Late Nights at The Leaky Cauldron
Chapter 1

It had been years since James Potter had stepped foot in the dusty bar deemed the Leaky Cauldron. His footsteps were unheard over the chatter of patrons that filled the small room. James smiled in familiarity. Tom, the bartender, stood at his usual post, smiling his toothless grin at his customers. The lanterns on the wall occasionally flickered, just as he had remembered them too. James knew he was back home, back in England, and there was no where else he could imagine himself. How had he stayed away for so long? The cobblestones of Charing Cross Road felt good underneath his feet.

"Can I get a firewhiskey, Tom?" He asked the bartender. The man nodded, and then got a good look at the boy, his eyes widening.

"James Potter?" He asked, with a smile. "Merlin, I haven't seen you since you were just a boy!"

James half nodded. "All grown up now, Tom. I've been away for business." He pulled out a stool, scraping it against the wood floor, and took a seat.

"You still hanging around that Black boy? Sirius?" Tom asked. The pair were frequent customers back in the day. James smiled at the thought of him and his long haired companion spending nights here after work.

"Of course. We're Brothers." James replied. Though truthfully, James hadn't seen Sirius Black since he'd left the country. They frequently exchanged letters, but James was eager to see his friend again.

"How about your girl friend? That pretty red-headed girl? The two of you get married yet?" Tom inquired, as he served the glass of firewhiskey to James. This was the part he had been dreading - the questions about Lily. He didn't quite know how to answer them without making his mouth go dry and his heart drop.

"No." He sighed. "Never did."

James downed his firewhiskey in a few gulps, not very eager to be amongst the noise, and forced to make small talk with the bartender. He was tired, he'd had a long day. Tom eagerly obliged when James asked for a room, and gave him a key for room number 8. Though James knew the rooms at the Leaky Cauldron were nothing to write home about, they had a warming sense of comfort-ability for him. He remembered the days when he first started at the ministry, and he'd shack up at the 'Cauldron on nights he was too tipsy from celebrating with Sirius to properly apparate home. What he remembered most about them was how Lily would bicker with him about staying out late while there was a war going on.

The bed groaned generously as James sat down on it. He could have sworn bits of dust flew from the coverings, but he didn't worry about it. He was home. It had been much, much too long.

The sun woke him up the next morning. He'd forgotten to shut the blinds before he'd fallen asleep, and now he was paying for it. He picked up his watch from where he had placed it on the nightstand the night before.

7:30 am. Bugger.

He ran a hand through his messy black hair, and pulled himself out of bed. He'd never been able to fall back asleep after he'd woken up. He pulled on some appropriate clothes, placed his wire framed glasses on his face, and left the room.

Tom sat lazily behind the bar, an issue of The Daily Prophet clutched in his hands. The bar was much quieter than the previous night. A few young witches sat at one of the tables, gossiping excitedly over a copy of Witch Weekly, and an elderly man sat alone at the end of the bar, sipping on tea and pouring over a piece of parchment before him.

"Can I get a cup of tea, Tom?" James asked, standing in front of the bar. Tom looked up and nodded, setting down his copy of The Prophet. James grabbed a copy of the paper from a tray near the door, waited for his drink, and then took a seat at a lonely table on the far end of the room.

Absent-mindedly, he stirred the tea counter clockwise a few times, while studying the front page of the profit. It had been years since he'd received a copy of this. Nothing had changed, however. The prophet still didn't press the news, as much as it pressed the opinions of the public. It pressed what people wanted to hear. He flipped through a few pages, skimming articles here and there. Nothing interested him.

The back door was pushed open with a bang, causing everyone but the elderly man at the end of the bar to look up. A frazzled looking woman with red hair pulled tightly into a bun rushed inside. James looked back down at his paper, again, uninterested. He had had enough of loud noises and frantic people when he was away.

"Can I get a coffee, Tom?" She asked. Toms watery eyes looked at the girl, then over at James, and then back at the girl. He repeated this a few times. "Tom?" The girl asked, hurriedly.

Tom nodded, and went to retrieve the drink, eying the pair as he did so. The girl sighed at sat at the bar. Lily Evans was having a long morning, and it had only just started. She couldn't even imagine the state of her hair right now, she hadn't even had time to brush it. She felt disgusted when she remembered she hadn't even brushed her teeth and she knew bags were formed under her emerald eyes, but there was nothing she could do about it.

"Anything interesting in The Prophet this morning?" She asked, as Tom dropped her drink on the counter. Tom shook his head.

"Business as usual."

Lily scoffed, rolling her eyes in the process. Like they would even report if something had gone wrong.

She gulped down her drink, tipped the bartender, and walked to the front door, not entirely ready to brace London this early in the morning. In her tired state, she hadn't even noticed the raven haired boy sitting in the corner.

"Long night, Evans?" Drawled the middle aged woman at the reception hall to St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Lily sighed. The last thing she needed was for Miranda Peroy, the company gossip, to know about her previous 24 hours. Nor did she want to discuss it in front of the patrons who longingly awaited to be treated.

"Nothing I can't handle." She smiled vaguely as she made her way to the elevators, passing a man with a flowered teacup floating around him, which seemed to be viciously knocking him in the head every few moments.

Miranda laughed almost sinisterly. She had a knack for knowing when people were lying, as well as a knack for snooping. She had a grin on her face that seemed to warn Lily that she would get to the bottom of this.

"I'm sure." She purred, as Lily entered the elevator. Lily scowled and jammed the "Four" button. It illuminated, and the elevator doors shut tightly in front of her.

When the doors re-opened, the led Lily to a brightly lit room where numerous witches and wizards walked frantically back and forth, every which way. Lily marched straight to the check-in counter, and through the gate that led behind it.

"'Morning Talia." Lily yawned as she clocked in. A young brunette witch looked up from the clipboard she was holding. Her pale blue eyes met Lily's and immediately filled with concern.

"Merlin, Lily, are you alright?" She gasped, rushing towards her friend. She placed her cool, manicured hands on Lily's forehead, checking for a fever.

"I'm fine, Talia. Do I really look that awful?" She asked, struggling to catch her reflection in anything that shimmered.

"Nothing some chocolate can't fix." Talia smiled, pulling a piece from the pocket of her healers uniform. Lily thanked her friend, ate the piece, and felt warmth spread through her body. At least she certainly felt better. She pulled on her uniform, and followed her friend from the room. Apparently a witch had just been brought in due to a nasty accident with a backfiring jinx that now left her with two, irremovable, octopus-like tentacles sprouting (and regrowing when removed) from her sides. Only eight hours, and then Lily could finally get some rest.

By noon, James Potter was restless. He'd had his morning tea, read the profit (nearly twice), ate lunch at a small cafe, and moseyed down Diagon Alley. Though he was glad to see nothing had changed, he wasn't in the least bit used to the laid-back life-style. He hadn't planned to see his old friend Sirius until later in the day, but what else did he have to do? Following the directions Sirius had owled him a week prior, James found his way - by foot, as he was attempting to kill time - to the downtown flat that Sirius shared with (to James' utter surprise when he had heard) his long-term girlfriend.

James jabbed his finger into the button next to Apartment 7 on the calling board. A doorbell like sound rang from the machine. A few moments later, a groggy voice answered.

"Hello?" the person sounded exhausted.

"Sleeping this late, Sirius?" James asked, glee emanating through his voice.

"James?" The man asked. "You're early!"

"Are you not excited to see me?"

A buzzer sounded, and the front door popped open.

"You're ridiculous. Get up here." Sirius voice chortled through the machine.

Once inside the entrance hall, James made his way up the stairs and to apartment 7, on the second floor. He knocked twice, and a long haired man with an early 5 o'clock shadow opened, immediately engulfing James in a hug.

"Jamsie!" He joked.

"SIRIUS!" James rolled his eyes.

Sirius led James into the living room, where a wavy haired brunette girl sat in an arm chair, sipping a cup of tea. She, too, looked as if she had just woken up.

"Late night?" James asked to his old friend. Sirius shrugged, and winked at his girl friend.

"Cassie, James. James, Cassie." He introduced the two. James shook the woman's hand. She smiled delicately. She was gorgeous, just as every of Sirius previous endeavours had been, but there was something different about this one - it was obvious she was different, more lasting, than the rest. James silently admired her for finally being able to tame his dog of a friend.

"I've heard quite a lot about you." She spoke. Her voice was soft and tired.

"I can only imagine. Sirius and I got into quite a bit of trouble during our school years." James laughed, nudging his friend.

"Oh, I've heard! I've gotten to know Remus and Peter as well - trust me, I've heard it all." Cassie smiled.

"We weren't that bad!" Sirius protested, causing them all to laugh.

"And nearly causing one Severus Snape to be attacked by a werewolf isn't bad?" She asked, faking an appalled expression

"I'll have you know I saved his life!" James protested.

Sirius rolled his eyes "Should have let the little twit die. Rumor has it he's hanging out with Voldemort." Sirius eyes narrowed in concern, as he took a seat on the couch. James sat beside him, shaking his head at the turn in conversation. This was the last thing he wanted to discuss with his long-term friend.

It was raining when Lily left the Hospital. She stepped outside the double doors, and paused under the awning, cursing the rain. In her tired state, she didn't feel it would be appropriate to apparate. She looked back at the building - which now looked like an abandoned department store. She didn't want to go back in, but her knees were growing wobbly, and her eyes droopy. Lily sighed, did a swift bit of magic on a stick on the sidewalk, making sure no muggles were watching in the process, and held her newly transfigured umbrella above her head. The Leaky Cauldron wasn't far, she could get a room there for the night.

She dashed down the sidewalk as quickly as possible, dodging puddles and dirty-looking men begging for change in the process. Her legs were half ready to give-out when she finally reached the pub.

"Afternoon, Miss Evans." Tom eyed her as she pulled the door closed. She closed her umbrella, and placed it in the stand beside the door.

"Afternoon, Tom. Can I get a room?" She asked, squeezing water from her hair.

A mischievous grin spread over Toms face as he grabbed a key for room number 8, and handed it to the ginger headed girl. Lily thanked the man, placed some money on the table, and escorted herself to the room.

Lily sighed as she entered the room. It brought back so many memories that she hadn't let herself dwell on in years. She almost laughed as she remembered the nights she would bicker with James because he would get too drunk off firewhiskey to apparate home without splinching himself. He'd stay at The Leaky Cauldron with Sirius, and late at night, Lily would sneak into their room, curl into bed with James, and fall asleep with his arms around hers.

Lily shook the thoughts from her head. That was a long time ago.

James re-entered the pub well past closing time. Tom the bartender was already asleep, it seemed, and the lamps around the room were extinguished. Nothing, save the portraits on the walls, stirred. James fumbled to find his key from his pocket as he made his way up the stairs. Just as he was thinking that he and Sirius may have indulged in one to many firewhiskeys - he jammed the key into the door. The room was dark, but James was far too tired to even flick on the light. He took off his pants, shoes, socks, and shirt and crawled into the bed. His eyes were closing, and he was about to fall asleep when - an arm fell over his body.

His eyes shot open, and he sat straight up, flicking on the light on the nightstand in the process.

A redheaded girl was sprawled out on the bed beside him. Her hair covered her face, but the rest of her was most certainly exposed. She slept, like him, in nothing but her underwear.

James carefully removed the woman's arm from his chest, jumped off the bed, and pulled on his pants. He wrenched open the door, double checking the brass number that was fastened to the wood. Room number Eight... He checked his key... room number 8...

The girl must be in the wrong room.

He re-entered the room, and shook the girls shoulder. She swatted the hand away, lazily.

"Ma'am..." James begged. The girl jolted up, pulling her hair from her face in the process.

Before James could even register what was going on, Lily Evans shrieked.

"Wuh-what are you doing here?" She asked, pulling the covers to her chest.

"Lily?" James asked, eyes wide.

"Get out of my room!" She added.

"This is my room!" James protested, pulling out his key. Lily shook her head, and grabbed hers off of the bedside table.

"Tom gave this room to me hours ago, Potter." Lily growled.

"Oh are we back to that?" James was close to laughter. "I haven't seen you in four years - and you can't even call me by my first name?"

Lily huffed. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"Trying to sleep!"

"I mean in England, James!"

James took a deep breath. "My four years is up."

Lily blinked. James Potter, her Hogwarts sweetheart had returned to England.

"I'm going to get a new room." Lily stood from the bed, hastily pulling on her clothes, and left the room. James followed her, planning to say a few choice words to the in-keeper as well.

The found his room at the end of the hall, and banged very loudly.

"Tom!" James shouted through the wood.

The man begrudgingly opened the door, annoyed at being woken from his slumber.

"What is it?" He asked.

"This man was in my room!" Lily began.

"Your room? It was my room first!" James argued. Tom rubbed his eyes.

"Quiet, Quiet! You'll wake the whole damn place." He commanded.

"I need a new room, please, Tom." Lily pleaded.

Tom shook his head. "Sorry, no-can-do. The whole place is filled. The storms' brought everyone in. No one likes to apparate in lightning."

Lily's eyes narrowed. "Please, Tom. I can't sleep in the same room as ... him" She quieted her voice with the last word.

"Unless you want to sleep on the bar, that looks like your only option." Tom replied, shutting the door. Lily turned on her heal, and marched back to the room.

"Looks like we're sharing a room-" James began.

"Fat chance." She replied. She grabbed one of the two pillows and the blanket from the bed.

"Where are you going?" James questioned, surprised.

"To sleep on the bar!" Lily demanded, carrying her sleeping necessities down the stairs. James chased after her.

"Lily, you can't possibly -"

"-Don't tell me what I can't do, Potter." She replied, her eyes fierce with meaning.

"This is stupid!" He retorted. "Just come back to the room."

"I'm not sharing a bed with you!" She raised her voice so that it was nearly shrill. James shook his head at the woman he once loved.

"I'll sleep on the floor." James replied.

"Thanks for the offer, but we all know chivalry is dead, and I can take care of myself."

James sighed. "Please, Lily. You can't sleep down here. The roof leaks, and people enter and exit all night, you'll never get a wink of rest."

Lily looked at the bar, where little spurts of water now lay, dropping from the ceiling. She hated to admit it, but James was right.

She pulled her blanket and pillow back up to the room, throwing them on the floor when she entered, and throwing herself on top of it.

"You're going to sleep on the floor?" James laughed. Lily didn't reply. "Fine, suit yourself." James smiled, jumped into the bed, and clicked off the light.

After an hour of tossing and turning on the hard floor, Lily was annoyed. Why had she given up the bed to him? Why did her desire to not let him get to her put her in this position? She had no choice, if she wanted any sleep before work tomorrow, she would have to get into the bed - with or without James.

She grabbed her pillow and blanket, and slowly made her way to the other side of the bed, her only light being the lightning that struck every few seconds. Careful as could be, as not to wake James, she crawled into the bed.

"I knew you'd see it my way." James murmured in a tired voice.

"Shut up." Lily replied. But James Potter was already smiling, he had missed his stubborn ex-girlfriend.

A/N: I know, I know - I really should not be starting another story. But I just started writing, and this is what came up, and the more I wrote, the brighter my ideas became. And I'm really into this story, and where I plan to take it. I hope you guys are too! My other story (And Thats When A Bludger Came Through My Window) is more simple than this story is/will be. This one is much more plotted, and has a bigger back story. Hopefully it'll be better written and more descriptive as well. And hey, longer chapters! Anyway, I hope you enjoy. Please please please review!

-Jen Riddle.
August 9th 2010