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It had been almost three weeks since Moon Fire had been injured, and so far the stallion was doing very well with his spa treatments and leg wraps. He had come to look forward to Harry entering the barn or the paddock and took to waiting for him and even whinnying a little when he saw the boy coming.

Jasmine was very amused at how close the young wizard and the temperamental black stallion had become and remarked upon it whenever she had the chance. Here comes your friend, Moon Fire. Aren't you glad to see him? she whickered when she heard Harry's soft footsteps.

The stallion swung his head about and snorted. He brings me apples and carrots and grooms me just the way I prefer. That's why I'm glad to see him.

Oh? And not because he's helped you heal and kept you company at night in the stable? The white mare teased.

The girl and the other boy tend me as well, in the water pool, and the girl grooms me too, though not as well as Harry. Moon Fire responded.

Ah, so it's Harry now, is it?

That's his name, mare. Why does it amuse you?

Jasmine blew out in soft puffs. Because this is the first time I have heard you refer to the young people by a name. It shows that you've grown close to Harry, since you use his name. I think you've finally allowed yourself to trust enough to make a friend.

Moon Fire stamped a hoof. Nonsense! What need have I for a human friend? I am a horse.

A very stubborn one, I know. I think you are . . .afraid of getting too close to humans, because then you might actually like them and want to stay here, instead of leaving once your leg has healed. Jasmine remarked.

Humph! Mares! You think you know everything.

We do, whinnied the Arabian, and started to trot over to the fence to greet Harry.

Moon Fire passed her abruptly, even with his injured foreleg he could still move quickly and he beat Jasmine to the fence. He extended his head over the top rail and gave a sort of welcoming neigh to the boy, who was coming across the grass. Moon Fire could smell the apples and carrots he had in his pockets, and some sugar lumps as well.

"Hey, Moon Fire, Jasmine," Harry greeted, going and stroking the stallion's face. He scratched behind the horse's ears and then fed him some sugar.

Thank you, Moon Fire took the sugar gently and crunched it.

Harry turned to Jasmine and petted her and fed her some apple slices. She nuzzled him affectionately. "Hey there, pretty girl. Sorry I haven't been around to ride you much since I started to take care of Moon Fire."

He heard the soft rattle and squeak of the wheelbarrow as Hermione wheeled it out and tossed the dirty straw onto the compost heap on the side of the barn. The girl had volunteered to help around the stable, saying it wasn't fair for Harry to have to do all the work and besides, she liked taking care of the horses. Harry had shown her how to groom and wash Jasmine and muck out her stall, just the way Severus had shown him. Even though she had never been around horses in her life, Hermione took to the work with a will. Harry suspected it helped her focus on something other than her devastating loss.

Draco came every other day to assist them, in fact this morning was one of his days, and he was late. Usually he was at the farm before Harry and Hermione had finished breakfast, and Harry fed him as well. No sooner had he thought that, then there was a shimmering in the air and Draco appeared. The Portkey Andromeda used was not the conventional one, that tended to drop people from the air, but was designed to put a person or animal in a large unoccupied space on the ground.

It always amazed Harry how Draco managed to look so . . .perfectly put together even at the early hours of the morning, when Harry knew he had been up grooming horses and feeding them at the school. Draco's linen shirt and eggshell colored breeches looked as if they had just come off a drycleaning rack, as did his boots. And his hair never seemed out of place. Compared to him, Harry looked like a hayseed country cousin. He wondered if the other boy used magic to keep himself looking like some model out of Wizarding Gentleman. He has to, because nobody looks that good at six o'clock in the morning.

"Hey, Potter." Draco greeted, walking over to the fence and petting Jasmine.

"Hi, Malfoy. Do you sleep in those clothes or something?" Harry inquired artlessly.

"Why? What's wrong with my clothes?" Draco demanded.

"You look like an advertisement for Young Riders Today or something."

Draco shrugged. "Sorry if I have better clothes sense then you do."

Harry bristled. "At least I don't have to worry about getting dirt on my fifty Galleon clothes."

Draco lofted an eyebrow. "At least nobody would mistake me for the hired help."

Harry slugged him playfully in the shoulder. "Arrogant twit!"

Draco cuffed him about the head. "Better that than a—"

"Will you two stop bickering?" came a very annoyed voice from behind them. "Honestly, you sound like a pair of six-year-olds!"

They turned to see Hermione glaring at them with her hands on her hips.

"And you sound like my mother," Draco remarked insolently. "We like to bicker. It's fun."

Hermione rolled her eyes.

"It's a guy thing," Harry added, for the playful exchange of insults allowed him to blow off steam without being labeled offensive and admitting that Malfoy wasn't as bad as he'd thought.

"Men! And you say we don't make sense." Shaking her head, she walked over and began to pet Jasmine. "Right, girl?"

The Arabian nuzzled her shoulder.

Moon Fire cocked his ears back at Hermione's approach, but otherwise made no move to shy away. He had gradually come to tolerate Hermione as well, though it was plain he preferred Harry to anyone else.

"You ready for your riding lesson, Granger?" asked Draco, he had volunteered to teach the young witch how to ride at her request.

Harry hadn't objected because he knew that of all of them, Malfoy was the more experienced rider. Though Draco had been impressed that Harry rode as well as he did after only a few weeks of learning. "You're a natural, got neat hands and a good seat, Potter. Who taught you?"

"The professor and him," Harry had told him, jerking his chin at Moon Fire.

"You rode that horse? And you're still in one piece?"

"Obviously," Harry drawled. "I started out on Jasmine and then I graduated to Moon Fire. And I didn't just ride him off into the sunset. He threw me off plenty of times. But I'm a better rider for it."

Draco looked at Moon Fire enviously. "What I wouldn't give to get on his back, even once."

"Even if he throws you a second later?" Harry asked.

"Potter, that horse is like a king among horses. You ought to be honored he let you ride him."

"I am. Believe me."

"What was it like?" Draco asked curiously.

Harry sighed. "It's hard to describe. When he ran with me, it was like . . .like being in the middle of a hurricane. He ran so fast that I almost couldn't breathe, but so smooth that it felt like we were flying. It was as good as that time I flew on Buckbeak . . .better actually, since there wasn't any danger of falling off into a lake or smashing into the ground." He smiled reminiscently. "Only thing was, when I rode him, he was in charge, not me. I could . . .sort of direct him, but that was all."

"I'm not surprised. He looks like a lot of horse, too much for a beginner like you to handle," Draco said with a faint hint of superiority in his tone.

"He wasn't!" Harry snapped, insulted. "But he's not an ordinary horse."

"No kidding. Which means he needs an extraordinary rider."

"Oh, and like you're so much better a rider than me?"

"You think?"

"Knock it off , you two!" Hermione growled. "If you want to see who's the better rider, both of you can ride Jasmine and I'll judge who's better."

Draco blinked. "You? Granger, you don't know the first thing about riding."

"Well, then Professor Snape can, when he returns." Hermione retorted.

"When is he going to return?" Draco asked curiously.

Harry shrugged, careful to keep his face expressionless. "Who knows? He didn't really tell me anything about where he was going or how long he would be, just that I needed to stay on the property."

"You don't think . . .anything's happened to him?" asked Malfoy, sounding worried. It was the first time Harry had ever heard him sound concerned over anyone except Moon Fire or himself. Maybe Malfoy wasn't the self-centered kid he acted like.

Harry shook his head. "I don't know." He wondered what Malfoy would say if he ever knew the truth. But Harry had no intention of telling him. He had broken confidence with Severus over Hermione, but that had been because he had needed her help desperately and he trusted her to keep his secret. He still didn't trust Malfoy, in spite of everything he had done to help Moon Fire. Their rivalry and mistrust was still too fresh. Plus, Malfoy was too close to Lucius, a major supporter of Tall, Dark, and Ugly. If put under the Imperius Curse, Draco would babble all he knew without stopping. Harry couldn't risk it. He was going to be in enough trouble when Severus found out he had revealed his Animagus form to Hermione. "I've only been living with him for a couple of weeks, not long enough to learn all his habits or his schedule."

"I wish he'd come home soon though," Hermione said feelingly. She meant every word. Since the demise of her parents, she had felt like a boat without a rudder, adrift and lost and afraid. She was not used to being totally without adult guidance, she enjoyed her independence at school, but she still longed to have her parents back to ask important questions of and get advice from. She had never held the animosity Ron and Harry had towards Professor Snape, but had respected him as a strict teacher, and if he had behaved unfairly towards her or her classmates at times, well, teachers were human too. And some unknown prescience had told her that how Snape behaved was not how he really was. She had sensed time and again that the man was a walking contradiction. Now, however, she longed to have him back because she desperately needed an adult to turn to. The professor had risked his neck to save her, she wanted him to know how much that meant to her. Then she wanted to just curl up in his sheltering embrace and mourn what she had lost.

Desperate to distract herself from her glum thoughts, lest she disgrace herself by crying in front of the boys, Hermione said, "Why don't you two teach me how to ride? I've been dying to learn for ages."

"You sure?" Draco looked doubtful. "It's not easy. You fall off a lot at first and get really sore."

"So? You think I'm a wimp, Malfoy? That I can't handle a little pain? Please! Women have a higher pain tolerance than men."

"Says who?"

"Women have babies. My mum used to say that if men had babies, the human race would have died out because men wouldn't have been able to handle more than a single birth in a lifetime."

Draco gaped at her bluntness and Harry sniggered. For once the suave Malfoy had been shocked speechless.

Hermione sniffed then looked over at Harry. "Harry, can you show me what to do first?"

Harry summoned the tack from the barn with a casual wand wave. For some reason, he didn't want to advertise the fact that he could do some wandless magic in front of Malfoy. "First, you learn how to put on tack," he said in his best professor tone. "Actually, when he taught me, the professor made me polish the tack first, but we can do that later. Watch me."

He took ten minutes demonstrating how to put saddle and bridle on Jasmine, who had the patience of a saint. "Your turn. Let's see how well you paid attention."

Hermione took the tack he thrust at her and began to put it on.

Afterwards, Draco stepped forward. "My turn. Look, Granger, you always mount a horse on the left side . . ."

By the time he had finished with that, and assisted her off and on Jasmine, it was nearly noon.

Their stomachs were staging a rebellion and Malfoy called a halt. "Got anything to eat around here?"

"Yes, but you could go back to your school and eat." Harry said.

"True, but I don't feel like it. Think of it as payment for my riding instruction."

"Payment for your—" Harry stuttered. "You're unbelievable, Malfoy! Can't you ever do anything without it benefiting you somehow?"

"No. It's not the Malfoy way. My father taught me that every action should either benefit you or work to your advantage. If it doesn't, don't bother."

"That's so . . .mercenary." Hermione frowned.

"That's Lucius Malfoy. He makes a shark look like a goldfish."

"Why would you want to be like that?" asked the witch.

"I don't." Malfoy said emphatically.

"Then why do you act like it?"

"I don't know. Force of habit, I guess." He blushed slightly, ashamed of his conniving. "Forget it, I'll go back to the academy."

"No," Hermione said, reaching out to touch his hand. "You can stay and eat with us. As a friend."

Draco was once more shocked speechless. "You want me as a . . .friend?"

Hermione actually nodded. Harry hesitated, then said, "If you want to be our friend, though, you have to quit acting like a jerkoff. Friends don't owe each other, they just help each other. Without getting some kind of payment."

"I've never had a friend like that before. Crabbe and Goyle are only my friends because my father made a deal with their father." Draco admitted.

"Those aren't real friends," Hermione said. "Real friends want to be with you."

"Do you?" there was something oddly vulnerable in the other's eyes.

"Yes." She turned to Harry. "Right, Harry?"

Harry paused before he replied. Ron would bust a gasket if he ever heard Harry say that he counted Malfoy as a friend. Then again, Ron wasn't here to witness the real Malfoy, or how strangely Draco resembled a little child, unsure and fearing rejection. Harry remembered that feeling all too well and he had no wish to make anyone, even Malfoy, feel like that. "Right."

"But not at school," Malfoy said quietly. "It's not safe for you to be seen with me then."

Harry heaved a sigh. "All right." Privately he thought that was a necessary deception, and better than having Ron go all to pieces when he finally found out. "Now let's go and eat lunch."

After lunch, Hermione returned to the paddock, and Draco helped her to mount. They spent the rest of the afternoon walking Jasmine and letting Hermione get used to being on the patient Arabian. Hermione seemed to love doing it and seemed happy to do whatever the boys told her in this instance.

Moon Fire watched the girl cantering around the paddock on Jasmine and gave the horse equivalent of a yawn. Are you bored yet?

The mare snorted. Bored? Not in this stable. Besides, I enjoy the children. You would too if you gave them half a chance.

Not likely.

You're exaggerating.

Moon Fire eyed her, snorting. If you think I would enjoy a girl banging into my back and yanking on my mouth for an hour, you need to get a grip on reality, my friend. No thank you! Not if they paid me in oats and apples.

Jasmine whickered and tossed her head, dancing slightly sideways. You need to have more patience, Moon Fire. The girl isn't that bad a rider. She never makes a mistake twice.

Better you than me, the stallion said laconically, thendrew away and began to crop the grass while Jasmine circled the paddock endlessly with Hermione on her back.

Draco called pointers to her as she rode. "Keep your hands loose and your heels down. Straighten up, you don't need to hunch over that way."

Hermione straightened, trying to get the feel of moving with the mare. The boys had been right, it was harder than it looked. But it was also fun. She loved the feel of the living horse beneath her and the way Jasmine seemed so forgiving of her mistakes.

"You're doing good, 'Mione!" Harry encouraged. "Just remember to feel your horse beneath you. You have a good seat. Don't forget to grip hard with your legs."

After an hour, the boys called a halt and Hermione slid down. She felt a little wobbly and faintly sore, but otherwise okay. Draco handed her the reins. "Walk her around and cool her off, then go and groom her."

"Yes, sir, Lord Malfoy," Hermione said, miming a curtsey.

"Are you making fun of me?" Draco frowned.

"You're too serious." She laughed. Then she began to walk Jasmine in a circle.

Harry summoned brushes and looked at Draco. "Want to help me groom Moon Fire?"

"What are you doing?"

"Brush off the dirt first, and then I'm going to give him a bath." Harry clipped a lead onto the stallion's halter before tying him to the hitching post. "Moon Fire, settle down."

Moon Fire shook his head and tossed it. But he relaxed when Draco fed him a carrot.

Harry began to groom him and the stallion groaned softly in pleasure. Grooming was one thing he really enjoyed about humans.

* * * * *

Early the next morning, Harry rose and discovered Hermione baking in the kitchen. He blinked. "Mione? What are you doing?"

She glanced up from where she was beating egg whites in a bowl with a mixer and said, "I'm celebrating by baking some angel food cake."


"I'm celebrating the fact that Moon Fire is almost better and also that I think I discovered what spell he was hit by." She shut off the mixer, grinning proudly.

"You did? That's great! What was it?"

"I think it was a Memory Charm." She carefully scraped the bowl and poured the cake batter into the pan. "Only problem was that there are a lot of Memory Charms and unless we know the specific ones . . ."

"Specific ones?" Harry repeated.

"Yes." She put the cake into the oven. "You see, there are Extended Memory Charms, which can be permanent. Or there are Temporal Memory Charms, which wear off in about a week or a month. The strength of the charm also depends upon the strength of the wizard casting it. Now, I can't be sure, but I think Moon Fire caught a rebounded Memory Charm, one that was intended for some other wizard."

"How does that help us?"

"Well, for starters, it'll give me a place to look for a counter."

"Isn't a Memory Restorative potion the counter?"

"Yes and no. I need to know the exact spell cast in order to make that potion, and I don't know if a horse can take that potion. So many potions meant for people are poisonous to horses. He could die if we gave him the wrong one."

"Oh. So then we're almost back where we started." Harry groaned.

"No, not at all. Think positive, Harry. We're slowly narrowing it down." Hermione pointed out. "That's why we're celebrating. I'm making my mum's angel food cake and I found some whipped topping and strawberries in the fridge that will go nicely with it. I love angel food cake with strawberries."

Harry licked his lips. "Sounds . . .heavenly."

She mock-glared at him. "Oh, get out there and feed the horses!" she tossed a dishcloth at him, making him pretend to flee the kitchen. But she wasn't really angry, she was too happy that she had finally made some progress.

Harry told the two horses about Hermione's discovery when he turned them out into the paddock. They seemed eager to be out in the sunshine, and Jasmine ran about kicking her heels playfully for a few minutes. Moon Fire walked quickly, favoring his foreleg less than he had been the week before.

Suddenly, the big stallion dropped to the ground and Harry gasped, thinking he had hurt his leg, but then he drew in a sharp sigh of relief. Moon Fire rolled over on his back, his legs waving in the air, as he scratched some itching places and removed unwanted hair. When he regained his feet, carefully, his hide was stained with grass, but he still looked quite handsome.

Harry giggled to see the proud stallion abandon his normal reserve to roll about on the ground like a big dog. He wondered suddenly if Moon Fire had ever done this when Severus was in charge of the stallion's mind. For some reason he started to laugh even harder.

What's so funny?
Harry spun around to see little Titania standing there, her bare feet buried in the fresh spring grass, her violet tunic contrasting brightly against the vivid green background of the field and forest beyond. Her hair looked paler and fuzzier than usual and her violet eyes glowed.


Hello, Harry. How are you?

"I'm fine. But Moon Fire isn't." Harry pointed at the big stallion.

She peered at the big horse. Ah. He's hurt his leg. But it's mending.

"It's not only that. He's lost his memory as well. I'm trying to restore it. Do you know any magic that will return an Animagi's memory to him?"

The child, who seemed far older than she appeared, and whom Harry suspected was an ancient being of the forest, looked at the former wizard sadly. I am sorry, but I am not able to do that. Wizard magic is different from my own. There are three disciplines of magic—elemental magic, which is used by dryads and sprites and naiads and other beings who are bound to the four elements. Then there is the arcane, that which you wizards wield,varied and versatile, but which depends upon your own inner strength and will and innate power. Lastly there is the High magic, the magic of moon and stars, which can only be wielded by the goddess herself and those She chooses to gift it to. Each kind of magic is specific to the person or being and cannot be combined.

"Oh. I had hoped . . ." Harry sighed, discouraged. Then he asked, "What kind of magic do you wield?"

The child gave him an enigmatic smile. The kind you do not. She climbed up on the top rail and perched there. Then she whistled, and both horses came to her, as docile as two old nags. She smiled and stroked them and whispered something in their ears. Moon Fire quivered slightly beneath her small hand and put his head in her lap for a moment. She lovingly braided his forelock, brushing her hand lightly across the white crescent.

Harry watched in awe. He had never seen the stallion behave so. Even with him, Moon Fire was still touchy. But with Titania he was calm and almost . . .worshipful. Not for the first time, he wondered just who Titania was. Another spirit of the forest, like the Green Man? The lady of animals? Whoever she was, she had certainly tamed Moon Fire.

"He . . .likes you," Harry murmured. "Are you sure you can't help him? He's not himself without . . .without his memories."

The girl shook her head. What can be done, must be done by you, Chosen of Selene.

Frustrated, Harry cried, "But I don't know how! It's been weeks and still he's like this."

Sometimes the path is long, but at the end of it, you shall find what you seek. Nothing worth doing is ever easy. Trust yourself, Harry. Selene never gives you a task you cannot handle. Ask for help and believe you can succeed and you shall do so. A wizard's worst enemy is despair and doubt.

"Is that all you can do—speak in riddles?" Harry stormed. "Why can't you just say what you mean?"

I am. Why don't you learn to listen? the little girl snapped. To trust is to love and love is memory. Think about it.

"I have asked Selene for help!" Harry said, exasperated. "And She told me that I had all the answers in front of me and to seek help from Her initiates and the Girl Who Is Not. But I don't know what the bloody hell that means! Why can't She just . . .tell me what I need to know?"

Because sometimes you must seek your own answers, for only in seeking can you gain true understanding.

The child stood up, walked along the fence to the tree, did a small pirouette, and then vanished before Harry could say anything else.

"Great! Just great!" shouted the boy, and kicked the fence post.

"Ow!" he yelped, he had forgotten he was only wearing sneakers and bruised his toes.

Moon Fire whickered, and Harry glared at the stallion, who seemed very amused. "What are you looking at? It's not funny!"

He limped towards the barn, regretting his temper tantrum now that he recalled he still had to muck out stalls.

But his lousy mood improved when he returned to the house to the smell of warm angel food cake and succulent strawberries topped with whipped cream.

"Mmm . . .this is the best cake with strawberries and cream I've ever eaten," Harry praised Hermione as he licked the last bite of whipped cream off his lips. "You could have a great future as a baker."

Hermione laughed. "Oh, sure, Harry. I'll be the Witch Who Bakes For Kids instead of the one who eats them." Then she served herself a piece and had to admit that she had done a good job. Mum would be proud, she thought, and then blinked away a tear.

"Mione, are you making any progress on finding a counter for the Memory Charm?"

"Nothing so far. But that doesn't mean there isn't one," she told him firmly. "And if there is, I'll find it."

"I know you will. I'd help, but I would probably muck it up."

"It's okay, Harry. I work better alone sometimes. But don't lose hope. Where there's a will, there's a way."

Harry gave her a tentative smile. But his hope was flagging as the days went on and still no cure was found.

Hermione continued to research Memory Charms and their countercharms during the night, and practice her magic and riding during the day. Unlike Harry, she was not discouraged by her lack of results. She knew that sometimes a topic was difficult to research, especially without the help of an adult professor. And then she had an idea. She would write to McGonagall, who would know plenty about Animagi and maybe have a few pointers on regaining lost memories. Then too, she could reassure her teacher that she was safe and well, since she too was reported among the missing according to the Daily Prophet. Harry had cautioned her to tell no one that Snape had rescued her or where she was, but she could at least put Minerva's mind at ease and maybe gain the answers she sought.

She pulled out a fresh quill and parchment and began to write.

Hermione still had not gotten a reply from McGonagall the next morning, when Draco came by to help her take Moon Fire to his spa treatment. By now the stallion allowed them to lead him from the paddock and use the Portkey without a fuss. The spa treatments had become a routine, one that Moon Fire enjoyed, and once they reached the academy grounds, he followed Draco and Hermione willingly to the hot spring pool and stepped into the water.

Hermione attached his lead to a large metal frame with a revolving top that had a series of spokes on it like an umbrella. It revolved when the horse walked about it, serving as exercise for rehabilitating horses. The first few times they had used the water walker, Andromeda had been there with a Calming Lasso, so Moon Fire wouldn't go crazy, but now the intelligent horse no longer feared the device and would walk about it with a minimum of encouragement.

"You want me to take the first shift?" asked the girl, taking off her shoes and socks and rolling up her jeans. They never left Moon Fire unattended, and he used the spa treatment for half-hour increments, for a total of two hours.

"Sure. I'll go and work out with the rapier," Draco said, and he headed towards the large low building which contained a salon for the fencing students to practice their moves in.

He also needed to tell Andromeda that they had returned with Moon Fire.

Half-an hour later he was on his way back from his lesson, tired and sweaty and more than ready to just walk about in the hot pool and rest his aching feet. He was so intent upon his goal that he didn't notice the sudden flashes of magic thrown off by an Apparating wizard until he heard his father's voice.

"Draco! Where are you going in such a hurry?"

Draco froze. Merlin's pants! He's not supposed to be here till next Tuesday! Why did he have to come early? Slowly he turned to face his father. "Hello, Father. I wasn't expecting you."

"I decided to visit you early," responded Lucius in that smooth cultured tone. He moved to place a hand upon Draco's shoulder.

"Aww . . .such a touching moment, Luc!" purred Bella, who suddenly appeared next to Lucius. "Have you been a good boy, Draco-waco?" she smiled at him and cackled, making his blood run cold. "I do hope you haven't been naughty!"

"No, Aunt Bella," Draco said quickly, suppressing a shudder. She had visited his house once when he was small and had terrorized him. Then he remembered Hermione and knew that he had to prevent Lucius and Bella from seeing Moon Fire and Hermione. "Father, why don't you come and see my new fencing move?"

Too late. He had been about ten feet from the hot pool and Hermione had spotted him. Not thinking there was any danger, she waved to him.

Lucius saw. "Who's that, Draco? A little conquest you've made, hmmm?"

"N-no, she's nobody, sir . . ." Draco stammered.

Bella giggled shrilly. "Draco has a gir-r-r-lfriend! Draco has a gir-r-r-lfriend! Teehee, haha, whoo-hoo!" She began to caper about them. "Who is the lucky little miss?"

Before he could stop her, Bellatrix had half-walked over to the hot spring.

Her maddened eyes narrowed as she saw Hermione, who remained frozen with one hand on Moon Fire's lead. "Why that's . . .that's the little Mudblood who got away! What is she doing here?"

Lucius' eyes widened and his face went hard. His hand tightened upon Draco's shoulder. "Draco, did you know about this? I thought only pureblood paying students were allowed here."

"They are. I-I filed a complaint with the Headmistress, Father." Draco felt his courage drain out of him.

"Then why did she wave at you?" Lucius demanded sharply. "What have I told you about fraternizing with Mudbloods?" His fingers dug into Draco's shoulder like claws and his son gasped and blinked back tears.

Run, Hermione! Take Moon Fire and run!

"I'm sorry, Father. School policy—"

"I'm very disappointed in you, son. I think I should remove you from this school immediately."

"No! Please!"

"There is only one thing a Mudblood is good for and that is not attending school." Lucius said coldly.

By now Bella had capered up to Hermione, who was staring at her in horror, her mind flashing back to that awful night, when Bellatrix had tortured her parents and made her watch. She felt her chest tighten and her throat close in terror.

Moon Fire sensed her fear and half-reared, tugging upon the hot walker.

Hermione unsnapped the lead, intending to set the stallion free. Her wand was in her hand and she pointed it at the wicked witch who had cost her everything.

"Naughty, naughty, little girl, seducing a Malfoy!" Bella cackled.

"Get bent, bitch!" Hermione snarled, and reached for the power within her.

But Bellatrix was quicker. "Stupefy!"

Hermione crumpled to the ground as a red jet of light struck her, falling face first into the water.

Moon Fire trumpeted in fury and rose to his full height, rage sweeping through him. He remembered this woman, remembered the rancid scent of her, and he bared his teeth and struck at her with his hooves.

Bella screamed and ducked, falling backwards. "Lucius! I've got the girl! Kill the bloody horse! It's one of Hers! A Marked animal!"

"No! Father, don't!" Draco cried, as Lucius drew his wand. He grabbed his father's arm.

Lucius gave him a sharp glance. "Remove your hand, Draco. How dare you defy me?"

Draco cringed. His hand slipped from Lucius' arm. "Please. It's just a horse." Moon Fire, run! You fool horse!

"No, it is not. Our master will be pleased to have such to . . .play with." Lucius said. His wand tip came level with Moon Fire's chest.

For one instant Draco was tempted to tackle his father, but years of compelled obedience held him frozen.

Moon Fire refused to run, all he wanted was to trample the screeching hag underfoot for hurting the girl. He sprang forward on his hind legs in a classic warhorse battle move, his front hooves lashing out at Bellatrix.

Bellatrix snarled and lashed out with a Cutting Curse, grabbing Hermione by the hair and dragging her from the water.

A red slash appeared upon Moon Fire's withers and the horse screamed in pain. His front hoof caught Bellatrix upon the shoulder and she howled.

"Stop it! Leave him alone!" Draco yelled, hoping another student or Andromeda would hear him. But this part of the complex was deserted at this hour, since the other students were eating lunch up at the refectory.

"Stupefy!" Lucius shouted, and a red streak exploded from his wand and slammed into the enraged stallion.

Moon Fire staggered, coming down on his front hooves. For one instant, Draco prayed he could shake off the curse, but then he swayed listlessly and stumbled.

Bellatrix shot another Stunner at him and the gallant stallion fell, to lie half in and out of the hot spring. "Nighty-night horsie!"

Draco wanted to spit at her. He had never hated her so much in his life as he did then. Or himself, for not helping the horse and his friend. Coward! He sneered inwardly.

"I am much displeased by your weakness," Lucius declared, turning viciously on his son and slapping him across the face so hard he cut Draco's lip. "This is not how I taught you to behave. This school has obviously been a bad influence on you. I'm withdrawing you immediately. I'll deal with your disobedience later."

"Yes, Father." Draco staggered, one hand going to his lip. He squelched the trembling in his legs and stood upright. I'm sorry, Moon Fire. I'm sorry, Hermione and Harry.

Lucius latched onto his son's arm and dragged Draco forward, putting one hand on the stallion's shoulder. Moon Fire lay still, his blood staining the water a bright pink. "Bella, use the Portkey to Riddle Manor."

Bellatrix, still holding Hermione, sat down upon the stallion's shoulder, as if he were a piece of furniture instead of a living creature, and smirked before she pulled a black diamond from around her neck. "Ohhh . . .are we going to have some fun with you two, little Mudblood and moon stallion! You were the one who saved itty-bitty Potter from us months ago, I remember you! And you saved the Mudblood too! Such a bad, bad, horsie!" Her merciless expression turned Draco's blood cold.

Selene, help us. Please! He prayed. He had no illusions about what awaited him when he got to Riddle Manor, but he knew that whatever Lucius did to him would be nothing compared to what Bella and Pettigrew, who also loved torturing animals, would do to Moon Fire.

"Bella! Activate it!" Lucius growled. "Quickly, before someone sees!"


Draco felt a tremendous tug behind his navel, and then they were whisked away to Riddle Manor, leaving only a bloodstained pool of water behind to mark their trail.

Thanks for reading! How soon do you want the next chapter? ;)

The faster you respond to the last question, the faster I'll write.

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