Harry Potter stared at Four Privet Drive more than reluctant to go in, Hagrid had just left him with his ticket to Hogwarts and said he would see him in a few weeks. Harry knew that nothing good lay behind that innocent looking door and even as he was thinking of running away (he could stay at the Leaky Cauldron for the summer, couldn’t her?) his uncle opened the door and motioned him in.
The next two hours were quite possibly the worst of his young life so far, including the beating he had received when he had appeared on the roof at school. First his uncle tied him to a chair in the garden and he was forced to watch his newly bought school supplies being burnt.
Harry was very glad he had had the foresight to hide his wand, he couldn’t imagine how much that would hurt, the piece of wood and Phoenix feather were already part of him.
Even harder to watch was Dudley using a caged Hedwig for target practice with his new air pistol that he had received for his birthday. But the worst part, even worst than the beating he received was when Vernon broke Hedwig’s neck and chucked her on the fire without a care in the world, like he hadn’t just killed a living creature.
Harry woke up as his body hit the wall, for a few blissful seconds his body was numb then the pain hit, his ankle, ribs and wrist hurt the most but it felt like his entire body was bruised. He heard his cupboard door slam shut and lock, then he heard his uncle’s voice, “You can stay in there for the next six weeks.”
He gasped in disbelief, it was more than five times any of his previous punishments. He wondered idly if he would get any food or water, sometimes he did and sometimes he didn’t. Before he could make a decision, he passed out again.
When he next woke the pain had dulled slightly and his watch told him it was half past two in the morning. The watch wasn’t really his, it had been dudley’s until the larger boy had taken the glass off and snapped the second hand off. Harry had cleared it, covered the exposed remaining hands with some tape and was careful to never let his “family” see it as Dudley would take it and back and break it just to spite him.
He knew that if he was going to get to Hogwarts, if he was going to survive, then he had to get out of his cupboard before his uncle nailed it up. He had always known he was different, able to do things that other people couldn’t and had learnt early on to keep those things to himself. He had revealed his ability with locks to his uncle when on the sixth day of a punishment he had unlocked his door to get some water and being caught by his uncle coming down for a snack.
Ever since then whenever he was locked in his cupboard also meant that wooden planks were nailed across the door. Harry was sure that if it was possible his uncle would make him nail the planks himself.
But his uncle hadn’t nailed the door yet, he assumed it was because the older man thought he would be unconscious of too weak until morning to escape. Luckily he had always been a quick healer, not enough to heal properly but he could move. It took longer than normal but eventually the door opened with a small click and the moonlight illuminated the hall.
He took his first step and gasped, the pain in his ankle was terrible and guessed it was broken. He knew his ribs and wrist were broken, he recognised the feelings but he had never broken his ankle before and it was even more painful than he thought possible. He took nothing with him, not even something to lean on as he hobbled painfully out of the house and down the street, biting his lip so that he didn’t make a sound and wake his family.
It wasn’t until he reached the end of the street that he realised that not only did he have no idea where Hogwarts was but he wasn’t going to be able to walk much further. He wondered if he could do that thing where he turned into an animal again, he had only done it three times in the past and never just when he wanted to, always by accident.
He hadn’t been able to work out what animal he was, he had even sneaked out to the public library to look but had never found anything. The closest he had come was a black panther with green eyes and black leather wings. The first time it had happened he had been totally black but the second time he had had dark grey markings like a leopards and the third time those marks had been lighter, even easier to see.
Harry curled into a ball and wished really hard to be his animal again and finally felt the change, his vision changed from colour to black and white and the images became sharper. He still had half of his walking limbs broken which gave him no advantage but he did have wings, two huge wings that hoped would carry his weight.
It took a few minutes to get the movement of his wings in synchronisation and few more to work out how to take off and he was off. He had decided on Diagon Alley, it was the only magical place he knew the location of and luckily London wasn’t too far away. Knowing where he was going was like an arrow appeared in his mind, letting him know which way he had to go.
With frequent and quite long breaks for unused muscles it wasn’t until midmorning that he finally reached the Leaky Cauldron. Tired and Sore he limped through the door after a witch had left and started to look for somewhere to hide so that he could try to turn back into his human form. He was trying to creep past a man dressed all in black who smelt like dampness and sandalwood when he heard the magic words.
“Are you still teaching at Hogwarts then Professor Snape?”
Not only did this nice smelling man seem to know Hogwarts but he also seemed to work there, maybe even lived there? Harry looked up, saw a nose slightly too large for its owner, greasy hair and waited for the man to answer.
“Of course Tom, I’ve just ordered the last of the supplies I need for this term.”
It was all Harry needed to know before he let out the most pathetic sound he could muster. Onyx eyes swung down to look at him and he let out another pathetic sound.
“Who are you little one?” The man, Professor Snape, asked.
Harry just made a sound of pain and held his broken wrist/paw out for inspection. The man knelt down and carefully took hold of his wrist/paw, “Looks broken to me little one.”
Harry mewled in agreement and carefully turned to that the man could see his back paw/ankle that was also broken. Professor Snape said nothing but Harry found himself being picked up, he settled his wings to his back as he was gently cradled against a slim chest. Strong fingers stroked though his fur on his chest and he shifted slightly to relives some of the pressure on his chest as the man stood up.
“Is it really a Panivco?” The bartender asked, Harry thought Hagrid had called him Tom.
“It looks like it but only a cub and a badly beaten one at that.”
So that’s what he was, a Panivco cub, not that that told him much but it was nice to know.
“Take him through to Al at the Magical Menagerie, I’m sure he can fix the little guy up.”
“I would rather take him back to Hagrid at Hogwarts, he may only be the grounds keeper but he knows his beasts,” Professor Snape said.
Harry was practically purring, not only was the nice smelling man holding him more gently and carefully than anyone in memory ever had but he was also going to take him to Hogwarts to Hagrid, his only friend.
“May we use your floo?”
“Of course Professor and take good care of the little guy.”
Harry frowned as they stepped into the professor dropped some powder, making it turn green. “Shrieking Shack,” Professor Snape said then they were tumbling around like they were on a roller coaster before being spat out of the other side. Harry squeaked in protest and tried to get away from the man but strong hands held him tight to the thin chest and that deep voice soothed him. “Stop that you Silly Creature, we are both safe, it was only the floo system.”
Harry made a squeak of enquiry.
“Yes safe and only a few hours from Hagrid’s home and medical treatment for you.”
Harry snuggled into the warm chest making a contented sound as they left the shack the had arrived in. He would have missed his first sight of Hogwarts if Professor Snape hadn’t pointed it out to him. “And there is Hogwarts, only a few more minutes before we get some help Silly Creature.”
Harry squeaked indignantly.
“Yes you are a Silly Question, I would never hurt you, Panivco’s are very rare and you are only a cub. I would never hurt a cub.”
Harry just settled into the strong, safe, nice smelling arms and waited until he wouldn’t hurt any more. It wasn’t long until the reached a very large hut and Hagrid appeared with a big dog. The man looked just as big and safe as he had the other day when he had rescued him from the Dursley’s.
“What you got there Professor?”
“A Panivco cub, I think he was beaten.”
“A Panivco cub, long time since I saw one of them and then she was nearly fully grown. Well bring him in and I’ll see what I can do.”
Professor Snape carried him into the hut, put him on a huge table and stepped back, Harry tried to stay relaxed as the huge hands explored all of his small body. He only just stopped himself from scrambling back into Professor Snape’s arms.
“I think you’re right Professor, his front left and back right paws are broken, as are four of his ribs and he is covered in cuts and bruises. I have salve for the cuts and bruises and unless you know a mild bone mending charm then I can splints on the limbs.”
“I know Healico-Summa, it is used on children under five who can’t handle the magical strain of the other charms. The disadvantage is that the fracture is soft for the next week.”
Hagrid nodded, “I am sure we’ll manage, if you wouldn’t mind Professor. I’ll sort out the joints then leave it to you, both joints and his ribs.”
A few minutes later Harry breather a sigh of relief as the main sources of pain vanished. He gave a content purr as large hands started rubbing something into his skin/fur that made him feel warm and the pain slowly leak away.
“I will leave him in your capable hands Hagrid, I assume you can find a safe home for him.”
“Of course Professor.”
Harry watched as the nice smelling man left Hagrid’s hut, he felt cold and alone. Why was the man leaving him? Where was His man going without him? He started to squeal in distress and try to after His nice smelling man but it was no good, strong and very large hands held him firmly in place. But it didn’t stop him from trying.
Then suddenly they were moving towards the door, Hagrid opened it and there was His man, already walking back towards them. With a sudden burst of movement he broke free from Hagrid and glided to land in His man’s arms, purring contentedly as he head butted His man’s chin and shoulder.
“What’s wrong with you now you silly creature?” His man asked but like the last time ‘silly creature’ was obviously a term of endearment.
Harry just continued to make sure that His man had his scent all over all him so that no-one would steal His man.
It was Hagrid who answered the question,”Most Panivcos bond to a mentor figure at around his age, normally this would be a parent or older brother or sister. I think he has bonded with you, at the beginning of the bond he won’t like being not be able to see you. The bond should allow you to sense his emotions and his location to a point.
His man stroked his chest and throat, “Well I suppose we are stuck together. How long will the bond last?”
“As long as the cub needs it.”
“How old do you think he is?”
“Panivcos live to an average of about 250/300 years, as a cub he is less than fifty years old. From the colour of his markings, I would guess somewhere from eight, when the marks start to appear, and thirty five when they turn snow white. I’m guessing somewhere near the earlier end of the scale as the marks are still pretty dark.”
“Thank-you Hagrid, may I take some more of the salve?”
“Of course Professor, just rub it in again in about six hours.”
A few minutes later and they were walking towards Hogwarts, a strange smelling finger rubbing across his nose and lips. With a small lunge he drew the finger into his mouth and suckled on it, it felt comforting.
His man stopped walking and looked down at him, lifting his head until he met His man’s eyes, “Silly creature, I make potions what if I had had something poisonous on my finger?”
Harry gave a muffled apologetic squeak but didn’t let go of His man’s finger.
“You are without a doubt a silly creature and next time you feel the need to remove any of my extremities by suction alone ask first.”
Harry nodded and suckled a bit harder.
“Severus I don’t believe I have ever seen you being so pleasant to another living being,” a strict female voice teased from behind him. Harry let go of His man’s (Severus’) finger and turned to look at a woman who smelt like cats and had her hair in a tight bun. Severus, His man’s name was His Severus or maybe just Severus.
“Minerva a pleasure as always and he has done nothing to insult me.”
Harry didn’t like the cold tone in His man’s voice and the cat-lady’s next words made a shiver run through his body, “And what have the students ever done to you?”
“They are silly children who think that life is a game where they may start over as often as they like.”
“You were like them once Severus.”
“No I wasn’t Minerva, James Potter saw to that.” Harry perked up at the mention of his father, no-one had ever really told him about his father.
“James Potter was never the monster that you claim him to be.”
“Neither was he a saint like you claimed him to be. Are you looking forward to the next generation of Potters arriving in less than a month to join you house.” Harry’s bad feeling returned returned with vengeance, a bad feeling that told him that His man didn’t like him much as a human.
“Harry is not James and it would do you well to remember that Severus.”
“Harry Potter like his father will be a stuck-up idiot who thinks he is superior to everyone else and is used to being waited on hand and foot.”
Harry shivered as he heard Severus talk about him like he was Dudley, he hadn’t even met the man in his human form, what if all of the wizarding world was like that?
Slim hands tipped his head back where he had hidden it in Severus’ robes and he met onyx eyes, “Are you cold?”
Harry shrugged unable to tell His man that the shivers were really from fear and anxiety without telling the truth.
“Well I think the fact that you are shivering indicates you are,” Severus said logically.
A few minutes later and he was resting comfortably inside His man’s outer robes as he came to a decision. He would stay in his Panivco form, with His man at Hogwarts and learn what he could of the magical world. But for the first time in his life that he could remember he felt safe and wasn’t willing to give that feeling up for anything, even magic.