“Okay, Mum, remind me again one more time why I’m delivering this ‘Welcome Basket’ to the Potters, when they moved in over four months ago,” I say as I stick cellophane over the chocolate cake she made. I really do not know what goes on in my mother’s head. Today, since she didn’t have any patients in the morning, she randomly decides she’s going to bake a cake for the Potters to welcome them to the neighbourhood.
Which was a bad idea for several reasons. One, it’s a little too late to welcome the Potters. Two, I don’t want to welcome them anyway, since they’re all nutters. Three, Mum cannot bake.
It’s true. She makes decent dinners, and breakfasts, and lunches, but she cannot bake anything. She’s not a big fan of measuring, and that’s an important part of the baking process. She’s also not a big fan of remembering when to get things out of the oven at the right time, which is why right now the whole kitchen smells of smoke.
“Because you need to get out of the house, you’ve been moping about all day, and it’s never too late to welcome someone,” Mum replies briskly as she scrubs burnt cake crumbs off the stove. I have not been moping today! I was just staying inside because it’s bloody hot out!
“Fine,” I reply, and plop her cake into the basket next to the one I made, because I was feeling merciful and didn’t want to just give the Potters one inedible cake. Now they’ll have one inedible cake and one edible one, and hopefully James won’t kill me in my sleep.
Next I pick up the book on the counter that Mum told me to put in the basket and frown. Why does she want to give the Potters “A Frenchmen’s Guide To Basic English”?
“Plus, I saw one of their sons walking down the street the other day, not the one with the glasses, and he was rather fetching,” Mum adds after I shrug and set the book in the basket.
Oh dear God. I’ve just come to the conclusion that my mother is going through her mid-life crisis. It all fits! The obsessive organizing, the random baking, the noticing the attractiveness of much-younger blokes. Next thing you know, she’ll be off buying a sports car!
“And you haven’t had a boyfriend in quite a while.”
Oh. So that’s it. Very nice, Mum, very nice. Way to pummel my already fragile self esteem. Just because I haven’t had a boyfriend in a while doesn’t mean she has to creep on Sirius and it definitely doesn’t mean she has to do something as drastic as bake!
“First, the Potters only have one son, James, and he’s the one with glasses. The other one, Sirius, is just staying with them for the summer. Don’t ask me why, ’cause I don’t know, and I have no intention of asking. Second, it hasn’t been ‘quite a while’ since I’ve had a boyfriend. Third, I enjoy being single,” I say as I tie a bow to the top of the basket and stick in the three maps Mum decided the Potters needed, one of the city, one of the county, and one of the entire U.K.
Mum just gives a little tut and turns around. She wrinkles her nose at me. I’m about to reply with a full-of-attitude 'what?!’ but then she says “Is that really what you’re wearing?”
Oh. My. Goodness. What exactly is wrong with wearing shorts and a t-shirt to my possibly crazy neighbours’ house, especially when I’m being sent there against my will? It’s not like I’m trying to impress anyone!
I give her a dramatic eye-roll and sigh, rather impressively if I do say so myself, and then stomp up the stairs to my bedroom. I quickly go over to my wardrobe and select the lowest-cut blouse I have, a deep v-neck that I think actually belongs to Liz. Not sure. The few times I’ve worn it I wear a tank top underneath, but today, just to see what Mum says, I don’t.
I shake my hair out of its ponytail and brush it, and then put on a bit of lipstick for good measure. I look in the mirror and stick my tongue out at my own reflection. There. Mum can’t possibly complain about what I’m wearing now, I look like a girl about to go on a date, which is where Mum seems to think I’m going, instead of just going over to my mad neighbours’ house.
I stomp back down the stairs.
“Oh, there, Melanie, you look so pretty!” Mum says when she sees me. Darn. I was hoping she’d say, ‘You look indecent! You can’t go out of the house like that!’ and then I wouldn’t have to deliver the stupid welcome basket.
“Thanks, Mum,” I reply wearily, and then grab the basket and slip on some sandals. “I’m off. If I’m not back in an hour, call the police.”
I hear my mum say something about silly teenagers, but ignore her and walk over to the Potters’.
Balancing the basket in one arm, I ring the doorbell. After a minute, the curtain beside the door moves and a pair of huge, yellow eyes appears. I jump. What the . . .
There’s a small crash, a squeal that sounds a lot like ‘Master James’, another small crash, I jump again, and the door is flung open by James Potter. His hair is looking even more disheveled than usual. It looks like he’s got a dead animal on his head.
“Er, hello, Mellie,” he says, running his fingers through his hair and making it even messier, which I didn’t think was possible.
“Hi, James,” I reply, shifting my weight. Well, this is uncomfortable. “I was just sent, under protest, by my mum, to deliver this ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’ basket.”
He looks confused. Why is it that whenever James and I have a conversation, and I use the term ‘conversation’ lightly, at least one of us is always confused?
“I know you’ve already lived here for a while, but try explaining that to my mother,” I say. “She’s going through her midlife crisis, I think.”
He’s not confused anymore, instead he’s grinning. “Yeah, I know how mothers can be,” he says cheerily. “Come on in.” He steps back to let me in, and before I have a chance to stutter a ‘no, thank you’ he pulls/pushes me inside.
“Um, you can just take the basket and I’ll go,” I begin, but James just grins again and shuts the door behind me. Well, someone certainly doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
“Nah, my own mother would hate to miss the chance to meet you,” he explains brightly, walking over to a set of stairs a few metres away. “Sirius has told her a lot about you.” Okay, what is that supposed to mean?
“You just stay right here and I’ll get her,” he says, and then bounds off. I sigh and look around the room.
There’s a small table a few feet away from me, and lying on it is what seems to be today’s post. There’s a boring-looking letter on top, but under that is a bright purple leaflet. I take a step closer, not really caring that I’m being nosy.
All I can read is without moving the envelope is “The Ministry of” and then below it says “PROTECTING YOUR HOME”.
Weird. The Ministry of what? Why does the Potters’ home need protecting? And why on earth is the leaflet purple?
I take another step towards it, but just then James bursts into the room, followed by a woman with dark grey hair and the same hazel eyes as James, only hers have some laugh-lines around them. She looks old enough to be James’s grandmother, not mother. She smiles brightly when she sees me.
“Oh, you must be Melanie!” she exclaims. Am I seeing things, or is James’s mum wearing what appears to be a very fancy bathrobe? “I’ve heard so much about you!”
I absolutely hate it when people say that. How do I reply to that? And who was telling her about me? Sirius? Was it good, or bad? Did he and James tell her I was spying on her? Ugh!
“I’m Mrs. Potter. Are those cakes for us? How sweet! James, where are your manners? You don’t make a pretty young lady carry a heavy basket for any longer than absolutely necessary,” she says, rather quickly, and then takes the basket from me before smacking James’s head. “Boys, honestly,” she adds with a wink at me.
“It’s a ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’ basket,” I say as she ushers me into the kitchen. “I know it’s a little late, but my mother’s been really busy lately, and plus I think she’s going through her mid-life crisis.”
Mrs. Potter laughs and then sets the basket down on the table. “Now, dear, since you’re here, you must stay for a bit. Would like some Butterbeer?”
What’s ‘Butterbeer’? Is she offering me beer? I’m only sixteen! Wait a second, do I look like I’m old enough to drink?
“Um . . .” is my witty response. James appears in the kitchen and takes a seat at the table.
“Mum, she’s never had Butterbeer before,” he says before pulling the basket towards him and investigating the contents.
“Oh, right, silly me,” Mrs. Potter says as she gets out four mugs and sets them on the table. I sit down next to James since I can’t think of anything better to do. “Well, then, you’ll just have to try some. I know it’s not really the season for it, but I’ve had craving all day.”
She’s been craving beer all day? That’s not something you admit to almost-strangers! What is with this family? I knew they were mad, but I didn’t know they were this mad! Next thing I know Mr. Potter’s going to walk in wearing rubber-ducky footie-pyjamas.
James notices my alarmed expression and chuckles. “Don’t worry, Mellie, it’s not actually beer. It’s kind of like hot chocolate, only different, like butterscotch,” he explains kindly. I nod as if I understand, but I really don’t. Why would you call it Butterbeer if it’s not beer? I guess it’s just a crazy-person drink.
“Oh, so sorry! I didn’t mean to give that impression,” Mrs. Potter says, and somehow I get the feeling that she’s trying not to laugh. “I would never offer an underage teenager alcohol!”
I nod again. “It’s fine, I was just a bit . . . confused.” Mrs. Potter and James both chuckle, but they try and cover it with a coughing fit. I’m not amused.
“Well, here you go,” Mrs. Potter announces. She sets two mugs of what I assume are Butterbeer down in front of James and me, and a third mug in front of the empty chair next to me. She takes a deep sip of her mug and lets out a contented sigh. “Ah, lovely.”
I cautiously sniff mine for poison. Oh hell. Who am I kidding? I can’t tell if there’s poison in a drink just by sniffing it! I’m doomed.
Oh! Brain blast!
When James and his mum aren’t looking, I carefully pour a dash of my “Butterbeer” into the potted plant on the table. If the plant shrivels up and dies, I’ll know it’s poison!
“James, where’s Sirius?” Mrs. Potter asks. James, with a mouth full of “Butterbeer”, shrugs. She sighs. The plant hasn’t died, yet.
“Probably out in the garage, working on that motorbike,” she answers herself. Motorbike? That confirms it. Sirius is indeed a hooligan. Mrs. Potter set her nearly-empty “Butterbeer” down on the counter and walks out the door. “All day he’s been out there. I don’t know how he expects to make it run! He doesn’t know the difference between a hammer and a saw for Merlin’s sake.”
Wait a second! ‘for Merlin’s sake’ I just figured it out! The Potters are all under the impression that they’re actually living in Camelot! It all makes sense now! The dragon coin, the weird words, the snazzy bathrobe, the owl, and most importantly, not knowing the difference between a hammer and a saw!
I was right! They really are nutters! Mr. Potter probably thinks he’s Merlin, and Mrs. Potter probably thinks she’s Guinevere, and James imagines he’s King Arthur, and Sirius is the Royal Fool!
“Sirius Black!” Mrs. Potter bellows. I frown. Black? That’s not a last name, that’s a colour! “Get in here!”
No harm seems to have come to the plant, so I take a tiny sip of my “Butterbeer”. Hhhhm . . . it’s actually very good. Warm, and . . . buttery. And I’m not dead yet! Huzzah! Uh, oh, I feel warm. Is that the Butterbeer, or am I slowly dying?
James, who apparently has been watching me, the creep, laughs at my reaction. “Relax, Mellie,” he says. “It’s not going to kill you.”
Yeah, that’s what you want me to think. But a spy has to be ever vigilant.
I’m saved from thinking of something to say by the reappearance of Mrs. Potter. She’s shaking her head.
“Honestly, I don’t know what’s with him. He only works like this when he’s trying not to think about something,” she says, frowning in concern. James smirks.
“Oh, I think I know what, or who, he’s trying not to think of,” he replies. I frown at him. What is that supposed to mean? I take another sip of Butterbeer and out of the corner of my eye I see James catch his mother’s eye and tilt his head at me.
I really want to hit that boy.
A door slams somewhere and I hear Sirius yell “Why do I have to come in?”
Mrs. Potter gives James a look, and then yells back, “Because we’re having Butterbeer!” I take another sip of the Butterbeer and try to figure out what James means exactly.
“It’s bloody hot out! Why are you having Butterbeer?” Sirius asks, and then appears in the doorway.
Oh. My. Goodnes.
Sirius is shirtless.
And . . . . muscle-y.
And . . . . sweaty.
And . . . . blimey.
Let’s just say the boy obviously works out. But not too, body-builder, obvious. Just, er, nicely-shaped. Oh gracious, I quickly look away, down at the table, because I’m pretty sure that drooling is an unattractive look for me. Also, I can already hear James chuckling at me. Darn him.
“Sirius! We have company! Put a shirt on!” Mrs. Potter scolds, only I can tell that she’s also holding back laughter. What is so bloody funny? Am I really drooling? I discreetly wipe my mouth with my hand just in case.
Sirius, who apparently hasn’t noticed me yet, replies “Whaddaya mean, we have com---“
And then he looks at me, and our eyes lock. And I’m pretty sure it’s not the Butterbeer making my face feel like it’s on fire.
Sirius blushes too. Only he looks really good when he blushes, and I probably look like a goof. I quickly look back down at the table and take a rather large gulp of Butterbeer.
“Er, right,” Sirius, ever the brilliant conversationalist, says. “I’ll just go, and er, put my shirt back on. Which I only had off because, like I said, it’s bloody hot out.”
And then he turns (his back is almost as gorgeous as his front!) and practically runs away. James’s chuckles turn into full blown laughter. He’s obviously enjoying my discomfort. Probably because he’s an axe-murderer who thinks he’s King Arthur.
Sirius reappears within minutes, fully clothed, and Mrs. Potter steers him to the seat next to me. I avoid looking at him, because if I look at him I’m afraid I’ll start imagining that the shirt is gone and then start drooling again.
Why did she have to make him sit next to me? Why?
“So, Mellie, what brings you here?” Sirius asks after a short awkward silence that James and Mrs. Potter seemed to enjoy immensely.
“Mum sent me over with a ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’ basket,” I answer, shooting a glare at James for grinning so much. I’d glare at Mrs. Potter too, but I’ve been told not to glare at my elders.
I look at Sirius out of the corner of my eye and see him nod, as if this isn’t weird at all. Mrs. Potter finishes her Butterbeer and places the empty mug in the sink.
Ah! I just accidentally touched Sirius’s foot with my foot! He’ll think I’m trying to play footsie with him! I immediately tuck both of my feet under my chair and pray that he’ll think that was James.
“Well, I’m off. I’ll leave you kids to it,” she announces, and then winks in my direction. I’m really wishing the Butterbeer was actually poisoned right about now.
“I think I’ll go too,” James says after his mother leaves the kitchen. Sirius and I both glare at him. “Or not.”
Sirius pulls the basket towards him. “Is there cake in here?” he asks eagerly.
“Yeah, but don’t eat the chocolate cake if you value your taste buds,” I reply, finishing up the last of my Butterbeer. James and Sirius look confused.
“What’s wrong with chocolate cake?” James asks.
“Nothing, if baked by someone other than my mum,” I explain. “And if it hasn’t been accidentally set on fire.”
“Oh,” James says, looking a bit wary now. “What about the other one?”
“I made that one, so it’s safe,” I say. James grins and Sirius gets up and gets a few plates.
“Why don’t we test it out, just to be sure?” he suggests, grabbing a knife as well.
I smile. There’s nothing like cake to make a horrible afternoon better. Well, maybe it hasn’t been all that horrible. I did, after all, get to see the very attractive Sirius Black (I still can’t get over the last name) shirtless.
The cake turns out to be delicious, as I knew it would be. Sirius and James both compliment me on my excellent baking skills and I modestly thank them. Neither of them say anything particularly mad, except for when Sirius takes a bite and says “Merlin’s trousers, this is good!”
I suppose it is his job as Royal Fool to say random and mad things once in a while to get a chuckle out of everyone.
I spend most of the time trying not to look at Sirius, because I know if I do, I’ll end up blushing again. But funnily enough, every time I do glance at him, I realize he’s looking at me. A bit creepy, but flattering all the same. Unless, of course, he's staring at me because I've got cake all over my face.
“Thanks a bunch for the cake, Mellie,” Sirius says as he takes our empty plates and puts them in the sink.
“You’re welcome,” I reply, trying to keep my voice sounding perfectly normal. It’s hard, because I really want to either say “You’re all mad! I’m getting out of here!” or “James, can you please leave so I can snog Sirius in peace!”
Whoa. I don’t know where that last bit came from.
James is investigating the rest of the basket’s contents. “Does your mum know that we’re not from out of the country?” he asks as he holds up the map of the U.K. I shrug.
“Honestly, I don’t know what goes on in that woman’s head, and I don’t want to,” I answer. They both laugh. I think James’s laugh is a bit on the raving lunatic side to be perfectly honest. Very befitting of an axe-murderer.
“I can empathize with that,” Sirius says as he sit back down, this time across from me. This is even worse than him sitting next to me, because now it’s easier to look at him. Gracious, in the few days I haven’t seen him, I’ve forgotten how gorgeous he is up close.
I have to get out of here.
“Well, it’s been fun, but Mum’s probably wondering where I am,” I say in what I hope is a cheerful tone. “Sorry, but I’ve got things to do, er, people to see.” I think I’ve pulled off my lovely exit, but then I push my chair back too quickly and it somehow my legs get tangled with the chair legs and then next thing I know we’re both on the floor.
“Mellie, are you okay?” Sirius asks, but his concern is marred by the fact that he’s trying not to laugh. James, on the other hand, isn’t even trying.
I pull myself up. “I’m fine. Nothing’s broken.” I glare at James. “Thanks for your concern.” He doesn’t even bother to try and look concerned.
Sirius grins. “Do you really have to go? You might be seriously injured. It’s probably best if you don’t move around too much.”
It’s probably best if I get out of this mental hospital before I start thinking I’m Lancelot or something.
“Um, yeah, sorry,” I say, smiling at him. “But we should hang out again, tomorrow maybe.”
Whoah! Where did that come from? Did I really just invite that nutter to hang out with me tomorrow? I knew it! The Butterbeer was poisoned! That’s the only explanation for such nonsense coming out of my mouth.
Sirius is grinning like a loon. “Great. Tomorrow then,” he says, and for some reason James smirks at him.
I nod and head towards the exit. “Enjoy the rest of the cake!” I call over my shoulder. I’m almost to the door when Sirius comes after me.
“Mellie?” he says. I turn and can’t help but smile when I see that he’s smirking. I really do like his smirk.
“Why’d your mum give us ‘A Frenchmen’s Guide To Basic English’?”
There goes that blushing again. I doubt red is a good colour for me. Sirius takes a couple steps closer. He’s infringing on my personal space now.
“I really don’t know,” I reply, honestly. Sirius’s smirk widens and he takes another step closer. For some strange reason, probably the poisoned Butterbeer, my heart is pounding.
“Gotcha. And Mellie?” Now his voice is lowered, he’s almost whispering.
“Yes?” I squeak.
“You look absolutely gorgeous today,” he says, and this time, I swear, my face is going to burst into flames.
“Thanks,” I mutter, and then turn around and practically run all the way home.
Oh my goodness, I think I fancy the Royal Fool.
A/N: Gah! She finally admitted it! Aren't you proud of her? I am. I can't really think of anything else witty to say right now. I'd just like to thank you for all your reviews, I love all my readers! And, I don't like school. (I just went back.) AP English? Madness! So, yeah, if my updates are late now, I'm going to blame it on that class. I love having excuses handy. Not that I'm planning on taking forever to update! I always try and update fast!
Oh, and what'd you think of Mellie's latest theory?
Anyway, that's all I had to say. Review please!
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