Title: "Sponges, Spills, and Sweaters"

Author: Emmyjean

Rating: PG

Spoilers: Through Goblet of Fire

Disclaimer: Everything belongs to the great J.K. Rowling.

Summary: Harry and Ginny wind up serving detention together, and things turn out worse - and better - than either of them expected.

Authorís Notes: I have to thank Casca for the setup to this fic...I couldnít for the life of me think of a reason for them to get the detention in the first place. She, of course, did...and it worked out beautifully. J

~~

"Ron?" Harry ventured as he stood and brushed snow off of his cloak, at loath to interrupt the little scene unfolding in front of him.

It was the first snowfall of the year, and as luck would have it, it had come on a Friday afternoon. After classes were dismissed, the whole of Gryffindor House had headed outside to have a snowball fight in the courtyard...odd years versus even. Harry, Ron, and Hermione were now in seventh year and were at a slight disadvantage at first, with there being four odd years and only three evens - but they soon realized that the first years weren't nearly aggressive enough to count for much on the other side.

Because they were all on the same team, they had been fighting together - until Ron had dared to throw his sixth-year sister, Ginny, into a snowbank. Hermione had leapt illegally to her defense, and now she and Ron were embroiled in a laughing wrestling match on the ground. Harry shook his head...he knew they fancied each other, and that this little fight was just an excuse to get close to one another without fessing up to their feelings. He wished they'd just admit it out loud...and then he glanced over and saw that Ginny, too, was apparently fed up with it. She was trudging through the snow, away from the huge war that was still raging and back toward the castle.

††††††††††† Harry glanced once more at his friends, and decided he, too, had had enough of the snow for one day. He jogged a bit to catch up with Ginny. Hearing him behind her, she turned around swiftly to deflect an attack...but when she realized it was him, her brows snapped together in confusion.

††††††††††† "Oh, it's you," she breathed in relief.

††††††††††† "You going in?" he asked simply.

††††††††††† "Yeah...I'm a bit tired."

††††††††††† He nodded and replied, "Yeah, me too. I'll walk up with you."

††††††††††† They walked the rest of the way back to the castle in a slightly awkward silence - neither one had much to say to the other. After all, they didn't really have anything in common aside from those things which were beyond their control. Once inside, they both shook off their robes...and started at the loud bark of cruel laughter which came suddenly from the shadows of the entrance hall.

††††††††††† "So you thought you'd get away with it, eh? Don't you brats know I'm sick of cleaning up your messes?"

††††††††††† It was Argus Filch, the caretaker, an expression of dark glee on his face at having "apprehended" them. He pointed at the puddle on the floor and arched a bushy eyebrow, continuing,

††††††††††† "I'll take care of this...but you two are going to do something for me in return! Let's see...how about ten this evening in the Great Hall? Oh, and by the way...this is a detention, so you'd best show up!"

††††††††††† After he turned and stalked away grumbling about having to get his mop and pail, Harry and Ginny looked at each other disbelievingly.

††††††††††† "But...we aren't the only ones who are going to be tracking in here! What does he expect, in the middle of December? Is he going to give the whole student body detention, too?" Ginny asked incredulously.

††††††††††† Harry shook his head and moved to continue up to the Tower, explaining resolutely as though to himself, "He's only making an example of us...it's nothing personal to Filch. Never is, really...he'll go after anyone."

††††††††††† Ginny sighed in response, and they didn't say anything more until they reached the Gryffindor Common Room. After giving the password to the Fat Lady, they climbed the stairs to the dorms. Harry glanced at Ginny just before they parted ways and said,

††††††††††† "Well, I guess I'll see you at ten tonight, then."

††††††††††† She nodded dismally, and went through the door into the girls dorms. Harry, though it had nothing to do with her, wasn't looking forward to seeing her again.

~~

††††††††††† Ten o'clock eventually rolled around, and Harry stood up from his chess game with Ron just as Ginny came down the stairs toward the portrait hole. She caught his eye, and he nodded, moving to join her. Dean called out from behind them,

††††††††††† "Let's have some applause for Harry and Ginny...two brave souls who are taking an undoubtedly heavy workload upon their shoulders on behalf of the entire Gryffindor House!"

††††††††††† Everyone started clapping except Ron and Hermione, who respectively scowled and cast sympathetic looks at them before they turned to leave. They didn't say anything on the way to the Great Hall, each too worried about what Filch had in store for them once they got there. As they met him by the huge doors leading into the massive room, however, he managed to shock them both with his planned punishment.

††††††††††† "I don't have time to waste, so I'm going to explain this quickly and hope you two aren't too dense to understand it...you'll be washing the entire floor of the Great Hall this evening. Those are your buckets and sponges, and you'll fill them with water in the bathroom down the hall...NO magic whatsoever is to be used. And...you'll be in there as long as it takes. Any questions?"

††††††††††† He and Ginny stared, dumbfounded, and Filch took that as a negative answer.

††††††††††† "Good...I'll check back in a couple of hours, then. Have a jolly time of it," he sneered as he clomped away.

††††††††††† Harry and Ginny looked at each other briefly, unable to comprehend the magnitude of this task. The entire school and then some ate in the Great Hall regularly, and it was going to be a huge amount of work to go over the entire floor. Resigned to his fate and determined not to waste any time, Harry grabbed his empty pails and heard Ginny follow suit as he started toward the bathroom.

As they stood at the sinks filling up the buckets, Harry found himself wondering just how Ginny was going to be able to lug all that water back to the Great Hall without pulling her arms off. She didn't notice him staring, thankfully, as she was intent on getting the water as close to the brim of the bucket as possible without spilling.

††††††††††† "Er...Ginny?"

††††††††††† She looked up startled, as if she had just remembered that he was there.

††††††††††† "Hmm?"

††††††††††† He thought about how he could put this delicately, without insulting her. Deciding that he was just going to have to come out and say it, he cleared his throat and said,

††††††††††† "Umm...are you sure you should be filling it up that high?"

††††††††††† She looked back down at her bucket, puzzled, and replied, "I didnít want to have to make two trips."

††††††††††† He nodded quickly to show that he understood, but went on, "It's just that...well, water can be kind of heavy. At least, when it's in big wooden buckets, and..."

††††††††††† "Oh, I'll be alright. Thanks, though."

††††††††††† Harry opened his mouth to say more, but decided against it as she turned off the tap and gripped the handle on the bucket, preparing to lift it out of the sink. She heaved once, and managed to get it over the edge of the basin before dropping it with a dull thud on the floor. Harry could tell she was reconsidering her ability to carry two buckets, as she eyed the wooden pail dubiously. Finishing with his second bucket, he lifted it out of the sink and then reached a hand out for hers.

††††††††††† "Here...let me take that, and I'll come back for my other one."

††††††††††† She looked up at him and held out her hand, insisting, "No, no...I've got it. Really...you just take those two."

††††††††††† He regarded her a moment longer before shrugging and lifting his two full buckets from the floor. He glanced back as he walked out the door, and was slightly impressed to see that so far, she had managed to lift both pails and seemingly had them under control - although her arms were wobbling like mad.

††††††††††† They finally made their way back to the Great Hall, and set their pails down. Looking about, they both tried to decide how to begin on the enormous task ahead of them. Harry glanced at Ginny, who had her eyes narrowed towards the far end of the room.

††††††††††† "What's the matter?" he asked.

††††††††††† She looked at him, blinked, and replied absently, "Oh, I was just thinking that this is going to take us all night."

††††††††††† Harry nodded resolutely, and said, "Why don't you take the teacher's platform, and I'll..."

††††††††††† "Oh, no," she protested before he could finish, and his eyebrows flew up in surprise as he regarded her with his mouth open, "we both got the same detention, and we're both doing the same amount of work. We'll start on opposite ends of the Hall, and meet in the middle. Then, we'll do the platform last."

††††††††††† He stared at her for a moment, slightly shocked by her sudden authoritative tone. He had never known Ginny Weasley to be anything but relatively quiet and slightly timid...at least when she was around him. He supposed sardonically that this is what desperate situations do to people, thinking again how they were going to be trapped here together all night, then shrugged again and replied, "Fine...whatever."

††††††††††† Harry picked up one of his buckets and just as he was about to turn and walk to the wall on his left, he saw Ginny snatch up her pail - only it was too full, and water sloshed over the side with the force of her attempted lifting. She was now soaking wet from the knees down. He was going to say something, but the look on her face stopped the words in his throat...and he found he had to fight to keep from bursting into hysterical laughter. She didn't look angry or annoyed...but an expression of pure, unadulterated shock graced her face. Her mouth was hanging as wide as it would go, her eyes were bulging and staring right at him, and she was frozen in her hunched position.

††††††††††† He shot her a sympathetic look as she dramatically rolled her eyes and exhaled loudly. Shaking her head and grumbling, she turned and walked as swiftly as she could toward her side of the Hall - holding the bucket as far away from her body as possible. Harry couldn't help grinning as long as she wasn't looking...he had never seen her act so candidly around him. He kneeled and soaked his rag, beginning to scrub.

††††††††††† He wasn't afraid of hard work...he had been forced to do all the chores in the Dursley household for years. The simple fact that he didn't feel they deserved this detention was the only thing keeping him from putting all his effort into it. He glanced up and found Ginny, too, had begun to wash her section all the way on the other side of the massive room...and then decided it would go faster if he didn't dwell on how much work they actually had ahead of them, so he looked back down at the bit of floor in his immediate vicinity.

††††††††††† After about an hour had passed, Harry found he had actually made some progress toward the middle of the room, and the thought encouraged him enough to keep his mind off how tired he was already. He glanced at his watch briefly, only to find that it was merely half-past midnight. He kept on with his task, when suddenly he heard a faint sound echoing from Ginny's side of the Hall. He stopped scrubbing and strained his ears to hear...and then sat up in puzzlement as he realized she was singing.

††††††††††† "Just whistle while you work...hmm-hmm-hm-hm-hm-hm-hmmm..."

††††††††††† "Hey!" he called, and she didn't hear him, but continued singing merrily.

††††††††††† "...and cheerfully together we can tidy up the place...just hum a merry tune, hmm-hmm-hm-hm-hm-hm-hmmm..."

††††††††††† "Ginny!" he called louder, and she looked up startled, as though she had forgotten there was someone else in the room with her.

††††††††††† "How do you know that song?" he asked, smiling curiously.

††††††††††† "What!?" she called, straining closer to hear.

††††††††††† He took a deep breath and bellowed, "How do YOU know that song!?"

††††††††††† She fell back on her heels, puzzling over this, and yelled back, "I dunno...I've known it since I was little!"

††††††††††† "But how!?"

††††††††††† "What!?"

††††††††††† He sighed, and stood up. He supposed a small break wouldn't hurt anything, and he was too curious about this to let it drop. As he approached, he noticed she looked a bit red in the face - he supposed she was embarrassed for having been heard singing. He smiled slightly as he crouched next to her and asked,

††††††††††† "How do you know it, though? The song?"

††††††††††† She looked at him, her brows furrowed, and replied, "I don't know what you mean...where did I learn it?"

††††††††††† He nodded, and said, "It's a song from a Muggle film. I was just wondering how you knew it. You're part of a full-blooded wizard family."

††††††††††† Ginny smiled as she realized what he was asking her, and she threw her sponge into the bucket beside her as she replied,

††††††††††† "Oh, well...I think you can safely consider Dad an honorary Muggle."

††††††††††† He laughed, conceding her point, and went on, suddenly interested, "So...he actually exposed you all to Muggle culture while you were growing up?"

††††††††††† "Not everyone...just me, and only because I used to ask him about it. I guess I was the only one who was ever interested enough. Let's see..." she scratched her nose as she pondered this, and Harry tried not to laugh out loud at the smudge of suds she left on her face, "I had a Muggle radio in my room, and a bunch of Muggle toys and stuff."

††††††††††† Harry briefly reflected on the fact that he had never seen Ginny's room at the Burrow, and then pushed the thought out of his mind as he felt it was slightly indecent. He didn't know why, though. Uncomfortable suddenly, he stood up to move back to his own side of the Hall. Before he left, he called back over his shoulder,

††††††††††† "You've got suds on your nose."

††††††††††† He caught her look of realization just before he turned away again and walked back to his own bucket. He began scrubbing again and, after a moment, realized that the room was silent again. He couldn't help wishing he hadn't interrupted her to ask questions...he had been quite enjoying her singing. She didn't have a bad voice at all.

††††††††††† Just then, the doors burst open, startling him. Filch sauntered slowly thorugh them, followed by his abominable cat Mrs. Norris. He looked from Harry to Ginny and back again, grinning evilly as he did so.

††††††††††† "I see you two have taken the smart route and decided to work rather than waste time talking. No problems, I expect?" he asked in a voice which made Harry think he didn't truly care whether they were having trouble or not. Ginny, however, didn't seem to catch this intonation in Filch's voice - either that, or she didn't care. She stood and scrambled over to stand before him.

††††††††††† "Actually, umm...Mr. Filch, I have a slight problem. I...would it be possible for me to run quickly to my dorm and get a change of clothes? I've gotten wet, and it's very cold in here..."

††††††††††† Before she could finish, Filch interrupted, "Ah, but Miss Weasley...I thought you enjoyed being cold and wet! I reckon you could stand a bit more of it, don't you agree?"

††††††††††† "B-but..."

††††††††††† "That will do," he finished with finality, giving her a withering look and stalking out of the room, slamming the doors behind him. Harry chanced a glance at Ginny...and almost burst out laughing again. She was standing stock still, staring at the closed doors through which Filch had just departed. Her hands were held out in a silent gesture of supplication although her arms seemed pinned to her sides, and she was almost standing on her tiptoes. Her shoulders were hunched, and her mouth was, once again, hanging open. Harry found that although he could keep form sniggering out loud, he couldn't stop his shoulders from shaking violently with silent laughter.

††††††††††† Apparently hearing it anyway, Ginny turned slowly around and regarded him, not changing her expression in the least. He looked up at her apologetically, but only laughed harder.

††††††††††† "Oh, you think it's funny, do you?" she asked dangerously.

††††††††††† He couldn't reply - he was too out of breath and his sides were cramping. He merely held up a hand.

††††††††††† "Well, you're not the one who has to live in these robes for the next seven hours! I'm going to have to go to the hospital wing after this for pneumonia!" she whirled around and stalked over to her bucket, yanking it up and carrying it clumsily closer to where he was. Apparently, she was finished with her section already.

††††††††††† He, still chuckling, replied, "Ginny, come on..."

††††††††††† She opened her mouth to interrupt, when suddenly the handle on the bucket came loose on one side...and deluge of water doused Ginny's entire front, from her neckline to her feet. She froze in her tracks, and Harry finally stopped laughing. She closed her eyes and bit the insides of her cheeks and she let the empty bucket swing to her side. Looking down at her water-soaked robes, she pulled at them where they clung to her body and heaved a great, frustrated sigh.

††††††††††† Harry suddenly felt very bad for laughing at her...he could see now that she was shivering, and considered that it was quite cold in the Hall when all the torches weren't lit. On top of that, they had to kneel on the hard stone floor. She walked slightly away from him and set her bucket down near her other one, and set to work without another word. He followed suit, not really knowing what to say. He had never spent this much time with Ginny Weasley, alone or otherwise, and he didn't know her...much less how to talk to her when she was upset. As far as he could recall, she had never really demonstrated any kind of identifiable emotion at all in front of him.

He wished briefly that Ron was there.

††††††††††† After about ten more minutes of working in silence, he looked up at her...and found he wished he hadn't. She was trembling, he could see it even from where he was kneeling. Her robes were clinging to her as if they were form-fitting, and she was working much slower now. He threw his sponge into his bucket of dirty water and stood up. She looked at him in surprise and asked,

††††††††††† "Where are you going?"

††††††††††† "I'm going to Gryffindor Tower to get you some clothes," he replied firmly.

††††††††††† She stood too, her sopping robes bunching up as she did so.

††††††††††† "No...thanks, but Filch is probably guarding the door."

††††††††††† He shook his head and replied, "I don't care. Detention is one thing, but you really are going to get sick if you stay like that. That's just..."

††††††††††† "Besides," she continued reasonably, "You couldn't get my clothes, unless you barged into my dorm and woke up all my sleeping roommates. I don't think you want that."

††††††††††† He sighed, and looked her up and down...then went red and wished he hadn't done it as she cast her eyes to the floor in embarrassment.

††††††††††† "You can't stay in those robes, though. It's ridiculous."

††††††††††† "No...it's alright, really. I'll be fine."

††††††††††† He sighed and knelt back down, but instead of retrieving his sponge he continued to stare at her. How could he sit there in his completely dry clothes while she...

††††††††††† "Do you want my clothes?" he blurted out suddenly.

††††††††††† She faltered in her scrubbing and looked up at him, confused.

††††††††††† "Sorry?"

††††††††††† Harry mentally kicked himself, and then wondered why he cared. It was just Ginny.

††††††††††† "I mean...you can have my sweater."

††††††††††† She opened her mouth to protest, but he cut her off. It was the least he could do for her.

††††††††††† "Really...I have another shirt on underneath, and my robes are dry. There's no reason for you to go on like that," he said, already unfastening his robes and pulling the sweater off by the wrists.

††††††††††† "W-well...alright, then," Ginny agreed reluctantly as she averted her eyes.

††††††††††† He handed her the green sweater and re-fastened his robes. It was recognizable as one of those he had received from Mrs. Weasley as a Christmas present - it had a large "H" on the front. She took it, but didn't do anything with it at first. When he raised his eyebrows at her questioningly, she laughed nervously and explained,

††††††††††† "I suppose it wouldn't do much good if I put it on over my own soaking things."

††††††††††† He frowned, and then realized what she was asking him to do. He cleared his throat nervously, then stood and turned his back on her. As he stared at the wall opposite him, he tried very hard not to imagine the actions that were surely accompanying the rustling sounds of fabric behind him. This was definitely not something that should be making him feel warm, even in the absence of his sweater.

††††††††††† "Okay...you can look now," he heard her say a bit timidly when she was finished. He turned and knelt down to get back to work...only the sight of her wearing his oversized sweater - with nothing on underneath, he realized as he glanced at her balled up shirt a few feet away - was not helping his temperature predicament at all. He began scrubbing the floor fiercely as he tried once more to get his mind off such things.

††††††††††† These thoughts are perfectly natural, a voice inside his head said.

††††††††††† Not when they concern my best friend's little sister, he shot back at it angrily.

††††††††††† He was trying so hard to control his inner self that he wasn't paying enough attention to what he was actually doing - and he promptly caught his foot on his half-full bucket, tipping it toward him and sending the dirty water pooling around his bent knees. He stopped scrubbing and looked slowly up at Ginny...and found she was struggling not to giggle out loud.

††††††††††† "Oh, so it's funny when it happens to me, eh?" he asked in a low voice, although he couldn't help a small smile.

††††††††††† She did laugh out loud then, and replied, "It's not that...I was just thinking that it's a good thing you gave me your sweater, or else we wouldn't have a dry bit of clothing between us!"

††††††††††† He chuckled and pointed out, "I don't. You're the only one with that privilidge, as far as I can see."

††††††††††† She laughed again, and looked in dismay at the puddle of gray water now expanding toward the section of floor they had already gone over. She frowned suddenly, and stood up. He went still, wondering what she was looking at...when all at once she turned and flashed a bright smile in his direction that nearly knocked the wind out of him. When had she gotten so pretty?

††††††††††† "Harry...do you notice any difference between that side of the room and this one?"

††††††††††† He stood up, wincing at the cold of his clinging robes, and looked about.

††††††††††† "No...except that the floor's wet over there."

††††††††††† Ginny nodded emphatically and, her eyes bright with some sudden realization, replied, "Exactly! Don't you see? This whole thing is pointless...there's really no way to clean a stone floor!"

††††††††††† Harry frowned as he tried to understand her reasoning. Not that she wasn't right, he just couldn't see why she was so happy about this - it only meant that Filch had given them an entirely futile task to complete in detention. As far as Harry was concerned, it only served to increase his resentment at having unjustly received the punishment at all.

††††††††††† "So," he asked warily, "How does this help us, exactly?"

††††††††††† Ginny rolled her chocolate brown eyes as if this were the stupidest question he had ever asked, and elaborated, "Well, isn't it obvious?"

††††††††††† Harry chuckled despite himself and remarked, "You sound like Hermione."

††††††††††† She smiled back and clarified, "It means we don't have to go on like this - scrubbing and whatnot. We can just wet the parts of the floor we haven't done yet, and tell Filch we cleaned the whole thing...he'll never know the difference."

††††††††††† Harry shook his head and pointed out, "But he was just in here. If it took us three hours to do half of the room, how are we going to explain the fact that we were able to finish in a matter of minutes?"

††††††††††† She shrugged and contemplated this for a moment before replying, "Well, we can just stay in here for a couple more hours. I don't mind sitting here, but I'm sick of kneeling on that hard stone. It's making me sore."

††††††††††† Harry was about to protest that it was pointless to simply sit in the Great Hall doing nothing all night, but he was suddenly struck with the realization that he didn't mind so much. He was tired, cold, achy, wet, and extremely irritated at Filch - but somehow he was looking forward to simply relaxing in the huge, isolated room and talking with Ginny.

††††††††††† It was a disconcerting thought to have...and he couldn't explain where it came from, which only puzzled him more. In the end, however, he decided it was too late at night - or rather, early in the morning - to try and make sense of it, and so he agreed to her idea.

††††††††††† "Alright then," she said, picking up her bucket with some effort, "Let's finish this up, shall we?"

††††††††††† She strode over to an undone corner and, with a charismatic swing, emptied the contents of her pail. Water drenched the floor around her, at which point she set down her empty bucket and stuck a rag under her foot...and began dragging it as best she could across the flooded stones. Harry had to admit - she was certainly resourceful, as it seemed to be working well. He was so wrapped up in watching her that it came as somewhat of a surprise when she stopped and looked up at him expectantly.

††††††††††† "Well?" she called, "Don't just stand there...wipe the goofy smile off your face and go do that other corner!"

††††††††††† He started, realizing with some embarrassment that he had indeed been watching her with a smile on his face, and went to give the other unwashed corner the same treatment. After they had made quick work of this, they came back together in the center of the room and looked around.

††††††††††† "It looks like we did the entire floor...donít you think?" Ginny asked.

††††††††††† Harry nodded, slightly put out that they hadn't thought of this three hours ago. He watched as Ginny sighed triumphantly and went to sit in a corner that was already dry, her back against the wall. As she stretched her legs out, he could hear her knees crack in protest. Walking over to where she sat, he decided to sit with his back against the connecting wall...it would be easier to have a conversation that way. Harry, however, found that he couldn't think of a thing to say to her and couldn't help laughing softly to himself at the absurdity of the situation.

††††††††††† "What?" she asked, having apparently heard his laugh.

††††††††††† He shook his head and replied, "Nothing...I was just thinking how odd it is that we've known each other for five years and yet I can't think of anything to talk about."

††††††††††† She regarded him for a moment, and then asked, "Why not?"

††††††††††† He shrugged and answered, "Well...the truth is, I don't really know you that well."

††††††††††† She was silent for a moment, contemplating this, and Harry wondered briefly whether he had somehow hurt her feelings...it hadn't been his intention to do so. Finally, she spoke.

††††††††††† "So...ask me something."

††††††††††† He looked at her, and she was regarding him with an open, friendly expression. He thought once again how odd it was that he had never before truly spoken to her without the barrier of her shyness between them...it was refreshing to be rid of it. He didn't know what had prompted her to get past it tonight, but she had...probably to make the time spent enclosed in a room alone with him more bearable for herself.

††††††††††† "Ask you something?" he repeated when he got his mind back on the conversation at hand.

††††††††††† He thought he could see her redden slightly as she elaborated, "Well, you just said you don't know me very well. What do you want to know...if anything?"

††††††††††† He thought for a minute, and considered that there couldn't possibly be any stupid questions where this conversation was concerned. He personally thought the entire thing was slightly ridiculous. Taking a breath, he asked,

††††††††††† "Alright, then...um...what's your favorite subject?"

††††††††††† She smiled slightly at the simplicity of the question and replied immediately, "Care of Magical Creatures."

††††††††††† He was surprisedÖhe wouldn't have thought she'd be one for getting her eyebrows singed off.

††††††††††† "Really?"

††††††††††† She nodded and said, "I love animals. Why do you think Errol has lived so long?"

††††††††††† He smiled at the thought of the Weasleys' decrepit old post owl, and imagined Ginny spoon-feeding him porridge. Chuckling slightly to himself, he said,

††††††††††† "Well then, um...okay. What's your...er, your favorite color?"

††††††††††† Her eyes lit up at this one, and she replied eagerly, "Oh, that's easy. Green."

††††††††††† "Why?" he asked, and then considered that it was a bit of an unanswerable question.

††††††††††† She shrugged and replied, "It can be warm or cool, whichever you want. It means spring is coming, and that the vegetables are fresh. I donít know...itís just a beautiful color."

††††††††††† She trailed off and blushed slightly, hiding her face behind her bright red hair. He didnít understand why she apparently thought her answer was silly. Personally, he thought she had explained it quite impressively.

††††††††††† "You know," he said offhandedly, "My aunt used to tell me that green was a vile color...sickly, or something."

††††††††††† Ginny regarded him with a strange, annoyed expression on her face, as if she herself had just been provoked.

††††††††††† "But...your eyes are green."

††††††††††† He felt mysteriously pleased that his eyes matched her favorite color, even though she didnít seem to be making the connection herself. That, and he considered the thought exceedingly foolish for a boy of his age.

††††††††††† "Yeah," he replied dismissively, suddenly wanting to change the subject, "I think thatís why she said it in the first place."

††††††††††† Ginny frowned slightly, and he mentally kicked himself for starting what was sure to be another pity party for him. He talked about his life with the Dursleys simply because those were the stories he had to tell, not because he wanted anybody's sympathy.

††††††††††† When she spoke, however, it wasn't at all what he had expected her to say.

††††††††††† "You never took the opportunity to poison them? That would have shown them quite explicitly the look of a sickly color."

††††††††††† He smiled wryly at her and replied, "No...but did I ever tell you about the time I blew up my Aunt Marge?"

††††††††††† She laughed and shook her head, her eyes sparkling. He considered briefly that it had been a needless question on his part - of course he had never told her about it. They had never spoken long enough for him to tell her any kind of story whatsoever. Feeling a strange sort of regret flare briefly at this admission, he proceeded to tell her about the entire episode.

††††††††††† When he was finished, she went on laughing for a good few minutes, and he found himself ridiculously pleased she had found it so funny. She wiped her eyes finally, and said,

††††††††††† "You'll have to learn how you did that, and then teach me so that I can do it to Gred and Forge."

††††††††††† He laughed, and said, "Not a chance. I got off scot-free with that, and I'm not about to go asking any teachers to tell me how to do it again!"

††††††††††† She shrugged, and fell silent for a moment. She began idly tracing a pattern around some of the stones embedded in the floor beside her, and he found himself lost in thought as he gazed openly at her. He felt suddenly as though he were seeing her for the first time - he had seen her before, of course, but had never really taken the time to actually look at her. As uncomfortable as he was with the thought, he couldn't help admitting that she had become quite a pretty girl. He wondered briefly about what he would think of her if she weren't his best friend's little sister - would he have noticed her at all? Or would he have noticed her even sooner?

††††††††††† She looked up at him then and caught him staring. Their eyes met, and they both quickly looked away, embarrassed. Why was this so awkward? After all these years, they should be at ease with each other as siblings would be...but somehow, they weren't. Harry couldn't name a reason, and it bothered him.

††††††††††† "Harry?"

††††††††††† He looked at her again to find her staring intently at her still-wet shoes.

††††††††††† "I...I mean, I wanted to tell you...something."

††††††††††† He felt panic grip his gut, and suddenly he wanted to stand up and run out of the room as fast as he could. If she was about to confess to him what he thought she was, he didn't want to hear it. He didn't want to have to deal with it. Somehow, though, he was riveted to his place on the floor beside her, and couldn't find it in him to move or speak at all. She looked up at him, and he swallowed at the determination in her brown eyes.

††††††††††† "I just...I don't expect it to change your perception of me, but I...I've been wanting to tell you this for a long time. Since my second year, actually."

††††††††††† He felt as though he was suffocating, but he couldn't do anything except nod stupidly and wait for her to spit it out.

††††††††††† She took a breath and, closing her eyes briefly, said,

††††††††††† "I didn't send you that valentine."

††††††††††† All the responses he had hastily planned in the past few seconds to what he had thought she was going to say disappeared from his mind, leaving him with a confused blank stare. He opened his mouth, but found he didn't have anything to say. Luckily, she spared him the trouble and went on,

††††††††††† "I really didn't want to ever bring it up again, as it was probably the most humiliating day of my life, but...I just had to say it. It's been nagging at me for years, and I needed to get it out in the open."

††††††††††† He blinked and then frowned.

††††††††††† "You...you didn't send it? But, then..." he found he couldn't get his tongue to form words correctly, he was so startled at what she had just said...or rather, what she had not just said.

††††††††††† "Then, what?" she prompted helpfully.

††††††††††† "Then...who DID send it?"

††††††††††† She shrugged dismissively and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear as she replied, "How should I know?"

††††††††††† More shocking than the comparative triviality of what she had said to what he had expected was the reaction Harry found himself having to it. He was...disappointed? He couldn't figure out why...was it because she hadn't send the card, or because she hadn't said what he had thought she was going to say? And regardless of which one it was, why in hell was he feeling let down at all?

††††††††††† "So...you didn't send it?" he asked again daftly.

††††††††††† She shook her head and replied, "You probably thought I was the silliest little thing after that. I know it's too late to do anything about that now, but I thought I could at least clear my record."

††††††††††† She smiled as she made that last statement, and looked back down at her finger which was still tracing the stones in the floor. He knew he had to say something, and so he said the first thing that came into his head.

††††††††††† "I wonder who it could have been, then?"

††††††††††† She giggled and looked up at him again, her eyes sparkling with mirth as she suggested, "Perhaps it was Gilderoy Lockhart...he was your biggest fan, I think."

††††††††††† He snorted and replied, "He probably wasted all his time sending valentines to himself."

††††††††††† Ginny thought for a moment, then said, "Well then...maybe Colin Creevey."

††††††††††† Harry frowned, "Somehow, that thought disturbs me."

††††††††††† Ginny laughed again, and Harry couldn't keep the grin off his face at the sound of it. It was ludicrous to be having this good of a time at detention. She sighed dramatically and said,

††††††††††† "Well, then there's only one remaining explanation."

††††††††††† "What's that?" Harry asked.

††††††††††† She cast him a sly glance and began pulling at her wet robes as she replied seriously, "It was Draco Malfoy. Really, it's painfully obvious."

††††††††††† He began to laugh as he replied incredulously, "It is?"

††††††††††† She nodded matter-of-factly and explained, "Think about it...he just happened to be there when you were presented with the poem, and he was the one who pinned it on me in the first place."

††††††††††† Harry couldn't reply, he was laughing too hard. When he thought about it, he realized that she must have spent all these years trying to figure out just who had been the perpetrator, while he had been living comfortably in the belief that it had been her. Finally, he looked up at her and said,

††††††††††† "Well, if that's true, then it's even more disturbing than the Colin Creevey theory. It think I'd have preferred it to have been you, after all."

††††††††††† He could see her cheeks turn pink before she quickly looked back down at her lap, and she giggled as he continued to smile warmly at the top of her head. What a funny girl she was, he thought. The smallest thing can embarrass her, while Fred and George's worst prank has no effect at all. He felt an odd sort of emotion tugging at the pit of his stomach, and suddenly decided he needed to get out of this room as quickly as possible. He obviously needed sleep.

††††††††††† "I guess we can go now," he said quietly.

††††††††††† She looked up in surprise, and then cast her eyes about the now nearly completely dry room. She smiled ruefully and agreed, "I guess so."

††††††††††† He hadn't meant to make her feel uncomfortable, and he felt immediately sorry as she stood wearily and walked over to pick up her two empty buckets. He followed her out of the Great Hall, carrying his own buckets, and they looked around for Filch.

††††††††††† "I don't know...where do you suppose we should leave these?" she asked.

††††††††††† He shrugged and replied, "Let's just leave them outside the door, shall we? He'll be down soon...it's just about breakfast time."

††††††††††† She nodded, and they set their pails down and proceeded to walk up the stairs towards Gryffindor Tower. He cast a glance at her and found her pensively gazing out the windows at the sunshine which was now spilling into the castle. He wondered when he would get the chance to talk with her again...not in passing, as it had always been before, but really have a conversation with her. He wouldn't mind having Ginny as a friend, he admitted to himself as they rounded the last turn on the way back to the dorms. It was easier to be alone with her than he had originally thought it would be, and he worried that after this there wouldn't be another opportunity. Smiling a bit to himself, he considered what Ron would think of his suggesting Ginny spend time with them more often. He'd probably get the wrong idea and think that Harry...

††††††††††† Frowning, he pushed the train of thought from his mind as quickly as it had come. He didn't know why...it was just something he didn't want to ponder anymore.

††††††††††† Finally, they approached the portrait of the Fat Lady. Harry glanced at Ginny and found that she was just about falling asleep on her feet. He smiled and gave the password, thankful to be back himself as the portrait swung open. They went directly to the stairs, past a few students who were on their way out to breakfast.

††††††††††† "Hey...it's about time!"

††††††††††† Harry and Ginny both turned to find Ron rising from a chair by the window on the other side of the room. He smiled as he approached them, continuing,

††††††††††† "I waited up until about midnight, and then gave up and went to sleep. When I woke up half an hour ago, you still weren't back in your bed. Filch really did a number on you, eh?"

††††††††††† Harry nodded tiredly and replied, "You have no idea. I'm about to fall down right here and drift off."

††††††††††† "Well," Ron said, "I'm gonna wait for Hermione. I guess we'll see you later on, whenever you wake up."

††††††††††† He shrugged and started to turn and go back to his seat, when suddenly he did a double-take at his sister. His brows snapped together in confusion and he asked,

††††††††††† "Ginny...isn't that Harry's shirt?"

††††††††††† Harry felt his face go red as he remembered that Ginny was indeed still wearing his sweater. There was no mistaking that it was his, either...it had a big "H" on the front. Glancing quickly at Ginny, who was staring at her own front as if she herself was surprised to find she was wearing his clothes, Harry explained,

††††††††††† "Umm...she spilled water all over herself and I...er, I didn't want her to get sick."

††††††††††† Ron nodded and merely replied with, "Oh," before shrugging and walking away. Harry was intensely relieved, but didn't understand why he felt as though he was hiding something. He looked again at Ginny, who was shaking her head wearily and turning to continue up to the dorms. He followed, and at the landing before they could part ways she turned to him suddenly and remarked,

††††††††††† "Oh, yes, speaking of which...I'll have this washed and back to you by tomorrow. Thanks again for letting me use it."

††††††††††† "It's alright," he replied mildly, "You can keep it if you want."

††††††††††† Her eyes shot to his, suddenly losing their fatigued look, and Harry felt himself growing warm. He didn't know what had prompted him to say it, but he hadn't considered the implications of his offer before the words had come out of his mouth. Nevertheless...he didn't particularly want to take them back, either.

††††††††††† "I mean, uh...I have two more. I don't really need it back. I just thought maybe...to save you the trouble of..."

††††††††††† "Thanks, Harry," she interrupted, smiling shyly and reminding him briefly of the Ginny he had known before he had known Ginny. He smiled back and replied,

††††††††††† "S'alright...it's not as if you can wear it, though."

††††††††††† She glanced down to where the sweater ended, halfway down to her knees, and laughed.

††††††††††† "Oh, I dunno...it might make nice pajamas..."

††††††††††† She stopped abruptly and shut her mouth, and Harry only felt warmer. Somehow, he knew he'd be thinking of the image she'd just put in his head later.

††††††††††† "Well," she said awkwardly, "Goodnight, then. Or rather, good morning."

††††††††††† He merely nodded in response, and she turned quickly and went into the girl's dorms. He thought that perhaps it was still going to be slightly uncomfortable around Ginny Weasley, but not at all for the same reasons as it was before last night. Harry couldn't help reflecting in addition that perhaps it was better if he didn't have that much contact with her again...it would only complicate things. He went to his own room, changed, and got into bed...and found himself wondering, as he lost control of his thoughts to fatigue, if Ginny was wearing his sweater as she lay in her own bed on the other side of the tower.

FINIS

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