Disclaimer: Right, we're on chapter ten now people, you know this. It's insulting to all of us for me to keep repeating that I don't own a thing with the word's 'Harry' or 'Potter' in them.

A/N: The good news: Oh, look! A one week update like they used to be! Lots of Harry/Ginny-ness in this chapter (at least for me), so I hope you like it. However shall I know if you do like it, though? Oh, right, you can leave a review! Wow! What an amazing system we have here. Ok, I'm done being…er, whatever that was – sarcastic I suppose, but I'd just call it stupid. : )

To UnRealityCheck: Thank you so much for your review! It made me so happy when I read it. You seem to understand what I'm trying to say, and it's very gratifying to hear that you've read this multiple times. I do that with fics I really like, and it's amazing to hear that someone is doing that with this one. : )

xxxxxxxxxxx

Chapter 10

Harry decided to sleep late that Thursday morning. Well, decided wasn't quite the right word for it. He was sure Hedwig or Simon messed with his alarm, because it didn't go off, and he barely woke in time to get to Children of Peace. He felt slightly guilty, but he hadn't said he was going over to the Richards' that day anyway, so he let the feeling go.

Maeve Jugson seemed to be getting on rather well with the other young girls. She even sounded more childish after only a day with her new friends, and Harry couldn't help but smile and feel a little proud of his accomplishment.

Before leaving for the hospital, Harry took Max aside and asked him if he wanted to join him with his friends on Sunday. The boy readily agreed, and Harry filled out all the paperwork Grace needed. He left the spaces for where and when he would be for when he picked Max up. He wanted to talk to Ron and Ginny about where they would go and what they would do first. Harry only wished Hermione was back from vacation, but he was also glad she was having some well-earned fun with her parents.

His time at the hospital was alright, although he noticed that Remus seemed very tired. He asked one of the nurses about it when he went to get a cup of tea, and she told him that it was probably due to all the visitors he'd had. Remus was too stubborn to fall asleep in front of people, and held out as long as he could. He was also too polite to ask anyone to leave when they had come especially to see him. Harry assured her that he would have a talk with the man.

"Remus John Lupin," he started when he walked in the door. Remus looked up at Harry amusedly, wondering what he was on about. "Don't you look at me like that. Are you getting enough rest?"

"Of course. I'm very comfortable here, Harry, even though I'd like to get out if I could."

"That wasn't my question. If I left right now, would you go to sleep?"

"Er, probably…" Remus trailed off, not certain where Harry was going with this. Harry could tell as much from his face.

"Then why don't you ask me to leave so you can rest?" Harry asked quietly and seriously.

Remus smiled gently and tried to reassure Harry. "I'm fine. The healers say that I'm right on schedule for recovery. I get plenty of sleep at night, Harry. Don't worry about that. I'm happy that you come to visit so much. I missed you."

Harry nodded. "I missed you, too, Remus," Harry said awkwardly, blocking the memories of the man's disappearance. "I like visiting as much as I can, and I've talked to Healer Tigs about your recovery a few times. But still, I can tell you're tired. You can go to sleep with me here or ask me to leave. I won't be offended either way. Just think, maybe you can get out of here sooner if you give your body all the rest it needs."

Remus sighed and nodded. "I suppose you're right, which isn't fair." He gave a wry smile. "Being James's son, you should be the irresponsible one," he said fondly. "Thank you, Harry. I'll try to get more rest if I can. To be honest, it's – I find it difficult to sleep peacefully." He stopped without further explanation, but Harry could guess as to the reason.

"Memories?" he asked softly.

"Yeah… memories."

"Do they give you a dreamless sleep potion?"

"Yes, I take a small dose each night at lights out, but not during the day. I'm not sure how much sleep I would get if I didn't have visitors, and I like the company, so I haven't asked anyone to stop coming."

There was silence for a few moments, then Harry declared, "Memories suck."

Remus snorted out in laughter. It turned into a full blown heaving belly laugh that caused Harry to laugh aloud as well. They continued to create a ruckus until a stern looking witch told them they'd be sedated if they weren't quiet. She didn't seem to care if one of them was the Boy-Who-Lived, nor even a current patient, but they could tell she was serious. Of course, the threat made them laugh harder, but they soon got themselves under control, and Harry left for the night, making it clear that Remus was to sleep as much as he needed.

That night, Harry stopped by the Three Broomsticks. He'd gotten home earlier from the hospital than he had previous nights and felt bad that he hadn't even talked to Madam Rosmerta all week.

He was crushed against a body as soon as he walked into the small pub. A squeal of, "Harry!" told him that it was Madam Rosmerta.

"Hi, Rosie," he said as she released him.

"How is Remus doing?" she asked as she sat him down with a bottle of butterbeer. Harry didn't even see her go get it and guessed she must have been bringing it to someone else. He shook his head in amusement at the woman.

"He's alright. The healers say that he's looking good. It'll just take time for everything to heal." He smiled to himself as he realized he accepted what he'd just said. He knew Remus would be alright. He continued to tell Madam Rosmerta about Remus and his progress, as well as the dilemma of too many visitors, which made the witch laugh.

"Yes, he's always drawn people to him, even though he tries to keep to himself. He was always quiet when he came in, compared to your father and young Sirius Black, but he commanded attention like few I've seen." She sighed in fond remembrance and Harry let a slow smile cover his face as he imagined the two rowdy (and probably more than a little tipsy) boys listening to Remus's calm jokes and commands.

About a half hour after he'd arrived at the pub, the door opened to admit a short, red-headed girl with a broad grin on her face.

Harry jumped up and shouted, "Ginny?! What are you doing here?" He finished in a softer tone, noticing the few patrons watching with interest.

"Well, Mr. Potter, I just thought I'd stop by and visit, but you weren't home. Simon and Hedwig told me where you'd be, though." Her eyes were glittering with amusement while he puzzled over how his pets had told her anything.

"But how…?" Harry said in confusion.

She seemed to take pity on him and laughed lightly. "They walked me here from your place, silly. What, did you think I was conversing with dogs and owls?" she asked with a scoff. She leaned up, kissed his cheek and gave him a quick hug.

Harry didn't need a mirror to know his face was bright red. He suddenly felt like it was the middle of the day with the sun beating down on him. He glanced around, quickly, and noted that he was actually inside, and there was no sun in sight, since it was somewhat late at night. He wondered where the heat was coming from, but he didn't ask since it seemed that he was the only one with such a problem.

He noticed the time, it was after ten o'clock. "What are you doing out so late? It's not safe."

Ginny glared at him. "Oh, no, Harry Potter, you aren't going to give me that 'it's not safe' talk. If you can go a year without being in a deadly situation, maybe I'll consider listening to your little safety talks. I'm not defenseless, you know."

Harry stepped back and stammered, "I know, Ginny. You're very strong." She gave him a look that said 'don't patronize me.' He hurried to correct whatever she was thinking. "Honestly, I'd never want to go up against you; I saw your strength in the D.A. I don't even have to guess at which of us would make out better. I've got nothing on your bat bogey hex."

She smiled at that, apparently appeased. "That's true. You'd do well to remember that."

Harry sighed in relief and smiled back at her. She could be awfully scary when she wanted to be, much like her mother. Harry was glad about that, though. He'd gotten some pretty strange offers after he'd killed Voldemort from girls who would have done whatever he said. He thought a few times that it would be interesting, just to see someone whistle while standing on their head or something as ridiculous, but any sort of relationship like that made him ill to think about. He never wanted to have control over people. Well, not total control, anyway, just enough to keep himself and his friends safe and happy. It turned out that a few well-placed wards were all that was needed.

He gladly accepted her into his arms and leaned in for a breathtaking kiss. He wasn't sure if it was the long days that were making his knees feel weak, or if it was from the little flick to the roof of his mouth Ginny had just done. He collapsed into a nearby chair, pulling Ginny onto his lap, never breaking the kiss. He thought he could stay there all night, even with that broken support on the chair gouging into his back.

A noticeable cough from the left forced him back to reality, and he was unable to stifle a pitiful groan. Although, as soon as his senses came back, and he realized where he was (more importantly, who was there), he ducked his head in embarrassment.

A laugh next to him gave away Madam Rosmerta's location. He was completely mortified. He didn't know what had possessed him to do that in public, much less at his place of employment. Giggling from atop his lap gave away his traitorous girlfriend's amusement at his expense.

How dare she laugh when this should be just as embarrassing for her?!

One look at her face, and he was surprised to find a smile creeping across his own face as well. He looked around and noticed the proud smirks on the local patron's faces and a small laugh issued from him, even though the embarrassment hadn't subsided in the least. He buried his face in Ginny's shoulder, and she patted the back of his head soothingly.

"So," Madam Rosmerta said with laughter in her voice, "is this the girl who would hate you if you told her that you fancied her?"

Harry nodded against Ginny's shoulder. She slapped him lightly on the shoulder.

"You were actually worried about that?" she asked accusingly.

Harry wondered if she was angry, but when he looked into her twinkling brown eyes, he found only humor and reassurance in their expression.

"Well, maybe… just a little…" he mumbled. She looked like she didn't believe a word he was saying and he cracked. "Ok, so I thought you'd hate me. I was an ignorant prat for almost seven years. It wasn't like I deserved to have you after all that time." Madam Rosmerta let out a romance-loving sigh after his words.

Ginny looked like she was either going to kiss him or hit him again. She shook her head, suddenly shy, and said, "Well, it's true that you were a prat, but you were a tad busy much of the time," she said lightly. "And I know you didn't get any romantic help from your best friend." After a pause she added, "The tall red-headed one."

Harry laughed, "He is a little slow about these things." Harry thought back to when Ron finally admitted his feelings for Hermione. It was only a couple of months before the battle. Their relationship hadn't changed much, publicly, but in private they had their moments. Harry wondered if they avoided acting like a couple around him so he wouldn't feel left out, especially after Remus disappeared. The thought had never occurred to him before, and it was a bit unsettling. However, now that he had Ginny, maybe Ron and Hermione wouldn't be afraid to be more affectionate in front of people. It was quite obvious a few minutes ago that Ginny didn't mind being in public with him. He grinned and gave her an extra squeeze.

He got Ginny settled with a Butterbeer, and they chatted with Madam Rosmerta for a few minutes, before she started cleaning up. She told them they could stay until she was finished, instead of kicking them out when she closed. Harry felt a little guilty about not helping, but Ginny efficiently dispelled those feelings with small touches up his arms and on his back. He wasn't sure if she knew how much she was affecting him, but he didn't know how to approach a question like that, so he let her continue without comment.

He gasped when her fingers slid over the sensitive skin on the back of his neck. Feeling flustered, he got up and poured himself a glass of cool water. He wasn't sure if he should drink it or pour it on himself. With a glance at Ginny's smirking face, his neck and cheeks heated up.

"So, er, do you want to leave?" he asked as calmly as he could.

"Sure, let's go. Bye, Rosie," she called out to the back room. Madam Rosmerta had quickly asked Ginny to address her as 'Rosie' in the first ten minutes of conversation that night. Somehow, Harry had gotten the feeling they were getting a lot more out of the chat than he was. It was the same feeling as when Hermione and Ginny talked about seemingly innocent topics. He wondered if all girls had the ability to have two conversations at once, one for general public, and the other for girls only.

Harry said goodnight to his boss, and he and Ginny began their trip back to his house. Ginny was talking animatedly about a trick she had performed on Ron's broom the other day, and Harry realized he hadn't been flying at all this summer. He was growing nervous about going back to his house with her alone. Of course, he was more than a little excited about the prospect of privacy with her, but he didn't quite know what to expect, especially after the greeting they exchanged in the Three Broomsticks.

Simon met them a street away from home, as he usually did when Harry was finished working. Harry noted to himself to ask Hagrid how the dog knew exactly when to turn up. He figured it must be part of the magic involved, and wondered if it was similar to how Hedwig always knew too.

They walked into the house and Harry turned around just inside the door. He was immediately hit with the vastness of Ginny's beauty. Her red hair looked like a deep auburn in the dim entry light, and her face shined with the reflection of moonlight. She had a smile on her lips and her eyes glittered with happiness. He was filled with the urge to kiss those lips and more, so he turned away again and looked at the floor.

"We're here," he said unnecessarily.

"Yeah, we are," she said quietly into his ear. He'd been too preoccupied to notice her close the door and sidle up to him. No matter how hard he tried to keep control, he shivered from the warm air drifting past his earlobe.

"W-would you like some…" What am I supposed to offer? His mouth went dry, and he was suddenly very thirsty. "Something to drink!" he exclaimed, proud that he'd remembered that bit of etiquette. "I mean, er, would you like something to drink?" he repeated softly.

She smiled at his awkwardness, making him feel even more self-conscious. Didn't I used to be casual around her? He wondered.

"I should go home. It's getting late."

"Oh. Here, let me get the fire going for you." He flicked his wand at the fireplace, and a nice steady flame sprouted from the stone. There was an inexplicable tightening in his chest at the thought of her leaving, and he had difficulty swallowing. "Thanks for coming to visit tonight…" he said lamely, feeling as if he should say something.

She looked at him oddly. "I missed you and wanted to see you; no need for thanks."

Harry nodded and looked away. He was embarrassed and ashamed and something else he couldn't put a label to. He didn't want her to leave, but he couldn't ask her to stay. A gentle hand on his shoulder made him look up again.

"Are you feeling alright, Harry?"

He nodded and forced a smile on his face. Having no idea what he was feeling or what to say, he stayed silent.

"Come here," she commanded, leading him to the couch. "Now," she said once they were sat, "What's the matter?"

He took a deep breath, "I-I'm not sure. I just… well, I want you to stay, but I know you can't, and…" He sighed. "Look, I really don't know what's wrong with me right now; I'm just being stupid. Go ahead and go home, I'll be fine."

"Harry," she frowned. They were silent for a few moments, then she smiled. "I think I know how to make you feel better."

He looked at her questioningly for a second before she pulled him down to her and kissed him for all he was worth, which, it seemed, was much more than his relatives had ever led him to believe.

They sat kissing for a long time, not even moving their hands in the perfect moment. Breathing the same breath so they could continue for many minutes, Ginny finally pulled away. Harry sighed with his eyes closed. If he didn't open them, the moment wouldn't be over. He was pleasantly surprised when soft lips toyed with the bottom of his earlobe. Unable to suppress a moan, he angled his head so that he could taste her collarbone while she continued working on his ear.

Harry's arms convulsively tightened around her when she found a highly sensitive spot where his neck and shoulder joined. He started massaging her back softly and she let out a little sound he could not define but desperately wanted to hear again.

They carried on for a long time, kissing and gently touching, not pushing any extreme limits, just enjoying one another. Eventually, they lay back and held each other quietly. Harry thought it would have been the best way to sleep, despite the small size of the couch for two people. He noticed that Ginny was just about asleep and knew she needed to get home before Mrs. Weasley came looking for her. That thought gave Harry the needed motivation to rouse the red-head.

"Ginny?"

"Hmm?"

"As much as I'd like you to stay, you need to get home. It's late, and we don't want your mum to worry too much."

"Yeah. I guess. I'm just so comfortable here," she whispered.

Harry nodded in agreement, unable to convey how much she, and her sincere words, meant to him. He pushed her up slowly and sniggered at her messy hair. The style resembled his after getting out of bed in the morning.

"What?" she asked, a little irritated.

"I think you might want to, er, comb your hair or something before you go home."

She blushed as she ran a hand through the tangled mess. "Good point. Mum might being more strict with the visits if she thinks anything 'unseemly' is going on."

Harry laughed and she went to freshen up. He was quite happy after their impromptu date, even though Ginny had to leave for the night. It was probably best anyway. He didn't want to push things so far too fast. With Voldemort gone, he likely had a long life ahead of him, and he didn't intend to rush through things now.

A few days later was the day Harry had planned on taking Max out with his friends. Ginny and Ron arrived at about ten that morning, and they discussed what they could possibly do with the boy that wouldn't be too boring for him. Harry thought Max would probably like whatever they did, but Harry was most afraid of making Max feel left out with Ron and Ginny there as well.

To Harry's surprise Hermione showed up just before noon, looking flushed as if she had been in a great rush to get there. He thought she was supposed to be on holiday with her parents for another week or so.

"Hermione!" he exclaimed when she hugged him. "What are you doing back so soon? Is anything wrong?"

She snorted. "Anything wrong? Well, let's see… I got an owl saying you found Remus, and he's in the hospital recovering. It also said that you and Ginny finally got together after all this time. So, yes, there is something wrong. Why didn't I get an owl from you about all this?" she asked menacingly.

"I, er, didn't want to bother you when you were with your parents. I was going to tell you as soon as you got back, but – wait, who did tell you?"

"Ah, that would be me, mate," said Ron with an apologetic shrug.

"And a good thing he did," said Hermione, continuing her rant. "If he hadn't have sent that owl, I would have been uninformed for two whole weeks! I can't believe you didn't tell me," she now looked more hurt than angry.

Harry looked down. "I'm sorry, Hermione. Honestly, it just didn't seem as important as you spending time with your parents. I knew you would be back soon and I could tell you then. I figured you'd probably drop everything and come back if I told you."

She sighed and nodded, looking a bit sheepish, since that was apparently what she had done.

"I didn't want you to do that. You've spent too little time with them in the past few years, because of me, and I didn't want to take away any more time."

"Harry, that's not true," she started, but she stopped when he looked up with gratitude and guilt in his eyes.

"It is true. You know that. You couldn't be the smartest witch of the age and not know that. Think of all the times you cancelled your Christmas holidays to stay with me, or left early from the summer holidays, again to be with me… You wouldn't have had to leave your parents so much if we weren't friends in school."

She just shook her head silently. He could see that she knew the truth of his words by her face, and she was saddened by it. Not because of the lost time with her parents, but because Harry had noticed and taken on the responsibility for another loss.

Harry smiled at her. "I really have appreciated all the sacrifices you made for me. I can't say that I understand what leaving your parents that much feels like. But I know what it was like every time I had to say goodbye to Sirius and Remus… I don't know how you did it, but thank you." The last part was said so quietly that only Hermione could hear as Harry hugged her tightly.

He broke away and searched for a new topic. "We're going to take Max out for the day. Any ideas?"

She looked confused for a minute, but then must have recalled who 'Max' was and nodded. "What about Diagon Alley? We could go to the shops and maybe into muggle London. Oh! We could go to the cinema!" she exclaimed.

Harry smiled at her suggestion. He'd never been out to a place like that, but he knew it was a great source of entertainment for most muggles. He now had some experience with movies after watching a handful with his friends, and he was excited to see one on a big screen.

"That sounds great, Hermione. What do you think?" he asked Ron and Ginny.

"Sure," they agreed a little uncertainly. Harry guessed that being raised in the complete absence of muggle society made them somewhat nervous for a very non-wizarding activity.

"Let's go."

Harry led his three friends down the several streets to the Children of Peace house. They chatted and laughed the whole way there, and Harry was sure he'd never felt more at peace than he did during that time with his closest friends. He knew they were all safe, Remus was recovering, Voldemort was gone, he was away from the Dursleys, and he was doing what he wanted to do. He couldn't wipe the grin off his face for all the chocolate frogs in Honeydukes.

The door was answered by a shy four year old girl. Harry guiltily searched his memory for her name and found it after a few seconds.

"Good morning, Rose," he greeted her with a smile.

She smiled shyly. "Hi, Hawwy. But it's not mowning," she said looking puzzled.

Harry laughed lightly, "You're right. Good afternoon, then. Can I talk to Grace?"

The little girl nodded her head and ran inside, obviously expecting them to follow. She disappeared into the dining room, and Harry noticed that all the children were eating lunch. He hadn't thought about that, and he felt like a prat for interrupting.

Grace wasn't in the room, and there were two empty seats. Just a few seconds later, a young boy and the caretaker entered the room from a doorway on the far wall.

"Harry," Grace greeted. "It's good to see you. Shall we go into the next room?" Without waiting for a reply, she continued while looking at Max. "Can you watch for any trouble? We'll just be in the study if you need me."

"No problem," Max said.

Harry and his friends followed Grace into a small room with a cluttered desk and a few filing cabinets. She shuffled around some drawers and finally pulled out the documents that Harry had started filling out the other day.

"So, what will you be doing, today?"

"We were thinking of going to Diagon Alley for a bit of shopping, then to a muggle cinema. Is that ok?" Harry asked. He had no idea what he was supposed to be doing on this outing, so he thought he should make sure their plans were all right.

"Sounds like fun, Harry. I just need you to fill in your companions names here and sign here," she directed to a few spots on the page.

After Harry had finished the paperwork, he remembered his manners and introduced Ron, Hermione, and Ginny to Grace. Hermione and Grace got on well together in the first few minutes.

Harry filled Max in on the plans and was happy to see the excited look on the boy's face.

"Harry," he asked hesitantly, "do you think I could me a friend in Diagon Alley if she can come?"

Harry glanced at Ron and Hermione holding hands and Ginny standing close to him. He should have thought about this 'couple' business earlier. The poor boy probably felt very out of place heading out for a day with the four of them. Of course he would want a friend of his own along.

Harry grinned, "She?"

Max blushed. "It's not like that. Isabelle is my friend, that's all."

Ron must have heard this comment, because he snorted at the same time as Harry responded, "Of course, just friends," with raised eyebrows.

Max blushed, but stayed well composed as he continued. "So, do you think it would be ok to invite her along? I haven't seen her since school let out."

"It's fine with me, but you better ask Grace."

The boy quickly asked for permission to bring his friend and Grace added something to the papers they'd filled out. After getting the all clear from his temporary guardian, Max used the Floo in the office to contact his friend. He returned with a beaming smile after about ten minutes.

Harry smiled, "She can come, then?"

Max nodded. "She said she'd meet us at the Leaky Cauldron.

Shortly after Flooing into the dim pub, a young teenage witch ran up to their group. She was very cute, and Harry had no doubts that she would be a beautiful woman some day. He looked to his charge-for-the-day and saw that Max was completely taken with her. They smiled and giggled at each other for a few minutes until Harry cleared his throat loudly.

"Oh, ah, Isabelle, this is Harry," Max introduced, "Ron, Hermione, and Ginny. Everybody, this is Isabelle."

"Hi, Isabelle. You're in Hufflepuff, right?" greeted Hermione with a warm smile.

"Yeah, I'll be in my third year this fall. You can call me 'Bella' if you want," the brown-haired girl said shyly.

Harry's friends all looked at him sharply. He waved away their concern, even though the sting of that name caused his chest to constrict slightly. A few moments later he felt he could speak without his voice cracking, and he noticed the distress and confusion on the young girl's face. He rushed to reassure her that she did nothing wrong, but Max spoke before he had a chance to say anything.

"Hey, is something wrong? You're not mad at me or Isabelle are you?" he asked uncertainly.

"No! No, you're fine. We're not mad at you. It's just that, er, I think we're going to stick with Isabelle, if that's ok." He didn't really want to dampen the mood even more by explaining the significance of that name – that a woman Voldemort affectionately referred to as 'Bella' had killed his godfather. He smiled at the two younger teens and told them they needed some ice cream from Fortescue's to start the day. Everyone dutifully ignored Hermione's protests about proper nutrition.

Harry was having such an enjoyable time with Ginny and the rest of his friends that he hardly noticed the staring passersby. People seemed reluctant to approach, and from whispered conversations he picked up that many didn't know if it was really 'The Boy-Who-Lived' or just some imposter. He didn't feel any inclination to clear up the matter for them, and eventually they left the alley for muggle London.

"Say, Hermione, do you know where a cinema is?" Harry asked curiously, a little embarrassed that he hadn't thought about this before hand.

"Sure, but it's a bit of a walk. I hope you don't mind," she asked everyone. They all shook their hands. It was a beautiful day out, and there was plenty of shade on one side of the street and sun on the other.

Harry was relishing the anonymity that came with being a muggle for the day. Even in Hogsmeade, where the locals were used to seeing Harry Potter sporadically for the past few years, he still got the occasional staring treatment when shopping or walking down the street. But the total absence of magical folks gave him an entirely different feeling. Here, the only people who knew him were his friends walking with him, not just looking at and talking about him.

On the way they discussed what kind of movie they would like to see. Harry hadn't realized how complicated this could get with Hermione and Isabelle wanting a romantic movie, Max and Ron wanting action, and Harry and Ginny somewhat undecided. Finally, they all agreed on comedy. Harry was glad they weren't going to see a horror movie; they'd all had enough of that in real life.

Harry was becoming a bit worried about Max. The boy seemed anxious and even more quiet than usual. At first he attributed this to being around Harry's friends for the first time and seeing Isabelle after so long. However, as the day passed, Max clearly became more comfortable around everyone, but when not engaged in the conversation he was more withdrawn than Harry had ever seen him. It got so bad that when they arrived at the theater the boy completely froze upon entering. Harry tried to get his attention, but Max hurried to the loo before he could ask what was wrong.

"What happened?" Harry asked Isabelle.

She shrugged miserably. "I think you should go talk to him, but give him a minute first."

"Why, what's wrong?" Harry pressed.

"Well, I'm not sure, but I know his parents were fond of muggle things…" she trailed off. Harry hissed in a breath when he realized the implications. They'd spent a long time in the muggle world that day, and if Max had ever been there before it was surely with his parents. Harry remembered clearly the first time he'd passed Magnolia Crescent after Sirius died. The pain was indescribable. It was like losing his godfather all over again. That was the first place he'd seen him, even though Harry didn't know it was Sirius at the time, because he was in his animagus form.

"Damn. I wanted this to be a fun day for him," Harry said mostly to himself.

"It has been a good day, Harry. You've done well. You couldn't have known," Ginny assured him. He barely heard her.

"Listen, I need to go talk to him. Why don't you get some snacks and figure out which film we should see. I'll be back in a little while."

"Sure, good luck, Harry," said Ron with a pat on the shoulder.

"Thanks."

Harry headed to the loo having no idea what to say to the boy. He tried to think back to those highly emotional times when he'd been overwhelmed by loss and hurt to remember what he would have wanted to hear. He couldn't think of a single thing he could say that would make it better. He certainly hadn't heard any magical words to heal the pain. How was he supposed to help someone else get through it?

He heard muffled sniffling in the end stall when he entered the empty bathroom. He glanced around and cast a silencing charm, then a repelling charm on the area surrounding the last stall before knocking.

"Max?"

There was a short pause and the sound of a blowing nose before Max answered, "I'll be out in a minute, Harry. Go ahead and wait with the others."

The kid sounded miserable, and Harry felt an itching in his eyes that he didn't expect. He swallowed down his own emotions and tried again.

"Hey, I know there's something wrong. We're the only two here. Can you open the door and tell me about it?"

Another pause. "There's nothing wrong, Harry. I promise. I just, er, had too much pumpkin juice before we left…" Max answered lamely.

Harry waited a few minutes, then spoke softly. "Max, did your parents ever take you to do muggle things?"

"W-what? I-I don't know what you're… I'll be out in a minute, Harry. Just go wait with the others," he said in a pleading voice, which he tried to make sound annoyed.

"I'm not going to leave you alone, Max." Harry waited a few moments more before continuing. "I only knew my godfather for a short time," Harry started, hoping this would help Max open up. "We didn't get to do many things together, but one thing that really sticks out in my mind is making eggs and bacon with him. The first time I had that after he died I completely lost it. Actually, I didn't even get to eat any of it, because it was my cousin's breakfast, but just the smell and sight of it affected me badly. I stayed in my room and didn't come out for anything except to go to the bathroom for days." Harry had to stop there and regain his composure. It would do no good to lose control of his own emotions while trying to calm Max.

Harry was mildly surprised when the boy started speaking softly. "My mum was muggle-born, and my dad thought all the muggle stuff she showed him was as great as Gringotts! So, we would go to muggle places a lot – museums, theatres, concerts, whatever. Before I started Hogwarts we would go to a movie the first Saturday of every month. No matter how busy mum and dad were at work or whatever, we always went to the cinema. The only time we missed was right before 'Lissa was born. Mum was really sick for a while and the healer ordered her on bed rest. But we had a television and everything we needed to watch movies at home, so we didn't really miss that month either. Five days after that I got a baby sister. It's not fair," he cried suddenly. "She never got to know them! She won't remember all the stuff we used to do. She'll probably even forget the song mum sang to get her to sleep at night." He sniffled a few more times and blew his nose again. When he was calmer, he said, "Sorry, Harry. I know you were too young to remember much about your parents either. Do you… do you think Melissa will be ok when she grows up?"

Harry took some deep breaths. Everything Max had said about his little sister applied directly to him, and it put him off balance for a few minutes. He was a little disappointed that Max was concentrating on his sister's situation instead of his own, but he didn't want to push anything. This was the first time Max had talked about anything regarding his parent's death and Harry didn't want to give him negative feedback for it.

"I think little 'Lissa is one lucky girl to have a big brother like you. I think she'll be ok; I really do. Grace seems like she's doing a pretty good job with you kids, and I'll always be an owl away if you need anything," Harry promised.

After a few more minutes of silence, with the occasional snuffle, Max opened the door with red, puffy eyes and a grateful smile. Harry's heart leapt at that small smile. Little by little he would help Max get through this dreadful time.

Max looked very embarrassed and with eyes directed at his shoes, said, "Er, sorry about all that."

Harry put an awkward hand on Max's shoulder and squeezed. "Anytime, I mean it. Are you up for this, or do you want to go back?"

"No, I'm ok."

Harry gave him a disbelieving look.

"Well, I will be ok. I have to come back someday. There are too many things I want to show 'Lissa. At least we're going to see a comedy, eh?" he said with a smile.

"Yeah. I'm excited, I've never been to the cinema before," said Harry with a grin.

"Really? I thought you grew up with muggles."

"I did, but that's a topic for another day," Harry said with a grimace. Max looked even more curious, but let it drop.

They found their companions in the lobby munching on popcorn and sweets. Ron looked blissful being surrounded by all that junk food and didn't even notice them approach. Max greeted Isabelle with a red face, but she said something quietly to him that made him relax. She patted his arm gently and he smiled at her. Harry waited for this exchange to finish before asking what they were going to see. It was a sequel to a movie they'd all seen. Secretly, Harry couldn't remember anything about the first one and assumed it was one of those that he had slept through instead of actually watching. He didn't mind in the least, however, because he was just excited to be there.

As they watched the movie, Harry couldn't help but feel a tingle of pleasure when Ginny's hand found his. When her other hand started tracing designs on his arm he wondered if he should ask the management to turn the air conditioning back on, as it seemed to have gotten much warmer. On top of what Ginny was doing, some of the jokes in the movie made Harry blush, and he hoped he wouldn't get in trouble for bringing the younger teens there. Even though they were the proper age for the rating, Harry knew that he wouldn't have understood most of those jokes at the age of thirteen. A few times Ginny, Ron, and Hermione laughed and Harry only joined in because he was supposed to, not because he understood the material. The sudden realization that he was more naive than them made him sigh. He'd missed out on sharing dirty jokes too many times because of extra lessons, nightmares, or hospital stays. At least I understand as much as Max, he thought wryly and cuddled closer to Ginny.

xxxxxxxxxxx

A/N: The bad news: school has started again (yay!), and since I don't want to get kicked out of graduate school, I actually need to spend more time on research than fanfiction. Unfair, I know. : ) But, I'll try my hardest to keep getting the chapters out in a reasonable time frame. Heck, sometimes having too much to do makes me write more stories than do actual homeworky type stuff. Anyway, that's all I had to say on that, I guess. Tell me what you thought of this chapter, please!

Oh, and review replies are non-existent at the moment, except for the one at the top. This doesn't mean I don't appreciate them! It just means that with limited time, I'm trying to spend it all on writing the story, not replies. If anyone has a pressing question that they want answered, you can always email me, or comment on any of my LJ entries. Thanks!