“You have to go where?” Draco exclaimed, turning to look at Harry as he entered the room.
“Germany,” Harry sighed. “I don’t know why they’ve picked me, but there are international relations to be worked on.”
“What kind of international relations?” Draco asked with a frown.
“Between two house elves, would you believe?” Harry asked, a hint of a smile appearing on his face. “There’s been some sort of… spat over which of their cheesecakes is better.”
Draco’s mouth dropped open. “Seriously?”
Harry nodded. “Yep. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but apparently Mifty is really, well, miffed that Honigbiene has been saying their cheesecake is better than Mifty’s.”
“Merlin save me,” Draco muttered, shaking his head. “So, how long will you be gone?”
“I’m not sure,” Harry admitted. “At least overnight. This first trip is to arrange a meeting between Mifty and Honigbiene, on neutral ground.”
“First trip?” Draco asked, narrowing his eyes as he looked at Harry. “Exactly how many trips do you need to make?”
“I’m not sure,” Harry said again, an apologetic tone to his voice this time. “Hopefully not many.”
Draco sighed. “Well, I hope you won’t be gone too long,” he said. “I’ll miss you.”
Harry smiled. “I’ll miss you too,” he said. “If you can arrange time off, you could come with me?”
Draco gave Harry an apologetic look. “I really want to,” he said. “But I’ve got an important meeting tomorrow that I can’t rearrange.”
“Oh. Well, maybe next time?” Harry asked, disappointed.
“Definitely,” Draco nodded. “Just let me know as soon as you know.”
Harry smiled and pressed a kiss to Draco’s cheek. “I will. See you when I’m back.”
“See you when you’re back,” Draco replied, nodding. He watched as Harry stepped into the fireplace, heading for the Ministry.
“Ja, willkommen Herr Potter,” Gunther Feinberg said, shaking Harry’s hand firmly. “Gunther Feinberg vom deutschen Zaubereiministerium.”
Harry was glad of the translation spell he’d cast prior to Gunther arriving. “So, do you think this is a bit of a weird situation too?”
Gunther chuckled and nodded. “Indeed. However, we at the German Ministry feel that there is an opportunity for international cooperation to be had. We would like to arrange the meeting between the elves in England.”
“Really?” Harry asked, moving to sit down. “We at the Ministry thought you might want it to happen here in Germany.”
“No, no,” Gunther said, giving another chuckle. “We think the better opportunity is in England.”
“Alright, well I’m sure I can arrange something,” Harry said, pulling out a notepad and quill to jot it down.
“Very good,” Gunther replied. “Now, would you like to meet Honigbiene?”
“Yes, please,” Harry said, nodding. “I think it might help. Mifty is a bit of a character.”
Gunther nodded too. “Yes, I believe that is how Honigbiene could be described too. Perhaps it is an elf thing?”
Harry smiled, thinking of Dobby and Kreacher as well as Mifty. “Yes, I think it probably is.”
“Come,” Gunther said, motioning for Harry to follow him as he stood up. “I will take you to Honigbiene’s shop.”
Harry stood up and followed Gunther from the room.
“I’m in the living room,” Draco called back, sitting up quickly.
“How did your meeting go?” Harry asked as he entered the room. He bent to kiss Draco softly.
“It went well,” Draco nodded. “The Minister was very receptive to what I was talking about and I’ve got to have another meeting at a later date to finalise things.”
“Do you know what date yet?” Harry asked, sitting down beside Draco.
“No, why?” Draco asked.
“Because I want you to come into London with me next week,” Harry said. “There’s going to be an international cheesecake competition and I, apparently, am the judge.”
“You’re judging cheesecake?” Draco asked disbelievingly.
Harry nodded. “Yep. This is what my life is now, apparently. From high flying Auror to cheesecake judge. A natural progression, I’m sure you would agree.”
Draco snorted with laughter. “Oh, of course,” he said. “I’m so proud of you.”
Harry laughed and prodded Draco lightly in the stomach. “So what do you say? Join me at the competition?”
“I would be delighted,” Draco replied. “Providing I also get to eat some cheesecake?”
Harry grinned. “You will,” he said. “I promise.”
“No, Mister Potter, Honigbiene’s cheesecake must be eaten before all else!”
Harry threw a look of despair at the two elves squeaking and tugging at his robes. “Please, Mifty, Honigbiene, back behind your work stations,” he said calmly, holding his hands up. “I will taste both cheesecakes blind. I won’t know which of you has made the cheesecake until after I’ve tasted them both.”
Mifty gave Honigbiene a furious look but stomped back behind her workstation.
Honigbiene gave an indignant squeak and hurried back behind her workstation too.
Harry breathed a sigh of relief and caught Draco’s eye, shaking his head as Draco smirked at him. When he’d agreed to mediate between the two elves, he hadn’t imagined it would be so demanding of his attention.
“Alright, Mifty, Honigbiene, please begin to make your cheesecakes,” Harry said, raising his voice to address the elves once more. “You each have a representative of your respective Ministry to oversee the proceedings. I will be in the judging room just across the hall,” he added, pointing. “Once your cheesecakes are completed, they must be placed onto the identical plates on your workstations. Your plate has a sealed envelope containing your name on it, so I still won’t know whose is whose. An independent person will bring the plates to the tent where I will taste them.”
Both Mifty and Honigbiene nodded their heads vigorously, their large ears flapping wildly. They busied themselves behind their workstations, beginning to prepare their cheesecake bases.
Harry carefully stepped away from the two workstations and grabbed Draco’s arm to pull him across the hall too. Once they were safely out of the busy room, Harry let out a groan.
“Okay?” Draco asked, hiding a smile.
“How is this so exhausting?” Harry asked as they entered the judging room. Looking around, he spotted the hard plastic chairs and made a face. Taking out his wand, he aimed it at the chairs and transfigured them into a fat, squashy couch. Satisfied with his work, he sat down heavily.
“Because they both want all of your attention,” Draco replied, sitting down beside Harry. “I can’t believe all those people in there who want to watch the elves work.”
“I know,” Harry sighed, waving his wand vaguely in the direction of the door until it swung shut. “I almost wish that this whole thing didn’t rest solely on me. How can I be responsible for upsetting one of the elves?”
“It’s just about the cheesecake,” Draco replied, resting his hand on Harry’s knee. “You’re not going to be saying you like Honigbern better or vice versa.”
“Honigbiene,” Harry corrected him automatically. “I know, but I can’t help but think that they’re going to take it that way.”
Draco shook his head. “If they’re like the elves I knew growing up, all they’re going to be worried about is whether you like their cheesecake. All you need to say is that it was a tough choice and that both cheesecakes were amazing, but the one that wins is…” he finished, making a gesture with his free hand to represent Harry’s choice.
“And you think that will work?” Harry asked, not looking convinced by Draco’s words.
Draco nodded. “I know it will,” he said. “The house elves that my parents had used to beam like anything if I complimented their cooking. Not that I ever did that in earshot of my father, of course. But I did tell the elves when I really liked something.”
Harry smiled and leant into Draco briefly. “That’s nice,” he said. “Then I hope that these two will be pleased with a compliment.”
“Yes. And failing that, tell them you need help to judge and that’s where I come in,” Draco said, grinning.
Harry laughed. “I’ve already told you that you can have cheesecake! No need to muscle in on my judging!”
Draco laughed too, squeezing Harry’s knee gently. “Hey, I’m just trying to make this easier on you.”
“I know, and I appreciate it,” Harry said, kissing Draco on the cheek. “I wonder how long it takes to make a cheesecake.”
“A couple of hours I imagine,” Draco replied. “Or maybe less. They might use magic to set it.”
“I imagine they do,” Harry said, thoughtfully. “They do make enchanted cheesecakes, after all.”
“Is that the kind you’re tasting?” Draco asked.
“I don’t think so,” Harry said slowly. “Actually, I don’t know.”
“You probably should check that before actually eating any,” Draco said wisely. “So that you’re prepared for any surprising after effects.”
“Good point,” Harry said, pulling out his wand again to summon the terms of the competition. “Ah, here we are…” he said as the parchment flew into his outstretched hand. He fell silent for a few minutes as he read. “Oh… yeah. Enchanted cheesecakes, which is the best magical recipe. This should be interesting.”
“Well, they both look fantastic,” Harry declared, finally. He saw both elves looking pleased with themselves and hid a smile of his own. Perhaps Draco was right and all the elves really care about is what he thinks of their cheesecakes.
“So, first, I will taste this cheesecake,” Harry said, pointing to the one on the right, predicting it to have a hot, spicy taste. “And then the other.”
He picked up a knife and cut a small slice out of the first cheesecake. He examined the structure of the filling and observed that it was perfectly set. Then, finally, he picked up a fork and used it to break a small chunk off the slice he’d cut. The biscuit base looked buttery and Harry was impressed with not only how solid it was, but how easily the fork broke through it. Taking a breath, he lifted the fork to his mouth and popped the cheesecake in. He was glad that he’d predicted a hot taste, as he was right. As soon as the bite of cheesecake was in his mouth, he could taste a variety of spices including cinnamon, ginger and, if he wasn’t mistaken, pepper. Despite the heat, the filling of the cheesecake was smooth and delicious. Nodding to himself, he swallowed the mouthful and put the fork down.
He could feel his ears smoking slightly, and was reminded of Pepper Imps. He smiled at the two elves who were staring at him, waiting for him to say something. He picked up another knife and used it to cut a slice of the second cheesecake. He hoped that the faint blue glow meant that the cheesecake was going to be cooling to contrast the heat of the first one. Examining the structure of this cheesecake, Harry decided that there was no difference as this filling also looked perfectly set and the biscuit base looked just as buttery as the first cheesecake.
This time, before he picked up the fork, he picked a glass of water up and took a drink to cleanse his palate. Then, as his ears stopped smoking, he picked up his fork and broke a chunk off the slice. Popping the chunk into his mouth, he was pleased that his prediction was, once again, right. His mouth instantly felt cool as he tasted peppermint. The filling was as smooth as the first one had been and Harry felt a moment of panic as he didn’t think he could choose a winner.
Setting his fork down, Harry swallowed his mouthful and picked up his glass once more. He took another drink and then studied both cheesecakes for a final time. He was aware that every eye was on him, most noticeably those of the elves.
Finally, he looked up at the crowd and cleared his throat. “I would first like to thank both Mifty and Honigbiene for these excellent cheesecakes. They have given me a very hard decision to make. Both cheesecakes have fantastic structure, they’re both solid with a smooth, silky filling. The cheesecake on the right was warming, with just the right mix of spices and the cheesecake on the left was fresh and cool, with a nice peppermint flavour.”
Glancing at the crowd again, Harry caught sight of both Honigbiene and Mifty bouncing slightly with pride. Looking a bit further, he caught Draco’s eye and smiled. “My decision,” he started again, hearing a collective intake of breath from the crowd, “is that both recipes are winners. Please, let me explain my decision,” he said quickly as a disbelieving whisper began to rise. “Mifty only sells cheesecake in England. Honigbiene only sells cheesecake in Germany. Therefore, they are both the best in their respective countries and I cannot separate the recipes to declare a sole winner.”
Harry looked down at both elves who were looking at each other in shock. “Mifty, Honigbiene, I declare you both winners. Both of your cheesecakes were delicious and deserve the title of ‘Best Cheesecake’. I hope that’s ok?”
Mifty blinked her large eyes and looked up at Harry. “Mifty supposes it makes sense, Mister Harry Potter, sir,” she said.
Honigbiene nodded. “Yes, so does Honigbiene.”
Harry smiled and held his hand out for them to shake. “I’m glad to hear it,” he said, shaking both of their hands firmly. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to keep both cheesecakes?”
“Mifty doesn’t mind at all, sir!” Mifty squeaked, looking pleased.
“Honigbiene doesn’t either, sir!” Honigbiene added, bowing low to Harry.
Harry chuckled. “Thank you,” he said.
Harry chuckled. “I told you,” he said. “I wasn’t lying. I do think my favourite is the peppermint one though.”
“Yes,” Draco nodded, opening his eyes again. “Which of them made that one?”
“You know what, I don’t know,” Harry said, realising he’d forgotten to check. “There should be a little envelope under the plate.”
Draco lifted the plate up and peeled off the envelope before opening it. “Mifty,” he announced, showing Harry the little slip of paper containing Mifty’s name. “Which is good. It means we can get this again.”
Harry laughed, dropping a kiss on top of Draco’s head. “Yes, indeed. Now, can I have another slice?”
Draco looped his arm protectively around the cheesecake. “Oh, no,” he said. “This is mine now.”
“I thought we agreed to share everything now?” Harry asked, looking at Draco with amusement.
“Everything except cheesecake,” Draco replied solemnly. “Didn’t you read the small print?”
Harry laughed again and nudged Draco. “I’ll let you feed it to me, then you can control how much I eat,” he said.
“Hmm, I think I can get on board with that,” Draco replied with a smile, leaning over to kiss Harry soundly. “If you can get on board with cheesecake in the bedroom?”
“I think I’ll get over that,” Harry said, kissing back with a smile. “Let’s go.”
They Disapparated with a crack.