The first time he saw the dog, Harry was perched in among the branches of a tree in the park, a position he often used as a retreat from Dudley's bullying. A low whine caught his attention, as the large black animal circled his tree a few times. It didn't look particularly scary, even looking up at Harry with clear sadness in its eyes. Before he could climb down to get a closer look, though, a pair of men in funny clothing with sticks in their hands walked by on the path, and the dog slipped away through the trees.
For the next few days, Harry often fancied he caught glimpses of the animal in the corner of his eye - nothing more than a big shadow, though, which would disappear the instant he turned to look properly. Then, that next Tuesday, the dog made a true reappearance and proved that it was without a doubt very friendly.
Well. Friendly to Harry, at any rate.
Dudley and some of the other schoolyard bullies had been chasing the nine year old, intent on giving him a good going over before the boy could reach Number Four Privet Drive and the meager safety of his cupboard. Harry was maintaining a decent lead of several yards when he suddenly tripped on a crack in the sidewalk. Stunned from his rather spectacular faceplant, there was only time for the boy to roll over and see his wickedly grinning cousin bearing down on him when the world suddenly went dark.
Something large and black stood over Harry's prone form.
And that something was growling fiercely at the suddenly terrified Dudley, the half a dozen boys gathered behind him doing nothing to bolster the boy's natural arrogance.
With a small snap and lunge forward, the dog provided enough incentive for the bullies to turn about and flee. Harry gaped at their retreating backsides, completely shocked that he'd just been spared a beating. Then his disbelief turned to fear as the big animal turned in place, so that it was still standing over him but they were nose to nose.
"Um... Hi?" Harry squeaked. The dog appeared to study him for a moment, before it gently licked the swelling redness where Harry's face had slammed into the sidewalk. Surprised by how soothing it felt, the boy didn't protest, and soon enough was laughing as he was bathed from head to toe, the dog's tail wagging happily. Eventually, when he was let up, Harry got to study the animal a bit more closely. The thick fur did a lot to hide the dog's thin frame, despite being tangled and matted a fair amount - not to mention grimy. "Haven't had a bath yourself in a while, have you boy?"
A pitiful whine answered him.
"Come on then, I've got just the thing." Leading the way through the neighborhood, Harry soon brought them to a house that was dark and closed up. "This is where the Johannesburg's live, but they're out of the country right now, on holiday." Around in the backyard, he had the dog sit beside the low garden wall, and then turned on the water hose spigot.
At first, Harry's new friend jumped in surprise at the appearance of the stream of water, but soon became fascinated by it. He leapt and bit at it several times, causing Harry to laugh. Once his energy was expended, though, the dog happily sat still and let himself he cleansed as much as was possible without soap. Harry also used his fingers to untangle as much of the knotted fur as he could, which in the grand scheme of things didn't have that big a result.
Still, what they ended up with compared to where they'd started was a huge improvement. The dog even waited until Harry had stepped away before shaking, so as to avoid getting the boy all soaked as well.
"I hope you're feeling better, boy." Harry grinned, petting him again and getting a lick in return. "I have to get back to the Dursleys, though. Aunt Petunia needs me to start making dinner soon."
The dog stared at him, seemingly in shock. Then he whined, tugging at Harry's sleeve as if begging the boy not to leave.
"I have to go, or else Uncle Vernon will give me the belt. But don't worry, I'm sure we'll see each other again soon. I'll even bring you a bite to eat, if I can." With that, Harry stood, and started to leave the yard. He wound up having a big black shadow all the way to Privet Drive, and only there did the dog leave off from sticking to his side. The animal still watched from the end of the street, however. Harry looked back at him up until he was dragged in through the front door by his aunt, who screeched at him for being damp and late and covered in some sort of black hair.
A/N: IMPORTANT NOTICE
This story is part of my HP Round Table Project. Every Thursday, I'm updating a different onf of seven Harry Potter AUs, so that over the course of seven weeks they all get a new chapter (since I have a history of losing inspiration and letting stuff sit stagnant for months at a time). After the first seven week period, I start over, but the order in which these stories are updated changes depending on what was the most popular during the previous chunk of time.
So, if you really like this or one of the others, be sure to let me know!