The Sugar Quill
Author: Violet Azure (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Black Cloud in a Blue Sky  Chapter: Chapter 1: We're in for Nasty Weather
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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.

“Come on

Disclaimer: I do not own the creations of J.K. Rowling, nor am I making any money off of her characters.  It’s her universe; I’m just visiting.  All original characters are of my own creation.

 

Although this is set one year earlier, characters and events in this story were first described in High Spirits: A Hogsmeade Tale.  You can read this without having read High Spirits.

 

 

 

Chapter 1: We’re in For Nasty Weather

 

 

 

“Come on everyone!  Let’s give it one more try!”

 

In the middle of the Three Broomsticks, the tiny figure of Filius Flitwick stood on top of a table, beaming encouragement at the small crowd of villagers.  Rosmerta groaned softly and rubbed her temples with her free hand.  They had been practicing for the past hour and she wasn’t making any progress, one of the only people who hadn’t.  She had managed a few wisps of smoke at the start of the lesson, but the past few attempts hadn’t even produced that.  Professor Flitwick’s relentless enthusiasm was only making it worse.  Half-heartedly she raised her wand, but her mind was on the roast she had to season, not the spell.

 

“Concentrate hard!  Happy memories everyone!”  Flitwick waved his wand like a conductor’s baton.  “One!  Two!  Three!  Expecto Patronum!” 

 

Expecto Patronum!” the villagers cried.  Silver mist spread through the tavern, giving the impression that one was on an enchanted, foggy moor.  It was still for a moment, and then the air shifted and cleared, twisting itself into shapes until the tavern was transformed into a ghost zoo.  Russell Banges’s smoky lion stalked around him, eyeing Henrietta Cole’s silver horse.  A shadowy eagle flew in circles above Cecil Parker’s head and Cleo Belmar’s snake wound its way around chair legs before fading into wisps of smoke. 

 

Rosmerta stood and watched nearly everyone’s face light up in wonder over their Patronuses.  She glanced at the tip of her wand where there wasn’t even the slightest hint of silver smoke.  Looking around, she was relieved to see that everyone was too busy admiring their own spellwork to notice her failure. 

 

With a sigh, she lowered her wand and tried not to let her impatience show.  She could have slept in another hour instead of wasting the morning wracking her brains for happy memories.  She did come up with a few, but every time she tried to maintain her concentration on that memory, a whole mess of unpleasant feelings connected to those memories pulled her back down into sadness.  It was as if every memory she had was attached to some sort of gruesome anchor.  She had tried thinking about her best friend from school, Lucinda Lynhart, only to loose focus and dwell on the memory of when she had heard about Lucinda’s death.  Memories of her childhood and of her brother, Philip, gave way to the reminder that she was estranged from her entire family.  Rosmerta sighed again.  Melancholia settled over her and she just wanted everyone to leave the tavern so she could be by herself and maybe bang a few pots and pans. 

 

Professor Flitwick was still on top of the table, commenting on the morning’s practice.  “Very good, Mrs. Honeyduke, very good!  What a magnificent bear!  You too, Mr. Banges!  Your lion is quite fitting for a former Gryffindor!  Miss Wicks, I think you’ve got the hang of it.  It looks like your Patronus might be some sort of small mammal, possibly a groundhog or a short, fat dog.  A few more tries and you’ll have it!  That’s a lovely swan, Mrs. Hasselton!  How are the twins?  I expect we’ll be seeing them at Hogwarts soon! 

 

“Those of you who haven’t produced a full Patronus yet, don’t worry.  You’re all making splendid progress.  All you need is a little more practice.”  Professor Flitwick looked over at Rosmerta.  She bristled slightly, feeling like she was back in school and being indirectly signaled out by a teacher for her failure to perform on some spell, but as Flitwick continued speaking, she realized that she was just being paranoid. 

 

“Same time next week?” he asked.  Rosmerta nodded.  “Same time next week everyone!  Next week’s lesson will be our last one, I’m afraid.”  Flitwick floated himself off the table and began heading to the door, pausing to answer questions along the way.

 

Rosmerta waved at her friends and neighbors as they headed out, a tired smile on her face.  She felt like one of her dishtowels, wrung out and limp.  A voice broke through her daze. 

 

“Oh, Rosmerta, while I’m here, do you mind if I put in an order for dinner?”  Martha Puddifoot asked.

 

“Hmmm?  Oh, no problem, Martha.”

 

“Thank you m’dear.  Two chicken dinners with mash and whatever the vegetable of the day is.  I’ll send Warren by around seven.” 

 

“Sounds good.  Take care, Martha.”  Rosmerta gave a brief wave before Martha Disapparated.

 

“Good-bye, Professor Flitwick!  Good seeing you again!  Rosie, I’ll see you tonight.  Save me my stool!”  Russell Banges waved and strutted down High Street, whistling a Gryffindor fight song.  Rosmerta watched his retreating back, wondering how Russell, the man who thought jokes about wand length were funny, could produce a Patronus and she couldn’t.  As if he had read her mind, Professor Flitwick piped up. 

 

“Don’t worry, Madam Rosmerta.  I’m sure there’s a Patronus just waiting to burst out of you!”  Rosmerta gave him a thin smile, wishing that if he was going to patronize her, he could be a little less cheery about it.

 

“Thank you, Professor.  We really appreciate you taking the time to help us out before those…guards arrive.”  Rosmerta Summoned a basket of muffins from the kitchen and passed them to Professor Flitwick.

 

“Oh, my pleasure Madam Rosmerta!  And these muffins look lovely!”  

 

“It’s the least I could do, considering that you’re giving up your Saturday morning.”

 

“Well, I’m sure everyone appreciates you hosting the lessons here in the tavern.  I’d best be going.  See you next week!”  Professor Flitwick waved and then set off.

 

“Fat lot of good it’ll do me,” Rosmerta muttered after she had shut the door.  She sighed heavily and leaned against the door, closing her eyes.  The very tempting idea of going home for a bubble bath flitted across her mind.

 

“Oh, don’t be so hard on yourself, love.  It’s a difficult charm.”  Rosmerta opened her eyes and looked at the sympathetic face of her friend, Madeline “Maddie” Harrison.  “Merlin knows the only cheerful thought I could muster was the idea of me returning to my bed.  I’m surprised I didn’t produce a pillow for my Patronus, although that wouldn’t have been a bad thing necessarily.  It could have smothered Iris for me.  I don’t think she stopped yapping the entire lesson.  Honestly, why she thinks anyone cares about her cousin’s daughter’s fiancée’s brother is beyond me.”

 

Rosmerta smiled, feeling better.  Maddie couldn’t produce the charm either and she knew more practical magic than any other witch Rosmerta knew.  If she wasn’t upset then Rosmerta wasn’t going to mope about her lack of progress either.  She straightened up and asked, “Would you like a cup of coffee?  I know I could certainly use one.”

 

“That’d be lovely, dear.”  Maddie settled herself at one of the tables while Rosmerta went into the kitchen.  She appeared a few minutes later with a tray laden with a pot of coffee, cream, sugar, a few slices of pound cake, and a jar of fresh strawberry preserves.

 

“Thank you, love.  This looks wonderful,” Maddie said with a yawn as she added sugar to her cup. 

 

“Late night?”

 

“Every night’s a late night at the Lair.”  Maddie spread some of the preserves on a slice of cake.  “Might as well take advantage of the business while I have it.  Seeing as how those Dementors are going to be around the area, I’m not so sure folks’ll want to be out late.  When are they set to arrive?”

 

“In about a week or so, at the start of the term.”  Rosmerta sipped some coffee.  She normally preferred tea but she needed something that would wake her up a bit.  “I hope I can master that charm soon.  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.”  Even as she said this, she knew she was lying. 

 

“Well, I know what my problem is,” Maddie said with another yawn.  “Practicing at this hideous hour.  Unless my Patronus is supposed to a cloud or fog.”

 

“Funny, my Patronus also seems to be wisps of fog; that is, when I can get anything to appear.  I think you and I must have the same Patronus.”  Rosmerta gave a wry smile and drank some more coffee.  She could feel her heartbeat quickening from the caffeine and the tavern seemed to be in sharper focus.  She put her mug down. 

 

“Do you think those Dementors will be around the village much?  Hagrid said they’re supposed to be guarding the castle grounds.”

 

Maddie shrugged.  “You never know.  I suppose that’s why Professor Flitwick is giving us lessons, just to be safe.  He’s a love, isn’t he?  Taught me everything I knew about Charms.  I hope I’m not disappointing him with my lack of progress.”

 

“Oh, I’m sure you’re not,” Rosmerta replied in a tone that was more airy than comforting.  She didn’t want to encourage any further reminiscing about school days.  It would lead to a whole host of uncomfortable questions, none of which she felt like answering. 

 

But, thankfully, Maddie changed the topic and was soon regaling Rosmerta with a few stories from the Lair, keeping the identities of most of her patrons secret. 

 

“Remember that shifty bloke from Essex I told you about?  I think he’s doing something in the illegal wand market.  He keeps asking Natasha for strands of her hair.  Well, she’s only one-eighth veela, so I don’t know if her hair is even any good to use as a wand core, thought you had to be a full blood for that.  She says she doesn’t mind and he pays well.  ‘Easiest ten Galleons I ever made,’ she says.  ‘I’m selling my body anyway.  What’s a little hair?’”  Maddie looked down at her coffee cup and shook her head.  A shadow flickered across her face but she snapped back to her usual cheerful self a second later. 

 

“Oh, Dung was by—Mundungus Fletcher, you know.  Trying to conduct another one of his ‘business’ deals.  Ever since he got banned from the Head, he comes to the Lair.  Cheap son-of-a-banshee but at least he’s usually in a good temper and he makes the girls laugh.”  Maddie then launched into a story about the time Mundungus tried to pay off his bar tab with stolen Muggle clothes (“Honestly, I don’t know how those Muggle lasses keep those scraps of fabric on without magic.  You’d need a Sticking Charm—no, a Levitation Charm, for some of those dresses!”) and pretty soon Rosmerta was laughing, her earlier sadness having melted away.

 

After about an hour, the two had finished their cake and coffee.  Maddie stretched and moved to get up.  “Well, love, I’ll let you get ready for the lunch shift.  I’ll see you on Monday?” 

 

“Yes.  Actually, I was thinking we could meet a little earlier than usual, do a bit of shopping.  The end-of-the-season sales are continuing through next week.  What do you say we meet outside Achilles’ Heels at three o’clock?”

 

“Oooh, sounds fun.  And don’t fret, love, you’ll get the hang of that spell.”  Maddie patted her on the arm.  “Thanks for the cake and those preserves were fabulous, best of the season.”  Maddie walked to the door and kissed Rosmerta good-bye on the cheek before Disapparating.  Rosmerta stood still for a moment, staring out at the late summer day before collecting her thoughts and busying herself with her usual Saturday routine.

 

***

 

“And so then the goblin says, ‘I told you bag of gold not shag a troll!’”  There was a roar of laughter from the men at the bar. 

 

Rosmerta rolled her eyes as she maneuvered past Archie and his cronies, carrying a full tray to a table of warlocks in the center of the tavern.  After nearly forty years at the Broomsticks, Rosmerta had heard every vulgar joke about a dozen times each and they had all ceased being funny thirty-five years ago. 

 

“Here you are, gents: two meads, Vampire Vodka tonic, Raven’s Rum Punch, and a Mummy’s Curse.  Anything else?”

 

“How about your owl post address?” one of the warlocks replied with a broad wink.

 

“Sorry, that’s a house secret.”  Rosmerta gave the table a smile, tucked her tray under her arm and quickly headed back to the bar.  She knew the warlocks weren’t serious.  Most of them flirted with her out of habit more than anything else.

 

“Hey Rosmerta!  Can we get an order of chips?”  Jonathan Podds, whose family owned one of the local gardening stores, called out.

 

“Sure thing, Johnny.”  Rosmerta pivoted on her heel and changed direction from the bar to the kitchen.  A wave of her wand and the chips were cooked.  She arranged them on a platter and grabbed a bottle of vinegar on her way out of the kitchen.

 

“Here you go, gents.  Anything else I can get for you?”

 

Jonathan looked at his companions.  “Another round of ale,” he said as the rest of the young men nodded in agreement.   

 

“I’ll send it over in a minute.”  Rosmerta collected their empty tankards and returned to her station at the bar.  She put them in the little sink she had behind the bar and set to work filling up fresh ones while Archie treated her to his latest hag joke.  Her tray full once again, she went back to Jonathan’s table.

 

“Thanks, Rosmerta,” came the chorus of male voices.

 

“My pleasure.”  Rosmerta smiled at the group.  It was nice to see young people around the tavern.  Ever since the Dark Days it seemed that there were fewer and fewer sons and daughters of Hogsmeade willing to stay in the village and put down roots like their parents and their parents’ parents.  So many of them left Hogsmeade soon after they had finished their schooling.  Some of the good ones do stay, Rosmerta thought, looking around the table. 

 

“Say, Johnny, you wouldn’t happen to have any of that Gnome-Be-Gone spray, would you?  Seems like a whole family of them have taken up residence in my garden.  They completely ruined my rainbow irises.” 

 

“No.  I sent the shipment back.  Had a lot of complaints that it didn’t seem to be working.  Guess nothing beats a good, old fashioned chuck over the fence.”

 

“They have a spray for doxies, I don’t know why they can’t invent one for garden gnomes.”  Rosmerta shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest, miffed by the lack of progress in gardening pesticides.

 

“You could always get a jarvey,” Todd Wicks suggested. 

 

“Or a Crup,” Guthrie Webber added.  “They grab those gnomes real hard and shake ’em so their necks break.”

 

“Erg.”  Rosmerta wrinkled her nose with displeasure.  “That’s so barbaric!  I think I’ll just stick to tossing the little buggers into the meadow.”

 

“Come on by the shop,” John suggested.  “We got some new bird baths in and a new shipment of seeds.  Think you might add anything new to your garden this year?”

 

“Yes.  I’ve been thinking of growing some squash.  Oh, and I was thinking of getting an apple tree.  Do you think they’d do all right here?”

 

“It’s a bit late in the season to plant one now, but I think with some work you might be able to grow something edible by next fall.  What about planting some blueberry bushes?  You certainly have enough room in the meadow.  Just something to think about for next year.” 

 

“Hmm, I don’t know.  It’s a good idea though.”  A loud whistle broke through the din in the tavern, interrupting their conversation.  Rosmerta twisted her head in the direction of the noise to see Archie waving frantically at her.  She nodded to him and then turned back to the table. 

 

“Excuse me, gents.  My presence is requested at the bar.”  She lifted her head and called out, “I’m coming, Archie!  Bridle your kelpies!  You’re not going to die of thirst!”  Archie’s buddies laughed as she made her way back to the bar and began pouring drinks.

 

At half past nine, the door to the tavern swung open and a large figure ambled in. 

 

“Hagrid!” Rosmerta cried.  “Or should I call you Professor Hagrid now?” she teased when he had reached the bar and settled himself on a stool.

 

“Aw, Rosie, no need to fuss.”  Hagrid turned bright red and looked down at the bar top.

 

“You’ve been made a professor, Hagrid?  Congratulations!”  Russell thumped Hagrid on the back. 

 

“A real Hogwarts professor?  Capital news!”  Stuart Griffiths leaned over and raised his tankard in salute.

 

“You’re not going to start lecturing us, are you professor?” Archie teased, punching Hagrid in the arm. 

 

“Naw…but I might give yeh homework!”  Rosmerta joined in on the laughter as she passed Hagrid his usual tankard filled with mulled mead.

 

“How about that!”  Gordon Honeyduke added when the laughter had died down.  “Good for you, Hagrid.  What’re you teaching?”

 

“Care o’ Magical Creatures,” Hagrid replied, clearly enjoying all the attention, regardless of what he had told Rosmerta about not making a fuss.  “Dumbledore asked me a few weeks ago when Bernie Kettleburn retired.  Said I was the only man fer the job.”  Hagrid’s chest swelled with pride and then he appeared to get a bit overcome.  “Never…never though’ I’d be teachin’ a’ Hogwarts.”  Hagrid sniffed loudly before burying his face in his tankard.    

 

“Well, if anyone knows about creatures, it’s you Hagrid,” Rosmerta said kindly when Hagrid’s face had returned to view.  “You know, I bet you would have made a wonderful magivet.”

 

“Thanks, Rosie.”

 

“And let me know if you ever want to borrow Queenie for a lesson.  Professor Kettleburn used to use her in the spring, I think with his sixth or seventh years.”

 

“I’ll keep that in mind.  He left me a lesson plan, but I think it’s a bit light.  Nothin’ really interestin’ ‘til sixth and seventh year.  I mean, where’s the fun in that?  If yeh drop the class after yer O.W.L.s, yeh miss all the good stuff!”

 

Rosmerta felt a stab of worry in her stomach.  Hagrid’s idea of “good stuff” was any creature that could remove one of your limbs with one bite.  “Hagrid,” she started to say, but Archie cut her off.

 

“So, what do you have planned, Hagrid?  And another round for the professor!” 

 

“Well, I was thinkin’ o’ startin’ with hippogriffs.  Sum people keep ‘em as pets, so I thought the students might like to learn a bit more ‘bout ‘em.”  Hagrid took his freshly refilled tankard and began drinking.

 

“My Great Aunt Maureen used to breed hippogriffs,” Russell chimed in.  “She’d bring her favorite, Harlequin, around for holidays.  I was scared of him as a lad, but when I got older he didn’t seem that bad.  Just had to be polite and offer him a bit of meat and he was real friendly like.  Would even let you ride him.  A beauty too, horse part was coal black and the bird part was pure white.”  A dreamy look settled on Russell’s face.

 

Pretty soon the talk turned to which dangerous creatures the men had faced down, each trying to out-do the other with their tales.  Since no one could compete with Hagrid, he served as an unofficial judge.  Rosmerta caught snatches of the conversation as she walked in an endless loop from the bar to the tables to the kitchen and back.  From what she heard, she was quite surprised none of the men had ended up as either an appetizer or a chew toy.  When she overheard Gordon Honeyduke tell the men about the time he outran an angry cocktrice, she knew she could probably douse the fire because there was more than enough hot air going around.

 

Before too long though, the discussion changed to the Dementors and Sirius Black.  The men stuck to the subject for the rest of the night and Rosmerta watched Hagrid grow silent as the conversation progressed, steadily emptying tankard after tankard.

 

She waved the last of the regulars out at quarter after one in the morning and turned to Hagrid, who was still on his barstool.  “Something on your mind, Hagrid?”

 

“Aw, ‘s nothin’, Rosie.”  Hagrid finished his last drink and stared moodily off into space, his shoulders drooping. 

 

“Worried about the new term?”  She went behind the bar and began cleaning the last of the dirty tankards and glasses.

 

“Li’l,” Hagrid muttered.  “Jus’…I don’ know.  Jus’ wish them damn ruddy Dementors wouldn’ be ‘roun’.”

 

“I know how you feel.  I don’t like the idea of them myself.”

 

“No disrespec’ ter yeh, Rosie, but yeh don’ know how’s I feel.  No one does.”  Hagrid stared at her, his black eyes looking like the sea on a moonless night.

 

“Only bin out a month an’ now they’re comin’ back.  Twas like I was dyin’ in there, ev’ry bad thing in me life playin’ over and over in me head.  Didn’ wan’ ter eat, couldn’ sleep.  Twas like bein’ in a nightmare, ‘cept yeh knew yeh couldn’ wake up ter get away from it.  Jus’ wan’ed ter die.  When’s they let me out, twas like I was a new man.  Everythin’ was brighter and better ‘an before.  This pas’ month’s bin th’ bes’ one o’ me life and then Dumbledore tells us them Dementors are comin’,” Hagrid shuddered.  “Fel’ like a black cloud settled over me ‘eart.”  Hagrid rubbed his chest and then slumped on the bar top.   

 

Rosmerta leaned over.  “Hagrid?”  She placed her hand on his shoulder and shook him as hard as she could, which to Hagrid was a gentle nudge.  “Hagrid, are you going to be able to get home?”  

 

“Be fine,” he mumbled.

 

Rosmerta looked at him and sighed.  She went into the kitchen and got a loaf of bread and a pitcher of pumpkin juice out of the fridge.  

 

“Eat this and drink this,” she instructed Hagrid.  “You’ll feel a bit better.  I’ll be right back.” 

 

Rosmerta took the ledger and till downstairs to her office.  She’d have to do them both in the morning.  She checked her emergency supply of Floo powder in her desk, relieved that there was enough.  There was no possible way Hagrid would be able to get back to Hogwarts tonight, and she couldn’t Floo onto Hogwarts grounds, so he’d have to sleep on her couch.  To outsiders, it might seem that she was being overly hospitable, but there was no one to look out for Hagrid except Professor Dumbledore, and Rosmerta didn’t feel comfortable telling the great wizard that his gamekeeper was drunk and needed to be escorted home.  It just felt like she was being a tattletale.  Only for Hagrid would she do this; although, over the years she’d had to owl a few wives on occasion. 

 

Keeping an eye on Hagrid, she swept the floor, did most of the dishes, and doused the flames in the fireplace.  At quarter to two in the morning, she was ready to leave. 

 

“Hagrid?”  She went over to the bar and tried to rouse him.  He had eaten some of the bread and had drunk the pumpkin juice. 

 

“Wha’?”  He lifted his head from the bar top. 

 

“Come on.  We’re going home.”  Rosmerta coaxed him over to the fireplace and managed to squeeze in next to him.  A few seconds later, they were staggering out of her fireplace and into her living room.  Rosmerta nearly fell from having Hagrid lean against her.  She got out her wand and used it to keep Hagrid steady.  She led him over to the couch, wincing as the springs creaked when he plunked himself down on it.

 

Queenie, her bright pink Fwooper, woke up and came over to investigate.  “We’re going to have a bit of company tonight,” Rosmerta told her bird.  “Yes, I know it’s a strange occurrence, me having a man spend the night.  Let’s get Hagrid to bed, shall we?”  Rosmerta used an Engorgement Charm on her couch so that it expanded to fit Hagrid’s bulk.  Grunting with effort, Rosmerta managed to get him to lie down and she took off his huge boots.  She got him another glass of pumpkin juice and stood over him until he drank it.  Enlarging a blanket, she covered Hagrid up, transfigured one of the cushions into a pillow, and washed up.

 

By the time she came out of the bathroom, Hagird was snoring away.  Rosmerta looked down on him, a sad sort of tenderness welling up in her heart.  She stroked his wild tangle of black hair, kissed him on the forehead and went to bed.  

 

***

 

Rosmerta awoke the next morning groggy and still tired.  Hagrid’s snoring had kept her up most of the night, but she took it as a good sign that Hagrid hadn’t gotten sick in his sleep.  She stretched and saw Queenie perched on the headboard, eyes closed.  Apparently Hagrid’s snoring had disturbed her as well.  Rosmerta was dimly aware that Queenie would be expressing her displeasure at being displaced later that day. 

 

Rosmerta eased out of bed and padded to the bathroom to wash up.  She dressed in plain house robes and made some tea.  Half asleep, she sipped her tea in the dining room while she flipped through the pages of the Sunday Prophet.  Around ten o’clock she heard mumbling.

 

“Huh?  Wha’?” 

 

“Good morning, Hagrid.  Glad to see you’re awake.  How are you feeling?”

 

“Uhhhh,” Hagrid slowly sat up.  He looked around at his surroundings and shifted uncomfortably.  “I…ah…I’m so sorry…oh,” Hagrid groaned and put his hand to his head.

 

“That’s all right.”  Rosmerta got up and disappeared into the kitchen.  She reappeared a few seconds later carrying a mug that had been enlarged especially for Hagrid.  “You must really hate those Azkaban guards.  I haven’t seen you this upset since Norbert went away and before that, you hadn’t spent a night on my couch since the night You-Know-Who was defeated.  Here,” Rosmerta sat down next to him on the couch and passed him the mug. 

 

Hagrid took a sip and grimaced.  “Yeh sure yer hangover cure couldn’ tas’e better?”

 

“Be nice, Hagrid, or I won’t make you pumpkin muffins for breakfast.”

 

“Don’ talk ‘bout food,” Hagrid groaned. 

 

“Just drink your tea.  You know, people are going to talk when they see you heading back to the castle.  They’ll think I’m some sort of jezebel,” Rosmerta chuckled.  Hagrid joined her for a brief moment but his pounding headache put a swift end to that.  He drank his tea while Rosmerta went into the kitchen to make breakfast. 

 

Thank goodness I’m going food shopping tomorrow, there go all my eggs.  And potatoes.  And bread.

 

A few minutes later, she heard him get off the couch and head to the bathroom.  Rosmerta brought out plate after plate from the kitchen and placed them on the dining room table.  Hagrid returned from the bathroom and began investigating.

 

“Smells good, Rosie.”

 

“Well, I see you’re feeling better.  Did you finish your tea?”  Hagrid nodded.  “Good.”  Rosmerta poured a big glass of pumpkin juice and passed it to him.  “Drink this, too.  You need fluids.”

 

Hagrid obediently gulped down half the glass before he piled his plate high with eggs, bacon, fried potatoes, and toast.  He took three muffins and slathered them with butter.  Note to self: add butter to food shopping list, Rosmerta thought.  Amused, she watched him eat as she spread jam on her single piece of toast and peppered her scrambled eggs.

 

“This is great,” Hagrid said through a mouthful of food.  “Yer the best, Rosie.  Don’ know wha’ I’d do without yeh.”  Hagrid added ketchup to his potatoes and shoveled a big forkful into his mouth.  He swallowed.  “Haven’ had a real Sunday breakfas’ in a long time.”  He helped himself to two more muffins.  While he buttered them, he looked thoughtfully at Rosmerta.  “How come yeh never married, Rosie?  I mean, yeh should be makin’ breakfas’ fer a family, not the likes of me.”   

 

“Don’t be silly, Hagrid.”  Rosmerta felt her spine straighten.  An urge to ball her fists and scream seized her, but she just wrapped her hands around her mug and kept her expression neutral.  “I’m glad you’re here for breakfast.  It’s nice having some company for a change.”

 

“See, that’s wha’ I mean.  Yer pretty, an’ smart, an’ nice, an’ a real good cook…yeh should have a husban’ an’ a few little ones runnin’ aroun’.” 

 

“Well, it just didn’t work out that way,” Rosmerta said evenly, sipping her tea.  It didn’t work out at all.  And if I’m so pretty and smart and wonderful, then why did my husband have all those other women?    

 

“Wha’ ‘bout Russell Banges?  He seems ter like yeh quite a bit.  He’s got a good job an’ he’s a nice enough bloke.  Yeh should marry him,” Hagrid said, gesturing with his fork and dripping yolk on the table.  He put the forkful of egg in his mouth and nodded sagely while he chewed.

 

“Thank you for the suggestion Hagrid.  I’ll keep it in mind.”  Rosmerta gave him a tight smile and played with her eggs.  For a few minutes there was only the sound of Hagrid chewing and the click of silverware against plates. 

 

Rosmerta heard the rustle of wings before she felt a weight on her shoulder.  “Hello, sweetie,” she cooed at Queenie.  Rosmerta was glad, for once, to have Queenie’s begging for table scraps as a distraction.  “Would you like some breakfast?”  Queenie nuzzled Rosmerta’s ear to indicate that the answer was a most definite “yes.”  Rosmerta pulled the crusts off a piece of toast and passed them to Queenie. 

 

“You should bring some home some of the bacon to Fang.  I bet he’s worried sick about you.”

 

“Yeah, yer right.”  A guilty look crossed Hagrid’s face.  “I really ‘ppreciate yeh lookin’ out fer him when I was…away.”

 

“The staff helped, too.  He missed you something awful, you know.  Wouldn’t leave your hut except to go on a short walk to do his business.  I think he even slept in your bed.”

 

“He did.  Shed all over th’ place.”  Hagrid chuckled fondly and mopped his plate with the last of the toast.  “So yeh don’ wanna marry Russell Banges?” Hagrid said, spraying crumbs.  “Anyone in the village yeh do like?” 

 

“I like plenty of people in the village.  Hogsmeade’s a very friendly place.  Why the interrogation about my love life so early in the morning?  And what about you, Hagrid?  Why haven’t you found yourself a nice girl?” 

 

“Aw, look a’ me, Rosie.  We’d be in bed an’ I’d prob’ly roll over an’ crush her in me sleep.”  Hagrid gave a short laugh but he didn’t mention any other potential suitors for Rosmerta for the rest of the morning.

 

It was nearly noon when Hagrid headed back to Hogwarts.  Rosmerta cleaned up the kitchen and did the dishes before heading outside to her garden.  She shaded her eyes and took a deep breath of the late summer air.  This was her favorite place; a sea of reds, purples, pinks and blues swayed gently in the breeze.  Fairies and insects buzzed about and Rosmerta absentmindedly swatted at one that flew past her face. 

 

Though she’d never say it outright, she was convinced that she had the best garden in Hogsmeade.  Considering that gardening was practically a national sport, she had quite a magnificent backyard indeed.  Hours upon hours she had spent here, creating her own botanical oasis out of what had once been just weeds and wild grass.  From seedling to blossom.  Her old house motto.  All her former classmates had taken those words to heart.  They were the ones flourishing out there in the world whereas she had applied those words to her garden, her tavern, her house—everything except herself. 

 

Her garden was ever growing, ever changing, unlike her.  Was that why she spent so much time in it?  To be around something, anything, that wasn’t always the same.  Hogsmeade was just supposed to be a place for her to recover, to lick her wounds before gathering herself together and moving on.  To where, she didn’t know.  And, over the course of nearly forty years, as Hogsmeade went from foreign to familiar, she found herself more and more unwilling to leave.  Where she had once found refuge in her routines, now she felt a vague sort of resentment for that peaceful monotony.  There was an underlying feeling of anger as well.  Anger at herself for her inability to leave the safe cocoon she had spun.  But her outrage wasn’t strong enough to propel her from the stagnate state to which she had resigned herself.  This was how she was going to spend her days.  There were worse ways to pass the time.

 

She tied back her hair and set to work weeding a bed of hydrangeas while Hagrid’s questions echoed in her mind.  Why didn’t she like Russell, or any of the other men in the village for that matter?  Was it merely the vestiges of her upbringing, a ghostly echo of her mother’s voice telling her what sort of man she should marry and refusing to let her consider other options?  Did she even want to get married again or was it merely a case of the grass always being greener?  Honestly, what was it to Hagrid whether or not she married?  What did he know?  The nerve of him telling me how I should conduct my romantic affairs, she thought as she yanked the weeds out of the ground with vicious satisfaction. 

 

An hour later, she wiped the sweat from her brow and leaned back, resting her hands on her thighs as she surveyed her work.  Deeply satisfied, she smiled and brushed the dirt off herself.  If she had thought of it, she probably should have taken her wand out and attempted a Patronus.  Instead, she got to her feet and went back inside her house, humming one of Maddie’s jazz songs under her breath. 

 

Elizabeth Ogden, this is your life.  It’s a pretty good one, so learn to live with it.

 

 

A/N: Thank you to all the ladies in the SugarQuill Workshop for their suggestions and encouragement.  Special thank you to Tapestry for beta-ing.  Thank you to all who have read and reviewed. 

//
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