Ros (rosathome) wrote in quillerfluffers,
Ros
rosathome
quillerfluffers

Valentine's fluff

I'm first again! I'm clearly completely incapable of working right up to a deadline. I just like crossing things off lists and this is easier than work!

Valentine’s Conflict/Chocolate Fluff.

This is an outtake from my WIP, The Squib. It’s a next-generation fic, featuring among others Bert and Ben Weasley, the identical twin sons of George and Padma, and Laura Potter, only daughter of Harry and Ginny.

Although Bert is magical, Ben is a Squib. Ben’s been going out with Zoe Harris, a Muggle-born witch, for a couple of months before this story takes place.

And I know the challenge was conflict, but I’m bad at writing conflict, so this turned out to be only about 10% conflict and 90% resolution.



 Zoe frowned as she picked up the tin that Ben had baked the chocolate cake in. She picked at one or two of the blackened bits round the edge with her fingernail, then plunged it into the soapy water, hoping to soak some of the grime away before attacking it with a Brillo pad.

‘Why don’t you just Scourgify it?’

‘Sorry?’ Zoe turned quickly, sending a blob of soap suds flying.

‘The washing up,’ Ben said tightly. ‘Why don’t you just use your wand? Mum would have had that lot done by now.’

Zoe stared at him in amazement. She was hopeless at household spells. Even when she came of age, her mother had always preferred her to do things the ‘traditional’ way at home. It limited breakages, she’d tell Zoe, with a knowing wink.

Ben was still looking cross. Evidently he thought she wasn’t up to Weasley standards.

‘Well, I’m sorry!’ she retorted, pulling off her pink rubber gloves and flinging them carelessly into the sink, ignoring the spray of soapy water that spattered all over the kitchen. ‘We can’t all be bloody domestic goddesses of the Weasley clan.’

‘It’s not about being a domestic goddess!’

‘Oh, isn’t it?’ she replied, louder than she really meant. She set her hands on her hips and waited.

‘No,’ he answered quietly, fiddling with his empty coffee cup and not meeting her gaze. ‘It’s not that. It’s just…’

Ben stopped and turned his head fractionally to catch Zoe’s smouldering eye.

‘Well? What is it, then?’ She gave him a cynical smirk and began tapping her foot, waiting for his excuse.

He looked at her helplessly and held out his hands in defeat. ‘Nothing.’ He sighed. ‘Nothing. Don’t worry, I’ll do that when you’ve gone.’

‘I can do the washing up, you know. Unless you’re worried I’ll break another one of your precious plates?’

He stood up and came over to her, taking hold of her hand. ‘Hey, I told you I didn’t mind about that. It wasn’t like it was one of the nice ones the Grangers gave me.’

Zoe pulled away from him and looked around wildly for her bag.

‘What are you doing?’

‘Leaving.’ She lifted her coat off the hook.

He reached out a hand to stop her. ‘Why?’

Zoe shook him off. ‘Because I’m not staying here to be insulted.’

All of a sudden, he seemed to snap. She’d never seen Ben lose his temper. She hadn’t even been sure he had one. Now, however, it flowed with weeks of pent-up aggression.

You’re insulted!’ The whole flat seemed to shake as he stamped his foot in frustration. ‘You’re not the one who has to put up with being treated like some kind of… of…’ Ben shook his head, unable to say the word even in his rage. He gripped her shoulders hard and glared at her. ‘Don’t you get it, Zoe? It’s not about the damn washing up.’ His voice was quieter now, but she could still hear the tremors of suppressed anger. ‘It’s about the fact that you never do any magic in front of me. It’s about the way you’re always pretending that we’re the same when we both know that we’re bloody well not. It’s about the fact that you treat me like a child who can’t tell when he’s being patronised, and it’s about the fact that I’ve had just about enough of it.’

Zoe thought she could actually feel her blood pressure rising during this spectacularly unjust speech. She pulled herself out of his grip and finally located her handbag over by the toaster.

Composing herself as best she could, she turned to face him. ‘Well, if that’s what you think, I’m going. You needn’t see me out.’ Closing her eyes briefly, she thought of where she wanted to be and Disapparated in an instant.


###


‘Right. We have tea, we have chocolate, we have tissues. Now spill.’ Laura came to sit cross-legged at the other end of Zoe’s bed.

Zoe cradled the hot mug in her hands and tried to pretend that there wasn’t a tear trickling down her cheek.

‘You had a fight with Ben?’ tried Laura, leaning forward and resting her chin on her hands.

Zoe nodded glumly and reached for a tissue.

‘What about?’

‘Washing up.’ Zoe sniffed and took another tissue.

Laura sat back and bit her lip hard, sensing that Zoe might not yet have seen the funny side.

‘Washing up? I thought you said he was fairly well domesticated.’

Zoe groaned. ‘He is. Turns out I’m not.’

‘Huh?’ Laura broke off a chunk of Honeyduke’s milk chocolate with butterscotch pieces and pressed it into Zoe’s empty hand. ‘Here, eat some. It’ll help, I promise.’

Her friend chewed and swallowed obediently.

‘Now explain it to me properly.’


###


‘So, what I think is that if he’s being all sensitive about, you know, the Squib thing,’ announced Laura brightly as she pushed Zoe ahead of her into the kitchen at the Burrow, ‘she needs to learn a few household spells so that she can show him she doesn’t mind using magic in front of him.’

Molly Weasley eyed the two girls with a wisdom born of years of experience. She turned to put the kettle on and began finding teabags, milk and biscuits.

‘Sit down, dear,’ she told Zoe, patting her arm comfortingly. ‘I’ll make us a nice cup of tea and you can tell me all about it. Not just Laura’s version,’ she added with a wink at her granddaughter.

Zoe watched the elderly, plump witch busy herself about the kitchen, occasionally using her wand and muttering spells, but more often than not just seeming to Summon and Charm her utensils with non-verbal wandless magic.

‘How do you do that?’ she asked in amazement when the milk jug poured just the right amount into each mug without spilling a drop while Molly had her back turned.

The older woman smiled. ‘Well, you see, dear, I’ve had these things for so long that they’ve grown used to me. They know what I want them to do. Better than I do sometimes. My memory’s not what it used to be.’

‘That’s amazing,’ Zoe told her in perfect sincerity. ‘I mean, my mother has things she’s always used that she’s grown used to. But not the other way round.’

Molly laughed. ‘I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Do you ever find that there are things that don’t work as well for you as they do for her?’

Zoe’s eyes opened wide. ‘Yes! But…’

‘Well there you go. Of course with the magic, the connection is stronger.’

Molly brought the tea over to the table and opened the biscuit tin. ‘We were all so pleased when we heard about you and Ben. Ginny told us what a nice girl you are and how happy he was with you.’

‘Huh.’ Zoe reached for one of the light oaty biscuits and dunked it into her tea.

Laura kicked her. ‘He was happy, idiot. And according to Jack, he’s utterly miserable now.’

Zoe’s eyes lifted slightly. ‘Really?’

‘Really,’ confirmed Laura.

Molly reached across the table to take Zoe’s hand. ‘Were you happy with him, Zoe?’

She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.

‘Well then, we’d better see what we can do about this.’

‘It’s Valentine’s Day next week,’ observed Laura casually.


###


Zoe cast an anxious glance around her flat. She’d tidied everything away into the cupboard under the stairs, which would be fine so long as Ben didn’t get a sudden urge to start looking for the hoover. The whole flat had been cleaned to within an inch of its life: she’d swept under carpets, dusted behind picture frames, polished door handles, cleaned windows and scrubbed the bathroom. Candles and lamps lit the living area discreetly but not, she hoped, so dimly as to be obviously romantic. Velvet cushions in dark green and garnet red were plumped up on the old sofa that no amount of plumping would help. Perhaps she should have Transfigured it. Maybe… no. She shook her head. Too risky at this late stage. He’d seen it before, anyway.

The table was laid for two. She’d followed all Molly’s instructions, just the way they’d practised. Though obviously there was still quite a lot to do. That was the point, after all. To show him she could cook like his mother did.

At eight o’clock precisely the doorbell rang. Zoe wiped her hands on her apron, fiddled with a loose strand of hair, took a deep breath and went to answer it.

He looked gorgeous and worried and apologetic and Zoe’s heart melted. She took the flowers he offered as he wished her a happy Valentine’s Day and held the door open for him to come in.

‘Um. Right.’ Her mind had turned to jelly. Pink fuzzy jelly that smelled of cherries, but still jelly.

‘Do you want to put them in water?’ He indicated the roses she was clutching.

‘What? Oh. Yes, of course. Water. Right.’ She turned, closing her eyes and desperately trying to remember where she might have a vase.

Ben had taken off his coat and draped it across a chair. ‘Here,’ he said gently. ‘Why don’t I do that for you?’

Zoe smiled at him gratefully before remembering that she was supposed to be showing him how competent she was.

‘No!’ she told him, snatching the flowers back. ‘I can do it. You can, um, sit down.’ She pointed at a chair and waited until he had obeyed. ‘I’ll just do these and then I’ll get the wine, okay?’

Zoe found the bottle of red wine she’d bought and then opened the drawer to look for the corkscrew. She frowned, suddenly realising that this was one thing she hadn’t asked Molly about. She had no idea what spell to use but neither did she want to do it the Muggle way with Ben sitting there watching her.

She turned round, smiling apologetically.

‘Could you… would you mind… um…’ Her mind raced frantically. What could she do to get him out of the room for a couple of minutes? ‘Music!’ She breathed a sigh of relief. ‘Why don’t you go and choose some music to put on?’

He looked slightly strangely at her but nodded and went through to the sitting area. Zoe dealt with the corkscrew competently enough without magic and had two glasses poured by the time he returned. She offered one to Ben who took it and clinked it against hers in a toast before lifting it to his lips.

The sound of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto flooded the room. Zoe drank from her glass and let the duelling, flirting, counterpoint melodies engulf her.

‘Zoe, I…’ Ben’s voice, closer to her than she had expected, made her start. ‘…I wanted to say I’m sorry about last week.’

He smelled delicious. Zoe closed her eyes for an instant, wondering if she could just let him put his arms around her and kiss it all away.

But he carried on talking. ‘I shouldn’t have got angry like that. I know it’s difficult for magical people to know how to behave around me.’

Zoe stepped back and shook her head. ‘Just sit down and don’t say a thing.’

She put her glass down on the table. She needed a clear head for what she was about to do.


###


Ten minutes later, Zoe surveyed the kitchen with satisfaction. The rice was bubbling away and she’d set a Timing Charm to let her know when it was done. Two knives were busily chopping salad vegetables and a wooden spoon was stirring the creamy chicken dish that Molly had assured her Ben adored. She turned to him with a grin.

‘Time for pudding.’

She Summoned chocolate, eggs, sugar and cream and found her whisk and mixing bowl. A careful flick of the wrist melted the chocolate perfectly. Then a muttered spell lifted each egg to the side of the bowl before dropping it to crack the shell. This was the really tricky bit. Zoe bit her lip and held her breath as she concentrated on getting the yolk into the chocolatey bowl and the white into the clean metal bowl on the side. She breathed a sigh of relief when the last egg was done and Ben gave a round of applause.

Zoe glanced up, checking that he wasn’t mocking her. But his smile of pride seemed genuine enough so she grinned back, pushing her hair behind her ear and leaving a chocolatey streak across her cheek.

She set the whisk beating the eggs and started to beat the sugar into the chocolate and egg yolks.

A quick burst of a fanfare indicated that the rice was done. Zoe rushed to the oven to turn off the burner. In her haste, she forgot to stop the spell on the egg whisk. It began to spin out of control, until the whole bowl was turning, splurting white foam over Ben.

‘Zoe! The knives!’

She spun round to see the pair of knives dancing over the kitchen worktop towards her in a lethal tango.

Ben began to laugh. He grabbed the egg whisk and threw it into the sink while Zoe tried to control the knives with her wand.

Eventually she managed to return some semblance of order. She looked round dismally. The rice had got soggy while it had waited for her to drain it. The chicken was burned. The salad was chopped into a frenzy. And the chocolate had solidified before she could fold the egg whites into it.

A tear slid down her hot cheek. Angrily she brushed it away.

‘Hey there.’ Ben slid his arms round her waist and brought her head down onto his shoulder. ‘It doesn’t matter.’

‘I wanted it to be perfect,’ she complained. ‘When I did it earlier, Molly said…’

‘Molly?’ he interrupted. ‘You were talking to my Gran?’

Zoe hid her face. ‘Maybe.’

He pulled her hands away. ‘You asked her what you should cook for me?’

‘Sort of.’

He waited.

‘I asked her to show me how to cook with magic, okay? I wanted to show you I could do it just like your Mum. Only now it’s all gone wrong.’

He cupped her face gently in his hands. ‘You didn’t know how to cook with magic?’

‘They don’t teach that stuff at Hogwarts…’

‘… and you’re Muggle-born,’ he finished for her. ‘God, Zoe, I’m sorry. I never thought… It’s just as hard for you, isn’t it?’

Zoe shook her head vehemently. ‘No, don’t be sorry. It’s not the same. I have the choice to use magic or not. I can live in both worlds.’

‘So can I,’ Ben told her. ‘As long as I’ve got Mum and Dad, and Bert… and you,’ he ended quietly. ‘Zoe?’

She raised her face to look at his.

‘I don’t care that you can’t cook whether or not you use magic. I love how you always do the washing up with three times as many bubbles as anyone else. I don’t want a domestic goddess, Zoe.’

‘Don’t you?’ she whispered.

‘No.’ He shook his head and reached for her hands.

‘You know, your Gran told me that she’d built up a connection with her kitchen things so that they always know what she wants them to do,’ Zoe told him.

‘Did she?’ Ben sounded confused.

‘Yes. It takes time and practice, but anyone can do it.’

‘Oh.’

He still hadn't got it.  Zoe punched his arm lightly. ‘It’s the same with us.’

He frowned and rubbed his arm. ‘What do you mean?’

‘We have to learn to understand what the other one wants. Time and practice.’

Ben smiled and pulled her into his arms. ‘What do you want?’ he murmured.

‘I want you to take me out somewhere wonderful for dinner,’ she told him with a grin. ‘And then I want you to come back here and do the washing up with me.’




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