The wonderful smells of a perfect Christmas Eve feast were invading every square inch of the perfectly normal house at Number 4 Privet Drive. The mother of the home was proud of the spotless condition of the house, well, all except for the floury mess that her precious son was making in the kitchen. But it was tradition to make biscuits together, and Vernon had insisted.
At least the Freak was being quiet in his cupboard. Not ruining their perfect, normal Christmas together.
Petunia had declared to the child earlier that Christmas was for Families, not weird little boys like him. He was given a slice of bread with a bit of margarine (she would always use REAL butter for her REAL family) and locked him up so that he couldn't be seen.
Smiling at the true love of her life, her little Dudley, she tried to put aside her worries that someone might find out about the Freak.
She had every right to be worried.
Little Harry Potter had long since eaten the bread, and drank the little water given to him, though he did try to make it last.
The smell of the roasting meats, the glazing vegetables had made his mouth water all day in anticipation of a meal he knew he would not get to enjoy. But even as his stomach growled loudly in protest, he knew that he would get nothing more to eat today, and likely not be allowed out except for a possible trip or two for the toilet.
He closed his eyes, and tried to tell himself a story. Just before the holiday break, his teacher had read to the class a story about a little girl and how she wrote to Santa, and was given a golden retriever for Christmas. It had sparked in him a memory. Fague, to be sure, but a happy time. Him, playing on the floor with a big black dog. He couldn't remember the dog's name, so he just called him 'Prince' to himself. It was a 'p' sound, that he was sure of. A dark haired man laughed and ruffled his hair. A red-haired woman had leaned over and kissed him, Harry, who remembered no other affection in his life. It was a feeling of love, of warmth. The dog had made him feel safe. He knew that the man and woman were likely his parents, and beyond seeing again, at least on Earth. But the dog? Where was he? Had he been killed in the car crash, also? What if he wasn't? What if he were lost? Was he hungry too?
Longing welled up in him. Longing for home, to be connected again with something of his family.
'Prince, oh Prince, where are you? Where are you?' The little boy huddled, starving and sad, and made an appeal that could not be denied.
Harry James Potter, heir to the House of Potter, blood heir of Gryffindor, blood heir of Peverell made a wish. And not just any wish. He made a Christmas Wish. To be reunited with his big black dog, no matter where he was.
The warden yawned. It was only 6 o'clock Christmas Eve. He had volunteered for this shift, as many of the human guards took this horrible job to provide well for their families. It was one of the few spots that even muggle-borns could get. No self-respecting pureblood wanted to be here. His meager meal was interrupted by two things.
The wards of Azkaban prison had just been breached. Someone or something very powerful had just broken in. His head swivelled to the crystals on the wall. Intact. The alarm was definitely for inbound traffic.
Then, one of the few house-elves that served the place popped into his office. The little being was obviously agitated, pulling on its ears.
"Master Head Warden, sir. There's being problems. Oh, there is being big problems. Oh, why is such a good, good Wizard here? He should not be being here sir! And there be a big dogs. Oh, Rodgna not liking big dogs. Elf stunned boy and dog, but not knowing why he being here! But Rodgna not liking doing magic against the Great Wizard! No, no, no!"
Warden Sean McKinnon didn't have to be a genius to figure out that something was going on.
"Take me there, now please, Rodgna."
With a quick elf pop, apparition not being allowed at all on the island, the warden was in the high level restricted area. This is where the worst of the worst was housed. Across from him was Rabastan LeStrange, his wife and brother were in cells on either side. They were all staring at the sight behind him. As Warden McKinnon whirled around, he saw a small dark-haired boy seemingly asleep on the side of a skeletally thin dog.
"What in the world?" The warden knew that just a short time ago, the detested Sirius Black had been in that cell. This was dark magic, to be sure.
"That being the Great Master Harry Potter Sir!" Rodgna informed him loudly. Much too loudly.
The Death Eater prisoners who had been silently watching now were baying for blood.
The warden knew he had to get the young man out of there before anything bad happened to him. Well, anything worse than being transported here.
The warden cautiously opened the cell. The dog was waking up and he wanted no accidents here. Carefully, Sean picked up the boy. Like the dog, he was naught but skin and bones. His old rags of clothes couldn't hide his starvation from a man as experienced as Sean McKinnon.
Scowling, he looked at the dog. It clearly wasn't his fault about the boy's current condition, if anything, the dog was in worse shape. "I'm taking your master down to the dock, boy. You come with me, alright?"
The large dog with haunted grey eyes looked up, and he stood up on shaking legs. The elf made a lead and collar for the dog, and handed it over to the warden. There was no way he was going near a Grim - no, no, no!
As they left the cell, it was to the jeers and threats of those that wanted the boy's blood. Sean glared at them, more than one cowed into silence, but Bellatrix Black LeStrange actually spit on the lad.
"You'll get yours boy! Someday, I'm going to rip your guts out, and make your innards my necklace!"
The young lad had already started to awaken, his hands convulsively holding onto the man's fur lining of his coat, petting it like a live animal.
"Prince? Prince?" Harry called. In his story he was telling himself, he had named his big black dog Prince. Somehow, his story had become a dream, and he didn't want to wake from it. "Prince!" the broken-hearted boy cried.
"Nay, don't fuss so lad, your large friend is here. Though I ken that ye both be needin' a good meal" The warden said kindly, wrapping a blanket around the boy that the thoughtful elf had brought him. "I'm taking ye both back to the mainland. I've no idea how this happened, but I know that you of all people shouldn't be here!"
Quick orders were given to one of his deputies. He would rather take care of this himself, than trust anyone else with the boy. Clearly, many odd things were happening here, and not just with the boys sudden appearance. The house-elves were beside themselves. They clearly worshipped the far-too-thin lad, and were as unhappy about his physical condition as he was.
"And get Kevin to checkin' the wards! The breach was sudden, and didn't bring them down. Thank goodness that nothing was outbound that powerful, or the protections would be down. Likely permanently." The warden walked at a good clip down to the dock. The deputy dogged his steps, nearly tripping over the bedraggled beast at his feet.
"But Sirius Black, sir! He's not in the cell!"
"Well, of course he's not in the cell, or else I'd be holdin' a corpse instead of a lad! Think man! The wards would prevent him leaving the walls of the prison. If he made it out of the cell, then he's worse than dead. Kissed. And good riddance to bad rubbish!"
The warden then turned his head back to his oh so very light burden. "I don't know what powers be protecting ye lad, but you are very lucky to be alive. Not many can say that they have gone through what you have been through, and lived."
Harry didn't understand what was happening. He was very, very tired. He rested in the man's strong arms, and let his Scottish burr lull him back to sleep. He had checked a time or two to see that Prince was still there. Still, while a strange dream, Harry would rather be dreaming this than anything else.
The smell of lamb stew woke him up.
"We're nearly to the mainland lad, and we've got company waitin' for us at the dock. Can ye try to eat a little of this, or perhaps a bit o' the bread? We've only got tea and water, wish I could offer you up some chocolate." He excused himself to check on things, and shut the door behind him.
The dog was wolfing down his portion of the stew. Someone had cast a cleaning spell at him (not that Harry knew that), and his matted fur looked better. He had been laying next to the boy on the cabin bunk, but jumped down readily enough for the offered hot food.
Harry took a deep smell of the meal, and walked over to pet the dog. The reply was a fierce tail wag, but the dog was busy eating. He looked up long enough to use his head to push Harry to his own food. The boy laughed, a dry thing that hadn't been practised enough. Harry sat back down, and slowly started to eat.
He was wise enough to know if he ate too fast, he would just lose it all. That had happened to him before.
He gazed down at the dog who had just finished his first bowl of food, and came over for pets.
"Oh, Prince! I've never eaten in my dreams before and really tasted the food! I don't know where you've been, but I am glad to be with you, even if it is just until I wake up. And I hope I never do. I've missed you so much!"
The boy hugged the dog, and the dog in return used his right giant paw to wrap up the boy. Just then the door to the small cabin opened.
"Right then. We're nearly there. Listen, Mr. Potter. I've sent a message to some higher-ups. Now Madame Bones can seem very scary, but I promise you that there's no one better to help you. She hates Death Eaters more than I do, and that's saying something lad. My entire family, accepting me, was wiped out due to those scum. Ye stopped 'em. Don't know how, don't care. I just know that 'cause of you, there are many, many families out there that din'n die out. If there's anything that I can do for ye, ye have naught but ask. My wand, my life, I'll stand by ye. I'll help ye in anyway I ken."
Harry stared up at the man. He didn't understand anything that he was saying in the least, but knew whatever it was, it was sincere. And that last sentence. Help him.
"Will you promise me not to send me back? I mean, if this isn't a dream? I don't want to go there."
"Where you were?" The man asked kindly. He wasn't sure what the boy meant. "Where you were kept prisoner?"
Harry nodded. "I was locked in a boot cupboard all the time. I never want to go back there."
There was a surge of magic in the small room. Harry could feel the power of the anger, even if he didn't know what it was.
"I swear lad, I will do everythin' in my power to keep you from going back to whoever did this to you. And your familiar there. I swear on my Magic!"
A flash of light bore witness that the man meant what he said, though Harry still didn't understand.
"I'll provide a home for ye myself. There's always muggleborn witches looking for good work to do. I'll hire one to watch ya, teach you your letters and history and stuff. But we need to be goin'. The boat's slowin', a sure sign that we're there."
The man offered Harry a hand, and reattached the lead to the collar. He handed it over to Harry, who took it with grim efficiency.