Disclaimer-I don't own anything
A/N-I didn't like last chapter because pre-son it was very choppy writing. This chapter is better, though
Collision of Worlds
Petunia, Remus, and Snape all managed to side-step in time to avoid being trampled as Hermione ran over the threshold, launched herself onto Harry, and wrapped her arms around his neck in a hug.
"Oh, Harry, it's been ages since you wrote to us! I was...Everyone was getting so worried!"
"Sorry," Harry apologized. "I was either packing or praying to God that this wasn't some wonderful dream."
Hermione slapped his arm. "Well, don't worry us like that again! Everyone's waiting for you. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley are here, and so are Ron and Ginny, and Tonks and the other...members...and you'll never guess who just joined! Apollo Lovegood; Luna's father!"
"Yes; I don't know how he knew but he asked to join not long ago, so he and Luna are staying here. Ginny and Luna share a room with me, and..." she dropped her voice so only he could hear her "...and I've been lacking for any intelligible conversation ever since I got here. Luna's so obviously infatuated with Ron; she won't stop singing Weasley Is Our King and Ginny just can't stop giggling when she sings it. I'm glad you're here so I can finally have an intelligent conversation with someone."
"Well, I can't say I'm glad to be here, but...at least I get to see you guys again."
"Oh, Harry." Hermione gave him a sympathetic squeeze around the neck.
"Are you guys gonna stand out there all day, or are you gonna come inside?"
"Hey, Ron," Harry said, as Hermione seized his hand and pulled him into the living room.
"Hey, Harry," Ron replied, giving Harry the token one-armed man-hug as Hermione dropped his hand. "How's it been?"
"Better than most summers," Harry answered. "Considering the circumstances."
Ron looked ready to say something, but bit his lip and glanced away. "You'd better prepare for the stampede, Harry. I give it three seconds. Three...two...one..."
"I am SO good!"
Ginny vaulted across the room from the bottom of the stairs and flung her arms around Harry's waist. "I'm so glad you're here!" She dropped her voice like Hermione had. "Hermione's been so uptight since she got here, I'm hoping you can get her to loosen up!"
"Hello, Harry," a dreamy voice floated over the living room. Luna Lovegood sat on the last step, from which Ginny had jumped to get him. "Have you had a nice summer so far?"
"That's lovely," She reached up and began toying with a strand of gray-blonde, wavy hair. "I'm sorry that my trip to Sweden was cut short, of course, but I'm glad to be here."
"Yeah...me too, in a way."
Harry looked around at the four people before him. Four of the six who had gone to the Department of Mysteries. Four people who had changed along with him.
The Weasleys didn't look changed, to be sure. Ron's height seemed to be stayed at its current status so far. The token Weasley freckles were clearing, though, and his red hair and blue eyes were darker. Ginny, too, had not grown at all except for the length of her hair, which now reached her tailbone, and her face was clearing, too.
It was Hermione and Luna who had changed, Harry noted. Hermione had shot up an inch, making her just barely below his own height. Her hair had darkened into a dark-chocolate brown color and seemed to be settling a bit, though still immensely curly. Luna, on the other hand, had remained at her own height and her hair was no less unkempt, but her gangly body now had the lean, toned look of exercise. Probably from hiking all over Sweden.
But these didn't really compare to the one change that Harry couldn't quite place. Something about these girls reminded him of his own mother. Something shown out from Hermione and Luna that was reminiscent of the pictures of Lily the day she married James.
He shook it off as the door leading further inside the house opened.
Harry had the feeling of lungs collapsing as Molly Weasley came out of nowhere and enveloped him a huge bear hug. When she let go, he fixed his glasses, which had been knocked askew.
"Oh, I'm sorry, dear, but I've just been so worried! Not hearing from you was driving me mad. Sometimes it's like you're my 8th child. Not to put down any claim that your parents and your aunt and...and my cousin-in-law have to you." She patted Harry's arm and gave Petunia a welcoming smile. "It's the mother hen in me. Well, why don't you go on with my Ron and my Ginny, and Luna and Hermione, to the dining room? My twin delinquents," she wrinkled her nose in begrudging affection, "are finally taking time from their shop to visit us and they have some new "merchandise" to show off. I swear, that joke shop will be the death of us all."
"Yeah, come on Harry," Ron said, as Hermione took his arm and dragged him towards the younger half of the room. "I hear the twins just came out with Coughing Candies," he whispered. "You can actually cough up phlegm, and blood if you get the expensive stuff."
"Now, why couldn't they invent that while we still took Potions?" Harry asked as Ron and Hermione led him away, Ginny and Luna trailing after.
Molly finally turned to the older guests.
"How was the ride from Surrey, Remus?"
"Quiet, but otherwise uneventful," Remus answered. "Listened to music most of the way."
"That's nice," Molly said. "Well, Tonks is looking for your help in the kitchen. She says you're the only one who can help her make a decent meal."
Petunia suspected that there was something more than cooking going on between Remus and this "Tonks" person, due to the suddenly embarrassed look on Remus's face, Snape's condescending smirk, and Molly's disapproving countenance.
"Th-thank you, Molly. Will you set up Petunia while I help Tonks?"
Remus sent one last, embarrassed look at the three of them, mumbled a good-bye, and left for the kitchen.
Molly sighed. "Couldn't be helped, I suppose." She shook her head. "Severus, will you be joining us for dinner?"
"If I must, I must."
"Well, you must, because Dumbledore will be joining us and he wants to hear your plans."
"My gratitude for your gracious welcome," he sneered.
Molly snorted and ended the conversation by turning to Petunia.
"And you must be Petunia Evans. Welcome to Black Manor, dear. I'm Molly Weasley; my cousin-in-law owned this house before he...well, he recently passed away."
"My condolences," Petunia said, a trace automatically, but Molly smiled at her anyway.
"Thank you. Well, I hope you'll like your stay here. We finally got this place cleaned up; it was absolutely filthy last year. And we have people in and out everyday, so you won't lack for company. My husband Arthur—you've met him—is working now but he'll be home soon. My two youngest are here with us until they go back to school. You must know of them—Ron and Ginny? They're very close to Harry."
"I don't know any of Harry's friends by name or by face."
"Oh...Well, they'll be here until September starts. My twins, Fred and George, run a joke shop. Not the most noteworthy of jobs but if they're making money...Well, my three oldest aren't here very often. Bill and Percy are at work most of the day, and Charlie is in Romania. I do wish he'd at least come to the country oftener but you know the schedules of Dragon Handlers. So hectic."
"Actually, I don't."
"...Oh..." Molly could tell that her attempt at polite small talk was becoming severely uncomfortable for all involved excluding Snape, who was smirking. Molly did not want to make Harry's aunt stay start off with a failed conversation. Molly loved people; she sorely regretted never fully patching up the fight with Sirius before his death, and was taking care to try and reach out to people who would accept it. Snape was unreachable, but perhaps this strange Muggle woman with the hopeless eyes could be helped.
"Well, you must be starving, dear. Come into the dining room; dinner's almost ready."
A stranger sight Petunia had never seen. Harry and his friends were grouped around a table, laughing at the antics of identical twins; squealing as they coughed things into glasses. A tall black man was in deep conversation with an elderly, frightening man with a strange eye. Two women, both with black hair, one with blue eyes and one with green, were seating and talking to each other in a way that Petunia saw as fairly romantic. A tight-laced, brunette, elderly woman also sat at the table, watching the twins with a disapproving look. Two tiny men were shuffling about the kitchen, getting the dishes to the table. Remus, she saw, was standing over the stove, dangerously close to the much younger woman, who was laughing and licking sauce off her fingers.
Petunia took a seat at the table, and then screamed and jumped up as a body feelin into her lap.
"Sorry, sorry!" the grungy, dirty man said, picking himself off the floor. "You've took my seat, it seems."
"Mundungus..." Molly started, but sighed and left off. Her attempts at reforming his manners were not working, and she was tired of trying. "Everyone!" She clapped her hands loudly and the din began to settle down. "Listen up!"
Petunia was aware of all eyes on her as Molly stopped clapping her hands. "Everybody, this is Petunia Evans, Harry's aunt. She's staying with us for this summer, at the least. Now, I want you to make her feel welcome." Molly's unspoken "or else" hung in the air.
Petunia suddenly had a feeling of being among the enemy. Almost no one was looking at her with a face remotely welcoming. What report had Harry given him about his foster family?
"Petunia, this oaf is Mundungus Fletcher," Molly said, gesturing towards the filthy man who had landed on her. "Remus over there is standing with Tonks. She's an Auror—she fights Dark Wizards."
"Hi," Tonks said. "You have an amazingly clean house, Ms. Evans."
"That's Kingsley Shacklebolt and Alastor Moody," Molly said, gesturing, before Petunia could ask how Tonks knew about her house. "They're Aurors, too, though Moody is retired."
"Hello," Kingsley said, and Moody grunted.
"Those two are Hestia Jones and Emmeline Vance," she said, gesturing to the two close women. Hestia, with blue eyes, waved cheerily, and Emmeline, with green eyes, nodded regally.
"These are Elphias Doge and Dedalus Diggle."
"You bowed to my nephew in a shop once," Petunia said, looking at Dedalus.
"She remembers me, too!" Dedalus squeaked, dropping his hat.
"And this is Minerva McGonagall. She teaches Transfiguration at the school."
Minerva nodded sharply. Petunia had the distinct feeling that this wasn't a woman to cross.
"And since you're unsure about Harry's friends..." Molly went over and placed a hand on Ginny's head. "This is Ginny, my youngest. And this is Ron, my second youngest. These are Hermione and Luna. And those two look-alikes are my twins, Fred and George."
"How do you do, ma'am?" George asked.
"Fancy a bit of candy?" Fred asked.
"Frederick James Weasley, if you dare..." Molly started, her face turning red.
"A mere jest, dearest mum of mine," Fred said, pocketing the small, blue-wrapped candy he had offered.
"I didn't know your middle name was "James"," Harry said.
"It's in honor of your father, dear," Molly said, flicking her wand to bring a glass to the table. "He fended off a few Death Eaters who attacked Arthur and I on our way to St. Mungo's when I was going into labor."
"Really? That's awesome," Harry said.
""St. Mungo's"?" Petunia repeated.
"That's the wizarding hospital, dear," Molly said. "There are several branches: Magical Maladies and Injuries, Muggle-Related Maladies and Injuries, Psychosomatic Illnesses, Pediatrics, it goes on and on."
"If I get enough NEWTs, I think I might work in the Psychosomatic Illnesses branch," Hermione said, a little shyly.
"First of all, you'll get enough NEWTs, and second of all, you're certainly good enough to be a psychologist. You understand everything; you even figured out Cho! " Harry said.
"The little psycho," Ron muttered.
"NEWTs?" Petunia said, sitting down at a free chair.
"Standardized wizarding tests," Hermione explained. "At the end of our 7th year, we take the NEWTs to show which classes we're skilled in. You know, for job references."
"I know what NEWTs are. I remember Lily studying for them," Petunia said.
Harry looked at his aunt. Her face seemed a little puckered, but she continued, as if she spoke of her deceased sister on an everyday basis. "From what I remember, she was especially good at Charms."
"Yes, she was," McGonagall spoke up. "I was her Head of House; she was one of my brightest students. Never caused trouble. Always did her work. I looked forward to being her colleague one day, if she ever retired from Healing to teach, like she said she might."
"My mother was a Healer?" Harry interrupted.
"At St. Mungo's Hospital for Pediatrics," McGonagall answered, as if this was an obvious bit of information any fool would know. "Hasn't your aunt filled you in on anything about your parents? I expect she might not know anything about James, of course, but Lily's her own sister..."
"Perhaps," Snape muttered from his spot in the corner where he stood obvious yet camouflaged all at once against the blue paint of the dining room, "prejudice and mistrust is not reserved solely for rich, pure-blood wizards."
All eyes looked at Snape, and then at Petunia, who seemed tremulous with silent fury. She began drumming her fingers on the table, a tactic she had taught herself years ago for when her temper had no suitable outlet.
"That's quite enough, Severus," Molly ordered, and Snape shrugged unceremoniously. He had touched a nerve in this Muggle woman. Perhaps this small comment would help explain why her eyes were as black as his own were.
The room jumped again, and this time a tall, wiry, red-haired man had suddenly appeared in the kitchen.
"Hello, Arthur," Molly said, going forward to kiss this man on the cheek. "How was work?"
"Had to sort through some light bulbs that explode when the Muggle thinks too hard," Arthur answered. "Honestly, the nonsense some wizards go through to make sport of Muggles..."
"Speaking of, Arthur, this is Petunia Evans."
"Oh, hello," Arthur said, turning around to look at her. "Allow me to apologize again for blowing up your living room."
"It's not my house anymore, so if you want to apologize, do so to my ex-husband."
"Din-air ees serv-ed!" Tonks suddenly announced, in a terrible French accent.
"Thank God, I'm starving!" Ron announced loudly, the sound of his stomach growling matching in volume.
"Ron, it's rude to sound exasperated like that," Molly admonished absently. "Pop that over here, Tonks, this lot won't stop bellyaching until they have food."
Petunia watched this scene with a pang of longing; how often had this scenario happened with Dudley and herself?
Suddenly she felt terribly lonely, even with a room filled with people. She didn't know these people and they barely knew her; her entire life had shattered because of one question Harry had dared her to ask, she had lost her son and her home in one day. And now she was watching someone else enjoy what just a month ago she had enjoyed as well.
She stood up suddenly, and all eyes turned to look at her.
"What's wrong, dear?" Molly asked.
"I'm not feeling entirely well," Petunia said.
"We'll let some air in, then," Molly said. "Ron, would you go and—"
"No, that's not necessary," Petunia interrupted. "I want to relax a bit before I eat. Settle my stomach. I don't do car rides well. I think I'll step into the drawing room for a bit."
"Just don't leave the house, okay?" Molly warned worriedly.
"Yes, of course," Petunia said automatically, averting her gaze from everyone else as she walked from the room.
Only one intense black stare caught her eyes. Severus Snape watched her as she made for the door, frowning slightly. This woman was too secretive for his liking. He liked knowing people inside and out—and this Petunia was annoying him. He didn't like not understanding people.
His frown deepened as she walked out the door and shut it behind her. As the door clicked shut, he straightened from his leaning position against the wall, muttered an "Excuse me", and reached for the door handle.