The Sugar Quill
Author: Violet Azure (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: High Spirits: A Hogsmeade Tale  Chapter: Chapter 2: "First Round"
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The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Disclaimer: This story is for personal distribution

Disclaimer: This story is for personal distribution.  I don’t own, nor am I making any money off of, the wonderful creations of J.K. Rowling.  It’s her world and I’m just visiting.  All original characters are of my own creation.

 

A/N: Thank you so much to the SQ staff and to my to my awesome beta Doctor Aicha!!!

 

Ch. 2: First Round

 “We’re closed!”  Rosmerta yelled for the second time.  “We don’t reopen until five!”

 

The knocking continued and Rosmerta was getting highly annoyed.  She was standing on top of a table in the in the middle of the tavern, replacing the candles in the chandeliers when the knocking had started.  The hours were posted on the front door and anyone capable of reading could plainly see that they had missed lunch an hour ago.  Then again, if this imbecile couldn’t understand what “we’re closed” meant, then perhaps he couldn’t read either.

 

“I would like to speak with the owner!”  The muffled shout came from behind the thick oaken door.  The voice sounded determined. 

 

Rosmerta hesitated, but took her wand out of her pocket to do an Observation spell.  She conjured an image of her doorstep and saw a tall wizard about her age, dressed impeccably in deep green robes.  He was carrying a briefcase in his left hand.

 

Oh great, a saleswizard.

 

Climbing awkwardly down from the table, she strode over to the door and yanked it open.  She held her wand ready, put one hand on her hip and drawled, “In case you missed the sign next to the door and my shouting, let me reiterate it: we’re closed until five.”

 

The mid-September air had just taken on a bit of crispness and the coolness of the late afternoon air swept over her.  The wizard that stood on the threshold to the tavern was broad shouldered and stood a head above her.  He sandy hair was wavy and a few lines gathered around the corners of his hazel eyes.  The lines were more pronounced because he was smiling down at her.  His forest green robes were made of a finely blended cotton and wool and had a faint pattern of deeper green squares on it.

 

He may not understand simple English, but Merlin!  He sure can dress himself.

 

“Sorry to bother you, but I wanted to speak to the owner.  Is he here?”

 

Rosmerta stopped admiring his robes and fought the urge to turn him into something small and squishy.  She tilted her head back slightly and cocked it to the side.  Her eyes met his and she leisurely blinked a few times before answering. 

 

“She’s here.”

 

“Oh!”  The wizard had the sense to look properly embarrassed at his mistake.  He recovered his smile and gave her a short bow. 

 

“I’m Maxwell Hopper from the Cerberus Brewing Company and if you have a few moments I’d really like to talk to you about our line of Dragon’s Breath Beer.”  His voice was smooth and confident; he didn’t ooze the eager desperation and false boisterous cheer of most saleswizards.  He spoke as if he hadn’t just tried to break down her door a few moments ago and it was clearly her loss if she didn’t have a few moments to talk about the beer he was selling.  He held out his hand.

 

Rosmerta paused, considering whether or not to take him up on his offer.  Tuesdays were usually slow days, so she could give the wizard five minutes.  She switched her wand to her left hand and shook his hand firmly.  Without realizing it, she had worked herself up a bit to tell him off and she had tensed the way a body tightens and braces itself against the cold.  Upon touching him, warmth and… safety spread over her.  She inadvertently felt herself relaxing into the glow he radiated as if a cloak had been placed around her shoulders.   

She opened the door wider and gestured for him to come in. “You have five minutes to dazzle me,” she said walking over to a clean table with him behind her.  She sat and motioned for him to pull up a chair as well.  She placed her wand on the table and crossed her arms across her chest.  “I suggest you hurry, you’ve spent your first minute trying to knock my door off its hinges.”   The smile on her face showed that she wasn’t completely hostile, but there was a steely base underneath her teasing tone.

 

She could see the wheels in his heads turning as he re-thought how to redirect his pitch.  Her silence wasn’t helping matters much. 

 

“Well, Miss…”

 

Hmmm.  None of that “ ma’am” nonsense.  Someone taught him well.

 

“Demebach.”

 

“Well, Miss Demebach.  Take a look at this!”  He swiftly opened up his briefcase and whipped out a bottle.  Placing it on the table with the flourish of a magician revealing his final trick of the evening, he sat back and watched her reaction.  The bottle was beautiful and most unusual for, what Rosmerta assumed was, a beer bottle.  The background color was a pearly white and sparkled with flecks of green, yellow, scarlet and violet.  The bottle looked like it was carved out of one giant, magnificent opal.  Glittering and twinkling in the late afternoon sunlight that streamed through the windows, Rosmerta had to admit she had gotten what she asked for; she was dazzled.

 

A brief flash of admiration crossed her face before she caught herself and rearranged her features to form a placid, unimpressed mask.  Blithe dismissal was a rare natural born skill, and Rosmerta had worked long and hard at learning to treat all news as startling as “your head is on fire” with the same casual indifference as “the ocean is rather wet, don’t you agree?”  Along with Charms and Wizarding Art and Culture, Indifference was one of the subjects Rosmerta had been schooled in at Wurtzanhall.  In difference.  Differences could sometimes be good survival mechanisms, like the moths that turned gray to blend in with the growing air pollution; discrepancies in form or habit were often key for adaptation and the survival of the species.  Of course, then there were those who showed differences from the rest of the herd, and were deemed weak, or worse, dangerous to the survival of the group and had to be were sacrificed for the good of the herd.  Our need for survival, our ability to get rid of that discord in nature, hadn’t been tamed or domesticated out of us. Humans could sniff out this difference; use that knowledge to rip out one another’s throat without shedding a drop of blood.

 

In difference.  Indifference had been as critical a part to her survival as her wand.  Rosmerta knew how the body could betray its owner, a slight movement or mouth, eyes, or nose and an entire story was revealed by less than the sum of the parts.  Her mask of indifference rarely wavered; it was a look she had honed to perfection. 

 

“Opaleye Ale,” he was saying.  “One of our brands of Dragon’s Breath Beer.  This ale is a deep golden color,” here he pulled out a glass from his briefcase and poured the beer out.  The ale was a pretty shade the color of late afternoon sunlight and fizzled pleasantly.  “Its bitterness is balanced by the dry, fruity taste of peach and the tartness of lemon.  Please.” He gestured politely toward the glass, keeping her eyes locked with his.

 

Rosmerta hesitated.  She rarely drank.  Serving mead and wine and hard cider all day was enough to put her off on the stuff.  She had a Butterbeer now and then, and always sampled her homemade wine at the start of the season to make sure it was fit for consumption, but not when she had chores to do before opening. 

 

Deciding that just a sip wouldn’t hurt, Rosmerta unfolded her arms from across her chest and reached for the glass. Giving it a brief swirl and a sniff, she found the hoppy aroma pleasant and tinged with citrus.  She took a small sip and found the mix of bitter cut with the sweetness and dryness of peach quite pleasant.  She put the glass down and gave him an approving smile.

 

“All right, Mr. Hopper, you have my attention for another five minutes.  What else do you have in that briefcase?”  Rosmerta still kept her arms crossed loosely across her chest, but her smile now showed a hint of admiration and her imposed time limit was more of a tease now than a challenge. 

 

He appeared pleased with himself that he had managed to pass her test, and with a sense of renewed confidence, Maxwell pulled out several more bottles and glasses and went on to extol the virtues and tastes of the other beers in the line.  None of the other bottles were as pretty as the first one though.  Rosmerta favored the Short-Snout Stout in its blue-green bottle and the Herbridean Black and Tan along with the Opaleye (she didn’t care for the Romanian Longneck or the Norwegian Ridgeblack). 

 

“Well, Mr. Hopper, as intoxicating as this experience has been, I’m afraid I’ve got to get back to my work.”  Disappointment flickered across the wizard’s face before he recovered and put on a jovial smile.  “So, let’s get down to business,” Rosmerta finished.  “I like these three,” Rosmerta indicated her picks.  “But,” she looked him squarely in the eye “it doesn’t matter what I like, it matters what my customers like.  I’m not going to sign a contract until I get some feedback from my patrons.” She paused, waiting to see what sort of deal he would offer her.

 

He appeared to mull over her words, a glint of admiration in his eyes.  “Tell you what,” he said in his smooth baritone.  “I’ll supply you with a keg of each, even the ones you didn’t like.  That should be enough to get you to the weekend.  I’ll come back Monday and you can let me know what your order will be.”  He grinned, knowing it was an offer she couldn’t refuse.

 

That settles it-he is as sharp as he dresses!  Rosmerta leaned back in her seat and rested her arms on the arms of the chair.  She looked at him steadily before breaking out into a smile.  She gave him a nod and noted his triumphant, and relieved, expression.

 

“That sounds like an excellent plan except that we’re closed on Mondays.  I’ll owl you and let you know if my customers create the demand for your supply and then we can sit down and further discuss our relationship.” He nodded agreeably.  “When should I expect the samples?”

 

“We can have them sent tomorrow morning if you like.  What time do you open?”

 

“Eleven for lunch, but I get here at nine.  Half past nine would be a good time.”  Wednesday night Quidditch would be the perfect atmosphere to debut the beers, a fairly large crowd usually turned up to hear the matches. 

 

“Excellent, excellent.  Thank you for your time Miss Demebach.  Here’s my card if you need to get in touch with me.  And please, call me Max.” 

 

He handed Rosmerta a white card with what looked like a very friendly picture of Fluffy, Hagrid’s old pet, on it.  The black lettering arced over the beast and spelled out “Cerberus Brewing Company” in simple, bold print.  The words and pictured flickered, then changed into a black and white sketch of three men with their arms around each other.  One of the men looked like Max.  Each was holding a pint of beer in their hands.  The beers were in color, ranging from pale yellow to a deep brown, and each had a thick layer of foam on top.  The words above them had changed to: “Because three heads are better than one!” and an address appeared along the bottom in smaller print.

 

“Oh, how charming!  What inspired the name?”

 

“My two brothers and I all started this company together.  I came up with the name when we all explained to our parents that three heads working together were better than one and it stuck.  My brother, Dennis, was the one who got us started.  He’s the brew master,” Max indicated the man in the middle of the sketch. 

 

“My other brother, Edward, does the accounting and paperwork,” Max pointed to the other man in the sketch who was a little taller than the other two and wearing horn-rimmed glasses.  “I’m in charge of sales and marketing and public relations.  We’re been selling our beer at our brewery in Bristol, but have begun branching out these past two years.  We’re still fairly small, but we’ve just landed a big contract with the Leaky Cauldron.”  He sounded very proud of the business and his brothers. 

 

They both rose and he and began charming the glasses empty and clean. “Dennis was with The Mythology Brewing Company for about twenty years before he decided to open up his own business and Edward and I followed.  Have you heard of The Mythology Brewing Company?  They make Poseidon Porter and Athena’s Ale.”  He looked at her as he was tucking away the glasses in his briefcase.

 

“Yes.”  Her tone was even and her lips barely moved from behind their mask.  “I’m familiar with it.”  The Mythology Brewing Company was one of Ogden’s subsidiaries. 


Max did not seem to notice her tight smile.  “I’ll leave the bottles with you, to display above the bar.  You can expect a delivery at half past nine tomorrow, sharp.  Thank you very much.  It has been a real pleasure.  Truly.”  He grasped her hand.  She registered a brief flash of pleasure at being once again engulfed in his firm but gentle handshake, but her thoughts were occupied with candles she had to replace and the pork loin that needed seasoning.  If she hurried she could do her accounting for the lunch crowd before the dinner one arrived.

 

“Well, it was a pleasure for me too, Mr. Hopper.  But I do need to get ready for tonight,” Rosmerta said in her business voice, extracting her hand from his.  Max seemed reluctant to let it go.  He snapped his briefcase shut. 

 

“So how long have you owned the Three Broomsticks?”

 

“A long time.” She began walking over the door and Max took that as a cue to follow her. 

 

“You’ll hear from me one way or the other by early next week,” Rosmerta informed him.

 

“Well, I hope it’s good news.” He flashed another one of his broad smiles, his eyes focused on hers.  He lingered a minute, but sensed she was not in the mood to chat further.  Bidding her good day, he tipped the brim of his hat to her and Disapparated.  Rosmerta watched him disappear and then returned to the candles.

 

*          *          *

 

The beers were a smashing success that week and all the samples were gone by closing time Saturday night.  Partially, it was due to their novelty, partially because Rosmerta had run out of strawberry wine. 

 

No matter what the weather was like outside, the summer didn’t officially end for Rosmerta until the last cask of strawberry wine had been emptied and the current batch was a year away from being ready to serve.  Rosmerta measured the seasons in drinks: fall began when she served the first batch of fresh, hard apple cider.  Winter had truly arrived when the first hot toaddy was ordered, usually by old Mr. Strunk who ran the post office and was susceptible to colds.  Spring started with the first glass of elderberry wine and summer was in full swing once the strawberry wine was ready to be served.  She made blueberry wine as well, but just one cask and that was usually gone by mid-July.  Butterbeer and her famous mulled mead were served year round.

 

That Monday Rosmerta rose late and took her morning tea and toast outside at a table she had set up in her garden.  She could usually breakfast in the garden until the first week in October.  That first Monday when she ate at the dining room table was always a little sad.  Queenie was settled on the back of her chair, munching on the Rosmerta’s crusts.  Queenie preferred to sleep until the afternoon, but whenever her mistress was home Queenie made an effort to keep her company.  Queenie also seemed to enjoy spending time in the garden; it gave her a chance to fly around without actually working.

 

The late September weather necessitated the wearing of a light jumper with her trousers.  Rosmerta only wore Muggle clothing when she worked in her garden and today she had planned to do a degnoming and repair the fairyhouse in the center of the garden.  She loved her garden.  She grew tulips and daffodils in the spring, lilies bent heavy with scent in the late spring and early summer and mums in the fall.  Dotted throughout the garden were snapdragons, lady slippers, foxglove and belladonna.  A small herb garden was close to the house where she grew mint, chives and basil; the fresh herbs were used at the Three Broomsticks.  She didn’t have the time to devote to a full vegetable garden, but the tomato plants and pumpkins didn’t need much tending.

 

Of all her flowers, her roses were her favorite and they were much admired by the villagers.  The red and white ones were in the front, but the pink ones were in the back.  The pink rose was the flower of her old house, Granterra.

 

Like Hogwarts, Wurtzanhall had four houses: Celestari, Marinius, Granterra and Zepharia.  Admission to each was based more on status than traits admired by long dead founders, although that was never stated outright.  Students were not Sorted in their first year as they were at Hogwarts.  Rather, all the first years lived together and got to know the members of the houses over the year.  There were weekly teas for the first years and every first year girl had at least one Sponsor, an older girl who helped introduce her to members of the Sponsor’s house.  A girl’s Sponsor could make or break her future at the school. 

 

At the end of the year, the first years wrote down in preferential order the houses to which they wanted to belong and the members of the houses also created a list of girls they wanted via a secret vote.  Then, based on the matches, girls were Selected for their houses.  This process served to teach the women the importance of social relationships.  This knowledge would serve them well in the outside world where partnerships and alliances would be made between families. 

 

Although the Selection was made based on status and supposed friendships, certain personalities were drawn to certain houses.  Celestari was ranked highest and attracted the women from the oldest families.  More often than not the first years that applied to this house had a long line of mothers, sisters, grandmothers and aunts who had been members and it was a guarantee they too would become members.  Zepharia was ranked lowest and the women who were the first in their families to attend the school were often members of this house.  In Rosmerta’s time, there was even a half-blood, Lucinda Lynhart, in that house.  Lucinda’s Muggle mother had been a famous opera star.  Lucinda brought some of fame’s luster to the school and in her own brassy way brought some notability to Zepharia house.

 

The other two houses, Marinius and Granterra, switched in status and were more or less considered equal, although Granterra attracted women who were a bit on the athletic side and enjoyed being outdoors.  Rosmerta expected to be in Zepharia and probably would have been Selected for that house if Zippy hadn’t died.

 

Zippy was her pet Crup and had been in the family since she was born.  Rosmerta had a little basket on her broom and the two of them would go off on adventures around the meadow near the house.  Zippy loved chasing fairies and his favorite foods were frogs and old newspapers.  He slept at the foot of her bed and woke her every morning with a cold nose in her ear.  It was hard to get used to waking up without him when she went off to school.  The only time she had ever been mad at him was when he tore the head off her Wendy Witch doll but she had forgiven him by the next morning. She had wanted to bring him to school with her, but Crups weren’t on the list of acceptable pets.

 

She had been crying in the bathroom after breakfast.  Her parents had sent her a letter telling her that Zippy had been out in the meadow and a rabid raccoon bit him.  By the time Zippy had made it back home, he had been too ill for the magivet to do anything except put him out of his misery.  Rosmerta had read this in the letter and bolted to the bathroom before she began sobbing.  That’s where she was when she met Daphne Greenleaf.

 

“What’s the matter?” A girl of about sixteen came out of a stall and looked at Rosmerta with concern.  Her hair was strawberry blonde and her eyes were a bright blue.  The badge of Granterra was on her robes.  It was a golden sheaf of wheat bound with a light green ribbon against a darker green background; above that was a pink rose in the center of a banner with Rune writing.  When Rosmerta became a member, she learned that the writing was the house motto: “From seedling to blossom.” 

 

Daphne was just old enough to feel protective of the younger girl and had reached the age where she was above the Selection games in which the younger girls engaged.  Daphne exuded that poise and self-assurance that was only imparted to those who were fully secure and confident of their place in the world.

 

“My Crup, Zippy, died,” she said tears still streaming down her face.  “He was bit by a raccoon.”  She broke down crying again.  

 

“What’s your name?”

 

“Lizzie Ogden,” Rosmerta sniffed. 

 

Maybe it was the unguarded way she addressed the older girl, or the fact that Daphne had a Crup of her own, but Daphne took a liking to the young girl.  She eventually became her Sponsor and introduced her to the other members of the house.  Rosmerta found the members of Granterra friendly and more down to earth than the members of other houses.  They also liked flying and hiking just as much as she did.  Rosmerta became good friends with Maria Cournicopietti, whose family’s villa had the most beautiful vineyard. 

 

The houses, Sister Porcipinus explained, incorporate the elements because as witches they needed to know and understand the elements in order to manipulate them.  One had to master the basic elements before combining them and building upon them when they learned more complex magic, she explained.  Sister Porcipinus was the Headmistress and Charms teacher.  She was a member of the Daughters of Circee, an order of witches devoted to education and the spread of witchcraft and wizardry.  Tall and angular with a beaky nose and sharp hawk-like eyes that were quick to spot furtive notes passed in class, Sister Porcupines was stern with the younger girls, but warmed up to the older girls who would soon be alumni and capable of donating a new library or endowment to the school.

 

Rosmerta finished her tea and toast, tied back her thick shoulder length hair, and got to work chucking gnomes into the pitch near her house while Queenie swooped overhead.  After a quick shower, she set to work writing up some orders, answering some letters and tidying the kitchen.

 

“Feel like going out?” she asked Queenie, stroking her feathers.

 

Queenie answered by flying back to her perch and settling her head under her wing.

 

“Oh, you need a nap already?  Eating breakfast must be really tough work.  All that fresh air must have worn you out this morning.”

 

Queenie poked her head out and gave Rosmerta a dirty look before rearranging her wings. 

 

Rosmerta laughed.  “All right, you sleep.  I’ll leave these letters on the table.  This one goes to Gladrags,” she held up a blue envelope.  “And this one,” she held up a light green one, “goes to Mr. Tindle.”  Mr. Tindle was the village wood supplier and Rosmerta placed her order once a week.  She had increased it to accommodate the progressively cooling fall nights.  Rosmerta could easily deliver the letters herself since she was heading into town to run a few errands before heading to London to do her banking, but it really was a bird’s job to do such things.  Rosmerta had to remind her pet from time to time exactly who was in charge.

 

Rosmerta got dressed in dark yellow robes of light wool trimmed in matching tartan.  She grabbed her broom and flew off.  The wind brought a healthy pink to her cheeks and whipped through her hair.  She took the long way around the village, waving to the few people who were out.  She landed outside of Dervish and Banges, charmed her hair into a loose bun and went in. 

 

“Hello, gorgeous!” a loud cheerful voice greeted her.  Russell Banges, one of the owners, waved at her from the counter where he was scribbling on a parchment.  Russell was about her age, tall with dark brown hair and a prominent chin.  He had a strong personality and to those who weren’t used to him he could be a bit overbearing, but he was a good man at heart.

 

“Hi, Russ!” Rosmerta propped up her broom in the broom rack.  “How are things?”

 

“Just lovely.  We just got some new wand polish in.  Oh, and a powder to remove chizpurfles.  Mr. Strunk said he had some luck with it, even if the feathers fell out of a couple of birds.  They’re bald now but should be fine in a few days.  Your bird having any trouble with them?”

 

“No,” Rosmerta smiled.  “I don’t think a chizpurfle would dare bother Queenie.” And I think she’d peck my eyes out if she went bald.

 

Even though she knew most of the merchandise by heart, she still browsed around the store for a while, and chatted with Russell.  Nothing new caught her eye, so she just bought the Floo powder she needed.  Bidding Russell a good day, she took off to the post-office.

 

Iris Strunk ran the post-office along with her husband, Herman.  Iris was privy to quite a bit of knowledge about the village inhabitants and felt it was her civic duty to share this knowledge with the other townsfolk.  If you were late sending your Aunt Matilda’s birthday gift or hadn’t invited Cousin Bethany to your wedding, Iris knew about it.  She also kept tabs on how often you wrote to your mother and who was on your Christmas card list.  Rosmerta tried to use the post-office only when it was absolutely necessary.

 

Rosmerta read over the letter she had written on thick cream-colored parchment before she sent it off:

 

Dear Mr. Hopper,

 

The samples you provided me with this past week were well received by my regular customers.  The ale and stout were particularly popular.  Would a representative from your company be available for a meeting this week, preferably before Thursday?

 

Rosmerta smiled before adding, I have been sufficiently dazzled.  She signed her name and addressed the envelope using the card Max had given her and got into the short line of customers waiting to send off their letters.

 

“Hello, Madam Rosmerta!  Bristol, hmmm?  Are you ordering something new for the Three Broomsticks?” Iris looked at the address before placing the letter on the brass scale.

 

No, mulling mead was getting a bit boring so I just decided to start a correspondence course in beer making. 

“Yes, thought I’d introduce a few new things, liven the place up a bit.  I should be getting customers from all over what with the Tournament coming up next month,” was what she said instead.

 

“Ooooh, yes!  Very exciting that’ll be!  Never thought the Tournament would be played again.  My great-grandmother told me stories about it and now I’ll get to see it!  Any talk at the Broomsticks as to who the Hogwarts champion will be?”

 

“Not much, though Hagrid’s hoping for a Gryffindor.  Too bad those older Weasley boys have already left, I think that Bill would have made a fine champion.”

 

“Well, there are still a few of those Weasley boys in school.  One came in last year and checked to see how much an owl would cost to Cairo.  Did you know that Bill is in Egypt now?”

 

“Yes, Iris.  I believe Hagrid mentioned it to me.” Rosmerta once again vowed to herself to never tell Iris so much as her favorite flavor of ice cream.  “I wonder if the twins could enter together.  Those two always leave me in stitches when they come by on Hogsmeade weekends and I’m sure they can’t resist having the entire school, plus two new ones, for an audience!”

 

“Hmmm, haven’t met those two yet but I’ve heard they’re quite a handful.  They do keep Mr. Zonko in business.  One Sickle, three Knuts,” Iris said. 

 

Rosmerta handed over the silver and bronze coins and headed back out.  She flew off, thinking about other students who had once passed through her tavern.  The twins reminded her so much of James Potter and his friend, Sirius Black, except Potter and Black hadn’t tried to turn their Butterbeer into rum punch when they were third years.  The twins ended up sopping wet and Rosmerta had to fight very hard to keep from laughing as she delivered a stern lecture about underage drinking while Butterbeer dripped off their identical noses. 

 

Rosmerta had yet to meet James and Lily’s son, the famous Harry Potter.  Hagrid had told her all about the boy, his voice full of pride.  She suspected some of Hagrid’s stories about the boy had been highly exaggerated—really now, how many pre-teen wizards could slay a basilisk or tangle with Fluffy and not lose a limb?  She had believed the stories about his Quidditch prowess; James had been a star Chaser in his day. She was looking forward to seeing the boy in the flesh last year—and then all that horrid business with Sirius Black happened.  The town had been on edge for the entire year.  It was just like the days when You-Know-Who was in power, except people couldn’t go to the tavern to relieve their tension because of the restricted operating hours and Dementors patrolling the village.  She had been very surprised, but thankful, that Professor Dumbledore had allowed the Hogsmeade weekends to continue.  Minerva notified her that Harry was not allowed to go into Hogsmeade and Rosmerta privately agreed.  She was very curious to see the famous Harry Potter and was hoping he could visit this year now that Black was nowhere to be seen.  Minerva mentioned Harry was friends with the youngest Weasley boy; she’d just have to keep an eye out for that flaming red hair.  Even in the throngs of students that crammed into the tavern on Hogsmeade weekends she could still spot a Weasley a mile away.    

 

Checking her watch, Rosmerta decided she had some time to browse at Bangles and Bobbins, the jewelry and fine arts store before Apparating to London.  Earrings were her favorite.  Rings were no good since her hands were often wet or engaged in cooking.  Necklaces always managed to hide themselves under robes or bounced and clacked against her chest as she bustled around.  Pins were out of fashion, but she still had her house pin even though she didn’t wear it.  It was in the shape of a circle formed out of golden vines twisting around each other and studded with small emeralds and diamonds. 

 

Ruby Perlman, the owner of Bangles and Bobbins, was the only Muggle in the entire village.  Her husband, Thomas, was a wizard and she had adjusted to wizarding life quite well.  Thomas was the town’s mediwizard but he painted in his spare time.  They had met at an artists’ fair in SoHo.  Ruby had come over to admire his paintings and the two of them had hit it off immediately.  Most people just assumed Ruby was a Squib, and since Thomas was thirty years older than her, no one had noticed the difference in aging yet. The two of them were a lovely young couple and often had dinner at the Three Broomsticks with their daughter, Miranda. 

 

A small bell tinkled when Rosmerta walked into the store.  Ruby came out of the back room with thick goggles on over her eyes and a smock on.  Her long auburn hair was tied back and she was holding what looked like a blowtorch. 

 

“Hi, Ruby.  Roasting marshmallows?”

 

“Nope, just some metal.  I’m working on a few small sculptures.  It’s a new line I’m creating.” She pushed her goggles on top of her head and grinned broadly.  “Anything I can help you with?”

 

“No, just indulging in some browsing.  This store does horrible things to my bank account.”

 

Ruby laughed and set the torch down on the counter.  “Well, I’m sure you can write it off as a business expense.  We can’t have the owner of an establishment like yours looking like a hag!”

 

Rosmerta shuddered inwardly, thinking about hags.  It was as if something cold with too many legs slithered down her back whenever they came in to the tavern.  Their pointy, warty noses were hidden under thick scarves even in the hottest summers.  They mumbled their orders or else unwound their scarves and revealed mouths with sharp mossy teeth and chins with protruding hairs.  Queasiness would settle over her as she watched them slurp down the plates of raw liver.  One had come in once with a craving for raw cow intestines.  Hags upset her so much because Rosmerta hated to think she lived in a world where such ugliness existed.  

 

“Merlin forbid.  How’s your daughter?” Rosmerta glanced up from the earring display where she had been admiring a pair with dangly gold stars and moons.

 

“Oh, she’s just a doll,” Ruby gushed.  “She loves school and Tom is teaching her how to fly her first broomstick.  She drew that.” Ruby pointed to a picture behind the counter of a dragon.  The crayons had been enchanted so that the dragon blew fire.  “I was worried how the other kids would react if they found out she was a half-blood, but so far there haven’t been any problems,” she said, sounding quite relieved.

 

“Good.  She certainly inherited your talents.” Rosmerta nodded her head in the direction of the drawing.

 

“Oh yes.  She also had a fondness for the jewelry.  She plays dress up when she thinks I’m not looking.  Just yesterday after school she was sitting in the back coloring and she was wearing about a hundred Galleons worth of necklaces and bracelets.  She looked like the Queen of Sheba!”

 

Picturing the six year-old decked out, Rosmerta laughed heartily along with Ruby. 

 

“Go on with your shopping,” Ruby waved.  “I’ll be in back if you need me.”  She secured the goggles on back over her eyes, picked up her torch and headed back to her workroom.

 

Rosmerta strolled around the shop, looking but not really seeing Ruby’s creations.  The sculptures were pretty, abstract sweeps of bronze and copper.  They were a bit extravagant for an impulse buy, but she made a mental note for Christmas.  She still spoke with the younger of her two brothers and exchanged occasional cards and gifts with him.

 

Thaddeus was the eldest followed by Philip and then Rosmerta.  Thaddeus was the business’s heir and when their father died six years ago, officially took over the business.  Thaddeus was ten years older than her, but Philip was only four years older.  Growing up, Thaddeus lived in a world apart from her.  He was a perpetual adult in her mind; off at school during her childhood, and then off at work with their father.  He never had time to go riding or flying with her when she was home on breaks.  On the bright side, it also meant that he was too busy to tease her, unlike Philip who would on occasion hide tadpoles in her tea set or sneak up behind her and drop mice down her robes.  For the most part though, she and Philip got along very well.  Philip would keep her company, racing her around the meadow and seeing who could do the most daring tricks on their brooms.  Philip was especially good at dives.  

 

“Come on now, shh, shh, stop crying.  You’re better than all that,” Philip was one of the few comforts when she found out about her husband’s mistress and other… indiscretions.  Philip was the only one who agreed she was doing the right thing when she filed for divorce.  He kept quiet when she began carrying on with someone closer to her age and was the one who finally spoke sense into her about her own behavior.

           

Deciding to forgo the earrings, Rosmerta called out a good-bye to Ruby, raising her voice to be heard over the noise of the blowtorch.  She flew off toward home, the autumn sunlight bright in the sky above.

 

*          *          *

 

Every Monday, Rosmerta Apparated into London to do her banking.  It was a pain really, and she wished for the hundredth time that Gringotts would just open up a branch in Hogsmeade.  Rosmerta was not fond of Apparating, she much preferred her broomstick or even Floo, but it was a necessity for the London trips.  She had toyed with the idea of buying a car, she loved cars, but it would be rather wasteful since she would only really need it for the trips into London.  It would be a little showy for the village and she didn’t want people commenting on how business must be going so well that she could afford such a purchase.  She would also have to charm it to ensure she could do a round trip in one day.    

 

With a small pop she found herself in the alley behind the Leaky Cauldron.  She tapped the brick wall and headed into Diagon Alley.  The crowds always irritated her; they were different than her Broomsticks crew.  Even though the regulars at the Broomsticks kept her hopping, they were mostly a friendly crowd.  They all knew her.  The crowds in Diagon Alley jostled her and elbowed her in the ribs and reminded her that she was alone except for the rare occasion when she ran into someone she knew, usually someone from Hogwarts who had been an old customer, and remembered her even though she more often than not couldn’t remember them.  These weekly trips to London were one of the reasons that she started her tea ritual with Maddie.

 

Madeline Harrison was the proprietor of Lorelei’s Lair, but had briefly worked at the Three Broomsticks long before Rosmerta took over.  Maddie was an excellent cook and the one who taught Rosmerta the secret for the roast chicken the tavern was known for (half a stick of butter in the cavity while it roasts and a 2/3 cup Butterbeer for basting).  Rosmerta had been suspicious at first of Maddie’s willingness to help when she first took over the tavern.  She assumed the older witch was just trying to sabotage her business since Maddie ran the competing tavern.

 

Oh honey, Maddie had laughed at Rosmerta’s reluctance for help.  There are two ways into a man’s pocket.  One way is through his stomach, and I’d much prefer it if you took care of that.  As for the other way…well leave it to me!  She had given one of her booming laughs when Rosmerta had blushed furiously.  As Maddie explained to Rosmerta, she made quite a good living off of the liquor, gambling and other… amusements her establishment provided. She had no desire to branch out into the family market and the responsibilities that came with running a kitchen as well as a bar; the Three Broomsticks had always fulfilled that need for the village.  It’s like cooking love; you’ve got to balance your tastes.  You’re the sugar and I’m the spice!  If you don’t provide the sweet, well then I’ll just have to and I simply can’t cook and entertain!  I’d much rather run my place and have you run yours, just promise not to allow too much “fun” at the Broomsticks! 

 

Maddie enjoyed cooking, but not working as a cook and had pursued other interests and odd jobs before coming to Hogsmeade fifty years ago.  Rumor had it that she was once a showgirl and had even appeared in some Muggle picture things called “moveeze.”  Over the years the two women had struck up a good working relationship; Maddie often purchased Rosmerta’s homemade wine and in turn Rosmerta didn’t allow gambling at the Three Broomsticks and often sent her rowdier customers down to the Lair (making sure that they mentioned “Rosmerta sent us”).   

 

No one openly admitted frequenting the Lair, but it was obvious by Maddie’s success that people were visiting the pub and not just the out-of-towners.  Maddie had a sharp wardrobe, although she preferred brighter colors and patterns than what Rosmerta favored.  Maddie’s favorite robes were covered in gold sparkles and trimmed with lime green Fwooper feathers.  Maddie was short and voluptuous, a few shades slimmer than stout.  Her hair was a shade of red that was only found in nature.  Of course “nature” in this instance referred to the backside of a baboon.  She was about thirty years older than Rosmerta, but only looked five years older, and had a raucous, infectious laugh.  She hardly ever addressed anyone by his or her first name; she preferred “love”, “dear”, or “sweetie”.  Rosmerta adored her.

 

They met once a week, at half past four, for tea after the bank had closed.  Rosmerta hurried up the stairs to the bank, her pouch banging against her waist and the heels of her boots clacking on the marble stairs.  She greeted the goblin that held the door open for her and entered the bank.  When a free window opened up, she greeted the teller in Gobbledegook.  The goblin looked suspiciously at her as he did the transaction but did bid her a good day and gave her a curt nod when she said goodbye in their native tongue.

 

Glancing at her watch, Rosmerta hurried along to the coffee shop where she was meeting Maddie.    She wondered what her old schoolmates would think of Maddie.  They would probably be horrified, Rosmerta thought gleefully, but at least I’m putting my networking skills to good use. 

 

Thyme and Honey was a small shop with only a few tables.  It was close to the bank, so the women frequently met here.  Rosmerta thought the display of old-fashioned hats on the walls was charming and the shop made the best toffee crumb cake.  Maddie was at a table by the window in robes of ruffled plum when Rosmerta entered.  A pot of tea was already on the table. 

 

“Sorry I’m late,” Rosmerta apologized breathlessly. 

  

“That’s alright, dear.  That just means I get to decide what we’ll be eating.  Darjeeling?”  She held up the pot. 

 

“Please,” Rosmerta edged her cup forward.  “Ooooh, cinnamon scones!”  She placed one on her plate. 

 

The two women chatted about their businesses for a bit and exchanged gossip about the townspeople as they sipped their tea.  Maddie usually had the more interesting tidbits to share. 

 

“How’s that waitress of yours working out?”

 

“Oh, Hester’s a love.  A little quiet, but she’s a good worker.  I’m getting so spoiled having her around!”

 

“She lives with the Porters, right?”

 

“Yes, she rents a room there.”

 

“Humph.  Well, I’m glad to see Herb has taken a break from writing letters to the editor about why I’m the evilest thing to hit the wizarding world since You-Know-Who.  Honestly, if he only knew what some of my girls have been through, he’d stop referring to them as ‘Medusa’s spawn’.”

 

“I think the grandchildren have been keeping him busy.  Hester told me they’re often over and are a bit of a handful.”

 

The two women were silent for a moment.  Rosmerta was wondering if grandchildren would ever occupy her time or if the closest she’d ever get to children would be the waves of students that poured in on Hogsmeade weekends.

 

“I had the most interesting visitor this week, quite a snappy dresser.  Represented a brewery,” Maddie was saying.

 

“He came by the Broomsticks too!” Rosmerta chimed in.  Rosmerta guessed it was highly unlikely that two different well-dressed beer saleswizards had passed through the village.

 

“Quite full-bodied.  And the beer wasn’t bad either!” Maddie laughed heartily and Rosmerta was surprised to feel her cheeks redden.

 

“Are you going to do business with him?” Rosmerta asked, praying that the blush in her cheeks would subside.

 

“Hmmm, I’m not sure yet.  I already sell the ones from Mythology, but I certainly wouldn’t mind having that saleswizard come by again to convince me.  I might give one or two a shot, you?”

 

“Well, I haven’t decided which ones I’m ordering for sure, but probably the ale and one of the darker beers.  You know the locals- they can only handle so much excitement in one year.  The samples he gave me were a big hit with the regulars.”

 

“He gave you samples?” Maddie peered at Rosmerta over the rim of her cup.  “Which ones?”

 

“All of them, five different in all.  A keg each.  Didn’t you get any?”

 

“Just one mixed case.  He must really want to do business with you,” Maddie fixed her brown eyes on Rosmerta and raised her penciled brows. 

 

The blush that had been subsiding rose again.  “He was no more friendly than most saleswizards.  I think he was just trying to be nice since he stopped by uninvited.  I think he could tell I was a bit perturbed at being interrupted.”

 

“Mmmhmm.  Is he coming back?”

 

“Well, I sent a letter today so I’m expecting a representative to come by this week.  I need to hear the numbers before I make any final decisions.”

 

“Well,” Maddie said, “let’s toast to your new venture.  I hope it’s a very successful one.”  There was a sly grin on her face, which Rosmerta pointedly ignored, as she raised her teacup in mock salute.  

     

*          *          *

 

The next day, Rosmerta was levitating two trays and carrying another when Max walked into the tavern. 

 

“Oh!  Mr. Hopper!  I wasn’t expecting you so soon!  I thought you would have sent an owl,” Rosmerta said over her shoulder as she set down bowls of stew and plates of chops. 

 

“I received your owl this morning.  I was in the neighborhood, and thought I’d stop by…while you were open this time.  I can come back later if you’re busy.” He flashed her that smile that made the corner of his eyes crinkle and butterfly wings flap in her stomach.

 

“My, my, what prompt service,” she said straightening up and tucking the three trays, which were now empty, under her arm.  “I am in the middle of the lunch rush so-”

 

“Rosmerta, can I get some ketchup?”

 

“Here you are, Thomas,” Rosmerta Banished a bottle over to his table. 

 

“Rosmerta, how about another Butterbeer?”

 

“Sure, Cecil!”  Rosmerta strode to the bar with an apologetic smile to Max.  She filled a tankard and Banished it over to Cecil Parker, editor of the town newspaper.

 

Max approached the bar.  Rosmerta took in his deep gray robes trimmed with a dark red paisley print at the cuff and hem.  Instead of a wizard’s pointy hat, he was wearing a gray fedora. 

 

Very nice, she thought.  Most of the villagers wore plain work robes all the time and she had gotten used to being the town trendsetter, although she did get a lot of help from her friend who owned Gladrags.  Sharply dressed wizards were a rarity in town and no matter what some of the other witches said, Gilderoy Lockhart did not count.  She remembered when he had taught at Hogwarts a few years ago.  He had shown up one weekend wearing almost the exact same robes as her.  Pink was a lovely color, one of her favorites, but there were boundaries that just should not be crossed.  Lockhart had born a very strong resemblance to Queenie in his robes.  Unfortunately, unlike Queenie, Lockhart didn’t come with a Silencing Charm.

 

“Perhaps I should come back when you’re less occupied?” Max asked, watching Rosmerta wash out mugs.

 

“How about at half past two?  I’ll give you ten minutes this time.”  She looked up from the small sink, her blue eyes twinkling.

 

“Ten whole minutes?  You must have really liked the Opaleye.”

 

“Well, I have a soft spot for them. I have a great pair of Antipodean hide boots, they go with everything.”

 

“So does our ale.”  He grinned at her and Rosmerta found that she was having a hard time controlling the foolish grin that threatened to spread across her face.

 

“Did your ancestors sell beachfront property to the Atlantians?” 

 

Before she could find out about Max’s ancestors, someone called out for a new fork, another for a saltshaker and another signaled for the bill. 

 

“Half past two?” she called over her retreating shoulder. 

 

“Until then,” he replied with a tip of his hat before stepping outside to Apparate.  

 

  *        *          *

 

Half-past two sharp, Max was outside the tavern door.  Rosmerta ushered him in and offered him a cup of tea.  He accepted it graciously and the two of them settled down at a table to discuss business.

 

“So, how long have you and your brothers owned your company?”

 

“Seven years, but Dennis spent the first three really developing the beer.  Edward and I continued to work part-time until we were ready to sell to the public.  We actually sell to a few Muggle pubs except we use a different set of bottles and cards that are not charmed.  Those Muggle study classes came in handy.  Good old Professor Jones.”

 

“Have you ever seen a real Cerberus?”  Rosmerta asked.

 

“No, have you?”

 

“Yes, Hagrid the Hogwarts gamekeeper- do you remember him- used to have one.  Good thing I know how to play the piano!” She gave a laugh.

 

Max frowned, “Ogg used to be the gamekeeper.  I remember this huge apprentice he had.”

 

“That’s Hagrid!  He’s taken over from Ogg and he was made a professor last year.  He’s a dear, but he has this unfortunate habit of picking pets based on how much bodily harm they can inflict.”

 

“You know, I’m surprised I don’t remember you from Hogwarts,” Max looked at her thoughtfully.  “Which house were you in?”

 

“What makes you think we were there at the same time?  You could have been an important upperclassmen before I was ever sorted,” she kept up her teasing tone, not feeling like launching into her educational history.

 

“That’s true.  I’m fifty-seven, so it’s possible we missed each other.  Pity.”

 

Oh yes we did.  I hope he thinks he was the first to graduate.  “Well, let me see if I can guess your house.  You’ve certainly worked hard at convincing me to sign with your company, so…Hufflepuff?”

 

“No!” Max sounded slightly outraged.

 

“What’s wrong with Hufflepuff?” Rosmerta narrowed her eyes.

 

“Nothing,” he said hastily.  “Um, hard work is just one of my many admirable qualities.”

 

“Mmmhmm.  Ravenclaw?”

 

“Dennis and Edward were members.  You have one more chance to guess.”

 

“Slytherin?” she sounded a little doubtful, but he was ambitious, and cunning in a rather intelligent way.

 

“Correct!”

 

“Do I win a prize?” Rosmerta teased. 

 

“Maybe… how about robes with the Cerberus logo?”

 

“Mmm, I’ll pass,” Rosmerta wrinkled her nose elegantly.  “You know, you should talk to my waitress, Hester, some time.  She just left Hogwarts, she was a Slytherin too.”

 

“Really?  I wonder if they still sing the same Quidditch song.  How did it go?  ‘Oh we’re ever so cunning/The best you’ve ever seen/We keep the Quaffle scoring/The silver and the green.’”  He shrugged.  “That’s part of it, I think.  I’ll have to see if your waitress will join me in a few verses some time.”

 

They talked about Quidditch for a while.  Rosmerta was a life long Harpies fan and Max mainly supported the Kestrels, but soon they were engaged in a debate about every team in the league.  He teased her when she for defended the Cannons (“You might want to get behind a team that has won a game this century”) and she expressed mock outrage at his support of the Hawks (“They play such a dirty game!  They’re evil!”).  The two of them playfully argued about which team was better until almost half an hour had passed.  Rosmerta ended up signing a six-month contract for the stout, longneck, and her favorite, the ale.  She signed on for both kegs and bottles.  Max was very pleased. 

 

“I’ll check on you in a few weeks, make sure you’re happy.  Deliveries will be every Tuesday morning.  Please owl me if you have any questions or problems.”  He kept shaking Rosmerta’s hand as he said this, reluctant to let go.  Rosmerta found, to her great surprise, that she really didn’t want to let go either.  Finally, she broke contact and apologetically explained that she had work to do before the dinner crowd arrived.  She had spent so much time talking with Max that she wouldn’t be able to balance the lunch recites and would have twice as much work that night.  She groaned inwardly and began ushering him to the door.

 

“So, you never told me about your ancestors,” she teased when they were in the doorway.  “Are you upholding the family honor?”

 

“How about I tell you over dinner some time?” 

 

Rosmerta wasn’t expecting that as an answer.  “Oh, well, sometime, sure.  I couldn’t now, not unless you wanted to eat out of a pot.  I really do need to get those glasses clean before the dinner crowd comes by.  Hester, my waitress, usually helps, but she has the night off, so I’m really busy.”  Why was she so flustered?  Coming up with witty brush-offs had become like a sport to her.

 

“Well…until some time,” Max tipped his hat and disappeared with a soft pop, leaving Rosmerta with more than dishes on her mind.

//
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