Author's Note: All characters and places are owned by no other than our beloved author J. K. Rowling. Only the small, lovable plot bunnies can be called my own.
Chapter 1: With a Chance of Showers
"Water." The hoarse, broken voice was so low he almost hadn't heard it.
Harry looked up from the Marauder's Map in his hands and squinted into the darkness around him. Giving one last glance at the small dot moving along the seventh floor corridor of Hogwarts, he folded it and placed it inside his jacket.
"Water, Harry. Please." The tired voice was pleading now.
Raising his lit wand further over his head, Harry tried to see through the trees and shadows. The voice was eerily familiar, but he couldn't place it. He turned and looked at the tent behind him, wondering if he should wake Hermione.
A weak cough echoed through the woods behind him and he twisted back around, trying in vain to find the source. His breath came out in short bursts and formed misty clouds in the cold and his hair stood on end on the back of his neck.
Maybe it was just Ron. Yeah, that was it, he told himself. The ruddy bugger had finally come to his senses and had come back. It was about bloody time!
"Harry. Water." The voice pleaded again. And Harry, so convinced was he that Ron had come back, stood and took off in the direction of the voice without another thought of waking Hermione.
Suddenly everything changed.
The slight breeze stopped, the crickets went quiet. The leaves and twigs that had crackled beneath his feet with every step disappeared and was replaced with old, worn, waterlogged boards.
He looked around frantically as he realized he was standing in a boat that was gliding through deadly still water.
He raised his wand even higher. How had he gotten here? Where was the forest? The tent?
"Hermione?" His voice, though not loud, echoed and repeated all round him, bouncing off of the stone walls in the distance.
Harry's heart skipped a beat and then began beating double time. He felt sick to his stomach as he realized where he was. He was in the cave. How in the bloody hell had he ended up in the cave?
His thoughts were brought up short as the boat brought him closer to the island of rock in the middle of the still lake.
There at the edge was an elderly man, his long white beard touching the water as he knelt down to cup water in his wizened hands, one of which was black as coal.
"No! Prof-" Before Harry could spit it out, ghastly gray, water worn hands grabbed the man by his arms and pulled him under the surface.
Harry sat straight up in his bed, anxiously looking around. His brain slowly registered his surroundings and he let out a weary groan, running his hands over his face and then through his sweat dampened hair.
Just a dream. He sucked in a deep breath as he fell back onto his pillow, trying to get his heartbeat under control.
It had seemed so real. He could still smell the sulfur from the cave; still feel the boat moving beneath his feet. Still taste the fear that had overpowered him as Dumbledore had been pulled into the lake.
Staring up at the ceiling, Harry tried to push the dream away. Despite his efforts, when he closed his eyes the images began again, almost as if they had been imprinted on the inside of his eyelids.
Finally, he gave up and, with a heavy sigh, he sat back up and fumbled for his glasses and put them on.
The moonlight fell across his bed and lengthened the shadows in the room. A particularly loud snore came from the bed on his left and he threw a jealous glare in Ron's direction. It must be nice to get a good whole night's worth of uninterrupted sleep. No worries. No nightmares. No fighting to stay awake the next day.
He rubbed at his eyes, wincing as he rubbed across a tender spot on his face. He could feel the rough stubble on his cheeks along with dried blood.
Throwing back the covers, he threw his legs over the side of the bed and grabbed his wand from his nightstand. A good, long hot shower was in order. He stood and then grimaced. He didn't have any clean clothes.
After thinking for a moment, he whispered "Kreacher.", wincing as the use of his voice caused his throat to ache.
His mouth felt like a desert and his throat like it was full of glass. And he could taste the bitterest taste on his tongue.
An old, wrinkly house elf in a white tea towel and white tufts of hair sticking out of his ears appeared before him, bowing so low his nose almost touched the floor.
"Yes, Master Harry?"
Harry gave a worn out sigh. "Please don't bow, Kreacher. And just Harry is fine."
Kreacher snapped up so fast it made Harry's head spin.
"Is there any way you could find some clothes that would fit me so I can get out of these filthy ones?" He rubbed at his throat. "And maybe something for a sore throat?"
Kreacher was nodding and smiling before Harry had gotten the words out.
"And a toothbrush and razor if it wouldn't be too much trouble. And could you bring them to the bathroom?"
Kreacher nodded again. "Of course, Ma- Harry." He disappeared on the spot.
"Thanks." Harry mumbled to the empty spot where Kreacher had stood.
He took a step toward the door, biting back a curse as pain coursing through his body took him off guard. His legs and back felt like they were on fire. Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and braced himself for the pain. After a few seconds, he opened his eyes and walked out the door and down the hall to the bathroom without breaking his stride.
His vision swam in the flickering candlelight in the bathroom, and the only thing that kept him from spewing out a string of curses was the fact that speaking would only cause his throat to hurt on top of everything else.
He barely noticed the cold stone floor beneath his feet as he reached into the spacious shower and tapped the shower-head with his wand.
Hot water immediately began spraying, steam rising and slowly filling the room. With a grunt of pain, Harry pulled his shirt over his head and dropped it onto the floor. He managed to toe off his trainers and was just about to bend over and take his socks off when a small black duffel bag appeared on the granite floor, along with a vile of dark blue potion. Bending over, he pulled his socks off and grabbed the duffel bag and potion and placed them on the sink.
For the first time since entering the bathroom, his eyes landed on his reflection in the mirror behind the sink. His dark green eyes were sunken and bloodshot, his cheeks look hollow. He was pale and stubbly from lack of shaving, and there were half healed cuts and burns on his face, arms, and chest.
He sucked in another deep breath as the steam began to fog the mirror. He wasn't exactly a vain person, but he looked horrible, almost as if he had just pulled a stint in Azkaban. He ran a hand through his long, shaggy hair. He definitely needed a haircut.
Pulling his gaze away from his reflection he grabbed the potion again and, pulling out the stopper, he took a large swallow. Sighing in relief as the cool potion hit his throat, he drained the rest and shed his remaining clothes.
Stepping under the hot spray of water, he felt his muscles almost weep in relief as they began to relax and the tension drained out of them. He just stood there with his hands braced on the wall in front of him and the water pounding on his head, neck, and shoulders.
How long he stood there, his head bent, watching blood and grime washing down the drain, he didn't know. He seemed to be in some kind of daze. His brain was sluggish and slow, his thoughts barely registering in his conscious mind. It was only when the image of Fred's last smile flashed before his eyes that he seemed to snap out of it.
Shaking his head to clear it, he finally set about cleaning himself. He grimaced as the water swirling around his feet and down the drain turned a murky brown as he washed his hair. He made quick work of the rest and stepped out of the shower and wrapped a towel around his waist.
The pain was now only a dull ache; most of it had washed away with the hot shower as it had loosened his muscles.
He had just finished shaving and had begun brushing his teeth when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Turning in the direction of the door, he saw a mane of red hair being pulled back into a ponytail by its owner, who was a tall, shapely girl, walking in the bathroom with her mouth stretched in a yawn and her eyes closed.
Harry's heart stopped for a moment before restarting at a faster rhythm and he cleared his throat nervously.
Ginny froze, her hair still in her hands, mouth open, and her eyes snapped open. The look on her face would have been comical if the situation hadn't been quite so embarrassing.
She stood there for a long moment, still frozen mid-stride, her eyes moving from the top of his head to his feet, her face slowly turning as red as her hair.
Finally, her mouth closed and her hands dropped to cover her eyes, her crimson hair falling about her face in waves, the ends stopping past her waist.
"Harry, I'm so sorry!" Her voice was pitched and she spoke in a rush as if she had a limited time to get the words out. "I couldn't sleep and I just thought a hot shower would help."
Starting to see more humor in the situation than anything else, Harry smirked. "In the boys' showers?"
Ginny's hands dropped at his question and she bit her bottom lip for a moment before answering. "I was sleeping in the first year boys' dormitory. This was closer."
Harry just lifted an eyebrow.
"I was in the boys' dormitory because the girls' dormitory was a little-" She seemed to be looking for the right word. "Crowded. No one would leave me alone. And I honestly didn't think anyone would be up this time of night. I'm sorry I walked in on you, I didn't think to check before I came in."
"It's okay." Harry said and looked down at the towel draped around his waist pointedly. "Just let me finish up and I'll get out of your hair."
A blush spread across Ginny's cheeks once again and then crept down her neck as her eyes traveled over him again.
Harry went back to brushing his teeth. Ginny never moved. He glanced back over his shoulder.
Ginny seemed to come out of a trance.
"Hmm?" Her eyes widened as it dawned on her. "Oh." She promptly turned her back.
He stood there for the longest time, just staring at her back in disbelief.
As if sensing his thoughts, Ginny gave a small laugh. "I promise not to peek if that's what you're worried about."
Stunned speechless, Harry didn't move.
"If you leave your shirt off, I'll see what I can do." Ginny commented, looking at opposite wall.
His toothbrush clattered in the sink and the sound echoed in the quiet bathroom.
Ginny's shoulders shook with silent laughter. "About the cuts and burns all over you." She glanced back at him, her eyes lit with merriment, a small smile on her face. "What did you think I was talking about?"
This time it was Harry's cheeks that flushed and he snatched up his toothbrush and held it under the faucet to rinse it off.
"I thought you said you weren't going to peek."
Ginny smirked. "It's not considered peeking until you lose the towel." She turned her face around to the opposite wall again and then added, "And then only if I get caught."
Checking to make sure she wasn't looking, Harry hurriedly traded his towel for boxers and a pair of faded jeans.
Ginny turned back around just as he pulled them over his hips. He cocked an eyebrow and smiled as he zipped and buttoned his jeans.
"Only if you get caught?"
She nodded as she walked closer, stopping at arms' reach. "Only if I get caught."
He shook his head in amazement at how easily they seemed to fall back into playful banter after not seeing each other for almost a year.
"What kind of logic is that?"
Ginny grinned and shrugged her shoulders dramatically. "Weasley logic."
Laughter seemed to bubble up from his chest and he couldn't seem to stop it even though the movement caused pain to shoot through his ribs. After a long, painful, yet bliss filled moment, Harry grimaced and rubbed his hand across his ribs.
Ginny's grin faded as her focus shifted back to the wounds on his chest.
"You ought to be in the hospital wing." She looked up at him and bit her lip. "Come on, let's go sit down somewhere so I can get a look at you."
Her tone was still teasing and it made Harry want to laugh again. Her big brown eyes lit up like that made him ache in a whole new way. Merlin, how he had missed those eyes. That voice. Her. He reached up and tugged on a stray lock of hair that had fallen into her eyes.
"Ginny Weasley playing nursemaid?" He teased, making her smile slide back into place.
"Every boy's fantasy." She replied cheekily, her fingers coming to rest on his ribcage.
His heart missed a beat and he pushed the strand of crimson silk behind her ear. For a moment, he stared into her eyes and she stared back up at him, her eyes wide, her lips slightly parted, his fingers still lingering on her jaw. Her tongue darted out to wet her lips and his eyes followed the movement, catching on her mouth.
"I thought you were going to take a shower." He commented lowly, dropping his hand and taking a step back.
Was that disappointment flashing in her eyes? If it was he didn't have time to ponder it because it was quickly replaced with a look that he was used to seeing on Ginny's beautiful face. Determination. And seeing it now sent his heart to tripping all over itself once again.
Ginny took a stop forward and then another, closing the distance between them. Her hand shifted from his ribs and she slid her palm to the middle of his chest. Her eyes dropped to her hand and he knew she could feel his heart racing beneath it, could feel what she did to him with just a simple touch.
Before he could talk himself out of it, Harry wrapped his fingers around her wrist and tugged, pulling her up against his chest, hoping the little gasp she gave was one of surprise and not disapproval.
Ginny lost her balance and he caught her up against him, pulling her impossibly closer, their bodies touching from chests to thighs.
She slowly tilted her head back, craning her neck to look up at him.
The look in her eyes was all he needed to forget any doubts he had. The usual chocolate colored irises were now rimmed in a warm golden brown. He had discovered during his sixth year that he could make them turn completely golden brown. And he was itching to do so now.
His heart began dancing in anticipation and he could hear its rhythm loud and clear in his ears as he searched her eyes for any sign that she wanted him to stop. He lowered his head slowly and her eyes fluttered closed, her hands sliding up his chest and coming to rest on the back of his neck, pulling his mouth closer to hers.
Ginny's breath caught as his lips barely brushed over hers and she parted her lips as he angled his head.
A loud gasp had them jumping apart as if they had been scalded. Ginny twirled toward the door, her hand going to her heart as she saw it was just Hermione.
"What in the bloody hell is going on with girls just walking into the blokes' showers?!" Harry muttered under his breath just loud enough for her to hear.
She was torn between laughing at Harry's obvious annoyance at being interrupted and shout at Hermione to leave so Harry could finish what he had started.
"Merlin's sake! You guys scared me!" Hermione exclaimed. "I wasn't expecting anyone else to be up this time of night."
"So you just decided to use the blokes' showers instead of ours?" Ginny asked, trying not to laugh as she felt Harry's gaze on her. She knew is she turned around his eyes would tell her that she had done the exact same thing as Hermione.
Hermione reddened and shifted from foot to foot. "You see…"
Ginny rolled her eyes. "I know, you were in the bed with Ron. I'm not all that surprised you couldn't sleep, what with all the snoring."
Harry finally added to the conversation. "You were? I didn't see you."
Hermione turned even redder. Ginny heard rustling behind her and knew that Harry was pulling his shirt on over his head. Hermione's eyes focused on Harry.
"You ought to go to the hospital wing and have yourself looked at, Harry."
Ginny turned to see Harry banish his dirty clothes with his wand and then zip up the duffel bag on the sink.
Harry glanced down at his watch. "I'm sure Madam Pomfrey is asleep. And even if she isn't," He continued, interrupting Hermione as she began to protest. "I'm sure she is busy enough with everyone else."
He turned his smoldering gaze on Ginny as he picked up his duffel.
"I'll let you take your shower. Just don't forget to lock the door." His tone was light and teasing, but his eyes made her forget how to breathe. He brushed past her and Hermione and into the hall.
Ginny stayed frozen in place, which was probably a good thing, because she had the oddest feeling that if she moved her knees would have collapsed on her.
His eyes. She had never seen his eyes so bright before. He had always been careful not to let his emotions get the better of him while they had dated, and for good reason. She had always understood that. But to see such blatant want in his eyes had thrown her off balance.
And she hadn't just seen want in his emerald green depths; she had also seen promise. Promise that he planned to finish what he had started between them. And soon.
Ginny jumped at Hermione's impatient voice; apparently she had been trying to get her attention.
Hermione just looked amused. "Are you going to go after him or stand there and daydream for the rest of the night?"
Ginny's heart fluttered as she looked to the door and back at Hermione. "You think I should-"
"Are you kidding?" Hermione gave her a meaningful look. "If Ron looked at me like that, I would follow him anywhere. Where is the courageous, fearless Ginny we all know and love?"
Ginny gulped down a breath of air. "Still trying to breathe."
Laughing, Hermione steered her toward the door. "You can breathe later."
Ginny's eyebrows furrowed and she looked over at her friend. "Not that I'm complaining, but you seem to be in a bit of a hurry for me to run off for a good snog."
Hermione shrugged, a small smile on her face. "He needs to be happy. And it's heartbreaking to watch him stare at your dot all night until he falls asleep."
Hermione's smile turned into a grin. "On the Marauders' Map."
Ginny's eyes widened. "He watched me while I was here?"
Hermione nodded. "Every night."
"Every night." Her grin disappeared. "I thought he was going to do something stupid when he couldn't find your name anymore. I was sure he was only biding his time to find a good enough excuse to come find you." Hermione shifted nervously. "And Ginny?"
"Don't tell him I told you."
Ginny shook her head. "Of course not." She turned toward the door only to turn back. "Thanks, Hermione."
Hermione smiled again. "No problem. The least I could do after interrupting."
Ginny flushed again and walked out of the bathroom and set off down the corridor to search for Harry.
She hadn't considered the fact that he might be sitting around waiting on her. Or lying around. Or, at least, had been before he had fallen asleep.
She had searched his dormitory and the common room, even asking the few students milling about if they had seen him. Which had been pointless really, because if he hadn't wanted to be seen, and knowing Harry he didn't, all he would have to have done was slip on his Invisibility Cloak.
Ginny had given up and was just going to retire back to the bed in the first year boys' dormitory to try once again to go to sleep. And that was where she had found him, in her bed nonetheless, sound asleep.
Author's Note: Please review and let me know what you think! And many thanks to Fairqueen2 for being such a great and understanding beta!!!