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Riddle Manor

The next day:

Draco had managed to slip out the window again in the middle of the night to give Moon Fire the grass he had collected and rub some more salve on his wounds. The stallion ate hungrily and seemed to be able to put more weight upon his foreleg now than he had previously. But that was the only bright spot Draco could see in their captivity. He dared not do more than feed the horse, because then either Lucius or Wormtail might notice. He wondered if his father would let him out of his "house arrest" soon, so he could move about the manor again and check up on Hermione. So far he hadn't heard anymore screams from the upstairs attic. That both relieved and frightened him. He wished he could do more for the girl and the stallion, but he had to be careful, use his cunning. No sense in getting himself caught. So he climbed back in the window and went to sleep, and Lucius was none the wiser about his son's midnight escapade.

Wormtail found himself kicked out of bed by Lucius' boot and cane at somewhere around five o'clock in the morning. He sniveled and whined about the early hour, but Lucius would have none of it, and ordered the other to quit whining and go tend the stallion, or else he would give him something to whine about all right.

"Why me? Why don't you make your goody-two-shoes son do the stall? Seems to me he could use a lesson in humility."

Lucius' cane stabbed him in the stomach and he doubled over, moaning.

"When I want your opinion, Wormtail, I'll ask for it. Until then, keep it to yourself! Or else I shall give you a lesson you'll not soon forget yourself. Now, move your backside before I kick it down the stairs, Rat Boy!"

Wormtail wheezed and whimpered and scurried down the stairs as soon as he was dressed, grinding his long yellowed incisors in fury. By the time he had gotten to the stables, he was in a fine rage, blaming the stallion for all of his misfortunes, and this latest indignity not the least of them.

Moon Fire lifted his head as soon as he heard the stable door swing open, and gave a sudden whinny, before he smelled that the intruder was not Draco, but one of his hated captors. Then his ears went flat against his head and he bared his teeth. Hatred surged up in him and he neighed again, only this time it was a stallion's challenge whistle.

Wormtail snarled, "Be quiet, you bloody beast! I can't wait till we throw you in the pit with the wyvern or what ever and see you get slaughtered." He moved down the row of stalls to the end where Moon Fire was and picked up the pitch fork.

Then he unlatched the stall door and thrust the pitch fork in. "Back, you stupid animal. Get back!"

Moon Fire reared, screaming in rage.

Wormtail poked him hard with the tines of the pitch fork, drawing blood.

The furious stallion lashed out hard with his front hooves, and Wormtail lost his grip on the pitch fork and almost went down. He did drop the fork and slam the door shut. Then he collapsed against it while Moon Fire raged inside. The stallion repeatedly smashed the stall door with his hooves, and had it not been reinforced magically, would have probably broken it down.

Wormtail shuddered, for the stallion frightened him badly. But then he recalled Lucius' sneering comments and felt hatred wash over him. "You'll get yours, you miserable beast! Lucius said I needed to clean out the stall because you might get some kind infection or disease. But he also wants you broken a bit for the arena."

Wormtail pushed himself to his feet, his oversized molars jutting down the sides of his upper lip. "I'll teach you, you high and mighty moon horse! Her favorite, are you? Pah! We'll see if She does anything to save you now."

He rolled up his sleeves and went over to the tackroom to fetch something.

Moon Fire continued to fight, trying his hardest to smash through the stall door. But it would not give, and he didn't wish to reinjure his leg. He stopped battering the door, instead remaining alert and watchful.

Pettigrew returned, holding a long whip over his shoulder, a nasty gleam in his eye. This time when he opened the stall door, he led with his wand and used the spell Lucius had taught him to freeze the stallion into helpless immobility.

He retrieved the pitch fork and shoveled out the dirty straw into a wheelbarrow and spread somewhat fresh stuff down.

All the while, he could feel the stallion's hate filled eyes on him, despite the spell.

"Yes, you keep looking at me like that, horse. Maybe I ought to geld you first?" He laughed hoarsely. "No, Lucius wants all your parts there. For now. But he never said I couldn't take my pound of flesh." His piggy eyes narrowed. "I've been waiting for this for a long time."

He uncoiled the whip from his shoulder and snapped it experimentally.

There was a loud popping and cracking sound as it went through the air. Wormtail smiled evilly.

In the stall, Moon Fire fought to throw off the spell that bound him to no avail.

Several hours later:

Moon Fire lay in the stall, unmoving, his back, sides, and haunches striped with whip marks from Pettigrew's brutal conditioning session. When the little sorcerer had finally released him, he had lunged at the man, and tried to trample him beneath his hooves, but he was weakened from the beating and not quite fast enough. Pettigrew had managed to get away with barely a graze upon his back, and had thrown the bolt on the door afterwards.

He had filled the stallion's bucket with water, tepid stuff that was hardly drinkable, but Moon Fire had lowered his head and sucked it down greedily. He ached and throbbed, and finally managed to get up enough strength to climb to his feet. There was no food and no way for him to get more, he was starting to dehydrate since he had barely enough water to drink for two solid days. He was also starting to run a temperature, because of the abuse his body had taken. Exhausted and sick, he lowered his proud head and dozed.

It was then he dreamed of running through a cool dark forest, down a track trod only by the creatures of the wood and himself. It lead to a beautiful grive with a crystalline stream. He lowered his head and drank, then lifted it at a gentle nudge from a soft little nose.

A unicorn foal was staring at him, whinnying impatiently for him to come and race with the unicorns.

Then he was running in great soaring strides across the grove, the small foals gamboling after, running for the sheer joy of it, the wind tangling in his mane, his crescent glowing bright in the darkness. The unicorns grazed as he ran, their coats luminescent with their own brand of magic and their pearl horns shimmering.

Suddenly, a large unicorn stallion thundered up beside him. Race me, brother!

Moon Fire did, lengthening his stride and putting everything he had into matching the effortless gallop of his herd brother, the great Lead Stallion Amicus. Together they thundered about the grove, snorting and pushing at each other. But suddenly Moon Fire slowed, he felt ill, there was something not right here.

What is wrong? Inquired the unicorn.

I am ill. Sick. I do not know why. Help me, my brother.

Dizzy, he halted and stood upon trembling legs.

Amicus began to flicker and fade.

Amicus! Help me! he whinnied in desperation.

I come, brother. As fast as I can. Hold on.

I . . .shall try. I will wait. Just . . .do not make me wait too long.

He woke feeling hot as a furnace, the sound of Amicus' hoofbeats echoing in his ears. He shook his head and stepped over to the water bucket, he was terribly thirsty. But his questing nose met with empty air. The bucket was empty.

He whinnied forlornly. Hurry, brother. I trust you, but I do not know how long I can endure this confinement. Hurry, and may Selene's light guide you.

Sherwood Forest:

Amicus rounded a bend in the trail abruptly, and Harry urged Jasmine to follow suit. Sometimes the unicorn stallion and his rider forgot that the horse beneath him was only mortal, and often could not hold the same pace as they. Jasmine was a game little mare, but she was not a magical horse, despite her great heart. "Hey!" Harry called. "Slow down, will you? Jasmine's not a machine!" he patted the Arabian's neck. "Easy, girl. Don't burst a blood vessel trying to keep up with them, okay?"

He slackened his hold on the reins and sat forward, trying to distribute his weight evenly so he caused less stress upon her legs and back. He knew it was imperative that they rescue his friends, but at the same time he did not want to kill poor Jasmine doing so.

As he rounded the bend in the trail, Jasmine stumbled. Harry was unprepared and was thrown off her back. He tucked himself into a roll and hit smack up against a tree. He remained still for a moment, trying to determine if anything was broken.

Finding himself still in one piece, he slowly uncurled from his ball and sat up. His back and side were bruised and his neck ached, but he was not seriously hurt. He was leaning against a magnificent oak tree, which had somehow kept its autumn foliage. The leaves fell in a brilliant shower of gold, crimson, and orange all about him.

He brushed them off his shoulders and looked up when he heard Jasmine's soft snort and a high-pitched giggle.

"Oh, sure. Go ahead and laugh at me," he reprimanded Titania.

Except it was not Titania he saw staring at him.

This girl looked like she was around fifteen or sixteen, slender and voluptuous with hair the fiery red of the oak tree and a complexion that was somewhere between golden and green. Her eyes were large, slanted, and a leaf-green. She had pouty red lips and was looking at him with frank desire.

"Well, well. Did you know that you just crashed into my tree?"

"I . . .err . . .I'm sorry." Harry blushed, for she was wearing a kind of tunic made of sewn leaves and gossamer fabric that left her bare at the shoulders and only covered her to the knee. When she shifted, he caught glimpse of bare skin beneath. "I fell off my horse . . ."

She giggled again. "So I figured. It's been a long time since a human male has done that. A long time." She smiled, her eyes glowing. "I'm Danae. And you look like you could use a friend. I could be your friend."

Harry found he didn't know what to say. She was quite attractive, the most attractive girl he had ever seen. Except, a part of his mind whispered, this was no ordinary girl, but a dryad.

Danae smiled sweetly, and reached out her hand to cup his cheek. "Poor boy. You're hurt. Shall I kiss it and make it better?"

Harry could not find his voice, it had vanished when she had smiled at him. His head whirled and he felt himself begin to float above the treetops. He tried to remember why he needed to continue on the trail, but his head ached and the dryad's sweet perfume of ambergris and lily of the valley intoxicated him. Slowly, the dryad leaned in, her mouth puckering in anticipation of the kiss she would steal from him.

What do you think will happen now?

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