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Title: Paying for It
Author: iulia_linnea
Pairing: Severus/Rosmerta
Rating: R
Word Count: 2500
Summary: Over the years, Severus finds that the comfort afforded by Rosmerta's lips is worth paying for.
Disclaimer: This piece is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling; various publishers, including, but not limited to: Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books, Raincoast Books; and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: Written for viola_dreamwalk’s Behind Every Good Woman Rare-Het Challenge. Thank you, calmingshoggoth, for beta'ing.

Seventh Year, Severus spent the first Hogsmeade weekend of the Spring term on his own at the Hog's Head, where he drank disconsolately until the oppressive heat and press of bodies inside the pub drove him behind it. Aberforth, the manky old bartender, who some said was Headmaster Dumbledore's brother, kept his livestock out back in a small stable, and Severus thought that the company of pigs and goats was preferable to the near-company of the humans surrounding him.

He did not dare return to Hogwarts, not while Lucius Malfoy was present: the older wizard had made it clear to Severus that, the next time they spoke, Severus would have to have an answer for him.

Do I really want to meet this "friend" of Lucius'?

Severus knew that the friend in question had to be Lord Voldemort; Lucius had never been particularly subtle, and Severus had overheard some of the purebloods talking about 'the Cause'. It seemed to be their understanding that Lucius was at the center of it.

I'm not sure I believe that, Severus thought, frowning at one of the goats.

It was attempting to mount one of Aberforth's pigs, and, of course, the pig of interest was having none of the goat.

"Goats," Severus murmured, remembering what had been a favorite theme of his father's, "go to hell." But I don't want to be a sheep, do I?

"In here!" a woman's voice called then. "He's been charming the poor beast!"

Severus drew back into the shadows and watched as Madam Rosmerta, the deep-bosomed blonde who ran the Three Broomsticks and an unknown, gray-robed wizard entered the stable with Aberforth following them.

"You see?" Rosmerta demanded, pointing at the confused, frustrated goat, "he has the poor thing in love with his pigs. It's horrible!"

"It's something," the wizard with her replied, pointing his wand at the goat.

"Old Eddie's just ambitious."

"See here, the Ministry's Department of Magical Creatures' Task Force on Ethical Treatment of Non-Magical Livestock has regulations about this sort of thing. I'm afraid I'm going to have to fine you," the wizard told him, pocketing his wand. "You're a business wizard! Why you think such a juvenile prank is appropriate is beyond me."

"Tell him what else you've had 'Old Eddie' do, Aberforth," Rosmerta demanded, shaking with suppressed rage.

Severus thought it was a good look for the witch.

Aberforth chuckled. "Don't know what you're talking about, I'm sure."

"Inspector Caulfield, please," Rosmerta entreated.

"You take that befuddlement charm off this poor beast and meet us inside. I'll want to hear more about your . . . . Merlin! To think I could have been in bed by now if it weren't for your perversions!" Caulfield exclaimed in disgust, storming out of the stable.

"Rosie, don't be cross. You know he's a right bastard."

"Killing him would have been kinder."

"That's what Ambrose said at the time—you want for me to remove all the enchantments?"

Rosmerta, staring at Old Eddie, shook her head.

"Right. You'd best go make nice to that prat. I'll be in."

When Rosmerta had gone, Aberforth approached the goat and removed the tiny bell from Old Eddie's collar. "'Good enough for pigs' was she? You're lucky your own's so soft-hearted. I could've killed you, couldn't I have?"

Is that . . . a person? Severus wondered, eyes widening at the thought as he watched the now quiet goat sulkily lower itself into the straw—as far away from the pigs as it could get. By Slytherin, that's awful!

But it was also just the sort of interesting curse that might intrigue Lucius' friend, and Severus, who truly did not know yet if he wanted to join anyone's cause but his own, decided to investigate the matter further.

I think I need a butterbeer.

~*~

"Last call, young man," Rosmerta told him, hours later when only Severus and some old drunk remained at the tap.

"I don't think it is."

Rosmerta grinned and placed her hands on her hips, which caused her breasts to thrust forward in her bodice, showing off her nipples. "Is that so? Not afraid of missing curfew, are you?"

"I'm studying," Severus replied, pleased that he did not slur his words.

"Oh?" Rosmerta asked, surveying the eight butterbeer bottles neatly lined up before Severus. "The only things I've seen you focus on tonight are my tits. I didn't think Hogwarts gave lessons in that sort of thing."

"Our Transfiguration curriculum's incomplete, that's sure enough."

"What do you mean by that?"

"For example, I never learned how to turn a man into a goat," Severus said, careful to hold Rosmerta's gaze.

She paled, which did not seem possible to Severus, even though he was staring at the witch and watching her flawless, porcelain skin go whiter still.

"You sneaking little shite. What do you want from me?"

Your lips around my cock. "I want to know how."

"Ask Aberforth. It was his trick."

"He would never tell me," Severus replied casually. He'd hex my bollocks off first.

"And what makes you think I would?"

"Well," Severus said, allowing his eyes to travel over Rosmerta's body again, "Professor Slughorn's always willing to give me a pass to the Restricted Section. I'm sure one of its books would tell me how to restore Old Eddie."

Rosmerta tossed her head and forced out a brittle laugh. "Stupid boy. If you think you have to blackmail me for it, you're wrong—five galleons, Hogwarts discount."

"What?"

"A shag's five galleons."

Regulus wasn't fooling! She does

"But you'll never discuss that poor goat with me again, you hear?"

Severus considered. No one had ever offered to shag him before, no witch, anyway, and Rosmerta was plump in all the right places.

And she has those lips . . . .

Lucius had spoken obliquely of "rewards," but Severus was not at all certain that the Dark Lord would give him any sort of prize for service were he to discover that Severus' father had been a Muggle. At seventeen, shagging seemed like a better use of his time.

"Could I . . . could I pay you tomorrow?" he asked, made embarrassed by his lack of funds.

Rosmerta leaned over the counter on her elbows. "Show me a proper good time and you can have it on credit until you leave school."

~*~

The month after Severus left Hogwarts, he found himself working for Mr. Borgin and terribly bored. The only good thing about being a minion-in-waiting was that his day job earned him galleons—which he often spent after hours at the Three Broomsticks—and the lack of steady customers meant that he could read Mr. Borgin's grimoires in peace. Borgin was pleased by Severus' work, and began to entrust him with the running of the shoppe for long periods of time, time during which Severus taught himself to break and remake the protective charms on various trunks in the storeroom.

He was looking for more books, but what he found were files.

"Ambrose Lockhart, husband to Ella Lockhart, murderer of Eddie Lockhart," Severus murmured to himself, reading one of the files just after closing one night while he waited for Lucius to fetch him. Borgin had also written, "'Transfiguration collar. Profit: seventeen galleons. Purpose: to eat the competition'. What 'competition'? These records are cryptic enough to confuse the keeper."

Severus would have read more, but Lucius' coded knock on the back door interrupted him.

At last!

~*~

It had been exciting to meet the self-styled, undeniably compelling savior of the magical world. Severus kept telling himself that after Lucius had side-Apparated him back to Hogsmeade. The truth of the matter was, however, that having the Dark Mark burnt into his flesh had shaken Severus up more than he had dared let on.

At least I didn't scream.

That was more than could be said for some of the others who had that night pledged themselves to the Dark Lord.

I deserve to reward myself, I think, Severus thought, his cock twitching at the thought of Rosmerta. Those lips . . . .

He returned to his room at the Hog's Head and collected a week's salary. He meant for his celebration to match the throbbing in his arm and wondered if Rosmerta would be impressed by what he had done.

"There's no kissing that better," she said, when Severus had disrobed.

"Then don't bother with it. I didn't come here for kissing."

"Ten galleons means kissing, a shag, and the night in my bed."

"All right. Just don't kiss it then."

"Trust me. I won't."

Severus woke up during the night to find Rosmerta rubbing some sort of healing balm into his Mark. It felt better to him then it had when she had sucked him off. Feigning sleep, he wondered idly if Rosmerta was a pureblood.

Not that it matters.

~*~

It was not until two years later that Severus found a way to be of specific use to Lord Voldemort, but, by then, he was aware how stupid he had been.

"I couldn't save them."

"But you tried, Severus. That counts for something."

"No, it doesn't! She's dead. Lily's dead. She was kind to me, and I—"

"You should go to Dumbledore."

"He'd kill me."

"You'll kill yourself if you keep on the way you've been. You drink too much. You don't eat. You work in that laboratory of yours in Knockturn Alley without sleeping for entire days. This has to stop, Severus!"

"Stop talking like you're my sodding mother, you old slag! I didn't come here for this!"

Rosmerta did stop talking, but she also rose from the bed and pulled on her dressing gown.

"I paid my ten galleons. That means I get to sleep in your bed."

"So it does. I'll be in another one."

The bed in Room Four was not at all comfortable without Rosmerta to warm it, and Severus was too frightened of Voldemort, of himself, of the entire mess to sleep alone.

Someone should know about the baby.

~*~

Severus used Old Eddie as a pretext for visiting the Headmaster, and Dumbledore agreed to visit Aberforth's stable with him. The expression on the old wizard's face when he saw the goat scared Severus almost enough to make him forget about his real reason for seeing the man.

"He's been in this form too long, I'm afraid," Dumbledore said at length. "But I thank you for drawing my attention to this matter. I'll speak to my brother."

"So he is your brother."

"Yes. The resemblance is true, but you have not been."

Severus started as he felt Dumbledore's presence in his mind and Occluded his thoughts. "Who is this then?"

Distractedly, the old wizard replied, "I can't be certain, but a wizard went missing back in nineteen fifty-four. I suspect this 'goat' is that wizard."

I wonder if he was any relation to Rosmerta?

"That's a good question. I remember Aberforth mentioning something about Ambrose's brother causing trouble for Rosmerta, just before the birth of her son."

"You . . . you were in my mind!"

"I'm a bit tired of waiting for you to tell me it."

Trying to banish the cries of Lily Potter's son from his consciousness, Severus replied, "I didn't know Madam Rosmerta had a son."

Dumbledore sighed and stared hard at Severus—over the point of his wand. "You're free to visit the Prophet's morgue and sort through the old issues if you like, but if you don't tell me what your true business is with me, Death Eater, I'll leave you here as company for Old Eddie."

~*~

It was not loyalty, not at first, nor gratitude, that kept Severus at Hogwarts after his confession. It was the fact that he did not know if the Dark Lord was actually dead—and also that Albus Dumbledore scared him more than ever Lord Voldemort had done. He had been stunned by it, but he had taken the man's offer to him of the Potions position at once.

But slowly, his fear ebbed. Dumbledore, he learned, was a good friend, the second one he had ever truly been able to name. And in his fear's place, irritation at the brats it was his duty to teach and frustration over Albus' refusal to trust him to exercise his skills as the Defense professor filled in the space his old terror used to occupy.

It helped that Rosmerta had forgiven him, even if she never extended him credit anymore.

Severus found he did not care. Rosmerta's mouth—it was worth paying for. Her good opinion, especially after he learned more about her story, was worth having, as well.

"I know about your father," he told her, on the day before yet another Defense professor was due to teach his class. "I know about Gilderoy Talbot's Cookery Academy for Young Witches, how you fled London at sixteen and went to your Uncle Ambrose. I know he married your mother after dispatching your father. I know he raised your son with her."

"So what if you do?" Rosmerta asked, her tense body wrapped around Severus' relaxed one.

"I just wanted you to know that I did, that I think you're brave."

"There's nothing brave about escaping a drunken, abusive bastard of a father and making sure your baby's looked after. It's just what you do."

Severus considered Rosmerta's words. "Is it? And you knew all that, at sixteen?"

"I knew what I needed to know, not that it mattered. Uncle Ambrose never gave me much of a choice."

"How'd you find out?"

"About what?"

"What he'd done to your father."

"Mum told me. After she buried Ambrose. . . . She thought it was funny."

"Don't cry," Severus said, turning to look at Rosmerta and brushing away her tears. "You didn't do it. You tried to make things right."

"'M not sure that's true. My boy's ashamed of me, thinks his 'sister' being a publican isn't good enough. He never visits me."

"Then he never deserved you," Severus said, kissing Rosmerta tenderly. If I couldn't pay for it, I wouldn't deserve you, either.

"If I'd fought for him, he might've turned out better."

"Did you want to be a mother?"

"No. No, I just always wanted to be loved. I'm not like my boy. He's got enough love for himself to be fine on his on. I suppose that's something, isn't it?"

Severus watched Rosmerta's lips in the moonlight and said nothing. That would be something, wouldn't it be?

"Sickle for your thoughts?"

"I'm just day-dreaming about your mouth. What else?"

~*~

Severus never heard Rosmerta speak her son's name, but that final mystery was solved for him the next evening at the Sorting Feast.

Those lips, he thought, staring at Gilderoy Lockhart in horrified amazement, the resemblance is true! No wonder Rosmerta never wanted to talk about him, her puffed up ponce of a son!

Long before the end of the year, Severus had cause to regret never learning what spell Aberforth had employed on Gilderoy's grandfather.

The night he went to Rosmerta to tell her what had become of Gilderoy, however, she did not make him pay for it.