Thank you to everyone who reviewed and faved! I'm amazed at how many people seem to enjoy this story. It means a lot that so many of you are sticking with this fic after all this time.

0…0…0…0…0…0…0

Ron pushed against the walls of his mind, trying to escape the nightmares that replayed themselves in front of his glassy eyes. He knew he was in the hospital. He knew he'd been taken there after Draco Malfoy finally turned traitor and broke him out. It had been a strange three years. After his capture, he had been held in a dark cell. It was damp, and filthy, and so was he. Faceless men tortured him daily for information, threatening his family, his friends, anyone. Hermione may have had the brains, and Harry the nerve, but Ron had always had the imagination. He was also much smarter than anyone had thought he was. He gave them a series of very well-thought-out lies, lies that took months to uncover. It was all strategy, and Ron was a very good strategist.

He was also motivated. He had people who needed him. His brothers, his mum, Ginny, Harry…and Hermione needed him. His sweet, beautiful wife-he wasn't even used to calling her that. She was alone. She would have his family, but he knew what he meant to her. He knew that all the worth he never saw in himself, she did. She had loved him enough to marry him at eighteen, when he had no money or skills (though she vehemently denied the latter). She had told him that she only wanted him, forever. No matter what, he would give her that…well, unless he died. So, Ron made a decision to live. He had led the Death Eaters astray for years, telling them stories that bordered on the ridiculous.

The questioning began the day after his arrival. He had known what was coming, so he'd stayed up all night making the framework for a web of deceit that would run the devil bow-legged. He thought of what Voldemort would want more than Harry…immortality, of course. Everyone wants that, and everyone already knew he was after it. So, presumably, what he feared most was death…or defeat. So the logical conclusion was to make his opponent invincible. He needed to believe that Harry was seeking it too. It was easy once he got going. For over two months, he said nothing. He couldn't reveal anything too quickly. He just conditioned himself to select what people would see when they probed into his mind. It was as difficult as Harry said it was, but he got better at it. He carefully planned when his mind would "slip". When September arrived, and with it Hermione's birthday (he thought it an appropriate gift), he carefully baited the questioner with the ease of someone who grew up with six siblings (he'd have to thank Fred and George). Before the cloaked figure had even entered his cell, he spoke.

"Don't you scum realize I'm not telling you anything?" The man did not reply. He went through the same routine that all the others had. Soundproofing, locking, cloaking the room with a strange black curtain. Ron nearly smirked. He was, after all, a high-profile prisoner. He painted the picture in his mind, carefully layering it behind the wall he always built up. His mental protection had a flaw today, quite intentionally. Anyone with any skill would find it, and break through it. It would present itself as concern for his father and mother. It was the most obvious and believable chink he could put in his armor that wouldn't result in the exploitation of the person he was most worried about. Beneath that he put fear. Fear that Voldemort would find what Harry was looking for.

Ron was not dishonest by nature, so it took a great deal of effort to stop the truth from rising above the façade. Harry was not searching for anything at the moment, except the Horcruxes. But he focused on a weapon. He hadn't decided what that would be yet, but he had an idea. The masked Death Eater did not speak to him, just pointed his wand at Ron's forehead and, in what could barely pass as a whisper, said the spell that would begin the interrogation.

"Legilimens." Ron fought back respectably. He couldn't give in too easily. Once he was giving in more than defending, and he knew his tormentor thought he was on the ropes, he flashed the first image. It was of his mother crying. Second- his father holding back an attack on the Burrow…alone. Third- the Dark Mark over the house. He let the fear and pain wash over him, and pushed back against the intrusion. After half a minute, he gave in. Ron showed a glimpse of Harry in the library at Hogwarts, surrounded by thick volumes, then an image of a map of the world. Harry connected a pin located in London to one in northern Scotland, then to France. He then pushed his attacker out with all his might. He was dizzy from the effort. He hadn't eaten in days. The figure stood, seeming satisfied with the progress. Ron was careful to look properly terrified and enraged.

"Bloody, sodding filth." Ron muttered. The wizard walked toward him and set a small parcel down. Inside was a Pumpkin Pasty. A neatly-written note read, It isn't poisoned or anything .Ron stared at the food, weighing the risks. He waited for the Death Eater left before breaking off a crumb and placing it in front of one of the rats that had taken up residence in his cell.

"Better you than me, mate. Sorry." He said, as the rat ate. After he was quite sure the rat was going to be ok, he dared a small bite. It was heaven. His stomach growled in protest when it was gone. Ron curled up on the threadbare blanket in the corner, imagining the small cottage he had built for Hermione, and the soft bed inside it. He imagined her warm body next to his, and for a moment, he wasn't so cold anymore.