Harry Potter sat huddled in his cupboard under the stairs, shivering in fear and pain. Hagrid had just dropped him off back at his Aunt and Uncle's house. Upon entering, his uncle had tossed him into his cupboard with such force that three of his ribs had cracked, along with his left harm. Vernon had then proceeded to take all of the items Harry and Hagrid had purchased in Diagon Alley out back and promptly burned everything. Harry couldn't see, of course, but he heard the telltale crackling of a fire coming through the kitchen and he had seen his Aunt wander out back with his trunk. It was because of that, that Harry was glad he had the foresight to send Hedwig off to wait for him at Hogwarts and to hide his wand on him rather than leave it in his trunk.
Around two in the morning, when all was silent in the house and on the street, Harry woke from the light doze he had fallen into. He was in too much pain for him to fall fully asleep. His mind wandered over to what his supposed relatives had done, simply because they had been afraid of magic. It made Harry fearful of how worse their treatment of him might become, especially now that he was aware of his heritage. Their treatment of him in the past had been reprehensible at best and he shuddered to think of what it would become.
Hoping his uncle had yet to nail the door shut, Harry came to a decision and picked up the metal loop he used to open the lock from the inside so he could sneak out at night and steal unnoticeable food from the kitchen. It took some doing with his damaged wrist but he eventually (and gratefully) managed to flip open the lock and push the door open with a nearly inaudible squeak. He took a cautious step forward before lurching back with a painful hiss. He looked down to see a spectacular bruise forming on his right ankle. Thankfully it wasn't broken, he had broken enough bones in his life to be able to tell, but it was sprained, which would make walking difficult.
Thinking quickly, Harry tried to decide how to proceed. He would not stay, that much was certain, but with a sprained ankle he would be slow going and lucky to make it out of the neighborhood before sunrise and his family noticed. With an idea popping into his brain, Harry quickly closed his eyes and attempted to do something that had only ever happened by accident and on very rare occasions. He felt his body shift and twitch and he opened his eyes to see everything in a much sharper resolution than it normally was and from a much lower angle. He looked down to see lightly tanned and very furry paws with black spots in place of his fleshy hands. Harry had never figured out how he had managed to turn into this strange animal, which resembled a snow leopard but with white leathery wings, but right now he didn't care, though he knew magic was involved.
Grinning in a rather feline way, Harry limped forward and made towards the back door. Petunia had a tendency to leave it open a crack in the summer to vent the hot air, even at night. Thankfully she had done so tonight as well. It was a tight fit, especially with the wings, but Harry managed to slip through the door and into the back yard. He paused when his eyes noticed the large pile of ash in the middle of the yard. His heart plummeting at that sight, Harry limped over and started gently pawing at the ashes, hoping to find some salvageable remnants of his things. Sadly, there was not even a stray quill or piece of parchment. Nothing had escaped the inferno. Vernon had even burned the trunk.
The sound of feathers and a soft hoot drew Harry's attention and he looked up to see Hedwig perched on the fence, staring at him with a mournful expression. Harry made a mewling sound that was both happy and confused. He had expressly told Hedwig to go ahead and wait for him at Hogwarts. He knew she was just a bird but he knew she had understood him since he had received a dissatisfied hoot before she took off into the darkening sky. He had to now wonder why she was here and had not listened to him.
"I saw the smoke." Hedwig said in answer to his confused mew. Harry started badly, not expecting the voice and looked around in fear, thinking someone had found him, namely his relatives. "You should not stay here." That time, Harry heard the slight clicking of a beak and an underlying hoot that accompanied the voice. He looked back to Hedwig in amazement. "Most animals understand one another. Because of who you are, you will understand more than most." She said in response to amazed look.
"Who am I?" Harry tried to question. All he heard was mewling and growling noises. The owl seemed to be highly amused by his question.
"I will teach you how to respond to us in time," Hedwig said, revealing the source of her amusement. It wasn't the question but the simple fact that he had actually not said anything. "For now, let me guide you from here so you may rest and heal in safety."
Over the next several minutes Hedwig coached Harry through the process of controlling his wings and learning how to synchronize them for flight. It wasn't exactly what one would call easy and it was definitely strange for someone who was used to not having wings at all, but Harry learned fast and soon had it down pat. Hedwig then showed him how to launch himself into the air. This was the most difficult for Harry since he had two injured limbs and several broken or cracked ribs. He managed to make it a few feet into the air the first time he tried it but he was not fast enough with his second down stroke of his wings so he ended up stumbling back to the ground, jarring his injuries painfully.
"Be quicker this time," Hedwig coached gently. "You should already be in the process of raising your wings just as they finish coming down."
Harry's second try was much more successful and he managed to rise well above the house. Hedwig quickly joined him and started leading him away from Privet Drive and simultaneously teaching him how to read the air currents and how to use his tail as a rudder so he could glide more effectively and fly longer than he was currently able to his lack of experience and strength, not to mention his injuries. Hedwig's instruction was superb and Harry was quickly becoming comfortable up in the sky and more confident in his abilities.
After a while, the two flew in silence. Hedwig led the way north, away from Surry and London both. Occasionally Harry would glance down and see the bright lights of a bustling city and occasionally he would see nothing but the dark expanses of farm land, his now exceptional eyesight allowing him to see the segregation of fields. The closer they came to the outskirts of London the fewer fields there were and more towns and cities popped up, making Harry feel as if he was flying over a starry sky rather than under, though after a moment's thought he figured he was technically doing both.
Just as the sun was beginning to make itself known, Hedwig directed Harry down to a secluded expanse of trees that was a safe distance from towns and farms. They both landed on the thickest branch they could find and though Harry would have preferred to sleep somewhere much more stable he did not complain and did his best to get comfortable, which wasn't easy given his ribs. With a soft mew in gratitude to Hedwig, Harry promptly fell asleep, his sharp claws digging into the branch under his head. Hedwig looked affectionately at the leopard cub before tucking her head under her wing and following suit and going to sleep.
"Ah, Hagrid," Dumbledore's voice sounded as the half giant made his way into the great hall that evening for dinner. "I trust your trip went well?"
"Aye," Hagrid said with a nod of his head as he sat down at the Head Table, looking at the few other faces that were present. All the Head of Houses were there, preparing for the upcoming school year but most of the teachers were absent, with the exception of Trelawney and a few others. "Li'l 'Arry was very polite and kind. Don't think I ever met a more properly behaved kid in my life."
"Well that is good to hear." Dumbledore said with a smile and a twinkle in his eyes. "He has been raised properly then."
"It would appear that way Headmaster," Hagrid said with a nod. A frown crossed his face before he continued. "Though, things got a little odd when I dropped him off."
"How so?" McGonagall asked, her concern and curiosity piqued.
"Well," Hagrid said hesitantly, unsure of how to phrase his thoughts. "He appeared hesitant to return home and before he went inside he took his owl that I got him fer his birthday out of its cage and sent her off, like he didn't want her in the house."
"Perhaps his relatives simply do not allow pets in the house." Pomona Sprout suggested with a thoughtful look on her face.
"I find that hard to believe," Snape said in his usual snapping drawl that was dripping with scorn and derision. It was what many of the professor's had come to view as his Potter Voice since he reserved it only for when he was speaking about Harry Potter. It had picked up quite a lot this summer and the staff was quickly getting annoyed with the Potions Master. "The boy is no doubt as spoiled as his father was and likely did not care much about the bird."
"Then why did he appear afraid to enter the house?" Hagrid questioned in challenge, a glare contorting his usually kind and jovial features. "The boy practically had to force himself to open the door."
"Are you certain he was scared Hagrid?" Dumbledore questioned, a lump of lead appearing in the pit of his stomach.
"Yes," Hagrid said definitively, turning his annoyed glare from the silenced Professor and looked to the Headmaster, concern evident on both their faces. "After the war, I know how to recognize fear."
"I told you something was off with those muggles," McGonagall said in a slight hiss as she turned to look at Dumbledore. "We should send someone to check on the boy Albus."
"Let us not jump to conclusions now," Dumbledore said giving his deputy a calm look and raised a placating hand. "I'm sure that if something was truly amiss then Arabella would have informed us long before now. I shall floo her in the morning and ask her to check on young Mr. Potter to see if everything is alright."
McGonagall sat back in her chair, unhappy but pacified for the time being.
Harry woke up late in the evening the day after he ran from the Dursley's to a strange but lovely smell filling his nostrils. He opened his groggy eyes to see what smelled so nice. At first his sleep ridden brain could not process what he was seeing since all he saw was red. Picking his head up and blinking in confusion, Harry tried again and looked down to see a rosy red apple balancing precariously on the branch in front of him, right in front of where his nose had been moments before. There were tiny claw marks piercing the rosy flesh.
"I did not think you would appreciate a mouse," Hedwig's voice sounded softly from above him. He looked up to see the snowy owl perched on a branch a few feet away, the remains of a mouse in her claw ready to be devoured by the bird. Hedwig shifted one of her wings and pointed back towards his branch. He looked to see a small bundle of grapes caught in the crook of two adjoining branches. Harry mewled in thanks before leaning forward and gently digging his teeth into the apple. "If you are able, when you are finished, we should continue our flight."
Harry made a noise of agreement around the apple in his mouth, causing the owl to chuckle. It took Harry a little while to figure out how to consume the apple without dropping it but eventually he managed with a little aid from his good front paw. The grapes were surprisingly easier than the apple since he simply had to use his tongue to pull the grapes off the vine before squishing them in his mouth. When he finished Harry stood, balancing on his two good limbs and indicating he was ready to continue to Hedwig, who had been contentedly digesting her food. They took flight and continued north. Harry's injuries throbbed painfully but he ignored them easily enough
The days repeated thusly. Harry and Hedwig would fly from dusk and through the night before finding a safe place to rest an hour or so before dawn. Harry would usually awaken to find various different fruits in front of his face, courtesy of Hedwig. A rare few times he would awake to nothing because there were not any edible plants or fruit baring trees in the near vicinity. Harry hardly minded since it was more generosity than he had ever been shown back at his relatives and the owl had already done more for him than the Dursley's ever had.
Finally, when they had been travelling for almost a full week, their destination was in sight. The castle that was Hogwarts rose beautifully in the distance, its towers and spires portraying an elegance that few would ever really understand. Harry's heart skipped a beat when he first saw it and he could scarcely believe his eyes. He had not known where Hedwig had been leading him; he never bothered to ask since almost anywhere would be better than where he had been. Now, he was eternally grateful for his snowy companion since he knew he would be safe here.
"Let us rest for a few hours before finishing the trek." Hedwig counseled as she angled towards a rocky hillside a few miles south of the castle. "It would be better that we reach the castle in the daylight hours so you may receive proper medical attention."
Harry, who had been growing more and more tired, did not argue and settled on a flat expanse of rock, grateful to be able to stretch out finally.
"What are we going to do Albus?" Minerva said in agitation as she paced around his office, looking more like a caged lion than the simple cat that was her animagus form. She, Hagrid, and the rest of the Hogwarts staff, with the exception of Quirrell for some strange reason, and a few Order members were all crowded in his office to discuss the fact that Harry Potter was missing. No one noticed the snowy white owl that glided in on silent wings and perched on Fawkes' perch right next to the firebird, who had been dozing, or the strange snow leopard that alighted on the windowsill. "Harry Potter has been missing for almost a week. It's too dangerous for him to wander out there alone."
"I agree Minerva," Dumbledore said heavily as he ran a weary hand over his aged face. "Severus, do you have anything to report from your discussion with Mr. Potter's relatives?"
"Other than the urge to hex them into tiny pieces," Severus practically growled with a dark look on his face. "I have learned that Mr. Potter's residence with them has been… less than savory." He paused and appeared as if he had to force the words from his mouth. "They rambled on for a solid ten minutes about how they had suffered for the past ten years, putting up with, as they put it, 'that freakish boy.' Not once did they use Mr. Potter's name. When they started to give me a headache I petrified them and started poking around the house for any evidence."
"Severus." Dumbledore chastised but Severus ignored him and continued reporting.
"I went upstairs, thinking to find Mr. Potter's room to see what he may or may not have taken with him and for indications of what his life has been like." Severus said, his expression clearly stating that his findings had been entirely unpleasant. Harry, who was sitting on the windowsill, shamelessly eavesdropped on the people before him (it's not like he was hiding or anything); curious as to why they were making such a fuss over him. He knew he was famous but this seemed a bit much. "I found their son's bedroom with ease as its stench was nearly overwhelming." Harry had to stop himself from snickering. He agreed whole heartedly with that sentient. "They had a guest bedroom that appeared entirely untouched and a room devoted solely to at least a hundred different broken toys."
"What of Harry's room?" Minerva questioned, dread filling her heart.
"Near as I can tell without actually pulling the information from those… muggles." Severus quite obviously had to restrain himself from using less savory words to describe Harry's relatives. Harry wondered why when he had called them a few choice words himself a few times. Privately of course. "Mr. Potter's bedroom was a cupboard under the stairs." Several gasps sounded throughout the room. Severus waited for that to settle in before continuing. "As for where Mr. Potter might have gone, I found no trace of him actually leaving the house. There was a large burn mark out back where there appeared to have been a large fire. Upon seeing that I dosed them with Veritaserum to see if they had the gall to actually kill the boy. Thankfully, they did not. They merely burned all of the stuff he had purchased with Hagrid. Aside from their obvious abuse, the muggles had nothing to do with the boy's disappearance."
"Did you find any magical signatures that would indicate a magical mode of transportation from the house?" Dumbledore asked, pushing aside the issue of the abuse for the time being. Severus shook his head in the negative. "He cannot simply have vanished. Even if he simply walked from the house a simple tracking charm should have been able to locate him."
At that moment and before anyone could reply to that, Fawkes let out a chirp to get everyone's attention. They all looked towards the phoenix and stared in mild surprise to see a snowy owl, which appeared to be asleep, sitting on the perch as well. Hagrid obviously recognized the owl but thought nothing of it since he knew Harry had sent his owl away. Then Fawkes chirped again and pointed towards the window with his wing. Everyone followed the gesture and looked towards the indicated window. They all stared in surprise at the snow leopard sitting so quaintly on the sill as if he belonged there. The way he held up his left paw clearly indicated its wound.
Harry felt a little disconcerted being the sudden attention of everyone in the room, though he gathered that it would have happened sooner or later. Still, in the past, being the center of attention usually meant a lot of pain for Harry and he instinctively leaned away from all the stares.
"How on earth did a snow leopard get all the way up here?" Minerva questioned in shock, not noticing the wings that were held tightly to Harry's back. "Particularly a cub with an injured paw? For that matter, what is it doing in England in the first place? They're native to Asia."
"I do believe that this is no ordinary snow leopard." Dumbledore said as he examined the cat with a twinkling eye over his half-moon spectacles. Harry didn't like that look and flattened his ears against his head. He nearly let out a hiss but managed to restrain himself. "He appears to have wings. My guess is that he is magical, though I've never heard of such a magical creature before. Hagrid?"
"I've not either Professor," Hagrid said as he calmly stood up and started approaching the window. Relieved it was Hagrid who decided to approach him first, Harry relaxed a little and let out a little pain filled mew. "However, I'm no expert on the subject and only know most of popular species like those taught here. Easy now," he urged gently as he held out one of his oversized hands and allowed the cub to limp into his arms. Hagrid stroked him gently along the side but jerked his hand back when Harry jerked and yelped in pain. "Madam Pomfrey, would ye care to cast a few spells for me? He appears to have more than just his leg broken."
"I'm not sure if any of my healing spells would work on a magical creature," Pomfrey said even though she stood up and went over to Hagrid's side.
"No problem," Hagrid said as he carefully stroked the snow leopard along his spine, causing Harry to purr contentedly. "A simple diagnostic charm should easily reveal all the problems and I know of a spell that will work on any broken bones."
Pomfrey nodded and cast a diagnostic charm as instructed. After that it was quick work for her to repair most of Harry's injuries. Harry went limp in relief as the majority of his pain vanished entirely and he simply could not stop purring as a result. The issue of his weight would take time and proper meals to correct. His sprained ankle, while mostly healed, would still be tender for several more days and the repaired bones would be a little fragile for a few weeks since the spell used to repair them was mild and meant for infants who could not healthily withstand the harsh magic of the more aggressive healing spells.
"What should we do with him?" Pomona questioned as she looked at the adorable cub in Hagrid's arms.
"He is just a cub," Dumbledore said with a slight smile on his face. "And he appears to be friendly enough. I see no reason why he cannot stay on the grounds or even in the castle. He appears to have lost his family so I doubt he has need to be returned anywhere."
"Just what we need." Severus remarked dryly and with a hint of contempt in his voice. "Another brat running around the halls." Everyone laughed when the leopard's eyes snapped open and he growled defiantly at the Potions Master.
"He'd need a name then," Hagrid said. No one noticed how Severus had stiffened when he locked eyes with the animal or they chose to assume that it was a simple reaction to the growl rather than anything else. "How about Norbert?" This time it was Hagrid who received a narrow eyed growl from the snow leopard.
"I think it's obvious what he thinks of that name," Severus said amusement thick in his voice. "Perhaps he would prefer Namir." A squeak of interest came from the snow leopard. "Israeli for leopard."
"An interesting name Severus," Dumbledore commented, his smile growing a little bit. "Though he appears to like it."
It was an accurate assessment since Harry had gone back to purring contentedly as Hagrid continued stroking his spine and had not argued against the name. He sighed though and stopped purring. Figuring it was time that he told everyone who he really was, Harry stood up in Hagrid's arms and started thinking about how to turn back into himself.
"Don't youngling," a musical chirp sounded, drawing everyone's attention and breaking Harry's focus. "Remain as you are for now. You will be safer longer and will give us more time to teach you things you must know." Harry made a slight sound of protest and concern. He did not particularly enjoy the thought of what would happen when he finally changed back and revealed himself. "Do not fear for their reactions. I will prepare my human when the time comes for you to return to your normal shape. He will handle it from there." The firebird paused before adding, "I am Fawkes by the way."
"Why don't you take little Namir down to your hut Hagrid and feed him," Dumbledore said when the conversation between bird and feline ended and Harry's stomach growled rather loudly.
"Why not simply take him to the kitchens?" Severus suggested in a rather bored voice as he leaned up against a shadowed wall. "Certainly the house elves would provide an appropriate meal for him, especially if Hagrid dictates what to feed him. They are quite capable little creatures."
"That'll save me a fair walk Professor," Hagrid said with a nod as he turned to leave. Hedwig gave a slight hoot before gliding off the perch and landing on Hagrid's shoulder. No one, with the exception of Severus, thought such an action worthy of note.
"Back to Mr. Potter," Dumbledore said when Hagrid left.
"I will continue searching Headmaster but unless something turns up before the start of term I'm afraid there is not much we can do." Severus said, hiding his true thoughts and feelings on the matter. No one would believe his suspicions anyways and he would need time to prove his theory before anything. "Hopefully, he will either turn up before or show with the rest of the students."
"Sadly that is the situation," Dumbledore sighed heavily, looking more his age now than ever before. "The new term is rapidly approaching and we must prepare for it. I ask that if any of you have spare time over the next few weeks to devote some of it to searching for Mr. Potter."
The others nodded in agreement before filing out of the office.
Harry sat on top of one of the tables contentedly eating the food that the elves had provided him. Thankfully, Hagrid was more enamored with his presence than anything else so he did not notice that the elves had given him human food rather than the raw food Hagrid had requested. Harry especially enjoyed the roasted lamb they had provided. He had never had such food before and he found it simply divine. Hedwig was perched on the table next to him eating and drinking from the food and water the elves had given her.
"Wha' happened to ye li'l one?" Hagrid questioned sorrowfully when Harry was finished with his food and was busy cleaning his paws from the grease of his food. Since he couldn't answer, Harry ignored the question. "Well, come on. We should find ye a nice place to stay. Dinner is not for some hours yet and I've got things to tend to."
Harry chirped and jumped off the table and trotted towards the door, his tail swishing slightly in enjoyment. Hagrid chuckled in slight amusement as he got up and left the kitchens with Harry padding along silently next to him. They moved through the halls and up the stairs to ground level. They passed by a lovely courtyard that Harry felt very tempted to go lay out in the middle of the grass in the lovely sun light that was shining down and warming the grass and castle alike. They continued on, though, and Harry vowed to come back to the court yard to enjoy the beautiful day.
"Excuse me Professor," Hagrid said as he entered an office that had its door open, encouraging a nice breeze to drift through. "I have to go into the forest and tend to the herds and was wondering if ye would watch li'l Namir."
"I'd be glad to Hagrid," Minerva answered as she looked down at Harry with a kind smile on her face, even as he yawned. "Especially since he seems ready to take a nap."
Harry squeaked indignantly even as he made to curl up in the middle of the sun patch that shone in through the window. The adults chuckled and Hagrid left, leaving him with the lady the old man had called Minerva in his office. Harry liked her since she smelled like cats. While Mrs. Figg had a ridiculous abundance of cats in Harry's opinion, cats in general and her cats specifically had always been nice to him so he knew the lady, despite her stern demeanor, could be trusted. As such, it took no time at all for Harry to relax into a warm and light sleep, Hedwig perched silently on a bookshelf next to the window. For some reason, no one bothered to note how the owl seemed to follow the leopard cub around.
Sometime later, a few hours judging by the change in the sun's position, Harry's ears perked up as they picked up footsteps sounding outside the room. A light stinging prickled along his forehead but it quickly grew stronger the closer the footsteps became. Harry stood up with a growl and backed up away from the door, his instincts dominating his mind. His fur stood on end and he ignored Minerva's curious stare and questions. Finally, a man wearing a turban came around the corner and Harry's forehead erupted into full blown pain. Harry veritably freaked out. He hissed in fear, pain, and warning before fleeing through the window and taking to the skies.
Harry circled a few times before angling towards the tower he recognized from his first approach and glided in through the window, which opened of its own accord. Not bothering to take note of the rooms startled occupants, Harry landed and made a dash to the desk the old man sat behind and huddled underneath it. He saw the man with the long white beard's legs and shadows of someone else in the room, along with voices to accompany both but he ignored them in favor of pawing at his forehead, trying to get the residual pain to go away.
"Changeling?" A musical voice sounded. Harry looked up to see the pretty red from earlier that had introduced himself as Fawkes poking his head upside down from the top of the desk. "What happened?"
"Bad man," Harry said, forgetting that Hedwig had not taught him how to communicate with other animals yet. Fortunately that was the farthest thing from his mind at the moment so he continued speaking. "Made my head hurt."
"Who was this man?" Fawkes chirped in concern. "And where?" When Harry hesitated to reply Fawkes added, "If there is someone dangerous on the grounds, my human needs to know."
"He was wearing a turban," Harry said eventually after pawing at his forehead once again. "And was entering cat lady's office."
"And by cat lady you mean Minerva yes?" Fawkes asked to clarify. Harry nodded, recognizing the name Fawkes' human had used to describe the lady.
Fawkes' head disappeared back above the desk and a series of chirps and musical notes sounded. Harry understood them as English but he knew Fawkes was attempting to communicate with his human and had to wonder how they could understand one another since the old man was human and not another animal. The man Harry had run from was apparently a Professor named Quirrell. After a moment of thought Harry recalled the name of the man he had met in Diagon Ally with Hagrid. Thinking back on that moment Harry recalled that his scar had stung a little then as well though not enough for him to have noticed at the time. He wondered why it had hurt so painfully now.
"Namir," Fawkes' human's voice sounded a few minutes later. Harry looked up to see the man looking down under his desk at him. "You are safe now Namir. Fawkes explained what has happened. You need not go anywhere near Professor Quirrell if you do not want to."
Harry mewled in understanding but made no move to come out of his hiding place. The old man seemed to understand his reluctance to move so he smiled at Harry briefly before straightening up. The two in the office appeared to go back to their discussion that Harry had interrupted. They, unfortunately, did not get very far as an alarm suddenly blared throughout the entire castle and someone barreled into the office.
"Headmaster!" Someone bellowed. Harry recognized Hagrid's voice and he leaned down farther and looked underneath the desk's back. He saw Hagrid's feet mostly but he pressed closer and was able to see much of the half giant's body but not his head. He seemed to be extremely agitated. "McGonagall is dueling Quirrell, who's got another face sticking out of his skull. Flitwick and Sprout stayed behind to help while I came to fetch you."
"Where are they?" Dumbledore inquired as he stood up and quickly followed Hagrid from the room. Harry made a split second decision and followed him and the other man he had been speaking with.
"They were headed towards the entrance hall last I saw." Hagrid said in a slightly panting voice.
Harry made sure to stay at the back of the group and out of sight. The last thing he wanted to do was get involved in a fight he knew nothing about or could defend himself in. He was curious to see what exactly was going on though. So when they reached the entrance hall Harry hung back in the shadows and watched. The sight before him was truly a sight to behold. Minerva was ferocious in her spell casting showing that she was no stranger to a fight. Her spells were vicious in their intent and forced Quirrell on the defensive almost every time and she used her surroundings to her benefit, transforming the most insignificant things into either distractions or weapons. If he had not known she was a good person Harry would have been well and truly frightened of Minerva in that moment.
The very air seemed to pulse with power and magic as the two battled back and forth. The other two professors that Hagrid had mentions, Sprout and Flitwick, flanked Minerva and added their own spells into the fray though they were nowhere near as frightening as Minerva was in their spell work. Fawkes' human and the dark robed man that had named him, Harry vaguely remembered his name being Severus, wasted no time in jumping in to the fight. If Harry had thought Minerva had been impressive then he was out right amazed by the other two. Fawkes' human looked like an angry thunder cloud with his long white hair and beard and Severus looked like a vicious snake that struck without impunity time and again, his spells appearing far more deadly than Minerva's had been.
Harry squeaked and quickly jumped into the air to get out of the way as a stray spell came hurling towards him from the fray. To be honest, Harry was a little surprised that the fight had not already ended. Three against one was sure enough odds to take the two faced man down eventually and five to one should have been plenty to take the man down in a few minutes if not seconds. This Quirrell, however, appeared to be holding his own and even seemed to be gaining ground in the fight, though the professor's seemed to be making the man work for every inch he gained.
Finally, when a spell clipped Minerva in the shoulder, Harry made a decision to see if he could help. Working up his nerve and making sure he had complete control over his body, Harry, who was still in the air to avoid further close calls with spells, dived in from the side behind Quirrell. Ignoring the pain in his forehead, Harry dug his front and back claws deep into the man's flesh on his back. Harry's momentum from his dive continued to carry him and caused him to drag his claws across the man's back before leaping away. The unexpected distraction proved useful as the man howled in pain from both his faces for a few seconds before he was struck down by four different spells, the combination of which killed him instantly.
"Well done my dear Namir," the Headmaster said with a pant but a pleased smile was on his face. Harry made an acknowledging noise but shook his paws in discomfort, not liking the blood that coated them. The Headmaster gave a small chuckle before waving his wand, causing the blood to vanish. Harry meowed in gratitude before trotting over to Minerva. "She'll be fine Namir. She's made of sterner stuff than she looks."
"Albus," Severus said, drawing everyone's attention and finally giving Harry a name to go with the old man as opposed to just the Headmaster or Fawkes' human. It had never occurred to him before to connect Headmaster with the man who had signed his acceptance letter to Hogwarts.
Everyone looked to the man and then to what he was looking at. Quirrell had started dissolving into nothing but ash for some reason and a smoke started to billow up from his corpse. A face appeared in the middle of it and roared defiantly and in pain before fleeing through the castle doors and disappearing into the quickly darkening sky.
"It appears that the Dark Lord managed to infiltrate the castle," Severus said after a moment's thought. "Perhaps the board will listen now and agree to strengthen the wards."
"Let us hope so Severus," Dumbledore said gravely as he looked to the remains of Quirrell's body. "I shall go contact the Ministry. Would you escort Minerva and the others to the Hospital Wing?"
Severus nodded and Harry trotted after him and the others, hoping the Minerva would be okay. He liked her and not just because she smelled like cats. When they arrived in the Hospital Wing, Pomfrey was nowhere in sight so Flitwick, or who Harry assumed to be Flitwick since it was a male name, trotted over to her office and then to her fireplace for some reason. Harry did not linger to find out why the little man had gone to the fireplace of all things and followed Severus over to the beds where he had laid Minerva. Moments later Pomfrey came rushing out of her office and started casting spells on the older witch to determine her condition.
"She is very, very lucky," Madam Pomfrey said some minutes later when she straightened from her spell casting. "She got hit with a Deprimo or grazed by one by the looks of it. As it is, her shoulder is crushed. It will take some time to repair but she should be fine in the end. If the spell had hit any closer should she would have been lost."
"But she will be alright yes?" Sprout said to clarify, hope in her eyes.
"Yes," Pomfrey said with a definitive nod.
"I shall go see if I am needed elsewhere then." Severus said as he scooped up a surprised Harry, who had been sitting at the foot of Minerva's bed out of the way. "Let me know if you need anything Pomfrey."
Severus walked from the room with a confused Harry in his arms. They made their way down a flight of stairs and into what Harry presumed to be a dungeon given the dark corridors and torches on the wall. Harry started to feel rather nervous as they delved deeper into the dark corridors before they went through a room and entered what appeared to be someone's personal quarters. If he had to guess, Harry would have say they belonged to the man who was carrying him. Regardless, by the time he was set down on the couch in front of the fire Harry was shaking with nerves and fear.
"Mr. Potter," Severus said in a calm tone. Despite the calm tone Harry's head shot up in alarm. He had no idea that the man knew who he really was. "Please revert to your human form. I wish to check to see if you are healthy and have no lingering damage from what the Dursleys did to you."
"How," Harry questioned a moment later when he had obediently transformed. His voice was a little hoarse and his throat a little dry but he continued to speak regardless. "How did you know who I was?"
"Because," Severus said as he handed the boy a glass of water. "Whether they are on your face or a feline's, I know your mother's eyes when I see them."
"You knew my mom?" Harry squeaked in shock, nearly choking on the sip of water he had taken. He looked up to Severus in awe and wonder.
"I did," Severus said as he obviously pulled out his wand and started casting diagnostic spells as he sat down on the couch next to Harry. "She was quite possibly one of the brightest witches I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. And while you resemble your father a great deal I can see more of your mother than him in you."
"Why didn't you say anything?" Harry asked timidly as he allowed the man's scans.
"Because it was not prudent to say anything at the time," Severus said casually after he finished his last scan and stood up. He went over to a cabinet on the other side of the room and started rummaging around. "Besides the fact that no one would believe me simply because of your age, I also realize that you are considerably safer in your animagus form than you would be if you wandered around as Harry Potter since no one would expect a fury snow leopard cub with wings to be the Boy-Who-Lived."
"What's an animagus?" Harry asked, stumbling slightly over the foreign word.
"A witch or wizard that has managed to complete a specific ritual that will allow them to transform from a human into a specific animal," Severus explained as he came back to the couch with several bottles in his hands, all with various different colored liquids inside. "Most spend decades trying to achieve the transformation. You achieved it through circumstance and accidental magic by my guessing, something that has never been heard of before."
"And that's why I'll be safer?" Harry questioned as he almost fearfully looked at the vials as Severus set them out on the table that sat between the couch and the fireplace.
"Yes," Severus said simply before turning Harry's attention to the vials. "Now, these are potions, ones I have brewed myself. They are to help improve your health and get your body up to average standards for a boy wizard of your age." He pointed to each one in turn and explained what they all did in a calm and controlled voice, though Harry detected a hint urgency to his voice. "They will undoubtedly taste horrible, almost all potions do, but they will help you in the long run. All with full and healthy meals you should brought up to average in a few months. I expect you to come to me every other day for a dose of these potions until I say otherwise."
"Okay," Harry agreed, seeing no reason not to. Despite his rather frightening demeanor, Severus was not that bad of a person. Harry obediently downed the foul tasting potions as Severus handed them to him.
"Now," Severus said when he banished the empty vials. Very delicately he said, "I know the Dursleys burn the things you purchased with Hagrid. Did that include your wand?"
"No sir," Harry said as he shifted and pulled out the eleven inches of holly and phoenix feather that he managed to keep in his pocket so Vernon didn't burn it with everything else. "It didn't feel right to just put in my trunk with everything else so I kept it in my pocket."
"It is very good that you did so," Severus encouraged with a nod of approval. He found it truly sad and pathetic at how such little praise caused the young boy to practically beam with happiness and it became all too apparent that the muggles had starved Harry in more ways than one. "I will either make a trip to Diagon Ally within the next few days or owl order you replacement supplies. Since they burned your robes as well I will have to get your measurements and order you some proper clothing."
"Thank you sir," Harry said, a little embarrassed that a man he barely knew was doing so much for him. "Does that mean I'm still going to be attending classes in September?"
"At the moment I am not certain whether or not that is wise considering everything." Severus said with careful consideration to his words. "However, whether you do or do not, that does not mean you will not learn what you need to learn. If you, as Harry Potter, do not end up attending classes, that does not mean that you, as Namir, cannot. All the Professors appear to like you so I doubt they will object to you being in their classrooms as they teach." He paused briefly to collect his thoughts and choose his next words. "If the rest of the staff is not aware by the time classes start then I will allow you to practice the more physical aspects of spell casting in my private quarters after curfew."
"Thanks for being so nice to me sir," Harry said in a rather small voice.
"You're welcome. It is nearing dinner so turn into Namir and we will go to the Great Hall and get food." Severus said.
This was more a subtle test than anything else. He wanted to see how easily Harry could switch between forms and whether or not it would cause any problems. It took a moment of deliberate concentration but Harry managed to transform in less than five minutes, which was saying something. It meant that while he could transform it was not a completely natural thing for him or his magic. Severus figured that he would have to try and coach the boy through it in order to make it become more natural. Since he was not an animagus himself he would have a hard time doing such a thing.
The next day, while everyone in the castle was going about their business and searching (or falsely searching) for one missing Harry Potter, Fawkes guided Harry away from the castle and into the mountain range that was a short distance from the grounds. Fawkes had woken him early in the morning when few were up and about so no one, save for Severus, had noticed the cubs absence and by the time the pair had reached an appropriate and secluded spot it was still early, not even breakfast had started yet.
"I have brought you out here Harry, so I can safely teach you a few things that you need to know." Fawkes said calmly as he perched on a large boulder on the out cropping of rock he had led them to. "Most wizards today view their magic simply as an extension of themselves, something they can use and abuse to get through everyday life. They have lost the knowledge of what it truly is and what it means to wield magic." Fawkes paused to ensure that Harry was paying attention and almost chuckled when he saw him sitting at attention with his tail swishing idly back and forth.
"Magic," he continued. "It is a gift, not just something you possess. It was given to humans eons ago by the very essence of magic herself. That sparked a great era of peace and prosperity for your kind." Fawkes paused as he bent his head to itch the top of his wing. "Unfortunately it also sparked the Great Wars and the human race fell into decay. You have only recently started to recover and rebuild. When your people first received magic though, they treated it as a friend, a lifelong companion that had a will of its own and because of the way they treated their magic they were able to achieve many great wonders, whereas today they struggle to learn the basics."
"Why?" Harry questioned in curiosity, his head cocked to the side slightly.
"Because they restrict themselves and their magic," Fawkes answered simply, as if it were obvious. "Instead of encouraging their magic and allowing it to expand by leaps and bounds they contain it and restrict it, making it resentful and annoyed. Every child who is born with magic has the potential to do wondrous and grand things, it is why accidental magic at that age achieves things that normally only an adult could do. However, once they start school they are told that certain things are impossible and can never be done. This," Fawkes emphasized with a sigh of disappointment and sorrow. "Causes the children to subconsciously put a block over their magic, restricting its abilities and strength. Sometimes, this starts even before school with wizarding families."
"Does no one realize what they're doing to themselves?" Harry questioned as he shifted slightly to get more comfortable. "And how do you know all of this?"
"No, they do not," Fawkes answered with a sad sigh. "And because I was there when your race was gifted, though I was very young at the time. I tell you these things Harry because you are the first person since Merlin with the potential to become what your race once was. Merlin failed in the end but he did not have anyone to guide him. He had a familiar yes but he could only do so much. With the right instruction and if you allow your magic to remain free and unfettered then you could do so much."
"Can't I just be me?" Harry asked in an almost painful and pitiful whine. He was startled when Fawkes let out a musical note of laughter.
"Of course you can Harry," Fawkes said, amusement still thick in his voice. "I am not trying to turn you into something you're not. You can be whomever you wish. I am merely attempting to allow you a greater avenue of choices to choose from. If you so wished, you could spend your life as a simple hermit. I merely tell you these things because you have a right to know."
"Ok," Harry said, still a little unsure about everything but seeing no reason to argue or rebel. "So all I have to do is allow my magic to remain free and treat more as a friend then a body part?"
"In its essence, yes," Fawkes said, still highly amused at Harry's choice in words. "There is more to it, however, and you will need to be trained how to access and commune with your magic. You will need to become as a part of your magic as your magic is a part of you." The firebird stretched and shifted before continuing. "Instead of simply existing with each other you will become one with each other. It will cater to your every whim when it can, for it does get tired and exhausted just as you, and you act as a vessel of sorts, giving it purpose and freedom."
"How am I supposed to commune with my magic?" Harry asked in utter confusion.
"I will guide you but for now we should return to the castle. Breakfast will be starting soon." Fawkes explained before he stretched his wings and took to the skies, Harry quickly following behind.
The two glided into the Great Hall just as Breakfast started. Fawkes went to perch on the Headmaster's chair while Harry landed lightly on the end of the table. A plate and bowl of food appeared in front of him, a bowl of fruit and a plate of various different meats that were all sliced for easy consumption. Harry was beginning to truly find the house elves, which he had been a little concerned and leery of, to be extremely awesome and highly incorrigible. They seemed to realize that he didn't care for carving the meat off the bone and had taken note of the different types of meat he had taken to and in just one day.
When his stomach was comfortably full and there were few people left in the hall, Harry flew up to the rafters and settled on one of the larger beams that supported the ceiling. Hedwig hooted softly as she landed beside him. Harry grinned and batted at her feathers in a facsimile of petting. He was truly grateful for her assistance in getting him here to the castle. Hedwig hooted in amusement before settling in and going to sleep with her head under her wing. She had been out all night hunting so Harry didn't begrudge her the nap. In fact, he joined her and fell into a light, comfortable doze.
"I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised you nap so much." Fawkes' voice sounded a few minutes later. Harry perked up to see the firebird standing next to Hedwig, who was still sleeping. "You are a cat after all." Harry scoffed at that and let his tongue hang out in an imitation of sticking his tongue hang out. "Since we all have an abundance of time on our hands I wanted to start your training now."
"Ok," Harry said eagerly, sitting up and giving Fawkes his full attention.
"I need you to transform back into your human form." Fawkes said calmly. "Don't worry about anyone seeing. No one looks up here often and I will be shielding us." Harry hesitated briefly but did as asked and returned to being human after a moment of concentration. "Good," the firebird said and though Harry understood him he could tell that there was much more effort on Fawkes' part to ensure he was being heard. "Close your eyes and focus on my voice."
A soft, lulling music reached Harry's ears instead of the words he had expected. At first it did nothing but eventually it started tugging at him, trying to pull him. Harry wasn't sure where it wanted to pull him but he trusted Fawkes and allowed the magical music to take him wherever it wished. In a matter of moments his awareness of his surroundings fell away and all Harry could see, feel, or hear was simple darkness. Used to the dark from many years of being stuffed in the cupboard under the stairs, Harry was not afraid and continued to follow the song's pull.
After what felt like hours of being pulled through the darkness they finally stopped. The music slowed even further and got to the point where Harry could almost no longer hear it. With the song fading to the background, Harry could get a stronger sense of his surroundings. He felt power pulsing nearby, power that he never thought possible. It ebbed and flowed in apparent happiness and joy. Harry turned this way and that, or thought he did at least since he had no sense of space, before finally coming upon this spec in the distance that looked like a tiny sun but with various different colors spinning in and around it.
"Go to it child," Fawkes' voice sounded through the darkness. "It is your magic and it still trusts you. If you leave now then the opportunity will be lost forever."
Harry hesitated for a long moment, unsure of what would happen to him if he went to what seemed to be a very powerful thing, before ultimately trusting those that had yet to lead him astray and walked towards the miniature sun.