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Hermione found Harry in the pasture, ramming the quintain over and over with his horn. She could feel the waves of frustration and anger radiating from him and kept herself still and quiet until he had worked off most of his temper battering the straw dummy. She loved looking at him in his Animagus form, even angered, he was graceful and swift, like the wind made flesh. Hermione recalled reading once in a horse book that the Arabs believed that Allah had condensed the wind and from that sprang the horse. Looking at the black unicorn, Hermione could see how that could be true. Harry was about fifteen hands high, and bore a glittering pearlescent horn that was over a foot long. His hooves flashed silver and left crescent marks in the lawn when he charged the quintain. His mane and tail were long and flowing and she would have loved to run her fingers through it, but knew that right then wasn't the time.

Harry was so incensed at Hermione's revelation about the Headmaster that he saw red for several minutes. When at last he had worked off the killing anger and became rational again, he turned his head and saw his girlfriend leaning against a fence post, watching him. Shaking his forelock out of his eyes, he snorted and pawed the earth, stared at the remnants of the quintain, and hoped Severus wouldn't be too annoyed with him because he'd ruined it.

But then the quintain put itself back together and Harry tossed his head and trotted over to Hermione. He allowed her to stroke his neck and mane and nuzzled her cautiously before he transformed back to his boy self again. He ended up with her arms about him and for a brief moment he allowed himself to rest his head on her shoulder.

They remained that way for several minutes before Harry sighed and pulled away a little. Most of the anger he had felt towards the old wizard had drained out of him right then and all he felt was tired and betrayed.

"I'm sorry, Harry," Hermione murmured. "Maybe I should have just kept my mouth shut."

Harry shook his head firmly. "No. It's better if I know the truth. I'm tired of people only telling me what they think I need to know. I'm not a child anymore, 'Mione! And I won't be used like that by anyone, prophecy or not. I'm glad you saw the truth Dumbledore hid. It hurts . . .but at least I know not to trust him."

She hugged him close. "I'm sorry . . .I know how much you admired him. I still can't believe he—"

Harry put a finger to her lips. "Don't. Don't talk about it anymore. There's nothing to be done, it's over with. All I want is to get through this last battle and then . . . then we'll see." He gently touched his lips to hers and she kissed him ardently.

"I love you, Harry."

"Love you too." She soothed the raw aching place deep inside him that had been opened after she had revealed the Headmaster had used him as a pawn to fulfill a prophecy and kill the wizard he loved like a son. I'm not a murderer! Or an assassin! He thought angrily. He didn't know what Dumbledore had intended originally, but whatever it was, Harry vowed to do what must be done in his own way. When he started to think about the years he had spent unwanted and detested in a cupboard, tormented by Dudley and labeled a freak, all because Dumbledore, in his infinite wisdom, had wanted a hero to take on Voldemort, he grew furious all over again.

He pushed those troublesome thoughts into the back of his mind, then said, "I'm still stuck on a name for my Animagus form. Would you like to help me choose one?"

"Sure. I'll try and think of some after supper. Shall we go inside?"

Harry nodded and together they went inside. He found Severus scrubbing and peeling potatoes for a casserole with onions, bacon, green beans and cheddar cheese. He sniffed appreciatively and said, "Smells great, Severus."

He wandlessly Summoned plates and silverware and set the table while Hermione cut up a salad and sliced up some seven grain bread. Harry put out butter and drinks.

The casserole went into the oven and while it was baking, they all sat down at the table and ate the salad and bread. There was a grave and uncomfortable silence until Severus broke it. "Harry, I want you to know that the prophecy Dumbledore spoke of is not written in stone. He believes it is, because he thinks that Trelawney has some kind of mystic Sight inherited from her ancestors, all of whom had strong gifts of prediction."

"But Severus, Divination is an imprecise art," Hermione interrupted. "Professor McGonagall said so." Then she blushed at her bad manners and muttered an apology.

"You are correct, Hermione. And a true Seer is as rare as water in the desert. But Professor Dumbledore has a weakness for hard luck cases, like Trelawney . . .and myself, I'll admit. But I was not minded to stay one, while Trelawney is content to remain a meek little dreamer, locked away in her tower."

"Then you think the prophecy is a fake?" Harry asked.

"Let me tell you what I know of prophecy. Prophecy is merely one person's prediction of what could be, a possible future, not the only one. The future is always in motion, it shifts and changes based upon our choices. I would wager my Potions Mastery that if Trelawney were to do a prediction now, she would see that the prophecy she made fourteen years ago had changed. A prophecy shows a path that you may walk, but it's not an absolute. They are fools for believing it is. They wish for it to be true and so they struggle to make it so, but sometimes trying to make something occur causes it to rebound and you have a worse future than you might have if you let things alone."

"How do you figure that, sir?"

"Here's an example. Suppose that you look in your tea leaves and see Harry is going to walk across the lawn tomorrow and catch his foot in a hole and trip. That's a bad thing, right. Something you can stop. But what if you tell Harry about the hole and he avoids it, only to get snatched up by a bear and dragged off to be eaten. Now, if you had just let Harry be, he would still be alive. Do you understand?"

Hermione looked uncertain. "I guess I do. You're saying that by trying to make things right, we're actually making things worse?"

"Very good! That is exactly what I'm saying. Prophecy is a double edged sword, it can both defend and destroy. I do not trust it and neither should you."

"Why does he then?" asked Harry belligerently.

Severus shrugged. "To each his own, Harry. Everyone needs to believe in something. And You-Know-Who believes in it too, else he wouldn't have come that night to destroy you."

"Humph! He's the Headmaster's son all right," mumbled his ward. Bitterness colored his tone.

Severus reached out and patted him on the shoulder. "Try not to concern yourself with that, Harry. I did not tell you of it because I felt it would do you no good and ruin your self confidence. You have the blessing of Selene and are Her Chosen, and that shall see you through the darkness. See us all through. Even the darkest night has stars."

His words made them feel warm and safe. By then the casserole was done and they all had several helpings of it . . .it was delicious.

"How long do you think it will take Dumbledore to gather up the other members of the Order?" asked Harry, Severus had told him about the Order of the Phoenix one night when they had discussed the First Wizard War.

"It depends."

"What's the Order?' Hermione asked, puzzled.

Severus took a moment to explain about the Order of the Phoenix, and what it stood for and what it had done in the past and today. Then he said, "I hope that the other members hurry up and get off their arses now. I have an odd feeling in the back of my head that the element of surprise is what will win this battle for us."

Harry bit his lip, then said softly, "Will I . . .have to face Old Snake Face again?"

"Only if I'm dead," Severus said decisively. "I have never agreed with the policy of sending schoolboys, even ones with extraordinary gifts, to face a crazed dark wizard who has killed hundreds in his bloody past. I would prefer if you two not come at all, but I know that hope is futile. So all that I ask of you, Harry, is that you pick your battles wisely and be careful. The rest is in Selene's hands."

"Will do, sir." Harry said, for he had no desire to die young as Cedric had.

"Study up on those Defense spells I taught you, and make sure you bring along your Cloak of Concealment, Harry. When you aren't a unicorn you may hide with it and that could save your life." Severus instructed. "Hermione, for part of the time you're going to be mounted on me, but when I see a chance to strike at the Evil One, I will ask you to dismount and then you should stick close to Harry. Do not, under any circumstances, risk your lives for anyone—not even me." His voice became stern and hard. "Have I your word on that?"

Both of them exchanged glances. They didn't want to agree, but they sensed Severus would not bend, and so they both said, "Yes, sir, we swear upon our magic we'll not risk our lives."

Severus was very relieved and after some tea and cakes, he sent them off to bed to have a good night's sleep, after sneakily lacing their tea with a few drops of Dreamless Sleep.

HPSSHPSSHP

The night of the full moon

Riddle Manor:

Deep underground in a stone chamber, Voldemort and his inner circle of Death Eaters gathered. All were in full regalia, standing about the pentagram etched into the floor, which had been made by dribbling the blood of some unfortunate Muggle into the carved grooves on the floor. Lucius stood at one end of the north point of the pentacle, Bella at the south end, Goyle at the west end, and Dolohov at the east point. Voldemort stood in the center, his arms upraised, chanting in ancient Egyptian, which was a language of magic and spells older than the Latin used today by modern wizards.

When Voldemort had shifted his allegiance from Selene to her dark brother Set, he had studied the language of ancient Egypt, which, according to some of the ancient texts, had been magic's first language. But Latin was easier to use and to pronounce, and when Rome rose to power, it dominated the ancient world and also the magical one. However, for this time, he chose to invoke the aid of his dark deity in the ancient way.

His followers understood none of what he said, as they were not students of the ancient ways, but they were there to offer him magical and emotional support when necessary. The Dark Mark bound them all to him and he could use it when necessary to give him strength. He wished he had the full thirteen with him, but Barty Crouch Junior had been Kissed, Karkaroff had been killed for the coward he was by Avery, and Severus Snape had turned traitor and when next they met, Voldemort had vowed to kill the sly bastard himself. Set Himself had informed Voldemort of that little fact, and it made Voldemort furious, since he had thought Snape loyal to him alone.

Voldemort continued his invocation, calling upon his dark god to grant him an army that would help him succeed in dominating the wizarding world. His words in the ancient tongue were measured and even and he could feel the power of his Dark Lord flow through him, like liquid ice through his veins—sharp and biting and filled with a hidden death.

"Open the way, Set, Lord of Destruction!

Grant me Thine Immortal Strength, I beseech Thee!

Grant me the power to crush mine enemies,

Trample them beneath my heels,

And rule the world of magic!

I, Tom Marvolo Riddle, Lord Voldemort, ask Thee

To send those of Thy kingdom here unto me!"

He chanted the request five times and then he felt a surge of black power unlike any he had ever felt before.

The voice of his god echoed in his head. I hear thee, My Son. My faithful Magus, My Warrior, thee shall have all thy ask. The gates shall be opened, the legions of the dead are thine to command. May thee triumph over thine enemies!

There came a surge of crackling purple lightning from out of the air, it funneled down and crackled about Voldemort, who stretched out his hand and the purple force bolts shot from his outstretched fingers and formed a doorway in the pentagram's center, a foot from where he stood.

All the wizards and witches felt the temperature in the room drop a good fifteen degrees and the power raging about their lord was awe-inspiring and terrifying. None of them had ever seen the like. Nor would they again.

The doorway sheeted purple lightning tinged with black for a moment or two before a gateway was torn in the fabric of the world and the first of Voldemort's legion of undead warriors marched through.

These were not the ordinary sort of undead, skeletons and zombies, these were spectral warriors, looking much the same as they had in life, when they were servants and guardians of Set's dark hidden temples, and they radiated an icy cold miasma that caused the Death Eaters nearest them to go white with fear and tremble.

Voldemort allowed a hundred warriors to come from Death's Kingdom, knowing full well he could summon more if he wished. He did not close the portal all the way, leaving it slightly ajar. He ordered the undead to stay within the stone chamber, they were susceptible to destruction by silver and full moonlight as well as a unicorn's horn and certain magical spells. He would wait till the moon had begun to set before allowing them to come forth.

"Come, my loyal ones," he crooned, managing to keep his feet, even though he felt very weakened now that Set was no longer giving him His might. "I believe the rest of our allies should be here shortly."

He led the way up the stone ramp to the manor proper. He felt the manor shake suddenly.

"Master, what is that?" cried Bellatrix. "An earthquake?"

"No, sweet Bella," purred her consort. "That is the tramp of giant feet. King Harghast has come at last with six of his personal guard." There was a fierce glitter of joy in his eyes now. Together with his loyal Death Eaters, giant and spectral warrior, his familiar the Queen Cobra, he would dominate the world. At long last he would show his foolish mentor Dumbledore just how powerful he was . . .and how much he didn't need the old fool's ethics. Tonight it begins! My conquest.

HPSSHPSSHP

The moon had just risen when Severus felt an icy chill grip him about the chest. He almost couldn't breathe and fear that he was having heart failure made him gasp for air. He had been sitting on the sofa, doing some last minute meditation, waiting for Albus and the Order to arrive for the past hour. Hermione and Harry were in the kitchen, oblivious to the pain he felt. Something is wrong. He glanced down at his arm, where he bore the dreaded Mark. It was spitting purple darts and felt hot and then cold. He knew then Voldemort was behind this.

At almost the same time, he heard Harry cry out as well. "Ahhh . . .my head!"

"Harry, are you all—oohh! My head feels like it's going to explode!" Hermione whimpered.

Through his haze of pain, the professor thought, We are all feeling the effects of a Great Working of dark magic. Voldemort has Summoned something not of this world and it has answered. Selene help us all. Those with the goddess' Gifts could sometimes feel when a Great Working occurred, and Severus, because of his ties to Voldemort, could feel it very strongly, as could Harry. And apparently, Hermione as well. He gritted his teeth and focused, then called a bottle of a strong Pain Reliever to him.

He managed to get the stopper off and down the contents, not even wincing at the bitter taste. Once it began to work, he Summoned two more vials and went into the kitchen to give them to his wards.

They took them gratefully, and when they could talk again, Hermione said, "Severus what just happened? I felt like . . .like shards of ice were stabbing me and there was . . .was this . . .sense of something twisted and wrong and evil . . ."

"My scar . . .it just exploded in pain . . ." Harry said, rubbing it. His fingers came away bloody. "Aww, bugger!"

"Let me see," Severus tilted his head back. "Your scar has a tear in it. Hold still." He traced a quick Healing charm with his wand and the flesh mended. "I was also affected," he indicated his Mark, which now resembled a black blister.

"What does it mean?" Hermione queried.

"It means we need to hurry and get to Riddle Manor as soon as humanly possible. There is no time to waste. Something evil has been Summoned by You-Know-Who and we must fight it now. Harry, gather your cloak and Hermione ready my saddle and get your lance. Move!"

His two students sprang away, not lingering to ask foolish questions for once. He fought the urge to scratch the burning itching Mark, and concentrated instead upon calling Albus with his telepathy. Albus, ready the Order and come here NOW! If you haven't felt it, Riddle has performed a Great Working and torn a hole in the fabric of the world. We have no time to waste! Gather whomever you've been able to contact and come here. Hurry and move your arse!

Severus? How can you— Dumbledore's mind voice was full of wonder.

Never mind that! Just hurry! Severus snapped, then he cut the thread that bound them. He cast himself out again, connecting with Arthur Weasley, the man had always been an open book to a disciplined psionist. He gave him the same message he had given Dumbledore and Arthur wasted no time in debate.

He sent another such message to Minerva, his thoughts swifter than falcons in flight.

Then, on a burst of inspiration, he sent word to Amicus and his herd as well. The stallion promised his aid and said he would meet them at the edge of Riddle Manor. He too had felt the earth's pain as Voldemort had worked his magic.

Finally, he stopped calling, for his head was starting to ache, and he heard Harry on the stairs. He looked up and saw the boy wearing the cloak with a determined look on his face. "Come, Harry. It's time."

Harry nodded. "Be careful, Sev."

Snape blinked, for he had not heard that name uttered in over fourteen years. "You as well, son." His hand went and gripped the younger wizard's shoulder firmly for a moment, then he turned and strode out the back door and into the yard. As soon as he had reached the fence, he shimmered into Moon Fire.

Behind him, Harry did the same, becoming the ebony unicorn.

Hermione awaited them, fastening the jousting saddle and light bridle upon Moon Fire and then swinging aboard. The Silver Lance blinked into her hand and she couched it under her arm. "Okay, we're ready, Moon Fire."

The stallion tossed his head, the white crescent gleaming in the light of the full moon.

The black unicorn trotted up, whickering to Moon Fire. All set, sir? Oh, and you can call me Nightblaze.

A good choice, approved the stallion, and he sent Hermione the knowledge of Harry's new name.

Hermione smiled. "That's a brilliant name! I love it."

They waited for several minutes, Moon Fire champing at the bit irritably.

Then they saw a bright flash of light and Albus appeared, along with Minerva, Arthur and his two eldest, Bill and Charlie, Alastor Moody, Shacklebolt, Remus, Sirius, and Amelia Bones herself.

The Order approached the two equines and Hermione, looking about.

"Hermione!" Sirius exclaimed before anyone else could speak. "What are you doing here? Where's Snape? And Harry?"

Hermione looked him straight in the eye, and said cooly, "I am the Moon Lady's Chosen, along with Harry and Severus, and She has called us to arms. Professor Snape is Moon Fire." She patted the stallion's neck and Moon Fire stared Sirius right in the face.

Sirius gaped. "You mean Snape is—"

"The stallion I'm riding." Hermione finished, a small smile playing about her face. "And Harry is Nightblaze, the black unicorn," she indicated the unicorn.

"Black unicorn?" sputtered the other wizard. "Hand of Nemesis, but it looks like you're a real chip off the old block, eh, Moony? He's an Animagus like his old man!"

Nightblaze shook his head slightly.

Hermione didn't bother to correct his assumption. "Come on, we need to get to Riddle Manor and you can't Apparate, he has Anti-Apparition wards there."

"So how do we get there then?" asked Minerva.

"We walk the moonpaths," Hermione answered. "Moon Fire, open the way."

The stallion's crescent blazed white hot and suddenly, there was a glistening portal before her. "Follow me. And if you know any spells of Rapid Movement or something, cast them on yourselves before you step through."

She urged Moon Fire through and the stallion stepped calmly into the portal, his hooves chiming as they struck the sacred way.

Back on the other side, Dumbledore had transfigured everyone except Minerva into horses and she then transfigured him, before taking her cat shape and riding atop his back.

It took a few minutes for all the wizards to come through, and Nightblaze came last, closing the gate with his horn.

"Now what?" asked Sirius, looking about with awe, he was a piebald stallion, like a mustang.

"Now, we ride!" Hermione cried, and then Moon Fire sprang away, running as swiftly as he could down the silver road, his hooves striking sparks as he did so.

The others followed, the sound of their hooves making the moonpath ring loudly, as they raced the moon's shadow across the sky.

Well, here we are with another chapter!

Nightblaze won the most votes. Thanks to all who participated.

Next: The final battle-who will triumph? Voldy still has one last trick up his sleeve, will it spell doom for our heroes?

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