Harry woke up with his body aching and chills running up and down his limbs. Where had all the warmth gone, he wondered, absently spitting out some of Ginny's hair. At some point during the night they had rolled over and she now lay sprawled across his chest, one leg swung up high over his hips. Gently he pushed her knee further down his legs, his face flushing uncomfortably hot. He did not want to be embarrassed again. He didn't think he could live through another repeat performance of their earlier awakening. It was just too cold to get out of bed.

Ginny didn't seem to mind his repositioning of her leg. She barely even moved, only burrowing her head further into his chest, making small snuffling noises against his shoulder that made Harry smile despite his discomfort.

Another shiver raced through his body, this one sending goose pimples all over his skin. His face felt flushed, though he didn't think it was from embarrassment, but the rest of his body was cold despite the heat radiating out from Ginny's sleeping form. What was wrong with him? He wanted to curl up – preferably around Ginny – and get warm once again, but her prone form lying on top of him was preventing any movement on his part.

The sudden popping sound outside their little cocoon caught his attention. Maybe the fire had gone out and that was why he was so cold. Carefully, so as not to wake Ginny, Harry pulled back the duvet that covered their heads. The room was a light blur. The fire had indeed died, only red ashes were left smoldering softly in the grate, but he didn't need firelight to see. From the amount of light in the room, he guessed that it was early morning; very early morning.

Professor Dumbledore would know that they were missing by now and people would be searching for them. Had they contacted the Weasleys and the Grangers yet? He wondered. He didn't think Dumbledore would contact the Dursleys, but he might have contacted Sirius. The thought caused a sudden bolt of panic to run through him. He knew Sirius would be worried enough to come back and help look for him and that was not good. Harry did not want his godfather to risk his own life just because Harry had been stupid enough to follow Fred and George through the dungeons. He hoped desperately that Dumbledore hadn't told him yet, he didn't want his godfather in danger just because of him.

He frowned. How would they even be found? They had to be miles from Hogwarts. As far as he knew, the twins had told no one about the grotto they had found. Did Dumbledore know about it? He seemed to know everything else about the old castle. But would he think to look there? Were there locating spells that could be used? He tried to think of any he might have heard of during classes, but his mind was working sluggishly.

A small blurry shape came into his vision. Harry had forgotten about the popping noise he had heard, his mind wandering in a haze. It was too small to be any of the others, but still it was a familiar shape. "Dobby?" he called softly, relief and trepidation mixed in his voice.

The elf jumped in surprise, turning to face him.

Harry could make little out without his glasses as the elf moved towards him tentatively, one hand pulling hard on its long ear. It definitely wasn't Dobby, then. Dobby would have jumped all over him, waking up everyone in the cabin, if he were to find Harry. This elf didn't look to be a Hogwarts elf, either. He couldn't be sure, but it looked like it was wearing a pinstriped pillowcase instead of a tea towel. Maybe this was a wizard owned cabin and this elf was preparing it for his masters. Either way, they were rescued.

"Come here," Harry beckoned, his voice hoarse. "We need help. We're from Hogwarts. We need you to contact Professor Dumbledore."

The elf stood before him wringing his or her hands, Harry still couldn't tell its gender, and looking nervously about the room, a low keening sound coming from the back of its throat.

"Hey," Harry reached out a hand towards it, wondering what was wrong. "Can you help us? Please?" Absently he swiped at the hair that was hanging in his eyes. "We need to talk to Professor…."

He stopped abruptly as the elf froze and stared at him, open-mouthed, its large eyes bulging. "Sir…sir…H...Harry P...Potter, sir," it squeaked. "You is here, sir! You is not supposed to be here!" it moaned.

"I know, I'm sorry, but we had no choice. I'm sure we can pay back the owner for the broken window and all. Will you help us?" Harry continued to watch the elf fidget, a shiver running through his body as a cold breeze swept through the room from the broken window.

"You is sick sir!" the elf declared. "I go get help sir!"

"I'm not sick," Harry protested instinctively, but then realized what else the elf had said. "Yeah, go get help. Thank you. Your master can get in touch with Professor Dumbledore at Hogwarts, I'm sure he's looking for us. He'll know what to do."

Ginny began to stir in Harry's arms and a look of panic – or at least what looked like panic to Harry's nearsighted eyes – crossed the elf's face, and it disappeared with a soft 'pop.'

As Ginny stirred, her leg once again rose over his hips, causing Harry to hiss at the sensation. He was cold and achy but his body stilled reacted to her innocent movements, and that was before he felt her nose nuzzling his neck, her soft breath tickling the sensitive hairs on his nape.

Think Snape and potions, he reminded himself. How do you make a potion? What potion? He couldn't think of one! Ginny's leg shifted again and she made a soft sighing sound in the back of her throat. Harry gulped…a potion…any potion.

The Shrinking Solution suddenly came to mind and Harry could help grimacing at the irony. Now how did it begin, he pondered, trying to breathe through his nose. Bring to a rolling boil a base of one part distilled water, one part…dandelion wine, or was that juice? Harry closed his eyes and concentrated on Snape's greasy form lecturing them in third year. It was juice. Add two tablespoons honey and one tablespoon…rat's blood? Add chopped daisy roots.

He could feel it working, he noticed with some relief, he barely noticed the feel of Ginny's nose and mouth pressed against his neck, her soft, warm breath moving tantalizingly over his skin…

One shrivelfig skinned and cut into quarters…

Blearily, Ginny lifted her head and looked around the room, her eyes blinking owlishly. "What's wrong Harry? Why'd you take down the duvet? It's cold."

"Sorry," Harry croaked softly, once again pulling the duvet over their heads.

Two hundred – or was it 300 hundred? – grams of caterpillars sliced….

"S'okay," she mumbled, snuggling even closer to him.

Harry stiffened slightly, willing himself not to react as her hand brushed down his chest to come to rest on his stomach. He had no idea his nipple was that sensitive to touch. He'd never noticed it before - that was for sure.

Snape. Potions. Potion. Shrinking. Add one rat spleen and a dash leech juice or was it one leech and a dash of rat spleen juice? Was there any such thing as rat spleen juice, he wondered wildly?

"Who were you talking to?" Ginny asked huskily, interrupting his confused thoughts, her hand softly stroking his belly, playing with the downy hairs below his navel.

This is not working, Harry realized in a mild panic. He could not simply ignore what Ginny was doing to him

Gently he reached down and stilled her hand. It was either that or embarrass himself by falling out of bed again. His action seemed to wake her a bit and she stiffened, realizing exactly where she was and what she had been doing.

"Sorry," Ginny mumbled, lowering her leg off of Harry and pulling away from him slightly. There wasn't much room for her to maneuver in the tiny bed, especially with him lying flat on his back, but she did her best to give him space.

"S'okay," Harry grinned limply, looking over at her head now resting on the pillow next to his, her cheeks red once again.

Ginny didn't look at him, but instead repeated her question.

"Oh, it was a house elf," he answered. "I don't think if was from Hogwarts, but I couldn't really tell without my glasses." He shrugged. "Probably belongs to whoever owns this cabin. Either way, we're saved."

Ginny frowned. "Harry, this isn't exactly a wizard's cabin," she pointed out, her eyes searching his face.

"I know, but maybe it belongs to a someone who likes to rough it, or maybe a Muggle born." He couldn't control the shiver that went through his body again. He really missed the warmth of Ginny's body pressed close to his.

"Harry are you okay?" Ginny asked, her frown deepening as her eyes studied him.

"I'm fine," Harry answered, another chill running through him. "Just a bit cold."

"Cold?" Ginny asked, her concern evident. "You are radiating heat like a Chinese Fireball, and you're sweating!" Leaning up on one elbow she reached out a hand and placed it on his forehead. It felt nice against his flushed face. "Oh, Harry. You have a temperature!"

"I do?" Harry asked, surprised. He couldn't remember the last time he was sick. He had forgotten what it felt like.

Ginny nodded. She looked decidedly worried as she stared down at him.

"It's okay, Gin," he reassured her. "It's not that bad. I'm just cold, and a bit achy…that's all." He shivered again.

She stared at him for a few moments then a look of determination came into her eyes. "Come here," Ginny said suddenly, pulling at his arm.

"What?" Harry demanded, confused, but letting his body be pulled.

"Come here," she repeated in a no nonsense tone. "If you're cold than I'll help you to get warm again."

Harry felt his cheeks redden, but this time he knew it wasn't from his fever.

Ginny rolled her eyes. "That's not what I meant!" she said, though her cheeks turned red, too. Lying on her side, Ginny pulled Harry into her arms, pillowing his head against her chest. Harry blushed scarlet, but had to admit that he felt warmer than he had, his body able to curl up against hers, her hand rubbing his back soothingly.

"Thanks, Gin," he whispered with a sigh of contentment.

She kissed him on the forehead. "My pleasure." Harry smiled and drifted off to sleep, finally feeling warm again.

*

"I'm tired of telling you this, Miss Weasley. Mr. Potter is just fine," Madame Pomfrey's voice broke through Harry's hazy dreams. "He will wake up when he is ready and not a moment sooner. Now get into bed. You need rest too. No telling what those silly Muggles did to you. I know they mean well, but…" her voice faded as she walked away.

Harry lay there for a long moment trying to gather his hazy thoughts. Obviously he was back at Hogwarts, but how had he arrived there? Why were he and Ginny in the Infirmary? Who were the 'silly Muggles,' and what had they done to them? The last thing he remembered was the house elf leaving and then falling asleep in Ginny's arms, his head pillowed comfortably on her chest as her hands soothed the aches in his back and shoulders.

He felt himself blush remembering what he had seen and touched. How was he ever going to face her again now that they were back at school? In the space of a few hours Harry had got to know Ginny better than he had ever thought possible. It would have been hard enough to talk to her after spending the day at the grotto with her. For the first time he had really seen her as more than 'just Ginny,' Ron's little sister and his friend. He couldn't help noticing how pretty she'd looked and how soft she had felt. She was still the same old Ginny that he had become friends with over the summer, but then again, she was suddenly something much more.

And that was before he had seen her naked and held her in his arms – and vice versa. She had seen – and felt – a lot more of him than he was comfortable with too. Of course, everything that he had done had been necessary to save their lives, but that didn't make him feel any better. There was still this strange feeling of guilt floating in his stomach that was making him feel as if he had…hurt her some how or taken advantage of her in some way. He doubted Ginny would think so, but he couldn't help it. It was there and he had to deal with it and her. This was not going to be easy.

Harry sighed and finally sat up and reached for his glasses. He couldn't pretend to be asleep forever, he was sure she would catch on to that. He would just have to face her and bluster through his embarrassment. Besides, he had some questions he wanted answered, like how did they get back to Hogwarts and what did Muggles have to do with it? He wasn't going to get those answers unless he woke up and asked the questions. He'd just have to hope that he didn't turn too red when he saw Ginny.

"Harry, you're awake!" came Ginny's relieved voice from the bed next to his. "How are you feeling?"

"Okay, I guess…" he answered, his voice fading away as he looked over at Ginny perched on her elbow with a worried look on her face. His stomach clenched with guilt momentarily before he managed to push it aside. He hadn't done anything wrong, he reminded himself.

"Are you sure?" Ginny questioned again. "You look really pale." She swung her legs out of bed, obviously wanting to come over to him, but stopped herself.

Harry couldn't keep himself from staring at her bare legs, remembering how smooth they had felt twined with his. Seeing the direction of his gaze, Ginny covered herself again. Their eyes met briefly and their faces turned scarlet. Harry cleared his throat uncomfortably, suddenly fascinated by the portrait of a nurse seeing to the comfort of a sleeping patient. Anything was better than looking at Ginny again. How were they to remain friends when every time he saw her skin he had…thoughts?

"Well, this is uncomfortable," Ginny finally stated in her usual forthright manner.

"Yeah," Harry agreed, sneaking a glance at her. "A bit." He grinned wryly.

"So, how do we get past it?"

"I don't know," Harry admitted. He couldn't help the way his mind reacted when he looked at Ginny. Surprisingly, he wasn't bombarded with images of her naked. His memories were more about how she had felt in his arms and the way she'd smelled of strawberries, and how she'd made little snuffling sounds in her sleep. He remembered how she'd looked, the duvet clutched to her chest, her hair spread about her head like a halo as she told her brothers to sod off. He remembered the twinkle in her eye as she'd asked him, throatily, to come back to bed. How was he going to be able to put all that aside and think of her as Ginny, his friend?

"You know, Hermione's still barely talking to Ron," she told him.

"Huh? What?" Harry asked, his mind elsewhere. "Really? Still?" He couldn't help wondering what day it was. How long had he been asleep?

Ginny nodded, her blush fading to a light pink glow. "Yeah. They've been up here every day after classes. It's really…tense between them. Ron thinks Hermione is upset with him – she certainly acts that way, but I think she's just embarrassed. Alicia, too."

"How are Fred and Angelina?"

Ginny smirked. "Oh, they're fine. I don't think they saw anything they haven't already seen before," she told him with a little giggle.

Harry couldn't help grinning back. "Really? And how would you know that, Miss Weasley," he teased. "Been spying?" This felt a little more normal.

Ginny's smile faded and her grin took a bitter twist. "Oh, sometimes I'm the invisible girl at home. I hear all kinds of things. No one ever thinks much of me. I'm 'just' Ginny," she told him, her eyes downcast.

Harry didn't know what to say, but he knew he wanted to see her smile again. He didn't like it when she was sad. "Well, uh," he began awkwardly. "I don't think you will ever be 'just' Ginny to me, if that counts for anything," he added hastily. He could feel himself turning red again, but it was worth it seeing the pleasure on Ginny's face.

"Thanks Harry," she said shyly. "That's good to know."

There was a long pause as they sat and tried to think of something to say. Harry absently plucked at his blanket while Ginny twirled her hair around her finger. He couldn't help remembering how soft it was.

"About…everything," Ginny started hesitantly, her eyes not quite meeting his. "I want you to know that I'm not angry or upset with you – like Hermione is with Ron. I'm a bit embarrassed," she added wryly, finally glancing at him, "but I'll get over it. You did what you had to do and I'm…very grateful. I…we…could have all died…"

"Yeah, I guess," Harry agreed reluctantly, not wanting to be thrust in the hero role again. Ginny was being very open and Harry knew he should reciprocate, after all, he wanted to get rid of the awkwardness too. "If there had been any other way…I just feel like I've…" he paused uncomfortably, running a hand through his hair. "I feel like I've invaded your privacy or taken advantage of you, or…something," he said haltingly, not able to look at her. "And I'm sorry."

"Harry, you didn't do anything wrong. You did what you had to do," Ginny reassured him, no longer embarrassed as she tried to comfort him. "No one, me especially, would hold it against you. Besides I figure we're even. I did get to see you in that little towel," she teased.

Harry turned bright red. "Well, at least I was partially covered," he tried to tease back. "I, uh, saw a lot more – not that I was really paying attention," he hastened to add. "I, uh…"

"I can't imagine that I'm very attractive when I'm blue," Ginny laughed. "I'd still call us even because I…felt…more." She grinned at him wickedly, though her cheeks were red.

Harry stared at her, gaping like a goldfish. If he turned any redder he would spontaneously combust. She would have to bring that up!

He cleared his throat. If they were really going to get through all this embarrassment he had to say something. She had brought it up after all, and he wanted to make sure that he hadn't…offended her. "About…that. I wanted to…explain, well, not really explain, but…" he floundered, sighing in frustration. "I wanted to…apologize. I didn't mean…"

Ginny's laughter once again interrupted him. She looked very amused and it irked him that she was enjoying his discomfort. "Oh Harry, it's okay. You were practically asleep! I have six older brothers, for Merlin's sake. I've heard enough to know that it is a perfectly normal morning occurrence under normal circumstances – and the cabin was anything but normal."

She tried to sound blasé about it, but her pink cheeks gave her away. Still, Harry had to give her points for her bravado.

Relieved, Harry offered her a sheepish grin. "Thanks. I was afraid I might have offended you or something."

"Oh, not at all," Ginny told him, a familiar devilish look in her eyes. "I'm sure I'll dine out on that memory for weeks to come!"

"Ginny!" Harry said, shocked and amused by her audacity.

"What?" she asked him innocently.

Harry shook his head in exasperation. "I'm scandalized, Miss Weasley."

"You were supposed to be, Mr. Potter," she grinned out him.

They both started laughing, the awkwardness between them gone. They were back to being friends.

"Well, look who's finally awake!" One of the twins called out as he, his twin, Angelina, Ron and Hermione trouped into the Infirmary.

"What are you up to, Potter?" the other twin – this time Harry was certain it was George because Fred had his arm around Angelina – asked suspiciously. "Propositioning our sister?"

Harry stopped laughing, his eyes widening as the group surrounded the two beds. "No! I…uh…" he looked helplessly over at Ginny.

"Of course not!" Fred interrupted, looking at him sternly. "Harry would never proposition our sister, not if he wanted to be able to fly his broomstick anytime soon," he waggled his eyebrows in a pseudo-malicious manner.

"Fine," George agreed grudgingly, his eyes twinkling as he tried to look stern but failed miserably. "Just because you've got her knickers off once," both Harry and Ginny blushed profusely, "don't think you can try it again. Got that, mate? There will be no propositioning of our baby sister…no hand holding, nuzzling, snogging or other intimacies of any type!"

Harry nodded, unable to speak.

"There will be no funny business in this house!" Fred chimed in with a dead on impersonation of Mrs. Weasley. "So keep your hands to yourself!"

"But what if I want to proposition him?" Ginny said indignantly. She was sitting in bed, her hands on her hips staring disapprovingly at her brothers.

Everyone turned to stare at her, the twins with identical expressions of disbelief. Harry found it hard not to laugh.

"Ginny!"

"Have you become a scarlet woman?!"

"Are you mad? You're only 14!"

Ginny rolled her eyes. "Well, I think I should have a say in the matter! Harry can't proposition me, so I guess it's up to me." She turned to look at him, and Harry could see the barely-contained smile she was holding back. The twins and Ron were looking at her like she'd grown two heads. "What do you say, Harry? How about midnight in the Astronomy Tower?" Fred gasped. "Too high traffic?" Ginny pondered, her finger tapping against her cheek. "We could always wait until Madame Pomfrey goes to sleep. We're the only ones in here. Well?"

Harry winked at Ginny. "I guess it would be impolite for me to say no, after all, you did just suffer through quite an ordeal…"

Angelina let out short giggle, but quickly covered it with a cough after Fred glared at her. Hermione expression looked like a mixture horror and amusement.

"Now, Ginny…." Ron began calmly, though his face was red.

"Go to your dormitory right now!" Fred and George declared in unison.

Harry, Ginny, Angelina and Hermione all started laughing.

"Honestly," Ginny declared between giggles. "Do you really think I would…? And Harry would take me up on it?" She rolled her eyes. "I'm only 14 – well, almost 15, but really! Give me some credit! I don't need three overgrown oafs to protect me from Harry, of all people!"

"What is all this noise?" Madame Pomfrey came bustling into the room. "Mr. Potter and Miss Weasley need their rest. The lot of you…shoo…off to dinner. You can see them again tomorrow."

Fred and George had the good grace to look sheepish as they kissed their sister on the cheek, each affectionately ruffling her hair.

"We were only kidding, Gin," Fred told here.

"Yeah," George agreed. "We know you can take care of yourself, but….maybe…." he looked at Fred.

"Maybe," Fred continued, picking up his brother's cue, "you'd be more comfortable in that bed over there…by the window." He pointed to the bed furthest from Harry.

"I'm sure it has a lovely view!" George grinned. "Harry won't mind. He's a big boy, he can sleep by himself." George winked and Ginny swatted his arm.

"Oh, you! Leave Harry alone," she told them with a smile. "The only thing he did was save my life. You should be grateful."

"We are, we are," Fred assured her, as he turned to Harry. "We've even brought him a gift." He held out a brightly wrapped package about the size of his hand. Harry took it carefully as Fred shook his other hand enthusiastically. "Many thanks for saving our dear, beloved, little sister," he said importantly, his chest puffing out in a decent impersonation of Percy. "As the oldest Weasley present …"

"Hey!"

"…by four minutes," Fred continued, "I feel it is my duty to let you know that the entire Weasley family is indebted to you for your brave, noble, and self-sacrificing service of…"

"Stripping our sister down and climbing naked into bed with her!" George chimed in. Ron cuffed him upside the head and everyone laughed, though to Harry's eyes Hermione's looked a bit forced.

"Out you go," Madame Pomfrey said again, holding the door open for them.

Hermione hugged him and told him that she was making extra copies of her notes for him. Ron nodded solemnly and then kissed Ginny on the cheek. Angelina gave them both hugs. George was the last to go, he kissed Ginny, ruffling her hair playfully. Then he turned to clap Harry heartily on the back – a little too heartily, Harry thought, fighting the urged to rub his shoulder.

"Seriously, mate," he said. "Thanks." Then he leaned in a bit further and said softly, "But we weren't kidding about the broomstick." With a wink, he turned and left the Infirmary.

Ginny was looking at him curiously, obviously wondering what George had said.

Harry smiled. "Well, at least they didn't hex me…though I don't think I will open their present." He nudged it carefully on the nightstand, halfway expecting it to explode in his face.

Ginny nodded sagely. "I think that is a wise decision."

The End? - For now at least. ;)



Well, it's finished. sigh Two and a half months late, but better late than never, right? Many thanks to Anne and Imogen for the beta, and especially to Bela – who thought up the wonderful title. It was truly inspired. (