Picnic With a Dragon
When Natalie had suggested they have a picnic he'd imagined a sunny afternoon spent in the country eating a lovely lunch she'd prepared and treating themselves to some buns from her parents' bakery.
He had not imagined dragons.
The suggestion had come about when Natalie had asked about spending an afternoon with his family so she could better get to know them before the wedding. Although she knew his mother quite well, she claimed not to know where she fit in his strange family. The picnic was supposed to be a way for her to spend some proper time with Harry and the kids away from the city where they could just be themselves.
Dudley hadn't been especially fond of the idea – mostly because he'd been around his nieces when they could be themselves and had come out with blue hair and no eyebrows. Still, no matter how hard he tried to convince her otherwise, Natalie seemed to think it was a fabulous idea and went around him to get his mother to help her organise it.
She'd point blank refused to grasp any sort of understanding of wizarding communication so she'd had to phone his mother. Trying to explain that Harry had to use the pay phone in the village whenever he called had sort of breezed right over her head. She couldn't quite understand his explanation that magic made electricity go haywire.
Between his fiancé and his mother they'd managed to put together a little family picnic and Harry had chosen the location as being easy enough to get to for all parties but far enough away from prying muggle eyes that he wouldn't have to watch the kids too closely. Knowing Harry's girls as well as he did, Dudley didn't think it was advisable to ever let them out of sight. Not that that had stopped them that time they somehow set the muggle play park near his mother's house on fire.
It was a beautiful clear day and the drive had been pleasant, filled with comfortable silences and Natalie coming up with a list of questions she wanted to ask Harry about finding out he was a wizard and Ally about married life. Dudley found the idea that Natalie wanted advice endearing but he didn't like that she was asking Ally for advice when she could have been asking her much more stable mother. Her parents had been happily married for thirty years and didn't often feel the need to blow up half the house when things got a bit out of hand.
Still, he shouldn't complain. There were plenty of people out there who didn't even try to make a go of marriage, assuming – wrongfully – that it just sort of fell into place.
He really wanted them to work, he wanted to look back in thirty years time and remember all the years fondly (even the bad days) and have fun stories to tell his kids. He did not want to be his father, looking back after so many years and having nothing to show for it but regrets.
He would seek advice on married life from Natalie's father before he ever sought out his own.
They were the first to arrive at the picnic spot Harry had chosen and while Dudley unloaded the car, Natalie started to scope out the perfect spot to put down the blanket.
Her startled shriek let him know when Harry had arrived and he reacted with little more than a distracted call for a hand. It probably didn't do him any favours that he didn't at least poke his head out of the boot to check she wasn't being attacked but then Harry was by his side, reaching in to grab the cooler and he figured his first assumption regarding the cause of her scream was correct.
'Ally picking up mum?' Dudley asked when he looked around and couldn't see her. He waved happily to James who was already doing cartwheels while her sister and Natalie looked on.
'Yeah,' Harry confirmed, 'Molly wanted to be the one but she's still having trouble not setting fire to anything she's carrying.'
Dudley snorted. 'I think mum would appreciate not being flame-grilled before she even gets here.'
'Oh,' Harry said suddenly, putting a hand out to stop Dudley and rolling his eyes. 'And its Alex, now, apparently Molly doesn't like being Molly because it's the name of babies and old people.'
A laugh bubbled out of Dudley. 'Please tell me she said that in front of Mrs Weasley?'
Harry nodded, his wince confirming it had been just as spectacular as Dudley imagined. 'I think Ron is still laughing about it.'
Chuckling, the two made their way over to the spot Natalie had chosen just as Ally arrived with his mother. Natalie gave another startled shriek but Dudley laughed all over again at the way his mother calmly went about brushing herself down and straightening her clothes. It was done with such an air of indifference; it was as though it were something she'd done a million times before, it made such a startlingly stark contrast to the woman who had raised both Harry and Dudley.
If only his dad could see them now. He'd likely have another heart attack, his big round face would swell in all its purple glory and his moustache would twitch. Dudley felt a strange pang of nostalgia just thinking about the vein throbbing in his fathers neck.
But Dudley wouldn't trade anything he had now for even a minute of time with his father. Vernon Dursley had always known where he was and what he was doing. If he wanted to make reparations he was more than welcome to come and do it. Dudley figured that was about as likely as going a month without having to arrest Dung for trying to sell something suspicious to unsuspecting muggles.
The spread was just as good as Dudley had been imagining and they all settled down on the large striped blanket to eat and talk. True to her word, Natalie had dozens of questions she wanted to ask and Ally was perfectly happy to answer them all, even the more embarrassing ones, much to both Harry and Dudley's chagrin. They made his mother laugh, though, so perhaps it was worth it.
'I've been thinking about moving,' his mother told them quietly, while Ally and Natalie were otherwise engaged and the girls were running around playing some sort of wizard game that looked like hopscotch but seemed to involve a lot more squealing and the liberal use of a tickling charm.
'What?' Startled, Dudley exchanged confused looks with Harry, happy to see his cousin was just as surprised by the news.
'I'm so far away from you both, I'm getting a bit lonely,' his mother admitted.
Feeling guilty for not noticing sooner both men were hasty to offer apologies and ask about solutions. Harry, of course, was happy to offer her a place to stay any time she wanted and for as long as she wanted but she shot him down kindly.
'I was thinking, perhaps I'd get a place in London. Nothing fancy,' she hastened to add, 'just something small that would put me a bit closer to you both.'
Dudley could tell that what she really meant was somewhere that put her closer to him and Natalie but he could also tell that Harry didn't feel at all offended. They were all well aware of just how easily Harry and his girls could get about when they needed to. Molly – or Alex apparently, as it was these days – may not be one hundred per cent at taking people with her and James might be a bit young but they were more than capable of moving themselves around the country (and in one terrifying incident when James was three, the world).
'Just say the word, Aunt Petunia, and we'll help you look.'
They discussed the details a bit more and it was only when Dudley called dessert that he realised the girls weren't making quite so much noise anymore.
'Daddy,' James said thoughtfully, taking the sticky chocolate covered doughnut Natalie offered her. 'There's a grass snake over there that said something big had moved into the forest. Something magic.'
Harry, not finding anything strange about this statement, placed a napkin across his daughter's lap and smiled. 'Really?'
Natalie, Dudley could see from her expression, thought James was just playing. That was apparently another conversation they were going to have about the mystery that was Harry Potter. He still hadn't found a way to explain Harry being the famous Boy Who Lived and he wasn't even going to touch on that whole Chosen One bit until they'd been married for at least five years.
'Can we go and see, daddy?' Alex pleaded, face covered in chocolate that made her innocent expression all the harder to say no to. 'She said it wasn't very far.'
Dudley watched Harry and Ally exchange looks and knew that they were having some sort of silent debate over the merits of just letting the kids run off or listening to them whine and plead for half an hour.
'Alright,' Ally conceded. 'No more than ten minutes and if anything happens I expect you to flame right back. Understood?'
Both girls nodded, practically inhaled what was left of their doughnuts in three huge bites, and ran off into the wooded area around their chosen picnic spot.
Conversation fell to the upcoming wedding and Dudley found himself engaged in talks about flowers and dresses and going the traditional route. It was all of the talk he'd been avidly trying to avoid at home, constantly making noncommittal humming noises every time Natalie asked his opinion.
'Oh, we never went anything like traditional,' Ally informed them with an airy wave of her hand. Harry met Dudley's eyes and they both snorted. Ignoring them she went on to explain, 'Our magic bound us when Harry was technically only fifteen, then we had both the girls before we even bothered with marriage.'
Natalie looked all set to ask some prying questions when there was a thunder of noise from out of the woods. Dudley had never heard anything quite like it before, at least not outside of movies or television. His eyes widened.
'Was that a dragon?' It was only after the words rolled off his tongue that he considered perhaps he sounded a bit more excited than he probably should have. Especially when he saw how the colour had drained from his mother's face and Natalie's eyes had gone wide with fear.
'What exactly did that grass snake tell the girls?' Ally demanded, drawing her wand even as she began to move.
With equally hasty movements, Harry darted over to the sunny patch the girls had been playing by and returned hissing and carrying a snake wrapped around his arm. This almost seemed to frighten Natalie more than the dragon's roar.
'It's a dragon alright,' Harry said, once again in English. 'It moved in about a week ago.'
Trying to be calm (and failing miserably) Natalie scrambled to her feet, backing away from the trees as the roaring sounded again, this time accompanied by the destruction of foliage. His mother hurried to her side and closed her in a comforting hug. Dudley, despite his senses telling him otherwise, was edging closer to the woods, eager to catch a glimpse of the mythical creature.
'Shouldn't the girls be back by now?' he wondered, suddenly worried that something might have happened to them.
'They're fine,' Harry assure him, holding up one flaming wrist to show the mark that connected him to his daughters was still squirming happily. 'Nothing they haven't seen before.'
'They've seen a dragon before?'
'Ron's brother works on a dragon reserve in Romania.'
The trees gave a violent shudder and there were Harry's daughters, sprinting for the field and their parents looking positively delighted by the turn of events. Being raised in the magical world by Harry Potter and Alexandria Martin was clearly detrimental to their survival instincts.
'Mummy! Daddy!' James shouted with glee, feet pounding across the grass as she fled from the giant flying monster threatening to breathe fire down her back.
Dudley's mouth fell open and he hoped he looked terrified and not exhilarated because he certainly wasn't feeling any of the fear he probably should have been. Perhaps, his nieces' joy was contagious? He also couldn't help wondering whether or not the fire from a dragon would actually do them any harm. The Potter's were very near fireproof.
Birds burst from the trees and out swooped the most marvellous thing Dudley had ever seen. At least fifteen feet long it was a real live fire-breathing dragon, all scales and giant flapping wings, the beast soared over the tops of the trees and swooped down on the girls. It never even had a chance to close its jaws around them, it seemed they'd both finally decided it was time to flame out of the way.
'That was awesome!' Alex laughed breathlessly, appearing suddenly with her sister beside Natalie and his mother.
'We'll talk about this later,' Ally scolded. 'I think we need to leave.'
'You better go,' Harry agreed. 'We'll distract it while you get away.'
Dudley hesitated, not because he was particularly worried about his cousin but because there was a dragon and it was everything he'd ever imagined it would be as a kid. He didn't take too long, though because his mother and fiancé had already started scuttling backward toward his car.
Hastily reversing, Dudley stared out the windshield as Harry and his family vanished in a swirl of flames. The roar of the dragon followed them down the road but there was no sudden swooping figure and soon they were back on the motorway making the journey back into London.
It wasn't until they were halfway home that Dudley realised Natalie hadn't spoken a word since. 'You alright?' he asked, reaching his hand to squeeze her knee gently.
'I don't think I really believed it was real until now,' she admitted quietly. 'All those stories were just stories, even after what I've seen Harry do, but what we saw today, that was real.'
'Are you okay with that?' Dudley was fighting the sudden fear that it would all be too much for her. His mother, in comparison, was napping calmly in the backseat.
'Yeah,' she assured him, 'yeah, I will be.'
He glanced at her a few more times to check to make sure she really was okay. Perhaps he would wait a bit longer before he told her the true story of how Harry had come to live with them. He didn't think she'd be able to handle prophecy and Dark Wizards on top of a real live dragon.
Without being aware of it, Dudley started to smile. Beside him, Natalie scoffed.
'What?' he demanded, glancing across to see her looking at him with such fond exasperation.
'You loved every minute of that.'
'I so did,' he admitted, unable to contain his boyish grin. 'It was awesome.'
a/n: So many people felt that Molly wasn't the right choice for Harry's first daughter and i always found it hilarious because it was never a name i planned to stick with. I believe all of the reasons i gave for naming her Molly and i agree with the ones Harry gives above as well.