Ron was drenched in sweat and twitching in Hermione's arms. His breathing was rapid and ragged but at least he wasn't thrashing and screaming anymore.
It had been awful.
She had felt the tension seizing up his body and couldn't get through to him to relax before his body arched away from hers and he began to cry out in agony. She had no doubt about the cause of his pain, it was the Cruciatus curse. She tried to think back to what she had wanted, what she'd needed after she had been tormented with it by Bellatrix Lestrange, but all she could remember was how much she had wanted it to stop.
She cradled Ron in her arms and kissed his forehead.
"It's over, it's stopped now, you're safe." She whispered into his face, shakily.
He needed to be treated by a Healer, he'd been hit with an unforgivable curse but it hadn't struck his physical body, it had concentrated on his brain.
"Gi-Gin!" Ron croaked before coughing, his vocal chords raw from the screaming.
Hermione reached out for a glass of water and brought it to his lips.
"Drink this, drink it all down," Hermione said, keeping her voice as soft as possible, cautious that loud noises would cause him more pain in his head.
As Ron gulped and spilled water down his chin, clumsily, the door boomed open and Lionel and another male Healer rushed into the room and froze at the sight before them. Ron sputtered on the water and Hermione moved the glass away and set it back down again. Lionel moved closer and looked into Ron's eyes before picking up his empty, trembling hand.
"Cruciatus," he muttered to himself before turning to his colleague, "he's been hit with the Cruciatus curse. Get the nerve potions, now!"
"He was-" Hermione began but Lionel ignored her and examined Ron's face, lighting the tip of his wand and shining it into his eyes, mouth and then up is long nose.
"Episkey!" The stern looking man hissed as he flicked the wand into Ron's face.
"What are you...?" Hermione blinked, she'd seen no blood.
"Nose bleed, all the small blood vessels had ruptured, his eyes are whitening again now. How did this happen?"
"He was...he was talking to his sister," Hermione said, her own voice faltering with emotion now, "talking to her up here."
Hermione tapped the side of Ron's head with her finger. Ron winced and gasped and Hermione made a tiny sound at the back of her throat before holding him to her and kissing his head through his damp hair.
"Oh I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, it'll be all right. Lionel's going to fix you up."
The stern man held his fierce demeanour before relaxing a little and lifting Ron's hand, the hand that loosely clutched the Deluminator, and held it before the pale face of his patient.
"Did you use this, Ron?"
Ron shook his head, very slowly.
"Use it now," Lionel said with a nod of encouragement.
Ron swallowed and then licked his lips before speaking.
"We can alert people to whatever has happened after we take care of you," Lionel said with impatience, "now activate it and let it heal you. That curse was concentrated on your brain and there's nobody better at healing your brain that you are."
"I need," Ron said, grimacing, "to give Harry...Harry has to...She's gonna kill him!"
Hermione pointed her wand at the open door and focused everything she had on the fact that Ron was with her, alive and not irreversibly damaged, and cast a Patronus message for Harry. The silver otter darted out through the door and she hoped that he'd not gone too far away since he had left them alone.
"Miss Granger!" Lionel huffed.
"I'm here to give him whatever he needs and he said he needed Harry," Hermione said fiercely, "now where are the potions he needs to take to make him feel better?"
Lionel looked from Hermione to Ron and then nodded.
"We'll have words once he's been properly treated," he said as he rushed out of the room to assist the other Healer.
Ron struggled to sit up but Hermione curled her arms around his waist and held him to her body.
"Lie still, don't move, your joints will be too painful to support you for a while."
Ron shook his head and then groaned at the throbbing it caused.
"No, body's fine, s'just my head. I channelled the curse into my head so Ginny could keep fighting but...but..."
"She'll be fine, Ron," Hermione said, soothingly as she stroked his damp hair away from his clammy face.
"She won't if she kills him! She won't if she tortures him," Ron blurted, panic increasing the speed of his breaths again, "I felt it before the connection broke. She's...she's... She felt me suffering and she's going to punish him for it."
Hermione bit back the first thought in her head, 'good', and realised why Ron needed Harry so badly.
"You have to get Harry to stop her," Hermione said as she held Ron against her chest and tried to get him to mirror her slow breathing.
"I can't find her again, my head hurts too much," Ron said as he slumped back against her, "she can't go all vigilante, she wants to be a professional Quidditch player. They won't take anyone who's maimed or tortured somebody, thrown out of the Aurors on a dishonourable discharge."
"Ron, please calm down, your head doesn't need stress like this. You need to take your potions and sleep it off."
Ron shook his head, eyes tightly shut as he did so, and gritted his teeth.
"I have to send Harry to stop her. Harry would be able to stop her. He knows what it feels like to want revenge."
"But if you can't find her again-" Hermione began.
Harry almost fell into the room through the open door and stumbled over to Ron's bedside.
"What the hell happened? What's wrong with him?"
Ron looked Harry in the eye, totally exhausted, and held up the Deluminator.
"She's not a psycho, you mustn't let her," Ron said hoarsely before clicking the Deluminator.
Harry gasped as the ball of blue light emerged from the device and began bobbling towards Ron's head. Ron lifted his free hand and held it before his face, blocking the light from entering his head and easing the pain.
The blue eyes were still fixed upon Harry and, as Harry looked back at him, Hermione could tell that they were both on the same wavelength. Ron's hand pushed the light towards Harry's chest. Harry bit his bottom lip and nodded to Ron.
"Go," Ron said as the light sank inside Harry.
Somehow, Harry was able to turn on the spot right there, and Disapparate before their eyes.
With his job done, Ron's head fell back heavily and he passed out.
Ginny felt the sickening nausea of Ron leaving her mind and she threw up a little into her mouth before swallowing it down and then slashing her wand across the space between her and Kain.
The spell slashed across Kain's face, leaving a shallow cut bleeding across his cheek.
"Agh, wait! Please, I'm sorry! I'm sorry about the unforgivables, but you were doing amazing magic with two wands and I couldn't stop you."
"So you tried to kill me? You tried to torture me? You who are oh so much more powerful than everyone else and have the most amazing mind in the magical world..." Ginny's furious diatribe faltered as she thought of Ron's mind, screaming at her from so far away, "Effingo maledictio!"
Kain rolled away and Ginny yelled the duplication spell at him.
"What," she said as she disabled him with the leg-locker curse, "you can dish it out but you can't take it? All I'm doing is mirroring your own curses back at you and you seem to think that those curses are reasonable!"
"I don't!" Kain wriggled on the floor, eyes wide and fearful.
"Murdering Muggles en masse, taking control of the men who run the country, treating Foster like she's your property – the only language you understand is pain, fear and violence."
"I'm-" Kain began but Ginny cut him off with a flick of her wand.
Kain screwed up his face, tightly, before dragging himself forwards with his arms and lashing out to grab one of the wands she had hold of. Ginny moved a step back, pushed Ron's wand into her back pocket, and scowled down at the man at her feet.
"He found you so easily, you know? You're nothing, nothing compared to him. He wasn't even practiced, not even up to his full strength, and he put you to shame."
Kain's eyes were wide and wild as he glared back up at her from the ground.
"And if he hadn't knocked me off my feet he'd have tried to channel that killing curse for me," Ginny said, face flushing with fury as she pointed her wand down at his face, drew in a breath, and moved her lips to begin the curse she had the rage to deliver.
But she couldn't say it, not even for Ron.
This made her even angrier and she swished her wand through the air and screamed another curse, over and over again, the deep red whip sprouting forth from the tip of her wand and slicing through the air and against Kain's body.
"Verbero! Verbero! Verbero! Verbero!"
She delivered lash after lash upon Kain and didn't notice Harry's arrival until he grabbed her about the wrist and held her arm still above her head.
Ginny gave out a scream of frustration and disappointment.
"But I want to kill him! I want to hurt him! Why couldn't I do to him what he did to Ron?"
Harry lowered her wand arm to her side and hugged her tightly from behind, resting his chin upon her shoulder.
"Ron's okay, he was worried about you but he was all right."
"I felt it Harry!" Ginny said with a strangled scream as she tried to swing her wand and another thrashing curse at Kain, but Harry stilled her hand yet again and cast a nonverbal Incarcerous upon him, "I felt Ron feeling it. I felt his pain. He's not all right."
"He's in a hospital and he's going to be fine," Harry said, firmly, "but he was mortified because he felt your pain too and he doesn't want you to become no better than him."
Harry pointed down at Kain.
Ginny's shoulders fell.
"He Crucio'd him, Harry. He wasn't well enough to fight and he got tortured!"
"He wasn't well enough to fight." Harry repeated Ginny's words before turning her around and gripping her shoulders. "You're not qualified yet and he wasn't well enough. How could you do this without me?"
"Because it had to be us. Only Ron could have found him and you wouldn't have fought with him as your left hand." Ginny looked down at Kain as he wriggled on the ground, "He hasn't suffered enough, Harry. I want him to suffer more."
Harry squeezed Ginny's body against his own and sent a Patronus message to the Auror department so somebody could come and take Kain away and charge him formally.
"Ginny, I love you because you're fun and you make me laugh and you're sexy and confident and strong and I love, love how passionate you are about your family. I don't need to see you torture a man and Ron doesn't want you to do it either. He begged me not to let you do it."
"Could I just kick him?" Ginny said, voice muffled into his shoulder.
"My girlfriend doesn't kick a man when he's down, that's why she's my girlfriend."
Ginny slowly released the enormous pressure cooker of hate inside her and sighed.
"Get back to St Mungo's, see your brother, I'll be along as soon as the others get here...and I'll make sure everyone knows you and Ron are the arresting Aurors." Harry smiled and winked as he let her go.
Ginny turned to look back at Kain but Harry held her chin steady with one finger so she remained facing him.
"Okay, I'm going. Ron's really all right?"
"He's a tough nut, go and see for yourself," Harry said with a smile and a nod before turning his head and looking down at Kain with a darkening expression, "and you know...you're not the type of person to torture anyone no matter how much they deserve it, but I once tortured somebody just for spitting at McGonagall."
Ginny froze for a moment before smiling to herself. She knew that Harry would be able to strike more fear into Kain than she could. She was brimming over with emotion, Harry was as cold as a December morning.
Kain silently pleaded for mercy and Ginny Disapparated to St Mungo's, desperate to see her brother again.
The sunlight warmed his face and the aroma of bacon frying stirred him from his sleep.
Ron squinted through the bright light of day, eyelids as narrow as possible so he could peer through the protective filter of his bright copper eyelashes, and he lifted his head off the plump pillow.
Everything was golden, no - orange and he realised that he was back in his bedroom at the Burrow. He sat up quickly, then felt dizzy and held his head in one hand, just as the door opened and his mother flung her arms wide.
"Just in time for breakfast!"
Ron cringed at her volume and began wriggling back beneath the covers, aiming for another half hour's sleep, but she moved into his room and waved Ginny in behind her.
"Bacon butties with brown sauce, a special treat for my baby boy," Molly said as she forcibly sat Ron up and stuffed his pillow behind his back.
"Mum, bloody hell, what are you doing?" Ron grumbled.
"It's tomorrow, Ron," Ginny said as she set the tray on his lap, spilling his tea into the saucer at the same time, "You haven't eaten since the cake."
Ron looked stunned before suddenly registering that he should be in a hospital room.
"What am I doing h... Ginny, did we get him? Did Harry get there? What did you do?"
His mother ruffled his hair with affection and Ginny picked up the bacon butty and stuffed it into his mouth to shut him up.
"Kain's in custody, Foster's out of hiding, I resigned from the Aurors with a commendation from Kingsley on my record and you..." Ginny smiled broadly down at him, "You, Ron, are fully qualified and second in command to Harry."
Ron choked on his mouthful and his mother slapped him on the back.
"As soon as you get your strength back you're going to have a briefing with Kingsley and Harry and then work with Lionel on hunting down the ten most wanted Death Eaters."
"The brains, Ginny dear, don't forget the brains," their mother nodded to her.
"Oh yeah, and you are going to go into the Department of Mysteries to talk to the brains for the Unspeakables."
"Talk to the brains!" Ron managed to say after he dry swallowed his mouthful.
"But only when Lionel says you're ready." His Mum said with a nod of reassurance and approval.
"Talk to the brains." Ron repeated to himself, "What am I gonna say to a tank of brains?"
His mother looked as if she too was a little lost on how getting Ron to communicate with strange floating brains could be of any help to anyone but didn't say a word as she brushed herself down and set off back to the kitchen, and to send an owl to Harry and Hermione informing them that Ron had woken up no doubt.
Ginny waited for a moment before leaning in closer to Ron and whispering.
"Lionel thinks the brains will help you. It's not that they want you to ask them anything for the Unspeakables, it's that you need to go to the source of your gift to understand it...or something."
"Like a reunion," he said with a half shrug and crooked smile.
Ginny looked at him fondly and then down at his breakfast.
"Eat up, there's nothing of you and you need to fill those fancy Auror robes now you've made it."
"Are you sure you don't want to..." Ron frowned.
"I never wanted to be an Auror. It's Quidditch all the way for me, the Auror team was my way in but now I don't need one." Ginny looked back up and met her brother's eyes.
"He didn't hurt you did he?"
Ginny shook her head.
"Not even an itch, you took the whole curse." She suddenly flung herself at him and squeezed him with a tight hug. "You drive me bonkers, you patronise me and irritate me and you are the biggest pain in my arse I will ever know...but I'd be lost without you. You used to be my best friend."
Ron nudged her in the side of the ribs and chuckled.
"You used to be my only friend."
Ginny sat back and looked at him, thoughtfully, for a moment before smiling at him.
"Let's not drift apart again this time, okay?"
Ron gave a single nod before cocking his head to one side and the corners of his mouth curled up, mischievously.
"Can I still annoy you?"
Ginny rolled her eyes and sighed.
"As if you ever have to ask!"