy had tried tending the stallion's leg one morning, only to have the fractious horse snap at him in warning. After that he left Moon Fire to Harry.

"I don't know how you did it, Potter, but somehow you've made him trust you," the other remarked testily.

Harry just shrugged. He really had no idea why the stallion trusted him, only that he did. To trust is to love. He spent every other night sometimes in the barn, sleeping on a cot just outside the stall, and occasionally inside it upon two large blankets he found in the tack room. For some reason he found sleeping next to the big stallion prevented him from having nightmares, and when he was there, Moon Fire slept soundly, and did not paw at the straw or pace in his stall.

Moon Fire became fond of the dark-haired boy, who was quiet and soft-spoken, and always eased the pain in his injured leg and gave him small treats. Of all the people on the farm, Harry was the one he trusted to come close to him while his leg was injured, sensing instinctively that they were meant to be together.

After a week, Andromeda came back to examine Moon Fire and pronounced the black horse well enough to undergo some spa treatments as well. "I have a large walk-in pool especially for that purpose, with hot and cold jets and a hitching post. The leg is mending nicely, it's time for you to work on strengthening those muscles and the spa is a great way to do that," the Equine Healer said. "Why don't you come over on Tuesday next and try out the spa pool? I'm sure Moon Fire will love it."

"That would be great, except . . .I can't leave the property, Andromeda." Harry reminded her. "Professor Snape's orders. He says the Death Eaters might still be looking for me."

"You're right, lad. I had forgotten. Well then, perhaps Miss Granger and Draco can bring him over," she suggested.

"How? A horse won't fit in the fireplace."

"True, but I'll give them a Portkey," Andromeda improvised. "One to go and the other to return."

Harry would have liked to go with them, but understood why he couldn't. Still, he got a funny feeling in his chest watching Moon Fire be led away with Draco on one side and Hermione on the other the following Tuesday.

Hermione returned with the stallion after nearly two hours.

"So, how did it go? Did he behave?"

"Well, at first he was nervous and wouldn't get into the water. Andromeda had to use the Calming lasso on him. But once he realized the water felt good and nothing would harm him, he quit fighting and settled down. It was quite pleasant, I must say. But Merlin, am I glad to be to be home! I mean—" she halted, stricken. She hadn't meant that the way it had sounded. Tears filled her eyes.

"Hermione, it's okay." Harry soothed, taking Moon Fire from her.

"No, it's not!" she wept quietly. "I don't want to forget them and yet here I am already finding a replacement home. I can't believe I said that."

Suddenly, she turned and ran into the house, leaving Harry staring sadly after her. He wished he knew something to say that would ease her pain, but comfort was a foreign thing to him, and he was as mute as any animal when it came to dealing with grief-stricken girlfriends.

Sighing, he led Moon Fire into the barn to give him his evening feed, praying silently to Selene to help Hermione.

That night, he gave Hermione his copy of The Path of Mysteries. "You might want to read this. It might help with what you're going through."

She took the book and stared at it dully. "What is it? A how to cope with loss book?"

"No. It's Selene's holy book. Read it. It might help you . . .take your mind off the fact that they're gone. Just for awhile."

"Nothing can do that. But thanks anyway, Harry. You're sweet." She wrapped her arms about him and hugged him hard.

They remained that way for a very long time, before Hermione drew away and retreated to the couch, where she spent the rest of the night engrossed in learning the Way of the Moon Lady.

She fell asleep with the book over her face and dreamed of a beautiful lady with stars in her hair and compassion in her huge violet eyes, who hugged her and whispered, 'Do not grieve, little daughter. They have gone to their reward, and you are not alone. I am here, your beloved is here, and someday you shall find a new family to replace the one that was lost.'

Her arms were warm and soft and the scent of jasmine drifted from her. Hermione buried her face in the soft white robe and wept, feeling the sharp sting of grief somehow ease in the embrace of the Lady, who would now become mother and sister to the orphaned witch. A feeling of utter peace and warmth surrounded her, and Hermione felt herself start to drift, lulled to sleep in Selene's embrace, her last coherent thought was how wonderful Her voice was, as She sang an ancient lullaby in Egyptian, which mothers of the Black Land had sung to their children for thousands of years, first learned at the feet of She Who Was Also Known As Isis.

Here we are again with yet another chapter.

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