Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Harry Potter, or anything else you recognise.
A/N: This fic is being edited, and acting on review number 400 (!) I may be posting a rewrite which has no slash. (As this version does have it). The original author notes have been removed as this fic is complete.
A New Friend
Chapter One - Where Miss Roxbury makes an Unpleasant Discovery
"Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods."
Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC), Nichomachean Ethics
A tall woman, in her early thirties, was walking back from the shop, a blue plastic bag swinging in her hand, humming as she trotted along the pavement. She trotted along, not really thinking of anything, when a strange feeling came over her. The hairs on the back of her neck stood up, leaving a tingling sensation spreading down her spine. She ignored it and carried on walking, though her pace had slowed a little.
She frowned, wondering what was making her react that way, and the frown deepened when she thought she heard a whining noise. Still, she didn't stop, she was almost back to her house and, so, dismissing the sound from her mind, she kept going. She did stop altogether though, when she heard the noise again. It was louder this time.
She frowned again, looking around her for the source of the noise.
It came again, this time accompanied by gentle rustling. She turned, trying to follow the direction of the sounds and saw a slight movement in the bushes not three feet in front of her. She took a few quiet steps towards the bush and knelt down to examine it.
Annabelle Roxbury was horrified by what she saw.
A large, yet painfully thin black dog was huddled in the bushes, patches of dried blood and dirt clinging to its emaciated body. She exclaimed loudly with shock, dropped her shopping bag and whipped off her coat.
Gently, not knowing if she was causing the poor animal any pain, she wrapped her warm coat around it and slowly lifted it off the ground. It did whine a little, but seemed to pass out. Annabelle could only hope that the shock of being moved hadn't killed the poor beast.
Deftly, she hooked the plastic bag up by its handles in one foot and bent forward a little to pick it up with one hand. She slid the handles onto her wrist so her hand was free again to support the canine. It was awkward, but manageable.
Then very carefully, she made her way towards her front door, trying not to jostle her precious cargo. Having arrived safely at home, she shifted the bundle in her arms and got out her keys to let herself in.
That done, she kicked the door shut behind her and made her way up the stairs to the bathroom. She knew she'd have to get the poor animal clean before she could asses his wounds. She might even have to call a vet, if his injuries were too severe. Annabelle herself knew next to nothing about caring for injured animals.
She laid the dog gently in the bath, easing her coat away from its body, a faint noise indicating that it had regained consciousness. She breathed a sigh of relief, for she'd thought she might have killed it before. Annabelle reached up for the shower head, and turned it onto low pressure and low heat, and began to wash the dog's coat.
It took forever, but she managed to get most of the blood and dirt off its body so she could have a good look. There was one large wound on its left flank that she thought might need stitching, but other than that the poor thing seemed only to be suffering from starvation and exhaustion.
Annabelle sat back with a deep sigh, and then got up off her knees to fetch a towel from the airing cupboard. She picked out the biggest and fluffiest towel she had, and took it back to the bathroom. The dog had shifted round to rest its head on its paws, and large, dark, blue eyes were now regarding her steadily.
She moved forwards carefully, so as not to alarm the animal, and raised the towel up slowly and then lowered it again, as if asking for permission. The dog closed its eyes, and she took this as consent.
After much careful manoeuvring, and with gentle hands, she was able to get it out of the bath, wrapped in the towel, and resting on her bed. Once it was settled, she knew there wasn't much more she could do herself, so she jogged downstairs to look in the phone book for a vet that would come out to her home.
It didn't take long and she was extremely lucky to find a vet that could be over in half an hour. She explained the dog's injuries and general state as best she could, and the vet advised her to give him some water, but nothing else.
With the appointment booked, she went to the kitchen and filled a bowl with water, and took it back upstairs. Carefully sitting down next to her new friend, she placed the bowl next to its head, making sure not to spill any. She stroked its head softly and it opened its eyes.
Those steady, dark eyes looked at her for a moment, and then it turned its head and began to drink slowly. When it had drunk its fill, it rested its head on its paws again and closed its eyes.
Annabelle gently stroked its head again in what she hoped was a soothing gesture and completely lost track of time.
She jumped a little when she heard the doorbell and she hurried downstairs to answer the door. On the front step was a pleasant faced young man, who introduced himself as Jim Gerken, the vet she'd spoken to.
"Ah, we spoke on the phone! Nice to meet you Dr Gerken, I'm Annabelle Roxbury. Please come in." She replied and he smiled and followed her into the house, closing the door behind him.
"This way." She said, leading him upstairs and into her bedroom where the dog was still dozing. While he opened his bag and made ready, Annabelle knelt down by the edge of the bed and stroked a hand over the dog once more.
"Hello friend. This is Dr Gerken; he's going to make sure you're OK. OK?" She told him, in a warm, comforting voice. The dog opened his eyes and looked at her and the newcomer. Annabelle got up and stood back, allowing the vet to do his work.
He tsked and exclaimed when he saw the cut in the animal's side.
"Poor little mite! That's quite nasty. You said you found him this morning?" The vet asked, turning from his examination to look at Annabelle. She nodded.
"Found him huddled in some bushes in a right state. Can you help him? Will he be alright?" She asked and he nodded back.
"Absolutely. We'll clean up this cut and put some dissolving stitches in. He'll need a cone to make sure he doesn't lick them. And I'll give you a diet sheet for him. Looks like he's been starved and it's made him extremely malnourished. You see the ribs there, hmm? He's going to need some special food – you can get it from most pet shops" He indicated the place where the poor boy's ribs were poking through his skin.
The vet continued. "I'm amazed he's stayed so calm, most animals in this state have been abused and so can be very jumpy." Dr Gerken paused. "You know, it's almost as if he can understand what we're saying – like he knows we're trying to help, and we're not going to hurt him." He mused, shaking his head in wonder. He twisted back to face Annabelle again.
"You going to keep him Miss?" He asked, and she considered it.
"Yes. Yes, I will. I'll look after him, and make him better again." She decided.