"Welcome back!" Fred dragged him into the, for once, empty kitchen at the Burrow.
"We've missed you terribly!" George slung an arm around his shoulders.
"Awfully!" Fred ruffled his hair.
"Do you feel all grown up?!" George posed.
"Mature?!" Dramatic pose.
"Prepared to face the world?!" the chorused happily.
"Er, are you guys drunk?" Harry scratched himself on the cheek, he'd need a shave soon. Fred beamed. George giggled. "Right."
"Let me take your bag!" Without waiting for an answer, Fred snatched the shrunken thing from his hand and honest to Merlin skipped out of the room.
Right. Should have stayed at campus.
"Come on then!" George shot him a dazzling smile and dragged him into the living room.
Harry froze. The room was packed with people. Remus and Tonks. Hermione and Draco. Moody. Kingsley. Hagrid. And the Weasly's, of course, complete with wives and children. Harry did not let his eyes linger at a particular Weasley. Honest.
He felt a huge grin split his face.
"Good to see you mate!" Ron walked unsteadily towards him giving him a clumsy hug.
"You look great." Remus shook his hand, eyes unfocused.
"Can't believe you're actually a... eh, what was it again?" Bill smiled embarrassed, his speech slightly slurred.
"Come pewther expert", his father helpfully filled in, giving Harry a bear hug, making him lose his breath for a few moments.
"Wasn't it something with muggle relations?" Percy chimed in, hugging both of them.
"Yer should never have given up quidditch!" Hagrid boomed from the couch, face red underneath the bushy beard.
"Give him some room!" Molly pushed them off him with one hand, youngest grandchild on her other arm. "Harry dear, it's great to have you back. Lovely tan. George, do take Artie for awhile would you." She handed the three year old over to his uncle, giving Harry a wet kiss on the cheek.
Uck. What is witheveryone?
"It's great seeing you all. I'm a, a bit overwhelmed. And quite jet lagged." He smiled running a hand through his hair. "Let's have some cake?"
"Hurrah!" Fred raised his glass. Ninety percent of the people in the room snickered.
Charlie handed him a glass of blue-greenish fizzing liquid. Harry took a cautious sniff and instantly begun sneezing, his eyes tearing up.
"The twins spiked the punch."
"Aaah. All of a sudden stuff makes sense." Charlie smiled. Harry's stomach seemed to be the home of a butterfly reserve. "Sooo... how you been?" he asked, aiming at smoothly, landing at half-choked.
"How was California?"
"Sunny. But I guess most places are compared to Britain." He smiled sheepishly. "Never thought it would be so much fun to be an exchange student."
"Who knew school could be fun, right?"
"Yeah." They smiled awkwardly. "What was the crisis at christmas by the way?"
Smooth, Potter. Smooth.
"One of the dragons got really, really sick, and someone had to look after her so..."
"Yeah, of course." Harry took a cautious sip of the punch. His upper lip felt kind of numb.
He took another sip.
Yep, definitely numbing. He smacked his lips suppressing the urge to giggle.
"Um, look." Charlie absently scratched yet another burn mark on his arm. "'m sorry I didn't write you or anything. It doesn't mean I didn't miss you, I'm just... not great with words, you know?"
"I really did miss you though, I just. Yeah. Bad at keeping contact but, you know. I'm still here. Always."
"'s okay. I get it."
And he did.