Author's Notes: Erm, back from my long departure? How long it will last, who knows?Entry and winner for The Unknowable Room's Scrivenshaft Challenge IV, Boiling the Tarts is a short bit of comedy and mess. Thank yous go to Dina, my knight in not-so-shining cotton and Meg, my life. I hope everyone enjoys it! Let me know what you think. :D

Boiling The Tarts

"One...two...three...fou—"

"No! You're not supposed to do four! You're only supposed to do three!"

James froze, the fourth full cup of sugar stopped halfway over the large bowl in front of him. "What?" he asked dumbly, looking towards the irate redhead that was seated at the kitchen table before him. The girl sighed, rolling her eyes as she rose from her place at the table.

"It's three cups of sugar," she explained to him slowly, pointing out the measurements on the handwritten recipe James's mother had left them earlier that morning. "Can't you read?"

"I can read," James grumbled, shooting the pretty redhead a dirty look. He squinted down at the recipe laying on the countertop beside him, seeing the three next to the ingredient sugar, but not believing it. When he looked back up, Lily was staring at him with her eyebrows raised knowingly. "It said four a second ago," he muttered stubbornly, eyeing the piece of parchment again, thinking that perhaps it would change back if he only looked hard enough. Lily rolled her eyes again, going back to sit down at the kitchen table where she could finish writing up those Christmas cards. Watching her from behind, James stared at the extra cup of sugar, then back down at the recipe. With a small smile to himself, he raised the cup over the bowl to pour it in anyhow, when it was suddenly forcefully removed from right out of his hand.

"Hey!" James cried, swiping at the confiscated item, looking up at his girlfriend who had magically appeared right at his side once more. "Give it back!"

Lily shook her head, glaring at him pointedly. "I am not going to let you ruin these tarts, James Potter!"

"I'm not going to ruin them, you madwoman!" James jumped for the cup again, only to have it easily kept away from his grasp. He glared at the haughty redhead standing before him. "Will you quit it? You said I could make this batch!"

"Not if you're going to do it wrong!" Lily shot back, folding her arms stubbornly across her chest.

"I'm not doing it wrong!"

"You were about to add a fourth cup of sugar!"

"They're tarts," James responded dryly. "You can't have too much sugar in tarts!"

Lily let out a groan of frustration, shooting a glare over her shoulder as she moved back towards the kitchen table, taking the measuring cup with her.

"I can just get another one out of the cabinet, you know," James informed her smugly, moving to do just that. Lily snorted from her seat.

"Just keep your tarts away from mine," she told him forcefully, dipping her quill into the ink as she began to write another card, random smudges of black littering her fingertips as a result of this repeated action. "I'm not having my perfect tarts mixed in with the disasters you're about to produce."

James scowled at the back of his girlfriend's head, glowering at the perfectly set rows of Lily's cranberry and caramel tarts cooling on the countertop behind him. He had a sudden urge to smash and ruin them all.

He didn't know how he and Lily had been roped into making all these tarts for his mother's Christmas party that was being held early the following morning. After being forced to clean every single solitary corner and cranny of the entire Potter estate for the past few days, James had been looking forward to today as simply a day of well-deserved rest. He'd owled Lily early this morning, asking her if she would like to floo over and relax with him, and was utterly thrilled when she had agreed. It was the first time Lily would be seeing the Potter's home, and for once, James wasn't bitter about the fact that he had just spent the last four days of his Christmas holiday cleaning it.

But when Lily had arrived an hour or so later, James hadn't been the one to greet her as she shot through the fireplace and into the Potter's impeccably clean and Christmas-clad living room. Instead, his mum had been the first to accost her, stealing Lily away and whisking her off into the kitchen before James even had a chance to give her a proper hello.

And then somehow he had ended up here, forced to watch Lily bake batches and batches of cranberry and caramel filled tarts for the past two hours while his mum was off in Diagon Alley with his dad, picking up a few last-minutes supplies for the party tomorrow. He'd finally gotten sick of just sitting around and doing nothing, and had somehow convinced Lily to allow him to try and make a batch of tarts of his own.

And it wasn't exactly going too smoothly.

Still scowling miserably to himself, James continued to search through the various cabinets in his kitchen for another measuring cup, but unfortunately could not for the life of him find another. After a few more seconds of hopeless searching, he eyed Lily carefully, slowly making his way over to where she was still writing, the beginnings of a plan being formed in his mind.

"You're not getting this back," Lily quietly informed him, moving the cup more possessively towards her body as she felt James approach. James smirked from behind her, knowing full well that that just wasn't going to be the case.

"I know," he lied, coming up behind her as he easily slid his hands onto either side of her, leaning over so that his head rested near hers. His body was so close that his breath blew onto the sensitive skin of her neck. "It's just, I realised something."

"That you're a dreadful chef?" Lily mumbled breathlessly, feeling as she always did when she was this close to him—slightly lightheaded and full of anticipation. James chuckled softly, pressing his lips to the soft spot where her shoulder met her neck. Lily shivered in delight.

"No," James answered quietly, his lips moving up her neck, past her ear and down her jaw line, leaving a trail of small butterfly kisses as he went. Lily couldn't help but grin, waiting for him to get to where they both wanted him to be. "It's just I realised that I never got to properly greet you."

"Properly greet me?" Lily asked, turning her head to face him. "And how exactly does one go about doing that?"

James returned her soft smile, not certain what he was more excited about—snogging his girlfriend senseless, or making her so angry afterwards that she flushed a pretty shade of red. He decided it didn't much matter, because he probably wasn't going to have to pick or choose. "Well," he said, snaking his arms fully around Lily now and pulling her up from her chair, pushing his length to hers. "I'd imagine it'd go something like this."

And with that, James's mouth swooped down on hers, their lips locking together with a sudden burst of electricity that always seemed to come when they were together. His mouth moved easily over hers, and she responded with all the feeling and sweetness that she possessed as he continued ravishing her mouth with his long and thorough kisses. Her arms came up around his neck, her fingers playing with his already messy strands of raven hair, pulling his body more tightly against hers, aching for that sense of joy and closeness that only seemed to come when she was tangled up with him. James circled his hands more firmly around her waist in response, pulling her even closer than Lily thought possible.

Beneath her mouth, James's lips curved into a small smile as he slowly began backing her up against the kitchen table.

By the time Lily had realised that one of his hands had gone missing from her back, and the pieces of the puzzle began to fit together, James had already broken away, a large smile on his lips and the previously confiscated cup of sugar residing in his hand.

He'd tricked her.

"You're a dirty rotten arse," Lily muttered angrily, trying to glare but finding it difficult when the feeling of his lips pressed so completely against her own was still fresh in her mind. James grinned mischievously at her half-hearted crossness.

"A bloke's got to do what a bloke's got to do," he responded lightly, pressing another quick kiss to her lips. Lily pulled a face and swiped at her mouth, pretending to wipe off the kiss James had just planted there. James gave her a mockingly sad face.

"Oh, now don't do that," he teased her softly, his eyes gleaming behind the thin frames of his glasses. He leaned in closer, whispering before he kissed her once more, "That just means I have to do it again."

"Hmm," Lily hummed in agreement, her lips separating from his. "Pity."

James pulled away, going back around the counter, a large grin on his face and the cup of sugar still held tightly in his hand. Unceremoniously, he dumped the cup's contents into the large mixing bowl. Lily winced at the sight.

"You're ruining them," Lily protested weakly, knowing it was really no use to fight it anymore; the tarts were already ruined. James puffed out his shoulders haughtily.

"Au contraire," he announced with a flourish, brandishing a mixing spoon as he began blending the contents of his bowl together. "They're going to be bloody spectacular—the best tarts in the bunch." He grinned foolishly at her. "Try not to be jealous, will you?"

Lily snorted, watching as he added far too much cranberry sauce and even more caramel into his disaster of a mixing bowl. She watched as the Potter's tabby cat, Maxie, jumped on top of the counter and made his way over to where James was concocting his tarts. The feline took one waft of the stuff and stalked away, looking offended that it even be placed in his presence. Lily stifled a laugh.

"I think this needs to be boiled," James decided a few moments later, looking at the gooey concoction he had just created with a curious, thoughtful look. Lily groaned.

"It does not need to be boiled, James. It's supposed to be doughy. It's not supposed to be a liquid, as I see yours already is." Lily eyed the bowl carefully, not hiding her smug smile as she took in the mass of mess that resided inside. "Perhaps you should have listened to someone who is obviously so much more intelligent and so much more experienced than you are in such things, hm?"

James shot her a dirty look, grabbing the bowl with the unidentifiable substance and motioning to his cat, who was still lounging about lazily on the countertop. "Come on, Maxie," he said, still glaring at Lily. "Let's go."

"Go where?" Lily asked with a laugh, watching as James made his way stomping past her and into the living room, mixing bowl in hand and two other large bowls containing the cranberry sauce and the caramel charmed to float behind him. Also floating drunkenly behind him drifted a very angry looking Maxie the cat.

"To boil my tarts!" James called from the living room, and Lily heard the unmistakable sound of a fire beginning to brew in the fireplace.

"In the fireplace?" Lily cried, abandoning her Christmas cards on the kitchen table and rushing into the living room, holding back a groan as she spotted James down on his hands and knees, poking a fire into a proper flame under a small black cauldron in his fireplace. Lily rolled her eyes, stepping up behind him and giving him a light tap in the bum with her foot. James grunted, but otherwise ignored her.

"This is a bad idea," she told him matter-of-factly, watching as he continued to poke at the fire.

"Leave me alone," James muttered darkly, determined to get the flame just right. Lily rolled her eyes again, plopping herself down onto the sofa behind him, content to just watch James as he struggled to get the fire to reach a roaring blaze.

A few minutes later, the fire was built to James's liking, and throwing another dark look her way, James brusquely deposited the entire contents of his mixing bowl into the small cauldron. Lily winced as the mixture began to make a peculiar bubbling sound. Finally being let down from his floating state, and sensing the dangers that laid where he stood, Maxie also quickly retreated back to the sofa, growling menacingly at his master as Lily began to pet his soft fur.

As James continued muttering quietly to himself, watching his mixture rise and fall and make noises that probably weren't the healthiest of sorts, Lily took out the time to scan the rest of the Potter's charming, Christmas-filled living room.

She and James had been dating since early October, but this was the first time she'd ever had a chance to actually come to his home. The Potter's estate was large and luxurious, but somehow also managed to keep that warm, homey feeling within its high ceilings and elegantly decorated rooms. The living room itself was something to be awed; not only just for its immense size, but also for the brilliant way the Christmas spirit seemed to shine from each and every corner. Various Christmas cards were kept upon the mantle of the fireplace James was currently working at and long reefs of evergreen and holly littered the walls and banisters. The chandelier that hung from the ceiling let off a soft glow as the Christmas tree in the corner shone brightly for all to see, the angel-like tree topper singing softly to "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" from her place atop the tree. Lily sighed contently, taking it all in. It really was such a beautiful house. And, she reminded herself, a faint blush glowing on her cheeks, she didn't much mind the company either.

She didn't know how it had happened, and all so quickly as well. One second, she couldn't stand James Potter and the next, she couldn't stand to be without him. Her mates all teased her ferociously about it—about him—but Lily hardly cared anymore. James was just...well, she really didn't know what he was. He certainly wasn't perfect—as was obvious from his lame attempts to boil his Christmas tart dough—but then again, perhaps he was. Or he was perfect for her anyway, and she supposed that was all that really mattered. Looking at him now, still down on his hands and knees, moodily stirring the cranberry sauce and the caramel, Lily couldn't help but smile...

That is, until she realised just what he intended to do with that caramel and cranberry sauce.

"Don't put anything else in there," Lily warned, nodding her head towards the nearly overflowing cauldron. James stole a glance back at her.

"Why not?" he asked.

"Because it'll overflow, that's why," Lily answered, eyeing the cauldron uncertainly. She heard James snort, and then, despite what she had warned him—and because, even though he may be perfect for her, he could really be just the biggest dolt sometimes—James completely disregarded what she had to say and began to pour the two bowls into his cauldron.

"James! No—"

BOOM!

Lily dove down onto the couch, hiding her face in the cushions as she suddenly felt herself being sprayed with what she could only assume was the previous contents of James's cauldron. Lifting her eyes hesitantly from the cushions, trying to ignore the sudden sticky feeling on her clothes and in her hair, Lily glanced upwards, a sudden large groan escaping her mouth as she took in the aftereffects of the explosion.

The living room was ruined.

"Holy Merlin, Maxie's tail is on fire!"

Lily's head swung over to where Maxie the cat was now frantically prancing across the fireplace mantle, her tail indeed flaming with bright orange embers.

"Aguamenti!" Lily shouted, unleashing water onto the burning cat, but knowing that the damage had already been done. The Christmas cards previously sitting atop the mantle had been carelessly pushed off and now seemed to be slightly charred as well. The cat was also looking more than a little displeased.

Lily couldn't force herself to look back at the rest of the room.

The cranberries and the caramel were everywhere.

"Oh, shit," James muttered, and Lily could only nod her head in agreement. From out of the cauldron still smoking in the fireplace, the curious smell of cinnamon swept through the air.

"Cinnamon?" Lily questioned.

James shrugged. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."

Lily let out a helpless giggle, not sure of what else to do at that point. Still afraid to look completely around the room, Lily had to content herself with just looking up at the ceiling, watching as large globs of cranberry hung down from the crystals on the chandelier.

"How long exactly before your parents get home?" Lily asked James, her eyes not moving from the ceiling.

"Er, not for a while. Hours," James answered.

Lily sighed heavily, her eyes straying down from the ceiling for the first time, moving straight on down to a very pained-looking James. She smiled at him grimly and rolled up her sleeves.

If this wasn't love, she really didn't know what was.

"I hope you know your Cleaning Charms, Potter. This is going to be a long afternoon."