Authors Note: Hermione is narcissistic, Ginny is delusional, Remus is absent.

Ron and Harry have a close bond that allows them to sense each other's limits and needs, and therefore act accordingly. Ron will know that Harry is now very sexual, and will feel comfortable interacting with him in that manner in order to provide a safe person for Harry to do that with, and Harry will know Ron is a sadist, and may indulge him in that way.

Warnings: Mental torture. Also, I'm setting Ginny up for a fairly large fall. I don't like her.

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.

Excerpt from the book 'The Maturing Wizard' written by Lord Jonas Flint, 1955

Well-blooded magicals come into magical maturity at the age of sixteen, when their cores mature and they develop into themselves as human beings. If the Wizarding world only consisted of such wizards, the legal age of magic use would be sixteen- as decreed by magic.

Instead, the prevalence of coreless mud-bloods in our society has forced the law to push the legal age of magic usage back a year, to the age that our children graduate.

XxX

Harry awoke because he couldn't breathe.

Straight away, he knew that Ron had never left, and had somehow fallen asleep on top of him instead. He didn't mind; in fact, this was the first time he had slept more than four hours for several years. But still, he couldn't breathe.

He pushed Ron off his ribcage, where he curled beside Harry instead, wrapping one firm arm around Harry's waist, which he used to drag him closer. Harry chuckled breathlessly, and let himself relax.

Nobody could enter this room without his permission. He felt warm and safe, and powerful; his magic had settled into his skin comfortably, but he could still feel it- ready to leap to his aid should he need it.

Judging from the light that streamed from the windows, it was morning already. Soon- whether he wanted it or not- somebody would be sent to make sure he came down to breakfast.

He was contemplating the benefits of waking Ron up now versus in 10 minutes, when he felt Ron groan and pull away slightly.

"Too early," came Ron's voice, muffed by Harry's neck. "Make the sun go away."

Harry snorted, and pulled completely out of Ron's hold.

"I'm flattered by your faith in my abilities Ron," he said, "but I'm afraid it's just a little too far out of my reach."

Ron groaned again and sat up slowly, glaring blearily at the sunlight. He turned to Harry as the brunet slipped from the bed, walking over to the wardrobe to rummage inside for clothing.

"What are you doing?" Ron groused. "Come back here and keep me warm."

Harry chuckled.

"I'm going to have a shower before your mother insists we go down to eat. I'd rather be bathed and clothed wouldn't you?"

He ran warm eyes over Ron's freckled chest and grinned slowly.

"You could always join me in the hot water if my body heat is so essential."

Ron blushed lightly and tried to pull his eyes away from Harry's hand, which had been gliding closer to his pubic area with each word. He watched as pale hands stroked and pulled his friend to hardness.

"I'm still sore from last night." Ron breathed." But I could…you know- with my mouth."

Harry laughed cheerfully and strode swiftly over to the redhead on the bed, whom he pulled into a tight embrace.

"How about a normal shower? You wash my back, I wash yours, and neither of us goes any further than that."

Ron relaxed a little and nodded dumbly, watching as Harry pulled away and walked towards the bathroom, the muscles in his back and thighs moving powerfully beneath his skin as he did so.

Harry stopped in the doorway and turned to face Ron.

"Are you coming, Mr Straight-man?"

Ron snorted, and swung his feet over and out of the bed, wincing a little at the pain in his backside. He waved off Harry's concerned look and took confident steps towards the bathroom.

"You're an exception Harry. But before anything else, you're my best mate. Well actually, you're my Magical Lord before anything else, but you know…"

Harry smiled softly and clasped his friend on the shoulder when they drew even.

"Your friendship is all I need Ron, but I'll accept anything you want to offer."

They shared a brief moment of profound silence before Ron chuckled, and gestured for Harry to precede him into the bathroom.

The door swung closed quietly, and locked with a brief flash of magic. Neither Harry nor Ron noticed the mark that had appeared on Ron at the conclusion of that brief conversation- but they would in a few days.

XxX

When Harry opened the bedroom door, he found Ginny standing with one hand raised to knock.

She took in the sight of Harry- who wore rich green robes- and Ron- who had dressed in a pair of black slacks and a blue, button up shirt that he had borrowed from Harry- and felt both lust and embarrassment. Lust for the striking figure Harry cut and embarrassment for her own faded jeans and t-shirt; especially when her own brother, the messiest out of all of them, outclassed her.

She had only caught a glimpse of Harry when he had stepped from the floo yesterday, and all she saw was blood. Her mother had kept her confined to her room for the rest of the night, and this was the first time she had seen him properly since school. The change in eye colour was perhaps the most shocking difference, and while they suited his darker demeanour very well, they made something in her flinch when he looked at her. He looked nothing like he had, and nothing like the world had predicted, but Ginny still found herself aching for him.

She opened her mouth to say something intelligent or hopefully charming, but what came out instead was a decidedly indignant,

"What are you wearing?"

Ron, the one to whom this comment was directed, flicked a look at Harry and faced his sister fully.

"Clothing, Ginny. The same thing I wear every day."

His sister began to turn red and ball her fists, so he decided to take pity on her.

"Harry leant me some of his clothing so that I didn't have to change back into my old clothing. I stayed the night."

Ginny frowned. Nothing Ron had said was rude or dismissive, but something about the way he spoke and stood rubbed her the wrong way. Maybe it was the fact that in those clothes Ron looked the part of a pureblood, which he never had before. Maybe it was the straightness of his stance or the distant politeness in his voice, but she felt she was being judged in some manner, and not very flatteringly.

She looked at Harry again, shoving Ron's strangeness to the back of her mind, and smiled coyly.

"Mum says to come down for breakfast now. You need your energy after last night."

Harry and Ron smiled odd smiles, and Harry nodded slightly.

"Lead the way Ginny, if you please," he murmured, and Ginny took note that even his voice had changed. It was smoother than it used to be.

She blushed a little as he rested a hand in the small of her back, and walked her down the hallway and stairs to the kitchen. She stood proudly as her mother caught sight of them and blushed when her mother gave her an approving smile.

Ginny sat next to her mother and eyed the empty chair next to her with an air of expectation, but Harry had already walked past her and to the other side of the table, where he and Ron then proceeded to sit down.; she flushed when they continued talking without even looking in her direction once. A newly arrived Hermione sat down in the seat she had been saving and proceeded to hiss indignantly in her ear.

Why was Harry talking to Ron and not her?

Why had Harry killed his uncle, surely being beaten wasn't worth death?

Where was Dumbledore? Where was Snape?

How dare Ron act so estranged from her when he had been perfectly normal before Harry came?

Ginny listened half-heartedly, nodding when she thought Hermione wanted it and making vague noises of agreement every few sentences. On her other side her mother was sending Ronald exasperated gazes and trying to talk to him about his clothing, while her father sighed and ate his porridge. Every now and then he would glance at Ron with an alien expression on his face, before taking another mouthful.

She ignored all of this. She ignored the frenzied tornado of resentment that was her brother's love interest; the way her mother would pat her on the knee with a damp, heavy hand; her father and brother's strange behaviour.

She ignored everything but the dryness in her mouth and the thudding her chest that said:

There he is-my Mr right.

She had been raised as the only girl in a tribe of boys. She had been spoilt and coddled and loved fiercely by both parents, as no other sibling had- she was the first Weasley girl born in 120 years. Most of all, she had been raised on a daily diet of fairy tales, wherein the boy-who-lived and his beautiful red-haired princess saved the day and lived happily ever after.

Harry and her belonged together.

XxX

Harry and Ron were discussing the situation with Hermione, when the mail came.

The Weasley's old owl Errol came barrelling in, supported by Harry's own owl, who was clacking her beak tiredly. Hedwig steered Errol over to Molly, before flopping to the table and hopping over to Harry, leaving overturned jam jars and sugar bowls in her wake.

She stood in front of him and stared at him with wide yellow eyes, before chuffing in relief and fluttering up to sit on his shoulder. She spent a moment checking his face for injuries or major differences with her wings, before turning and finally accepting the bacon Harry held out.

Harry smiled and was softly stroking her stomach with a finger when Molly let out a gasp.

"You poor boy!"

She dropped the unread paper to the table and hurried around the table to heave an irritated Harry to her bosom. Potter heir abused by muggles! glared up at him in thick black lettering from the front page, below which was a picture of him as he had exited the trial chamber, covered in blood. He hadn't been aware of any reporters, but wasn't surprised that they had been present somehow. He was surprised that they had focused primarily on him being the Potter heir instead of the boy-who-lived, but assumed the prophet must be cautious after his inheritance. Who knows what he was entitled to? He certainly didn't.

Molly already knew of what had happened, even if she hadn't known the details, so Harry was bemused by her sudden bout of motherly affection. She hadn't even read the whole article, which was now being consumed by a pale Hermione.

"They released the whole trial Harry!"

She sounded worried, but her eyes tore across the paper in avid interest. Harry cleared his throat, and managed to pry Mrs Weasley off him. Ginny had stood and was making her way around the table as well, with an acute expression of sympathy and sadness glossing her features; Harry could almost see the light that surrounded her in a fuzzy halo- the type sickly patients had, not angels.

He heard Ron snort and suddenly found himself pulled from his chair and onto Ron's lap. Ginny stopped short about an arm's length away, and grit her teeth as Ron began rubbing Harry's back and bemoaning Harry's fate in a loud, wavering voice. Hedwig had barely kept her place on Harry's shoulder during the sudden movement, and found herself tumbling off as Harry turned his face into Ron's chest and began to laugh silently. She hit Harry's head with her wing as she was forced to take flight again, and glided over to land on a suddenly present Snape's shoulder, barking at Ginny as she passed.

Snape paused in his stride to stare at the owl. Both owl and man refused to break eye contact, and with a roll of his eyes, Severus continued to his seat. He fed the owl his toast as he watched the hullabaloo absently.

He had already read the newspaper at Lucius's, and was suitably justified by the amount of information revealed. The minister was obviously treading carefully due to his upcoming trial, and was being as truthful as possible without coming across as the bad man.

According to the minister, Heir Potter had always been powerful and influential, and despite what he had confessed under veritaserum, he had acted with only his nation's best interests in mind. He had a great respect for Heir Potter, and meant no disrespect or dishonour by what had occurred. He wished only the best for the young wizard, and hoped they would work together in the future. He was also very sorry for what had happened to him.

The trial was printed verbatim as well, and was illustrated with pictures taken during the trial. There was a particularly striking one of Lucius and Potter shaking hands, and anyone with a discerning eye could see the strength present in both men, even if one appeared as a tall, blood-drenched and masculine woman. If one looked closer, they could see the slight tilt of Lucius's head in respect, but he imagined that most wouldn't- certainly, it was unbelievable.

At present, the Weasley girl was scolding her brother for mocking what she was sure was very traumatic for Harry. Her mother was nodding along severely, and her father was staring impassively at the ceiling. Granger- that annoying know-it-all- was several pages into the paper, and was tutting softly under her breath at each paragraph. Surely she was berating someone in her head; the paper for publishing it; the journalist for the style of writing; the minister, or Lucius- perhaps even Potter. He was quite sure she wasn't mocking Dumbledore, though he didn't doubt she occasionally had lapses when she did- very small lapses that she immediately felt horrible about; if nothing else, the girl had a thing for authority.

Eventually, Potter turned to Ginny with a careful, polite expression on his face and spoke slowly and calmly.

"Ginny, I'm terribly sorry, but I'm beginning to get a headache and I've plum run out of potions for them. I knew the trial would be published to this extent, I was prepared for it. I banked on it."

"You wanted this to happen?" interrupted Hermione, "this is terrible! Why would you want everybody to know that you were abused- especially to the extent you were! Everybody will treat you differently now. For goodness sake- everyone will know you're a murderer!"

Silence settled heavily over the table, and Harry gingerly climbed out of Ron's lap and back into his own chair. Even Snape had stopped eating, and was looking at Hermione.

When Harry spoke, his voice was completely empty of emotion.

"Hermione," he began quietly, "I understand that you are a muggleborn. I understand that the laws on inheritance are not easy to find, which I admit may be a fault that needs correcting, but surely such a clever witch as you had the foresight to do your research before making such heavy accusations?"

Hermione turned red and leaned forward to speak, ignoring the insistent tugging of a quickly returned Ginny on her sleeve.

"Accusations Harry? You killed your uncle. A fact is a fact. Inheritance or not, there is never an excuse for murder."

Ginny had stopped the tugging, and was backing away from her friend to stand beside her mother a few seats away; both were bone-white and speechless.

"Hermione." Ron had stood up and was standing in front of his seat with narrowed eyes, "you have no idea what you're talking about! So for once, why don't you stay quiet, and-"

"Ron."

Harry's soft voice could barely be heard, but Ron immediately stopped talking and sat back down. He continued to look at Hermione with an outraged expression, but stayed silent and in place as Harry rested a calming hand on his knee.

"Hermione, despite your common ignorance, you are still one of my best friends." Harry placed a long-fingered hand over his heart, ignoring the anger that boiled in her eyes. "I will not argue with you over whether it was justified- my magic did it in my stead, at a time where I was not capable of debating its justification. I will not argue with you over whether I am a murderer- by definition, a murderer is a person who takes a life with premeditated malice, and despite it all, would you truly say that of me? If you were informed, you would know that not a force in the Wizarding world would blame me- bar ignorant muggleborns- and it disappoints me to know that you are one.

I am hurt that you have not sought to comfort me for what you know now was occurring, and disappointed that your first thought was to condemn me.

I wanted the truth to be printed for various reasons.

I am the boy-who-lived, and a victim of abuse. Perhaps now, people who keep quiet about such things will realise that it can happen to anyone, that it is not their fault, and that there is no shame in asking for help; just because my pleas went unheard does not mean I stopped trying."

In Harry's eyes was truth and rage, and Ron squeezed the hand that still rested on his knee.

"Similarly, I have had slander printed about me for years. Nobody has been sure of the truth of who I am, and for once, they have facts to base their opinion on.

What bad can come of this being printed that will affect me? Tell me rationally, and I'll listen."

Hermione had deflated a little, and was now staring at Harry with wet eyes; regardless, she still opened her mouth and dug a deeper hole.

"How dare you," she breathed forcefully, "demean muggleborns like that? You of all people should know what it is like coming into this world with no prior knowledge or instruction!"

Harry exhaled heavily.

"I accuse you of being unfeeling, uninformed and lacking rationality, and you choose to debate my political correctness? Hermione, I came into this world- not wanting to change it as you do, but to understand it. I am a wizard, not a muggle. You can have a foot in both worlds, but it's folly to apply the laws and customs of one to the other."

Hermione might have said something else, but someone had the foresight to silence her. Harry blinked a few times heavily and rolled his neck, then smiled charmingly; his black eyes gleamed dangerously, a strange thing in his amiable expression.

"Merlin, all that debate has made me hungry again- would you mind making some more toast Molly, I'm feeling a little weak still."

Molly nodded, and both she and Ginny disappeared into the kitchen, Ginny holding her mother's hand and talking to her softly. Arthur was once again disregarding everything, and began trying to talk to Snape about muggle herbs in potions. Surprisingly, Snape was accommodating him and found the red head to be a fan of his work, which was strange in itself. Apparently the redhead –who had been several years ahead of him in school-, had gone through a stage where he had been as avid about potions as he now was about muggle appliances.

Hermione was ignoring everyone, and had picked up the newspaper to finish reading it. She would stare at Harry furiously every now and then, and then at Ron with honest betrayal, before remembering herself and going back to the paper.

It was all very dramatic to Harry, who had truly expected Hermione to have the sense to keep her bias to herself. He found himself almost hurt by her dramatics, but Ron placed a hidden hand teasingly on his crotch, and the emotion was demolished by amusement as he rolled his eyes at his friends attempt at comfort.

He knew Ron was straight, but apparently he was very willing to bend a little. He ran a thumb over the blade of his knife gently until it bled, and pretended not to notice as Ron's eye's glazed over and his hand pressed down a little harder.

To be honest, he knew 'his plan' concerning Vernon would have consequences on his new psyche, but he was interested by the direction his deviation had matured.

He felt a heady sense of power over Ron in this second, and an overwhelming sensation of arousal; he pressed his thumb steadily into the knife until it began to bleed copiously, and flicked the blood provocatively on the table until Ron let out a moan.

Molly, who had just left the kitchen, stared oddly at Ron for a second, before seeing the blood on Harry's hand, and rushing towards him.

Ron quickly removed his hand, placing it hurriedly on his lap and clenching his slacks with white knuckles.

"Harry dear, whatever happened?"

Harry gently tugged his hand from where she had snatched it up and was inspecting it, and carefully wiped it on his napkin.

"I heard a noise-perhaps Kreacher- and jumped a little. My hand slipped."

He ignored her attempts to pick it up again, and stood. Ron stood with him.

"I'm going to go and clean it with water Mrs Weasley. If I think it needs a potion, I'll be sure to come and find you. Perhaps Professor Snape, if he allows."

Snape nodded curtly, which Harry took as a glowing acceptance, and so he turned to leave.

"Take Ginny with you dear, you might need help bandaging it or double checking it. A second opinion is always wise."

Harry pretended to think it over.

"I didn't leave my bathroom in the best state Mrs Weasley. I wouldn't like Ginny to think I'm untidy."

Molly's eyes had tightened at the mention of Harry's room, but she persevered.

"I'm sure there's another bathroom that's clean, dear."

Harry nodded, "yes, but I was going to go back to my room anyway. I'm sorry for wasting the toast Mrs Weasley, but I think I need a nap."

Molly gave a reluctant nod, and let Harry leave unobstructed.

"I'm taking Ron with me Mrs Weasley- don't worry, I'll be fine."

Molly pretended to be relieved, while Ginny couldn't hide her disappointment.

XxX

The rest of the day had passed in a similar manner, with Hermione ignoring Harry at every meal, and Ron blatantly disregarding her attempts to talk to him. Harry was writing a list of things to do, and couldn't be bothered even pretending her silence hurt him. As far as things stood, her opinion was irrelevant.

Snape had left after lunch and left the Weasleys, Hermione and Harry alone in the house.

Ginny had tried a few times to talk to Harry about what had happened, but eventually he had told her that in no uncertain terms would he talk about it, let alone with the little sister of his best friend.

She had flushed a horrible red colour and rushed from the library in tears. Ron, from his place beside Harry on the loveseat had snorted, and then shrugged at Harry's questioning expression.

"She's always had an inflated sense of herself. She's the only girl of seven kids- she grew up thinking she was special."

Harry nodded, and went back to his list, but not ten minutes later Hermione came storming in, already certain in her righteousness.

Ron automatically stood and moved towards her, but at Harry's silent request, he diverted around her and walked to the library door instead. She was too incensed to notice.

Ron silently summoned Kreacher, whom Harry had introduced him formally to after breakfast, and had the elf lock and silence the door. Kreacher took one look at the angry mud-blood, his calm Master, the Master's redhead, and retreated into the shadow of a bookshelf to watch.

By now, Hermione had reached Harry's chair, and was yelling at Harry about his callousness. Ron was almost in awe of her selective blindness, and felt slightly ill at the fact that he had been worse at times. He felt ill at the underserved things she was shouting at Harry, and had to force himself to stay where he was.

"How dare you treat Ginny like that? She's a human being, a person who just wanted to help! What gives you the right to demean her like that?"

Little by little, Ron watched as Hermione questioned every positive aspect of Harry's person, and was sure that her indignation over the events of breakfast was spilling over into her current grievance.

It began to darken a little, and Ron stared with wide eyes as the candle nearest him spat violently, and sizzled out.

He could hear a low buzzing in the back of his head, and tore his eyes away from the dead candle to stare in alarm at Harry, whose hair had fallen out of its ribbon, and was falling in front of his face like a rippling shield.

Hermione was still talking, but even she had realised that something unusual was happening, and was attempting to bring her argument to a close.

She spat one last anxious condemnation at Harry and turned to leave, but before she could even catch a glimpse of Ron by the door, she found herself held in place.

"Hermione." Harry crooned.

"Darling, precious, Her-mi-one."

He had stood, and his hands were clenching her shoulders tightly, digging painfully into the skin and preventing all movement. She let out a high pitched noise of pain, and Ron found himself shifting breathlessly by the door.

"Won't you let me tell you my side, Her-mi-one?"

She found herself pushed into the seat he had been sitting in. She tried to stand back up, but something seemed to hold her in place.

Several feet away, Ron could see the shadows that hooked slyly into her clothing and hair, but focused more on Harry, who had glided around the back of the love seat, and was whispering smoothly in her ear.

"Hermione, my Hermione. Lover of Knowledge, yes? Lover of factsss."

Hermione flinched at the hiss, and began crying. She had no idea what was happening, but she was terrified. The air around her was heavy and cold, and with every breath she took, her head throbbed and her thoughts became just a bit more hazy.

She could feel Harry stroking her hair with gentle fingers, and that more than anything, caused her to fear.

"My righteous Hermione, so sure of herself; there is never an excuse for murder is there, Hermione?"

Ron jumped as a shadow leapt from the corner beside him and raced towards Harry, shimmering and turning into the silhouette of a beautiful little girl. The girl had a head full of wild, springy ringlets, and tiny, chubby hands. Ron knew, somehow, that this was Hermione as a child.

The shadow, child-Hermione, giggled and clung to her counterpart's legs, burbling an endless, wordless litany of words.

Hermione, the real one, tried to reach a hand out to the child, to scream at it to run away- to leave at once, but her lips were rubber and lead, and she couldn't speak.

Harry cooed, and the child cooed back, and Hermione began crying even harder, wanting to close her eyes and turn away.

"Weren't you beautiful Hermione? Look at how happy you were- how sweet. What if someone else had noticed that, someone meant to love you; to protect you. What if they wanted that All. To . Themselves?"

Another shadow faded into existence- a man with Hermione's face and hair.

"Say hello to Daddy Granger little Hermione."

The little shadow laughed and ran to her father, letting him pick her up and swing her in the air. Ron watched the two play for a while, ignoring the grim smile Kreacher had on his face in favour of watching Harry place gentle kisses on Hermione's hair.

It was a lovely moment between father and daughter, ruined only by Hermione's muffed tears and aborted movements. Without warning, the air began audibly buzzing. A wind began to whistle through the shelves, brushing fingers so cold they burned against any bared limb.

The shadows, which before had seemed so happy, were darkening and sharpening, sending random spikes of blackness out to lash at the books and carpet.

The tall shadow- the man- was expanding and absorbing the smaller one, which was flickering and struggling to get away. Panic and pain consumed everyone in the room; even Kreacher was standing more stiffly.

The strange wind crept up behind everyone and whispered unanswered secrets in throbbing ears; the sounds were quiet and high and completely foreign, but all Ron could hear was crying. His heart trembled in sorrow, and he flicked his eyes to a blank-faced, dead-eyed Harry.

The wind picked up, the taller shadow grew larger, and suddenly with a horrible, hopeless cry, the small shadow vanished.

All at once, the lights flickered back on.

Hermione found herself free to move and free to breathe, and found herself lying face down on the floor when she stood.

"Hermione, are you all right?"

"Don't touch me!"

Harry was kneeling beside her, reaching out a hand to help her up.

"Hermione, wha-"

"I said get away from me!"

Harry did, moving backwards slowly with both hands raised palm forward.

"Are you alright Hermione? You fell pretty hard."

He pointed to a pile of books at her feet, and the marble floor they rested on.

She laughed, and pushed herself to her feet. Her head was still quite clouded and slow, but she knew what he was trying to do.

"You won't fool me. I know what you did."

She stumbled a little, and leant heavily on a bookshelf as she recovered her balance.

"You did something to me!"

She gagged a little, and rubbed her stomach with her free hand, trying to think through her burning throat and hazy mind.

"Go and get Mrs Weasley Ron, I think she has a concussion."

She saw who must have been Ron, nod and leave through the door, pausing to talk to something first.

"Hermione."

Harry had come up behind her and was supporting her with his shoulder.

"Come on Hermione, we'll get you to the kitchen."

She struggled, she truly did, but her movements were weak and sluggish.

In the end, Harry ended up picking her up and cradling her like she was a child. He walked slowly towards the doorway where he stopped, and she picked up brief pieces of a conversation during periods of lucidness.

Harry whispered something to her, something that made her insides tremble and her panic spike, but all she knew then was a flash of light and gentle fingers in her hair.

Somewhere in the shadows, a child laughed.

XxX

A/N The next chapter will be a trip to the bank and to Diagon Alley in general. The one after that might be their return to Hogwarts.