A/N: This story was my entry in the 2011 edition of Femmefest on Live Journal. My recipient asked for "sex on a desk."

Minerva/Rosmerta was a new pairing for me, and it wrote itself like magic.

Many thanks to Tetley the Second, my dream of a beta-reader.

~ / ~ / ~

"Ooooohhh, that's good, mmmmm."

Resting her arms on the bar of the Three Broomsticks, Molly Weasley closed her eyes in pleasure as she swallowed a large mouthful of spiced mead. Madam Rosmerta, taking advantage of a lull in orders to stop for a chat, thought she sounded nothing less than orgasmic.

Of course, Rosmerta admitted to herself, it might just be that she herself had orgasms on the brain. Tonight was Friday, after all, and on Fridays, she. . .

Well, there was no time to be dreaming about such things now, not as busy as she was going to be in an hour or so. Business was always more than brisk at the Three Broomsticks on Fridays, and she still needed to Levitate another keg of butterbeer from the storeroom before the rush started. Then she had to get through an entire evening of serving and smiling and supervising the rowdies before she could finally lock the doors and turn her attention to the person she really wanted to serve.

But none of this was anything that Molly needed to know about. To Molly, Rosmerta said only, "I'm glad you dropped by tonight, love; you seem to need the break."

"Oh, I do," Molly said, nodding vigorously. "You'd think I could take things easier now that all the children except Ginny are out of the house. But it seems as if I have more to do than ever - - owls and packages to send to the boys, and Ginny's home-schooling is getting more complex, you know. If I didn't have these occasional pub nights to look forward to. . .well, let's just say I'm glad I do."

She laughed and took another sip of her mead. "I'd love to come more often, maybe every fortnight, but usually I'm either too busy or too tired. Then tonight, Arthur came home early, and I just said to myself, 'Molly, my girl, you need a night out.' Not that I don't like to be with my family, of course," she said, looking suddenly anxious. "It's just that if I have an evening to myself now and then, I'm a much better wife and mother when I go home, if that makes any sense."

"Of course it does, dear," said Rosmerta in her most comforting tones, although why Molly thought anyone would judge her for needing a bit of time to herself, Rosmerta couldn't fathom. Not even Molly Weasley could be a selfless mother every minute, and why would she want to be? And if you asked Rosmerta, Molly's family could probably use a break from her, too. A tad smothering, she was.

But of course, Rosmerta didn't actually voice such an opinion to Molly. People didn't come to chat with the landlady of a pub because they wanted her to challenge their views of themselves. They came because they wanted a sympathetic ear, and few knew better than Rosmerta how to provide one. For Molly Weasley, nothing could soothe her more than talking about her children. A few well-placed questions, and she could run on for an hour, leaving Rosmerta free to let her own thoughts wander where they would.

"How is young Ron getting along at Hogwarts?" Rosmerta asked.

"Oh, I think he's settling in nicely. Sorted into Gryffindor, I'm pleased to say, not that there was ever any real doubt of it. Still, I can't deny that I was relieved to get Professor McGonagall's owl with the news. She's very good about that, you know - - always sends out the Sorting results on the very night of the Opening Feast. Well, perhaps all the Heads of Houses do the same, I wouldn't know. The children have only ever gone into Gryffindor, from Bill now down to Ron."

"That's nice," Rosmerta said absently, drawing two pints for the Hogsmeade postmistress and her husband, who had just come in and caught her eye to let her know they'd have their regulars. She muttered a quick anti-spill charm and sent the glasses floating across to them; it wouldn't be long, though, before the room became too crowded to allow her to Levitate the orders.

Molly was still talking; she was used to Rosmerta's shifting attention.

"I just hope Ron doesn't give the professor the sort of trouble she's had from Fred and George," she was saying. "She doesn't need the aggravation."

"Oh, I'm sure Professor McGonagall can hold her own against a few mischievous lads," Rosmerta replied, hiding a smile and enjoying the thought of what Molly would do if Rosmerta said, "The professor can certainly hold herself against me. And will, in just about five hours."

"I wonder why she never wanted to settle down with a home of her own," Molly said, pensively. "A husband and children. It must be lonely for her, in that castle. As far as I know, she doesn't even leave in the summers."

"Ah, well, Hogsmeade can be a lovely place in summer," Rosmerta said.

Lovely enough, especially when she and Minerva spent the time with each other. It suited both of them to be mostly apart during term - - such busy career women, as Rosmerta often laughed. They had professional things to be getting on with and wouldn't have had much time for each other even if they'd lived together.

But in the warmer days, when the students and so many of the Hogwarts staff were gone, and Hogsmeade was a quieter, slower place, Minerva would come from the castle to spend long weeks with Rosmerta in the cosy suite of rooms above the pub.

The chance to relax did Minerva good; Rosmerta loved to watch the tension of the school year drain away from her bit by bit, until sometimes she'd let an entire day go by without even putting her hair up - - she'd just tie it back with a ribbon when she took her long walks of an afternoon.

Sometimes Rosmerta would walk with her: she'd put up a lunch for them (nothing fancy, just a bit of cheese and bread and a few pickled onions) and leave the pub in the capable hands of old Donoble, who had been her assistant for for more years than either of them wanted to count. Then she and Minerva would set out, wandering wherever the spirit moved them.

Even now, after all their years together - - Merlin, could it be nearly thirty already? - - Rosmerta enjoyed stealing kisses in the summer sun, ignoring Minerva's warning headshakes the way she always did, waiting for the moment when those stern lips softened into that wry smile Rosmerta loved. Minerva would catch her round the waist then and kiss her fiercely, the way she did everything, love-making included.

And sometimes when it rained (for Hogsmeade summers tended to be on the damp side), they'd cancel their umbrella charms and let the cool water soak them, drenching their clothes and plastering their hair to their skin as they turned their faces upward and laughed. Minerva always refused to remove her spectacles, charming them to stay clear no matter how strong the downpour.

"In the words of that Muggle story, 'the better to see you with, my dear'," she'd say, for Rosmerta had once read her some of the fairy tales from her half-blood childhood. And with Minerva, a book once read was never forgotten.

Rosmerta would always reply, "Are you going to eat me up then, like a big, bad wolf?"

To which Minerva would respond, in her most precise, analytical teacher's voice, "Not exactly like a wolf, no."

Rosmerta was brought back to herself by an elaborately-dressed wizard who was tapping a coin on the bar to get her attention. Merlin's beard, how she hated when people did that, especially obviously-rich people who seemed to feel that everyone ought to jump to serve them immediately they showed up.

The wizard smiled with what he no doubt thought was heart-melting charm and said, "A double Ogden's, twenty-five year, if you please, my dear."

Rosmerta smiled back - - annoying or not, the man was buying a five-galleon drink - - and poured the measure with dispatch, affecting not to notice when he let his fingers brush hers as he picked up the glass. He gave her another brilliant smile and then headed to a solitary seat.

Pity he was alone. She wouldn't have minded if he'd had a few equally high-living companions: they might have put a nice dent in her supply of aged Ogden's, and they could have kept Mr Moneybags occupied. For Rosmerta had a feeling she was going to be seeing more of him as the evening progressed.

Molly had been watching with interest.

"Do you know who that is?" she whispered. "It's Gamaliel Wilburton. He's on the Wizengamot."

"Is he?"

"Yes, Arthur introduced me to him at the Ministry Christmas party last year. Perhaps he's been here to consult with Headmaster Dumbledore." She cast a sudden speculative eye at Rosmerta. "And do you know, I think Arthur said he's single."

"Now, Molly, we've had this discussion before. You know I'm not interested in settling down."

Molly laughed and waved her glass to order a third mead. Her face was flushed as she leant forward conspiratorially. "Who said anything about settling down? Why not just have a little fun? There's nothing wrong with spending some time with a good-looking, well-set-up man." She giggled. "And he may be well-set-up in more than just galleons, too. He has very large feet, and you know what they say. . ."

"Yes, I've heard," Rosmerta said drily. And she did hear, far more often than she wanted to. Really, the things some customers thought a landlady would find exciting. . .

"Well, but I think he was flirting with you, Rosmerta. Why not take him up on it? You're both adults, and you deserve some good times. Let someone wait on you for a change."

"It would be bad for business."

"Bad for business?" Molly's voice was getting louder. "However could it be bad for business?"

Rosmerta took a few minutes to sort out the growing bar queue before trying to explain. "You understand, I do more here than just serve drinks, Molly. For some customers, I'm a therapist, and for some of the students, I'm a mother, and for a lot of people, I'm a fantasy."

"A fantasy?"

"Of course. I'm their crush or their infatuation or. . ." Rosmerta hesitated, but then yielded to the temptation of shocking Molly. "I'm the picture they like to have in their minds when they wank."

Molly's flush deepened, and not just because of the mead. Mother of seven she might be, and thus no one's idea of a blushing virgin, but Rosmerta had long realised that, ironic as it seemed, Molly Weasley was a bit of an innocent when it came to sex in general.

"You're saying," Molly squeaked, "that part of your business is to be someone's sexual fantasy?"

"That's exactly what I'm saying. You don't think I wear four-inch sparkly turquoise heels because it's fun, do you? And a poor sort of fantasy I'd be if people thought I was already taken."

"Oh, I don't know," said Molly, giggling again. "I bet some people would like that thought even better."

Well! Here were unsuspected depths. Rosmerta grinned. "Some would, no doubt. But trust me, most people prefer to think of me as available."

And it was true, she'd never got very good tips in the days of her ill-fated marriage, though how much of that was due to her married status and how much to the fact that her natural ebullience had been subdued, Rosmerta couldn't say. But it made a good excuse to offer people like Molly and so many others who were always trying to set Rosmerta up on dates or marry her off.

It had been the ending of her marriage that had brought her to Hogsmeade in 1962. She'd wanted a fresh start, and when the licence for the Three Broomsticks had unexpectedly come available, she'd jumped at the opportunity to return to the scene of her happy student days.

She'd started work on 1 July, and on 2 July, a severe, dark-haired woman had presented herself at the bar not five minutes after opening time.

"Madam Rosmerta?" she'd asked, and at Rosmerta's nod had extended her hand. "Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts. Welcome to Hogsmeade. If you can set aside an hour for me sometime in the next day or so, I'd like to talk with you about possible policies regarding student custom here at the Three Broomsticks. As I'm sure you know, students will provide a good deal of your business, and Headmaster Dumbledore and I want to be sure that both you and the students have a safe and mutually-beneficial association."

That had been the beginning of the most mutually-beneficial association of Rosmerta's life, one that had little to do with the students of Hogwarts or custom at the Three Broomsticks. Looking back, Rosmerta was never quite sure how and when it happened, but by the yuletide of her first year at the Broomsticks, she had fallen hard for Minerva McGonagall, Deputy Headmistress of Hogwarts.

Minerva was astringent and sharp and funny; she affected Rosmerta exactly like the bracing, head-clearing winds that sometimes blew in from the North Sea. Opinionated and stubborn - - well, she was that, too, but Rosmerta liked to think that her own easy-going nature helped soften a few of Minerva's harder edges. Their personalities fit together just like their bodies: Rosmerta had a curve that fit each of Minerva's angles.

Finding love with a woman was something that had never occurred to Rosmerta before she met Minerva, but soon it had come to seem the most obvious and natural thing in the world. When Minerva had first kissed her, at the end of the staff Christmas party that Dumbledore always hosted at the Broomsticks, Rosmerta thought she'd never known a sweeter moment. She could only wonder why she'd waited so long.

"You're the one who seduced me, you know," she'd said to Minerva the following summer, as they lay one night beneath the cool sheets in Rosmerta's tiny bedroom.

"Aye, that I did," Minerva agreed as she spooned their bodies together and settled down for sleep. "I'll not deny it. Did you think it unseemly of me?"

"Not unseemly," Rosmerta had said, snuggling into the embrace. "But unexpected."

Minerva snorted. "Spinster schoolteachers aren't expected to be interested in love?"

"Spinster schoolteachers aren't expected to be interested in barmaids, or so the conventional wisdom would have it."

"Well, then," said Minerva, kissing the soft spot between Rosmerta's neck and shoulder, the spot that never failed to make her shiver in delight. "The conventional wisdom doesn't appear actually to be very wise, does it?"

She'd slid a hand under Rosmerta's nightgown, and for a while, sleep had been quite forgotten.

This time it was a touch on her arm that brought Rosmerta back into the bar, and it was just as well, too; she'd been beginning to get a trifle over-heated.

"Well, speak of the devil," Molly whispered, tugging Rosmerta's sleeve. "Oh, dear, I don't suppose I really mean the devil, do I? Speak of the goddess, then. Look. It's Professor McGonagall in the flesh. It's almost as if we conjured her by talking about her, isn't it?"

It was seven o'clock on the dot, of course; Rosmerta could set her watch by Minerva and sometimes did. Seven o'clock on Friday nights invariably found the professor at the Three Broomsticks, unless something happened at Hogwarts to intervene, and then she always sent an owl. The owls arrived more often than Rosmerta would have liked; Minerva's job demanded more of her time than it had any right to, as Rosmerta frequently pointed out.

"It's not a job, it's a life," Minerva always replied. "I watch over children, Rosa. Their needs don't follow a timetable, I'm afraid."

But no matter; she was here tonight, and Rosmerta was not the sort to ignore present pleasures in fear of future loss.

She watched as Minerva followed her familiar Friday ritual, its steadiness and predictability a source of comfort to Rosmerta: always the same table, always the cloak folded carefully over the back of the chair, always the book laid down in front of her, charmed to open to whatever page she'd last been reading. Only then would she look up to catch Rosmerta's eye and nod.

That was Rosmerta's cue to pour - - and then hide under a glamour - - the single dram of malt that would be Minerva's only taste of spirits for the evening. "Would you take Professor McGonagall her gillywater, Donoble?" Rosmerta would ask each week, and each week, Donoble solemnly delivered it, never indicating by so much as a flicker of an eyelid that he knew the "gillywater" to be anything but what it seemed.

Rosmerta had once asked Minerva why she wanted to keep her real drink a secret. "It's not as if you're a raging drunkard," she'd said. "What would it matter if townspeople knew that you had a wee nip every now and then? Being from Hogwarts doesn't stop Septima Vector from having her pint."

"It's nothing to do with Hogwarts," Minerva had said. "It's to do with keeping myself to myself."

And then Rosmerta had understood: it was one of the things they shared, she and Minerva, the fact that their lives were performed in front of so many people. No wonder Minerva wanted to keep private what she could, however minor it might seem to the world at large. She wanted to keep "Minerva" separate from "Professor McGonagall," just as the "Rosa" who lounged in Minerva's arms on the chintz sofa in the sitting room above the pub, her turquoise high heels kicked into a corner, was not the "Madam Rosmerta" who smiled and flirted with customers below.

Tonight, as always, Minerva accepted her drink from Donoble with what Rosmerta knew was a quiet "thank you" and an inquiry after Donoble's grandson. Then came the moment Rosmerta always waited for, when Minerva would lift her glass in a toast seen by only the two of them, her mouth curved in a smile meant for Rosmerta alone.

It was the second-best moment of Rosmerta's Friday. The best, of course, came after last call, after the doors had been locked and the cleaning spells started on their nightly work. At ten o'clock each week, Minerva would close her book, gather her cloak, and leave by the front door. Casual observers would simply see the professor starting for home at a sedately-reasonable hour; Rosmerta, on the other hand, would see her lover starting their evening together: instead of returning to Hogwarts, Minerva would head round the back of the pub to the enchanted private entrance to their flat, where she would be waiting, her hair down and her feet up, for Rosmerta to get home.

"Does she come here often, Rosmerta?" Molly asked. "The professor, I mean? I don't think I've ever seen her here before."

"Oh, she comes by of a Friday sometimes," Rosmerta said. "Most of the Hogwarts staff stops in sooner or later."

"Well, I should think they would," said Molly. "Like I said before, life must be terribly lonely for them. The chance to get away for a while and come to Hogsmeade is probably the only thing that keeps them sane. Let's face it, it's not as if they're going to have any fun in their offices."

"No," Rosmerta agreed, doing her best to keep her face straight and her thoughts clean - - or at least clean enough to allow her to keep working. "Nothing in offices but desks."

It had been a hot summer night, so still that not even the whisper of a breeze entered through the open window in Minerva's office.

"I shan't need but a minute," Minerva had said as she'd spelled the door open. "I told Albus I'd owl these reports to the Department of Magical Education, but now that you've talked me into dinner in London, I might as well take them with us, if you don't mind stopping. I want to have a word with Griselda Marchbanks about next year's N.E.W.T.s; she simply must see to it that Tiberius Ogden varies his questions. The old fool has been using the same Transfiguration set for the last three years."

"No, I don't mind," Rosmerta had answered as she looked about. She always enjoyed coming to Minerva's office, so redolent of books and parchment and. . .thinking. The life of the mind was lived here, and Rosmerta couldn't help but find the notion arousing. To imagine Minerva working here, doing what she did best. . .

Minerva was stacking up parchments at a table near her window, and Rosmerta stepped over to thread her arms around the narrow waist. "You work too hard," she said.

She could feel as well as hear Minerva chuckle. "It's what one does in an office."

A sudden imp of deviltry seized Rosmerta. "It doesn't have to be all one does in an office."

"What do you mean?"

"This." Rosmerta had magicked the pins from Minerva's hair, smoothing its dark length over her back and shoulders and then leaning forward to run her hands over hair and breasts alike.

"Oooh. . ." That gasp, soft with a little hitch in the middle, never failed to bring heat to Rosmerta's limbs. "You want to. . .you mean, right here?"

"Yes, here." The thought of taking Minerva in her office was weakening Rosmerta's knees.

"I don't. . ." Minerva had begun, but Rosmerta was having none of it. There was a time for yielding and a time for being in charge. This was the latter.

"Well, I do," she said firmly, running a light finger along the side of Minerva's jaw and then turning her to face her.

Their first kiss was long and languorous, the second shorter and more fierce, the third. . .

The third found Minerva backed against the desk, and Rosmerta had a sudden vision of her spread out on top of it, naked, her skin flushed with desire.

"I'll Transfigure a bed," Minerva said, rather breathlessly, but Rosmerta shook her head.

"No. On the desk." She Levitated books and parchments to the floor and waited.

Minerva stood looking at her, one eyebrow raised, a speculative half-smile on her lips, and Rosmerta had a moment's fear that she'd gone too far, that Minerva would think her crass or perverse.

But then, very deliberately, Minerva lifted her wand and warded her office door. Turning back toward the desk, she sent inkwells and quills and a stack of what looked like career pamphlets floating to the wide window ledge, until nothing remained on the polished expanse of her desk except a single black quill.

She was smiling in earnest now, with a gleam in her eye that sent another flash of heat through Rosmerta's body, a heat that intensified as Minerva picked up the quill and ran the edge of the feather lightly across her lip.

"Here you are," she said, handing the satiny black length to Rosmerta.

"Why are you giving me a quill?" Rosmerta had asked, intrigued.

"I'm setting you an exam."


"Well, we're in a school, after all, my dear. And isn't this what professors are supposed to do? Let others demonstrate their knowledge? So, please . . ." and she'd leant close for another kiss, "Show me what you can do."

Rosmerta had been delighted. "All right, then. . .Professor," she'd said. "I trust you know the theory. Now it's time for a little practical demonstration."

She'd charmed the quill to let her write shimmering letters on the air. "Let's see if professors are as good at taking instruction as they are at giving it."

And she'd begun to compose a list of directions.

Minerva, of course, followed the rules precisely, from number 1, "Remove your robes" to 3, "Lie on the desk, on your back" to 8, "Do not move". . . to 15, "Come now."

It had been intensely erotic, watching Minerva's breathing quicken as Rosmerta traced the tip of the quill between her breasts and down to her thigh, as she used the flat of the feather to nudge the long legs apart, so that Minerva's knees bent over the edge of the desk, leaving her ready for Rosmerta's questing fingers.

Minerva hadn't even moved when she'd reached the point of begging; her soft "please" had been a mere wisp of sound between parted lips. At Step 15, though, she seemed to forget Step 8, for her hips had bucked and her spine arched and her head dipped backward over the top of the desk, her hair hanging down in a waterfall of black.

She'd looked glorious.

Rosmerta waited until Minerva's eyes opened and her breath returned to normal before she used the quill to write on the air: "Practical Demonstration = 100%."

When Rosmerta found herself about to serve an underage lad a glass of Finch's colour-changing ale instead of the lemon squash he'd ordered, she took herself determinedly in hand. Drat Molly and her talk of desks. Rosmerta needed to keep her mind on her work; she had her licence to consider.

But at least she'd caught the error before it happened. She gave a double sigh of relief when she realised that the next customer behind the lad was no other than pompous, rich Mr Wilburton. Right. Just what Rosmerta didn't need, to be serving someone underage when a Wizengamot member was nearby.

Except that licencing violations seemed to be the last thing on Mr Wilburton's mind. The first thing, unfortunately, appeared to be Rosmerta herself.

"Another double Ogden's 25, if you please, my dear," he said, with what Rosmerta thought was an oily smile. "Rosmerta, is it? Or so Mrs Weasley kindly tells me."

Rosmerta shot Molly a not-happy look, but Molly was beaming, oblivious. "Go on," she mouthed behind Wilburton's shoulder and motioned toward the bar. The words "live a little" appeared in red letters just under the counter, where only Rosmerta could see them. They glowed briefly and then faded; Molly grinned.

Holding out the filled glass of Ogden's, Rosmerta gave her most impersonal, professional smile and turned to collect a few empty mugs from the bar, only to find her wrist caught by Mr Wilburton.

"Do you mind if I call you Rosmerta?" he asked.

"Everyone does," Rosmerta answered lightly.

"Have a drink for yourself," Wilburton invited. "I'll just sit here and keep you company, if you don't mind. I was getting lonely at my table, watching you and Mrs Weasley have such a pleasant chat."

"Thank you," Rosmerta said. "But I don't have much time to talk; as you see, the Broomsticks is a busy place on a Friday."

"What about after the Broomsticks closes?" Wilburton asked, catching hold of her hand this time, and squeezing it. "Could you spare an hour for a lonely man then?"

Honestly! The cheek of the man!

"I'm sorry," Rosmerta was beginning, when a tart voice interrupted.

"Mr Wilburton!"

Minerva's words cut across the pub as she strode to the bar, and Rosmerta was tickled to see that Mr Wilburton positively blanched.

"Er, good evening, Professor McGonagall," he said, smiling weakly. "It's a ple - - "

But Minerva cut him off. "If you are here on your own, I hope you will be good enough to join me at my table. I understand the Ministry is considering several educational reforms, and I have some objections to register."

"Well, er, educational reforms aren't really in the Wizengamot's purview, Professor. That would be the Department of Magical - - "

"Then perhaps you'll do me the favour of conveying my thoughts to the proper department. Now, I am sitting just over here. . ." And turning smartly, off she walked.

With a sigh, Wilburton acknowledged defeat and rose, picking up his drink. "Ladies," he nodded to Molly and Rosmerta. Then he lifted his glass briefly. "Rosmerta, I expect I'll need a refill quite soon."

"Oh, dear," said Molly as he departed. "What rotten timing. Well, things may still work out. He did seem quite taken with you. Perhaps he'll be back. Goodness! Look at the time, I simply must be going, Rosmerta, dear, Arthur will be getting worried, and I do like to be home before Ginny goes to bed. I'll see you again in a few weeks, although of course I can't be sure just when, because things are always at sixes and sevens at the Burrow, you know how families are. . ."

Still talking, she picked up her cloak and hat and headed for the door.

Rosmerta and Donoble exchanged companionable glances as Molly's exit was followed by the raucous entrance of half the magical darts team.

"Here we go," said Donoble. The Friday rush had begun.

At least twenty minutes passed before Rosmerta had a chance to deliver Mr Wilburton's refill. All in all, his visit had been a good thing for the pub. It wasn't often - - well, make that "it wasn't ever" - - that she sold three double shots of the 25-year-old Ogden's in one night. To Minerva she took an actual gillywater this time, for Minerva only ever had one dram of an evening, never more or less.

Once at the table, Rosmerta managed to brush her breasts against Minerva's shoulder as she leant over to serve the drinks; they always enjoyed finding ways to touch each other in public with no one the wiser.

"Yes, Professor," Wilburton was saying, "I promise I will meet with Tiberius Ogden first thing Monday morning and tell him your thoughts." He followed this pronouncement with a rather hefty swallow of his Ogden's and then mopped his face with a linen hankie.

Minerva took the opportunity to roll her eyes and give Rosmerta the slightest of smiles. It was done very subtly; Rosmerta knew no one else had noticed. She also knew that Minerva was enjoying herself. As she often said, there were benefits to being thought stern, intimidating, and humourless. One could wind people up without their ever knowing.

"Rosmerta! A round for the team!" came a shout from the darts corner, and Rosmerta was back into the thick of her Friday night. By the next time she had a moment to catch her breath and look about her, Minerva and Mr Wilburton had gone, their table occupied by a group of tourists.

The crowd was beginning to thin - - soon only a few hearty drinkers would remain. Rosmerta nodded to Donoble that he could begin to organise the back-room clean-up spells; she'd handle last orders.

The closing procedures wouldn't take long, for she and Donoble had it down to a science after all these years: change out the kegs, balance the till, run a quick eye over the inventory, set the magical locks on the safe and the storeroom. A house-elf cleaning crew would come in overnight; they'd been part of the Three Broomsticks for years and needed no supervision.

Once her tasks were complete, Rosmerta would bank the fires, bid Donoble good night, and make her way up her private staircase to her quarters and her Minerva. Her real evening could begin.

The noise of the pub had settled to a steady low hum, no one remaining but the tourists, a few darts die-hards, and Hagrid, who had fallen asleep next to the fire. Rosmerta checked the clock once more.

"Time, please!" she called. "It's time."

The End