For the Speed of Lightning Competition

Prompt: To Die For

.

"Family"

It's a well known fact that Molly Weasley's cooking is to die for. She taught every single one of her kids to cook – Charlie took to it the best, much to Molly's surprise – but no one cooks like Molly.

This fact is why every Sunday, the Weasleys descend upon the Burrow – most, if not all, of the twenty-four of them, plus assorted friends and/or dates, because Rose routinely brings Scorpius Malfoy along and Oliver Wood tends to show up, which Percy claims is because he can't cook to save his life, though Oliver insists it's for the company.

His mum's cooking – that, and seeing his family – is why Charlie will face his mother once a month, even though she'll nag him every time about finding a girlfriend and settling down and having kids: a family. He usually shows up first on purpose, just so that she'll finish before everyone else is there.

"Hi, Mum," he says, walking into the kitchen and wrapping his arms around her – because she's still his mum and he still loves her, even though she nags. He picks her up and spins her in a circle, the same way he does every time, because he can and it makes her laugh.

And she does laugh as she says, "Charlie! Put me down!"

He chuckles and sets her back on her feet, kissing her cheek. She smiles at him. "Hello, Charlie."

He grins. "Am I first again?" At her nod, he says, "I'll go set up the tables."

The first to arrive always sets up the tables and chairs in the weather-proof dome they've set up in the garden. There's absolutely no way all of them could fit in the dining room.

His dad is already outside, levitating tables. "Hello there, Charlie!" he greets cheerfully.

"Hi, Dad," Charlie replies, lending a wand.

"How's life?"

Charlie shrugs. "Exciting, as ever. How are things here?"

His dad smiles. "Exciting is an apt word, I think. I don't think I ever imagined we could fit so many grandkids in this house."

Laughing, Charlie replies, "That's what you get for having seven kids!"

His dad grins ruefully. "That's true."

Beyond that, they don't really need to talk as they finish setting up the tables, chairs, and all of the plates and silverware. His dad steps back and inspects it for a moment.

"Looks pretty good to me."

Charlie agrees wholeheartedly, and so they both return to the inside of the Burrow, where his Dad goes to tidy up a few rooms and Charlie returns to the kitchen.

"Need any help, Mum?" Charlie asks. His mum looks around at the vegetables chopping themselves and the pots and pans boiling and bubbling away on the stove.

"Would you be a dear and mix up the salad?" she asks.

"Sure." Charlie begins methodically retrieving the required substances, just waiting for her to speak. He's actually marginally surprised by how far he gets – she's not usually so patient.

"No one new this month?"

Charlie sighs. "No, Mum."

His mum turns to face him, hands on her hips.

"Charlie, are you even trying to find someone? All of your brothers and your sister have long since settled down – they all have kids already! Bill's kids have kids!"

Charlie sets his wand down carefully and looks her in the eyes. "No, Mum. I'm not trying to find someone."

"Well, why not?"

He's working hard to keep his tone even. "Has it ever occurred to you that I might actually be happy at the moment? That I don't need someone else to be happy?"

"Has it ever occurred to you that you might be happier if you weren't alone? If you had a family?"

Charlie laughs darkly, bitterly. "No, see, that's the one that always gets me. I have a family, Mum! I know you don't understand it, because it doesn't fit the pretty picture in your head of a wife and kids, but I do have a family. The dragons are my family. The people on the reserve are my family. I wish you could at least try to respect that."

"It isn't the same, Charlie."

"I know that! But just because it isn't the same, doesn't mean it's worse." He sighs. "Mum, you think kids are important because why? Because it's someone to nurture, to watch them grow up and be able to think, 'I'm a part of that'?"

"Well, yes-"

"I have that. I raise dragons for a living, Mum. I watch them from hatching all the way to integration into the proper community." He pauses to think for a moment. "Mum, dragons are some of the most humanoid creatures on this earth. They have a whole elaborate society, and they're one of the few non-humans to respect and prize old age, and the wounded."

"Charlie, I know that you love dragons, but don't you think it's about time to settle down? Maybe with a safer job?"

"I've been working with dragons for thirty-five years, Mum! Despite what you think, it's not just a phase."

"I don't think that."

"Yes, Mum. You do. Because every single time I come home, you suggest something to the effect of leaving my job. Dragons are my life. I honestly can't even imagine who I am if I'm not a Dragon Tamer."

"You've got a new scar on your right forearm," his mum replies evenly. Charlie glances down. He does, in fact, have a recent burn mark there. One of the babies had a cough, and it had resulted in unusually early flame production.

He chooses to simply nod.

She sighs. "I know that you love them, Charlie. But I know that you could be happy with a family."

"I am happy with my family," he reminds her softly.

"I know that. But a mum worries."

He moves forward, softly wrapping his arms around her. "I don't blame you for worrying, Mum. I just wish you'd accept that this is the life I have chosen for myself – not just for now, but for as long as they'll have me."

And her only response is to whisper, "Just be careful."

"Of course. Always."