Chapter One

Release

The cliffs of the islands of St. Kilda, in the Outer Hebrides islands rose sheer above the water. Hundreds and hundreds of puffins and smoky grey fulmars could be seen circling the volcanic cliffs. It was a clear day, the sun shining brightly in the sky. The people emerging from the uninhabited village of the Kildians however, had no eyes for the impressive landscape.

The tall red haired man was whispering to the heavily clothed woman by his side, clearly trying his best to exclude the third member of their group from the conversation. This person was an old man dressed in a grey cloak tattered and frayed from long use. He was trying to listen, and quite obviously so, ignoring the frequent scowls sent his way by the couple, both of whom appeared to be in their late teens. It was not often that he escorted such young people to Azkaban.

They got into a small boat in the jetty close to the village. As the old man started rowing slowly, they could see their destination in the far horizon, a tiny island fortress. Even from the distance it appeared dark and foreboding.

"Hermione, I ask you again, you don't need to go inside that place. I'll get him from the cell and we'll leave the place as soon as possible."

The wind swept the hood from the woman's face, as she shook her head, brown hair flying all over. "No, Ron. I need to go in. I need to at least see where he's been spending the last year. I cannot know what he's been through, but I need to atleast get a taste of it."

Ron shook his head at this point, appearing to give up. He looked around, frowning at the slow progress they were making. He dared not speed things up, for any signs of magical activity so near the prison would cause the appearance of a unit of Aurors. They did not need any trouble.

Hermione broke the silence. "How do you think he'll… react?" Ron glanced at her. The question had been worrying him too. "Oh, he'll probably jump up and knock my lights out", he replied, trying to sound light-hearted, but not quite succeeding. "I mean, he probably thinks we knew he was here all along, he must be mad at …" he broke off, realizing what he'd just said, as Hermione looked horrified. "No, no… I'm sure he's fine, I mean, I know his reaction with dementors and all… but I don't think he's…", he trailed off uncomfortably.

Silence reigned in the boat. As they drew closer to the island, the sun became less and less noticeable as dark clouds began to gather above their heads. The boatman noticed their reaction and remarked, "All the times I've ever come to this accursed place, and I've come plenty of times, mind you, I've never seen the sun shine on the island." He appeared to wait for a response, but didn't get any. Ron thought it sort of made sense, he always associated dementors with cold and darkness, he somehow couldn't imagine dementors surviving in the warm sun.

When they docked at the small jetty, Ron helped Hermione out of the rocking boat. As they left for the entrance, the boatman said, "Don't be too long." Ron almost laughed at the absurd comment. He noticed Hermione shiver despite her warm clothing, and put his arm around her. She smiled gratefully at him and moved closer, as they reached the entrance.

The Auror on duty nodded, and bade them to put aside all the magical objects they had on their person. Wands, of course came first, and Hermione added a charmed bracelet. They then stepped through some scanners and were then patted down, apparently to check for non-magical weapons. This complete, a waiting dementor led them through a narrow passage. Ron noticed that the Aurors did not come inside the prison itself.

As they moved deeper into the prison, the air grew colder and colder. Both of them were openly shivering now. The dementor stopped in front of a door and gestured them through. Ron paused, and muttered something to Hermione, who regained some of her colour and she replied irritably, "For heaven's sake Ron, it's my mistake as much as yours, we are going to face him together." Ron nodded, and pushed open the door.

The cell was small and dark. It took a while for them their eyes to get adjusted to the darkness. They could now make out the dampness as well, the stone walls appeared mouldy. But their attention was held by the figure sitting on the tiny bed staring fixedly at some point on the floor.

The figure looked up on hearing their entrance. Ron felt a thrill of foreboding when he met his eyes, green eyes glowing faintly in the dark, not unlike a cat. The person raised his hand and gestured them to remain where they were, and remain silent. Ron blinked at the response, but obeyed. He felt Hermione stiffen beside him, following his lead. Harry Potter continued his inspection of the floor.

Ron and Hermione looked at each other. "What's going on?" she mouthed. Ron shrugged in reply. Had his experiences in Azkaban proved too much to bear? Had Harry gone insane? Somehow, looking at the boy, who was sitting, no crouching, perfectly still, Ron found it hard to believe. Something was going to happen.

And something did happen. It was the most unexpected thing Ron thought could happen.

A mouse ran out on to the floor. Twitching it's nose cautiously, it made it's way to, now that Ron could see clearly, a tiny piece of bread. It relaxed a little when it could sense no danger, this was when Harry pounced. One smooth feline motion of his body, and he had the struggling rat in his hand. And he began to eat it with great gusto.

A wave of revulsion spread through Ron, but he forced himself to appear expressionless. Hermione had turned quickly away from the gory sight. Harry finished his meal quickly, and licked his hands until only a few smears of blood remained. Now he turned his attention to his two visitors.

Ron looked at Harry properly for the first time. He had grown taller, definitely more thinner and his hair fell about his shoulders. There was a strange feline grace about the way he rose to his feet and looked them both head to toe with his green eyes, which didn't seem to blink much. Ron glanced at Hermione and noticed her staring at Harry with a strange kind of fascination. "Harry…" she began.

Harry blinked a few times, as a look of utter confusion passed across his face. He frowned, and put his hand up to his head and appeared to think deeply. "Yes", he agreed absently, "My name is Harry Potter." He looked up at them, and continued, "And who are you?"

"He's messing with us", Ron thought to himself, but as he met Harry's gaze, he realized that Harry was dead serious. Hermione looked like she was about to cry. Ron said quickly, "We are your friends, Harry. I'm Ron Weasley, and she's Hermione Granger. We've come to take you away from this place."

Harry appeared to think this over. "What exactly is 'this place' anyway? It's obviously a prison", he said, gesturing at the surroundings, "But what am I doing here?" He paused, and then said softly, "I don't remember…"

Hermione's eyes filled with tears, she tried valiantly to control her sobs. "It's called Azkaban, Harry," started Ron, "It's somewhere in northern England. As for why you're here… We don't know either. There's obviously been some sort of mistake. We'll clear it up after we get out of here, all right?"

Harry looked happier at these words. "Thanks. I'm glad I'm not a criminal or anything… I tried asking those people there", he waved his hand dismissively towards the door, "But they wouldn't talk. They're the prison guards I think?" he asked, looking at them both, noticing that Ron and Hermione were looking at him very oddly.

"Yes, they're called Dementors", Ron said carefully, looking at him for a reaction. Harry didn't know what Ron was expecting, so he continued, "Yeah, so honestly do they talk at all? All they seem to do is rattle away…" he trailed off, apparently thinking of the dementors' odd behaviour. Ron and Hermione exchanged a quick look. "All right, let's go, shall we? I want to see how it looks outside, it's kinda boring here…"

They walked outside, a Dementor was waiting to escort them outside. Harry noticed his companions shiver slightly when it drew a rattling breath, but decided not to say anything. He noticed that they were looking at him with equal curiosity.

At the entrance, the Auror returned the wands, and stared at Harry open mouthed. Harry didn't notice, he was busy staring at the sea outside. He thought to himself how strange this was, he knew this was how the sea looked like, but he couldn't remember seeing it ever before. The sun chose that moment to peek out of the clouds slightly. Harry smiled, the sun made him feel so alive. He glanced up at the spot of brightness in the otherwise dark sky.

At once, a flood of memories engulfed him. He just stood there, as he remembered a few glimpses of what he thought was his past life.

He was in a small room, where a fire burned brightly, a plate of sausages in front of him. A gigantic man was looking at him. A few other people were in the room, but he didn't notice. The giant opened his mouth and said clearly, "Yer a wizard, Harry."

The scene shifted. He was in a small shop; at first glance it looked like a shoe store, with rectangular boxes piled up in shelves. An old man with pale blue eyes, was giving him a wooden stick, a wand. Harry waved it and red and gold sparks appeared at the end. He heard someone whoop in joy in the background.

He was sitting on a stool, in front of a great crowd of people, no, children, wearing black robes. He noticed he was dressed similarly, and had something on his head. Suddenly a voiced shouted in his ear, "GRYFFINDOR", as a section of the crowd began cheering madly.

Finally, everything grew black… he was looking at a picture of an old man with a flowing white beard, and twinkling blue eyes… he was saying to himself in a whisper...

"Do not trust Albus Dumbledore…"