I have a hunch you guys are going to adore this chapter. :] It's simple, and there's not much action, but it's important. It's big. Let me know what you think! I would love to hear from you in some reviews! Happy Halloween, and since I'm sadly too old to go trick-or-treating, I'll happily take reviews instead of candy! - Jen

Late Nights at The Leaky Cauldron
Chapter 7

There was something in the distance. Something small and... wooden. A hut, maybe? Or possibly a house. A very small house. Surrounded my trees, and with vines creeping up the edges.

James rubbed his eyes a few times - was he imagining this? He had to be. It had been days since he'd seen anything besides trees and the occasional woodland animal- he was getting delusional. He took a deep breath and suddenly shivered as the cold wind brushed across his arms. He looked up to where few wispy clouds covered the purple-blue sky, and sparkling stars were scattered everywhere.

It was a full moon.

He took a deep breath, wondering how his friends were doing back home. He prayed that Peter and Sirius were taking good care of Remus. He knew he'd be going crazy right now. He knew Remus would be howling, and feeling miserable afterwards. His breath was caught in his throat as he prayed that they were all alright. They always had this order - then the four of them were together. They know, collectively, just now to manage Remus' "furry little problem." Without James ... he wondered if they managed all right.

It had been two months since he had had any contact with anyone.

"I solemnly swear that I am up to no good." He whispered to no one. He hoped that maybe, somehow, they would know he was thinking about them. James though back to the silver handled mirror back at his hotel - how he wished he could talk to Sirius right then. To make sure that they could handle this, his being gone. Maybe if he knew that everyone else was okay... maybe, just maybe then he could be okay.

He brought his eyes away from the moon, knowing that it wouldn't make any difference. He knew they were okay. They were strong. They had to be alright.

James pulled his cloak tighter around him, and dug into the pocket to find his Invisibility Cloak. If the building in front of him was in fact not a mirage, then he was eager to be inside of it. It was cold, and he was tired. He was tired of sleeping in the musty old Tent that was at one point, before his passing, his Grandfathers. It smelt of old cigars and cat hair could be found in every corner.

He trudged forwards, practically dragging himself along. Every movement of his legs felt like a knife going through his muscles. But the cabin wasn't moving. It was growing larger - closer.

Finally, he reached the small wooden door. His hand grasped around the brass handle, its cold stinging a bit, and he pulled it open.

"Lumos." He muttered into the dark. The tip of his wand illuminated the room. A bed sat in the far corner, it's blankets calling to James to fall onto it. He looked around the room for the fireplace, and shot a spell towards it, causing the logs to ignite. James immediately basked in the warmth, and pulled off the invisibility cloak. The hut was empty, he hadn't needed it after all.

He moved towards the small make-shift kitchen, and grabbed the kettle, filling it with water from his wand. He pulled open the cabinets, throwing aside cans of expired food until he found some tea bags.

As he waited for the water to heat, he plopped himself into the bed, feeling the pains of his tiring day wear off of him. He sunk into the blankets, letting them encompass his body. They smelt of pine and ...mint?

He sighed, and pulled the coverings around him. It wasn't home, but it would do.

The kettle began to whistle at him, and if it weren't for the annoying sound it emanated, he wouldn't have gotten up. His feet hurt even worse than they had previously as he made his way the few steps towards the steaming water. Finding a mug, he poured it to the brim and dipped in a tea bag.

His eyes drooped as he sipped at it, letting it scorch his cold throat.

It wasn't anything like the tea he was accustomed to waking up to when he lived with Lily. He didn't know what he did, but she made it the best. Better than even the Hogwarts elves. Lily didn't even drink tea, she drank coffee ever since she'd become a healer. He knew she didn't like the early mornings, and the caffeine was her only sustenance.

Still, every morning, without fail, it was there waiting for him. It was just one of those things that she did. It was one of those things that made Lily, well, Lily.

While it was bittersweet, he knew that soon he'd be home, and back with her. He could finally, finally propose to her. He could be the man she'd always dreamed of. He could give her everything, just as he'd promised in the first place. Finally, things could be problem free, and they could live old together.

Just a little while longer, and he'd be back home.

The door to the cabin slammed open, and James dropped the mug, causing it to shatter around his feet and warm liquid to seep into his toes

A particularly frightening man stood in the doorway, his wand raised to James.

James awoke with a start. It wasn't the first time he had dreams of this nature. Every single time they ended as soon as he looked into Voldemort's red, daring eyes.

He was sweating. It was covering his entire body and dripping down his face. He wiped a bit from his brow, and the bridge of his nose, and put his glasses on, allowing his room to come back into view.

It certainly felt real. It felt just as the forests in Albania had... but he hadn't seen anything when he was really there... there was never a Voldemort... there was never a cabin...

He remembered everything, though. He felt as if the dream had been an extreme case of Deja Vu. That it actually happened, and for some reason, he couldn't remember it. It had been so vivid... from every thought, to every movement, and every feeling...

It had been so real. He just couldn't remember it.

He ran a hand through his hair. Was that even possible? Why would Voldemort modify his memory, but not kill him?

James rolled off the bed, and peeled off his nightshirt which clung to his stomach from sweat. He deposited it on the side of the bed, and made his way to the kitchen to get a glass of water.

The first thing he noticed was that a lamp was on in the living room. Odd, because James had particularly remembered turning off the lights when he retired for the night. Perhaps he had a few to many firewhiskey's at the 'Cauldron, and had forgotten...

He filled up a glass in the sink, and downed a gulp before making his way to the living room. He leaned carefully over, about to turn off the light, when the sight before him made him drop his glass - just as he had in his dream. It shattered on the edge of the couch and cool water spilled all over the sleeping form on top of it.

Lily Evans jolted awake, gasping.

"Oh shit! Lily, I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!" He stared in awe at what had just happened, not knowing what to do. She spit bits of water from her lips, and pushed her now sopping hair from her face.

"James - why...?" She panted, her green eyes glaring up at him. She seemed to tired to form coherent sentences.

"I'm sorry... I'm sorry. I was turning off the light... you shocked me. Look, I'll get you a towel."

Embarrassed, James dashed towards the bathroom closet, and grabbed a white fluffy towel from the shelf. When he returned, Lily was standing, squeezing water from her hair.

"None of the glass cut you, did it?" He asked.

"I'm fine." She said in a tired voice.

"It's just... I thought you were staying at Talia's... I-"

"Don't worry about it." She said, again, taking the towel from him.

"Go sleep in the bed. I'll fix this." He urged. She shook her head.

"It's fine, James." She said, yet again. "I'm imposing... I shouldn't have... go back to sleep."

James shook his head. "I can't."

"You can't what?" She asked. She tossed the towel onto the couch, hoping to dry some of the water from the couch.

"Sleep. I can't sleep." He added. Lily sighed.

"You don't know a spell to find bits of broken glass, do you?" She laughed hopelessly.

James shook his head. "Look, just go to the bed. I'll take care of this."

"No thank you." She said again. James watched her, her eyes seemed droopy and tired, like she hadn't slept properly in days. He sat down on the couch and began to pick up piece of broken glass by hand. Lily took a seat next to him.

"You're stubborn." He pointed out.

"Yes, so I've heard." She said, yawning as she did so. James couldn't help but smile at her small yawn, and the way she brought her hand to her mouth as if to cover it.

He placed the larger pieces of glass on the table and turned to her. "I thought... I thought you left." He paused. "Not to sound rude, or anything. I'm ... we'll... I'm glad you're back... but... I mean..."

"Staying with Talia isn't right. It's not... home." She shrugged.

"And this is?" He asked, possibly more hopeful sounding than he had intended. "We must be one dysfunctional family."

"It beats The Leaky Cauldron." She shrugged.

"You're always welcome here, Lily." He smiled at her. Lily nodded.

"Thank you, James." She stared at the floor for a moment. "Listen..."

She paused again, as if debating what she really wanted to say, and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry for... for being so rude to you, I suppose."

"I probably deserved it." James muttered, slightly confused.

"No, no you didn't." Lily answered honestly. She had been feeling guilty since her encounter with Remus hours ago. She wasn't even sure how she'd managed to fall asleep in the first place, what with her conscious eating away at her and such. "I've been intolerable. It's just been hard."

"Since I've been home?" He asked.

"Since... well..." She paused, a lump in her throat. "Since you left, really."

James gulped.

"I ... well... I don't deserve you. You've been nothing but kind to me." She said quietly, staring staight out of the windows in front of her. The sun was rising in the distance.

"Deserve me?" James repeated. He was obviously dumbfounded as to what his ex-girlfriend was even talking about.

"Yes." She nodded. "I get it, now. I didn't, then. You didn't leave selfishly. You didn't leave to be the hero, like I'd built up in my head."

"I tried telling you this." He mentioned.

"I know."

"And you wouldn't listen."

"I know."

"I told you it was all for you."

"James, I know."

She squeezed her eyes shut, begging herself not to cry. How had she been so stupid? How had she let this become such a mess?

"Can we be friends again? I know... I know I don't deserve that. I don't deserve to even have you in my life. I've been awful... but... can we?" She asked, her eyes pleading into his.

He paused, his heart sinking. Friends. Friends with Lily Evans.

"Friends." He repeated. She nodded.

"I wont stay here, if you don't want me to..."

"No, Lily. You can stay." He assured her. "I'd love to be your friend."

"Thank you, James. Thank you for forgiving me." She leaned up and kissed his cheek.

The feeling of her lips on his skin was pure euphoria. It tingled as she pulled away.

They sat in silence for a few moments after that. Eventually, Lily's body loosened, and her head fell onto James shoulder, asleep. Her soft hair cascaded across his bare chest, his sweaty shirt was still forgotten on his bedside. He liked the way if felt... he missed the way it felt.

He let a smile play across his face. So she had forgiven him, he supposed. He wasn't sure what happened in the past 24 hours - she seemed to hate him earlier that day - but he would accept it. And now she was asking for forgiveness? He wasn't even sure what she had done wrong.

He pulled a strand of her hair away from her eyes. Luck was on his side, that night.

Eventually, he scooped her into his arms, and carried her to the bed, placing her gently as possible on top of it, and pulling the comforter above her. Bravely, he kissed her forehead and bid her goodnight. The dream he had woken up to was temporarily forgotten as he watched her sleep. It was almost astonishing to him how much he wanted to crawl into the bed beside her, and curl up next to her. His heart nearly ached for it. But, well, that wasn't something friends did.

He pulled himself away, knowing that if he didn't, he wouldn't catch a blink of sleep, and made his way to the reclining chair in the living room. It wasn't the most comfortable, but it would do. He could pick the pieces of glass from the couch tomorrow. Now... he had to sleep.

The next morning, when James awoke, a pot of tea was on the stove. The crick in his neck from sleeping in the chair suddenly didn't seem so bad.

Jen Riddle

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