Harry stretched out his hand and pressed his finger to the doorbell. They could hear the faint corresponding ringing sound within the house. Ginny felt Albus and Lily hide behind her, and barely stopped herself from letting out the groan of irritation that had been building in her since they left home. James had made the journey much more wearing than it needed to be by demanding incessantly why he and his siblings couldn't just stay with Teddy and his grandmother or with their own grandparents instead of coming along. He had only stopped after Ginny threatened to take away the toy broomstick they had given him for his birthday, but his expression still worried her. At seven years old, it was already clear that he had inherited the mischievous attributes of every single troublemaker who had come before him on both sides of the family. Before she could do more than give her eldest son a warning glance (which did not succeed in dispelling his mutinous expression), however, the door opened.
"Afternoon, Big D," said Harry with a strained grin. Even though Dudley had been the one to (very awkwardly) initiate this tradition of having an annual family reunion tea of sorts, he still seemed a little bemused every time the Potters arrived at his house on the designated Saturday afternoon in July. After a few seconds of surprised delay, the portly man who had grown to resemble his father just as much as Harry resembled his own—though he had deigned to remain clean-shaven—smiled back with equal strain.
"Good to see you, Harry," said Dudley, holding out a hand, which Harry shook briefly. "How're all of you doing?"
"Really well," said Harry, who hoped Dudley would invite them in before they used up all of the conversation.
"Dudley, who's at the door?" came a voice from within the house.
"It's Harry and his family, Beatrice," Dudley called over his shoulder. Her reply was drowned out by the heavy thuds of their children, Robert and Alice, who were the same ages as James and Albus, respectively, racing down the stairs.
"Do have them come in, then, dear. I've just finished making tea." Beatrice Dursley, a short, pleasantly round woman with dark curly hair and kind eyes, always seemed to do a better job of remembering when Harry, Ginny, and the kids would be visiting than her husband. This made Harry suspect that she had been the one whose idea it was to start the tradition in the first place, which would certainly account for the abrupt escalation from a mere exchange of Christmas cards to actual visits the very year after she and Dudley were married.
"Oh, right," grunted Dudley, looking rather sheepish. "Come in, then." Harry stepped to the side a little to allow Ginny to move forward, shepherding Albus and Lily (who were still clinging to her), across the threshold first. James made to follow them, but Harry put a hand on his shoulder, and he looked up at him with wide, much-too-innocent eyes.
"You play nice with your cousins this time, young man," he said, a slight hint of warning in his voice. From the way James's expression became instantly uncomfortable, Harry knew his son had been hoping that he'd forgotten about the incident last year, when James had brought a Fanged Frisbee and swapped it for Robert's normal one—or the year before that, when he'd turned Alice's favorite doll into a live and very traumatized hedgehog, although that had probably been an accident. Not wanting to take any chances, Harry bent down to peer into James's bag, and breathed a sigh of relief when the only things he found inside were the latest assortment of Muggle toys his Granddad Weasley had given him. Satisfied, Harry stood back up and led James into the house.
As soon as Harry's back was turned, James grinned. The red herring had worked perfectly.
Harry hadn't checked Al's bag…
Muahaha! And so the budding mastermind of mischief within James emerges to test the waters. And dangerous waters they are. Anyway, about Beatrice. Because of Dudley's amusingly/unsettlingly touching final interaction with Harry in Deathly Hallows, I thought he deserved someone better than a repeat of Aunt Petunia. Besides, if she was Petunia2.0, there's no way she'd allow these reunion type things to happen.
I don't plan on making this much longer than two or three more chapters of about the same length as this one, but my ideas for what is to come are vague enough at this point that anything's possible.
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