Summary: The Dursleys' fear and hate of magic grows to a whole new level when four-year-old Harry arrives on the doorstep in a different state to which he left. Then the wards on Privet Drive alert Albus Dumbledore to an emergency … What will he find?

Rating: M

Warnings: Child abuse and abduction, language, angst

Disclaimer: My own take on the HP world. Deal with it.

Author's Notes: I'm not entirely sure where this fic is going, I just thought I'd make a start and see where it led me. I only decided to start because I was reading a vampire!Harry fic earlier and decided to work on this one as Cross My Heart isn't ready yet.

The Heart, Not the Shell

Chapter One

By Alexannah

It started out as an ordinary day. Harry woke by Aunt Petunia rapping on the cupboard door sharply, ordering him to get his lazy backside out of bed and start on breakfast. Harry took as long as possible to get dressed without invoking his aunt's wrath any more and started setting out plates on the table. He was too young to actually cook the food but she always made him watch it while she got Dudley out of bed and Uncle Vernon got ready for work in his suit and tie. (Harry personally thought he looked very silly in it, but dared not say so.)

It was a Saturday, so Harry didn't have to go to school. He didn't like school much. He'd started a few weeks ago and so far hadn't made any friends, and the teachers didn't seem to like him either. School just seemed like a place where he couldn't escape from Dudley and his friends. At least at Privet Drive (Harry had never thought of it as "home"), he was able to get out the house every now and then and walk to the swings. Dudley spent most of his time at friend's houses, so Harry wasn't often bothered there.

Like most weekends, Harry finished his chores (watching the breakfast, washing and drying up, loading the laundry and hosing down the car) and walked slowly over to the park. There were a few people there, mums and toddlers, and a couple of teenagers in a corner messing around with cigarettes. Harry sat on the end swing, slowly pushing himself up and down, watching the nearest couple of mothers with their prams.

They were talking about things Harry didn't understand, like news and politics and why men were so frustrating. A couple of things one said made Harry smile, thinking about Uncle Vernon, but otherwise he didn't think much, just watched the world go round.

He stayed away longer than usual. Most days he would go back at lunchtime and then after lunch (if the Dursleys let him have something), he would do a few more chores and then have a couple of hours locked in his cupboard to amuse himself before dinner (again, if they let him eat). Shortly after dinner was bed.

But today, Harry had been naughty. He had stolen a five-pound note from Aunt Petunia's purse when she had her back turned this morning. Harry had never been in possession of such a large (to him) amount of money, and decided to spend it quickly on something he could eat so there would be no evidence he'd taken it if Aunt Petunia found out it was missing. They would probably punish him anyway, but at least they wouldn't know for sure Harry had taken it, and he may not get such a heavy punishment from Uncle Vernon.

As it neared lunchtime, Harry walked to the corner shop. He knew the way well, having often been sent if the Dursleys had run out of milk, but he'd never been from the park before. He got lost a couple of times and had to ask a few people for directions, but eventually found it and stepped inside nervously.

There was a wide rage of sweets and chocolates on offer. Harry swallowed. It had seemed like such a good idea this morning, but what if someone saw him and mentioned it to Aunt Petunia? He'd be locked in the cupboard for weeks, and Uncle Vernon might beat him. He didn't often, he'd only done it a couple of times, but when he did it was horrible. The last time had been a few months ago and Harry hadn't been able to sit down for several days.

He shuddered, pushing the memory out of his mind. He wouldn't be caught. He had this chance to do something he wasn't normally allowed to do, it made sense to take it! Harry stared at the shelves for a few minutes, simply looking in wonder at the brightly-coloured wrappers, before slowly taking a bar of plain chocolate, and after a moment's hesitation, a small packet of mints. He had never tried actual mints before, but he'd had a lick of mint chocolate chip ice-cream before, and expected it to be a similar thing.

He held his breath while the woman at the till calculated the money and he paid her, waiting for her to ask him what he was doing buying sweets, but she just smiled at him and wished him good day. Harry just nodded and scooted out the shop hurriedly.

It would be too dangerous to go back to the swings, he decided, in case Dudley came looking for him. Instead he began to wander in the opposite direction, not really thinking about what he was going. After several minutes of just stroking the wrapper, Harry finally tore a corner and broke a square of chocolate off and put it in his mouth.

It was heavenly, so delicious Harry stopped in his tracks. It took several minutes for him to get used to it, and by that time he'd finished chewing the piece and swallowed it. He tore half the wrapper in his eagerness to eat another square.

Six pieces later, Harry was beginning to feel slightly sick. He'd discovered that sucking the squares was even nicer than just chewing, but not being used to rich foods, his stomach was protesting against the chocolate. He sadly folded the wrapper neatly and popped a mint into his mouth. It was much, much stronger than he'd expected, but nice, once he'd got over the surprise. He remembered when the Dursleys had eaten curry, and that it was very hot, but once you got over the hotness it was very good. He remembered sadly that his stomach hadn't liked that very much either. The Dursleys mostly fed him on leftovers and plain food like bread and cheese, so whenever he got to taste something special – which was rare – he felt slightly ill afterwards.

Two mints later (by now Harry had figured that they were much better sucked than crunched), he realised he hadn't the faintest idea where he was. The road was a strange one and there were no houses to be seen nearby.

I'm lost.

Harry shivered and sat down on the grass by the pavement, placing the mints and chocolate carefully by his side. He knew he would have to hide them – and the change from the note – very, very carefully when he got back to the Dursleys'.

A thought suddenly occurred to him. It was so unexpected, yet so simple, it stunned him. He was alone, with money, and the Dursleys didn't know where he was.

He could run away.

Harry didn't know why he hadn't thought of it before. He had never had a better chance to escape from the Dursleys', and such a chance would never come again. He'd never thought about it before because he knew in the big world you needed money, and he'd never had access to more than a few pence before. But now, he had at least two whole pounds, which to his young mind seemed like a huge amount. By the time Harry had thought all this, he had stood up and was jumping up and down cheering happily. Some people in a car passing looked at him strangely but he barely noticed. He just knew today was the day he would get away from his horrible relatives, and need never see them again.

Albus Dumbledore rubbed his eyes in frustration, trying desperately to ignore the persistent prickling feeling behind them. It wasn't even dinnertime yet but he was dog-tired and desperate for just a few blissful minutes of sleep. He had been working harder than usual because his deputy, Minerva McGonagall, had decided to take a well-earned holiday and his workload had suddenly increased by a vast amount, especially as he was now teaching Transfiguration as well as running the school.

"Another down," he muttered to himself, moving the marked essay off his pile, "twenty to go."

He groaned. His head was pounding uncomfortably and he could no longer concentrate. Pushing the untidy stack of work aside, Albus reached for a sherbet lemon, keeping his eyes closed against the flurry of colour and movement of his office. He had nothing against bright colours and animation – he liked them – but it did give him a headache sometimes.

"Severus," he said out loud. Grabbing the Floo powder, almost knocking the essays off in the process, he threw it into the fire and called the Potion Master's name.

Seconds later, Severus Snape appeared in the fire.

"Can I do something for you, Albus?"

"You don't have a headache potion going spare do you, Severus?"

"Well …" Snape thought. "Yes, I think I do. Hold on a moment." Hid head disappeared and a few moments later that seemed like a lifetime to Albus he reappeared fully, brushing soot off his robes, a welcome bottle in his hand. Albus took it without even thanking him and downed it.

"Watch it, Albus. That's all I have, and you know those take a month to brew."

"I know," Albus put the half-empty vial down on his desk. "Thank you, Severus."

Snape surveyed him critically. "Work catching up on you?"

"Yes." Albus sighed. "I think I owe Minerva an apology."

"For what?"

Albus gestured at the cluttered desk. "Taking her for granted. I never realised how much she did as Deputy Headmistress. I never had that much to do when Armando was headmaster."

"Mm." Severus held out his hand. "The potion, Albus?"

"Oh, sorry. Sherbet lemon?" Albus offered as he handed the vial back, a twinkle in his eye as he knew what the answer would be.

Snape merely snorted and turned back to the fire, grabbing the Floo powder again.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Harry's joy had worn off. He had caught a bus into the next town and had been thrown off (fortunately not literally) when the two pounds sixty, which he'd thought was a lot, had run out. The people on the bus had watched him strangely the whole journey, and Harry knew it was because he was little, which he got annoyed about. Adults didn't like children staring at them, so why should they be allowed to stare at kids? It wasn't fair.

He kicked a loose piece of pebble and watched it roll away. He didn't have a watch and couldn't tell the time anyway, but knew it was getting late. The Dursleys would have already had lunch and probably done all his chores for him by now. They would be furious when he got back.

But Harry didn't know how to get back. He had abandoned the idea of running away now. He thought miserably that he'd never ever be able to get away from his relatives. The longer he stayed away, the crosser Uncle Vernon would be, and the more likely he would be to beat him. Harry stopped as his eyes filled with tears and he couldn't see where he was going. Someone bumped into him from behind and he hastily moved to one side, muttering an apology.

"Are you alright?"

Harry looked up. A complete stranger was staring at him with apparent concern.

"I'm fine," he lied, "thanks." He quickly started walking in the other direction.

A few minutes later a car stopped by him. Harry watched as a man wound the tinted window down, wincing at the bright daylight, and leaned out slightly to talk to him.

"Your mum asked me to bring you home, kid."

Harry stared at him before replying slowly, "My mum's dead. I live with my aunt."

The man looked taken aback before hastily correcting himself, "I'm sorry, I meant your aunt. Hop in."

Harry looked at the stranger warily. He thought the Dursleys would have come to get him personally. Who was this man, and why had they sent him? He looked up and down the street but no-one was taking any notice of them – at all, in fact. They simply passed him as if he wasn't there. Normally there would be the odd person muttering "Excuse me" or "Sorry" if they knocked him.

"Who are you?" he asked warily.

"I'm a friend of your aunt's," the man smiled, convincingly. Harry noticed he didn't smile very widely though. "Come on, hop in the car. I promised your aunt I'd take you home."

Harry backed away nervously. He didn't like this man. He turned and started to run, but a moment later a pair of cold hands belonging to the man found their way on his shoulders in a firm grip. He struggled, crying out, but froze as something cold and metal pressed itself to his throat.

"Get in the car," the man hissed.

Harry cast his eyes around desperately. No-one seemed to notice he was being attacked, threatened and kidnapped in the middle of a crowded street. They paid him no attention whatsoever, not even blinking. He began to panic as the man forced him backwards towards the car.

"Good boy. Now get in, and stay silent."


Note about reviewing: Please, for the love of Merlin, do not review simply to tell me to update! I get it all the time and am sick of it. If you review, please say what it is you did or didn't like, and bulk out your review as much as possible. Make it worth the review alert, please! As always I love guesses where the story is headed and what I'm going to do next, and helpful suggestions are always welcomed. Don't flame.