WHERE HOME IS
Chapter One: In the Heart

Author's Notes:
Again, this is AU. Of which a little events had been modified to suit the flow of this story. I seem to be only comfortable in writing Harrys below the age of eleven, so there. It didn't work quite well for my first fic, making him ten, so here's another one to make up for it. Beam. Oh, and REVIEW!

Story:
This will be a light one, just a few chapters, probably around two or three.

Disclaimer:
Put your guns down! Sheesh, I'm not going anywhere! I told you that I am not trying to get away with characters that does not belong to me! *As the lawyers lower their guns, I quickly scuttle out of sight*

Dedicated:
To athenakitty who was always the first to review any of my stories in almost every chapter. I can always count on receiving your review almost minutes after it is posted :o)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

He moved silently, slowly as he deftly slipped behind trees and bushes until he stopped behind a large oak tree opposite to a small farm. The house was petite, old and the paint was peeling. Dirt and imprints of shoe marks were left on the once pure white coating.

Situated in the less developed parts of England, the Carltons Farm was surrounded by lush green trees and flowers that were not yet polluted much by humankind. It had a touch of ancient times, and it gave you the feeling that you were back in the 1700's. Wheat and corn fields covered a large part of the area and everyone seemed to know each other very well, calling out greetings whether to a familiar face or a stranger's.

His eyes were sharp as it pierced through the hanging leaves that shielded part of his face, evaluating the situation. Taking in the young children of various ages, unusually playing with silence, his expression finally softened when he found what he was looking for: a young child with soft raven hair and pale cheeks who was curled up in a ball beside the rose bushes lining the fence that separated the farm from its neighbor's.

Watching quietly and taking in the sweet picture of the six-year-old boy who had his eyes closed and had both hands wrapped around his ribs protectively, in a deep slumber. Nothing seemed wrong, except for the fact that he was sleeping right in the sunlight; he was bound to get a sunburn. But as he looked carefully, he realized that the child was frowning in discomfort, and his pale skin marred with red welts of which he had first dismissed as mosquito bites but now realized that it was too many to be insect bites.

He started to step out from the protective shelter of the tree but paused when the child shifted, brought up tiny fists to rub his tired eyes and then blink slowly, wincing as he shifted onto his stomach and crouched on all fours, slowly getting up to his feet.

Seemingly at lost for a moment of what to do, the boy took a tentative step towards the house but backed away when the door flew open and a boy of around sixteen stepped out. Then catching the cautious look the other boy was giving him, he snarled, pointing a finger at the other younger boy.

"What are you looking at, Harry?" he shouted. "Get lost!"

The teen was soon joined by three others around his same age, and they all sat in a row right in front of the door, blocking the entrance efficiently, and the child who was obviously wanting to take shelter either beside or inside the house had to curl up beside the rose bushes again for a weak shelter. He moved slowly, delicately as if afraid to do any coarse movements.

Another boy of perhaps a year older than the child moved cautiously towards him, favoring his right leg and sat beside him, touching his raven hair slightly. The boy raised his head to give a weak smile at the newcomer then sank his head back on the thick grass, the other kid's hand still on his head as if to project comfort.

"Josephine!" the teenager hooted. "Over here."

A thin girl of perhaps eight stood up cautiously and walked towards the boy hesitatingly. "What's wrong, Dicky?" Her hands were trembling a little as she rubbed her nose nervously. Her ginger hair was tied in two fat ponytails and freckles were splayed over her face doing her beauty no justice.

"Nothing," Dicky grinned sadistically. "Just your look, ugly duckling."

Josephine seemed to be used to it and although she seemed a little miserable, did nothing to defend herself.

"See that stick?" Dicky asked, pointing to the very end of the garden.

Josephine turned to the direction he was pointing at. "Yes."

"Good, go and get it for me." Dicky said.

Josephine obediently made her way to the stick lying on the ground and returned, extending it to Dicky. Dicky took it. "Thank you." Then he threw the stick high into the air and watched it arc and fall down on the road beyond the compound. "Oops. Can you get it for me again?"

Josephine stared blankly at him, not moving until Dicky raised his hand in a lighting motion and slapped her on the face. "Do as you are told. Rule number what is that?"

"Four," Josephine whispered softly, holding her stinging cheek with her hand.

"Excellent. Now what must you do?"

Josephine blinked back tears and turned to walk slowly towards the gate and out on the road where the stick was.

"Hurry up, will you?" Dicky called. "What's rule number four again? To be fast, efficient, and obedient."

Remus frowned. That kid was a big bully. Those were all his siblings.

"Hey, you," the boy beside Dicky called. He pointed to the boy who was sitting beside the six-year-old Remus was focusing on and snapped his fingers to get his attention.

Both the raven haired child and his companion looked up.

"Shane. Get that stick from Josephine." He said.

Josephine was heading to the road for the fifth time, stepping on the badly paved tar path, bending down to take the stick. Shane paused while the boy beside him struggled to get up, drowsy from sleep.

"I'll get it," he said, standing up unsteadily.

"No," said Shane who was also standing. "I'll get it."

"How touching," Dicky sneered. "Right, John?"

"Right," grinned John. "How nice Harry, but no, I would prefer Shane."

"His leg is hurt," said Harry softly, afraid to provoke the other boys anger.

"Harry, no," said Shane warningly, his voice low.

"Oh, really?" Dicky said dangerously. "But I think you had better look after your well being before your friend's." All three teens were now advancing towards the two younger children.

"How's your back, Harry?" asked the other boy, his voice dripping with false sincerity.

"F-fine," Harry took a step back against the bushes, Shane beside him.

"Fine?" John frowned in mock concern. "Oh dear, time to make it not fine."

In an instant, John had picked up the struggling child and had swung him over his shoulders, holding him by his legs so that he dangled upside down over his shoulder.

"Let him go!" Shane said angrily.

Dicky replied by kicking his right foot, seemingly knowing where it would hurt most, judging by Shane's look of pain as he crumbled to the ground. "Sorry, what?"

"Come on, Ian," prodded John who was having fun spinning his burden in fast turns. He stopped and let Ian step up and begin to rain blows Harry's back.

"A slight punishment for rebuking your elders," said Ian as he pounded his palms on the five year old mercilessly. Harry was pushing feebly against John's back while trying to move away from Ian's strikes.

"Stop it."

All three boys and Shane looked up to see a stranger with a particularly angry look on his face. "Let him go," he said in a dangerous low voice.

"Okay," said John simply and let go of Harry's legs.

Harry fell in a heap on the ground and whimpered as he tried to crawl away from the boys.

"Move," said the stranger harshly. He pushed them aside and tried to pick up the child.

Harry winced as he suddenly shifted quickly, trying to make a break for it but Remus placed a hand around his waist, pulling him back gently and lifting him onto his lap. Harry whimpered as Remus hoisted him up in his arms and laid his head on his shoulder, holding a hand to the back of the child's head.

"Hey, put him down!" said John angrily.

"I'm going to call mum," said Ian then before anyone could stop him, dashed into the house.

"Is it the right way for you to treat someone younger than you?" Remus asked coldly.

"We have our house rules," said Dicky. "According to it, the elders are entitled to correct and punish the youngsters."

"You are using a wrong approach, then," said Remus. Harry tried to turn his head but Remus restrained him from moving, tightening his hold on the squirming child.

"Hey you! Put that boy down!" A tall, slight man with a goatee and neatly combed brown hair hurried out of the building followed by Ian who had a pleased look on his face. "Put him down!"

"Your boys here has the worst behavior a boy they age should have," Remus snapped. "How do you teach your children? You are applying ridiculous rules and giving them authority to punish their siblings without a reason!"

"How I run my family has nothing to do with you," the man snapped back, probably Mr. Carlton. "You are trespassing on private property. Give me that boy and kindly go away."

"I will," said Remus firmly. "And I'm going to take Harry with me."

"Harry is ours!" Mr. Carlton was now red with anger. "Who are you anyway?"

"Remus Lupin," said Remus. "I'm Harry's biological father's friend."

"Nonsense," Mr. Carlton snapped. "Harry's our child."

Remus carefully smoothed back the raven black hair covering Harry's forehead and traced the lightning shaped scar engraved on his forehead. "See this scar? He is not your son."

"We adopted him legally," Mr. Carlton shot back. He stepped up to Remus and tried to tug the child away from him. "I'm going to call the cops," he warned.

"What's going on?" a sharp voice cut through the scene. "Michael? Who's that?"

Harry tensed in Remus' hold and his right hand closed in a fist over Remus' robes. Remus frowned and looked up to the woman hurrying out of the house, carrying a frying pan.

"He's that boy's biological father's friend," her husband practically spat.

"Father my foot!" His wife exclaimed. "Harry's no son of anyone! Put him down, I demand of you, mister! He's got lots of chores to do, a farm's not run by doing nothing!"

She yanked Harry roughly away from Remus, shocking the werewolf who was caught on surprise and lost his bundle. She reached down and pulled Shane up by his collar. "Get up! Both of you, go to the kitchen, wash the plates, then go milk the cows."

She turned towards Josephine and two more girls. "All of you, what are looking at? Get inside!"

"Christine..." Michael started.

"You boys," her tone softened considerably when she addressed John, Ian and Dicky. "Go on in, you are going to get a sunburn.

"Come, let old pa bring you to the fields today, good breeze, may get a kite up," Michael slung weathered hands over his sons and led them away, glaring at Remus. Dickly smirked at Remus as he turned, letting his father manipulate him towards the house.

"You," Christine snapped to Remus. "Look, we have adopted Harry legally, he's a Carlton now. I don't care whether you are his father's friend, his father or his grandfather. You put him out for adoption, you don't come looking for him when you feel like it and just take him back."

"We didn't put him..." began Remus.

"I don't care!" Christine interrupted. "He's ours right now, we fed and gave him shelter, and please, don't let me see you again. Now kindly leave."

She wiped her hands on her flour dusted apron and with a piercing glare to Remus, she walked towards the house. Remus rubbed his forehead in frustration.

*

Half an hour later, Remus was sitting in an old battered coffee shop sitting on a battered chair sipping a cup of the worst coffee he had ever tasted. The scorching heat was enough to keep the coffee warm and Remus winced as the hot liquid burned his insides as his outsides toasted in the heat.

One day ago, Sirius Black, Harry's Godfather had finally been proven innocent and had been released from Azkaban. Severely malnourished and filthy (not to mention the stench), Sirius was now resting at Dumbledore's manor. His first word when Remus met him was: "Harry."

Nearly six years ago, the death of Lily and James Potter had all stunned them, forcing them into an abyss of betrayal, loss and anger. No one had believed Sirius had not betrayed the Potters except Remus who had worked on proving him guilty for the past five years.

The worst thing that had happened to them was the news that little Harry had been rescued by the authorities before anyone could arrive to take the baby away. Bewildered of the death of their best friends, shocked by the defeat of Voldemort by a mere baby, and the anger at Sirius for betraying the Potters (which he later believed innocent), Remus had been convinced that the authorities would let a kind hearted couple adopt Harry.

He had not thought much about little Harry for proving Sirius innocent had taken much more time than thought, and five years had zoomed by with a blink of an eye. Just the day before yesterday, Authur Weasley had tracked down the remaining Potter and had informed Remus. Remus was in the last of the process needed to free Sirius and had put off the 'rescue' day until today taking the opportunity when Sirius was resting and spring a surprise on his friend.

When he apparated to this place, he had first taken the time to ask a few people about the Carltons and what he had been told was not something he was happy about. The Carltons were blessed with three boys, John, Ian and Dicky Carlton. The farm was considered something they had to get outer help to operate, and instead of hiring workers, they had adopted five children to help them run the farm.

They had no love for their adopted kids, they only saw them as investments, and usually did not bother much about the kids. Their biological kids, however, were showered with love and were angels in front of their parents and devils behind their backs.

Whether they abused their adopted kids, no one knew. But in Remus opinion, they probably didn't, but they weren't very gentle towards them either. His fingers unconsciously tightened over the mug handle. He had contacted Dumbledore before he came to this poor excuse of this coffee shop situated beside an ancient inn where he was currently staying for the following days.

Albus had told him to stay put, while he went through the procedures of getting permission to modify the Muggles memories by load and erase Harry's existence from their brains for going through a Muggle method to get the child back legally would most probably not work and take up a lot of time in the process.

He got up, the heat had drove him to his limits, and paid for the coffee. Walking back to the inn and climbing the stairs to his room, he refreshed himself and readied himself to face Harry again in the 'I want to be friends' mode to get to know him better and form a bond between them to prepare the child for the future he was going to spend with him and the rest of Hogwarts.

*

Harry had gone through his daily chores in a zombie-like mode. This afternoon's events had startled him a little. He had never been embraced so protectively before by anyone in his entire life and yet, a stranger had been the first to do so than his 'parents'. Finishing early, he had earned an extra chore before being let off for an hour before dinner time and now, he was making his way to a place he liked to call his own, situated at the far corner of the village, almost half a mile from his house.

The route was long and lonely but when he reached the abandoned field where he loved to lie in the midst of the tall lush grasses and occasional flowers, he heart jumped in excitement.

The place gave him a feeling of security and comfort. He came here whenever he had a hard day, he came here when he couldn't stand his older brother's bullying, he came here when he wanted consolation for the silent breeze blowing through the fields offered him protection and a shoulder.

The Carltons were not that bad as parents, but they never treated their adopted children like they treated their own. They had no love for them, and usually ignored them, not offering more than twenty words per day. Neglected and constantly drove to the limits by the genuine Carlton heirs who took sadistic pleasure in landing them into trouble, using them and caning them whenever they put a toe out of line, they had learnt to be quiet and withdrawn in a world of their own where love was a stranger to them.

He had never shared his place with anyone except Josephine and Shane for together, the three of them were the ones their older brothers loved to pick on. Today, he lowered himself on the soft grass that cushioned his raw back as he lay down and blinked up at the blackening sky.

It was evening, and he had another twenty minutes before he had to get up and go back. He closed his eyes and instinctively curled up on his side, wrapping his arms around his knees, trying to get some sleep for last night, Ian had locked him out of the house on purpose when Harry had gone to relieve himself at the bathroom stall outside the house. The inside bathrooms were not allowed to be used by him and his adopted siblings. He had spent a whole night, freezing cold, beside his favorite spot at the rosebushes.

*

Remus used the Point-Me spell on his wand and it had led him to a secluded area at the far end of the village, about a couple of miles from his inn. He had walked patiently instead of apparating, contemplating what to say to Harry when he got there, and he was not surprised to see the boy curled up, almost hidden in the tall weeds and grass.

A tuft of untidy black hair sticking up, however, gave his location away. A slight breeze blew through, and Remus silently thanked God for evenings. He softly approached the child and lightly lay a hand on Harry's head.

The boy jolted and scrambled to his knees and hands, in a half crawl. His eyes briefly highlighted with fear and he regarded Remus with caution and curiosity.

"Hey." Remus said lamely. "Nice evening."

Harry's eyes still held doubt when he answered Remus. "Yeah."

Remus sat down on the ground, patting the spot Harry had evacuated. "Come on, sit down. I won't hurt you."

Harry didn't reply but after a moment of hesitation, the five year old lowered himself beside Remus gingerly.

"Does your back still hurt?" Remus asked.

"No," Harry said hastily. "Why should it?"

Remus looked over at him and there was something in his gaze that made Harry feel like confessing everything he did and did not do to him.

"Maybe a little," he admitted finally.

Remus didn't answer but lifted Harry onto his lap, coaxing him to lay his head on his lap. Pulling up the shirt, he smoothed a cool hand over the warm back which still carried red marks from this morning's smacking. Light purple bruises resulted from harder blows and Remus found his dislike for the Carltons increasing.

"Do they always do this?" he asked.

"Sometimes. When they feel like it," said Harry softly. "But they always feel like it," he added in a whisper that Remus almost didn't hear him.

"Do you always come here?" asked Remus, ignoring the clench in his stomach, running a finger down the child's back and muttered a spell to speed up the healing.

"Not really," said Harry. "If I had the time." He squirmed a bit under Remus' touch.

Remus pulled down Harry's shirt gently and stroked Harry's head. That seemed to increase the child's sleepiness and Harry had soon closed his eyes and dozed off. Slowly picking the boy up and cradling him in his arms, Remus finally had a good look at James Potter's son.

With emerald green eyes like his mother, Harry carried his father's mop of unruly hair and fine cheekbones. Soft pink lips seemed to accentuate the young boy's innocence and as the boy slept blissfully in Remus hold, the werewolf was getting more and more convinced that he was cradling an angel. So sweet was the child that he dreaded the moment he had to let him go.

Harry suddenly jerked awake two hours later and yelped when he discovered Remus holding him. The fact that the sky was dark didn't help to decrease his panic as he realized he was horribly late. Remus jumped too; he was deep in thought about how he would tell Harry about his true nature and how Harry would react to his newfound Godfather after all this.

"I've got to go!" Harry said desperately. Getting up to his feet, nearly stumbling over a twig, he ran halfway across the field before hesitating and turning to Remus who was hurriedly getting up.

"What is it?" Remus started to move towards the boy.

"What should I call you?" Harry asked uncertainly.

Remus stopped in his tracks and for a moment, they pair just stood there, about twenty meters apart with the velvety sky blinking above them. "Moony. I'm Moony."

Harry gave a small smile. "I'm Harry." Then he waved and turned, running back towards the Carltons residence.

"I know you are," said Remus softly. He glanced up at the sky and stared for a long while at the moon and the bright stars, enjoying the serenity offered before walking slowly back to the inn.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Yes, over there...nearly, nearly...yes, yes, that little button with 'Go' on it. Purplish. To your left a little...two more inches...CLICK!