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Stricken, he reached out a hand to Moon Fire, to stroke the black nose, but the stallion reared and lashed out with his iron shod hooves, screaming in fear and hatred. Harry jerked his hand away. Selene, help me! Look what's happened to him. He's gone totally wild. He doesn't even remember me—who healed him once before and who loves him best. He brushed the tears from his eyes, they wouldn't help anything. From what he could see, the stallion was not only injured, but ill as well, probably from infection. Love is memory. That's what You told me in a dream once. But I don't understand. Does that mean if I love Moon Fire enough he'll remember who he is, or is it the other way around, does he need to love me?

The stallion pounded the stall door for a moment or two more before settling.

Harry shook his head. He knew he had to help the stallion, but how? Amicus could heal him, but he couldn't come onto the land without setting off the wards, and Harry still needed to find Hermione and Draco and rescue them as well. "I need to find out more about this place." He told the black horse and Jasmine. "I need to become a spy. Once I find out what I need to know, then I can come back and heal you again. I promise I'll return."

Jasmine whickered nervously, and Harry suddenly realized that he couldn't leave her there, though she was good company for the black stallion. There would be no way to explain how an Arabian mare had suddenly appeared in a locked barn. "Jazzy, you'll have to come with me. I'll see if there's somewhere else I can put you for now," he said regretfully. He led the Arabian out of the stall, she had already eaten and drank her fill. He walked her out of the barn, and Moon Fire nickered desolately as the mare was taken away.

"Sorry," Harry called over his shoulder.

He found an old shed full of hay that he put the mare into. "It's just for a little while. When I can, if I can, I'll bring you to visit each other. Rest now, girl." He gave Jasmine one last pat and then pulled up the hood of his cloak and disappeared.

When he had used the cloak before, at school, to slip out of his common room after curfew, it had been the way a child would have used it, to sneak out of somewhere, and he had never tried to be quiet or breathe softly, because it had almost been like a game, he hadn't really worried about being caught. He recalled that time in third year in Hogsmeade, how he had scared the pants off Draco, and he shook his head at his own silly stupidity. But now was different. He was different. This time he would use the cloak as it was meant to be used. And he would play the game for keeps.

Something Severus had told him once came back to him then, as he hurried up the path towards the manor house. One of the most important lessons I ever learned from being a spy was that in order to be effective you had to learn to act like you belonged. Then you won't get stopped or questioned by anyone if you are where you shouldn't be.

That was good advice, though no one would stop him if they couldn't see or hear him. He felt a shiver go through him when he looked upon the old manor house and recalled how people had died here. There was a brooding quality about it, as if it were a sleeping dragon. He silently opened the door a crack and looked through it. He saw no one, and opened the door just enough for him to slip by and enter the hall. He shut the door noiselessly, looked about, and made himself listen for any voices or noises. The house was quiet.

He made his way upstairs, trying hard to walk silently, not clomp along like some big oaf. Like his cousin. Then he felt a flicker of guilt for thinking ill of the dead. He brushed it off. That had been the truth. Selene, be with me. Severus said he could feel you even in the darkest places. Be with me now, Lady. Please. He sent up a silent prayer and felt a feeling of warmth and reassurance flow through him. It was true then. The Goddess watched over Her own. If they asked politely.

He froze as he reached the top of the stairs, for it was then that he heard voices, one voice in particular, lifted in a civilized snarl. He knew that voice. Cold, cultured, and utterly ruthless.

"You fool! You had to go and beat the damn horse like that!" Lucius was furious. "I told you, Wormtail, to leave the horse in relative good condition because I need him for the Beast Match! And instead you go and have your little moment of petty revenge and ruin everything! Is there something wrong with your brain, that you can't follow simple instructions?"

"But . . .but Lucius, you promised I could break him a little." Wormtail whined, sounding very much like a squeaky about-to-be-stomped on rat. "I only gave him a taste of the whip . . .just a taste . . ."

"Oh? Then perhaps I should give you a taste of the Cruciatus, to remind you of your place, you pathetic whinging piece of dung?"

Yeah, do it. For the first and probably only time in his life, Harry was in complete agreement with Lucius Malfoy.

"No . . .no . . .please! I can fix it! I'll make him better!"

"Ha! I don't believe you. And I won't have you going near that stallion again. Once the Beast Match is over, if the horse is still standing, you can ask the Dark Lord to let you have him as a plaything. He might be in a good mood and allow it. Until then, Wormtail, get out of my sight before I decide to turn you into a bloody smudge on the floor."

There came the sound of something hard striking flesh and a yelp from Wormtail, then Harry saw him come scuttling from the room, rubbing his bottom. He was tempted to stick out his foot and trip the bastard, but then he controlled himself. He had to be calm, collected. He couldn't blow his cover.

He stepped aside and let Wormtail pass, though he vowed he would get back at him in a big way soon, the evil little animal abuser.

He heard a door being unlocked and then Lucius saying, "Draco, I need you. For now, you are off your punishment. Do not disappoint me again."

"No, Father."

"Go down to the stables and try and take care of that moon stallion. That bloody idiot Pettigrew almost ruined him for the arena. I need him well enough to fight. I don't care what you do, just get him well. Understood?"

"Yes, Father."

A few moments later, Lucius and Draco both were walking down the hall and down the stairs.

Harry hesitated, wondering if he should follow them, but opted instead to check out the rest of the rooms on this floor. He could always catch up with Draco in the stable later. Draco wasn't going to be able to do much with Moon Fire the way he was now. He was going to need some major help. But first, Harry needed to find out about Hermione.

He walked down the hall, trying all the doors. Most of them swung open easily, and were empty, except for some dusty old furniture and mice tracks. He came to the room Draco had been in and saw the bed rumpled and something that looked like old towels in the corner. He picked one up to examine it and saw that it was smeared with dried blood. Harry recognized the rusty stains because he had cleaned up blood far too often when he was with the Dursleys. He wondered if the blood belonged to Moon Fire or to Draco.

He crept quietly out the door, resolving to wait inside here for Draco later on, once he had found Hermione. He continued down the hall. He came to a large bedroom that had been spotlessly cleaned and suspected it belonged to either Lucius or Voldemort himself. He checked it out thoroughly, but found nothing of interest or use inside. He left it as he found it.

The next bedroom had clothes strewn everywhere and dirty plates and cups, Harry figured this was Wormtail's room, since the clothes lying about were too small for Lucius. He wrinkled his nose as he went inside, Petunia would have had a coronary if she had to deal with this slob in her house, Harry thought, smirking. But though there was a lot of dirty laundry and a small silver dagger in a bedside table drawer, Harry didn't find anything that could help him locate Hermione or that he could use against the Death Eaters. Correction—one of Wormtail's socks might do nicely, it was foul enough to halt a rampaging chimera or a bloodthirsty zombie. Lucius might topple over if Harry shoved it under his nose.

The room across the hall definitely belonged to Bellatrix, he found her leather boots in the closet and also a long whip. Harry shuddered upon seeing it, he could only imagine the things that whip had done to people and animals. Bellatrix was surprisingly neat, she had all her poison potions lined up neatly upon her desk, Harry knew what they were because they were labeled and Severus had taught him poisons and antidotes just this past term. There was a leather belt hanging on the wall with several wicked looking knives in it and a small leather bound book.

Harry opened it, curious to see what Bellatrix read. It turned out to be a blank journal, with a few poems written in a spiky hand. Harry nearly gagged. They were all love poems, written to "My dark Master, my eternal beloved."

Okay, I think I'm gonna hurl. That's just so . . .disgusting. Harry clutched his stomach and took several breaths. He looked upon the desk and found scribbled notes for dark spells, one of them for binding a dangerous animal and the other for robbing a person of his wits permanently. A note in the margin read Too bad I couldn't test it on Wormtail.

Harry's lip twitched. Apparently, Wormtail wasn't even loved by his comrades, the miserable bastard.

He departed and went to the last room on the row, only to find it locked. I'll bet this is Lucius' room, and that's why its locked. Harry thought. He debated on whether or not to unlock it yet. He decided to leave it be for now. Finding Hermione was more important than seeing what things Lucius kept in his bedroom.

The last door was small and it too was locked. This time Harry cast an unlocking charm and cautiously opened the door. A set of creaky wooden stairs led up into blackness. Harry illuminated the space with his wand and crept upwards. Another door was at the top, also locked. Harry opened that as well and inside he found Hermione, curled up on her small cot, dozing.

His relief was palpable. "Hermione!" he whispered her name like a sigh. Then he threw off the hood of his cloak.

She jerked awake, though he hadn't thought she could hear him. "Who's there?" She scooted to the far corner of the bed, her eyes darting about like a trapped animal's.

Then she saw him. "Harry? It's not . . .oh Bright Lady, it really is you!" Tears gathered in her eyes.

"Yeah, it's really me." He said, and gave her a smile.

To his horror, she didn't smile back. She started to cry.

"'Mione, what is it?" He cautiously came towards her. "Did they . . .did they hurt you?"

She continued to cry quietly for a few minutes then she slowly nodded. "It was Bellatrix, mostly. She—she wanted me to call her Mistress and kiss her feet and kneel to her whenever she came into the room. She said that was where I belonged, at her feet, like a slave, because I w-was a M-Mudblood."

"Don't say that filthy word. You're a beautiful intelligent Muggleborn witch and Bellatrix can take her pureblood supremacy and shove it up her arse!" Harry said angrily. He sat down on the bed and said softly, "What did she do to you? Did she whip you like Wormtail did Moon Fire?"

"He whipped Moon Fire?" Hermione cried, horror-stricken. "Oh, Selene have mercy! How dreadful!"

"Yeah, he's in pretty bad shape. I gotta get us out of here, but first I have to heal up Moon Fire. Now, what did she do to you?"

"She slapped me a few times and she used a few curses on me." Hermione admitted softly.

"The Cruciatus?"

"Yes. Once or twice, until Lucius came and told her no more of it, that he wanted me sane for You-Know-Who's visit." She shook, trembling violently. "He's coming here. In about a week."

He put his arm about her and held her. "Shhh. Don't worry, we'll be long gone by then. Are you hurt now?"

She shook her head. "No. Bellatrix heals me after her little "talks"," Hermione grimaced. "But you know what the worst thing is, being locked up here? It's that I'm bored out of my mind. I have nothing to do. I've started reciting lists of potions ingredients and the periodic table of elements in my head. At least when Bellatrix—Mistress Bella—as she wants me to call her, and I always refuse—comes in I have something new to think about and even having her curse me is like . . .a change of pace. Not that I want her to curse me, but . . ."

"I understand. It was like that for me too—locked in the cupboard under the stairs." Harry soothed, stroking her hair and her back. "I'm sorry I couldn't get here sooner."

"How did you get here, Harry? How did you know where to find us?"

He told her, briefly, what he had done and how he had been guided through Sherwood Forest and used the moonpaths to get to Riddle Manor quickly.

"So a unicorn and this girl that you call Titania are waiting in the woods for us to come out?"

"Yes. They can't cross the boundary because they might set off the wards. So I had to come here alone."

She hugged him back and whispered, "I'm glad you're here, Harry. But please be careful. Poor Draco was beaten by his father for—for trying to warn me when they came to the school to check on him. It's really my fault we got kidnapped . . ."

"No, it's not. Don't ever say that." Harry ordered. "Look, I'm going to try and find out as I can about what's going on here before I leave. Moon Fire will need a few days to recover and I need time to . . .to see if I can't bond with him again. I'll try and visit you as much as I can. Do you need food or anything?"

"No. I haven't been real hungry. Lucius brings me food and drinks and he also lets me out on occasion to use the bathroom. He's a little more humane than Bellatrix. She would have made me pee on the floor or a bucket. Other than that, though, I've been locked in here." She pursed her lips. "You know, it's strange, but I feel so . . .worthless since I've gotten stuck in here. I mean, I'm probably smarter than all three of them put together, and yet I can't figure a way out of here. And the way they look at me . . .Harry, I've never been hated before just because I existed. I mean, people at school used to be jealous of my brain, but I've never been the target of such intense hatred because I'm a Muggleborn witch."

"It sucks," Harry said feelingly, for he had been the target of such blind hatred from his aunt and uncle, who had hated all things magical. "But don't worry, 'Mione. I'm going to get us all away from here. By Selene's Grace, I promise." He put his hand over his heart.

She turned her head and their mouths met. "I love you," she whispered, kissing him deep and long. It felt so good to see him, talk to him, hold him, and suddenly she couldn't deny what she felt any longer. When she drew back, her lips rosy, breathless, she gave a small chuckle. "My timing's terrible, isn't it? I wanted our first kiss to be somewhere romantic, not in this dusty gross attic."

"It's perfect," Harry said. "What better time to kiss you than right now, when you need it most?"

"Harry, you're so very sweet!" she whispered and hugged him again.

"That a good thing?"

"Yeah. A really good thing."

"I'd better go. I need to talk with Draco, maybe he has some ideas about getting us out of here without risking all our necks."

"He's a Slytherin, plus he knows them better than we do," Hermione agreed.

"I'll see you soon. Don't lose hope. Remember, the Lady is with you," Harry said, then he drew on the hood of his cloak and slipped back down the stairs, locking both doors behind him with a Reverse Locking Charm.

Harry was sitting in the chair next to Draco's desk inside the bedroom, still hidden by the cloak, and Draco never knew he was there. Harry hid a grin and waited for the other to lock the door and use his wand to cast some sort of ward before he took off the hood of the Cloak of Concealment.

"Boo, Malfoy!"

Draco spun around, almost falling over his own feet. "Potter! You little son-of-a-bitch!"

"Hello to you too, Draco."

"How did you get in here? Your bloody Invisibility Cloak?"

"Cloak of Concealment, actually. The door wasn't locked, all I had to do was wait here."

"How did you find your way to Riddle Manor?"

Harry shrugged. "Used a Tracking spell. I rode Jasmine and followed a unicorn and a Sherwood fairy queen. At least I think that's what she is."

Draco's eyebrows rose. "You have some strange allies, Potter."

"I think they were sent. If you know what I mean."

Draco nodded, one hand moving to finger the silver crescent beneath his shirt. "I do. We need to get out of here soon. Have you seen Moon Fire yet? Or Hermione?"

"Yes." Harry felt his temper spike. "How could that little rat bastard do that to him? Why didn't you stop him?"

"Me? In case you don't know, Potter, I've been grounded to this room since the first day I was brought here," Draco snapped angrily. "After my father expressed his displeasure about my association with Muggleborns he told me to stay in here."

"And you didn't try and disobey him?"

"Of course I did. I climbed out the window and went to try and feed and water Moon Fire. He wasn't hurt then, well not like that, I mean." Draco's blue-gray eyes were sad. "Harry, if I could have, I would have turned that whip on Pettigrew. I would have let my father beat me twice as hard as he did if it meant they would leave Moon Fire alone. I know you think I'm a spoiled little arse and sometimes I am, but I know what's right. And no animal deserves that. Even my father thinks so."

"Humph! He just wants to keep Moon Fire alive for his master."

"But at least he's not insane, like Aunt Bella, or a total wuss and a coward, like Wormtail. Not that I agree with what he wants to do with Moon Fire either," Draco added quickly.

"What are his plans?"

"He . . .he wants to keep the Dark One happy when he arrives, to welcome him home, so Father thought he needed to provide entertainment. He wants to copy the ancient Romans and have a Beast Fight. He wants to pit Moon Fire against a winged tiger or something like that. And Bellatrix wants to throw Hermione in there too and make her fight a manticore."

"That's just sick!"

"Tell me about it. I wish I wasn't related to them."

"I used to wish the same about my aunt and uncle." Harry said sympathetically. "How is Moon Fire?"

Draco shook his head unhappily. "It's bad, Potter. Really bad. I tried to get near him, and he attacked me. Father taught me a binding spell, but I don't want to use it unless I absolutely have to. It's what that arsehole Pettigrew used to hold him while he beat him, I think. But I need to clean out those cuts and put salve on them. He's gotten a fever from them, I think, but I can't get close enough to give him any kind of draft without getting my brains bashed out."

"You know how to treat a horse with fever and wounds like that?"

"Sure. I mean, my Aunt Dromeda is a Horse Healer and she taught me some basic stuff, beyond sprains and colic remedies. But it's no use unless I can get him to stand still." He looked speculatively at Harry. "You always seemed to be his favorite before. Maybe you can succeed where I can't."

Harry chewed his lower lip. He hated admitting to Draco that he couldn't succeed, but based on what he had experienced that morning . . .the stallion had completely forgotten any bond they had once shared due to his mistreatment. "He was . . . pretty scared when I saw him, he wouldn't even let me touch him. Goddamn that Wormtail! I want to just chuck him in the stall and let Moon Fire trample him!"

"So do I. And I'm sure Moon Fire wants to kill him too." Draco said feelingly. "I think if my father hadn't been so busy with other things, he'd have cursed the little rat."

"Well, all I can do is try." Harry said, trying to sound optimistic. "Are you still grounded?"

"No. Which means I can go anywhere in the manor I want, except by Granger. Father didn't say it, but I know he expects me to stay away from her, maybe even to hate her now that she got me in trouble with him."

"But you won't."

"As long as I can see her without getting caught. So, if you need anything for Moon Fire, tell me and I'll bring it by. If you can manage to get him to trust you enough to let you touch him, let me know and I'll give you the potion and salve for him. But we don't have all week, Potter. Father expects He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to arrive by Sunday, if he keeps to schedule. I'm praying he gets delayed doing some weird rite of evilness and doesn't arrive early. That would be a total disaster. If you can't get Moon Fire to trust you in a day or so, I'll have to use the binding spell."

"I understand. I wish we had your aunt's Calming Rope." Harry said. Using the binding spell would be the ultimate betrayal, he thought. But if it were the only way the stallion could be treated, Harry knew he would have to risk it. He could not afford to let Moon Fire die. "Umm, Draco? I have Jazzy in an old shed out back. Could you maybe check on her sometime while I'm with Moon Fire?"

"Sure. And I'll bring her oats and water too. We might be able to exercise her a little at night if we need to."

"Who makes dinner and stuff like that around here? Not your aunt?"

"Selene's bodice, Potter! She'd be more likely to poison us. No, Father brought along a house elf from our estate. We have more than one." Draco explained. "If you need food, tell me and I'll have some brought to my room."

"All right. Guess I'd better get going. The more time I spend with him, the more he'll get used to me again." I hope.

"I sure wish Professor Snape was here now. I wonder if he's spying on You-Know-Who?" Draco said wistfully.

He's closer than you think, trapped in the body of a moon stallion, Harry thought. "Who knows? But I wish he were here too." If he could manage to restore Severus to himself . . . "Ah well. If wishes were horses . . ."

"Beggars would ride," finished Draco.

"You know that old saying? I thought it was just a Muggle one."

"Wizard one too," Draco answered. "Though some wizards substitute the word 'broomstick' for 'horse'. Good luck, Potter. Lady bless."

"Thanks." Harry nodded and vanished.

Back in the stable, Moon Fire shivered and burned, he was freezing one moment and burning hot the next. In the back of his mind, he knew that meant something bad, he knew instinctively that he was sick, but he couldn't get out of this box to find a cool pond to lie in, or proper herbs to eat that might reduce the fever. He could feel the infection raging through his system and a tiny part of his brain warned that if he did not get help soon, he would die.

He drank all the water in his bucket, and his thirst was barely slaked. He closed his eyes and dozed and once more the lady came to him. She was tall and wore a violet gown with silvery stars and moons in all phases upon it. Her hair was bound by a simple silver fillet and it shone like liquid mercury, a shimmering silver mane. She came to him and her scent was pure and clean like a mountain spring and moonshine mixed with nightblooming jasmine and wild thyme.

Trust the boy, Moon Fire. My beloved, trust the boy.

She set her cool hands upon his neck and he felt the fever start to go down. Icy water trickled in rivulets down his neck and suddenly he woke up, to find the same dark-haired human who had come by before standing there, running a wet rag down his neck.

Moon Fire snorted angrily. How dare this boy come and invade his territory? He stamped a hoof in warning.

Harry immediately drew away. He could feel the fever radiating from the stallion and it terrified him. "Moon Fire, please. Please remember me. You need help. You're like a furnace. I can help you. That's all I want to do. Just help."

The stallion bared his teeth.

Harry backed up, the wet rag still in his hand. "Hey. It's all right. I just want to help you." He carefully shut the door. "Okay, if that's the way you want it, I'll stay here on this side of the door."

Harry kept talking, saying whatever came into his head, trying to get the big horse to remember him.

Moon Fire swiveled his ears about, listening to the boy.

Trust the boy. He did not know why he should, except that the Lady required it.

He lowered his head and nibbled listlessly upon a stalk of alfalfa. His appetite had been off since he started getting sick from the infection.

"Good boy. Eat. That'll give you strength. If we were home, I'd give you a bran mash. Hmm. Now there's an idea. Maybe you'd be able to swallow the potion that way."

It was a good idea, one that just might work. He walked away from the stallion's stall, looking in the interior of the barn for some bran in the feed bin, molasses, and a water pump. He found everything he needed after seven minutes of searching and just as he was preparing it, he heard a sound coming from the barn door.

He quickly jerked up his hood and vanished, praying that whoever it was left quickly or thought Draco was still around tending to the stallion.

A second later he heard Moon Fire whistle in rage and the sharp thud of a hoof striking wood.

Harry came out of the feed room and saw Pettigrew standing there, glowering at the big horse.

"You better watch it, horse. You cost me too much, you miserable nag. If it weren't for the fact that Lucius wants you for the master, I would kill you and boil you down for glue."

The stallion screamed again, plainly he knew who had beaten him and he hated Wormtail with a passion.

Harry almost wished he had left the door ajar.

Pettigrew spat at the horse and turned away.

Harry spotted an abandoned pitch fork lying just behind the waddling Animagus. He couldn't resist getting a bit of revenge back for poor Moon Fire. He waved his wand and the pitch fork leaped up and stabbed Pettigrew right in the behind. Hard.


Wormtail screeched like a banshee and turned around, but by then the pitch fork was on the ground.

And there were several holes in the seat of his pants, not to mention his behind.

Still yelping like a whipped cur, Pettigrew left the stables as fast as he could, whimpering shrilly.

Harry chuckled. "That's one way to get rid of a rat." He threw off the hood of his cloak and grinned at Moon Fire, who was sticking his head over his stall door, eyeing Harry curiously. "How about that, huh?"

Moon Fire gave a half-snort and the black eyes gleamed.

"See? I'm your friend. Got rid of that piece of dung, didn't I? Now I need to find Draco again and get that potion from him. Maybe after you drink it you'll feel better and start to remember more. You're probably really fuzzy right now, I know I always was when I had a fever. Couldn't think straight."

He made no move towards the horse, and Moon Fire did not attempt to strike him.

"I'll see you later, black one."

Harry replaced his hood and went back into the manor.

Five minutes later he returned with the potion—an equine Fever Reducer—in his pocket. Draco had liked Harry's idea, saying that was just what Andromeda had done many times with reluctant animals. Harry carefully mixed the potion into the bran mash and let it steep five more minutes.

Then he gave it to the stallion, hoping the horse wouldn't detect a difference in taste.

Moon Fire lipped the mash, it was warm and tasted of molasses and delicious bran and oats mixed together. For the first time in over a day, he felt hungry. He began to eat.

Harry watched, leaning on the partition between the stalls, as the stallion slowly ate the warm mash. "That's it. Eat it, and it'll make you feel better."

Moon Fire finished the mash and then took a long drink from his refilled water bucket.

His eyes drifted closed and he dozed again.

Harry eyed him, wondering if that were normal. He supposed it was, he had usually felt sleepy after taking medicine. "Wonder how long it'll take before the fever goes away? Guess I'll know when you do." He yawned. He was exhausted. He decided to follow the stallion's example, and made himself a sort of bed in the next stall in the straw, and soon he too was fast asleep.

Will Harry be able to regain Moon Fire's trust and will that in turn help Moon Fire remember that he's truly Professor Snape?

The next chapter holds the key to some of those questions. I hope the pace is not too slow and that you're enjoying all the twists and turns Harry and Moon Fire are going through-and let's not forget Hermione and Draco.

More to come soon!

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