The shrill sound of a whistle cut through the torrential downpour that was drenching the Chudley Cannons practice field. Thunder and lightening had started moments earlier, making flying conditions dangerous.
"Everyone down, NOW!" yelled Oliver Wood, the team's captain, even though no one could hear him over the storm.
Ginny Weasley landed her broom next to Wood. She had been recruited as a reserve Chaser by the Cannons as soon as she left Hogwarts a year ago. She was moved up to the regular team this season when one of the older Chasers was hurt and retired. Ginny's mother had not been thrilled with the prospects of her only daughter playing professional Quidditch – it was a career for wizards, not for proper young witches – but the game was one of the loves in Ginny's life, and it was what she wanted to do.
Oliver grumbled something about Mother Nature not cooperating with his practice schedule, then barked at the team as the remainder of them landed around him. "Be here, bright and early, tomorrow at seven AM sharp to make up the rest of this practice. Plan on staying late, since you are getting off early today. IS THIS UNDERSTOOD?"
The team nodded wearily in response and headed toward the dressing room. Cold and wet, Ginny went to her locker, collected her dry clothes and, instead of showering and dressing at the stadium, prepared to Apparate straight home. She wanted nothing more than the warmth of a shower and her home fire at that very moment in time, and she decided not to delay. She waved to her team mates and, with a pop, was gone.
The Burrow was quiet when Ginny arrived in the kitchen and looking around, she realized that everyone was gone, much to her delight. Nothing thrilled her more than the thought of a hot shower with no interruptions, a warm dinner, and a night by the fire reading some Muggle book that Hermione had lent her. After a very wet and cold practice, this was certainly the perfect evening in Ginny's eyes. Dripping wet from the rain, she made her way to the staircase, using her wand to clean up the water she left with each step. Her mother would certainly hex her to the Durmstrang Institute and back if she left a mess.
Tossing her now semi-dry clothes in her room (they'd become wet when she'd carried them home) and grabbing her dressing gown, she headed to the loo. Locking the door and turning on the hot water, she undressed quickly and jumped in. Closing her eyes as she lathered her hair, she reflected back on the fact that, before her brothers had moved out, she hardly ever had a hot shower. It always seemed that no matter how hard she tried, she always got the last shower and the last shower was always cold. Taking her time tonight, she finished her hair and moved on to the rest of her body. She had all the time in the world – no one home, no plans, and no expectations. The heat of the water poured over her and warmed her from the outside in. Soon, the chill of the day of practice in the rain had washed away, and Ginny was nice and warm and clean.
She had considered the idea of getting a flat of her own. But there was something comfortable about being home at the Burrow, despite the fact her mother didn't approve of her career choice. Ginny would dig in her heels, though, when Molly would start in on Quidditch. It was a small sacrifice to fight with her mother over the sport in order to have her mother's home-cooking that she loved so dearly. She knew her time was coming, though, to move out and go it alone. She had wanted to do it for a while, but wanted to save some of her salary before venturing out. Now that she was on the regular team, she was playing more and enjoying an increase in pay. She'd hoped to find a place by the end of the next summer.
Stepping out of the shower and wrapping a towel around her hair, she dried herself off with a separate towel and slipped into her dressing gown. She looked at her reflection in the mirror – her cheeks were rosy from the heat of her shower, and her freckles stood out against her flushed skin. Her eyes were bright – brown and round – as they surveyed her image carefully. Removing the towel from her hair and allowing the still-damp tresses to fall on her shoulders, she pointed her wand at the mass of hair and muttered a Drying Charm. Looking back at her reflection, she tied her hair back in a band and began to gather her wet Quidditch gear.
A hard, forceful knock on the front door brought Ginny to a halt as she was leaving the loo. Looking around, she dropped her wet clothes, tightened her grip on her wand, tied her robe and headed carefully down the steps to the door. She couldn't imagine who would be there – her brothers no longer lived here, and besides they would just come in. Her parents were out for the evening at Ron and Hermione's, and Ginny wasn't expecting company. Once at the door, she called out, "Who's there?"
"Ginny, it's me, Harry. Open up; it's bloody wet out here."
Pointing her wand at the door's opening, Ginny slowly unlocked the latch and turned the knob.
"Harry! You scared me! Come in and get out of the rain. You're drenched!" Ginny said as she threw open the door to allow Harry in.
Harry stepped across the threshold of the Burrow, dripping as much as Ginny had been when she arrived home a half hour before. His hair was matted to his head, and he looked as if he had been out in the elements for hours.
"How did you get so wet? What were you doing out in this weather?" Ginny asked as she took his wet jacket and dried it with a charm.
"Well, I was out shopping in Muggle London and got caught in it. We didn't have practice today – Mike gave us the day off," Harry replied as he cast a Drying Charm on his hair. "I went out to get some bits before I came here to meet Ron. And I got caught in the downpour. Is he here?"
"No," Ginny answered slowly. "As far as I know, Mum and Dad are visiting with Ron and Hermione at their house. Were you supposed to meet Ron here instead of there?"
"Well, yes. He said he wanted to show me some Muggle contraption your dad has out in the shed and asked me to come by here instead," he said thoughtfully. "I must have my days mixed up. I'm sorry I bothered you."
Ginny shook her head and muttered, "I'll get Ron for this."
"Pardon me?" Harry asked, sounding confused.
"Nothing, Harry. Come in by the fire. I was just getting ready to make myself some dinner. Have you eaten?"
"No, but I don't want to be any trouble. Were you getting ready to go out or anything?"
"Me? In that weather? I don't think so.," Ginny said over her shoulder as she headed towards the kitchen. "Oliver let us off due to the weather; well, he said he let us off early, but actually it was time for practice to be over. You know how Oliver is: he keeps us late every chance he gets, and nothing, absolutely nothing gets in the way of Quidditch practice. Not rain, sleet, snow or hail!"
"Yes, Oliver can be quite…persistent when it comes to Quidditch, can't he?" Harry said, as he followed the girl into the kitchen.
"Oh, yes, he certainly can be." Turning towards the stove, Ginny tilted her head to one side and lit the fire. "Have a seat at the table, Harry. It shouldn't take me too long to warm up the stew Mum left."
"Are you certain there's enough?" Harry asked.
"Harry, we're talking about my Mum. She cooks for an army no matter how many are here. Yes, there's plenty for us both," Ginny said, grinning at him.
"So," Harry began as he sat down. "You weren't going out?"
"No. I came straight home from practice and took my shower here," she said as she placed the stew over the fire. "I had planned a quiet evening here."
"Well, I don't want to disturb you. Maybe I should just go," Harry said, as he stood.
Ginny huffed out a sigh and struggled not to roll her eyes."Potter, sit! I still remember the Bat Bogey Hex and I'm not afraid to use it. I was making dinner anyway, and Mum's left enough here to feed half of Hogwarts – besides, I could use the company."
"Okay, okay," Harry laughed, holding his hands up apologetically. "Is there anything I can do to help?"
"If you don't mind, could you grab the bowls out of the closet? And get a couple of bread plates; Mum left a loaf of homemade bread on the stove," Ginny replied as she moved back over to the stew.
"As you wish, my lady," Harry said playfully as he walked over to the china closet and took out bowls and plates for two. He also removed glasses and teacups for them. Setting the table, he retrieved the cutlery and placed it out also. Walking over to Ginny, he reached over to take the cauldron full of stew from her. "Here, let me take this to the table."
"Thanks," Ginny said slowly as she looked up and realized how close Harry was standing. As he moved towards the table, she looked down and realized that she was still only in her dressing gown and went into panic mode. Oh Merlin! I've got nothing on under this! What was I thinking walking around in front of Harry like this?
"Um, Harry, why don't you make yourself comfortable and go ahead and start. I'm going to go upstairs and change. I'd forgotten I was in my gown." A faint blush had started on her chest and was rapidly moving up her neck and face.
Harry came back over to her and mumbled, "Well, I think you look lovely. You don't have to change if…if you're comfortable the way you are." Taking a piece of hair that had escaped the band, he tucked it behind her ear and looked down at her.
Ginny's heart stopped – she was certain of it. Why is Harry Potter looking at me like that? Looking into those bottomless green eyes, those eyes that could pierce her soul, she was lost. Unable to form a coherent word, she turned and picked up the bread, and the moment was broken.
"Here," Harry said. "I can take that." Taking the bread out of her hands, he headed to the table and sat down.
Ginny stood by the stove, looking numbly at him. Snapping herself out of it, she slipped into a chair next to him at the table. Clearing her throat in hopes of being capable of speech again, she asked, "So, Harry, how…how's the Quidditch season for you? Pra…Practice going alright?"
"Fine, Gin," Harry grinned. "We're getting warmed up for the season nicely. We're playing a friendly against the Montreal Mongooses next week. Mike's working us hard – not as hard as Oliver, mind you, but he does his share of making our lives miserable." He paused for a second and took a bite of the stew. "How about you? I heard you've been given Gwen's spot now that she's retired. Congratulations! I'm looking forward to playing you this season," he finished with a grin.
"Practice is going great," Ginny replied. "With the way Oliver is working us, we'll all be dead by the end of the season, but at least we'll have the best record we've had in many years."
Harry grinned wryly. "Oliver hasn't changed a bit, I see. Have you seen anyone since you and Neville broke up?"
"Er… no," Ginny answered, turning pink again. She absently cursed the Weasley blush under her breath. "There's been no time really, with practice and everything, and after Neville and I decided that we were better at being friends than dating, I didn't want to jump straight into a new relationship. Did you know he's dating Susan now?"
"Susan, eh? I was sorry to hear about you and Neville, but I never really thought you two were that compatible."
"You didn't?" Ginny stammered.
He just smiled enigmatically and went quiet.
"Well, what about you?" Ginny blurted out. "Anyone special after that Muggle girl?"
"There's been no time." He grinned impishly at her. "What with practicing and everything."
I could just kick myself for letting the conversation go in this direction, Ginny thought to herself. Looking down, she realized she was still in her dressing gown, and panic set in again.
"Um, Harry, I'll be right back. Do you need anything?"
"No, no, I'm fine, Gin. This is delicious."
"Okay, then. I'll only be a minute." Ginny got up from the table and raced upstairs to the loo. Shutting the door, she splashed cool water on her face and looked at her reflection in the mirror. Get a grip, Weasley. Harry's down there, and you're alone, and neither of you are dating anyone, and you're blushing like a school kid. What is going on?
Ginny gathered up the clothes she'd dropped earlier and went to her room, shutting the door. She quickly dressed in a pair of trousers and a jumper and checked her reflection again. As she was retying her hair back in the band, the mirror asked, What's with the blush, dear? Someone special in the house?
As she came down the stairs, Harry looked up. He paused for a moment, then stood up quickly, taking large strides to meet her at the stairs. He offered her his hand and helped her down the last stairs. "Gin," he said, "you look beautiful."
"Thanks," she said, fighting the urge to continue to blush. She couldn't ever remember him being quite so attentive, and butterflies were fluttering in her stomach as she went back to the table. Sitting down, she noticed Harry staring at her. "Is there something wrong?"
"No," he answered quickly and sat down beside her. "I'm sorry I was staring. You just look so lovely in that colour."
What's going on? We're acting like kids, fumbling over words, Ginny thought to herself before she smiled and said, "Well, let's finish eating before it gets cold. I think there's some apple pie left too."
The couple chatted about the weather, her family, new Quidditch moves and Harry's flat in London as they ate the remaining stew and bread. Once finished, they took their pie and tea into the living room, and Harry stoked the fire until it was roaring.
"So, earlier, you said you'd get Ron for this. What did you mean?" Harry asked as he lounged on the floor beside Ginny who was in front of the fire.
"Oh, nothing, really. It's sort of silly. The boys are still trying to get us together, and they were betting each other at the last family dinner – you know, the one you couldn't make because of a game – that they could get us alone together." Ginny said between bites of pie. "I told them to knock it off, but it appears that all bets were on. Ron was the last one I heard making the bet, and I'm certain he set this up."
"Oh, but why would they bet they could get us alone together? We spend time together all the time," Harry said, taking a bite of his own pie.
He is still so clueless about it all, isn't he? "Harry, the boys have been trying to get us together since we were in school – you know – as a couple. Ever since my silly crush, they've tried to embarrass me when it comes to you," she finished quietly as she looked down at the dish in her hands.
"Oh," Harry said. She looked up and met his eyes – his expression turning into a small smile that threatened to steal her remaining breath. "They think we should, you know, get together?" he continued quietly.
Ginny just nodded.
"Oh," Harry said again. He paused, looking at her intently, as neither he nor Ginny said a word.
With deliberate intentness that robbed her of the power to move, he sat his plate on a nearby table and removed hers from her unresisting hands. He scooted closer to her. "So, Gin," he whispered, leaning forward so that she could feel his hot breath brush over her ear. "Do you think we need to – you know – get together?"
Ginny swallowed hard and was hit by the sudden thought that, if this was going where she thought it might be going, she shouldn't have changed, because it seemed as if she was now wearing way too many clothes. She cleared her throat and hoped that her voice would work normally. "I don't kn…know, Harry. I don't know how you feel about me."
Harry lost his smile and looked her intently in he eyes. "How do you feel about me, Gin? Are you 'over me', or do you still like me?"
Ginny took a deep breath. It's now or never, she thought to herself. "Harry, I got over my crush on you long ago. Back in school."
"Oh I see." She could see him mentally pulled away from her, a slight blush forming on his cheek. "Maybe…"
"Wait, let me finish," Ginny interrupted, taking hold of Harry's hand, as he pulled away from her. "I got over my crush, that's true. But what you don't know is that I ended up developing much deeper feelings for you. Once I got over that silly crush, I liked you for you, not for being The-Boy-Who-Lived. I found a true friend that I honestly liked and respected. You were everything everyone thought – kind, smart, funny, brave – but everyone only wanted to know you because you defeated Voldemort. I was glad to know you because you were you – loyal, sweet, and a good friend." Ginny paused, as Harry sat back down, still holding onto her hand. "My feelings for you ended up running deeper than I ever could imagine. And it scared me a bit, because I didn't think you felt anything more than friendship for me. I still don't."
Harry sat motionless for a moment, taking in what he just heard. "So, you're saying that you have feelings for me?" he whispered, a look she didn't recognise appearing in his eyes.
"Yes, Harry, I have feelings for you." Ginny said, looking directly at him. The light in his eyes seemed to burn deep into her soul as she stumbled to continue. "Bu-but I totally understand if you don't have feelings for me. I mean, it's okay; really, we can go back to being just friends. Hanging out-"
"Wait," Harry interrupted. "Are you certain you have feelings for me? I mean, you really think you might want to be with me? I need to know if you're serious, Gin, because I've fallen for you, and I didn't think I'd ever get the nerve, or the chance, to actually tell you." Ginny watched as he paused and shook his head. "I can't believe it, because I thought you'd moved on. I've been kicking myself for years, 'cause I thought I'd missed my chance to be with you."
Ginny looked at him and started laughing.
"What's so funny?" Harry asked, confused.
"Oh, Harry, we are," Ginny said, between fits of laughter. "Here we are, dancing around each other with our emotions only to find out we have feelings for each other. I've fallen for you, too. It's always been you. I just can't believe we were both so thick that we didn't realize it at all until now."
"So," Harry said, scooting closer to her. "What do we do now?" He leaned in closer, smiling at her, looking her in the eye.
"I don't know, Harry. What would you like to see happen?" Ginny answered a bit breathless.
"Well, how about this," he whispered as he softly placed his lips on hers. The kiss was so tender, so loving, so caring. He kissed her as if he was afraid she'd break.
Pulling apart, Ginny said, "Well, that's a nice start. We may need to work on that a bit more, don't you think? I think we need as much practice as we can get." She smirked at the surprised look on Harry's face.
"Well, is this better?" Harry asked, taking the bait. He put his arms around her and pulled her close. Ginny was amazed at how strong his arms were holding her. But that feeling was nothing compared to the feeling she had when he kissed her a second time. This time, the kiss was harder, more passionate, more needy. He kissed her as if his life depended on it, and as their tongues danced and mingled together, she gave as much back as he was giving. It thrilled her, scared her, amazed her, all at the same time. She couldn't believe she was kissing Harry Potter. Harry Potter!
Once the kiss was broken, Ginny looked up into those green eyes, eyes that held so much promise, eyes that looked into her very being, and she knew she was home. Home with who she was supposed to be with, home with the man who was to make her complete. She had never before felt the depth of the feelings she was experiencing at that moment – not with Michael, not with Dean, not with Neville. She felt fulfilled, happy, warm. She wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of her days feeling like this.
Harry grinned at her and asked, "Was that better?"
"Oh yes, Harry, much, much better. I still think we need to practice, though. You know, love takes time." Ginny said, giggling.
"It does, does it?" Harry answered. "Well, let's see what we can do about that."
As he bent down to kiss her again, and before she lost all chance of conscious thought, she decided that she might thank Ron in private for setting them up, and then get Harry to help her get revenge on the lot of them – it wouldn't do for them to think that they could get away with interfering in her life – even if the end result was more than she had ever dreamed.
"Less thinking, more kissing," Harry mumbled against her lips.
She smiled, and did exactly that.
"Have you ever thought of moving out?" he asked a few gloriously-passionate minutes later.
"Huh?" she asked, a little taken aback by the question. That's come out of nowhere.
"You know," he said, as he placed distracting kisses along her lower lip. "Leave the nest, get your own place."
"A few times," she moaned softly, wishing he'd stop with the talking and get back to the kissing. "Why?"
"It's just that I've got this big flat in London; it's on the Floo network and everything." It was getting harder to follow the trail of his words, when the trail of his left hand was much more interesting, as it inched up her waist.
"And it's really too big for just one person," he said, as he moved his head down and nipped at her neck.
She blinked. And then gave herself a mental shake. "Are you asking me to move in with you?" she asked, not sure she was getting his point.
"I don't know," he mumbled, tilting her head to one side so he could nibble her collarbone. "But you might want to have a look at it first, before making any decisions."
She slid her hands up into his hair, holding him against her; she'd spent a number of nights in his flat, both alone and with the others, although she'd never stayed over night. "Why Mr Potter," she purred, as she suddenly realised what he was asking. "Are you trying to get defenceless little me alone in your den of debauchery for a night of wanton lust?"
Ginny felt him move back and look at her as if all he wanted to do was roll her onto her back right this instant and consume her. Repeatedly. She gulped softly, realising that that he was deadly serious. "Perhaps I could have a bit of a look around," she whispered. "You know, check that I like the furniture."
His eyes seemed to darken further as he slowly licked his lips. She was hit with the overwhelming urge to kiss the edge of his tongue, so she gave in, revelling in the freedom she now had with him.
"Need to check the bed, too," she finished softly, pulling back and looking at him, suddenly feeling vulnerable. "If you don't mind showing someone with no experience the ropes?"
He gulped audibly, a brief expression of surprise crossing his face, before a profoundly honoured look appeared. "Are you sure?" he asked gently, his hand reaching up, his thumb brushing across her swollen bottom lip.
She nodded, never breaking eye contact with him. She had never been so certain of anything in her life. Of course, her mother would kill her once she found out she was planning on living with Harry. Sleeping with him, too. But that was a thought for a different day, besides, if it did get bad, she now had someone to lean on, not to mention kiss. Repeatedly. Whenever she wanted.
"Well, you know it's a magic bed," he said, bringing her out of her thoughts.
"It is?" she asked, leaning her head forward and lightly sucking his thumb.
"Oh yeah," he groaned, his head going back. "Once you spend the night there, you'll have to spend nearly every night for the rest of your life sleeping in it."
"Is it a one person or two person bed?"
"Definitely two," he whispered. "Just enough room for the two of us."
She took a deep breath and then smiled at him, shoving her nervousness out of her mind. "I think I need to see how magical this bed is, Harry."
Harry shot her a smile that would have made her knees weak if she had been standing, and shot to his feet. "I'll Apparate us there," he said, grinning boyishly.
"'Kay," she said, as she unsteadily got to her feet. His arms wrapped around her, and she had to fight to suppress a giggle. It was suddenly very obvious that she wasn't the only one who had been enjoying the kissing. She pushed her hips forward experimentally and sighed happily as he groaned, "Witch," in her ear.
"Take me home, Harry," she commanded. She liked his flat anyway; it just needed a woman's touch to make it into a home for them. And new curtains. Definitely new curtains.
Ginny felt momentarily disorientated as she was Apparated half way across the country. One day she was going to have to find out just how powerful he was. But not now. Not when his hand was sliding down her back and was showing no sign of stopping. She wished she hadn't changed now, because the silk of her dressing gown would probably feel a lot better against his hand and her skin.
"Bugger," he cursed softly, his hand stopping.
"What?" she half moaned, half demanded.
"Hold on," he said, grabbing her again.
They vanished, appearing back in the Burrow.
"What are we doing back here?" she asked, eyebrow raised in curiosity.
"We forgot something."
"Oh yeah, something we definitely need," Harry answered, an intense look on his face.
He grinned at her, and kissed her hard; this time his hand didn't stop as it slid down her back, and she mewled her agreement into his mouth, grinding herself firmly against the impressive bulge she could feel.
He groaned and froze. Just before he Apparated them again, she heard him say one more thing.
"Accio Ginny's Robe."
A/N: Thanks so much to all my pre-betas, Musings, Jenadamson, and Jeconais, and my PhoenixSong beta, Aggiebell, for the final look-through and beta. This piece would be nothing without these fine folks.Jeconais especially went the extra mile and helped me fill some huge honking holes in the initial story and came up with the final ending. To him, I am grateful and owe him co-authorship, although he wouldn't take it. *grin*. This was written for the 2005 Harry Potter/Ginny Weasley LJ Ficafest, and the links to the story are: here and here.