It was a quiet morning on the outskirts of Tinworth, and even quieter inside the small cottage by the sea. Fleur could hear the waves breaking gently but deliberately against the rocks that lined the beach, each one sending a gentle rumble through the floor of the home as it perished. She loved sitting in the small kitchen early in the morning while her husband, Bill, took his bath and prepared for work. Their three children were all still asleep, and though she loved the innocent sound of their laughter as they played around her, she still cherished these rare moments of silence. Before too long, her eldest daughter, Victoire, would hear Bill come out of the bathroom and leap out of bed, demanding a hug and kiss before he left for the day. Her movement would wake her sister, and the ensuing chain reaction would result in all three children demanding breakfast of their mother, who moments before had simply been resting, enjoying a cup of tea.
She stirred the beige liquid in the delicate cup, a piece from the china set her parents had bestowed upon her as a wedding gift not so many years ago, smelling the lavender-infused brew before it passed over her lips. Lavender was supposed to be calming, to pacify the mind and soothe frazzled, overwhelmed senses. But today was Friday, and she couldn’t be mollified.
A few feet away, the door on the enchanted oven flew open. They were done at last.
Fleur hopped down off of her stool, enjoying the cool feeling of the wooden floor of the cottage on her bare feet, toes painted a girlishly pale pink. She pattered softly across the tiny kitchen, picking up an oven mitt from the counter and slipping it over her hand before pulling the light metal tray from the bowels of the oven. As she set it down on top of the stove, she visually inspected each of the little hills of dough that filled the twelve equally spaced pits in the tray. Once again, she had produced an unblemished and surely delicious batch of blueberry muffins.
Blueberries were one of her favorite choices for muffin fillers, but she also grew raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and boysenberries out in the garden behind the house in the warm months. When winter approached, her muffins tended to consist mostly of cranberries, though she did make sure to save small supplies of the other varieties and freeze them for use in the off season. She made chocolate chip muffins every year for Dominique’s birthday, and she had been known to add cinnamon-spiced apples and bananas to the dough when she tired of the berries. Once, Bill had requested that they be made with cheddar cheese, but it hadn’t gone over well.
Once a recipe had been attempted and failed, it was trashed. The muffins had to be perfect.
Fleur was best at muffins, perhaps because it had been the first thing her mother had taught her to cook. Like her mother before her, Apolline Delacour believed firmly that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach, and she had been determined to impart her hard-won culinary skills to her daughters. Muffins had seemed like a simple enough first recipe to try. Fleur found that her talent resided primarily in the area of baked goods, though her sister Gabrielle appeared to have a particular aptitude for chicken cordon bleu and other French-inspired entrees.
The brunches that showcased the muffins, however, were originally Bill’s idea.
Molly Weasley had cooked more than any woman should have to over the year following the Battle of Hogwarts and the conclusion of the second wizarding war. In July, Ron popped the question to Hermione, which wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone, though the latter insisted on finishing her lost year at Hogwarts before any serious preparations were made. George’s quick, quiet wedding to Angelina Johnson, however, came out of nowhere in September. Shortly after Christmas, Ginny agreed to trade her Weasley name in and become a Potter, and another dinner was prepared. With May came the birth of Bill and Fleur’s first daughter, their dear ‘Victory’.
Fleur had developed a rather poor mood by the time she and her husband, who wouldn’t let their infant daughter out of his sight, made it back to Shell Cottage after their visit to the Burrow.
“What’s wrong, love?” Bill had asked, laying Victoire to rest in her small white crib.
“I zust can’t stand eet.” Fleur said softly. “Your mother, zee is so perfect and kind, providing all zees meals for ous.” She looked at her husband. “I must do sometheeng in return.”
“I’m sure a simple ‘thank you’ will suffice.” Bill smiled gently, knowing his beloved too well. Fleur was very sweet and certainly gave credit where it was due, but she also couldn’t stand not being the woman who shone brightest in any given room. She was jealous of her mother-in-law.
“’Erhaps I should breeng ‘er some muffeens.” Fleur thought aloud, looking at the half-finished batch of blackberry muffins sitting in their tray on the countertop. They were several days old.
“Why not invite her and Dad over?” Bill suggested. “You could make dinner for them. I’m sure they would appreciate that.”
“Nonsense, ‘ould be ‘opying them.” Fleur said under her breath, hoping he hadn’t heard her. “’At about brunch?” She countered. “My muffeens will get the audience zey deserve.”
“Yes, that would be lovely.” Bill replied idly, knowing she would do what she wanted whether he agreed with her or not. To him, her very French determination was one of her most appealing traits.
Fleur had prepared a rich brunch that very weekend, getting up at dawn to make sweet buttermilk pancakes and cinnamon-glazed French toast. She plucked oranges from the tree by the garden, squeezing three pitchers’ worth of juice from them, and she made fruit compotes from every variety of berry in her possession. The leftovers went into her prized dough, making tray after tray of fluffy, colorful muffins. She prayed the spread would be enough to feed all the Weasleys.
The brunch was a hit. Fleur didn’t need to be told to expect them again the next Sunday.
“Blueberry this week?” Bill called as he emerged at the bottom of the stairs, interrupting her reverie of breakfast-related thought. He smiled at his wife, her face betraying her plotting.
“’Es.” Fleur replied, offering him a confident smile in return. “’hey smell good, ‘es?”
“Yes.” Bill nodded, reaching to grab one to take in for breakfast at work.
” Fleur made a move to slap his hand with her dirty spatula, but he jerked his fingers away just in time. “You know zee muffeens are only for ‘unday, mon loup
.” She chided gently.
“I know, I know.” Bill kissed her softly on the cheek. “See you this afternoon, mon chéri
Fleur turned back to her muffins, hearing the sounds of her children awakening upstairs.
“Oh, I almost forgot!” Bill paused at the door. “I invited the new intern to come on Sunday.”
“New eentern?” Fleur said absently, touching one muffin gingerly to see if it was cool yet.
“Yes, Roger Davies. Just started last week. You probably met him at Hogwarts.” Bill replied, opening the door and stepping out of the home. “Bye, everyone.” He called upstairs as he left.
Fleur stared through the open window at the garden. Before she knew it, she had unwrapped one of the muffins and stuffed the entire thing in her mouth. She stared down at the empty place in the tin, feeling quite ashamed for having broken her own rule. She’d have to make one more.
Somehow, she doubted this would be the only thing to go wrong at this Sunday’s brunch.
A brief French lesson—
Non = “no”
Mon chéri = “my dearie”
Mon loup = “my wolf”, another French term of endearment… appropriate, non?
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