"What the fuck?"
Harry looked down at his body. His hands look extremely small. In fact, his hands looked like a child's hands. Upon further investigation, he discovered the rest of his body was also suffering from this optical phenomenon. It would also appear that he was not wearing any clothes, which was a tad concerning.
He reached his hand back and scratched his head in thought. Was this a spell, or perhaps a result of some magical experiment gone wrong? He would almost believe this was some sort of prank from George if he hadn't been on a separate continent from the man for several years now.
As he looked, he finally processed that he seemed to be in some type of jungle. This was not so worrying, he had been in several jungles over the last decade since his departure from Britain. What was concerning was the fact that he didn't recognize this one. If he were a betting man, he might say Africa but he wasn't exactly an expert on herbology and the foliage around him wasn't helping.
Harry's eyes widened as they snapped to his right arm. Seeing it bare confirmed his suspicions, the elder wand was gone.
He immediately got to his knees as he started to move around the scattered leaves and vines to try and see if it was around him. After a few moments he started to panic. The Elder Wand being stolen was a major deal, not necessarily for what it could do against him since he was rather unkillable these days but to others for sure.
"Shit, fuck, fuck, shit, fucking shit, motherfucking shitty shit. Ok think Harry, what's the last thing you can remember?" He said out loud. He remembered yesterday rather well. He had been relaxing in small town in Montana if he was remembering his states correctly. He had gone out for a drink but had only been slightly buzzed when he went back to his motel. He fell asleep peacefully on his bed with no interruptions. There hadn't been a peep from his wards and he trusted his work immensely.
Despite not remembering anything, something must have happened as he was now in a four-year-old body with no goddamn clothes in the ass crack of nowhere! He thought as hard as he could about what happened while he slept.
He did remember having a rather strange dream about a strange red light reaching out to him but nothing other than that. Could that be a clue perhaps? Did someone manage to get through his wards and cast a spell on him. That was a scary thought. Dumbledore, the old bastard, himself wouldn't have been able to get past what he had put down for protection last night, especially not silently.
A light ray from the sun hit his eyes causing him to shut them slightly to block it out. This brought him back to the present and reminded him that he was wasting light as he stood here thinking. He sighed and looked around. It was time to get on the move. He looked at a pile of leaves on the ground and waved his hand at him. He had some ability when it came to wandless magic, transfiguring some clothes shouldn't be a problem.
A moment passed and Harry frowned in annoyance. Nothing happened, the pile of leaves didn't so much as twitch. Harry took a deep breath and reached deep inside himself as he had trained himself to do and tried once more. Once more, nothing seemed to happen.
Harry opened his eyes and slowly put his arms down as he looked in shock at the pile of leaves. He looked down at his hands. His magic wasn't responding the way he wanted. It was frozen and unresponsive, almost like a… oh god. Was he actually a goddamn child? How was that even possible? Even aging potions couldn't pull something like this! Being able to not only deage a wizard's body but also his magic to such a state shouldn't be possible. Magical manipulation to that level shouldn't be possible.
Harry looked around the jungle with a new sense of caution. With no magic he would now have to navigate this jungle without food, water, or clothes. A morbid sense settled in his chest before took a few breathes to calm himself down.
'Ok, this is bad but let's just analyze this and figure out how to get out of this. Let's see. I know the sun rises in the east and sets in the west which means… this way is North." Harry thought as he turned his body to match his thoughts and stared in a direction, 'Great. I'll just head in this direction until I run into something. I have to hit some form of civilization at some point.'
With that, Harry steeled himself and started walking into the direction he believed was North.
The jungle was… not as terrible as it could have been he supposed. He walked for hours and didn't seem to run into a single predator which was good. He did occasionally see something swinging around in the trees which he assumed were monkeys though they were to high up to be sure.
Sadly, that's where the good things ended. Harry was not used to walking without shoes so his feet were taking a real beating from the jungle floor which had all sorts of sharp objects that loved to get stuck in his baby feet.
To add to the pain of his feet, it was extremely hot forcing him to sweat profusely. After a few hours of walking, Harry was already starting to get thirsty. He tried once more to get some handle on his magic to summon water but it was to no avail. He tried once more to use some magic to summon just a little water but his magic refused to respond to him properly. He growled in anger when he saw that but kept moving. If he was lucky he might be able to find some sort of stream to drink from. Even without control over it, his magic should still be strong enough to protect him from most sicknesses in unfiltered water.
Again, it would seem luck was not with him as he finished the day exhausted and without finding a single source of water. Now he was hungry as well and he had literally no idea how to hunt. He knew the concept of hunting and laying traps but that meant nothing out here in the actual wild. He briefly thought about trying to kill something but his size meant he wasn't likely to catch nor overpower anything that lived in these trees.
As night approached, he started looking for a place to sleep for the night. He sort of remembered something about how you weren't supposed to sleep on the ground in jungles though perhaps he was mistaken and was thinking of another eco system.
After an hour of searching, Harry finally found a suitably thick branched tree. He struggled to climb up It but did manage it with only a few dozen splinters gotten in the process. He sat on the branch with his back against the trunk and sighed. He was no stranger to sleeping in uncomfortable places, he had slept in a tiny cupboard for the first eleven years of his life even when he could almost literally not fit in it. Still, this probably took the cake.
After a few minutes, his exhaustion from the day took hold of him and allowed him to drift off into the land of dreams. Sadly, his dreams offered no release from the torture. He dreamt himself at a café ordering a nice cup of tea in Britain from a rather attractive waitress. He waited until it finally arrived before gratefully taking it. He brought the cup to his mouth with great anticipation until It touched his lips. As soon as it did the cup disappeared from his hand and the dream dissolved right through his fingers.
Harry groaned softly as he awoke, partly from the dream and partly from the aching pain in his back from the way he slept. God he would kill for even just a basic numbing charm right now. He opened his eyes and seemed to be looking at two orange gems surrounded by darkness. Harry processed that for a moment in his still waking brain before the confusion set in.
He blinked rapidly to get the sleep out of his eyes before trying to look in front of him again. He immediately regretted his decision to not stay willfully ignorant.
As it turned out, those orange gems were actually rather large eyes staring intently at him. Surrounding the eyes was a black body made of fur that stretched over what was clearly thick muscles. The creature was a large cat clearly judging from its small snout, long body, and almost equally long tail resting behind it.
Harry froze for a moment as his mind processed what the creature was and how it would affect Harry considering they were currently on the same tree branch and it was staring at him intently. Harry immediately panicked and jumped into action. Unfortunately, he was not quite used to this body as instead of swinging his leg and jumping down from the tree and landing in a controlled roll as he planned, his leg caught and he just fell belly first and hit the ground painfully.
Harry groaned in pain as he slowly rolled onto his back and looked back as he held his arm which he had injured from the six-foot drop. The panther hadn't moved from its position lounging in the tree though it was still looking at him.
Harry wasn't the smartest when it came to animals but he once owned one of what he was convinced was the most intelligent owls in the world. It was this experience that led him to understand that the look the panther was giving him was not the typical, 'I'm hungry and you're my next meal look,' but more of a, 'Are you messed up in the head?' sort of look.
"Fucking hell, you scared the shit out of me you big ass cat. I thought you were trying to eat me." Harry said to the panther feeling in less danger than when he woke up. The panther just looked back at him with a small twitch of its tail and a deadpan look that clearly spoke of how unimpressed it was with Harry. Harry sighed as he realized how quick he fell into talking with the creature.
He and Hedwig could once hold entire conversations between each other despite not being able to speak anything close to a similar language. Even after her death he sometimes he would get caught talking to animals as if they could understand him. It was embarrassing to say the least.
He peered back up at the panther for a moment. As he looked at him the panther looked right back at him unmoving and looking relaxed as ever, as if he hadn't just scared a human enough to fall out of a tree. Harry was sure he could see something else in those eyes, an intelligence that contrasted with it's cat body.
"I don't suppose you can understand me, can you?" Harry asked after a moment. The panther did nothing but its tail twitched once more when presented with the question. Harry waited but it did nothing else. He still wasn't quite sure if it could or not and was just purposefully trying to piss him off.
"Alright then… You have any idea where I could find some water? I'm not exactly sure how long I can last without it but I'm probably approaching the limit considering it's still hot out and I am no longer sweating." Harry asked as he looked over himself. He was downplaying it when in truth his insides felt like there were trying to consume themselves. It was extremely painful but he hadn't broken under hours of the Cruciatus and even as a child he wouldn't let this break him.
The panther said nothing in response not that he really expected it too. Actually, he still wasn't quite sure what he was expecting to happen from this situation. He might be going slightly crazy from the lack of water. Could a crazy person recognize that they were going crazy? Bellatrix had been able to recognize her own insanity but she embraced it to the extreme.
He shivered as he realized he had just compared himself to possibly one of the worst people that had lived in the past century. So consumed in his thoughts, he didn't notice when the panther dropped down from the tree branch and started walking away. He didn't notice until he heard an audible growl which broke him from his thoughts immediately as he tensed.
He looked back up and finally noticed the panther, now a small distance away from him and looking back at him. It was giving him a slight snarl until their eyes met. Once it had Harry's attention, it turned its head back forward and continued to walk away. Harry stared at it walk away for a few moments before shrugging.
'No idea where I am going anyway.' Harry thought before setting out behind the big cat. He wasn't sure if the panther even realized he was following it. It must have, it's not like Harry was being quiet and he was much too weak to even attempt to be light footed.
Harry wasn't sure how long he was following but soon he could start to feel his own heartbeat. Along with that and his breath was starting to become uneven and rapid. The further they walked and the worse it got. Soon his vision was starting to get fuzzy that he almost ran into multiple trees. He grit his teeth and kept moving despite the pain and his body clearly showing signs of shutting down. There was a roaring that started in his ears that might have been his own blood but he couldn't be sure. Soon the world started to seem to get darker at the corner of his vision.
"If… if I die you better… you better eat me." Harry said out to his companion who he was now having trouble seeing in front of him. Damn this child body. A grown adult would have been able to go at least another day but he was stuck as something little better than a toddler. He wasn't actually sure if he would die or not. With the older body and the deathly hallows he had been unkillable. In this young form though, he had no idea what would happen. If he did die though, he hoped his new panther friend would at least get a meal out of it. He had no problem being part of the circle of life.
Harry wasn't sure when it happened but at some point, he must have fallen down to the floor as he now had a face full of leaves. Despite that, the next time he opened his blurry eyes, he was on something soft and moving. He used all the energy he could to look up to see what appeared to be the back of the panther which he was now riding on.
Harry couldn't help himself, he let out a delirious chuckle at the situation. He was riding a panther through the jungle to god knows where… or he was hallucinating and really just dying on the jungle floor somewhere.
"You should have just eaten me. Would have been easier on your back." Harry told the panther. He heard a rumble from its chest that he could easily believe to be agreement in his delirious state. With that he closed his eyes again.
Harry felt darkness once more. He briefly wondered if he would see his parents this time. He had spent years after the war coming to terms with the fact that he wouldn't be able to due to the hallows. If he got to see them again and Sirius too then this whole little forest fiasco would be worth it.
After his parents, his thoughts drifted to his friends. Ron and Hermione were still together as far as he knew. He had honestly thought they wouldn't last but they had both stuck it through even when times got tough. Harry had literally watched Ron's maturity kick in during that relationship. He had been happy for them but did admittedly feel like a third wheel. Ginny… well he would rather not think of Ginny right now.
He hoped he got to meet Dumbledore on the other side as well. He wanted to kick the man in the balls as hard as he could. Hearing the man, he had trusted from day one practically in the magical world had set him up had been tough. Granted he couldn't say he would have been able to come up with a better plan than the man but still. It was the principle that mattered to Harry, he hated being set up.
It was strange though. It suddenly was very cold all-around Harry. Not only that it felt like something was moving all around him upwards. Mixed with all that, there was this weird spec in the middle of his vision that seemed to get brighter and brighter, or maybe closer? Hmm, was this death?
Harry gasped as he sat up straight with more energy than he had been able to in hours. He looked around him in confusion before his eyes shot open in clarity. Water, everywhere, lots of it!
Harry dove his head back under and started chugging. He chugged and enjoyed the cold feeling spreading into his chest and then through the rest of his body. It felt like heaven! After a few moments, Harry's mental functions began to boot up enough for him to remember that when someone was extremely dehydrated you couldn't keep letting them chug down water or they would drown themselves. So, with great reluctance, he pulled his face away from the water with a great gasp. He let oxygen reenter his lungs as he finally looked around. He was in a river near the bank but deep enough that he could submerge himself if he sat down.
At the bank sat a familiar figure. His panther companion sat back on its hindlegs as it seemed to watch him with what looked like a bored expression. Its tail moved slightly back and forth behind it for some reason.
Harry dragged himself through the water and over to the panther. He pulled himself to bank with great energy before finally pulling himself next to the giant cat. The cat looked to its right and down at him. Harry might have imagined it but the looked seemed to ask 'Satisfied?'
"I am, thanks to you. Thank you. I suppose that means I was right and you are intelligent after all." Harry told it. It gave him a look that was clearly, 'Obviously you idiot.'
"You're quite mean to the person you put so much effort into rescuing… Did I ask you to eat me earlier?" Harry asked. His memory for the past few hours was a blur. If a panther could smirk then this one definitely was. It didn't answer the question though, it did however get down on all legs so it could lay down.
"I suppose your tired from carrying my weak ass around for the past few hours. Looks like it's already getting dark. Think we should find shelter soon? I should probably also find something to eat. I'm not very good at hunting. Think you could give me some tips?" Harry asked.
Again, the panther didn't say anything, instead, it got to its feet and started wading through the river current. Harry wondered if he should get up and follow but the panther stopped and seemed to freeze. Harry looked on in confusion before the panther buried its head in the water before rapidly bringing it back up. In it's jaws was something metallic looking and flapping uncontrollably. With that, the panther waded back out of the water and up to him. With a single motion it spat the object out of it's mouth and into Harry's lap.
Harry looked down at his lap and stared at the now dead fish. He looked back at the panther that was now back to laying down as if nothing happened.
"You show off." Harry finally said as a small smile grew on his face. The panther said nothing but it almost looked as if it preened at his words. He looked back down at the fish and almost drooled as he looked at it. He hadn't been this hungry in years. He didn't know how to make a fire which meant he would have to eat it raw. At this point though, he was just glad to have something in his mouth that he could swallow.
He bit into the fish and tasted the flavor of its guts. It didn't taste as bad as he thought it would which shouldn't be that surprising. Plenty of people around the world had eaten raw forms of fish. Of course, even with his magic not working, he should still be okay from getting any sickness from eating the raw fish. He bit into it again and again. He would sometimes have to spit out the thin bones but didn't let that stop him. Soon enough, the fish was mostly picked clean and he looked back at his companion who was now laying on its side.
"So… are you a boy panther or a girl panther?" Harry asked the creature. The panther lifted its head and eyed him like, 'Really?'
"I'm just curious is all. I don't want to keep referring to you as it in my head." Harry explained as he tried to look in between its legs to get an idea. After a moment, Harry found what he was looking for, sadly the now identified she seemed to notice what he had been doing and got up with a threatening growl. Harry froze a little at that. She got on her hindlegs again and glared at him before then looking down at his waist. Harry stared at her in confusion before following her gaze. Suddenly he felt very embarrassed.
"Ack! Stop, stop, stop! Okay, I get the point. No more staring at each other's junk, message received." Harry yelled as he moved to cover his crotch suddenly reminded of his nakedness. Suddenly she was back to looking smug. She then moved on to give him a patronizing look. Harry didn't have to guess what that look was about.
"Leave me alone. I'm apparently four so I'm going to have four-year-old equipment. Trust me, one day I will have no problem finding a mate and you'll know how impressive I am as a human… god I'm bragging to a panther, a female panther, on how impressive my junk will one day be. Somethings probably wrong with me." Harry trailed off. The panther seemed to almost nod in agreement as it looked back out at the river. Harry joined her in silence for a few moments before breaking it.
"You'll need a name. Any ideas?" Harry asked her. The panther made what Harry assumed was a snort but gave no other sign it was listening.
"What if I just list a few and you can tell me if you like one?" Harry asked her. The panther made no movement in response.
"I shall take your silence as a yes." Harry told her boldly before thinking of some names.
"Hmm, I'm not good at thinking of African names I am afraid. How about… Amara?" he asked her. She growled at that so, Harry took it as a no.
"Don't like that one then… Hmmm, how about Zana? No, I don't think that quite fits either… Oh how about Nala? She's my favorite character from the Lion King. Granted she was a lion but still. She was this bad ass cat and you're a bad ass cat so what do you think. I think it fits rather well." Harry told her. The panther opened and eye and looked at him with a bored expression before closing it again. Harry smiled.
"I'll take that as a yes. Nala it is then. So Nala, I am completely and utterly lost so you'll have to lead the way from now on. I would prefer to get to civilization if possible but I am not sure how exactly to get there. Not exactly sure how far panthers normally stray from their territory but do you think you can help me?" Harry questioned. He couldn't exactly take care for himself out here so staying near Nala was kind of vital so if she couldn't help, he might just be screwed.
Nala said nothing and after a moment realized the large cat was actually snoring softly. He sighed before taking a deep breath. He was about to fall asleep when he heard something in the brush behind him. He admittedly made a beeline to Nala's side and nervously looked around. He couldn't see anything but didn't mean nothing was there. He looked back at Nala and saw her awake again and looking at him amusement. Harry's eyes narrowed.
"I'm small and helpless, give me a break already." Harry told her in a whisper though if the ear twitch was any indication then she definitely heard him. Harry idly realized this is the first time he had willingly been so close to Nala. He knew she carried him on her back to the river somehow but he had been a step from death then so that didn't count.
Without really thinking about it, Harry raised and slowly moved it to her side. He finally pressed it into her soft fur. He always imagined animals in the wild had much more of a coarse feel to the fur but Nala's felt as if she had been professionally groomed. He looked to her head to see if she minded him touching her fur but her eyes were closed so he took that to mean she didn't. He started rubbing her side in the same way he might with a house cat just to see if she liked it. Soon a noise emitted from her throat. Harry almost stopped thinking it was a growl but quickly realized that she was actually purring but it sounded deeper due to her size.
He laid his head against her side and stroked her side until he drifted off once more to the land of dreams, uncertain what was next for him but certain that he at least had a friend with him to face it. Harry once fought a war with only two friends at his side. Imagine what he could accomplish with a panther.