Disclaimer: Not mine.
Rosmerta had become accustomed to the rhythms of Fabian's house. She worked around his ever changing schedules and learned to keep a calendar of his goings and comings, sometimes cooking breakfast at three in the afternoon, other times fixing tea in the early morning hours to have a hot meal waiting at the end of his shift. Although Fabian still complained about the changes she made in his small house, he had to admit to himself that she ran the place efficiently and knew how squeeze the last hope of life out of every Knut she tried not to spend, often embarrassing him at the market. He had been amazed at the money he saved by having her around to fix meals and tend to the day-to-day chores.
When he had tried to pay her for housekeeping, mending, and fixing his meals, she had become offended, accusing him of keeping her not out of friendship but because he wanted cheap labour. Assuring her that as a pureblood he had house elves available, she had grinned and relented, then had shoved the money in her pocket only to buy new curtains with it the next day, and left the change on the kitchen table.
She had twice gone to Diagon Alley to look for work, both times unsuccessful, only to return home and be depressed for days. Fabian had scowled, and told her that something was in the works, to slow down and wait. Something she did not do well.
The seasons changed. She thought of Augustus less and less and by the time spring rolled around, she had been surprised to read his name in The Daily Prophet and realize he was no longer a part of her life. No longer did she look forward to seeing him. No longer did she worry or care about what he did. It was a certain tall dark-skinned wizard that held her attention and quickened her heart when he spoke in his low baritone voice.
One morning as she was tidying up the kitchen, she heard the floo activate, soon followed by Molly's greeting. Glancing at the clock, she frowned, not used to receiving guests at all and none this early. She quickly transfigured her pyjamas and robe into a housedress and apron.
"In here," she called.
"Is Fabian home yet?"
"No, he just left. He's working a split shift today. They had problems last night and needed him in early."
"What kind of problem?"
"You know I can't tell you," Rosmerta smirked. "He gets right pissed off with me when I do."
"Merlin," Molly flopped down at the table. "Do you have any crackers? I left Arthur feeding the kids and need something in my stomach."
"Morning sickness still hanging on?" Rosmerta opened the cupboard, grabbed the cracker tin, tossed it on the table and then turned to put on a kettle of water on to heat.
"This one is worse than the others," Molly said tiredly.
"Maybe it is part stress. You are doing too much. I have lots of time free, if you want I can come over and help out."
"It's not the house work that bothers me, or keeping up with the little ones, it's the no sleeping, knowing what Fabian and Gideon are doing. Even Arthur, and he just works in an office, I … I am sick to death just knowing what is happening."
"I made bread yesterday, I'll send some home with you," Rosmerta said, changing the topic, knowing they should not be talking about anything that may be Order business.
"I spoke to Albus," Molly mumbled, sipping her tea. "We were talking about asking you to join us."
"No, absolutely not." Rosmerta stood and busied herself at the sink, rewashing the dishes that sat on the drain board. "I don't have anyone I can run to if things go wrong, and I will not get caught up in all this." She rested her arms on the edge of the sink and hung her head. "Molly, I have to take care of myself. I'm not like you. I will never be like you. I am worried every time I go out with Shacks. You know what they did to Moody. They could target him as well."
"You tell Albus I will help all I can, but don't go expecting me to join up in any club. That Voldemort…he…he warned Augustus that some day he would expect something of me. What happens if I learn all your secrets only to have Augustus decide to turn me over? He could you know. He knows too much about me. He would be able to get close, or to … I don't know… but I don't trust him anymore."
"We can protect you."
"Fuck! You can't even defend yourself against that monster! Sorry, Molly, no."
"I had to try," Molly grinned. "I told him you would have nothing to do with it. Anyway…you be ready at three. Moody will be here to collect you."
"Three?" Rosmerta turned away from the sink to study Molly's face. "What does he want? I am having Kingsley over tonight."
"Nothing," Molly said sweetly. "He is taking you out for tea. To Hogsmeade. I hear there is a new owner over at The Three Broomsticks and he wants to check it out. Send your beau an owl…make it another night."
Rosmerta dressed in her only summer smock. Wrapping a shawl around her shoulders, in case the night turned cool, she turned to take one last look in the cloudy mirror Fabian had hung over a table in the corner of her room. She hardly recognised the woman that looked back. Gone was the too thin gangly girl, replaced by a young woman that Rosmerta did not yet know and could not yet understand. Her eyes filled with tears as she thought of Kingsley, wondering what he would be doing tonight, and for the first time since she came to live with Fabian, missed him in a way that surprised her. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she waited to hear Moody's gruff voice before heading for the stairs and going down to greet her caller.
"My goodness, where is that little loud mouth girl?" Moody watched her come down the stairs, a wide smile on his face. "Lordy girl, my witch sees me with you and I will have hell to pay. Told her I was taking a little girl out, not a full-grown woman."
"She cleans up nicely," Fabian joined in the banter. "Doesn't look like that on laundry day. If she did I would take lessons on how to fold the sheets."
Rosmerta felt her neck heat and knew her face would be red if she didn't change the topic quickly. "Knock it off."
"Ah now, Ro, don't go getting in a snit," Moody chided her. "Can't take a compliment can you?"
"Watch it," Rosmerta said, narrowing her eyes at him, "you now my name."
"You two go ahead. I have to wait for Marlene, she is working over," Fabian said with a grin.
"Who else is coming?" Rosmerta asked nervously. "Will Kingsley be there?"
"Everyone should be there," Moody raised his eyebrow at the mention of Shacklebolt. "Now calm down. You'll know everyone."
Stepping out into The Three Broomsticks Rosmerta was greeted with applause and laughter. She tried to take a step back, but Moody's hand held her firmly in place, then he gently pushed her in front of him, thrusting her towards the crowded pub.
"My dear child," Minerva said, walking to Rosmerta and putting her arm around her shoulder, leading her away from the floo. "Welcome home."
"Home?" Rosmerta craned her neck around to the back, looking for Moody, wondering why he had not told her they were moving her out of Fabian's house.
"Indeed," Albus smiled, peering over his spectacles. "I would appear you now own your childhood home."
He stood in front of her, presenting her with a scroll, which she unrolled and read, her eyes growing large. "How? When? I …I don't understand."
"It is your inheritance from your mother," Minerva said softly, looking over Rosmerta's shoulder, and reading the scroll with her. "You don't have to worry anymore."
"We were unable to secure any financial support," Kingsley chuckled. "However, I think you can make a go of this."
Rosmerta felt her eyes fill. Unable to talk she thrust the scroll at Minerva then threw herself into Kingsley's chest, sobbing and clinging to him.
"Ah, Ro, no. Tis is a good thing," he said softly.
"She knows that you oaf," Molly told him. "Wizards! Can you not tell she is happy?"
"How long have you known?" Rosmerta pulled back from Kingsley, struggling to stop her tears, searching his face. "You could have told me."
"I and Fabian were worried that if we failed you would have gotten you hopes up. We did not want to see you disappointed again." He grinned and wiped her cheeks with his palm. "You never did carry a handkerchief."
"You mean it? Really, mean it? The whole thing? Not just a room upstairs?"
"The whole thing. The Inn, the pub, the restaurant. The whole thing." He laughed in a deep baritone, looking over her head at the others that stood watching them. "Now, sit. We plan on eating free tonight."
Rosmerta hung back as the others started to spread out and take seats around the tables. Holding on to Kingsley's arm and tugged him down to her. "I don't know anything about running a business."
"You are the best cook I know," he chuckled at the fear evident on her face. "Aberforth has already agreed to introduce you to his suppliers, and he can help with how much inventory you need to keep on hand."
"People will remember me, from before… will they come?"
"Look around," he said softly, hooking his fingers under her chin. "Do you see anyone leaving?"
"No," she said hesitantly, doing as he asked. "But people go to funerals for the free lunch even if the dead guy was a bastard."
Kingsley laughed and grabbed her hand, pulling her to their table where they joined Molly and Arthur Weasley.
After the impromptu partygoers had finally left, Rosmerta found herself alone with Kingsley. He convinced her to let him start at the top most floor and re-ward the windows to her signature, resetting and adjusting the security on all the guest room doors at the same time. By the time he made it down to the main floor again, he found her in the kitchen tidying up the dishes from dinner.
"I guess the wait staff didn't know who the new owner was," she muttered.
"No, did they all quit?"
"Yup, not a one stayed. Cleared the ham out of the walk-in as well."
"Their loss, I will have Aberforth send over meat for breakfast. Perhaps it is for the best. You can train up new help to the way you want things done."
"Me? Who is going to train me? I've never even had a bank account to worry about. Now, I'm expected to know how to do this? Don't get me wrong…I … I can't believe it is mine. All mine. I want this to work so badly…but I don't know how."
Kingsley stepped close to her and stroked her hair, his hand sliding to her cheek, holding her face in the palm of his hand. Leaning down he brushed her lips with his, then stepped back, gazing at her solemnly.
"I have wanted to do that for a long while."
"Do it again," she said, smiling up at him. "I think I liked it."
"Not tonight," he mumbled, tracing her mouth with the pad of his thumb. "Not when you are not thinking clearly. Not when you…"
"Do you think I would let you kiss me only because of this?"
"No, but I do know I would not have been brave enough if you were still standing in Fabian's kitchen. I want you to be sure. I want you to come to me because you want to, not as a way out."
"The only thing I am sure of right now is that I don't want a permanent relationship," she said quietly. "I want to see you. I really would like that, but…I'm not ready for anything more. I know that. I know I would only muck it up."
Kingsley nodded and tried to grin at her. "You need to sleep if you want to open for breakfast tomorrow. I imagine half of Hogsmeade will be in just to see the new owner."
"It is fine, Ro. I will stop in tomorrow and see how your first day went."
"Shacks," she cried as she ran after him. "I want you to understand."
"I do." He turned back, studying her face. "We can give it some time and see what happens."
"I would like that," she said hesitantly. "These past few months you have always been there for me. I don't want to be with you out of thanks, I understand what you are saying. I want it to be real, to mean something. I want to make sure I get it right this time, and I want to make sure you …you know what you are getting."
He nodded, and then returned to the floo, leaving her to watch after him.
Rosmerta threw herself into her work, trying to forget the look on Kingsley's face, managing not only the cooking and serving, but also the cleaning, changing the linens of the guest rooms, and putting in supplies. After the first few days the number of morning customers increased, spurred on by the recommendations of previous customers and Rosmerta's homemade bread and pastries. She was happy to have the business, but found it hard to keep up, staying up until the wee hours of the morning, only to get up before daylight.
Aberforth, good to his word, gave her as much help as he could in exchange for breakfast, which he took in the main dinning room every day. One morning he brought a young witch with him, who sat scowling, refusing to eat.
"If you don't like it I can see what else I can fix up." Rosmerta removed the plate, still full with uneaten food.
"This here is Julie." Aberforth said in his abrupt way of introduction. "Stupid witch she is, but a good worker."
"Abes! Even for you that is uncalled for," Rosmerta sputtered, seeing the young witch turn red. "Now come on, Deary, what would you rather have?"
"I'm not hungry," Julie pouted.
"She needs a job. I told her you would hire her for room and board. Too young for Hogs Head."
Rosmerta studied the girls face, letting her eyes travel down her body. "Throwing drinks or working upstairs?"
"Isn't no money in throwing drinks," Julie spat. "I need money to send home. Mum can't work anymore, and me dad passed on."
"Room and twenty galleons a week. You get tips they are yours. You mess up, you are out," Rosmerta said flatly. "You take a customer upstairs and I kill you. Clear?"
"I need thirty."
"Then be nice and earn tips, I pay twenty."
Julie folded her arms across her chest and glared at Rosmerta. "I said I need…"
"You get twenty, and you talk to the Headmaster about getting your arse back in school," Rosmerta said evenly. "Your hands look like you are used to hard work so don't give me that drivel about your poor Mum not being able to work anymore, she hasn't done anything for years. You talk like a guttersnipe, so I would guess that Mum of yours is dead or lazy and it's your dad that wants the money. Maybe for his drink. You lie to me again and you are out."
"I'll send her stuff over," Aberforth smirked, stood up and strode to the door. "She lies about her age too, reminds me of you in that."
"You're a fine
one to talk," Julie said, narrowing her eyes. "I've heard about you and Olivia, and that Yaxley you hooked up with while you were shacked up with Rookwood."
"I'll make you a deal. I won't pick into your past and you leave mine alone," Rosmerta said. "Since he didn't say your last name I guess you are not to proud of it, so pick one and stick to it. I don't give a damn what the real one is."
"What do you go by?"
Rosmerta smirked, "I own this place. Its mine now, so I guess I am Madam Rosmerta."
She returned to the kitchen after showing Julie to a room on the upmost floor and telling her to start in cleaning up the guest rooms. Tonight she was adding Shepherds Pie to the menu, one of her favourites. It was a strange feeling not fixing food to someone else's taste, but fixing something to please herself. She found she did not think of the guests, only that this was her home, her kitchen and her decisions to make.
As she stood at the sink and looked out the back window, she smiled seeing a lilac bush growing near the back door. Maybe, she thought, they would look nice in little glasses set on the tables. Then remembering not to mix the aroma of food with the scent of flowers shook her head and began to fix dinner, aware that she had not seen Kingsley for a week, and finding that she did not miss him as much as she thought she should.
Maybe I will find someone, she thought, lifting her head to look out the window again, and if I don't…I have a home and a name which is all I ever wanted and all I will ever need.
Thanks for reading, and of course for leaving comments. This story was intended to give Rosmerta's back-story, and a way she came to own The Three Broomsticks. I have used the same character interpretation of her in His Calling, a story of Remus Lupin that starts with his parents and older brother's relationship with Rosmerta. Although she is not a main character in the overall story, she does play a large role in the first few chapters.