Harry Potter came to a halt and stared through the glass. His mind catapulted him back in time well over twenty years. He was a ten-year-old boy, face pressed against another pane of glass, observing another huge snake . . . a snake that actually talked to him, that escaped when, in a fit of anger at his bullying cousin Dudley, he somehow made the window disappear.
A dreamy voice reeled him back to the present. He turned away from the Burmese Python and to the woman with long, dirty blond hair, radish-shaped earrings and a sundress with a pattern resembling an exploding rainbow.
"You looked rather far off." Luna Potter smiled at him.
"Sorry, just thinking. Remembering, actually. Do you know the last time I was at a Muggle zoo I was ten? It didn't end up as the most pleasant experience of my life."
"The universe does have a way of fixing things." Luna gently pressed against him. "Your last visit to a zoo wasn't pleasant, so this one will be."
Harry couldn't help but smile, as he usually did when it came to his wife's quirky logic.
Of course, she turns out to be right more often than not.
"Dad!" A child's voice carried from across the reptile house of the London Zoo. "Come look at this. Look at the teeth on this thing."
Harry and Luna walked over to a small child with thick dark hair, gazing wide-eyed at a Caiman resting in a small pool, its maw opened.
"Wow, Dad. I bet with teeth like that he could bite a troll in two."
"Oh please," said the skinny girl with rust-colored hair standing next to James Potter. "This thing couldn't get its mouth around a troll's foot, much less bite him in two. Besides, my mother says you can keep a Caiman from opening its mouth by just holding its snout with your hand."
"Know-it-all." James stuck out his tongue at Rose Weasley.
"Rosie, let's not start any arguments by showing off how much you know." Ron approached them, Hermione right behind him.
"I just don't understand why James is getting all excited over this little thing. Besides, dragons are much more interesting."
Ron turned to Hermione with a half-smile. "Your daughter."
"You did have a hand in it, you know," was her retort.
James grunted and trotted away, joining Rose's brother Hugo by the monitor lizard enclosure. Harry then glanced around the reptile house for his daughter Calliope. He found her with Ginny and Dennis Creevey's daughter, Colleen, making disgusted faces at a Black Mamba.
"Hugo, look!" James pointed to a water-filled enclosure at end of the corridor. "Snapping turtles! C'mon."
The two boys darted around a few people and toward the turtles.
"James. Hugo," Harry called out. "No running."
The boys, as he expected, kept running. Harry was about to repeat himself when James bumped into a very pudgy young man with dark hair.
"James," Harry grumbled and headed after his son.
"Sorry." James gave the boy a sympathetic smile.
Harry opened his mouth, ready to scold his son.
Another voice beat him to it.
"You! Yes you, you little whelp! What's the meaning of nearly bowling over my precious grandson?"
The familiar shrillness froze Harry to the spot. He tried to convince himself he was wrong. It couldn't be her. Not today of all days.
"Harry?" Ron spoke in a stunned, hushed tone. "That's not . . ."
His question was answered before he could complete it. The woman who came into view had gained more weight since Harry last saw her. Gray had also taken over more of her dark hair than before.
"Where are your parents?" The woman leaned over James, who gaped at her with unblinking eyes. "I want to have a word with whoever could be so irresponsible as to let their child run loose like a like a crazed bull!"
James trembled as the woman stepped closer to him.
"There a problem here . . . Aunt Petunia."
Petunia Dursley gasped. She swallowed and forced herself to turn. Creases dug into her face, a combination of surprise and anger. She locked eyes with Harry for many long, silent seconds.
"Petunia, dear," said a gruff voice. "What's all this fuss about? Who the devil are you . . ."
Harry's gaze shifted from Aunt Petunia to a heavyset man with a thick mustache and gray hair. The man's jaw quivered as he stared at Harry in disbelief.
"You," the fat man practically hissed.
"Yes. Me. How are you, Uncle Vernon?" Harry sensed Luna, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Dennis gathering around him.
Uncle Vernon drew a deep breath and sneered at him. "So. That Voldenberg fellow or whatever didn't kill you after all."
"You sound disappointed."
"You should be thanking Harry, Mister Dursley." Ginny shot him a steely gaze. "He actually killed Lord Voldemort. If he hadn't, I guarantee you the Muggle World would be suffering under his rule just as much as our world."
Dennis nodded emphatically at his wife's statement.
Uncle Vernon growled as his eyes darted among Harry and the others. "More of your freak friends? What, you lot bored with making bubbling cauldrons and flicking about your wands? You have to come here and bother normal folk?"
"We have just as much right to be here as you." Hermione shot Uncle Vernon one of her patented scowls, the one Harry has seen so many times during his days at Hogwarts when he and Ron kept putting off their homework until the last minute.
"And does that give you the right to let your children run amuck and nearly injure my poor grandson?" Aunt Petunia held the chubby boy by her side, stroking his hair.
"Your grandson?" Ron eyed the boy, who stared up at his grandmother. "You mean Dudley actually reproduced? There's a revolting thought."
"Ronald." Hermione smacked him in the stomach . . . hard.
"There's nothing revolting about Timothy!" Aunt Petunia pressed her grandson tighter against her leg. "You on the other hand . . ." She glanced at James, then Harry. "Yes, I can see the resemblance. I can't believe there's another one of you in this world. Good Lord, what woman would even want to marry you?"
"Oh, that would be me." Luna almost floated across the floor to Aunt Petunia, and ethereal smile etched on her face. "We haven't met before. I'm Luna Potter. It's so nice to finally meet you."
She extended her hand to Aunt Petunia.
Petunia's face went chalk white. "You keep away from me." She backed away from Luna, clutching Timothy protectively. "And my grandson."
Luna's gaze shifted from Petunia to Timothy. She beamed at him and waved enthusiastically. "Hello, Timothy."
Slowly, Timothy brought up his hand. "Hi . . ."
"Timothy, don't talk to her." Petunia forcefully turned her grandson's head away from Luna.
Uncle Vernon stomped over to Harry, glaring at Luna. "You keep that . . . wife of yours away from our grandson. We don't need her, or any of you, filling his head with all of your nonsense."
Luna glided over to Vernon, oblivious to his fuming. "Oh my. It appears you've been affected by a Ragirekral."
"What?" Uncle Vernon's face contorted, as if Luna's mere existence offended him.
"Ragirekral. They like to agitate people and feed off their anger. How long have you had anger issues, Mister Dursley?"
"Try forever." Harry couldn't resist.
Vernon glowered at him. Luna just kept right on going. "Actually, I guess I should call you Uncle Vernon, seeing as I did marry your nephew."
"You may not call me uncle!" Vernon's puffy cheeks turned as red as Ron or Ginny's hair. "It's bad enough we already have one freak in our family. We don't need any more."
Harry's head quivered in anger. He'd be damned if he was going to stand by and let this fat old bastard insult the woman he loved more than anything.
His lips began to part when Luna spoke. "Yes, Harry told me all about his childhood with you. It certainly didn't sound pleasant, living in a broom cupboard and letting your son constantly bully him. I wonder if you were actually jealous of Harry."
"Jealous?" Vernon repeated the word venomously. "Why would I be jealous of him?" He aimed a vile look Harry's way. Harry just glared back. He wasn't ten any more. He was an auror. He'd killed Voldemort. No way would he allow his uncle to intimidate him.
"Well," Luna went on, "as a wizard, Harry can perform incredible feats that no Muggle can. But that's no reason to be jealous of him. While you may not be able to perform magic, I'm sure you do possess talents that Harry doesn't. For instance, from your girth it seems safe to say you have an incredible talent for eating."
Harry pressed his fist against his mouth, barely suppressing a laugh. He noticed Ron turning away, snickering.
"Or maybe that's the reason you're so jealous of Harry." Luna's head lolled slowly from side-to-side as she gazed at the stunned Uncle Vernon. "Because Harry's so lean and fit and you're, well, to be polite, aren't."
Vernon's mouth moved up and down without emitting a sound.
"How dare you insult my husband, you . . . you demented thing." Aunt Petunia's shoulders rose and fell in anger.
Luna turned to her, still smiling her dreamy smile. "It's not meant to be an insult. Simply an observation. Actually, I may have a solution to your dilemma."
She twirled around, eyes fixed on Dennis Creevey. Harry cranked an eyebrow, wondering what his wife had in mind for Ginny's husband.
"Dennis, I wonder if you can get in touch with your cousin Sally." Luna looked over her shoulder at Vernon and Petunia. "She's a yoga instructor, you know. I've been taking lessons from her for three years, now. Have you ever tried yoga? It's so wonderful. I always feel revitalized after a session. You should have Sally teach you. It won't only alleviate all the anger you have, you'll also lose some weight."
Uncle Vernon's teeth bared as he sucked down deep breaths. He aimed a sausage-like finger at Luna. "You listen to me, you weirdo. I don't know what it's like where you're at, but in the real world, a respectable man such as me does not sit on a floor, stretching and chanting like some damn good-for-nothing lazy hippie!"
"Oh, but the chanting is the most fun part. Here, I'll show you."
Luna's tiny hand took hold of Vernon's large hamhock. She shut her eyes and lifted her head to the ceiling.
"Ooooohm . . . Oooohm . . . Oooohm . . ."
Ginny cackled, burying her face into Dennis' shoulder. Dennis' entire body shook in hysterics. Harry clutched his stomach as laughed uncontrollably.
"What the hell's wrong with you!?" Uncle Vernon ripped his hand away from Luna's gentle grasp.
Luna's eyelids slid back. She aimed her silvery, protuberant eyes at Vernon. "There. Don't you feel better? Wait. Oh dear, your face is even redder than before. Why weren't you chanting?"
An incensed Vernon glanced around the reptile house. Several people gave him queer looks. He turned back to Luna, his voice lowered, but just as angry. "There are people staring at us? Can you even imagine what they must be thinking?"
Harry laughed even harder. He really doesn't know my wife.
"Well, if they want to come over and chant with me I would certainly welcome them."
Uncle Vernon whipped his large head toward Harry. "You did this on purpose. You used some kind of magic mumbo-jumbo to know we'd be here and brought this nutter along . . ." He jabbed a finger at Luna. "To embarrass us!"
Harry was laughing too hard to reply.
"Wait a minute." Impossible as it seemed, Luna's eyes widened more. "I bet I know the real reason you're chronically angry. It's simple really."
"Oh, this should be good." Ron clamped a hand down on Harry's shoulder. Both tensed, waiting for Luna's revelation.
"You're not having enough sex."
Harry and Ron choked and laughed at the same time. Hermione's jaw practically hit the floor. Ginny and Dennis about fell on the floor in hysterics.
"Wha-Wha-What?" Vernon appeared dazed, as if someone struck him in the face with a cricket bat. Aunt Petunia looked on the verge of fainting.
"Oh yes. You and Aunt Petunia have a great deal of stress and rage, but do nothing to release it. A night of hearty love-making can help resolve that. Why do you think Harry's temperament has improved so much since he graduated from Hogwarts? We make love at least . . ."
Harry coughed loudly. "I don't think we need to go into detail about that, sweetheart."
"Bloody hell, Harry," Ron said. "Just cut it off at the best part, why don't you?"
Vernon's face contorted. He closed his eyes tight. His large head quaked. At that moment Harry thought of his uncle as a volcano with two legs.
Just like a volcano, he erupted.
"WHAT THE HELL SORT OF FREAK DID YOU BRING INTO MY FAMILY!? WHAT SORT OF MAD WOMAN DISCUSSES PEOPLE'S SEX LIVES IN A PUBLIC PLACE!?"
Luna looked completely unfazed by the outburst. "Uncle Vernon, I think we should try chanting again. And remember your breathing, too. That's very important. In through the nose and out through the mouth." She demonstrated for him.
"Grandma, she's funny." Timothy Dursley, still clutched protectively by Aunt Petunia, giggled and pointed at Luna.
"SHE IS NOT FUNNY!" Saliva slid over Vernon's teeth as he raged. "SHE'S DEMENTED! SHE'S NOT NORMAL! I DON'T WANT YOU TO EVER TALK ABOUT HER OR ANY OF THESE OTHER DEGENERATES AGAIN!"
"Excuse me, sir." A pot-bellied man in the blue uniform of a security guard walked up to Uncle Vernon. Two more similarly dressed men arrived moments later. "I must ask you to please lower your voice and stop disturbing our guests."
"Don't tell me what to do. I am the retired vice president of . . ."
"Sir, I don't care what you used to be vice president of. I can't have you yelling and ruining everybody's day out."
"I'm ruining . . . these people are ruining my day!" He pointed to Harry and the others. "Why don't you boot them out of here and let regular folk like me enjoy my day out!?"
"Right. That's it. Sir, I'm afraid I must ask you to leave."
Harry strode over to the wall and put his head against it, convulsing with barely suppressed laughter.
"You don't know who you're dealing with!" Vernon stomped about. "I'll have your job! I'll sue this place out of business!"
"Sir, either come with me or I'm going to call the police and have you arrested."
Harry slapped the wall and laughed harder.
"Get your hands off me!"
"Sir, don't make this any harder than it has to be," the security guard warned.
The three guards formed a phalanx around Vernon and walked him toward the exit.
"Vernon! Vernon, dear!" Petunia hurried after her husband, dragging Timothy with her. She stopped and glared at Harry. "This is all your fault, damn you! I hope I never see you again!"
Harry turned and laughed right in her face.
Petunia left in a huff, Timothy struggling to keep up.
"Bye, Luna," Timothy waved at her.
"Good-bye Timothy. Uncle Vernon. Aunt Petunia. Perhaps we can start exchanging Christmas cards this year."
"YOU STAY AWAY FROM MY FAMILY, YOU INSANE LITTLE TART!" Vernon hollered as the security guards tried to push him through the door. "I WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR KIND!"
"Remember, Uncle Vernon. Chanting and breathing. It will help you relax."
Vernon was still bellowing as the doors closed behind him. Petunia rushed out, hollering at the guards to let her husband go.
A few seconds later a balding Muggle in a brown suit hurried into the reptile house and up to Harry.
"Security just informed me about the disturbance here, Sir." He shook Harry's hand. "I'm the assistant director of the London Zoo, and I wish to apologize for what happened."
"Thank you, but it's nothing to worry about. Family dispute that got out of hand. Sorry."
"Oh please, no need for you to apologize. Here, let me make this up to you." The assistant director reached into his pocket and produced a handful of paper. "These are free passes for your next visit to the London Zoo. And . . . fifty pound gift certificates for our gift shop."
He handed out the passes and certificates to Harry, Luna, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Dennis and their children. The kids jumped up and down, cheering and thanking the assistant director.
"It's the least I can do. Please, enjoy the rest of your day at the London Zoo."
The Muggle smiled and headed off.
Harry looked up from his gift certificate to Luna, who stared off in the direction Vernon and Petunia had left. He replayed the scene in his mind of his uncle throwing a fit while being led off by the security guards.
All because Luna was just being Luna.
"I do hope he takes my advice and starts doing yoga." Luna turned to Harry. "I know it will help him. Hopefully they get Timothy involved. He seems like such a lovely boy. It's good to get children involved early on so . . ."
Harry grasped Luna by the shoulders, pulled her to him, and kissed her, long and passionately. He didn't care if anyone stared at him, or what they thought. He didn't remove his lips from his wife's until his lungs felt ready to burst.
"Have I told you you are the most wonderful woman in the world?" Harry smiled wide and gazed into Luna's large eyes.
She smiled back. "You are so sweet."
Harry hugged her, closing his eyes as he rested his cheek on his wife's curled hair.
Luna was right. This trip to the zoo was more enjoyable than his last one.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks for reading, and if you enjoyed this story, check out my original sci-fi/action novels "Sea Raptor" and "Dark Wings" by John J. Rust, available on Amazon.