Lily screamed with delighted laughter as Charlie threw her up into the air then caught her with strong, sure hands. She clapped – a new trick – and Charlie did it again.
It wasn't that Harry was worried when Charlie did things like this. He was more than aware that every time he picked Lily up he put her in more danger than Charlie was by throwing her around. He knew, because people told him all the fucking time.
He'd never once dropped her, though. Not even come close. It was strange to think that he was the safe parent and Charlie was the risky one. It had to be that way. He didn't have a choice.
"She'll be sick on you in a minute," Harry said affectionately, and Charlie bumped their daughter onto his hip to carry her over to where Harry was sitting. It had been three months since she came into their lives and she'd duly turned it upside down.
It was spring now, and Hermione's baby was sleeping in her Uncle Harry's arms. Harry wasn't quite sure who had deposited Rose there or when, but he didn't mind. He wasn't going anywhere.
On the weekends he mostly avoided using the splints to try and give his legs a rest. Being able to move around on his own was a miracle, and he still wasn't sure how he would ever repay Fred and George for that little bit of freedom they'd given him back. The unavoidable truth, though, was that miracle was exhausting him. Standing or walking for more than fifteen minutes at a time left him in agony. The muscles and bones that wouldn't support him were being forced into what they considered unnatural positions, and even though the outside world didn't see it, things weren't perfect. Not yet.
For two days a week, people didn't care that he used a broomstick to get around rather than slowly shuffling down echoing halls with crutches. When he was with family, there was no pretenses, no illusions. They didn't care. Lily certainly didn't.
Molly called the cousins her flower girls, the third in the trio rounded off by the baby girl Percy's wife was carrying, who would be called Poppy when she was born. It was reassuring in a way, that Lily would grow up with two cousins close in age to her, to have that female support that would be missing in her two-dad household.
"Do you want a drink or anything?" Charlie asked. "Sun cream?"
"No, I'm tanning," he said with a wink.
Even though the rest of his family were around, Charlie leaned in and kissed his husband. Then he did it again. It wasn't like anyone was surprised any more, but it still felt a bit awkward to be snogging in front of Charlie's mum.
"Love you," Harry said, to make up for his lack of enthusiasm.
"Love you too."
As promised, McGonagall made time for Harry during the Easter holidays to help him progress further in his quest for Animagus abilities. Things were progressing – he'd got the charm part down, but the Transfiguration was proving tricky.
"We should stop for a while, Harry," Minerva said. They were practicing on the Quidditch pitch – there was less chance of damaging anything out here.
Harry wanted to protest, to keep going, but hoisted himself back up onto his Firebolt and flew over to sit next to where McGonagall had Transfigured a pile of sticks into a squashy sofa.
"You're doing awfully well," she said, handing him a flask of pumpkin juice.
"Really? It feels like it's taking ages."
"Not at all. We've only been at this for a few months. It took me almost a year to learn."
"Dumbledore taught you, right?" Harry said. He remembered her mentioning it in passing some time ago.
"Oh, yes. It was when I was training to be a teacher, and I wanted to grasp this peculiar branch of magic."
"I still can't believe my dad figured it out on his own," Harry grumbled. Minerva laughed.
"Even your father had help, Harry," she said gently. "It took him well over a year with the help of two extraordinarily bright friends in order to achieve it."
"I know." And he did. He'd read all about it. "They had a lot of problems along the way, too. I think at one point Remus thought Sirius had killed himself."
"It's not impossible. I still can't quite believe that they achieved it right under my nose. I knew they were competent students… I almost feel like I failed them."
"I could have… Oh, I don't know," Minerva said, sighing and brushing her cloak over her knees. "If I'd know what skills they had I would have tried to nurture them more, I suppose. It was very easy to dismiss James and his gang as popular troublemakers. They were bright and intelligent, and well liked by the staff. I never realised they were actually applying the skills we were teaching them."
Harry smiled. Hearing stories about his parents like this was one of his favourite things.
"What about my mum?"
"Now, if you'd told me Lily had learned to become an Animagus I'd be shocked too, although in a different way. She was incredibly intelligent, you know. But it was her heart that we all liked her for. She was a very loving young woman."
"Obviously you know that," Minerva said with a little laugh. Harry just nodded. "Let's give this one last try, shall we?"
Harry stood and used the crutches this time, walked a few paces away, then turned back.
"I think it's a bird," he said, feeling very unsure of himself.
"Oh? I'd thought you'd be feeling more…"
"Stag-like?" Harry finished for her.
"Yes." Minerva smiled.
"I know. I've been trying to push away from that though. We can't know if my legs will work, and… I want to fly."
"Some of the first known Animagi were birds," Minerva said. "It's not unheard of."
"I want to fly," Harry murmured again.
"So fly, Harry."
A/N: Happy Valentine's, dear readers!