Well, I haven't disappeared off the face of the earth and an on an updating rampage of all my fics since I finally have more than three minutes of free time. A million thanks to messyblackhair66, HalfBloodHannah, cosmopolitan, Princess Shinko, bithya, thestoicwarrior, HenSleigh, codswallop, ErinM, OstrasizedPotato, Etar, Jasper Hale, misslovable, IWantToMarryJames and Chellik for reviewing. And so on to the finally updated next chapter...
Ch 8: A Not So Natural Ability
A jet of hot water filled the waiting tub, billows of steam rising through the confined space and causing the beginnings of fog on the mirror. Traces of vanilla scented the air and fantastic bubbles began to pervade the bath like billowing clouds.
With a broad sweeping motion, Lily collected her long cascades of dark red hair and secured it in a knot at the back of her head. Slipping off her clothes, she dipped one pointed toe into the water. Perfect. Lithe fingers twisted the taps as the circulation of water ceased its flow.
Sighing deeply, a sense of true calm and relaxation came over Lily as her weary body sunk gratefully into the deliciously warm bath. She closed her eyes, allowing her head to lean back against the wall.
The weekend was like a God send after Lily's week from hell. If her paranoid mind could have thought up every possible disaster to befall her, it was worse. Okay, maybe it wasn't quite as bad as she made it out but despite the awfulness of her week, these precious moments to herself were what pulled her through.
Twice she'd had to cancel her plans with James because of last minute catastrophes at work, a frantic call from her mother whom she hadn't seen in nearly two years and various other inconvenient obstacles.
She missed him and to her that was a foreign feeling. It made their relationship, or whatever it was they were in, that much more real to her. It surprised her at first, that strange aching feeling somewhere deep in her stomach which she'd initially put down to hunger, or, following that, indigestion. But no, she really missed James. The way he made her laugh, his mind-blowing kisses, his soft touch, that musky smell of his that wasn't quite sweet yet wasn't sour either.
They hadn't made plans for the weekend as yet but Lily was more than keeping an eye out for his owl. Not that she couldn't take the initiative herself, but, it just wasn't the same thrill of excitement as coming from him.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Lily's head snapped up at the door as her lazy mind shot back into action. The rapping came again and with a sinking feeling she realised it had to be someone at the door. She was half tempted to ignore it and pretend she wasn't home when Penelope's voice rang through the thin walls.
"Coming!" She called loudly back.
Feeling suitably disgruntled, Lily stepped out of her warm, soapy bath and wrapped herself in a towel. Hurriedly, she tossed on the oversized jumper she'd been previously wearing, which was covering enough to constitute as a dress, and hurried to answer the door.
"Finally Lils!" Grumbled Penelope as Lily rattled around with the jarred lock. "I was about to conjure myself a sleeping bag."
Scowling, Lily finally managed to swing the door open. "Well, I'm sorry." She muttered sarcastically in response. "But you just rudely interrupted my hot, saucy date with –"
"Your bathtub?" Snorted Penelope as she eyed Lily's frothy bubble covered legs with amusement. "Sorry Lils, but that doesn't count as a relationship."
Lily crossed her arms. "Well it's healthier than my last romantic relationship with a block of chocolate and a wine bottle. The conversation isn't quite so dry."
As she shook her head with an almost unnoticed eyeroll, Penelope moved towards the door. It was only then that Lily realised they weren't alone. Feeling her posture stiffen as colour flooded her cheeks, Lily felt that she'd much rather not have gotten out of her bath in the first place.
"Hey Lil. Sorry to but in like this but Penny was in a hurry so…" Sam gave her an apologetic grimace as he followed Penelope inside.
Her face still flaming, Lily stood stock still staring at the last person.
"What are you doing here?" She asked incredulously, trying in vain to pull the hem of the jumper down past her knees, feeling suddenly self conscious.
"Is that all the welcome I get?"
Lily's retort died on her lips as someone else found a much better use for them. Forgetting that she was now standing on the street dressed only in an oversized jumper, freezing her indecently clad buttocks off and inwardly dying of embarrassment, Lily allowed herself to be swallowed by James' arms and kissed soundly.
He drew back, a deadpan look on his face. "I'm sorry. I hope he doesn't mind."
Confusion furrowing Lily's brow. He?
"Your boyfriend. I hope this isn't considered cheating." Her mind was racing to keep up but he could have been speaking in Flemish for all she understood. "I'd hate for you to break up over me. You may start to smell a bit after a few days."
A small smile grew on her face as she finally caught on. Playfully, she shoved him lightly in the chest, scolding him teasingly for his lame joke.
His lips quickly silenced her from any further comment.
"By the way," James whispered in her ear as he drew back, his strong arm wrapping around her shoulders to steer her towards the open door. "I was considering posting out a missing object report for my favourite jumper, but I've now come to the conclusion that it looks far better on you than it ever did on me."
Lily felt she could have made quite a satisfactory heater from the warmth radiating from her cheeks, now near incandescent.
"I was about to return it actually." She said stoutly, taking a stab at giving off as much dignity as she was heat from her flushed cheeks. "It was folded and waiting for when I saw you next but Penelope's call surprised me and it was the first thing I threw on." She was lying through her teeth now which only served to make the grin on James' face grow even larger if possible.
"No need to be so defensive." He teased with the playful grin of his still lurking in sight. "But if you feel so strongly about it, then you are by all means welcome to return it to me right now."
Feeling more mortified than she felt she ever had done, Lily glared at him as she bit hard on her cheek to force back her smile.
"Funny." She muttered sarcastically. "Unless you'd rather me catch a cold from standing out in nude, you can wait for the jumper."
James grinned wolfishly. "I'm prepared to make sacrifices. Is that an offer?"
The colour rose back into her cheeks as quickly as it had departed. "Oh my God, we are so not talking about this."
Feeling the need to stop the current conversation before either (a) her head caught fire from the amount she was blushing or (b) she flung herself on James right then and there.
"Oh believe me, we most definitely are." James whispered back in her ear as she paused to close the door behind them. The sensation sent tingles of desire down her spine making her shiver even though the draught was now gone.
"What are you doing?" Lily hissed, as she squinted at the dark outline that she presumed to be Penelope in the gloom.
A rustling next to her alerted her senses and a sudden spark of light made her eyes water.
"Well, I was trying to squeeze myself into your clothes so I have something to wear for dinner with Sam's parents but now it seems I'm being held captive in your closet." Said Penelope in a rather louder voice than Lily fully appreciated and she turned a glare at her friend who, completely oblivious, continued to rifle through Lily's drawers using the light from her wand tip.
"Wait, you're having dinner with Sam's parents?" Lily asked distractedly.
Holding up a scarlet mini-dress up to her frame, Penelope gave a slight twirl in the mirror. Her brow was furrowed, as if scrutinising the choice. "Mm-hmm. Do you think flats would work with this?"
Ignoring the question as her expression resumed its disgruntled appearance. "Pen, what on earth is James doing here?" The panic rose in her voice and cracked with anxiety on her last word.
Surprised at Lily's reaction, Penelope looked away from her shoe search and peered cautiously at her friend. "You're not annoyed are you? I mean, I didn't really think. He was just over to see Sam about magical recording devices or something and he just sort of came along."
The anxious look upon Lily's face didn't lessen. "No of course I'm not mad." Muttered Lily uneasily. "Oh Penelope! You couldn't have warned me or anything. Firstly I start blabbering about my current romantic relationship with my bathtub and now to add insult to injury he's caught me wearing his jumper. He must think I'm the clingiest, most verbally incontinent spaz on the planet." Cried Lily, a little melodramatically in Penelope's opinion.
"Don't be such a prima donna." Sighed Penelope. "I met Sam as I was sitting in a barrel of beetle eyes back when I worked at the apothecary. That's romantic enough to warrant a scene in a Hollywood movie. I wouldn't be complaining if I were you."
A grimace of distaste at the memory crossed Penelope's face and Lily couldn't help a small bubble of laughter escape her. "Now, will you help me pick an outfit or will I have to show up in this sexy lycra body suit of yours?"
Snatching the regrettable item out of Penelope's grasp as she snorted with mirth, blushing slightly Lily shoved it into the nearest drawer.
"Just a suggestion, I wouldn't advise the red skirt."
Penelope looked at her in confusion, before turning her sights to the dress she was clutching in her hand. Comprehension dawned and a small smile lit her face.
"It looks better as a dress." She shrugged. "Do you have any belts?"
Five minutes later and Penelope was twirling in front of the mirror in the skirt-dress, a thick black and silver belt cinching in her waist as she attempted to gain her balance in Lily's 3 inch high silver sandals.
"What do you think?" Penelope eyed her reflection critically. Lily wondered how honest she should really be.
"You look absolutely stunning." She said in all sincerity. "As long as you don't mind looking a bit like a tart."
Scrunching her eyes at her reflection, Penelope stared at her reflection as if weighing up Lily's comments. "Hmm. Well, a classy tart at the very least."
Lily snorted before looked disbelievingly at her friend. "Are you sure that's appropriate for dinner with his parents?"
"Compared with Mrs Calhoun who looks like a drag queen, I think it's perfectly appropriate." Replied Penelope casually. Lily let out a snigger.
"Come on. She can't be that bad." Lily reasoned though her tone was doubtful.
While Penelope had only met Sam's parents a handful of times (to her immense relief and though he didn't say it outright, Sam's too) Lily had heard the dreadful recounts of each meeting more times than she could count.
Penelope graced her friend with a dry look. "Oh, yes she is. The last time she saw me she gave me the most scathing look for actually ordering a steak and asked if I'd put on weight recently."
"She did not!"
"Thankfully, Sam tried to stick up for me by saying that it was nice to be with a woman who didn't feel the need to starve herself for the sake of beauty. She looked me straight in the eye and said that beauty was such an indefinite term and that some cultures consider heavy women with moustaches the epitome of beauty. She's a hag."
"You shouldn't say that about your future mother-in-law." Lily scolded, the effect slightly lessened by her giggles.
Penelope shrugged nonchalantly. "Whatever. Now, can you help me get out of this dress before I keel over from oxygen deprivation?"
She was panicking. Despite her best calming down methods - breathe deeply. Listen to the soothing sounds of the ocean. Inhale the calming sent of lavender. If these fail, when in doubt, have a cosmopolitan - the feeling that everything was going wrong was only intensifying with every passing second. And okay, maybe the last one was an invention of her own but it certainly worked the best in stressful situations.
At the time, cooking dinner for James had seemed like a great idea. Sure she'd never exactly been a whiz in the kitchen but more out of laziness than anything. After flipping through 'Ten Quick and Easy Meals' she decided that cooking wasn't really that hard. Honestly. She'd been a natural at potions, why should cooking be any different?
Momentarily leaving the pan to fry, Lily frantically scrambled through her cupboard for candles. Should she light the candles? In theory it seemed like a good idea but on second thoughts, she didn't want to scare him or anything. That was one of the many frustrating things in relationships. When men attempted bold gestures it was considered romantic. When women did it, it was considered desperate. Or psychotic. Did candles count as bold? Or was bold picking your wedding dress after the first date?
A loud, unpleasant sparking noise and the wafting smell of smoke caused all thought of candles and potentially more fires from Lily's mind. Tearing back to the kitchen, she stared desolately down at her poor, charcoal chicken.
At least there was still the curry. If should could say so herself, it was spectacular. A masterpiece. The Picasso of all shrimp curries. Glancing quickly at the picture illustrating the book page, Lily felt a grin slide across her face. Spitting image. Honestly, from a distance you wouldn't even be able to tell the difference. And she was certain that James would never be able to tell that she'd used a rose leaf from the garden as a garnish since she didn't have parsley. They were both green in any case and it looked much prettier in her opinion.
Placing a cover over the food to keep it warm, she set about placing a few candles around the perimeter of the room, lighting them with a swift wave of her wand. The lighted flickered pleasantly across the room and Lily smiled shyly.
Not a moment too soon did the familiar door bell chime through the house and Lily jumped in surprise, suddenly not feeling quite so confident.
Reaching out a hand she opened the door, slightly taken aback by how close behind the door James was indeed standing. Had she somehow forgotten how charming his smile was or was this the first time her knees had gone weak at the sight of him?
"Hmm, I see my poor old jumper's been rejected then has it?"
He was grinning from ear to ear, a child-like playfulness in his eyes that made her positively giddy with desire. Not even her embarrassment seemed to penetrate her fuzzy mind but in a moment of coyness she leant forwards to kiss his cheek.
Somehow it seemed only to characteristic for her to instead find herself kissing his lips instead. As he stepped inside, never once breaking their contact she heard the soft click of the door closing and leaned further into him until he was pressed against the door.
A low moan escaped James and Lily slowly pulled away.
She looked worried at the uncomfortable look on James' face.
"You really want to know?"
No, her mind was screaming at her. You don't want to know! But instead she meekly nodded, her eyes cast downwards as if in anticipation of a blow. She didn't even notice he'd moved closer to her until his breath lightly tickled her ear in a seductive fashion.
"If you keep that up, I'm afraid I won't be able to keep my hands to myself." She could see his sly grin in her peripheral vision and subconsciously held her breath. "And it would be a shame if we never even made it to the dining room."
Without being able to help herself, Lily shivered as her skin tingled with lust at his touch. She was so close to saying 'screw the dinner' but somehow that didn't seem entirely appropriate.
James let out a low whistle as she gently took his hand and led him into her neatly set up table, a candle burning steadily in the centre of the table. Suddenly she felt shy and exposed but they quickly left her as James left a sweet kiss on the back of her neck.
"Hey, do you want dinner or not?" Lily said mock-scoldingly as she wiggled out of his grasp.
Leaving James to sit down Lily hurried into the kitchen for dinner. Snatching up the plate she'd left earlier she placed it proudly in the centre of the table.
"Da da da da dada!" With an exaggerated flourish she lifted the cover to display her masterpiece.
She waited for a reaction. Any reaction.
"Er, Lily?" His voice seemed unsure and Lily couldn't quite bring herself to look at either James or the food. Hesitantly she lowered her gaze, feeling a rush of colour flood her face.
Grabbing the plate and tearing back to the kitchen she wondered how much more she could mortify this man before he was running as fast as possible in the opposite direction as her.
This time she could barely muster her earlier enthusiasm, quickly checking that this time she did have the right dish instead of the mouldy, green piece of cheesecake she'd dug out of her fridge in disgust that morning and had been forced to cover due to the awful smell.
"Well, that certainly looks far more appetising." James said with a low chuckle as Lily set about serving her pride and joy shrimp curry.
Lily was a modest girl but not even she could help glowing with pride at the exquisite beauty of her shrimp curry. Honesty, if she'd been proud of her cooking abilities the time she'd whipped up that mean chocolate mousse for Penelope's birthday, it hardly compared to this. She could only hope now that it tasted at least half as good as it looked.
Brightening suddenly, Lily remembered something. "Hey, since you're such a fan and all I figured you must have heard that the England National Team has a position available since one of the chasers retired." Lily looked excitedly up at him, waiting for his reaction.
"Really?" replied James in mild interest although a slight discomfort was occurring somewhere inside him.
"You mean you didn't know?" Lily was surprised. She didn't profess to know James inside out or anything but from all the time she'd spent with him he was absolutely fanatical about quidditch and it seemed slightly off that he wouldn't know the biggest quidditch news of the moment. After all, it wasn't everyday that famous quidditch players retired.
"This looks delicious Lily." James smiled across at her as she lifted her glass of wine to her lips. If she didn't know better she'd say he was intentionally changing the subject but that was ridiculous. Why would he be changing the subject from quidditch, especially one of his favourite teams?
However, the compliment put any thoughts of quidditch aside and Lily glowed with pleasure. She watched in anticipation as he raised his fork to his lips to take a large mouthful. Maybe it sounded stupid to get so excited over it, but Lily had never cooked for someone before. Admittedly that had more often occurred because they wouldn't let her cook despite her good intentions but still. It was a generally moving moment in her life.
"Mmm." Encouraged, Lily waited for his reaction. "This is really tasty. Perhaps a little spicy –" He broke off suddenly as tears began to pour from his eyes and he made a gagging motion.
Horror-struck Lily could do little else but stare as he wheezed, coughed, spluttered and inhaled his entire glass of wine.
Oh my God! Thought Lily in a panic. I've poisoned my date!
"W-water!" James managed to gasp and without question Lily ran to the kitchen to grab the pitcher of cold water from the fridge.
Quickly James downed almost the entire container before his face returned close enough to his normal colour and his breathing regulated somewhat.
"I'm so sorry!" Lily cried desperately after a moment of silence. Her face was stark white in contrast to James' slightly red one and her eyes wide and horrified. "I thought I'd poisoned you when you just," she waved her hand wildly towards him, "I think I must have put in too much chilli powder."
James raised an eyebrow in amusement. "You think?" He'd only been trying to lighten the mood by teasing but her reaction of deepest distress was not quite what he'd hoped for.
"Hey, hey." He said quietly, taking her hand gently as Lily looked on the verge of tears. "I'm joking. You did a wonderful job... well you tried anyway."
Not even Lily could suppress a smile at that. So much for her wonderful curry. Perhaps cooking wasn't quite as similar to potions as she'd thought. "I think I'll order in next time." She said with a small laugh. "So what do we do now?"
With the food declared inedible and little else in the house suitable for a proper meal for two, Lily wasn't even sure James would allow her to serve him food ever again.
"If you're still hungry I suppose I could cook up some mac and cheese which is about all I can..."
The fearful expression on James' face spoke louder than words and Lily trailed off with a laugh.
"How about I take you out to dinner?" James offered apologetically but with a grin all the same. "I don't think I can take anymore poisoning for one night."
With a laugh, James dodged as Lily ran towards him with her hand raised as if to swat him playfully. Lily chased after him until he hit the sofa. Lunging towards him, her giggles uncontrollable, he caught her around the waist and in a tangle of limbs they both fell onto the soft couch.
"Stop! Stop!" Lily cried through her laughter as James, grinning also, tickled her mercilessly as she thrashed in protest.
"I...can't...breathe...!" she gasped, laughing hysterically, as he tickled her sides relentlessly. Tears were running down her faced as she squirmed to avoid his torturous hands. "Stop it!"
"I'm sorry, Lily, what did you say? 'Don't stop'? Okay." James taunted, his face alight with humour as the woman beneath him let out a shriek of laughter.
He tickled her some more, their squeals of laughter so similar to those of a pair of teenagers. She struggled beneath him and he took her small wrists in one of his huge hands and held her wrists above her head while his other hand tickled her sides and her tummy.
"I promise I'll never cook again." Lily managed between gasps for air in a desperate attempt to cease James' tickling. "Please stop."
"Is that a promise?" He looked down at her, pausing his tickle torture to watch her vigorous nod. She was breathing heavily, her chest rising and falling. Her eyes were wide and sparkling with mirth, her lips turned up in a smile. It was only then James registered how close their faces were and before he could stop himself he was crushing his lips against hers in a searing kiss.
If she had any hard feelings about being tickled mercilessly and her dinner a complete disaster, Lily certainly didn't show it as she kissed him back fiercely. Only when oxygen was indeed a necessity did they break apart and James leaned his forehead against hers.
"I'm sorry for such a disastrous dinner." Lily said softly, laying a soft kiss on his lips.
"Apart from the food I wouldn't call it disastrous at all." Grinning slyly down at her, James moved to leave a trail of kisses down her neck.
When it seemed James had little intention of getting up anytime, Lily realised she didn't really want him to anyway. A small sigh escaped her parted lips as she let her head fall back as James continued to leave hot kisses against the skin of her neck.
"What about dinner?"
James didn't even pull away to answer. "You know, I'm not really hungry."
A smile formed on Lily's face. She certainly had no objections.
"You know, I don't think I am either."
Please review, just because it's Christmas and to let me know that you haven't completely abandoned this fic because of my slack updates. Since I do have about 5 more weeks of holidays your reviews will definitely induce me to write faster... :P I think that's enough grovelling for one chapter.
Merry Christmas to everyone! xx