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"I don't know what I plan on doing, that's the problem," Rosmerta sighed as she trailed her knuckles over the water from where she lay on her stomach looking down to the bottom of the lake. She dropped her long slender fingers down and under the dock, pulled them back to her though the cool surface, and then lifted them up, to skim her knuckles over the surface again.
"We've got to think of something." Augustus lifted his head and looked at her, before dropping his head back down to stare into the water at her reflection. "Shite Rosmerta, you know if you don't decide on something, and do it soon, you'll be stuck here and never get out."
"At least you have options. What am I suppose to do?"
"Right, some option I've got. The Ministry or the Ministry."
"You can pick a job in the Ministry." She looked at him sideways. "At least you have that. After next year, I can be a waitress or barmaid. No, wait, I can serve drinks in town at the pub and do both."
They lay looking into the water, side by side, on the wooden dock, letting their fingers dip back into the water until the sun was high in the sky and Augustus's stomach growled in hunger. He sat up and hugged his knees, watching her, as she lay unmoving, except for her arm that reached over and over to the water.
"Ro?" He reached out and stroked her back gently. "In two years I can come back for you. You remember? I promised."
"Sure. I'll count on that," she snipped. "You won't be back Augustus, at least be honest."
She rolled over onto her back and raised her hand over her eyes to shield them from the sun. Seeing his look of defeat, and the way he turned away from her she sat up and smiled.
"Listen Augustus, I know you would do something if you could. We are just friends right? If we went any further we would just wind up hating each other and I don't want to lose the best friend I have."
"You know I would do anything I could for you."
"Of course I do." She smiled warmly. "You are my best friend Augustus, you always have been. You are my only real friend. Let's not muck it up pretending it is more than it is just because I get lonely sometimes. I want you to get away from Hogsmeade and do more, more than they say you can. I want to do something myself, something big. Maybe after you are with the Ministry for a while you can find something better. At least you will be away from here and far from your father."
"Jason Langston started as an Auror. Now he is at Gringotts in the Alley, works their Security Division," Augustus said hopefully.
"And William McMillan was in Spell Development and was hired at St. Mungo's I hear." She nodded at him. "Maybe it won't be so bad. You start there, take all the training you can and move on. That's what Slughorn says, about taking as much training as we can get."
"What about you Ro? After you finish here, what will you do?"
"Well," she said, standing up. "I plan on having my best friend help me find something in the Alley where he has his own apartment and can put me up until I get on my feet. Maybe I can work in one of the shops there. I don't want to spend my life in a bar some place."
"Deal." Augustus stood up and brushed off his robes. "In the meantime I want to eat. Come on, the Great Hall should be open by now."
She took his elbow and they started across the lawns together. It was quiet today, as only the younger students were on campus, the rest in town for Hogsmeade days. Rosmerta had rolled her eyes and refused to go. She preferred instead to spend a day outside, alone or with Augustus.
They walked into the dinning hall and sat together at the back of the room not worrying about sitting at their own tables. It was the last Hogsmeade day, and the last week of term. Rosmerta was quiet and looked around the nearly empty room.
"I don't want to finish Augustus. I really don't want to come back for two more years. There's no reason for it, and I will be all alone once you and Shacks leaves. It is only the two of you I talk to."
"Ro, you have to finish, you promised to at least take your O.W.L.S., then just one more year. Things are changing. You just wait, you'll see. It's going to be better. Maybe you'll change your mind."
"You know how they are. I mean, I can take my O.W.L.S. and do good, but that won't be enough. They still won't let me into the better classes. Even if I get outstanding on my N.E.W.T.S. it won't make any difference after I leave here."
"No, it will Ro, really they are not all like that. There is going to be a new teacher for flying, don't remember her whole name, Hooch something, I hear she is younger and maybe she won't be like the rest."
"Sure, like Dumbledore would hire a good one." She snorted in laughter and looked at him oddly. "Anyway, I can't afford any kind of paid apprenticeship, and I won't sign myself up for an indentured one even if I did finish here. And, who would take me even if I wanted to?"
"Hey, I told you to stop that." He glowered at her. "There is lots you can do."
"You don't know Augustus. I work all summer just to pay my way, and still wind up taking Dumbledore's charity for the robes and books. Next year the books and supplies will double. If they would let me live in town, I could work at nights, but Dumbledore won't have me live over the bar no more. It's not like I want to, but I need that money."
"He wants you to finish school, he knows it's the only way you have of getting out of here."
"I don't know. I guess. I'll wait and see what happens." She pushed the food around on her plate. "Hey, how about going for a ride? We could sneak down, grab a couple of brooms and take off to London."
"We could floo from The Three Broomsticks."
"Yeah, like they wouldn't see me sneak in, and don't even think of going to Hogs Head, Aberforth would have my hide." She smirked. "Last time he followed me himself and dragged be back."
"When?" Augustus frowned at her and put down his fork.
"Over the hols. You were at your Gram's and I was in town, picking up some extra cash serving drinks. Well I had to … I wanted to get out before the night work started."
"Why didn't you tell me before now?"
Rosmerta looked up at Augustus and shrugged her shoulders. It was common knowledge in Hogsmeade that the bar had a brothel upstairs, and that most barmaids did more than clean tables and serve drinks. In polite circles and in the halls of Hogwarts, they spoke of it in hushed voices, and detentions handed out if teasing Rosmerta became too disruptive. There was nothing to do, however, about the sly winks and raised eyebrows as she walked by. She tried to hide from the leers and whistles by wearing too large robes to hide her shape and letting her hair fall in curtains to shield her face.
"Aberforth said I could work for him." She raised her head up from studying her lunch. "Gods Augustus, I don't want to work there. Everyone would think that I … so what? Hey? They think it anyway. He wouldn't expect me to do more than serve, but everyone would still think…well, you know."
Augustus watched as she supported her head with her left hand and drew circles on her plate with her fork with her other. He reached for his pumpkin juice then pushed the glass back. He no longer had an appetite, having lost it seeing how close Rosmerta was to tears.
"I know your Mum. She seems like good people, Ro. She would want you to finish here." He frowned at her, and leaned over the table to push her hair out of her face. "It's just that sometimes she … I don't know, she sort of forgets about you. I know everyone seems to like her… I don't know though, you need to count on yourself."
Rosmerta looked up through her lashes at him, and lifting her head out of her hands and began to giggle. "That's the problem Augustus. They don't just like her, the men love her."
He turned red, but couldn't help but laugh with her. "Ro, stop that," he said gasping for air. "Oh my gods, Ro she would smack you if she could hear you laugh at her like that."
"I am not laughing at her. I am kind 'a proud of her you know," Rosmerta said, suddenly serious. "She is all alone but makes her own way. Really, I'm not ashamed of her. It just bothers me how people talk. She says before the Muggle war it was different, a witch could still find good work but now she can only do what she does. What was she suppose to do? She said she had to feed me, and find me a home, and she did."
"My Mum says she was the prettiest witch there was." Augustus grinned at her. "Course Dad says she still is and Mum just gives him that look."
"This bloke she is with now, she says he wants to get married." Rosmerta leaned forward and whispered to Augustus. "He treats her real good now and says he has a place down near Little Hangleton. He says that she may have to hide her magic a little when she is not home but he wants her to go with him."
Augustus put his hand over hers, stoking the back of her hand with his thumb. "Ro, is it that same one that gave you a hard time last summer?"
"He was on his drink." She pulled her hand back quickly. "He didn't mean anything by it. This is exactly why I didn't tell you earlier."
"Ro, he tried to …"
"Stop it! It was my fault, I shouldn't have been out at night." She hissed and got up so quickly she almost lost her balance as the bench hit the back of her legs. "Olivia doesn't know and if she finds out she'll dump him. Don't you dare ruin this for her! I shouldn't have told you, it's maybe her last chance. You just shut up and leave it alone."
"She should dump him." He stood up and swung his long legs over the bench, standing in the aisle and glaring at her. "Little Hangleton is full of proper pure bloods and all sorts of snobbery. If you think she has a hard time here just wait until you see how they treat her down there."
"She is a pureblood. She will fit in just perfectly. She is smart and pretty, and she can do whatever she wants. Until they hire women same as men what else can she to do? And as long as she is stuck working in town I'm stuck there too. My only way out is if she leaves. Maybe everyone will forget and I can get a real job. That or she says I can go with them, only… I don't really want to."
"Ro, I am sorry." He ran down on the opposite side of the table to meet her at the door. "I didn't mean anything against her, I like her. I just meant it might not be all you think it is. Ro? You won't go with them? Right, Ro?"
"He comes from a good family. One of the Crabbe girls is his mother and his father…"
"Ro, it's okay. I didn't mean anything against her. I know she's your mum. It's just what he did to you."
"I won't send for you from now on. No matter how much I need help I won't send for you. I'm sorry I did. I wasn't hurt that bad, just scared. I just told you about her now because you said you liked her and I thought you would be happy for her." She brought up both hands and pushed him away, harder than she had intended, then pulled the doors open and ran from the room, not waiting to see if he was hurt when he hit the floor.
"Mr. Rookwood." Augustus looked up from the floor to see blue robes and slipper-clad feet running to him from the front of the dinning room.
"Shite." He muttered seeing the door close behind Rosmerta and knowing what it looked like.
Rosmerta ran from the dinning hall and headed to her room. The rest of the girls in her year would still be in town so at least she could hide there for a while before the teasing started again. They would talk about the sullen witch that served their meals, and how they had sent the plate back to the kitchen three times before it was right. They would laugh that they could order her around, and all she could do is smile and nod. They would talk about her until Rosmerta either ran from the room or headed for the shower where the streaming water would wash away her tears, knowing that they were saying this would be her life in just a few years.
She stood in front of the portrait not wanting to go in when she heard soft footfalls behind her. She spun around, scared to be caught alone in the hallway.
"Miss Fitz," a gentle voice said politely. "I saw you run from the dinning hall and wanted to see if you had need of help."
Rosmerta looked up at Kingsley, the Gryffindor Prefect and sighed. "You scared me. How do you do that? Walk so softly I can never hear you until you are right up close?"
Kingsley laughed softly and shook his head. "I do not mean to scare you lass. I saw Mr. Rookwood on the floor and …"
"It's fine. I didn't mean to push him so hard is all."
"I am afraid that Headmaster Dumbledore has requested his presence. I am sure he will also want to see you about the occurrence."
"Shite! Listen Shacklebolt, tell him we talked and everything is fine. Tell him I tripped and knocked him down is all. I can't do this today."
"I hear that Hagrid has some young thestrals that he is feeding with a bottle. Perhaps he could use help tonight. I will tell Headmaster that you will be sleeping down in the stables to take care of the midnight feedings."
Rosmerta threw her arms around his neck and standing on her toes reached up and kissed his cheek. He laughed and removed her arms, leaning down and placing his forehead to hers.
"I understand how things are for you here. It is much the same for me. That which is different is either hated or feared." He stood up and looked down at her solemnly. "It will do you no good to be seen doing this. Now hurry before they return from Hogsmeade and start in on your mother again."
"Other than Augustus you are the only one that does not tease, and if I want to kiss you I will." She laid her hand on his chest. "I thank you. I know you take their teasing for defending me."
"And you for me. Now go. I will talk to the Headmaster."