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Chapter 4 : Of Chicken Scratch and Flour Fears
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The next morning, Lily was neither surprised nor disappointed when she awoke to the sounds of James and Carol in the kitchen. Little else could be expected, after all. And so with a smile on her face, she got out of bed and made her way downstairs to enjoy another entertaining breakfast.
“Good morning,” she said jovially as she entered the room, and she heard a chorus of greetings from each of them. “How did you slee—“ she began, but stopped as James turned to her. “What in the world is on your face?” she said quickly, squinting as she took in the little white marks on his cheeks and neck. Realizing that they were bits of toilet paper, she grinned to herself.
He, on the other hand, reddened and looked down as he cleared his throat. “I, uh… Tried to shave this morning…With one of those razy things… And I overestimated its ease of use… And my abilities…” he muttered guiltily.
Before she could send a witty remark his way, her mother interrupted them. “Breakfast’s ready!”
Lily watched as James scuttled to the table in embarrassment, clearly ready to change the subject. And of course, ever charming, he had the perfect topic to divert attention from his nicked up face.
“A little bird told me that it may just be your birthday today, Carol,” he said with a sudden debonair grin.
Lily watched in amusement as her mother blushed and looked down at her plate with a smile. “It sure is,” she said sheepishly, though the beam never left her face.
“I must warn you, I am notorious for birthday surprises, so I hope you’re prepared,” he told her, a sly look in his eyes.
After Lily’s mother insisted ardently that he needn’t fuss over her, they spoke no more about it and continued their breakfast. That is, until Carol left the kitchen, headed for the garden, and Lily and James began to clean up the dishes.
“Chocolate or vanilla?” was all that James said, and Lily shot him a look from the sink.
“Pardon?” she asked cautiously.
“Should we make chocolate or vanilla cake? And then what kind of frosting? Does she like sprinkles?” he began hurriedly, collecting the glasses from the table with a bit more vigor than before as he wracked his mind for ideas.
“Woah, woah,” Lily laughed. “I don’t know if a cake is the best idea.” After all, James had no experience with Muggle cooking (save for scrambled eggs), and it had been years since Lily had baked.
“I’ve got it,” James said, pointing a victorious finger in the air as he ignored her words. “We’ll make a yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Double layered,” he said pointedly, raising his eyebrows to her before continuing. “Buttercream frosting in between the layers, with ‘Happy Birthday, Carol!’ written in frosting on top. Brilliant.”
“James, I—“ Lily protested, but he held up a hand to silence her.
“I will not take no for an answer. Now, do you have a cookbook handy?”
With a sigh, Lily placed the last of the dishes into the dishwasher before making her way to a far cupboard. Reaching in, she took out several armfuls of cookbooks, plopping them onto the counter unceremoniously. “There should be something in one of these. Take one and start looking.”
Each of them took a book and began to flip through pages and search indexes in hopes of finding the perfect cake. On several occasions, Lily pointed out various alternatives she found, but James firmly insisted that they must find the double layered yellow cake with chocolate frosting and buttercream filling.
After fifteen minutes of searching in vain, Lily finally let out a defeated sigh. “I really think you’re being too specific. We can just combine recipes to get what you—“
“Found it!” he exclaimed, throwing his arms up proudly. “I’m sorry, what were you saying?” he asked, turning to her with a mischievous smile.
Lily merely rolled her eyes, but she could not force the smile off of her lips. “Alright, what do we need?”
He listed off a barrage of ingredients that Lily scrambled to find. Once she had procured each and every ingredient, she pulled out several bowls and measuring cups before turning back to James. “Do you want to start on the dry ingredients while I melt the butter?” she asked. As she received a quick thumbs up, Lily turned her back to him and placed the butter in a bowl before popping it in the microwave. A few moments later, she took it out and turned back towards James.
Or at least, she thought James was there somewhere…behind the puffs of flour that were shrouding the rest of the kitchen from her sight. “James!” she exclaimed, rushing over and waving her hands through the air in hopes of dispersing the flour. When her hand came in contact with his face and she heard a shout of pain, she immediately stopped. Finally, the flour diffused and a very powdery James appeared, coughing and nursing his cheek.
“What in the world did you do?! I only turned my back for thirty seconds!” Lily exclaimed, waving away the last of the flour.
He frowned and began speaking at an immensely quick speed. “Well, I opened the bag of flour and tried to pour it into the bowl, but I didn’t think it would be so heavy and too much flour poured out, so the bowl overflowed. And I couldn’t stop the flour from coming out of the bag, and so it just kept coming and… Then I got lost in a flour bomb…”
She wanted to be angry, but the mortified look on his face only brought a soft smile to her lips. “It’s alright. Let’s get this cleaned up and we’ll try again.” She wetted a few rags and tossed him one. The two of them got down on their hands and knees, wiping up the thin layer of flour off of the floor. When they had cleaned up the rest of the kitchen—counters, cupboards, and yes, even the ceiling—Lily found another bag of flour in the cupboard. She opened it carefully, only to find James backing away from her slowly.
“I really don’t think I should be anywhere near that,” he said fearfully, holding his hands up with wide eyes.
“C’mon, future Auror! I think you’re capable of scooping out a few cups of flour,” Lily joked, holding out a measuring cup to him.
“How did you know that I want to become an Auror?” he asked quickly, raising his eyebrows in surprise as his hands lowered to his sides.
“Oh…” Lily muttered. She could feel the blush rising on her cheeks and the flustered expression on her face. “Wild guess?” she said with a shrug, shoving the measuring cup into his hand. “Alright, go for it. I’ll hold the bag to make sure it doesn’t go anywhere.”
He slowly made his way to the counter, peering warily over the edge of the bag. When he reached the cup into the bag, a puff of flour came up and he jumped in surprise.
“Face your fears,” she told him with a bright smile, and he scooped out two cups of flour, pouring them slowly into the mixing bowl. In little time, of course, he was more than enthusiastic about his newfound prowess in the kitchen.
After his success with the flour, James was more than ready to measure out the baking powder and salt.
“And now you just whisk it all together,” she said, reaching over to grab the mixing utensil and handing it to him. He took the whisk from her with delight, plunging it quickly into the powdery mixture. When another puff of dusty ingredients floated into the air he immediately let go of the whisk.
“What did I do?” he demanded, looking to her expectantly.
“You’re just being a bit too aggressive with it. If you just whisk a little slower, it won’t jump out at you like that,” she laughed, taking his hand and placing it on the whisk. She let her hand rest lightly on top of his, helping him slowly mixed the ingredients. At first, it didn’t occur to her how close they were…Or how the skin of her palm was tingling… Or how thrilled she felt when their shoulders brushed.
“What’s going on in here?”
Lily flew away from James, turning around to see her mother standing in the doorway, a pleasant look on her face. Before she could get too far away from him, though, she slid right beside him in order to block the mixing bowl from sight. They looked at each for a moment, eyes wide, before turning back to Mrs. Evans.
“Just talking,” Lily said, but she found that James had spoken at the same time.
“Just cleaning up.”
They exchanged looks once more, but James was ultimately the one to speak up.
“We would hate for you to have to clean up on your birthday—in fact, you should be relaxing!” he insisted, flashing a charming smile.
“What’s in your hair?” was all that Carol said as she cocked her head to the side slightly.
James quickly ran a hand through his hair and watched in horror and cloud of flour emerged from it. “Was my hair white? You didn’t tell me!?” James gasped, looking to Lily in horror.
“Mom, why don’t you go sit outside for a bit—enjoy the last of that nice fall air,” Lily said, disregarding James’ question. Her mother merely shrugged and exited the kitchen once more.
When the door finally closed, James threw both of his hands into his hair, watching in terror as wisps of flour met his eyes. “Is it gone?” he pleaded, looking to Lily quickly.
“Turn around,” she said with a sigh. When he did so, she reluctantly ruffled the back of his hair to get the last of the flour out. “There you go. Let’s get on to the wet ingredients before she comes back snooping,”
They were successful when it came to the sugar, vanilla, and milk, but when it came to the eggs, Lily knew that disaster was around the corner.
“Why don’t I handle the eggs,” she said as she brought the carton over to the bowl.
“Oh, ye of little faith,” James said dramatically before flipping open the egg carton and pulling out two eggs with flourish. Cracking both on the side of the bowl, he opened them one handed, a wide grin playing on his lips. “Remember, I’m the master of scrambled eggs,” he winked, throwing the shells out.
“You’ve made scrambled eggs twice. I hardly think that deserves the title of master,” she said flatly, placing her hands on her hips.
“I believe the young squire is jealous,” he proclaimed gallantly, though he broke his pose as he took in Lily’s increasingly irate expression. “You know I’m joking, Lily,” he amended, and her face softened.
“Let’s finish this up so we can get it into the oven,” was all that she said, and they moved back to their bowls. They finished off the wet ingredients and combined them with the dry before pouring the batter carefully into two pans. Before they knew it, the layers were safely in the oven, cooking away.
“Frosting?” James asked as she closed the oven door and she nodded, They found the ingredients for the buttercream and the chocolate frosting, and Lily was tempted to have them divide and conquer, but knew better than to trust James with a hand mixer. And just as suspected, when she took out the mixer, James’ eyes shot to it.
“What’s that?” he said quickly, eyeing the contraption in fascination.
“It’s a hand mixer,” she said simply, setting it on the counter as she began to measure out the ingredients.
“But we were already mixing by hand…” he said slowly, furrowing his brow in confusion.
“You’ll see,” she laughed, shaking her head as she poured the powdered sugar into the bowl. After they had finally gotten the rest of the ingredients in, she plugged the hand mixer into the wall and handed it to James. “Would you like to do the honors?” she asked, but he shook his head ardently.
She shrugged lightly and turned on the electric mixer, watching in delight as James jumped with alarm at the noise. As she began to mix together the ingredients, though, his disconcertion began to fade, and he ventured a peak into the bowl.
“That doesn’t look too bad… Can I try?” he cautioned, and she moved to the side with a smile, giving him room to take the hand mixer from her. “This looks a lot scarier than it is,” he laughed, looking over to Lily.
Naturally, looking away from the bowl was his big mistake.
As soon as he had turned to Lily, the hand mixer just barely lifted out of the frosting—just enough for frosting to fling out of the bowl and hit both Lily and James, among other things.
“Put it back in!” Lily shrieked, rushing over and taking hold of the hand mixer, turning it off the second she touched it. She let out a long sigh before glancing over at James. As soon as their eyes met, they burst out in laughter, trying in vain to wipe off all the frosting on their faces, in their hair, and on their clothes.
“Never let me touch another Muggle appliance ever,” James said through his laughter.
“Will do,” she giggled as she licked a bit of frosting off her lower lip. “Did I get it all off?” she asked, gesturing to her face.
“Just a little on your nose,” James said with a grin, watching as she tried to get it off. “No, to your left… Other left… Here, let me—“ he finally said, reaching over and wiping a bit off of the bridge of her nose.
Lily let out another residual laugh as she thanked him. “It’s all in your hair,” she said, and a new wave of laughter took over.
“Someone is out to get me!” he exclaimed, doubling over in mirth as he ran his hands frantically through his hair.
“You should just shave off all your hair—it would solve all of your problems,” she teased, watching as his eyes widened in panic.
“That’s a terrible idea, Lily!” When their eyes met once more, though, his horror vanished and chuckles bubbled up between them.
“Alright, let’s finish this frosting before we coat the entire kitchen in it,” Lily said after a moment, moving back to the bowl and carefully turning the hand mixer back on.
Before long they had finished both the buttercream and the frosting, and cake was out of the oven cooling. They didn’t waste much time before frosting the cake, because they were worried that her mother would pop back in at any time. As expected, by the time they had finished frosting the cake, there was more frosting on their hands and on the platter than on the cake, but they had long since accepted that this cake would not be getting high marks for presentation.
“Do you want to write the message on the top?” Lily asked James once they had finished.
“I can try,” James said with a shrug. Thankfully, she had a few tubes of decorating frosting handy, and she handed one to him. She watched keenly as he began to write ‘Happy Birthday, Carol’ on the top of the cake with much difficulty. When he finished, they both stepped back and looked at it with looks of uncertainty.
“It looks a bit like chicken scratch,” Lily finally said, turning to James.
“It’s the thought that counts, right?” he grinned, and as if on cue, the door opened once again to reveal Lily’s mother.
“What’s all this?” she exclaimed, clasping her hands together as she took in the cake and tried her best to discern the letters. “Hubby pinthdug, Cunol… Well, isn’t that…Nice…” she said slowly, looking between the two of them doubtfully.
“Happy birthday!” the two of them said in unison, plastering on the biggest smiles they could manage in hopes of drawing attention from their disaster of a cake.
“Well, thank you so much you two,” she gushed, a hand flying to her chest in appreciation. “Let me just grab a knife and we’ll cut on into it.”
Just as Lily’s mother turned her back to them, Lily peeked over at James. “By the way, you’ve got frosting in your hair, honey,” Carol called out, and the two of them burst out in laughter once again, unable to stop themselves from doubling over in giggles.
But just as James patted Lily good-heartedly on the back, she felt a wave of unexpected tingles shoot through her body as her breath ran short. And no matter how her mind protested, she knew exactly what that meant.
Lily Evans actually liked James Potter.
And another one is done! A quick note: One reviewer, Waffleiron Saboteur, suggested the bit about the razor, so that’s a little nod to you! I hope you all enjoyed this chapter, and I hope to hear from a few of you readers. Endless thanks for all of the reviews—I truly appreciate each and every one!
Until next time,
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