‘Where did you get this, mon Ange?’ Harry admired the smooth red icing of the cluster of cherries sitting on top of Katie’s cake. ‘If I didn’t know this was a cake, I would think it was actually a bowl of fruit.’
Fleur spun the cake around, running a careful eye over each piece of fruit. ‘It’s very good. I got the chef at our favourite café to make it. The icing and sponge change flavour for each fruit. He made them all separately and then fit them together.’
A fond smile crept onto Harry’s lips. ‘Our little veela hatchling is going to love it a lot.’
‘She is going to try and grab it, thinking that it is fruit, and make a huge mess.’
He laughed. ‘As long as she’s happy.’
Laurent drifted in, a box beneath his arm and a handful of letters tucked under his chin. ‘The box is for Katie.’ He set it down beside the cake. ‘The letter…’
Harry sighed and held out his hand. ‘Neville?’
‘To you, this time. Not Fleur.’
‘Of course.’ He wriggled a finger into the envelope’s corner and ripped it open. ‘I was sort of hoping he might stop now, but obviously I should have known better…’
Fleur’s irises darkened. ‘What does it say?’ She plucked the letter from the envelope.
Harry snorted. ‘You tell me, mon Trésor. I can’t read that fast.’
‘He had better never come back.’ Her eyes flashed black. ‘He sends his hope.’
‘He’ll find out for himself where waiting and wishing leads,’ he murmured. ‘Is that all he said?’
‘The safe he stashed with this Luna Lovegood has been returned to him unopened.’ Fleur crumpled the letter into a small ball and lit it on fire, watching it curl into ashes and crumble.
Harry slid his wand from his sleeve and warded them away from the cake. ‘Careful, mon Ange.’
‘Pardon.’ She stepped over to the sink and brushed the ash from her fingers, her eyes shifting back to summer sky blue. ‘Can you find a candle, Harry?’
‘Accio.’ He waved his wand and waited.
A silver candle zipped out of the drawer at his face.
Harry snatched it out of the air. ‘Where are we going to stick it?’
The kitchen door handle rattled and a frustrated wail came from the hall.
‘No, little chick,’ Gabby called. ‘You can’t go in there just yet. Let’s wait in the hall for a minute or two.’
That’s not going to work, she’s been waiting all morning already.
The handle rattled again, jerking down.
He laughed. ‘I knew that wasn’t going to put Katie off, she is a very stubborn baby bird when she wants something.’
‘Come on, Katie.’ Gabby’s voice came from right behind the door. ‘Don’t you want to have a look at all your presents before we start opening them? You’ve been so good waiting all morning.’
‘Gabba,’ Katie whined.
‘Come on, little chick, this way.’ Gabby’s footsteps padded away down the corridor and Katie’s pattered after her.
‘We should probably hurry up,’ Harry said, tethering the candle to hover above the cake. ‘Or there will be feathers.’
‘Good idea.’ Fleur smiled and reached out one finger to light the floating candle with a small blue flame. ‘I think we’re all ready now. So if you want to take the cake, I’ll bring this box.’ She studied the handwriting. ‘This is from the Duforts, I remember their loopy writing from that lipstick covered letter.’
‘The lipstick was for you, remember, mon Rêve.’ Harry shot her a grin. ‘And I’m fairly sure this is a present for their goddaughter, as they seem to be taking that seriously.’
‘How did they know her birthday’s today?’
‘I think I mentioned that it was on the seventh a few weeks ago.’
Laurent opened the door and stuck his head out. ‘All clear. I’ll quickly move the small coffee table so there’s something to put the cake on.’ He hurried into the hall.
Harry levitated the cake and took slow careful steps into the hall where Laurent and Apolline sat on one sofa and Gabby on the chocolate-stained other. Katie tottered around the small pile of presents wrapped in glittering, shining paper that flickered different colours, pointing at them one after another and babbling to herself.
‘Katie,’ he called. ‘Look over here, baby bird.’
She glanced up and saw the cake, her green eyes going wide.
‘Look at that, little chick,’ Gabby murmured. ‘That’s your birthday cake.’
His daughter bounced up and down with a huge gap-toothed grin, waving her small fists in the air. ‘Papa! Papa!’
Harry set the cake down on the coffee table just out of reach. ‘Maman is just about to bring some plates, Katie. And then you’re going to have cake for the first time, which is presumably a veela rite of passage and a point of no return for my little bird-girl.’
She squirmed forward and stuck out one hand for the yellow icing of the banana.
‘No…’ He cupped her small fist in his hand. ‘You’ve got to blow the candle out first, silly chick.’
Gabby beamed. ‘We can do it together, Katie.’ She slid off her sofa and knelt next to Katie. ‘Take a deep breath…’
Katie took a huge gulp of air and puffed her little cheeks out.
She huffed at the candle, sending the little flame dancing around above the candle.
‘Oh dear, it survived,’ Harry said. ‘Want to have another go?’
Katie huffed and puffed until the little blue fire died out, clapping her hands together and babbling with a big grin on her face.
‘What an adorable little baby bird you are,’ he murmured as Fleur set the Duforts’ present down in the small pile and placed plates down on the table. ‘How are we going to do this?’
‘It should come apart,’ Fleur said. ‘Give Katie a little bit of each thing. They all taste a bit different. The bowl is chocolate.’
‘Let’s start with the banana, shall we?’ Harry lifted it out and set it down on a plate, smiling as Katie followed every move of the banana. ‘This is your favourite, isn’t it?’ He sliced a few pieces off and levitated them onto Katie’s plate. ‘There you go.’
Katie reached out and grabbed the nearest piece, scrunching her face up into a small frown and sticking it into her mouth. Her eyes went wide as galleons and she jammed the entire piece in.
Harry laughed. ‘Is that good?’
Fleur tugged the cake across and took over the cutting.
Katie snatched the other piece and smushed it into her mouth, smearing icing and crumbs of sponge over her face.
‘I think she likes it,’ Apolline murmured.
‘A lot.’ Laurent sighed. ‘Another sweet-toothed cake addict. Of course. One day, one of you might even tell me if it’s really a veela thing or not.’
Katie lunged for the cake.
Harry caught her with one arm and set her back down on the floor. ‘Oh no you don’t, mini-veela. It’s okay, there’s plenty more.’
She scowled, her eyes darkening to pine-green and stuck her cake-smeared right hand out, grabbing at the air.
‘This is how I’m going to spend a lot of my time soon, isn’t it?’ He chuckled. ‘Taking this pouting little chick to get her sugar fix.’
The cake lurched across the table.
Harry stuck out a hand and summoned it back, levitating it into the air and back onto the table. ‘Katie,’ he chided. ‘Be patient. Maman is cutting you a new bit, see?’
Katie scowled, her irises flashing black.
Fleur laughed and slid a slice of apple, lemon and one of the cherries across in front of her. ‘There you go, greedy little chick.’
Katie grabbed the biggest piece and pulled a small fistful of cake off, shoving it into her mouth.
‘Maybe we should have done presents before cake,’ Harry murmured. ‘I think she might be very focused on her food for a while now.’
‘It’s her birthday.’ Fleur reached out and smoothed Katie’s silver curls as she bounced, munching on the lemon cake with a broad smile and a bright sparkle in her green eyes. ‘We can delay presents for a bit if she’s happy eating her cake.’
‘Improvisation, mon Trésor?’ Harry grinned. ‘How unlike you.’
She laughed. ‘The only thing this little chick is going to make me worry about is whether she’s going to get sick eating too much cake.’
‘Or if there’s going to be any left for you,’ he quipped.
Gabby giggled, watching Katie cram small fistfuls of cake into her mouth with singular focus and a lot of excited bouncing. ‘Look how happy she is. She’s so adorable.’
‘If you check the big box, Gabby—’
‘Non.’ Fleur turned her nose up. ‘There is not another baby in the box for the harpy, mon Amour.’
‘Did you shake it and check?’ Harry chuckled. ‘I’m not sure what’s in the Duforts’ present, actually. They never told me.’
‘Well, we’ll find out soon,’ Apolline murmured.
Katie licked the cake crumbs and icing off her little fingers, waggling her tongue through a huge smile.
Harry laughed. ‘Maybe not that soon.’
‘Presents, Katie?’ Gabby patted the Duforts’ box. ‘Before you eat all the cake.’
Katie glanced between the present and her plate, scrunching her face into a small frown.
‘The cake isn’t going anywhere,’ Harry said. ‘You can always have more later.’
Fleur smiled. ‘We might even get some while she’s distracted.’
Their daughter reached for the box. ‘Gabba.’
Gabby lifted it up and set it down on the floor beside Katie. ‘There you go.’
She poked at the paper with one small finger, pushing it along the colour-changing wrapping until it ripped. Katie froze, wide-eyed.
‘It’s okay, silly chick,’ Fleur murmured, reaching across and tearing a little more. ‘You’re meant to do that.’
Their daughter shoved her hand into the tear and tore a big swathe of paper off the side. Beaming, she ripped more pieces off until a neat, smooth wooden box sat amidst the scraps.
‘What an exciting looking box.’ Harry chuckled. ‘Let’s hope it’s not full of sherbet lemons.’
‘She’ll like those, she loved the lemon sponge,’ Apolline said. ‘Although there would have to be several hundred in there.’
Katie balled her fists in the wrapping paper, grinning as it rustled and crinkled.
‘Ah, the wrapping paper is always more exciting than the present at this age,’ Laurent said with a smile. ‘I remember that glowing frame toy we got for Gabrielle and she got so distracted by the pretty wrapping paper she didn’t finish opening it until the day after her birthday.’
‘Fleur was much more focused.’ Apolline laughed. ‘Especially as she got older. It was very much about whether what she wanted was inside or not.’
Fleur turned her nose up. ‘I’m sure Katie wants to know what’s in the box, too.’
Their daughter paused in waving her fistfuls of wrapping paper and stared at her present.
‘Does it open easily?’ Harry asked. ‘I don’t think she’s going to be able to break into a wooden box. Not unless she thinks there’s cake inside it and magics it apart.’
Fleur laughed. ‘Gabby, can you give her a hand?’
‘Let’s see, shall we, little chick?’ Gabby pushed a finger into the top of the box, popping out a small wooden ring. ‘Katie?’
Katie dropped her wrapping paper and grabbed hold of the handle.
Gabby wrapped her hand around Katie’s. ‘And twist…’
The box sprang open and a tangled blue stick fell into Katie’s lap. She lifted it up by one end, watching it shift through colours with wide green eyes.
Harry tracked the end from his daughter’s fist into the tangle, following each curve and bend around until he found himself frowning at Katie’s hand.
‘Interesting,’ Fleur murmured.
‘Ah,’ Apolline said, leaning forward. ‘This must have been the Duforts’ when they were children. It used to be a very big deal when your children had their first bout of accidental magic, so toys like this were given to encourage it. It’s very kind of them to give this to Katie; they’re usually very sentimental for the parents.’
They have no parents they care to remember.
‘Your poor daughter tries to find the other end until she gets frustrated enough to use magic.’ Laurent chuckled under his breath. ‘I had something similar, I think I turned it into worms. It was quite a lot of fun, although Katie is well ahead of the curve when it comes to magic.’
Harry exchanged a look with Fleur.
‘It will keep her occupied a bit,’ she said. ‘See?’
Katie scowled at the tangle, turning it around and around.
‘There’s also a stash of children’s sweets,’ Gabby said, peering into the box. ‘Fun ones, like Escaping Chocolate Snails and Jelly Grasshoppers.’
‘You leave them in the box, harpy.’ Fleur narrowed her eyes. ‘It’s okay to try and steal my sweets but not my little chick’s.’
Gabby snickered. ‘She’s going to make a huge mess with these Jelly Grasshoppers, they can jump a long way.’
A fond smile crept onto Harry’s lips. ‘Katie will enjoy that a lot.’
‘Mine!’ Gabby dug a small hexagonal present out. ‘I think there’s going to be a theme.’
Katie watched the birds hop about on the white wrapping paper, poking at them with one finger.
‘The best bit is inside, baby bird,’ Harry said.
She curved her fingers tugging at the paper until a small piece tore free and pink packaging gleamed through.
‘Ah.’ Fleur smiled. ‘These are some of Gabby’s favourites.’
Katie ripped bits of paper away, shaking them off her fingers with a small frown when they clung to her skin.
‘Flavour-changing macarons?’ Harry shot Gabby a smile. ‘More sweets? I’m not surprised.’
‘She’ll love them, they’re all fruit flavours and each bite is different,’ Gabby replied, sweeping the worst of the wrapping paper pile under the table with a foot. ‘Cherry is the best though.’
‘Gabba!’ Katie stuck out one imperious hand at the pile of presents.
Harry chuckled. ‘You’re slacking, Gabby.’
‘This one’s from your grandparents.’ Gabby lifted another striped present from the stack. ‘It’s squishy.’
Katie poked a finger through, curling it tight and ripping a strip of striped paper away. A flood of small colourful socks poured out into her lap.
‘She keeps losing them,’ Apolline said. ‘So I thought I’d get her some more. There are gloves and hats and underwear too, but I think they’re still inside the present.’
‘Say merci,’ Harry murmured. ‘Can you say merci, Katie?’
Katie looked up, clutching two handfuls of brightly striped socks, a bright, cheerful gleam in her green eyes. ‘Mersee?’
Apolline pressed her hand to her mouth, blinking fast, and Laurent wrapped his arm around her waist, murmuring in her ear. Katie buried her face in Gabby’s lap with a quiet noise, grabbing two fists of her dress.
‘Awwww.’ Gabby pulled her close. ‘Does that feel nice, baby bird? Does it make you want to be held too?’
Harry quirked an eyebrow as Katie wriggled further into Gabby’s arms. ‘You mean?’
‘I’m almost certain,’ she said. ‘I have been for a while. Look how she reacts to us. She can definitely feel something.’
Fleur nodded. ‘Gabby is right. She is the same when we’re too far away to feel our magic or I get angry.’
‘I guess she’s probably going to stay clingy then.’ A small smile crooked the corner of Harry’s mouth. ‘Doesn’t seem so bad; she is very sweet.’
Gabby beamed and patted Katie on the back. ‘Come on little veela hatchling, you’ve still got lots of presents to open, you can’t give up now.’